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Sunday, 13 December 2015

Lit Circles - Great blog post with some new ideas to try

I love doing lit circles and have done them in a number of grades and schools, adapting over time to what I find to be a perfect set up now, though with every new class comes new ideas.

Even still, I am always finding new and innovative ways to improve lit circles and try new things and that is what this post is about, sharing some of those ideas.

This is taken from this blog post which you should check out.


I divided my 29 students into six groups, and the students were allowed to decide with whom they worked. Throughout the year, each group read chapter books of their choosing, one after the other. All of the paperless work was completed in Schoology, our learning management system (LMS).
The students met for literature circles twice a week -- Mondays and Fridays -- for about 40 minutes per session. Here's what happened on each of those days.


All six groups met, with four in the classroom and two in the hallway. After the groups came together, students confirmed their jobs for the week, which had to be completed by Friday. There were eight job descriptions:
  • Connector: Go into detail regarding a specific text-to-self or text-to-text connection.
  • Passage Picker: Find one or two paragraphs that are moving in some way. Write why you picked each passage and describe your thoughts.
  • Plot Twister: What exactly would you change in the chapters that you read for homework to make them go the way that you would have preferred? Why?
  • Wonderer: As you read, create a list of relevant statements starting with "What if?" or "I wonder."
  • Predictor: Based on what you read for homework, explain what you think is going to happen next. Also explain why you made your predictions.
  • Psychologist: Give advice to one of the book’s characters. What would you tell him or her to do, and why?
  • Journalist: Pick a character and, based on what you read for homework, write a passage in his or her personal journal.
  • Student Choice: Decide how you would like to respond to the chapters that you read for homework. If you aren't satisfied with any of the jobs, create your own idea.
Here are the directions that accompanied every job:
  1. Your homework (at least 6-8 sentences) should be posted to your Literature Circle group as a new discussion.
  2. Name the discussion "Job title, pages." (e.g. Connector, 1-52)
  3. For extra credit, attach a completed Role Sheet to your discussion. (The Role Sheets were from Literature Circle Role Sheets for Fiction and Nonfiction Books and Literature Circles: The Way to Go and How to Get There.)
  4. Quality comment on the discussions of others. Post your discussion early to leave time for others to comment.
After the students confirmed their jobs, they started their reading for the week, which consisted of about 40 pages from their book. They read with each other's jobs in mind, as they were encouraged to continually pause, discuss the book through the lens of their individual tasks, and take notes on what they learned from classmates.


Students met to discuss the week's reading through their Schoology discussion forum posts (and optionally the role sheets). However, on a weekly basis, before everyone separated into groups, we investigated as a class how their posts could be used as conversation starters, but not as the conversation itself. As Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels explain, when used improperly "these role sheets quickly become mechanical, hindering rather than empowering lively, spontaneous book talk" (p. 248).
To promote in-depth conversation, we were constantly coming up with sentence starters that would assist in uncovering a deeper understanding of what was read through rich inquiry and debate. (As a starting point, we called upon prompts from Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design and Embedded Formative Assessment.) In the end, the goal was for students to collaborate through the use of their own "thick" questions and without assistance from the teacher, outside resources, jobs, or role sheets.
During both the Monday and Friday sessions, I simply traveled from group to group, helping them to stay on task and facilitate conversation. As the school year progressed, the majority of the groups no longer needed my assistance.
During each Friday session I let all of the groups know when five minutes remained. At that point, the students individually completed and handed in either the Individual Rating Report (adapted from the Literature Circles book) or the Progress-Process Person form (adapted from the Literature Circle Role Sheets book). We alternated which handout was used on a weekly basis.
On the Individual Rating Report, students graded themselves on a scale for such statements as:
  • I was responsible and brought my book to class.
  • I encouraged others to share group work.
  • I shared group time by building on the ideas of others.
There were also a few open-ended questions involving what was learned, what questions existed, and what could be improved upon for next time.
On the Progress-Process Person form, students rated all of their group members on a scale regarding whether or not they were prepared, how much they contributed while also encouraging others to contribute, and if they remained focused.

In the End

My process represents one of countless ways to facilitate literature circles, so feel free to take it, argue with it, or adapt it to fit your students' needs.
If I were to return to the classroom and revise this process, it would be interesting do away with the jobs and role sheets altogether and have the students "take full responsibility for capturing their during-reading responses using Post-its, text annotations, bookmarks, and journals" (Harvey & Daniels, 2015).
How do you or could you run literature circles in your classroom? Could literature circles work across all content areas, and not just language arts?


