Cultivating Minds Without Losing My Own

Join me on my Adventures in Elementary Education

The Struggle is Real- End of the Year Blues

June4

 

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It’s that time again.  The time of year when on one hand you are counting the days to fun in the sun and on the other hand you are dreading saying good bye to your students.  As the year ends, there are so many things to look forward to!  Awards ceremonies, concerts, fun days, and getting to all the crafty stuff we haven’t had time to do during the year are just a few of the perks the end of the school year provides.  Mixed in with those, however, are the creeping thoughts that these are the last smiles and laughs you’ll hear from these students for the summer.  Hopefully they come back to visit on their way to 5th grade next year, but for some they won’t.  They may be moving or transferring schools.  As a teacher I am often asked towards this point in June, “so how many days do you have left?”  Some days I know the number, but most days I respond, “not enough.”

To the parents of my students this year:  Thank you!!!!!!  Thank you for sharing your children with me.  Thank you for trusting me to guide them academically.  Thank you for getting them to school each day so I could hear all their stories.  Thank you for letting me share in their triumphs at concerts and sporting events.  Thank you for all the supplies and goodies sent in throughout the year (and for sticking to my healthy snacks only rule!).

To my students:  We aren’t done yet!  Thank you for coming and still being eager to learn.  Thank you for all the encouraging pictures and notes you leave me daily.  Thank you for your smiles and hugs.  Thank you for your funny stories.  Thank you for trying your best each day.  Thank you for being you. Thank you for challenging me to be the best me I can be and to learn better ways to teach you what you need to know!  Thank you for putting up with substitutes when I needed to attend trainings or care for my own kids when they were sick.  Thank you for the last 100+ days of laughter and learning.

To my husband and kids:  Thank you for sharing me with my students.  Thank you for understanding when I needed to spend hours grading or planning. Thank you for being my guinea pigs for many of my teaching ideas.  Thank you for coming to give me hugs at the end of some of the longer days throughout the year.  Thank you for adopting my class as part of our extended family and asking about them by name each night.

Our school’s motto is “Then, Now, Always Family.”  I can honestly say my family grows by 18-20 kids each year.  We laugh together, cry together, get mad at each other, get frustrated by each other, and learn from each other every day.  At the end of the day though, I can honestly say my heart grows exponentially each year to add “my kids” to my family.  You may leave, I may have a hard time placing a name in a few years when you are 2 feet taller than me and grown, but you’ll always be welcome in our school, in my class, or in what ever office I end up in some day as my career evolves.  I am always and email or a tweet away.  I cherish these final days and our final memories of this 4th grade year.  Each year I start off with a theme song and end with a farewell song and video.  Stay tuned for our farewell video the last day of school (it takes me a while to get through it!  Choosing pictures is hard when you are either cracking up or tearing up!).

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Spring is in the Air!

March18

This week we are wrapping up our first PARCC test for the year. To celebrate our students hard work we made paleo shamrock shakes. Why paleo? Well, we are a healthy schools school and are adhering to our mission to teach students about healthy food choices. This recipe results in a yummy, minty treat that is good for you too! Don’t let the list of ingredients fool you, they are amazing!
Just check out this shake-stache!

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Paleo Shamrock Shakes
Ingredients:
13 oz coconut milk (we used coconut dream)
1 avocado
1cup ice
1tsp vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 tsp (depending on your mint preference) peppermint extract
3-4 tbsp honey

Blend and enjoy!

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They loved it so much they even forgot that we were practicing our math skills by measuring!

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After we had our yummy snack, we tested out our green thumbs by starting our windowsill herb garden and prepping our small growing trays for seeds we will plant tomorrow! We are studying plant life cycles, ecosystems, and learning responsibility as we prepare for earth day and spring!

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Pay it Forward- A Lesson in the Gift of Kindness

February4

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February, albeit a short month, is one that is jam-packed with activities.  Many of our activities this month are focused around Valentine’s Day and our hearts.  We are going to take this to “heart” this month and begin a 2 week family project.  Many of us have seen the movie “Pay it Forward” which came out in the late 90’s. The premise of the movie is that if one person does an act of kindness for another it can start a chain reaction of events that can change the lives of thousands of people for the better.  We will be reading the novel, Pay it Forward  in class beginning next week as a read aloud.  The author of the original book recently released a child-friendly version this past August.  It is a beautifully written book that I hope will encourage my students to begin to look for ways to be kind and do kind things for others on a regular basis.  

