Sunday, December 2, 2012

Thanksgiving Break and Final Observations

Can you believe it's already December?! It's still about 70 degrees outside, so it doesn't QUITE feel like December yet, but still, my calendar says it's December so it must be so.

We only went to school for two days the week of Thanksgiving and it was really nice having a little break. We had tons of family come over and we ate more food than I thought possible! But that's ok, because I ran my first 6K that morning! I was super proud of the fact that I didn't have to stop to walk, even if my time was a little slow.
Before and after pics with my mom (who runs much faster than I do)
Back at school, I had my final observation and taught a lesson on identifying the theme in a story. I was very happy with how it went- after a morning pep talk, the kids were absolute angels (thanks kiddos!) and it all went according to plan (which happens, um, never).

I wanted to share a resource that I used at the beginning of my lesson on theme. It's called Wing Clips and it's an online database of short movie clips that are all categorized and all clean for school! I showed one clip and modeled how to identify the theme of the clip, then I showed another clip and had the students identify the theme and three supporting details that helped them find the theme. So fun! You could use these to teach mood, theme, topic, anything!
Such a great resource. Check it out!!
This upcoming week is going to be very exciting. I have my interview with Teach For America on Wednesday and it's going to be all day. I've been preparing for that and making sure I have everything ready! Then I'm going to Atlanta on Friday after school for the weekend to visit with a friend. Who knows? Maybe I'll be living THERE next year!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Prefix and Suffix Flipbooks

Hey everyone! How crazy has the last week been for you? It's been really crazy for us! We had a short week (only 4 days) and SO MANY OBSERVATIONS. My mentor teacher had an observation on Tuesday and one on Thursday and then she observed me on Friday. We also had a Thanksgiving feast with our kids on Friday with vegetable soup in the crockpot, cornbread, fresh fruit and berries, and cookies. So yummy!

One lesson I did this week was about affixes- prefixes and suffixes. This is important for fourth grade to learn new words they come across in their reading. We used flipbooks to teach the affixes. Have you ever seen these?
One side of the flipbook

Reverse side of the same flipbook
These are actually two flipbooks stapled back to back. This is how you make them:
1) Get some colorful paper- we had three pieces of paper per student (all different colors).
2) Cut each piece of paper in half lengthwise.
So much paper involved
3) Fold the pieces of paper different lengths, like the picture below. We kept one as a model while folding and folded the rest to match it.
Pictures are really needed to explain this part!
4) Stack the pieces of paper, one inside another, like a Russian doll, and then staple across the top.
5) Staple two books back to back so you can do prefixes on one side and suffixes on the other.

Once the books were made, each student wrote a prefix (or suffix) on each flap with the definition under the flap above. We did all of these together. Then they went to different spots around the room to read their independent books. As they read, they had to find one example of each in the book and write that, along with two examples they could think of, under the affix. They had a total of three examples per affix and then we went over everyone's and talked about what examples we found.
Sometimes we fit two on one flap.
The examples for mis- and non- are on the yellow.
The examples for un- are on the other side of the orange.
I love these flip books! They're great resources for the kids to keep and a lot of fun to make. I just used the list of affixes from the standard for Florida, but you can do whichever ones you need. I would recommend making them for the kids ahead of time and then having them fill them out. Also, I wrote sideways, but it would probably be easier to write normally. Live and learn, right?

This week we only have two days of school! Two days of school and five days off? Can we do this every week???

Monday, November 12, 2012

Decimal Activity

Happy Veteran's Day! We have the day off, and I've used my long weekend to recover from a cold. I had to use my first sick day this year on Friday, but I'm glad I did because Friday was the worst day of it and I was able to just sit in the bath tub and watch TV all day. Hehe, but some good news came to me Thursday night. I applied for Teach For America and was notified that I was invited to a final interview! I was just hoping to have a phone interview, but to find out that I can skip that step was so nice! So I have a final interview in December and will know the first week of January if I'm accepted. It would be really nice to know where I'm going by January- we'll just have to wait and see.
Eeeeeek! haha
Now that I'm starting to feel better, I thought I'd share a little activity I did with my kids last week. We're learning about decimals and they're expected to know through the thousandths place and how to pronounce them properly (which is something I have to be careful about, myself!) They really like using their dry-erase markers on white boards, so we came up with this:

So simple, but so much potential
Did you know you could put any worksheet in one of those protective sleeves and kids can write on them using dry-erase markers?! This changes everything. We did some practice like "Write the number one and three tenths" or "Write a number with a '4' in the hundredths place", etc.

