Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Brag Tag Revolution

No, really. That's what's happening right now. If you happen to not be familiar with Lucky Little Learner's Brag tags... let me scream to you tell you how this has forever caused a "sudden, extreme, or complete change in the way people live, work, etc." Go ahead. Look up the term "revolution." This is the exact definition and explanation to what Angie's tags have done for me, my students, and my classroom. I've been teaching for over 18 years and I could kick myself for not finding these gems earlier. And then I'm always reminded of Kayla's @Top Dog Teaching famous motto that she holds in her classroom, "Everyone's a teacher. Everyone's a learner." #ongoinglearner <I swear, I'm learning like 20 times a day!>  So, with this, I am grateful to just have learned late, than never.

Want the truth of why I initially jumped into the Brag Tag frenzy in the first place? Well, I'm going to tell you regardless. There's no stopping me when I get this excited and passionate about something. I just do and ask for forgiveness later. <there's another truth, btw> Ok, well, Lucky Little Learners just came out with the cutest, stock images of animals for her tags! I just knew that my kids would adore it as much as I did. I mean, the one where the cat gives a high-5, really?! I can't help but think of "Kitty High-5" on GoNoodle, too. Goodness. It is cuteness overload and I just haaad to have them! Wait until you see the rest of them. You. Will. Die. (you know what I mean!)

My journey then begins. Brag Tags, here I come... but first, the chains. I looked at Michael's and JoAnn's and could not find anything at a decent price. I needed 35! Ugh. These places need to be way more understanding that most of their customers run on a teacher's salary. Anywho, I found exactly what I needed on Amazon. Two days later they were on my doorstep. Yay, me!

Now, I'm not going to go over the ins and outs of how to use the Brag Tag, as the teacher author, Angie Olson, does the best job of that. So, go read that fabulous post! However, I can SHOW you exactly what my class has accomplished because of these tags! We actually renamed them to "Champion Tags" because the children hold their heads that much higher when you refer to them as champions. :)

We love our Champion Tags because...

1. We learned our 44 presidents, in order!

2. We learn to share.

3. We create bonus assignments for ourselves to present in front of other people.

4. We learned how to read Braille.

5. We think about others.

6. We strive!!!                                          
You may ask me how I personally hand these out... My rule of thumb for my students is that, "If you 'move' me in any way, where I want to jump up and down, scream from the rooftops, and you have gone above and beyond my expectations... then YOU deserve a tag!" My children may simply "move" me by the simple acknowledgement of kindness through others: "Mrs. DeMarti, you may not know this, but Johnny stopped playing with his friends to play with me because he knew that I was sad and alone." Seriously?! Both students, on both accounts showed excellent citizenship. It's important for the children to recognize the good in others at an early age. Bottomline, these tags bring out the VERY BEST in my students and are awarded not only something so "simple" as a tag, but the huge accomplishment that went along with it.

Now, go get your "Tag" on! And if you already do, pretty please let me know how they have revolutionized your classroom!


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Just Play

Yup, you heard me. Just play! <ok, sorry for screaming> I just become super passionate about the advocacy for play in the classrooms. My sweet friend Holly at Research and Play just reminded me of how important this topic is. Check out her #TPT giveaway and see how she and her followers do play in their classrooms. And when I say play, I mean getting on the floor and playing with Legos, building a fort, playing dress-up, or creating signs for your classroom. I teach 2nd grade and I still try to squeeze in those moments of pure, uninterrupted-by-an-adult play. Why? Because when I do, this is what happens...

athletes playing with artists
problems being solved
controlled chaos

I seriously could cry when I witness my unstoppable athlete play dolls with my most gentle girl in the classroom. Not to mention the mix of boys and girls making signs for a Kendama Club (yes, it's a thing) and collaborating about the different ideas of what the club entails. Or how about the group of kids playing with dinosaurs roaring, laughing, and building extravagant dinosaur lands?! I mean, c'mon!!! The friendships that they're building, memories they're making, and the ability to completely remove themselves from any worry or challenges that may be going on in their lives is priceless. Golden. In case you don't understand... there is no amount of money you can put down for witnessing a child in a state of pure happiness.

After reading all of that and seeing pure bliss, one might naturally think, "Great! I'm in! Just do it already. And remind me again why everyone is NOT doing it?!" This is the challenging part for a teacher... ready... you know what it is already... wait for it... the ongoing complaint of time. Not enough time. Time! Time! Time! Gosh, darnit, already. We have "umpteen" workbooks to complete, ten thousand standards to teach, and testing to match those standards. And don't forget the 10 minutes it takes to line up (in a straight line and I'm-gonna-wait-til-it's-quiet kind of line), eating, outside play, specialty classes, and the 15 minutes that I need to connect with my kids with the simple, "Tell me something exciting, fun, or relaxing you did! Any joys or concerns?" So, that "little" block of time that you were hoping to give to the kids, well, it's gone. Bell rang. Class dismissed. Ugh!

Truly, however, all I need to do is remember those happy, smiling faces to force myself to just put that "Free Choice" time in my lesson plan book and... JUST PLAY! Yes! It's like scheduling a doctor's appointment. Book that time. Be diligent about giving the kids that gift that they probably won't get much of outside of the classroom. Their "play-days" are numbered and it's up to us to fill their memory banks with as many giggles, love, and happiness as much as we can. 20 minutes. It's possible. It makes a difference. Call it what you may, but the children ARE learning!

Go ahead now. Time's a ticking... #TeachersplanPlay