Sharing Digital Books with Families (Google Slides)

I’m wondering when and why classrooms became these boarded down rooms, where teachers closed the doors to the outside world, and decided that students learn best within four walls and little or no outside interaction. When did this happen, and Dear God, why? Why in this day in age do we walk into schools and see doors closed, students sitting quietly at desks; no collaboration, no connection. That time is over, my friends. It is over. This is an exciting time to be an educator, because limits and boundaries that once held us back are gone, we, as educators, as people, just have to reach out and grab those opportunities to connect with the real world.

During a research assignment generated by my students interest in sea lions, my students developed questions that they just simply wanted to know the answers to. I did suggest to them, these questions should be original and something most people wouldn’t know the answers to. After conducting research, my students created a Google Slide presentation, a digital book, if you will. Students divided themselves into partners, and each partner team created their slide, fully equipped with videos, text, and pictures that answers or reinforced the answer to their questions. I truly believe, technology should be the method when there is no other medium that can deliver as effectively. However, the project did not stop there.

If there is one thing I know about students and people, in general, the best work is authentic, meaningful, and needs to be shared. What better audience than my students parents and loved ones. By using the Remind app, I shared the link for our Google Slide presentation with my students’ families, and gave them the opportunity to comment and watch their students work in real time. You just don’t know the excitement my students felt when their loved ones logged on and commented as they were working. What a driving force.

The takeaway from this experience: create and share. Provide students with a chance to truly show their hard work. The possibilities within Google Slides (and other Google Apps) provide such a platform share and collaborate. It blows my mind. All you have to do, is take a chance. Push that button. Your students will thank you for it, and trust me, these are the lessons your students will always remember.

 

I should also mention, I teach second grade. My students need little or no help logging in to a computer, and/or using it. They just had to be taught. Take the time to do that, it will be in the best interest of everyone.

 

Whitney Haynes – NBCT and Google Certified Educator

2nd Grade – Deer Park Elementary School – Owensboro, KY

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MY Favorite NO

I like to switch it up when it comes to starting my math class. I love routine, but starting out with a game can be really engaging and just plain fun for my kiddies. One way that I love to start out my class it with a game called, “My Favorite No.” I am not the creator of this game, nor do I pretend to even use it in the way that is was intended. I have taken the concept and idea of this game and tailored it to fit my classes needs.

I really use this game as a number talk. I think it is super important for students to talk out their thinking and reasoning, and share with their peers. So much of the time we ask students to find the “right” answer, and by playing “My Favorite No,” it really changes the way students are thinking. It takes their thinking into a whole different direction. They have to identify and explain why an answer is not correct. I have attached a video link showing one simple example how I play this game with my second grade students. I encourage you to mix it up with this game, and reinvent it to work for your students!

Enjoy!

Whitney

Gifts

March will be the sixth anniversary of my grandmother’s passing. If you have lived in whit-dad-mamaOwensboro or Whitesville, you probably knew her, Betty Spurrier, or more commonly as Ms. Betty or just Mama. I think around Christmastime, it’s the best time to remember those we have loved and lost, even though I think about Mama just about every day.

When I was a little girl, Mama was one of my primary caregivers. My parents worked so hard, and Mama was always there when they needed someone to look after me. She was one of my greatest teachers, and looking back, one of my very best friends. I recall around Christmastime, I must have been seven or eight, I asked my dad if we could get her a special gift for Christmas. My dad agreed, and I picked out the most perfect cross necklace. She wore that necklace all the time. I mean, all the time.

About two weeks before Mama passed away, we were sitting in my parents’ den, and she gave that necklace back to me. I was 25 at the time. I just will never forget her taking that necklace off, and handing it to me. She had worn that necklace for nearly twenty years. There just really isn’t any way to describe what getting that necklace back meant to me. I wear it every day.

I think about myself as a child, giving that necklace to Mama. I wanted so deeply for her to know what she meant to me. I wanted to thank her. Now that I am a teacher and have children of my own, I receive wonderful gifts all the time.

