The Beauty of Pocket Charts

If you were to ask me what an essential classroom item to have is, I would give you a list a mile long! But near the top of that mile long list you would be sure to see… POCKET CHARTS! There are so many things you can do with pocket charts. You can display the daily schedule, classroom jobs, writing and reading partners, or do sentence activities during writing workshop (comes in handy especially during your poetry unit).

Here are some of my pocket charts showing a few of these examples:

(In the last photo you may notice clothespins attached to the students’ names. They have labels like: cushion, rug, desk, and chair. These labels stand for the student’s reading spot for the week. I know some teachers assign a certain reading spot for the year, but my kiddies are too young. They want a turn sitting in the cute little chairs, or on the new soft rug… so we change it up weekly and it really works for them!)

What do you use pocket charts for? Please share!

Read Aloud…is it worth it?

Yes, it is totally worth it! I had a chance to present with another amazing 2nd grade teacher, Elaine, at my school about the joy and importance of read aloud at the KORCOS conference on Friday. It was a pretty relaxed and hopefully informative session for the people that came. Here is the slide show that we presented. A lot of these nuggets of information we gained last summer at the Teacher’s College Summer Reading Institute.

We also modeled reading aloud two different picture books. Some of the strategies we modeled were stop & jot, turn & talk, allowing students to envision by not showing the pictures at first, and thinking aloud as you are reading as a mentor reader for your students.

Elaine & Me

Here is a link to the wiki site, where we put a list of books we recommend for read aloud, book clubs, poetry and mentor texts.

I absolutely love read aloud time with my students. I’m glad I could share some of this passion I have with other educators at the KORCOS conference. Again, if you have any questions about any of our posts or other education related questions, feel free to leave a comment.  We will do our best to respond to your questions. Or just let us know that you stopped by our site. 🙂 Like Melody mentioned in her post, we ❤ comments!

Blogging for Beginners: KORCOS edition!

Friday was an exciting day. Jee Young and I were able to present at KORCOS on Blogging for Beginners! Like many presentations involving technology, we had a few minor glitches that made me regret not packing an extra pack of tissue paper in my purse (for the sweat), but overall it went really well. The workshop was packed with teachers ready to learn, and blogs were created!

We covered what is in our Blogging for Beginners tab here on our two apples a day page, as well as gave a step by step process for creating a simple (our platform of choice) blog. These steps are on the KORCOS wiki page.

A few questions that were asked:

Why do you use wordpress?

I have noticed that blogger pages through gmail tend to have problems in Korea. There are times when the page is only in Korean, even if my computer is set to English settings. Also…I have had blogs through both platforms, and I just like wordpress better, I feel that it is very user friendly.

Can you make your blog private?

Of course you can! If you have a wordpress blog, the privacy setting is under the settings tab on the left side of the page when you are at your dashboard. (I believe you can make any blog private through most platforms).

How often do you blog personally?

To be honest, when you first start blogging- it is important to blog often! Jee Young and I take turns throughout the week, and usually take a day or two off on the weekends. My personal blog has suffered a bit due to my graduate class, and this awesome new site, but if you recall from Jee Young’s recent post, she is blogging EVERY DAY. Crazy woman.

There were many more questions… but a lot of them were specific to the person, or I don’t remember them. If you have questions feel free to write a comment (WE LOVE COMMENTS).

I don’t know why no one told me my name tag was twisted backwards^^.

Jee Young also presented on Read Alouds… she may share pictures and her experience from that later (I haven’t actually talked to her about it yet, hehe!)

What are some great professional development conferences that you go to? What are some awesome workshops you’ve been to, or have presented at?

Remember, sharing is caring!

31 Days of Writing

I’m already on day 11. It’s been a busy month of March. I’ve been blogging every day for the slice of life challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. It’s a blogging challenge they do every month in March. The challenge is to write every single a day a “slice of life” and to post it on your blog. I love this challenge in so many ways. This is my second year participating in it.  Here are reasons why I love this challenge and why you should join next March! (Sorry, I should have posted this before the challenge started…)

1) Nurturing the writer within. As a teacher of writing, I think that it’s so important to continue to write. Why not practice what you preach. I know I need to do a better job of keeping up with my writer’s notebook. This challenge helps me get back into a routine of writing and remembering what it’s like to just W R I T E.

