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Building Relationships with Morning Meetings

Building a caring classroom community with my students was one of my most important behavior management techniques. If your students know you care about them and learn to care for each other, it cuts down on a lot of behavioral problems (or it at least makes them easier to solve). One of the best ways to build and maintain a caring classroom community and culture is through morning meetings.

Here is how I set up my morning meetings:

Every morning, after morning work, I would play our gathering song. I have a love for Jack Johnson, and I am obsessed with his Curious George soundtrack, so Upside Down was our “come to the rug” song. I love it because it is calming, but has a positive and upbeat message. My students quickly learned the lyrics and would singalong as they came to the rug.

If you’ve been reading my posts for a bit, you probably know I do not like to waste any time. So, I would always have my students come to the rug fully prepared for our first reading lesson with their reading journal and bag of books.

Once the song was over, I expected all students to be at their spots and ready for morning meeting to start.

I would start off by greeting everyone and telling them something about my evening the night before or morning. I would then invite any students to share any news or exciting events. This took about five minutes most mornings. That’s it! It is something so simple that creates a welcoming environment where your students know you care about them. Doing this day-after-day helps even your closed-off students open up and feel like a part of the community.

As issues arose, I would allow students also to discuss them at this time. If a student was missing their special necklace, they would ask their classmates to help them find it. If a student was having trouble with a peer, either I would approach the subject, or I would allow them to (of course without naming names or putting the other child down.) We would spend time brainstorming how to handle issues with our peers together. This really helped my students understand their words and actions affected others.

Many of them became very cognizant that they had the power to positively impact their peers because they chose thoughtful words and actions. We also spent time celebrating the wonderful deeds our friends and classmates did.

Having these open discussions regularly with my students taught them to be leaders. They learned to be leaders in their classroom with their peers, but also in the school community. They set positive examples for others around the school and even their siblings at home. They learned to approach and resolve their own problems, rather than relying on me.

It seems like too much of a simple thing to have such a large impact, but it really worked for my students year after year. I encourage you to try regular morning meetings in your class. Your time will be well invested!

Teaching The True History about the Wampanoag and Thanksgiving

I was having a conversation with my mother earlier in the week, and she told me she had saved the “Indian” costume she made for me for Halloween when I was a little girl. She wanted to know if my daughter would wear it. I was a little taken aback by her question because I thought it was commonly understood…
  • It is improper to refer to Native Americans as “Indians.”
  • It is inappropriate to dress as a Native for Halloween because this is clear cultural appropriation in every sense of the word. (Cultural appropriation is adopting elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. Often, the original meaning of cultural elements is lost or distorted and viewed as disrespectful.)
  • It is unacceptable, and frankly, racist to generalize all natives, because the dress, culture, and traditions vary greatly by regions and nations.
While I am absolutely not an expert on the matter, and I do struggle to understand some issues related to cultural appropriation, I am working to educate myself, and others, so we can do better for cultures that have been, and still are, oppressed.

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I was born and raised in Connecticut and went to college in Rhode Island. My family used to frequently stop at Plymouth Village on our way to the Cape. I’m telling you this because growing up in this area, we were taught MANY falsehoods and misconceptions about the Pilgrims and “The First Thanksgiving.” To reiterate the flaws in my education around this topic, we were really only taught about the Mayflower, Pilgrims, and “The First Thanksgiving,” and learning about the “Indians” was only in the background. I do not ever remember (until college) learning about the Wampanoag people. The perception we were given of “Indians” was that they were a wild, uncivilized group who were background guests at “The First Thanksgiving.”

I still remember having a Thanksgiving feast in Kindergarten. We made black pilgrim hats and Indian headbands with colorful feathers. I was upset that I was chosen as the “Indian” because we all wanted to be a Pilgrim.

This memory makes me cringe. WE MUST DO BETTER FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS!

Here are a few common misconceptions about the Wampanoag:

The Pilgrims took over empty land, and the Natives had no fixed settlements.
The village the Pilgrims took over was once a Wampanoag village called Patuxet. Patuxet was abandoned because so many people died of plague brought by previous settlers. The village already had homesites, tilled fields, graves, and trails.
The English helped “civilize” the Wampanoag.
The Wampanoag were an established group and culture who lived differently than the white settlers. They used many resources from the land and had a deep respect for the environment. Due to English settlers’ efforts to assimilate the Wampanoag, their language Wopanâak declined.
English settlers were kind and helpful to the Wampanoag.
While some settlers were kind and developed an alliance with some natives, it is also recorded that Europeans kidnapped Native people. At least 29 Wampanoag men were kidnapped and held in Europe for years.
The natives helped the settlers.
For a month after landing after landing at what is now Provincetown, Cape Cod, the English exploited the natives and stole supplies and food from the Wampanoag.

