Inspiration, PYP, Reading

Those Who Need It The Most

I have been have an interesting Twitter conversation with  a fifth grade teacher embarking on her sixth year of teaching.  The conversation has been on the topic of punishments, specifically taking away recess for ‘infringements’ such as not having parents sign notes, forgetting homework, behavior.  Five minutes.  Five minutes.  Five minutes.  A culture of subtraction has been established and now the question is, what are the alternatives and how can these be agreed upon by a team of teachers for whom this has been the norm?

This year, I am flying ‘solo’.  There is only one fifth grade. But there is a whole school of kids and whilst I don’t believe in the ‘one rule fits all’ mentality, I do believe in finding positive solutions for negative situations.  So what would I do?

My friend Marina Gijzen, a teacher, parent, colleague whilst at Bonn International School, taught me a lot about the family dynamic and the relationship between home and school.  She was the one who advised me to take up any issue such as no note, missing forms, and late arrivals with the parents first.  No kid “wants” to be the one walking into class late, all eyes on them, having missed what’s going on.  Take it up with parents and welcome the kid, warmly, genuinely.  I was teaching her daughter at the time, so I took the advice on board.  I have also been on the ‘late train’ myself as a teacher and I know what a difference “Mrs. terBorg, I am so happy to see you!” makes to what has probably been a stressful morning rather than, “Hey! Mrs.terBorg! You’re late!”.

So…do we punish kids by excluding them from recess, or not?

I say not.  Unless your school culture is one of exclusion, separatism, ostracizing and humiliation. If so, go right ahead. If not, if your school culture is built on developing a welcoming environment and nurturing the development of your children, you will need an alternative.  What about discussion? What about finding out what the root of the visible behavior is? I just read a fabulous article on the importance of inclusion and of being part of something bigger than yourself. Did you get that – being part of something bigger than yourself.  And for those who are a bit rubbish at it – they need twice as much.  Twice as much love, patience, practice, support, caring and kindness.

Schools are currently set up for the students who have good social skills to be given more opportunity to use and refine them, while those with poor social skills are left behind, only to get worse than others in their age group. Opportunity for winners — and exclusion for losers — is a recipe for disaster.

– Dr. Richard Curwin

It is said in sports and in war that the best offense is a good defense – same goes for a good year in your classroom.  Start the year strong.  Give your kids permission to choose a new path.  Establish a culture of respect and the idea of community.  Be relentless in your quest for this from day one.

Donalyn Millar, author of The Book Whisperer, has put out a book list of Books that Build CommunitiesCommunities of Readers and Writers, Communities Who Value All Members, Communities Who Have Fun, and Communities Who Care about the World. Being in community can mean many things and these books are a great way of sharing that with your students.

One of Donalyn’s suggestions is the book Wonder by RJ Palacio.  This was the only book on my summer reading list for my incoming fifth graders.

In addition to reading this book, we will be looking at the movement behind the book to “Choose Kind“.  We will also be partnering with other classes of 4th, 5th and 6th graders who are also reading Wonder as part of Wonder Schools.  In addition to Wonder, there are a number of picture books (another love!) that could be read in conjunction with this book (cue shopping excursion before next Monday!) Clearly, this is important to me – but why?  Because I don’t want to spend the next year subtracting things from the lives of my students.  I want to add to their lives.  I think we are going to have a  great year. An amazing year.  All the ingredients are right in front of us.  What will you choose?  Compassion? Love? Kind?

As I think about the teachers who will choose to revoke recess over missing parent signatures and late arrivals to school, I can’t help but think what would happen if the principal of their school treated them the way they are treating their students.  What would a teacher say to being given an extra recess duty because the lunch order form for a child in their class was late, or the school fees were overdue, or a parent from their class was yet to volunteer?  Ludicrous, right? So why treat our kids this way?

Always, always, choose kind.

Inspiration, Reading

A Quote, An Infographic and Four Awesome Websites for Reading

I am seeing A LOT on my Twitter feed about reading.  With schools out for summer or finishing up their last few days or weeks, teachers are tweeting like crazy about ways to avoid the Summer Slide (not the one at the pool).

Here are some resources I have come across to do with reading that look pretty awesome. What are your favorites?

