We generated some conversation with the first three rocks in our collection, yesterday. Students held and looked at our rocks, making observations about colors, shapes, textures, etc., and recording their observations in their composition books.
Our first prewriting activity was in the form of a drawing activity. As I played saxophone music to celebrate Charlie Parker's birthday on Tuesday. As the music played, students were inspired to draw scenes and characters on paper.
Music has inspired people for eons. It persuades. Movie makers craft soundtracks to make scenes more dramatic or more comedic. And Hoggatteers listen to music to inspire their imaginations.
There is a wave of thought that we must do all we can to keep the self-esteem of children intact - to the point that we aren't being realistic with kids about their abilities. Why does every child on the Little League team now receive a trophy? They all ain't that good. You know who should get the trophy? The most valuable player. And when you child cries, "Why didn't I get trophy?" you should respond, "Because you aren't the MVP." Period. End of discussion.
Ron Clark is pretty blunt when he talks about entitlement. One may not expect that from a man who teaches in the inner city of Atlanta, but one thing Mr. Clark seems to understand is this: none of his students will ever move forward on his own if all he knows is how to put out his hand. He would rather his students learn and achieve on their own. And they work hard to do just that.
Ironically, they get a lot of help from corporate and celebrity sponsors. I'm OK with that as long as they aren't just handing the cash over to the students, but invest in them wisely and encourage personal responsibility.
Responsibility. That's that elusive quality that we say we want to encourage, but we act differently. In government schools, we are often relegated to giving away more than empowering. We provide breakfasts, lunches, and sometimes suppers. We provide before-school, after-school childcare. We hand out free food for the weekends and turkey dinners for the holidays. Not that some of those things aren't necessary - after all, we are a compassionate people - but perhaps we should rethink everything.
Empowerment would indicate that I teach my students to fend for themselves - earn their income and improve their outcome - not that I hand them a solution. And when I say teach, I mean that they will not come by empowerment , in our society, by natural means.
What has happened to America, and why isn't everyone inspired to run naturally? We are a nation built by people with a tremendous work ethic, people who weren't afraid of a challenge. Now, it seems Runners are becoming the rarity, and everyone feels they are owed something. And the sense of entitlement that is so commonplace in America starts with you. No one promised you that you will have the job you have forever.
Sometimes being blunt, like in these quotes from Mr. Clark's book, Move Your Bus, is necessary to make a point. It does not indicate that we lack heart, love, or care for our students. It means that we strive to break cycles of poverty, social impotence, and chronic ambivalence for them instead. It's not that we don't want to give a fish to our needy patrons, but that teaching them how to fish will ultimately be more beneficial to them, even when we are gone from their presence.
We have the good fortune to have a class set of iPads at our disposal, and we take advantage of that good fortune daily. This week, students were introduced to some of the websites and apps we will utilize throughout the year. Some of these include Epic!, Front Row, Seesaw, Moby Max, Khan Academy, and Tween Tribune. While technology is not the end-all to our approaches, I have to recognize that with such exposure, my students be more prepared to face their futures.
I gave my students white beads, Wednesday. Along with the beads, I introduced them to the phrase, Imagine Your Potential. I wanted them to think about the possibilities that will be available to them in the future. I want them to consider themselves ready for amazing things to happen in their lives.
Little did they know, the beads changed color when struck by the ultraviolet light of the sun. As soon as they went outside the pigments in the beads activated, showing them that a plain white bead does not have to remain plain. The same is true of their own lives - especially when we consider the potential they have bottled up inside of them.
As long as we were experimenting with our color-changing beads, why not answer the age-old question: did out solar viewing glasses really protect our eyes from UV light? I folded some of our viewing glasses in half, placed some beads between the two lenses, and taped the edges. If the UV light permeated the lenses, we would know that the glasses failed to protect our eyes from the rays of the sun during the solar eclipse earlier in the week. Happily, we discovered the beads remained lily white when we ripped the tape off of the glasses!
Returning to the classroom, we did some reading on our first Wonderopolis for the year: What Is the Difference Between a Solar and Lunar Eclipse? We discussed how to respond to the questions and got into a lot of reading strategies in this short reading and lesson. Hopefully, students realized that I did not simply give an assignment and have expectations of completion and correct answers, but that I provided them with steps and strategies to get the results they needed.
"I have never been lost,
but I will admit to being confused
for several weeks."
We worked on some beginning-the-year concepts again, yesterday. Students were challenged to inflate these colorful windbags.
Simple enough, right?
Some tried blowing directly into the tubes. Others held their tube open and ran back and forth across the classroom trying to fill their tubes with air.
Finally, they discovered the tubes were open at the far end, as well. Still, they couldn't seem to effectively fill their windbags with air.
Interestingly enough, I had to demonstrate how one of these long tubes can be filled with a single breath.
And lots of leadership skills came into play.
First, I told them that they needed to step back from a problem before beginning to solve it. In other words, they needed to evaluate to see what the other end of a problem would look like. Until all the loose ends are tied up, a problem will never be solved correctly. If your effort is in vain, you might as well stop what you're doing.
Second, it's important to step back and not take complete control for yourself. A real leader does not jump right in. Instead, the leader should try to figure out how to bring others with him/her. A real leader doesn't try to do all the work, but should delegate and foster teamwork instead. One of the secrets to inflating these windbags is to blow from about eight inches back - not directly into the tube.
Finally, by blowing from eight inches back, one can put more air into the tube than just what is exhaled from the lungs. In fact, air from the surrounding area is also swept into the tube (much like leaves chase after a car when it zooms down the road). Air from the lungs plus surrounding air can fill most of the tube in one breath. A good leader brings others along for the ride.
We will complete our beginning the year materials, today, but the concepts students are learning should last all year and for the rest of their lives. Character is important, and I don't want any of my students to miss out on the important core behaviors we've stressed in the first few days.
A full moon in the middle of the day?
And it was the dark side of the moon at that!
Yesterday's solar eclipse provided us with a few seconds of amazement. Our viewing "glasses" were on the approved list, so we were able to slip out, five students at a time, to view the eclipse as it progressed.
Today, we'll do a little follow-up to the viewing - which happens to work along with the beginning of the new school year.
Need information about the solar eclipse as seen in Joplin, Missouri?
We're using timeanddate.com to for scheduling and info.
You will find important information about feeding, nesting, and other behaviors at this Audubon page.
Superintendent Moss stopped by our classroom for a short morning visit, yesterday. She was all smiles as she addressed students. "You're very lucky," she told them. "Do you know why you're very lucky?"
"Because we have Mr. Hoggatt for our teacher!" came their answer.
We are almost half-way through my Back-to-School routine. Some things have sparked a lot of discussion regarding the way we plan to treat one another. Most students are really starting to realize that this year is going to be different. I've seen some terrific moments of reaching out to others, during these first two days; I look forward to seeing many more. We are a family!
Who's ready for our first full week of this?
This has never happened. We went the entire first day of school with no classroom discussion of procedures. The first day was more for introductions and movement around the classroom. We got to learn about our new Hoggatteer family. With all the activity, I didn't get many photos. At left are two from our first Team Challenge.
On the second day, we will definitely get into the rules and expectations for a successful fourth grade year.
I was happy to see at least 95% of my new students represented at Open House, Tuesday. We had the highest attendance for the fourth grade classes. That, friends, is always a good sign. Family involvement is always encouraged.
Just as important to me were the visits from former students. One hailed from our 1996/7 fourth grade class. Two or three are currently students at Joplin High. Others were from the middle school and from our own fifth grade. The brief conversations I was able to have with them are priceless to me.
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