How to involve the community in your classroom:

Quote of the Day: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how to involve the community in my classroom. My teacher mentioned how she funded field trips and supplies by writing to the Kwanis in her area and the Ruritan clubs to see if they had additional funding and then sending them thank you cards. I’ve also heard her talk about other resources with the communities as well.

However, I realized to implement such programs would be interesting. I have a few ideas for ways I would love to bring the community into my classroom, so I figured I would research and lay out a few plans for my future classroom. All of my life I have been involved in the community through my grandparents (my grandfather was the first county doctor and went to everything), my parents, and volunteering. I’ve gone to the firefighters spaghetti dinners, driven for Meals on Wheels, hosted All Kids Swim where all our kindergarteners took lessons, called out senior citizen bingo on Thursdays, and more. For a classroom, involving the different sectors could be an amazing way to keep children learning and engaged. There are some schools that are built with a YMCA, Senior Citzen Center, or other community resources attached. Those schools have shown huge strides in learning because of their resources.

Here are a few ways I have researched (and thought of myself):

1: Career days with community members or parents as I teach children about careers or to help them envision themselves in careers and to show them how what they learned now will carry into the future.

2: Partnering with other elementary schools for sharing their writing via skype or having them have pen pals that they write to once a week in their Writer’s Workshop.

3: Seeing if the Senior Citizen Center will partner with me for coming to the class an reading a story to the children, telling a historic story if that is our history lesson, or having them as reading partners. I would really love to utilize this resource and maybe have them be buddies.

4: Parent volunteers in the classroom. Asking parents for specific help via email has been a research proven way of engaging parents in the classroom. With parents working, you can schedule reading schedules or volunteer shifts at start of day so they can help before work, or they can prepare learning centers from home. You can even have them read to the class over skype. There are even free school and volunteering apps (VolunteerSpot is recommended) to help keep parents in the loop.

5: Have artists from the community come and talk about their work to students.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t as much online as I had hoped for how to involve the community in the classroom, mostly it was about how to involve parents. While parents are the most important to involve, I wanted to research and learn more about community resources. I’ll have to keep ruminating on this topic and see what else I can come up with. Maybe I’ll have to write about how to specifically involve parents in another blog post.


The Dialogic Read Aloud and Tumblebooks

Recently I learned how to do a dialogic read aloud in a classroom and how important they are to ensuring children develop literacy skills. So many children enter school lacking crucial literacy skills like sentence structure, vocabulary, or recognizing their letters. They may not have had as much literacy instruction as their peers and if they are not helped, they will only continue to fall behind.

The dialogic read aloud ensures children get the most out of every literary experience they have in the classroom. It utilizes the PEER and CROWD sequences to assess their knowledge, evaluate their responses, and encourage them to analyze books. PEER works to assess what children know and what their response is to a CROWD prompt. It takes their response and continues to work with children on analyzing a book. CROWD prompts include completion, recall, open-ended, Wh- questions, and distancing. While it seems like a lot of technical terms, it is pretty simple when you research the topic.

This is an important approach to reading as it involves making the book more relateable to the reader and their lives. The prompts help readers to connect the books to previous knowledge or experiences while learning new knowledge. Students are able to become active participants in the read aloud with the teacher. Most teachers do read alouds automatically without thinking about the skills that students can gain from each read aloud. From the read aloud we planned, they were working on remembering key details, retelling stories, and recalling prompts. The read alouds can even fit within units, like fall or spring.

I am definitely a fan of utilizing dialogic read alouds, and I may do so with the use of Tumblebooks. Tumblebooks are animated picture books that can read to the student or you can read them to the student. The story is located on the projector or smartboard and students are able to have a larger view of the picture. It may even move or use sound, making it appealing to the visual and auditory learners. For the kinesthetic and tactile learners, they could stand up and turn the smartboard to turn the pages. There are several sites that offer free TumbleBooks, and several online public libraries like Portland and the state of Virginia offer them.

All about Dialogic Read Alouds

Many Free Tumblebooks Books

First year survival guide for new teachers

National research on teaching reading

Another First Year Teaching Link

Lucy Calkins and the Writing Workshop

Recently one of my professors brought up Lucy Calkins and none of us knew who she was. We know all about Reggio Emilio, Maria Montessori, and Rudolph Steiner. We can name these people and their life work so easily, however, there will always be people that have a unique approach to education that can be learned from. Today I decided to research Lucy Calkins and learn about her life and work.