One of the best things I think you could do to stay connected over the summer is to set yourself (or your child) up with a Twitter account and ‘follow’ some of the curators of these blogs below, but also, follow your favorite authors.  My recent experience says that many authors will take the time to respond to budding readers and aspiring writers.  I would caution you to read carefully before tweeting or emailing or commenting so that you are not asking a question that they have already answered elsewhere on their blog or in the dustjacket of their book! Ask a question that will deepen your connection to the author or help you move forward in your own reading or writing journey.

Below are the sites I am following this summer (to begin with!).  Click on the header for each blog/site for more information.  But first, check out this fun infographic to help you decide what to read this summer.  I love this – totally adding it to the “cool things I want to share with my kids” list for next year!  Blogs to follow after the (long) infographic:
Summer Reading Flowchart

Via and USC Rossier Online

This blog is by Mr. Schu a ” K-5 teacher-librarian who works diligently to put the right book in every child’s hand.”  I follow @MrSchuReads on Twitter and love the timely updates, the wealth of knowledge and the love of reading that oozes from every tweet.  If you love books, follow Mr. Schu! You might also want to scroll down and browse through the blogroll of blogs Mr. Schu follows.  I have clicked through a few and they are all pretty great – I can see my ‘read later’ feed on Instapaper is going to implode this summer!

I think it makes a big different when you know a blogger personally, versus going on what is ‘popular’ on the internet.  The author of One Page To The Next has been a parent of one of my students for two, coming up three, years.  She is a passionate reader.  She reads and reads and reads and stays on top of all things amazing with reading.  She has introduced me to authors I never knew, connected me to amazing ideas in education and children’s literature and reignited my passion for reading.  When she walks into my room, she thinks she is just a regular mom, but this is what I see:

In their own words, the curators of the Nerdy Book Club site welcome you:

If you love books, especially those written for children and young adults, then you are an honorary member of The Nerdy Book Club. Like us, you probably always have a book along to read, a title to recommend, and time to talk about works held dear.

This looks like another great place to get loads of information about what is current and cool in all things books and a chance to hear from other people about their thoughts on books via reviews and recommendations. One of the curators is Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer.  That alone should be enough information to get you to sign up!  The Nerdy Bookclub is also the place to go for information on the Summer #BookaDay challenge.  It looks great!

Touted as the site where “kids flex their reading muscles”, Biblionasium is a new site for kids, teachers, and parents to connect over a love of books. According to the site, here is what they offer these three groups of readers (click each image for more information):

UPDATE:  There is another great site:  Mrs P’s Tips To Keep Kids Engaged in Reading has some really cool ideas!  Check it out!

Creativity, Reading

The Beauty of Vowels, Advice to Sink in Slowly, and the Birth of a Book.

How often do you think about vowels?  Probably not often!  In a post titled “Vowels: A cinematic homage to the beauty of language and life”, Brainpickings shares this video from film maker and visual storyteller, Temujin Doran.  The film is a beautiful collection of images, narrated by Temujin with singular words: “floor, door, small, tall, sky, fly…” and yet the picture, whilst always embodying the meaning behind the word, does not necessarily translate literally – which keeps you watching.  Actually, I think it is a clever combination of a very droll, rhythmic voice and the most beautiful of images that makes this such an interesting film. I challenge you to not walk around spouting random words when you look at things in a proper British accent after watching this film!


Temujin was just one of the artists commissioned to create one of the series of posters crafted by designers for design students in their first year of studies at UK universities.  Titled ‘Advice to Sink in Slowly’ the prints are both motivational, inspirational and beautiful works of art. It made me think that my fifth graders could create something equally as beautiful as a departure gift to the elementary school on their graduation to middle school in a few short months!  What advice would they leave in their wake, I wonder?

Below are a few of my favorites, click here for the full collection.

Last week my husband found a video on how books were made and he suggested that amongst all the high tech, I remember the ‘lowly’ printed word and its contribution to education.  I couldn’t have agreed more and loved the short film, but before I could post it, one of my pillars of inspiration and a fantastic source for anyone who wants to get kids (or adults) excited about reading, literature, books and all things related, One Page To the Next, posted the video!  Despite knowing that ‘everything is a remix’, I was hesitant to post it myself but it is just too good not to share! It makes me want my own first edition and it would definitely be a fantastic video to show kids who wanted to author and publish their own books!   Don’t forget to check One Page To the Next – you can thank me later.