How often do you receive a gift from a child? Have you received a handmade card? What about a candle? As a matter of fact, have you ever opened a gift to realize it’s a bottle of lotion that has already been used? What about a bottle half full of perfume? A drawn picture? A flower from the flowerbed out front of the school? A weed? What about a piece of jewelry?  Have you ever thought about how this gift the best this child has to offer?

I can tell you, it is. It always is; whether you receive a beautiful ornament, plant, mug. Whether you receive a bottle of lotion, perfume, or jewelry; that gift is given in gratitude. It’s given with love. Display it. Show it off. Wear it. When that child comes back to you tomorrow, in a year, or five, ten, twenty years, let them see how much that gift means to you. It will mean even more to them.

Shoes

It’s 9:30 on a Saturday night, and I can’t sleep. I’m thinking about a darn shoe. Actually, that’s not totally true. I am thinking about a child that was wearing that darn shoe. Tonight, I lay on my bed as my children were asleep, and my husband was walking the dog, and decided to catch up on some Ron Clark reading. If you are in education, or life, for that matter, and you don’t know who Ron Clark is, run, I say, run to your nearest bookstore or computer and buy one of his books. As a matter of fact, just Google him. Trust me on that!

Anyway, while reading The Essential 11, by Ron Clark, something stuck with me. The idea that a great teacher is full of compassion. That brings me to that shoe. A few years ago, I had a student whose shoes were perpetually untied. Not only were this child’s shoes untied, but this child always lagged back in my classroom when we were all headed out to PE, lunch, recess, really anywhere. Have you ever heard the quote, “The children that need the most love, ask for it in the most unlovable ways.”? Well, this child, God bless ‘em, just was that child. Just to make a long story short, we’d had some bumps in the road.

Nonetheless, I came to believe this child was untying his shoes and hanging back in the classroom to cause a little mischief. While sitting at the dinner table, conducting a PD (professional development) with my husband, who is also a teacher, he said to me, “Why don’t you just tie this child’s shoes?” Why had I not thought of this? Probably because I was too wrapped up in believing I knew why their shoes were perpetually untied.

The next morning, before the child entered our classroom, I stopped him, bent down, and with a smile on my face said, “Hey, Friend! How are you today? I’m going to take care of the shoe laces for you!” I looked at him, and knew, I had won. That is until, I looked at his shoes.

The shoes were no less than two sizes too big, and I had to roll this child’s pants up at least three times to even get to the darn shoe. I just fill with so much emotion thinking about that moment. The laces on the shoes were so knotted, and jumbled up. It looked like this child had tried to tie the shoes and failed more times than I wanted to think about. I worked on getting those knots out, then pulled the strings tightly. Then this child said to me, “Thank you, Mrs. Haynes. That feels so much better. It always feels like my shoes are going to come off, and no one has ever taught me how to tie them.”

No words. Just none. I had been so wrapped up in trying to decipher a motive. I had really overlooked and avoided compassion.

Let me tell you now, that child knows how to tie their shoes, and now they can tie those shoes tight. But, like I said, this story isn’t really about a shoe. It’s a constant reminder to me, “What are we really teaching them?” Standards are important, and we as educators want students to achieve and succeed in that way, but we are only going to do that through compassion and empathy for our students.

To this day, I always look at their shoes. Their shoes will tell you so much.

 

Good night, Friends.

Whitney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Your Reluctant Reader

By: Whitney Haynes

The school year is in full swing, and if you are like every other parent in the continental US, you are still rejoicing. That is until you see those dreaded words: “Homework tonight: Read!” Fear has struck you down! Anguish has entered your soul! Like every other parent, I too have a child that has resisted when I have said, “Time to read!” Well, to soften the blow, I have provided you with some tips on how to make reading at home less painful for everyone involved.

First of all, it starts with you. Everything with your child always does. You must get involved. Reading homework does not mean lock your child in a quiet room and launch a book at them. Here’s the secret: teachers really do want you to read with your child. As a matter of fact, when your child sees you having fun reading, they will enjoy it so much more.