Then we did a fun activity where everyone writes a number on their sheet, then passes it to their right. The next step is to write the number in word form, then pass to the right. The next step is to write in expanded form, then pass to the right. The fourth person has to check that everything is correct. Then you start over!
I have such great handwriting
You can mix this up in a bunch of ways. Sometimes we had the fourth step be "write an equivalent decimal", sometimes we made them stop at hundredths, sometimes they could go through thousandths. You could do this with normal place value, too! So many options. And when they're done, just erase!
I'm definitely going to be using these protective sheets for more activities. Hope you are enjoying your Veteran's Day weekend. We have four days this week and then two days next week before Thanksgiving break. Time is absolutely FLYING by!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day 2012

Happy Monday everyone! Hope you enjoyed your extra hour of sleep this weekend- I know I did! It really threw me off this morning, though, because I kept thinking I was late with the sun being up already. No complaints here, though!

So for all of you who have been living under a rock, tomorrow is Election Day 2012. It's such a great opportunity to teach our students about democracy and how an election works and we have been doing some fun things building up to tomorrow. One really great website we've been using is actually a website made by a school. Check it out! They have a lot of really great resources and we used the quiz as a fill in the blank for the kids to do while we went through the powerpoint of how a president is elected.
Pop quiz: who are these men?
I also liked the link they had to the Scholastic website about the election. They have so many activities and lots of information! This would be a great thing for the kids to explore.
Can you SEE the potential?!
We talked a lot about the electoral college. This website is EXCELLENT to look back at previous elections. You can see all the way back to 1789- ha! It's neat though to see how close each election was. We also gave each student a couple of electoral college maps to color in for what the polls are saying now and one to color in Tuesday night as the votes roll in! I'm going to join in the fun ;)
This website is too much fun to play with!
It's so demanding: COLOR ME IN!!
Finally, a great activity to integrate reading has been doing research on the candidates. We gave each student a one page biography on President Obama and a one page biography on Governor Romney. The kids had to read each and highlight examples of the 7 Habits (being proactive, thinking win-win, putting first things first, etc) that show leadership. Don't you just love integrating subjects?!

We will be wearing red, white, and blue and anxiously awaiting the results tomorrow! I will also be showing off my "I Voted" sticker (hooray for early voting) and hope you'll do the same!! Happy Election Day, friends =]

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

It's Halloween! One of my absolute favorite holidays (it's basically glorified dress-up, which is a thespian's DREAM). Our school had a really neat Literacy Parade where everyone dressed up as a character from a book and we all had a lot of fun with it! Some ideas from the teachers:

  • Pinkalicious (and purplicious and silverlicious and goldilicious)
  • A Bad Case of the Stripes girl
  • The 7 dwarfs (sneezy, sleepy, grumpy, etc.)
  • The Giving Tree
  • Sleeping child from Polar Express
And, of course, Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter! 
Gotta love mirror shots, right??
I put together this costume two years ago when the 7th movie came out and I used it again today. Here's how I did it if you want your own Harry Potter themed costume without paying an arm and a leg:
  • Start with what you have! I already had the black skirt, black tights, and black shoes. Win!
  • I bought a simple red tie from Walmart and painted yellow stripes on it with whatever paint I had on hand. Look at the characters online and you can see their ties have two thick stripes, then one thin stripe.
Use the pattern on the tie to help you keep lines straight!
  • I bought a child's white button down from Walmart (school uniforms, baby!) for like $7 and ironed on the Gryffindor crest. Just get some special iron-on transfer paper, like the kind here, and follow the instructions after finding the image you want online!
  • The cloak was the most complicated part of this costume because I could NOT find one I liked in stores. I found a great tutorial on If you know how to use a sewing machine at all, you can make this! It was really easy and looks and feels really nice and expensive. I added the Gryffindor crest to this too by using iron-on transfer paper. Make sure you get the type for dark fabrics. I also bought two little buttons and sewed them on near the top so I can actually close the cloak with a ponytail holder! 
The cloak looks awesome when you walk quickly and it flutters behind you.
  • Don't forget the wand! I painted a dowel rod black and added glitter. Lots of glitter. 
TADA!! Putting together costumes is so much more fun than buying one and I had a lot of fun with this one! Happy Halloween!!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Something is Not Right

