Elementary Education Monthly Update

January 2019

Primary Connection (K-2)

January is all about winter and snow! The following books will help teachers introduce the science (and fun) of snow to primary students.

  • It's Snowing by Gail Gibbons
  • Curious About Snow by Gina Shaw
  • The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder by Mark Cassino
  • It's Snowing! It's Snowing! by Jack Prelutsky
  • Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
  • When Winter Comes by Nancy Van Laan
  • All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle

The Gail Gibbons book has a website full of resources with many fun activities that you can do for supplements to the book It's Snowing. As a bonus, this website has many other Gibbons books and resources for science integration into language arts!

Snowballs by Lois Ehlert, is visually appealing for all younger audiences, but will primarily appeal to Pre-K and Kindergarten. The song "Once There Was a Snowman" goes well with this book and the video is linked here.

The NGSS Science Standards for K-2 that match a snow unit are linked here for your reference.

Intermediate Connection (3-4)

Although snow and winter themes seem to naturally connect mainly to younger children there are many topics in which teachers can relate snow and winter themes to older students, some of which are English Language Arts, mathematics, diversity, and social skills.

On the website SnowCrystals, there are many links to actual photos of snowflakes, the science of snow, the mathematics of snow symmetry, and fun facts - just to name a few things. It is a site I recommend that teachers look into.

The book Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is not only a great read aloud but a wonderful science investigation. Wilson Bentley was the pioneer in snowflake photography. There is a website dedicated to Bentley and his works. You can check the site out and perhaps engage your students in some snowflake photography as well (if Kansas ever gets some snow).

Professor Tim Garrett of the University of Utah Department of Atmospheric Sciences developed a complete unit of snowflake formation for grades 4, 5, and 6. The link to these plans is above.

The lesson plan here on diversity is for younger students, however, I think it can easily be modified and incorporated into social studies lessons for grades third and fourth.

NGSS standards for grades 3 - 5 are linked here for your convenience.

Photo credit on the right: Wilson Bentley, 1931

Upper Elementary Connection (5-6)

To incorporate snow and weather at this upper elementary level engagement is the key. I have several resources that hopefully can help with this piece.

The US Park Service has developed an entire unit for 5th grade (that I think would also fit well for 6th grade) exploring climate science and particularly snow. Teachers, you must take in account that this will require some modification as this lesson plan was developed by the NPS in California for Devil's Postpile National Monument and it asks for teachers to invited park rangers in and schedule field trips to the park. Teachers could ask local wildlife experts into the classroom or Skype with experts at this National Parks for more of a hands-on experience with this unit.

Discovery Education has a fun and engaging lesson plan on Avalanche that has many resources for middle school ages.

Novel units regarding winter and snow themes at this age include the following books below:

  • Woodsong by Gary Paulsen
  • Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
  • Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  • I am the Ice Worm by MaryAnn Easley
  • Peak by Roland Smith
  • Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge
  • Snow Wings by Jutta Goetze

Big picture

Tech in the Classroom

How do you use technology in your classroom? Is it used as an add-on or an enhancement tool? Do you use your technology as an application tool only? The SAMR model encourages teachers to reach beyond enhancement to transform their instruction and learning in the classroom using technology. Using this example from http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/08/samr-mopdel-explained-through-examples.html see how writing a paper can be transformed using the SAMR model.

Original assignment - A handwritten paper

  • Substitution - A word processor replaces a pen/pencil in a wiring assignment
  • Augmentation - A word processor and text to speech function are used to improve the writing process
  • Modification - The document created using the word processor and text to speech function is shared on a blog where feedback can be received and incorporated to help improve the quality of writing.
  • Redefinition - Instead of a written assignment, students convey analytic thought using multimedia tools.

Most classrooms do a very good job of substitution and augmentation but teachers often become challenged at making lessons truly modified and redefined using technology. The modification level requires significant redesign of how we want students to address their learning. Students are not passively learning at this stage of the SAMR model. The redefinition level should move your students to levels of learning that could not be replicated without technology. This level of learning is where the teacher truly becomes the facilitator of the learning and there is a seamless flow between students finding, creating, and sharing resources and the teacher aiding them in applying this knowledge as it applies to real-world issues. I challenge you to move your instruction up one notch in the SAMR model this school year.

Classroom Management Tip of the Month

I'm not sure if you have heard of my professional development or not, but I am conducting professional development on brain research and how the brain learns to read. With that said, in this technology age, children's brains are being rewired and their attention span is literally disappearing as their exposure to technology increases. Their brains are being rewired to process information in short burst rather than traditional longer ones that school requires. So how do teachers and administrators work towards increasing attention in the classroom setting? I have a few tips for you.

