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