Lucy Calkins pioneered the Writing Workshop idea where students write on their own in a reading journal and the teacher conferences with them. Every grade level can utilize Writing Workshops and there are several books available on how to meet the Common Core in every grade using this approach. The important part about this approach is that children have a choice and are writing about what they know or have experienced. It still involves direct writing instruction for about fifteen minutes, which can be on anything from literary elements to genre studies and text features. Afterwards, students explore their own topics for about forty-five minutes and then get five to ten minutes to share their own work either with the whole group or with a peer.

Some teachers have students write in their journals about five to ten minutes a day and then a full hour on Friday where children finish an entire piece of work based on one of their topics. Teachers conference with children and help them to develop their work. Conferences can help teachers to tackle work with an entire group on a writing need or to help independent students to develop their work.

A teacher typically picks a unit and students work on it for a month. The unit could be anything, but it would be helpful to do a unit that all students are interested in and have an experience with for them to write about. You wouldn’t want to do an adventure when for some children that is a great vacation and for others that is surviving a weekend. Going on a shared experience as a whole class and writing about that would be a better option for every child. You could go on a nature walk, explore the library, or write about a guest speaker.

Overall, I enjoyed learning about Lucy Calkins and her approach to writing. I’m sure we will cover it more in class at a later date, but for now, it is definitely a worthwhile system to put in my future class.

Necessary book list from her website:

Mini-lesson planning chart:

A helpful website:

How to launch the Writing Workshop Technique:

Some prompts:

How to apply for grants as a teacher

After writing yesterday about stability balls in the classroom, I realized that I should research how to apply for grants for my future needs in the classroom. There are so many foundations who hand out millions of dollars to teachers each year for everything from class pets to technology or field trips. However, there is an application process for each grant and no grant is guaranteed. For each grant, there are concrete ways to make a pitch. To me, it reminds me of a college application process or a scholarship process. I had to apply for specific reasons and know what that college valued most. You have to know who your target grant is and what they value the most. Since I have never researched the grant process or thought about applying for grants, I figured it would be helpful to start the research now and lay the groundwork for when I might need to as a teacher.

Grants tend to be for a more specific need, like more literacy for the students. For a grant, state that need so businesses know what they are helping you accomplish. Be sure if you are apply to build a classroom library, that it is a classroom that wants to fund literacy. Before you apply for a grant, you could always ask local businesses and see if the district can help you. One of my teachers recently went to Harris Teeter to see if they could provide an extra umbrella for the children to play outside in the sandbox. If it is a major grant, get the permission of your principal or superintendent first. School districts are limited in the number of state and federal grants they can apply for, so always ask permission.

When you apply for a grant, start small, don’t try to get everything in one grant. As a teacher, I’m sure I’ll have many wants, but no grant can fill everything. First, I should decide what I need or want for my classroom and find a grant that will fit that. For that need, I should document why I need it. Anecdotal evidence, test scores, and demographics come in handy during this stage. Afterwards, a background, mission statement about the potential outcome, goals and objectives, timeline, planned assessment tools, required materials, supplies, and the total cost should be included in my application.

In my application process, I should be creative so my application sticks out for the application readers. Colleagues or students can help me decide what I need or what would be the most helpful in my classroom. Colleagues could also help proofread my grant to make sure it stays on topic, uses appropriate headings, and is concise. If my school or local community has grant workshops, I should attend those to learn how to craft a successful grant. Luckily, I have already learned about meeting deadlines and how to motivate myself to produce the best work.

If I get the grant, I should always write the thank you note and send pictures. If I can document the way that the grant will change my classroom, like with a pre-test and a post-test or with specific learning objectives, I should. I may not always get what I need, but there is no harm in trying.

–Helpful resource into the application process and all the parts. I would honestly read this after reading my blog post because it goes so much more in-dept and provides so many great resources.

–Tips for getting a grant

-Big List of Educational Grants and Resources

Grant match rubric that helps tell if you are a match for the grant and should apply

Stability Balls in the Classroom

Stability balls in the classroom:

As I researched yoga in the classroom the other day, I came across a topic on stability balls. I am not familiar with stability balls, but they were incorporated in my workout today. One school that incorporated stability balls talked about Schilling’s study where she noticed they helped not only the children with Attention Deficit Disorder but also they increased productivity for all students. The children are taught that they are a privilege and not toys. The children know they cannot bounce on them and that feet must stay on the floor (Oregon Live). Another teacher noticed that her children are not flopping on the desk anymore.

