Wednesday, February 11, 2015

An excerpt from the tale "Lark and the (Re)Actions of Learning

Dear World,

These days I find myself teaching in a one(ish) room schoolhouse. The schoolhouse is my own house and the rooms are the living and dining rooms. The back story to my current events is a conversation for another day, it is a story that is still in progress, still evolving, still taking root. It is a good story. I can't wait to see how this tale of Lark and the (Re)Actions of Learning ends.

Our days have structure and routine. One of the ways we manage to get all the work done is by rotating through several stations set up throughout my main living area. Our morning starts with a morning meeting where we talk about the upcoming day, explain stations, assign daily jobs, and get our day off to a good start. This is a foundational stone in my day, a stone I deliberately set. It is a chance to look each one in the eye, to ask how they are, to be attentive to the emotional status of each one. It is a way to establish trust and for them to see that they have value here, a chance to make a connection.

After morning meeting we pray and gather around for a "break" chant. That varies from day to day. They take turns picking what we will say. Today it was something like, "One. Two. Three. Don't fall asleep like a panda bear!" Random, I know. It is an envied job and I laugh at the silly things they make us all say. It starts our day with smiles on our faces and usually an inspirational phrase to encourage us.

We break into five main stations. I have a couple of math stations where the bigger kids work on their Teaching Textbook programs. We are available for any assistance but they are pretty self sufficient. The first graders have a time of one on one instruction with my co-teacher. (More about that another day, as well.) We also read one on one with most of the students. The top readers have an alone read aloud time as well. We also work on spelling words and handwriting in the morning.These stations do not vary from day to day.

The remaining stations do change daily. Our computer station is tucked into a corner behind the couch. Here they work on typing lessons , a fun video usual from here, math drills, and a chance to either play a game here for a few minutes or have a drawing lesson from a subscription based service I ordered for the year at Mike Kessler's Draw 3D.
Computer Station

Our most favorite station of all is the THINK! table. This table is tucked near the couch and featured STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) last year, and this year I added art to make it a STEAM station. (In my own defense, I did this BEFORE Pinterest told me it was a real thing!) This week our THINK! table rotation looked like this:
Monday - iPads with coding games
Tuesday - drawing lessons from this site
Wednesday - surface tension of water experiment from here
Thursday - chalk pastel lesson, if I can find where I stuck the chalk pastels! I love her free videos and a search on youtube will lead you to several great ones!

The THINK! table
Exploring the wonderful forgiveness of chalk pastels
Adorable art! 

Our last morning station for the rotation is our "free time" station. This is a chance to work on things that I can't easily fit into a more traditional schooling setting. Currently we are featuring several great finds from around Pinterest.

For the first graders - Skylander themed learning pages -  I picked the skills I wanted them to practice and bribe them with a trip to the prize box when it is all filled out correctly. Shameless, aren't I?

The bigger kids had their own learning packs. Aren't these Language Art Lego Packs great fun?

Soduko is a great brain grower. I downloaded varying levels from here. Poke around. I like to print from the book option, because I get 4 to a sheet instead of 1 per sheet. I have noticed that today's children don't know how to take a problem and turn it about, teasing the truth out. They are in a hurry and want it to be easy and apparent. Soduko and KenKen seem to be helping them develop patience, and some stick-to-itiveness as they work out the solutions.

For the younger set, try Kiduko!

My personal favorite is KenKen, though.

I also have an assortment of mazes this week, a lego game and Spot It for a chance to play together, building relationships, enjoyment, and a place for helping someone else be successful. They really do help each other here. There is always someone with an encouraging word for their neighbor, someone asking if they can help the pre-schooler with a game, someone who will happily celebrate the accomplishment of a classmate. We are blessed.

So, there you have it. A very long winded look into this week's morning routine. I have more great stuff planned for the afternoons, too. Maybe if I get another burst of late night energy I can share what that looks like these days, too.

With sincere regards,
Ms. Lark, aka Head Teacher, Zoo Wrangler, Educational Wizard

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tap Tap Tap…. Is this thing on?

Dear Blog,

Well, it has been awhile, hasn't it?! Last post was August of 2011. This is February 2015. It really feels as if I only took a few month break. Lots of humorous things have happened in the last 4 years. Lots of sad things have happened. More hard things have come my way than I think should be absolutely necessary for one average life. I am thinking I would like to take up the ole blogging habit again.

A person can change a lot in 3 years. I have grown a lot. 

I laugh less, I think. 

I take less crap.

I love harder, but take a little more care in the people I choose to love deeply.

My life has changed pretty dramatically from the last time I stopped and questioned the very things that make my life interesting. I think it is time to take this little blog idea and morph it to match my current life. Isn't that what life is all about anyway? Evolving and morphing, changing and growing?

Stay tuned. 

Always changing,