Beginning the weekend of Valentine’s Day, February 14th, students will be given a kindness journal to keep track of acts of kindness they either see,  do for others, or have done for them.   The notebook will be divided in to three sections- things I have done for others, things I saw someone do for someone else, and things someone has done for me.   In addition to recording the act that was done or seen, they will also write a sentence or two or draw a picture to describe how they felt.  For example, my daughters made me a special snack and hid it in my lunch box the other day.  When I found it at lunch, it touched me and made me feel good that my girls were thoughtful enough to make me a healthy snack knowing that I had been rushing around that morning and hadn’t packed much of a lunch for myself.   If I were recording this in my kindness journal I would have recorded in the “Someone did Something Nice for Me” section.    I am asking students to write one act of kindness for each day.  The goal is that students will develop a sense of community through this activity and become more aware of the way we make others feel when we are kind.  This assignment will be due on February 27th.  I am requiring students to do this EVERY DAY- even weekends!

Please feel free to comment in your child’s journal as well or better yet, start a family kindness journal and have everyone participate!   Just like in the book and movie, I would love to see everyone “Pay it Forward” and cultivate a community where kindness grows and thrives!

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Happy New Year! The Impact of Mindset on Goals

January4

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New Years is a time when many people reflect back on the past year and analyze their choices in life and begin to think about how to make the next year better.  I usually set goals for myself rather than resolutions.  Resolutions are defined as the answer to a problem.  I think we can all admit that there are problems in our lives we’d like the answers to, but just making a resolution is not the answer.  I’ve made what I thought were resolutions in the past (to go to the gym more, to eat healthier, to not procrastinate on assignments, to get the laundry done quicker, etc).  These are not answers to a problem though.  Technically they are goals I’d like to achieve.  I’d like to go to the gym more and in order to do that, I will have to take steps to make it happen such as schedule time, arrange childcare, and pack my gym supplies.  I’d like to eat healthier and in order to do that I will need to shop with purpose for healthier ingredients, prepare food at home instead of getting take out, and skip out on some of those not so healthy snacks.  

This week, we will be spending some time learning about setting goals for ourselves.  We will work to set goals for both school and home.  We will think about the steps we will need to take to ensure that we can follow through on these goals and be successful.  While we are doing this we will also examine a theory in a book that I read last year, Mindset.  In this book the author, Carol Dweck, identifies 2 different ways of thinking, or mindsets.

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 The first is a fixed mindset.  Those with a fixed mindset believe that they are who they are, can do what they can do, and think the way the think because they are born that way.  For example if you always struggled with math that is because you were born with a limited knowledge of math and once you hit that point you couldn’t learn any more.  Those with a fixed mindset believe that they are the way they are and that is that.  They will continue to prove that they are what they believe until they experience a failure.  For example, if you always believed you were the fastest person and then you were beat by someone else you would be crushed.  Your beliefs were ruined!  You would start to feel horrible about yourself.  This mindset is not wrong- but it can be detrimental to learning.  If you immediately think that you are a failure because you fail one test think of how that can impact your willingness to learn more or different ways in the future!

The Second mindset is the growth mindset.  In this mindset, people believe that they can be and do anything that they want.  It may not be easy.  They may not be able to do it right off the bat.  It may require failing a few times before getting it, but with hard work, perseverance, and a willingness to try new and different ways to achieve their goal they will eventually get it.  I have been working very hard to develop my growth mindset.  

Let me give you an example from my life.  Many years ago, I had a teacher that told me I was not good at math.  I would never be able to be good at math because I just couldn’t get it.  I started to really believe this about myself.  I thought I was dumb.  She was right, I would never get it.  This impacted my career choices.  I had hoped to be an engineer like my grandfather.  If I wasn’t any good at math though, I could never do that.  I believed this until I was an adult.  I did very well in college math classes and could do all the math I needed in real life with no problem, but I still thought of myself as a failure.  When I was hired as a teacher in Millville, I was hired to teach 7th grade math- this was a nightmare for me!  How could I teach kids if I was a failure?!  Fortunately, I was working with an amazing team of math teachers at Lakeside.  They helped me to see that there are many ways to teach concepts and that not every student gets it the first time around.  Through teaching and working hard to ensure that all of my students were given the tools and strategies they needed to be successful in math class, I changed my mindset from fixed to growth.  I watched kids struggle but not give up and cheered with them when they finally got it.  If these kids could try and try and try until they were successful, then so could I.  I decided I would never limit or label myself as one thing again.  Now I look forward to someone telling me I can’t do something so that I can prove them wrong!  I never thought I’d achieve my master’s degree (neither did some other people) but I did.  I never thought I’d be getting certified to be a principal, yet by July I will be.  Next up on my challenge list- earning my doctorate degree.  I’m not a person who is going to be limited by others opinions of myself or limitations I used to believe about myself anymore.  MINDSETS CAN BE CHANGED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We will be learning about the mindsets in class this week as we set goals for ourselves for this year.  We will be signing a contract as a class to promise to aim for growth and not become fixed in any one area.  The TEDX video below explains the powerful impact of mindsets on our lives.  It is a little long, but very much worth it!

