Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why, yes! I will plan my life!!

Today's post is about something completely unrelated to teaching...well, maybe not completely...

I am a datebook/planner dork!  I live my life by my planner...everything I need to remember is written in there.  Call it age, memory loss...I'm ok with that!!  But my college-aged daughter is the same way! 

Well, a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to conduct a staff development on my campus.  A couple of teachers came to the meeting with planners (date books, calendars...whatever you want to call them!)  One teacher had a lesson planner; the other, a standard calendar/planner.  They were personalized. They were so very cool...I had to get one for myself!!  Since then, many of the teachers on my campus have purchased planners!  I bought one for my daughter, Megan, as well!

When I came home from a "girls date" with Megan, my Erin Condren order had arrived!
This is my planner!

This is Megan's!

 You HAVE to check out these planners!! They are sold by !!  This company has every kind of planner you can planners, notebooks, lesson planners, notecards, etc.  If you're organized, whatever you need can be found there!!  The month tabs are laminated and everything is held together by a thick, sturdy metal spiral.  I looovvvveeee the personalization part of it!  You can add a photo to your choice, sticker photos, etc.  This. Is. So. Fantastic.

I don't work for or get anything from this company.  I am strictly a customer.  But, sometimes, when you find an item that is so great, you just have to share with your followers!  I have to admit, their prices are a little high, in my opinion.  Especially on note cards, stationary, and the like.  BUT, you could spend just as much on a store bought planner.  It really comes down to what you want and what you are willing to spend on yourself!  I am actually going to by a couple as Christmas gifts for family  members. 

The cool weather has hit Texas, so I am off to bundle up and watch a movie or two.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Thinking well is wise; planning well, wiser; but doing well is the wisest and best of all. -Persian Proverb


Monday, October 15, 2012

A Little Note about Writing...

 Hello, all!!  It has been soooo long since I put up a new post on my blog!  I've been so engrossed in learning about my new position, and trying to do it well, that I have neglected the usual things that give me joy!  Updating this blog is one of them!

I am really growing into my new position as a Campus Instructional Specialist.  It's been challenging...I now deal with grades 3-5, instead of just fourth, so I have had to become familiar and comfortable with the different curricula.  The bonus side:  I no longer have grades or papers to grade!  My weekends are a lot less stressful because of it!!  I get to see the ways different teachers do their thing and I've seen a lot of great lessons and ideas!  The negative side:  I miss working with students, every day and on a regular basis.  That being said, I have had the chance to model lessons for a couple of teachers.  The student interaction has been wonderful!

Well...enough about me!! On to my reason for posting!!

Writing is one of my favorite subjects! (Go figure!) It's always come easy to me...the grammar, the vocabulary, the structure... I love putting ideas on paper.  I've always dreamed of being a writer...I even began a book, adding things over the last couple of years. (It's a work-in-progress, though.  It will probably never see the light of day!)  But it's fun and it's mine! Haha!  Anyway, I also love teaching writing.

Our district curriculum focuses on using Units of Study by Lucy Calkins .(This link will take you to Amazon.) Lucy is the be-all, end-all writing guru.  While I find her units difficult to follow, the ideas and methods used are solid. It's based on great ideas, if you can manage the fluff. But, that's just my lowly opinion.

I believe writing can be taught as a method.  There are steps to writing, especially with beginning writers.  When writing is taught methodically, students begin to pick up a pattern for composing a piece, whether it be a narrative, expository, how-to, etc.  We all learned to do this, in some form or fashion, when we were in school!  (Remember outlines?????)

I've had the chance to model narrative compositions for third graders (based on Lucy's units).  The group I am working with began their planning page with a "storyboard".  I love using the term; I told students how storyboards are used by the creators of their favorite movies!!!  Despicable Me, Finding Nemo...all of those movies began with a storyboard!!

