Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunshine Radiating from California!

It was 85 degrees in California today... so it seems appropriate to be sending the Sunshine Award back out into the BlogWorld.

I am honored to have received this Award from:

These are all blogs that I love, so I felt so SUNSHINEY inside to see my name on their list too! Thanks, Pals!  Your blogs inspire me daily!

Here's the truth:  I have become quite attached to my BlogFriends! (Don't tell my "local" friends, but I have "postponed" (didn't seem nice to say "avoided" ) them more than once to chat and "listen" to you!)

So here are the answers to the requisite questions...

Favorite color: Purple (a healing color for me--physically or emotionally, purple often sets things right in my world. My classroom has plenty of purple. I even have purple shoes!)

Favorite animal: Sloth. Not kidding. My second favorite animal is a manatee. Notice a trend... Slow moving, kinda chubby, blissfully unaware... oh, OOPS, I forgot I was describing an animal...

Favorite number: 17  I started teaching in Room 17. Now I teach in B17. At least I don't get lost (At school. I am OFTEN lost everywhere else I go)

Favorite drinks: VentiMochaNoWhip at Starbucks. I say it as one word. But I really do WANT whip. (See answer to the question about favorite animal for rationale...)

Facebook or Twitter: I can barely answer my cell phone. Sometimes I need help from my kids to work the technology in my classroom. I've tried both. I'd rather eat ice cream.

My passion: Trying to invent new ways to motivate and teach sixth graders who don't always want to learn. I keep thinking that  I will read enough, buy enough, find enough ideas (Thank you, Blog Friends!) to figure out the secret. I think I need to add blogging to my passion list too, because it makes me soooooo HAPPY!

Giving or receiving: Giving. Definitely. I feel awkward getting things. I'm always grateful, but I'm so graceless (and tardy) in expressing it. Giving is MUCH easier for me.

Favorite day: Saturdays. AHHHHHHHHH. Sleeping in. Big breakfasts. Extra coffee. No deadlines.   DARN! I'm writing this on a MONDAY!  BIG Sigh.

Now the nominating. This is difficult because the award has been passed around a few times. First, I would give it back to those who passed it on to me! (See paragraph two for some great places to visit!  LINK UP!)

Then I would add... in no particular order...
1. A Teeny Tiny Teacher (Always makes me laugh. A LOT. Anyone else want to bribe Kristin to come teach at YOUR school?! I'll start the bidding...)

2.  Oh Boy Fourth Grade (She cracks me up too! Completely original, that girl! Farley and Kristen together? We would need medical help from that much laughter! My sides hurt thinking of the possibilities)

3. Runde's Room (One of the first blogs I ever read! And the first person to link me to Pinterest! YAY, Jen! I have borrowed charts, art, AND math ideas from you!)

4. Sixth Grade Scott Foresman Reading Street Resources (Another of my first-ever-read blogs! So glad you're back, Shannon!)

5. Cardigans and Curriculum (Dear Casey appreciates social studies like Jen Runde and I do! Great site!)

6. Teaching My Friends (This blog is terrific. I keep having to print the posts because there is so much information. Soooo Organized. So inspiring!)

7. Life in 4B. (Miss Bongers teaches fourth graders... but my sixth graders would be so lucky to have her stop by! I love to see those little papers taped in the notebooks--along with the great stuff that always follows!)

8. Miss Klohn's Classroom (So excited that another 6th grade teacher knows how I feel!  Check out Katie's colorful library and her new blog look!)

9.  Fourth Grade Frolics (Tara writes from her heart--Just like Barbara from the Corner!  A sweet blogger with a new blog look--and it's partly purple!)

10.Multi-Grade Matters: Ideas for a Split Grade (I continue to great wonderful math ideas here.  Lots of interesting posts from Deborah!)

The sun is setting here, but it's still warm.  Sending warm thoughts to anyone who made it to the bottom of this post (and to those who made it partway too!)

Now... it's time for me to link up with some blogs to help me fill in the rest of my plan book for tomorrow!   JOY!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Messy Potatoes = Mesopotamia

And you thought this was going to be a post about the Thanksgiving side dish, right?

Alas, no. This entry is for all of the (okay, maybe the FOUR) people who will ever read this who happen to teach sixth grade social studies.

Poor social studies. The forgotten, unloved cousin of curriculum. The only-if-you-have time subject...

Many administrators believe social studies can be summarized in a few texts to be taught quickly during the literacy block.  Some of my colleagues don't teach social studies at all.  I happen to believe that social studies is important. As evidenced by the number of children who count Texas, Mexico, and even Orlando as CONTINENTS, I am concerned that this generation will grow up culturally illiterate if someone doesn't stop and say: Wait! social studies DOES matter!

Learning about the past helps us better understand our lives today (Sorry, Santayana, your quote has been mangled beyond recognition). If nothing else, social studies helps you locate yourself on a map!