Monday, 30 November 2015

Monday Quotes are back...

I haven't posted in a while, but feeling recharged and ready to keep sharing.... especially as I work more and more with new teachers, I really value having a space to share and store ideas I come across.

Less of my own adaptations and more a collection of others amazing ideas... at least for now.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

5-10 minutes of class... what activities can you do?

Keep Students Engaged the Last 5 Minutes of Class

What to Do With That Awkward 5 or 10 Minutes of Class You Have Left

Create fun structured conversations. Give the whole class a sentence stem that they have to fill in themselves, and then make them go find at least 10 different partners to practice it with. The repetition of both speaking and listening will help cement it in their brains, and the not-sitting-in-their-chairs will make it fun. 
  • "One thing I will remember to tell my future grandchildren about differential equations is _____"
  • "I shall uphold the honor of my English teacher, Ms./Mr. _____ and never mix up 'you're' and 'your.' I will remember the difference by _____."
  • "I'm going to go straight home and tell everyone on Facebook how the most important thing I learned about cells is ____."
  • "If I made a modern-day movie about the Shakespeare play we read today, I would cast _____ as _______ because they are both ______."

Have students face off in Trashketball to decide which half of the class gets dismissed first. For Trashketball, first divide the class into two teams. Each team sends a representative to the front (or you can choose a representative). The representatives are then asked a review question. If the question is answered correctly, the representative's team earns two points. Then the representative has a chance to earn another two points for his/her team by shooting a ball made of trash (see the featured image) into the class trash can from a set distance. Then, a new set of representatives face off. Whichever team is in the lead when the bell rings gets dismissed first.

Read whole article here:

Activities for the Last Few Minutes of Class

Monday, 13 April 2015

KABOOM - Great Learning Game for Classrooms

I just found this game online and am obsessed! I can't wait to create a few versions of this activity for my classes!


1. It is highly engaging!
2. It lasts for as long as you need it to!
3. It can accommodate nearly ANY content area/targeted skill!
4. It is quick to prep!
5. It costs next to nothing to make!

You need sticks, a cup/holder, and to determine which subject area you want to focus on.

For example - basic math facts:

Or maybe you need to glue on some items:

or labels/tags:

You can do this for vocab, definitions, math equations, sight words, rounding, parts of speech, synonyms, antonyms, story elements, the options are endless!

Once you decide and create - here is how to play...

1.  First student pulls out a popsicle stick.
2.  The student identifies the "answer" or "correct response."  If their answer is correct (determined by either a reference sheet or their peers) they get to keep the popsicle stick.  If they answer it incorrectly, the stick must go back in the cup.
3.  The students continue around the circle, selecting one popsicle stick at a time and answering their question.
4.  Any student who pulls a KABOOM! stick has to place all of the popsicle sticks they have accumulated back into the cup, leaving them with zero.  (It may sound harsh, but it happens OFTEN, so all students will at some point get "Kaboomed!"
5.  The game NEVER ENDS because eventually someone will get a Kaboom! and their popsicle sticks will go back into the cup to keep the game going.
Source: http://www.starrspangledplanner.com/2015/03/kaboom-possibly-best-center-game-ever.html

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Perimeter and Area Visual

Parts of a Plant - Labeling Parts

A Simple Plant Project {labeling parts}

  After learning about the different parts of a plant, students put their knowledge to good use with this art project.

Here's what we used:  blue construction paper for the background, 1/3 brown construction paper for the soil, snippets of brown yarn for the roots, half of a green pipe cleaner for the stem, free-drawn leaves on green felt, bold colored cupcake liners for the flowers, sunflower seeds for the center of the flower.

After assembling their plant, students cut and paste these labels to complete their project.  Grab the labels here if you can use them!


Thanks to Mrs. Lirettes Learning Detectives Blog for this awesome idea!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

5 Peer Conferencing Revision Strategies That Actually Work

From this post I found some fun and interactive ideas to help my students with revision

Revising and editing a peer's writing helps students learn to work as a team. It also gives them a fresh perspective on the proofreading process that will help them become more aware as they write and edit their own work. So, how can you make the peer review and editing process engaging, meaningful and fun for students? Here are five ways to get your students excited about peer review that actually work!

