Saturday, August 1, 2015

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms

In addition to content area strengths, students must develop non-cognitive skills and strengths.  This is discussed in :
A literature review from the University of Chicago on noncognitive factors shaping school performance

My students immediately took to discussions in class of character strengths grit, zest, optimism, self-control, gratitude, social intelligence and curiosity.  I made a new spinner for the end of day closure.  This one just has the one question, "How did you show ____ today?" and we would spin for the trait.  However, I began by just choosing one for a week, and then introducing another the following week.  Once we had incorporated the skills at the end of the day, I then used them throughout the day, such as in the transition from math to science.

Math is a particularly tough subject this year and many students feel frustration.  By highlighting that even though they felt frustration, they kept going, students are more willing to face the difficulties of math in the future.  So this also lead to discussions of optimism.  We have not yet connected gratitude to our new math program.  I am saving that for a little later when they can see the benefits of the comprehensive learning curve they've endured!

My ah-ha moment was when we were discussing yet another hero, and writing about that hero.  Often we use a graphic organizer to help them quickly highlight most important elements, such as date and accomplishments of a particular citizen.  This time I also planned to use a writing sample after the lesson to evaluate how well the English Language Learners were using English during content area writing.  Therefore, I was only giving the students a blank notebook paper.  To facilitate the writing process, I asked additional questions about the hero, such as how did this person show zest for what she was interested in?  How did the character use grit in order to reach her goals? How was this person optimistic in facing the fears for her well being?  The writing samples provided a great indication of:

  • whether the student knew hero well or not
  • one example of how well the English Language Learners had assimilated the English language 
  • the level of understanding or misunderstanding of the character strengths highlighted
  • a personal response, not just a drab repetition of facts
I am finding the use of the character strengths very helpful in my day to day classroom experience, and I continue to use them in discussions of heroes.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Day at KIPP Houston

Our principal provided a day to visit the successful KIPP school in Houston off Bissonnet.  What an original idea that was!
I am inspired to add quotes to my classroom walls, focus more on students' year of high school graduation, and lessen school distractions.  Here is a perfect video for what we learned about KIPP.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Slice of Life updates

In following Two Writing Teachers I receive ideas and assignments that I love, but don't always complete. Today I read One Grateful Teacher Her word was Risk.
Betsy's word was Silence. Dana's word was Float.  All very cool.  Mine is not so cool.

I've been thinking of my One Little Word for the year, and it seems to be Next.

Created with

A big portion of the reason for Next, is that my son graduated from college and has a grown up job. Whew! So I am on to the next phase of my life, whatever that is.

I have come to accept that teaching has constant deadlines and requires ongoing willingness for new learning. So Next helps me consider what needs to be done at this time...not necessarily all the future deadlines, but just for today, what is next?
I thank you for being present in my life today.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter Happenings, Slice of Life

"May we finish our video after lunch?"
"Cristopher forgot his Santa shoes out in the pod."
"I found a Santa picture in Kindergarten!"
"Can we do the reindeer in the library again today?"
"Jimmy won't let me be Dasher."
"Ms. Marshall my picture doesn't show. Where is the mouse?"
"Ms. Marshall everything is lost."
"Ms. Marshall, how come everything went really, REALLY, small?"
"Ms. Marshall, Noah snatched the alligator out of my hand in our play."

Despite all the complaints, the video production is in full swing in room 332.
The librarian got us thinking about the many versions of Clement C. Moore's Night Before Christmas.

So we are creating our own versions right here, right now with no time to waste.

Happy Tuesday! Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Slice of Life Tuesday

Two Writing Teachers is a blog I follow. Today they sent me a challenge to write each Tuesday, offering a slice of life piece on my blog. It was after school, when I was grateful for a "jeans pass" and running shoes on. After picking up the Digital Storytelling Club from the gym, and wading through dropped apple juice and animal cracker remnants, we made it to the room holding the precious iPads. For two months we have met once a week, these 2nd graders, 1 third grader, and I, to create digital stories. While it is the end of the day, it demands and gives energy. Today a story about a dog and a frog was finished. Adorable! Perfect? Not at all, but what a work of collaboration. Sometimes the partners didn't see each other for weeks, but progress was made. These two were willing to do the work upfront...writing a screenplay. When we declared it was a wrap, they watched with hushed tones...all the way to that final photo of the two gleaming with their puppets.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What 4 iPads can do

My heartfelt thank you goes to both SBISD's J. Landon Short and Donor's Choose for providing me with an iPad mini and 2 iPads.  Add that to my teacher iPad and I have a genuine station!  Finally!  I have applied again to Donor's Choose because it is time consuming doing one's best work to be published.  The waiting gets tedious for these 7 year olds, but we are ever so grateful for what we do have. 

Imagine my concern when over the Columbus Day holiday, a group of students broke into a classroom that had extra technology in for the purpose of assisting students who may be struggling with reading and writing.  Then we had theft in my classroom of 2 iTouches, which were eventually returned.  Even as we are working to give more access and opportunities, students are confused enough to take that away from the environment.  So we continue to discuss good citizenship, and I have changed where the technology is kept during the nights and weekends and holidays.  Yes, Monday mornings will now be about recharging devices, but that is a consequence that students will understand.

Without delay we began use of the devices for science demos, math explanations and digital storytelling.  The students are learning how important preparation is before publishing!  Awesome lesson!  Students are clamoring to show me edited writing and using vocabulary such as, "I am working on the resolution now" and "I tried to explain 3 digit addition with regrouping, but I was not quite successful."

We have had a few fits while using Telegammi (with thanks to Angelique Moulton for sharing this app) in publishing Flat Stanley stories in the style of author, Jeff Brown.  Telegammi is limited in length, and some students took this personally, instead of saving, and then finishing with a second video. Other students are competently telling and retelling their stories.  Here are a couple of working segments.

Flat Stanley

Conversations such as,"Does your story follow the rubric?" and "If your story shows Flat Stanley as a criminal, is that in keeping with the Flat Stanley character?" have invited rigor to the exciting use of technology.