2) Building your readership & blogging community. Even after the challenge ends, I continue to try to read many of the bloggers that I’ve met through the challenge. Plus, it’s a great way to meet other bloggers and build your network/PLC.

3) COMMENTS!  I got over 30 comments on my first post this year! I was blown away. It’s always so encouraging when people leave comments no matter how short or long. It really helps affirm me as a writer. Comments fuel the writer!

4) Everyone has a story to share. I know some of you might be saying, I’m not a writer. I have nothing to write about. It’s NOT true! Everyone has a story that needs to be heard. Yes, some of the things I write about maybe trivial, but it’s all part of my s t o r y. Through this challenge already, I’ve written about so many things that are deep and dear to my  heart. I’m reminded that I write, not only to be heard, but to help me process and reflect on this amazing journey we are on.

5) Prizes! Yes, there are prizes as well! If you slice everyday and put your blog post link on the two writing teachers blog each day, you get a chance to be entered in the raffle at the end of the challenge to win some amazing prizes including professional books, hand stamped moleskin notebooks, books and more. 🙂

Guest Blog Post: Paper Mache Globes!

Deirdre and I started our international school careers at the same time four years ago here in Seoul. After two years in Seoul, she moved on to India! She is truly living the life of an international school teacher. I currently teach some of her 2nd grade students from her first year at my school, and they always tell me about the fun times they remember from her class!

In grade 4, we love creating, constructing and composing! We also enjoy getting a little messy from time to time. As part of our unit on Canada and cultures from around the world, we made paper mache globes. Students labeled and identified the seven continents and oceans. Below you will find instruction how to create your own paper mache globe …

1. Cover all desks with newspaper.

2. Collect old newspapers and have the students tear into long pieces, about one inch thick. Have one student from each group place shredded newspaper on the groups’ desks.

3. Blow up balloons and leave balloons on the student’s desks. You may want to blow up the balloons prior to the activity for younger students. We used heart balloons because it was Valentine’s Day!

4. Create paper mache mixture:

  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ white glue (think of Elmer’s glue)
  • 2 cups of water

The measurements may need to be adjusted … you will know when you have it when the mixture is slightly thick. I did this with my students and had a few measure out and add the flour, water and glue. I mixed it until it became thick enough, first with a spoon and then with my hands. Then I modeled exactly how to take the paper mache goop, cover a strip of newspaper and place it onto the balloon. We talked about what the students noticed: that I was calm, that I only placed the goop onto the strip of newspaper and balloon etc. Then I poured the mixture into four bowls (we have four groups) and asked who was ready!?

This activity is best to do on a Friday because it allows the paper mache to dry over the weekend. Then on Monday the students can paint the balloons and let dry for a day or two.

We used acrylic paint:

We used a blank print out of the continents, colored them in, labeled them, cut them out:

Finally, we hung them up in our room!

Happy paper macheing!

Part 2: Tips for Launching Successful Book Clubs

Here is part 2 on my series on books clubs. Part 1 you can find here. 🙂

Part 2: Tips for Launching Successful Book Clubs

1. Observe & Model Book Club Discussions– I do a fishbowl activity, where one book club sits in the middle and has their discussion. The rest of the class sits on the outside and makes a circle around them. They sit silently and take notes on what they notice about the discussion. After a few minutes of the discussion, they stop talking and we share what noticed.

2. Book Club Constitution– Have students come up with a constitution that has expectations and roles on how their book club will work. Some of my groups came up with a set order that the kids will share when they first start their discussion.

3. Book Club Chart- This something new I’m doing this year. I got this idea from Lucy Calkin’s unit of study book, Tackling Complex Texts. It is a chart where each group has a row where they write down the book they are reading and the assignment they have until their next meeting day. It’s nice to have it hanging up so I can see it and it helps them as well.

4. Schedule- Try to have a consistent schedule on when book clubs meet. I have students meet every other day in their book clubs. On days that they don’t meet, they are doing independent reading of book club books or their other books they are reading.

What things do you do to get your book clubs running smoothly?

Simple, but effective. A craft for several activities!

Last month I wrote a post about integrating technology into a science lesson by printing out pictures for a cloud booklet. Since then, I have discovered (from my awesome teaching partner) a new way to make a cute booklet. It. Is. So. Simple. And I yet, I didn’t know how to do it until someone taught me (crazy how that works!).

