July 31, 2015

Sign Language in the General Classroom


By the end of 2nd grade, all of my students knew the American sign language alphabet and were using it daily. I'm not going to act like this was part of my master plan to enrich my students' learning; It was a TOTAL accident! In retrospect, teaching my students sign language was one of the best things that I accidentally-on-purpose did as a first-year teacher. It all started during word study. It was one of those days that I'm sure all first year (and veteran) teachers have. I was tired, I had a headache... and I had what I thought was a brilliant idea. I pulled up and projected the sign language alphabet. We talked a little about how ASL (American Sign Language) is a different language, just like Spanish and French are different languages from English. I paired up the students, pointed out the week's spelling and sight words, and said "go." My second graders spent 20 minutes signing words to their partners, who in turn had to figure out which spelling or sight word it was. 


Just like that, my class was HOOKED! They begged me to do sign language every day. I printed each of them a copy of the alphabet and sometimes we practiced sign language as a brain break. My kids could not get enough. It was amazing to me how quickly they all picked up on it. It wasn't long before I could start incorporating sign language into our daily routines. 

RAISED HANDS 

When students raised their hands, they made a Q for a question, C for a comment, or an R for restroom. This was a major help to me, as I could avoid the storytellers when needed. I realize that sometimes there is some controversy with this. I made sure that my students knew that they were signing first letters, not the actual signs for those words.

BATHROOM BREAKS

You know that awkward time when kids are done using the restroom and they have to stand in line silently and patiently? I would sign the name of someone standing the correct way in the hallway, and that student would raise his or her hand. We started with first names, then last, then middle. After they got the hang of it, I let the kids be in charge. (Once, I used this method to keep my class under control while waiting to be dismissed from an assembly. My administration was impressed!) 

CHORAL RESPONSE 

As you know, it's important to use choral response as much as possible so all students stay actively engaged. When we practiced multiple choice questions, I had students show me their answers by using sign language. 

ATTENTION GRABBER

Occasionally I would use sign language to grab my students' attention at the start of a lesson. I would stand silently at the front of the room and use the ASL alphabet to slowly spell out words to form a sentence. The kids would sit still and quiet, trying to figure out what I was spelling. 

Bonus: LUNCH

When the cafeteria monitors decided to put the students on silent lunch due to noise level, my class got creative and began communicating to each other in sign language. My colleagues and I thought it was hilarious and couldn't decide if we should put a stop to it or not, because although the kids were communicating, they were technically being silent! 

Please don't be mad at me! (Soap Box)

I have seen some complaints from some angry people in the past about how ASL is a language that is a tool for people with disabilities to use out of necessity. I've read comments saying that it shouldn't be used for "fun" or for "convenience" in a classroom setting. Maybe the ways I use sign language in my classroom are for fun and for convenience, but isn't sign language also an important life skill?

I have to admit, I got this idea from my mom. My mom taught me the ASL alphabet when I was a kid, but I never felt the need or desire to learn it. It wasn't until a trip to a random museum during the summer that I learned of its importance. 

My mom and I entered a restroom where a custodian was cleaning. We knew that she was deaf by her response when my mom said, "hello." As my mom realized this, she began signing to the deaf woman. Given, my mom is not fluent in ASL, but she does know the alphabet, so she communicated by spelling words. 

You should have seen this woman's face. I, for one, will never forget it. She lit up, smiled the biggest smile I've ever seen, and immediately began communicating with my mom. By the end of the short conversation, she was crying tears of joy and hugged us goodbye.

All that being said, YES, sign language is a form of communication usually used out of necessity. But why not teach the basics to the next generation so that they might make someone's day sometime down the road? 

As long as it's done correctly, it's worth doing. 

Please follow along on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and TPT for more ideas to make your life easier!



July 29, 2015

Back to School with Lilly


Teachers when someone says the dreaded words "BACK TO SCHOOL:"


I know, I know. It seems like summer just started, but I go back next week! 

The good news is that there are TONS of great books to be read and used and loved during the first few days of school! One of my favorites in Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse


If you aren't familiar with this book, you need to make yourself familiar ASAP! All books by Kevin Henkes are fabulous, but Lilly is my favorite character of his. If you can't get your hands on a hard copy of this book, there are some read alouds on YouTube available for you to watch.

In Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Lilly makes some poor behavioral decisions at school and makes some mistakes that stem from her emotions. Later, she takes responsibility for her actions and fixes her relationship with her teacher. 

The book is perfect for opening up discussion about controlling your emotions and how to be respectful while at school. 

Check out my Lilly freebie for a reading reflection worksheet and a get-to-know-you activity!


I'll DEFINITELY be reading Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse to my new little ones during the first week of school this year. Will you?

What are your favorite books to read during the first few days? Leave your favorites in a comment below so I can check them out!

Please follow along on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and TPT for more ideas to make your life easier!


