Friday, September 13, 2013

Sept. 13 5 For Friday ON FRIDAY!

I love this linky much too much!  Click the button for the link!

 1. I turned my PLL marathon into something good! I copied and pasted what I'd be teaching that week from online and formatted it to my desires. PLANNING. Plus, I even put it all into this beautiful grid that I got from TpT. It's Chevron Teacher Planner, Gradebook, & Organizer by Teacher Inspired if you're interested!  I think it's SUPER cute...I love it, and it even got me excited to teach all this new, overwhelming curriculum when I had it all written down! :)

2. Sunday afternoon I got a call from one of my just-promoted fifth graders updating me about how middle school was going. It absolutely MADE MY WEEK to get that phone call. There's something about the fact that he thought enough about me to make that call and share his post-elementary life with me. To know that I stuck that much with him, and that he understands I care beyond the classroom. It means my job was done, and it was done well with that child. He had his challenges, and I gave him my all. So it's things like that phone call that really make me happy. He's doing well, by the well. I was so overwhelmed and touched by that simple gesture, the maturity he displayed in that call, and how well it sounds like he's doing that I cried when we hung up. :] I'm an emotional ninny, I know. (Obviously, pic unrelated. But they're too cute and it was the same day, so close enough!)

3. I had 2 lunch bunches this week! One with a sibling of a former student and one with a current student. My goofy, prankster teammate joined us and while I was out of the room getting the girl and her chosen friends, he was apparently a very busy boy! He took some of his chips and arranged them around my food as a perfect little border standing up.  By the time I'd taken this picture, I'd already eaten most of them, though. I didn't think to get the full effect.  I immediately burst out laughing, of course.  But I didn't even notice the best part until a few minutes in. He taped my drink shut.  At this, I was laughing so hard I had to get the pic for memories.

4. This new curriculum is KICKING MY BUTT. Serious talk. But I'm slowly finally starting to learn and bond with my new group.  The picture to the left is a conversation we had one day during dismissal. Enjoy! :)  Speaking of dismissal, WOW! That storm yesterday was NO JOKE! We had dismissal delayed for probably a good 20 minutes. It was i
ntense! Luckily, I teach 5th so we were relatively without worries. I was left with...all of my boys, now that I think about it... Oh geez! Well, we just had a good time playing Banagrams (like Words with Friends/Scrabble) like we do every afternoon. And for my one student who was getting a little anxious, I took out my basket of Fidgets and let him play with them. It completely relaxed him. :)

5. I've been having some after school visitors comprised of old students. One is a student volunteer who comes thrice a week. Today, two of my girls came just to visit. Between those three and another of my originals who volunteers with another teacher and comes to me when he's done to visit, it was like a party in my room! They were so excitable and loud. It was cute. I missed them. :( We've been having some good conversations, my former students and I. I don't know what's going on this week, but they came out of the WOODWORK. I have spoken with 7 of them just this week! :) Obviously, not that I'm complaining. I'm just so glad that they get it - I care and want to know how they're doing even once they're no longer names on my list.

Busy weekend of planning ahead! When is that next day off????

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Currently & Five For Linkies

Happy weekend, everyone! To celebrate, I'm blogging with two of my favorite linkies! :)

To start, Currently from Farley!

Listening: So forgive my guilty pleasures of ABC Family shows...but since the Pretty Little Liars finale, I've had a strong urge to rewatch the show. At first, I just wanted to rewatch the pilot, but then...I couldn't stop. I'm almost done with season 2 now. It's a sickness.

Loving: I bought the coolest little lunch pack that interlocks, includes a sandwich container, ice pack, two small snack containers, and a large snack container. I love how it all fits into this neat little cube and everything about it makes me want to eat healthier. So I picked out carrots and peppers to snack on with various fruits for dessert. Yummm! For those interested, it's Rubbermaid. I just used it for the first time on Friday since Fridays are the days I have something called Extended Team Planning during my lunch, meaning I need easy access lunch that doesn't require heating.

Thinking: With this new curriculum, I feel like I'm CONSTANTLY planning. It's so overwhelming... I am just so grateful I have so much support at my school. But yet... PLL calls my name...

