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Yesterday, I shared some words about my classroom after Parkland and how I am talking with my students about this tragedy because I think it is so important that we as teachers talk with our students about how to deal with the emotions they are feeling about Parkland. Today, I am going to share how my school chose to honor and mourn the Parkland victims.

I was so proud of my school for giving students the option to take part in the National School Walkout today that was organized by Empower, the Women’s March Youth Initiative. Thank you to our Student Government; their sponsor, Ms. Harriss; and our administration for setting up our walkout for today.

At 10:00am today, approximately 1,000 of our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders chose to walkout to mourn the 17 murdered in Parkland and to show solidarity against school violence.

I think any teacher that was worried about students not taking the walkout seriously were greatly surprised with the maturity and solidarity that our students showed. These thousand preteens and young teens were silent as we remembered the lives that were lost and to show we stand with our fellow Eagles of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

After the music that signaled our time to enter the courtyard stopped, our principal and Student Government representatives spoke on the PA system about our purpose:

“The majority of those who died in the Parkland shooting were children, bright teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them: birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers and coaches who devoted their lives to helping their children fulfill their dreams.

This evening we will all go home and hug our families a little tighter. But there are families in Parkland who cannot do that tonight. And they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans, as Eagles, and as fellow students. Because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need, to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories, but also in ours.”

-Principal’s speech inspired by and adapted from President Obama’s address about Sandy Hook

Student Government representatives then took over:

“Let us remember the victims…

Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, was a student at Stoneman Douglas and a soccer player for Parkland Travel Soccer. Lori Alhadeff, Alyssa’s mother, dropped her daughter off at school and said, “I love you.” When her mother heard about the shooting, she hustled to school, but was too late.

Scott Beigel, 35, was a geography teacher who was killed as he tried to usher students back into his classroom when the shooting broke out. One of his students said that he died saving her. “Mr. Beigel was my hero and he still will forever be my hero. I will never forget the actions that he took for me and for fellow students in the classroom,” she said. “I am alive today because of him.”

Martin Duque Anguiano, 14 was a very funny kid, outgoing, and sometimes really quiet. He was sweet and caring and loved by all his family.

Nicholas Dworet, 17 was killed in the shooting, he had been recruited for the University of Indianapolis swim team and would have been an incoming freshman this fall.

Aaron Feis, 37, an assistant football coach, was killed when he threw himself in front of students to protect them from oncoming bullets. Mr. Feis, suffered a gunshot wound and died after he was rushed into surgery. “He died the same way he lived — he put himself second. He died a hero.”

Jaime Guttenberg, 14 was among the victims, according to a Facebook post by her father, Fred. “My heart is broken. Yesterday, Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg and I lost our baby girl to a violent shooting at her school. We lost our daughter and my son Jesse Guttenberg lost his sister.

Chris Hixon, 49 was the school’s athletic director — as an awesome husband, father and American, according to his widow Debra.

Luke Hoyer, 15 was an amazing individual. Always happy, always smiling. His smile was contagious, and so was his laugh.

Cara Loughran, 14 danced at the Drake School of Irish Dance in South Florida. “Cara was a beautiful soul and always had a smile on her face,”

Gina Montalto, 14 was a member of the winter guard on the school’s marching band.

Joaquin Oliver, 17 was born in Venezuela, moved to the United States when he was 3 and became a naturalized citizen in January 2017. His interests included football, basketball, the Venezuelan national soccer team, urban graffiti and hip-hop.

Alaina Petty’s, 14, family said she was vibrant and determined. She had volunteered after Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September. She was a part of the “Helping Hands” program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,and was also a member of the junior ROTC at her school.

Meadow Pollack, 18 had been accepted at Lynn University in Boca Raton. Meadow was a lovely young woman, who was full of energy.

Helena Ramsay, 17 was a smart, kind hearted, and thoughtful person. She was deeply loved and loved others even more so. Though she was some what reserved, she had a relentless motivation towards her academic studies, and her soft warm demeanor brought the best out in all who knew her.

Alex Schachter, 14 participated in the school marching band and orchestra, playing baritone and trombone.

Carmen Schentrup, 16 was a National Merit Scholar semifinalist.

Peter Wang, 15 had been a member of the junior ROTC program, Friends said Peter was shot while holding a door open to let fellow classmates get to safety. Thousands of people have signed a White House petition asking for him to be buried with military honors. “His selfless and heroic actions have led to the survival of dozens.”

We join together today, in this courtyard, to make a promise and a commitment to say NEVER AGAIN.”

-Information for list of victims taken from various CNN articles.

Student Government members then read some responses to the tragedy written by our students. I do not know the specific ones that the SGA chose to read, but here are some of, what I felt were, the most poignant responses our middle school students wrote in reflection of the tragedy:

Fear and guns have no place in schools. No kid should worry about going to school and not coming back. Those kids were just like us, they had their whole lives ahead of them. It is not fair for anyone to take that away. We can’t just sit around and wait for someone to take action, we have to stand up, for us and for those who lost their lives.If not us, then who? We HAVE to be the one we’ve been waiting for. We can never forget what happened, and we need to do everything in our power to not let it happen again. -L.M.

