I Can Statements in the Classroom

Let me start out by saying I use I can statements in my classroom but I’m not totally convinced of their value in the classroom.  Initially I loved the idea behind I can statements.  Several years ago some colleagues and I were trained on using Formative Assessment in the Classroom.  The presenter talked about using I can statements as motivators and affirmations for individual learners.  We were told that each student could have several personal I can statements.

I thought this was truly great because because it seems that over the past few years some educational settings have spent more time focusing on what students can’t do rather than what they can do!  I thought how cool…Each of my darlings can have a little notebook and they can record their successes and then set learning goals for the themselves.  It seemed doable.  It seemed like an idea that was on the right track.  Affirming student success and effort while encouraging goal setting.  Well most of us know how this story ends.

School districts across the country took the idea and homogenized the I can statement.  Districts grappling with the Common Core made it worse. They created lists of I can statements.  You can find products with I can statements written in beautiful fonts with all the colors and themes your can desire. There are lists for every grade level and every subject.  This is so far from the original idea that I loved so much.  I have yet to buy any products and I’m not knocking anyone who does.  Most districts require them now. You can find a ton of variations on Pinterest.  It shows you the great extent that teachers will go to to meet district requirements.  I think also shows you how teachers just want to teach students in a meaningful way.  We will put the I can statements up but we know that there is a lot more to learning than placing the statements on the wall.


Example of the many I can statement products available to teachers. I’m sure these are great products and are meant to help teachers.

For now my I can statements are written in dry erase maker on the board.  I try to personalize them for our class and where we are in a unit of study.  We have been told we must have them up in the classroom.  It doesn’t really matter if they add value to the instruction they just need to be on display.  I do use them with my students.  I try to turn them into manifestations of success.  “Yes you can!” I say.  I said that anyway before I can statements became fashionable in educational circles.

I know many of you believe in the power of the I can statement. I would love from all of you about I can statements.  Are they adding educational value in your classroom?  Are you posting them because you must?  Have you learned to love the I can statements you have to work with?  Please comment. I look forward to the discussion.

All the best,


Kindergarten and First Grade The First Week

I know I’m not the only one who is exhausted the first week the students are back in class! It is a given for teachers.  We put so much of ourselves into getting the classroom ready, planning and other school things. You think we would prepare ourselves better…eat more wheaties or whatever it takes to get through the first week without feeling like a limp french fry.  I’m an “On” kinda of person. You would never know I was tired in front of the kids. I dance, sing, make faces what ever it takes to keep them interested and focused. I’m only falling asleep on the couch when I get home.

I have been trying to find my footing in my class of kinders and first graders.  If you haven’t experienced it for yourself you would not believe the amazing amount of growth that children make from the first day of kindergarten to the beginning of first grade. It is incredible. When I moved up to first grade I thought I had moved to independence heaven. I mean really it was awesome!!! So it has been a shock as it always is when we start at the beginning again.  This year has been interesting in its own way. I have to keep reminding myself that for half of my littles it is their first rodeo so to speak.

As always I love the sweet spirit of those little kinders.  It seemed that today was the first day I was able to relax and enjoy the kinders. I also love the enthusiasm of the first graders.  We did a shared learning activity and the kinders and the first graders worked together. The first graders were wonderful teachers and the kindergarteners surprised me with their ability to cooperate with a learning partner.  Today I could see that I’m a lucky teacher this year. I’m sure we will have some bumps in the road but overall the year looks bright.  I can’t wait to see how much each group learns.


Hearts and Minds..One more Open House

I just got back from Open House for my 28th year of teaching. Who would have thought there would have been that many? My Mom taught and was an administrator for 30 years. When I started this journey I was sure that I would never be in the classroom for that long. Well here I am looking forward to a new year. This year I am teaching a Kindergarten/First Grade Multi-Age class.  I have taught Kindergarten or First Grade for all of my 28 years. I have looped, taught a First Grade with 29 children in it, taught very poor children and taught children from affluent backgrounds.

