Thursday, July 25, 2013

Back from Kenya


Varied thoughts, ideas, lessons....

It is important to balance or you might find yourself squished between the branches.
Balancing will be a key this year as I take on new challenges.

Some days are smooth sailing!

 Then you step up and take a look as far as you can see and point out what is right and good. Enjoy the view, see the promise! When you get away from being up close and look from a new perspective....All the fruits can be seen.


Remember some kids come to school needing to protect what little they have.

This is one of my favorites!!! I plan to use it with my class.  This tree has very long roots that are holding on for dear life in spots and stretching out it others.
The plan is to use it to talk about there will be times that you feel that you are on the edge.  With strong/solid support you will get what you need to grow.

Did you know that the gerenuk antelope has legs structured to allow them to stand up tall and eat from small bushes.  The giraffes and elephants eat up high.  Other antelope eat the grasses. They eat the vegetation in the middle. They use what they have to become stronger and nourished.
Each student is unique and has their place within the classroom as well.

These orphans demonstrated how it doesn't matter what has happened, as long as you know
that you have a place where you are loved, you can sing praises.

Well....this one may take an explanation.
This is the hopper plane that delivered my husbands lost bag.  We had to leave Niarobi before the bag could be found. (Didn't leave Chicago...very long story that may
be a great post for my Dance Sing Praise blog.)
The thankful for people who will go out of their way to help you.

ALWAYS, always...have a guide/mentor to show you the ropes and a trusty driver/friend who knows how to miss potholes and get you through mud/rough times!

Some days they will just need to JUMP!!
The youngest cousin (far left) needed the movement.
Many of our students need it also.  Not a 3 minute dance or activity. 
 Just a quick...45 second stretch will do.

Sometimes we need to stop and take a closer look.
 Don't miss the high ability child because that action may instill habits,
 which lead to not working to their potential in the future.
(Do you see two Leopards? Look for white strings.)

Take time to play!

All of our students have parents who just want to protect their child.

Transitions happen.
They can be clean like this transit to downtown Zurich or
cluttered/rushed like we felt on the L in Chicago.
Plan the daily trip through your day with smooth intentional transitions.

Sometimes things don't go as planned. You may not be going anywhere.

Enjoy what surprises may be around the corner on those days!
It was not the plan to be in Zurich for a day.  It happened...we took the time to go downtown.
Youngest in high school German counts this as his favorite part of the trip.
He practiced the language and saw a place he had seen in textbooks.

Sometimes those unexpected events lead to beautiful outcomes.
That is a small portion of what I saw and thought about during my vacation.
New year is dawning....better start getting my...
...ducks, storks, a row!
What have you done this summer? Any lessons? 

Friday, June 21, 2013



This summer one of the tasks on my TO DO LIST is to find games.
I have been scouting out a few garage sales and Goodwill.
Yesterday, I hit the jackpot!!
I found two Chutes and Ladders, Boggle Jr., and another Connect Four.
Connect Four - I have many ideas swimming in my head because of Penterest.
(Check out my Penterest boards , reading, word work & math, to see some of the ideas.)
Chutes and Ladders - This board has soooo many uses.  Just add any set of cards (comprehension questions, flashcards, even use worksheets as the questions).  Student picks a card, gives an answer, and checks answer. If they are correct, spin and move! That simple and FUN way to practice.
Boggle Jr. - I have two ideas. One is to give it to a Kindergarten or first grade class. 
Secondly, using just the cubes, students will roll and see how many words they can make.
Monopoly - This is a special set that I picked up just for the game pieces. 
Fun game pieces can be found on the cheap this way.
(Getting large sets of mini erasers can be used for interesting game pieces as well.  Oriental Trading offer all kinds of little trinkets in large quantities and can be found for themes or holidays.)
My plan is to have a large container filled with different items so they can choose their game pieces.

Think of my surprise as I walked by a bin of binders to see this 5" binder sticking out!
YES!! I am always in need of LARGE binders. 
Upon investigating the bin I found 3 of them!
They have the clear sides so I can make colorful titles. I am in teacher heaven.

What kinds of items are you looking for this summer?
What are you doing with them?
What SURPRISE items have you found and turned into exciting educational items?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What would you do with this spinner?


SOOOO....many ideas floating through my head!

Found in Oriental Trading carnival catalog 2013., I bought this along with one of my teaching partners from last year.  
Here are the ideas I have so far:
lining up...spin for who gets to line up
active learning ... Each team sends up a representative to spin to see which problem 
they will work on first.  Once they complete that answer, they can check with
the teacher or other answer holder.  If it is correct, spin and do the next
problem. If not, team tries again.
points....I give points for doing the right thing.  I imagine having a "secret" behavior
for the week or day and spinning to see how many points it is worth.  Normally,
students earn one point at a time.
review game...the same as the active learning but maybe the students complete
the review problem individually. Then discuss as teams how they
came to their answers.  Great resource, I just downloaded and printed,
are discussion cards that each team can use to help deepen conversations.
multiplication practice... center idea...spin for two numbers then multiply.
coordinate idea...spin two numbers find the plot. 
There were two more ideas...they are now lost somewhere in the grey matter
contained within my cranium. 
Now I want to pick your brains...