Scientists say that the small movements children make while on the balls help stimulate their brains which helps them focus more (Chicago Tribune). While they activate their muscles, it flips on that switch that helps them concentrate When. children with Attention Deficit Disorder start doing a task that they are not interested in, they tend to have their brain produce brain levels that are almost asleep with how low they are. An exercise ball would help “wake” the brain up and keep them engaged. They have found that Attention Deficit Disorder children who use a stability ball will improve their language skills, and have better behavior. For boys, they tend focus better when they are moving (Livestrong.

Another teacher found a way to use grants, like the Teach for Excellence Grant, to provide the balls for her students. As a teacher, classroom management and ensuring the children are learning is so important. With the long periods that children have to sit, a stability ball could be key. I should research how to write grants for my next post so I may be able to put them in my future classroom.

-A school that incorporated stability balls and talks about how they not only helped her Attention Deficit Disorder Children but also led to increased productivity for all students.

–More research on the balls and other schools that use them.

-Quotes several studies and has valid points about exercise balls in the classroom

Advice from the professionals and future classroom ideas

Today was another day in my wonderful placement where I was able to observe a substitute who was a special education teacher and holds two masters. I am always privileged to work with such professionals and I love picking their brain for helpful advice plus watching their approach to situations. One little boy raised his fist to hurt another little boy, and she encouraged him to use his words, and put the fist-raising second in her talk with him. She said to discuss the fist first would be reinforcement for the fist, but to discuss the words first reinforced using language before fists. The data-based Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS) we use would probably agree with her.

Also, she mentioned how the letters were high on the wall for the alphabet. She said it was better for students to be able to touch the letters and tell other students if it was their name. It sounds like an interesting approach and one I may incorporate in my future classroom. The Dollar Tree has small alphabet letters that work well for the wall according to her. I looked online and saw the magnetic sets (hope to have those!) but not the specific letters. They did have a bunch of supplies for schools that I should keep in mind.

What I would like to do in a future classroom is have different colored laminated paper shapes on the floor so when I tell students to line up, they go straight to that shape or color. It’s a great way to transition students to lining up and to incorporate other educational skills. I’d also like to have picture labels for the shelves, so children can see where items are supposed to go and look at the word on the label. If it is the blocks area, I’d like to have outlined laminated shapes (like the ones on my floor) so they can place the blocks on top of each other. On those laminated labels, I hope to put the number of blocks that go there so children can easily clean up while working on numeracy. Also, in the blocks area, I hope to have a small flipbook with pictures of different buildings (they can be from previous students works) or different designs they can make for inspiration. An animal zoo with blocks, garage, or more. I may try a “do not disturb” sign on students work so they may continue working for several days if space allows. I want my future classroom to be highly intentional in the setup, so thinking through and reminding myself of these small items now is so important.

I have a high population of students who are English Language Learners (ELLs) in my classroom. They all primarily speak Spanish with a few who know some English. When talking to one of the speech language therapists at my school the other day, I asked her if it was okay if I used some Spanish with the children. She said that children are extremely flexible with learning language and that as long as I was using the Spanish correctly, I should. I understand how to use most nouns in Spanish but as I haven’t brushed up lately on my tenses of verbs or grammar (soon, I hope), I will try to avoid those.  I do plan on having labels for centers and certain items in Spanish and English whenever possible to help the children learn.

One of my future units for teaching may be nutrition. I am hoping to have a plate with felt sections divided into the proper plate proportions for nutrition. I want to have a sorting game of vegetables and fruits with a chart (maybe using the vegetables and fruits in the housekeeping). We may grow some vegetables in the classroom or figure another way to bring in vegetables. I would love to do an ocean unit with tongs that pick up seashells for fine motor, sand to write their names in the writing center, painting the ocean, and more.

Bottom line is I am so excited to become a teacher and bring all of this knowledge and well-thought out ideas with me! Not all will work or be practical, but I can always try.

Pattern one of my children made today after copying the teacher!

Yoga in the classroom

Yoga in the classroom:

Background: I am actively involved in fitness whether it is running, step, boot camp, pilates, yoga, kickboxing, Tabata, swimming, BOSU, cycle, and more. Kickboxing is my favorite, but I’ll attend any class to keep up my cardio and strength training. At one point I was training for a 10K, but two weeks before the race I had to stop because of a preexisting knee problem.  It can be difficult to balance exercise, class, and my internship hours, but exercise has always helped me to balance my time, increase my productivity, and give me confidence. I accomplishe more in my entire day because of the forty-five minutes I take to get my mind ready for the day.

In my future classroom, I hope to incorporate stretch breaks, yoga, and more as the students start to get unruly or wiggly. It’s hard for me to sit through a three-hour class without a stretch break.  While their classes should never be that continuously long, they may still need stretch breaks. Today, I figured I would research yoga for the classroom and see how I could enact it. It can even be used in a curriculum with Common Core Standards, which would allow for active learning.