Students drew pictures in student-made boxes for a story that they wanted to tell.  Then, out to the side of the box, they wrote about what the boxes were trying to show.  The next day, students used a green pencil to add to the picture...then to the sentences.  (See the pattern?? Picture..sentence...picture...sentence...)  The green pencil idea came from the teacher I am working with...she had students use green to show that they are "growing" their composition!!! Neat, huh?

Since I don't have my own classroom this year, I made an "example" so you can get an idea of the pattern...

Tomorrow, we plan to put our "storyboard" onto paper without the pictures. We will edit/revise from that copy (sloppy copy, rough draft, ...).  We will then make a final copy.

We are doing one step each day, so that students can work without pressure.  My hope is that when they revisit narratives, this process will be part of their routine.

I promise (to myself) to get back on the blogging track!  Oh...and back on the blog-hopping track, as well!!

What is written without effort is in generally read without pleasure.
–Samuel Johnson


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Just Gotta Share...

The  word "love" is over-used in the following post.  I did NOT use a thesaurus! Consider yourself warned! Ha Ha!

Ok...I have to admit...I am a staff development/workshop geek. Do they have a support group for that? Blasphemy, you say?  I know, I know...we all dread the development days at the beginning of the school year, especially if we've been in the same district for years.  I agree...things get really repetitive. But, I love the curriculum workshops.  Sorry.  I like getting a new scope and sequence; I like getting new ideas (that I sometimes forget the following day...but hey); and I absolutely love ordering books mentioned during a workshop from Amazon on my phone. Yes, I am indeed a geek. And since I'm blogging this year, I'm passing on some info to you!

As many of you know, my new position involves working with teachers and students in grades 3, 4, and 5.  So, for the first time ever, I went to a workshop to hear 3rd grade ideas. It was a two day event that dealt with bridging the gap some students show when they move from a non-testing grade to a testing grade. (In Texas, students take the state test for the first time in 3rd grade.)

Well...I loved this workshop primarily because we received two FREE professional books.  Yes. Too. Cool.  I love free anything or peppermints on the table! So imagine the JOY of getting an actual BOOK!!! Two of them!!!  My Geekdar was off the charts!  I just have to share the best one!

It is called Independent Reading:  Inside the Box by Lisa Donohue.  Here is a pic of the cover:

I love this book because it combines skills lessons with fiction and non-fiction ideas with higher level thinking with station ideas with the independent reading part of balanced literacy! Get. Out. Of. Town.  Awesomeness!!!!!  Here is just one picture of the many ideas shown in the book:

The really cool thing about this is that I can use the ideas to create my two favorite things...anchor charts and foldables!! (If there was an Olympic medal in those areas I would sooooo win  gold!)  Part of our "activity" during the workshop was to show other teachers our interpretation of different sections of the book.  I created examples of an anchor chart I might create based on visualization ideas from the book.  I created two.


In the first one, I love that students learn visualizing is not just a "picture" in their head...we use all five senses to understand characters and events! Great chart for shared reading! The second one encourages students to draw a picture of what is being studied and label it.  My sticky notes are ideas of different ways I could use this chart!  I would draw a diagram ahead of time and prompt students to help me label as we read!

Students can use these ideas to then respond to text during independent reading! I just love it!  This book can be ordered from  I don't know if it's available on any other site...this address is on a sticker on the back of the book.  I just know it's perfect for those looking for new ideas for anchor charts and text response.

New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can’t be done. 2) It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing. 3) I knew it was a good idea all along! --Arthur C. Clarke


Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm Baaacccckkkk....

Wow!  This summer has flown by!!  My last post was on June 10.  So much has changed for me in two short months.  I really had nothing, idea-wise, to blog about.  On top of that...ah, just read below...

I am no longer at 4th grade teacher.  ::gasp::  It's hard to believe.  I left my last day of class knowing that I would return to the same campus, same grade, same classroom.  Oh wrong I was! (Don't worry, blog land, it wasn't something negative).  Want the story?? Well, here we go...

