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What's So Funny? Using Humor in the Classroom

I believe that children learn more when they are having fun.  I love using humor in my classroom.  Although I am by no means an extrovert (I am a terrible sufferer of stage fright and giving speeches to adults), but I have no fear at all standing up in front of a bunch of 9 and 10 year olds and being downright silly.  I love making my students laugh.

The ability to understand more advanced humor can be one of the signs of giftedness in a child.  This ability involves reasoning, intuition, and recognizing the abstract.  By using humor in the classroom, all students are given the opportunity to develop these skills.

I have a "Humor of the Day" section in my classroom where I post funny pictures or quotes.  We take a few minutes of our day to discuss the picture or quote and talk about what makes it funny.  I have students of all abilities and backgrounds in my classroom, so we learn from each other.  I love the moment when students "get it" for the first time.  It can sometimes lead to a great discussion.

I have seen some of my students start to catch on a little quicker the more we discuss the humor in my classroom.  It is definitely a nice break from the routine.  Besides, I love laughing daily - doesn't everyone?

So, do you use humor in the classroom?  What makes you and your students laugh?

Do I Procrastinate? I'll Let You Know Tomorrow!

So, I have this new planner for my desk at school.

It's funny, because I DO tend to procrastinate.  I know, however, that I shouldn't, and I do not want to encourage my students to be procrastinators.  But, as I flipped through this planner, I couldn't help but laugh at the little gems of advice this planner gives.

There's a place to prioritize my "To Do" list - with more procrastinator tips.

Lastly, it includes a place to doodle during those times when you need (or just want) some distraction.

So, as I start off 2013 with my list of resolutions, one of the ones at the top of my list is to not procrastinate.  It doesn't mean, though, that I can't have a good laugh, right?

Pinterest Favorites Linky Party!

I love Pinterest.  It can be quite addictive!  Here are a few of my favorite pinboards.

Jennifer Findley has so many teaching-related boards I love.

This is A Teacher's Bag of Tricks/The Book Bug.  There are so many boards and resources for library and book lovers.

Happy Pinning!

Student-Teacher Conferences

I know everyone has had conferences with parents about how their children are performing in school, but how often do you have conferences with students?  I've been thinking a lot about student-teacher conferences lately because I feel like students should take more of an ownership role in their learning - especially as they get older.

I have had many informal conferences with students in the past, but it seemed more teacher-focused, with me telling them what my expectations are.  I realized that I was having the same conversations with the same students about the same things, but there was not much of a plan in place.

I came up with some conference forms that I plan to use with my students as soon as we come back to school.  I want my students to reflect on their strengths and areas in which they feel they need improvement.  It is my hope that they feel secure enough to honestly reflect on what kinds of things they need to work on in order to be successful.  At the same time, I want them to tell me what things I can do to help them succeed and be their best.

Students will fill out a self-reflection pre-conference form so they can rate themselves and think about areas where they can improve.  I will also fill out a form to highlight each student's strength and what I think should be improved.  Students will come up with some goal statements with ways these goals can be measured and, together, we can come up with an actual plan to put into action.  Once we meet, the student, their parent(s), and I will sign the conference form so that we are all on the same page.  We will all work together as a team to accomplish the goals set, and we will meet again every six weeks to check on their progress.

I have very high expectations for my students.  I honestly feel that my students can achieve anything they set their minds to achieve.  I do not "dumb down" my lessons because I know my students are all capable of higher level thinking.  I have to include a lot of scaffolding for them to learn new concepts sometimes, but ultimately, all my students can learn.  Sometimes, the hard part is getting kids to live up to those expectations and BELIEVE in themselves.  Sometimes, they have to make up their minds to shine and live up to my expectations.  I KNOW they can accomplish practically anything.

What do YOU think?

Who Cares About A.R.?

Actually, I care.  I care a lot.  I know that, as a teacher, I am in the minority; in fact, almost all of the teachers that I know could care less about A.R., and I understand.  Most teachers feel like kids should read simply for the love of reading and not for points.  Most teachers also love to read.  I never have, so I will offer a different perspective.

I grew up loving math.  I loved (and still do) puzzles and brain teasers.  I like logic, and most of the time I don't even bother using a calculator.  I can calculate in my head how much I will pay when I'm out shopping, and figuring out a tip on my bill at a restaurant is incredibly simple for me.  I have always been left-brained.

I didn't like to read.  I was a good reader, actually, and was always put in the advanced reading group.  I could pronounce any word I found, so I could read the words of any book that was put in front of me.  But, I struggled with vocabulary, comprehension, and symbolism, especially as I entered middle and high school.  I read books that I was required to read, but if I wasn't interested in the book (which was most of the time), I struggled with remembering what I had read.  Even now, I am not a big reader.

