Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Celebrating International #DotDay

Last year, I read about International Dot Day for the first time, after it had already officially passed. Inspired, I made myself a promise that THIS YEAR I was celebrating it in my classroom too! When the day snuck up on me with about 3 days to spare, I realized that I had better “make my mark” FAST and “See where it takes me!” I was so fortunate that my new team of 2nd grade teachers was excited and supportive as I shared half-formulated ideas, and the result was a dot day/ dot week that was impactful for my students and a contender for the #bestweekever ! I’m working on a vlog about it on the ChristinesScene YOUTUBE Channel, but here’s a sneak peak and recap of our learning and celebrating with Peter H. Reynolds' Book: The Dot!

Monday: We kicked off on the official International Dot Day! We started with a pod meeting for the whole 2nd grade. We shared the book via Tumblebooks, and lead a discussion about the story. In the pod meeting we focussed on how we each have our own individual mark to leave (On the world, our school, each other) but we also can add our “mark” to someone elses mark to make it something collaborative and beautiful! To solidify these metaphors, the students created their own unique coffee-filter dot (to be displayed in our pod area through the year) but they also came up to our collaborative art area to leave their “mark” on a long roll of paper. For this, the kids left thumb prints in different colors. Once everyone had left their individual mark, we asked them to come back up, and choose someone else’s mark to add artwork to. We encouraged them to build on someone else’s mark and, using their own gifts, talents, and imagination, make something different and beautiful. We discussed how we can work together as a team to make a bigger impact than we are working alone. We discussed celebrating and appreciating our differences and realizing that we ALL have something unique and important to contribute! I loved watching thumbprints become squiggles, faces, flowers, spacecraft, lions, and planets when the kids were able to build on them, and make their mark! It was a fun and uplifting experience!

Back in the classroom we used dots in our math centers, the students worked through their problems and explained their thinking in small groups. #mathchat

Later, with my own class, we went on a bit of hunt for “dots” around our classroom. We took pictures of the dots we found and talked about how each one is different while being the same “shape” and how each “dot” has a unique plan and purpose in our classroom- just like US!

Tuesday: On Tuesday, we read the story again. I asked the class, “Anything stick out to you today that didn’t yesterday?” (because I often ask this question when we read a text more than once.) The students talked about how Vashti told her classmate at the end to “put his name on it”. We talked about how every choice we make, and every action, is our way of leaving our mark. We talked about how important it is to make sure that we are PROUD enough of the things we do and say to have them framed for everyone to see, with our name at the bottom. We talked about the words we speak, the work we turn in, the way we treat others. The metaphor was really coming together. Then in reading class, we talked about character traits. The students read over and discussed a list of popular character traits. I asked them to highlight the ones they would want to be associated with. They highlighted the positive traits and then chose several that they wanted to have as their own “mark” on our school or the world. We tied this in with our discussions about the growth mindset and a list of synonyms we have in our room for “Grit”. The students wrote down their most desirable character traits on sticky-dots and then came up and posted them on our poster to show the mark they wish to leave on the world or our school community. They were each so proud of their dots, and it became very ceremonial as they each came up, announced their “mark” and clapped for one another without prompting. At the end we looked at the poster and decided that the world and our school will be even better places, once we’ve made our marks!

Wednesday: On Wednesday during our Daily 5 Centers, we had one center set up for painting- we called it the “Dotday Creativity Center”. Each student was provided with a canvas, paintbrushes and paint. They were able to paint anything they like, but leave a dot in the middle untouched. In a writing center, the students were asked to write a few sentences about the mark they wish to leave on the world, they had a wordbank of synonyms for grit to use in their sentence of “how” to recognize that leaving your mark on the world will take Perseverance, Determination, Tenacity, Moxie, Drive, Backbone, Grit :)

Thursday: On Thursday, we used our math dots again. We also continued with our Painting Center and another book discussion. We sang the “Dot Day” song, we talked about how from very far away, even our whole world is just a Pale Blue Dot! We talked about our school’s Founder, Milton Hershey, and how HIS mark on the world is still effecting kids today, long after he passed away. We wrote letters to him letting him know that we are trying to make him proud and using his gift (this school) wisely to empower us to leave our own special mark. We displayed these along side our other dots.