Hello friends! Don't be alarmed by the title of this post, it's referring to Madeline by Ludwig Bemelman. Do you remember the story? The twelve little girls in two straight lines, the littlest one was Madeline! Why am I talking about Madeline, you ask? Well, one of our little ones had to get his appendix out =[ and ALL I could think about was Madeline. In the story, she gets her appendix out and gets bunches of toys and a cool scar, which makes the other girls want to get theirs out too!
Love using literature to connect real life situations
I told the kids about their friend and then read the book aloud while they made cards at the end of the day Thursday. It was a nice way to end the day and I know our sweet patient will love getting cards from all his classmates.

The book was also a really nice way to introduce surgery to the kids and we then had the opportunity to talk about being under anesthesia, having a scar, getting toys and/or ice cream, and how long until their friend was back in school.

Look how colorful the cards are! Didn't they do a great job?!
Hot topic with the kids: should you draw an appendix on a card or would that upset him?
What does an appendix even look like? They decided NOT to draw the organ, btw.
The kids are probably going to be a bit let down that he won't have a big ol' scar like Madeline did, but times have changed, kiddos! Homemade cards make everything better, though, and I can't wait for our sweet boy to be back with us this week =]

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's the Little Things

Ever have one of those days where everything strikes you as funny?? Today was one of those days and my sweet little fourth graders and I were laughing all day! Here are some fun anecdotes to get you laughing too:

I was at recess and a student needed to go inside for something. As we were walking in, we passed a group of four girls standing in a circle. Each of them held a lizard in one hand and had their other hand up in a pledge as they said (in unison!):

"As a member of the Lizard Club, I solemnly swear to never speak of this to any living being."

After we walked by, I just said "Hmm" and my sweet student said with a completely straight face, "Well that was disturbing!" haha I love how honest they are this age! We had the giggles for a bit after that! I'm gonna keep an eye on the growing coven happening on the playground though, don't you worry.
Run lizards, run for your lives.

This week was Red Ribbon Week at our school, in celebration of being drug-free. Do you remember doing this every year in elementary school?? Well today we all wore red and one of the students on the afternoon announcements told us why:

"Everyone wore red today to remember to celebrate a life of free drugs" Wait, what?? Free drugs? THAT'S what red ribbon week is all about?? 
Or is he happy he has free drugs??

Haha I got a kick out of that one, but it went WOOSH right over the kids' heads.

So that was my funny day. Hope your day was just as fun!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Attention Getters

Happy Sunday! The sun is shining, the air is cool, and the Gators are undefeated. A happy, happy Sunday, for sure! Fall is definitely here and we are getting in the mood for Halloween. We are also trying more and more Kagan and WBT strategies, which led to some new attention grabbers!

The first one I tried with the kids was actually from Whole Brain Teaching, which has been described as Kagan on steroids! Haha they've got some really fantastic ideas. My favorite is the "Class-Yes" attention getter. Basically, you say "class" and they say "yes", but you can mix it up however you want and they have to say it the way you said it! Here's how Chris Biffle suggests you introduce it:

This literally took about 45 seconds. Start small, people.