As a teacher, however, I don't care as much for teaching math (unless it is a really advanced math class).  Math concepts come so easily to me and make so much sense that it is hard for me to understand how a child could not understand something that I showed them.  I am always working hard to find other ways to teach math so that students can learn those concepts.

In contrast, I absolutely LOVE teaching reading and writing.  I love getting kids excited about reading. I love the huge selection and variety of children's and young adult books out there.  I love reading aloud to my students and making the book come alive.  I also love and promote A.R. in my classroom and require my students to set A.R. goals for themselves.

I understand that many kids dislike reading - especially those who struggle with reading comprehension and fluency.  I get why kids always need to go to the bathroom during reading and who will do anything to get out of having to read.  Those are the ones who need to read the most, and the only way they can be better readers is to read.  I understand them because I was one of those kids.

As much as we hope that kids will read simply for the love of it and not worry about whether a book is A.R. or not or how many points a book is, the reality is that many just don't like it, no matter how much we tell them that they should and it's "fun."  It doesn't change the fact that they still need to read.  So, what's a teacher to do other than require them to read and hope that one day they will just naturally decide that they love it and will read without being asked?

I say that we should introduce a little competition or incentive.  I am an incredibly competitive person, and I know that many kids are as well.  I like them to think of A.R. points as a sport or challenge that they can meet.  We now have access to all A.R. tests at our school, so most books that they read are A.R.  And if kids read books only because they can earn more points, who cares?  At least they are reading, and isn't that the goal, anyway?  By reading (even if it's for A.R. points), kids will improve their reading fluency and comprehension in the process, and once reading becomes easier or they find a genre or series they like in the process, they may decide they love reading and will end up reading because they love it.

I have seen this happen many, many times in my fifteen years of teaching.  Parents have told me that their kids have never loved reading more than after being in my class.  There is no greater joy as a teacher to hear that I have made a difference, and encouraging students to read A.R. books is why many kids (like I was) like reading more than when they started.

I will get off of my soapbox now.  How do YOU feel about A.R.?  Are you a reading lover?  Do you love teaching reading?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Poetry Rocks!

I've discovered the most awesome book of poetry.  It is, in fact, one of my favorite books I own (and I own around 2,000)!  It is National Geographic's Book of Animal Poetry.

This is a collection of 200 poems written by various authors and grouped by animal.  There are all types of poetry written about all types of animals.  The pictures are absolutely amazing - so colorful and brilliant!  I have been reading these poems to my students, and we love to discuss the different types of figurative language we find.  This book is perfect to read while students finish up their animal research papers.  Students each picked an animal to research and used various sources to research their animal.  They have created an animal nonfiction brochure to go along with their report, and in January, students will write poetry from their animal's point of view.

I used Leann Bongers's ( animal research student sheets.  If you haven't checked her stuff (and blog) out, you really should!  She is my idol.

Happy reading!

Confessions of a First-Time Blogger

Okay...I will confess that I know next to nothing about blogging.  So, equipped with my copy of Blogging for Dummies, I attempt to try my hand at blogging.  Wish me luck!

I am in love with teaching, especially reading and writing.  There's something about children's literature and inspiring kids to love it, too that gets me to school every day to work in a profession that is only meant for those with a true calling.

Being a teacher is not what I aspired to be when I was a kid.  I wanted to make money.  I wanted to be in the business world.  In fact, I even earned a Bachelor's degree in Business.  But I was miserable.  It was an episode of "20/20" featuring Marva Collins that changed my mind and career path.  The show re-visited the students in Marva's first class (20 years later) from her school in Chicago.  These were all underprivileged students who were originally told by previous teachers and others in society that they were retarded and that they couldn't learn.  She taught them to be confident.  She set standards for them that were high.  She believed in them and helped them believe in themselves.  Because of her determination and love, every single member of that class was enrolled in college, and many aspired to continue on to law school or medical school.  I was forever changed by her story.  After that show, I decided to pursue a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and never looked back since.

I never liked to read as a child.  I was a good reader, but as the text levels became more difficult, the more I struggled to comprehend.  I only read because I was told I had to.  I didn't care much about what I was reading; reading never took me to another place or sucked me in and kept me there.  I liked math and puzzles and logic.  I wish I had loved reading and didn't struggle with symbolism or vocabulary.  Maybe if I had, I might not identify with so many children who hate to read.  Maybe I can hopefully inspire my students to actually love reading and books.  Who knows?

For now, I will aspire to inspire.  And maintain a somewhat coherent blog.  I guess we'll have to see.