Saturday, April 24, 2010

Model a Love for Learning: Try Something New!

Yesterday I decided to take a risk in my classroom. Ok, I can hear you now thinking, "What does she mean, take a risk?" "Don't I have enough to do already?" Don't worry, I also have many things to do and lots of pressure to get my students ready for first grade in these last 7 weeks of school. With all that in mind, I  decided to try something new by experimenting with GarageBand, an application on this Mac laptop so graciously loaned to me by my school district.  In honor of Earth Day this week, I wanted to record my students talking about how they plan to take care of the Earth. It sounded like a good idea, right?  I have only played around at home on Garageband and have never tried recording voices or making any kind of podcast.  On top of that lack of experience, I am always a bit apprehensive about using new technology with my students out of fear something won't work; I am also worried about their short supply of patience. The truth is: when an adult models working hard at learning something new, kids are very helpful and patient!  Not only did I manage to record the kids voices, I also recorded Miss Harrington and I talking about the interviews (during our lunchtime, of course!) I edited for about 3 hours last night (because I am still learning!) and also added the kids responses to a fun site, Wallwisher, where I posted our class wallwisher . On my class website, in the weekly blog I invited parents to chime in on how they will help the Earth by adding a note to the wallwisher. I also posted the recording of the kids answering the question: "What will you do to help the Earth?"
So, after all that rambling, what's the point of this post? In case you missed it, here it is! Kids need to see adults learning new things, experimenting, and taking risks to create something new. If we want to develop kids who are willing to think critically and work hard, then we must model these behaviors ourselves so that we can facilitate a love for learning.
How do you show kids that you are open and committed to learning new things? Please chime in and share!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

An End to Spring Break..

It's Sunday night, the last night of spring break and I am trying to stop the emergence of stress, the pressure of anticipating a busy back to school day tomorrow. It's not like I don't love my job or my class. Truly, I do!  It's just that transitions are difficult for all of us, especially 5 year olds; after nine days of not having to get up early and be on a structured routine, they will be groggy and probably restless as they ease back into the routine. As I write I am brainstorming how I will make the transition easier!
First, I will give lots of "talk and share" time tomorrow for kids to catch up with each other and find out what they did over spring break. I gave them "Spring break Journals" to write in before break and I will let them project their stories on the big screen throughout our day tomorrow.
Next, I think I will take any opportunity to be outside with my class. Perhaps I will take my story time outside as I introduce our new Language Arts theme: Spring is Here. It looks like it will be a beautiful day tomorrow so why not go outside and do some hands on observation of what spring looks and feels like! Maybe the birds will give us a nice song as well.  In the afternoon, during math, I am thinking of making a few number lines with sidewalk chalk. I will teach the kids how to use the number line and give them some fun opportunities to learn while practicing addition by jumping across it!
Finally, I will just enjoy "being in the moment" and try to be patient as they adjust to the long school day. I am feeling better already as I remind myself that each school day does not have to be perfect. It's important that kids come to school and experience a safe, stimulating place where they can explore and become excited about their learning!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Power of Awe, Fascination, and Wonder : Part II

Back in November I wrote a post about The Power of Positive Emotions and Engagement in the classroom. I discussed how I would use a photo each day to inspire awe and wonder in my kindergarten kids, primarily to promote positive emotions in the classroom, which many researchers claim leads to more engaged learning. I also promised to post a picture of the "Inspiration Board, so here it is! ( yes, better late than never!)
I often see kids gazing at this board, conveniently positioned by the sink/drinking fountain, pondering what it would be like to be one of these animals. It's a great positive distraction space when someone is having a tough time letting go of a negative experience on the playground or even a difficult beginning at home that morning.
As a follow-up, I am incorporating this board with the themes we are studying in Language Arts. For example, during our theme "Wheels go Around" I showed kids, via my projector and laptop, pictures of different awe-inspiring vehicles and items with wheels. I did not print these pictures, unfortunately, because I frankly have used tons of ink at home.  In the future, for our upcoming "World of Animals" theme, I plan to announce via my class blog that kids are welcome to bring in inspiring pictures to share via the document camera and then for posting to the board. I also plan to have the students write "speech bubbles" or "captions" for the pictures. It will be fun to see what they write in response to pictures they can choose to respond to.
What strategies do you use to inspire awe, fascination and wonder in the classroom? Do you think it's worth the time spent to consciously create a positive classroom environment?