So, will you join us and grow?

Holiday Lunch Party Information

December17
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PARCC Prep

December10

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This morning my students were visited by Mrs. Mackall and Mrs. Daigle, two of our districts technology instructors, to introduce our class to NJ’s new assessment system the PARCC.

What is the PARCC?

Each year students are given a standardized test in 4th grade.  Prior to this year, the tests were called the NJASK and students took them using pencil and paper.  The PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), however, will be taken strictly online.  Students will read passages, answer math problems, and write essays all on the computer.  This is more than a little intimidating.  To help students prepare, they were introduced to the different types of questions and buttons that they will see when they take the assessment in the spring.

What types of questions will they see?

Multiple choice- students will see questions that have multiply choices.  Students who are used to being able to cross off wrong answer choices will still be able to use this strategy.   They will be able to eliminate answers that they know are incorrect using the answer eliminator button on the test screen.  They will then click on the circle of the correct answer to fill it in. (Just like we do each week on our comprehension tests already)

Drag and Drop Questions- for these test questions, students students will select information from one area and slide it into the answer area.  While our weekly tests do not use these types of questions, they are exposed to this through instructional games and websites that we use.

Short Response Questions- for these test questions, students will need to type in responses.  There will be short response questions in both math and language arts test areas.   Students do type essays in class now, but they will definitely need to work on this skill in the coming months.  Students need to remember not to bold, underline, or highlight the text.  This will result in the answer being scored incorrectly.  There is no spell check on PARCC.  Also, NO TEXT TYPING!  Spell out the words!  (no lol, u, r, brb).  For the math short response questions, students will be given a set of icons to click on to show division symbols and whatnot.

Multiple Answer Questions- Some questions require students to select more than one correct answer.  (For example:  Select two of the details from the article from those below.)  Students must click on more than one correct choice for these questions.  These questions do look slightly different.  They have square answer choices instead of circle answer choices.  Students MUST follow the directions and select the number they are asked to find.

Drop Down Menu Questions- students will select the correct answer from choices in a drop down menu.

Shade in the Area Questions- students will select the areas to be shaded and the box or shape will change color

What tools will they be given to use?

In the math section there will be online rulers, protractors, and calculators that students can use in designated sections.

Students are also given scrap paper in both sections of the test- to plan out work in language arts and to use as scrap paper in the math sections.

At the end of each section, students are encouraged to click the review button to ensure that they have completed all of the questions in that section.  Once they hit the submit button, they will not be able to go back to make any changes.  As students take the test, they can also “flag” questions that they would like to remember to go back to and finish later.  These flagged questions will also appear in the review section.

Students will not be able to open other websites or tools on the computer as they take the test.  If they do they will be kicked out of the test site.  This would not be good!!!!!!

How am I preparing your child in class?

Thankfully, our text books offer an online test option for both math and language arts tests.  While this will help familiarize the kids with reading texts and questions online as well as answering the multiple choice questions, it does not help with the other questions types.  To help prepare my students in class we will be utilizing practice tests and games to help us practice answering the other questions types.  We also type frequently in class.  All of our essays are typed before they are submitted for a final grade.  We will be increasing our typing opportunities through the use of some typing websites.  Our social studies  tests do require some on line short response questions to help them prepare as well.

How can YOU help prepare your child?

Visit the district PARCC informational website and review the material with your child at www.parccmillville.weebly.com as well as visit the new PARCC resources page on our blog.