When you plan your lessons intentionally plan them in chunks depending on the age of your students. If you are teaching 7-year-olds about 14-minute chunks and if you are teaching 12-year-olds then about 24-minute chunks. At these time intervals plan for cognitive shifts in students thinking or engagement. For example, changing from direct instruction to paired work or independent practice. Teachers all know the benefits of brain breaks. However, if you feel that you fall into the trap of doing the same ones over and over again create some routine cards that will help you add variety to your brain break times. Elementary friends listen up here as I know this one will be difficult, but a classroom that is visually overstimulating will shorten attention spans of several types of learners. Depending on the needs of your students reducing the stimuli in your classroom and creating a calm, organized space may help with classroom attention to detail.

To increase the ability for students to work independently (remember the brain is being rewired for short bursts of stimulation and therefore independent practice is a difficult task) try this suggestion from Michael Linsin. Start with a small amount of independent practice work (depending on the age of your students) and slowing build up until students can successfully work for 10 minutes and sustain that for two-three weeks consistently. At this point, you can add more time as needed depending on the age of your students.

Poverty and Trauma in School

This month the focus of social-emotional and trauma resources is on teachers. It is the time of year where stress levels are high, the unending to-do lists are piling up, conferences are approaching, indoor recess is every other day, and your own family responsibilities are taking their toll. When teachers care (and YOU DO CARE) so much for their students and especially those that experience trauma, this causes a type of stress called compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is when teachers (or administrators) repeatedly have to use their own coping skills to deal with day to day happenings in their work setting that they do not perform well professionally or in their own personal lives. This causes burnout and negative job attitudes and leads to a lack of concern for our students.

What can teachers do about this? Self-care! It really is that simple and it is not selfish. Self-care involves the following:

  • Physical fitness - exercise regularly - put it on your calendar
  • Nutrition and proper hydration - eat your fruits and vegetables and drink water
  • Sleep and rest - 7 to 8 hours of sleep and a weekend nap
  • Assertiveness skills - using "I" statements and being able to say no without guilt
  • Centering - meditation, prayer, yoga, connecting with nature, journaling, etc.
  • Fun - do what makes you happy and choose a time to do this each week
  • Turn off your phone each night at 10 pm (or a set time) and keep it off. Disconnecting makes a world of difference in stress levels.

Take care of yourself first so that you can care for those in your schools and classrooms!

(image is royalty free from pixels)


What is metacognition and how does it help students learn? Metacognition is literally thinking about your thinking. Students need to not only be aware of the factors and processes involved in their own learning, but they need to which know strategies to use to best help them learn and how to choose the appropriate strategy for the specific learning situation they are facing.

When presenting a new topic or concept to your students ask them to think of the following:

  • What do you already know about (the topic or concept)?
  • What misconceptions do students have about (the topic or concept)?
  • What challenges (or successes) have students faced in the past with (the topic or concept)?

These questions help students know where their learning begins on the topic or concept you are introducing.

An example of metacognition in mathematics problem solving would be to have students work together in pairs to construct a solution to a problem using a method previously taught. Working in pairs one student describes in detail step by step how to solve the problem while their partner writes down the steps to solve the problem as described. Then partners switch roles. This way students are listening to their thinking as it is being processed orally and written down for later viewing while working through problems.

Think Alouds are a proven way to support student thinking and reading comprehension skills when properly modeled by the teacher. By modeling think alouds, teachers model what good readers do while reading. This can be done through a teacher model/students listen or teacher models/students help the teacher or students think aloud/teacher helps. When conducting a Think Aloud make sure you plan ahead so that you know what questions you will model and how you will monitor your thinking. To monitor your thinking (and thus comprehension) you could ask questions like:

  • The author gives me a picture in my mind when she describes....
  • Maybe I should reread this part again and look for information about....
  • Before I continue reading, I need to stop and think about what I just read and make sure that I understand it.

Metacognition is an effective and proven strategy to help your students become better learners. Plan some strategies to use in your instruction soon!

Happenings Around KSDE

On-Line Learning Opportunity in English Language Arts

Join Sarah Perryman (ELA Consultant) and I for online professional development Literacy Across the Disciplines on Thursday, January 24 from 3:30 - 4:15 pm. This course will discuss the importance of literacy instruction and how it can be woven into all courses at all grade levels. To join us click this link https://learning.ksde.org/course/view.php?id=144#section-4

If you have not already done so, create an account before you can gain access to all of the learning materials available for this course. Once you are enrolled, enter the access key code DEC2018 to begin. I hope you can join us!

