Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Count On Me

I just had a moment in my classroom that I needed in the worst way. My class this year has been a real challenge. They are a group of kids who are most happy reading the textbook, filling in the worksheet and bubbling an answer on a test. This is soooo not my style! We have been butting heads all year long. I want to push them and they refuse to be pushed. I was talking to my husband just last night about how I don't feel like they really need me there, that I'm not really teaching them anything that they couldn't get out of a book.

So starts another day...
My kiddos have been working on a poetry portfolio for the last couple months and one of the requirements is to memorize a poem and recite it in class. Today we started sharing our memorized poems and one of my students chose to sing the Bruno Mars song, Count on Me. I had to stifle back tears. Let me explain why.

This student was in my combo 5/6 class last year and he was quite a handful. We had weekly meetings with parents and there were daily behavior/homework reports going home. I actually really like the kid but he had issues. As we set up classes for this year I vowed to get to this kid and I have to say that this year has been an incredible year for him. I do not take much credit for this! He has really turned himself around. Listening to him sing today (and the choice of song) was a culmination of who he has become and, gosh darn it, I am going to miss this kid! I am so proud of him and the accomplishments he has made. In fact I am going to send an email to his mom later today to say so and he will get a letter from me as well.

I have been feeling very frustrated this year with the state of education, the apathy of students, the lack of support from parents, etc, etc, etc... (Which I'm sure many of you can commiserate with!) This one act, from one student, has restored me.

Thank you, Jacob.  

Count On Me by Bruno Mars

If you ever find yourself stuck in the middle of the sea
I'll sail the world to find you
If you ever find yourself lost in the dark and you can't see
I'll be the light to guide you

Find out what we're made of
When we are called to help our friends in need

You can count on me like 1, 2, 3
I'll be there
And I know when I need it
I can count on you like 4, 3, 2
You'll be there
'Cause that's what friends are supposed to do

If you're tossin' and you're turnin'
And you just can't fall asleep
I'll sing a song beside you
And if you ever forget how much you really mean to me
Every day I will remind you

Find out what we're made of
When we are called to help our friends in need

You'll always have my shoulder when you cry
I'll never let go
Never say goodbye
You, oh, you

You can count on me 'cause I can count on you 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Schedule Conflicts

I got a phone call from the principal today. When it started with "Have you read your email recently? You're going to hate me" I knew the day was going to take a turn for the worse.

Turns out last year's principal had the dates wrong for the testing window and we're a week off. Which means we just lost a week of test prep!

Ahhhhhh! Everything was planned out so nicely!'s to creative planning and being flexible!

What's the worst scheduling issue you've had to deal with?

I hope your day was better than mine! :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Getty Villa

The Getty Villa in Malibu is one of my absolute favorite places to go. It went through some major renovations a couple years ago and I haven't missed a year since! It is a perfect spot for our 6th graders because it features the antiquities collection of the Getty Trust. We have a huge unit study on Ancient Greece and then we visit the Villa in the spring. Another great perk is that it is a FREE field trip. Admission to the Getty Villa (and the Getty Center) are free all the time but you do have to pay for parking. Most years we are able to get a FREE bus as well through the Title I fund that Getty supplies! Perfect place, perfect price!

The Getty has guided tours with Getty teachers and self-guided tours. We try to get a Getty teacher whenever we can because they have such amazing insights into the art AND they know how to work with kids.

We do talk to our students about nudity in art and how to react appropriately. It's actually pretty funny to watch them take it all in and still try to be mature about it. We teach them that if they are uncomfortable to say. "Hmmm...that's interesting" and walk to another piece of art. We also show them many of the art pieces before we go so they know what to expect.
They have a gallery dedicated to sports in ancient times.  It blows them away to find out that athletes often competed nude!

The Getty Foundation is an amazing resources even if you don't live in Southern California. Check out their website for all the resources available! The Getty

The Herb Garden is set up with plants that would have been used in ancient times.
The Outer Peristyle
If you're ever in California and want to go to the Getty Villa or the Getty Center I would be happy to be your personal tour guide! 