Just a quick thought

I was reading through several of my favorite blogs.  The Peanut Gallery came up through another blog I follow.  I have seen this game and even have fly swatters that say "SPLAT" on them just to play it.  Well...we played it once! Why? I don't like games where two kids are at a board and the "team" just sits back and watches. (Engagement???)   BUT as I read the game this time and author mentioned putting the words on a poster board, the light bulb lite up!  Make it part of your Daily 5 routine.  Make it a game/center to practice vocabulary.  YES!!! I could then see three kids in a group sitting around the "SPLAT" board.  Swat is the name I have heard it called but I call it Splat due to my flyswatters. One student would read a card with a definition or sentence containing a blank or synonym of the desired vocabulary word. The reason for the differing "question" cards is to differentiate.  The other two students with swatters in hand search for the vocabulary word.  I am now pumped to use my little used SPLAT swatters. add yet another project to my long "Do Over Summer" list. :)   Thank you Peanut Gallery author (sorry don't know your name) for your inspiration!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Teacher Always Says...

I am trying my first Linky Party!!! WOOO HOOO....

Jumping in.... can I swim?

This party is all about those tidbits that come out of our mouths on a regular basis. 

Here are mine!

 *Ducklings follow around their mommas. I don't like to have students follow me around the room.
* I enjoy questioning the kids so they have to stand up and own their answer. 
 I also expect evidence which leads them to their answers.

*Celebrate GREAT thinking!!

*(SOAPBOX ALERT) My weird way to answer kids who ask for extra credit or if they accidently did extra work.  I don't give extra work for extra credit.  There are times when there may be a extra credit on a test. However, if a student (parent) wants it so they can get a 4 instead of a 3 on the report card, I explain they earn their grades and I expect their best as they go.  The way our school grades are set up (Grading for Learning) an extra credit project would not change the grade enough to make the difference they want anyway.  If they need help on a concept, I will give it
 They want extra practice, they can do it.  Meanwhile, their brain would love them for the workout
and the next time the concept shows up they will do better.
(Normally, those asking for extra credit could have done it correctly the first time.)

Again, I LOVE this one, especially for my higher kiddos.  They think or have learned that as long as they do what will get the good grade, it is acceptable.  They find out quickly. I do not let them give the easy answer .  If I know they can provide deeper answers, I expect them.

* I truly believe in my students.  I wish those who lack self concept could see themselves as I see them.  Every child has talents and gifts to share with the class.

 *Personal responsibility is the basis of this mantra.  Actually, "Whose responsibility is that?" or "Can I learn for you?" would be two other sayings, which come out of my mouth 
fall into this category as well. 
Wow, I didn't realize how many one liners or questions I say almost everyday, all year long!
*I found that  I said this A LOT the last three weeks of school, as if things changed after 170 days.
(The two ways are the dictionary or try three then see me.)

*This is another one of the "take responsibility for your learning" sayings.  I teach (as we all do) that they have the resources or can find them.  I don't let them off the hook.  I am happy to help after they have exhausted those resources. (21st Century Education) I will help
use the resources, as needed.  But will not play into just giving them the answer
 because they asked.
Now it is your turn!
What are your mantras?
How do they demonstrate or exemplify what you want your students to learn or do?
~ Growing brain cells together through daily talk ~

A little Freebie..

I was just printing my new cards for next year's schedule. I decided that I wanted a few extras and decided to share them with my fellow teachers.   Here you go! ENJOY!!!

Winding down....Celebrate good times...COME ON!!

Here is a blog I started 5 weeks ago.... hmmm...well, why not post it anyway!

   I was thinking about this blog the other day.  I have never been a journal writer or "in my day" diary keeper.  So why did I start this thing?  Why am I worried about keeping it going?  It probably has more to do with my convictions of you start it you see it through. 
   This year is coming to an end.  I once again have seen several children walk into my room, and walked with them as we did some very interesting things (they call them crazy).  I have seen these students through from start of the year to these last few days.  As I talked to a couple parents today, I realized that even on these last few days, I cannot just give up on them.  I told one mom that I needed some of them for just another month.  They were on the edge of knowing it or almost to the top of the mountain where the sparkle in their eyes say, "IT CLICKED!!"  I don't have them for another month.  Some of these children have been entrusted to me for two years. 
   No child clicks on any one concept/standard/essential at the same time.  Wouldn't our lives be so much easier if they did!  I can say that the data proves that they have made terrific gains this year.  Math: pre-assessment over 5th grade material....2 out of 20 proficient.  post-17 out of 20.  Cause to celebrate!! I have the same to celebrate with language arts. 
NOTE: I am about ready to send out mid summer letters to my class from last year.  This blog started and not posted reminds me that great things happened this past year.  My prayer is that all my students who are headed off to Hastings Middle School, will find success and continue to be responsible for who they are and what they learn! I believe that is going to be my central theme for this year's summer letter.

