Wednesday, February 21, 2018

What My Dog Taught Me About Teaching

My friend Terri over at: posted pics on Twitter of their new rescue and it made me a little nostalgic for my Ruby's rescue story. I don't think I've shared it here for a while.

I adopted Ruby when she was 3 months old. She had already been at the shelter for a month and she was kept isolated because she had respiratory infections that they first thought might be distemper. I played with her for little while and then immediately decided she would become part of our family.

 Many people talk about how rescue dogs are awesome (and they are!) because they are so grateful that you gave them a family. Ruby did not get that memo. She bit and scratched me the whole way home. Once at our house she paced around like a shark. If I sat on the floor to play with her and cuddle, she nipped at me. I grew up with boxers and we never had any kind of behavior like that before so I asked my vet for a trainer recommendation.

The trainers came out to our house, met her, observed her-asked questions-she doesn't ever cuddle in your lap?-- and proceeded to tell me that "she will never be the kind of dog you want her to be". I was so appalled at that response. First of all, I made a commitment, I wasn't taking her back. Secondly, if you don't believe she can learn, she's not going to learn. As a teacher I couldn't even imagine making that judgement about a student-oh, they're never going to be able to learn.

So on to trainer #2. He was very nice, called her "Little Alligator"because she liked to chew on his shoelaces. He was all about the alpha dog approach. Yeah, Ruby never got that memo either. She was just really stubborn.

Trainer #3 called himself a Dog Whisperer. He immediately pulled out a dog collar with teeth. I refused to use it with Ruby. He told me if I wasn't going to do the program correctly it wasn't going to work-I told him if he couldn't train her without hurting her, then this was not the right program for us.

Now Trainer #4 was a great match. She was very zen and knew from the start that Ruby was misunderstood. She was an agility trainer and right away Ruby showed a fearlessness for the tunnels and jumps that she said all dogs did not possess. She taught me techniques to use with her and we practiced and practiced. There was blood, sweat and tears put into that process.

Today she is such a great companion. She makes me laugh, protects me (from anyone even walking down our street). I look forward to coming home to take our walks and sit out in the front yard watching the world go by.

What does this have to do with teaching? First of all you have to believe a student will learn or they will not learn. I was in a training once where they asked "do you believe your students will grow up and go to college"-every teacher at my table said no. I do believe that. We start talking about college in Kindergarten for that very reason. Even if they are not getting the best start in life economically, I believe in that for them.

Secondly, all techniques do not work for all students. You have to try different things until you figure out how a student learns. We fill out inane paperwork every year for permanent folders-but nowhere is there a place for a teacher to say anything specific about what works for that student when it comes to how they learn. Most teachers have to figure that out for themselves, which can be frustrating.

Don't give up! Every child (and dog ) deserves a chance to be successful.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Rules for Valentines

Sometimes I forget my little ones haven't really experienced much in this world yet. We talked about Valentine's Day and planned our activities, but the reality for them was so much more! They were beyond excited-"this is the best day of my whole life". :) 

After we passed out our valentines, I asked them to look at them and see what was always true about valentines. This is one of the concepts of Kaplan's Depth and Complexity--Rules. What rules can we state about valentines. I think some of them really came up with some creative answers!

It's always true that love spreads.


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Friday, February 9, 2018

Conversation Heart Sentences

Writing sentences is one of our objectives and it's a tough one for many of my kiddos. Even if they can sound out their words, they usually don't have the stamina to write for very long. We talked about all the different ways writers get inspired and this time we were going to be inspired by conversation hearts. I gave each student a heart with a word or phrase and they had to use that in their sentence. (By the way, someone should do a study on how much the phrases on these heart have changed over the years--on fleek? LOL? ).

Here are there sentences:

When I was a baby my mom called me Beauty Queen.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Our Annual Vocabulary Runway Show

We all know vocabulary is important-especially for reading comprehension and being good writers. I work in a school with close to 100% of our students qualifying for the free lunch program. Which means their families live in poverty. Studies show that these kiddos just do not hear the same amount of words growing up as their wealthier counterparts. We need to make up for that gap in schema.

One thing I like to do is to have our own Vocabulary Runway Show. I assign each student a word (I choose words particularly that they can use to spice up their writing a little bit). I ask the parents to help them come up with a costume that shows what their word means and each child writes a 2 line monologue to say. They say "I am....., that means...., and then they give an example of a sentence with that word in it. My favorite part is that they are not only learning their own word, but also the others of their friends. We will be reading a story and they hear the word ancient and they all turn to Sally because that was her word. They have a visual for it now.

My students have never presented in front of people before-so it was great experience for them in that regard as well! We invited the parents, rolled out the red carpet and had an informative show!



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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Love Is......

Sometimes I like to just give my students a Big Idea to write about. I gave them the prompt this morning that just said "Love is.....". I gave them the example that love to me is when I come home and my dog is so excited to see me and gives me kisses.

Here is what they came up with (I do LOVE that they came up with different ideas):

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Would You Want to Have a Robot for a Mother?

The chapter book I am reading as our read-aloud right now is the Wild Robot.

It's a story about a robot who gets stranded on an island and has to learn how to survive. She inadvertently knocks over a nest and saves the one viable egg which hatches into a gosling. Along with learning how to survive, she is also learning how to be a good mother.

" you can never be the perfect mother just do the best that you can".

So I asked my students to make an argument-would they like to have a robot for a mother? I mean a robot mother wouldn't even need sleep-there might be advantages. :) 

Here's what they came up with: 

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