Saturday, August 29, 2020

Remote Teaching Journey -- Assumptions and Conversations


One of my new routines for this year is link to the CNN10 news for the day in an open Google doc with a table where my scholars can add their name, plus their noticing and wondering.

The first day I added this to our schedule (Thursday this week), there was a story about housing in LA and how homeowners are converting two car garages into apartments. I made the assumption that this would not be an engaging part of the news show for 10 year-olds, but recommended it as connected to our social studies standards on the topic of Economics.

In our end-of-day Google Meet, I shared how surprised I was that many had connected with that news story in their notice/wonders. One girl piped up that she found it fascinating because she wants to be an architect. Another loved that people did this not just for the money, but to help people have a home near their work.

Lesson: Never Assume.

In a writing workshop lesson under the doc camera, we began creating our identity webs this week. As I made mine, I talked about identity as the story we tell about ourselves. When I meet someone new, one part of my story often begins with, "I am a teacher." 

I went on to explain that identity is also the things about us that people see, and I added "woman" and "kind of old" and "white skin" to my identity web. I explained that I often don't think of my identity of "woman" until I am in a place where that stands out, at the car repair shop, for instance, where I am likely the only woman there. I encouraged them to think of the parts of their identity that others see.

On Friday, we watched this video about Ibtihaj Muhammad, which led to conversations about the meaning of the words stereotype and bias, and then I read aloud The Proudest Blue. 

Lesson: My commitment to be an antiracist teacher will not be revealed in big splashy announcements about my commitment, but rather in all the small conversations we will have (planned and unplanned) throughout the year. Being an antiracist teacher is a way of life, not a lesson plan.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Surprise

image via Unsplash


heavy humid air

a skunk was surprised nearby

exclamation scent

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2020

This will be the year that I'm almost drowning almost all the time. But I've made a couple of promises to myself. I will write a bit (even if a few words) each day. I will maintain my exercise. Earlier this week, I composed this poem in my head as I walked in the early morning darkness. A two-fer!

Heidi has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at my juicy little universe.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Remote Teaching Journey -- More Realities

image via Unsplash

We had our virtual Meet the Teacher this past Thursday. 

On the one hand, having a new group of children on the screen in front of me gave all of the impossibly overwhelming work of the week up to that point a fresh meaning and urgency. It jazzed me up and got me excited.

On the other hand, the reality that I will not simply be teaching 28 children in the desks in front of me in my classroom, but rather 28 FAMILIES that I may or may not be able to see off-screen, but who are possibly-sometimes or definitely-always listening in to every word I say, took my breath away with the awesome responsibility for the careful choice of every word and the necessity of my absolute adherence to the highest level of professionalism every minute of screen time every single day. Yikes! When I make mistakes this year, they will be very public mistakes. And that's humbling (and frightening), to say the least.

At the same time, what an amazing opportunity to teach whole families, rather than just the children! I'm not going to lie -- I've been a little nervous about teaching our 5th grade standards about the history of the Western Hemisphere and about the forms of government.  How much of the truth of our history of brutal colonialism could or should 10 year-olds learn? How, in light of the crumbling of our country's democratic ideals in the past four (or four hundred) years, could I instill in 10 year-olds a belief in the values of democracy, when my own beliefs have been so shaken? 

How? I listened to the recent speeches by Barack and Michelle Obama, and Kamala Harris (glad I know how to pronounce her name correctly!!) and Joe Biden. I was reminded not to give up on the values of our democracy, and I was inspired to help a generation that won't vote for another several election cycles begin to understand the role of citizens taking action to make change in shaping our democracy and our country into something we can all be proud of, and that serves all citizens equally. Because I'll be teaching the families, and not just the children, maybe I can remind the parents what our country can be again if we, the adults in the room, take our civic responsibility seriously. 

What a year!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Remote Teaching Journey -- Realities


Some realities we cannot choose (see cleaning supplies and gallon jug of hand sanitizer in the background). Some realities we can choose (see flowers and Everyday Offerings book in the  foreground). 