Friday: Our artwork was dry and it was time for us to sign our names to our canvasses. We reviewed all the activities through the week and had a little ceremony for each student to sign their name to their dot. We read the story one last time, and each student left for the weekend with a “DotWeek swag bag” full of items to remind them about “leaving their mark”! We brainstormed some ideas for our #KindnessMatters project this year and decided that together we are sure to leave a mark of Kindness on our corner of the world!

Can’t wait to keep reading about other celebrations and to start planning for next year! Please share with us how YOU celebrated DotDay this year, or how you’re making your mark in your school.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Adieu To Summer

Summer 2014 from Christine Halliday on Vimeo.

There’s just something about summer. It’s intoxicating to everyone, with the longer days that seem to give you more time with the ones you love, the warm sun and gentle breezes that call you outdoors with your dinner plate, or the book you’re reading, or a blanket and a loved one. The wedding invites start coming in, the backyard smells of smokey goodness, the streets come alive with the sounds of kids playing and laughing and memory-making. I love lakes and mountains and Green, I love sea and salt and sand, I love making dinner reservations on Tuesdays, and spur of the moment day trips on Thursdays. I love summer! I love the way the sun feels on my shoulders, I love the way kisses are saltier, freckles are more plentiful, friends stay longer, and the suitcase is hardly unpacked before you pack it up again. As much as I LOVE my job, I do love my time off to really plug in to the rest of my life for a while. I love the clean break, the gentle melancholy that always accompanies the end of a school year. I love feeling spent, like I’ve truly laid it all out and given the year, and that class all that could until the very last bell. I love the sense of renewal I feel a few weeks into vacation, when I break my rule to “stay away from school related material” and start pinning teaching ideas on pinterest, or reading educational blogs and reaching out to my colleague-friends (also known as the FRAMCO) to toss around ideas for the new school year coming. I love the freedom that summer provides me to really think through and reinvent aspects of my craft, and reflect on what works well and what needs refining.
I’ve been told that I “do summer” pretty well, and because I’m very intentional about how I spend my summers, I’m apt to agree. I have learned a lot about balance in the last decade of my life and I apply those lessons to summer as well as to the rest of the year. I allow myself the break from “work life” to accept the soul-nurturing and renewal that comes for me, when I have time with the people I love, a little adventure, some lazy mornings and freedom from commitments, and the chance to reflect on the kind of teacher that I am compared to the teacher I want to be.
At the end of each summer, I feel excited and rejuvenated, and ready for a new school year. I AM a girl who needs closure though, so just like I make a video to mark the end of each school year, before I can move on to summer, I also annually make a video compilation of my summer, to enjoy when the weather gets cold and I need to dig into the “invincible summer” within me to keep me warm and energized. What strikes and humbles me every year though, is how incredibly blessed I am to have found a job that nurtures my passion and ignites my soul so that despite incredible summers, I’m always ready and excited to begin a new school year! #LongLiveSummer and all that it stands for!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Admission...I've got Abandonment Issues, and I'm about to jump this ship!

A little over a week ago, a new teacher friend of mine (thanks to social media) encouraged me to join the (@Teach Thought Reflective Teaching) 30 day blog challenge, and I tentatively agreed. My hesitation wasn’t about the idea, the prompts or the challenge itself, as much as it was about the fact that such a challenge completely goes against an ideal I’ve developed recently about writing. I LOVE to write. I also love sharing ideas, thoughts, and generally throwing musings out into the great void that is the internet. The thing is, that after spending the last two years pursuing my Master’s Degree., I found that I started to like writing a little (just a teensie bit) less. The Catalyst? Well, it was surely because in the scope of my courses, the writing was always very controlled, contrived, and the deadlines weighed on me like the gravity on Jupiter. I just don’t like writing THAT way. I recognize that daily “challenges”, prompts, and requirements are highly motivating for many amazing writers, but I’m just not wired for it. With deadlines, and formats and citations (Oh MY!), I feel frustrated and rebellious instead of motivated and inspired . So post graduate courses, I’ve been writing A TON, on my own terms, and I’ve found my love of moving my fingers across the keyboard has been renewed… I’d like to keep it that way, and I’d like to be done forever with writing anything that doesn’t excite my spirit and stir my soul, when there are so many things that DO...like my plans for #DotDay which I have to get back to now, instead of worrying about blogging deadlines. So I will happily read the blog posts of others, and I will even answer some more of the prompts this month- but I’m not an official member of the 30 day challenge because I’m staying true to a previous challenge I gave myself, to stay true to what I know and love and to stay away from commitments that may steal my joy or burden my weeknight’s! :)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Day 10 - 30 Day Blog Post Challenge

Share five random facts about yourself.

