Saturday, October 10, 2015

The #1 Thing You Should Be Teaching (That There's No Curriculum For)

I'm tired. I've not had to work this hard to build a classroom community since I started teaching! And while I absolutely love Responsive Classroom's "The First Six Weeks of School," it just hasn't been working as nicely as it usually does. There are some bigger-than-life personalities in my class this year! So why am I telling you all of this? Because as I was making my coffee this morning, a moment of clarity happened and I knew what it was that should be my focus this year. The thing that I always teach, but never truly realize how much it matters. The thing that you probably teach, but never truly understand what exactly it means. The #1 thing I should be teaching over phonics, math, reading, or writer's workshop.

I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, and I'm sure you already teach it. There might acutally be "curriculum" out there for empathy with lesson plans and activities. And it might not be half bad. But what I mean by writing this is that if your 5 year old or 9 year old or 13 year old students do not actually understand and demonstrate empathy in organic, real ways, then what's the point?

Here's a snapshot of something that happened this year. I picked up my class on the playground after their lunch recess. I noticed that most of my 24 were standing in (what closely resembled) a line. But about 5 or so others were scattered about, some sitting down with dirt covering their knees, some standing up arguing, one crying, and another hanging way in the back. We were about to go in a do a fun writer's workshop activity, something I knew the kids would enjoy. Something I'd planned and then prepped while they were eating lunch. But looking at the kids, seeing what was unfolding, I knew there'd be no writer's workshop that afternoon. So we went inside, sat on the carpet together, and we talked. We talked and talked and talked. I talked, they talked. I listened, they listened. And we discussed everything. Kids were telling us how they felt, who they felt wronged them. They told us things they noticed, things they joined in on, and things they walked away from. It's amazing to hear what kindergartners think.

You know what happened? They helped me come up with a solution for poor behavior choices. They helped me come up with ways to acknowledge those who didn't join in on the poor behavior. They agreed with me and decided with me. And what's amazing is that the kids who had been wronged said, "It's ok!" And the kids who had wronged them agreed that their behavior was wrong. They took OWNERSHIP.

Empathy is more than "care about and be nice to each other." Empathy is about seeing situations from other people's point of view, trying to understand why they did what they did, and then figuring out the next steps. Part of empathy is forgiveness, part of empathy is standing up for yourself. It's coming together, maybe not always agreeing, but definitely listening to each other. And that day, my group of 24 learned that they could do that. Their voice mattered, and their classmates wanted to hear it. Their teacher valued what they said. And they felt important.

Do you explicitly teach empathy? I'd love to hear how other teachers are modeling this important life skill for their little ones. It's something I'm sure so many of you do and sometimes might not even realize. We have the power of shaping the future, and I don't want us to ever forget how much of an impact we can make!

With love, Holly

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kinder Tribe! {A Kindergarten Linky}

Hey everyone! Welcome to my blog! Today I get to link up with some awesome kindergarten teachers and share a little bit about myself. Thank you so much to the ladies over at Kinder Tribe for creating a blogging family for kindergarten teachers. I can't wait to see what amazing ideas start getting shared and used between all of us! If you're a kinder teacher, stop by their blog, link up, and see how many new friends you can make!

It feels fitting as I'm getting ready for the start of another school year that I share "All About Me!" since that's what I'm currently working on for my new batch of kids! So, here ya go!

I'm so thankful to be starting my second year of teaching in California. This is only the second summer since I graduated college that I haven't been job searching. Hallelujah! I love living in SoCal and will probably be here for a while. Hopefully I'll stay with my kinder babies at my school for longer than 2 years (my current record for teaching at one school, I keep moving!)

I CAN'T live without food. I mean, duh, none of us can, but I mean, I am obsessed with it. My boyfriend is one of those people who "forget to eat." Umm, what?? Nope that will never happen to me. I eat every few hours not because I'm on some kind of structured diet, but because I just love food! I just got done cooking some delicious spaghetti squash with chicken sausage, zucchini, and homemade lemon cream sauce via The Organic Heart. LOVE TO COOK!

New box of crayons. I mean, is there a better smell? Feeling? NOPE. Well maybe the entire art center in my classroom. I love the smell of everything in that area of my classroom. Especially tempera paint!

It was impossible to pick just one book, but I looooove using different voices in Chrysanthemum. Also love every single Mo Willems and Eric Carle book! My other favorites are all of the What Would You Do if You Had Animal Hair/Teeth/Feet? books, the Miss Bindergarten books, and so many more!!

Okay so if you're looking for an inspirational, motivational, uplifting, amazing kinder blog to follow, PLEASE go follow Elizabeth Hall at Kickin' It In Kindergarten. I can't explain how much I use her products and ideas. Ok, I use them every day actually. Her BUILD centers, themed units, all so good! Just go there now and be amazed.

Kickin It In Kinder

Hey, thanks for reading!! I can't wait to go back and read allll the links from other kinder teachers family!

