Polka Dots

Friday, October 22, 2010

September: Responsibility

We started the year off by focusing on the virtue of Responsibility. This is a good topic to start the year off with to help students learn to take responsibility for themselves - their actions, their words, their education, and their relationships.

1st Grade: We talked about the new responsibilities the students have this year that differ from when they were in Kindergarten. I drew a large body on poster board and named it "Freddy First Grader". We then filled in the body with new responsibilities or activities they have now in first grade.

2nd Grade: We read the book Regina's Big Mistake and talked about how Regina was irresponsible in handling her mistake at the beginning of the book (crumpling up her paper) and how she was able to act responsibly at the end (admitting she made a mistake and trying to turn it into something better). We discussed ways that they could handle mistakes in a responsible manner (saying sorry, trying hard not to do it again, etc).

4th Grade: We discussed the poem Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out by Shel Silverstein and related the piling up of trash to the piling up of problems if we do not take responsibility. I illustrated this by brining in a garbage bag of "trash" (crumpled up paper). We tackled the responsibility of school work and homework. I started off saying that a student decided not to write in his/her assignment notebook and threw a piece of paper on the ground. We then went through a series of consequences that might happen as a result (not completing the homework, not knowing when the test is, not doing well on the test, not doing well in the class, etc) each time throwing a piece of paper on the floor until the floor was covered. We then discussed how they can be more responsible. Each time they gave an idea, I picked up one of the pieces of paper.

5th Grade: We discussed how our attitudes, thoughts, and actions can impact our ability to be responsible. If we have a negative attitude about something (I hate math), that leads to a negative thought (Math is useless and I don't have to do it), which leads to a negative action (Not completing math homework). Positive attitudes, in turn, lead to positive thoughts, which lead to positive actions. We can be much more responsible when we are believing, thinking, and doing something positive. These are the "keys" to responsibility success. Each student decorated a paper key with one way they planned to be responsible this year.

Responsibility is the Key to Success: Suggesting ways to be responsible such as writing assignments down, coming up with plans to get things done and not blaming others or making excuses.

Fall into Responsibility

You are Responsible for Yourself: Actions, Choices, Attitudes, Thoughts, Behaviors, Words, Reactions, Emotions

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Off to a Good Start

Week one is almost officially over! It's hard to believe the school year has already begun. I am really looking forward to trying out some new lessons and activities this year. I am also getting involved in an afterschool group for girls in grades 3-5. I have also agreed to be a member of my districts crisis team. Our school is also going through it's re-accredidation this year, so I will be involved in that. It is going to be a very busy year, but I am excited about it!

Here are some pictures of what I have been working on the first two weeks back.

Here is a picture of my office, nice and organized. Let's hope that it stays that way. On the right I have two large bookshelves. One holds all of my classroom and student resources such as picture books, workbooks, and lesson plans. The other holds parent and teacher resource books and my college and grad school textbooks. I have a very large "kidney bean" table that my principal bought me last year. I love it because I can sit in the "cut out" and be able to see all of the students.

Here is my nice and tidy desk (today I left it in shambles because I was working on a project that I didn't finish). I have a small filing cabinet under my desk where I keep confidential files. I have projects that I am currently working on in a file divider on the corner. The large filing cabinet holds all of our standardized testing supplies which I completely rearranged at the beginning of last year only to find out that we would be ordering new materials this year. Oh well, it will give me something else to organize! On the right I have two good sized filing cabinets. The far one holds standardized testing scores and statistics. The closer one holds all of my files for just about every topic imaginable from A-Z.

We are going to focus on the same virtues as last year so I put up a bulletin board with all nine virtues on it. This one began it's transformation today and will get finished tomorrow.

I also acquired another bulletin board in a more centralized location in the school. It was a last minute addition, but I am very happy with the way it turned out. Each of the apples names the nine virtues we will be learning about this year. This one came down as well today to make way for our September virtue - Responsibility.

Back to School

Well, it's that time again... Faculty and staff came back to school last week and students arrived this past Monday. The first week of school is almost over and it is making me really excited for the rest of the year!

I was so excited about the start of school that I decorated my house in a "back to school" theme.

Here's the front door with a homemade back to school wreath.

And the mantle with some back to school accessories.

