Friday, August 2, 2013

Back to School!!! Back to School!!!

Is it just me, or does everyone else automatically picture Adam Sandler slumped over with his lunch box singing his song every time they head "back to school"?  C'mon, I cannot be the only one.  

Well, it is back to school for me next week.  In light of this celebratory event, I am throwing a "Back to School" sale at my TPT store.  Go check it out!  Perhaps there is something there that could be useful to you.

I am now off to enjoy these last few remnants of summer break.  You do the same!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Welcome to My Classroom

So, I've spent the better part of the past two weeks working in my classroom trying my darndest to get it to look like something.  I never realized how much stuff I had or how much I had to organize until I began working n my room.  I began with a huge mess of......STUFF.  Slowly but surely, though, I have managed to turn it into something else.  

This was once the student computer corner.  However, now it looks more like this...

And This...

Did you know that you can visit this site and they will send you those nice "Values, pass them on" posters FOR FREE.  You cannot choose the ones you want, but still....
I also moved the bookshelf from the front of the room  to the back to look like this....
These are all my fiction books.  While at Woodland, we had our Title I books that were mostly non-fiction.  Therefore, I invested my Scholastic points in fiction books.  I also inherited most of those bottom three shelves (sets of 3+ books) from my former principal who bequeathed them to me by unknowingly scaring me into thinking I would not have a job the following year.  Needless to say, my non-fiction shelf is looking kind of bare.
The only actual non-fiction books are on the third and fourth shelves.  Skimpy, huh?  I know where my points will be going this year.  My students also have access to staplers, three hole punches, and tape on each of the bookshelves so that they stay away from mine.  I've had so many staplers ruined because I just let them use them.  On a side note, do you notice that picture frame on the very top shelf?  It is a homemade certificate from a student I had during my student teaching tenure.  

My bulletin boards have also changed.  My big one started like this:

I'm not a fan of the orange or the border.  So, it now looks VERY similar to what it has been EVERY one of the 4 years I have been teaching. 

That is the same pink fabric and border I have had every year, seriously.  Here are the sections close up.

Here are our classroom buckets.  On the shelf to the left, the student can fill out drops or "thank you for filling my bucket" notes.  Once approved, they get to put a drop (pom-pom) in the student's bucket.  

The center is our "Class Data" section.

This is where we will post class information beginning with open house night attendance.  We will post class MAP scores, spelling test scores, writing performance, etc.  This way we can track class growth and revel in our glory.  

Then there's the right side that I'm not entirely sure about.

I'm thinking I may post our "Learning with the End in Mind" poster to keep students focused on where we are heading.  I will probably post important words here, too, since I will not have a word wall this year.  I just never really use it like I should.  So, why keep putting it up?

My poor teacher area once looked like this.

Okay, so it is not the best picture, but you get the point.  I could not stand having my desk turned that way and all the computer wires showing.  It just aggravated me to no end.  

Now, my desk is against the wall where you cannot see it since my desk is an absolute mess right now.  I have yet to sort through the massive amount of pens, markers, Post-It notes, and who knows what else.  I thought I'd change things up a bit and place knick knack things on my shelves at school like I would at home.  Since I don't seem to have enough to fill the shelves anyway since I purged, it works well.  

The last spot is the front of the room, which started like this.

 Now it is sans bookshelf and has student mailboxes and "time out" desks.  

There you see the only actual content I hang up in my room, writing posters.  Since we have to take down any content before testing, I choose to hang anchor charts as we go and remove them periodically.  They end up hanging in weird spots, but I never really care.  I like the idea I found on Pinterest of taking pictures of them and putting them in a binder for student access whenever they need it.  I had done away with my student mailboxes last year and just used hanging file folders because they take up less room.  However, I hate to ask to get rid of something like this during my first year at a new school.  

And, that is all folks!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bloom's Taxonomy Anchor Chart Activity

At the beginning of the year, I have my Bloom's Taxonomy Anchor Chart hanging in the room
(You can download this freebie from my TPT store here.)

As a class, we discuss what each level means.  We go through examples of simpler content  -  "What might addition at the Comprehension level be like?"  "How might we show that we are at the Evaluate level in finding main idea and details?"  I will then give students examples of questions, and with a partner, they will label them with the various levels.  

Once students have an understanding of what the levels mean, we have a lesson about self-evaluation and metacognition (a word they fall in love with!  I mean, who wouldn't have fun saying metacognition?).  This lesson is very important as it teaches students to be purposeful about their thinking and to notice when they do not understand or do not understand at the right level.  It is integral to discuss the importance of an honest self-evaluation.  Students love giving scenarios of how pretending you understand more/less than you do can hurt your education and future.  We play a "If you evaluate yourself wrong then...." game that ends up with crazy results kind of like those Direct TV commercials that tell you not to end up with a grandson who wears a dog collar.  They totally have fun with this.  

All of these activities/lessons are important to having students take ownership of their learning, but they also lead to my differentiated activities.  

This is an example of a self-leveling differentiated math activity dealing with equations and  creating function tables that you can download here.  Go here for a freebie of a similar factor activity that does not have the first page..

