I Am So Proud of You

I was back at school today cleaning up and my mind couldn’t help but think of all the students, both mine and all those I’ve come to know these past couple of years. 

There are so many things I would have loved to said as they left for the summer or even left for good moving on to other schools, but one of the most important things I know I said to some was this, “I am so proud of you!” 

I am so proud of all the effort you put forth. You showed such courage and bravery as you tried new things, and took risks as you investigated ways to construct your learning in all areas of the curriculum and in areas not in the curriculum that were sometimes more important. 

I am proud of the way you played, became part of a community, and helped one another learn and grow. You showed empathy, compassion, respect, and resilience. 

Your sense of wonder and inquiry amazed me on many an occasion. I have to admit that, at times, I may have learned more from you than you did from me. 

I know I couldn’t have said all of this to each and every one of you, so please know, that when I say, “I’m proud of you” that I mean it all. 


Story Stones – More Than Just Rocks With Cute Pictures 

Last summer I took a picture of some story stones that I had made to use with my kinders. They never really got into them, but yesterday and today, these two came in to visit and they wowed me! They asked about the stones and what they were for. When I told them, they asked if they could play with them. Of course I said yes, and they proceeded to sit and play and rearrange and story-tell for over an hour!

All the time they were doing these they were editing and revising and completing the writing process. I found the entire experience fascinating to observe. As I was watching and, then later, reflecting on it all, it reminded me of just how important these types of experiences are for students above the early childhood years as well as English language learners.

We, as educators and parents, need to be advocating for experiences that help our students and children have the opportunity to construct knowledge for themselves. The results are truly beautiful!

Choice Time – Changing Opinions

My brain has been all over the place lately, but something that I keep coming back to is choice time. I have so many questions!

* How can I use this more to empower students?

* What can I do to make stronger connections and tie ins to literacy? Math? Other content areas?

* What do I need? What do I already have?

* How can I add a journaling component?

* Who should be doing choice time?

This last question has been a thorn in my side these past two years as I’ve learned more about choice time. I had an opinion, BUT I think my opinion is changing. I also feel like my newest opinion may be more accurate. 

Last year I strongly felt that all students through kindergarten should be participating in some sort of choice time so I added STEAM Fridays to my schedule. Fortunately I have great leadership who supported this move. After a month or so of doing it, I started having some 1st and 2nd graders beg me to come “play” with us. Since I have an inability to say no, I would allow some to come only with the permission of their teachers. 

Over the summer and fall, I became a student of this and read several books. Among my favorites were: (not affiliate links) 

1. Choice Time: How to Deepen Learning Through Inquiry and Play, PreK-2 – http://www.heinemann.com/products/E07765.aspx

2. Purposeful Play: A Teacher’s Guide to Igniting Deep and Joyful Learning Across the Day – http://www.heinemann.com/products/E07788.aspx

3. A Quick Guide to Boosting English Acquisition in Choice Time, K-2 – http://www.heinemann.com/products/E02615.aspx

When the new year started, I decided to make this a daily routine. It was an absolute joy to see and experience, but the experience did lead to the first four questions on the aforementioned list. The last question blossomed from a number of 3rd-5th graders who started asking to come down and “help” my kids specifically during this time. Again, inability to say no, I told them they had to have teacher permission. This process did have some hiccups, but the observations of our older friends led me to change my opinion once again. 

I now strongly feel that 3rd-5th graders need these experiences too! I have said before that through these experiences “compassion, respect, honesty, trust, courage, resilience, creativity, self-awareness, community, a sense of wonder and inquiry, empathy….” can be nurtured and developed. It’s true for these older students too. Let them be children!

For those still on the fence, let me address my picture. These are two 3rd grade students who came down to “help” this week. (They really did part of the time reading with several students and moving through our centers with some too!) After some time I noticed them move over and start playing together with these dolls. They started pointing and talking and moving the pieces around so I had to go investigate. Pulling a chair up to their table, I just sat and observed, watching and listening as they worked. They began categorizing and sorting all the different pieces. They discussed who could wear the different outfits and why. These moved things around if they decided that their initial ideas were wrong. They spoke in multiple languages which lets me know that native tongue and English were being merged with deeper conversations since they were being given time to investigate. Everything about what they did was positive and purposeful and developmentally appropriate for what they needed at the time. I was lucky to just be a silent observer with permission to just watch. This entire experience was proof that our older students in grades 3-5 need choice time as well. 