Natives wore blankets and feathered headdresses while Pilgrims wore black clothes and hats with buckles.
The Wampanoag wore beautifully decorated clothing made from animal skins. Pilgrims wore dresses and waistcoats of various colors including red, yellow, blue, and purple.

Here are a few common misconceptions about “The First Thanksgiving”:

Thanksgiving is a tradition that is based on a single historical feast the Pilgrims shared with the Native people.
The American tradition of Thanksgiving stems from only one paragraph in one letter written in 1621 about a harvest gathering.
The First Thanksgiving feast included turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.
There was no cranberry sauce or pie because sugar was sparse. They may have eaten turkey, but corn, cod, and venison were more common foods.
Thanksgiving is a religious gathering to give thanks.
The first gatherings in 1621 were not religious, but likely a harvest celebration. The first religious thanksgiving occurred two years later.

Fact: Today, The Wampanoag do not celebrate Thanksgiving. To them, Thanksgiving is a solemn reminder of the English arrival that brought destruction and death to their people.
Frank James, an Aquinnah Wampanoag stated, “This is a time… to look back, a time of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back at what happened to my people.”

While not as “cute” and “fun” it is critical we teach our children of all ages the truth about the Wampanoag and Thanksgiving. 

The book “1621, A New Look At Thanksgiving” is a great read with many more eye-opening facts about the Wampanoag people and the myth of Thanksgiving. If you ever get a chance, I recommend you visit Plymouth Plantation, where they are working hard to rewrite history with facts from all perspectives from this time period.

This quote from 1621 A New Look at Thanksgiving resonated with me:
“Unquestioning acceptance of biased interpretations can affect the way we treat one another, even today.”

You can also purchase my Wampanoag differentiated reading passages and writing activity in my TpT store. 

What other misconceptions about history and other cultures did you learn in school? I'd love to head your experiences and ideas on how to correct misconceptions for our children.

Teaching About Veterans Day

While I hate to admit this, I never paid much attention to the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day until I became a teacher. Veterans Day, which is November 11 every year, is a state and national holiday reserved to celebrate the lives of all U.S. Military Veterans. (Memorial Day, on the other hand, is to honor those who passed away serving in an American war.)

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The first Veterans Day celebration was on November 11, 1919, which was the first anniversary of the end of World War I. At this time, the holiday was called Armistice Day. In 1938, the day officially became a nationally observed holiday. The name of the holiday was changed by President Eisenhower in 1954 so that it would honor the veterans who served in all American wars, rather than only WWI. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect in 1971 making Veterans Day the fourth Monday in November. However, by 1975 President Ford moved Veterans Day back to November 11 because of the important meaning the date had to our country.
Here are some interesting facts about the holiday we know as Veterans Day:

  • World War I originally ended on November (the eleventh month) 11, at the eleventh hour.
  • As of 2017, there were 18.8 million veterans, 7.6% of the population living in the United States.

o   91.6% of them were male
o   49.5% of them were 65 years of age or older
o   33.2% of them served during the Vietnam era
o   CA, FL, and TX had the most veterans with more than 1 million residing in each of the three states.

  •  France, Britain, Canada, and Australia also celebrate the veterans of World War I and II on or near November 11th.
  • There is a wreath laying ceremony held at Tomb of the Unknowns in the Arlington Cemetery at 11 am every year. You can see last year’s ceremony HERE.
  • TRIVIA ALERT: Even though many people spell it Veteran’s or Veterans’ Day, there is not supposed to be an apostrophe in the name of the holiday. 

Take the time before this holiday approaches to educate your class about what Veterans Day is and why we celebrate it.

I have differentiated reading passages available for 2nd-4th grade here:

This also comes with a cute craft and writing assignment you can use for your bulletin board.

Looking for a good book to share with your students?

America’s White Table, but Margot Theis Raven, explains the symbolism behind the little-known tradition of setting “the white table” on Veterans Day. The story is told in a relatable way by a ten-year-old little girl. The illustrations are captivating. 

Hope you enjoy your day off while honoring those who have made sacrifices for our freedom! <3

Things to consider when teaching your elementary students about Veterans Day. This post includes facts, Veterans Day close reading and writing product, and a Veterans Day book suggestion.

Autumn Across America (But not in Florida )

Living in Florida, I often don’t realize it is fall. It seems like all the Halloween and fall décor is up way too early, then I realize it is actually October! Seasons just aren’t the same here. Fall was one of my favorite seasons when I lived in New England. I miss the crisp weather, the vibrant leaves, and apple picking.