Science happenings -

Video: Making Claims from Evidence - This video shows a concrete example of a teacher supporting students in using SEPs and CCCs to think about the DCIs in a 2nd grade classroom. Framing questions around videos such as these can provide an accessible way to examine strategies around three-dimensional learning. Here are a few questions you could discuss while viewing this video:

  1. What kinds of scaffolds does the lesson sequence provide students for the SEPs that students are developing and using?
  2. How do student experiences in this lesson relate to the PEs and elements of DCIs, CCCs, and SEPs?
  3. Ms. Cope is drawing on CCCs to frame the questions she asks her students about their investigations throughout the lesson. Does this affect the ways that students reason through the evidence they collect to think about the DCIs?
  4. Ms. Cope presents a real-life example from the students' local community to support how they think about their investigations and evidence (08:59-09:39). How does this kind of approach support learning for students?

A Wonderful Opportunity for Elementary Teachers to Incorporate Ag Education:

The American Farm Bureau Foundation is excited to announce the 2019 On the Farm Educator events! If you’re hungry for real-world connections and hands-on learning, the On the Farm educator event is calling. Discover key educational concepts brought to life by American beef cattle ranchers, researchers, nutritionists, and veterinarians. We would love for you to apply for this event or pass this information on to those in your district who may be interested in attending. At this event participants will learn real-life applications of STEM concepts on the farm – at no cost! The event is fully grant-funded, and applications are now open.

Applications for these grant-funded, 3-day professional development events are open

until February 1st.


  • Kansas City, Kansas: May 1st-3rd, STEM Educator Event
  • Syracuse, New York: May 21st -23rd, STEM Educator Event

Here are 4 ways you can learn more about this program -

  1. Click here to view a short video highlighting 2018 experience held in Portland, Philadelphia, and Fort Worth.
  2. Explore the Upcoming Events page to see if this is a fit for you! These events are designed for educators with little agricultural background.
  3. Check out the official Press Release.
  4. Review the sample, high-level agenda. Participants will have an opportunity to apply for upper division continuing education credit upon completion of the event.

Questions can be emailed directly to Andrea Tenney, educationdirector@fb.org.

2018 Learning Forward Kansas Conference

Dear Kansas Colleague:

Are you looking to Ignite Student and Educator Learning and Empower Redesign? The 2019 LFKS Leadership Conference is where YOU and your TEAM want to be! LFKS recognizes the challenges that each school faces as they begin the KESA/Redesign process. It is our belief that we are #BetterTogether where we learn from each other, support each other, and celebrate each other’s successes. What an exciting time to kick off the New Year with other Kansas educators who will gather to seek answers to the same questions you might have about redesign! Join us on January 30 and 31, 2019, as we focus on redesigning what happens in the classroom and beyond to create the biggest impact on student learning and postsecondary success. The conference kicks off with a full day of authentic, interactive learning with well-known author and educator Robin Fogarty, focusing on Preparing for the Test of Life. Robin believes that to make a difference in students’ lives, beyond the test, we must focus on the skills they will need today, tomorrow and forever. How do we teach students explicitly how to think - to analyze critically, to hypothesize with confidence, to clarify with purpose, to make inferences that matter if they are truly college and career ready? Robin’s emphasis will be on the roles of motivation and deliberate practice in developing talent and abilities in students through engagement, relevant examples, and activities appropriate for all grade levels. Participants will explore how teaching thinking skills are the key to student engagement. Bonus: Participants will receive her new book as part of the registration. The second day of the conference is filled with Kansas educators sharing their focus on how we ignite student and educator learning to empower redesign. Keynotes and breakout sessions will inspire and engage your thinking as we build on our learning. Breakout sessions will be facilitated by colleagues from across the state. We encourage you to bring a team to listen, learn, and collaborate for two great days of professional learning.

Conference Details

Wednesday and Thursday

January 30 -31, 2019

Drury Hotel Broadmoor, Wichita, Kansas

For more information and to register, please go to the Learning Forward Kansas website.

Please note: check our website for upcoming events and professional learning resources designed to facilitate the implementation of strategies and behaviors that lead to excellent teaching and learning every day! If you have questions or ideas to share, please email us at professionallearning@learningforwardkansas.org.

Yours in promoting excellence in teaching and learning,

Learning Forward Kansas

Darla Smith, LFKS President

Dayna Richardson, LFKS Executive Director


The Arts

If you teach music I found a winter resource for grades 4 - 6. Vivaldi and the Four Seasons teacher resource kit comes with cross-curricular activities and lessons.

Save July 25 and 26 for the Just Add Arts Symposium! This symposium will give learners hands-on arts experiences and workshops that include strategies, tools, and resources to improve classroom management, teacher self-care, and SECD standards integration for early childhood through high school. Click on the link above for more information and to enroll.

Cindy Hadicke, Elementary Program Consultant

Kansas State Department of Education