On June 20th, I received a phone call asking me to apply for a different position.  I had been asked to do so several times since April.  I always said no.  However, the phone call I received happened on the date, 26 years later, of my dad's passing.  He was killed in a car accident when I was 17.  For some reason, I felt that the phone call was a "hint" from a higher power that I needed a change.  Weird, hunh?  I tend to believe, sometimes, in that fate/karma thing.

Anyhoo, I decided to apply for the position.  I went on the interview and was given the job.  I am now a Campus Instructional Specialist (CIS) for grades 3-5.  It is basically a "peer facilitator" job.  Same responsibilities; different title.  Not only did I change my job title, I changed campuses as well.  I am the proverbial fish-out-of-water.  My support system at my old campus was extensive.  I have to start from scratch at my new campus.

I have the opportunity to work with teachers now.  At the minimum,  I will support them in their classrooms with everything from finding materials, giving ideas, and disaggregating data.  I also will tutor small groups when needed.  (There are a lot more responsibilities...I just haven't digested them yet!)

It's a very exciting, yet terrifying time for me.  I will miss having my own class and working with students on a daily basis.  I will NOT miss grades, attendance, restroom breaks, etc. I will be working with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers, so I have a lot to learn about 3rd/5th grades.  It was also difficult to go from a large classroom to a small office. Geez...I had no idea how much "stuff" I had hoarded accumulated over the last few years.  I kept all of my books, but gave a lot of 4th grade things (including a huge box of unused boarder!) to one of my daughter's friends who just graduated and had her first teaching job in 4th grade.  Any primary stuff I had was boxed up for my daughter to use after she graduates in December.  And I threw A LOT of stuff away!  ::tears::  But, if I go back to the classroom one day, I'll have an excuse to get all new stuff!!! Yay!!

It's intimidating because helping the adults will be my focus.  I'm confident...I know my stuff when it comes to curriculum.  I think I have a lot of great ideas and enough experience to confidently share those ideas.  But grown-ups can be grown-ups, if you get my drift.  I plan to work really hard on my colleague relationships.

I've stepped out on a limb...the hardest part is leaving a campus I loved, and people I loved, for the unknown.  But greatness has never been achieved by those who don't take risks.  And, boy, I am sure not a risk taker!!!!!!

I plan to keep my blog name for a while.  I still feel like a 4th grade teacher at heart.  I will continue to post ideas for foldables, activities, and anchor charts.  My first plan of action is to create a binder with all of my previous anchor charts and have it available to any teachers on my campus that may need an idea or two.  I also plan to add to it throughout the year, based on ideas I may get from other teachers.  Anchor charts and foldables can be used for 3-5...I'll simply adjust them to match the TEKS for a particular grade level.  So keep up with my things will come!

Please keep me in your prayers. I plan to do my best, use my best, and give my best on this new chapter.  And hopefully, come out a better person for it.

"You can't build a reputation on what you're going to do."--Henry Ford


Monday, May 28, 2012

The Final Stretch...

Whew!! What a busy, busy time!  We have 5 1/2  more student days before summer break!  And, boy, do my quarters know it!!

I can't speak for everyone, but this is going to be the busiest time yet!  I absolutely dread all of the "housekeeping" items that need to be taken care of.  I know it's important and I know it needs to be done.  But that doesn't make it fun!  Wrapping up a whole year in the last couple of weeks is crazy!  But we all have to deal with it and I always get it done in the end!!  I always feel like I am forgetting something...and sometimes, I do!

Amongst the award days, I get to participate in the school play!  I am "Mighty Science Mind".  Several teachers get to sing and give lines and I think that the students are going to love it!  I'm going to borrow a mad scientist wig from my mother (the real science teacher) and I have a cape and mask! Woo Hoo!!  In the meantime, I need to print my awards, keep order in my class, finalize report cards, clean up my room, ... the list goes on and on! All while maintaining order!!   But we all go through it, some even more than others!

Last week, we continued reading The Hunger Games.  We will finish the book before the end of the year and my kids are excited.  Another activity that I had them do was make a comic-type strip for their favorite part of the story.  I downloaded the strip from TPT during Teacher Appreciation Week, but decided to use it a different way.
I like the idea and my quarters enjoyed it!  That's what it's all about!!