ANYWAY... we are studying Mesopotamia in sixth grade (often neglected because it lacks the glitz and bling that ancient Egypt offers).  Mesopotamia provided many things to the civilizations that followed... including (many believe) the wheel, a code of written laws, an early type of plow, even one of the first Super Heroes (gotta love Gilgamesh!).

So if you are one of those four people that have the JOY of teaching Mesopotamia, I have provided a little song for you... sung to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat...

An ancient civilization was born
In Mesopotamia!

And if you want to learn all of the verses, click on the link here:  The Mesopotamia Song

And, since many sixth graders begin our study thinking that I AM saying Messy Potatoes, it's okay to have a little respect for the spud.  Much like my beloved Mesopotamia, potatoes have been playing second fiddle to the turkey for a very long time.  I personally adore potatoes above all of the other feast day dishes... but then again, I'm the one who is blogging about Mesopotamia!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Doubly Thankful... TWO Linky Parties!

Yippee Skippee! (Oh, SpellCheck hates me already!)
TWO blogs are having Linky Parties!

And so I get to feel DOUBLY thankful in the same post!

What the Teacher Wants is having their first ever Linky Party... It's a chance to share what you're thankful for!

And, concurrently, Oh Boy Fourth Grade is having a Linky Party too!  ... It's another chance to share what you're thankful for--and to share a recipe too!


1. What are you thankful for in your classroom?
I'm thankful for my kids!  Sixth graders can be frustrating and exhausting. but they can also be funny and precious!  They are old enough to be "big kids" and young enough to be, still, "kids"!  Often, they amaze me with their determination and their desire to do the right thing.  They are at their BEST when they are mentoring their KinderBuddies--and when trying to find my keys, glasses, and lost papers.  And they bring me sweet, funny gifts.  ("I brought you half of my cookie from lunch, in case you were hungry....")

2. What person are you most thankful for?
I am most thankful for my H.E. (husband-equivalent).  He keeps me grounded, brings me Starbucks, lugs things to and from my classroom, works at sixth grade events, grades papers, and fixes things I break.  He lets me know when I am "out-of-control" and then brings me back to reality.  And he doesn't comment on the number of charges to Amazon, TpT, Teachers Notebook, Target or WalMart.

3. What 3 blogs are you most thankful for?
I could answer this question better if it asked for TWENTY three!  I always stop by Runde's Room (Great lessons),  The Corner on Character (Always inspiring) and Teeny Tiny Teacher (Can't stop laughing)--and I can get to all three (and more!) on TBA

4. What guilty pleasure are you most thankful for?
I cannot live without Starbucks.  Several locations know me by "Venti No Whip Mocha," even if they do not also know my name.
I also LOVE television.  There are few TV references that I do not know--even those involving commercials and those made by sixth graders.  Recently, a parent had a cell phone ring tone that matched the sound on "Law and Order."  Even though I was at school, I was reflexively reaching for the remote to turn it up.

5. What are you most thankful for?
At this very moment, I am thankful for TIME.  We have a week off  (sorry, so sorry that everyone doesn't have this same luxury) and I am just ENJOYING the time to... actually, the time to NOT do school work.  Time is such a gift--especially to teachers who have so little of it!

Well, thankfully, that's the end of my lengthy reflection.  It's raining--as it is EVERY time Farley has a Linky Party, and the sound is calming.  I have my mocha nearby, my H.E. brought me cheesecake, I just one-clicked a book on Amazon and I am alternating between THREE channels on TV.

Life is GOOD!  And I am thankful.

Now it's your turn... Link up and share what YOU'RE thankful for...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Conferences Are (Almost) History!

I am finding it difficult not to use the words "survived" and "conferences" in the same sentence!

It was a wild week! I completed 31 conferences--and I have two more families who need to reschedule. There were some days when I had to look carefully to make sure I was talking about the right kid!

My conferences include the student along with the parent/grandparent/guardian. I begin by asking the student if they have any comments, questions or concerns. This may elicit responses from "I don't like sitting next to Ben" or "I am having trouble with algebra" to "Are we having any field trips this year?" Then I pose the same question to the parent.  The responses here are numerous!

Next I review test scores and other work samples as we go through the report card. Our report cards are called SBRC (Standards-Based Report Cards) because students are graded in reference the standards. They are three pages long!

After we complete the work sample/SBRC review, students give an oral presentation summarizing their progress. They begin this process a week before the conference by writing responses to four prompts.
  • The subject I am best at/most successful...
  • The subject I need help with/need more practice...
  • My classroom behavior...
  • My favorite thing about sixth grade...

    Students select five key words that will spark the thoughts to deliver the content and write them on an index card.. For example: best, algebra, variables, challenging, brain... "The subject I am best at is algebra. I like solving for variables in equations. I particularly like the challenging problems because they make me use my brain."   

    We use the "Look, Think, Hide, Share" strategy...  Look at the words, Think about your response, Hide your card, Share your response.  The students stand in front of their parent and deliver their presentation.  After they share, they ask, "Are there any questions?"  Sweet!  There were a few giggles at the outset, but most of the students did really well and the parents were impressed to see their kids speaking so... eloquently.

