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Real Life Learning

If you take a kid to school, what do you hope they will learn?  School is a complicated place, especially these days.

Really, the list of things you hope kids will learn at school is HUGE!  (As a teacher, the list of things that we want kids to learn seems ENDLESS.)

We want kids to learn to read, write, be able to do math, learn about the world and cultures, learn about Science and nature, technology, the arts... the curriculum list goes on. But wait - we also want our kids to be kind and have good character, not to mention have a growth mindset. As teachers we know that home support is vital in helping children to develop and learn.

Instead of being overwhelmed with everything I want my students to learn, or I am required to teach, I focus on the main goal of school: learning how to think and learning how to learn.

The best way I have found to do this is to teach with integrated units and use an inquiry approach to learning. When I teach this way and embed social and emotional learning throughout the day, students rise to the challenge of independent learning freeing me up to spend more 1-1 time with students and work on their thinking and communication skills.

When I first began teaching, integrated units involved picking a theme (apples, Halloween, butterflies) and integrating reading, writing and math into this unit.  The less effective integration of math into an apples unit would be a page of addition questions with apples to color on it.  The more effective one would be weighing apples, sorting apples, measuring the distance around an apple - which one is larger? These units were a lot of fun and the effective units helped students to learn all about that theme.

But the world is evolving and changing and school needs to change too. I want my students to become creative and critical thinkers.  I want them to be problem solvers.  I want to believe in their strengths and abilities and provide learning opportunities that will help them through the inquiry process for deeper learning. Keeping your classroom environment up to date and moving along with your desire to teach your students how to think more deeply about their learning will help to engage your students in their learning.

So what does this look like in a more practical way?

The Mom Game

It's almost Mother's Day again.  It's a day to celebrate our mothers, our aunties or grandmas or any other person who has had a significant impact on our life and upbringing.

As a Mom and a teacher, I started thinking about this day and all the sweet crafts I've made in my classroom and received over the years from my own kids and I began to see a picture in my mind of what really mattered to me. My favorite thing has always been breakfast in bed.  I also loved looking at the crafts with my kids that they had made for me.  What I realized is that what has really mattered all along is the time.  It wasn't the eggs and toast, it was the time and thought put into the gesture.  It was the huge smiles on my kids' faces when they proudly brought in the tray. Then they would smile and say, "Enjoy your breakfast Mommy." and they would leave me with a little bell to ring should I need anything. How sweet!!!  Then, they would go downstairs and allow me to eat in peace. :)

I think that at a young age, they realized how much their Mom did for them and knew that a little peace and quiet was nice.  But then, they would return with the gifts that they made at school and they would sit on the bed and watch in anticipation as I opened each card and each gift.  The gifts were beyond sweet and I shall cherish them.  I really appreciated the time and effort the teacher put into these thoughtful gifts.  As a teacher, I also realized and appreciated the money the teacher spent out of her own pocket to give this experience to her students year after year. I was always so happy to see my girls return and the time they spent with me sharing about their gifts.

Time.  That is what I love.  I have written about the gift of time before and my own experiences with my Mom. So it wasn't the breakfast per say. It wasn't the gifts per say.  It was the time. The precious time and thought that went into each thing.

This year, I created an experience.  The Game of Mom.  This addresses both the loves that I know others must recognize.  The selfless gestures of help and time.  This game will give children the opportunity to create a game especially for their Mom all in the name of spending quality time together.  Game night will never be SO meaningful!

There are 4 different game boards:

*Love and Affirmation
*Offers of Help
*Precious Time
*Gifts from the Heart

Each game board comes in lovely pastel colors and black and white. (There is a game board spots where the spots are blank for students to personalize and color). I loved this idea because the colored game boards are also for you my teacher friends, to take home and play with your own children. :)

The color game boards can be printed on card stock and/or laminated and wrapped up with the Mother's Day card options (also included).

I decided to add a little more color and creativity to the game so I picked up pink vinyl placemats at the dollar store, some scrapbook stickers and a few tokens that I could use for game pieces just for fun. Kids can decorate their own placemat for mom to play the game on. When you flip it over, it's time for breakfast! I even picked up a tiny little treasure chest to keep the game pieces in. So much fun!

The beauty of these games is that everyone wins. For example - when Mom wins, she gets to choose the precious time activities.  When you win, you get to choose the activities that you do with Mom.  Win - win!

Not everyone has the blessing to celebrate Mother's Day so there are open-ended game and card options so that everyone can be part of the day.

Wishing all Moms and giving individuals a wonderful Mother's Day.

Hooked on Writing May: Presentation

It's been a great year of writing!  We are now into the last unit where we can tie it all together and showcase the writing we've done this year. May is all about presentation and to begin with, communication skills.

 When students are working on their writing and sharing their work aloud regularly, they become more confident in the sharing process. But sharing to friends and sharing in a larger group, like the class, are two different things.

For this reason, I included some ideas to teach communication skills that will help students with learning how to present their writing so that others can hear it and understand it.  These techniques will also help your students get along with others in school as they learn to recognize non-verbal communication as well. I have included some mini communication posters to help you teach the concepts.

There are two mentor texts this month that allow students to look into the minds of an author  (Any Questions) and how to read a story out loud (How to Read a Story) . (affiliate links)

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