1. When I was a little girl in New York, the great Ninja Master found me on the stoop of our brownstone, and taught me everything he knows about stealth, honor, and discipline...or at least that’s the way the bedtime story goes when I tell my kids, and though we giggle through my reenactment, I love it that they go to bed wondering if I REALLY made it all up :)
2. I’m a late bloomer as a “girlie-girl” who loves pretty things and an occasion to be “fancy” but my roots keep me loving action/superhero movies, converse sneakers & video games.
3. If I’m in a used bookstore, I can’t resist buying books that have someone elses notes and thoughts lovingly scribbled into the margins. It’s magical.
4. I have an irrational fear/anxiety of people dressed up in mascot-type costumes (a’la Chuck E. from Chuck E. Cheese)
5. I’m pretty intentional about my role as the metaphorical author of my life-story, if I don’t like the way the plot is going, I’m great at editing and getting things back on track!

Share four things from your bucket list.
1. Revisit Italy as an adult with my husband (but this time, see The Whole Boot)
2. Make Bucket lists with my children and help them start crossing things off :)
3. Take a group of students from my school on their first trip to Disney World.
4. Teacher Space Camp

Share three things that you hope for this year, as a “person” or an educator.

1. As a person, I hope to stretch myself to make the most of my “one wild and precious life”, to live wonderstruck, and walk through each day with an open mind and heart.
2. As an educator, moved to a new and vastly different grade level this year, I hope to acclimate as quickly as possible and surpass my own expectations of myself to be the kind of teacher my students deserve (Confident, Creative, Engaging, Fun, Resourceful and Gritty!) ;)
3. World Peace ( Sorry, I couldn’t resist. )
Share two things that have made you laugh or cry as an educator.
(Pictures are worth a thousand words??)

Share one thing you wish more people knew about you.

With social media, this question is becoming obsolete. There are pieces of me scattered all across the blogosphere and twitterverse but they’re all just pieces. If I want someone to know more about me, I share more :) and that’s the beauty of face-to-face!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

TwitterForTeachers (or anyone getting started)

Ever since our local news featured my classroom and how we use Twitter to enhance our learning, I've been busy trying to help get any of my social-media-ready colleagues who ask, started with their own class twitter accounts! However, with a new grade level to learn this year, and the demands of life and family outside of school ( #iteachtoo #manyhats ), I felt like some of my colleagues were waiting around for me to fit them into my schedule, when they could be and should be exploring the twitterverse at last! SO...I created this tutorial to help anyone who wanted to get started do so! If you're thinking about twitter and how it might benefit YOUR classroom, Personal Learning Network, and students, then check it out and pass it on! <3

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Day 9 Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care).

Wow. So, this one gave me pause. I can think of some accomplishments in teaching that I am exceptionally proud of, but, that “no one knows about” part has got me stumped. I mean, I’m married, I have a very close family and tight circle of friends...there’s very little in my life that NO ONE knows about. All of my greatest accomplishments, once recognized as such, have been gushed over to the people who I love and who love me most, because that’s what I do. I share my joys, and any accomplishments I have had in my career/passion/mission as an educator, fall under the category of life-joys that I just can’t help but burst out about.

The thing is, though, that I hope that my BIGGEST accomplishment in teaching is one that no one knows about yet, not even me, because my hope is that it hasn’t happened yet. My hope is that my greatest successes as an educator are yet to be realized, and my largest growth spurt is yet to come.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Day 8 (Blog Challenge) What’s in your desk drawer, and what can you infer from those contents?

The fact that my desk drawer can be photographed and even have discernible contents, is proof positive that we’re only about a month into the school year! Even so, I suppose my plethora of organized goodies is a bit telling- so here are my inferences :) *which are really quite easy to make considering I know the owner of this desk drawer quite well!

Starting in the back left hand corner:

Cherry Chapstick: Little known fact- I am addicted to the stuff and buy it almost every time I’m in a grocery store. I have a tube of this in almost every area of my world, always at the ready. Why? Well, for one thing, the taste and smell of it rushes me back to simpler days when “lipsmackers” were all the rage, but I still held an affinity for the old standby! That being said, I also, of course, appreciate the protective effects it has on my lips, the gentle sheen it gives them, and subtle sweet taste. So there.
Inference: Loyal Nostalgic with cherry-flavored lips!