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

So Cal Link Up

Here we are at the end of another school year! 9 more school days for us to be exact. I feel both happy and sad about that fact since this year's class just happens to be one of the sweetest groups I've ever taught. Good thing I have something to take my mind off of not being their teacher anymore...
A TRIP TO TENNESSEE! I am so excited that I am finally taking advantage of teacher summers and spending a month at home. I get to see one of my best friends get married and then (fingers crossed) might get to be home for the other BFF's birth of her first born! I am looking forward to a few of my favorite things when I'm there:
I can't wait to hug my grandparents and spend extended, not-rushed time with other family members and friends. So ready to slow down and live that Southern way of life again if even just for a month! Then I'll of course be back in beautiful So Cal in July to enjoy another favorite...
I also get to take some time to plan and get ready for the upcoming school year, print and file, organize and clean, and do all of those other teacher things that we start missing when we're away from our classrooms for too long! One of my favorite things to do at the end of the year to be ready for the upcoming one is to go ahead and print some things I know I'll need during the first couple weeks of school. I like having resources ready and at hand so that I can focus on other things that I know will require my attention!
Daily warm ups are a great way to kill many birds with one stone! I have created a packet of daily warm ups that are sure to motivate your kinders to practice their early literacy skills! Your students will: 1) Get practice writing their names, 2) Get practice reading and writing letters, 3) Practice identifying and coloring letters, 4) Practice identifying color words and sorting things by that color, and my favorite 5) Establish a routine of coming into class ready to focus and work first thing every morning! Click below to grab a freebie from the larger packet: KINDERGARTEN DAILY WARM UPS {LETTERS, COLORS, SHAPES, NUMBERS}
We're not done! Link up with some amazing So Cal teachers for their freebies, and try to make it to the beach this summer! And keep scrolling to enter our giveaway for a Tieks gift card!!

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Friday, May 22, 2015

A Summary of Spring!

As I write this post, we are 9 school days away from ending our year together and kicking off the summer before first grade! However, the last time I wrote a post, we were well into the doldrums of "winter" and the end of the year seemed so far away. SO much has happened between then and now!!
Towards the end of February, we finished up one of the Writing Through the Year units by Deedee Wills and Deanna Jump. This unit was the "how to" of the units, and the kiddos wrote recipes for their favorite foods. Our culminating activity was for me to pick two recipes that were completely written with the full list of ingredients and cook them! I always LOVED when my teachers would bring food into the classroom. The kids helped me chop, mix, blend, and assemble the recipes. We had strawberry banana smoothies and pepperoni pizzas!
In March, we were visited by the always-mischievous Leprechaun who had no problem destroying our classroom!
And unfortunately, the traps that the kids so carefully built did nothing to stop him!
Then came a glorious two-week spring break, from which we returned and went on a field trip to the beach!
While we were there, we spent time exploring our environment for living things. I was surprised to see what the kids picked up on that I wasn't even thinking about! We had a very interesting conversation about whether or not seaweed is living. I also had 14 parent chaperones which was amazing! So much great questioning and conversation, I love these parents!

We had SO MUCH FUN using Vowel Surgery and Punctuation Police from Elizabeth Hall!! Some of my kids referred back to these days when we created our memory books as their favorite day of kindergarten!
Then came another field trip, this time to see Greg and Steve in Concert at Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center! It was most of my students' first time on a school bus, so they were excited!!
Just a couple of days later was our school Jog-a-Thon! The kids ran as many laps as they could in 10 minutes and MAN they are more competitive than I thought! And I'm also more out-of-shape than I thought...
And before I knew it, it was time to host Open House! Woah that came up quickly...
Thanks for the checklist inspo, Jen @sparklinginsecondgrade!
And today, we began our final countdown (cue music). 10 days left until Ms. Hodges becomes Holly again and these sweet kids become first graders! I started this tradition a few years ago, not sure where I got the inspiration from. The kids and I pop a balloon each morning which I have pre-filled with a note that will dictate a fun activity we will do that day! Today it was "sit wherever you want!"
Phew! My fingers hurt. Can't believe my year with this sweet, sweet class is almost over. I would teach them all summer if I could, no lie. This is one of those classes that teachers dream about. Better stop with the sappy stuff now, I'll save it for their last day on which I will be a blubbering mess :)

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

We are 100 Days Smarter!

Ever felt so tired that you can't function? Ever felt so tired that making dinner or changing clothes just seemed like too much work? Ever taught kindergarten on the 100th day of school? We had so much fun, did so much counting, created so many things, and wrote about a lot. It was a BUSY day! Here is a glimpse into our fun!

We began our day counting by 10s to 100. Here is a 100-year-old friend exercising his brain!

Gotta love Brainpop Jr! Do you use it? YOU SHOULD!

For some reason this year, my students seemed to have no problem at all with counting 100 Fruit Loops! They did this task so quickly. And as if it wasn't enough, this guy patterned his cereal!

100 collections and some awesome parent support!

We have had so many fun, sweet, challenging, engaging moments in these first 100 days. I couldn't be happier with these kids, their parents, and our year! Here's to the rest of a fun-filled year!

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