Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Little Project

I always have a project brewing. It's just how I'm wired. For the past couple months my little project has been Brave Teacher Adventure Kits. I'm so excited about them that I just had to spill the beans a little bit ahead of schedule.

You know how as a teacher you have points in time during the school year when you feel tired or overwhelmed or like you just might spontaneously combust and never be heard from again? For me this always happens to some degree during the month of February. Sometimes I just get really sick, but usually I move forward with fatigue in my body and a heavy heart. So how do I get past it?

I usually end up making something (not for my classroom) or writing (or ranting) for a few weeks in a journal. These are the two best ways I've regained sanity and forward moment. It always looks a little different, but it always works.

That got me to wondering--am I the only one? Is everyone else a-okay, while I'm in this dark little space? Me thinks not. So I decided to share a piece of myself and the fun stuff--it really is fun and gentle and non-judging--that I do to beat these bouts of self doubt and overwhelm.

I've combined a little lesson, some inspiration, and projects to offer some hope, healing, and empowerment, for all brave hearts who might need this. There are 3 Adventure Kits that will be available around March 15. You can catch a brief glimpse here.

You can also receive The Grateful Teacher Adventure Kit FREE for signing up for the Brave Teacher Community--where I let you know more about what's going on and coming up.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fair and Balanced in the Classroom

It's hard to be fair and balanced and call on everyone in a classroom. I know lots of people who use popsicle sticks. I love these little painted stars I have in a cute little box. I made them 4 summers ago! They work great!

I don't just use them for calling on students during academic time. The students seem to really appreciate that it seems like a fair way to handle things. (There is always the kid who says, I'm always picked last, so everyone likes it, except that one.) Here are some other ways I use them:

  • Choosing indoor recess games
  • Receiving a special privilege--such as sitting in a special spot in the classroom
  • When I'm giving out compliments or "this is what I see you doing well" comments
  • Giving away freebies that I'll receive in the mail, such as posters
  • Doing a special job for the teacher

And lots of other ways I can't think of right now!

In the past few years it's hard to remember a week that this little box of stars didn't serve me well!

What are your tips for keeping your classroom fair and balanced?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Make It Monday: Wind Vanes and Anemometers

For Make It Monday, I'm offering up two things we're doing in Science this week.

Great video on making a wind vane:

Great pdf on making an anemometer. This is different then the ones we made last year. I'm hoping they will be less saggy!
How to make an anemometer

Here's a video of how the anemometers did and didn't work last year!

Here's a great kid site for all things weather!
Great weather site!

I can't wait to see how it goes!
What hints do you have for hands on weather in 4th grade?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grateful Teacher

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."
- Epictetus

There is so much for which I'm thankful. There is also so much I take for granted--good health, a job, a comfortable place to live, and so much more.

It's easy to slide into thinking the glass is half empty, rather than half full. Sometimes it's so easy to get caught up in all the things we don't have as teachers--not enough resources in the classroom, not enough support staff, not enough cooperation from students, parents, or administrators. Oh, that list could go on and on and on.

It really doesn't serve me. When I look at what I do have, I quickly recognize that I AM VERY BLESSED! My day feels lighter, and difficult situations feel more hopeful.

For this reason I am creating a special new kit titled, The Grateful Teacher Adventure Kit. It has some original artwork, a lesson written by me, a little project you can make, and some great ideas for turning pessimism into hope with gratitude. It's in a pdf format.

I'M GIVING THIS AWAY--THE GRATEFUL TEACHER ADVENTURE KIT IS FREE! All you have to do to receive it is sign up for newsletters, freebies and updates from Brave Teachers. This is free, too! (You can also unsubscribe at anytime.)

If you have already signed up on this blog or the Brave Teachers website, your copy will be arriving at your inbox next week!

SIGN UP HERE I can't wait to share the Grateful Teacher Adventure Kit with you!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Supporting Brave Creative Dreams And Sprouts

There are things that I'm just so drawn toward I cannot resist. The 3rd issue of Sprouts themed around boldness was just that for me. I loved the preview. I loved that there was poetry from Julia over at Painted Path. I heart Julia and her work. After looking at the preview, I had to buy it. I love supporting the brave creative dreams of others!!! It was even more gorgeous and inspiring than I had hoped.

I am super excited about the new magazine, Sprouts! I like it so much that I've decided to make it the first affiliate program I've ever joined. That means if you click on this link and decided to buy it, I can make a little money, too! I would only do this if I thought this was gorgeous and in the spirit of what I embrace. It is! Some of my favorite bloggers also contribute!

Each issue has a theme. The current issue is themed "Home." Preview the issue HERE

Here's what you can expect to find:


+ the home issue
+ 60 vibrant full-color pages (PDF instant download)
+ gorgeous viewed on computers, tablets, or smart phones
+ hand-painted backgrounds
+ handwritten notes from me to you
+ art and photography
+ poetry
+ essays
+ creative prompts to cultivate boldness in your own life

$6 single issue. 3-month subscription: $15 (save $3). 6-month subscription: $30 (save $6). 12-month subscription $60 (save $12).