The book Autumn Across America by Seymour Simon gives me fall nostalgia. This book has beautiful, vivid photographs. I love how this book talks about how fall can look different in different places around America. This book also does a fabulous job of describing how autumn progresses. I created this fun flip-flap graphic organizer for you to use with your students to help them track how Autumn changes.

You can have your more advanced or upper elementary students complete this activity independently or in centers, or as a whole class activity for younger elementary. It is a great addition to any fall-themed bulletin board. If you use it in your classroom, I’d love for you to send me photos!

Grab this freebie here

Things to Keep in Mind When Teaching Dia de los Muertos

            As parents are putting together costumes and children are picking out pumpkins in preparation for Halloween (and let’s be honest, teachers are stocking up on coffee), there is another holiday right around the corner – Dia de los Muertos.  Dia de los Muertos translates to “Day of the Dead” and is a Mexican celebration. Here are a few interesting facts that are important to know before teaching your students about the holiday.

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  1. First and foremost, Dia de los Muertos is NOT Mexico’s Halloween. The celebration began in 1800 B.C. while Halloween’s origins are much later.
  2. Surprisingly, Day of the Dead is more commonly celebrated in southern Mexico than in the northern part of the country. 
  3. Dia de los Muertos is a celebration based on love, not death or fear. It is a day to honor loved ones who have passed away. The holiday is not sad or depressing and is really quite the opposite. 
  4. The altars, or ofrendas, are not a place of worship. “Ofrendas” translates to “offerings” which is what the altar, usually covered in a white tablecloth, is set up to hold. Food, water, and pictures of loved ones who have passed, are placed on the ofrenda. (The food is never eaten as it is left for the souls coming to visit. Only the scent of it is enjoyed by the living.) All of this is done in a way similar to how people leave pictures, flowers or stuffed animals at a grave site. 
  5. While the name of the holiday is DAY of the Dead, it is actually celebrated over the course of two days. The first day is November 1, which is All Saints Day. This is the day used to honor all of the “little angels,” or children, who have passed away.  November 2, All Souls Day, is used to honor all adult loved ones who are deceased.
  6. Pan de muerto, bread of the dead, used as part of the celebration, is round for a reason: to denote the circle of life.
  7. You may frequently notice flowers that look like bright orange carnations at Day of the Dead celebrations. This flor de los muertos, or flower of the dead, iscalled a marigold. It used as a way for the departed to find their way back home. 
  8. While it is always fun to get your face painted, there is importance to the sugar skull painting, or calavera. It began as a way for the living to try and fight off death by looking as though they were already dead.
Here are some great children's books on Day of the Dead:

The Dead Family Diaz is an adorable story about Angelito, who is not looking forward to the Day of the Dead because he is scared of the living. That is until he makes a new friend in The Land of the Living. 

Clatter Bash! A Day of the Dead Celebration is a simple story with vibrant illustrations that depict the fun skeletons are having at their Day of the Dead celebration. This story is perfect for younger children, lower readers, and ESOL students. 

If you are looking for a reading activity, this Compare and Contrast Halloween and Day of the Dead Lapbook is a great option!

Read about Dia de los Muertos facts and misconceptions to help you with teaching about Day of the Dead. Includes recommended books and an activity for elementary students.

Descriptive Writing with Room on the Broom

In case you can’t tell I’m in the mood for fall and Halloween books. When I was in the classroom, fall was our time for teaching narrative writing. I was always looking for fun ways to incorporate seasonal literature into my lessons in meaningful ways.

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you order from one of my links, Amazon gives me a small percentage of the sale at no extra expense to you. This helps me maintain my blog. 

Room on the Broom by Axel Scheffler is a cute story about a generous witch who gets help from her animal friends. Sheffler uses tons of descriptive language in this story, so I thought it would be a great mentor text for narrative writing. 

I created this foldable to go along with the story to have students record the author’s use of descriptive writing in each scene.
Room on the Broom Foldable

Hope you enjoy!

Which Witch is Which? Teaching Homophones

Happy October! As the weather is cooling off, you are probably beginning to pull out fall decorations and think about how to integrate the fun seasonal spirit of Halloween into your lessons.
The book Which Witch is Witch? By Judi Barrett is a cute story you can incorporate into your October lessons that teaches the difference between the homophones which and witch. It is a comical rhyming story your kids will love!

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you order from one of my links, Amazon gives me a small percentage of the sale at no extra expense to you. This helps me maintain my blog. 

In this fun homophone accordion book, you can type in your class list, and the book will populate fun homophone sentences with your student’s names. Have your students illustrate their silly books and their memory of homophones should stick!

1. Print the homophone book.
2. Fold the book like an accordion. 
Click here to grab the free Homophone Accordion Book