The Power of Poetry 

Poetry is often viewed as beautiful and enlightening and held in very high esteem. Despite this perception, poetry lags behind its literary counterparts in sales and popularity. Poetry is not a popular purchasing choice. It is often seen as something to be studied, academic. Despite this fact, poetry is woven into our every days lives. From Instagram caption, twitter feeds, and rap music, poetry permeates our existence.  Millennials, the youth of today, are a unique mix of very few words and strong visual imagery.  This is poetry!

The study of poetry and poetry writing is a part of most curriculum. However, the study of poetry in many classroom is often rushed or abandoned all together.  Poetry is often put on the back burner. This is such a shame. Poetry has many benefits in the classroom. Here are a few:

  • The Rhyme and Rhythm of poetry is great for teaching language, spelling patterns and phonemic awareness. Dr. Seuss’s poems covers a wide range of rhyme and rhythm. Click links for printable Dr. Seuss quotes.
  • Poetry offers another reading option. Poetry covers a wide variety of subject matter and themes. Poetry can enhance History and Science curriculum. Click links for history and science poems.
  • Poetry is great first step for beginning writers. The short prose is less intimidating.  Writing short poems is a great precursor to paragraph writing.
  • Poetry is great for teaching parts of speech. Poetry uses vivid adjectives, nouns, and verbs. It’s great for teaching the power of description.
  • Poetry can cover many reading strategies and can be used for instruction. Identifying the theme, point of view, and mood are a few of the strategies that poetry covers. Click link for Reading Rockets article, on using poetry to teach reading.

Try and incorporate poetry in your classroom the benefits are endless.

Click link for Free Poetry Analysis Doodle Note.             Poet of The Day:  Jack Prelutsky

 

The Benefits of Doodling in the Classroom 

Doodling is an act often perceived as “idle” or “distractive”.  It is usually frowned upon in classroom and in meetings.  Doodling can be defined as the spontaneous act of drawing.  I myself have been guilty of accusing a student of not paying attention while doodling during instruction.  I have also been the doodler on many occasions in staff meetings, and workshops.  Doodling usually clears the mental clipboard in my mind of all the loose ends that need my attention.  Usually , I can focus on the presentation if I’m doodling.  I often find myself uncomfortable with my doodling and stop as soon as I loose focus.

Lately, there has been a shift in the perception of doodling.  In the past few years adult coloring books have grown in popularity.  In check out counters across the country mixed in with the word searches and books of crosswords are books of Doodle Art.

Why the sudden fascination with Doodling or Doodle Art. There is new research that supports the conclusion that there are many benefits to Doodling. It can help with concentration.  A research study conducted in 2009 found that participants who doodled during a phone call was able to recall 29 percent more information. It can also ease tension, and provide enjoyment.  In 2011, Australian educational researchers from 3 Universities conducted a joint study to test the 2009 study.  The study was conducted in science classes.  Science relies heavily on images and visual, and the students were encouraged to draw during lectures.  The study found that not only did students retain more information. They reported that they actually had a great time doodling, it bought a level of enjoyment to their learning.

A few individuals are bringing the art form to the mainstream.  Sunni Brown is leading the charge with, The Doodle Revolution.  Whose main purpose is to disrupt social norms on visual learning and thinking.  She is a champion in the practice of Doodling and discribes the many benefits in her TED talk.

Give Doodling a try in your classroom.  Click link for a Free math Doodle Note for your students in my TpT store.  Also available,  Math Doodle Notes for grades 2-5.

5 ways to celebrate Women’s History Month in your classroom

March 8, is Women’s International Day around the world. In 1987 under the Reagan Administration March was officially declared National Women’s History Month in the United States.

Why should we celebrate Women’s History Month.  In most classrooms, history  lessons focus on politics, military or business endeavors.  Which usually exclude women and their contributions to society. Celebrating Women’s History Month serves as a vehicle not to rewrite history but to explore the lost history of women.  Examining the contributions of women and the issues that affect women in society creates an atmosphere of tolerance.  Ignorance leads to bias and discrimination.  Studying the contributions of all members of society is important to maintaining a world that respects all citizens.