Benefits of incorporating yoga in the classroom:

-Physical and mental well-being of the children

-Reduces problem behavior, test anxiety, and anger

-Increases self-regulation and focus

-Sensory Awareness

-Build Social Skills

Typically in school you do a three sequence yoga routine pose with a concentration pose, an energizer pose, and a relax pose. When reading an article by Leigh Stewart, I learned that I should start each day reminding the children of our intention and what we are here for. When they start to have problems throughout the day, a simple stretch will help bring them back. I know the child’s pose helps me to relax or a simple twist would help before lunch. All of the research points to yoga being a positive force to add to the classroom, so I really do plan on trying to implement it. Some school districts have issues with yoga being taught in the classroom for religious reasons, so I will have to check with the district before I teach. I do hope I will be able to incorporate any exercise into my classroom though.


–Sequences of yoga to use with children
Best 2013 Kids Yoga Poses

-Ways to link it to your classroom content

-Ways to incorporate yoga throughout the most difficult parts of the day, such as after lunchtime tiredness, creating a mantra for the day, and coming full circle

-NPR on yoga helping improve children with autism spectrum disorder when done instead of normal morning ritual

–Ways to incorporate yoga in the classroom

–Yoga lesson plans, including beach yoga, autumn yoga, and poses

Best 2013 Kids Yoga Poses

Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder and its subtypes

Background: For a while in college I was a psychology major and spent a lot of time reading psychology journals and writing papers on various disorders. I loved Abnormal Psychology and Child Psychology and my professors really pushed me to learn. As with any college student, I’ve had to write papers on a lot of various topics and have had to do a lot of research to write those papers. Two of my favorite papers I have written in college were on the Effectiveness of the Montessori Method and a paper on Autism and Joint Attention.

Recently, I have been missing researching a project so I began to research Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and how it can affect ta child in the classroom. It could also be seen without the hyperactivity and called Attention Defecit Disoder (ADD). I wanted to start researching now and learn more before I encounter a child in the classroom and so I can begin to understand their condition. An interesting fact about ADHD is that it tends to be diagnosed more in males as teachers see them running around and causing more fights while females tend to be less aggressive. As a teacher, I will have to be careful to avoid believing that only males have ADHD when it really should be a 50:50 diagnosis.

ADHD has three subtypes:

  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive
  • Predominantly Inattentive
  • Combined Hyperactive-Impulsive and Inattentive

Symptoms of Inattention (Typically seen in females):

**Not as typically noticed as children can sit quietly, but not always paying attention.

-Having difficulty focusing on one thing

-Becoming bored with a task and quickly switching to another task (may be great multi-taskers)

-Not seeming to listen when spoken to

-Easily losing things or not being organized (homework can be difficult to turn in)

-Daydream, become easily confused

-Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others

-Struggle to follow instructions

Symptoms of Hyperactive:

Fidget and squirm in their seats

Talk nonstop

Have Trouble Sitting still

Constantly in motion

Symptoms of Impulsivity:

Interrupting others

Blurting in response to the teacher

Have difficulty waiting for things they want

There has been research stating that ADHD can decrease a child’s fine and gross motor skills. Children will have more issues tying their shoes, writing their letters, and more. They may be less coordinated which leads to them getting picked last for teams. Dysgraphia, or not having legible handwriting, has been known to occur with children with ADHD. . Researchers aren’t sure if children have dysgraphia because they can’t focus on finishing their letters and the task, or if they have the lack in motor control. Another condition of ADHD may be that the child has less executive functioning (planning, organizing, strategizing) than their peers. They lose their homework, cannot remember directions, and have problems completing simple tasks. Breaking tasks down into first, second, or third may be helpful to them in the classroom or a picture sequence for them to follow. Finally, children with ADHD may have problems socializing. They are not always able to relate to their peers or interact with them. They may frequently interrupt them or cut into their activities and take over.

How to work with kids in the classroom:

-Work them into your lessons by giving them special tasks or occasionally asking them questions

-Offer rewards and positive praise (the Positive Behavior Interventional System should help a teacher achieve this)

-Seat them away from distractions such as doors, windows,

-Give simple instructions one at a time

-Reduce number of timed tests

-Divide long term goals into small projects

-Use transitions and an agenda to start the lesson so students know what they will learn. At the end, summarize key points

-Ask specific student to repeat assignment back to you

-Don’t take away free time like breaks or recess

-Special job for them

-Have a buddy to help them, someone who is not too bossy or soft spoken

-Highlight problems they can do on the sheet versus ones everyone has to do.