Offer your child the opportunity to log in to custom typing at home to practice typing skills.   They can also practice typing on your tablet or computer for fun.  They can even type homework if they want!  Encourage your child to text you in complete words so that they get out of the “text talk” habit.  Call me if you have questions!

This is new for all of us.  I got a TON of useful information from today’s session.  The website above gives games that will help students prepare as well as sample test questions for both you and your child to review.

Long Division’s Coming to Town and Our Weekly Learning Objectives 12/8-12/12

December7

This week we are going to spend time with long division.  In honor of this learning goal, I wrote a Christmas Carol about it and recorded it using Powtoons.  Fortunately for you, my vocals did not come through!  Sing along to the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town!”

In addition to long division this week we will also be working with determining the main idea in informational texts.

Our vocabulary words are:

Vain

Responsibility

Solemnly

politics

Humble

Howling

Constitution

In science we will be continuing our study of magnets. Check out the video below to review the basic magnetic concepts we will be covering.

 

Making RM Bacon a Bully-Free Zone

December3

bully free zone

 

Bullying is a hot topic issue in education.  Students learn best when they are in an environment in which they feel safe.  You can not feel safe if you are being bullied.  Therefore, it is a very high priority at RM Bacon Elementary School that we stop bullying in its tracks.

All staff members have been trained in how to spot, report, and respond to bullying when we see it.  The problem is bullies can be tricky and we don’t always see the behaviors.  Students also need to be trained so that they have the confidence to stand up for others and report what they are seeing.  We take bullying VERY seriously.  When bullying is reported it is investigated by our HIB (harassment, intimidation, and bullying) team.  This team consists of our guidance counselor, security guard, PBIS (positive behavior in schools) aide, and our principal.  Often the investigation ends with a positive outcome.  If the investigation proves that bullying exists, a plan of action is put into place including counseling, monitoring, and support for both the victim and bully.

We will be working with the CAP (Child Abuse Prevention) Team this Friday and next Monday to learn about bullying.  Students will learn about how to use their words wisely so as to not hurt others. They will also learn about different strategies to use when they feel that they are being treated unfairly.

How can you help?  Today bullying doesn’t only occur face to face.  Cyber bullying is a huge issue.  Please be aware of what your child is doing online or on their phones.  Texting mean messages has the same effect as saying them out loud.  Monitor your child’s internet usage.  Ask for passwords and usernames to keep tabs.  If they are on social media, insist on them including you as a “friend” or “follower.”  Below is a video defining cyber bullying and how you can help your child if they find themselves in this situation:

Here is a short music video that shows how bullying can impact a child and how having others stand up and speak out can change the direction of the bullying and give the child the confidence and support they need to stand up to the bully in an appropriate way. REMEMBER, BULLYING BACK IS NOT THE ANSWER!

Happy Thanksgiving from Our Class to Yours

November26

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Thanksgiving is truly my FAVORITE holiday!  There are not pressures of gift giving or costume creating.  It is a time to celebrate friends, family, food, and gratitude for what we have instead of worrying about what we do not have.  Each year my classes learn about the 1st Thanksgiving thanks to virtual fieldtrips provided by Scholastic.  This experience helps to set the tone for our week of gratitude.  We have spent this short week focusing our efforts inward and learning different ways we can show our gratitude to others.  Some students wrote lists or essays about what and whom they are thankful for.  Others drew pictures or asked to visit old teachers with whom they’ve made lasting connections to show their gratitude.

I have created a video to express my gratitude to the parents of my students.  I am so very grateful for the time I get to spend with your children each day.  I am so honored to be one of the many professionals that has a hand in shaping them into the adults they will become.  I am especially thankful to all of you who came out to conferences this week so that I could meet and discuss your child’s progress with you.  This was a record setting year for me in terms of parental attendance at conferences.  Please take a few minutes to watch the video I created for you, the parents, as a way to express my thanks in entrusting your children to me each day.  It is not an responsibility that I take lightly, and I thoroughly LOVE my job!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Love,

Mrs. Sinone and family

Celebration of Reading

November21

This week we finished our first novel study for the year, The Chocolate Touch. As a culminating event, students presented projects they created based on our book study and we celebrated reading by partaking in a chocolate covered fruit party (since we are participating in the Healthy Schools initiative we did our best to keep it healthy)! Below are some pictures of our projects as well as our celebration.

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For our next novels, we will be breaking into literature circles (book clubs) and reading books selected at the students reading level to provide more of a challenge. We will be starting this in January.

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