Lessons from Winter

23 01 2016

Chalkboard and Apple

It never ceased to amaze me. Whenever my second graders spotted the first snowflakes, they’d act like it was the first time they were seeing snow. They’d squeal with delight and share gleeful observations. All talking and giggling at the same time.

Early in my career, like most teachers, I would battle to re-establish order and regain attention. Experience taught me I needed a creative solution—a proactive strategy that would embrace the situation.

On days when snow was predicted, I would keep the curtains closed. As soon as I’d hear stirring in nearby classrooms, I’d peek out my window to confirm the unavoidable interruption. Then I’d take control.

“Boys and girls, it has started snowing. I know you’re happy to hear that news. And I’m sure you’re excited. So, here’s what we’re going to do. When I dismiss your group, walk slowly over to the window. Once we’re all assembled by the window, I’ll open the curtains. Then on my signal, you’ll all let your excitement out. Be sure to get it all out so we can continue working.”

NOTE: Out of consideration for neighboring teachers, I’d let them know ahead of time to be prepared for a thunderous cheer of excitement from my students.

Early Dismissal Activity:

Early dismissals created several challenges. Let’s be honest: I dreaded them!

When inclement weather necessitated a mid-day school closing, student reactions would be varied. It would all depend on when the student got called to leave. Cheers would arise from the first students who were set free. Deflated looks would cross the faces of those left behind. I could read their minds:

Great. Those kids get to go home and play in the snow. I’m left here to do work!

I probably could read their minds because I joined them in their sentiments.

The first student dismissal announcement would signal the end of my preplanned lessons. I couldn’t cover new material with a dwindling class count.

Like most teachers, I’d plan early-dismissal lessons. I’d engage my students in activities which were structured, somewhat productive, and fun. Competitive math games using jumbo-size attribute blocks were a favorite. Students also enjoyed indoor Spelling Baseball (with words of varying difficulty “thrown out” by me—the pitcher). But the all-time favorite activity was a class debate.

Details for a Class Debate:

  1. Arrange chairs in a horseshoe. At the right end of the horseshoe, put a sign that says “POSITIVE OPINION” and at the opposite end, put a sign that says “NEGATIVE OPINION.”
  2. Announce the topic for the debate, such as winter.
  3. Have students identify their opinion about winter by saying, “Boys and girls, in your own mind decide how you feel about winter. Do you love it, hate it, or don’t care either way? Don’t tell anyone your opinion. Once everyone has decided, you’ll all move slowly to a chair on the horseshoe. You’ll sit somewhere in the horseshoe depending on how you feel about winter. If you love it, you’d sit in a chair near the POSITIVE end. If you hate it, you’d sit in a chair near the NEGATIVE end. If you don’t care either way, or if you like it sometimes and dislike it sometimes, you’d sit in the middle. Remember, the right end signifies strong POSITIVE feelings about winter. The opposite end represents strong NEGATIVE feelings.”
  1. Once all students have made up their minds, have them select a chair in the horseshoe. Students’ seating will represent their opinions about winter.

How the activity progresses:

Have volunteers take turns stating facts to support their opinions.

  1. Start with students sitting on the end signifying strong POSITIVE feelings. Invite them to state a fact.  A volunteer may state, “You can make snowmen.”
  1. Instruct students to think about that fact and decide if that information has persuaded them to change their seat. For example, any student sitting near the NEGATIVE end of the horseshoe might decide to move one or two seats closer to the POSITIVE end of the horseshoe (to signify their modified feelings about winter).
  2. Then give a student at the NEGATIVE end a chance to state a fact. For example a student might state, “You can fall and get hurt.”
  3. Once again, provide a minute to see if any students won the opposite end were persuaded to change their opinion and move to a different seat.
  4. Repeat steps 1-4 as time allows.

NOTES:

Unsurprisingly, most of my second graders would always cluster around the positive end. Playing the devil’s advocate, I’d sit on the opposite end.

Examples of POSITIVE facts:

You can make snowmen, go sledding, and get off from school.

Examples of NEGATIVE facts:

You can get slip and get hurt. Driving on ice is dangerous. You have to shovel.

Benefits of the Debate:

  • This activity prepares students for persuasive writing, where they’d first write their opinion and then provide facts to support their opinion.
  • Students practice reasoning skills.
  • This activity requires good listening skills.

Suggested Topic for a Debate:

Fiction & Nonfiction Books

I used this activity with my second graders to reinforce the concepts of fiction and nonfiction books. Students’ facts highlighted the benefits of each genre, and provided examples of each category of books.





Stand Strong

5 10 2015

active.shooter

Horror has once again invaded our emotions. In the wake of yet another mass shooting, how are Christians to think?  Many of us bowed our heads in prayer.

Just yesterday, there was another online threat. It warned of a similar attack at a college or university in the Philadelphia area that will occur today, October 5th @ 1 PM. In the face of these threats, can we rise up and stand strong? As a resident living in the Philadelphia area and an adjunct professor at a local Christian university, I’m here to tell you that it IS possible to stand strong. With God’s perfect peace that passes understanding, we can remain calm.

Please pray for our first responders who are standing strong to protect universities in our nation—especially those in the Philly area today.

Moms raising kids with mental illness (MI) know it’s possible to stand strong in the face of terrorizing circumstances. Read my message, “Not again!” to hear my thoughts.

http://mentalillnessmom2mom.net/2015/10/04/not-again/





New School Year: SUPPLY Needed

26 08 2015

New.school.yr.SUPPLY.nded

The approaching new school year means…excitement or apprehension, depending on your circumstances.

Students entering school for the first time eagerly anticipate going to school “like the big kids.”

Students returning to school with mental illness (MI) may worry about “the big kids” who bully.

School pressures can cause concern to any student. But for someone with MI, it can easily increase anxiety. And threaten mental stability.

That’s why moms raising kids with MI can also experience increased anxiety late in August. As the start of school creeps closer, her thoughts might become more consumed with her child’s stability.

What can she do? Where can she turn? Read the rest of this message I posted on my “Mental Illness, Mom 2 Mom” blog:

http://mentalillnessmom2mom.net/2015/08/26/new-school-year-supply-needed/