  1. Neon Revision

    Many kids don't know what or where to mark when reading another student's work. Neon revision is an approach that can really help. First, give each student or pair of students three highlighters and these instructions:

    Highlighter Markers: 3 Colors
    Yellow – Mark the first word of each sentence. Questions to think about: Is there variety? Does the writer use transitional words? Are there any sentence fragments or run-ons?
    Pink – Highlight each adjective. Think about: Is the writing descriptive? Are the adjectives strong and specific? 
    Blue – Highlight each verb. Think about: Are there too many "to be" verbs? Are the verb choices strong? 

    Students begin by highlighting specifics. Then, remind them to look at the big picture. After highlighting, they can make comparisons and add suggestions about what the student needs to add, adjust or remove. Proofreading will come later. First, they are helping a peer with sentence fluency and word choice—both descriptive language and "showing without telling."

    Teach students about the revision sandwich: compliment, suggest, correct. Remind students that when reviewing someone's work, always start out by saying what they like about their work. Next, they make a suggestion and converse with their partner. Students ask questions. Then, they make corrections. By working together, they both learn from each other.
  2. Writing Wheel Checklist

    Have students assemble their writing wheels using this template, a piece of plain paper and a brad for the center. To assemble, cut out both circles and attach with the brad. Explain that they will use the writing wheel checklist to help them edit one another's writing. Students should do each task on the wheel as they review another's work. The writing wheel checklist is portable, so students could even check their peers' writing from home on a class blog! Students can post their writing on a kid-friendly blogging site such as sKidblog or Weebly, where peers can write comments. Using their writing wheel as a reference, students will know how to assess their classmates' compositions for conventions.

    Click here for a PDF of the Writing Wheel Checklist.
  3. Revising vs. Editing (What's the Difference?)

    Students need to know the difference between revising and editing in order to help refine their peers' writing. Revising makes writing better. Editing makes writing correct. A popular approach in many classrooms is to use the acronyms ARMS (for revising) and CUPS (for editing).

    Revising (The big picture)
    Add words and sentences (be descriptive, capture all ideas).
    Remove words and sentences (be concise).
    Move words and sentences (sentence fluency, organization).
    Substitute words and sentences (word choice, voice).

    Editing (Conventions)
    Usage (Verbs and nouns—does it make sense?)

    To help students with their understanding, say you use your arms and hand to hold your ear to help them remember that when you revise, you want the writing to sound better. If you punch a hole in a cup and look through it, you are using your eyes. This will help them remember that when you edit, you want your writing tolook better. Students could even create a telescope made out of a paper cup and call it their Revisoscope! Check out Busy Bee Kids Crafts to see how to construct one. Once students know the difference between revising and editing and have the acronyms memorized, they can jot them down on a Post-it note when checking a peer's writing. The acronyms will remind students of what to look for and how writing can be improved to make it look and sound better!
  4. Proofreading Spectacles

    Put your proofreading spectacles on, it's time to edit! To make editing for conventions fun, have students wear crazy glasses with the lenses popped out of them. It will motivate students and encourage them to look closely at their peers’ writing. Remind students to always reread to check for misunderstandings in writing. You can purchase glasses at the dollar store or a party supply store. You could also have students create their own glasses out of paper.

  1. Switch! Revising and Editing Stations

    Set up six stations around the room. Label each station with one of the following titles:
    1. Word Choice
    2. Ideas and Content
    3. Organization
    4. Sentence Fluency
    5. Voice
    6. Conventions

    Print out Be the Editor task cards for students to use when revising and editing at each station. Students use Zaner-Bloser's task cards to help them discuss and check one another's writing! The task cards provide the children with prompts, making editing/revising easier. By concentrating on one writing trait at a time at each station, students will not feel overwhelmed. Along with the task cards, put out highlighters, sticky notes, colored pencils and other writing utensils to keep students interested.


Thursday, 29 January 2015

E-books and E-readers in the K-5 Classroom

Ideas and resources for using e-books in the elementary classroom. Strategies to help your students be effective close readers whether they are using Kindles, Nooks, iPads or traditional books. Check out this link for a pinterest page full of resources.

Don't just stop at print books.  Give your students access to all kinds of media, including e-books!


