The beginning of the school year is a time of hunkering down and doing your own thing in your own classroom but it is also a time of running in to people you haven't seen in awhile, at Pro-D, at school, at meetings. Making a big move, moving from the known to the unknown, has led to some very interesting conversations with people I run in to. Generally, they go something like this:
Other teacher (with a suspicious, this-can't-possibly-be-true tone) - "So...you're not in LAT anymore, right?"
Me - "That's right. Teaching Gr. 2 French Immersion now."
Other teacher - "Wow! What a change! How's it going?"
At this point, I have a choice to make - I can choose to smile and answer "Oh, great, it's going really, really well", which is the socially expected response or I can answer honestly, which sounds a little more like "It's good. It's hard, really, really hard. There's so much I don't know, so much I didn't realize about teaching little guys." It's a little too naked, a little too honest for most people, but it's the truth. So what do I do?
For the most part, I choose to tell the truth. This is hard, it is very new to me (it's still September, after all) and I'm ok with that. I think it's important that people know that this is a huge learning curve for me but that I'm working through it, that I'm ok with not knowing and learning as I go. To hide this process is kind of like trying to hide a cannonball in the deep end - everyone already knows I've made the leap, I might as well own the noise and the mess too.
What inevitably transpires after I own the noise and the mess is this - people jump in to save me: "Oh, so and so teaches Gr. 2 I'm sure that they have stuff for you" (love that word, stuff, as if more pieces of paper will help me figure this out); "Isn't ________ (name of very experienced Gr. 2 teacher) helping you out? I'm sure she would, you just have to ask!" (which leads to me backing her up because yes, as a matter of fact, she has been very helpful). Apparently, being in the deep end means I am drowning and everyone feels the need to throw me a life raft (a well-intentioned life raft, but a life raft nonetheless).
Honestly, though? I'm ok in the deep end. It might not be pretty and I may go under every now and then but as I struggle I am learning what works for me. Floating on someone else's life raft doesn't teach me to swim; I need to learn to kick, move my arms and breathe all on my own. I'll happily take a coach or two and some tools along the way but this is my process and my learning curve; my deep end.
In her book, Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton talks about our society's need to take the pain away when we see it in others. We aren't comfortable being uncomfortable and we really aren't comfortable seeing others in discomfort. The deep end is not comfortable; it is messy and deep, so deep. But it is in discomfort that we grow and so, I must work through this discomfort on my own. I must find my own rhythm and my own stroke in order to be able to feel good about swimming.
So to those who have offered to save me, thank you. Thank you for wanting to take the discomfort away, thank you for wanting me to feel more comfortable. I appreciate it. I'm going to be ok, though. It might not be pretty, it might not be smooth, but I will figure it out. I will learn how to swim in the deep end.
PS - to those of you who have offered to jump in to the deep end with me, who have jumped in to the deep end with me, I cannot thank you enough. Having someone swimming beside me means a lot.
This post was originally published in 2015 and still holds true today. If you have a little starting kindergarten or know someone who does, have a read, share it around and remember, it takes a village.
It's that time of year...Back to School. Every year at this time, Facebook and Pinterest are filled with posts about the 50, 75 or 100 things your child needs to know before they start kindergarten. Talk about stressful! Admittedly, the parent in me read those lists and mentally tallied up the things that my kid could do and the things she couldn't; the educator in me just cringed and reminded me that the developmental continuum is at one of it's widest points as our children enter K and this is not the time for comparison (is there ever a time?). Cue my lovely, oft-mentioned Kindergarten teacher and friend who very eloquently responded to one such post just the other day. Her response was so on-point that I asked her to guest blog about it here!
As a Kindergarten teacher and mummy to my first entering 'my zone', I'll admit I won't read these lists. I find them way too stressful and frankly, I'm maxed on stuff to worry about. While I don't generally think it's reasonable to make uninformed comments on random posts, I threw caution to the wind on this one and refered to my inner guide,: my heart.
If I were to make a list of the things the kids coming in to my class every year need to know, my list would look something like this:
Some things your kid really needs to know before entering school
- That you love them, always.
- How to love themselves, always.
- How to navigate mistakes as learning and opportunity.
- How to see there is magic in differences.
- How to be a good friend.
- How to laugh and enjoy fun.
- How to take care of themselves, each other and their place.
- How to achieve and maintain a happy heart.
- How to love books, print, art, stories, nature, playing, inventing games.
- How to love and be loved...
There are so many things that I could add but they would all be heart centered. It's my jam. My colleagues and I can and will teach the rest of the stuff (it really is just stuff).. It's important stuff but... it's stuff. What really counts, what really matters, is that kiddos feel safe and loved, that their bucket is full and that they can share that with others.