The fun part is changing it up so the kids don't get bored with "Class-Yes" or "Class Class-Yes Yes". I like to do "Oh claaaaaass- Oh yeeeeeeees" or "Hey class- hey yes" Here are some ways to mix it up!

Kids LOVE mirroring you with really silly tones and gestures and speeds!
You can watch more of his video about this here.

And since it's Halloween season, I also introduced one of the attention grabbers I saw in a list on Pinterest! I say "Hocus Pocus" and the kids repeat "Time to focus!" and then get to work on what they should already be doing. I used the "Class-Yes" to get them to freeze and look at me, but the "Hocus Pocus" to get them to refocus on work and stop talking. Check out the list of attention getters below:
Taken from this blog.
Hope you are having a fantastic Sunday! Now go outside and enjoy the weather before the week starts =]

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mission to Space

We had quite an exciting day yesterday- we went to space! I had to teach a lesson for my mentor teacher and my UF supervisor to observe, so I decided to teach math. We're working on geometry and drawing shapes from different perspectives and I wanted to try something creative, so my mentor teacher and I came up with an activity for the kids where they went on a mission to space!! Bear with me, this is a long post, but worth it!

Here's how we did it: I reviewed how to draw perspectives and how to imagine a solid shape when looking at a net, then the kids partnered up and were given a brown paper bag and a ziploc bag of cube legos.
Doesn't that clip art look intense and awesome??
Inside each bag, they had rolled-up instructions and 10 numbered clues. These were their instructions:

  • You are on a mission to space with your shoulder partner! You need to find the planet Perspectiva because it has a special resource called Shapino. The United States needs this resource to replace gasoline and they want you to get it!
  • You'll need the clues found in your "Mission Pack" to help you complete your mission and avoid danger. 
  • You will complete all calculations in the "Mission Log" (your math journal) when answering each of the clues. Be sure to write down the clue number and work in order, beginning with clue #1. 
  • After each clue, you will eat an energy capsule (an M&M), which you will find in your Mission Pack. Use the tools in your bag, along with the cubes to complete your mission. Good luck Space Cadet!

Rolled up instructions and then a stack of numbered clues
After repeating some important instructions (next time I would write these on the board), they got working and had an absolute blast! Using the clues, I had them identify their spaceship, land on a planet, identify another spaceship, find their resource, calculate how much to bring back, and then fly home. They had to turn in their data to mission control (me!) and if it was complete, they were paid (with a mini milky way) haha. I like to think I'm funny ;)  They also had a checklist to assess themselves with, giving themselves 1 point for drawings, 1 point for calculations, 2 points for written responses, and 1 point for working cooperatively. I used this as the rubric for scores out of 5. Here's an example of one of the clues, just to give you an idea.
The biggest thing for this lesson was for them to draw a certain perspective of a solid shape,
 like from the top, front, or side.
Let me tell you, the kids love love LOVED this activity! Their favorite parts were the M&M energy capsules (duh), getting cubes to build the shapes with, and all the different clues. The first clue was to make a shape out of a cube net to create a walkie talkie. I have to share this picture because these boys were using them the whole time! And hey, the more engaged the students are, the fewer behavior management issues you'll have (obviously).
It says Walkie Talkie and has a keypad and an "answer" button! haha
 You could do something like this with any subject or topic! Just make a mission somewhere with individual clues, even incorporate other subjects, like science. My fourth graders LOVED it, which meant my supervisor and mentor teacher LOVED it, which is great news for me!! We'll definitely be doing more missions in the future!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Love & Logic

Happy Wednesday everyone! We get out an hour early on Wednesdays, so that made the day fly by! I wanted to write a post about a book I'm reading right now called Teaching with Love & Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom. Have you heard of it?

Written the year I started Kindergarten.
As I mentioned in my last post, I left the meeting with my principal and mentor teacher with a stack of books and this is the one I was told to start with! The ideas Fay and Funk describe are used by my mentor teacher and the principal and many other teachers at my school. The approach is basically what I believed already, just articulated much better than I ever could have!