Wanting: Dessert - self-explanatory. Grapes for dessert didn't cut it tonight. Whomp whomp. As for short weeks - also self-explanatory, right? It was nice! To have two days off in my particular county.

Needing: So I have a library book due by 11:59 tonight... I just can't find the will to go out. I look a wreck. So I guess I'm waiting until it's juuuuuust late enough that not many people will be around. I'm certainly not going to glam up for a quick 1 minute in-and-out of my car.

1. I purchased some fabulous organization resources for my several teacher binders during the sale on TpT. I just need to find the will  to do something about it. Or rather, with it. I've got a new school goal of cleaning off my group table before I leave work every day. It makes for a happy me the next morning! I don't have time to clean when I'm on a deadline...

2. See my lunch containers? With that, I am determined to continue to buy my healthy snacks and keep it up. We have this delicious deli 2 minutes from school and I've basically just been relying on that for lunch. It is super cheap, but that adds up, you know?? I'm going to limit that to just once a week now. (I know, that's still ludicrous, but I justify that in that it's still healthy, depending on my choice. Which is usually pretty good!)

3. I've been reading The Mortal Instruments series for the past month. It's been so much fun that it's made me miss reading! My only issue is that when I really enjoy something, I get caught up in it, and it makes it harder to do real work (see: PLL marathon). But... reading for pleasure is important, especially if I'm stressing it for my kids.

Whew! I am such a rambler! Now onto more linky-sanctioned rambles! :) Doodlebug's Five for Friday...on Saturday! With my pictures, it almost ends up being "My Life via Instagram!" (Hmmmmm... is that a linky yet?? It should be!)

 1. This is a two-parter! Because: this is my new table, replacing my former kidney table! And oh, how I love it!! It gets me so much closer to all my cherubs as they work. :) Definitely a fan of the 'U'. The second part is, look! My efforts to clean off the table every evening is still a new thing for me, so when I walked in the next day, I was so pleasantly surprised! I was thrilled...and thusly, Instagrammed it!

2. O-M-G! SERIOUSLY?! This stuff is heaven in a bottle, seriously! I initially bought it to contribute to my unofficial coffee club amongst some school friends. My school bestie has a coffee pot this year, and she's been brewing coffee...providing the beans AND the creamer, so I felt bad. BUT... I love this stuff so much, I kept it for myself. I'll have to buy a new bottle...

3. Ahhhhhh, can't you practically smell/taste it?! On Friday, I rewarded myself with my first Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) of the season from Starbucks! Mmmm, I love fall... I love pumpkin-flavored anything. It should be about time for the pumpkin cheesecake at Olive Garden. Time for a visit! Oh, and I love that song, "Down." Reminds me of college!

4. Particularly with those two GLORIOUS days off, I got to get in a lot of cudding with my two darlings! They've grown so much since we just got them 4 months ago! :( They're still tiny-ish... I say "ish" because it's so hard to tell when you compare them to my other big guy! He's a big kitty! Makes them look like ants. (Okay, not really....but he is really big.)

5. As for the last thing about my week... I mentioned the ETP on Fridays we have. ETP is this fabulous time every grade level gets once a week for 90 minutes. Teams pick a subject area to focus on, and we look ahead through the week to plan, look over assignments for proficiency to debate scores, and any leftover time we get to use to continue to plan. It's absolutely fabulous! We chose to focus on math. With everything being new, it's so hard to decide...but we definitely made the right choice. It's an excellent chance to look over and discuss these new methods/approaches to teaching math. PLUS, as an even bigger bonus, our fabulous principal sits in on our meetings to support us, and has taken it upon herself to come up with 5 centers to give us every week! WOW! Not only does she find these centers for us, but...SHE PUTS THEM TOGETHER, TOO. I was so excited when she offered, but I had NO idea what delight I would be in for until I got to see her treasures Friday! I should've taken a for now I'll have a generic placeholder image until I get a snap of hers. She made us both two "Math Power Tower" stations, two Bump! games, and 3 other random games. I can't believe it.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the detailed look into my week! :) It was a nice one, if I do say so myself.

