Saturday, March 30, 2013

Fun at a Dominican School

First of all let me apologize for my lack of posts in the last few weeks.  I promise I have a good excuse!  Jenelle is still on maternity leave and snuggling that adorable baby of hers, and the hubby and I were out of the country on SPRING BREAK!  Don't worry, we went somewhere warm...the Dominican Republic...and to make it an even more exciting trip, we had NO kids with us!  This is primarily thanks to my parents who so VERY generously watched our two boys (ages 5 and 2) while we were gone.  So the hubs and I got to spend some actual quality time together. A rare occurrence as you other parents out there know.
The building with kids wishing they could join in the classroom.

Now, like many of you teachers, my brain still works in "teacher mode" even while on vacation so I "convinced" my husband that it would be a "fun" day trip to go and visit a Dominican elementary school.  Being the super supportive guy that he is he agreed and off we went onto the back-roads...if you can actually call them "roads"... of the Dominican countryside.

The teacher's desk...
RY poor country with over 70% of the population making only $250 a month per family.  A few years back they had an earthquake that destroyed quite a few buildings and unfortunately the country's infrastructure is not that great.  Things like regular garbage pick-up, plumbing, and electricity are sketchy at best.  Most families live in one or two room shanties and have very little in the way of luxuries.  The school system in the Dominican is a new addition over the last few decades.  In order for children to attend school (which is free) they must own a pencil and a notebook (unfortunately a lot of families cannot afford these basic supplies so their children just don't go to school).  Although it is a very poor country, the people are rich with culture and family values.  I have never met such a fun loving, appreciative, and welcoming group of people in all of my travels.  So needless to say, the Dominican Republic has easily become my most favorite destination and I recommend you give it a try!

Deanna in the classroom...
3rd & 4th Graders...they vary in age depending upon when they started school.  One child was 13 and another was 8 but in the same grade.

So, back to the story...

Knowing that these Dominican kiddos could not attend school without supplies, I packed my suitcase FULL of extras from my classroom and brought them with to the school.  As my husband and I exited the tour bus, we were practically mugged by elementary aged children who couldn't wait to see what treasures we had brought with us.  I have never seen children so excited over notebooks, pencils, and crayons before!  One little girl (about 3rd or 4th grade) hugged me over and over and with tears in her eyes said "thank you...thank you! Now I can go to school!"  All of this over a simple hot pink notebook and number 2 pencil.  My heart just broke as I saw how little the students had...and couldn't imagine how hard it was for that teacher to teach multiple age levels (think "one room schoolhouse") with very little in the way of supplies and resources.  The whole experience really made me appreciate what my students and I are blessed with.  It really put things into perspective for me and I will truly think twice before EVER complaining about anything school related again.
Handing out supplies...
Deanna and her new "students"...
So give your students a hug and look around your classroom...we are so lucky...and sometime we just need a little reminder of that!

Keep on Dancing in Your Teacher Shoes

Deanna and Jenelle

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fabulous Family Trees

I have been blessed this year with an amazing student teacher who is filled with creative and interesting ways to present our second grade topics and objectives.  One of the first areas that she took over was social area that I have always struggled to make "exciting".  This past week the students have been learning about history.  They have learned that they have their own history and so does their family.  Their lives, traditions, and values have been influenced by the actions and ideas of their ancestors.  While this is a VERY abstract concept for second graders, she did a wonderful job of explaining it and created this adorable art project/learning project to help them grasp the concept.  The students took home a worksheet with questions similar to the ones below:

Me: __________________
My Mom:__________________
My Dad:__________________
My Mom's Mom:__________________
My Mom's Dad:__________________
My Dad's Dad:__________________
My Dad's Mom:__________________

Words that describe my family and the things that they value are: (circle at least 7 or come up with your own!)

Loyalty                  Education             Charity                   Creativity        
Love                      Honesty                Celebration             Hard Work
Faith                      Togetherness        Humor                     Fun
Laughter                Hope                    Music                      Truth

Heritage or Nationality: _____________________

Notice that the worksheet not only asks for the students family history information but also asks them to circle or list words that describe their family and what their family values.  The students then drew and colored a family tree and listed their family members names on the branches (we tried to have them keep it mono-colored, but otherwise gave them free reign to be creative).  Then the students used colored paper dots as leaves and wrote their "family description words" on the dots.  They turned out AMAZING!!! I love how different and interesting the color choices were!  Do you have any fun social studies ideas that you love?

Keep on Dancing in Your Teacher Shoes!

Deanna and Jenelle

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Life Skills and St. Patty's Day Fun!

Last week flew by and before I knew it, it was over...and I hadn't blogged!   Sorry for neglecting my blog post duties last week.  I'm still getting used to flying solo while my amazing teacher counterpart Jenelle is on maternity leave.  We have conferences coming up so I figured that I would remind all of you that we have a FREE "Work Habits and Behavior Student and Teacher Assessment for Conferences" available at our TPT store.  We find it so useful, especially in a primary grade where that side of the report card is really the most important thing we talk to parents about at conferences. 

She found a puppy named Lucky!

Another found the "Best Family" 

We have also been busy getting the hallway ready for St. Patrick's Day.  We made a rainbow pot of gold writing activity (Thanks to First Class Teacher Resources for their FREE St. Patrick's Day Writing Craftivity).  I had the students write about what they would find at the end of a rainbow...their ideas were too cute!

We also made these HUGE but adorable leprechaun glyphs (Thanks to First Grade Blue Skies "Let's Make a Leprechaun-St. Patrick's Day Glyph, Literacy, & Math Pack").

The students wrote about what would happen if they caught a leprechaun...the leprechaun on the right is sad because he was caught!  Gotta love the freckles and pink cheeks on the other two!

As for what we have been up to at our own TPT store....A LOT!  We have added EIGHT new units (And two more are almost done)!  These units are all you need to teach a variety of monthly life skills in your classroom.  Each unit includes five activities, art projects, or games that will assist you in fostering life skills in your classroom.   We have also included a suggested book list for each life skill. The life skills that are covered include:

September: Respect, Friendship, and Responsibility
October: Cooperation, Patience, and Organization
November: Courage and Pride
December: Compassion and Generosity
January: Resourcefulness, Problem Solving, and Flexibility (Coming Soon!)
February: Caring, Perseverance, and Effort (Coming Soon!)
March: Humility and Integrity
April: Humor and Initiative
May/June: Common Sense, Punctuality, and Curiosity

Keep on Dancing in Your Teacher Shoes!

Deanna and Jenelle