Shadow Puppets

by Michael Vetere

When I was young, my parents took me and my twin sister to see the stage version of Peter Pan. When Peter got his shadow sewn back on by Wendy he was so excited that he sang a song about being proud and self-assured. During the song, Peter made giant shadow puppets with his hands on the stage – I was hooked! For weeks after you could find me making shadow puppets during play time, meals, and even at church – my mother also joined in the fun by pretending to eat my shadows with her hands in the shape of a mouth.

Shadow puppetry is an ancient art form dating back to…well…no one really knows. Many believe that it can be traced back to the Han Dynasty of China (206 B.C.E – 220 C.E) or the wayang kulit shadow puppet figures from Indonesia around 800’s C.E. However, shadow puppets can be found all over the world including Turkey, Mexico, and Australia.

puppet1                     puppet-2                    puppet3


Shadow puppets can be detailed and complex or they can be simple and interesting. They are a great way to teach about the science of shadows and the art-form of shadow puppet theatre. Not only can you share about indigenous puppets from various cultures to your students, but you can teach using shadow puppets in your classroom. So what do you need to engage young learners in shadow puppet theater? Three things:

  1. A light source: A strong light source is helpful to make clear and sharp shadows. Ideally, an overhead projector works great, but they are getting harder to come by. So think about a desk lamp with an adjustable neck or I like to use a clip light that focuses the light into a direction.
  2. An object or puppet to block the light: Shadow puppets can be made using cardstock and straws for the handles. Personally, I like to use small plastic balloon sticks that can be attached to the back of the puppet with tape. For younger students, precut shapes using foamies or die-cuts work well.
  3. A screen to project onto: Typically, a shadow screen is placed between the audience and the light source for the performers to play out their scenarios. I would suggest using a white shower curtain as it helps defuse the light and provides for a flat surface. However, a bedsheet draped over a garment rack works just as well.


The fall season is always a good time to investigate shadows and shadow puppet theatre as the days get shorter and the nights longer. Students can work through different tasks such as investigating various materials and their reactions to light. These items could be transparent, such as plexi-glass, translucent, such as tissue paper or cellophane, or opaque, such as cardstock.

If you have access to a large wall and a darker room such as a gymnasium or cafeteria – place lights on the ground so students can stand in-front of the light to cast large silhouettes. Play music and explore how the shadows change when they move closer or farther away from the light source. Ask your students questions such as, “Why does your shadow get longer or shorter during the day?” or “What do you think would happen if we added two light sources?”

Thematic units are also very interesting for youth to explore. Themes can include: Autumn, Forest at Night, Under the Ocean, or even Out of this World! You can also connect shadow puppetry with literature. I always like to tell stories using the shadow stage or let the students retell stories. You can extend the learning by having students create a character or scene from the story in shadow form. Ask the student’s shadow character questions like, “What is your name? Where to do you live? What do you like to eat?” – Questions like these help students go deeper into the story and create more believable characters, necessary for good literature and theatre.

Some books you may find easy to connect include:

  • The Dark, Dark Night by C. Christina Butler
  • Who’s Shadow is This? by Claire Berge
  • Moonbear’s Shadow by Frank Asch
  • Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley

puppet-6                                                                   puppet7

Like Peter Pan, it is always beneficial to remember being young and discovering the world for the first time. Don’t be afraid to play and try out new experiences. Think about working with a teaching artist or your art or drama teacher at your school to help you connect the arts to your students’ learning. Or if you are looking to see a shadow puppetry show, join me at the Children’s Discovery Museum in Normal, IL for Fall stories at Halloween Hoopla on October 28, 2016.

Michael J. Vetere III, Ed.D., is an Associate Professor at Illinois State University in the School of Theatre and Dance.  His focus area includes creative dramatics, puppetry, and the arts for early childhood and elementary education.



Nurturing Student Wonder to Enhance Learning

by Laurel Schumacher

I feel lucky. I teach in a school that continually looks deeply at learning. We challenge ourselves to go beyond. This school year, our school improvement plan is based on the work of John Hattie and his research on Visible Learning. We are looking deeply at learner qualities with the objective of bringing student ownership and learner capacity to our students. We want to empower our students to build and increase their learning capacity, so they have the desire to drive their own learning.

The first learner quality we are explicitly teaching is wonder. We identify wonder as the desire to be curious about something. Being a first grade teacher, my initial thought was that this would be a simple and ordinary task for first graders. They are always asking questions; curiosity at this age level seems natural and instinctive.