Oh, and as for my new group... well, we had a rough start, but I think we're really turning it around! We have a school-wide behavior incentive that classes can earn as a whole. We earned 4 in our first full week, which was disappointing. So we set a goal for our 3-day week. We listed all the things we could do to achieve that goal and signed it. I listed all of the places we could DEFINITELY earn (Media, Art, etc) because the other ones seem to be hit-or-miss for the upper grades (hallway walking - we just don't seem to be caught walking nicely as much as the younger grades...). So with all of our DEFINITE chances, there was 9 total. Well, my cherubs set the goal for a respectable 6, averaging us at 2 a day. Perfect. We ended up scoring a grand total of 8, I believe! Not shabby, darlings!! :) 8 in three days is absolutely wonderful. I was one proud teacher!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Multiplication with Base Ten Lesson

Wow, so this Common Core stuff doesn't play! I'm so excited to finally get into CC to see what it does for the students. It's such a no-brainer move, that I wonder why we didn't do this earlier? My students have been working on multiplication this week and the emphasis on place value to make sense of the algorithm is so DUHHHH!My only concern is the absolute lack of downtime for us! I don't know if that's Common Core or if it's my county's interpretation, but we were allotted no time to talk about routines and expectations. It was just dive right in! So THAT set us behind. Couple with the fact that my students didn't grow up with Common Core and we're (the teachers) are new to it, we're even MORE behind. It's so stressful!! AHHHH!!

In any case, I am SO excited because I *FINALLY* have something academic-y to post about! I came up with a worksheet using Base Ten block manipulatives to build area models for partial product multiplication. That's not the cool part, though. The neat part is that I asked my students to take a video (because I hadn't realized our school cameras take videos...and I'm not sure how to only take pictures lol!) of ONE of their problems and the work that goes with it. Now, I wasn't totally sure what to expect, of my pairs absolutely BLEW me away, and now I know exactly what I want from this assignment and all future videos!

You'll have to forgive the chipmunk voices...Not only did I cut out their names, but I also wanted to take extra measures for their safety. Never can be too safe! So this pair took a video showing me their partial product work, explaining how they determined what numbers to multiply based on place value. Then, they showed me their area model so that I could assess and be certain they did it correctly.

It was really... I feel a great sense of pride when I see this video. I was very pleasantly surprised, because I expected - well, not this. I didn't think this pair would be so was fabulous to see. :)

Anyway, I hope now that I can do more things like this, because I think it really excited the students to use the flip camera to show off their hard work! Technology is a beautiful thing, hmm?

With that said, enjoy your extended weekends!

Oh, one more thing! Remember the author coming to talk for the release of House of Hades? I got permission from my student's mother! So come October, we will be getting to see one of our favorite authors talk and get the signed book! :D I was so excited, and it was so gratifying for that student to thank me for it already. I cannot WAIT.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

House of Hades Release (Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus)

Going to see Rick Riordan on his book tour for the release of his new book!! I can't even BEGIN to tell you how excited I am about it, because you can purchase a book with your ticket to get signed! I cannot WAIT to share the news with my fellow fan/former student! I hope he gets the chance to go as well, since he is part of the reason my love for the series grew even more...just to see his pure enthusiasm and excitement to read the next page, chapter, book... it oh-so-warms my heart just thinking of all the passion that child exuded. I couldn't think of anyone more deserving to go see Rick Riordan.

And on that note, just came back from the movie.  Definitely an improvement from the last one.  Still not perfect, but getting there.  I was discussing it with my brother - if they're going to continue this, they're going to need to step it up. Those actors certainly aren't getting any younger! There's probably no way Heroes of Olympus could get done now, however. Most unfortunate.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How To: Inspire a Love of Reading - Rick Riordan Style. Or, an Ode to the Percy Jackson Series

I have waxed poetic to many people about The Lightning Thief ever since I read it for pleasure in January 2011 on a cruise with my best friend. There are so many things about the Percy Jackson series that make it absolute perfection.  Even as an adult, I found myself transfixed with each book.  Everything about this book made it absolutely perfect for me.  It follows a similar formula to the one that made Harry Potter so amazing. Three young characters are off on whirlwind adventures based on prophecies and quests that have the Greek gods all heavily interwoven in them.

