Making Over Third Grade!
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Saturday, April 4, 2020

Virtual Field Trips and Some Other Things

Tracy (my teaching partner this year) and I decided to do "Travel Tuesdays" and take kids on virtual field trips each week. I tweeted about this and several teachers asked for more information. Basically, what we are going to do is find live or
recorded virtual field trips to share with our kids. To make it a shared experience we will have students log into our live Meet then I will present my screen and share the field trip. That way students can comment in the chat to ask questions. We can share what we learned afterward. Then students will blog about what they learned. This addresses social studies, science, and writing standards. 

This Tuesday we are going to Mystery Doug's house. We will be selecting a California State Park field trip (they are doing them live for different grade levels each day). These are limited to 500 participants a day for each grade level band and they are only allowing you to sign up for one field trip at the moment. Their field trip calendar can be found at Learning has a number of great virtual field trips that you can access and share with your class. There is a long list of virtual field trips on YouTube as well. Some of these are 2 - 15 minutes long while others are 30 - 60 minutes in length. 

We will be accessing Discovery Learning's aeronautics field trip and then pulling in VR/AR experiences with JigSpace/JigSpace Workshop  (these are free!) to build on what we have learned about space. If you have not accessed the JFK Moonshot app that the JFK Library shared last summer you may want to use that as well. It walks you through the moonshot voyage in "live" time using AR and actual news and NASA footage. 

Additionally, there are a number of live cams and VR experiences you can access where you visit zoos, aquariums, and museums. Broadway HD has a subscription service with a 7-day free trial where you can view a recording of a live Broadway play. There are several for kids. We may "take our kids" to see Peter Pan or The Prince and the Pauper. There are a number of plays that have been shared on YouTube as well

Some other things...

We have also been asking kids for their favorite songs to add to a Spotify playlist. We are going to host a virtual dance party with all of their favorite songs. This is going to take more parent help though so it is something we will be doing after spring break.

While students have school-issued Chromebooks, at home, many parents have smartphones or tablets. They may be willing to download Chatterpix and/or My Talking Pet (both are free in Apple and Google Play; thank you, Maria, for finding the Talking Pet app) so students can share their work in different formats. 

Flipgrid now allows screencasting so in addition to you creating screencasts for lessons students can screencast to show and explain their learning when on other websites. Screencastify allows you to have 5 minutes of free recording at a time. You can trim the beginning and/or end of the videos, you can pause while recording, write on your screen, and share directly to Google Classroom. You can pay for upgraded editing tools if you wish. A teacher at another site in my district researched a number of screencasting tools and said that Loom is great too. I looked into it and it is awesome! They are giving teachers a pro account for free. You can write in the video, trim the start and end and even in the middle! 

We will continue to share things as we find them or think they may be useful. If you find a tool or site you want to share please pass it along and we can share it with the grade level. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A Letter to Parents

I haven't written in a long time. I always promise to write more and to share more but then there never seems to be enough time. There is always so much going on. With all that we are dealing with right now with the COVID-19 situation I am having a hard time, my students, are having a hard time, and so are their parents. This isn't what we planned for our year together. It isn't how any of envisioned this year. But here we are.

I wrote something to our parents and I felt so strongly about it that I decided that maybe others would find it resonates with them too. I cross-posted this on my blog and on the collaborative blog (Spot On in Third) that I share with two other teachers.

Dear Parents,
Things are getting harder. Emotions are raw, for the kids and the adults. We know. We feel the same way. We miss you. We miss our classroom. We miss our routines. We are going to make the best of this situation for as long as we need to. It isn't ideal but it is what we have and we are fortunate that we can meet via Meets and Hangouts. So many districts don't even have that.

We have spoken with several students this week about how they are feeling and how to redirect our thoughts when we feel like crying. Some of the common ideas that have come up:
*Take a bubble bath
*Take a walk/exercise
*Listen to music and dance/sing
*Go outside and watch the clouds to see if you can make objects out of what you see
*Talk to your best friend (Meet, phone, Google Hangouts)
*Reread a favorite book
*Play a game with someone
*Ask for/give hugs
*Eat chocolate
*and last but not least, cry if you feel you need to

This is a sad time and in no way do we want to negate the way anyone is feeling. It is hard. This is more than any of us thought it would be but we will get through it together. We are still a class even if we can't be in the same room together we will have shared experiences. (More on that to come.)

Many of the students are struggling with their parents suddenly being their teachers. This isn't the job you signed up for. It isn't the job we wanted to hand over but there it is and we will make the most of it. Do what you can. Leave what you can't. It is the trying that is the most important. Yes, we want the work done but we also don't want to break anyone. The kids feel like there is so much more to do now when in reality it is a lot less than what we do each day in school. But in school they have partners, they work in groups, they get breaks with their friends. At home they don't have the breaks with their friends, you (as much as you are trying, and we love you for that) "are not teaching it the right way" because "that isn't the way Ms. V/Ms. Ryan do it." We know. We see you. We understand. We are all trying to do our best. The kids are too. Please, please, have them login during the small groups, take advantage of the parent meeting times to discuss things with us, and maybe even have your child nearby to listen in and share. We want the kids to know that we are there for each one of them - not just the ones who share the most online.