Wednesday, 28 January 2015


I will be using this with my Grade 3/4s when we do perimeter and patterns. True, it is a lot of "paper waste" but I think this type of hands on learning is perfect for my class. And I can def. reuse the stickies after =)

Have you used post-it notes for a creative math lesson yet?! (See post from 2012 about post-it math art). They're a fantastic tool to introduce the concept of area and reinforce perimeter. For this lesson, students used 25 or less post-it notes. We made a prediction: Do different shapes that have the same area have the same perimeter? Working in groups of 4, students mapped out their design on 1-inch graph paper and figured out the area and perimeter of their shape. Then, they found a blank wall to construct it! Click here for more math/art projects!


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

11 Vocab Review Games to Make the Learning Stick

Here are 11 classroom games with free downloadable reproducibles perfect for practicing new vocabulary or test facts. Hope you find them useful! 
  • Oranges to Oranges: Quick, define "chimerical"! Based on the popular game Apples to Apples, this is a great way to practice and expand on weekly vocab words or terms from your latest unit.
    oranges to oranges vocabulary game
  • Fun With Synonyms: Guess That Word: Can your students guess a word by its synonym? They can after playing this game! Having students create the cards—researching the synonyms—is an important part of the learning too!
    guess that word vocabulary game
  • Vocab-Categories: Just like with Scattergories, kids have to think and use vocab words creatively to win the game. The download includes letter cut-outs, vocab-category lists and make-your-own list cards.

    vocabcategories vocabulary game
  • Vocabulary Land Game Board: This is one of my favorites—I loved creating this board game! If you have access to a laminator, print and laminate 8 to 10 boards for your classroom and use dry-erase markers. Instant classroom game or language arts station!
    vocab land game board vocabulary game
  • You're on a Roll Dice Game: This game gives students the chance to improve their vocabulary skills while playing with their friends.
    on a roll vocabulary game
  • Vocabulary Checkers: To move checkers on the board, players must use the vocabulary word in the square correctly in a sentence. Challenge students to build on one another's sentences to tell a quick story or to make up the silliest sentences that they can.
    Checkers vocabulary game
  • Bracket Battles Vocabulary Game: With bracket battles, the best word always wins. Students have to sort the words into parts of speech to play. So you sneak in a little categorization practice at the same time!

    battle brackets vocabulary game
  • Bingo Vocabulary Game: Admit it, everyone secretly loves bingo. Now your students can play while simultaneously enhancing their vocabulary skills. Give away new pencils as the prize and maybe your students will finally give up those tiny stubby ones.

    vocabulary bingo game
  • Color Your Vocabulary Activity: Challenge students to creatively use their vocabulary words to label pictures. It's harder than it looks!

    color your vocabulary game
  • Picabulary Vocabulary Game: Divided into teams, students have to creatively draw out vocabulary word meanings for their teammates to guess. Chances are, they are going to make you draw too. Be forewarned!

    picabulary vocabulary game
  • Think-Tac-Toe: To execute their tic-tac-toe strategy (three in a row), students must complete the vocabulary activity within each square. Two students (or two halves of the class) can take turns choosing squares. If it ends in a draw, that means you snuck in more vocab practice!
    think tac toe vocabulary game


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

5 Ways to assess students writing progress

This is from the sixth post in the Teaching Young Writers blog series sponsored by Zaner-Bloser's Strategies for Writers. You can see the previous post on 5 Peer Revision Strategies.

  1. X Marks the Spot
    Too often we teachers grade papers as if we are preparing a manuscript for publication. We proofread, line-edit and rewrite. Stop now. Refrain from spending all of your time writing long comments on your students' papers. A piece of writing filled with comments and proofreading marks can cause students to feel overwhelmed and bewildered. The goal is for your students to slowly gain writing skills and confidence, not to feel discouraged and negative about writing. Instead, focus on the content of the paper. When you see a grammar mistake or a spelling error, simply put a small x next to it. Let your students problem-solve what needs to be corrected. They figure out the mistakes marked with an x and enter their corrections in the margin. This will cut back your time and help students grow as writers and assess their own work. Save the proofreading marks for your students to do on their own writing, as well as on their peers'papers.

  2. Write an End Comment
    Save your comments for the end of your students' writing. Your comment should include at least one strength. Then, it can point out a problem that the student needs to improve. Finally, it should end with suggestions for the student's next step in the writing process. Students can take your recommendations to assess their writing and set goals to continue their progress.

