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Monday, December 29, 2014

Using Music to Engage Your Readers (Note: It's Going to Be Loud & You're Going to Love it!)



“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” - Victor Hugo


One of my favorite small moments in a day is listening to my students sing loudly, loud enough to be heard down the hallway, about the water cycle or the Preamble or whatever our current Science or Social Studies topic happens to be that day. 

The right music can change the mood of the classroom. Most students love it immediately, some are too shy to sing but the change in their body language speaks volumes, and an occasional one or two play the "too cool" factor.  The "too cool" kids come around eventually, though. Music and movement builds a creative and kinesthetic transfer of knowledge to students, minus the pressure of text-based learning. It's like a green smoothie...loaded with spinach, kale and vitamins but tastes like candy. 

Over the years, I've compiled a list of go-to songs that correlate to our 3rd and 4th grade Science and Social Studies units, as well as a few just plain fun ones. I'm sharing them below.  Enjoy!

Social Studies
"Tour the 50 States"

(My favorite!  I use it throughout the year.)
 Parts of a Globe
 Landforms
 Reading a Map
 "The Preamble" (with Lyrics)

(By the end of this one, I usually have multiple blue grass bands of students strumming along using notebooks and pencils as their instruments. It's super cool to see and hear the music and movement that develops by diverse students.)
 Colonial America
 Paul Revere & The Revolutionary War
 Legislative Branch
Explorers

(Based on "Party in the USA", but it's catchy and memorable.)

Science

Water Cycle

(You'll find yourself singing this one in the car, doing the dishes... It works, though!  I've heard kids humming it while taking the unit assessment.)
 Water Cycle
 Phases of the Moon

(I think this one is hard on the ears, but students like it and learn from it.)
 Minerals

(Mr. Pharr writes these songs for middle school, so some of the information extends beyond the elementary curriculum. He uses modern songs, though, that do a great job reinforcing science concepts).
 Types of Rocks - by Mr. Pharr

 Fossils - by Mr. Pharr
 Force and Motion

(This one is weird, but fun and informational.)
 Planets


Just for Fun
Minions - "Happy"
 Minions Song - "YMCA"
"Respect and Pride Song"
(This one has to be purchased, but it's worth it.  I use it at the beginning of the year to introduce classroom environment expectations, and return to it throughout the year.

Two final thoughts: 

  • A lot of these songs have ads before the song plays or in a side bar.  I use the "freeze" button on my Promethean Board to ensure that I'm not showing these advertisements.  I release the Freeze button as the song begins.
  • I post these songs to my students' Edmodo accounts so that they can access the songs at home, too.
Have fun!

Saturday, November 29, 2014


We teach to inspire our students and change our small corner of the world. Sometimes, we need a little inspiration ourselves. So, here's a pick-me-up for teachers of good things that make our world a better place. 

featured
Unilever Project Sunlight Partners with HatchKids to teach that even the smallest act of sharing a meal can change the future of a child. Could you feed a child for a week on $36.50? These kids are going to try.  Such a small but powerful way to teach about childhood hunger. 
{Read & Watch more...}

What the Slow Food movement can teach the United States about education reform: A fascinating article from The Atlantic on slowing down our instruction to create more meaningful engagement.
{Read more...}


Ten Soul-Feeding Quotes on Writing from The Gift of Writing
{See more...}


#RulesoftheGame: How Project Love is Teaching At-Risk kids How to Use Values to Succeed
{Read More...}

Super Cool Science: Watch as a White Blood Cell Chases Bacteria - Extraordinary!
{Click the Video to Watch} 

30 Historic Moments in Photographs ~ Lots of Close Reading of a Picture Possibilities

Kids traveling to school through the Indian Himalayas & other amazing journeys to school from around the world.
{Read more...}


Rita Pierson: Ted Talk
If you haven't seen this TED Talk yet, make time to watch it today! She understands the impact of turning an ordinary moment into an extraordinary connection.

{Watch now...}



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Legacy of Excellence Awards

Wow!  What a memorable experience!  On Friday, November 14, I was deeply honored to be recognized as the 2014 Fulton County Teacher of the Year. From being surrounded and supported by mentors, colleagues, and family to parading into the ballroom behind the Centennial High School drum line, the day left me filled with love and appreciation for the educators in our county. Since then, I've had several requests to share my speech.  I've posted it below. My challenge for all educators:  How can you turn one moment of ordinary into the extraordinary?