“THAT” kid

This morning I was lamenting the coming end of the school year with some teachers, and I got the reply. 

“But you don’t have ________________”

We’ve all heard it before. We may have actually said ourselves at some point. It ends a variety of ways of which I won’t try to even list because I’ll just leave out too many to count. 

Now before the judgement hits in, I’m not saying this was a bad teacher. We all have probably been guilty of saying something in jest, on accident, or as a result of being tired or ill that we didn’t mean to sound the way it did. I’ll choose to assume the best, because it’s just better to live life that way. 

Where I want to go instead is with “that” student. Why and how is he or she “that” one? True, we don’t entirely know their life when they leave our building, but we can have an impact when they are there with us. I contend, that, sometimes, we may be able to have a dramatic impact that can either improve or frustrate them to the point that we can change who that student is at school. 

As I was thinking on this today, the first thing I thought of was community. Building and establishing a community is the most important thing we can do first as teachers. Why? A community is where we spend most of our time. If we build a community that is safe, non-judgmental, calm, accepting, and encouraging we can transform our classroom and tremendously influence our students. In this type of community, we try to understand and empathize rather than judge and criticize. When the pressure is off, behavior will improve. It doesn’t mean bad behavior disappears, it just decreases the frequency. In this type of community, students are allowed to be risk-takers and be wrong without the fear of being ostracized by adults they want to look up to and friends/students they just want acceptance from. It’s a win-win for them and us. 

So, before we (myself included) label “that” kid let’s seek first to respect, care for, and honor them for who they are so that can feel safe enough to love and to learn. Who knows, we may just find an influencer and leader who can have a positive impact on others. Today, I did, and “that” kid had a positive influence on some of mine. 

It’s Not What the Word Says


“It’s the human that interprets it, not what the word says.” ~ Gary Vaynerchuk

Who knew that Gary V had such deep knowledge about reading? Ok, I’m not sure that he really does, but he did say those words, just in an entirely different context. This, however, proves my point.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about reading, constructivism, and best practices. I’ve also been thinking a lot about this system of education we have now where testing has been anointed king even though it doesn’t deserve it.

So much of the training I’ve received in the past about reading has been so segmented and, I’m convinced, that this is not what works best.

What is reading anyway?

I looked up the definition of read and found that it means “look at and comprehend the meaning of (written or printed matter) by mentally interpreting the characters or symbols of which it is composed.”

When students “read” a text, it’s not about the words on the page only. It’s the interpretation of them. All of the schema a reader brings to the table, what the pictures tell them, and the words on the page all lead to this interpretation.

Sometimes I think we, as teachers, need to learn to “listen” when our kids talk, draw, and/or write about what they are reading. Sometimes we need to learn to “listen” to what they have written themselves in their own writing. We need to remember that’s it not always about what we think, it’s in the meaning and interpretation they bring that they tell us what they are learning.

Image from https://www.garyvaynerchuk.com

The Power of Book Buddies 

I work in a wonderful community of learners. It’s incredible to be in a place where children value one another and don’t mind taking part in the leaning of others. More than just taking part, so many of them want to see others learn and succeed. This week I was able to witness this (again) when we had some 3rd and 4th grade book buddies come spend some time with us this afternoon when we went outside to read.

Having book buddies is one of my kinders favorite reading activities. I find there are a lot of benefits to having them come down to read with us. 

My students get to hear stories properly read-aloud with good fluency and expression as well as develop an expanding vocabulary. They also get an opportunity to read with a partner in a non-threatening way which helps them develop their own reading skills. Another benefit is that it enables them to belong to a growing school community of students and friends.

We are so thankful for our older friends who help us and care for us so much!

It All Begins With Play


compassion, respect, honesty, trust, courage, resilience, creativity, self-awareness, community, a sense of wonder and inquiry, empathy…. the list could go on and on… The more I think about the importance of play, the more it hits me as just how important it is for child development. There are so many benefits to giving students, giving children, the opportunity to do what comes naturally for them. Play. Regardless of age, they need to be given time to do this and I’m not talking about on a device.

Every week I have students from 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade who come by my kindergarten room and want to play. They go to my kinetic sand, my blocks, legos, cars, puppets, kitchen center, and art center. They want to play and experiment and discover not just new things, but themselves. My challenge to us all, including myself, those of us who are lucky enough to spend our days with children, is to let them play.

It all begins with play.