Monday, December 29, 2014

Collaboration and Community

Don't you love it when your plans come together and the kids get as excited about the lesson as you do? This post is about one of those days.

We were studying community as a part of our second grade social studies curriculum.  One of the goals is that students learn to differentiate between rural, suburban, and urban communities. We had been working on it for a couple of days, defining the terms, exploring the differences, and watching a video on Discovery Education.

I decided I wanted to assess what my students had learned through a collaborative activity.  We made a chart listing some of what we had learned so far.

I put my students into teams of three. I was pretty strategic about this - I have a few kiddos who just don't work well together. I then had each team choose a type of community to illustrate.  Using giant pieces of bulletin board paper, each team had to come up with a plan for their mural. They were given their choice of art materials. My only criteria: they had to plan what they wanted to do first, all group members had to participate in the decision-making, and their final product had to show the characteristics of that type of community.

After just a few questions, all eight groups scattered to different areas of the room, sprawling on the floor in most cases. They got to work and I walked around, listening in on conversations. The conversations were exactly what I had imagined when I planned the activity.  Students were discussing what kinds of buildings to add, who was going to draw the cow, where they were going to put the houses, and other topic-related discussions.

There were a few minor disagreements (aren't there always a few?), but they didn't last long. The students were excited about working together and enjoyed the opportunity to be creative. It was noisy and seemed chaotic at times, but it was really very productive.

I expected that most of the students would prefer to use markers for their murals. One group surprised me, though.  They used construction paper to create their city scene. I'm so glad I didn't limit them to one type of media!

Luckily, I had planned this for a day when we did not have a special area class.  Although I had originally planned for it to take two or three days to complete, the students were so engaged, I let them keep working for over an hour!

Most of the groups were able to complete their murals that same day.  They were very excited to hang them up in the hallway for everyone to see.

 Here are a few of the murals.

A Suburban Community
A Rural Community
An Urban Community

I was pretty pleased with the finished products.  All the groups displayed good knowledge of what belonged in each type of community. I was also extremely pleased with how well the students collaborated on their projects.  There were very few problems and most of those the students worked out among themselves.  If you're hesitant about allowing students this much freedom, don't be. It's amazing what can happen when you ask kids to work together to create something.  I'm eager to find more opportunities for this type of collaborative project.

Until next time,

Friday, December 26, 2014

It's a New Year! Setting Goals for 2015

I'm joining Stephanie from Mrs. D's Corner in setting some goals for 2015.

It's hard to believe we're about to say goodbye to 2014.  It was a year of ups and downs: watching family members struggle through illness and injury; welcoming a new great-niece; saying goodbye to a difficult class and a challenging school year; becoming a part of a fantastic grade level team and beginning a new, much better school year; and watching my TPT store grow.

I'm excited about the year to come. I'm looking forward to visiting my family in Florida and Tennessee. I'm also planning to take part in another NCCAT seminar offered by my state. I want to continue to grow my Teachers Pay Teachers store and I hope to plan a trip to this year's TPT Conference in Las Vegas to learn from more experienced sellers.  Like last year, one of my goals for the coming year is to blog more often.  I find it difficult to fit blogging into my schedule while I am teaching, so I've decided to start by picking one day a week to blog.  Once I'm successful at that, I'll see if I can add another blogging day.

Here are my goals for 2015:

What are your goals for this year?  Feel free to share below, or link up your own blog at Mrs. D's Corner.

Until next time,

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My Favorite Things

We made it to Winter Break!  Hooray! I'm definitely in the vacation spirit, sitting on the couch in my sweats. :)

I'm linking up with Erica Bohrer of Erica's Ed-ventures to share a few of my favorite things.
Here they are in no particular order:

1) My Family and Friends

My mom, my brother and sister, my cousins, my nieces and nephew, my great-nieces and great-nephews; no matter how far apart we are, they bring me joy every day. 

image source:
My friends are a constant source of strength and inspiration.  They encourage me when I'm down and support me in everything I do.  They make me laugh and, sometimes, they make me cry.  I'm so glad I have so many amazing women in my life.

2) Facebook

I love connecting with people I remember from elementary school, junior high, and high school; catching up with cousins who live far away; touching base with old friends and letting them know I still care; making new friends and learning about their lives; being able to see my Florida family through photographs and videos; sharing my beliefs and values; and laughing at funny posts and memes. My business page has introduced me to some amazing educators and kindred spirits.  I confess to being addicted, checking my Facebook pages several times a day. :)

3) Charlotte, North Carolina

I absolutely love my home of the past 11+ years. The city offers sports, culture, and entertainment. Here, I can enjoy the mountains, the Piedmont, and the ocean, all within a few hours drive.  From exploring history to appreciating nature as it should be, I've been able to discover so much about this wonderful area. 

The North Carolina Mountains are home to some amazing waterfalls.
Lake Wylie
I enjoy hiking the local trails.

The Outer Banks
4) Teaching (of course!)
Not every year has been great, but after 18 years, I still enjoy working with kids. I love the lesson planning, the conversations, the children's books, the teaching supplies, the games and activities, and, most of all, the children. I put up with the bureaucracy, the long hours, the never ending paperwork, and the boneheaded laws.  I advocate for a return to quality education every chance I get. I try to put my beliefs into practice every day.  I believe in the importance of what I do.  How could I not?  I see it in the faces of the children I teach every day. I feel it when they come up to me and say things like, "You forgot to give me my hug this morning."  I know it when I see little bits of progress or when they surprise me with insightful comments. 

Preparing for the 2014-2015 school year.

This is the promise our class made to each other this year.

The bottom line:  being a teacher makes me happy. :)

5) Teachers Pay Teachers

I am so glad that I decided to take a chance and open my store on TPT.  I had no idea what I was doing in the summer of 2012.  I just decided to post a few things I had made for my classroom and see what happened.  Since I started as a Basic Seller and didn't have many products, I really didn't make much that first year.  I learned a little bit, then took another chance and became a Premium Seller the next summer.  My store isn't making me rich, but the real payoff is knowing that my products are being used in classrooms across the country (and maybe around the world). To think that my work has helped so many teachers to plan and students to learn...astounding! The other benefit is the amazing community of educators I've had the opportunity to "meet" and learn from on TPT.  And the journey continues...

So, those are some of my favorites.  What are yours?   

Until next time,