Sunday, November 1, 2009

How to Create a Community in the Classroom

One of my main goals as a teacher is to create a community in the classroom where students feel safe and connected. It is very important that students can trust each other and develop positive relationships with their peers.

In my classroom, I create a sense of community by first creating a classroom identity. We begin by discussing who we are and why we are in there. As a class, we create a class creed. This year our creed is:
        We are the first grade class.
        We are here to learn.
        We are kind and treat each other with respect.
        We share, listen, and forgive each other.

The students were able to come up with a wonderful creed with very little prompting. I asked the questions:
  • Who are we? What makes us different from other classes?
  • Why are we here?
  • What do we do here?
  • How to we treat each other?
We say our creed daily, with the eight expectations from Great Expectations. Then we begin our Morning Meeting. Morning Meeting is a practice from Responsive Classroom. It gives students a wonderful way to begin the day by greeting each other. It is very important in our classroom that we address each other by name. This helps to create a climate of mutual respect.

Here are some other resources that have helped me in my classroom:
More information about creeds
Creating a Classroom Community
A Positive Classroom Community: Concrete Ways to Foster Unity from Day One
Ten Ways To Build Community in Your Classroom
Building A Classroom Community and Bully-Free Zone

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's My Job

The week I participated in the #edchat on twitter. The topic of discussion was “How to make lessons engaging instead of blaming the Internet or Technology.” When discussing this topic with my fellow educators, I realized some very important things.

I realized that it is my job to make lessons engaging to students. As a teacher, I must motivate my students and engage them in meaningful learning. That being said, it is my job to learn how to motivate and engage. It is also my job continue to learn everyday.

I know many teachers who only attend the provided professional development and are satisfied that it is enough. I want the very best for my students, not just the bare minimum. Students need more than just the ability to pass the test. They need to be given a passion for learning. They will not be passionate for learning if their teacher is not passionate.

I became a teacher because I want to make a difference and I love learning. When I share all the fun things I learn about education and technology, it is only because they excite me and I hope you are excited too. I just want my fellow teachers to understand that it doesn’t really matter if you are passionate about all this technology stuff. You need to be passionate about learning and making yourself a better teacher. It’s your job.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Smartboard Resources

I am very blessed to say that I have been able to use a SMART Board in my classroom almost the entire time I have been teaching. I have found that having a SMART Board to use has connected my class to the world in a new way. I have also found that I don’t have a whole lot of time to create a ton of new SMART Board lessons myself. Through the years, I have collected links to find SMART Board lessons, interactive websites, videos, and other resources I can use with my SMART Board. First check out my Diigo list of websites that I have bookmarked. Then check out some of these great places to find more resources.

SMART Exchange
SMART Board Revolution - A Revolution in Education
Interactive Whiteboard Games - PBS KIDS
SMART Board Templates
Teachers Love SMART Boards

Do you know more resources that are great for SMART Boards? Please add your resources to the comments.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Teachers Learn Too: Developing a PLN

This summer I have learned so much about technology and teaching. Almost all of my learning has come from the internet and the connections I have made online. One of the most important things I have learned is how to develop a PLN. My PLN is still very much in development, but I add new contacts everyday.

What is a PLN?
PLN stands for Personal Learning Network. It is a group of professional educators that you connect with online to share resources and advice. PLNs are develop through social networking sites, such as twitter or facebook.

What are the benefits of a PLN?
When you make connections to other professionals in your area you expand your knowledge and access to resources. You are no longer limited to your own knowledge and experiences, but now you can tap into the wealth of knowledge from others who have been there and done that. You can find the answers you need almost instantly.

How do you get started?
The very first thing I did to develop a PLN was join a social network. I joined Classroom 2.0, a network for teachers who use Web 2.0 technology in their classroom. Then the I joined Twitter, which had the largest impact on developing my PLN. I'm now connected to hundreds of educators instantly. Here I have gathered some of the resources that I have used to learn more about PLNs and how to connect with teachers.