Parents, we know you're doing your best, we honour that. Many of you need to honour that in yourselves too. Don't worry about lists! Read this and feel it, for you AND for your kids. Don't we all need a little more of this? There's nothing your children can't do without the village that makes up their team. Teachers are part of your team and most importantly, your kid's team. We realize that children are each on their own journey. They each come with their own unique strengths and challenges. We too, want for your kids to be happy, healthy and successful, however that looks for them. We are in this together.
Oh, remember to take a minute to breathe and laugh too. Time passes so quickly, don't miss the moments worrying about lists.
Beautiful, isn't it? My humblest thanks for joining me on this, Robyn!
In the Town All Year Round (Rotraut Susanne Berner) - This book was a gift from friends a few years ago and still hasn't grown old. Following the lives and antics of a fun cast of characters through 4 seasons in a small town, this book is like a grown-up Where's Waldo? Each season is prefaced with a brief explanation of what some of the characters are up to this season; the rest is left up to you and your imagination! We often choose just one or two characters to look for and then spend the rest of the time discovering new aspects of each picture. Great for observation skills, this book would be a great addition to your classroom silent/buddy reading library or as a teacher-led small group activity focusing on observation and oral language skills.
Hands Off My Honey (Jane Chapman) - At first I thought this book was part of Karma Wilson's Bear series; the illustrations are very reminiscent of her books. This story, however, does not have the same rhythm as one of Wilson's; nonetheless, it is a very cute read with a surprising twist at the end. A great choice for teaching little ones about the joy of sharing, what it means to be a friend and appropriate play (Why does everyone think this is a fun game when Bear is being so scary?).
My Blue is Happy (Jessica Young) - This wonderful little book has so much potential in the classroom; I can't wait to take it for a spin! It explores the emotions we attach to colours, highlighting the fact that different colours "feel" different to each of us. A great book for exploring differences, making connections and creating writing based on the book. The only disappointment is that the book has the rhythm of a rhyming book but it doesn't actually rhyme!
Teach Like A PIRATE (David Burgess) - Despite it's very intriguing title, this book hasn't exactly wowed me. That being said, the underlying premise of increasing student engagement is of fundamental importance and one that I think gets harder and harder as our students' attention becomes more media focused. This book is worth the read if you are looking for ways to diversify or change up your presentation methods and would make a good school-wide book study if you have a few staff members who need some help moving beyond the old stand and deliver. Be forewarned, however, that while it is an easy read, the writing style is not as polished as some of the other options in the professional development category.
Happy reading this week!
To celebrate the posting of a couple of great new products on Teachers Pay Teachers, we thought we would bring you some suggestions on fun ways to practice beginning reading skills, at school and at home.
- Go on a noisy letter or word hunt: Give each student letters or words to look for (the bookmarks in our Sight Word Hunt & Bingo Packs are perfect for this) and send them around the room, looking through books and environmental print for their words. Have them read them out to a partner when they find them. Add an element of competition by seeing who can find all of their letters or words first (beware of the strugglers and the non-competitive ones in the bunch. Make sure they feel successful too!),
- Go on a quiet letter or word hunt: Take the noisy word hunt down a notch and make it more suitable for center time, quiet time or individual activity. Give each student a set of letters or words and a stack of books. They can place their bookmark in the page where they found the match. If you want to check them, have students share their findings with a partner (or an older buddy or classroom volunteer) or conference with them one-one yourself. Great practice and a quick and easy check for you to see where they are (track the words they know and then you have a record come report card time).
- Play I have, Who has...: This game takes a little bit of set up but is really easy to do once you get the hang of it (and easy to re-use!). Make 2 copies of the letters/sight words you plan to use, making sure you have enough words for 1 word per student (to make it really easy, copy them on two different colours). Lay out all of your words side by side, keeping identical words side by side (your pattern would be AA-BB-CC, etc). Take one copy of the first word and place it at the end. Starting with the first word, hand 2 words to each student, the first in their left hand, the second in their right, making sure you keep the words in order (this is where the two colours comes in handy - you can quickly see if they are holding them in the correct hands). It's more fun if the students are not standing in the same order as the words were laid out. The first student then says "I have..." and reads the word in their left hand, followed by "Who has..." and the word in their right hand. The person with that word then repeats the process, saying "I have (word in left hand), Who has (word in right hand). If you've set it up properly, it will come all the way back around to the first person!
- Play "Word Detective": Write a secret message to the class, leaving blanks for the sight words you want them to practice. Hand out the missing words and ask the students to read their word to a partner. Then explain that you wrote them a message but that the sneaky word wizard came and zapped out some of the words, so now you need some help reading it. Begin reading the message, pausing at blanks and allowing the students to figure out what word is missing. The student(s) with that word can then come up and place their word in the space, helping to complete the message. Yay, they saved the day!
- Build Your Words: This one is great for kinesthetic learners and those who need some work on fine motor control. Using playdough, lego, alphabet blocks, stamps, magnetic letters, or any other building material you can think of, allow students to build the letters in their words. Be sure they read them to a partner or to you to complete the transfer of knowledge!
