Monday, December 9, 2013

Elf on the Shelf Being Naughty

Saw this on Facebook and had to share.  I don't have kids and my students are too old for the "Elf on the Shelf" craze.  Honestly, the little guy kinda creeps me out, but this photo made me laugh out loud.  Now that my mind is spinning from all the naughty things my elf could do, I kinda want one...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Holiday Sort Freebie

It's December and that means Christmas is right around the corner!  Krista over at Creative Clips has been doing this super cute weekly freebie event called "Unwrap Your Freebie" to spread cheer this holiday season and I couldn't be more thankful for her generosity! I had to make a cute product with her graphics ASAP, thus resulting in a freebie for you.

This simple activity would be great to use in your student language center.  It's easy to understand and requires little help from you.  Students sort a variety of holiday-themed words by past, present, or future tense.  Then, they use some of those words to write sentences.
Common Core Alignment:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.1e Form and use the simple (e.g., I walked; I walk; I will walk) verb tenses.

You can get this freebie in my TPT store.  Click HERE to get it now!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cyber Monday & Tuesday hope you all had a wonderful thanksgiving!  I did not brave the crowds to do any Black Friday shopping this year.  I saw on the news that a Walmart near me had two women trampled!  They both survived, but how scary!  My sister and I went one time and we literally had to run to keep from getting trampled ourselves once they opened the doors.  I'm not sure if I have the stamina or courage to do that kind of shopping anymore.  Cyber Monday is more my thing now.

Speaking of Cyber Monday, there's a HUGE TPT sale coming up.  If you've been loading up your wishlists like I have, then this is the time to shop because thousands of items are up to 28% off!  I'll have everything in my shop on sale and I even got my butt to work over the break and finished a pack I started last year.  It might be one of my all-time favorites.  I used it with my third graders last year for our graphing unit, but I needed to go in and put the finishing touches on it.  It only took me 8 months, lol! :)  It's robot themed and has 58 pages full of fun foldables, games, worksheets, and anchor charts.  It covers tally charts, pictographs, bar graphs, and line graphs.  You can check it out by clicking HERE or on the photo below.

Happy holiday shopping!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Using Containers to Engage Students

Hey, everyone!  I'm sorry I haven't been on lately, but I'm getting back into the swing of things, I promise. I know I left my blog off on a sour note, but things have greatly improved for me since that last post.  It took some time to adjust and I've been doing some problem solving that has helped a lot.  Thank you to those who took a minute to leave kind, uplifting words.  It always helps knowing that there are others out there who know what I'm going through. And since this is the time of year to be thankful, please know that I am thankful for all of you wonderful readers. :)  Truly.

Now, on to some educational stuff.  At the beginning of the year, I had to teach a review lesson on economics and I was not looking forward to it.  I don't have anything against economics.  I enjoy getting a paycheck each month and I certainly enjoy spending it, but that's the extent of my experience with the subject.  I did some digging and found a free lesson idea online that transformed my lesson from dud to fun!

So, in this Supply and Demand Lesson, students examine statements and decide how supply and demand will be affected.  Sounds boring, right?  Well, it's suggested that the teacher put the statements into interesting containers to stir student interest.  Since the given statements revolve all around milk, eggs, and pickles, I used a milk jug, egg carton, and pickle jar.  Most of these I already had at home and all I had to do was eat cereal for dinner the night before.

It's CRAZY how excited my students were to do this easy activity.  They loved reaching into the various containers and everyone wanted a chance to be the one who drew and read the statement aloud.  Guys, my kids are 6th graders and they're too cool for everything, but not a few pieces of trash.  Go figure.

So, have you ever used unique containers in a lesson?  What did you use and how did it go?  I'm shocked by how simple and effective it was.  The activity itself was the exact same, but without those containers, I doubt my kids would have paid attention half as well.  Perhaps those of you who are more experienced have known the power of simple things like this before, but it was new to me so I thought I'd share!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Stuck in a Rut

School has been under way for about a month now and I've been doing a lot of reflecting.  I'm mostly feeling like a failure lately.  I can't seem to get my groove back after the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year that was last year.  Perhaps I was naive to think that I could just hop right back into sixth grade and everything would be as wonderful as it was when I left it. 