Twitter Resources
100 Terrific Twitter Feeds for Teaching Advice
What is #Edchat? Teacher Reboot Camp
Follow Education PLN Builder on Twitter

Other Resources
Classrooms 2.0
Free Technology for Teachers: Two Guides for Constructing a PLN
The Innovative Educator: 5 Things You Can Do To Begin Developing Your Personal Learning Network
The Fischbowl: My Personal Learning Network In Action
Creating a Personal Learning Network with Web 2.0 Tools (Building a PLN)
Creating an Online Personal Network

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Take Some Time Out To Laugh

I recently found this wonderful blog about teaching. It is called It's Not All Flowers and Sausages written by Mrs.Mimi. I'm always waiting for the next post because I can't get enough. Mrs.Mimi is hilarious and easy to relate to. She teaches second grade and so I feel we have a lot in common.

She just recently came out with a book of the same name. It's Not All Flowers and Sausages the book is a must read for elementary teachers. I think parents would enjoy it as well. It gives insight in to the wonderful world of teaching little ones.

Sometimes we just need to stop and have a laugh. There are many parts to teaching that are not my favorite things to do (such as paperwork and grading), but I absolutely love my job. Kids are wonderful and make everyday worthwhile!

Take some time to check out her blog or read her book. You will not be disappointed!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Setting Up Your Classroom for the New School Year

I've already started considering what I will be changing in my classroom when I return. Each new year is a wonderful time to consider what changes can be made to make the classroom better.

Classrooms should be a students' home away from home. I've heard some teacher say that you don't want your students to get to comfortable in the classroom, but I disagree. When a student feels "at home" in the learning environment, they are more likely to take risks.

After looking into ways I can make my room more comfortable and homey, I have put together some tips and ways I will organize my classroom this year. Some of these tips I've already had a chance to add to my room and they have made a difference.

  • Use a color or pattern theme in your classroom to tie things together visually. In my room I've used dots on bulletin boards, posters, and curtains.

  • Use lamps, rugs, plants, curtains, or other items that are normally found in a home. I have a lamp on my desk, a rug in the reading corner, plants, and curtains.
Here I've used flowers and a table cloth to make the entrance of my classroom more homey.
  • Have comfortable seating for reading and relaxing. I have a reading corner with a rug and pillows the students can use to sit or lounge on.
Here is my reading corner. You can see the red and purple pillows behind the book rack.
  • Give students input. Post students' work and allow them to have some input on decorating the room. When I had a problem with desks not staying straight, I asked the students if they had any ideas. One student had the idea that we put tape on the floor for one desk in each group and that person is the group desk leader. Everyone else has to make sure that their desk is in line with the group leader. What a wonderful idea!
Here are more links to resources for setting up your classroom:
Classroom Spaces That Work
Classroom Organization: The Physical Environment
How to Set Up Your Classroom for the First Day of School

Setting Up Your Classroom
The Ultimate Organized Classroom

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Timeline and My First Grade Reading Instruction

