Elementary Education Monthly Update

November 2018

Primary Connection (K-2)

Have primary teachers been struggling to find resources and ways to integrate science and social studies content into their day? The following resources may be of some help and give you a few lesson plan ideas. The Science of the String Phone is an NTSA hands-on experiment that primary students will love. You can access the lesson plan, standards, and video on the above link. The video to this lesson is also linked here. Also, on the NTSA site are physical science lesson plans for K-2 students. There are 25+ lessons in the Physical Science domain that include STEM. Earth and Space Science for grades K-2 also has over 25+ lesson plans. The Life Science domain has the largest collection of lesson plans for this grade span, so please go and look at these resources.

Intermediate Connection (3-4)

While doing some investigation on the website better lesson, I found this three-part lesson on paper airplanes written by a teacher in Michigan that is not only cross-curricular but also applies to several third grade NGSS standards. It looks like a fun and very hands-on lesson to teach these standards in a way that students will connect to. Who doesn't love to make and fly paper airplanes? On this same website, I found a colliding marbles activity for fourth-grade physical science that has many hands-on portions for students to enjoy. Both of these lessons come with supplemental materials that that are teacher created and videos that show how implementation happens in the classroom.

Upper Elementary Connection (5-6)

This science experiment for upper elementary students will get your students excited on science day! Mystery Powders allows students hands-on ways to investigate the physical properties of five different powders to determine their identities. The group directions are detailed on this document and the recording sheet for students is here. Since this experiment involves tasting and heating of powders be sure to follow the guidelines for science safety in the classroom while conducting this experiment.

Tech in the Classroom

Would your class like to Skype a Scientist? This website matches classrooms with scientists around the world! Imagine live question and answer sessions with a scientist that can last for 30 or 60 minutes. On this site, there are premade lesson plans and teachers can selects topics and scientists to visit their classes. Talk about an interactive, fun, real-world application in science - woohoo! If you sign up for this, please send me information on your lesson and some pictures!

Live Web Cams at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This aquarium has live webcams of the aviary, otters, penguins, coral reef, sharks, jellyfish, and the open sea just to name a few! If your unit is learning about life science this is a great resource for observation. Farm360 is an interactive farm website with video, webcams, and information embedded graphics on dairy, vegetables, elk, eggs, grain, pigs, and more. These farms are in Canada but the information is relevant to Kansas students.

Social studies teachers, if you are looking for a new website to teach the revolutionary war and colonial history try Colonial Williamsburg. It has perspectives of the people of the time (women, men, natives, slaves), clothing, life, trades, etc. Some of the features are interactive. This does require some higher level reading skills.

Classroom Management Tip of the Month

As I read the September issue of Educational Leadership magazine I came across an article by H. Richard Milner IV, Heather Cunningham, Lori Delale O'Connor, and Erika Kestenberg regarding inequity. As I read it, I was thinking that what they had to say made real connections to classroom management and student behavior that I wanted to share some of their thoughts with you.

The article begins with an image of an elementary school teacher demanding that her class will not move from their location in the hall until there is a quiet straight line. It took that group of third graders six minutes to understand what a quiet straight line meant to their teacher before they could move from the spot in the hall. I wonder if this teacher ever taught her students her expectations of "quiet" and "straight" and I wonder why control was more important to this teacher than the missed opportunities in the classroom? The authors of this article pointed out that mindsets like the one above can have "damaging effects over time" and they "tend to be met with increasing resistance as students grow older." Traditional mindsets, like the example above, are forms of injustice and educators must shift practices in order to meet the diverse needs of students in today's classrooms.