When I asked my students what they thought wonder was, I got a mixed bag of expected answers. It became clear to me that although I knew my students were curious and full of wonder- they did not necessarily know this about themselves. If I wanted wonder to become a quality of learning, I needed to teach wonder. I needed to build wonder in to something that my students reflected on, so it would start to impact their learning.

I started with a few key read-alouds. Two wonderful books I found to springboard the concept of wonder are I Wonder by Annaka Harris and The Other Way To Listen by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall. Both of these pieces are rich in text and illustration and lead to very meaningful discussion about using wonder to think about ideas and what might be.


Two perfect books to enhance the idea of wonder.





Next I asked my students to be reflective about themselves in a specific way. I asked them to write about 4 concepts that I believed would lead to wonder. In a 4-box design, I questioned them to share with words and pictures: the thing they are best at, their best learning experience, the most fun thing they had ever done and one thing they wonder about. My objective with this was to ignite a sense of self and wonder. I want to teach them to become independent wonderers who can use wonder to generate ideas and perspective. I found out my students wonder about so many things I can tap in to, but even more so, I taught them to start thinking about themselves as a person who is curious and wonders about interesting things.


The 4-box springboard wonder concept-writing project.

boy-2           boy-1


Students completed the 4-box questions with intent and with purpose.



My next step was to create a wonder window in my classroom. This idea came directly from a resource I am finding invaluable- A Place For Wonder, Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough. I wanted to create a place where my students could sit and wonder. I wanted to provide a place where they could look outside and wonder about the things they see, hear or notice. My objective is to teach my students to stop and wonder and question. I gave my wonder window center some guidelines. My students needed to ask before spending time at the wonder window. They couldn’t ask to go to the window in the middle of my teaching. The wonder window is for one student at a time and it is a quiet place. They were free to jot down things they wondered about on one post-it note and hang it on the wonder spot. From time to time we’d share our wonderings with each other. I am overjoyed with my students’’ desire to spend time at the wonder window. It has stayed fresh and exciting because the outside world is constantly changing. Our conversations have been rich.

wonder-window-1                  wonder-window-2


Students using the wonder window.







The place where students can hang post-it notes about their wonderings.


As I move ahead in my explicit teaching of wonder, I’m also using a web site that a colleague shared with me: I registered to get “the wonder of the day” in my inbox each morning. This resource is free and has been a great asset in our wonder discussions. Here’s a bit from the home page of Wonderopolis~

Welcome to Wonderopolis®, a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. Each day, we pose an intriguing question—the Wonder of the Day®—and explore it in a variety of ways.

Wonderopolis was created by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) in 2010, and it has become one of the most popular education sites today.

As I move forward in our school year, my hopes are that this explicit teaching of wonder will impact my students in ways that are tangible. I want them to recognize wonder as a learner quality and to use wonder to engage in thinking deeply.

An excerpt from the book by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall, The Other Way to Listen~

Do this: go get to know one thing as well as you can. It should be something small. Don’t start with a mountain. Don’t start with the whole Pacific Ocean. Start with one seed pod or one dry weed or one horned toad or one handful of dirt …

In closing, I encourage you to take a moment to view this short video on PBS. It will inspire you in nurturing wonder your classroom.

Laurel Schumacher has spent 30 years in early childhood education. She is a first grade teacher at Thomas Metcalf Laboratory School, holds a BA in elementary education, MS in reading and is a certified reading specialist.


Starting Your Math Manipulative Library

     It is been found that some people experience anxiety and even a painful feeling when doing math. However, math does not need to be feared or create anxiety. Engaging students with real-life experiences and objects can create a love for math. Over the years I have found that there are 4 key mainuplatives every early childhood teacher needs to teach math. While there still are some standard-specific manipulatives that are not in my list of 4, this list is a great start and resource for building and brainstorming a math library.

by Anni Reinking

4 Math Manipulatives to Start a Math Library

Dominoes (multi-colored):

~Activity 1: Addition and Subtraction- Students add and/or subtract the two side of the domino and write the answer or find a domino with that number and match it to keep the game going.

~Activity 2: Sorting- Engage students in the simple task of either sorting colors or sorting by dots.

~Activity 3: One to one correspondence and matching- Play a simplified dominoes game. Match one side of the domino to a like side of another domino and keep the game going. Ask students not only to match dotted sizes, but also state how many and write the number.