The National Women’s History Month 2017 theme “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business”.

Here are 5 ways to celebrate Women’s History Month in your classroom.

1. Students will read about the life of Trailblazing Women in history. Students will then create a commemorative Postage Stamp to honor the woman in history. Postage Stamps can be used as a bulletin board or make a classroom scrapbook of  Trailblazing Women.

Click link below for free Women’s History Month Commemorative Postage Stamp lesson plan and Stamp template.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Id-Rather-Educate

2. Students will research a  Notable Women in History. Students will then dress up as Notable Woman and create a Real life “Wax Museum.”  Students can invite parents and other classes to visit students on display. Great way to reinforce home-school connection.

3. Students will learn about first by Women. For Example, the first woman in Congress, first in space, first to win a Nobel Prize, etc. Students will then create a  Postage Stamp( link in #1) or poster of the famous first.

Click link for History Channel’s Famous First in Women’s History.

http://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/famous-firsts-in-womens-history

4. Teaching history. Org: Great Resource for educators. Printable, quizzes. Every thing for an extensive study of Women’s History.
5. NEA list of activities for grades K-5 to celebrate Women’s History Month.

http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/50850.htm

The Impact of Morning Meetings

A few years ago my school introduced a room full of reluctant and overwhelmed classroom teachers to the concept of Morning Meetings.  I was not alone in the visualization of schedule changes and incomplete lessons that may come with this new initiative. I thought to my self, “Not another book to read while cooking dinner for my family”.

A “Morning Meeting” is a whole class gathering.  The rationale behind the concept is that it builds community and provides the opportunity for character education.  It serves as a positive springboard to the Day. There are 4 components to the meeting ; greeting, share, activity, and morning message. The meeting should be between 15 and 20 minutes in duration.

After months of trial and error and successes and a few failures, the benefits of Morning Meetings began to take shape in my classroom.  One huge benefits is that it provides students the opportunity to develop social skills necessary to navigate our ever changing world. Character Building is necessary for creating a classroom climate conducive to learning.  There is no time in most academic curriculums solely dedicated to model and develop positive character traits in students .  Teachers often lament  about the lack of manners and social skills in their students.  Morning Meetings provides an opportunity to nurture positive  behavioral traits.

In the meetings students greet each other. They may shake hands or smile. It gives students a moment to focus on their behavior in social situations. During the share session, students often share about their lives outside of the classroom.  This provides students insight to the commonalities we all share as humans.  Students listen, ask questions and sometimes compliment and connect with the speaker.   The activity aspect of the meeting serves as a great opportunity to build classroom community. Students interact and connect together as a team. Students learn the acceptable  behaviors necessary to work with others.  The teacher can also participate in the activity.  This fosters a positive teacher-student relationship. The last aspect  of the meeting is the message.  It can be used to inform students of the days events.  The message can also be an opportunity to share new concept that might be explored that day.

There are so many benefits of having Morning Meeting with your students. It builds better relationships between students. It also foster a positive relationship between the teacher and students .  In order for students to meet the behavioral and academic expectations put forth, relationships needs to exist.  Another great benefit, it allows students time to develop important social skills necessary to be successful in the 21st century.  Give Morning Meetings a try it will change the tone of your classroom.

Click link to read more about Morning Meetings:

https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/what-is-morning-meeting/

Click link below for Morning Meeting games and activities.

https://mnliteracy.org/sites/default/files/gamesactivitiesbook_0.pdf

What’s the Problem with Teacher Observations?

Anxiety and fear are some of the emotions that are aroused in many teachers of the mere mention of  the words “Teacher Observation”. While for others, observations are just another day in the life of a teacher.  Nothing to stress about.

Every teacher can recall an observation where all the dots connected and the lesson ran smoothly. Then there are those memories of students zoning out, and a change of plans mid execution.  There are always surprises!