  3. Address Common Errors Together
    If you notice that many of your students are inserting semicolons willy-nilly or skimping on the textual evidence, rather than writing this note over and over on each student's composition, do a mini-lesson (or three) with the class. By having a class discussion, students will all receive the same comment you would have written on many papers in one simple whole-group conference.

  4. Use a Rubric
    Using a rubric to assess students' writing is a great way to see exactly what students are grasping and and what they're struggling with. Teachers can find premade rubrics or create their own on iRubric. This is my favorite site for creating and adapting rubrics, and it's free! What makes rubrics efficient is that teachers can circle and add notes to each category. Then, they quickly calculate the score. Rubrics help teachers pinpoint exactly what the student needs help with or where the student needs more of a challenge.

  5. Incorporate Student Reflection
    Rather than viewing assessment as something only teachers do, have students complete a self-assessment. Encourage students to assess their own strengths and needs in their writing. An easy way to motivate students to evaluate their own writing progress is to create a rating scale. The rating scale could be in a traffic light format (red, yellow, green). Students color in the circle to describe their level of understanding: Red = I don't understand, Yellow = I'm starting to get it and Green = I got it! After they assess themselves, have your students create goals for themselves. By doing so, you will get an insight into what your student is thinking and feeling, which will make the ongoing assessment process a lot easier and more efficient!
Looking for more? Nine free Strategies for Writers lesson plans complete with teacher and student pages!


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Keep cellphones out of bedrooms!

A screengrab from the Children of the Street Society's newest campaign, asking parents to remove smartphones from their children's rooms at night.

It’s an attention-grabbing poster – a teenager girl, typing her on her phone at night, with a text bubble lifting up her skirt. But the Coquitlam-based Children of the Street Society say their “Hooked” campaign, meant to convince parents to ban smartphones from their children’s bedrooms at night, is grounded in education.

Source: http://globalnews.ca/news/1778928/coquitlam-organization-wants-cellphones-out-of-kids-bedrooms-at-night/

Thursday, 15 January 2015

11 Questions that will make your child happier

I love these as a mom and a teacher they are great reminders on how to frame questions and conversations with children. These were taken from this article.

