Friday, March 16, 2018

Slice of Life Day Sixteen: Google Photos And the Window into My Classroom.

I love having visitors in my classroom.  Why?  Because then they can see the story of the classroom.  They can see the learning that is taking place and the joy that comes with it

For YEARS, I tried to share my reflections via newsletter.  You know.  The 2 page document (front and back thankyouverymuch) that was outlining Everything we were doing and what was coming up.  Embarrassingly, I would become indignant if someone would miss information that was in my newsletter.  (With age comes some wisdom.  I'm so sorry!)

And then I became the Mama of 2 students in school.  And I couldn't keep up with the reading of the newsletters  and the managing of what was in them  and the managing of my own school work.  (If you do this well, I want you to know that you have a special gift.) 

And I wanted to apologize to every parent ever that I made read these Long, Long, Long-ie, Long, Long newsletters.  I'm just so sorry. 

But the story still needed to be told.  Parents still needed a window into their child's classroom. 

Enter Google Photos.  At an EdTech Conference a couple of years ago, I sat in on a session on Google Photos.  And my mind was blown wide open.  It was so easy to make albums and share the links.  I immediately went back to school and started to explore with it. 

It has changed how I communicate with parents.  They can see what we are doing each day in class.  It documents some learning that may not be documented with paper and pencil.  Often it is in Science, Social Studies, or during another Workshop time.  Parents have given me the feedback that it opens up conversation at home.  Instead of hearing "Nothing" when asked what happened at school, parents can use a picture to start a conversation about the classroom.  And this is what I want for them.  A peek into the story of their child each day. 

A quick "How To":
1.  If you have a Google Account, you already have access to Google photos.  I also have the
Google photos app downloaded on my Apple products.  When the app is open, it will back up the photos you take to your Google Drive and store them in Google Photos.  Yep.  Just like that. 
See the icon on the bottom right?  That is my Google Photos app.  

2.  Once they are in Google Photos, I like to organize them into Albums each week.  To organize an album,  click on the drop down menu in the app to determine what you want to create.  You can see there are several options. 

After you select your photos, you can name the album.  Then you can share the link with the people you want to.   If you look at this link, you can see a bit of my spring break story.  This link will show you the album.

3.  I also love the collage feature for conference time.  I make a collage each month for each student and print it off.  I keep it in their portfolio as documentation of their days in first grade.  Here's an example of a collage, using my dog:  (Imagine he's a student.  Can you see his story here?)

If I printed this off, it would be on 1 8x11 piece of paper.  

When I communicate now, there is always a link to pictures each week.  Parents know this is coming, and they know if they don't feel like they are getting the whole story they can Always ask me.  I also communicate important dates, and any quick announcements we might have as a class.  There is still information to read, there always is.  I have learned to be so discerning in what I'm asking my parents to spend time reading.  

What are some ways that you share your classroom story?


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Slice of Life Day Fifteen: Rules for the Teenage Sleepover.

This post is dedicated to 4 new teenagers that have shown me there is nothing to be afraid of.  

Dear Boys,  (Girls are welcome too, but these days it's the boys who are filing through the kitchen...)

When you come to my house to sleepover, we have to know there are some rules:

1.  I will always have too much food in this house for you.  And bottles of water on the counter, so you can feel like your needs are being met right away.  Eat, drink, and laugh.  A lot.  You won't leave here hungry.  And I'll always have fresh fruit.  (Unless I don't.  But I'll go get some.  Fiber is important boys.  And let's eat some food that God made.)

2.  If your mama is out of town, and you need me to, I will hug you.  Even if we haven't before.  And then I'm going to text her to tell her you are okay.  Because like those Mama elephants, I am backing in formation to make sure you are okay.  (If you have no idea what I'm talking about with elephants, read here.

