Sunday, August 17, 2014

Summer Book Club

So a few months ago I saw something on Pinterest about doing a book club with kids. A parent was talking about doing this with her own kids and their friends, but I thought, how cool would it be to make one with my students this summer?

As a teacher I always try to advocate reading and show my love of books. I wish I read as much as I did as a kid; I used to borrow a pile of books weekly from the public library, on top of the books from school, books at home, and even the books my sister was reading. I think at one point, I owned 3 library cards. Now, as an adult, I find it hard to fit reading into my hectic schedule. That's why I've made a challenge for myself to read 50 books this year. And making a book club was the perfect kick off!

I first brought the idea up with my students and asked what they thought of it. About half my class loved the idea, so I thought I might be able to do it. I reminded them that this was their responsibility and they needed to be 100% sure (or as much as possible) that they could and would put effort into it. Plus, I told them they needed their parents on board as well. I wanted to see who was really serious about it. Then I sent an email to parents explaining the virtual book club. Since they already had google accounts, I used google hangouts and made a group for them to type out their responses. Then I found out online that multiple video chat could work too! It wasn't perfect; there were many, many, technically issues so here are my tips if you ever want to start your own book club! I am thinking about even doing this during the school year!

1. Book choice

The Pinterest idea recommended a slightly easier book than their level because you want them to be able to read and understand it on their own. The book I chose was The Runaway Dolls. It's the third in a series I used as a read-aloud to my class so all of them were interested in the book. It's fairly easy to read but still has mature vocabulary that we could discuss.
I gave several options on how to get the book: public library (free), half price, or amazon. Amazon was selling it starting at $0.08 (excluding S&H).

2. Group size

Keep it small. The ideal number for this age group (2nd graders) would be less than eight. Four is ideal. If you want a book club for your whole class, you could have 3-4 groups depending on your class size or levels. Initially I had 9 students interested. That dwindled to 5, due to vacations, other commitments, etc. It was a perfect sized group.

3. Pick a day

I chose Mondays because it was easier for me to remember and it's the start of the week! I first asked parents if there was a time best and then adjusted according to that. I chose Mondays at 2:00. Usually afternoons are better for kids so they're not sleepy. I think.

4. Book club discussions

The Runaway Dolls has 19 chapters, so I assigned about 4 chapters per week (they did pretty well with reading the assigned chapters). Stress to them that they MUST not read ahead! I forgot to mention that, and some students read the whole book! It's hard because they can't make predictions or they forget what happened in a certain chapter. Or they return the book to the library. Haha.

To prepare, I read the first four chapters of the book. After reading the first chapter, I went back and
 made some comprehension questions to ask them. These included simple text questions, inferences
about the text, personal connections to the text, predictions, etc. I also underlined and tabbed all the vocabulary I wanted to talk about. I went a little crazy on the first four chapters and tabbed everything and ended up not having time to discuss them all! So just talk about a few important vocabulary words they may see again in the upcoming grades.

We also discussed a lot of similes and idioms (the book used many) and also had them compare and contrast things. Summarizing the chapter was the hardest because they wanted to tell me everything; that's why typing was good because they could only type one or two sentences.

I assigned homework for them on top of reading. Maybe it's the teacher in me, but reading wasn't enough! But I think next time, I will lay off on assigning homework. Or at least give them just one or two things. One of the things I told them to do was to write down vocabulary words that they didn't know and find the meaning of those words. Sometimes text clues don't help, especially when I read, and often I misinterpret the meaning of a word I don't know. So I think that's good practice, because sometimes you just have to look it up.

5. Technical stuff

Oh technology. I love and hate you. That was probably the hardest part of this book club. The first book club meeting I had we used Google Hangout and just typed. It was actually really wonderful! The only downside is that if you have students who are not great typers they can get very frustrated. The solution to that is that they could use an iPad or something that can allow them to use the microphone to speak and type it out for them. My iPad Air does that, and it's easy for me to "say" everything, especially if it's a long answer. With typing, you don't have to worry about talking over each other and not being able to hear someone.

