Posts Tagged 'stephanie nicoletti'

‘Tis the Season

christmas-xmas-christmas-tree-decorationBy Stephanie Nicoletti

I am not sure about you but my classroom is buzzing with joyful and Christmas filled six-year-olds! December 1st, our Elf on the Shelf arrived. “Twinkle” has been with us over a week now, and she is still the first thing my first graders look for when they walk into the classroom. The kids are excited and FULL of energy (to say the least) and teachers are ready for a break to spend relaxing with family and friends.

Even though you may be ready for a break and counting the days…try to enjoy the innocence, joy, and pure excitement of your kids around this time of year. Make it special for them, for some the celebrations at school are the most they will celebrate this holiday season. Breaks usually mean relaxation and refreshing times for teachers. But keep in mind that as your children leave your classroom, some are already wanting to come back to the place where they have safety, routine, and structure.

All Our Children

children_at_school_8720604364By Stephanie Nicoletti

Just this past week I had a flashback to student teaching. My cooperating teacher was an amazing first grade teacher and I learned a lot of lessons from her, not only on best teaching practices but also on how to serve as a respectful educator, who truly is there to serve our children. The key word there is “our.” I vividly remember my cooperating teacher telling me that a second grade teacher came into her classroom, raised her voice at her, and demanded to know “why” a student was reading at such a low level. I was not there for the encounter, but what has always stuck with me is that my cooperating teacher said, “I would never EVER blame another teacher for a student’s abilities.”

I did not realize how much this story would hold true to me until I started teaching. There sometimes is still a mindset of “Not my kid, not my problem.” This profession is not about the adults, nothing we do is to make ourselves look good. Of course we want to better our practice, but only on behalf of the kids. We need to ask ourselves “What do the students I have right now need?”  Finally, it is time for all teachers embrace the students they have right now, not the ones they use to have or wished they had–as Lee Ann Jung said, “All students belong to all teachers.”

Does Spelling Matter?

spelling-998350_960_720By Stephanie Nicoletti

Does spelling matter? Do children learn proper grammar? Do children learn cursive anymore? It seems lately there is this concern about how children are learning writing and spelling skills, which is valid, but the answers to these questions are YES, OF COURSE! It just probably looks different than it used to and these important questions deserve an answer.

Learning to spell is a very difficult task because children are trying to use many different skills at once. When children are so focused on spelling every word exactly correct, the writing process gets slowed down. Many teachers, especially in the early grades, and including myself, encourage inventive spelling: the child makes his or her best guess on the spelling of the word. When a student asks, “Miss Nicoletti, how do you spell ‘because’?” I simply respond, “stretch through each sound of the word.” This practice is research-driven and when children use this method, their writing becomes more fluent with richer vocabulary.

Of course, in the older grades spelling does count, but most teachers have their students engage in a writing process. Correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar come in the final stages of the writing process. Spelling in the older grades comes last in the writing process for the same reason as the primary grades: focusing on spelling too much early on will limit the student’s flow of ideas and quality of writing.

So, do schools still even teach spelling then? Something that our district has implemented that I am particularly proud of is the use of the Words Their Way spelling program. To sum up: students are placed in “spelling groups” based on actual spelling patterns students need help with. When they are “tested” each week, we only look at the spelling pattern that they are focusing on, not the spelling of the whole word. This is a new type of thinking for parents and even teachers, this individualized program supports the research stated above while fostering reading and writing skills.

A Few Tips on Parent Involvement

i_hate_homework_by_ohnina-d3eoaxuBy Stephanie Nicoletti

For most of us, school has only been in session a week or two. One of the biggest indicators of student success in school is parent involvement at home. This sometimes is not realistic though, not because they do not care, but because they work more than one job, work night shifts, and simply are trying to make a living for their family. So often in high poverty schools, teachers simply give up  on trying to get parents involved, and as a teacher in such a school I am always reflecting on what will be best:

Inviting parents INTO the classroom: Last year I decided to have a publishing party after a writing unit. I invited parents into the classroom to celebrate their child’s work. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of parents that came in and celebrated their child. This was such a confidence booster and gave our students purpose for their work.

