Friday, January 25, 2013

Core Knowledge and the Multi-age Classroom

So last week we learned that NYS is now requiring schools to adopt, adapt or align to the Core Knowledge curriculum. It is a new way of looking at the way we teach and seems to be a different approach than what I have experienced over the last 12 years of teaching. It is more theme based to ensure that students build the same knowledge base across school districts. I don't have much experience with it so far, but one BIG question is brings up for me is how do we use this new scripted (to the number of days for each theme) program into a multi age special education classroom. The themes for each grade level are very specific and build on one another. We are not a typical multi age classroom where the same set of students loop through, we have different students every year. How could I teach a 2nd grade theme when I have new kindergartners... All questions to ponder over the next few months as it seems our district is going to adopt this new program. Here is the link to the Core Knowledge website if you want to check it out. Feel free to share your thoughts or point me in the direction of more resources that help connect this to the special education world.

Friday, January 18, 2013


This week we have learned about how to treat people, choosing friends and what makes a good friend. We have learned about Martin Luther King Jr and his dream for our country. The students heard more about it at our schools morning program where the teachers presenting talked about choosing good friends and the characteristics of a good friend. Our school counselor has also been working with them on learning to be "bucket fillers" which is the idea that doing something kind for someone else makes everyone feel good!

Today we read A Visitor for Bear by Bonnie Becker. In the story a grumpy bear lives alone and likes it that way until a little mouse comes along and is very persistent and the two become friends. I found these great freebie friendship scenarios for the students to act out. It was tricky at first, but then they really got into acting out each situation to show how they can be good friends that are generous, honest, helpful and good sports. I saved the "compliments" card for last in order to transition to us writing our "friendship mini books" where the students each wrote one nice thing about what makes each student a good friend. They were then able to take home a book filled with compliments about what good friends they are. I only wish I wasn't missing three of them today. This is a hard activity to go back and make up for them.

Helping too much?

Do I help too much? I came across this article on facebook last night and shared it. Many of friends with kids all agreed with the article as well. Check it out and let me know what you think.

It got me thinking... Do I help too much in my classroom? Do I let them struggle enough to feel the joy of success and achievement? OR do I spend too much time modifying their work to prevent frustration? Finding each child's frustration point and encouraging them to push past it and take risks is really setting them up for life. Let's be honest, life can be frustrating but we all need to know how to push through it to reach our goals. Why shouldn't we start practicing this in primary school?

Friday, January 11, 2013

A new writing adventure!

Today we started a new approach to our writing instruction. Writing is a topic that has been kind of intertwined with other areas but we haven't been able to have a time dedicated to just writing. We adjusted our schedule a little and will have 40 minutes available every other day to do explicit writing instruction. Today we did a writing sample that we can use as a baseline. I scanned pictures from Lakeshore's "Photo Library" into SMART notebook so the students can all see the same picture. Today they wrote about a stuffed animal, using a web to plan their writing. Writing an extended piece like this independently is our goal. We also want to spend more time working with students on descriptions (using adjectives) and using the tools in our classroom for writing such as the word wall and personal dictionaries. Check back for updates on how this new approach works out for us!

We would love suggestions from any fellow teachers as well. Feel free to comment below!

Monday, January 7, 2013

On A Snowy Winter Day

We have a book shelf in our classroom for our theme books. Every few weeks we update the books in this area to seasonal, holiday, science, etc..related books. This gives the students the opportunity to preview books we will be reading or revisit books we have read as a class. Since Christmas, we updated this shelf with all of our winter/snow related books.

The first book we read from this group was Snowy Winter Day by Estelle Feldman. The kids loved all the activities in the book and it really got them thinking about what they like to do in the snow. As a class, we brainstormed a dozen activities that they enjoy doing on snowy days. Each student then chose one activity to write about and illustrate to make our own book for our classroom library. The story ends with the children going to sleep and more snow falling down. As a follow up activity, we had the students lay on the floor and draw night time snowy scenes using black paper and chalk (making the OT & PT happy).

I don't have a picture of the final product yet, as it needs to be cut out and put together still but I'll get to it! The kids love reading their own work.