Evidence: Setting the Scene
The hallway outside the gym is a convenient place for us to conduct special activities. Apparently it is also a convenient place for special meetings and devious crimes. Students were shocked (Well, maybe shocked is too strong of a word.) to discover a millionaire was murdered in our little annexed area. Footprints, fingerprints, and lots of other evidence were left behind in the not-too-gruesome scene. Now to figure out whodunnit!
This is just the beginning of our Evidence Deeper Learning Project.
Back to School: Making Connections
When students are thrown together at the beginning of the year, one of our first items of business is to mix people up a little. In this quick activity, students were asked to answer some simple questions about themselves (favorite food, eye color, etc.) and find classmates else who could match each answer.
Armed with clipboards, pencils, and personalities, students had to face friends, acquaintances, and virtual strangers to find commonalities. One thing I knew I needed to do was get these boys to mingle with the girls, and by the end of the day, they were at least sitting amongst each other.
An Administrative Visit
On Friday, we received a surprise visit from Executive Director of Elementary Education Jennifer Doshier. Mrs. Doshier came at a time when the class was working on a little offshoot of our Evidence Project. For this part of our project, we were looking for patterns - this time spelling patterns.
More important was what the kids did when she came in.
At first, they did nothing. On only our seventh day of school, when a "strange" adult entered, my Hoggatteers kept on working in their teams, using clues to slightly change one word to another, to another, etc. For those who don't understand the significance of this, I'll tell you: we don't want our students to stop what they are doing when school officials or visitors come in. It doesn't take much to make a visit into an interruption.
That said, I am not altogether against certain kinds of interruptions, and that, too, occurred with Doshier's visit. As I was talking to her, a student boldly walked up to her and shook her hand. Again, that may not mean much to the average reader, but considering this was a young lady who is very shy speaks volumes about the courage it took for her to approach Mrs. Doshier.
My students understand that I want them to be respectful. We have talked about how to do this by firmly shaking hands, with eye contact. We've also spoken about posture and how to initiate conversation. So...when everyone saw what one girl was doing, they all wanted in on the action. Imagine a wave of fourth graders coming at you all at once, and you'll get a pretty good picture of what Mrs. Doshier was faced with. They all wanted to shake her hand. She wondered aloud if this was something our class had been working on.
At which time, I had to fill some sandbags to deter the flood. I very well might have saved the life of our executive director of elementary education.
Teachable moment! I needed to clarify my expectations. "If the adult approaches your table," I said, "you may then address the adult with a handshake." Of course, by this time, they had primed her curiosity; now she had to visit the tables.
Team One was the first table, and Team One impressed. When Doshier walked toward them, four poised young ladies stood and greeted her with handshakes.
"Would you like to see what we're working on?" one asked.
"Please take my seat," said another.
And the remaining two explained our project and why we were doing it.
My heart stopped. This was a challenging academic task for most, but to add the social-professional aspect is obviously a lot to ask of nine- and ten-year-olds. Still, in that moment, I was very proud of the class. To have resigned themselves to put together such a repertoire of skills is really something to note.
I was so pleased that I had to brag to Principal Hennessey when she visited shortly after.
Back to School: Student Planners
For the past several years, Cecil Floyd third through fifth graders have been given the gift of Student Planners, sometimes referred to as agendas. In our class, we attempt to use these correctly - as planners - and not as reflection on our day.
When students arrive at the beginning of the day, they are to immediately write our plans for the day in their planners. So far, we haven't done very much outside of our rules and expectations. Still, we have written those things on the appropriate pages of these books.
Our plans don't always go as planned, so those things students write in their agendas will always be subject to changes as we roll along.
Parents need to understand that I will not be sending these home every day. In fact, student planners are not supposed to leave our classroom. I use other methods to keep in touch with parents without overwhelming them with the annoying little duty of signing every night, and without taking valuable class or preparation time to check for said signature.
Please expect to hear from me about Class Messenger, ClassDojo, BiblioNasium, and Seesaw. The latter of these are up to parents, though. While I can sign parents up for Class Messenger, parents must sign up for themselves on the other three of these platforms. I will send information soon.
Don't worry! I won't flood you with texts and emails from all of these sources. I will use them to let you know when our website has an especially interesting update. I will use them to let you know about homework and book order due dates, etc.