I have quite a different group of kids this year than I've ever had before and I just don't know how to reach them.  These kids are living a life more difficult than any life I've ever known.  They're struggling with extreme cases of abuse and neglect in some cases, all on top of figuring out how to adjust to being a teenager in a middle school.  My internal dilemma is that I'm being too much of a "hard-ass" (I apologize, but nothing really fit as well as that term!), but I can't figure out now how to show them that I love them AND keep the discipline in my classroom. 

Maybe it's the dynamic of having five groups of kids for an hour at a time throughout the day.  Maybe last year really changed my attitude about teaching.  Maybe it's all that and a bunch of other factors I haven't even begun to think about yet.  I know I've been successful at establishing a loving, yet disciplined sixth grade classroom before, but it seems like decades ago instead of just two years.

This Calvin and Hobbes strip shows my usual reaction/feelings when my kids give me excuses for why they're not meeting my expectations.

In my gut, I don't feel like that reaction is going to help my students at all.  I have plenty of compassion for these kids and I do love them all, but what has been a struggle is showing them in a way that doesn't give them the message that I'm okay with them being lazy and/or walking all over me.  I've always considered classroom management to be one of my strengths, but now I've lost my confidence. I've looked into a book called Teaching with Love and Logic and maybe that will give some me some insight to techniques I could use.  I saw it at the bookstore tonight, but I opted for two other books, both by Rafe Esquith, that spoke a little louder to me.


Has anyone read any of these books?  If so, I'd love to hear what you thought and got out of the reading.  If there's anything else you could recommend that might help me out of this unhappy state of limbo I've found myself in lately, I'd be so grateful!  Thanks for reading my rant. :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Maps, Maps, Maps

Helllloooo blog world!  I'm sorry I haven't gotten around to posting pics of my finished room, but I will get to it soon, I promise.  The first two weeks of school have kept me very busy and I'm just now getting some space in my head to start thinking about blogging again.  Hopefully your school year is starting off well!  It sure can be crazy, especially when you're at a new school.

I hate the beginning of the year because the curriculum is so boring for me to teach.  We go over globes and maps and talk about government all at lightning speed, hoping the kids will absorb something that can resemble a sufficient background for future content.  After that we get to start the ancient civilizations, which is where I have all sorts of fun and exciting lessons.  Just two more days and we'll be able to get into the good stuff!

I have managed to work in two really engaging lessons so far. The first of which involves a volcano.  What kid doesn't love volcanoes? (I'll share the second lesson in another post.)  During our exploration of the different types of maps, we discussed elevation maps, which are quite daunting.  They require the kids to have enough brain power to look at a flat diagram with numbers and visualize a landscape.  Ha! I find that difficult enough to do and my brain is fully developed (as far as I know).

I mean, just look at this thing.  Stare at this for one minute and you'll either develop vertigo or be hypnotized.

So, to make this kind of map a little more exciting and understandable for the kids, I have them make 3D models of Mount St. Helens before and after its eruption in 1980 using elevation maps.  I got this idea from one of my fellow teachers my first year of teaching and I've used it every year I've taught 6th grade. This activity takes about 45 minutes for students to complete and they really enjoy it.  The only down side to it is that it wastes a lot of paper, so to cut down on that, I put kids in pairs and each pair made one replica together.  Half my groups did a before version and the other half did an after version.  Once they were made, we looked at both versions and talked about how elevation maps are used to show different altitudes.

This is how we did it:
  1. Supply groups with the same elevation map copied onto multiple colors of cardstock.  The number of pages depends on how many "levels" the map has.  Our before map had 14 and our after map had 10.
  2. Students cut out one level per page, making sure to cut around the elevation numbers, and put the pieces in order.
3.  The students glue scrap pieces of cardboard onto the bottom of each piece (except the bottom) and attach to the previous level, creating a kind of 3D effect.  The top pieces are smaller and more delicate so the kids have to really take their time at the end.
 4.  Voila!  You have a 3D volcano made from an elevation map! :)

Neat, huh?

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Room Full of Potential....Maybe!

So this summer has been SO incredibly busy for me.  Just got home from a training in Sacramento, CA for the AVID program, which my school participates in.  Learned a lot, but am left feeling super exhausted.  I managed to get into my classroom for a few hours today and this is what I have to work with this year.
Looking in from my doorway.

From the front left corner of the room.