The basic approach is not just to love your kids to pieces, but to make sure they know how much you love them. You can't withdraw from a bank account you don't make deposits in, and you can't make demands on someone you haven't built up. These children spend nearly half of their waking hours with us and I have so much influence on whether they have a good day or a bad day. I want to make sure they know without a doubt that they are loved.
One of my favorite teaching quotes-
and my attempt to make it pretty enough to be a printable!
One of my favorite strategies I've read about is giving children choices. Instead of just telling them what to do all day, you give them choices (make sure you're ok with either choice!) These can be little choices, like whether to start with math or reading, or as a form of discipline. I had the opportunity to do this today when the kids were reading their books silently around the room. Some kids were talking and I said in a friendly voice, "Hey boys, you have a choice. You can either read on the bean bags silently, or split up and go back to your desks to read. It's up to you." They chose to stay on the bean bags and stop talking. Such a little change from "Boys, you need to read silently", but it gives them the power! Love it!
Look how quiet and peaceful she is. Bet she doesn't need to be given choices...

That's just a little about that, but if you have some free time and are interested, I definitely recommend this book. For more info, here's their page. They have programs for teachers AND parents! I'm continuing to love my placement and am learning from a MASTER of teaching with love and logic. Things are looking up over here!!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Back in the Classroom

People. I'm back in the classroom. I'm waking up at 6 again. Woohoo! Believe it or not, it's actually really nice to be back in an energetic classroom full of life and positivity and watch kids try and succeed.

To recap the week, I went to my new school Tuesday afternoon to meet with my supervisor, mentor teacher, and principal and I just loved getting to talk about new ideas and how they are applying them to the school. They have a big focus on research and being a reflective teacher. I went home with a stack of books and the challenge to start reading!

Starting with Love & Logic! More on that soon...

I started Wednesday and spent the last three days watching my fantastic mentor teacher, getting to know my sweet kids, and chatting with my friendly coworkers (including another intern next door!) Some of the highlights this week include:

  • Watching the kids write their own reader's theater for the Greek story of Demeter and Persephone and then act it out
  • Doing the Cupid Shuffle to "get the wiggles out"
  • Being asked every Gator question imaginable: Do you know any Gator athletes? Have you met Albert and Alberta? Are you going to the LSU game? 
  • Receiving homemade "welcome to the classroom" cards 
  • Answering questions about math during recess because they were so curious about it
How super sweet is this?

To sum it up: I'm in love. Also, bookmark this new page. Cus' now we're snapping for fourth grade!! Keep up people! Time's flying!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Light at the End of the Tunnel

When I posted on Monday, I thought I would be back in the classroom by Wednesday, tops. Well, it is now Thursday night and I will not be seeing the inside of a classroom until Monday at best. While many of you would be jumping for a week off (and don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed the down time), I have spent the week checking my email every five minutes, doing course work that isn't due for weeks, explaining to my professor why I won't be able to post about trying something new this week, and racking my brain thinking about what I should have done different in my last placement and questioning whether I did the right thing in leaving early.

Well, after worrying and worrying, I finally came to my senses and went to the Lord with it. I did a little quiet time and scripture reading and, hey, what do you know, look what just happens to be one of the verses I read:

"I wait for The Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for The Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning" - Psalm 130:5-6

A verse about waiting. And of course, once I finally gave all the control over to God and stopped worrying, I woke up to an email saying that a school in Ponte Vedra will take me for the semester, maybe the year =]  They want to put me in 4th grade Gifted, which I'm very excited about! One reason my supervisor thought my last placement wasn't a good fit was because she thought I'd do better in upper elementary, so boom, let's do it. May have to rename the blog..... I'll keep ya updated ;]

Monday, September 24, 2012

Changes/An Ode to Morning Meeting

I've been slacking! I'm sorry it's been almost two weeks since my last post, but things have been crazy lately! To start with, I have some news: Thursday was my last day with my mentor teacher at my previous school. From the beginning of the semester, it was clear that we had very different styles, but I met with my UF supervisor and had her come to the classroom and observe. We talked about it and it was decided that (with such different styles), I would benefit from being in a different classroom, possibly in a higher grade. This was a difficult decision to make, especially since I'm only 5 weeks into the school year. Right now, I'm still waiting to hear where I'll be next. I'm hoping St. Johns county will have another placement for me, but you never know. As soon as I know where I'll be, I'll share it here!