Decks of Cards (Activity 1 and 2 can also be used with cards):

~Activity 4: Greater Than, Less Than- Play a game of war. Students are able to understand greater than and less than numbers, along with equal. For a simplified version, take out the face cards.

~Activity 5: Number Line- The guessing game is a great for students to get engaged and work with the number line. Separate the cards so you have only one suit set (i.e. all the hearts). Take out the face cards. Lay the 2 and the 10 down so they are on a number line. Then begin to have the students guess the next card by giving them the verbal clue of higher or lower. (Ex. Is it the number 5? Lower. Is it the number 4? Yes!) Once the card is guessed lay it down on the “number line.”

Dice (Activity 1, 4, and 5 can also be used with enough dice):

~Activity 6: Graphing have the students roll dice a specified number of times and have them graph the number rolled. Discussions of “how many more” or “how many less” can be a great way for teachers to engage with students.

~Activity 7: Ten Frames/Number Talks- Roll dice; transfer that number to a ten frame. The teacher or a lead student can engage students in a number talk. (Ex:

~Activity 8: Measuring- (will also need unifix cubes) Roll dice. The number that is on the dice corresponds to the number of unifix cubes that need to be collected. Once the cubes are collected the students walk around the room to find something that is that many cubes long. (Ex: Roll a 5. Take 5 unifix cubes. Find that the book is 5 unifix cubes wide.)

Unifix Cubes (Many of the activities above can be changed to add in counting or measuring with cubes):

Activity 9: What’s missing?- Start with an amount, usually 10. Show the student you have ten. Put them behind your back and break them apart. Show the students how many now (while keeping some behind your back). Have the student tell you how many are behind your back. Keep the game going.

~Activity 10: Fractions While fractions are usually taught after Early Childhood grades, it may be something teachers begin to introduce. Teachers can engage students with simple fractions such as half and fourths by using unifix cubes. Take 10 cubes, half are red and half are black, put them together, and talk to students about the concepts of fractions.

Overall, you do not need a room full of maniuplatives, or the brightest and newest items for your students. There is a lot you can do with simple items if you begin to brainstorm and think outside the box.

This blog post was written by Dr. Anni Reinking and alumni of Illinois State University. Check out her bio here!

ECE Teacher Talk: Our Past and Future

Welcome back to the ECE Teacher Talk blog! This is your one-stop shop for all things related to early childhood education written by amazing educators affiliated with Illinois State University and written for the fantastic community of early childhood educators connected to the university and beyond! As we are gearing up for a new year of posts, we welcome new guest bloggers, a new editor, and new content!

In looking towards the future, we reflect on the growth of this little blog that could, by reviewing statistics related to the blog over the last few years and specifically last school year–2015-2016. Check out our exciting stats here:

9-16-blog-stats As you can see in this table from our host site:, our viewership has been steadily growing since the blog began in 2013! Hooray! This is due to you, our readers consistently returning to check out the great content that our bloggers create. 2016, thus far, has had the most views, and the year is not even done yet! Look forward to awesome content to come this fall!

9-16-blog-countriesOur viewers come from far and wide, and the reach of the blog has been growing every year! This infographic, created by WordPress, highlights where our readers were when they viewed posts from ECE Teacher Talk over the 2015 year. We are so excited to say that we have readers as close to ISU as in Normal, Illinois (our home base) and as far and wide as Australia (114), Singapore (7), Nigeria (4), Finland (1), and Malta (1). This year’s goals include maintaining our readership this year and continuing to grow. If you know anyone who is interested in early childhood education, please help us with this goal and pass our site along! Know that each of our posts offers quick and easy sharing links at the bottom of each post, making this goal an easy task!


This image gives a quick view of how the messages of the ECE Teacher Talk blog were passed along this past school year. We are hoping that the formats our readers take for sharing this year will follow similar and new paths!

9-16-blog-top-posts Here is a quick list of our most popular posts from this last year. Woohoo to these bloggers, and all of ours from last year! This list provides a great example of the variety of content about which our bloggers write. Following the ECE Teacher Talk blog guarantees that you will find topics that connect to real practice from real educators in the field and in teacher preparation. We are so excited for the posts you’ll encounter this year!


