Monday, September 30, 2013

First Nations Art

Hello friends!

We created Haida art to acknowledge the Truth and Reconciliation talks that took place here in town earlier in the month. We did not talk about residential schools as our students are so young. We did, however, talk about the First Nations peoples and acknowledge their being on this land first. 

Then our K/1 teacher read a beautiful story that showed a picture of an animal on one page with a Haida interpretation of that same animal on the next page. It was fab! And clearly the students were paying some attention (it was hard to know if any of them were really listening in a group of 90 grade 1 and 2's!!!!) because their art turned out so wonderfully! 

The students were given a piece of paper with an ovoid drawn on it. They could choose either side of the paper to use to create an animal (the ovoid on one side was larger) in the Haida style. 

Check them out!

Aren't they great? These are just the first 10 I got hung up. There are more on the walls now. I was so impressed with some of them. There are a few real monkeys in my group who never sit still, never seem to be listening and who talk seemingly all the time and I really wasn't sure what they would produce but they did awesome!

Like the beaver in the second row on the right. Never would I have dreamed that this particular student would get so many details in his drawing! He never seems to be paying attention in class and I was so pleased to have him prove me wrong! I love the teeth and the log in its mouth and the colours and, well, and everything! (And, yes, I am aware that I just wrote a sentence using and too many times!!!!)

Ms. Hughes

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Testing, testing, 1,2,3

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Where Did I Go?

Hello friends!

Sorry for being incommunicado all week. Except for the scheduled Words Worth Remembering on Wednesday I didn't post at all.

Why you ask?

Well, I was just trying to survive the week!

What can I say other than the honeymoon is over? 

It was inevitable and, like most years, hit me upside the head with no warning. 

Things were going along swimmingly with students learning routines, practicing meeting expectations etc. etc. etc.

And then...


There are students who are constantly interrupting and never seem to stop talking.

There are students doing cartwheels across the classroom (literally!)

There are students rolling around on the floor during story.

There are students hitting and pushing.

And there is a teacher waking up at 4 a.m. worrying about these students. 

A teacher who has, yet again, forgotten to expect this. 

You'd think in my 20th year of teaching I'd remember by now, wouldn't you?

It is that time in September when the newness has worn off. The fear of the new class/grade/teacher has worn off. And the pushing the boundaries of expectations begins.

I spent most of the week wishing it was 3 o'clock already! And coming home to a very nice glass (or two) of my favourite red wine (Shiraz if you are wondering!!!) each night before falling exhausted into bed, only to wake in the middle of the night worrying about what to do to help the little ones who are clearly going to be my button pushers and praying for patience, patience, patience.

I could hear myself saying certain students names over and over in frustration as the week went on. Wanting them to change their behaviour but going about it all wrong. 

There are times when it is hard to see the forest for the trees. September is like that a lot. I am trying to get to know 24 new young souls and figure out what is the best thing for each of them. And, if I'm going to be honest, some of those young souls are easier to reach than others. Sometimes, I try my best and still know it isn't enough. Those are the ones that wake me up at night. 

And, then, as it usually happens, the universe gave me what I needed. I logged on to pinterest and what did I see?

oh, true <3

And, I literally sighed and then thanked the universe for the reminder. 

I have spent the weekend getting my head back on straight. Getting myself back into a place of love and out of that place of frustration. Because I know, deep in my heart, I am never given more than I can handle. And that love is where it needs to be. 

Love is more important than learning the alphabet. More important than getting the writing done. More important than math facts, running laps or any of the things we expect of young children in school.

For, without love, there is nothing.

If a child does not feel love, they can not learn to their full potential. They have to know that I love them, believe in them, want what is best for them. And they have to learn to trust me. 

So, I am taking a step back and slowing things back down. The math facts will come. The reading will come. The writing in sentences using punctuation will come. But it won't come in a positive way until we spend the time needed to build our community on a foundation of love.

This week I have one goal and one goal only. To give love at all times. To shower those ones I worry about already with my love and support. To let them know that I love them no matter what choices they make. To just love. 