I posted the quote below ONLY because I think it is hilarious!!!!  It also fits my post, as I feel like one of those teachers right now because of the overwhelming amount I need to do!!!!

"I had a terrible education. I attended a school for emotionally disturbed teachers."--Woody Allen


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Countdown Is ON!

Nine. More. Days.  For the first time ever...I can't wait!!  We only have students for nine more days. Then one teacher workday and I am outta there for the summer!!

I will miss this group of quarters...overall, they are a hard-working, well-behaved group.  There have definitely been challenges, but there always will be. 

Our challenge for the last two weeks has been BEHAVIOR.  They are not "bad" by any means.  But they know school is almost out and they just lllooovvveee to talk.  They talk about each other.  They talk about next year.  They talk about this year.  They talk about themselves.  They talk about mud.  They talk about name it; they talk about it!!!!!  And this is all done WHILE I'M TALKING!!!  C'mon...

In an attempt to keep them very busy, I have dragged out our persuasive writing.  I have also dragged out a character trait activity about characters from The Hunger Games.  (See my last post.)  Well, today most of my quarters finished the group activity and I am most impressed!!  Their job was to draw and color their impression of the character they were assigned.  They then had to work in teams to list all of the character traits that apply to that character so far (we haven't finished reading yet...).  Below are pictures of Haymitch, Katniss, and Peeta.  (The Rue and Cinna groups aren't done yet!)

Each group is going to present their posters next Tuesday.  I'm going to ask them "interview" type questions and make them "prove" why a particular trait applies to their character.

On a side note, one of my students completed a cartoon-like drawing based on some of his interpretations/feelings on the novel. 
He did this completely on his was not an assignment.  THIS is why I went down this road with the novel.  THIS is learning.  It's his interpretation with what we have read.  It's not the movie; it's not the gore; it's not my idea.  It's the imagination of a fourth grader and the result of being immersed in a story for the sake of the story.  And...he is just an "average" student!  He is not GATE/GT, etc.  THAT is what teaching is all about, my friends!!

Here is a quote (in honor of the end of the year) that made me feel normal:

"My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start.  So far today, I have finished 2 bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake.  I feel better already."--Dave Barry


Monday, May 14, 2012

Voting Starts Today!!

Voting has opened today for Most Fascinating Blog; Elementary Teacher 2012!! Please be sure and vote for my blog using the button on the top left-hand side!

Moving on...

The end of school is getting closer and the kids are hyped up!!  It's hard coming up with things for them to do!! I tell ya...talking, complaining, playing, and tattling are at an all time high!  But, I love this group of quarters!  They aren't perfect and I've been disappointed in how little I've seemed to help them...but they are good kids who really want to do well.  I'm lucky to have been their teacher!

I find myself looking back on the year and wondering what I could've done differently that may have changed their results on TELPAS.  It's sad that I feel that way because I feel this is the hardest I have ever worked...I've tried every idea I can think of, looked for new ones, and repeated and retaught more than I ever have before.  Still, I feel that I have let them down.  I am not looking forward to their STAAR scores.  It is a day I truly dread.  It makes me sad to think of how hard some of them have worked and that they may not get the scores they so aptly deserve.  I actually feel a little down about it all.  I have never, in my entire career, been as ready for the summer as I am at this moment.  My husband was shocked when I told him that and asked me if I still wanted to teach!!! Of course, I do!! But I can't shake this feeling...

Let the pity party continue...without me...Haha!!

Today, we read from The Hunger Games.  As most of you know, I chose this novel because it's the "in" thing and my kids are obsessed with the movie.  But they are actually really into the book; so much so that I use it as leverage..."If we don't calm down and get back to work, we will NOT read a chapter today!!"  And it works!!!  I had an "on the fly" moment, too!!