After the first meet, I tried several times to get the video chat to work. The first time they couldn't hear me. The second time, some students couldn't hear each other; also, because they are minors, video chat doesn't work for their accounts, so the parents (thank you!) made google accounts or used theirs and let the kids get on. On the last day of book club, I asked the students (and parents) what they liked and any suggestions for the future. They enjoyed the book club and the only suggestion I got was to set simple parameters for talking on video chat.

The main problem with doing the multi-video chat was them talking over each other and not focusing on the book club. They got so excited seeing me and seeing their friends, they would get a little silly and get off topic. Which is totally normal for kids, especially in the summer. I didn't want to be too strict seeing that it was an optional activity. Nonetheless, I suggest making simple rules to follow when video chatting. Remind them to focus only on the book club and talk about their summer either five minutes before the book club or five minutes after the book club. Speak only when the teacher calls on you and don't talk over someone.
By the time we all got video chat to work, there wasn't much use to discuss the rules, but definitely I will make sure to set the rules before we video chat.
That being said, I really like the typing method better. Even if a mom started typing for him when he gave up. ;)

Anyway, that's it. Technology was the frustrating part. But I really did enjoy doing it. In the beginning, parents would email me telling me how excited their kids were to get the book and start reading. One mom told me she caught her daughter reading until midnight in the shower stall (with a light)! Even the boys in my book club loved reading the book, which a parent said, they wouldn't have read if I hadn't chosen it. That's what I wanted to achieve with this book club. I wanted them to get excited about reading whether they were reading with their parents or on their own.

As a surprise, on the last day of book club, I told them they had one more assignment (their faces dropped a little). I told them to write it down, and said I would treat them to froyo as a book club celebration! They were so excited!

Hopefully I can do this again, and having this trial run will really help me with my next book club!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer School Reflections

I was tempted to title this blog post: How I Survived Kindergarten Summer School. It seemed a bit too dramatic... although, there wasn't a lack of drama during my 20 days as a kindergarten teacher.

I've been a second grade teacher for 6 years. I student taught in second grade. I'm used to teaching second graders. It's my comfort zone. And although I've taught Sunday school with little kids, am around my friend's children and also children at my school, I wasn't quite prepared for the complexity and required level of patience that I needed to have for 10 six year olds. Here are some highlights:

If you know me, I am not the most animated person. To teach kindergarten, in my opinion, you must sing. Sing everything if possible. When I was talking, it was like I wasn't there. "Clean up," I would say. No response. Then I would start singing Barney's Clean Up song, and they would all sing with me and actually clean up! To be fair, this happened in the beginning of summer school. By the end, they learned to listen to just my words and cleaned up or stopped talking. Oh, and they LOVED all the nursery rhymes we learned. I mean, they sang it while they worked, at recess, or during breakfast. They even sang on the steps after school. Randomly. Like they were on a playlist in their mind.

Ms. J:
My sweet second graders called my name. All the time. I probably heard my name over 100 times a day (I tried to count one day, and gave up). It was to a point that our computer teacher would put me in time out and the kids could not come up to me for ten glorious minutes. It was only ten, because eventually one kid would crack and come up to me. Which I cannot be annoyed with, because it was always to tell me how well they did on their spelling, or how many facts they mastered in XtraMath. So here are these adorable kindergarteners, who are calling me all sorts of things: teacher (a classic), Ms. K (they can't quite get the -ang out), and one sweet boy who constantly called me Ms. J. The first time it happened, I thought, 'Oh, just a slip of the tongue.' Then he kept saying it. And no matter how many times I corrected him, spelled it on the board, and even though the other kids said no, it's Ms. KANG, to him, I was Ms. J. Did he have a teacher named Ms J? Nope. Know anyone by that name? No. I even did a whole mini lesson on the letter 'K'. At least I tried.

Bathroom and Tattling:
They go to the bathroom a lot. They tattle a lot. I finally got used to that by the second week, but man, I was shocked.

