Today marked the end of the first semester for students. (Teachers and other staff still have one more day of work tomorrow.) As per tradition, the classes at Wiley had holiday parties in the afternoon to celebrate the end of the semester and to send the students off on a high note for their two-week winter break. And, as is also traditional, many students brought in small gifts for their teacher.
This got me thinking about a post I wrote last year. There had been a slew of blog posts shared by, I hope, well-meaning people offering advice on what to get teachers for gifts. However, these posts were often full of restrictions and suggestions on what not to get, setting up a scenario in which the reader could imagine teachers being disappointed or even angry that students gave them candy, handmade cards, or other such traditional gifts. And I so I responded, wanting to make sure that the students and parents in my classroom knew that I appreciate each gift I receive from my students, regardless of its value.
In addition to being appreciative of the gifts I was given, I was also amused. You see, at the start of the year, I shared a Google Slides presentation with my class about expectations and procedures and mentioned in it that backpacks should not be brought into the classroom unless they were full of books for our book exchange or chocolate for the teacher. I have regularly made reference to how much I love chocolate, as well as books, bacon, and geeky science fiction and fantasy things. Here’s a picture of what my students (and some colleagues) got for me this year:
I guess my students really do listen to me! Lots of chocolate, several books, root beer (one of my favourite beverages), and a Star Wars Stormtrooper mug.
Thank you, everyone, for a wonderful semester! It has definitely been a roller coaster with its ups and downs and I know that I have not been as consistent in my blogging this year as I have been the past five years (and I know that I still have five posts to write about some big events we recently participated in), but there have been mores ups than downs and I have been pleased with the growth of my students and my own growth as a professional. I don’t know how much updating I will be doing over the winter break, but I am looking forward to getting some rest before we dive into the second half the year come January!
Way back in the summer of 2013, I learned about a wonderful source for high-interest nonfiction articles that I could share with my class called Wonderopolis. I have been using it quite regularly with my students for over two years now but have somehow never gotten around to writing a blog post about it. (Unless, of course, you include this post in which I made brief mention of it.)
There are many ways to use Wonderopolis in the classroom. I have been using it this year to support our health standards. I have found articles about the skeletal system, the digestive system, the circulatory system, communicable diseases, and pollution, among many others, that my students have read as a class. Then we take the short quizzes at the end and check our knowledge of key vocabulary terms. I put the articles up on my Promethean Board but many students will load them on their Chromebooks so that they can read along with us.
A comprehension tool I recently started using after seeing it mentioned on Twitter is the 3-2-1 protocol (I think they called it 3-2-1 Wonderopolis). The idea is simple: the students share 3 things they learned, 2 things they found interesting, and 1 thing they still wonder about the topic. We have been doing this as a class and have expanded it to other areas, such as student presentations. I will be using this strategy in coming weeks to have students focus their research questions when we start our next inquiry unit after Winter Break.
I am happy I learned about Wonderopolis and I am even happier that my students love using it! I think we are going to start submitting our own questions to the Wonder Bank. I am also going to have them use the 3-2-1 strategy to pick a topic and share what they learned. I know many teachers do a Wonder Wednesday. Maybe we will start joining in the fun.
I don’t think I will ever grow tired of writing the praises of the amazing fine arts program we have here in the Urbana School District! My fine arts education in grade school was limited to a weekly trip to the music room with Mrs. Howell, a very, very, very old woman teaching us from very, very, very old books. (She did teach me how to play the recorder in fourth grade, though); a weekly visit from the Art Lady (I honestly don’t think I ever knew her actual name); and, in fifth grade, joining the beginning band where I first started playing the trumpet (a instrument I still play to this day, unlike the recorder, on which I can only play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Hot Cross Buns”). Our fine arts experiences expanded slightly in middle school but it wasn’t until high school that the opportunity to really dig into them was made possible. Sadly, due to my bizarre desire to take an abundance of academic courses, my high fine arts experiences were limited to all of the bands (concert, jazz, marching, symphonic), and the concert choir. (I did audition for the show choir my junior year but didn’t make it, ending a glorious reign of Valencic boys in the Washington Community High School Company.)
Knowing how much I missed out on the fine arts is, in part, why I am always so excited by the options and the opportunities presented to my students now. In addition to the regular classes of visual arts, music, dance, and drama, we get to have performers from the University of Illinois visit our school on a fairly regular basis. One such event took place last Friday. The U of I Repertory Dance Company came to showcase the different styles of dance that they learn in their program. Students got to see examples of modern dance, jazz, ballet, hip hop, and African dance and to learn about the choreography process. It was an awesome experience!
At the end of the performances the dancers allowed students to ask them questions. Not every student got to ask his/her question, but the performers told them that they could write them down later and have their teachers deliver them. This doesn’t actually happen very often, but I had one student who wrote a letter to one of the dancers. I don’t know what she (the student) wrote and I don’t know if she (the dancer) will respond, but I do know this: if the performance had a positive impact on at least one student, it was definitely worth it!
Wow. I have had at least three major things happen in my classroom over the past few days that I meant to blog about and then completely forgot or simply ran out of time to do so. Rather than try to cram all of them into one post, giving justice to none, I will be trying to get them written up and posted today and tomorrow. This post is just a filler to let you know that I haven’t forgotten about them!
So for those who have heard about our awesome University of Illinois Dance Repertory assembly last week, an interesting Body Safety workshop we had on Tuesday, or the departure of my wonderful student teacher yesterday, my apologies for not getting posts written about those. I will also have a post about our (first-ever, I think) school-wide pajama day today plus (hopefully) a student guest post tomorrow. So between now and Friday evening, you should see five (!!!) new posts! Sorry to dump them all at once!
Here’s a picture of me as a fourth grader (with my fourth grade teacher) to tide you over until then: