From the Desk of Kelly Harmon

Back-To-School 2016 Newsletter

Dear Educator,

Happy Back-To-School!

We hope that your August has started off with excitement and abundant learning opportunities. We know that you are busy learning and planning for your upcoming school year. In this month's newsletter we have included classroom setup tips, beginning of school activities, and FREE downloads from our website!

At Kelly Harmon & associates, we hope to provide you with some new ideas and research that will assist you in building your knowledge throughout the year. Please share our newsletter with your colleagues and provide us feedback about what you need.

Have a wonderful August and cheers to an awesome 2016-2017!

-Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson

Are you Playing Pokemon Go?

Pokemon Go has become a global phenomenon in just a few weeks. I decided to play to learn with the intention of investigating any potential for classroom use. So, I will start with a confession: I'm addicted.

First, I love how the game is making me aware of how I can direct my own learning. I had to seek out the critical knowledge needed to play the game. Quickly, I found and applied the basic rules of the game. At one point, I unexpectedly ran out of Pokeballs and had to figure out how to get more. Of course, I googled it!

I've also had to revise my play strategy so that I don't waste Pokeballs if I'm running low. When I reached level seven, I realized I needed additional information about "evolving a Pokemon" and "incubating eggs." I went back to Google and engaged in rigorous reading that involved close reading (careful and purposeful re-reading). I'm sure I'll be back for more when I realize I don't have another piece of critical knowledge.

Pokemon Go is designed to be a social experience that gets you up and moving. In the past few weeks, I've had daily conversations with other players as we searched for local creatures. We've shared information, locations of Pokestops, and play strategy. Players join a global learning community that puts players on the road to a common mission.

So does this game have any uses in our classrooms? Yes! Anything that is relevant to our students' lives has the potential to cognitively engage learners. Here are some ideas you might want to consider:

Have students:

1. Read the Pokemon names on the Pokedex. So far, all of the names I've seen are decodable. Students can sort the names by the six syllable types as a way of deepening understanding of how to decode unknown words and practice segmenting and blending multi-syllabic words.

2. Explain or write an explanation of how to play.

3. Explain or write an explanation of how Pokemon evolve.

4. Each Pokemon has a trading card that contains the weight, height, type, and a description. Have students compare the feature of each Pokemon and make recommendations about which ones are the best.

5. Create a new Pokemon. Use prefixes, root words, and suffixes to create and describe the new creature.

6. Explore augmented reality apps. They can easily create "talking" pictures using these simple to use applications. Aurasma is a great starter app to introduce.

There are so many ways we can use this craze to engage learners in practicing reading, writing, listening, speaking, creating, and problem solving. Keep it fun and authentic and watch your students' skills level up!

Teaching Growth MindSet

The beginning of the year sets the tone for you and your students' entire school year. Educators have the task of creating a positive learning environment and setting the attitude and perception of their classroom. What are you doing to help your students establish or continue to have a growth mindset?

A mindset is a belief we have about our own ability to succeed in a given situation. People with a growth mindset believe that they can accomplish their goals through perseverance. They set goals and make action plans. They like feedback that helps them move forward. They are optimistic about their learning and aren't afraid of productive struggle. Their brains are constantly growing.

Some people believe that they are just not "smart" enough to read or solve problems. They believe that effort is useless, because talent is more important. Many develop "learned helplessness" from experiences in which they initially attempted to reach a goal, but met with a negative outcome and received little or no feedback about what to do differently to change the outcome.

All of us have both growth and fixed mindsets. It is important to be aware of our mindsets and the impact it is having on our goals.

We must teach positive academic behaviors, including growth mindset throughout the year. Here are some simple ways you can teach your students to have positive academic behaviors.

How Do We Teach Growth Mindset?

One of the best ways to incorporate teaching of growth mindset is through purposefu class discussions, such as morning meeting. Start off the day by discussing academic behaviors that will help students succeed throughout the day. You might even think of this as "core" or "tier 1" behavior instruction. This is a time to teach behavioral norms.

I have used Art Costa's "Habits of Mind" as a springboard for discussion.

Using children's literature or novel studies, we can help students identify with characters who demonstrate examples or non-examples of positive academic behaviors. Below are a few books you can read and discuss during the first weeks of school.

The Walls of Your Classroom Are Valuable Real Estate!

Here are some ideas for using your wall space to maximize learning.

Classroom Walls

The walls in your classroom should be thought of as great spaces to post critical information students will need to refer to as they learn new skills, strategies, and processes. You should designated areas for anchor charts and student work to be displayed. Here are some ideas for your designated areas.

Reading Wall-Set up a strategy wall. Post skills and strategies your students can use to process texts. Post the strategy when you are teaching it. Refer to the strategy wall during read alouds, shared, and guided reading. Ask students which strategies they used during independent reading.

  • Comprehension Strategies-Retell, summarize, ask questions, etc.
  • Author's Craft-Noticing author techniques
  • Accuracy-Reading words correctly
  • Fluency-Expression, phrasing, and rate
  • Extending Vocabulary-using context, breaking words apart, etc.

Writing Wall-Student need to use the writing process as they compose texts. Post the process and add anchor charts and worked examples for each type of writing.

  • Prewriting
  • Drafting
  • Revising
  • Editing
  • Publishing
  • Responses

Grammar & Mechanics Help Wall

  • Commonly Misspelled Words, Homophones
  • Grammar Rules
  • Examples of Ways Grammar Rules are Used Correctly

For more information about getting ready for a new school year, download our FREE checklist for a successful year here!

Back To School Activities

The beginning of the year is all about building RELATIONSHIPS and ROUTINES. As educators, we must build relationships with our students before they will trust our instruction and dive deep into learning. Here are several relationship building activities to do the first couple of weeks of school that will get your students reading, writing, and moving!

Scavenger Hunt / I Have, Who Has

The goal of this activity is for students to find out something special about each of their classmates. They will discover that they have many things in common and a few differences. This is a great opportunity for students to get up and move around the room too!

Selfie Wall

Start the year with selfies! Have students create a self-portrait to post on a classroom “Wall of Fame.” You can use technology if it is available and printing is easy. Create hashtags like, #bestyearever or #ilovelearning!

Want Ads

Friends Wanted! Have students create classified ads about what type of friends they are looking for this school year. Discuss character traits and activities that they are looking to do with friends. This is also a great opportunity to discuss the purpose and importance of classified ads.

Create a Meme
Memes are great ways to break the ice with your students. Memes are meant to be humorous and who doesn't like to laugh? Have your students brainstorm positive actions that help students take ownership of their learning, set appropriate learning and behavior goals, or make choices that help everyone stay strong and encouraged. Then snap a picture of the student dramatizing the action.

For more detailed information on each activity, visit our website to download the Building Relationships download!

Onsite Seminars & Instructional Coaching

Kelly Harmon & Associates provides powerful professional development for the 2016-2017 school year. We provide customizable seminars, instructional coaching, model teaches, curriculum planning, and much more! Visit our website or contact us for more information. Discounts are available to schools or districts that book 4 or more days for the 2016-2017 school year!

Kelly Harmon & Associates, LLC

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning. Our services are professional development, curriculum development, instructional coaching, grant writing, project management, and technology integration.