“How long is just one second?  Sometimes, forever.”
-Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
Forever.
It’s infinite, undefinable, and our most motivating agent of change.

One second.
It’s a moment in time that may feel like the briefest whisper of extraordinary, or the longest exhale of the ordinary.

When put together, one second and forever, defines our impact as teachers.

And as an Auburn graduate, I know that my fellow Auburn alumni understand how much can change in a just one second.  War Eagle!
----------
I’m standing up here today in a moment of both gratitude and holy terror. J It is such a blessing to be named the Fulton County Teacher of the Year.  This is an honor that I could not have an anticipated, but one that I will remember forever.  I have to be honest, though.  I’m out of my comfort zone standing before you to speak.  But, the one thing I know for certain is that my life as an educator continues to evolve each time I find the courage to speak up, share my ideas, and serve as an advocate for my students. And, I find, that a single moment of courage, a willingness to be a little different, and a motivation to push a little farther leads us all out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.
----------
One second. Forever.

It’s really about courage and risk, hope and action, and changing our thinking to embrace an uncertain future.

It’s about jumping off script for the teachable moment, taking the deep breath rather reacting, just showing up to do the next right thing, and telling ourselves that we are good enough to change the world right now.  The change in our thinking that we make in a single second has the ability to impact the lives of our students forever.

 I don’t know about you, but I feel that being an educator gets harder every day. Our students seem hungrier for attention, desperate in some cases for an extended hand, and more distracted than ever from rapid changing technology. There’s an unspoken gaze that seems to say, “Please make sense of this world for me.”

 The pace of change is increasing exponentially, and creating an uncertain future for our students.  We now have robots that perform surgery, educators who teach online instead of in a classroom, and cars and trucks computerized to drive themselves. Of course, we’ll still need doctors, teachers, and engineers, but we can’t exactly predict the workforce skills needed for 21st century careers. 

 As educators, we have a deep desire to fix this for our littlest, most vulnerable people.  We’re faced with adapting to changing curriculums that will develop problem-solving, reasoning, and perseverance. The movement away from by-the-book teaching towards higher-order thinking is both challenging and exciting.

It can be overwhelming, though. We’re human and we seek comfort in what is familiar and known.  We seek comfort in the small moments of ordinary.

But each day, we have a choice of whether to operate in our zone of Comfort, Risk or Danger.

This zone of Comfort is usually a place where we feel at ease.  We have a good grip on our environment, and we know how to navigate occasional rough spots with ease.  It’s the “go-to” lesson that students have loved in the past.  There’s a time and place for it, but not every day. 

 The Danger Zone tends to be the angry, stubborn place that we latch on to when we feel unable to adapt, move ahead, or unsupported. 

The Risk Zone, though, involves adapting to new circumstances, and it’s where passionate learning takes place. It’s where people are willing to try something new and be ok with not knowing everything.  It’s where people will consider options or ideas they haven’t thought of before.  The Risk Zone is where innovation and creativity partner together to spark the energy and engage the imagination of students. 

And it only takes one courageous second to move into the Risk Zone.  That’s what I’ve noticed about teaching. One courageous second of thinking innovatively and acting decisively to impact the life of a child. Forever. 

………..
I am humbled and honored to be standing here in front of you. Thank you Dr. Avossa, Dr. Murri, and the TOY committees for recognizing me as the Fulton County Teacher of the year and allowing me to share my vision of education.

I have a village of family, friends and mentors that I want to take a moment and recognize. 

Dr. Maisha Otway and Patti Blalock, Hillside’s administrators, have allowed me to flourish under their care, by being receptive to my out of the box ideas, and constructive, yet gentle, with my even wilder ideas. Thank you for helping me work in my risk zone.

Kelly M. and Meagan E. have served as my mentors and life support as I’ve found my footing in teaching. Kelly and Meagan are my models for creating the extraordinary out of the ordinary seconds of the day.

My husband, kids, mom, and in-laws…I simply could not serve as an educator without you being there to lift me up, reminding me to have courage and strength, greeting me with joyful smiles, and being understanding when I fall asleep on the couch, or in the car, or at the dinner table, at 6:30 at night after a challenging day of teaching. 