Guests in this issue:

Thrive interview series: Katie Clemons of Gadanke and Making This Home

artists & writers:
Jenn Gibson, Jennifer W. McCullough, Amanda Oaks, Hannah Marcotti, Kelly Letky, D Smith Kaich Jones, Leah Piken Kolidas, Heather King, Kristin Noelle, Julia Fehrenbacher, Maureen Helms Blake, Scott Simpson, Tammy Lee Bradley, Michele Bergh, Jenny Maroney, Lee Ann Monat, Rachel Greenhouse, Laura Boggess

Click here to visit Persistent Green.and to check out the 3 previous editions, too!

Please join me in supporting the creative dreams of others. I can promise you more delights and inspiration than you are imagining!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Love This Quote

I just adore this quote! I am so often struck at the heart level by the poetry of Rumi.

I'm trying to apply this quote to my life! It takes a great deal of time, energy, and emotional resources to reorient away from fear and into love. I am learning this! I think this is part of the courageous journey of a Brave Teacher.

Any tips or suggestions?
How do you orient your life and teaching toward love and away from fear?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Encourage Reading By Blessing The Books

If your students are not very adept at selecting books they can read and want to read it may simply indicate that they are relatively unpracticed at this activity. So help them by blessing 3 or 4 books every day. Blessing books is easy. Just hold up the book and tell the readers something about the book. Perhaps read a page or two aloud to allow them to hear what the book sounds like.
~Richard Allington

I LOVE to bless books. I love to hold up books I've just bought at thrift stores or unearthed from a cupboard or box in my classroom. Or when books arrive from book clubs.

I also read to and with my students every day. It is the one thing I will never let go. I know (as you do) that this is SOOO important for young readers. One way I bless books is with the little shelf of books that I read aloud during the school year. Kids desperately want to read those books, but I just say, "I'm sorry--those are my only copy, and I can't lone them out!" And just like any forbidden fruit, those are by far the most requested books when the bookmobile visits our school.

I have recommended lots of books over the past couple years here. If you click on the tag "books," you'll find these. Warning: These are not just books I recommend for 4th graders. It will be obvious. Use your discretion.

What quick strategies do you use to encourage readers, especially the reluctant one?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Make It Monday: Simple Pear Tart

OK, ok, I know this is not exactly a tart, because it doesn't have crust. It is, however, a super yummy and simple dessert to make. Where I live in Ohio it's easy to find a variety of pears reasonably priced in many different markets.

I just made it again last week. I also added plums and fresh ground nutmeg. It had a great, gentle flavor.

I know I found the recipe on the web, but I could not locate the source. If you find it, please let me know so that I can give credit where credit is due.


Pear Tart
2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 pounds fresh pears, preferably Bosc or Anjou (about 5 to 6)

butter for dotting the tart

12 whole cloves (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC with a rack in the upper third of the oven.
Peel the pears, cut in half lengthwise, and core to remove the seeds. Slice the pear halves into thin slivers.
Beat the eggs and milk in a bowl. Add the sugar and a pinch of salt and continue beating until well-blended.
Add the flour to the eggs and milk. Mix to form a thick cake batter.
Add the pears to the batter and mix gently until the slices are evenly coated. Deposit the batter in the greased and dusted cake pan.
Top evenly with small pieces of butter and whole cloves (if using).

I think this is a surprisingly flexible recipe. Use different fruit and spices. The quantity can very, and you'll still end up with a yummy dessert. I bet it would work with different sweeteners and with whole wheat flour!

Happy cooking!

What are you making today?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Enchantment #6

It's been a busy few weeks. I'm honestly feeling tired. I'm hoping to do some serious work this weekend, but I also know I NEED to sit back and relax a bit. I think I just need some down time.

In spite of the fatigue, here are a few things that are enchanting me:

I'm enchanted that Sam and his dad got to feed the penguins at the zoo this week!

These are feasts for the eyes and the spirit. . .

Curly Girl Inspiration/New Design of a teacher! Super cute!

I just discovered Good Girl Jewelry--yumminess!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Generosity Day

I'm over the moon to be part of a movement to reboot Valentine's Day into something way bigger.

Love in action = generosity!

I can't wait to share with you my experiences on my first ever official Generosity Day.

You can learn more about this movement here.

I first heard about it here.

I'm so excited to see what opportunities for generosity appear in my life today!

What are your plans today?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Make It Monday: Vision Board

I love making vision boards. Today I'm sharing the vision board I made for 2012. (I also think this would be a super fun thing to do with kids at the beginning of the school year or in January, but I never have done vision boards with kids!)

Here's all you need:
  • Lots of magazines and catalogs
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Some sort of backing paper

Here's what you do:
  • Cut out all the words and pictures that speak to you.
  • Then arrange them and glue them down.
  • Now look at it! What stands out to you? You'll be surprised at what you see!

Here were some of the surprises on mine--multiple placements of the words "nourish" and "fresh" I was also suprised by how prominently the color green appeared.

