The Art of Play

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Teaching First Grade has reminded me how new everything is to these students.  They truly are discovering the world around them.  Not only do we want to teach them to identify letters and sounds, how to read, and introduce numbers and counting, but it is also our responsibility to teach them the rules and routines of school and how to interact and play with their peers.  It is a long school day with a lot of information to take in for a young child.  Sometimes these kids just need to a break and chance to play.

Play can happen in the form of a break, game, or recess, or as an activity in a lesson.  For a math exploration activity, students were split into 3 groups and told to explore the materials-base 10 blocks, pattern blocks, and geoboards.  Some of these materials were new to the students, and the students loved being able to build and create designs.  To introduce the science unit of balancing, students were given a tagboard crayfish and 2 clothespins; they were told to find a way to balance the crayfish on one finger.  The students were creative and tried putting the clothespins in different places.  Some students also tried balancing the crayfish in other places, such as their forearms, and later, some tried to balance their own body on one foot.  They had fun being hands-on and exploring; as a result, they were able to correctly answer my objectives: what is balancing and what is the purpose of counter-weights.

Even with the increasing standards and demands of school, we can’t lose sight of the fact we are teaching young children.  Sometimes they just need to have fun and have the chance to play.  picstitch

New Year’s Resolutions

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I’ve always felt lucky being Jewish living in the United States because I have two New Years.  At Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in the fall, I make a few resolutions for things I want to personally focus on for the following year.  It is a great time to reflect on what is going well in my life, what things I want to change, and what things are getting better but I still want to work on.  There is a designated period of 10 days between the High Holidays to repent and reflect, so I can think how the past year went and what changes I want to make for the following year.  I use this time to reflect on who I want to be as a person and how I will feel most proud of myself.

A few months later, I have the chance to reevaluate my resolutions on January 1st, my second New Year.  My goals may not drastically change, but it is a great opportunity to reflect how things are going, what progress I’ve made, and revise or update my goals if necessary.  The ultimate goal is to keep pushing forward as the best me, and my second New Year is a chance to celebrate the progress on my journey.

Every year, I set personal goals related to my health, exercise, and staying in contact with friends.  Throughout this past year, I’ve spent a lot of time internally reflecting on and figuring out who I am and how to be happy.  It has been an incredible journey of self discovery and something I want to continue.  Smile more.  Focus on the present and what I’m doing at that particular moment.  Make my own choices and have “Me” time to do things I enjoy.

One resolution I am making for this coming year is to show more gratitude and appreciation for the things I have.  Every morning, I should wake up and think of something I am looking forward to that day.  In the evening, I should think about one positive thing that happened during the day and five things I am grateful for.  I can be grateful for little things, such as having a supportive family or being able to enjoy fresh air and sunshine.  Recognizing everything I have and focusing on the positives will make me happier in the long run.  I know I will smile more and be someone people enjoy being around.

Now is the time to reflect, celebrate successes, and make new resolutions to be the best You you can be.  Wishing everyone a Sweet and Happy New Year!


I Think I can, I Think I can

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blue engine


It was a whirlwind first week of school.  I received a job offer, attended the first Institute Day, and had the first day of school all within 7 days!!  I was learning on the job daily routines, curriculum, meeting the students and observing their strengths and weaknesses, and building relationships with both staff and students.  Teaching first graders, everything was new and exciting, and it was impressive how much they remembered from Kindergarten.  Things were crazy at times for everyone, but slowly routines were established.


As an introductory activity on the first day of school, students were read aloud The Little Engine That Could.  The part that was emphasized and stuck with the students was that most of the engines wouldn’t stop to help the toys and dolls, but the Blue Engine did.  He wasn’t sure if he could make it up the mountain, but he figured he would try.  He repeated, “I think I can. I think I can” as he chugged up the mountain and finally he succeeded!


“I think I can.  I think I can”.  What a great motto for the new school year.  It is okay if something is hard, it is okay if you don’t get it right away, what’s most important is you need to try.  I used this metaphor throughout the first day of school when students were then drawing a picture and writing a sentence about their favorite part of the story.  I was often asked, “How do you spell ________”?  My response was to be like the Blue Engine and sound it out.  Listen to the sounds you hear and write them down.  All we’re asking is for you to try and do your best.


The first few weeks of school are filled with many activities-some reviewing and refreshing old concepts and others introducing new skills.  As things become more challenging for some or all students, it is important to remind them to be like the Blue Engine and try.  As long as they think they can, students will continue chugging their way up the mountain and eventually be successful.  I know I will need to continually try to be successful at my job to help all students feel supported and learn.  I may need to come up with many different activities or reminders for students with certain behavioral or academic challenges, but I will not give up and will use all my resources to help me come up with new ideas or possible solutions.  Everyone needs to be determined, passionate, and dedicated so both students and teachers are successful learners.


Here’s to a great school year!