Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Creating Discovery Time

As an educator, I place endless pressure on myself to have a child that is high performing in everyway. Like I mentioned in previous posts, being a parent requires you to have a thick skin and trust your instinct versus jumping on the bandwagon and going with the flow. I've  always been a believer that play is more educational than any program I can create at home.

Discovery time is an environment that I've created for my daughter. I created themed weeks this year that begin with basic concepts (shapes, numbers, colors, etc) as well as creative themes (holidays, seasons, time of year events). This has not only made learning more meaningful, but my days as a parent purposeful. I typically begin the week with vocabulary words or a book we can talk about that is focused on the theme. My daughter was 2 years old when I began this and it is more about exposure than her acquiring skills. Last week we discussed art, I'm not expecting her to even remember what we did, but purely for the fun of trying new things and approaches. I have also found that incorporating Montessori activities has been great for fine motor and attention development. I put together a bin with a few colored cotton puffs and had her use a spoon to transport  the puffs from one bin to another. This was very entertaining for her. I've also created matching boards for her using old boxes from Costco.

I think it is important to develop a love for learning at home. As children develop, it becomes more and more crucial for them to be self motivated learners. Although learning at school can be intense and stressful at times, begin finding what activities and hobbies your child enjoys and finds entertaining. This will prove much more beneficial than whatever cartoon is on or phone app is available. Until each student is provided a laptop at school, there is much we can continue to do at home to cultivate a love for learning. Games and family activities are a great way to grow, bond, and have fun learning new things. I believe my intense love for learning was developed at home when my dad purchased me an old college math textbook and told me I was smart enough to do the work in the book. We also played Jeopardy each night, so trivia is the way to my heart. I looked back at my childhood and realized how those little things taught me to constantly strive for new knowledge. I hope that my own kids will find that thirst quenched as well.

Whatever you decide make sure that not all the time spent learning is structured. Children learn through play and it's important to have that time, whether it's building blocks, dressing up, or creating skits for the family, encourage your children to be imaginative and problem solvers.
How do you develop life long learners?

Monday, April 20, 2015

The ABC's of Education


  CCSS (Common Core State Standards): Adopted by forty three states currently. Our nation's approach to standardized and unify what students are learning across America. Although it has received much flack (due more to the curriculum), Common Core is not a curriculum, by the end result. Districts, schools, and teachers have choices in their teaching approach to help their students' reach these goals.

ELL (English Language Learner): A student whose first language is not English or English is not the primary language at home. Students receive specialized services upon qualification, as based on need.

GATE (Gifted and Talented Education): A specialized teaching approach that encourages and develop students that show extraordinary ability in their learning acquisition. Teachers are required to be certified in order to teach GATE. It is an individualized approach, although students are usually clustered in classrooms.

PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers): One of two standardized test that aligns with the CCSS. A few states have opted to take this approach and allow their schools to participate in this testing (AR, CO, DC, IL, LA, MD, MA, NJ, NM, NY, OH, RH, PA).

PLC (Professional Learning Community): A strategy implemented at districts and school sites to create unity among grade levels and set aside planning time for both immediate and future needs.

RTi (Response to Intervention): The educational systems approach for rehabilitating students that are struggling in school. It allows the student to receive individualized and specialized teaching approaches that will better prepare the students for learning.

Smarter Balanced: One of two standardized tests that are used by states to assess student's learning as it relates to CCSS.

 TK (Transitional Kindergarten): A newer program to California's elementary schools. Students are now mandated to be five by the start of school. Student's whose birthday does not fall on or before that date, may be enrolled in the school site's Transitional Kindergarten program, which allows the students to receive a bridging year between preschool and Kindergarten. Districts and school sites have free reign, currently, in their approach to educating these four, almost five, year olds. It is not a remediation class and is separate from the curriculum learned in Kindergarten.

 What other words would you like clarified?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Favorites

This weeks I've got so many favorites. At home I been working with Lil on Art appreciation. This was a fun project week.

Loving my running community: Moms Run This Town. I feel so blessed with the community of this group. Being a momma can be so overwhelming, you become submerged in a culture where every move you make (or don't) is criticized and debated about. I found that this company of like minded moms has been such a great support system for us, plus I love running and being around women who understand that truly makes me feel accepted.