3.  Every time.  Every time you come here I will tell you to charge those phones downstairs.  You see, I get it.  I love my technology.  As I type, I'm within arms length of my iPad, phone, and laptop.  But when it's time to retreat, I will help you with that.  To keep you safe.  To keep you engaged with each other.  To bless you with sleep and rest. 

4.  I didn't think my heart could grow any bigger watching you guys turn into tiny men.  (Who aren't so tiny...)  But then you exploded into this laughter that landed you under my kitchen table and it did grow bigger!  The joy you have around each other makes this Mama so happy.  I'm pretty sure my heart is going to burst. 

5.  More laughing in my kitchen please.  That is really what it is there for.  For the memories and the laughing. 

6.  It might sound like I'm up in your business a little bit.  Because I am.  Because there are 3 Mamas that I adore who are trusting me with you for the night.  I don't take that lightly.  Your banter and your chatter are safe here.  I won't betray that trust.  But I will know that you are safe and okay. 

7.  Mamas (and Papas) love it when you are lounging on our furniture.  That's because we know you are safe and comfortable.  You are always welcome to lounge on ours. 

8.  I will listen to your stories.  All of them.  I DO want to hear about the YouTube video with the escape room and the guys from Lowe's.  You can tell it to me while I'm getting the food out. 

9.  I will encourage one of you to pray before our pizza.  Because if my one tiny gesture encourages you to become Men who love Jesus, well then...let's pray again.  Continue to build each other up so you can do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God together.  (See Micah 6:8)

10.  For the love of all that is basketball and baseball and holy, don't forget to shower before bed.  Because if you haven't figured it out yet.  I love you bunches.  But P.U. 

11.  Come back soon.  You are always welcome here. 


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Slice of Life Day Fourteen: Abide: My Favorite Places at Home.

My One Word for the year?  Abide

I've been considering what this really looks like. 

How do I abide at home?  In one of my favorite spots, our living room.

I sit here a lot to work.  To rest.  When I can't sleep.  When I can't stay awake.  I love comfy pillows and soft blankets.  

This one.  I write and Instagram about him a lot.  But he will snuggle up every time.   Even today I'm writing sideways on the couch to accommodate his need to be on my lap.  He will paw and scratch at the laptop to get it out of the way.  I know.  It's bad manners.  But he's little and cute.  

So we don't have a dining room anymore!  We use that space for reading, writing, and studying.  Below the window is a sitting space for writing and drawing.  

My 13 year old lingers here to put together puzzles.  I was worried that he would stop working on creative projects when he got his phone.  He hasn't.  

There's a kid under that blanket.  Lots of room for snuggling and sitting.  Although I'm trying to work out a way to get one more arm chair in this room.  

My Must Read in 2018 is close by.  

And an end table for books, coffee, and writing.  It occasionally holds dinners, for when we "picnic."  

With my family close by, what else could I need?

Where do you abide?


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Slice of Life Day Thirteen: First Grade is Going to the Dogs!

     About a month ago, I asked the second grade teacher what areas she thought maybe could use some more focus in regards to instruction.  Because there is only one of us in each grade level, that can be scary.  But it is so necessary.  It is so easy to get into what I think is important, but I need to spend time reflecting above and below to see where the students are coming from and where they are going.  So the short story?  More time writing. 

I settled in to really refocus on making the writing authentic.  Engaging.  Meaningful.  (Don't we all?)

The next writing project I settled into was persuasive writing. 

I modeled.  We used graphic organizers to plan.  The children wrote.  We started with bringing in cookies.  I used mentor texts. 

They didn't do it.  I learned from this writing that we needed to really work on organization of thoughts. 

So we tried again.  This time, their goal was to convince me to bring Griffin for a visit. 

We started with a mentor text:

Then, we used a graphic organizer.  We organized some ideas with modeling to consider why having my dog at school would be a good idea.  (Or why it wouldn't be a good idea!)  The graphic organizer isn't mine to share, but had space to write a main idea and 4 supporting ideas. 