And I made these centerpieces for a faculty/staff workshop. Now one is sitting in my office.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4th of July

My parents were in town for the 4th so I wanted to show them a good time. It was the first time in four years of living near DC that I actually saw the fireworks live. They were spectacular! We had a great view - right outside Arlington Cemetery, near the Potomac River.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Take Charge - Be Drug Free!

The city is no longer able to fund the DARE program for my school, so I was tasked with finding a similar program for our 5th grade. I happened upon a program called "Take Charge" through the county's Teen Services office. The 5th grade program is called "TNT - Towards No Tobacco Use" and focuses on the harmful effects of tobacco in all of it's forms, second hand smoke, stages of tobacco addiction, as well as teaching about effective communication skills, refusal strategies, and building self-esteem. The program consisted of six one-hour sessions and the county provided all of the materials, prevention specialist to teach the course, and a donut and juice party at the end -- ALL FOR FREE!!!

The 5th graders were raving about the program. They thoroughly enjoyed it and the teachers thought that it was better than the DARE program. I received positive feedback from parents as well. I wish that I could take credit for the program, but I can't. The prevention specialist that came was amazing and was able to relate to the students and be accepted by them right away.

The program also has another component - "TND - Towards No Drug Abuse" which I plan to implement in the 8th grade.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Preschool Virtues Lessons

All year long I have been going into the preschool classroom to do a virtues lesson each month. Each time I went in, we discussed that month's virtue and then the students were able to color in a page for a book we were creating. We had our last virtues lesson and I was able to put the books together. I am so pleased with how they turned out. And the students remembered each time I came in that their pages would go into their books.

The coloring pages can be found here.

Fairness Lessons

1st Grade Fairness Lesson
We read "Four Hens and a Rooster" by Lena and Olof Landstrom and discussed the issue of inequality brought up in the book. We then discussed different rules that the class must follow to be fair. Examples included taking turns, playing by the rules, respecting each other, etc. Each student got to decorate a hen and pick a rule of fairness that they were going to follow. We then glued all the hens to the class's "chicken coop".

5th Grade Fairness Lesson
In 5th grade, we discussed the saying "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" and how sometimes certain situations do not seem very fair (privileges at home or school) but that we really don't know what fairness is until we see something from someone else's perspective. Each student decorated a shoe and had to put the quote above in their own words.

Friday, May 14, 2010

May Virtue: Fairness

I find Fairness a hard concept to teach. In the younger grades, Fairness focuses a lot on making sure everything is equal and everyone has the same amount. As children get older, however, the concept of Fairness takes a turn. Everything may not be equal but that doesn't mean that the situation is unfair.

Take privileges for an example. Children may feel that older siblings or students in older grades are offered more privileges. Children may not be offered the same privileges, and feel that the situation is unfair and unequal. But different families and different grades have different responsibilities and privileges. It's ok for Jane to feel disappointed that she does not get to stay up as late as her big brother Jack, but it doesn't mean it's an issue of fairness.

Another difficult fairness concept for students to understand are accommodations for students with learning disabilities. Physical disabilities are easy to spot and children don't have a hard time understanding why a classmate in a wheel chair gets to use the elevator when all of the other classmates take the stairs. But learning disabilities are not as visible and therefore, it can be a harder idea to understand, especially during testing time. "Why does Mary get extra time and Carl gets to write in his test booklet? That's not fair!". For this issue, I try to help the students understand that fairness in some cases has more to do with making sure that someone's needs are met rather than making everything exactly equal.

I had some great discussions with the 5th and 6th grade classes about this issue. It took a while for them to wrap their mind around it, but by the end they started to get it. I also used the example of having a food allergy and giving everyone in the class the same kind of snack (with nuts) but allowing a student with an allergy to have a different snack. They really seemed to understand that example.

Monday, April 19, 2010

April Virtue: Cooperation

For April, we are focusing on the virtue of Cooperation. Since we are conducting our standardized tests this week, I have gotten a fair number of lessons completed. I'll have some more next week, but here are the highlights.

For Kindergarten, we read Swimmy by Leo Lionni. The students really liked learning about all of the different sea creatures Swimmy encounters as he goes on his journey. We discussed how each fish by him or herself were too scared to swim around and could not scare away the big fish, but together they were able to be brave and keep the larger fish away.

Each student then colored their own fish and I put them together to form a larger fish. The students are having a fun time pointing out their individual fish up on the wall.