As educators work to redefine classroom management, the authors of this article gave six points for consideration. First, classrooms must be co-constructed with students to be places where students want to be. It should not be your classroom but our classroom and the layout, rules, flow, etc. should be co-planned with students. Second, it should be an emotionally, psychologically and intellectually safe place. Trying to figure out for six minutes what the teacher wants is not a safe environment. Expectations and norms should be established on students' assets and strengths. School leaders must support engaged learning and reject obedience and compliance and the norm. Leaders must also support teachers in the development of curriculum that is relevant, engaging, and responsive. Worksheets and arbitrary rules can result in disengagement and resistance among students. Finally, all involved in the school system (leaders, teachers, and students) must commit to practicing classroom management in a business as usual manner.

To read the full Education Leadership article, click on the link.

Social Emotional Resources

If you want a great picture book to teach empathy then I recommend reading The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig with your class. This story is about Brian, a boy that feels unnoticed and unwanted by his peers at school. He isn't chosen at recess for kickball, not invited to birthday parties, and sits alone at lunch. Brian's story will tug at your heartstrings and help your students see how leaving students out really impacts their emotions. This book works for grades K - 6. There are pre-made lesson plans galore for this book, but I found these lesson plans that work for all grade levels.

Poverty and Trauma in School

What is a peace corner? Do you have one in your classroom? Does the principal have one in the office? Peace corners are a quiet space with sensory activities that students can practice self-regulation skills. If a child is dysregulated and facing a challenge having a safe space to calm and process their emotions can help him or her return to classroom activities in a regulated state sooner and better prepared for the rest of the school day. "Activities that provide patterned, repetitive, rhythmic stimulation...are very successful in helping modulate brainstem deregulation." (Perry, 2006). If you would like to have a list of materials for a peace corner and directions on how to use them, go to this TASN resource for more information.


Have you seen the TV commercial for the insurance company that has the robot agent? The customer comes into the office and tells the robot their request and without emotion, the robotic agent fulfills their request, says thank you, and sends them on their way. The customers are a little dumbfounded with the lack of empathy (for example, we just had a baby and want more life insurance) and give each other a blank look while they take their new policy from the robotic agent and leave the office.

Sometimes it feels that way with our students. Children today have so much screen time and experience so much less human interaction time than we did as children. In fact, American children are 40 percent less empathetic than they were just 10 years ago (Konrath, 2010). The need to actually teach empathetic behavior is important and needed in classrooms today. When I say teach empathy I don't necessarily mean in a grading system but rather to embed these competencies in children's experiences in school so that it helps them to find joy, a smile, or simply more engagement in their day to day school experiences.

What is empathy? Empathy is the ability to understand others' feelings and needs. It is also the foundation of a safe, caring, and inclusive learning climate (Borba, 2018). How do schools go about establishing this into their culture? There are many ways but most importantly it has to be done with intention and it cannot be done sporadically. This has to be a culture change that teachers and principals need to cultivate.

Some ideas for creating a culture of empathic students begins with the classroom teacher. In classrooms, students should be sitting in a manner which allows eye contact with other students (no rows). They should be able to see their peers, share ideas, collaborate, and work in small groups. Most importantly the teacher must be engaged and not sitting at a desk or table or leaving the majority of the student engagement to other adults. When engagement is a top priority students should be made aware to make eye contact with peers while engaging, read and identify emotions, and asking questions such as, "How are you feeling" "If you need any help I'm here for you" "Are you frustrated" and other emotionally connecting questions. Class meetings should be a priority when teaching empathy. In class meetings, teachers can intentionally teach and model how a student can be sensitive to other's needs and make caring connections.

Self-regulation is a key component of empathy. If a student can keep their own emotions in check they can begin to recognize others' feelings and begin to think how to help. This is one reason why having a calming corner, teaching the zones of regulation, or having some type of communication system where the child can regulate without punishment is so important in classrooms. Practicing kindness is another way to help promote empathy in schools. Moving towards 'we' and away from 'me' is always best practice. When doing kind acts students need to see what kindness does to others (bringing smiles), hear what kindness can do (bringing laughter, tears, or thank yous), and feel what kindness brings (high fives, hugs, or just the warm-fuzzies). The beauty of kindness is that it is a two-way street - it has benefits for the recipient and the giver. In the world we live in, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." (Aesop).

