Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Little Big Minds: Happiness

"Happiness is feeling okay about everything and being satisfied no matter what...It is also the feeling that you belong somewhere."  -Marietta McCarty, Little Big Minds

This is the next in a series of blog posts dedicated to the AMAZING book Little Big Minds by Marietta McCarty.  You can view the previous blog posts here:
Topic:  This theme is centered around students defining in their own words, “What is happiness?”  I think as adults, we have a lot to learn from children about happiness.  It seems that most children have this consistent happiness about them.  McCarty has her students explore this definition and then examine things that we mistake for happiness.  A few resources McCarty uses to explore this topic is having students listen to “Here Comes the Sun,” E.E. Cummings’ poem “who knows if the moon’s / a balloon,”  and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “The Fawn.” 
Philosophers:  Epicurus and Charlotte Joko Beck are the philosophers that McCarty bases this them of happiness from.  Epicurus was an Athenian citizen that left the main part of town and built just a house and a garden.  His teachings are mainly about living a simple life.  He says that if we get rid of all the “extra stuff” we will be happy. 
            Charlotte Joko Beck is a woman that studied Zen Buddhism in her forties.  Beck teaches that happiness comes from within and in order to have that happiness from within, we must take the time to look inside ourselves.  An interesting point that Beck makes is to just sit.  It seems like we are all so caught up in doing something that we never just sit
            Meditation is something that McCarty introduces to her students to mimic the teachings of Epicurus and Beck.  A few resources that McCarty recommends using to expand on recognizing our happiness is the book, “The Phantom Tollbooth” and the film, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” 
Simplicity:  The goal of this discussion is for students to begin to think about Needs and Wants.  Once they decide that clothing is a need and clothing with a name brand is a want, they can begin to realize how to live a simple, uncomplicated life.  An exercise McCarty has her students do, is to find things in their home and make a list of Necessary/Happiness and Pleasure/Wants.  Also, my favorite part of this chapter is having students dance to Aretha Franklin’s “I Say a LittlePrayer.”  Students learn that dancing and happiness coincide with each other.
Creating Balance:  Meditation is a wonderful activity to teach students.  This allows them to see what it feels like to just sit and listen to their thoughts.  McCarty explains how students experiences after meditating are quite descriptive which shows how beneficial it can be for them.  She also describes how using a Frisbee to show students a visual of how meditation can help you reach your center (through meditation).  Once they reach this center, they can begin to balance their thoughts, lives, etc.  Finding time each day for some meditation/quiet time can be beneficial to students with their everyday hectic lives.  They need time to just slow down for a few minutes.
Here is a fun link to guide students through meditation: Do as One

How will you teach your students about happiness?  What will they teach you?

Little Big Minds: Philosophy

"The word 'philosphy' means: love of wisdom.  Inspired by a sense of wonder and countless questions, philosophers investigate life...children have such questions in mind from a very early age, and philosophy is their chance to go exploring." 
-Marietta McCarty, Little Big Minds

I began this blog series last week pertaining to an AMAZING book titles Little Big Minds by Marietta McCarty.  You can read the introductory post here : Philosophy for Kids

Topic: The word philosophy means “love of wisdom.”  McCarty explains how philosophers like to investigate life.  Children are perfect for this since they are always asking questions and have a natural curiosity.  Along with discussion questions, McCarty offers some resources to teach the topic. These are three of Emily Dickinson’s poems and the story The Little Prince by Antoine Saint-Exupery.
The Philosophers: McCarty discussed two main philosophers for this section, Socrates and Plato.  Plato was a pupil of Socrates and his writings show how his and Socrates’ philosophies blended together.  One story that McCarty reads to her students is Plato’s “Myth of the Cave.”  This is a story explaining to children how important it is to live with wonder and curiosity, otherwise you are a prisoner to the thought of ideas.  Another resource that McCarty connects to the story is to play “Haydn’s Symphony No. 22” while they are drawing a picture that comes to mind while listening.  As they are drawing children are discussing why this symphony is titled “The Philosopher.” 
The Examined Life: McCarty emphasizes the importance to children on acknowledging that we don’t know a lot of things.  She also explains that it is just as important to wonder about things we may never find the “answer” to.  This can be explored by reading to students the poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams and then having them write their own poem inspired by these thoughts.
Good Conversation:  “I compare philosophers to jugglers who, rather than keeping many balls in the air, instead hold many ideas in their minds during philosophical conversation” (McCarty, 2006).  Children learn that conversation, talking through ideas is more important than who gets the last word.  An exercise that can be done with this topic is taste tasting with mustard and pretzels.  McCarty has the students report in one word how they would describe it.  Children are then able to compare their opinion with others and realize the differences but accept them at the same time.  

