Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ron Clark Academy Visit....My Experience

In December I found out I would be getting to visit the Ron Clark Academy for a Professional Development opportunity. 
To say I was ecstatic is putting it mildly. 

I watched The Ron Clark Movie. I read many of his books. I even follow Ron Clark, his school and his teachers on social media. 

I told you I was ecstatic. 
I couldn’t wait to see this amazing school. 

However I have to admit, I was also skeptical. 
Thats right, I said skeptical.

I was visiting a middle school. 
A private middle school! 
A private middle school in the middle of Atlanta! 

How could I possibly implement anything THEY do in MY first grade classroom in a Title I PUBLIC school?? 

Let me say that again. 
I teach First Grade in a Public School that is Title I.

Well today marked 51 school days since my visit to Ron Clark and let me tell you about the impact of that visit!

I am a different teacher. 
My classroom is a different place! 
My students are different.

You would not believe the things these six year olds are doing! 
It is all because of what I experienced at Ron Clark.

I implemented Ron Clark’s Essential 55 Rules the day I got back from Atlanta. Yes, he has 55 rules! As a school and as teachers it is our responsibility to create responsible, respectful, well rounded students who will become independent, successful adults. Ron Clark’s 55 rules embody that philosophy.  

A few of the rules are making eye contact, answering questions with Yes Ma’am and No Sir, and standing when you speak. 

My first graders are doing this!

They are now taking ownership of their behavior and their learning!

ALL of my first graders! 

You would not believe the rigorous discussions they are having in Science, Math and Reading! 

It is because I raised the bar!

Other teachers, administration and visitors on campus are noticing the difference in my students inside the four walls of our classroom as well as around campus. 

As a result, the entire first grade team has implemented the Essential 55. We are even holding a book study and Twitter Chat this summer so we can reach more teachers and more students next year!

When you walk into the Ron Clark Academy you can just feel the energy and excitement. 
You feel it from the students, the teachers, the secretaries and the custodians! 

I want my students to feel that same energy and excitement every single day at school! 

Guess what?  It’s happening!

When I came back from visiting the Ron Clark Academy, friends, family and colleagues asked me what it was like. 

It wasn’t really something I could put into words. I just kept saying it is amazing and telling them they HAVE to go! 

It is the same for what is happening in my classroom. I can’t explain the energy, excitement and culture in my classroom to you with just a few words. 

What I can tell you is that energy, excitement and culture is because of my visit to the Ron Clark Academy.

This isn’t just happening in my classroom. Other teachers from my school have been lucky enough to also visit the Ron Clark Academy.  If you visit my school you will see these changes and this difference throughout classrooms and around the campus.

I have been teaching in my school district for 13 years. I have been to many, many different types of Professional Development in those 13 years all around the United States. 

I can honestly say my visit to the Ron Clark Academy made the biggest impact on my teaching, my students and my school. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Kindness Shakers

I got to visit the Ron Clark Academy in February. 

Yup, I know. L.U.C.K.Y.

It was one of the absolute best days of my life. I will say it was also very overwhelming. There was so much to look at, so much to listen to and so much to take in! 
I feel like I need to go back. 
I have other things I want to see and more questions to ask.

I have already changed a zillion things about my teaching and my classroom. I cannot even explain to you the difference in my student's effort, attitude and learning! Honestly, mine too.

I want to share one idea I implemented. {This is just one. There are lots more. I will share more soon, I promise!}

While visiting the Ron Clark Academy I kept seeing students hit a drum during lessons. 
Turns out the drums are actually used as a focusing strategy! 
Students are to listen for important words. When they hear that word they hit the drum.

Well, I thought this was fabulous and was totally into this. 
I couldn't really afford one of the fancy drums. They are for sale on the RCA website.
Also I wasn't so sure about drums in a first grade classroom, especially expensive ones.

So I came up with my own version.
Kindness Shakers! 

Here is the low down.
  1.  I bought two maracas. Maracas are very cheap. Party City had some for $1. NOT KIDDING, $1! Mine came in a two pack for around $5 from the Fiesta section. 
  2.  Students are chosen by me to be in charge of the Kindness Shaker. They are called the Kindness Captain. I started out with one. The same student was the Kindness Captain every single day. It really helped him listen and focus on instruction and it helped him notice all of the kind things the other students were saying and doing. Let's just say these were two areas he really needed help with. Guess What?  It worked! After a couple of weeks, we added a second Kindness Captain (and Shaker). 
  3. When the Kindness Captain hears or sees another student doing something kind, they give the Kindness Shaker one quick shake! If I randomly hear the shaker throughout the day, they lose their job. If they shake it too long, they lose their job. If they play with it, they lose their job.This is a big deal. They take their job as the Kindness Captain very seriously and do NOT want it to lose it!
  4. The Kindness Shaker does not leave our classroom. It does not go to Special Area, lunch or recess with us. {Super cute side note: The Kindness Captain will usually say, "Oh that would earn a shake if I had the Kindness Shaker with me!"}

Do you do anything similar?

Have you been to RCA?