Parents, these tech platforms are your ticket into our classroom.
ClassDojo sends a report to your person, every Friday, to let you know about your son/daughter's behavior awards and about the things s/he must work on to improve. (Please note that I have already sent you a unique code to connect to ClassDojo.)
BiblioNasium lets parents know what kids are reading. Instead of a paper log, students keep this information electronically.
Seesaw is the way Hoggatteers will keep electronic portfolios. When parents sign up, they get a view of their child's work and progress - something I really missed with last year's class.
When those reminders come to you,
please go immediately to sign up for your desired communication tools
(hopefully, that's all of them!).
And I left it at that, knowing something "magical" was in store for their immediate futures, meaning that in just minutes they would discover something that I did not tell them.
This year, our first recess in in the morning, not long after students tied these beads onto their wrists as bracelets. I accompanied the class to the "back yard", our immense playground at Cecil Floyd Elementary School, and it didn't take long to see kids running from the far corners to the place I stood, our "back porch".
"Mr. Hoggatt! Mr. Hoggatt!" they yelled before reaching me. "Mr. Hoggatt! You didn't tell us the beads would turn color."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"The beads turned color!"
"Yes," I said. They turned color. Do you remember what the beads represent?"
"That's right. Now just imagine how much your lives can change and become so much better with the hard work that we began, this week."
To my students, this was an excellent illustration. Some special "magical" beads that reacted almost immediately to the ultraviolet light from the sun, a little scientific magic if you will, brought a positive conversation about goal setting and goal meeting in the fourth grade and beyond. While their futures still are to be determined, these kids are already thinking of ways to improve themselves...and it's cool to see that some are still wearing their beads a week later.
And that's a valuable attitude for them to adopt.
Happy Birthday to Me
Back to School: Taking Notes
In the past, I have spent the first few days presenting rules and procedures on my own. This year, having determined that students need a better way to interact with said rules and procedures (and expectations), I decided to create a small packet that I dubbed a follow-along. Now, as I flip slowly through our Back-to-School slides on the SMART Board, students follow along on their sheets and take notes. Each block on the follow-along coincides with a slide on the board, and each slide on the board represents several minutes of instruction, presentation, practice, and explanation (along with a certain amount of pizzazz).
Students seem to be responding well to the process, and I've been happy with the way they have been paying attention so far. During these first days, I traditionally do a great deal of the talking, but with students more involved in the conversation, I've been able to stretch out the talking. Things are taking longer, because I'm explaining them with more detail and clarity - yet another highly important item in presenting our upcoming year.
Back to School: Do You Trust Me?
Thursday and Friday were a whirlwind of activity. I don't know what your kids came home to tell you, but I hope they were pumped up about all the things that await them, this year. I have particular, designated goals for myself and for the class, and I assure you they are lofty, but achievable.
On Thursday, I called one student to our stage, and asked if she trusts me. Yes, she did. I then proceeded to pour water into a styrofoam cup and turn it over the girl's head.
Nothing came out. The water I had just poured into the cup was gone. And the selected girl didn't even flinch. She trusted me. And the point was made.
Turning to the class, I asked everyone, "Do you trust me," and received a resounding yes.
A trusting relationship is important for our little school family to move forward.
Half of a Century
The day has finally arrived. It's been a long time coming. Who's five decades old, this Tuesday? This guy! Thinking back on the years between now and August 25, 1965, I realize my years have been filled with education.
My parents provided me with my first lessons, raising me in the church, reading to me, and taking me on special vacation experiences.
In kindergarten, my formal education began at Council Grove Elementary, in Oklahoma City. Thirteen years later, I graduated from Tuttle High School, in Tuttle, Oklahoma. The next year, I started college at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. Believe it or not, I graduated from USAO with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, just 2 1/3 years later, in 1985. I did my student teaching for another trimester after that, to receive my teaching certification for middle school and high school speech, drama, journalism, and debate.
After a short break to go to work, I returned to USAO to pursue my certification in elementary education, graduating with my Bachelor of Science in the field in 1989, adding another year to the tally.
My first job on the other side of the teacher desk started in August of 1990 at Page-Woodson Fifth Year Center, in inner-city Oklahoma City, and quickly moving to Buchanan Elementary to teach 1st and 2nd graders for five years.