We are creating our idea of the characters from the story!  Today, quarters worked in groups to draw and color their idea of what a character looks like.  (I drew names to assign quarters a character...otherwise EVERYONE would want Katniss!)   Each group worked together to create their drawing on large butcher paper! It was fabulous watching them work together!!! They were so serious!!
Tomorrow, they will continue their work.  I hope by Thursday that we will be able to move on and use a character traits word list to assign them to each character...I have an idea in mind...I'll post pics once we figure it out!

I'm so happy to have a teaching partner that is willing to share the burden...

"Teams share the burden and divide the grief."--Doug Smith

Thank you, V!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Can We Persuade You...?

Whew!! Today has been a cray-zay kinda day!  But I feel like my quarters got a lot accomplished!  Let's face is soooooo tempting, with 20 days of school just start packing up and call it a year.  And there are so many housekeeping things that need to be done to wrap up the year "administratively" that I can hardly breathe!  But, I've found out over the years, that if quarters think we are not learning new things anymore, they open up a can of Crazy and everyone takes a sip!!!

I have definitely tried to keep things interesting.  It doesn't always work.  We have made a lot of foldables and they have really enjoyed it.  But I have also had to do DRA testing (MOST of my class!!!).  It is so not fun...for me OR them!!

Today, we continued working on our persuasive essay.  We are completing one as a class first.  (Partly because I need to model and partly because, well, I need to keep them busy for the next few days.  So...yes...I'm dragging it out...)  Earlier this week, we decided to write a class persuasive essay about saving animal habitats.  We then brainstormed, using a circle map, of different animals and their habitats. 
After the brainstorm, we chose a habitat that had many of the animals that we named.  My PM class chose "oceans".  I saw an idea very similar to this on a blog or Pinterest or whatever!! Sorry I can't remember! But I adapted it to the skills that my quarters need to learn.  Anyhoo...the following day, we created a "flow chart" for expository/persuasive writing.  What I love about this is that it is EXACTLY what we used for main idea/details!!! (One of those "why didn't I do this sooner" moments!!)  My quarters immediately connected reading to writing!  I might have them create a table when they do their own essays...need to think it out...

With the above, we are just creating a planning/idea kind of page.  I'm sure it could have been done better, but it was an "on the fly" moment, so I just kinda went with it!  The main idea box is used as our introduction.  The detail boxes are used for our "whys" or "explanations".  Since we are doing this as a class, for now, quarters copied the charts into their writing journals.
They did really well, so I can only hope they carry this idea all the way when they write their own essays next week.  Tomorrow we will begin to compose our sloppy copy.

These last few weeks, I have decided to revert back to something I did with my quarters last year.  I ask them questions from the game/book Would You Rather? by Doug Fields.  (I actually found the card game at Target last year...the questions in the game are much more suited for 4th graders than those in the book.)  Here is an example:
I love these questions because they are thought-provoking and the quarters think they are gross, cool, fun, etc.  They HAVE to choose an option and write a paragraph about why they made the choice they did! ( many possibilities!) Then they share with the class, if they wish.

I didn't do this with my current class for most of this year because, quite frankly, I had to focus more on the stages of writing and on grammar than I did last year.  Last year was a "non-ESL" group, so language wasn't necessarily an issue.  My goal was to get my quarters in that group to enjoy writing and to write more.   But my current group is enjoying it so much, that I may have to work it in next year...somehow.  I equate it to journal writing when it comes to time spent.

I'm very excited for next year.  Today, "next year's" 3rd/4th grade LA teams (those currently at my school) met to come up with a common vocabulary plan.  We've focused, mainly, on stem question vocab and TEKS vocab.  It's obvious, to us at least, that many of our students don't hang on to that kind of vocabulary the way they should.  It really hit us this year with the new STAAR test.  So, if we collaborate across grade-levels, maybe we can improve the test taking vocabulary of our students so that they don't get caught up in misunderstanding the questions before they even have a chance to answer!!  (It wasn't suggested last year because no one really knew what to expect with the new test.)