This last tidbit is just for fun! We cannot wait to get this blogging year underway, but first,  appreciation is needed for everyone connected to ECE Teacher Talk! Thanks to all of the guest bloggers who have created the amazing content that has drawn these readers in over the past few years. Without you, our blog would not be as innovative and interesting as it is today. And a big thanks goes to you, our readers! Without you, our blog would not exist! We hope seeing these statistics instills a sense of ownership and pride in each of you for helping to make this initial dream of connecting with our ISU graduates into something more inviting and inspiring than we ever thought. Onward towards a great blogging year!

This post is brought to you by the ECE Teacher Talk team of editors: Kira Hamann ’05, Dr. Amanda Quesenberry, and Dr. Nancy Latham.

The “Mirrors and Windows” in Your Classroom Library


A thoughtfully designed classroom library is the heart of the early childhood literacy environment. So much of value comes from a collection of books, right at the children’s fingertips, that take into account their abilities, interests, and experiences! The message sent when classroom life revolves around the library space and materials, and when text activities are integrated into daily classroom life is, “This is a reading place. Books and reading are valued here.” As Christopher Lehman (2014) points out in a recent blog post, “What we make visible in our classrooms, in our schools, even in our lives, shows what we value, what is important, and what we feel and believe.” Seeing books and reading at the epicenter of classroom life speaks louder than any words could about what we value for our students and their learning.

There are many articles and books to help new and experienced teachers craft amazing classroom libraries. For example, in a recent post on her blog, Elizabeth Moore (2016) shares thoughts (and pictures!) about creating and using classroom libraries, and she links to suggestions for crafting classroom libraries for multiple age levels. So many such resources exist that I won’t repeat their messages here. However, one aspect of the classroom library that deserves special consideration is how the contents of a classroom library reflect the characteristics, backgrounds, and experiences of the children who will use it. Rudine Sims Bishop (1990) is often credited with coining the term mirrors and windows when referring to the special capability of books to provide children with a view out on the world as well as back on themselves. She says,

Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books (p. 1).

You can watch author/illustrator Grace Lin conduct a TEDx Talk about her motivation to ensure that her books act as mirrors and windows for her young readers:

Children use books to make meaning of the world and of its many inhabitants that have lives and experiences different than their own. Children can also, if provided the chance, use books to see themselves and their experiences affirmed as valued members of the classroom and the world in which they live. As children’s author Nikki Grimes explains, “Where better to introduce a child to the multiplicity of races and cultures in our world—and to our common humanity—than between the pages of a book?” (Hall, 2016, p. 18).

In spite of this potential, however, children from traditionally underrepresented groups have often failed to see themselves mirrored on their classroom book shelves, and publishers still have a long way to go to ensure that books reflecting the multiplicity of the world’s cultures, family styles, and races enter the book market. However, teachers populating their classroom libraries do have more choices than ever before to ensure that the books on their shelves act as mirrors and windows for their students. Here are a few of my favorite titles that may support that goal for your students. Hopefully these book suggestions will spark your thinking about how your classroom library can act to affirm the value of all of our children, their families, and their lives and will send you racing to the bookstore in search of mirrors and windows for your own students.


These two books, one with fanciful drawings and lyrics, the other with real photographs and straightforward language, prompt children to celebrate themselves and others as important parts of the bigger world.



These books, depicting children’s experiences in their neighborhoods, bring the world closer to home, displaying the vitality and beauty to be found right in their own backyards.



Books like these, displaying various family styles, provide opportunities for children to see all kinds of families in their many varieties and complexities.

These books, which tell the story of children who adapt to an unfamiliar classroom while also mastering a new language, will be especially appreciated by dual language learners and any children who face the challenge of moving into new classroom environments.

Both of these books address issues of children who feel different from their peers but who, with love and support, manage to succeed and thrive while staying true to themselves.

ssanden-2This post is brought to you by Dr. Sherry Sanden. Sherry is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Literacy at Illinois State University. She is a former first- and second-grade teacher and child care director. Her research interests include the ways that teachers learn about and use books and reading in early education classrooms. Check out Sherry’s past posts at this blog here, here, and here.


Bishop, R.S. (1990). Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Perspectives: Choosing and using books for the classroom, 6(2).

C. Lehman. (2014, February 10). Wear your heart on your sleeve (and walls and actions and) [Web log post]. Retrieved from

E. Moore. (2016, April 2). ICYMI: Classroom libraries to support reading workshop for every grade level [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Hall, A. (2016). Turning the tables. Literacy Today, 33(5), pp. 18-20.