I'm very appreciative to my close friends that have seen me through my highs and lows, and whom have been an endless source support for my kids as I balance working with raising a family.

As I think about these moments of encouragement and support that my village provides for me, I’m reminded that each occurs in an ordinary second of time. And, it forever changes my life and the lives of the students I teach.

My favorite teaching quote comes from Sir Ken Robinson, in which he says,

We will not succeed in navigating the complex environment of the future by peering relentlessly into the rear view mirror.  To do so, we would be out of our minds.”
--  Sir Ken Robinson
Now, before I end, I have a challenge to you as the best and brightest in your school:

On Monday, how can you turn one second of ordinary into something extraordinary? 

It only takes one courageous second of change to impact forever.

Thank you!
The Centennial Knights Drumline escorts me in.  So cool!

I finally made a Jumbo Tron!

The Red Carpet Treatment ~ If only all teachers could be greeted like this daily!

A Pic with Dr. Avossa (right), Superintendent of Fulton County Schools, and my husband, Steve (left).

A Pic with my supportive Hillside ES Admin Team

Yes!  I really won a car! Thank you Wade Ford of Smyrna!

Striking a pose with the Atlanta Falcon Cheerleaders...I'll leave the cheerleading to these ladies!
A Pic with two of FCS top teachers, Meagan E. a Hillside colleague, and Amy B., the High Point ES Teacher of the Year.

*Resource for the Zone of Comfort, Risk and Danger: National School Reform Faculty

Monday, June 9, 2014

FCS Summer Summit 2014

I'm looking forward to sharing ideas and learning from other educators about integrating literacy across the curriculum.  Below is the slideshow that we will use to launch our discussions.  Check back later this week for uploaded literacy tasks and project ideas!



Wednesday, February 12, 2014



30 Read Alouds to Integrate Science, Social Studies, and Literacy Skills


After an exhausting weekend of being chauffeur, family photographer, and social event coordinator for my own kids, I stood in the middle of the children’s section at a major bookseller hoping to find a quick and easy solution for the modeled reading section of my pollution lesson for Monday.   I needed a book that introduced pollution. With this curriculum crunch we’re in, it needed to be down and dirty with the easy details, too…or so I thought as I stood half-heartedly staring at the search menu on the store’s computer. My search for pollution books turned up two (seriously only two at this major retailer): The Berenstain Bears Don’t Pollute (Anymore) and The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge.  Since I wasn’t eager to cover the global warming debate, it left one lazy option: The Berenstain Bears.

Fortunately, for my students’ sake, I texted my colleague, Meagan, and ran that clunker of an idea by her.  I could justify it.  Every kid should experience the Berenstain Bears, and the book would quickly teach the problem and solutions of pollution.  But Meagan texted back, “Use the Chris Van Allsburg book…the one where he’s in the bed seeing the way the earth is changing. No bears, please!”  She was referring to Just a Dream, Allsburg’s book about a young boy that dreams of a future negatively impacted by pollution.  I happily picked the book up from her classroom before school started the next day.  That was a quick and easy no-brainer.

*Every teacher needs a Meagan in your life to shake you back to your senses and hold you to high standards!

Matching our science and social studies content to a modeled read aloud every single day for every single lesson is challenging. But the literacy rewards are off the charts when we take the time to make it happen.  I ended up using Just a Dream for our modeled reading on Monday.  I focused on the literacy reading standard CCGPSRL.3 on character traits.  We charted the change in perspective of Walter, the main character, throughout the story.  I pulled in our word study on shades of meaning, and the word choice on our chart was outstanding…unreliable, cantankerous, sketchy, shady, changing to dependable, trustworthy, and compassionate.  Yep!  Third graders used those words on their own.  We followed it up with a shared reading on the types of pollution.  Students then completed a partner task sorting the events in Just a Dream into the four categories of pollution.  It was way better than a trip down memory lane with Brother and Sister Bear.