We are going to survive this, we will be together again at some point - even if we have to meet at a park with social distancing. Nothing will ever be the same as it was. Nothing is going to be the way we wanted it to be as we approach the coming weeks. We will make it special. We will make it memorable. Not because of the difficulties, but in spite of them.

Ms. Ryan

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Most Profound Lesson

Recently I was in another class, as part of my coaching job, and the most amazing thing happened. Our district has adopted Benchmark Advance as our English Language Arts program. Unit 1 for third grade is Government for the People.  Though many find this unit dry, I love the history of voting and civil rights. I enjoy the connections third graders make when they learn about Alice Paul, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cesar Chavez. 

This particular day the teacher had decided to focus on text connections and had me read "Horton Hears a Who" to her class. She was hoping that her mostly second language students would be able to make connections to the civil rights leaders they had been studying. Boy did they! 

Some of the connections were quite surprising, such as the connection that Horton was held (in jail) and the Whos nearly killed in Bettle-Nut Oil while Martin Luther King, Jr. had been jailed and people tried to kill him and his family with a bomb. They had a rich discussion but that was not the most amazing part of this visit. 

What came next was. 

A student asked why there is still so much hate and asked if it was because of who the President is. She wanted to know why ICE is looking for people. She wanted to know why the civil rights leaders were able to get rights for people but that the fight has not ended.  Out of the mouths of babes! 

It is hard to explain hate in the world. The students at this school see it perhaps more than others as they are mostly children of color and/or second language. My heart broke and I could tell from the look on their teacher's face, that hers did too. This is a question that shouldn't have to be asked by anyone but especially by an 8-year-old. 

How do you respond to a question like that? 

I went with what was in my heart. I told the class that there has always been hate but that they have to be the kindness and love in the world. That there is more kindness than hate in the world but that we don't see that as much because the hate is always more shocking. We expect to see kindness. We don't expect to see hate. So when we do see hate we are shocked and it is magnified because of our shock. When there is a fight at school there is always a crowd - people flock to see the fight. Mostly out of shock. It is something you don't expect to see. But fights are rare and kindness isn't. You may help someone up on the playground after they fall. There isn't a crowd then. No one celebrates it with shouts and attention. There is much more kindness in the world than there is hate. We have to learn to magnify and celebrate the good in the world and we can (hopefully) overcome the hate. Each act of kindness is a ripple and with enough ripples, we can make waves. 

I hope that this was helpful to them. I hope that they use their voices to help make this world a better place. I am confident they will. The question is what is the world they inherit going to be like? I hope it is one filled with more good than evil, more kindness than hate, and more love than indifference. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Twas the Night Before School Starts

school startsIt is the night before school starts! The last week has been full of working in my classroom, lesson planning, buying supplies, and getting organized for the new group of scholars I will be meeting tomorrow. I have had my class list for a few weeks, I have memorized their names and faces and hope to greet them with all of the excitement the first day should bring. It's a new year, full of
possibilities and new adventures.

Each year (yes, even after 15 years) the night before school starts has me rilled up. I will be nervous and unable to sleep well. I will be anxious and worried - just as I was each year as a student growing up. Somethings never change I guess. The nerves will subside once we are all in our classroom and we get down to the business of getting to know each other. When the fun begins!

These are my kids for the next 180 days (and every year after I say goodbye). I want to make the most of this year. I want the kids to go home excited they are in our class. I want that feeling to remain throughout the year. Yes, even on the days when it is hard for them - and for me.

Of course, I will be teaching core academics, mindfulness, and everything else that is required but most importantly I hope that they learn that they can be anything they want to be, they are capable of doing more than they think is possible, they are an important part of the lives of each and every person we share our classroom with.

So here is to another wonderful year! I hope your new school year is wonderful!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Becoming a Better Me

I love teaching. I mean, I really love teaching! It is something that I have wanted to do since I was 5 and it is the only thing I could ever imagine doing. It is my happy place. Someone recently said that teaching isn't just my job, it is my hobby, and you know what? She was right. It is my hobby and my job. But the thing is I spiral and that isn't always good for me.

I get to the point where I am short-tempered, tired, and stressed, and then I feel like I have to do more in order to make it all "right." Everything needs to be perfect. When in reality there is no way that it can be, it's impossible. So I keep spinning all the plates hoping that it is enough.

I have been a podcast junkie for some time (this is going to connect - I promise) and I love to binge podcasts. I found two podcasts recently that focus on teacher health Just Meg and Healthy Teacher, Happy Teacher with Jessica Martin, Both of these teachers have been very open about their anxiety and their health. It has been refreshing to listen to other teachers who have given all to their students and classrooms and who are dealing with issues with anxiety and weight issues. It was like a breath of fresh air to hear others give voice to some of the issues that I felt were unique to me. I am not alone.