One of the things I am doing for myself this year is fresh flowers on the classroom table every week.

How about you? How are you planning to take care of yourself this year?

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Women in Politics Do Great Things


Friday, August 14, 2020 was the 85th anniversary of the Social Security Act, and for this, and more, we have Frances Perkins to thank!

Praise for Thanks to Frances Perkins
“Engaging… An informative portrait of an activist and advocate whose accomplishments are still evident today.” Kirkus Reviews
“Informative…guardians seeking a woman activist’s framework, with actionable steps that resonate today, will find this picture book attractive." —Publishers Weekly

“The lively text presents Perkins’ life and times, while emphasizing her significant contributions to society. Created using pleasant, subdued colors, the well-composed digital illustrations bring past eras into focus and show Perkins’ determined work on behalf of others. An informative picture-book biography of a notable American.” Booklist

If you want to incorporate early economics education in your classroom, check out this blog post, and this free teachers' guide from Peachtree Books.

Want to hear from author Deborah Hopkinson? She wrote a post for the Nerdy Book Club.

Need a nonfiction text with a unique lead/hook to use as a mentor text? This book is for you!

So many reasons to love this book!! Thank you to to publisher for the review copy!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Poetry Friday: Learning is a Lifelong Journey

Learning is a Lifelong Journey (a Pantoum)

Learning is a lifelong journey
that can only be mapped
in retrospect
and never with straight lines.

That which can only be mapped
by zigs and zags and sudden reversals
and never with straight lines
is as abstract as the summer sky, or

the zigs and zags and sudden reversals
of a monarch's flight
through an abstract summer sky.
Learning is a lifelong journey.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2020

Molly has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Nix the Comfort Zone.


First Things First

Remember that rollercoaster poem from last Friday? Well, we've dropped in. We're done with the ready and the set, and it's all go. This year, I'll be teaching at least the first semester in Dublin's Remote Learning Academy.

So much will be different this year, but just like every other year of my teaching career, I couldn't begin thinking about the nitty gritty details until I took care of a few other things first.

Before I could do anything else, I needed to get my physical classroom set up. I'm lucky enough to be able to teach from my room in the building, and I've designed a couple of spaces in my room for my teaching.

I moved my desk so that behind me is my big language arts bulletin board. There will be space for student work and new anchor charts. I'll make new homophone, homonym, and homograph charts that we'll fill together. I'll leave the message from Ibrahim and Mustafa to "Trust yourself, work hard, give your best effort every day!" and I'll figure out a way for us to continue the ritual of choosing a new word that we can BE each week of the school year.

I set up a place where I can stand to teach that will be perfect for math instruction. Behind me in this space is my number corner calendar and a whiteboard for math lessons. At the low table with the lamp is my doc camera. What you can get a hint of in the bottom left corner of the picture is that all the desks and chairs are stacked there in the middle of the classroom where our meeting area used to be.

This will be the perfect place to do live picture book read alouds. It will be like we're together in the picture book nook for #classroombookaday!

The next thing I had to attend to before I could focus on the nitty gritty was my classroom library. I'm still not sure how I'm going to get books in the hands of my students, but I want them to be able to browse the shelves of my physical classroom library. I created a slide show that has a table of contents and all the books "shelved" in one or more categories/genres. It's not pretty (yet), but I think it will work. I took photos of the covers of most all of my chapter books, plus some group shots of series books, cameos of some of my longer nonfiction books, and lots of my big anthologies of poetry. From the table of contents, a book browser can jump to any category, and from each category heading, the book browser can jump back to the table of contents. 

And now I'll work on my virtual classroom -- my Google Classroom.  This will be the perfect bridge to the nitty gritty. As I consider how to organize this space and what resources to add before we even get started, I will begin to be able to get my head around the ways I'll build community, assess my students' strengths and needs, and move forward with an amazing year of learning...for both the students, their families, AND me!! As Patrick Allen said it so perfectly, "Learning is a lifelong journey."

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Have you seen Zigazoo?