Timeline: Reading Instruction
  • Approximately 1,000 B.C. - The Greeks and Romans developed forms of the alphabet that we use today. Their method of teaching reading developed into the ABC method. “Children memorized the letters of the alphabet and then were drilled on letters sounds through work with simple vowel-consonant and consonant-vowel clusters, and ultimately, syllables” (Teale, 1995, p.110).
  • 1834 - Isaac Pitman created a shorthand by using common letters and invented letters that became very popular for teaching the letter-sound relationships. It was redesigned in 1870 by A.J. Ellis and called Glossic. In 1898, Nellie Dale continued on this idea to write the teachers’ manual, Teaching of English Reading. This was the first true classroom program based on a basic code and taught sound to print. This classroom program was widely used until the 1920s.
  • 1920s - The whole-word or sight-word method of look-say developed and basal readers became popular. Children were taught reading primarily by memorizing sight-words and then learning to analyze the structure of the words after many sight-words are known.
  • 1940s and 1950s - The famous Scott-Foresman readers about Dick and Jane became the primary way to teach reading. The Dick and Jane readers continued to use the look-say method. The students were taught to read the story and the complete the Think-and-Do workbook. This reading instruction had very little writing or phonics.
  • 1955 - Rudolf Flesch wrote Why Johnny Can’t Read and What You Can Do About It. Through this book, Flesch describe the problems of the current reading philosophy. The look-say did not teach phonics. This created a movement for more phonics instruction.
  • 1967 - Jeanne Chall wrote Learning to Read: The Great Debate. In her writing, Chall concluded “that an early code emphasis produced better outcomes in word recognition in the early grades and helped children read with better comprehension up to forth grade than did instruction practices in which children were taught to read whole words and whole sentences” (Kim, 2008, p.372). That year, the conclusion of the First Grade Studies were also published. The First-Grade Studies “greatest impact was that the basal approach was not very powerful relative to its alternatives” (Allington, Block, Morrow, Pressley, & Wharton-McDonald, 2001, p.12).
  • 1971 - Frank Smith wrote Understanding Reading. Frank Smith, Kenneth Goodman, and others argued for the whole-language approach. The whole-language approach has little to no phonics and emphasizes more comprehension and using context clues.
  • 1987 - A basal reader was introduced that is literature-based and aligns with the whole-language approach. This is very similar to the basal reader we see today.
  • 1990s - The idea of balanced literacy developed. Balanced literacy is a combination of the whole-word and phonics approach to teaching reading (Wren, 2009). This is the primary reading approach that we see today. In 1990, I received my first grade education in reading. At that time, balanced literacy was just beginning to develop and I was mainly taught using the whole-language approach that was popular in the 1980s.
My First Grade Instruction

My reading instruction came while most teachers where using the whole-language approach. Balanced literacy was just beginning to take form then. Whole-Language began to become popular with Frank Smith’s book Understanding Reading. Kenneth Goodman was also very influential in this movement. They believed that reading instruction should “focus on making meaning in reading and expressing meaning in writing” (Wikipedia, 2009, Overview).

The whole-language movement had many new ideas that were very different from the previous methods of basal readers. In a whole-language classroom, little to no phonics are taught. It is believed that learning phonics was not as natural as learning through experiencing books. Shared reading and read alouds became very popular from this method. Small guided reading groups also became popular at this time. Guided reading groups were different from the small groups of the previous method because guided reading groups are more flexible and not always groups made from ability levels. The whole-language movement also brought independent reading. Students read silently at times often called Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) or Drop Everything And Read (DEAR). Whole-language also brought on the idea that children should read authentic literature. In 1987, basal publishers began to publish a new basal that included children’s literature as opposed to the stories that were created just for the basal reader like in the past.

I have very fond memories of my first grade classroom. The most clear memory of reading in first grade was during SSR. I was reading a book in a bathtub that was located in our classroom for use during free time. I have very little memories of any other reading time in our classroom. My teacher did use a basal reading series. The series that we read from was literature-based, although I don’t recall the name of it. I do not have any memories of guided reading groups, I believed we used big books and shared reading experiences. Partner reading was also a very big part of my first grade classroom. The best times were when we were able to choose our own partners to read with. I also enjoyed when the older students at the school, our “book buddies,” would come and read with us. I don’t have any direct memories of phonics until second grade, where our teacher used Hooked on Phonics.

Whole-language had a large influence on my first grade teacher and how she taught reading in the classroom, though I don’t believe that I was taught from a purely whole-language method. The activities and resources my teacher used developed from whole-language, such as SSR, partner reading, and shared reading. Although whole-language does not agree with using a basal, I think using a basal with whole-language methods was very common at the time and still is. I know that I was also taught some phonics, which is not a purely whole-language method either. I think that my teacher was using a basic form of balanced literacy, even before it received its name.

Throughout the years, there have been many different views on how reading should be taught. My first grade teacher taught using the methods that were popular at the time and I believe that she did the very best she could. I was able to read well and I believe that I received the education I needed. I think that as we take a look at the history of reading instruction, we need to remember that no matter what the method, it was always the teacher that mattered the most.