Here is the finished vision for 2012! I really like that it's orderly but not symmetrical or square.

What's your vision for 2012? Have you made something like a vision board? Have you ever used vision boards with students?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Enchantment #5

I'm being enchanted by many people, places, and events. These are a few highlights this week:

A couple gorgeous artists who do gorgeous work:
Susannah Conway--love reading her blog, and I can't wait for her new book!
Flora Bowley--I want to take a workshop with her so much! She keeps appearing on my radar.

Cute questions from Sam:

From the back seat of the car: Mommy do you like hamsters?
Me: Sometimes, why do you ask?
From backseat: Because I like hamsters, and I'm getting a hamster for a pet.

(This, of course, is news to me--an it totally cracks me up, because he has never seen a real live hamster.)

My current not so secret mission!

The amazing women in my life who reach out when I feel most alone--a shout out this week to Lori, Aine, and Rhonda. Thank you for being in my life.

Rhonda took me to see The Color Purple--gorgeous music and I realized I really really miss going to the theater. I am so enchanted by live theater.

Adventure Kits I'm creating--I'm releasing 3 amazing Adventure Kits later this spring over at Brave Teachers. (Sign up here, if you want to be the first to know when these go live!) I'm working on them and making art to go with them. I am completely enchanted by the painting and creating process, and watching it start to come together. I am so enchanted by the creative process!

What's been enchanting you these days?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Not So Secret Mission

I LOVE a good secret mission. I started regularly doing them about a year ago. You can read more about some here and here and here and here.

So I'm embarking on my biggest ever not so secret mission!

I want to send you some snail mail!

Head over to Brave Teachers to get some love!

I can't wait to see how much love and courage and strength goes flying out from here! It's my special Valentine celebration.

How are you celebrating life and love these days?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Verbs In Action

This is a very fun way to practice action verbs!

Here's how it works:

1. On the top half of the page, students draw themselves doing something they really enjoy.
2. Then they write the first sentence on the bottom half of the page. It must include an action verb that is circled.
3. Then students walk around the room adding sentences about their picture.
4. I'm pretty flexible, so the only rule is that everything must be school appropriate, and you can't write exactly what someone else wrote.
5. I use it for pure practice, so I don't know who wrote which sentences, but you could have kids write their initials or classroom number after their sentence.
6. I usually go through with a highlighter so that the real action verbs stand out.

This works very well with a group that has a very broad ability range. I've also used activities like this in TESOL groups of adults. Everyone has appeared to enjoy. I've used it with 3 very different groups of 4th graders, and it's always successful!

What fun ways do you practice grammar?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Good 4th Grade Teachers Valuable National Resource

If you're a fourth grade teacher, you already know this: 4th grade teachers are a valuable national economic resource.

Now there is scientific research to support it!

I first read about this in an op-ed article another teacher gave me. You can read the article HERE. You can also read reader comments to the article here.

The brief summary is this: a good 4th grade teacher actually raises the future earning of the students they teach. It's amazing and true. I know brave 4th grade teachers didn't doubt this for a minute.

This makes me think that people like my state's governor, who thinks teachers like make too much money, (notice I didn't say earn, because he doesn't believe the work I do is worthy of the salary and benefits I receive) could {should} be looking at me as a very inexpensive investment that each year brings future economic gains of more than 10 times my total benefits package and about 15 times my salary. And that's if I'm just an average 4th grade teacher!

I applaud 4th grade teachers everywhere on the work you are doing every day to improve our national economy!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Enchantment #4

It is unseasonably warm and snowless.
I took myself for a little walk a couple nights ago.
I was completely enchanted by the sun as it was getting ready to set.
What's enchanting you these days?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Move Your Classroom Midyear And Find Your Groove

So I moved my entire classroom to the other side of the building in less than a week at the end of January. I have changed classrooms many times. But it's a whole other game when you have students that you're still trying to teach and all the other sort of school political and bureaucratic shenanigans. My friend put the above sign on my door after watching random people walk into my classroom, think it's still the lounge, and ask why so many kids were in there!

While I'm still sorting my way out, the new room looks really good--even with mostly bare walls and a coke machine!

It's hard to believe that they've already built a wall in the old room! It actually got painted today! My kids still had desks and most of our other stuff in there last week at this time.

I'm still trying to find my groove in the new space, but I already like more room--especially for math games and reading activities--centers that won't have to go back to your seat--yippee!

If you get to move midyear, here's my best advice:

1. Look for the good, because plenty of other people will tell you all the negative stuff
2. Let go of expectations
3. Let other people help you, even if it's not the way you would do it.
4. Let kids take ownership. We designed class layouts that they liked--they do have some good ideas, and they loved moving their stuff, our library, etc.
5. Be gentle with yourself--I'm still whipped almost a week later.
6. Express thanks whenever possible--especially to kids
7. Have fun and laugh when possible
8. Be patient with other people when they can't handle the change
9. Put on a positive spin for as many people as possible
10. Take your time settling in. It takes a while to find your groove and decide how the new space will work best for you and your students.

It's also a good time for me to do some spring cleaning!