Attitude towards disobedient children

Ms. Hughes

Friday, September 20, 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Few Words About the Word Wall

I finally got my word wall all put up. Still need to add a few more words but it is up and ready for use during writing time.

The majority of the words on the Word Wall come from the Dolch Word list. This is a list that shows the 220 words seen most often in books. Now, when these word lists were created, these 220 words made up something like 50% of all books. I am not sure if that is still the case but I do know that beginning readers run into these words A LOT in books.

The idea with the word wall words is that students will become used to seeing them and be able to read them on sight. No sounding out. No trying to figure out the word. Just automaticity in reading these words.

This allows them to spend their brain power figuring out words that truly are tricky. When students have to spend a lot of time figuring out the words, they tend to forget what they have read by the time they get to the end of the sentence! This does not help with comprehension! 

So, if you are one of those parents who loves to have work to do at home, I would highly suggest going over the Dolch words until your child can read them automatically in any order. It will help their writing and their reading tremendously. My favourite place to download Dolch word is from Mrs. Perkins site or you can get simple lists from the sidebar on this blog. Look for the page named Popcorn (or Dolch) Words.

Happy Reading!

Ms. Hughes

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

WWR September 18

Top ten ways to become a better reader...
from Elementary Matters

Book Boxes Have Arrived!!!!

Earlier this week, we chose and filled our Book Boxes for the start of our reading life in Division 13.

Now, I haven't yet had the opportunity to test all the students for their "just right level" for reading but that isn't going to stop us from looking at and reading books!

Students got to choose a book box (I found some really nice ones at Dollorama for a great price! Gotta love Dollorama!), decorated their name label and then chose 5 books to read/look at during reading time.

Tomorrow we start Read to Self using the Daily 5 training techniques. It will be long, tedious work but totally worth it in the end when students are working independently and I can work with small groups and one-to-one on reading.

Happy Reading!!!!
Ms. Hughes
p.s. The class got to 3 minutes of quiet read to self today! Yay!!!! The first time we only got to 45 seconds before someone was off task but the second time (after another review of expectations) we made it to 3 and could have probably kept going (I wanted to stop with success!) The goal? 20 minutes of independent reading by Day 18. Fingers crossed!!!!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'm Famous!!!...NOT!

Last night on Global TV they showed the spot that the three teachers in our community did on hand washing last week. Some of our little lovelies can be seen washing their hands in the spot, too. Did you get a chance to see it? No?

Check it out here! I tried and tried to load it into the blog but couldn't get it to work. UGH!!!! Hopefully, the link works! Fingers crossed!!!!!

Ms. Hughes


Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Moment of Perfection

Yesterday we had a moment in our studio.

It is a moment that happens every year at some point. Some years it happens more than once. If I am very, very lucky (and have done a lot of front loading!)

Generally, though it is a moment that does not happen before a lot of time, patience and effort is put into training the class on behaviour and work expectations.

This year it happened without any prompting.

And, on a Friday afternoon to boot!

At around 1:20 on Friday, the three adults in our studio at the time (myself and two support workers) suddenly turned and looked at each other in amazement.

We couldn't believe our eyes?

Or should I say ears?

Absolute total silence while 23 little bodies wrote down the recipe for our muffins from Thursday.

I mean silence.

Hear a pin drop silence.

It. Was. Awesome!!!!!!

My fingers are crossed for many more learning moments like this!!!!

And, for those of you who might want to try the yummy muffins at home, here is the recipe (from a cookbook I have been using since 1982!!!! Geez, am I old or what?!?)

Blueberry Muffins

1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. white sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 c. milk
1/2 c. melted butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. frozen or fresh blueberries

Stir together dry ingredients and add blueberries.

Combine egg, milk and melted butter and stir into flour mixture and blueberries stirring just to moisten. Do not beat.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Ms. Hughes

Friday, September 13, 2013

Foto Friday

Believe it or not, I have trouble thinking of what to say on here somedays. I know. I know. That seems impossible given that I rarely am at a loss for words at work! But, it is true.
So, I have decided to start doing a day a week with just photos. No captions. No comments. Just photos.
Starting next week (seeing as how I have already commented on this post!) you'll be able to see a few photos of things that are happening in my classroom.