The Greek mythology angle is what caught my interest, actually.  Well, that, and probably the fact that the movie was coming out on DVD, I believe. I'm so mad at myself for not hearing about this series sooner.  Well, actually, maybe not. I hate waiting for new releases. Waiting until October for the new release is painful.

But I digress.  I remember around spring 2012, when one of my Reading Resource staff members gave us the list of books to order from for the 2012-2013. I was skimming through it like, "Hmm...never heard of this, that sounds hideously boring, oh, where are the lower level readers...OH MY GOD ARE YOU SERIOUS?!" I actually shouted out loud and double checked with her - The Lightning Thief was a county-approved core book?! IS THIS REAL LIFE? And I put down 10 for the order.

I bounced up and down with excitement at the thought, and when I finally saw 10 of those beautiful softcover suckers on her cart at the beginning of the school year, I was eager to get them on the shelves.  It didn't matter at the time anyway, because the first marking period is historical fiction, and I'd have to wait for the fantasy marking period (second).

But once that time approached, you could practically see me vibrate with excitement. I tried to encourage my two teammates to check out some books for their students, but it ended up being no dice. Their loss.  I knew exactly who I should give the books to in my class.  I had a group of five boys who were the struggling readers, but I thought this boy-centric adventure story would get them.  But the length and difficulty of the books made me nervous. I consulted with another Reading Resource staff member and ended up grabbing one of my own personal copies and sat down with my targets one by one. I gave them the speech - that this book was obviously long, and it would be hard, and it would require extra work.  It would be a challenge, but I thought it might be one worth engaging in, as this was one of my personal favorite books of allllll time. It was a huge deal for them, in fact, because my read-aloud for the class was Harry Potter, which I proclaimed as my favorite, but they got me to admit I might like PJ more...  They each read the back cover, and the first page. Of the five, four were immediately and without hesitation, in for the ride. The fifth hemmed and hawed until he learned the rest of the boys in his group were in, and then he said, "I guess..."

Rick Riordan is such a fantastic author and, quite frankly, human being. His Twitter account is fantastic - he updates regularly about his progress and often holds Q&A's.  I tried a few times to get noticed to thank him profusely for what he's done for those five boys. But, most importantly for us this man has an entire section of his website dedicated to teachers using his books for reading. It has resources uploaded by him and others. It's significantly more difficult to find now, actually. I worried it was gone. But I have found it! In case you missed the hidden link, here it is: Teacher's Guides

It goes all the way up to Titan's Curse if you somehow manage to get that far.  Obviously, I only used it for the first book.  Feel free to check out all the resources, of course, but I will tell you that I only used the first two. Rick Riordan released an outstanding guide filled with discussion questions, journal ideas, extra activities, chapter questions, extensions, and opportunities to learn more about the material in his books - complete with links and suggestions. Without question, this is way more than humanly possible to cover, but the variety is impressive. He has so many activities to reach all types of learners. The second resource I used for quizzes to check my friends and their understanding.  If you click on that image, it takes you to a section of his site that teaches you even more.  His website is an absolute treasure trove of anything and everything you could ever possibly need to read the books and understand. There's even maps of his settings! It's a great resource - especially the Camp Half-Blood one. One of the questions from his guide asked them to look at the map of the camp and pick the place they would spend the most time at if they were a character. It sparked a lively discussion about where and why it interested them. To explore the camp, click the picture a few paragraphs down.

Because the book is so heavily inundated with Greek mythology, I introduced the book with a PowerPoint that I put together from a few resources I got from TpT. The two that I remember are: The Gods & Goddesses and Intro to Greek Mythology. I made some edits - added things, took things out to align itself with all I knew/remembered came from the series. I think next year, before the time even comes, I'm going to have my group do some leg work with this project I really wanted to do, but didn't have time for. Making Greek Trading Cards would be an excellent way to go in-depth with some of the gods/myths discussed in the book that we didn't really get to discuss as much as I would've liked.  If they know about it ahead of time, it will definitely help ease the confusion during reading.