Funny Moments:
Every time someone did something (accidentally, like break a crayon, or tear a paper), they thought they were in trouble. There would be "Oooo's" or "You're in trouble! I'm telling!"
They also say the funniest things. Like a girl tripped and she said to me, "Ms. Kang, I need to practice more walking." Or a boy said he had something important to ask me, and it was during a lesson, so I said he could ask me after lunch. I forgot about it, and then at the end of lunch, he said, "Ms. Kang, you forgot my question I was going to tell you." And I said, "Oh, what is it?" He said, "I am growing up." :)

I think the most frustrating part was trying to teach so much in such a short amount of time, and just hoping I made some difference and taught them something. Some days I was discouraged, especially when they just didn't get it, or just wanted to play. I felt the burden of teaching them their abcs, phonic skills, and ability to read and comprehend a story. I kept thinking if they weren't on grade level, I had failed.
But people around me encouraged me and my friend said something that really stuck out to me:
They are getting more at school than they probably do at home. 
That gave me some encouragement. And although I cannot say they are on level for first grade, ones that didn't know their letters, do. They can memorize rhymes, and identify rhyming words. They can write a full sentence and punctuate (sometimes). They can read high frequency words and paint and retell and play with others. They definitely learned manners (I made them say 'thank you' and 'your'e welcome' for doors, papers, to the lunch ladies, etc.). On the last day, a mom picked up her daughter and I was telling her what a hard worker she was and how I was going to miss her. I told her that I hoped she learned something in summer school to help her in first grade. And her mom said, "Yes, I noticed she improved a lot in her reading." And I almost cried on the spot. Just knowing that at least one student improved, makes me happy.
Yes, it was hard waking up at 5:30 when it should be my summer break. These past 20 days felt like 90. But it was worth it if I helped them. And I worked with some amazing people that kept me going and kept me sane. Like my friends said, I experienced it.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring brake

Don't worry. All you grammar nazis (including myself) are itching to correct my error, but it was intentional.

For me this week and a day was a time to slow down, decelerate, and in some cases stop. It's hard for me to separate work and my personal life sometimes because work is my passion. But it also gives me stress. That's why this time off was exactly what I needed.

Am I energized? Yes. Am I already worrying about Open House? Yes. Did I miss my crazy kids? Yes. Am I ready for all the craziness that work brings on a daily basis? I'd be a fool to say yes, because who is really ever ready? But for these last 11 weeks or so, I want to remain positive and do everything I can for my kiddos.

I spent most of this break catching up with friends, crafting, thrifting, and of course eating.

Corned Beef Melt @whiskey cake

Huevos Rancheros @le peep
It is huge! I ate it for brunch, dinner, and then breakfast the next morning .

'Butter beer' frap. Yum.

Healthy salad @sweet tomatoes
(Not pictured: cornbread, blueberry muffin tops, chocolate chip cookies, focaccia bread, and potato soup).

Sweet tomatoes also. Please don't judge me.

Mushroom burger @deli news

My apartment manager was leaving for a job opportunity so I baked some cupcakes for her.
 Good luck Natalie!

Finally! Bulgogi Tacos @la burger

Chicken and waffles @odd fellows

I promise I worked out too. Although not every day like I planned. I need to get back on track.

I also did some thrift shopping. I spent most of my Saturdays as a kid watching Looney Tunes, eating cereal, and going to garage sales with my dad. That or yard work. So naturally I loved when we went to garage sales. My dad is a frugal person so he was an expert at negotiating prices. I remember my first purchase at a yard sale, which was a book for 10 cents! I was so happy.

Not a thrift store; anthropologie. I am loving their theme at the stores right now!

This is currently on my wish list for the summer!

 Here are some interesting finds:

Remember these?

I bought the cut out book letter 'M' on my second visit to the thrift store. I couldn't resist!

I used to play with this all the time.

Although I didn't wear green today, no one has pinched me. Hopefully this picture will make up for it. :)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why I bake

What do I do after a long day of work and hour long Zumba class?