What a tragedy that has happened. School is supposed to be a safe place, but now some people are afraid to go to school. My prayers go out to the families who lost their loved ones that died too soon. This horrible event was so close to us it’s scary. All these shootings are happening it makes me wonder what this world has come to. Instead of just talking about it, we need to do something about it, because this could happen to us. We need to stand up against gun violence, and that is why we walk out today, for the 17 people that died in the Douglas High School shooting. -C.D.

What happened at Parkland High is a terrible tragedy that should’ve never happened. Students go to school to attain a education. Students go to school to hang out with their friends. Some students think of school as their “safe” place. If something bad happened or hard stuff is going on at home, some students go to school to escape that hardship and have some fun. School should be a safe place to go no matter what. You give 10 months of the year to go to this place for 7 hours a day to learn and socialize. You leave your family to come to this place. They will do anything to take care of their children and make sure they are safe. School is a place where they send their children as they believe it is or should be a safe place to go. I believe that the gun violence that has occurred recently needs to change. It is unacceptable. People are brought to the world for a reason and no one deserves to have to face that action that occurred on February 14. I personally knew a few people who went to that school and thankfully survived. Their stories are insane of how they did everything they could in their power to live that day. Gun laws should be stricter as that man should not have attained a gun. Background checks are greatly needed to see why that person needs a gun let along an AR-15. What the students have done so far to try to get stricter gun laws is amazing. Now the government needs to do more. Background checks need to happen. The lives of students, teachers, administrators, literally anyone should matter and no one deserves to have to go through that. -S.K.

This tragedy should not be taken lightly. This was to close to HCMS. We need to take charge of this and not let it happen again. We need to support them in every way possible. Many people lost friends sisters brothers. Gun violence needs to stop. My mom is a Kindergarten Teacher and the day she told me of this shooting she was in tears, She said “I should not have to teach 5 year old’s how to run or hide is someone is trying to shoot them.” I feel no kid or adult should have to go through a tragedy like this. They will have to keep this in their memory for a life time and its not fair for them. We need to speak out and make a change. A school shooting should not even be a possibility or something we have to worry about, Unfortunately it was a reality and it has happened enough that its time to stop and now we need to take a stand and stop this from happening! for Parkland and Hunter’s Creek GO EAGLES!! -A

I’m glad that this has woken us up. This shouldn’t be a problem. This should have never happened. People like this shouldn’t be allowed to have a gun and the fact that these weapons are so easily accessible isn’t helping. We need stricter gun control. Whats more important, the 2nd amendment or our lives? Most gun owners have guns to protect themselves from other guns. So many precious lives have been lost do to guns being in the wrong hands. Pulse, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Virginia Tech, Stoneman Douglas High, the list goes on. It upsets me that there is a list. It seems inhumane to have a list. There shouldn’t be a list. All of these victims should have been alive and living but some psychos ended those lives. Lives we will forever miss.

Young lives.
Ready to thrive.
But instead,
They lay in a hospital bed.
With wrapped up wounds,
They will see the end soon.
One man with a gun
Ended all of their high school fun.
Even though our hearts are filled with sorrow,
Hopefully, it will bring no guns for tomorrow. -S.R.

I’m tired of all this violence on the world, and I feel we need stricter gun laws. There are some people that don’t understand how serious this is, they don’t understand the fact we can lose 17 young lives in only one day. Those people that pull the trigger wouldn’t be able to do it without a gun. This has to stop, all this violence is making the world worse. Today I pray for those who were affected at Parkland and I pray nothing like this keeps happening. -J.A.

The time is now to act on this. It doesn’t take a debate to determine that we should stop selling such dangerous guns. If we don’t, who will? -I.C.

Its sad that kids cant go to school without have to worry about getting killed or injured by other people because of their life problems. I feel sad for these parents who lost their children at school. Where they should be learning not dying. -J.M.

And there were so many more heartfelt, truly emotional responses that I was so proud of our students for writing.

The last two minutes of our walkout were spent listening to “We Are the World” played by our Chamber Orchestra.

When we returned to class, there was no way to easily transition back into the day, so I knew that we had to spend a moment. I was crying, they were crying…no one was going to get any learning at the moment. To help the transition, I took a couple of minutes to just talk about using our sadness to have courage to continue standing up for those who cannot. And to be okay with the sadness and anger they are feeling, but to hold onto it and remember to focus on taking those feelings and making them productive. I then said, “And we get to go on, but let’s cherish every day.”

This was one of the most emotional moments I have ever spent with my students, and the sadness, empathy, and anger that my students feel about this are real. They are the future, everyone, and they don’t like how the present is looking.