Walking these hallways makes me feel like I am vacationing in ancient Rome!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Playing Tag

This is my first game of tag in the blog world so I am excited to be playing! I actually started writing this post a week ago but I decided to make spring break a real break to focus on my family. Thanks to Miss Nelson at Run! Miss Nelson's Got the Camera! for letting me join in!

Here are her 10 questions and the rules to the game:
1. You must post the rules.
2. Answer the 10 questions for the tagger who posted for you.
3. Create 10 questions of your own to ask the people you're tagging.
4. Tag 10 people and link them with your post. Don't forget to let them know they've been tagged!

Which do you prefer teaching Reading or Math?
This is actually a tough question because I love teaching both but for different reasons. Reading because it's my favorite thing to do and I love to share what I love and Math because I struggled with it in school so I love helping my kiddos have an easier time with it than I did.

What’s your favorite place for clip art?
I don't have a favorite because I have just gotten into this blogging thing and that's one part of it I haven't figured out yet. Any tips?

Do you count spelling tests as a reading or writing grade?
Both because my spelling tests are also vocabulary tests. They get one point for spelling the word right and one point for using it correctly in a sentence. I then split those points between reading and writing.

Favorite website for your students?
Khan Academy - This man is amazing. There are hundreds of videos and tutorials on all kinds of subjects...and it's all free! I use the videos with both whole class instruction and as differentiation with struggling students, especially in math.

Point and shoot camera  or DSLR?
I only have a point and shoot right now (it is cool because it's also an underwater camera...check out a pic from the tide pools at Science School here) but as soon as I come into some money (ha, ha...) that DSLR is mine!

Do you arrive to school early or stay late?
I try to get in early so I can pick up my daughter as soon as possible after school. It usually ends up being about even on both ends.

Coke or  Pepsi?
Definitely Coke. No contest.

Michael's or Hobby Lobby?
Michael's...but simply because of distance. The closest Hobby Lobby is about 40 miles away and I only go there when I visit my in-laws. In fact it only opened out here in the last 6 months so I don't really know the joy and wonder of Hobby Lobby yet. I have a feeling that is a really good thing for my checkbook! 

What is your favorite read aloud?
Picture Book - Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
Chapter Book - A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Winter Break or Spring Break?
 Spring Break because I'm celebrating right now! I don't go back until April 16th! Wahoo!  So sad...back to school yesterday...

Here are my 10 questions for my tag-ees:
1.What is your favorite kind of grading pen/marker?
2.What is your favorite unit to teach each year?
3. Do you like field trips? Where do you go on field trips with your students?
4. Do you collect anything? If so, what and why?
5. Do you use classroom rewards? What kind?
6. What is your favorite store to find "teacher" clothes?
7. Heels or flats?
8. What is your favorite teaching website?
9. What is your favorite non-teaching website?
10. When does school end for you?

I have decided since it took so long to fill this out that I am not going to officially tag anyone but if you're feeling up to it I would love to hear your thoughts! So much for following rules. ;)


Summer Reading (Teacher Edition)

I am at the point in the school year where I am gearing up for summer. Not that I'm ready for summer (we still have testing to get through!) but just getting things in order.

Every year I choose a couple of teaching books to read, digest, and incorporate for the new year...along with all the wonderful chapter books I need to catch up on! On my current list is The Daily Five and The CAFE Book but that's it so far.

So what have you read that has inspired you to change your teaching for the better? What do you recommend for my summer list?  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Universal Themes in Literature

Theme is one of the most difficult concepts, in my experience, for 6th graders to grasp. About half way through the year I do this activity to help them think about the themes in the stories we have read together.

List of stories read as a class (include any read aloud books and stories from textbooks)
Theme Posters from Finding Common Themes in Fictional Texts
Post-Its (or whiteboard and markers)

1. Review theme (what is it, how do authors share it with the reader, etc.)
2. Introduce the theme posters and explain each theme
3. Set up groups of 3-4 students (I usually do this ahead of time so I can make sure my ELL students are with stronger readers)
4. Give students the list of stories and have them write each title on a post-it. Ask them to decide, as a group, where each story fits with the theme posters.
5. Once they have made a decision they put the post-its up on the board where you have placed the theme posters (The other (more frugal) option is to let them write the titles on the whiteboard)
6. When all the group are finished have a class discussion/debate about where each story was placed and decide if the stories can stay in that category or need to be moved

After the lesson is done I set up a bulletin board with the posters and the final results. We continue to add to the board as we read stories together. I find that this activity helps my students see that theme is found in all kinds of stories and it also works as a constant reminder that we should be looking for the themes in fiction as well as life. 