And HOORAY, it's Bikini Series Time. I've been following Tone It Up for 3 years now and have loved it so much. Karena and Katrina do a great job at creating fun and dynamic workouts that have made me as well as many other women stronger.

I recently was searching for some protein and I decided to buy some Vega Sport Protein. I've never enjoyed protein, the chalkiness taste is what I struggle with. Perfect Fit by Tone It Up is a great one also, but Vega Sport is easy to purchase as it is in stores. I've decided that combining it with milk and Nesquik (so silly, I know) seems make it more tolerable. I love Vega a lot because of its ability to nourish my body after a hard workout or run. Having a shake makes it easy for me to have a recovery shake.
My mid afternoon coffee drink has been my favorite. I fill my glass half up with milk, a few shakes of cinnamon, and the rest with coffee. Yum Yum!

Where do you find community?

Linking up with Heather and Jill


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Thursday, April 16, 2015

The 6 C's in the Classroom

I just finished the book The Motivation Breakthrough by Ken Lavoie. Wow! What a great book, it is filled with wisdom for both parents and teachers. It is quite a dense read, but you are sure to finish it with a new motivation for working with kids.

A series of chapters that devoted itself to discussing with the reader about a motivating classroom. Lavoie determined six 'C' adjectives that will ensure students feel safe and capable in school.

Creativity: Encouraging student's creativity and teaching in creative ways can be very motivating. Allowing students to share their artwork, music, or natural abilities in class can be phenomenally encouraging for a student to feel motivated to complete an assignment or task. Understanding your students and applying that knowledge can switch a classroom around. Students need to feel cared about in order to attempt completing tasks that may be daunting or new.

Community: "Each member is recognized, accepted, and embraced." Creating community changes with each new class or student that enters as dynamics will change. It's important to establish rules and boundaries in the classroom that allows students to feel validated and accepted. Modeling acceptance and encouragement will do more than any rule could do. However,

Clarity: Expectations need to be clear. Students should understand exactly what is expected of them. It's important to break down multistep processes down, by chunking them down. To ask a child to get their homework, might be too ambiguous. Creating checklists can be very helpful both in the classroom and at home. Incorporating clarity can reduce time that is spent catching kids up and not getting frustrated with students who are struggling to stay with everyone.

Coaching: To take an approach to teaching as a coach can really change a classroom dynamic. When you watch a good coach, they are encouraging and help kids develop their weaknesses so that they are stronger. Creating a positive environment in the classroom is not just focused on giving praise and no consequence, but also on developing skills. As a teacher, continuing to refine our practice and developing relationships with students it essential to understand their strengths and weaknesses.

Conferencing: Create a structured time each day or week to have conferencing one on one with students. This is necessary to continue to develop and learn about students and what is really going on in their lives. Students may be more willing to communicate when their peers aren't listening. It's important during this conversation to create that community that is developed in the classroom, by asking the student about their life, "How was that baseball game last week," "How's your new baby sister." Setting the tone for the conference is important to maintain motivation. At these conferences they can be based on academics or just a time for a student to ask questions and for the teacher to clarify, whatever you choose, keep in mind that that conferencing isn't about reprimanding but coaching and encouraging.

Control:  Students are motivated when they have a buy-in. It's no fun to go somewhere that is controlled in everyway. Allowing students to have choices and make decisions is a powerful tool in the classroom. Establishing boundaries is necessary because the teacher is still responsible for learning and management. Lavoie discusses that teachers must find their way in managing both support and challenge. Too much support and no challenge is just as unmotivating as too much challenge and no support.

Hopefully you find these helpful. To get more in detail about Motivation, read The Motivation Breakthough.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Book Review: School Starts At Home

As always I'm constantly perusing the aisles of the library and stumbled upon this quick and easy read. It is chalk full of wonderful helpful ideas to encourage learning in your child. It describes the exact feeling that I have come across as a mom and as a teacher: "How can my child be successful."

Should the school be responsible to teaching my child math, English, social studies, etc, as well as manners, independence, and money management? No. I've been in the classroom and have seen how hard students try to learn, and for some it comes so easily, where others have to work at it. But rarely have I seen a student with a home environment that supports learning struggle in school. I understand that as a parent not every teacher my children have will be their favorite or will even be good at their job, I'm still responsible for my child's learning and love of it.