Anyway, we hope it starts a cross-grade level discussion and that the thread that begins with 3rd and 4th can be carried from 3rd to 2nd, from 4th to 5th, etc. until our whole campus is involved.  We just have to be willing to work, listen, and plan with those that aren't part of our own teams.  Once we get a solid set of vocab in place, we should be able to take it to others.  It was a lot of fun talking with 3rd, and hearing the things that they are concerned about, what they teach, and how they teach it, in a relaxed and truly cooperative way.  I  had no idea how much they have to teach in order to get their 3rdies ready for their own test, much less ready for 4th grade!

Well, it's time to watch a little comedy on TV!

These quotes should go on a wall in our teacher's lounge...I'm just sayin'...

"Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success."--Henry Ford

"Individually, we are one drop.  Together, we are an ocean."--Ryunosuke Satoro


Monday, May 7, 2012

Super Excited!

Today, I was just going to blog about the goings on in room 224. Then...

I received an email  from 2012 Fascination Awards to inform me that I have been nominated for The Most Fascinating Blog in 2012, Category: Elementary Teacher Blogs! WOW!  Needless to say...I'm SUPER EXCITED!!

Here is a snippet of information I copied from the link about this award:

"The Fascination Awards are an annual collection of the web’s most inspirational and thought-provoking blogs. All participants are nominated by our editorial team and voted on by our readers.

We know that all blogs are not created equal, so we want to recognize websites that go above and beyond, providing truly engaging content for their visitors."

Isn't that cool???  Per the email:

"Voting begins May 14th at 12:01 AM (EST).The blog with the most votes by May 21st at 11:59 PM (EST) will win the grand prize, a $100 restaurant gift card."

Waaayyyyy cool!!

Accelerated Degree Programs

I've noticed that a lot of my "blog roll" has been nominated as well!  I feel so privileged that someone thinks my blog is interesting and inspiring!  It's like having someone open my file cabinet in my classroom and commenting about how organized and neat it is!! (That is soooo not the case in my classroom file cabinet, by the way!)

I have posted the "voting" button on the left hand side of my homepage.  Keep those fingers ready and start voting on May 14th!

"To every person there comes that special moment when he is tapped on the shoulder to do a very special thing unique to him. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared for the work that could be his finest hour." - Winston Churchill


Friday, May 4, 2012


The last couple of days have been busy busy!!  We've been passionate about reviewing our reading skills within the context of our novel.  I love that several of my quarters made connections between vocabulary we have reviewed in Texas History and things that have happened within our text.  Fun! Fun! Fun!

We reviewed the vocabulary barter, diverse, discrimination, and Reconstruction.  In our flipbook shown below, quarters wrote the definition and drew a picture to represent their understanding.  One of my quarters drew a picture of a girl with arrows, holding a squirrel, and a man with bread for the term "barter".  It was a direct link to The Hunger Games.  I was thrilled, to say the least!!  And she wasn't the only one.  We also talked about the lack of diversity amongst the people of The Capitol as well as the discrimination that is evident against the Districts.  Fantastic!!

We also covered producers and consumers.  This was an easy connection, for me at least, because this is the first year that I have grown a vegetable garden.  I told my quarters all about growing vegetables and how much I enjoy it.  I told them about some of the problems I am having with my plants and a couple of funny stories about what has happened (crazy dog peeing on plants...EWWW...gross bugs...squirrels...).  You get the picture!!  I really believe that when we, as teachers, let our students know a little about our "real life", they feel more invested in us and in their learning.  We become real people who have successes and failures, just like them.
We also reviewed our great state!! One of many things that make Texas unique is that we are the only state bordered by four states, a country, and a large body of water that connects to the ocean.  I love having the quarters use colors to help them categorize things and items that are important.

I love our longitude/latitude foldables!!  I really think they were able to remember the "long" in longitude.  Here is what they looked like:

It's hard to see the parts written in pencil in these pictures!  Sorry about that! But our longitude foldable opened left/right.  Our latitude foldable opened top/bottom!  Pretty cool, hunh?