Ms. Hughes

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cooking in Division 13

Two posts in one day.

It is a miracle!

So, this week the Fruit & Veg program delivered blueberries. Yum! They inevitably send more than a group of grade 1/2's can eat. So...we decided to bake!

Luckily this year we have an awesome support worker who was a pastry chef in her previous life. She has agreed to cook or bake with the class every couple of weeks. I am thrilled!

I am capable in the kitchen but no one would ever say that it is my favourite place to be. (Though I can just bear it if I have the CBC playing As It Happens and a glass of wine to drink while I cook!)

So today, this...
turned into this...

Tomorrow we will write out the recipe and add our first recipe to our class cookbook. Stay tuned for more great cooking coming your way!

Ms. Hughes

Falling In Love...

I know it is early days but I just have to say that I have already fallen a little bit in love with my class.

How can I  not when they come up with strategies like the ones on the chart below?

We are working on learning about self-regulation. In the past I have used the A.L.E.R.T.  program and am continuing to use it this year. I am also planning to study up on the Zones of Regulation which is kind of the updated version of the A.L.E.R.T. program.

The A.L.E.R.T. program likens your body to a car and teaches students to become aware when their "car" (or body) is not working optimally. The Green Zone is the ready for learning zone and is where students need to be to learn to the best of their ability. Their are two other zones (Blue and Red) that students learn about.

At one time or another we find ourselves in all of the zones. The goal is to learn (and apply!) strategies to move from these other zones and back to Green.

One of the things that I like best about this program is it doesn't label feelings as good or bad. Feelings just are.

If a student is feeling very angry (in the Red zone) they use the strategies to calm their bodies and get back to Green. There is no judgement on the students for feeling angry. I love this!

Did you see the strategies they came up with? Alone time. Take a nap. Take deep breaths. Find a friend. Do something else. These came directly from the students. They pretty much taught my whole lesson for me!!!! It was awesome!

Tomorrow we are going to work on the Blue zone. I expect they'll do a great job of telling me what feelings are in the Blue zone since they are experiencing a lot of them this week! Feeling tired. Missing their moms. Feeling distracted. Lacking focus. Of course their teacher is feeling a lot of the same things!!!


Ms. Hughes

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

 A few plastic boxes plus some foam glued...
to the top of a piece of wood that one of the Dads cut out for me last year (with pieces glued to the bottom of it to hold it in place in the plastic box) plus...
 some fabric from IKEA found at the Sally Anne for a great price equals...
A set of new storage stools for the classroom!
Would give you the pattern if I could but I did each one individually just eyeballing how much fabric to cut and then sewing it to fit. They are even lined so that dust and dirt from the floor won't get on what I store inside them. Go me!!! I am currently using the five blue ones (like the one above) as seats at my Teaching Table and storing my word work and guided reading things in them for easy access.
I also made two with ABC fabric for the Writing Centre. They will be revealed soon.
And...I just snagged about 12 more boxes to make more storage stools. Now I just need a parent willing to cut and make the tops for me, some more foam, some fabric and a few days off to sew!!!!
Ms. Hughes

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Word About Splits....

And, no, I don't mean the kind of splits that one does with ones legs. Though there was a time in my life when I could not only do the splits but could oversplit (and, yes, that was just as painful as it sounds!) when I was a competitive synchronized swimmer many moons ago. Geez, now I feel really old...

No, I am talking about split classes. With our school being built on a Community Model, we have two grades in each community (though not always in split classes) and, due to numbers, in the primary grades we have a lot of split classes within communities. As in K/1 or 1/2 or 2/3. 

My community is all split classes. Three grade 1/2 splits. Then we have a Kindergarten/1 community that has 2 straight K's and a K/1. Then a grade 2/3 community which has two 2/3 classes and one straight 3.