Tips on Communicating with Parents Regarding CCSM

“I don’t like math.” “Math scares me.” These are common statements made by children, parents, and college students alike. The fears and negative views many people have regarding mathematics may be reflective of prior negative experiences and/or a lack of procedural and conceptual knowledge. With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and its focus on building a conceptual understanding of mathematics in addition to procedural skills, many parents have found themselves challenged in understanding the different approaches introduced by the CCSS. And the confusion about these standards may stir some of those old fears of mathematics in parents. It is important for teachers to realize that some parents may struggle with both understanding the approach of the CCSS as well as in assisting their children with homework related to the CCSS.

Teachers need to consider what they could do to help parents in understanding the CCSS. Although there are many negative views regarding the CCSS, many parents, especially those of younger children have an open mind towards the CCSS. It is important that we attempt to help parents understand the CCSS and the different pedagogical approaches that tied to them. There are a few things that we should try to do to help:

Family math nights. Many teachers/schools offer a curriculum night where the purpose is for parents/guardians to meet with classroom teachers to learn about grade level curriculum and expectations for the school year.  Although this is a great event, specific concepts and pedagogical approaches are not often discussed. Another night focused on specific mathematical concepts that children are learning and possibly focusing on those concepts that may be new in its teaching approach will be very helpful for parents. At this meeting, you can clearly explain various concepts and how you are teaching them. If possible, offering math nights throughout the school year will be even more beneficial since new concepts are frequently introduced. This certainly may be difficult to do in terms of time and difficult for parents as well, but it will help with parents’ anxiety and possible anger towards the CCSS. If possible, work with the other teachers in your grade level team to develop something together. You may consider having the parents bring their children along with them. Parents may benefit from your explanation along with seeing their students in action in your classroom. If math nights are not possible, offer parents an opportunity to ask you questions about homework or concepts either in person on the phone.

Also, during these math nights or even during a curriculum night, be honest about the CCSS. Explain the goal and focus of the CCSS. Many parents will be familiar with the negative backlash but may not have a good grasp of the standards. Explain the differences between how the parents may have been taught and the CCSS. Most parents want to understand the CCSS and will appreciate an opportunity to learn about them and ask questions about them. For parents of younger children, this could build a solid foundation and a positive view of the CCSS.

Communicate consistently. In addition to family math nights, attempt to stay in constant communication with parents regarding the mathematics their students are doing in the classroom. If possible, provide weekly updates of the concepts being learned throughout the year. Be cautious of the language you use in your communication with parents and in introducing concepts to your students. I have been told by many parents that their children tell them, “The way your parents do this problem is wrong.” Or “we don’t do it that way anymore.” Both of these statements can upset parents and both are untrue. There are many ways of solving various problems. And yes, many parents learned a more traditional or procedural approach to mathematics. But that does not make it “wrong.” When teaching children, let them know that their parents may have learned a “different” way. And that they “will learn different ways, and will also learn how your parents were taught too.” It is important to remember that as teachers, we want to provide our students with many different ways of thinking about the various mathematical concepts we introduce. Some may be more conceptual, some may be more procedural but all serve some purpose and assist in children’s ultimate understanding.

Provide resources for parents. As part of the communication with parents, include resources that could help parents understand the mathematical concepts you may be teaching. These resources may include various websites or handouts that you have explaining the concepts being taught in your classroom. However, as mentioned above, make your self available to meet with parents if they have questions. And you should try hard to encourage those questions. Parents may feel embarrassed that they don’t understand various concepts or cannot help their children. Do your best to be approachable and make them feel comfortable to come to you for help. Also, in addition to resources, send activities or activity ideas home that children and parents can do together that enforce the concepts you are working on. With the early grades, many games can be used to build various concepts in the CCSS. Provide those game ideas to parents so they can have fun together with their children and help their children build that strong foundation and love of mathematics.

Mathematics in the early childhood years should be a fun topic to both learn and teach. Many of us have fond memories of learning math when we were younger and others do not. But as early childhood teachers, we have the opportunity to ensure that our students are exposed to mathematics in a fun and interactive way while developing a conceptual understanding of the many concepts that they will learn. We also have the opportunity to demonstrate this to their parents as well. Although this can be challenging, doing so will be worthwhile and beneficial to both parents and their children.