The PowerPoint was so intriguing, in fact, that I ended up stopping my entire class and we all went over it together.  I had intended on just showing my boys, but on the Promethean, it caught the attention of almost everyone else. So I decided to drop the pretense and just let them stop what they were doing to listen in. It was an exciting lesson - my students have probably never been so engaged.  The great thing about this series and the Gods & Goddesses portion was that each slide had both the Roman & the Greek for the purpose of The Lightning Thief, obviously only the Greek names are necessary.  But, Rick Riordan wrote a sequel series which centers around their Roman incarnations. More on that later.

Now, the actual process of reading the book took a longggggggggggg, long while. Our school system follows the guided reading levels with letters. I searched all over the web for accurate levels, and many were saying S, which is about where that group was. I didn't buy S for a second, but my Reading Resource teachers were telling me if I felt in my gut that they would like it, it could work.  I found out many months later that Fountas & Pinnell actually leveled it at W, which my county counts as the end of 5th grade. My boys are probably more accurately end of 4th/beginning of 5th.  After I found that out, I applauded my boys a million times over and made a huge deal over how they had conquered this book that was so difficult and beyond what they usually read. They were mightily proud of themselves. :)

Anyway, it took us probably 2-3 months to finish and discuss. Granted, this was also over the winter holidays, so that took out quite a bit of time. And one of the boys procrastinated on it for reasons unknown. They all loved it - devoured it, even.  Even the procrastinator loved it, which is why I couldn't understand what was taking him so long.  These boys went on to continue the series, checking each next book systematically until they had finished The Last Olympian.  The passion spread like wildfire around my classroom, and before I knew it, all but I think two of my 18 had at least read The Lightning Thief.

I actually ended up using the series as an incentive for one of my boys to complete his homework. It worked spectacularly! He showed such a voracious appetite for it, that I actually looked into the Heroes of Olympus series (the sequels). I hadn't paid them much mind because I don't care for "spin-offs" and the whole Roman aspect confused me. But I purchased The Lost Hero for him anyway. He was impatient though, and resorted to checking it out of the library (I order online to be cheap). He gave me the play-by-play as he read, and when it finally arrived, I decided to read it myself before I gave it to him. It ended up being amazing, and I don't know why I doubted it.  Let nothing put you off this! I was worried it wouldn't be the same because the originals weren't in it, but a) the new characters are just as compelling, and b) don't be deceived...the originals actually play quite the part in this new series. As an added bonus for this student, I managed to snag both him and myself autographed copies of The Son of Neptune. SO exciting!! :D

Now, to wrap up this exceedingly long entry: Do it. If this is an option, do it. I have not seen students this crazed to read in forever. There were actually fights in my room about who could read a certain book next, and who was taking too long.  This group of boys...three of them had told me they hated reading in the first week of school.  I gave them a good-natured hard time about that sentiment and how it had changed. They were quite bashful about it. <3 They adore reading this series, and it seemed to spark a new passion for reading - any book, really.  And while I can't say for certain it was this series, but.... all of them showed marked improvements on the reading tests our county gives. Strangely, they didn't do well on the chapter quizzes, but they showed incredible improvements in all other places. This book series, actually, was one of the main reasons I was upset I wasn't originally placed in 5th grade for next year. I got moved down to 4th, but then the planets aligned, people left, and I am back! Which is exciting for me...but I am really sad to see those people go. I was particularly looking forward to learning from one of them.

It was a struggle to get them to ignore the movie when they found it it had one - as you can imagine, they were super pumped. They're very visual. But my mantra was "Disregard the movie, it is literally nothing like the book. It ruins the entire premise." I like and enjoy the movie, don't get me wrong. As its own entity, it is fun. But compared to the book, I wanted to tear my hair out at them thinking they'd discovered some secret when they watched it. I was all, "I promise you, they are nothing alike." I was very pleased to get them to agree with me once they had actually finished. That said, the sequel, Sea of Monsters looks much more on track with the books and we are all very, very excited. You may be seeing all the commercials popping up...well...we had a screening party for the trailer when it came out.

As for October 2014...I know what I (and the handful who caught up) will be reading. Do you?

PS - my love of reading this series on a cruise ship did not end in 2011! Here's me reliving the uber-relaxing experience of reading the series from the comforts of my balcony.  This one is Mark of Athena. (The Heroes of Olympus series has the added bonus of me being able to teach my cherubs how Roman numerals work so that they remember their chapter.

