Back-to-School Highlights

I find the first week of school to be one of the most exciting parts of the year. Teachers are fresh, students are ready to learn, and the upcoming year is filled with endless possibilities. I wanted to highlight some of my favorite activities my classroom participated in during the first week of school.

This year, I decided to start each day with a morning meeting. I am following the responsive classroom approach, which outlines the morning meeting time with a greeting, sharing time, an activity, and a morning message. My kids and I have loved this time to connect! I am using Roxann Kriete’s Morning Meeting book to guide my practice.

responsive classroom, classroom community, teaching, early ed

My first homework assignment was for students to create a “Me Bag”. This gave them something to share during our morning meeting the second day of school. Students generally feel comfortable talking about things they like and activities they are good at. Students brought in gymnastic medals, dance shoes, toy cars, pictures, and special monuments bought while traveling.

homework, new teachers, back to school, first day

Next, we talked about how we wanted our classroom to run for the year. Together, we created “the great classmate is” chart shown below. Students in higher grades can write their ideas and children in lower grades can draw pictures of the words written on the chart. We had students drawing people being responsible, helping others, and saying kind words to others. After we completed the chart, we acted out different scenarios in which students could practice being a great classmate. The next day, a student in our class had the opportunity to do one of the scenarios we acted out the day before. It was a great moment for all!

back to school activities, community building, kind classroom ideas

During our professional days before starting the official school year, our administration emphasized the importance of goal-setting. My classroom used BrainPop’s “setting goals” video to introduce what a goal was and how to set a goal. I had to break down each SMART step for my students, but felt it was a good video to help my students set their own goals for the year.

brain pop, videos about goal setting, SMART goals, back to school activities

One of the goals for our classroom this year is to think before we speak. Our classroom talked about the importance of good communication and speech. I posted this acronym on a bulletin board close to my desk to help guide all of our talking for the year. This “think before you speak” practice is helpful when doing partner or group work, and creates a safe and friendly classroom environment for all.

think before you speak, classroom, kind, back to school activities

Another importance aspect of a great classroom is putting up functional posters and schedules that guide student learning. The “I love reading” bulletin board in my classroom outlines what great readers do, highlights our small group schedule which will eventually showcase our different stations and has a poster that records how many books each student will, in time, read throughout the month. During our goal-setting activity, my students’ individual goals are to read between 8-12 books by September 30th. To help achieve this goal, we are using our “We love reading” chart to record the number of books each student reads in class and at home.

bulletin board ideas, back to school, classroom decoration

We have had a great first week and I am looking forward to learning with my students throughout this school year. I am thankful for all the ideas I was able to pull from the internet and hope this post can guide your second week of teaching! Thanks as always for reading. 🙂

The Brain that Changes Itself

“The brain Merzenich describes is not an inanimate vessel that we fill; rather it is more like a living creature with an appetite, one that can grow and change itself with proper nourishment and exercise.”

-The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge, M.D.

Tribute To Guitarist Pat Martino - Scan/Edit 03 07
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Mikey G Ottawa via Compfight

Carly’s Voice: My reflections

I am currently starting to read the book “Carly’s Voice” by Arthur Fleischmann and Carly Flesichmann. Carly, a teenager diagnosed with non-verbal autism, reveals her inner voice to the world by typing her thoughts on a keyboard.

In earlier posts, I have recommended this book since I have heard such great reviews. I personally respect Carly and have been inspired by her story. I am excited to actually read through her book and to share my thoughts over the next couple of weeks of what I learn.

Carly is the reason why I want to eventually study the language development of non-verbal autistic children. I believe that every child has an inner voice waiting to be unlocked by those willing to be both patient and hopeful. I think we should have high expectations for every child and not lose hope in a person’s ability to communicate. Although communication will look different for all people, we must find a way to decode the messages a child is sending. I question if we should simply overlook hand flapping or stimming as “random”—but view these body movements of a possible way of communication. Gestures, as well as facial expressions, body movement and posture, eye contact, and touch are all types of nonverbal communication. In students who are autistic, I would like society to take notice of the various gestures autistic students make.

Non-verbal body language makes up the majority of a human’s actual communication. In recent studies, I have been surprised to see why more research has not been done studying the body movements of autistic children more closely. Can we possibly find a correlation between the number of hand flaps per minute or the length of a child’s stimming to the way the mind of an autistic child’s brain works?

As I hope must of us believe, the brain of an autistic child is not silent. There is thought, there is feeling, and there is a voice inside that person waiting to be revealed to the world. Our job is to help those children to use their “voice” in a way we both understand.

My hope for 2013 and the years after is for society to look for ways to make more voices be heard. I would love to hear other testimonies such as Carly’s story and find  a way to help many children trapped in their own bodies.

A must read: “Look me in the eye”

“As sweet and funny and sad and true and heartfelt a memoir as one could find.”—from the foreword by Augusten Burroughs

Look me in the eye” by John Elder Robison is a must read for anyone wishing to have a better understanding of people with Aspergers.

John Elder, a natural storyteller, remarkably shares a personal and detailed narrative of his life and his battles of feeling accepted by family, friends, and teachers who did not understand how his brain worked. He was not diagnosed until the age of 40 and was simply labeled as a “social deviant” growing up.

From overcoming his painful childhood, he persisted to become a successful business man repairing high-end cars. In his humorous, yet at times sad acount, John Elder creativly takes readers into the mind of an Asperger’s boy. This book will open up the minds and eyes of readers who may lack understanding or grace for people with Aspergers. This is a great summer read and is highly recommended.

 A note from the author: “When I wrote “Look Me in the Eye”, I wanted to show readers what it was like to grow up feeling like a freak or a misfit. I thought my book would show how people with Asperger’s are different from everyone else. To my great surprise, my book actually shows the opposite: Deep down, people are very much the same”.

 I agree with the author and would encourage all to buy and read this book! 🙂

Carly’s New Book: Released Tomorrow March 27th

Carly, a girl with severe Autism, co-authored a book with her father Arthur Fleischmann.  With the help of a computer, Carly is now able to communicate her feelings to the outside world. By using a single finger, Carly has been able to reveal her witty ‘teen-age self’ and has grown to be a role-model and hero to many you now know her. After many months of waiting, the world is waiting to hear the inner thoughts and emotions of Carly. Order your book tomorrow, ASAP!

Teen with Autism tells her story in her new book (please click on link to watch)



A fisherman’s tale about life without education

 James Arruda Henry, a fisherman for most of his life, never learned to read or write. He decided he wanted to learn how to read at the age of 90. After many hours of tutoring and practice, he was encouraged to write a book about his life at the age of 96. This is an inspiring story of this man’s life.

Check out his new book “In a Fisherman’s Language” and watch the video below to hear this encouraging story.