Robins, Worms and Spring Mud

The robins have returned to our spring playground. We learned the song “Rockin Robin” and watched videos of the original black and white version by Bobby Day and the one Michael Jackson sang.

We also had a wet, recess day with worms all over the blacktop! The second graders proclaimed it a “worm emergency”! Without understanding why the worms had all crawled out of the grass, they proceeded to pick them up and return them to the school garden where where they were “safe” – away from a stray, bouncing square ball. One little girl, however, picked up a large worm and tried to feed the birds. She stood on the blacktop and held it up, calling “Birdies! Birdies!” Did she really think a bird would fly down and eat a worm out of her hand? I think she did!

With spring comes the mud season. Lots of mud. When the students come in from lunch recess, they try to wipe the mud off of their pants and shoes. The boys, especially, are very protective of their shoes. If I would let them, they would spend all afternoon at the sink in our room trying to get the mud off of their shoes. I don’t tell them, “I told you not to go in the mud” because really, it is impossible. Our grassy playground has lots of mud. There is some mulch under the play structure, but the “big field” where kids run around is full of mud patches. So, by afternoon, when it is time to go home, the mud in the room has dried up and there is dirt on the floor. Luckily, there are some students who love to sweep. So, the last thing to do is try to sweep up some of the recess mud before going home. The forecast for this week after spring break is wet and rainy. So, we are not done with mud season yet!

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Back to School

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The first two weeks of school are filled with many activities to “get to know” students. Some students know each other from previous years, but things in a new room are always different.

As an educator, I am required to know the standards and teach curriculum in reading, phonics, spelling, writing, handwriting, math, social studies, science, nutrition and social/emotional learning.

Which of these do you suppose is most important to students?

After a particularly hot (my school does not have air conditioning) and busy Friday, I finally opened up a letter.
One of my students had given the letter to me right away, as she walked in the room. She must have written it at home the night before. I stuck it in my pocket because I was busy with the lunch count and attendance. I could tell it wasn’t a note from a parent. I forgot about it during our busy day.

Sitting at my desk after students had left, I unfolded her note.

Here is what it said:
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“You are nice to me. You are kind to others. Mrs. B. you are cool and nice.”

Apparently, I made an impression on her after only the first week of school. She is a quiet student and I had no idea that she thought I was “cool”.

Curriculum is important, of course. It’s what students are in school to learn.

However, at the beginning of the year, I am glad that this student has found that I will be kind, and make learning cool. That’s what is most important this time of year to students; building relationships and trust so learning can and will happen.

The views on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, vision or strategies of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

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Hay Lake School, Washington County, Minnesota

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About 40 area visitors attended my book talk on August 23rd as part of the “Hay Lake School Speaker Series”. Hay Lake School, near Scandia,Minnesota, is part of the Washington County Historical Society. This beautiful, brick, one room school has a front porch, the original school bell, a kitchen area and a library area. It also currently has indoor bathrooms. The school, constructed in 1896 also has a stage in the front behind the teacher desk. Hay Lake School was used by the Washington County Rural School System until 1963.

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The building then sat empty until 1970, when a group of citizens decided to clean up the school and give tours of the building. In 1978, the Historical Society purchased the school from the Forest Lake School District.

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Class photos along the walls show students from the past when they attended the school. Five Hay Lake School alumni were present at the talk. Arubtis is the little girl in the front row in the middle of the picture.

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Arbutis, seated on the left, Elaine, and Laurel sat together and remembered their days as students. I overheard them talking about the stage: “. . . remember when we were in a group on that stage Arbutis? I don’t see how 20 of us fit back there getting ready to come out for the Christmas program. . .” The three ladies were so happy to be back in their old classroom.

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The inside of the schoolroom. The stage is in back and has an organ and seating.

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Many folks from this Swedish area of Minnesota came to share stories about their days learning in a one room school. Richard shared that his favorite memory is that his parents let him ski to school – pulled by a horse!

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On the same property is the Johannes Erickson log house. It was constructed in 1868 by Johannes and his thirteen year old son Alfred. It is a two room house with two small rooms upstairs in the loft.

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The inside of the kitchen in the Erickson house.

Thank you to Mr. Brent Peterson, Exectutive Director of the Washington County Historical Society and Dustyn Dubuque, Museum Manager of Hay Lake School and Johannes Log House.

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Reed School

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This past Saturday, I gave a book talk at Reed School, a Wisconsin Historic Site. It was great fun to give a talk about one room schools IN a one room school. Alan Hanson,  – Historic Site Coordinator and Barb, a teacher volunteer for Reed School were also there to answer questions about the school

Clark County’s first school was named Pleasant Ridge School because of the view along what is now Highway 10, east of Neillsville. This first school was a log building. Later, a new school was built in a new location one-half mile north on Highway 10. In 1878, the school building was moved to the present location on land donated by Thomas and Lucretia Reed. The name was changed to the Reed School. In February, 1915 the school burned. A decision was made to build a new school with cement blocks and brick. The new Reed School was open in November of 1915. The school closed when the enrollment dropped below 10 students.