Finally, as part of our grammar/writing activities, we talked about antonyms.  While I disagree with our scope and sequence that has fourth graders learning this skill at the end of the year, I must say that my quarters caught on very quickly.  That tells me that they had a good foundation from third grade!  I must give my buddies a high five for that.  Fourth grade really should teach this skill earlier in the year.  It would greatly improve their writing because they would have an easier time thinking of good vocabulary instead of using the same words over and over.  Even though they may have learned it in third, a lesson to remind them might be prudent next year before state testing. 

They put this into their writing journals.  Ignore the paper...there is no educational reason I used was extra paper that I've had for YEARS and I decided now was the time to use it!!  (We've all been there, right??)

My principal asked me what I was going to do this summer with my blog!  She stumped me because I really don't know!!  We had a good laugh about it and I told her "Oh, I'll think of something!" What?!?!  Since we won't be in school, I won't have ideas to teach "on the fly" and I won't have quarter examples to show you how my ideas work in the classroom!!   I have some things I plan to work on in preparation for next year, but definitely not enough to post about every day!!  I'm sure many of my fellow bloggers feel the same.  What do you plan to plan to post about during summer break?  I may just reflect on things, especially since, by then, I will have an idea about how my quarters did on the STAAR.  (Scary, scary thought, by the have NO idea my fears about their results.)

My first year as a fourth grade ESL teacher has been very challenging!!  Last year was my first year in fourth grade, period, and I didn't teach ESL. I did not feel as worried about their scores as I do about this year's class!  While being a former primary (1st grade) teacher was definitely a great prep for ESL, I  did not expect the struggles my quarters would face.  Nothing is more heartbreaking than having a hard-working, committed, ideal student complete a test with a smile and I have to tell them that they didn't pass it.  This has happened on weekly assessments.  While I firmly believe the student I'm thinking of has a dyslexia issue, I don't think she is the only one.  AND she is not the only hard-worker that isn't always successful.  ::tear::

Off to stalk some Teacher Appreciation freebies at Teachers Pay Teachers!!  Adios, mis amigos!! (See...I learned something this year!)

I love this quote...and it fits the end of my post, I think...

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.”--JK Rowling

You thought I was done with Harry Potter/JK Rowling quotes didn't you????? Well...SURPRISE!!!!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Having To Teach On The Fly... I actually had to live up to my blog subtitle! of my lessons went a teeny bit wrong!  I had grand ideas; I had a plan!  But ::bites nails::  I didn't actually practice it first!

C'mon...stop snickering!! We've all been there!

Here's the deal:  We need to catch up on our Texas history vocabulary.  I decided to do a foldable (I love foldables, by the way!).  Well, I had the quarters fold and cut their construction paper (oh...they're following me while I model on the ELMO).  I had them draw lines, etc., etc.  Then I realized...this is SO not what we should be doing!!

I had to think on the fly!! What to do...what to do???????  Actually, after much paper manipulation, this was our final product:

See?? Sometimes, teaching on the fly doesn't turn out too bad!! It makes no "foldable" sense but, hey, they learned and understood about the Spanish explorers, and vocabulary words foreign, expedition, colonization, and settlers. was pretty fun!  I felt like a gunslinger in a shoot now I'm flipping my gun around (real fancy like), blowing on the barrel, and putting in the holster.

On another note, we reviewed (again) summary, plot, and main idea/details.  And, get this, I had ANOTHER on the fly moment!  We were reading a chapter from our novel, so I made another anchor chart of the the plot mountain.  Each night, students have to write a summary of what we read that day.  I've asked them to use Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then.  But I wasn't getting the answers that I was looking for.  Many of them were giving me vague information or details/events.  So I had the bright idea of adding SWBST to my plot mountain. And all I heard was "OOOHHHHH...NOW I get it!!" WHAT?!?!?!  We've talked about this so many times!  And, ONE WEEK after the STAAR reading test, they GET IT??!?!?!?!?!?!  ::banging head on desk::  Why am I not surprised?? I can't help but laugh!