Homework: Homework does NOT need to be a daily occurrence. Not only does it have zero effect on school success, but homework will not get done in a household that has other more important priorities like getting dinner on the table. Students should be engaged enough in the classroom that homework is not necessary.

Simple Newsletters: Sending a simple bi-weekly or monthly classroom newsletter can give families an abundance of information.

Positive Phone Calls: Keeping parents in the loop for positives will make a negative phone call much easier. Parents need to know their children are valued and being a positive role model at school. When parents who may seem “uninvolved” get positive communication from school and then relay that to their child, parents and students feel valued.




For the Love of Reading

books-933333_960_720By Stephanie Nicoletti

Recently, I have been participating in a book club for  The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. She discusses how important it is for students to have an actual love for reading, and how teachers can instill that in their students.

When I look back at my own elementary reading experiences, I think of everyone reading the same book in a whole group setting followed by many worksheets. I often wonder how much more I would have enjoyed school if these classroom practices were NOT around:

Reading Logs: As an adult reader I never track how much or how long I read. I find time to read because I simply enjoy it. I think if we want our students to love reading and read on their own, willingly, we need to promote this in the classroom. Sure, we want to hold them accountable, but this can be done through book talks and book clubs.

“You HAVE to finish this book!”: There are so many times I have not finished a book because I simply did not like it. I remember vividly in school, even high school, being required to read and finish a novel that I hated. Children should be allowed to abandon a book when they are just not that into it. This takes tapping into student interest to make sure book abandonment doesn’t happen on the regular.

One Size Fits All: The days of a one size fits all curriculum are over with ranging levels and high achieving standards. Using one book with a class and follow up worksheets will not allow for student growth and achievement. Children are so different than they were in the past and need to be engaged all of the time. When engagement and differentiation work hand in hand, the possibilities are endless.

So what should we do? I cannot sit here and preach all of the problems in reading instruction without giving a solution. The solution is choice. This is what students want the most, let them choose the books they want to read and when. There are so many things we expect of our students that we would never do ourselves.

Advice to New Teachers From Someone Who’s Been There

nicoletti-useBy Stephanie Nicoletti

“The best thing about teaching is that it matters. The hardest part about teaching is that it matters every day.”

This quote is from Todd Whitaker – I had the pleasure of hearing him speak last month along with many other education experts. This quote sums up everything being an educator means. I am so excited to start blogging for The Marquette Educator. I want to share ideas that I learn from others and create a network of life-long learning. I am going to start with some reflection from my first year of teaching and advice for those going into their first year.

I walked into my second grade classroom as a brand new teacher, wondering what this career would bring. I felt my classes at Marquette taught me everything I needed to know about literacy, math and how to write extremely thorough lesson plans. My biggest concern: classroom management. I kept thinking to myself, “Any student teaching I did, the cooperating teacher set up routines, we did not have a classroom management class, oh my gosh, what if they eat me alive?”

Other staff members kept admiring and questioning my room layout: carpet in the middle, desks formed into tables around the carpet. It was an open concept with flexible seating. I wondered why there was so much amazement with this layout. I soon realized this was new to some of my colleagues. In other rooms, desks covered the floors in rows. Then, September 1st came around. I taught the students how to choose a good place to sit, built extremely strong relationships with my students, and made learning hands-on. Behaviors seemed to diminish, and students whose past teachers seemed to dread and talk negatively about began to flourish. As I reflected, providing choice in the classroom, an open layout, and building strong relationships is the key to effective classroom management. This is more than anything I would have learned in a pre-service education class.

I am a novice teacher and am learning every day, so my message to brand new teachers is this: you will question everything you implement. Always be confident in what Marquette has taught you and trust your gut. You know more than you think you do, but stay humble enough to know when to ask for help. Be flexible, build relationships, and watch how your students grow immensely.


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