This could be controversial, but I hope not. It seems that there is always emotion involved when it comes to homework, classroom management, and student success. Why are we expecting someone who has known our child for a year expect to cater to their every need in the classroom? That expection is placed on teachers every day along with the amount of complaints and frustrations parents are addressing with them. Of course our voice as parent's should be heard, but our actions should probably preceed those complaints.

This book encourages parents to work with their child and encourage learning at home and throughout the school year especially during the summer. Learning doesn't and shouldn't look like it does in the classroom, but some structured is necessary. Fuller encourages reading to and with your student, but also showing them your love of reading as well. Television and movies should be reserved for special occasions because there are other ways to encourage learning.

Fuller encourages parents to work with students and support them in their learning and continue to foster a love of learning. She, like me, sees that schools should not be responsible for teaching and developing a life-long learner.

I encourage you to read this quick helpful and positive book on creating a learning environment at home.
Let me know your thoughts on this read.
What struggles have you found with your student as a learner or in the classroom?

Monday, April 13, 2015

The ABC's of Education Part 2

Authentic Assessment: An assessment that is taken informally and usually shows how the student is progressing. Many times teachers will use a student work sample or the student will choose a piece of work that they are proud of. There are four levels of understanding ranging from Recall/Reproduction, Skill/Concept, Strategic Thinking, and Extended Thinking. It is a goal to be able to achieve Extended Thinking.

Collaborative Learning: Students work in groups and are encouraged to work together to share concepts. A classroom is based on appreciating student's differences and the belief that collaboration is not only developing character, but students are teaching each other and each possesses a sense of power when doing so.
Depth of Knowledge (DOK): A resource to showcase student's level of complexity. It is used now to help students in advancing in higher levels of thinking, as seen in Common Core (similar to Bloom's Taxonomy).
Formative Assessment: These assessments are used during student learning to help teachers create groups based on strengths and/or needs. It also can help a teacher differentiate instruction in a class. Using these formative assessments allows teachers to see students individually in a daily classroom activity (Reading Samples) than a summative assessment, which shows what the student did learn. This can help catch holes in student' s learning to help them better understand concepts.

Montessori Method: Founded by Maria Montessori, a philosophy that encourages play for learning. Students learn at their pace and are encouraged to develop skills through discovery. As students develop they learn life skills such as sweeping, tying shoes, stringing beads, and pretend play. These are much more important skills the acquisition of reading.
Thematic Lesson Planning: Teachers plan instruction based on one idea and all subjects are woven into the theme. For example, if the theme is centered on Spring, students science lessons may be on weather changing or oviparous animals. All activities will be cohesive with one another and build upon each other.

Summative Assessment: Assessments taking place following concepts learned, such as test and final exams. Smarter Balanced, PARRC, as well as state testing are categorized as summative assessments

Unschooling: The belief that students learn best at their speed and students choose their emphasis of learning. Students are natural learners and will be drawn to ideas and concepts that are innately unique to each child (bugs versus animals, or space versus biology, etc,). It is the understanding that children will understand more when they are seekers of knowledge versus being taught it as the same speed and style as other children in the classroom. This style of learning is found mostly in homeschool settings.

Whole Child: The belief in teaching all aspects of a child, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. It is understood that a child needs to be well rounded in order to be successful in their education. Students will not be able be successful if their other needs are being met (lack of sleep, change at home, etc).

What educational jargon have you found interesting? Comment below to share your thoughts.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Favorites

I wanted to share some of my favorites, both personal and fitness related.

My favorite workouts this week :

I decided to get back into Nike's NTC workouts. They are truly great, although most of the time they are circuits, which aren't my favorite, but they go so quickly that it's worth the work. NTC's programs are mostly HIIT, but there are also yoga and stretching routines. If you haven't, you must give it a try.

I also stumbled upon Bar Method's Dancer's Body Workout, which was such a challenge for me. I loved it so much, that I'm hoping to get it in again today. I was so sore from that workout.

I've also been loving creating salads. In case you missed it, I shared how to create a sensational salad.

And like always I've been loving reading in my free time (early mornings and late nights).

What are you reading? Any fun plans this weekend?