Urban Decay all in one pallet: because a spontaneous date night is always a possibility and this girl likes to be put together for such an occasion.
Inference: I don’t need a glamorous job but I find my glamour where I can!

Black Eyeliner: Same reason as above and additionally, a job that causes me to tear up on occasion requires the occasional touch-up- especially if my post-work plans with my hubby or girlfriends are exciting!
Inference: This sap likes to keep a little edge ;)

Gum: I always have gum. Mostly because I feel bad to inflict my coffee breath on my students.
Inference: #coffeeprobs

Tiara Glasses: It makes me laugh that these are in here- but I have little costume pieces (from boxing gloves, mustaches, wings, NASA helmet etc) stashed all over my room. This just goes to show that I’ll do just about anything to quickly engage my students or spice up my lessons, and kids love a good show, so I ham it up whenever possible!
Inference: I have a flair for the dramatic!

Sweet Smelly Pencils: I’ve got a thing about smells! I also keep a bottle of Coppertone sunscreen in the drawer below this one, because smelling that stuff is instant SUMMER! I keep things around that make me smile or feel special, and smelly pencils don’t really do it for me, but the definitely light up my kiddos! SO I keep a few on hand for special occasions!
Inference: I like to capitalize on all 5 senses when it comes to happiness & learning.

Rogue Nerf Dart: I keep these stashed everywhere as well so I am always prepared for a good nerf war and because I seem to find them here, there and everywhere once one has occurred! I have some like-minded fun colleagues who also keep a stash so I have to be ready if I come under attack, but I also use nerf darts in review games with students and they love it!
Inference: I’m a big kid with a strategic bend.

Tide Stick: An elementary school cafeteria is a battleground for teachers with a passion for fashion. Sticky fingers, huggable children and despicable ketchup packets are the enemy, and a tide to go pen is our ivory skirt’s only hope.
Inference: I can’t turn down a pint-sized hug even for the sake of my JCrew Chambray or ivory lace!

Twistable Crayons: I have this weird thing about crayons. I am totally aware of how strange it is, but I just hate them. I’ve always loved coloring, but something about the waxy film, the weird smell, the shredding labels, just makes me cringe! I actually considered this pretty high up on my con list for moving to a primary grade. Lucky for me, there are twistable crayons, and all my woes of the old original are appeased by this wonderful invention! If only I could afford to outfit all my kids with them- but for now, I keep a few handy for color demonstrations!
Inference: I’m weird and I may have had a traumatic experience in a crayola factory as a child.

Duct Tape, Post Its, Push Pins: I have a list of synonyms for GRIT hanging in my classroom this year- it’s hanging with double-sided duct tape, and one of my faves on the list is Stick-To-Itiveness - I like to “stick” things that inspire me and my students up at a moments notice- so I’ve got plenty of sticky ways to post quotes, posters, pictures, student artwork, cards, notes, etc!
Inference: Personalization matters.

Caffeinated Mints, Starbucks Via, Emergen-C: Sometimes I don’t have time to make my espresso and steamed milk in the morning (this almost NEVER happens) and there is always the chance that the machine breaks, or my hands become immobilized, and so, I have a via packet (just mix with hot water and Voila! Starbucks coffee) for just such an emergency. I also start alternating vitamin C packets with my coffee once cold and flu season kicks in, and the mints help ward off headaches if I’ve gone too long without my wonderful coffee bean!
Inference: Prepared for emergency situations of all sorts!

Computer Dongles, USBs, Earbuds: This girl loves her tech! I’m also a sharer, and these tools help me share, plug in, display and consume the learning technology of the moment!
Inference: #nerdisthenewblack I embrace my nerdiness and harness the power of tech to reach my students and colleagues!

Happiness Notes: I picked these up a couple of years ago and keep restocking them! They are just one more way I use to connect to and encourage my colleagues- because we all need those little reminders once in a while, that we are loved and appreciated! #KindnessMatters #HappinessIsABoomerang
Inference: I like cute notes, and making people smile!

Label Maker: I use this to label files, drawers, cabinets, books, and just about anything else. Its a gadget to help me get excited about my everlong quest or order and organization!
Inference: Trying...ever trying!