In 1st grade, we discussed how bees work together to make honey. We then talked about the many ways that 1st graders work together to get things done.

For the activity, the class was broken up into groups of four students. Each student in the group was given a piece of paper with a school supply on it (Crayons, Scissors, Glue Stick, and Pencil). Only the students with the assigned supply were able to get those supplies out. Each student was given a bee body and wing and had to figure out in their groups how to cut out their bee body and wing, glue the two together, decorate the bee with crayons, and write their name on the back with pencil.

It took a little bit of frustration and discussion to get all of the group members working together. I heard comments like, "I have glue stick, but I can't glue my wing on because I haven't cut it out yet." So that prompted discussions on sharing the materials, using your supply and then passing it along, and asking to borrow something. By the end, each student had created their bee and glued it to the hive.

In 3rd grade, we made "Cooperation Faces". Each student was given a different colored piece of paper. Based on their paper, I asked them to draw the different parts of the face: Right Eye, Left Eye, Right Ear, Left Ear, Nose, Upper Lip and Lower Lip. Then, one by one, they came up to glue their pieces on the poster board. We made four faces and discussed how each student in class is an individual, but when put together they make their 3rd grade class.

In 4th and 5th grade, the students created spaghetti and mini marshmallow structures in small groups. The group with the tallest structure won a small prize.

After building, we had a class discussion on what went well and what could have gone better. Some things we talked about were: listening to each other's ideas, take turns building, being a leader and a follower, and brainstorming ideas. The students really enjoyed it and made some great structures!

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Camera and New Kitchen

So definitely new camera, but only a newly painted kitchen....

I spent part of spring break prepping, painting, and cleaning the kitchen. I thought it would be a good opportunity to reorganize some of the cabinets and get rid of some stuff.

The color is Ocean Tropic by Behr.

I got the curtains at Ikea. They come really long with iron on stitching... I'll probably sew them later, but I just wanted to get them up.

I would love to have a pantry so we didn't have to store cereal and other boxed food on top of the fridge, but I'll get over it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Break To-Dos Update

Half-way through Spring Break and here is what I have accomplished so far:
  • plant an herb garden
  • buy and fill planters of varying sizes to "hide" ugly heatpump on the patio
  • take Sadie to the vet for Rx refills and checkup
  • start on Christmas and birthday presents for nieces and sisters
  • trim the unruly boxwood in front of the house
  • take Sadie to the dog park
And here are the things I still need to accomplish:
  • paint kitchen (we're thinking a light cornflower blue) -- my project for Friday
  • go to the dentist (I'm currently on a wait list because I waited too long to make the appointment - bummer!) -- don't think this is going to happen
  • create and stock up on birthday and holiday cards
  • find a small table/chairs for the patio -- doing some serious searching on CraigsList
  • come up with Cooperation lessons for grades PreK-8 for April -- gotta get those ready
  • make school-themed goody bags for grades 1-5 lunch bunches (ideas: smarties, erasers, pencils, stickers, small toy for each group's theme: train engine for 1st grade "I think I can", race car for 3rd grade "study skills expressway") -- this can wait, still have 2 more sessions before the end
Oh, and I got a new camera!! A Nikon D3000 and I love it!! Here are some pictures of my projects taken with my new camera...

A tin full of goodies including homemade scavenger hunt cards for my niece's 7th birthday.

A jar full of "sunshine" to help my sister in Colorado make it through the last bit of winter. I got the idea from here.

Old Navy dress, homemade hair barrettes and a card for my niece's 1st birthday.

Paper-covered birds for Mother's Day. Idea found here.

Handmade Father's Day cards.

"Gourmet Girl" notes and cards set from Michaels, all wrapped up with a cute blue spatula for my best friend's birthday.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Easter

Happy Easter (a day late)! We spent Easter with friends in DC and had a great time. The weather was phenomenal!

I have seen those orange candy in the shape of carrot treats a lot of places and wanted to try them out myself. They were a big hit and so easy to make!

I made three different kinds - orange jelly beans, orange M&Ms, and Annie's Cheddar Bunnies

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

To Do's for Spring Break

I am off from school next week for Spring Break and have a long list of things that I want to accomplish. I am going to give myself one day to be a bum and then after that it's full speed ahead!