Empathetic behavior is a need for today's children. It must be taught intentionally. School leaders and teachers must ensure that it happens as a part of the culture of the school you work in and the classroom you create. You are teaching the next generation of humans and the skills they leave you with will impact our world. Remember, we don't want robotic unemotional humans as the TV commercial implies - we want empathetic, engaging, vibrant young people in our world. What role will you play in making empathy education a priority for your students?

Happenings Around KSDE

KSDE has a new consultant for English of Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)! Please welcome Nicole Primm to our team. This is a new position in our department and we are so happy to have Nicole join us. If your school or district needs anything in regards to English language learners or the KELPA2 please reach out to Nicole. Her contact information is: Nicole Primm, 785-296-5060, nprimm@ksde.org

The Scripps National Spelling Bee and the Annual Sunflower Spelling Bee are coming up! For more information log onto the Elementary K - 6 website or contact Amber Jackson at the Kansas Press Association for more information.

Chronic Absenteeism is a real issue in Kansas schools. Do you know what chronic absenteeism is? It is missing 10% or more school days. This is only two days per month and those absences can be excused or unexcused. Children who are chronically absent have larger gaps in learning, more social-emotional issues, and more disengagement and dissatisfaction in school. For more information on chronic absenteeism contact me or my colleague, John Girodat and we can help your school look at data to determine why kids are missing school and give you solutions to solve the problem.

Interim Predictive Assessments will be open in December once again for grades third, fourth, fifth, and sixth in ELA and Math. The testing window is December 3 - December 14. These tests will help teachers predict individual students' summative (KAP) performance! If you have questions about these Interim Predictive Assessments see the KAP FAQ page for more information.

Over the months of December and January, the English Language Arts consultant, Sarah Perryman and I will host on-line professional development. Our focus will be Literacy Across Disciplines. My role in this professional development will be how to incorporate literacy in all aspects of the elementary curriculum and Sarah will focus on incorporating literacy in the content areas in the upper grades. When this professional development is ready for enrollment we will both be sending out information on our LISTSERVs.

The Science of Reading: phonemic awareness and phonics professional development will now be at 8 service centers across the state! This professional development will center on how the brain develops for reading, the importance of explicit and systematic instruction in the early grades in phonemic awareness and phonics, and how all of this connects to the English Language Arts Reading Foundational Skills state standards. This PD will not focus on any one curriculum or program but will allow participants to see how this type of instruction can be added to any program to improve literacy instruction. The schedule is below. Please contact the service centers (which are linked) to enroll in the professional development closest to you. I am looking forward to working and learning with teachers in Kansas!

  • Monday, December 10 Greenbush Lawrence FULL
  • Tuesday, December 11 Greenbush Girard
  • Friday, December 14 Orion Clearwater
  • Monday, January 7 Northwest Kansas Educational Service Center Oakley
  • Tuesday, January 8 Smoky Hill Salina
  • Friday, January 11 Smoky Hill Hays
  • Tuesday, January 15 ESSDACK Hutchinson
  • Thursday, January 17 Southwest Plains Sublette

The Arts

Art teachers, this lesson about Piet Mondrain and his work lends itself to fourth-grade math standards of area and perimeter. It was written for an elementary school in another state but does match our math standards.

Music teachers, on Ashley Danyew's site I found 40 call and response songs and games for children's choir. These all have active links with music that is printable and that can be projected.

Would you like to bring the world of broadcast journalism to your school or your elementary classroom? Do you think that you can't afford it or that it is something that is out of your reach? Think again. If you have a recording device and a table you are set! Read this post by Michelle Simmons and I hope that she inspires you to get your students broadcasting!

Hug your school counselor!

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Cindy Hadicke, Elementary Program Consultant

Kansas State Department of Education