Classroom Solutions > Alycia Zimmerman

Beware of Bias -- Graphing With a Critical Eye

Calories Tricky GraphMy students studied graphing during our first math unit this year. Graphing lends itself to get-to-know-you activities — students can survey each other to collect data — and it provides an entry point for students of all math abilities.

Once my students understood how graphs work and how to create accurate graphs, I started to wonder how I could up the ante. How could I promote critical thinking with this relatively straightforward math unit? 

One of my students handed me the answer when he brought in a graph that he had clipped from the newspaper to add to our graph collection. As I looked over his graph, I thought, "Hey, wait a sec! This graph is downright misleading." As I pointed out the graph’s flaws to my students, their eyes widened at the idea that a newspaper might seek to mislead with a graph.

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My Reflections on the Education Nation Teacher Town Hall

Town Hall PhotoEvery year just before our December vacation, my school’s entire faculty takes a celebratory “field trip” to Rockefeller Center. We skate around the iconic rink and then feast at a nearby restaurant. Over dinner, we discuss our successes and challenges from the first semester and our goals for the second semester. I always leave with a deep appreciation for my creative, dedicated colleagues and a renewed enthusiasm for our profession. 

This past Sunday, I visited the Rockefeller Center skating rink for another gathering of passionate educators, this time foregoing ice skates and a winter coat. Instead, I joined several hundred teachers in a tent for NBC’s Teacher Town Hall, the kickoff event for their weeklong Education Nation initiative. So many interesting ideas were explored during the two-hour freewheeling conversation, and I left just as inspired as I am after my school's December outing. Read on for my thoughts on just a few of the ideas we covered.

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Comments: 2

Extra, Extra, Read All About It! Current Events in the Classroom

Reading News on the SubwayOne of my personal goals this year is to read the newspaper every single day, regardless of how many student essays I need to read or how crazy my morning commute. I want to be aware of the world around me, and I am committed to living a more news-literate life. I bought a newspaper subscription for my Kindle, and at the very least, I am going to read the news while I take the subway to and from school.

While working on myself, I also consider my students’ current events literacy. I want to help my students to become informed young citizens and lifelong news readers. However, finding time for current events during our jam-packed school day has always posed a challenge. In this post, I'll share some of the solutions I've found. However, my current events curriculum is very much a work in progress, so I would love to hear how you cover world events in your classroom. 

Photo: One of my students reading a newspaper on the subway during a field trip. I need to learn from her!

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Comments: 4

Organizing my Classroom Library: The Never-Ending Story

Library OverviewAs I set up my classroom this year, I was so proud of myself. I had carefully organized when I packed up my room in June, so my room looked “livable” in just a few hours this fall. “Wow, this is smooth sailing,” I thought smugly. Then I approached my classroom library, and I didn’t emerge until 8:30 p.m.! 

The hours disappeared as I labeled book baskets, leveled new books, culled through my collection, and planned new library routines. This was certainly time well spent, but I have to tell you, sometimes my “librarian hat” feels heavier than my “teacher hat.” That said, I feel that much of my success as a reading teacher can be attributed to my classroom library. Join me on a photo tour of my classroom library, as I reflect on my organization systems and what works for me.

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Comments: 2

Poetic Beginnings: Four Poetry Lessons to Get to Know Your Students

Amys PoemMany curriculum guides would have us believe that poetry and April are conjoined twins, never to be parted, but we teachers know better. Poetry is powerful stuff, and cramming it into a single month is unfair to our students and to poetry! In my class, we read, write, and publish poetry throughout the year, and I frontload the first two months of school with even more poetry. We gain deep insights about each other while sharing our poetry, we luxuriate in words, and we celebrate creative risks –- important back-to-school practices. Here are four of my back-to-school poetry lessons that I use to get to really know my students.


Amy shares one of her published poems.

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Comments: 6

Celebrating Community Heroes: September 11th in the Elementary Classroom

FDNY Let me be honest with you: Teaching my third graders about September 11th makes me a little uncomfortable. My students weren’t even born in 2001, and this historic tragedy just doesn’t seem all that relevant to their lives. On the other hand, September 11th has become a permanent part of our collective consciousness. As New York City gears up for the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, my students are inevitably curious about it. It wouldn’t be fair to my students if I didn’t help them understand 9/11 in a way that honors their intellectual curiosity, yet is appropriate for their age as well. Thank goodness for the picture book Fireboat by Maira Kalman! Here’s how I use this amazing book to discuss the facts about 9/11 and then shift into a lesson about heroes.


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Comments: 2

Read-Alouds to Launch Reader’s Workshop

Reading_on_Rug During the first few weeks of reader’s workshop, the focus is necessarily on introducing routines, building stamina, and exploring the classroom library. At the same time, I need to immerse my students in the culture of reading by getting lost in good books together. There isn’t a moment to waste in initiating my students into our reading cult! How do I accomplish both goals at the same time? I use picture books that celebrate reading as a springboard into our discussions about reader’s workshop routines and expectations. Read on for my favorite picture books about reading and how I use them to launch our reader’s workshop.

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Comments: 9

My Classroom Management Must-Haves, Part 2: Float Jars and More

Float Jar1Last week, I wrote about the color chart that I use to help my students manage their individual behavior choices. The color chart is my saving grace, but it is not the panacea for all behavior woes. This week, I am going to share some more of my favorite management strategies: The Float Jar, Table Stars, and my Homework Black Book.

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Comments: 16

My Classroom Management Must-Haves, Part 1: Color Charts

Jon Color ChartAt the beginning of each school year, I revisit the question that is central to my beliefs about classroom management. How do I structure a classroom environment where my students actively nurture the community because they believe in the importance of co-creating the world in which they want to work and play? Over the years I have experimented with several systems, and I continue to grow and refine my management style. However, I’ve stumbled upon some keepers that I use from year to year. This week I am going to share one of my go-to management strategies, The Color Chart.


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Comments: 38

What’s in a Name? A Back-to-School Literacy Unit

NametagDuring the first few weeks of school, I always find it challenging to come up with a meaningful unit of study so that my students can feel as though they are accomplishing something beyond learning a bunch of routines. There’s the obvious imperative to build our classroom community. On top of that, the empty bulletin boards in the classroom are glaring at us, demanding student work so our classroom can begin to look “lived in.”

Last year, I had wonderful results using a name unit as our first shared literacy experience. Read on to find out what my students did. (This post includes a list of read-alouds and graphic organizers to support the unit.)


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About the Teacher
Brent Vasicek
Alycia Zimmerman
New York, NY
Grades 3-5
Special Interests:
Community Building
Field Trips
Exploring New Technologies
Project Learning

Alycia's Bio


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