    The kids' responses are my favorite part of the conferences.  It leaves me feeling positive and proud of them.  They look pleased that they have completed their presentation, and I often need to shoo them out the door because the next family is waiting for their turn.

    I'm glad that conferences are over.  I have plenty of information to restructure my teaching and to try, once again, to meet the diverse needs of the kids who walk through the door each day.  And, once February arrives, we have a chance to do it all again!

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    The Red Cup

    Two weeks ago, I went to Walmart for Halloween pencils. Just around the corner were some red and green items... but I couldn't look.
    It's wasn't time yet.

    Last weekend, I went to Target to pick up candy for trick-or-treaters. In the next aisle over something silver and sparkly was within view... but I couldn't look.
    It's wasn't time yet.

    Yesterday I stopped by CostCo to pick up something for dinner. I could see giant reindeer and other lighted items peeking at me from above... but I couldn't look.
    It's wasn't time yet.

    And then today I went to Starbucks. Without ceremony or fanfare, the barista handed me my drink. Ahhhh.

    And there is was.

                      The red cup.

    It was time.

    Just holding that cup made me feel warm and cheery inside, despite the rain outside. Equally comforting were the words on the cup, "When we're together, I know I'll never fail."

    That's how it is with teachers. It is so easy to feel alone, even in a big school, because so often we think we are the only ones who are feeling frustrated, self-doubting, or disappointed.

    But together, as Bloggers, we are a community. Even though we probably wouldn't recognize each other in Starbucks, we DO have each other.  We celebrate, encourage, commend and inspire each other.  We help each other get on and stay on the path to success (and pick each other up when we stumble along the way).

    This is the season of love and peace and thanksgiving.  Thank you for what you have given me.  Thank you for what you have given each other.

    So, grab a red cup... and celebrate this wonderful season.

    It's time!

    PS  Recently, I was offered a really-can't-believe-it opportunity.  Check out my post here...

    This was my first-ever TBA post.
    Consequently, it will always be my favorite.
    Happy Birthday, TBA!

    Thanks for celebrating TBA's Birthday with us!
    Here's the link to get back...

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    The Week Ending November 4th: Another Quick Cut-and Go-Activity

    Yippee! Clutter-Free Classroom's Peek in my Planbook is back!  (Thanks, CFC!)

    This week flew by!  Seems like we spent a lot of time getting ready for testing, taking "bubble tests" or talking about the results of the tests!

    In our quest to make practice and remediation a little more fun, we played several math games to review skills.

    Here's another example of a "quick and easy" math game... Just print on cardstock, cut and play!  (In fact, several of my students often offer to cut out the cards with scissors... it turns recess into a updated version of an old-fashioned quilting bee!)

    One concept that some of my students struggle with is moving between "systems."  Many of my students tend to see factions, decimals and percents as separate entities.  It seems like I am constantly reminding them, "Same amount, different way of expressing it."  I try to prompt them to look for other ways to say/write a quantity if it makes it easier (or "more comfortable") to solve problems.

    For extra practice or warm-up for kids who are struggling with this concept, we play "Equivalent Concentration."  This helps the kids "see" the same amount written in different ways--and pairs can be made in different combinations.  All cards are turned face down and the kids take turns turning over two cards in an attempt to find a match. The one difference (rule-wise) between this practice and "the regular Concentration game" is that you don't get an extra turn if you get a match.  Players just take turns trying to find pairs.

    It just takes a few minutes to play, but it gets students ready to convert quantities more comfortably (and more quickly) when solving word problems.   Add a stopwatch (for players who are ready) to increase the challenge!

    I know, I know... It's hardly spectacular.  But it is just enough practice to stick!  Besides colored cardstock and my paper cutter always make my heart happy.  I have several levels, including eighths, tenths and thirds, but GoogleDocs is not always my friend, so this version is the most basic variety.  Besides, this way, my third, fourth or fifth grade friends might be able use this too!

    I can make a dandy fall festival flyer with cats, pumpkins and mummies, but trying to get a "shaded one-half" graphic centered in a GoogleDocs table cell almost made me crazy.  I have SO much admiration for my BloggingColleagues who make those adorable items day after day.  Thankfully, my "big" kids are used to plain and simple materials!

    I am wishing you a warm and happy November--Gotta love a month that has TWO no-school holidays!

    Don't forget to link back to the party Clutter-Free Classroom's Peek in My Planbook!

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    Currently... November! A Linky Party to Join...

    Join November's Currently Linky Party hosted by Oh' Boy 4th Grade!
    Her design for November is lovely!

    So here's what's happening at the party in my head:

    Now it's your turn to join the fun!
    Link back to the party at Oh Boy Fourth Grade and get the template...
    Then share what's going on in your life!
    While you're there, read a couple of Farley's older posts. That girl is SO funny. And she's got some great freebies too!

    Happy November!