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Thursday, April 20, 2017

How Going Digital Changed Me as a Teacher

For nine years of my teaching career, I was a traditional teacher teaching in the primary grades the best that I knew. I focused greatly on the core subjects, especially reading and writing. I used traditional best practices and employed technology the best I knew, and honestly, I felt that I was doing a pretty good job.  A streaming video here and a phonics website there during Guided Reading and I thought, "Hey, I'm integrating technology into my instruction just fine!" 

That was until I moved across town, switched districts, and found myself on a campus whose main focus is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and where each students has his/her own digital device to use in the classroom and take home.

Well you see, I've always thought of myself being very techie in a sense that I have always been surrounded my computers and technology since I was a kid.  But truly, nothing prepared me for what was coming my way and how educational apps and technology flipped my classroom and instruction.

At first, I must admit, I was skeptical and resistant.  I was taught the traditional methods and in a traditional school setting for a long time.  My students did wonderful, and I knew that when I sent them off to the next grade, I had done my best to prepare them the best I could. Furthermore, isn't perfecting fine motor skills and building stamina to write with paper and pencil important anymore in the 21st Century? 

And so I did some deep teacher-soul digging into what kind of students I want to prepare for this century and what kind of students and citizens I want my OWN children to be when they start school? The more I thought about my methods, the more I knew that embracing both the traditional and 21st Century methods of teaching was the way and only way to go.

Slowly I began using various apps to enhance my students' learning and understanding.  I also found how feasible, time-saving, and easy it was for me as a teacher to share assignments and activities with my students and how interactive it can be for them!

My students were still learning those core concepts along with the mandatory standards, yet the thinking was deeper, the understanding was widened, and the connections were more meaningful than I had ever seen in the primary grades. From integrating videos and links into documents to allowing students to digitally praise and give constructive feedback to each other's work, my classroom truly became a community of learners immersed a new digital world.

Furthermore, the engagement was clearly visible and the learning became more personal as students were given more options and opportunities to personalize their own learning and understanding.

Once I saw the benefits of a digital classroom, I began creating digital notebooks to enhance my students' learning.  The first time I showed my students our first digital notebook, they were so incredibly excited and could not wait to get started.  I watched them as we went through the lessons together and saw how well they connected to the learning and proud of their own work.

As an educator, I will always find value and appreciation in traditional methods of teaching.  However, going digital has allowed me to transform my teaching style to best fit my students' needs, and that is the greatest reward of all.

Here's an example of how students are able to respond digitally.

If you would like a list of FREE Apps that I use in my classroom. Click to the apple image.

If you are interested in Interactive Digital Notebooks that are perfect for the primary classroom, feel free to check out my Memorial Day Interactive Digital Notebook FREEBIE below!

Additional Interactive Digital Notebooks:



Sunday, February 5, 2017

How to Make Your Classroom Valentine's Day Party Fun & Stress-Free

As students are getting back into the swing of things after a long winter break, it seems that February, while the shortest month of the year, feels like the longggest month for teachers.  Am I right or am I right?! :)

Every year when February rolls around, my calendar fills up so quickly with activities, events, meetings, and deadlines at school, that I am constantly checking and double checking just to stay afloat.

But again, it's February, and it's one of the more magical time of the year in the primary classroom, especially for the little ones!  Who can forget making your own Valentine box/bag and passing out and receiving Valentine cards from your friends in elementary school?  I definitely love those memories and love them even more now that I can make those sweet memories with my sweet students!

While February brings so much fun and excitement, it can also come with a lot of stress in planning and organizing your classroom Valentine party.  Here are some tips to help make it so stress-free and fun that you will definitely LOVE!!! :)

1. Send Out Your Valentine Party Note Early
Once the time and date are settled with your administrators, notify parents right away along with the class roster.  Stores can start setting up their Valentine's Day displays and goodies as early as the beginning of January.  Save yourself from responding to multiple emails inquiring information about the Valentine party by being proactive and sending it out early.  The kids are excited to buy their Valentine cards and will appreciate the ample time they have to choose the perfect set!

2. Enlist Help from Your Room Mom or Parent Volunteers
This year I have been blessed to have such wonderful mom volunteers who buy decorations, schedule a time after school, and decorate my classroom for me without my having to be there. I know, right?!  :) They have saved me so much time, and I am so appreciative of their help.  May it be classroom decorations, door decorations, or donating items for the party, having parent volunteers is a BIG plus and will save you so much time.