Then they wrote.  To me.  And to my Mr.  And convinced us to bring Griffin to school because:

  • They could read to him.
  • Puppies make them feel calm.
  • They could practice sharing their faith with him.
So.  We took the leap.  Griffin is not a therapy dog, so we knew we needed some safety guidelines in place.  Because even an 8 pound dog can cause mayhem.  So here's what Mr. and I came up with:
  • He took time off to bring him in.  When he arrived in the neighborhood, he walked him a little bit.
  • If Griffin was too anxious (barking, etc.) Mr. would leave quickly.
  • Students were NOT required to meet Griffin.  They could get up and walk away from him.  They could say, "No thank you."  They weren't required to sit with him at all.  
  • He stayed on his harness at all times.  
As this student started to read, he settled down and placed a paw on his arm, as if he was listening to the story.  

This friend.  Read and scratched his head the whole time.  

As I reflect on this project, here's what I've learned (other than dogs at school are fun!):
  • The writing has to have a purpose.
  • We can try again if it's not what we are looking for. 

After spring break, I'm considering writing on nonfiction topics of interest as well as nonfiction writing in connection with a study on economics.  Stay tuned.  


Monday, March 12, 2018

Slice of Life Day Twelve: What Is Being Read.

Friends.  Are you familiar with the March Book Madness Bracket?

I use the picture book one, because I'm in first grade.

This year my heart sung a little because a second grader asked if we were going to hang the bracket in the hallway at school.

We did.

I'll spare you the pictures, because the tape won't stick, and it is driving me crazy.  But it's up!

After we started reading these books, we've been having some great conversations. 

But this book:


Friends.  I have a class of kids who want to love kindness and act justly.  Currently we are tying fleece blankets for the homeless with a grant I received. 

But after we read this book, they had so many questions about helping people who don't have clean water.  So much so, I had to slow them down to remind them to we'll finish the project we are on! 

So, I'm researching and looking at ways that they can help.

Do you know of organizations that kids (first graders) can connect with and serve by providing clean water?  Leave some comments below and I'll start my research.  :)

Spring break is off to a slow start here.  Some time in the walk in clinic for my 13 year old (viral) slowed us down.  So I'm off to start a cleaning project. 


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Slice of Life Day Eleven: A Teacher Needs to Eat.

Oh Friends.  We made it to spring break. 
Last week?  Crazy. 

We could have eaten out every day. 

But we've been playing with this app:

And that's been helping us from mindlessly grabbing food on the run.  (I'll write about this app another day.)

I've always been a meal planner, but as the kids have schedules too, dinner time at our house can get dicey. 

So here's what we ate this past week as we were running everywhere:
(Photos from iclipart, because I'm not a food photographer most days.)

You'll also notice there are choices at each day.  Our food allergy groove includes offering choices at every meal, so there is something for everyone. 

Monday:  Homemade Lunchables. 
Instead of buying them, we by turkey sausage sticks, cheese, a good snack cracker, fruit, chips, and a sweet treat. 
We could fancy it up and call it a cheese board.  Some day we will.  Today is not that day. 
We place it all on the counter, and some paper plates.  Please put some food on your plate and enjoy.

Tuesday: Baked Potatoes.
We put out cheese, butter, steamed veggies, chicken, etc.  to offer some choices there. 
And because speed is the theme, we just cook the potatoes in the microwave. 

Wednesday:  Church Dinner!
Taco Buffet.  Even if you don't attend church on a regular basis, there is something to be said for eating with a church community. 

Thursday:  Pasta.
Fast.  Easy. 
We put choices out again.  Sauces, meatballs, bread, salad.  Yum!

Friday:  Everybody Out!
Because you have to relax sometimes. 
I went out with Mamas.  The boys got pizza. 

How do you feed your family when it's crazy?


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Slice of Life Day 10: 6-ish Words and A Photo

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 6.09.23 AM

A reflection on a recent retreat at a local AirBnb.


Shhh...  (For my Dorises...)