December 14, 2012

Applaud Courage and Messes

We get pretty committed to fear in our culture.
I don't know if you've noticed this, but I did yesterday.
I was out on recess duty and one of my Kindergartners had climbed up the Superdome. (That's what we call this baby)

Photo Credit: Pacific Domes Int'l
It's awesome.
I've watched my little guy climb up almost every day and cling to that very top triangle calling out to all his friends to come help him down because he's too scared. Then I watch every day as Ella, Ryder, Romi, Holden, all of them come and give him pointers. They climb up next to him, stand under him, coaxing, directing, and encouraging until finally, he slides his feet through the hole and drops to the ground 3 feet below or slithers back down the way he came up. It happens almost every day. It's their thing, and I enjoy the empathy and problem solving I see in my kids. Then there was yesterday.

Yesterday the bars were a little icy and this time he couldn't overcome the way his shoes seemed to slip on the bars. The little friends kept running over to me to tell me he was stuck. I assured them he wasn't, reminded them he does this everyday. Well...the bell eventually rang and there he was still clinging, in tears now. The distance to the ground was his height plus about 6 inches so he could have simply hung himself down and made a tiny drop (like every other day), but yesterday, peering from that top bar, he had himself convinced it was the Empire State Building, that his doom was certain.

I didn't pull him off.

I've heard fear described as a monster 20 feet tall and paper thin. As soon as you get a side view of it, you realize you could totally rip that monster in two with your bare hands. I've crumpled and tossed out hundreds of fear monsters this way, and I guess I want my kids to know about this little "turn it sideways" trick. So I stood there, (close enough to intervene if I had to) and insisted he find a way down himself. For sure, I looked like the meanest teacher ever! He kept telling me to go get the other teacher to help him. I kept refusing and asking him to put his foot "there" and then "there". When it was all said and done, it took a grand total of 3 careful steps before we were face to face. I asked him to stop for a second and look where he was. He reached to wrap himself around me but I took his hands instead. "No, wait," I said. "Look where you are, and feel how you feel. Do you feel how brave you are? I didn't help you. That was all you! Do you feel the brave?"

His response? "No! I just feel really glad somebody helped me!"

Oh my.  Yes, you precious little soul! Courage is good, but so is helping each other.

At any rate, it all made me notice how we've ingrained fear into everything we say and do. We've made it our mantra and playground game. We don't have to, you know. I was in a very crowded coffee shop the other day and a gentleman came all the way across the large room, carrying about 4 full coffee cups. He stood there looking all awkward and waiting for me to pull out my little earbuds just so he could tell me, "that's a really nice coat." I thanked him just as awkwardly and then promptly posted to my facebook status that I was debating about whether to be flattered or totally creeped out.

Geez! Me--that was the response from the girl who knows ALL about the 20 foot fear monster he'd had to crumple up in order to extend kind words to a perfect stranger. Why didn't I bow to his courage? Only because my culture has taught me I'm supposed to be "creeped out" by such things.

I don't have to fit myself into that cultural paradigm. Just because other people are creeped out by brave things other people do doesn't mean I have to be.

What if we actually made it culturally appropriate to applaud courage? Oh don't get crazy there. Then so many people would try so many things and it would get all crazy up in here. Mistakes would be made, messes would be made, we wouldn't have control.

Yeah. I suppose this is why I love Kindergarten. In Kindergarten we're still allowed to expect bravery and messes.

December 10, 2012

Teaching Technology to Kindergartners

A while back I promised you I would be detailing our EdTech Scope and Sequence by grade level.

Below you'll find the overview of Kindergarten tech skills.  It has been a little slow in coming, because I wanted to get the full K-5 Sequence in ready-to-use format before jumping into the nitty gritty, and it's ready now (mostly), so... here goes!

Here is a pdf of the full K-5 Scope and Sequence.

Please feel free to use, copy, print and distribute these to your team. Our sequence is broken down by grade level to make it easier for you to know which chunk is yours. This work is based on the NETS standards for students (which are  National Educational Technology Standards ...which were developed by the ISTE Professional Standards committee, funded by NASA in consultation with the US Department of Education....blah, blah, blah. You get it. They're legit, that's all. :) )

This represents many hours of work by a group of awesome tech smarties, and we sure hope it can save you a similar expenditure of hours! If you have improvements, suggestions, we'd love to hear them!


Here's the nitty gritty.

As in any subject area, teaching tech skills to Kinders is about evening the playing field. They each come with a stunning range of tech experience. This year in particular, my Kindergartners are coming to me with absolutely no idea what a mouse is or how to use it. (This is very different from past years, thank you iPad). But these guys still need mouse skills...very much. So we start there.
If I sum up what Tech skills are required in Kindergarten it looks like this:

1. Teach them what a mouse and keyboard are and how to use them. 

2. Teach them what it means to "login" and "log out"

3. Let technology serve to make literacy and learning FUN for them! (This tool is kinesthetic, visual, auditory all at helps engage your struggling, disinterested kiddos. They'll make connections in front of the screen that you've been struggling for weeks with simply because it can hold their attention.)

Easy peasy, right?
Wait, I'm about to make it easier. Here is a single card with all the resource tools and links we use to accomplish this in our Kinder classrooms. You can download it (all the links should stay with it and then you can use it later), or use just use the links below. Here's what's on it:
  • Teach them to login. I give them each a little card with their login info and the time to find their names on the keyboard. 
This is a slow (kind of painful) process at first, but remember, these keyboard and mouse skills are what they're there to learn so if they only end up with a minute or two on the actual game, it's ok. It motivates them to learn and login faster next time when they only get a little taste. 

  • For practice, I send home this keyboard worksheet and ask parents to have them practice finding their names. 

If you laminate them, they can be used for dinner placemats and kiddos get a little bit of practice every day. This gets them logging in really fast! You can also keep old keyboards or copies of this page in your classroom for practice during "choice time".
  • Then we take them to Oh my goodness.

If you've never put your kiddos on these games, you are going to love watching how they engage with the letters and sounds. This website also makes it so easy to differentiate. I can have one kiddo practicing letter sounds while the one right next to him is practicing onset and rime and reading books that challenge him. I love seeing them absorb the way they do when they're working on this website!

That's Kindergarten.
Next up: First grade!

Save URLs on your Desktop

Here's a Smart Kid trick I think you'll love.
Do you have websites you go to nearly everyday?
Did you know you can save links to them on your desktop so they're easy to get to?
Like this:

Now, with it on your desktop you can just double click to open the website.
But this trick gets better.
Maybe you have a bunch of links you want to save in a folder so you can use them again and again for a particular unit of study with your students.
Make a folder on your desktop by right clicking (Control-Click)

Now do the same thing as before, dragging your links into the folder

When you're finished you can file this folder away with everything else you store for that unit. Just drag the folder to where you want it using Finder.

Oh sure you go into the folder and give those links intelligent names or they won't mean anything to you later.

NOW it gets even better...
Maybe you go to 5 websites everyday (email, calendar, Jennie's blog. wink) and you'd like easy access to them from your Dock.
Yep. We can totally do that too.

Here we go:

Remember to go into that folder and rename those links or they will be a pain to decipher when you have to move fast in front of 35 kiddos later.

And there it is all happy! It's going to look like a Web icon, because that's what it's full of unless you change it. Change it by doing a Control-Click on it and you'll get this menu. Choose Folder to make it look like a folder.

Now ask me if you can change that little folder icon to something cool like Marvel Super heroes icons.

Oh. Yeah.
I'll totally show you how if you want me to. :)

Baah! How cool is that?!

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