CCCS 6th Grade
*Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details 
*Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What's for Lunch? (Linky Party)


 Check out 4th Grade Frolics and link up your lunch!

Lunch at school is not very exciting for me. Although after reading some other comments about lunches I find myself very lucky! I have a 45-minute lunch from 12:15-1:00. I usually spend the whole time in the lunch room chatting with colleagues and maybe grading some papers. I don't typically multi-task because I need the break. We do discuss students and strategies during that time so it kind of functions as an extended PLC.

I used to use a so-cute 31 bag for my lunch but I have found it to be too small for my Smart Ones and Lean Cuisines. (I definitely need to get a new one...yay!) For now I am using a bag I got for free for some reason or another. I do love that it has a shoulder much easier to deal with when my hands are full!

I always have a Diet Coke or Diet Dr. Pepper on hand. I round it out with some kind of fruit and every once in a while some cookies or brownies, depending on what I felt like baking that week.

On a side note: I love, love, love to bake! I will share some of my go-to recipes to please your friends and colleagues soon! I find there is no greater way to a staff members heart then bringing in goodies. It helps on those days that I have to play the role of principal or when I'm conducting a training. I am not opposed to bribery especially when it means I get to try new recipes on willing participants!

(I also eat breakfast at work most of the time. Due to health issues I can't eat any earlier than 7:00am or I am not a happy camper.)

So there's my lunch and breakfast! Don't forget to check out what else goes on a lunch time around the country at 4th Grade Frolics!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It Boggles the Mind!

While searching for new ideas for my class this last summer I learned all about Pinterest. What a joy and a curse! There are so many things I can say about Pinterest but I won't do that now.

What I do want to talk about is Boggle for the classroom. I found a teacher that created a interchangeable Boggle board so I recreated it for my own room. I used my handy-dandy Cricut machine to cut out the letters and simple string to create the board. I stapled the string to the board after measuring it out and then used push pins to attach the letters in a random order.  I cut out all the vowels in red so they would stand out and then I make sure to place them first.

Sometimes I use a couple vocabulary words for the week and set them up hoping the kiddos will find them. We try to change the board each week and it is mostly used as a fast-finisher. I give out awards (free homework pass, sit by a friend, etc) for the most words found (over three letters) and the longest word.  Sometimes I change it up (ex. most five-letter words) to keep them on their toes. Regular boggle rules apply and we do a few round with the real game to learn the rules.

This is pretty easy to manage with minimal effort and students can use their own paper or the handout I created.

I'm not sure how to upload the handout to share with all of you so if anyone out there can help me that would be great!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Currently...April 2012


This is quickly becoming my favorite party of each month...Farley's "Currently" at Oh' Boy Fourth Grade!  She such a great job of bringing everyone together to share what's up. I especially love the last category this month. 

I had to think about it a little bit and went through a few ideas...the ability to create dishes and clothes that never get dirty, a shoe power to make any shoe comfortable all day long so I can wear all the wonderfully tempting shoes that call to me each morning, and even the power to make all kids love reading. (I realized that Donalyn Miller already has dibs on that one, although I do try to mimic it! If you haven't read her book, The Book Whisperer, do it now!) 

But I went with Insta-Meetings...the ability to take in all the info needed from any given meeting, in a fraction of the time, so I can move on with my life. Some meetings are great and I really appreciate the chance to discuss school matters but most are a drain on my time and energy.

My principal a few years ago did away with our weekly 7:30am staff meeting and just started emailing us very detailed weekly bulletins. It was genius! I immediately gained 30 minutes in my week. (I just couldn't believe there were teachers complaining because they now had to check their email every week...ahhhh! Could you even imagine checking your email only once a week?!)

So what are meetings like for you? Are they worth it or just a waste of time that you could be using for your family or your kiddos? Has your district or school found a way to minimize meetings or do they just pile them on?