Have you seen the new app, Zigazoo? Zak Ringelstein, co-founder of Zigazoo describes it as a "Tik-Tok for kids."  I discovered this app early this summer. I discovered it right about the time I was getting disheartened with all of the tech tools that went against so much of what I know about children and their learning.  When I saw Zigazoo, I was so happy to see something that is so grounded in what we know about children and their learning.  This app is brilliant--it shows all that technology can be for kids. It invites playfulness, and creativity and joy.  You can read more herehere, and here

Zigazoo is a Video Sharing App that gives kids of all ages (mostly preschool and elementary although it seems fun for adults too!) a daily challenge.  The challenge could be anything from "What's the Weather?" to "Can you make a treasure map?" to "Can you make a hopscotch design?" to "Can you read to a stuffed animal?"  to "What math problems can you make with 5 things around home?" And kids respond with a video.  Every single day, a new question for kids to answer.

I love that the questions are interesting to so many ages. I also love how open-ended they are and how many different ways kids can respond. Kids can work on these alone or with families. They can spend 2 minutes or 200 minutes.  Everyone can approach things in a way that makes sense for them.  For families looking for fun things to do, this seems perfect. 

There are also huge education benefits. The topics cover pretty much everything from music to science to literacy. The app builds oral language skills as kids work to think through and explain.  It invites creativity and confidence. Kids in charge and sharing their own brilliance every single day.  And it highlights the power of technology. Zigazoo has created a safe online environment for kids to use technology to share learning and to learn from the ideas of others.  So many lessons about digital literacy and being a digital citizen in one fabulous app.

Zigazoo has grown incredibly since I discovered it.  They have projects organized in a few different ways and they are adding more exciting components. I see so many possibilities for families and classrooms and it is a piece of pure joy during this pandemic. It seems like the perfect invitation to use this time at home well and to create fun!

With remote learning (or not), I see huge possibilities for Zigazoo in the classroom.  Remember when I started the Solve It Your Way site? I have always believed that when we throw out a question for kids, they have the chance to show their brilliance in ways we could never imagine. I see Zigazoo as an app that does this--invites kids of all ages to show and celebrate their brilliance, to share their thinking and to find joy in learning. 

Zigazoo has also worked on safety and moderation and you can read more about this on their safety page.  

I had a chance to talk with Zak Ringelstein, Zigazoo's developer last week and I asked him a few questions. 

What is your hope for families and classrooms?

During such a challenging time, our first hope is that Zigazoo's projects and video creation tools simply make life a little less stressful by removing some of the planning burden. Our other hope is that families and classrooms can find joy in the learning process together by doing Zigazoo projects that engage them in the stuff that matters. Life is already stressful enough and we feel like students should be exploring and creating and dreaming and growing in their self-confidence with peers instead of doing meaningless busywork quietly over a video call. Zigazoo is built in the philosophy of project-based learning, where children have ownership over their own learning and aren't just regurgitating facts.

Which have been the fan favorites of daily challenge?

Students like hands-on activities in all subjects, but I have really enjoyed watching students fall in love with science! They've loved exploding ziplock bags with chemical reactions and making slime in their kitchen and doing "sink-or-float" challenges and making raisins dance in seltzer water. Of course, students also like to sing and dance and do yoga and find ways to express their emotions through social-emotional learning activities.

What features other than the Daily Challenge are on the app or coming soon?

Starting next week, teachers can create their own private communities where they can assign Zigazoo projects to students. In early September, we have invited museums, zoos, puppet acts, children's musicians, authors, and more to create their own channels on Zigazoo! Teachers will be able to use their media to jumpstart projects with their students.

We know that our students know how to use technology for entertainment. And, as I've said for years, I think it is our responsibility, as schools and families, to help our students see the power of digital tools for learning. Zigazoo is definitely a learning app that is also VERY entertaining. Zigazoo is a free app with so many possibilities for families and classrooms. Check it out!