I don't know exactly what it is about split classes that causes so many questions and worries for parents. But there is just something about a split that creates stress and anxiety for some parents and their kids.  

Hopefully, parents (and students) will feel less stress when they realize one very important point.

And that point is....

There is NO SUCH THING as a "straight" class. Yes, the number attached to a child's class may only be one number but, if a teacher teaches the way they should, then the "straight" class is a split.


No exceptions.


In any group of 24 students there will be a huge span in ability. This is my 20th (can you believe it?!?!) year teaching for the VSB and I have never had a group of homogeneous students...EVER!!!

Why is that?


Because they don't exist!!!!!

Classes come with varying academic abilities, varying behaviours, varying maturity levels etc. etc. etc. A whole bunch of needs and strengths all wrapped up in a class of 24 unique 5 and 6 year olds. 

So, those years when I had a "straight" grade 1 class, I did not have a group all working on grade 1 level work. What I had were students working from pre-Kindergarten level all the way up to grade 3 level in reading, math, writing etc. In other words, I had a split class!!!!

A good teacher teaches to the needs of the students NOT simply to the expectations of the ministry mandated curriculum. It makes absolutely no sense to teach a student something they already know. If a child in grade 1 demonstrates a solid understanding of a grade 1 math concept, then it only makes sense to teach them concepts that are more challenging (whether these be more complex concepts at their grade level or ones from another grade).

To do less is to not be doing my job. And, add to that, forcing students to do something that they already know because it is their grade level, only asks for students to become bored and restless which, in turn, leads to behaviour issues. And, I for one, do all I can to avoid behaviour issues!!!

So, teaching a class that starts as a split (ie. the grade 1/2 class I have right now) will be no different than teaching a so called "straight" class except that the span of abilities may be slightly wider than a typical "straight." Make sense?

I could go on for awhile about this. It is a bit of a soapbox topic for me. I think we spend way too much time labeling kids and not enough time just teaching each unique child at his or her level.

I'm going to stop now and just be I know that this is a topic I'll come back to again this year. I just won't be able to stop myself!!!!


Ms. Hughes

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

WWR - It CAN'T be September 4th already!!!!!

I need to keep this one in mind over the coming weeks when I am feeling impatient or tired or just plain grumpy. September is a hard month for a teacher!!!

be strong inspirational quote
from tumblr

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Welcome Back!!!!...and a Currently

Today was our first day back at school.

Can you say tired? I mean t..i..r..e..d?!?!

I haven't gotten up before 10 in at least a week so waking up at 5:30 was really hard!!!! A lot of caffeine was required. And I do mean A LOT!!!!!

As first days go, it was a good morning. Lots of sleepy faces, lots of wiggling around during the assembly, lots of "I'm not ready for school yet" looks on the faces of everyone (including teachers!). tears! So a success all around!

I had lots and lots of great hugs from last year's students. I loved seeing so many familiar faces this morning. And I am dearly missing the faces of those I sent up to the 2/3 community. Boo hoo!!!

Fingers crossed that this year will be fabuloso!

And....(drum roll please) now for the September Currently.

I am linking up again with Farley over at Oh Boy Fourth Grade for this month's Currently.

Most of the Currently is self explanatory I think.

The "wanting" section is one for which I am praying daily. My daughter has not had the easiest of times in high school but has managed to pull through some really hard, difficult years and come out a wonderful, responsible soon to be adult. She now has goals and is driven to succeed. I would not be lying if I told you that I never imagined this day would arrive! She has her heart set on Social Sciences followed by a law degree. I am beyond proud of her!!!!

The heart section is for choosing some items to do just for myself this  month. The second one (reading an hour a day) will not be too difficult. I pretty much do that anyway but I am determined not to stop reading during September when the month's so crazy busy. I need to read like some people need air. A day just isn't lived properly if I haven't opened a book!

As to the first wish...I have not been as good about keeping to my gym routine in the last week or so. Plus, I got into the habit of going later in the day during the summer. I need to get back into  the 6 a.m. gym times again so that I can have the energy to do my job and live my life!

Ms. Hughes