What does the topic of exploring philosophy mean to you?  Please share your experiences if you dive into this with your students!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Philosophy for Kids

"Little Big Minds is an invitation to discover philosophy and to consider how we as adults can most effectively share this subject with children...I can tell you kids are natural philosophers.  They approach philosophical topics with great big minds that are uncluttered by the baggage that can accumulate as one gets older."  -Marietta McCarty

Recently, for a graduate class I was assigned to read the book Little Big Minds by Marietta McCarty.  Now,  at first I was skeptical about teaching elementary students through middle students about the topic of philosophy, but as I dug into this book I was enthralled!  It makes so much sene to discuss these topics with students to expand their thinking, our thinking, and building relationships in the process.  In the next few blog posts, I will be exploring a select few chapters that I know will interest you.  If these interest you as much as they did for me, I challenge you to purchase this book and share with me an adventure in philosophy with kids!

MariettaMcCarty has the belief that children are the best philosophers.  Thinking about the world around them andquestioning things is a natural part of their growth.  McCarty takes advantage of this and beginstalking about Philosophical topics with children ranging from Kindergarten toMiddle School.  In this book, McCartyoffers 15 topics, and each one has its’ own chapter:

  In each chapters she shares a theme, philosophers, and discussions that all connect with that chapter’s topic.  She does a wonderful job of offering teaching tips, discussion questions, exercises, and a list of resources to be used.  An important piece of advice McCarty offersis to be aware of your students and what they can handle, or want to discuss. 
Teaching Techniques:  McCarty offers a brief description of some teaching techniques to make your “Philosophy Time” more beneficial for you and your students.  First and foremost she offers two rules:

  • Never speak when someone else is talking.
  • Never make fun of what someone says.
These two rules show how McCarty makes sure to make this time a safe place for students to share and to open their minds with no limits.  A few other techniques she offers are:

  • Sit in a circle
  • Start with quiet time
  • Include a brief story with each lesson
  • Pay attention to children’s comfort level
  • Be prepared with definitions
  • Clarify meanings
  • Avoid generalizations/projections
  • Discuss reasons for assignments
  • Participate without doing the assignment for them
  • Give a sense of completion
  • Use a variety of mediums (art, music, poetry, literature)
  •  Connect philosophy to their lives
FFor more information on this book and the author visit:

Have I peaked your interest yet?  Stay tuned for a selection of chapter summaries in future blog posts!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Edu-Pinterest Linky Party

Educators in love with pinning your classroom inspirations UNITE!  Click the link above to add YOUR Pinterest page and then explore the links that others have left!

Happy Pinning!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Back to First Grade!

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go."
— Dr. Seuss, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!"

Lots of changes are up ahead for me in the next month and especially the next school year.  I thrive on change and new adventures though, so I could not be more excited than I am right now.  I got a new job (teaching First Grade again), in a new district, and moving to the East side of Michigan (where I grew up)!  I taught First Grade for two years before my last two years teaching Second.  I absolutely LOVED Second Grade, but there was always piece of my heart that was left in First Grade :)  The growth in First Grade can just not be compared to any other grade in my opinion.  Reading and writing growth are HUGE and it is so exciting to be a part of this.  Can you tell I have endless passion for First Grade?  I think it's going to be a phenomenal year to say the least...
Here's the thing though...I need to immerse myself back into that First Grade mindset I was in 2+ years ago.  I know it will come back naturally, but I could use any advice you have.  In the past year, I have really gotten into technology with my students/families such as using: KidBlog, classroom Facebook page, classroom Twitter page, and many other abundant resources out there.  I am determined to use most/all of these but will of course go about them in a whole new way.  This I am excited about.  Something I am familiar with, but a new twist on it!
Where to start?  Morning Meeting/Calendar routine.  Today I will be comparing/contrasting the Michigan GLCEs and CCSS.  My new school has not made the switch to CCSS yet, but I figured that I may as well begin making the connections.  I need to update my routine with this part of the day making sure to touch on certain GLCEs/CCSS every day to make my students successful.  I have a few questions for my PLN out there:
What essential activities do you do for your Morning Meeting/Calendar time?   
My goal is to create a daily page for students to fill in as we are doing Calendar time to help with the date, weather, telling time, counting, etc.  Do you do something similar?  If so, please share helpful tips as I am creating mine.
I look forward to this new journey and learning from all of you on the way!  I will be sure to share what I come across as well :)  Stay tuned.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Communication with Students

