Sunday, February 17, 2013

Keeping My Poise

Hi Friends,

Although Valentine's Day is complete hogwash (blatantly just a Hallmark holiday), there's no point fighting the kids. Kids LOVE Valentine's Day, or Friendship Day as we call it. Good lord, I think it was more popular in my classroom than Halloween and Christmas combined. Needless to say, energy levels were high. Herding and harnessing all that excess energy left me utterly drained, but at the end of the day, I'm glad I kept my poise.

The week started off with an introduction to Presidents. A lot of my students had asked why we had a four-day weekend coming up and so I decided we'd just learn about it. There were a TON of awesome read aloud books that I checked out from the library. You can access the list here.

Before launching the lessons, I did a quick tapping of prior knowledge and found that only one student could give me an answer even remotely close to my question, "Who can tell me what a president is?" to which that student's response was, "Obama". So I began to frontload my students with some background information in ways that they could easily make connections. To help them define a president I gave them an analogy on our smart board with a picture of a classroom. I pointed to the teacher and said that in a classroom the teacher is like the leader of her students. She gives them rules at the beginning of the year and then makes sure that her students follow them. Then I told them to think outside the classroom and think about our school. Students quickly came up with the understanding that our principal is the leader of the teachers and the students at our school. Next, I showed them a picture of little boys and girls holding our flag to represent our country and explained that the president is like the principal or teacher, except he is the leader of everyone in the country, making sure that we all follow the rules. I could see some lightbulbs going off and immediately I knew connections were being made.

So now my students were well versed with a concrete definition of a president - the leader of our country. We started with a read aloud about George Washington and I couldn't believe how engaged my students were. Personally, U.S. government and U.S. history were not my favorite subjects when I was in school, but my kids were eating it up! After our read aloud we shared out new things we learned about George Washington and I showed my boys and girls a picture of a dollar bill and a quarter and asked if anyone knew who the man on the money was. We chorally exclaimed, "George Washington!".

Here are some student samples of our writing and center activity for George Washington.

I like George Washington because he has a horse.
He has a horse so he can go fast.

I asked George Washington to ride the horse.

It was such a cool feeling when after school on Tuesday, one of my students pulled a dollar out of his pocket and said, "Ms. Lee, look it's George Washington!". Winning.

The next day we learned about Abraham Lincoln. In the process, my students asked what voting was. I found this a little challenging to describe so we did an impromptu simulation. I put up two choices on the board for activities: playdough and computers. I told each student that they all had one choice each. I called one student up at a time and they marked their pick, which I explained as casting their vote. Then we counted up all the tallies together and determined that playdough was the winner. I had them swap out the activities for people running for president and viola! Voting became a concrete concept in their schema.

Next time I teach about Abraham Lincoln I think I need to think through how to explain slavery better and more in kinder terms. I found this to be a surprising challenge. Suggestions?

Here are some hilarious student samples of our writing and center activity for Abraham Lincoln.

I like Abraham Lincoln because he is cool.
I like Abraham Lincoln because he is on the 5 dollar bill.
I like Abraham Lincoln because he has a beard.

Vampire Abraham Lincoln with the monocle was definitely worth the prep wouldn't you say?

In preparation for our Friendship Day party I had students make Friendship bags. I thought I'd give them something a bit more substantial than brown paper lunch bags and purchased bags with handles from the dollar store. They got to decorate their hearts and zigzag arms/legs to their imagination's content. I love the way they turned out!

My students loved the Friendship Day party. We sat in a circle on the rug with our bags in front of us and everyone that brought something got a chance to drop a card and/or a treat into everyone's bag. We practiced saying 'thank you' and 'you're welcome'. I even made my very own handmade Friendship cards for my kiddos with construction paper, glue, curling ribbon, some festive pencils, and a bunch of our previous sight words!

It was such a fun week for me teaching-wise. In fact, it was probably the best I've felt about my teaching in a long while. Not to be outdone of course, by my "favorite" Friendship Day gift of the day from one of my students.

I had dismissed all my students at the gate when one of my kiddos came running back to me with a Victoria's Secret bag wishing me a happy Valentine's Day. I thanked her and started walking over to my room. I opened the bag up and proceeded to find two bars of soap, a Glade air freshening spray can, and finally a bottle of wait for it... feminine wash! PH balanced and everything! I died and had a good laugh about it in the copy room with some other teachers after school. It was a genuine amusing. As I unraveled the different layers of the gift I just thought, "Hmm, so I must stink, the air around me must stink, and oh, lovely, my female parts must stink too". So unexpected, so funny. What can I say, there's never a dull moment. I love my job.

And with that final anecdote, enjoy the remainder of the weekend, stay fresh, and as always, thanks so much for reading!


  1. You really do sound poised this week - I love these lessons and can easily see how they would click for kindergartners. As for explaining slavery, that's a hard one. Maybe you've heard of the blue eyes/brown eyes exercise? Your class is diverse already so this might be complicated, but maybe you could try something simple and concrete like color of a wristband you pass out. And explain that Abraham Lincoln took the side of people who knew this was unfair... It is a complex subject to teach kids so young. Anyway, it must be such a relief to have them so in tune with you this week. Oh and lol @ "stay fresh"!! Kids are hilarious.

    1. Thanks Julie! What a great idea! Definitely something to plan and try next year. :)

  2. Wow! Maybe don't sit criss cross applesauce anymore... hail to the V!!!

  3. I loved and I still love history. When I was a kid it was the equivalent to story time for me.

    Slavery is a tough one to go over. I remember explaining the Jim Crowe laws to my step daughter. Much to my relief and happiness, those laws totally confused her. For the life of her she couldn't understand why people would do such a thing.

    1. That's awesome! I wish I had the same zeal for history as you did/do.

  4. 1. My kids are obsessed with the presidents. I have no idea why, but Kaitlyn relates everything back to "Amber Lincoln". I had no idea he had a fem name, too.

    2. Poise. bwahahahahaha. I once got red lace panties in the shape of a rose. Another reason to hate Valentine's Day: awkward gifts. (But hyper kids is the number one reason.)

    3. Word to the wise: 100th day is rich, educationally. Next time, go for a week. Then you can stretch the activities out. I learned that the hard way. :)

    You're awesome. Each year gets a little easier. You're doing great, I'm sure!

    1. Oh my goodness, red lace panties. HA! Thanks for the encouraging words Kristy! Next year I will definitely stretch out the 100th day a bit more.