Behind the Blog

Behind the Blog
My name is Cindy Kruse and I've been learning from elementary students for the past 16 years. I enjoy discovering new technology and implementing it in the classroom, absolutely love literacy, and am passionate about Responsive Classroom. I am constantly striving to learn new and innovative ways to teach students in order to provide authentic, interesting, and joyful classrooms.


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Monday, December 27, 2010

Perspective is everything

As I take time to reflect on this year, and get ready to head back into the classroom to begin a 'New Year', I am resolving to change my perspective about a few things that just can't be changed. I have come to realize - There are just some things I can't change. I can't physically change some situations, but there is something I can perspective. Perspective is everything we view our circumstances in life - is your glass half empty or half full? Some people would say 'change your attitude', but that really occurs after you change your perspective. Looking at something from a totally different angle...with totally different eyes.

I remember reading somewhere that changing your perspective is particularly useful when problem solving and aids in creativity. For example, try to imagine three very distinctly different personalities (the more details you use in describing each personality, the better - a young adventurer with no time constraints, a wise but gossipy old woman, and a savvy business man) and try to brainstorm possible solutions to the problem from each imaginary person's unique perspective. This type of brainstorming technique allows each of us to view things differently and may offer more than one viable solution to a problem.

I once met a teacher that was very gifted in classroom management, as a result she was typically given the children with the most challenging behavior problems (teachers, does this sound familiar?). However, she never referred to the students in a negative light, instead she would explain matter-of-factly,"I am lucky enough to have the students with the most potential for growth". She refused to see her glass as half empty.

I'll let you know how this goes as I endeavor to take my own advice.

What are you hoping to change as the 'New Year' begins?
Sunday, December 12, 2010

Intentional Traditions

As I sit here writing this, the stockings are hung over the fireplace with care, the Christmas tree is twinkling across the room, Christmas cards are addressed and waiting to be mailed tomorrow morning, and "Butt Ugly" - the snow woman is seated in her place of honor on the kitchen windowsill. This addition to our family's Christmas traditions was totally unintentional and really quite a funny story...

One Christmas, my loving and thoughtful husband wanted to buy me a snowman to add to my extensive snowman collection. Proud of his purchase, he beckoned my daughters upstairs to secretly share his find with them on Christmas Eve. When they saw the snow woman they both roared with laughter exclaiming, "That is Butt Ugly!" I was given the present Christmas morning as my husband sought to gauge my enthusiasm with the newest addition to the collection. He wasn't convinced of my sincere appreciation - mostly due to the snickers from my daughters. Although I assured him of my affection for the carved snow woman, proudly cradling her basket of fruit, he stated that we'd see what I really thought of the gift next year (certain that the snow woman would simply "melt away"). Next year, I made sure that "Butt Ugly" (nicknamed by my daughters) assumed her rightful place of honor over the kitchen sink. This became a tradition in our home as my husband bought a uniquely carved snow woman for each daughter for their own homes as their first married Christmas gift. (These are all referred to as "Butt Uglies") In true Kruse tradition, one has not decorated the house for Christmas until their own "Butt Ugly" is proudly displayed.

Our traditions this time of year are many...these traditions are what defines the season. They make us smile and laugh as we form a special bond strengthened by shared memories. Many of these traditions are formed unintentionally. Now that we are at the half way point in the year, it is the perfect time to think about the traditions we have formed with our classroom families....

Kids are such creatures of habit. I am certain that we have all formed traditions or routines unintentionally in the classroom. Many of these traditions are not realized until they don't happen - such as the day a "guest teacher" is called in to teach the classroom and the students complain, "But Mrs. ___ doesn't do it that way."

However, research shows that rituals or traditions serve to create a sense of community within our classrooms, making them a safe and joyful environment for children to learn. Here are some ideas for traditions that you can intentionally begin to establish with your classroom:

1. Begin or end your day with choral responses or songs that the class enjoys.

(check out the Responsive Classroom tab in this blog for ideas)

2. Read stories that students enjoy hearing over & over again.
3. Story Bits (treasures) or Reading Souvenirs - collectibles that help students remember a story
3. Use celebrations to acknowledge large or small accomplishments.
4. Cheers or songs to acknowledge birthdays.
5. Songs or chants to help ease transitions - to Morning Meeting, Lining Up, etc.

What traditions have you created in your classrooms?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How Cool is This!

Today while teaching my fifth grade class, we explored the possibility of using SCRATCH to help us in our study of mysteries (we are currently writing original mysteries and then putting them into power point - we thought SCRATCH might allow us to create animation, making the mysteries come alive). I will never forget the words of one ecstatic student as he threw his fists in the air, "I have waited my whole life to be able to do this in school! How cool is this!" As I strive to integrate technology in meaningful ways in my classroom, I realize there is much to consider when using web based technology. Here's what I'm thinking...

"For every hour we spend on our computers, traditional face to face interaction time with other people drops by nearly thirty minutes." When I read this statement recently (iBrain) I had to stop to allow this information to really sink in. I began to ponder these questions: What implications does this have for our children? Will they be less effective at reading the social cues we take for granted? If so, how might that affect their ability to communicate with others?

No one will argue the fact that technology is changing our society at a rate that is unfathomable. So much of this change is exciting - even exhilarating! The ability to make learning relevant and global in nature is (or should be) changing the way we "do" education. However, this change needs to be examined more closely.

We need to proactively teach the social skills students will need in order to be successful. We also need to be careful to integrate technology that will actually help our students to learn and share their learning in authentic ways. When we take these steps, I know we'll all echo the sentiment of my ecstatic student, "How cool is this!"