Thursday, April 30, 2015

Careers in 1st Grade: Being Wendy

In first grade we have begun our month on thinking about our futures.  Where do we want to go to college?  What do we want to be when we grow up?  Our first lesson focused on the career options that are out there.  To get their brains thinking, we read Being Wendy written by Fran Drescher.

This story follows a young girl named Wendy on her journey of thinking outside of the box.  She lives in Boxville, where everyone must pick a box that shows their career choice.  Even the dogs where boxes!  Wendy cannot figure out just one career that she would like to have because she has many interests.

Throughout the story we talk about the following points (from The Corner on Character blog):

1.  Do you think everyone grows up to get the job they wanted when they were a kid? Share responses from the teachers at your school at this time to demonstrate that dreams change as we grow.
2.  If you set a goal to have a specific career someday and you grow up to be something different, does that mean you failed at your goal? 
3.  Wendy said that she felt different from everyone else, but was afraid to tell someone. Why do you think she was afraid? 
4. Is it a bad thing to be different from others? How do you treat people who are different from you?
5.   The author stated, “Wendy tried to take her dad’s advice, but the more she thought about it, the more she hated thinking inside the box.” Have you ever heard the expression, “thinking inside/outside the box”? What does it mean? How does it apply here?
6.  What do you think the town of “Freedomland” is like?

After the story we start brainstorming what we might want to be when we grow up.  Then we narrowed down what career we would want to have if we lived in Boxville, with one exception: it can be more than one idea!  Students created their Boxville character and wrote down many career options they are interested in pursuing.  You can download the body template from The Corner on Character here.

Here are some of the Boxville residents they created:

Monday, April 27, 2015

It's Not a Box

In kindergarten I introduced careers with one of my favorite stories, Not a Box written by Antoinette Portis.  This book just screams imagination!  We follow a rabbit as he uses a "box" as many different items - guessing before we turn the page to see what he is pretending to be this time.  I like the springboard into careers it provides and message that you can be anything.

After the story, we watched this adorable music video that highlights even more careers:

Then I passed out coloring books (you can download for free here) that had a variety of careers you could choose to color.  Some students even drew their own ideas of what they'd like to be when they grew up.

Someday...A lesson on Careers

In 2nd grade we began our talks about the future by reading Someday by Eileen Spinelli.  This book is a great springboard into careers because it takes a young girl imagining her future career, then ties it into how what she is doing today is preparing her for each pathway.  For example, she is digging in the couch cushions for coins and dreams of being a paleontologist digging for bones.

After the story we played "I Have, Who Has" with careers.  I downloaded this game from The Career Day Activity Packet from Teachers Pay Teachers.  Each class competed to get the fastest time.

Then I challenged them to come up with as many careers as they could using an Alphabet Chart.

For an extra hint, I played them this video:

Friday, April 10, 2015

6th Graders Encouraging our Newest Test Takers

Each time spring rolls around the topic of our standardized test, STAAR, begins to enter the conversations of our students at Lee Elementary.  Since we have some resident experts on the ins & outs of what the STAAR test is really like, I thought it would be a good idea for them to impart their knowledge onto our newest test takers: 3rd graders!  I typed up a list of all of our 3rd graders and then our 6th graders picked 2-3 to write an encouraging letter to.  They could write encouraging words, test taking tips, confidence boosters and any idea that they thought would help lower their anxiety about testing.  We had a great conversation about empathy and tried to remember back to when it was our first time taking the STAAR test or even how we feel now about it.  Once all of the letters were all written onto colorful bordered stationary, I put them into an "Special Delivery" envelope from the White House (also our nickname for the house beside our school that 6th grade is housed in) and delivered them to their homeroom teachers for students to receive before the test.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Test-Taking Foldable

In third grade we began our talk about the STAAR test.  Each year students come in with many false rumors about STAAR that often catastrophize the situation.  I like to take time to explain the reality of STAAR, answer all of their questions and dispel any myths they've heard.  After our discussion, I like to read Hooray for Diffendoofer Day written by Dr. Seuss, with help by Lane Smith and Jack Prelutsky.  What's great about this book is that it puts a silly spin on standardized testing and it also commemorates the legacy of Dr. Seuss, who was unable to finish the book before his passing.  There is a second part in the back of the book that explains how this story came to be, showing his original rough drafts and drawings.

In the story students love their school, their teachers and all of the quirky things they are learning.  But one day their principal informs them that they will have to take a test in 10 minutes and if they do not perform well their school will close down.  Agh!  Worst case scenario!  I won't ruin the story, but there is a positive message that comes from it and our students always sigh in relief that our testing is nothing like theirs.

After the story we make test-taking foldables that students can use to remind them how to put their best foot forward.  I downloaded the template from Savvy School Counselor on TeachersPayTeachers and let the students be creative with the title for each tab.  Here are some of their completed tips:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

When I'm Feeling Angry

In kindergarten, just like any other grade, things start to rev up in the spring.  Expectations are raised, demand increases and the pressure to be prepared for the next grade starts to affect our students.  With this shift in the classroom environment comes the likelihood of children have to learn to adjust to everyday changes.  This can look many ways, and for a few of our students, they are showing their frustration and anger in more physical approaches.  Hence, here I come to try and save the day!  

We read When I'm Feeling Angry written by Trace Moroney.  This short and simple book is great for helping students recognize anger in their bodies (the cover alone opens up a lot of discussion) and teaching them appropriate ways to cope with anger.

The book does a nice job of sharing that it is okay to feel angry which I really enjoyed.  It is okay for all of us to experience feelings, and we do!  Many children hold the belief that adults will not "let them" be angry.  Clarifying that we all have feelings and finding helpful ways to calm ourselves down is a great start to breaking down this myth.  This is where the "Anger Rules" come in:

I found this great poster on Pinterest that I immediately printed out to post in each of the classrooms I was visiting.  We brainstormed ideas that we could do when we felt angry, using inspiration from the book, and then got to work on picking out what would work best for us.  Each student received 2 printouts, one that was part of a Calm Down Kit TeachersPayTeachers and the other I created in Word.  Students cut out ideas they could use to help them feel better when experiencing strong emotions.  I explained that for me, playing another game doesn't help because I'm still feeling too upset.  However, crying is a great release and I always feel better after.  A favorite for many was learning that you could go to the recycling bin and take paper out of it to rip up...instead of their own paper at their table (because that would be destroying property).