One Sunflower

here I go again

It is time to renew my reliability with the CLASS observation tool.  I first wrote about my experience with CLASS  2 years ago. Becoming reliable means watching a lot of videos of teachers in classrooms and trying to see what the “master coders” see so that my scoring will match theirs.

Spending this much time with this assessment is causing me to have a few sleepless nights but I am being reminded of how much I like the tool.  It is also impacting my own classroom planning – which is what should be happening!

As I’ve been putting together the last few lessons for the year, I’m more aware than ever of the dimensions outlined in CLASS and how my relationships and planning can boost the effectiveness of my work with my students.

I think I’ll see if I can borrow the Flip camera again and record myself.  Maybe one of my colleagues who have already become “reliable” will take a look-see with me and help me evaluate myself.

Are any of you in K-3 using the CLASS observation tool to evaluate quality teaching?  I’d love to hear from you.


The Egg

The Egg by M. P. Robertson is one of my favorite books, and I’ve featured it as one of “Books for Saturday’s Child.”

This year I seem to be finding a variety of ways to engage my students in activities over time and then tie them together with a favorite story.  Such is the case with this “egg” project.

In March, I put out paint breyers and gave my students time to paint.  Some enjoyed making stripes, some just enjoyed the motion of painting and didn’t seem too concerned about design.

I saved all their painted paper.  Just before our spring vacation which coincided with the occasion of Easter Egg hunts, I demonstrated how I could draw an oval on my painted paper and cut it out to look like an egg. Then I went on to cut a zig-zag to make it look like it cracked open.  We had some fun thinking about what might come out of my egg.  I charged them to spend time over vacation thinking about what they might like to have come out of their egg.

When they returned to school, I read them The Egg.  They cut out their own ovals and those difficult zig zag lines and we did some practice pictures of creatures.

Last Friday they drew a final draft.  I’ve got to be out of the classroom for a few days but when I return, we will put our eggs and creatures on display and write stories to go with them.

a cat

a mama and her babies

a bunny

a dragon


what would Picasso do?

Maureen’s thinking about her students who play with race cars every day got me thinking about “periods” in our lives.  Periods when it might seem we are getting a little stuck but perhaps there is more going on.

Picasso’s painting between 1901 and 1904 came to be known as his “Blue Period.”  In fact he went on to have a “Rose Period,” “African Period,” and “Cubist Period.”  He often painted the same people throughout these periods.

When my daughter was five, the animated Disney movie of The Little Mermaid was her favorite. Over the course of her entire year of kindergarten, the only thing she painted was Ariel on a rock in the water.   My husband and I came to call this her “Little Mermaid Period.”

Maybe her efforts to become proficient at portraying her favorite story character provided a touchstone in this busy first year of school.

I don’t rotate the toys in my classroom as often as I used to because I’ve found that when my students have more time to play and explore what they find fascinating, their vocabulary, understanding and ability to explain their thinking is strengthened.  This isn’t to say I don’t work to stimulate their exploration of other areas and new mediums but I’ve developed some perspective about what sometimes seems like repetitive play scenarios.

I have some students who want to play with dolls and dress-up all year long.  These students can create and tell me detailed stories about the lives they imagine for themselves and their loved ones.


I have a few students who play with blocks every day.  They have  developed a keen understanding of how to choose blocks to support their architectural plans and they are able to explain their ideas to their peers.

This climbing box used to become a conundrum for me over time because it seemed to be a haven for the same students day after day after day.  But now, I “embrace the box!”  I’ve realized that my students who beg to build a dark fort in the box every day are often children without much privacy and independence in their own homes.

Like Maureen, I try to be right in the middle of my student’s play.  At first glance, their actions may seem repetitive to me, but as I watch and listen, I find this immersion to be a process of refinement. The continuous interaction and conversation distill the play to its most essential elements, and then daily engagement works over time to weave and layer in new learning and thinking.