Have you ever given much thought to the kinds of books your child is reading? I have found, that parents often times believe “reading homework” means they must read some kind of story book from the library. In actuality, there are so many different types of texts your child could be reading. Magazines, comics, EBooks, plays are only a few types of texts you may not have thought of sharing with your child.

The topic of the text is just as important as the type. Take into consideration what topics your child enjoys. I always tell my students, “If you don’t like cats, please don’t choose a book that documents the life cycle of the domestic feline.” If your child likes basketball, choose texts about basketball. If your child likes Star Wars, find a Star Wars text.

The level of text your child really makes a huge difference. If a book is too difficult, the book just won’t be that much fun to read. When children struggle to figure out every word they’re reading, they really don’t have enough brain power to figure out what they’ve read. If your child is reading below grade level, it can be really frustrating to get them to read a book that is on grade level. The book just simply may be too difficult. Don’t frustrate your child and yourself. It will only make them dislike reading that much more. Worry more about making reading fun, than making them read at a certain level.

Here is a really easy way to determine if a book your child is reading is an appropriate reading level for them. Try the “Five Finger Rule.” While they are reading a book, hold up one finger for each word your child struggles with. If they only hold up one or two fingers, and can read the page pretty easily, that book is most likely a “Good Fit Book” for your child. If they struggle significantly while reading, and hold up three to five fingers; that book is just too difficult. Put that book away for a while, and try it again at a later time.

Honestly, the goal of reading homework is to extend the love of reading outside the classroom. Here are ten ways to become a better reader: read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read. Above all things, try as hard as you can to read with your child every night. I understand that is sometimes impossible, but even reading five minutes before bed is better than no time spent reading at home. At the end of the day, show your child the best you can, how to love reading. After all, this is a skill and love they will use for the rest of their lives.

 

Whitney Haynes is a National Board and Google Certified educator, and currently teaches 2nd grade at Deer Park Elementary. She has an amazing husband, who is also a teacher, and two wonderful daughters.

 

 

Let’s Be Honest – Not ALL Homework is That Bad (In My Opinion)

By: Whitney Haynes

So, I just read an article by Jon Corippo, and reposted by the “Queen of Sheets,” Alice Keeler, whom I adore. After reading, I was presented with these thoughts, “Since when did homework become this stigmatic, dirty word? It is when we think back to the olden days of children sitting in rows looking like zombies in the classroom? Has our idea of what the classroom should look and function like changed, but our idea of homework stayed the same?” I guess it really boils down to what we define as homework. I gathered from Mr. Corippo’s article, that it seems that the main source of homework he was referring to was the dreaded worksheet! Talk about a dirty word! Worksheet.

The sound of that word strikes fear in all students, right? (Well, not all the time.) After all, this article is rebutting the horrible thought of homework, not worksheets. Maybe we should really reconsider what homework is and should be. Not to mention, I really hate indicating to parents that I’m never going to do something, like “There will be no formally assigned homework this year.” Man, a year is a long time to keep that promise, especially if you change your perception of homework. I think my purpose in writing this response it to change what homework really should be.

Think about the power homework would have if it were actually fun! I think it’s really important to state that not all homework is just strictly worksheets. What ever happened to flipping the classroom? Isn’t that in essence homework? Just recently I assigned my students several texts to read on Raz-Kids in preparation for a presentation another class would by making on Native Americans. Aren’t assigning those texts essentially homework?

I use lots of technology in and out of my classroom, and just recently a parent said to me in reference to some spelling games I assigned, “I can’t get my kid off those games! He loves them so much!” We work so hard, at least I do, to make my classroom a fun, enriching environment. Why does that have to stop with homework. Why can’t kids look forward to it? Why can’t parents look forward to their students coming home, and wanting to do their homework?

So, it boils down to this: we really need to shift the paradigm on homework. I agree, homework shouldn’t take forever to complete, be over a brand new concept the students have never heard or, and most importantly be the same type of work every time; i.e. worksheet. Maybe if we as educators put a new spin on homework, and made it as exciting and fun as our classrooms, kids wouldn’t see the power of learning ending as they get off the bus to go home.