3. Vote on a Design and Create Your Valentine Bag or Box Together as a Class
Yes, students love making their own Valentine boxes or bags at home to bring in. However, I have always had my students vote on a design and create it together in the classroom.  Not only is it fun for them, but I know for sure that everyone will have and come home with a Valentine bag full of memories and cards.

4. Have an Extra Box of Valentine Cards in Your Classroom, Just in Case  
Thank goodness it doesn't happen often, but once every two or three years, a student of mine would not have Valentine cards to pass out.  Having an extra box at hand instantly brightens up that one student's day and will make your teacher heart so full and happy!

5. Plan on Doing a Simple Game or Activity
Since passing out Valentine cards can take the majority of the time especially in Kindergarten and first grade classes, a simple activity such as decorating a heart-shaped cookie with candy and frosting or playing Valentine Bingo will simply do the trick and bring on smiles!

If you need some Valentine resources, click to the images below.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Chinese New Year: Classroom Ideas & More

One of the units that I personally enjoy teaching is Chinese New Year or Tet as it is known to the Vietnamese community.  I love teaching about Tet because it takes me back to when I was a child and brings back all the wonderful and festive memories that I had with my family growing up. 

Besides Christmas, Tet was one of the most exciting times of the year for our family.  We always began by cleaning up our house to let go of all the previous year's bad luck, preparing for the incoming New Year with spring flowers and bright colored decorations to call on good luck, and tidying up our family shrine which purpose is to honor our ancestors and call on them to pray and bless our family for the New Year.

In addition, we attended Dragon Dances which are often done in shopping centers, restaurants, and places of worship, including our local church.  We would also dress up in our traditional long dresses, wish our elders good wishes for the New Year, receive lucky money, and enjoy traditional snacks and rice cakes.

If you are interested in integrating some cultural fun and celebrate Chinese New Year with your students as well, here are some ideas!

Tidy Up the Classroom to Bring in Good Luck
Encourage students to help you clean out the classroom by starting with their personal learning space and belongings (desk, cubby, backpacks, pencil boxes, learning centers, etc.).  Enlist students to straighten up books from library center, pick up trash around the classroom, etc..  

Decorate the Classroom with Bright Colors
Red is best known as the color of good luck in Asian traditions.  However, any bright colors would definitely help make your classroom more festive and fun!  Use bright colored construction paper to make lanterns or create cherry blossoms or flowers to place around the classroom!

Create Your Own Dragon Dance in the Classroom
Show students some drawings of dragons and have them draw and decorate only the head and tail of their dragon.  Use glitter, feathers, sequence, the gambit.  Connect the head of the dragon with tail but cutting and folding a strip of construction paper like an accordion.  Tape or glue a large popsicle stick to the head and another to its tail. Search and play Dragon Dance music on the internet and have your students parade around the classroom with their own dragons!

Wish the Teacher and Get Lucky Money
This activity can easily be tied in with English/Language Arts as students are encouraged to write a short note to their teacher to wish him/her a happy and prosperous New Year in exchange for LUCKY MONEY!!!  Well, actually.... gold chocolate coins inside red envelops are more like it! :)  I promise you, your kids will love you so much for this! 

Enjoy Some Traditional New Year Snacks Together 
Asian markets are filled with traditional New Year snacks and rice cakes during the weeks leading to Chinese New Year.  If students are not allowed to consume the food products according to your district policies, they would still love seeing some of them in person or seeing pictures of them.

There are many more wonderful ways to teach and celebrate of Chinese New Year! No matter how you celebrate it, I hope you have a wonderful and prosperous New Year with your family!

If you are interested in additional resources, feel free to click to resource below. 

This extensive 34-page packet that includes facts and interactive activities! With printables, vocabulary cards, colorful signs, graphic organizers, a Chinese Zodiac Calendar and bookmarks, and an interactive game with game mats and dice templates, students will be greatly informed and thoroughly engaged the entire unit!

-Chinese New Year Reading Comprehension
-3 Colorful Signs with Clipart and Real Photographs and Explanation of Chinese New Year
-Chinese New Year (Is, Can, and Will) Graphic Organizer
-Chinese New Year Fact Sheet Graphic Organizer
-I Can Celebrate Chinese New Year Writing Template
-KWL Chinese New Year Graphic Organizer
-Chinese New Year Circle Map
-Lucky Money Envelop Template
-BME Story Template
-Chinese Zodiac Calendar
-14 Pages of Chinese Zodiac Bookmarks (Full Page of Each Zodiac & 2 Pages of Entire 12 Zodiacs Together)
-12 Vocabulary Cards
-Chinese Zodiac Dice & Game Mats 

Other Resources That You May Be Interested In:

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