Gordon Smith, from Indiana, attended Reed School in the spring of 1939 as a first grader. He was staying with his grandparents. Gordon’s found that the one room school experience was very different from his urban school in Gary, Indiana. The memories of that spring lasted a lifetime. The Gordon V. and Helen C. Smith Foundation supported the renovation and currently supports the operation and interpretive programs for the Reed School.

The beautiful Reed School is an excellent example of a one room school in Wisconsin. The interpretive exhibits in the basement explain the history of education in Wisconsin, and invite guests to try questions from an eighth grade examination on a touch screen computer.

On the day I was there, some young visitors had excellent questions about beginning the school year in a one room school.
How did they sharpen their pencils? How did they get a drink of water? Did you go to school with your brother and sister?

What is the hole in the desk for? On Saturday, one girl was using the “hole in the desk” as a lemonade cup holder! Alan showed her an ink well that fit in the hole and we explained the use of an ink pen.

It was quite warm and I think the little girl with her cup holder had a great new idea for today’s desks! Water bottle holder? That would certainly prevent spills in my classroom.

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Pea Pods

I am a second grade teacher, so many people assume that I am not doing any school work in the summer. It’s hard to explain if you are not a teacher, but there are few times when I am actually not thinking about school. I wonder how my students are doing in the summer: Are they getting enough to eat? Are they having some fun? Are the students in summer school doing well? Are the others reading – at all?

Last Saturday, I went with my family to the Madison Farmer’s Market on the capital square. All the way around the square, we saw summer vegetables for sale – beans, lettuces, tomatoes, kale, radishes, pea pods as well as honey, organic meat, flowers, herbs, and lots and lots of cheese.

Then, at one booth I saw one of my Hmong students, her grandma, and her grandpa selling vegetables. Older brother, who was my student two years ago,was fast asleep in one of those fold up chairs. I assume he was tired from getting up very early to be at the market.

Without any hesitation, my student jumped up from her chair, threw down her dollar bills she had been holding in her lap, and gave me the biggest hug.

“So good to see you!”, she said.

We talked about how her summer was going. I asked about her job helping at the market with her grandparents. She said her mom and dad were also selling vegetables at a different market. I told her to say hello to her brother when he woke up.

I asked to buy some pea pods.

Grandma smiled at me, bagged up a pile of peas and said, “Teacher? For you, free.”

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Learning with Beans

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Learning how to compare and contrast various versions of the same story is an important step in understanding how stories work.Students learn that authors have different perspectives and differing points of view. Earlier this month, we read many different versions of the classic tale “Jack and the Beanstalk”.

In most stories, Jack is a young boy living with his mother and a milk cow who is their only source of income. When the cow stops giving milk, Jack’s mother has Jack take the cow to the market to be sold. On the way, he meets someone who offers “magic beans” in exchange for the cow and Jack makes the trade.

When he arrives home without any money, his mother becomes furious, throws the beans out of the window and sends Jack to bed.

A gigantic beanstalk grows overnight which Jack climbs to a land high in the sky. There he comes to a house (or in some versions, a castle) that is the home of a giant. In most versions, the giant also has gold coins, a magic gold laying hen, and a magic harp.

We also read and discussed a version with a female main character instead of a boy, one in which Cinderella also climbs the beanstalk with Jack and one with photographs of a boy climbing a “real” beanstalk!

Here are some student responses:
“Jack should have followed his mother’s directions, but didn’t – he wouldn’t have gotten in all of that trouble with the giant.”
“Jack should have been happy with the gold he got from the giant the first time, and not gone back up the stalk.”
“The wife was kind to Jack, he should have been happy.”
“He should have used the giants money to buy a new cow!”
“Maybe his mom should have climbed up with him to talk to the wife.”

This classic tale allowed us to have some excellent discussions about story and possible alternate endings.

We also planted bean seeds! The student reactions were lots of fun:
“Is this real dirt or magic dirt?”
“What will these seeds grow into?”
“Can we eat these beans?” etc.

Each student planted some seeds and we planted a few to transplant into our school garden. Seeds of learning from a few small beans.

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Read Your Heart Out Day

DSCN2895DSCN2908Once a year in February, my school has a special reading day called “Read Your Heart Out Day”.  All day long, staff from the school, folks who volunteer regularly, high school students, parents and special guests visit classrooms and read one or two books aloud to the class.

Readers arrive to special fifth grade hosts who accompany them to the library to choose a book. Then, the readers are welcomed into classrooms. We stop doing our classwork and gather at the carpet to listen to stories.

It is so much fun for the kids to hear so many books read aloud  in one day! My class heard the classic story about a flower smelling bull in  Ferdinand by Munro Leaf –  read by our very own Mayor Soglin!  They knew the mayor was scheduled to come to our room and I had prepared them for this special guest. After a review lesson about the job description of the president, a governor and a mayor, they were ready. Apparently, knowing that the Mayor is “in charge”of the whole city was enough for them to show respect and listen carefully.  They were a wonderful audience!

We also heard the book Peter’s Chair read by Mr. Thomas, a retired high school principal. The students were interested in his fun attitude toward reading. He showed us a photo of his grandchild on his cell phone  – he explained that he reads aloud to him, just as he read aloud to his own children when they were little.

A day full of fun stories and a reminder about the importance of reading aloud to children. Thanks to all of our guest readers!

(The views on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, vision or strategies of the Madison Metropolitan School District.)

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