Check out these other teacher bloggers and their favorite back-to-school books:



July 20, 2015

Exploring the Underground Railroad


As a part of my [unofficial] gifted certification in college a few years ago, I taught a 3-week "camp" about the underground railroad. It was tough to come up with 3 weeks worth of content that elementary students would understand and enjoy, but it ended up being a great unit that was so much fun for my students and myself. 

I stumbled upon some of my written plans while packing and moving my classroom and enjoyed reflecting on this particular unit. I thought that I would share a few of my favorite activities that I did to teach about slavery and the underground railroad!

I apologize in advance for the poor quality of the pictures. They're from an old camera.

HENRY'S FREEDOM BOX



I ADORE this book. It's about Henry "Box" Brown, who was a slave that MAILED HIMSELF to Pennsylvania, a free state!!!! It's a true story! We talked about how desperate Henry must have been to put himself in a box for days in order to escape his current situation.

I brought in a box for kids to test out, and even wrote the address (from the book) on the outside. Each student took a turn sitting in the box and tried to get comfortable for a few minutes. Afterwards, they reflected and wrote about the experience and what Henry's experience may have been like.



ELLEN CRAFT



Ellen Craft was a fair-skinned slave who disguised herself as a man to escape to the north. Her husband pretended to be "his" slave as they traveled. What an incredible story and another example of creativity stemming from desperation.

After we talked about what the word "disguise" meant, students got to disguise themselves. While other students were working independently at a center, I pulled one student at a time into the hallway and allowed them to dress in a disguise. I brought in hats, glasses, scarves, shirts, and a bunch of other random stuff from my college dress-up box.

Once disguised, I snapped a picture and told the student not to tell any other students how he or she dressed!


The next day, students came in to see pictures of their disguises posted on the wall. Each page said "Who is This?" As a center that day, students were able to study the pictures on the wall and make guesses about who was who. 

The students pictured here were rising first graders. It's incredible how great and creative their disguises were!


(Obviously, the blue wig was a hit! I totally threw it away after this activity - kid germs, yuck!)

CONSTELLATIONS

Escaping slaves used the stars as a map when making their way to free states. My co-teacher found this awesome little constellation flashlight thing that projects constellations and their names. The kids loved studying the constellations and seeing what shapes they made.


After this, students created their own constellations. I can't find any pictures, but I purchased some cheap star stickers. Kids stuck the star stickers on black paper and then used white crayons to connect the stars to make a constellation. The names of their constellations were too funny.

SHOW-WAY

In addition to using stars as a guide, runaway slaves may have also used quilts as maps. We studied the different types of quilt codes and meanings that may have been used during the underground railroad time period. Then students made up their own patterns and meanings, which we "sewed" together to make our own class "show-way" quilts. Because I had such young students, they used pattern blocks to create a pattern before illustrating it. 


I am not a huge history buff, but I do find the Civil War years fascinating, therefore I may have a thing for the underground railroad. I have many more ideas that I may share down the road, and tons of lesson plans that I may get around to posting on TPT one day.

For now, I do have some underground railroad task cards that you can grab in my TPT store!

Do you teach about slavery and/or the underground railroad? What are your favorite activities?

Please follow along on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and TPT for more ideas to make your life easier!


July 14, 2015

Yes, I'm on Periscope.

And I am ADDICTED. 

Seriously, it's essentially free professional development from all of your favorite teacher bloggers. Oh, and you can attend this professional development while sitting on your couch in your pajamas while eating M&Ms. 

I originally created my Periscope account using my personal Twitter account and handle, because I had NO CLUE that Periscope was going to blow up! If you are still following me there, make sure you go follow my new Periscope account @SchoolAndTheCty. 

Yes, that's School and The City without the i. Naturally my name is 1 letter too long for Twitter.


So what are you waiting for? Go follow me!

As soon as I get moved in to my new home in a few days, I do plan to broadcast more often. 

I can't wait to give you a tour of my new classroom!!

Alright, I'm off to watch tonight's Periscope hop.

Remember, stalking is caring. 


P.S. Thanks for connecting all of us, Sheila Jane

July 10, 2015

Tackling Trouble: Reading Strategy Unit


Don't get mad at me - I am NOT wishing my summer away! However, back-to-school does mean teaching my favorite reading unit! (Also, honestly, I have been meaning to blog about this since, oh I don't know, LAST SEPTEMBER.)

I'm unsure about what's going to happen at my new school, but with my old team, we were kind of left in charge of our own literacy curriculum so we used the Readers Workshop model by Lucy Calkins. The first unit for second graders is really quick, and then comes my absolute favorite unit, Tackling Trouble!

The unit ties in perfectly with the beginning of football season, and you know how I feel about football season...