1. What was your favorite part of today?
This is a good question to ask at bedtime, to help your child feel content and happy before sleep. It also instills a habit of focusing on the best thing that happened in any given day rather than the worst. If you make this part of your bedtime routine, it will become second nature.
2. What are you grateful for?
This is a good question for the dinner table. Every family member can take a turn saying what he or she is grateful for that day. There is a strong correlation betweenhappiness and gratitude, so this one is very powerful.
3. What are you going to do about that?
When a child comes to you with a problem, ask this question in a warm and curious tone. Don't just jump in and solve their problem; how does that help them in the long run? At least give them a chance to work it out on their own, and give them the gift of your confidence in them, which is evident by this question that implies that they can think of solutions to their own issues. If your child says "I don't know," you can say, "I am not sure either, let's try to figure it out together." Happy people are people who think of problems as surmountable, and think of themselves as effective problem solvers.
4. How did that make you feel?
At the risk of sounding shrink-y, an essential part of happiness is being able to notice and express your own emotions. If you can verbalize what you're feeling, you can make sense of it, you can process it, and you can obtain support from others. This is a great question to ask when your child comes to you with something "bad" that happened, instead of either dismissing it ("that wasn't that bad") or fixing it ("let mommy get you some ice!"). It trains your child to be aware of his feelings, and to use that information effectively.
5. What do you think he/she feels?
In any situation, you can cultivate empathy by asking your child to wonder about what someone else feels. Empathy will make your child a happier person; he or she will have stronger interpersonal relationships, feel better about himself for thinking of (and then, often, helping) others, and derive more meaning from life.
6.  How can we look on the bright side?
In any situation, you can teach your child that there are positives. With preteens or teenagers, this question may be way too corny, but little kids will like it. You can also teach them the expression "making lemonade out of a lemon" and ask them how you can make lemonade out of a bad situation, like, "You fell and hurt yourself, so that's a lemon, but you got a Tinkerbell bandaid, and that's lemonade! Now you tell Mommy one."
7. What part of that can we learn more about?
In any TV show, book, trip outside the house, basically any situation at all, there is something to learn more about. And look at you, Super Parent, you already have your smartphone at the ready!  So this time use it for teaching your child that life is full of learning opportunities.  Happy people are people who are curious and always learning.  So when you watch TV and someone says "Bonjour," you can look up pictures of France or a YouTube song sung in French. When your child realizes that this question means that you're going to whip out your phone and show them something new and special, they will ask it to you all the time. And that's how you end up looking at pictures of real estate in Nebraska with your 4-year-old. Don't ask.
8. What do you want to do on the weekend?
Research shows that anticipation of positive experiences brings more happiness than the experiences themselves. Once your child is old enough to realize that tomorrow is not today, start instilling a habit of positive anticipation of small pleasures. A child who is excited all week to get frozen yogurt on the weekend is a happy child, just as an adult who plans a vacation six months in advance is happier during those six months.
9. What can we do to help/to make someone happy?
Bringing your child along to visit a sick relative, or someone recovering from surgery, or to volunteer at a soup kitchen is a wonderful gift that you can give to your child. Your child will feel even more proud of his behavior if he is the one to think up the nice thing that can be done (e.g., baking cookies to deliver, drawing a card). Research shows that giving even releases oxytocin and endorphins, so it's like a high that your child can become addicted to. Also, involve your child in your charitable activities, as giving charity is a form of altruism that is also linked directly to happiness (and just to being a good person, which you also want for your child).
Incorporate a spirit of generosity into your child's daily life. Whenever you're out, buy something little for someone else.  When you color, make a picture for someone else. Giving things to others makes people happier than buying things for themselves, and enriches interpersonal relationships.
10. What do you want to do outside today?
Getting outside and engaging in physical activities alongside your child is a wonderful way to get him or her in the habit of not just sitting around. Exercise releases endorphins and is as effective at treating depression as SSRI's. And the most powerful way that you can teach your child about exercise is to do it yourself. Children whose mothers exercise are more likely to exercise themselves. And sunlight can also help boost mood and regulate circadian rhythms, which means better sleep for your kids, which makes everyone happier.
11. When do you feel happiest?
If you direct your children's attention to the experiences that they most enjoy, they will start to realize that they can choose to proactively increase their time spent in activities that make them feel best about themselves.  According to researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, "flow" is the state where people find an activity so enjoyable and rewarding that they become completely immersed in it, losing all sense of time and feeling completely in the moment. If your child is lucky enough to have found an activity that makes him feel a sense of "flow," it is helpful for you to point this out and allow your child enough time to attain this state. Note: for many kids this is video gaming, which is actually fine, since a great deal of research points to many psychological benefits of gaming (and anecdotally, I know many people who met their spouses while gaming, and gaming actually brings spouses closer if both participate!). The best case scenario is for your child to find a career that puts him into "flow," since then, as the saying goes, he will never "work" a day in his life.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samantha-rodman-phd/11-questions-that-will-make-your-child-happier_b_6401788.html

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty

For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.
The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.
“We’ve all known this was the trend, that we would get to a majority, but it’s here sooner rather than later,” said Michael A. Rebell of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College at Columbia University, noting that the poverty rate has been increasing even as the economy has improved. “A lot of people at the top are doing much better, but the people at the bottom are not doing better at all. Those are the people who have the most children and send their children to public school.”
The shift to a majority-poor student population means that in public schools, a growing number of children start kindergarten already trailing their more privileged peers and rarely, if ever, catch up. They are less likely to have support at home, are less frequently exposed to enriching activities outside of school, and are more likely to drop out and never attend college.
It also means that education policy, funding decisions and classroom instruction must adapt to the needy children who arrive at school each day.
“When they first come in my door in the morning, the first thing I do is an inventory of immediate needs: Did you eat? Are you clean? A big part of my job is making them feel safe,” said Sonya Romero-Smith, a veteran teacher at Lew Wallace Elementary School in Albuquerque. Fourteen of her 18 kindergartners are eligible for free lunches.
She helps them clean up with bathroom wipes and toothbrushes, and she stocks a drawer with clean socks, underwear, pants and shoes.
Romero-Smith, 40, who has been a teacher for 19 years, became a foster mother in November to two girls, sisters who attend her school. They had been homeless, their father living on the streets and their mother in jail, she said. When she brought the girls home, she was shocked by the disarray of their young lives.