Observations usually range from 15 minutes to an hour depending on school, and model adopted. Teacher observations usually take two forms. They are either formal or informal.  In the formal model the observation is scheduled and the administrator observing is aware of the lesson plan prior to witnessing.  This model has its advantages. The teacher can highlight certain strengths and tailor the lesson for effectiveness.  A major objection to this model is that it is usually rehearsed, and lacks authenticity .  The other model is the Informal observation.  The observation is a total surprise.  The administrator walks in and observe exactly what is happening at that moment.  Many administrators prefer this model.  It is unrehearsed and gives a real snapshot.  The problem with this model is that it gives a snapshot.  Lessons have a sequence and the snapshot may be at the beginning, middle, or end of the lesson. The observation may occur at at time when active teaching is not occurring. This model may give a skewed view depending on the sequence.

There are a few problems I find with teacher observations. Being judge by someone else can cause fear and anxiety in many. Why are teachers fearful?  Observations are high stakes. This is a teacher’s rating for the whole school year. Usually there isn’t an opportunity for a do over.  It is your one shot at a satisfactory rating.  This in itself is problematic.  One view should not account for 10 months of work.  Often after an observation, the feedback given is not useful. There is usually limited opportunities given to teachers for development based on the observers feedback.

Then, what is the answer!  I believe there should be more visits from Administrators. I think many visits are necessary to fully understand a teacher’s style and execution.  There should be an open door policy everywhere.  This will reduce the anxiety and fear felt by many teachers.  Visiting often with an authentic interest in developing strengths in teachers will eventually lead to trust. Teachers need to feel that administrators are there for support and guidance.  Administrators need to view themselves as Educational Leaders, with a hands on approach to curriculum and learning.  There should be no questions of what is happening in every classroom.

Observations are necessary, they provide vital information necessary for growth.  Growth in student and teacher learning potential. What’s needed is more conversations and collaboration among all stakeholders.

The Curriculum Shuffle

The landscape of education is ever changing. We live in a dynamic world, and education is one of the many industries in a constant whirlpool. When is change too much?  The education system is plagued with failing schools, failing students, charter schools and reform, reform, reform!  Despite all the changes, many things still remain the same. The Education Gap is widening, Charter Schools are growing exponentially, and Public Education is constantly the topic of political debate.

Curriculum is always the target of reform.  Every two or three years curriculum takes center stage. How well curriculum is performing comes into question. The answer more often than not is change in some form. Either changes in the structure, the structure of the content, or the content itself. Change in itself, is not a bad thing.  The content and structure of curriculum should shift to adjust to our every changing world. With all the constant shuffling, one has to question the sufficient inquiry, that should precede such dramatic alterations. Adequate time needs to be allotted for educators to explore and define their learning of new methods and techniques. Without the proper inquiry and training, frustration can and often does occur.

With the constant changes, many questions go unanswered. What is the learning curve for students? Have students been given time to have meaningful learning experiences? When does one question effectiveness? Maybe Curriculum in itself should not be the only changes that occur. Maybe they are other factors to explore.

Keep Black History Month Alive!

As a child attending elementary school in NYC, Black History Month involved school assemblies with guest speakers, dressing up as famous performers, and singing and dancing. We would learn about Langston Hughes, and other great poets of The Harlem Renaissance. We learned about Dr. Charles Drew and Madame C.J. Walker, inventors who overcame obstacles to change the trojectory of modern society.  The celebrations provided a cultural kaleidoscope, and filled me with optimism, and a sense of pride and accomplishment.  As a result, I realized that there are options in my future and that I can achieve anything.  In recent years, as an educator I have noticed a shift in the focus of Black History Month.  Celebrations have been reduced to classroom discussions about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. The explorations of the various contributions African-Americans have made to modern society has ceased.  Many have limited their exposure to a single story! African-Americans have made countless contributions to all aspects of human society.  There are many pioneers in the Arts, Medicine, Science, and Education that can serve as great examples of cultural pride. Let’s broaden the landscape of learning. Celebrating Black History Month can also have a unifying effect. Exploring the contributions of cultures outside of your own can demonstrate the commonalities among  us.  It may even answers questions that may seem to awkward to share. Let’s keep Black History Month alive. Let’s celebrate together!

Click link for free African-American  Inventors Activity!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Id-Rather-Educate

Share your celebrations on Instagram using the hashtag : #educators4BHM.