Monday, August 10, 2020

#pb10for10 10 Pictures Books for the First Weeks of School

August 10 has become one of my favorite days of the year--one of my favorite holidays. And this year, with the pandemic and closed libraries and no book gatherings with friends, I feel like I have not been able to keep up on picture books like I usually do. So, I am especially looking forward to #pb10for10 today. Thanks so much to Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere for hosting this fabulous event each year.  This year, lists are posted on Mandy's blog at Reflect and Refine. I can't wait to see all of the lists!

This year, I've been thinking of how important the beginning of the year is, and how books help us anchor community and literacy early in the school year.  Intentional book choice is always so important during those first weeks and months of school and with remote or hybrid learning, the books we share will be even more important.

I choose books that invite starting conversations that will extend through the whole school year. I want my students to know the joy of readings, the power of rereading, the connections that help you understand yourself and those that help you better understand others. I want them to see that in our intellectual community, their contribution matters.  The books I choose to share early in the year let me get to know my students and my choices also let my students envision what our community might become. 

This year's list is a list of 10 picture books I'd share early in the school year--not necessarily during the first day or weeks, but sometime over the first 6 weeks of school, I'd be sure to fit these in.

Below I've included links to the books as well as a downloadable/printable pdf of the list that you can download if that's more convenient.

You Matter by Christian Robinson
Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker
A Plan for Pops by Heather Smith
Spencer's New Pet by Jessie Sima
Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
Dictionary for a Better World by Irene Latham and Charles Waters
Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton-Hughes
Saturday by One Mora
Be a Friend by Salina Yoon
Lift by Minh Lê and Dan Santat 

(All books are linked to Bookshop. Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. Check out their "About" page for more info.)

Friday, August 07, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Don't Forget to Wear a Helmet

photo via Unsplash

Don't Forget to Wear a Helmet

We're there.
Top of the ramp,
crest of the rollercoaster's lift hill,
poised to commit to -- submit to -- the will
of gravity.

Let go.
Fly and fall
with stomach-dropping fear.
Lean into curves, anticipate apogees.
Transform possibility into reality.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2020

This poem was inspired by Seth Godin's post today, Drop In. I especially liked this line, "The worse you can do is half."

Laura has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Writing the World for Kids.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Such an important book. So thankful that Kimberly Brubaker Bradley made this accessible for younger readers. Della and Suki are characters that will be with me for a long time. If you have a daughter, make sure she reads this.

From the acknowledgements: "...a novel for ten-year-olds featuring sexual assault, a suicide attempt, foster care, homelessness, meth addiction, and eighty-six uses of the word snow." (She uses "snow" as a replacement for curses.)

This was a work of heart for Bradley. It is amazingly well-crafted and age-appropriate. The parallel storyline of the boy in Della's classroom who harasses the girls with "bra strap snapping" and the way Della finds her voice to get the adults to pay attention and to get him to stop...SUCH good modeling for our girls. The actual words about consent that they can use when it happens to them. 

I also loved finding HOW TO STEAL A DOG tucked into the story doing what books are meant to do  (and what Bradley's book does) -- lets the reader know that they aren't the only one. Not the only one who's been homeless and living in their car, not the only one wears free clothes, not the only one who's been sexually assaulted. 

You will want to read this. It's hard, but it's laced with humor and love. 

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Open to Interpretation

if it's a bow
its string is pulled taut...
summer field

yumi [to] tsuru nara yumi wo hike natsu no hara

"A haiku about hunting. Issa paints us a picture (disturbing for the animals in the field and, I think, to Issa too) of every bowstring pulled back, a notched arrow ready to fly." --David Gerard

David Gerard goes with a literal interpretation of this haiku. I see it figuratively -- that brief moment when everything is ripe and full, or any moment when you're holding your breath, waiting to see what will happen. Based on my interpretation, here are a few versions I would propose:

if it's a bow
its string is pulled taut...
return to school plan

if it's a bow
its string is pulled taut...

if it's a bow
its string is pulled taut...
cat in the window

What's your take on this haiku? I hope you'll share your version in the comments.

Catherine has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Reading to the Core.