Keeping track....

   I have seen colored cups and tickets on desks for how to keep track of students who come and go.  Then I saw on a website and Pinterest that a teacher used magnets on a piece of metal.  She suggested a flat cookie sheet.  LOVED THE IDEA!!!  Students come and go all day.  I am sure it is the same in your room.  I am good at remembering the regularly scheduled places and times.  However, DIBELS testing comes and kids are in and out.  Band lessons rotate every week.  It makes me dizzy! 
   So...I drove right down to the Goodwill (love it for recyclable/reusable items).  Could not find a cookie sheet. :( Did see tv trays.  The ones I bought are smaller than the usual but I thought they were different. Stopped by ACE Hardware to buy spray paint and painters tape.

                                   (Sorry, cannot seem to get it to rotate and stay rotated!)

  Then went to work.  Sketched how I wanted the layout to look.  Taped up the parts I was not going to paint maroon and went to town on spraying.  The maroon did not cover well.  It took several coats but all the others were only one or two coats.  Waiting between coats and between colors is VERY important.  Green was dry to the touch.  However, when the paper was taped down it did not all come back off.

   After all four were painted, I used Sharpies to decorate, divide, and label the parts.  Since the main objective is to know where my students are located, I make various sections for them to place their magnet when leaving the room.

   The pictures no matter how I try are not coming out well.  I hope you get the idea. I plan to use the Command Velcro wall hangers to put them on my wall. My magnets and glue gun are at school which makes it hard to finish this project.  I will be using flat round glass beads used for the bottom of aquariums or vases to write their numbers.  (Each student is given a number which is used for various organizational areas in the classroom.)  Magnets will be hot glued onto the back.  I will then be able to use the glass beads year after year.  
     When I finish this and put it up, I will add an up date.  Maybe with various pictures of this year's classroom set up.  I am going with an extreme sports theme.  Any ideas?  Seen any on the internet?  Love to see what ideas are out there! 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

How did a post about Cleaning up music TURN to rewards systems?

"Clean up, Clean up, everybody do your share...."  

   I have to confess, I use to sing that song regularly in kindergarten.  When I taught kindergarten...I am too old to remember what I did or sang in kindergarten. Now, in the intermediate grades I use music but it is on a cd. I am NOT singing. (Kindergarteners are very forgiving...4th graders not so much!)  However, I do dance in class. (For a future blog)

    A parent was impressed when I turned on a song at the end of a party last year and the kids hit the floor until the song was done.  The magic song...(drum roll in my head)..."Yakity, Yak." Now you know I am old!  Actually, I decided to google it.  It is definitively old! It came out in 1958 by The Coasters.  So, 8 years before me. But it WORKS! They hear "Take out the papers and the trash..." and they know it is time to get the room clean. (I tried linking the album cover to

   Music is used for transitions in the room as well.  Weird Al's early works are amusing for the 4th and 5th graders.  "Just Eat It" before lunch is a favorite.  Maybe it has more to do with lining up for lunch.  All kinds of TV show and cartoon themes are a hit as well.  I used Mission Impossible in kindergarten when cleaning up after math centers or Daily 5.  The para in the room at that time, LOVED it!  I chose that one because there were days that I thought the mission of cleaning up would be impossible, but they always proved me wrong by the end of the clip!

   Lately, I have been looking for great songs to simply play softly in the background that convey positive character traits or uplifting messages.  "Fireworks" is a newly acquired song.  I use many Disney movie songs:  "A Whole New World,"  "Just Around the River Bend,"  "Be Our Guest," and many others.  I just heard one by Brit Nicole about how special "you" are.  I think it is called "Gold."
Some oldies like Bobby Bear's "Daddy What If" convey a message I want them to understand, "There is someone who cares that much."  So many of our children do not hear that enough.