So, I am more of a glass-half-empty girl if I'm being really honest (I'm working on fixing that! lol) and I immediately notice the negatives:
  1. Walls. Are. Brick. Or. Carpet.  'Nuff said.
  2. If you look closely, you'll see this classroom is part of an open floor plan, which means that in order to get to my room, you've got to walk through one of two other classrooms.  Thank you, 1970s.
  3. You can't really tell from the pics, but everything is FILTHY! Since the other school is moving out and our entire school is moving in, the janitors have their hands full and can only get the essentials done.  I've been cleaning like a mad woman and have very little to show for it at this point. 
However, there are some positives to be found here.
  1. Due to the wonky layout of the building, I may have to walk through other teachers' rooms to get to mine, but no one has to walk through mine!
  2. A majority of the rooms in this building are on the inside track and they do not have any windows.  I get a small window AND a door to the outside which will be nice to take my kids outside to work or read during good weather.
  3. It's quite huge.  I was worried how I would fit everything with 30 students, but I've got tons of room to spare and my desks will be arranged in groups, so that will also save some space.
So, this is what I'll be working with for the upcoming year.  Some obstacles to overcome, but things are working out slowly but surely.  For instance, I have learned that nothing does the trick on brick walls like a hot glue gun!  I'll post pictures once my room is all up and finished.  I can't really envision the final result yet, so I'm hoping it will reveal itself to me the more I work in there. 

What's on your room to do list for the upcoming school year?  I love the time of year when I get to peruse all the teaching blogs I follow and check out the before and after pictures of classrooms.  Until next time!

Monday, June 24, 2013

6th Grade, Here I Come!

Well, it's been official for awhile, but I haven't said anything online yet.  I will not be teaching 3rd grade next year and am moving up to the 6th grade level in a middle school.  This was my choice and I couldn't be more happy about it!  I will also only be teaching one subject for this first year, which is Social Studies (my fav!).  I have so many ideas that I can't contain them and I'm looking forward to a new experience with a grade level I already know I love.

With this change from elementary to middle, I've had lots of professional development so far this summer.  I'll be leaving for California in July for another training on AVID, a program at my new school.  It's been hard to absorb it all coming after a very stressful year, but I've got a break for a few weeks to unwind a little bit.

I haven't had time to work on any new products lately, but during my PD, I did run across an amazing resource for social studies teachers that I wanted to share.  It's called 'Reading Like a Historian' from the Stanford History Education Group.  Maybe you've already heard of it, but if not, you should really check it out!  We had one of the founders come and speak to us for the day and I was really impressed with how these lessons incorporate primary sources from a variety of viewpoints and get students to think critically about historical questions.  The website has tons of lessons that you can download with powerpoints and copies of the primary sources used.  The majority of the lessons come from U.S. history, but there are a dozen or so that I'll be using this year for world history.  If you click the screenshot below, it'll take you to the website.  If you've used these before, I'd love to know how it went.  I'm in no way affiliated with this group, but their lessons got me really excited about the upcoming year, so I thought I'd share! 

Hope your summers are going well for you!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Anacondas, and Anteaters, and Monkeys! Oh my!

Well, our rainforest animal project was a complete success!  See 'Rainforest Fun' post for more details. It's so amazing what these kids can come up with when given a little room to be creative.  My students did a wonderful job with their oral presentations and I did everything I could to make it a positive experience for them so that they could start to see public speaking as a fun challenge.  I was so proud of all of them for having the guts to get up and present in a formal way.  I can't show you any of their great speeches, but I can show you their projects, so here it goes!

Green Anaconda- Over 30 feet long!

Giant Anteater- It's amazing what some styrofoam and felt can do!

Orangutan! Clearly mom helped, but super creative nonetheless!

Tarantula- Realistic enough to creep me out!

 Toucan, Capuchin Monkey, Caiman, and Sock Gorilla (I'm just tickled about this one!)

I am a little depressed because some lucky teacher on facebook announced that her last day was Friday.  I still have 3 full weeks left!  Aaack!  But, we've got lots of fun stuff planned for the last few weeks, so hopefully it flies by.  If you are one of the lucky ones who are already finished, quit rubbing it in our faces already! :)

Monday, May 6, 2013

It's Teacher Appreciation Week!