Allington, R.L., Block, C.C., Morrow, L.M., Pressley, M., & Wharton-McDonald, R. (2001). Learning to read: Lessons from exemplary first-grade classrooms. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Kim, J.S. (2008).Research and the reading wars. Phi Delta Kappan. 89, 372-375.
McGuinness, D. (2004). Early reading instruction: What science really tells us about how to teach reading. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Teale, W.H. (1995).Young children and reading: Trends across the twentieth century. Journal of Education. 177, 95-127.
Whole language. (2009). In Wikipedia [Web]. The Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved May 18,2009, from
Wren, S. (2009). What does a balanced literacy approach mean?. Retrieved May 18, 2009, from SEDL Web site:

Monday, July 27, 2009

What is Web 2.0 technology in education?

After spending most of my summer in forums and reading blogs, I've now come to an understanding of what Web 2.0 technology is. I was very confused when I first heard the term. Is is some sort of new software? Who made it and where did it come from? I really had no clue.

Web 2.0 technology is just a term to explain the new trend in technology today. It refers to the social networking and collaborative tools that are on the cutting edge. It is a huge movement in education today. It is mostly seen in secondary education, although many teachers begin early and web 2.0 tools can be used in any classroom.

I've included some links that helped me to understand web 2.0 tools and become familiar with them.

Here is a wiki about web 2.0 and it gives some helpful background information on the term. Web 2.0 in Education & Profiles - Intro.

Here is a great blog post that has details about web 2.0 in education. Moving Toward Web 2.0 in K-12 Education

Classroom 2.0 is a social network of educators that use web 2.0 technology in there classrooms. I have spent endless hours learning from the blogs and forums here.

I hope these help you to see how much more we could be doing in our classrooms. I'm still not sure what I would like to do in my classroom. I currently have a classroom website, but the students do not contribute to it. I'm thinking about maybe doing a classroom blog. We will see how this one does first.

Where are we going?: Technology in the Classroom

I was recently asked the question, "How is education different from when you were a child? and Where do you think education will be in twenty years?" I am a young teacher, so the differences are not huge for me. Technology is definitely different from when I was in school. Students today have more ability to interact with the global world. I think that there is more collaboration than when I was in school as well. I don't know that the differences make my job easier. I think they just make it different. Students now need different tools and ways of communicating. They also need the tools that I learned, about speaking in front of groups and interacting with others face to face. I think education is going more toward being individual. Many of the schools with cutting edge technology are going to 1:1 classroom. (That is one student with one computer.) It's good for technology, but are they receiving the time with actual people that they need? I'm not sure if this trend will continue in twenty years, but I hope they do not do away with real classrooms. Don't get me wrong. I would be in heaven if my students each had a computer in class, but we would not be spending our entire day using it.

I love to use technology in my classroom and I think it is very important. I read a great blog post about what teachers need to know about technology. The Top Eleven Things All Teachers Must Know About Technology It really helped me see how technology has changed and where we need to be heading. It is so important to teach our students about "digital citizenship." Teaching students to be responsible when using technology, especially Web 2.0 technology will be very valuable to them.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Becoming a Blogger

I've done it. I'm officially a blogger. After spending the entire summer reading blogs of others and learning about new technology, I decided it was time to give it a try.

My goals for my blog are simple. I want to create a space where I can reflect on what I do. I want to learn more from myself and others. I also hope to inspire and help other teachers, like so many have inspired me.

This summer I have learned so much about Web 2.0 technology and new ideas for my classroom. I've also began a program to get my Masters degree as a Reading Specialist. Through this blog I hope to share the ideas and exciting things I have learned.

My teaching experience is not extensive at this point. I'm still considered a beginner by most. This blog is a way for me to grow and learn as I develop more teaching experience. I'm am preparing for my third year teaching first grade. The little ones are so inspiring! Where else can I go and be so loved and they think I'm so smart!

I hope that through my reflections you can find something to think about and learn about. Take the time to continue to learn. Learning is so valuable.