We all need support finding modeled reading selections that promote critical thinking skills and integrate science and social studies content.  Below, you’ll find 30 fantastic science and social studies themed books that I’ve used in my classrooms during Modeled Reading:

Habitats/Ecosystems/Pollution
Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg
Pollution
Character Traits/ Change in Perspective
Flute’s Journey by Lynn Cherry
Migration
Text Structure: Sequence/Temporal Words
About Raptors: A Guide for Children By Cathryn Sill
Animal Traits
Text Structure Organization: Description
Teeth By Sneed B Collard
Adaptations
Text Structure: Compare & Contrast
Aliens from Earth: When Animals and Plants Invade Other Ecosystems
 By Mary Batten
How plants and animals affect ecosystems/ Interdependence
Text Structure Organization: Cause and Effect
When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature's Balance in Yellowstone
By Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

Human Impact on Ecosystems / Interdependence
Text Structure Organization: Problem and Solution
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynn Cherry
Human Impact on Ecosystems / Interdependence
Main Idea and Details / Inference / Plot & Conflict: Somebody, Wanted, But, So / Figurative Language
A River Ran Wild: An Environmental History by Lynn Cherry
Natural Resources /Pollution/Consumers & Producers
Text Structure: Cause & Effect Relationships / Using Illustrations & Maps to aid Comprehension
Who Is  Jane Goodall? by Roberta Edwards
Habitats
Novel Study – Multiple Literacy Standards / Biography
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Human Impact on Ecosystems
Novel Study – Multiple Literacy standards / Fact & Opinion / Theme / Figurative Language

Fossils/Rocks and Soils
National Geographic Kids Ultimate Dinopedia
Fossils
Text Features
Dinosaur Named Sue: The World's Most Complete T. Rex
 By Relf, Pat
Fossils
Text Features
Magic School Bus Inside the Earth
Rocks and Minerals
Monitoring Comprehension-  think marks, fix-up strategies, jotting thinking in the margin or on post-its, connections
Dirt: The Scoop on Soil by Natalie Rosinky
Soil
Monitoring Comprehension-  think marks, fix-up strategies, jotting thinking in the margin or on post-its, connections

Economics/Resources
The Lemonade War By Jacqueline Davies
Economic Concepts – excellent for teaching economic vocabulary
Monitoring our comprehension through questioning/Main Idea/ Inferencing/Context Clues
Pancakes, Pancakes!ir?t=choiceliterac-20&l=ur2&o=1 By Eric Carle
Resources / Production
Sequencing

Colonial America/Democracy/American Revolution
Blood on the River By Elisa Carbone  (4th grade +)
Colonial America
Novel Study – Multiple Literacy standards / figurative language/ theme/ character traits and change
Homespun Sarah
By Verla Kay 
Colonial America
Poetry – rhythm & rhyme / Illustrations support comprehension
Tattered Sails
By Verla Kay
Colonial America
Poetry – rhythm & rhyme / Illustrations support comprehension
You Wouldn't Want to Be an American Colonist!: A Settlement You'd Rather Not Start 
by David Salariya

Colonial America
Visualizing
If You Lived In Colonial Times 
by Ann McGovern

Colonial America
Visualizing
Katie's Trunk by Ann Turner
Revolutionary War
1st person POV, text dependent questioning, figurative language, shades of meaning of words
George vs. George: The American Revolution As Seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer (4th Grade+)
Revolutionary War
Text Structure: Compare & Contrast / 1st Hand Accounts / Quotes /

Revolutionary War on Wednesday by Mary Pope Osborn (2nd and early 3rd Grade)

Revolutionary War
Narrative Elements
Redcoats and Petticoats by K. Kirkpatrick and R. Himmler
Revolutionary War
Text Structure: Compare & Contrast / Reading for Detail & Evidence
Buttons for General Washington by Peter Roop
Revolutionary War
Content Vocabulary, Context Clues, Inference
And then What Happened Paul Revere? by Jeanne Fritz
Revolutionary War
Sequencing, Visualizing

Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution by: Jeanne Fritz and and Tomie dePaola


Constitution/Branches of Government
Sequencing historical events/ visualizing /opposing viewpoints/ Content Vocabulary

Water Cycle/Weather

I Survived Hurricane Katrina by Lauren Tarshis
Weather
Novel Study – Multiple Literacy standards / flashback / figurative language / historical events
Hurricanes! by Gail Gibbons
Weather
Text Features /Content Vocabulary/ Main Idea and Details