-Stretching or deep breathing during difficult times

-Tap time for noise and once that is over, no more tap time

I still have a lot to learn, but I enjoyed getting to research a few things and learn about what I can do in my future classroom! I hope to never stop learning or researching which is why this was such a great opportunity for me.

Here are a few links I used:

Scholastic Teaching:

Education World:

National Institute of Mental Health

Girls With Attention Deficit Disorder: A Silent Minority? A Report on Behavioral and Cognitive Characteristics

Validity of the Executive Function Theory of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Meta-Analytic Review

Motor coordination and kinaesthesis in boys with attention deficit–hyperactivity disorder

Positive Behavioral Interventions & Support (PBIS)

Today’s Quote:

If a child cannot learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn. –Ignacio Estrada

My teacher has often told me about her positive behavioral reinforcement technique and today I was able to do some research on it. In our classroom, we have a few children who really need the positive behavioral intervention. Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS) originates from the 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. PBIS is evidence-based and utilizes principles of applied behavior analysis and the prevention approach and values of positive behavior support. PBIS is not a curriculum, but a prevention-oriented way that helps all students. PBIS is very similar but also able to be applied to social behavior. Essentially the emphasis of PBIS is on the most effective and positive approach to addressing behaviors. So many children are removed from the classroom for problematic behavior and harsh punishments have not been proven effective in handling the behavior. This rewards the appropriate behavior and tries to have four positive interactions for every negative one. If a student is not being cooperative, you redirect and give them another choice.

The primary level of PBIS serves to have rules, routines, and classroom environments that prevent occurrences of problematic behavior. We have rules similar to the PBIS examples, like walk at all times, keep hands and feet to yourself, listen when others are talking, or be safe. The rules are specific, observable, behaviors that students will demonstrate in each location that are reviewed at the start of each day or before a transition. The expectations are posted where they will take place, like on the easel near the lunch table or in the front of the room.

My teacher also models appropriate behavior in each station, with a few center run-through at the start of the year where the teachers show the children how each center should be used. Positive behaviors are praised as children go throughout the day.

I am by no means done with my research or observing. I cannot wait to see how much I have learned by the end of the school year about the Positive Behavioral Intervention & Support and how much it can benefit my future classroom.


Helpful Websites:

–Has great resources for training and understanding PBIS

–The initial website for PBIS that explains what it is and how schools should implement it.

–Goes into specific behaviors and how to help a child. I clicked on disruptive and learned about the different interventions for that child. To avoid power struggles, state the expectation, offer several alternatives if possible, and walk away. You can try a distraction or validate their feelings. There are other intervention strategies for each problem in the classroom, so I hope as a new teacher I will utilize this resource for problems.

First Full Day

Today I was at the school a full day, so my post is broken up into a few key moments of today.

Today’s best moments:

-Some of the kids are really starting to respect and bond with me. They really seem to want to work with me.

-I was able to follow their play and watch their learning experiences. So much of my training is about the importance of play, yet, I hadn’t had the chance to observe that at my new site until today. While working in the housekeeping center with a little girl, I noticed she was invested with a fruit chart they had. We made a game where she took a plastic piece of food, looked at the chart, and tried to figure out if it was a fruit and if so what fruit. She not only was working on understanding charts, but also on identifying foods and learning new words like cantaloupe or watermelon.

-A child drew a picture for me, attached at the bottom. We worked on writing my name in the middle.

Today’s Challenges:

-We have a difficult child and he requires unique approaches. I’m learning from watching my cooperating teacher and her assistants how to fully help him. They have a reward system and special rocking chair. They are nice but firm with him, and try to stay positive. My cooperating teacher serves on a Preschool Behavioral Intervention committee, and will be a great resource to me.

Lessons Learned: Transitions

In my research last night, I was reading about how important transitions are for classroom management. Last semester I observed them in our Early Head Start internship and saw that there was a procedure for everything, from clean up to going outside. The readings last night said that taking the time to do them in the start of the year and set them up would be so beneficial later on. The children have already caught on to a lot of our transitions and sayings, like the crisscross applesauce song, the cleanup song, and hand-washing song. Our teacher incorporates numeracy in her transitions with a countdown of 5-4-3-2-1-0 and lights off, for kids to know to finish up their activity. I love having these around for the kids and hope to continue them in my future classroom. If I teach a Pre-K, 1rst, or Kindergarten classroom I hope to have different colored shapes on the ground for children to stand on as they line up. This will help me as a teacher get them lined up in a fast and orderly fashion, and them as students to master the skills of color and shape.