#NeverAgain #Enough

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We’ve all had that student: “Miss, I don’t like to read!” or “Reading is so boring!” And we just cry a little inside because they don’t know what they are missing. So to help with anyone struggling to find the just-right book for one of their students, we’ve created this fun list of recommendations:

1. For kids who say they like video games not books:
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow

2. For kids who say they like movies not books:

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
Legend by Marie Lu

3. For kids who say they like sports not books:

Booked by Kwame Alexander
Ball Don’t Lie by Matt de la Peña

4. For kids who are really interested in the future and technology but say they don’t like to read:
Last Day on Mars by Kevin Emerson
Bot Wars by J.V. Kade

5. For kids who say that books are boring:

Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
House Arrest by K.A. Holt

6. For kids who are interested in conspiracy theories and read about them on Reddit & Tumblr but say they don’t read fiction:

Masterminds by Gordan Korman
The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

7. For kids who play D&D or Magic but say they don’t like to read:
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson

8. For kids who love humor and list Adam Sandler as their favorite actor but say they don’t like reading:

TeenBoat by Dave Roman
Winger by Andrew Smith

9. For kids who say they like music not books:

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

10. For kids that are in the musical at school and say they don’t like to read:

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

11. For kids who only want to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid:

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos
Cosmic Commandos by Christopher Eliopolous

12. For kids who love Marvel movies but says they don’t like to read:
Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds
The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope

13. For kids who watch TruTV or Pretty Little Liars but say they don’t like to read:

The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer
Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

14. For kids who love drama but say they don’t like to read:

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

15. For kids who are history and WWII buffs but don’t like to read fiction:

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys

16. For kids who are interested in survival but say they don’t like to read:
Tree Girl by Ben Mikaelson
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

17: For high schoolers who liked The Outsiders in middle school but say they don’t like to read now:

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold
Trino’s Choice by Diane Gonzalez Bertrand

18. For kids who say nothing is ever going to be as good as The Hate U Give or All American Boys:
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

19. For kids who are interested in the immigration debate but say they don’t like to read:

American Street by Ibi Zoboi
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

20. For kids interested in learning about mental health yet say they don’t read fiction:

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

What are your go-to gateway books?

RickiSig and Signature

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For a few reasons, Kellee and I have decided to break away from Top Ten Tuesday. Don’t worry—we aren’t done with lists! We’ve really enjoyed TTT, and we will miss it, but we are excited for a new Tuesday adventure that is much more aligned with our vision for this blog. We will rotate between individual and shared posts, but you can always guarantee that you will find something teaching-related, about education, about our students, or about books in reference to any of those things on Tuesdays.

“Teaching My Son to Read” (by Ricki)

The Pressure

While I think about classroom teaching every day, I also think a lot about teaching my older son how to read. There’s a lot of pressure to teach our kids to read before they enter kindergarten. I’ve heard it from my mom friends, and I’ve also heard it from random strangers in the grocery store. Everyone seems to have an opinion on when kids should learn to read.

A Child’s Love of Books

What do I value? I value my son’s love of books. I value the fact that today, during dinner, he asked me if I could read to him while he ate. I value that every night, he begs us to let him read just one more book. I value the mornings that I wake up to the sound of pages turning, and I click on the monitor to see him reading quietly in bed while he waits for everyone to wake up.

The Pressure

With this in mind, I have held myself back. I don’t want my son to dislike reading. I’d rather he learn to read after all of his peers if it means that he won’t lose his love of books. If there’s anything I’ve learned as a mom, it’s that I don’t know anything about parenting and am likely making the wrong choices most of the time. I am not sure if I should be doing more sooner or if I should wait for him to tell me that he wants to learn to read.

The Beginning Stages

As we’ve started to work on learning to read, I’ve tried to do several things purposefully. When he was young, we put Wheel of Fortune on the television in the background while he played. He learned all of his letters from this show. Thanks, Wheel of Fortune! When we were in the car or just playing, we sounded out letters. For example, “Look at the sky! What letter does ‘sky’ start with? What other words start with ‘s’?” This helped.

Phonics? Sight Words?

This felt natural, but the actual reading felt trickier. Kids like pictures, and they often prefer the adult to read to them because reading is hard. I also kept going back to my desire to maintain my son’s love of books. I don’t like teaching phonics very much, but then I wondered if I could truly teach my son to read using only sight words. I also began to wonder if we could find a happy medium between learning phonics and sight words.

My Son’s First Book

I came across the BOB Books. I was really, really hesitant to use them because they felt very phonics-y. Essentially, it’s a small square cardboard box that contains 16 or so very short books. Each book works on a different sound, and the picture matches the words exactly (allowing kids to use context clues). I overly prepped my son. To match my insecurities, I kept saying, “And if you don’t like the books, we won’t read them!” and “Let’s just see if we can practice reading. You are so smart!” Well, he loves them. Luckily, they are very short, so we can practice reading a little bit each day. He read an entire book with some support, and my heart was bursting with pride.

What’s Next?

I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know if tomorrow my son will hate the BOB Books and we will have to put them away for good. Luckily, there are so many great books out there that help support reading (e.g. Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss). I teach secondary school reading courses, so this is a new, untraveled path for me. Some of the strategies are similar, but most are quite different. I welcome your advice! What have you learned about teaching kids to read? What can this unabashedly inexperienced mom learn about teaching reading to a four-year-old? Parenting is a humbling experience, but I’ve learned so much about the beginning stages of literacy!


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