What ideas have you implemented since your visit?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Groundhog Day FREEBIE

I just made a little activity for Groundhog Day!  The QR Codes are links to videos about groundhogs and Groundhog Day created with SafeShare.

It is FREE!

Grab it by clicking one of the pictures!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

You Can't Control Everything

I can't control everything.

Repeat - I can't control everything.

Repeat - I can't control everything.

That is a tough statement for me. I admit it......I am a Control Freak.
I actually think most teachers are.

That is why we get so frustrated with the things out of our control. And lets face it, as teachers there are a lot of things we cannot control.

I was recently in Vertical Articulation with the grade level teams above and below me. Our task was to highlight the standards that our students consistently struggle with and to develop a plan of how each grade level could better target those standards.

Within minutes the discussion quickly turned into:

  • It's because the kids don't come to school. We can't do anything about that. 
  • It's because the kids don't do their homework. We can't do anything about that.
  • It's because we have to use this scripted reading program. We can't do anything about that.
  • It's because they came to us already a year below grade level. We can't do anything about that.
  • It's because students are not retained anymore. We can't do anything about that.
When we left the meeting we had not accomplished anything and did not have a plan. 

The next day I could not get the "discussion" out of my mind. 
I was bothered.

I am the first to admit I have said, felt or used those exact excuses. Yes, I said excuses.  
I was not bothered by the excuses.

I was not bothered by the venting. 

I was not bothered by the complaining.

I was bothered because I sat there silently nodding in agreement. 
I did not offer any solutions. 
Not one!!!

Do we allow students to pass the blame, make excuses or sit by idly?

Then as teachers we should not be allowed to either!

Here's the thing.....all of those things that we said that were out of our control are also out of the student's control. 

Last time I checked it was only me and my students inside the four walls of our classroom each and every day. 

If I want my students to learn I cannot make excuses or focus on the things I cannot control. I must focus on the things I can control.
There is a lot I can control in my classroom. 
  • The culture in my classroom.
  • The level of student engagement in my classroom.
  • My excitement and enthusiasm. (Even if it is a scripted program I am not a fan of!)
  • My student's self esteem.
  • The lessons and activities. (Or at least how they are delivered.)
My biggest takeaway from that meeting was what I can control outside of my classroom. 
  • Me 
Yes, ME.

I can stand up and be an advocate for my students and their education. 
If I don't, who will?

I will no longer sit by in meetings nodding silently in agreement. 
I will share my opinions and ideas. 
I will offer solutions, not excuses. 
I will encourage others to do the same.

We teach because we want to make a difference. 

Everything we do is for the students. 

That is why we became teachers, right? 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Helping Shy Students Come Out of Their Shell

How many of you have that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you have to get up and talk in front of others?

How many of you feel sick just thinking of that feeling of not knowing anyone?

All of you that agreed, we feel the same way!

Now what happens when we have students that are very shy?

We have experienced that this year. We have a few actually. Here are some helpful pointers we have learned this year while helping our shy little learners along.

1. Calm is Key

     We both have very peaceful classrooms. While there is always a lot happening, we like to keep everyone comfortable but productive at the same time. One thing we like to use to keep everyone calm is music. We use Pandora to play different tunes. Our classes refer to the music as "calm music" or "relaxing music". Both classes love the Soundscape Radio.

2. Keep it Quiet

     And no. We are not just referring to the students. We are both naturally quiet people. We do not yell or shout in our classrooms. Keeping your tone calm will allow those shy ones to feel more comfortable participating in class.

One thing to definitely take into consideration with shy students is fire drills. They can be VERY frightening to certain children. One of our little lovelies this year (who is also very shy) is terrified of anything loud. Fire Drills sent her into hysterics. A certain spot was set aside in the room, close to her seat, that held her earphones. She puts them on just prior to the drill. She called the earphones her "happy ears". To her, that was her sense of safety in a time of uneasiness. Even if we have an unannounced drill, just knowing they are close by puts her at ease.

3. Create a Classroom of Respect

     We used Bucket Filling this year and absolutely love it! To be a Bucket Filler, you might say something nice to another student, help another student out, or simply tell someone thank you. Sometimes all it takes for that shy student to come out of their shell is another student's kind words! We introduced Bucket Filling with the book How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer to introduce the concept at the beginning of the year.
You can get a copy for your classroom by clicking {HERE} or on the picture of the book.

What about all of you? What do you do to help shy students? We would love to hear!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Winter White Out Giveaway

Happy Winter!

Is it cold where you live? Do you have snow? Have you had a Snow Day?

We still have sun, sand and scissors here at our little beachside school!

Since we do not get partake in any fun winter activities here in sunny Florida we decided to celebrate winter by having a little giveaway!

TWO Winners will win all 4 Winter Packs. Winners will be chosen and notified on Monday, January 16!

You have 6 ways to enter the giveaway!

Enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win ALL 4 Winter Packs!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Need some Snowman Stories Resources now? Check out this video for a preview of our newest product!

Purchase it {here} for only $5!

Good Luck!