Hey, all my wonderful blog followers!  Just wanted to stop in really quickly to let you know that I will be participating in the Teacher's Appreciation Sale on Tuesday, May 7th and Wednesday, May 8th of this week.  I'm putting EVERYTHING in my shop at 20% off and you can use the special TPT code to get another 10% off those prices, amounting to a whopping grand total of 28% off all your goodies!  Now's the perfect time to clear out that wishlist.  At least, I know that's what I'll be doing! :)  I hope you have a wonderful week and thank you for all you do.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Testing Anxiety

Our state testing begins this week!  This is the first time my kiddos have to take the CBTs (curriculum-based tests) so they're a little anxious about them.  I'm always anxious no matter how experienced my students are just because I know they are prepared, but that doesn't always show up in the results.  What will be nice is this year I'll be able to see the unofficial scores after the kids finish.  Previously, we would get the reports in the fall even though we'd have a whole new group of kids by that time and the scores wouldn't be something we could do anything about anymore.

In order to decrease their anxiety, we've talked a lot about the tests, practiced how to use the computers, and focused on things they could do to be prepared, such as get at least 8 hours of sleep, eat a nutritious breakfast, get to school on time, and try their best.  My school is even doing a little activity the two weeks that we're testing.  The kids fill out a slip every day that asks them if they did the things previously mentioned for that day and they kids earn points.  At the end, the kids will get some kind of reward for trying their best.  We'll see how it works, but it's a good way to get them to think about their effort and preparedness.

I also want them to feel my support over the next two weeks, so I spent my Sunday creating little treats for them to have on their testing days.  Thankfully we only have 4 in 3rd grade (2 days LA, 2 days math).  They'll get some Smarties, Starbursts, Blow Pops, and a little Crunch bar.  I downloaded a super cute freebie from Ginger Snaps on TPT that I attached to each treat as you can see in the pictures below.  I just love awesome sellers like her who offer irresistible freebies.  I really wasn't looking forward to creating my own.  You can get them too by clicking HERE.

I hope your testing goes well.  If you're already done, then consider me jealous!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rainforest Fun

I apologize for being away.  It's been really hectic here and I'm in mourning because spring was here for about a week and now it's snowing.  SNOWING!  I couldn't wait to get some of my container plants going, and now each night my bathtub gets filled with pots so that I don't lose them to the cold temperatures and snow.  On the plus side, the bathroom smells wonderful each morning! :) Our cat, Moxie, is also sad because she likes to lay out on our balcony in the sunshine, but there hasn't been much of that either.

Anywho, we've been studying the rainforest in science class and I've got my kiddos doing a doozy of a project.  They each randomly drew a rainforest animal and are giving an oral report in front of the class.  You should have seen some of their faces when I announced this! They are also creating some kind of representation of their animals at home to present during their reports.  I'm really excited to see what they come up with.  I'll post pictures when they're all finished.

I actually had to do the same project when I was in third grade and I was assigned the three-toed sloth.  I sucked at art and could not figure out how to make a 3D replica of a sloth so I sketched a large picture on paper, cut it out, stapled it to another paper, and stuffed it with Kleenex!  Oh lordy, how awful it was! :)  The awfulness of it will forever be etched into my memory because I was so disappointed with myself.  Hopefully my kiddos will have a different experience.  I'm doing everything I can to help them feel prepared because I know how scary it can be to speak in front of the class.  If anyone's interested in my letter to parents, rubric, or research organizer, let me know and I'll share!

While we're learning about the rainforest, I wanted the kids to make a flip book of its layers.  I envisioned it in my mind and searched TPT for something similar so I wouldn't have to spend my weekend creating one, but alas, that's what I had to do.  I think it turned out really well and we'll be using it in class this week.

You can find it along with an anchor chart and a review worksheet in my TPT shop by clicking HERE.

Cross your fingers that I'll be able to leave my plants outside at night sometime this month!  Hope you all are having better luck with the spring weather.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Cleaning Sale!

It's time for a Spring Cleaning sale! I apologize for not getting the word out sooner, but I've been enjoying my spring break outdoors.  I've got some of my early plants in their containers and they're currently sitting happily in the sunshine.  Celebrate spring's impending arrival with a huge sale at TPT.  Everything in my shop is 20% off today and tomorrow.  I know a ton of other TPT bloggers/sellers who are also participating so now's the time to stock up on those wishlisted items!

Happy spring shopping to the best followers out there! :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013