Here is what I want to accomplish, in no particular order:

  • paint kitchen (we're thinking a light cornflower blue)
  • plant a vegetable/herb garden
  • buy and fill planters of varying sizes to "hide" ugly heatpump on the patio
  • go to the dentist (I'm currently on a wait list because I waited too long to make the appointment - bummer!)
  • take Sadie to the vet for Rx refills and checkup
  • start on Christmas and birthday presents for nieces and sisters (I'm thinking bead and ribbon necklaces and flower headbands)
  • create and stock up on birthday and holiday cards
  • find a small table/chairs for the patio
  • trim the unruly boxwood in front of the house
  • take Sadie to the dog park a couple times
  • come up with Cooperation lessons for grades PreK-8 for April
  • make school-themed goody bags for grades 1-5 lunch bunches (ideas: smarties, erasers, pencils, stickers, small toy for each group's theme: train engine for 1st grade "I think I can", race car for 3rd grade "study skills expressway")

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sadie's Puppy Party

We celebrated our dog, Sadie's, first birthday on Saturday. Since we adopted her from the Humane Society and she was born in a barn, her birthday is just an estimate. She's about 1 year old now, so we decided to celebrate. Of course everything had to be pink! Actually her "colors" are pink and brown with accents of green. :)

We had a great time and I got to play around with my step-mother-in-law's Nikon D40 camera. These pictures were taken with her camera and I really like how they turned out. I'm looking to get my own "real" camera.

The Birthday Girl

The table spread -- Mini burgers (sliders), ham & cheese in puff pastry, cru di te and roasted red pepper dip, polka dot cupcakes, puppy chow, and assorted pink candies.

Close up of the sliders

Chocolate polka dot cupcakes

Everything in pink!

Birthday banner

Monday, March 22, 2010

March Virtue: Self Control

March is Self-Control Month! I had some requests from teachers to move this to the beginning of the school year, so that might be an idea for next year.

For most of my guidance lessons I focused on the Stop, Think, and Act process before speaking or acting. This is reflected in my bulletin board for this month.

In-between all of the stop lights with "Stop, Think, Act" written on them, there are some examples of how to show self-control.

5th Grade Self-Control Kites
I got this idea from this website, but changed it around a bit to fit my students. We discussed the quote on the kite "You can't always control the wind, but you can control your sails" and how it can be used in our own lives.

Close up of the kite and quote.

The kite tags read: "Stop and Think", "Manage Your Emotions", "Take Responsibility", and "Believe in Yourself". We discussed how each of these helps up to show better self-control.

The students really enjoyed making their kites and took pride in personalizing theirs. They will be hung in the hallway until the end of the month, but the kids are very eager to take them home.

6th Grade Self-Control Yield Signs
For my 6th grade lessons, we discussed how traffic signs can help us remember to use self-control. I found the inspiration here, but again changed it to meet our needs.

We discussed how it can be hard to show self-control when faced with temptations. Some of the temptations we talked about were dealing with anger in the wrong way (hitting, using foul language, saying mean things), spreading rumors or talking about someone behind their back, not taking responsibility (goofing around in class, talking in class, not completing work).

The yield signs says "Show SELF-CONTROL and have the DETERMINATION not to YIELD to temptations! God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:13"

February Virtue: Citizenship

During the month of February, we focused on the virtue of Citizenship. This topic expanded on many of the virtues we had already be learning such as respect, responsibility, and stewardship. I thought the red, white, and blue star theme would be perfect for the bulletin board.

The board includes several ways to show citizenship:
  • Do your share to make your school, your community, and the world a better place.
  • Take responsibility for what goes on around you.
  • Be a good neighbor.
  • Follow the rules of your family, your school, and your community.
  • Treat people with respect and dignity.
  • Participate in community service.
  • Help take care of the environment.

In my middle school guidance lessons, we discussed the ideas of freedoms and responsibilities. The students were asked to list all of the different freedoms they were gaining now that they were older (cell phones, stay home alone, go out with friends, stay up later, etc). We then discussed how these new freedoms also came with new responsibilities (stay on top of texting and phone calls, be safe and responsible at home alone, get enough sleep, etc). We also talked about the future freedoms they would be gaining (driver's license, voting, buying cigarettes and alcohol) and what responsibilities would accompany those freedoms. The students were able to use real-life situations and this helped them to better understand the concept.