Live from Las Vegas its Monday Night

Wow, I can't believe it is only Monday!  I have so much floating around in my brain from today's I Teach K events.  My goal this week is to share with you some of the "golden nuggets" that I found while in Las Vegas.  I wish I could tell you everything, but that is just not possible.  So for this week, nuggets with more detailed posts to follow. 

The conference kicked off with the fabulous Debbie Clement from Rainbows Within Reach

We had a great kick-off to the conference learning some her fun songs to use in our classroom. I loved the Top to Bottom, Left to Right song and can't wait to teach that to my kids.  I also love the Tall Giraffe book and song.  Such a fun way to engage the students and reinforce key literacy skills too!

Debbie's newest book, Red, White and Blue is also amazing!  I love the patriotism it teaches and will definitely be adding this to our USA study - that is if I can hold it back long enough to get to that unit!  Debbie uses sign language and motion with everything.  She explained that sign-language is the only language on Earth that requires the use of both hemispheres of the brain at the same time.  Sounds like sign language and movement/motions are a great way to increase the learning pathways to the brain!  That was Golden Nugget #1.  Debbie finished with a special new song/rap and had the help of a few special guests.  I was able to record the entire thing and was so glad that I did.  Here it is:

I had a chance to snag a quick picture with Debbie before heading to my first session!

After that I was off to my morning sessions.  First up was Allison Williams from Zaner-Bloser who had some great ideas on teaching handwriting.  Not only is teaching handwriting necessary and important, she showed us research that showed a direct correlation between the development of handwriting and later reading and math scores.  One thing that Allison shared that really stuck with me is the 3 Step Approach to teaching handwriting.  1 - Establish and Visual and Motor Image.  You can do this by first showing and describing the letter to your students.  Have them describe it too.  Then compare it to other letters they know.  Then help them build a Motor Image by learning the letter using those gross motor skills.  Try things like Sky Writing.  Then lots of practice on white boards, in rice, using gel bags, or anything else to practice that letter to make the motor image permanent.  Last but not least, paper and pencil.  I know I'm guilty of doing paper and pencil too fast.  I am going to work on incorporating this 3 Step Approach (Golden Nugget #2) into my teaching!

Next up with Kimberly Jordano from Kinder by Kim who shared lots of ideas for incorporating math skills.  Kimberly had so many ideas and lots of examples out to see.  As a visual person I really appreciated that!  Here are a few of my favorites with a brief description under the picture.

I love the way Kimberly incorporated art into math.  Each month her
students did a seasonal art project then followed it up with a measurement
activity.  They measured the height of the leprechaun with gold coins and
the length of the gold fish with gold fish crackers.  At the end of the year she
binds them all into a great keepsake!

Here's another example of art and math.  The students created
this scarecrow.  Then added a little 10 frame book to the body
showing different ways to make 5.  Now that's some fun decomposing
of numbers.

You can find more ideas at Kimberly's website and blog.  She has lots of great freebies that are classroom ready!

After lunch I had an amazing session with Donna Whyte from The Smartie Zone.  She really challenged us to look at the 7 strands of math and figure out fun and creative ways to teach and reinforce those skills outside of math time AND relate those math concepts to real life to help the kids connect to it!  Golden Nuggets #3 and 4!  In this picture below she listed all the different math concepts she could think of that could be covered and learned during calendar time.  Then she begged - please don't do all of these everyday!  Take 1 or 2 concepts and really help your students learn to understand them.  Switch it up everyday to keep your students engaged in calendar.

Today I finished off my sessions with Hillary Lewis from Rockin Teacher Materials.  Let me just tell you have nice, friendly and real this lady is!  It was such a job to get to meet Hillary after following her blog for so long.

Hillary had some great ideas for organizing centers.  I love that she allows her students the choices to choose which centers they will do each day all while really keeping the control over their centers. This is Golden Nugget #5.   Hillary uses cards that are labeled with the center and student.  Each student gets 10 cards for the week.  These 10 cards represent the center choices.  She can control the choices by handing out the centers that she wants each student to have, including any targeted practice or focus areas.  Each day the students choose their centers by placing their cards in the pocket chart.  The next day, repeat with the remaining cards.  Do this everyday until all the cards are gone.  She definitely inspired me to loosen up my control freakness and figure this center thing out in my classroom in a way that works for me.  Hillary also had some great word work ideas that I will share with you at a later date.  Make sure to visit Hillary at her site!

But wait, there's more!  The day was not over yet!  Tonight we had the Keynote Speaker that officially kicked off the SDE Las Vegas (by the way there are 3 different teacher conferences here right now).  We were in a huge ballroom with thousands of teachers and administrators.  This is only half the ballroom:

I was very excited to hear from Ron Clark.  Well - my excitement was nothing!  This guy is Ah-May-Zing!  Wow!  He is full of energy and passion for educating kids and wants nothing more than to share this!  He bounced all over the stage and through the audience.  He later told us that we need to imagine a layer of dust over all our students heads.  We come over here and stir it up a bit, then go over there to stir it up a bit.  Don't let the dust just settle on them and suffocate them.  I know I've seen that glazed over look before - now I know its the dust settling on them and I need to stir it up!

He shared so many stories from his life, his teaching career and the new Ron Clark academy.  He said the things that may not be popular but are oh so true like we need to stop the negativity and focus on the kids, we need to teach kids to have a strong work ethic and not always reward them for working, and most importantly we as educators need to support and uplift each other!  I think a couple times I almost shouted Amen!  His passion for kids and education is contagious.  After leaving all I could think was Watch out America - there are a couple thousand educators who are really fired up right now! 

If you happen to be at I Teach K (or another conference here in Vegas) what were your highlights?  As for me now, its time for bed to get refreshed for tomorrow.  Thanks for letting me "Drain my Brain" and get my thoughts out.  Now I'm ready for tomorrow!