    My husband's sermon last weekend (4/29/13) was centered around the song by Whitney Houston, "Greatest Love of All."  Top hit of my time.  The gist of the sermon was that it is not all about you.  We have moments where we celebrate certain people like graduations and confirmations.  However, for a fulfilled life, it is not about ourselves.  When we are all about loving ourselves, life is not going to be all that it can be.  Houston's song is about loving oneself.   (Okay, I can hear the teachers now...what about have a good self esteem?)  Let me ask, where has giving every child an award for just showing up to the Y athletes gotten us? We have young adults who believe it is just "owed" to them for showing up.  No work needed.  I believe we do a disservice to our students when we do not note and award true growth and effort. Teaching students to work towards rewards who are being trained to change behaviors/social skills is another area when rewards can be used or misused. 
    ....Lets get back on track!  The point I was headed towards before the unexpected right turn is that the sermon made me think about not only instilling positive character traits but also to find songs that will plant a seed of charity to others and building relationships that build up.  I have been on the look out for family values (positive songs about parent and child relationships like Will Smith's rap "Just the Two
  of  Us.") and  music strengthening friendships.  Girls especially need help seeing how to create an atmosphere of cooperation.  The friendship ones are harder to find.  
    It takes time but is worth it. Music can play a major part of your classroom or home.  Every weekend, I woke up to hear classical music.  It soothed and smoothed the mornings. I am sure that was in my mom's plan.  Later in the day, current or 60's music played. It was more upbeat and many times dancing occurred.  I still find myself using dance music to uplift my mood.  Music touches the soul of all.  I encourage you to use it and share your finds especially ones about friendships.  Oh....JUST thought about the Disney movie Fox and Hound.  Need to go google its soundtrack.  Chat later....
PS.  I just found out that Eric Jensen has a book on Amazon all about music for the classroom. Top Tunes for Teaching  Check it out! It is in my cart as I type.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Reuse, recycle, repurpose...lamination ends....

Hi Fabulous Five....(I have decided to give my first faithful five a name.)

Today, we were working on our story problems and I realized I should share our "invisible" sheets with the world.  Or the five that follow at least.... 

   A while back I was frustrated because I teach word problems using Singapore Math.  The best way by far because when the students follow the steps it takes the words out and replaces them with a diagram/bar usually.  Look up Singapore Model Drawing. (This link is to another site that gives a brief explanation.)  The issue is we do not use Singapore Math, we have Saxon.  Therefore, we have wonderful heavy and large textbooks for my kiddos, into which they cannot write. To be successful with Model Drawing, it is VERY helpful to be able to underline and make marks on the problem. 
   I have used slip sleeves sliced on a long side for sliding the textbook page into.  This became an issue every time it had to be moved.  Some could not put it on and off with out big ordeal.  This year I started out using transparencies.  We have several sitting around now that all rooms have projectors and document cameras.  They are nice because they are heavier and perfect size. However, students seem to have an issue keeping them where they can be found again.  I am sure you do not have the issue.  This was becoming a costly endeavor.
   One day while gathering up my laminating job, it came to me....recycle, reuse, repurpose!  There it was, a large sheet of laminating film at the end.  I cut it into thirds and WAALAAA....extra "invisible" sheets! 
    As you can see from the picture above it looks like the students are writing in their textbooks with Expo markers.  Hence, the name invisible sheets.  When used as often as they should be, they do become cloudy.  Not a problem...just go grab a new one out of the bin.  There is always extra laminating.
   Alternative uses:
       Put over printing, cursive or number writing pages to save paper, use in stead of personal white boards (this is done often when a white board is misplaced), use in an anthology to mark passages or indicate where questions popped up, tape to the desk for message center, as a window into a box to watch the chicks....

WHAT ideas can you think of to use the extra laminating film? 

Cannot wait to hear all the great ideas!


Friday, April 19, 2013

Math Vocabulary meets Pantomime

It is nearing the end of the year.  Though you would have thought we were at the end since before 4th quarter started!! Students are needing even MORE active learning to keep engagement at 90% level my district is striving to obtain.  So......

equilateral triangle

Hmmm...forgot which word they were. 
 I just loved laughter and pure fun they were having in
this picture.

What do you think the vocabulary word was for this one?
(think about it... I am sure you can telepathically see me
pointing to my temple as a signal to not respond.)
(think time......)
"1, 2, 3..tell me."
(Again, I am sure you saw the signal for speak!  :) )
YES! Denominator

I have a great group of future pantomimes! They did a terrific job. Only once or twice was it hard to figure out the vocabulary word.
   I am getting to be a proficient teacher of math vocabulary, solid 3. I decided in February after a quick exit ticket activity that we REALLY needed to focus on vocabulary EVERY DAY!  It has been working.  This was just one way we have practiced.  They love to toss the ball to music and review as well and vocabulary bingo.
   Now, I know I cannot open my student's brains and see if they were at 90% engaged when participating as the audience.  However, because of their interactions, I know they were paying attention better than just sitting and listening to me!  I would have been marked high for engagement when the groups were deciding what to do with their vocabulary word.  I would have dropped fast when they were watching as a whole group.  If you want to keep the "score" for engagement high, have your students pair with another group and show just them.  The "audience" would then be actively guessing together.  The groups would keep moving around the room until they have done their pantomime for everyone.

   Have fun building vocabulary connections inside your student's brains!