-Mother Teresa

The last day of school can be bittersweet saying goodbye to your class.  Thinking about how you have seen them almost every day since September and now it will be months before you see them again...Even that depends on if they will stop in to say hello or perhaps they have moved on to a new school.  My solution to this: continue the conversation!  I like to write postcards to my students a few weeks into summer asking how summer is going, telling them a little bit about what I have been up to, and then ask them to reply!  Now, I can't say that all my students jump on the opportunity to write to their teacher over the summer, but for the few that DO respond, it really puts a smile on my face :)  I also like to think that receiving a postcard in the mail from their teacher puts a genuine smile upon their face!

This summer though, I have a new challenge for my students that I discussed with them at the end of the school year.  Instead of waiting for them to write me via snail mail, I asked them to continue to post on their KidBlog from home and that I would reply!  So far, we have been out of school for 16 days and I have had 3 students post/comment on our class blog page. Again, this isn't a lot, but it makes me smile and makes me think that I taught them a "life-skill" that they are choosing to do OUTSIDE of school.  

Well I am off to mail my postcards, how will you continue the conversation with students over the summer? 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Great Poetry Race

By Shel Silverstein

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a prayer, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

My classroom started a project for Poetry Month called The Great Poetry Race.  I first heard of this project through ProTeacher Community.  This was my go-to for about 5 years B.T. (Before Twitter).  It's essentially a forum with teachers ready to share information and chat about classroom happenings.  Sounds similar to Twitter, doesn't it?  

So anywho, The Great Poetry Race explanation...  Each week during the month of April, my students are given a new poem.  They receive this poem on Monday and turn it with with signatures of who they read it to on Friday.  The student who has read it to the most people, wins The Great Poetry Race for that week.  As their "reward" they get to keep the Poetry Trophy on their desk the following week (stuffed Dr. Seuss character).  They also record their voice reading our poem for the week on a VoiceThread which is posted on our classroom website: http://wilsonh.weebly.com/special-projects.html  Enjoy and feel free to leave comments :)  This will be added to every week with our new poem.

Why I love this project?  My students get so passionate about poetry during this project time.  Their fluency is being practiced and they realize what fluency really is from reading the poem selection over and over.  They turn into little actors and actresses:)  Also, families love having them call grandma in Arizona, or their older brother away at college to hear them read the poem.  It's a project that connects people in a 'poetic' way.

Now, deciding what poem to have my students read for next week?... Taking suggestions!  
How do you inspire the love of poetry in your classroom?

Friday, March 9, 2012

MACUL 2012

A year ago, I went to my first MACUL conference.  At the end of the conference, my mind was sWiRlinG and my brain was overflowing with information.  I remember thinking to myself, I am never coming to this conference again.  This feeling came from the fact that I was learning about all these new things and I wasn't doing any of them. This made me feel clueless. Not only that, I didn't know where to begin!  I was so overwhelmed with ideas and emotions, so I thought giving up was the answer. (I was SO wrong)  Well, here I am at MACUL again.  So, what changed?