I bake. I'd wanted to bake since Monday, but with so much to do at work, I just didn't find the time. But sooner or later I have to scratch that baking itch.

I'm not sure why baking calms me so much. Maybe it's all the measuring or the steps you must do in order. The obvious bonuses are the smell wafting through my apartment and it's contents in my belly.

Have you ever had a mouthful of flour? When I was little, my church would have picnics and have relay races. One relay had two adults holding plates of flour with candy hidden in it. You had to race with another kid, with your hands tied behind your back and "find" the candy with your mouth. It was disgusting. I, of course, tried a few times and gave up, gagging.

But in baking you need that flour, baking soda, salt, oil, etc. in addition to sugar to make cookies or cakes or muffins. It's the sweet and the bitter that come together to make something wonderful.

I'm reminded that in life you won't always have 'sweet' days.  But maybe you need the bitter sometimes to make something better.

So bring it on, week. You are almost over.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Don't despise your dark days

Linger conference 2014 was great.
My friend and I signed up a couple of months ago for this revival at Watermark Church. I didn't know much about it, but I figured I would give it a try. The conference was held on Valentine's Day weekend, and me being single I knew I wouldn't have any plans.

Fast forward to Friday afternoon. I hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before and only had four hours of sleep (my fault). I knew the kids would be crazy because they were so excited about enrichment and their Valentine's Day party. So I knew. But that didn't help me be patient.
I was tired..
I. Was. Cranky.
Everything they did grated on my nerves. I barely made it through the day and all I wanted to do was go home and take a long nap.

I almost considered skipping the conference but God had a different plan. It was the stop I needed.
JP made an analogy to how olympians train for the Olympics. They train hard, all day. Their goal is gold, they visualize it in their mind and push their body to the limit. He talked to one snowboarder who trains half day on ice, and half on land. He calculates every meal, every workout, and even trains by racing someone on a bike for 600 miles on roller skates. He does this 6 days a week. And when asked what he does on the 7th day, he says nothing. Absolutely nothing. He props up his legs and sits and rests.

The worst thing you can do is overtrain. When you do that, you can only reach 70% of your body's potential. We were made to rest.

I've been tired, physically and mentally because I am not stopping; not lingering. And I've been trying to help others, but how can I do that when I can't even help myself?

Being a Christian doesn't mean my days are easier. I have dark days. I just have the tools necessary to better equip myself if only I am willing to pick them up.

Don't despise your dark days. Consider it all joy. Through your tears, your pain.

John Piper:

We accept  the hand we're dealt because we know the one who deals. And he never deals a bad hand. Ever.

I need to linger in his presence. Give my time, meditate on his word, which I haven't been doing.
That's why all these doubts and trouble have been creeping in. I've been trying to trust myself and do things on my own. But God's worst is better than my good enough.

I'm so thankful for this conference. Can't wait for next year!

Friday, February 7, 2014

January happenings

My last post was a bit wordy, so I will make this post all about the pictures!

At school:

 Melting snowmen stories made with their reading buddies! 
Thanks Happy for doing this when I was out sick! They turned out so cute!

                                     I always have this for when I am out. These are my favorite.

Just Dance Kids: Indoor recess exercise

My kids showing off their moves!
We've had to do a lot of Just Dance Kids lately because of the cold.
Thanks for the idea Kristin! Although, I will never play 'What does the fox say' ever again. So creepy!

I love teaching them about Synonym Rolls!
I don't like messing up saying cinnamon and synonym. My kids kept laughing at me.

Fun/stressful times:
I love painting, but it was slightly stressful because I am an A-type and everything must be perfect.
I need to learn to just enjoy things.

This post wouldn't be complete without food pictures! We started enrichment clusters at school and I chose to do ACM Foodies where kids can learn about different careers in food and make nutritious recipes and critic food! Joanna helped find a speaker for me, a culinary student at Le Cordon Bleu! Thanks for coming Allie!

Allie, showing one of my favorite baking tools. 