The point of this unit is to teach kids strategies to help them decode tricky words. This is the next level, after students have developed decoding skills and a decent knowledge of phonics. Strategies build students' confidence so that they can approach books like this:


Anywaaaaaays, each Lucy minilesson has a takeaway strategy for students to practice that day. For almost every unit, I like to draw a huge, web anchor chart to fill out along the way. Don't forget to tie in those local or favorite teams to create excitement among the kids. It's hilarious to see how worked up they get about football teams, even the girls!



My completed bubbles aren't the prettiest, but you get the idea. 

At the end of every unit, we tried to do some sort of small celebration. For Tackling Trouble this year, we had a movie & popcorn afternoon and watched the football Airbud movie. 

Also on the last day, I did a wrap-up lesson where students shared their biggest takeaways from the unit. I actually brought in a real football and tossed it to each student that spoke. Talk about increased participation! During their independent reading time, they had to write their favorite strategies on a sticky note and stick it on my poster. 


Then, students got to decorate a football player and write down a favorite strategy again. They turned out to be super cute!



Of course one of my sweet girls made hers an Alabama player! Roll tide!



Poor Nick. His teacher obviously never taught him any reading strategies, so it's understandable that he is frustrated. Maybe he needs a bookmark to help!!


Click HERE to view the bookmarks.

Let me know if you have any questions!


You can hit me up too, Peyton.

Please follow along on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and TPT for more ideas to make your life easier!

July 6, 2015

I'm not in Vegas, but... (linky)

It's that time of the year again; It seems like EVERYONE is in Vegas.

To all of you teachers that are attending the conference: I am so envious of you and will be living vicariously through you by stalking all of your social media accounts! I hope you have THE BEST TIME.

However,

I'm not in Vegas.

I'm experiencing serious FOMO just like I did last year! Who's with me?!


I was planning on making it to Vegas this year for the TPT conference, but life had other plans.

Let's stay positive here.

We all have very good reasons for not being in Vegas right now. Let's hear them!

You can grab the following image to post on your Instagram. Use our hashtag, #notinVegasbut, to share the great things you are doing instead. Make sure to tag me so I can see what you are up to!

Wanna blog about it? You can also link up below! Can't wait to read about your summers!


Okay, let's talk about me. *wink*

I'm not in Vegas, but I am currently packing up everything I own because I am moving to Atlanta in JUST A FEW DAYS to begin a whole new adventure!


Packing is no fun, and I'm extremely sad about the amazing people that I am leaving behind here in Charlotte. However, I know that I have so much to look forward to! I can't wait to live in the same city as my man again as well as so many other people that I adore.

I am stoked about my new school too. I actually got moved back to 2nd grade (WHOOHOO) and am so blessed to be at a great school. Now I have to wait patiently to get in and transform my new classroom. Eeeek!



July 1, 2015

Currently JULY!


LISTENING

I pay for a monthly subscription to Spotify and I LOVE IT. It's a great way to discover new music  and take music with me wherever I go. I'm currently hooked on Spotify's Acoustic Covers playlist... It is SO GREAT! Spotify also introduced a new feature that will play songs to match your running pace. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm excited to see how it works!

LOVING

Y'ALL. I GOT MOVED BACK TO SECOND GRADE!!!!!!!!!
I am (clearly) so thrilled. I was excited to teach 4th grade, but staying in 2nd will make my life a little easier.  I will already be living in a new city, working in a new school, and planning a wedding. Learning a new curriculum would have made my transition even more difficult. Luckily for me, a 2nd grade position opened up at my new school and the principal asked if I wanted it, since he knew I came from 2nd. I AM SO EXCITED!!!

All of you upper elementary teachers that have been sharing resources and advice with me, I still love you!!

THINKING

So, along those lines... 

I got to see my new classroom yesterday. I have two HUGE chalkboards. I honestly didn't know chalkboards existed in schools anymore. Do any of you have chalkboards? What do I do with them?? How do I write on them?? I hate the feeling of chalk and I hate chalk dust! Help!


WANTING

The FOMO has started already. I really thought about going to Vegas this year for the conference, but I just can't swing it with my big move to Atlanta coming up so soon. I will be living vicariously through you all as I pack my boxes and clean out my current home!

NEEDING

I have only been on summer break for two weeks now, but I have only created one new product. I haven't had a ton of time, but I know I need to use my summer time and energy wisely because it's much harder to find time to create during the school year. I am hoping to get at least 10 good quality products added to my store before I go back to school! What do you do to get product inspiration?

ALL STAR

What am I really good at? Well, I'm really good at spending money. Particularly on clothes for myself, yummy food, or treats for people I love. Does that count? Ha!

I guess that's a hard question because it's hard to compliment yourself without sounding conceited. At that forefront of my mind is the fact that I have a good eye and a knack for making things visually appealing. It was fun to see my empty new classroom yesterday, because the possibilities are endless! I may not be 100% thrilled with what I have to work with, but I know it will turn out beautiful, neat, and welcoming.

Stay tuned to see my new room!!

Have a FABULOUS July!