Linking up with Heather and Jill


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Thursday, April 9, 2015

How to Make a Sensational Salad For One

I was blessed in college to have had roommates who knew very well how to make salads, a foreign concept to me. Typically my salads were potato or pasta based. I never knew how amazing salads could truly be. I typically thought that salads had to be carefully planned with exquisite ingredients like hearts of palm (my favorite) and goat cheese. Not the case at all. My dearest friend is a master at salad creations (and creating in general), that when I think I've got a good one, she blows my socks off with her combinations. I then stumbled upon PowerCakes, who creates Powerbowls, and that was my first real introduction to experimenting with flavors and ingredients, combining quinoa, beans, lettuce, and fruit with my veggies. It may sound odd, but it's oh so good. I have now found that carrots and celery are rarely found in my salads because there are so many more tastes I rather enjoy.

Lately, I have found myself simply using half a lemon, salt, and pepper to season my salads. I'd say that I've always enjoyed more simple vinaigrettes than ranch, so this may not work for you.

The ingredients that I have found to create fabulous salads at lunch are
Lettuce Mix
Green Onions
Cheddar Cheese
Parmesan Cheese
Chia Seeds

I don't combine these all together, but its a nice base for have several different varieties of salad. It starts with a wide bowl and a large handful of salad base (sometimes I use Spinach or Arugula). Then one whole fruit, and at least 3 vegetables. I like to vary textures and tastes with the vegetables I choose. As you can tell, I don't shy away from unpopular veggies, but the savory taste of mango, with lemon tartness paired with radishes, its so delicious, it's similar to a fruit salsa.

I've not yet mastered the task of creating a large salad for my family, but I sure;y look forward each lunchtime for one of these scrumptious salads.

What do you like on your salads? Any tips and tricks?


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Mommy Workouts: How to Get Them In

The need to stay healthy and fit has become an hot topic; however, it really is about being healthy and not about being skinny. I've found that raising my daughter I have to be careful on how I talk about my size and how I view myself. With that being said, I found how important it is have energy and strength throughout the day.

I found that morning runs and walks were very easy to get in. I'm a part of a Moms Run This Town, which is helpful to stay motivated and accountable for getting those workouts in. I've found it to be a supportive and encouraging environment for feeling like a capable mommy on those stressful mornings. Post nap walks have also become very popular at our house, it buys the time before dinner.

After having my daughter I stumbled upon Tone It Up, a community created by fitness enthusiasts like myself, Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott. These ladies inspire and support women out there looking to get healthy. They have a membership for $150 dollars that is a lifetime membership and you receive discounts, exclusive emails, and countless recipes to accompanying your fitness lifestyle. I'm not a member but have benefitted greatly from their Youtube Videos and Beach Babe DVD (Their 3rd one is rereleased now!!). The combine fun with their Fine Toning Method. Most of their workouts are between 7-20 minutes, easy for the mom on the go. Typically, I'd pair 2 workouts during naptime. They have recently committed to providing a weekly schedule for you.

Whatever it is that you are interested in find a way to make time for it or include your family with you. Often times our family will plan a day to go running together, it makes family time fun and also shows your children that staying fit is important. Many of my friends take their kids on bike rides or have them join in running with them. Also remember that having a healthy lifestyle is a journey and not a goal, one day at a time.

You can read my post on having a healthy lifestyle here.

How do you manage time and parenting with staying healthy and active?

These are all my opinions. Links included were done so to be helpful.

Monday, April 6, 2015

ABC's of Education Part 1

I decided to do a few blog posts on the ABC's of education. This will be derived from my experience in the classroom, but would love input to create an extensive and complete resource for teachers and parents.
Each post will contain between 5-10 acronyms or education terms. It will be featured on a separate page.

BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment)- By California state law, teachers are required to go through an induction that is funded by the state that provides new teachers with support and requires them to be assessed in their strengths and weaknesses.

IEP (Individualized Education Plan)- Students who need a IEP need modifications or extra tools needed in their education to reach standards and school expectations.

LH (Learned Helplessness)- a child with a lack of motivation caused by being helped in more opportunities therefore limiting their experience to develop confidence through independence.

PARRC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers)- One of two assessment options that 19 participating states in Common Core are using.

OT (Occupational Therapist)- Working with students who have difficulties in spatial awareness and fine motor development.

SP (Speech Pathologist)-  Also known as a Speech Therapist (ST). Works with students who have difficulties in the area of speech and swallowing (i.e, lisps, unintelligibility).

SPED (Special Education)- For qualifying students that may need specialized instruction, classroom is individualized.

SST (Student Study Team)- A team made up of school staff and parents of a student that may be of concerned due to underperformance or learning differences.

What education jargon would you like to see on here?