So, what books do you love to use in your classroom and why? Let me know in the comments below! :)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hollywood/Movie Classroom Theme

So, I've been wanting to do the Hollywood/Movie theme for a while now...probably since I saw Beth Newingham pull it off! I've bought two or three related items as I saw them (clapboard, popcorn tubs) - now to find them buried in the recesses of my closet...

I've spent the past two days looking up things, and this post is where I'm going to dump it all so I don't have a billion tabs open for when I decide to take the plunge! Feel free to steal ideas. :)

Bulletin boards:
B&W Clapboard Border   |  Rainbow Filmstrip Border  |  Popcorn & Tub Accents   |  Ticket Accents

Red Velvet Rope Stanchions   |  Black Fedora   |  Plastic Tux Vest  |  Black Canes   |  Black Glitter Bowtie    |  Glitter Hollywood Banner  |  Inflatable Popcorn  |  Walk of Fame Door Fringe   |  Cheaper Curtain Option - If I could find it, that is...

And I must bow down to Thriving Third Graders' Hollywood theme from two years ago! IT IS FABULOUSSS!

 I'm torn for my hallway board...I was thinking red fabric for red carpet...but then in this post, she has this cool red curtain she has on the sides... which I LOVE.  In that case, I would need black to make the curtain stand out. It's just, my hallway boards are known for their bright colors. On the other hand, I do always feel guilty for the props and things I put on mine... because it's almost always too much to ask the littler ones to leave alone. I sometimes feel as though the young grade level teachers dislike me just a wee for that.

In any case, in her hallway board, she's got the sunglasses activity, which I've seen before on Pinterest. I loved it, because it's a fun, creative opener for writing...AND as shown in her post, goes perfectly with this theme!

More link dumping - name plates:

Fancy Stars  |  Dots on Black  |  Paisley  |  Polka Dot Party  |  Rainbow Stripes   |  Musical   |  Splashy Colors Variety Pack   |  Surf's Up  | Under the Sea (Kiddy-ish)  |  Undersea Treasures   |  Waves of Blue

Anyway, that's it on the Movie theme for now! I'm feeling a bit inspired to blog about the things I said I was planning on blogging about (i.e., Percy Jackson). So that'll maybe, probably, hopefully be soon. :) Weird, though... I'm going through a mental list of my bulletin boards, and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what I meant by "4. Thank you, Pinterest, for my favorite bulletin board!"

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Five for...Sunday....

I think I've determined I was never destined to create a really useful teaching blog. I'm more about blogging about my life and such. Hence why this is like my favorite linky right now. I think I'll have to create incentives for myself to post those more teachery things! :/

5. The lack of snow in the middle of the week really let me down! I live for winter time.... Getting the snow day was nice - first one in two years! - but without the snow, it just sort of rings empty, you know?

4. Testing started this past week.  I, much like the students, cannot wait for it to be over!! It's such terrible timing though - our marking period ends in two weeks, right before our spring break.  Testing will be going on for one more week.  I'm telling you, I don't think the end of the 3rd marking period was this quick or stressful last year!! D:

3. I saw the new Oz movie!! IT WAS SO WONDERFUL!  I very highly recommend it!  As an added bonus, the movie theater we went to had a bunch of fun stands to pose with! See below :)

2. This was after Friday, but since I'm late, I'm going to mention it anyway! A college friend and I went to go visit another college friend this weekend.  It was really nice to be able to meet up again twice in less than a month! We usually go months without seeing each other, so this was an amazing change of pace.  We spent a really relaxing night in and enjoyed good food, good company (of course), and good times.

1. One of my students, who I often struggle with because of his fluctuating attitude, said something Friday that stunned me.  A few were good-naturedly teasing me for my inability to play any of the ever-popular first-person shooter games like Call of Duty.  He exclaimed, "It's okay.  You're good at teaching!"  That's the first time he's ever said something like that to me, and it melted my heart, of course.  He's, on occasion, tried to provoke a reaction from me by telling me any other teacher he's had was the best teacher ever, so on and so forth.  So to hear him say that was extra special.