I was able to change because I realized I don't have to do EVERYTHING I just learned.  Once I made this realization, I was able to breathe and start to filter the information I had gotten.  This was the most important lesson I learned at MACUL last year.  I went to MACUL because I knew that I loved technology.  I left MACUL learning, as an educator, how to use technology in a useful and not overwhelming fashion for myself and my students.  Technology is thrown at us every day of our lives and when new ideas come into our path we have to stop and think:

-Can I see myself using this? (if the answer is no, just let it pass.  If it's really worthwhile, you will hear about it again and maybe this time you will know someone who can offer their background in it making it a little more appealing to you.  And, you may have more courage to try it out.)
-How am I going to REMEMBER to come back to this later? 

In a year I have gone from loving technology, to becoming Knowledgeable about technology.  When I hear about something "new" I ask myself the above questions AND I dig into it deciding right then and there, can I use this?  For me, if I don't start using it right away, I won't use it.  So, if something doesn't appeal to me as being able to utilize it right away, I let it go.  Maybe another time it will work into my classroom, but not now.  This tiny lesson has made me have more courage to try new things and not beat myself up for NOT trying the "newest" and "coolest" thing I heard about, yet.  I like to let it soak in for a bit before taking that jump. 

So, I am going to spend tonight "filtering" through what I have come across these past few days and I welcome you to come back and see what I am going to start implementing "Next Week" ;)

I have added some fun finds to my classroom links page over the past 2 days so feel free to peruse those for now! http://wilsonh.weebly.com/students.html

Thanks MACUL for making me a better teacher and wanting to become a better teacher for my students.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012

Daily 5 Series: Listen to Reading

"The fluent reader sounds good, is easy to listen to, and reads with enough expression to help the listener understand and enjoy the material."
-Charles Clark, "Building Fluency: Do It Right and Do It Well!"

Listen to Reading is probably the MOST popular of the Daily 5 Choices.  If I didn't give my students guidelines about how many choices they need to make each day, they would choose L2R every time...Since it's so popular I make sure that I have a variety of tools for this choice and that enough students can get to it each day while still making other choices.  Along with a variety of tools, students know the correct way to use L2R.  Here are the tools used in my classroom:

L2R Tools & Resources



I have 4 Netbooks for students to sign up at.  Students have clothespins with their student numbers on them and this is how they sign up for all the Listening Stations.  When one student is finished, they remove their clip, slide the next student's up and also taps them on the shoulder letting them know it is their turn.  

While students are on the netbooks, they choose stories from our Symbaloo Page: (http://edu.symbaloo.com/mix/reading2ndgrade)  
They know to choose books on the left side of the page because those have the words along with the story for them to Read Along with :)  We review quite often about how reading along with the story is what will help them become more fluent readers.  

Walkmans w/sign up sheets
CD's/Tapes for Listening Stations

So, yes I am going back in time and using some old school Walkmans!  I had so many books on TAPE, and my students just did not think they were "cool."  Sooo, the Walkmans made them cool again.  They can bring them to their reading nooks and they just LOVE it.  It was a bit challenging teaching them this old technology, but they got the hang of it :)  I found them on Amazon for $7 in case you were wondering ;) 


*CD/Tape Player*

Students get to sit in Rocking Chair
while using the CD/Tape Player

Thanks for reading and I hope this gives you some ideas/tips for your own L2R.  Please comment on what resources you use for L2R as I am ALWAYS looking for updates/additions to my own system.  Happy President's Day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Daily 5 Series: Work on Writing

Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish.

Writing can be a daunting task for some students, so my job is to make it fun, interesting, and new.  I try to give my students a new Writing Prompt every other week so there is time to go through the writing process, and also have time to choose what they want to write about.  I do Writer's Workshop at another time of the day, but Daily 5 time gives them "extra" time work work on current pieces.  

I always have a checklist with student names for the Writing Pieces that we currently are working on, but most importantly, I have a list of Free Choices they can make if they finish the required pieces.  This ranges from books containing Writing Prompts to technology links which students can use our classroom netbooks for.  Either way, they always have PLENTY of Writing options to choose from.

During Daily 5, students write in their Writer's Notebook.  This is a notebook of their choice which contains all of their rough drafts from the year.  

Some great links to get your students "pumped" about Writing are:

Scholastic Story Starter
Word Tamer

If you have inspiration to share with young writers please comment below!  Happy Writing :)