Onto more fun things! Before I left, I got to try doing a morning meeting with my students two days in a row. For those unfamiliar with morning meeting, it's basically composed of 4 things: a greeting, share time, a game, and news/announcements. They're done every morning (hence the name morning meeting) and usually last 20-30 minutes. It's such a great way to build classroom community and teach vital social skills!

In our classroom meeting, we started with a simple greeting. Everyone stood in a circle and the first person walked up to someone else and said "Good morning, [name]", then the person responded "Good morning, [name]", then they high fived and switched places and the first person sat down. The second person then approached someone else and repeated the process. They kept going until everyone was sitting and everyone had been greeted. We focused on eye contact, appropriate distance from someone, and speaking at the right volume. Some things have to be taught!

We did a quick-share next, with each student getting 10 seconds to share something. On Monday, they shared what they did over the weekend and on Tuesday, they said what their favorite place to go was and why. I counted down 10 seconds on my fingers and when I got to 0, that person was done! Even my quiet kids had something to say and the kids had a chance to share with me, which is hard to find time for during a busy day.

Then, I went through the daily schedule and what we were doing in each subject, as well as which special they were going to (art, music, etc.) and any other updates they needed to know.

Finally, we did a fun activity: a listening activity with a coloring worksheet. I only said the instructions 3 times and they were things like "Color three leaves green and two brown". The activity can be education or just plain fun. Ours was a mix. This wrapped up the morning meeting and we got on with our day!

Overall, I noticed my kids had such great attitudes. They loved getting to share with me and each other, and they loved greeting each other. I heard less questions throughout the day about the schedule and they kept asking if they could do this every morning. I would definitely try to fit a morning meeting into your schedule if possible!! What do you think? Do you do a morning meeting?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Patriot's Day

As all of you know, today is September 11th. For all of us "adults" (I use the term loosely) that date will never have the same meaning as it did before 2001, but for the 7 and 8 year olds in my class, it's just another day. They were still years from being born on that tragic day and they don't have "I remember where I was..." stories to tell. The issue for today was: How do we address the importance of the day without scaring the children or oversharing beyond what parents find appropriate. What was even more difficult was the fact that none of the other second grade teachers were doing anything special for the day and my mentor teacher was out of town to greet her son-in-law returning from Afghanistan! So after some searching, I found a nice idea that was simple, but to the point. We made cards for police officers and firefighters thanking them for their service!

The kids came in with this prompt on the board:
     Good Morning! Today is September 11th, Patriot's Day. Please make a card for a police officer or a firefighter thanking them for keeping us safe.

They could choose a piece of red, white, or blue construction paper and use their crayons. I also had a list of words on the board for spelling reasons and to give kids an idea of what to write:

  • Thank you
  • Brave
  • Protecting
  • People
  • Courage
  • Hero
Some of the cards were really sweet! Here's one to a police officer:
"America need's you officer's"
Notice she drew ALL 50 STARS on that American flag. Dedication right there.

"thank you for all the things you do to protect us"
You can tell she worked hard on getting it just right! Here's one for a firefighter:
"Thank you" with a crown? and some stars

"Dear firerfiter's. You are the best. Do you now about the fire by the animel shelter?" And then a place for an answer, of course. I had to warn her that she may not get an answer...
So now I have the issue of how to give these heartwarming cards to police officers and firefighters... I may give the police ones to my dad (a police officer in Jacksonville) to give to rookies, and then swing by a fire station to drop off the firefighter ones. Any better ideas??

So that's how we remembered the victims of 9/11: celebrating the heros of our nation. I wish I had more time to plan a lesson, because I'm thinking of so much more stuff I could have done. But that's a start! How did your school remember today?