Alan Pic HomepageThis post is brought to you by Dr. Alan Bates. Alan is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at Illinois State University. His research interests include children’s mathematical development, teacher’s math self-efficacy, and parent-school interaction. Check out another post on the ECE Teacher Talk blog from Alan here!

Incorporating Video Games into the Classroom

At the beginning of this year, my first year teaching, I was nervous to introduce myself on Welcome Night knowing that some parents would be apprehensive to see such a young teacher waiting to meet them. There are obvious qualities of seasoned teachers that make them desirable to students and parents, but I am here to share one of the many strengths that a new teacher possesses. One of the amazing advantages is the ability to relate to students and bring their interests into the classroom. As a young teacher, I have the capability and willingness to pull the world of video games into the classroom. By doing this, I have formed meaningful relationships and helped reluctant students to become more engaged in their learning. In this blog post, I will share three different examples of how I was able to bring my students’ love of video games to life in the classroom.


As a new teacher looking through Scholastic book orders is dangerous. Keeping my tight budget in mind, I can’t help but immediately add any videogame books to my cart. It all started with a series of Minecraft Handbooks. I bought them for my class, and they were an instant success. Almost the entire class wanted to be on the waiting list to read them! After that I bought books like Cool Careers in Video Games and Pokémon: The Official Adventure Guide. I think my initial draw to these books was selfish; I wanted to read them! I was able to share my excitement with my students as I introduced the new books to our class. Over the past year I have bought many other video game books including Diary of a Minecraft Zombie and The History of Video Games. These books are a huge hit, and I have had to buy multiple copies to meet the need.


The video game bin in our library is empty. Even though only one reading group trades books a day, I guarantee that this bin will be empty again after I put in the books from our latest order. How can I be mad when I see kids sneaking books I know they just cannot wait to get their hands on? How can I be mad when I have kids whispering behind clipboards asking if I can slip a certain book into their tub instead of putting it in the library? My job is to get kids excited about reading. Video games are a way to do just that.


After seven rigorous PARCC tests last month, both my students and I were feeling bogged down. In the weeks leading up to the tests themselves, we spent considerable time hitting annotating, supporting evidence, and essay structure. I felt that I had sucked the fun out of writing, and it broke my heart. I sat down with them and had a heart-to-heart about all that writing can be. I wanted them to understand that writing can be a fun way for them to show their creativity and express themselves. In an effort to spark some excitement for writing, I opened up a few days for some free choice writing. When presenting this idea during Writer’s Workshop, I tried to give them a couple of ways they could turn their favorite video games into writing pieces. Two of my students asked if they could work together to write a story about Pokémon coming to life. I initially hesitated knowing that letting these boys work together would open that option up to the whole class. I gave the boys a chance to pitch me their idea, and as soon as I accepted it the whole room was buzzing with excitement. My students were more excited to write than I had seen in a while. Many of the stories tied into video games. Another pair wrote their own version of a Minecraft player’s diary. Two girls wrote a story about our class finding a portal into the world of GoNoodle Champs. This simple free choice writing opportunity took on a life of its own and became more than I could have asked.

Social Studies

Earlier in the year we used one of our writing units to do research on Native American Tribes. The students were very interested in the unit, and they really enjoyed becoming experts in the tribe they researched. We also talked a lot about what it would be like to live with our tribe. One day after we had finished our unit, a student in our class was reading a book on Minecraft, and I got the idea to build a Native American Tribe on Minecraft. Minecraft is a virtual world where players are able to build and create whatever they want. I discussed my idea with the student, and he was immediately intrigued. I decided that I liked the Inuit Tribe the best out of those that we researched and knew it would be the perfect tribe for the virtual world. I enlisted the help of my brother, and together we created a modern version of an Inuit Tribe from the past. I brought the following picture to school and shared it with my students. They were very impressed!


Overall it has been a challenging first year. One thing I have learned is to celebrate my strengths. I love being able to relate to my students, and I wouldn’t trade that. Seeing how these positive relationships have impacted my students has been very rewarding.

Have you used video games in the classroom? Have you incorporated other student interests? If so, post about it in the comments section. Let’s use this blog as a platform to discuss and share ideas to increase student engagement!

IMG_5888This post was brought to you by Miss Andrea Siefert, ’15. Andrea graduated from Illinois State University in May of 2015 with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She now teaches third grade at Adams Elementary in Quincy, Illinois. This is Andrea’s first post on the ECE Teacher Talk blog; welcome, Andrea!

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