Teaching with Puppet Power

Teaching With Puppet Power

I am so excited to launch my new series on teaching with puppets. When I mentioned it to a friend, she said, “I didn’t know you were a puppeteer!” I laughed because I certainly am not!

Please go no further without embracing this simple truth:

You do not have to be a puppeteer to add power to your teaching with puppets. 

Most teachers know that puppets are a wonderful tool for activating student attention and motivation. In fact, most of the teachers I know own at least one puppet, if not a box full.

However, most teachers also seem  intimidated by puppets. I almost never see a teacher with a puppet on his/her hand. Why? [Read more…]

Authentic Learning: The Shoe Store

Authentic Learning: The Shoe Store Unit via Wonder Teacher Happy New Year! Let’s start 2013 off with a dose of inspiration! Today I am featuring a true “Wonder Teacher,” Cassie Norvell.

Cassie teaches a multiage class of K, 1st, and 2nd graders at Jennie Moore Elementary School.

I have always known that Cassie was an excellent teacher. I knew she was a multiage expert at the only public school in our area to offer a K-2 multiage early childhood program. I also knew that she is Nationally Board Certified, a former Charleston County Teacher of the Year, and has a lot of “street cred” with other teachers in our district. In fact, Cassie has developed and taught professional development courses for her peers (often alongside Carol Cook) for years.

I knew she was good, but I just didn’t realize HOW good!

Right before Christmas break, I asked Cassie if I could come visit her classroom and interview her for a “Featured Wonder Teacher” post. She said, “Sure. We’ll be doing our shoe store project, so it might be fun for you to see that.” I didn’t really know what that meant, but I was glad she was willing to let me visit during the hectic “almost holiday break” week.

As I approached her “learning cottage” (AKA trailer) this is what I saw:

Authentic Learning: Shoe Store
Do you see the store hours posted on the door? I was already intrigued.

When I walked in I was amazed to see a serious shoe store right in the middle of Cassie’s classroom! Check it out!

Cassie Norvell's Shoe Store via Wonder Teacher
Normally, I begin my “Featured Wonder Teacher” posts with a general interview before I highlight specific practices. Not this time. I just can’t wait to show you Cassie’s store! Today we’ll zoom in on Cassie’s approach to curriculum planning, with an emphasis on her Shoe Store Unit. Tomorrow I’ll be posting more of Cassie’s interview and as the week goes on I’ll share some of her favorite non-fiction book recommendations, how she organizes her extensive classroom library, and give you a peek at her literacy instruction. I can’t think of a better way to kick off 2013 here on Wonder Teacher! Without further ado, please step into Cassie’s classroom (AKA “Shoe Town!”)

Susan: I know you organize your instruction around integrated, thematic units of study. Tell us more about that. [Read more…]

Jarrett J. Krosoczka Says Imagination Saved His Life

Are you familiar with TED? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a non-profit designed to disseminate “ideas worth spreading.” Since its inception in 1984, the focus has gotten much wider than the three industries reflected in its title. TED hosts conferences throughout the year featuring 18 minute talks by leading thinkers and innovators from around the world. My favorite thing about TED is that the talks are free to view online through their website and Youtube.

There are so many inspiring TED talks that directly relate to education. I’ll share some of them here from time to time. However, today I found one that really gripped me. It was given by children’s book author, Jarrett J. Krosoczka. (Click his name to view his website.) The title is “Imagining Beyond Your Circumstances.”

His name didn’t “ring my bell” at first, but when I looked him up I realized that he is the author/illustrator of many favorite books including Baghead, Good Night Monkey Boy, Punk Farm, and the Lunch Lady graphic novel series.

I think his talk resonates with me for several reasons:

1- He speaks so highly of his teachers. They clearly played a major, positive role in his life. I love being part of a profession that literally has the power to alter the course of a child’s life for the better.

2- He says that “imagination saved his life.” What a powerful statement. It makes me wonder if children today get intimate enough with their own power of imagination.

3- His experience as a child 1)Being empowered to write and illustrate “real” books and 2) Getting inspired by a “real” author visit at his school speak directly to my current work.

It’s a fantastic talk. You’ll laugh. You might cry. Set aside 18 minutes, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy. (And your older children could watch with you- my only warning is that he talks a bit about drug addiction and parental abandonment, so make sure your kids are old enough for that content.)

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