She let all the kids take turns stirring. 

And finally:


I'm not sure when this obsession with waffles will stop. My body is not appreciating it at all.

Snow Day!


Thanks to adrenaline, I am wide awake. It's Friday and it's a snow day. Report cards are due soon. So the logical thing to do would be to grade my mountains of papers. But I blog instead.

My goal this year was to really become who I am by being open to new things and it has been tough. Because as you get older, you are so set in your ways. Change? Why change? It's scary. Unpredictable. 
I'm the worst when it comes to it. And yet that same stubbornness that keeps me from changing is nudging me toward the goal I had set out for myself this year. I can't give up. 

Personally I feel like I've been so negative and down. And that's when I try to think about what I should be grateful for. So here I go:

My parents: I am the most blessed when it comes to parents. No matter what, I know they are here for me. They worry, nag, and bother me with ridiculous requests. They still buy me water so I don't die. 
Like most Korean children with the stereotypical parents, I used to wish they would express their love more. But they show it in a different way. They would give up everything for me, if it was to better me. They've already sacrificed so much. That's love.

My faith: Who am I, that God calls me his own? It's not deserved, and I forget all the time how much God loves me. Sometimes it's a hard road to walk, but I know the reward will be that much greater. 

My health: Being sick stinks. But it does put things in perspective and let's you appreciate your health. And getting older makes you think about it even more. I get random aches all the time now. I think I sprained my thumb from too much texting... Or candy crush. 
My migraines are more frequent and I missed 2 days of school from the flu this year, which never happened before. So waking up without something hurting is definitely a blessing.

My friends: The family you choose. Or perhaps not. Sometimes it makes me sad when I think about the friends I had when I was little who are no longer my friends. 
So that makes me that much more grateful for the ones I have. They accept my crazy, nonsensical thoughts. They bring me soup when I'm sick and pray for me. They worry and nag like my parents. And encourage me and just make life better. 

My job/my kids: As much as I complain about work, I am thankful to be a teacher. As under appreciated as we are by some, I know my job isn't just a job, but a catalyst. If I can affect even one child, I know they in turn will affect others. That's why I keep going. After all the pressure and responsibility of getting students to where they need to be. From parent emails to meetings, behavior issues and yes, those dreading papers to grade. I accept it because, well, I have to. But I teach because I am meant to. It brings me joy to see them learning something and enjoying it (and not falling asleep).

My friends at work keep me sane (sometimes..or else their crazy rubs off on me) and accept my shortcomings. I work with the best of the best , which I want to be.

And my kids. Oh, those children. Sometimes they make me want to scream and pull my hair out. They bother me, cough on me, and I think one even spit on me (an accident, I hope). 
They've fallen asleep during my "boring" lessons and expect me to clean their messes (but like I've taught my kids, I am NOT their maid!).  They still complain sometimes. I can repeat the same directions 10 times or answer a question and they raise their hand and ask the SAME question.
But they're kids. I really do forget that because I treat them like little adults sometimes. I am so hard on them, and yet they still love me. I yell and they hug me at the end of the day. They make me laugh and say ridiculous, funny things that give me material for Facebook posts. Even as I write this in the warm comfort of my apartment and liking the fact that I don't have to wear real clothes and just a shirt and striped leggings, I miss them. Who hates hearing they're the best? And it's fun to communicate by just looking at them. Sometimes they will surprise you by what they know and have learned or what they accomplish in one day.
Sometimes they actually learn what I try to teach them.

One day I made a mistake on the board, and one of my students said, "Are you making a lot of mistakes today?" (Apparently it wasn't my first mistake that day). I was about to say my usual,  "Teachers make mistakes, too." But then he said, "It's okay. Teachers can mess up too."

And I hope beyond academics I am teaching them how to be a good person. To make mistakes and learn from them, but also accept that we will mess up sometimes. I want them to know, they can try again.

There are countless other things I am grateful for that I cannot all type out.
Now I'm going to enjoy this unexpected day off!