We took the plot mountain even further and added main idea above the mountain and details below the mountain.  Now they correlate main idea to summary and details to events!! YES!  At least they will know this going into 5th grade. 

I guarantee that I will use this kind of anchor chart from the beginning next year!

Well...I'm off to blog stalk!

“If you just go with the flow, no matter what weird things happen along the way, you always end up exactly where you belong.”--Tom Upton, Just Plain Weird


Monday, April 30, 2012

A Stolen Idea...Or Two...

Another great day in Room 224!  We were back on our "regular" schedule...meaning, we are back to balanced literacy, writing, and Texas History...minus the test prep!  The one thing that I have been strongly lacking in is Texas History. ::hangs head in shame::

Now, I love history, especially that of our great state...but, it is not my focus most of the year.  I just cannot cover it the way I want AND prepare the kids for testing.  I'm not going to out anyone, but I am not the only teacher in Texas that feels that way.  (Yes, I'm a follower...) :-).

So, today we hit Texas History HARD.  We started with some vocabulary that my quarters learned at the beginning of the year.  We created this really cool foldable that lists different levels of government, their definition, and the names of the actual leaders!  This was fun!

Pretty cool, huh??  We compared the different positions in government to our classroom, school, district, and region.  But, the quarters still had difficulty comprehending the, time to "teach on the fly"!  I pulled out the construction paper and used an idea I have seen on Pinterest!!! ( I just looovvveee that site!)  I don't remember WHO came up with the idea, though!

I didn't have a lot of construction paper, so we used what we had left over! (In case you can't tell by the black and manilla!)  They had the chance to see how our neighborhood is part of our city, county, state, country, continent, and planet.  Pretty neat!

Now, before we moved on to our read aloud, I wanted to have my quarters complete an activity related to "empathy".  This idea is completely stolen borrowed from Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade !!! She has some of the coolest ideas!

I created a "new student".  His name is Horace Smith.  (I tried to figure out the weirdest name offense to any Horaces out there!)
All I had was GREEN paper!!!!!

Anyway, I asked students to welcome him to our class and talk to him like he was real.  We discussed what to do in the classroom, what our routine is, etc.  Then I gave him qualities...his lights are off and he can't wash his clothes.  His water isn't working because his mom is out of work.  These are actual things that many of my quarters have experienced at one time or another.  They are also things that they have teased others about!  And, just like Farley's classroom, the negative (even cruel) comments started coming!!  Now, many of them have said mean things to each other throughout the year.  There have also been some teasing incidents that my team teacher and I have shut down.  So this lesson had meaning...

I actually had one student say, "Horace, you need to get more popular clothes 'cause you look bad."  Then, she looked at me and said, "Well, I'm just trying to help him!"  And she was pretty condescending about it.  I was really flabbergasted!!!  They said he smelled and had holes in his pants.  Just. Plain. Mean. 

We have an issue with the "Cheese Touch" game from Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Except our quarters take it even further...they add another quarter's name to it, i.e. the "Tammy Touch".  UUGGGHHH!!!  We have battled this all year.  This lesson really hit home!

As the quarters said ugly things, I crumpled Horace into a ball.  I then went on to explain (like Farley) that every ugly comment hurt Horace and crumpled up the way he felt.  Silence.  Literal...silence.  I could tell how they "got it".  Then, we began to say nice things to Horace.  We straightened him back out.
Then...we had to discuss how he was still "wrinkled".  We talked about the "Cheese Touch" game and how that wrinkles the person you are teasing.  And once you say those hateful words, it is impossible to make someone "flat" again.  Horace will never be the same.  Powerful.

Well, we were actually able to connect this lesson to our book, The Hunger Games.  (If you're new to my blog, please see my reasons for reading it HERE .)  We talked about empathy and how the Capitol has "wrinkled" the Districts.  We also talked about how empathy led Katniss to volunteer for her sister, Primrose AND how it helped her to make a connection with Rue from District 11.

I love when we can make LOTS of connections with just one idea!!!

"Compassion is the capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin...the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy for you." Frederick Beuchner