Monthly Archives: August 2019

Starting with Baby Steps


#sol19- August 27, 2019

“Just for a few minutes,” I told myself, “before it rains.”

It has been a month and a day since I moved into my new apartment and I LOVE it, but I had yet to take advantage of the pool (or the gym), so I was determined to at least have a quick swim today. Tuesdays are a long day- no specials for my students, so no “break” for me. The sky looked threatening, but I decided that a quick swim might be just what I needed.

“Ugh,” I scowled as I wrestled with my bathing suit. Note, I had even planned for these swims this summer, by ordering a few swimsuits (my old one was years old), but putting one on and going out in “public”… I made the mistake of looking in the mirror and it was true- it was as tight as it felt. “Phooey!”

I threw on a coverup dress, rummaged around looking for where I had stashed my pool/beach towels, and finally found them under the bathroom sink- that seemed like a good place a month ago. I grabbed my key card, stepped into some sandals and walked up the two flights of stairs to the rooftop. I walked through the gym, thinking, “If someone is in the pool I can just turn around.”  Phew, I was alone. I lay my towel and glasses, along with my towel on one of the empty chairs and walked toward the ladder. It should be noted I am not a strong swimmer, nor am I in good shape.

I wasn’t sure of the depth, but climbed down the four stairs and was pleased to feel the pool bottom beneath my feet. As nobody was watching I gave it a go, but quickly tired. I decided to swim a bit, walk a bit (my version of aquaerobics), and then keep going. It turns out that the pool is the same depth in all parts, so that was a pleasant surprise.

To my credit, when two cleaners came up a few minutes later, I kept going. Good news for me the rain started just a bit later, so I had my excuse to stop. I happily dried off and walked back down the two flights to return home, rinsed off, and I DO feel refreshed. Maybe this could be the start of a new routine.

As we start the school year we have spoken lots about setting goals- in fact, today we were talking about “outgrowing” ourselves. The goals we set a few weeks ago may already be “old hat”. Yet another way I could (potentially) walk the walk of being a lifelong learner and a goal setter if I find a way to push more activity into my life.

Starting with Play


#sol19- August 20, 2019

“There are square tiles on your table,” I said, “I’d like you to spend ten minutes playing with them.”

With that, we started math the other day. Sure, we went on to do something else with the tiles, but it started with time to play. When it was time to look at making various rectangles the students were ready to focus on that.

“I really like it at this school,” one of the new students commented today. “At my old school, we only seemed to do fun things when the parents were there.”

“Math was so fun today, but it was hard!” another student added.

“Math was fun AND it was hard because you were growing your brain. Your brain wouldn’t be growing if it was always easy,” I smiled.

These early days are so fun- lots of time spent on community development and growing confidence. My hope is that love of learning (and fun) lasts all year long!

Teamwork Is Fun!


#sol19- August 13, 2019

Our first unit is PERFECT for the start of the year as it focuses on “How We Organize Ourselves”, specifically, the central idea is: The decisions we make together impact how we cooperate and organize ourselves. The lines of inquiry include: The impact of our decisions on others. (connection), our responsibilities as citizens. (responsibility) and strategies for effective teams. (function). So when I saw a suggestion on our list of “things we should do in the first week of school” my wheels started to spin. One suggestion was slime, but I thought that maybe they might be satisfied with oobleck, but only if I approached it correctly.

So, today, on day six of our new school year we embarked on a series of team challenges. For the second one of the afternoon, we headed to our “learning kitchen”. I have to admit the learning kitchen is not my favorite spot in school- the acoustics are terrible and I knew the excitement level would be high, but…

I approached it as a bit of a mystery. “This concoction has just two ingredients,” I began. The energy level ratcheted up. ”

You need three scoops of this powder and then two scoops of water.” Immediately there was a buzz in the room. I drew sticks to determine teams and we were off!

After some time to experiment we set out to clean up- it was quite a mess to clean up, but teamwork won the day!

After posting to Seesaw we reflected on the day- several named making oobleck as a highlight of the day because it was fun, but another added: “I saw that teamwork made it even more fun.”




Screen Shot 2019-08-10 at 8.23.53 PM

August 10, 2019

This summer I was lucky enough to attend two great literacy events- ALA in Washington, DC, and nErDcampMI and as a result, I had the chance to meet many authors and illustrators. As an avid kid lit reader it was a great excuse to read more, but it presented me with quite a dilemma- what would be the first books I shared in the new school year- “old” favorites or new? When I made my list of the books I wanted to share in the first week there were more than 25! We have had four days of school and I have shared five already, but I have plotted out the next five- so here it is- the first ten picture books of third grade!

  1.   36959643._SX318_.jpgI teach in an international school- this year the students in our class hail from twelve countries- this book is important for day one!
  2. 36341954._SX318_.jpgEverybody needs lots of laughs on the first day- I made sure to squeeze in a second book on day one.
  3. 13588082.jpgKindness is something to emphasize from the start- this book that does not end “happily ever after” always provokes big conversations.
  4. 35160619._SX318_.jpgIt is important to recognize that we are all different and need to be patient with each other.
  5. 37506301._SX318_.jpgSo many connections for my students as they work to be seen.
  6. 38371226._SX318_.jpgI know that students will appreciate these underdogs.
  7. 42350073.jpgAs we begin reader workshop I want to reinforce that real reading is fun!
  8. 37119048._SX318_.jpgThis is a hard question in our class- some have never lived in their “home” country. We are spending lots of time on identity as we build community.
  9. 39983611._SX318_.jpgMy refrain at the start of the year is, “This is not my class, it is our class.” I want the students to know that their voice matters.
  10. 31625795._SX318_.jpgOur first writing unit focuses on small moments and sometimes scary moments are the ones students can write so strongly.

Trust me when I say it is so hard for me to choose books to start the year- this year’s picks will start us off right! Growth mindset is woven into many of the books. Growing community is the work of these first days. I don’t promise I will not read more than this in the first nine days!


Step by Step- How Do You Build a Community?


#sol19- August 6, 2019


My recipe today for the start of building our community:

  • Wake up too early (but after sleeping through the night I will take that as a win)
  • Be out the door on time
  • Do not take it as an omen when the water is not working on arrival

Once at school, take it slowly- I knew I was “ready”

  • After breakfast and checking emails set up for a “soft start” (drawing, Lego, reading, math games, a microscope and hand lenses, and more were available)
  • Write a morning message
  • Review notes- this day was going to be student led- the focus was on inquiring into who we are as individuals and a collective so that we could begin to develop community
  • Make sure the books are ready (All Are Welcome and We Don’t Eat Our Classmates)
  • Relax and greet the students as they enter

It was a full-on day- no “specials”, so lots of time together, but upon reflection, the day sped by and it felt like a great start. Now I have to take on their suggestions to look at tomorrow. The challenge is how…IMG_3877IMG_3878