There are so many teachers who have anxiety but it is something we don't talk about. I come from "a nervous family" as my mom would say. She had issues with anxiety and it is something that one of my brothers and I have had to deal with as well. Medication has been a lifesaver but also a millstone. There is a desire to skip doses in the evening but I know that I need it to stay on an even keel. I have always been very emotional and empathic toward others. Both can make days exhausting. But when I come home I don't always recharge for me. I do more for work, do housework, and take care of those I love. I have (finally) come to the realization that in order to be any good for those I love I need to start putting myself first. I need to live my best life and in order to do that, I need to be healthy. That means taking my anxiety meds as prescribed, finding time to read, write, - and yes, exercising.

I don't always deal well with New Year's Resolutions in January but I seem to always make them in August as the new school year (hence a new year) starts. So here is my resolution for 19-20, I will find time each day for me. Even it if is just 5 or 10 minutes. I will make the time to get healthy by eating better and exercising.

I am sharing this here because that way it will make me more accountable. I need to be held to the iron and I need to dedicate time to take care of me. How many of you have the same issues or concerns? I think it is more widespread in our profession than we would like to admit. I would love to hear your stories if you are willing to share them.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Substitute Binder: What and Why?

 the beginning of the new school year, I thought I would offer this resource to others who may find it useful for their own classes. It took a while because I was missing steps but I finally figured out how to create each page as an editable form in Adobe Reader. Download what you would like to use for your own class. (It would be cool if you would let me know how it works for you.)

I don't know about many of you, but I was a substitute teacher for 3 years before I became a full-time classroom teacher. I was in classrooms where everything was laid out for me, where things were generally spelled out - with some guesswork involved, and in rooms where there was nothing but a box of stuff and a post-it that said, "Good luck!" (Yes, really!) I quickly found out what I thought I really did or did not need when walking into a classroom.

In an attempt to help the guest teachers in my room I always left very detailed plans. I would use the same skeleton and fill in the blanks when I left. What I quickly found though was that often it was a lot and it was overwhelming. I saw a lot of "Sub Tubs" making the rounds on social media several years ago and decided what I needed was a binder with all of the "Must Knows" and "Would Like to Knows" for those who are guest teaching in my classroom. Things I would want to know if necessary but not necessarily laid out in the daily plans.
I mean, c'mon, it is cute!
With Maria leaving and Tracy coming in as my new partner many things in our sub binder needed to be changed. Plus, if I am being honest, I wanted to print it all out again because I have cute Snoopy paper from Eureka School Supplies that I wanted to put it on.

The binder starts off with a letter welcoming the guest to our class and explaining that I have overplanned for the day (I always do - just in case) and that this binder is here to help as much as possible. I add a photo print out of the kids with their names that get from our Aries attendance system. I have several pages with things like our attention getters and rules regarding things like flexible seating and bathroom procedures. Things I don't want the kids to have to explain and not be believed (it has happened). Each page is in a page protector so the student health and RSP pages I just write on the page protector and clean off at the end of the year.

Bitmoji ImageI have found that this helps ensure our class runs smoothly when I am out. Though let's be honest it really comes down to class procedures and how well the kids can run the room without me. That is always the best sign that I am doing my job correctly!

I have included a few of the pages that I have in my binder as well so that you can see what information I include. If you're like, cool, I like that! Then feel free to download the file I actually use in my binder.

The editable boxes are set to show up in KG Ten Thousand Reasons which I got for free as part of a bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers.

If you decide to use any, or all, of this binder please, leave a comment so that I know you found it helpful.

Sub Binder Contents

Editable Sub Binder Cover
Editable Sub Binder Intro Letter
Editable Table of Contents
Attention Getters/Call Backs - the only one that is original to me is the marker song
Editable Attention Getters/Call Backs
Student Health Information
RSP & Speech Information
Editable Birthday List
Basic Student Responsibilities
Editable Basic Student Responsibilities
Class Rules/What to Do in Case of Discipline
Editable Class Rules/What to Do in Case of Discipline
Flexible Seating
Editable Flexible Seating
Editable Technology
Editable Student of the Day/Week
Editable School Library Procedures
Editable Class Library Procedures 
Editable Fire Drill
Editable Lock Down Drill
No Excuse Spelling Words (this is a resource - kids have these on the wall I just like having them in one place for me)
Editable Guest Teacher Note

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Here's to New Beginnings!

Well, it's done! They found someone to replace Maria as my teaching partner for the coming year. It best friend! So anxiety abated and now I can focus on teaching and what the new year will look like for us.

I haven't taught with Tracy before but we have worked on the same grade level for years and I was in her room a number of times in my role as an Instructional Specialist. So, it's not like we aren't familiar with each other's teaching styles. I think it will be a great year.

It's July and I am getting the itch. The itch to be in my room. The itch to be with my kids. The itch to get back at it. Still, I am also enjoying the time I have to rest, relax, and recharge. I have read a number of books, am enjoying the time with friends and family, as well as all of the Netflix binges that we are doing now that we have time without my nightly school work.

I hope you are enjoying your summer too!