Rashawnda Atkinson

Recent Posts

Building Bridges: Partnering with Families to Support Reading at Home

Posted by Rashawnda Atkinson on Feb 24, 2017 11:45:00 AM

This is the second of three articles about building bridges between the school and home/community.  Read the first post here.

In my early years working in an urban school district, I had caregivers come to me all the time asking for ways to help their kids at home after school.  These parents had varied education backgrounds, and I had to get really creative so I could meet the needs of some of my families. Some parents were homeless, spoke a language other than English, worked multiple jobs, or were stay-at-home and could only meet me in school (where I tutored) during after hours. How could I make sure to meet the needs of all these families without burning out or being time/resource consuming?  Below are some tips to give caregivers and to keep families involved and invested in your student's learning process.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Differentiation, Literacy

Building Bridges: Making Guest Readers Work In Your Classroom

Posted by Rashawnda Atkinson on Feb 17, 2017 12:36:00 PM

This is the first in a 3-part series about ways to strengthen communication between school and home/community.  If you don't do so already, incorporate one or more of the strategies shared during the series and reply with the results below.

Looking for ways to get your students parents and caregivers involved in the learning process?  One way I've found very engaging is having parent or community volunteers come into my classroom and read to students.  Having your student's caregivers come in to read provides lots of benefits for your students, the volunteers, and for you as a teacher.  Students, through read alouds, develop their decoding and fluency skills along practicing comprehension strategies.  Depending on how volunteers choose books, volunteers share parts of themselves as well as their interests with the kids.  They also contribute to buidling a positive classroom and school environment. As an educator, you see how their students respond when hearing another adults read, build positive rapport with the volunteers, and get a moment to relax during a long day of learning! You might even learn about some new series or author you can use in the class, which was always a great thing for me, especially in my early years of teaching.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Personal Experiences, Differentiation, Literacy

Freedom Writing: Students Expressing Ideas About Current or Controversial Events

Posted by Rashawnda Atkinson on Feb 10, 2017 11:36:00 AM

How can we support kids as they process their feelings about current or recent events happening in our world? Today's students had a front-row seat to school shootings, terrorism events, political conflict, and drug-related deaths for example within recent years, and they might have feelings of confusion, fear, or frustration. Educators have to navigate discussing these conversations and encourage students without promoting their personal views. Though it may be challenging to do, you can take these moments that have real impact students' lives and make it a teachable moment for students.  Here's how I've done this in the past when working with my students.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Writing, Technology, Literacy

Writing a Legacy: Celebrating Black History Month

Posted by Rashawnda Atkinson on Feb 3, 2017 12:33:00 PM

How does a culture survive through the ages?  The written word's impact on politics, faith, education, science, history, and more certainly demonstrates why it's a critical component to sustaining any culture.  Black American poets, playrights, authors, composers, and philosophers contributed many works throughout American history, so we at Big Universe want to recognize some of those who, through their talents and words, captured the essence of their times and diversified the perspectives of African American culture.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Integration Ideas, Literacy

Xin Nian Kuai Le: Celebrating Chinese New Year

Posted by Rashawnda Atkinson on Jan 27, 2017 12:01:00 PM

The phrase "Xin Nian Kuai Le"  is Happy New Year in Mandarin.  The new moon closest to the start of spring dictates the beginning of the year in their culture, and each year i)s combined with elements of the earth (gold, wood, water, fire, earth) with twelve animals (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig/boar).  This is the year of the fire rooster, and here at Big Universe, we want to give you some idea as to ways you can use to help in celebrating this popular time for so many people around the world.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Reading Lists, Literacy

Poetry and the Inauguration: How Poets Participated in this Presidential Ceremony

Posted by Rashawnda Atkinson on Jan 20, 2017 11:43:00 AM

Today is Inauguration Day, a celebration and ceremony signifying the start [or continuation] of a president's administration.  Recognized on the 20th of January every four years, many entertainers, dignitaries, and American citizens participate in the festivities during and after the inauguration.  What is intriguing, however, is the relatively few poets involved in the ceremony.  It was only in 1961 that Robert Frost read his poem "The Gift Outright" at the late John F. Kennedy's first inauguration.  Since then, four other poets share this honor with him: Maya Angelou's 1993 reading of "On Pulse of Morning", Miller Williams read "Of History and Hope" in 1997, Elizabeth Alexander's 2009 reading of "Praise Song for the Day", and Richard Blanco's 2013 reading of "One Today."  How then, did these poets represent the attitudes and political climates of their day?


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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Reading Lists, Writing

More than a Dream: Using King’s Legacy to Foster Civil Responsibility In Students

Posted by Rashawnda Atkinson on Jan 13, 2017 11:55:00 AM

In just a few days our nation will celebrate Martin Luther King Day, which recognizes the contributions that famed Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. made to advancing racial equality through non-violent means.  Since 1986, the third Monday in every January people take part in various activities--speeches, marches, community service projects, or visiting sites that highlight King's life and legacy.  As educators seeking to create independent, conscious thinkers, how can we get them to use their words and knowledge to affect change in their schools?  As King wrote as a junior at Morehouse College, “...Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction" (as cited in The Seattle Times, n.d.).  I'll share with you some ways to get your students and school to maximize the day's significance.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Reading Lists, Writing, Literacy

Write About It: Celebrating National Letter Writing Week

Posted by Rashawnda Atkinson on Jan 6, 2017 2:17:50 PM

Every year during the second week of January, our country celebrates National Letter Writing Week. The art of letter writing may seem foreign—or antiquated—to a generation surrounded with instant messaging, texting, and social media platforms that make communicating with people across the world almost instantaneous. Once you review the basic parts of writing—heading, greeting, body, closing, and signature, students can write letters of all kinds to anyone! Check out the ideas we have below as you celebrate National Letter Writing Week!

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Writing, Technology, Literacy

Celebrating the New Year: Resolutions that You Can Keep

Posted by Rashawnda Atkinson on Dec 30, 2016 12:06:00 PM

Wow, what a year this has been!  Many things have happened in 2016 to transform our lives and to shape the way we teach and learn our students.  At the beginning of the year, many of us made promises or goals that we wanted to reach.  Hopefully, you were able to carry out or revisit those goals to make them more effective for you.  As we are looking forward to welcoming in the new year, I'd like to suggest some resolutions that, at least with your students, you can certainly keep--with a bit of planning and dedication.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas

Reading Packets No More: Keep Children Reading and Writing This Winter Break

Posted by Rashawnda Atkinson on Dec 23, 2016 11:14:00 AM

Are your bags packed, decorations hung, or celebrations planned?  Well, before you
get too far into the winter break activities, I'd like to give you some ideas you can use at home or in your classrooms that keep the dreaded reading packet at bay.

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Topics: Writing, Literacy

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