It is easy to make judgements about folks just by what you see. Sometimes it is hard to look past the physical things and see into the heart of the matter.  Open House is mostly a meeting of minds and hearts.  Parents or other care givers are looking at the teacher to see if that person has an open heart.  They wonder if this person can love my child and teach my child.  This is the one constant in the minds of parents. My husband and I wondered the same thing  year after year at Open House and Back to School Night.  We would wonder if the teacher could see into the heart of our child and help our child learn. We would wonder if the teacher could love our child.  When a teacher and a parent connect at during the first meeting at Open House one of the major barriers to educating that child has been removed.

I talk to people and let them know that I am excited about teaching their child. I hug the children and I hug the parents.  I let them know they should tell me their concerns and to always ask questions if they need to. School years have their ups and downs mainly because they mimic real life but one thing is for sure we can always get through it together. I tell the parents we will work together and we will help each other.

I can’t do it any other way because the most important person in all of this is the child. I have had my ups and downs with parents just like any other teacher. During the 28 years I have had many more ups than downs because I simply refuse to accept the downs as permanent I keep working at parent relationships throughout the year. I phone, I write and I always have a positive before I give any concerns. When the hearts and minds of parents and teachers can connect the children are the winners. The first meeting whether at Open House or some other time is critical. Make the most of it so you can be the teacher that connects with parents and children. A child’s educational success depends on it. Game on!

Teachers Don’t Give Up Even When Politicians Do

http://pinterest.com/pin/41236152810177940/Teachers across the United States have headed back to their classrooms or they are gearing up to head back. Even those of us who have a couple of days left are in “the mode”.  All teachers know what the mode is. It is when you start thinking about your next class, what learning activities you want to do, you start moving furniture around your classroom hey you may even find some surprises you had forgotten about. Every year teachers try to make it the best year ever. I think politicians don’t realize this or they don’t think about it. Here in North Carolina teachers are taking a beating in about every way possible.  That being said thousands of teachers are heading back to their classrooms  to make it the best year ever. They are putting their knowledge to work and they are putting their hearts to to the grindstone. Teachers have to be made of tough stuff otherwise we simply couldn’t make it. We have to believe that we can make a difference in the lives of children.  Teachers do make a difference it is minute to minute, day by day, month by month and year by year. Sometimes you may not realize the moment you changed a child’s life but you did. If you are lucky a kid comes back and tells you how you helped them but most of the time you just have to know it in your heart. You have to believe in what you do even when others don’t. I know teachers are working hard and teaching children and nurturing them even when the chips are down. Maybe the politicians have given up on children but teachers have not.

All the best,

Sarah Tharpe Winchell

What is Pinterest Good for Anyway?

Some folks are crazy pinners. Living a life through Pinterest! I think Pinterest is perfectly good for what it is sold as. There is no snake oil here. It is good for organizing. It is good for people like me who can cover three desks given the opportunity. I can organize my interests. I can clean up some clutter literally and figuratively.

I have created a board as a resource for managing ideas for educational technology. It has ideas for educators from kindergarten to advanced high school placement. It has some Teacher Time Savers. The cover page of the board opens this post. It is from edutopia.org

The board is Technology in the Classroom and I have structured the board to so it is easy to use. Might I go as far as organized. There are four categories: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 and TTS~ Teacher Time Savers. I have recruited some fellow pinners to help me with the board. My goal is to provide a variety of resources from mp3 songs, power points, white board activities while highlighting the purposeful and authentic integration of technology in the classroom. Visit the board and see if there are any resources you can use. Let me know what you found that is helpful or some content ideas you would like to share.

We need to form a relationship with technology that makes it ordinary but the learning and thinking is extraordinary. In my classroom I truly want the children to view technology as a facilitator something that helps them along the way but they are the thinker,the learner and the doer!

Do you have any technology tools that have worked great? What do you think about the integration of technology in the classroom? How are the best ways to use technology in the classroom?

Sarah Tharpe Winchell