Step One: Decide how many pages you want your booklet to be (including the cover). I want my booklet to be six pages, therefore I need three pieces of paper. Lay the three pieces of paper on top of each other as shown in the picture:

Step 2: Fold the paper, so that the three overlapped tabs on the other side are on top of these three tabs. As shown in the picture:

Step three: Staple, and you are done! SO EASY (I apologize this isn’t stapled):

Here is what one of my student’s completed cloud booklet looked like:

You can use this kind of booklet for so many activities. Writing about different scenes in a book, or different characters in a story, are just two examples.

What would you use this booklet for? Share your ideas!

KONY 2012

My original plan for today was to write another post about our Read Across APIS day last Friday, where we celebrated books by author Kevin Henkes. One of the great things about working in international schools, is the idea that you can take pieces of culture from different parts of the world and make them your own at your school, which is pretty much what we did when we organized this event.

I am veering off my original plan to show you a short film by Invisible Children (to like them on Facebook CLICK HERE). Jee Young and I have been really blessed the past month, we have gotten a lot more hits than I expected over this short time and because of that I hope this video reaches even more than if I just shared it on my Facebook wall. It is heartbreaking and heartwarming. The idea that this started with just one man’s vision to see justice for children in Uganda inspires me to continue fostering my dreams to make a difference in the education system in the Philippines. Watch the video, you will be inspired.

Their goal is to get 500,000 shares of this video…***UPDATE*** and within a week they received more than 91 million! Because of this there has been a lot of backlash and critiques on the video and organization (Invisible Children), which have all been addressed on the NGO’s website. I am still a huge supporter, and I hope all of the criticisms do not take away from this worthy cause, and the heart behind it.

What Makes You Brave?

For our elementary school’s Read Across America day, we always choose our own theme. We also have a chance to teach other classes from different grades as they rotate classrooms. The theme this year was author Kevin Henkes. I read the Kevin Henkes story, Sheila, The Brave. After reading the book, I asked students how Sheila was brave in the story. Then, on chart paper, we wrote down what it means to be brave. I explained that we would be making a collage about how we are brave or want to be brave. I did this activity with 3rd to 5th grade students.

Here is my collage that I made to model to my students. I actually had a lot of fun doing it!

Then, the students were given white paper and old magazines to cut out photos and words from. I am always amazed by my students’ creativity!

Guest Blog Post: A Call for Nitty Gritty Teachers

Our next guest blogger, Bradford, was one of the first friends I made when moving to Seoul, South Korea. He also happened to be with me at the fateful picnic where Jee Young and I first met (small world), meeting her at the same time that I did! After spending 2 1/2 years in Korea, Bradford went to the next logical location… rural Africa.

That’s me and my buddy Jack pictured above. We were canoeing on Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa when we made an impromptu landing at a small fishing village. The locals greeted us like we were rock stars. We spent a little while teaching them frisbee, doing some magic tricks, showing them how to write their names in English, and taking their pictures and watching as the kids went wild after seeing themselves on the camera display. We just got back from that trip on the unspoiled waters of Zambia and Tanzania (near where Stanley met Livingstone in 1871). Tanganyika is absolutely beautiful with perfect weather, palm trees, friendly locals, and clear waters. It was a nice way to spend a week off after my first 6 weeks of teaching at my new school. It was just one of many amazing opportunities I’ve been privileged to take advantage of since leaving home.

But the list of challenges I (and almost all international teachers) face is longer than the list of niceties: trying to teach without using paper because it doesn’t come cheap in rural Africa…teaching a winter camp in Seoul in an unheated classroom in which students can’t turn the pages of the books because they are wearing mittens…power outages so frequent you are forced to change your teaching style away from your strength of using technology…teaching in a former colony about colonialism when you look like you are from the group that colonized.

For every trip you take that looks like once in a lifetime vacation to people back home, there are so many more challenges and difficulties that must be overcome in the classroom. Teaching abroad is way more challenging than traveling, and that is why it is worth doing. This is a call for more teachers with tough, enduring love for students to teach abroad. Our reputations as international teachers are deeply linked to other teachers in our respective areas. As with any minority in any place, there is a tendency for others to judge us not as individuals but as a group. Teachers who are out here for the beaches, the nightlife, or the hammocks make us all look worse. We need more teachers who love the challenges of this job more than anything else. We need teachers with nitty gritty love for students who don’t give up when teaching gets especially difficult and the postcard moments are few and far between.