Doing the actual activity with the students allowed them to see how important honest reflection was as well.  The discussions they had were amazing.  I kept hearing, "Wow!  I thought I understood this, but I think I still need to be at ______ level" or "Hmm....I didn't realize I knew that much!"  It's always nice to hear this type of discussion from students.

Be sure to stop by my TPT store to download these activities.  If you use them, let me know how they work out for you!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Baby Moves Out of the Corner....WAY, WAY Out of the Corner!!

After 4 years of teaching at Woodland with some of the most amazing people (i.e. Brandy, Sara, and Dana over at Live Learn Teach for Life), I made the huge decision to pack up my room and cut the 40 minute drive to 4 minutes.
 This is a poor shot of my husband's truck loaded down with bookshelves, carts, and boxes.  You cannot see the masterpiece, which he took pride in driving down the road since he was able to cram so much back there.
This would be the shot of the back of my Escape.  I swear you don't realize what you accumulate in 4 1/2 years of teaching.

Those would both be shots of my home office piled high in complete chaos.  Photos of my new room will come soon.

With the change in venue, I thought I would also adventure back into the realms of the blogosphere to share what I am doing in my classroom, what I hope to do better in my classroom, and all that jazz.  

Stay tuned for more...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Feels like the first time...again!

This isn't my first year teaching, not my first year in this grade, not my first year with our principal, not my first year with the people on my team.  So, why do I feel like a first year all over again?  Perhaps it's because it will be my first year without my teammate, Brandy, *tear*.  Perhaps it's because it is my darling child's first year in school.  Perhaps it's because it will be my first time with a new class in two years (I looped last year).  I just can't put my finger on exactly what is causing it, but I feel this undercurrent of panic every single time I think about school.  I feel lost.

Now that, that's off my chest, I'm going to run through some ideas I've been toying with for this Feels-Like-My-First-Year-After-Three-Years school year.   I am really excited about some of these ideas.  The Homework Bingo, for instance, I think is going to be great.  Kids have a lot of demands on them that we don't understand.  We can't be sure what their home life is like.  Working in a school district with such a low socio-economic status has opened my eyes.  Parents can't always be there to help with homework.  Sure, some of them just won't take the time.  However, many others have to work.  Many also just can't help with the homework because they don't understand it.  Homework is meant to be for practice, right?  Yet, what point is there in practicing the wrong way?  So, I thought about the other idea behind homework, purpose.  It is meant to be purposeful.  Not everything that has purpose is academic.  There is purpose in exercise, which our youth undoubtedly need today.  There is purpose in family time.  There is purpose in just showing kindness.  So, I devised this unconventional Homework Bingo.
Homework Bingo

Every year, I start out by telling the kiddos about me. Who doesn't?  As much as they enjoy it, I've found that my presentation is lacking.  So, after searching on Pinterest one night, I realized I was bombarded by those "Keep Calm" posters.

I also realized that I found myself giggling at certain ones because they totally describe me or someone I know.  Enter genius idea!  Why not introduce myself through those "Keep Calm" posters?  So, I put together this presentation (please note than many of the images didn't transfer when I uploaded it to my Google Docs, so use your imagination).  Then, I thought I could let the kids make their own poster (one to three) to introduce themselves.  If the world were perfect, I would take them to the computer lab to get on this site, make their own poster, and upload them to our Moodle page to share.  However, I doubt their internet permissions forms will have been processed by that time.  :(

Many more ideas, but that's all I have energy for now.  I have to start working in my room soon!  Perhaps that's another reason I feel like a first year.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I'm not a woman of many names.  I've never had a nickname that stuck, though my mom has often tried.  I like things simple and plain.  Classic Lays potato chips are the BEST and vanilla ice cream ROCKS!  For all my simplicity, I find words and their power astounding, nothing simple about them.  I mean, really, how many different ways can you analyze the way a person says, "Okay"?  The possibilities are endless!  Because I have such a love affair with words, I find they often seem to fill up my mind with no where else to really flow.  Since I am such a quiet and reserved person, I don't often expel my mental ramblings for fear I will bore or scare people away.  Who would really care what I have to say anyway?  I've been married to my husband for 8 years now, and I very briefly become overly chatty around him.  I like to let others do the talking while I soak it in.  The people I'm closest to can carry on a conversation all by themselves.  Without knowing it, that trait sort of became a prerequisite to becoming an acquaintance of mine. 

 I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said, "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."  I live by this, and I am deeply regretful when I slip up.  I am scared to death of looking like a bumbling idiot (see below) no matter how endearing it can sometimes be.

 I must admit; life in the corner spent people watching can become a tad boring.  Yet, life of the party I am not, nor can I force myself to be.  So, how else to take a few steps from the corner and join a bit of the party?  Pair my affection for words with the sheer joy I gather from typing (the subtle sounds of the keyboard clicking away as I barely move my fingers are quite calming and helps me to focus), and a blog seems only natural.  How long will it be before I share this with others?  No telling.  May be never.  It's like mingling with the crowd giving only slight smiles and never actually engaging in conversation.  That's a step, and we'll see how much my cowardice decreases as time goes by.