Finally, my wife and I moved to Joplin, Missouri, in 1995, where I have taught in Room 404 at Cecil Floyd for 20 years (this being my 21st). During this time, I also devoted time, before my children were born, to attain a Masters Degree in Elementary Teaching from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, in 1999.
Add it all up and you'll find, and you will find between nearly 45 years of my life have been spent in educational facilities! That's almost 90% of my lifetime.
And none of this counts the school of hard knocks.
Now for the next 50 years!
Back to School: Happy New Year!
Handshakes, high-fives, and hugs were the order of the day as students arrived for the first day of school, Thursday. We were happy to have Star 104.3 partner with us for the arrival time, broadcasting from our front porch and rocking the neighborhood. Balloons and streamers greeted students as they entered the building, and a special assembly during the morning hours rounded out the school-level hellos.
In the classroom, our new family got more comfortable with each other. Strangely, the only rules and procedures we covered were associated with recess, assembly, and dismissal. The rest of the time was spent with me earning the trust, attention, and respect of my newest set of students, and the students introducing themselves to each other (Even the shyest took a time on our stage under the spotlights!).
We've truly started with a whirlwind of activity, and things may only get wilder as we go along! Are you going to stay up with us, parents? Watch this website every day for updates!
I didn't get to talk to parents as much as would have liked. Unfortunately, there was paperwork (more than a little) for parents to complete during their Open House experience (What did you expect? We work for the government.). Most got the entire pile completed before leaving our campus, but some will return the papers as soon as possible.
I apologize for not talking to every student and every parent as much due to our obligations. It was still a joy to see and meet you, however brief.
It was, and always will be, a pleasure to reunite with former students (Once a Hoggatteer, Always a Hoggatteer!). Several taller and brighter students came for a visit and a hug, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Parents, I will be contacting you soon with some more ways you can stay in tune with your child while s/he's at school. You are the wind beneath our wings!
I snapped a few pictures just ahead of Tuesday's Open House. Everything is shiny for the first day of school, today, and kids are going to be greeted in style. If everything goes as planned, we should be serenaded by Star 104.3 on the front porch as you arrive! I'll have a better report about this week's festivities, in the coming days.
Oh, the Places You'll Go beckons me to hearken forth, "to fight the good fight", and yes, to seize the day. At the same time, it warns me - in poetic language - that I face an obstacle, my mountain. There is no promise that it will be easy; in fact, I am assured that I will face a mountain that must be climbed, tunneled, or brought down to level. I can face it in any number of ways, but I must not turn my back on it!
Also, said mountain is my mountain. It may take many forms: an activity, a person, a supervisor, or a skill. And it may be bigger today than it was yesterday. But at the same time, my mountain may be chipped away, bit by bit, pebble by pebble, until it can easily be straddled. Conquered!
Today is your day!
Music Appreciation: Geronimo
We use music in our classroom. It plays in the background during much of our independent and group work, and it plays in the foreground during certain lessons and celebrations. Music keeps us on task, and there are times when it purposefully attempts to distract us (which I won't go into right now).
Perhaps I think about things too much, but it is fun, and my mind is being used for little else, these days, so why not? For years, I have built a Back- to-School playlist (left) for the first few days or weeks of class. I doubt anyone else has realized this, but I like to think there is a subliminal effect to my madness.
Some songs are included because they are messages of comfort to students who may stressing from facing a new teacher (quite the ominous event considering the Beware of Attack Teacher sign outside the classroom door). Other songs are included because they describe me or remind me of a defining moment in my life. They are about my roots and my philosophies of life and teaching. I proudly take a different road, speak with an unconventional voice, and teach with an unfamiliar spirit. Finally, some songs are included because they are inspirational for anyone starting something new. I have attempted to put the songs in an order that makes them blend well and sound right when following one another when we play them during the first few days of class.
The Hoggatteer Revolution
is an extensive,
the Arts and Sciences
in the beautiful, friendly
LAND OF THE FREE
AND THE HOME
OF THE BRAVE
This site is described as
"a fantastic site... chockablock full of interesting ideas,
and useful resources."
...to like, bookmark, pin,
tweet, and share
about the site...
and check in regularly
for new material,
posted daily before
DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT!
History in Residence
Bring Mr. Hoggatt
into your classroom
for a week
with your students.