- Clap & Stomp Your Words: Another great one for kinesthetic or musically inclined learners! As you say the name of each letter in your word, clap the consonants and stomp the vowels, shouting the word out at the end. Or, get creative and try one of the following variations: Lasso your words - sit backwards on your chair (like a horse) and circle your arm in the air above your head as you say each letter in the word (1 circle per letter). As you say the whole word, throw your lasso and rope that word in! Cheer your words - hold pompoms (real or pretend, it's up to you), and shake them as you say each letter, high for consonants, low for vowels. At the end, jump in the air and shout that word out. Disco your words - Just like John Travolta! Point high and to the side for consonants, low and across your body for vowels, jazz hands to finish!
We hope you have fun trying some of these activities out with your class! Let us know how it goes...
PS - These products are part of a series of products that we'll continue to put up on TpT as we finish them. Keep checking our store if you want all the Dolch Sight Words!
This week we bring you some great books about those hallowed repositories of the written language - libraries. As the kid of a career librarian, I have many, many fond memories of days spent "at work" with my mom, set free to roam the stacks, browsing through books at my leisure. My daughters love the library and beg to go to storytime on a regular basis. These books, culled from my mother's collection, are regular requests from my daughters when we visit my mom and dad. Each one has a different rhythm, a different feel but each one showcases the buildings that for me hold so many memories - the library.
Library Lion (Michelle Knudsen) is such a beautiful, peaceful book with beautiful, peaceful illustrations. It opens doors to discussions about rules and rule-breaking, about acceptance of differences (after all, who lets a lion in to the library?!) and about making a mistake and making amends. Paired with other books, Library Lion really does lend itself to a wide variety of emotional intelligence themes. Used well, it could be an excellent book for transforming students' thinking about who belongs where, understanding and acceptance. The alliteration of the title just cries out for young writers to come up with their own places and animals (Starbucks Starfish, anyone?), creating the starting point for some fun and interesting stories, with equally fun and interesting drawings. Then again, it is such a calming read that maybe you just want to read it in that lull that comes right after lunch.
The Library (Sarah Stewart) is a quirky little gem of a book. The main character, Elizabeth Brown, is not interested in any of the things "normal" children want to do; she only wants to read. And as she reads, and reads, and reads, she accumulates such a vast collection of books that she ends up trapped in her own house. What she does with those books is suggested by the titile. The rhythm of this book is wonderful and Elizabeth Brown will resonate with your little ones who always have their noses in a book. Again, great for discussions about differences and making a difference (a perfect pairing with Miss Rumphius!) and transforming thinking.
Wild About Books (Judy Sierra) is just pure fun! Completely different in tone from the first two books, Wild About Books is for noisy reading, with a rollicking rhyme that just begs to be emphasized with the pacing and pitch of your voice. It's message is also different from the first two, as it focuses on learning to love reading and subsequently writing. It does open the door for discussions about differences though, as each group of animals choose to read different books. A great one for beginning of the year activities about choosing "just right books", it might even encourage your students to work on building their own classroom library!
Have you got any favourites about the library? We'd love to hear them!
It has come to my attention that I may have failed to mention that the Lit Pit is a bilingual place. Yep, that's right, not only do we read, write and think in English around here, we do it in French too.
The Lit Pit seems to work equally well in both languages (see the post about our success so far). The only problem is one that is common to French Immersion teachers from sea to shining sea in this beautiful land of ours...
And by major, I mean French Immersion teachers spend a disproportionate amount of time creating their own resources in order to meet the needs of the students in their class. There are some fabulous people out there creating and sharing (shout out to Mme. Belle Feuille & La Classe de Karine, whose materials I have used over and over again) but not nearly as many as there are in English. While we can easily hop on TpT and find English resources galore for any given topic, they are few and far between in French.
Don't get me wrong, there are publishers who sell resources in French. But even then, the pool is small. And expensive. And often not exactly what you were hoping for. So your choices become: use something that doesn't quite work and try to make it fit as best you can or create something.
So many French Immersion teachers spend a lot of time and creative energy building worksheets and activities to suit the needs of their classes. Many other French Immersion teachers could benefit from using these resources in the classroom. Somehow we need to start bringing these two together!
Luckily, a colleague of mine is working on it...it's not my place to share her idea here (yet) but, if you are a French Immersion teacher, know that a resource sharing option is in the works. More on that when it happens, I promise.
For now, my small contribution to the world of French Immersion resource sharing is this: a worksheet for c dur et c doux. Some of our little guys have been struggling to differentiate between when they should read c as /k/ and when it should be /s/, so I created a few activities for them to do. They loved using the bingo dabbers on this one! Hope you enjoy it too...more to come as I build them!
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about living life with my family, teaching and learning something new all the time. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!