Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Currently (Barely) The End Of December

This has become a bad habit... Posting my "Currently" on the last day of the month is a bit of an oxymoron. Hmmmm. I'm not sure if I have ever used that word in a sentence that wasn't on a task card, a worksheet or a white board!

Love these cute frames/fonts from Jen Jones HERE on TpT

There are just a few more hours in December... and in 2013. In some ways, it doesn't feel like December. It is supposed to be close to eighty degrees outside all week! Normally I would love this weather... but a little chill in the air would certainly help make the Christmas season last a little longer...

However, the sense of "vacation" is obvious! I got up late (Well, 6:00 is late for me!) and we went out to breakfast--on a Tuesday! Now it is noon, there is football on TV and I am happily pounding away on the computer. And it's still a Tuesday! Time is moving gloriously slowly!

The tree is still up. It is a beautiful tree. I am not ready to refer to it in past tense yet. It still smells good and most of the needles are still on the tree instead of on the floor. There are lots of JOY ornaments and heart ornaments and purple ornaments and Starbucks ornaments... and it just makes me happy!

Here's a picture of my tree... and the JOY cup from Barbara Gruener (from The Corner on Character). She is a real JOY-bringer! If you don't know her, you have to go over and meet her right away. In fact, if you click the picture, you can read a post she wrote about JOY. Yep, she's a true buddy!


At the moment, I don't feel any immediate stress... but it is there... lurking behind a brain cell. I just keep trying to hurry away before it grabs me!

There were MANY things I wanted to accomplish during my time away from school. Most of them will likely remain on my To Do list. I have a bad habit of working on the things I like to do. It's not like I really NEEDED to revamp four sets of fraction task cards, but I had fun doing it. And I made the whole week of Morning Welcome pages for my "smart board" (We actually have Promethean, but that always looks weird when I type it--like I am trying to talk about mythology when that is not the topic I am addressing!). I love to match the background paper to the action buttons on my morning greetings. And it IS necessary to have those pages ready for next week--just not necessary to spend a few hours trying to make them look pretty when it should take less than forty-five minutes to get them all done! Still, I had fun!

Of course, I haven't graded the pile of papers that I brought home. I don't know where we are going next in Readers' Workshop. And I can't bring myself to write that lesson plan on the lithosphere--or was it the hydrosphere?--for earth science. Yawn. Sorry! Maybe a trip to Starbucks will help? (Doesn't a trip to Starbucks always help?)

So that's it for Currently... Which will shortly be "Previously." Once again, I am the last one on the block to link up!

But that's okay. I'm sure Farley will have the January Currently up before the clock strikes midnight--or soon afterward. So I will tell you just a bit in advance (and, likely a few times in January as well!): Happy New Year! See you in the NEXT Currently link up!


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy JOY-Filled Day!

Season's Greetings! Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy Wednesday!
Whatever it is that you are doing today, I hope that it is a day filled with JOY!

Hang on... the turkey is burning... REALLY!
Be right back!

Okay. Crisis averted... at least temporarily! Anyone who knows me knows that I DON'T cook. I have no idea what possessed me to try to make Christmas dinner. The smoke coming from the kitchen should have been my first clue that this was not my best idea. Oh well. Guess it was the JOY of the season...

Speaking of JOY, don't you love Krista Lyn's graphics? Everything she designs always makes me smile. I will tell you that you can click on the link to get to these very elves, but I am sure, unlike me, you are probably already thinking ahead to New Year's celebrations or even Valentine's Day! No, not me. I am perpetually behind... In fact, I linked up with a fun holiday questionnaire with just THREE minutes to spare! THREE minutes! Whew! Just in the NICK of time! (heeheehee... Just a little Santa humor)

Be right back. Checking on the turkey again...

Okay. The turkey is still oddly beige. (It was the oven that was smoking when I was first alerted!)
So here's the questionnaire from Fabulous in First. I think I was the last "linker," but there are lots of wonderful bloggers who shared wonderful thoughts and reflections. Click and see what other thoughts of "sugar plums" (etc.) were nestled inside bloggers' heads...


Hot Chocolate or Eggnog? 
Ohhhh. I love all things chocolate. My favorite Starbucks drink is actually MOCHA... which translates (in Italian?) to hot chocolate with coffee poured in. I've had egg nog. It' a bit too egg-noggy for me (I don't even like eggs!). But I must admit I liked it better when it was served to me with "accouterments," if you know what I mean...

Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them underneath the tree? 
We are big "wrappers" in my family. I think wrapping is like a special geometry Christmas gift. I just LOVE when all of the edges match just perfectly. We drive a few hours to celebrate with family, so I gave up on ribbons a while back. But I do love wrapping presents ... probably even more than purchasing them!
And reflecting on my childhood, we come from a long line of wrappers. Santa ALWAYS wrapped the gifts unless the present was too large--see the mention below of one of my favorite Christmas gifts...
Real tree or fake? 
Growing up, my mom was into these really "avant garde" trees. Like a white flocked tree with black bulbs with gold glitter (It WAS the fifties and sixties... but it was still odd, even in my own neighborhood!) I also remember some giant rotating four-colored contraption that "colored" the tree while it was illuminated from two large "spotlights" clipped to the curtain rod above (Isn't it funny what stays in your head in for fifty years?!) One year I asked for nothing for Christmas but a real tree... and I never looked back... (Neither did the rest of my family!)

Colored lights or white?
At this minute, we have colored lights on our tree. LOTS of colored lights!  Happy. Happy. Happy. I have learned, however, that it is possible to incur eye/nose/facial impalement by just by breathing in a giant breath of Christmas goodness! How about that giant sparkly star on top? (See below!)

When do you decorate? 
Oh, how I would love to say Thanksgiving. In all honesty... I decorated four days ago. Honest truth: Four days ago, I started cleaning, decorating, purchasing, and wrapping. In fact, decorating (etc.) almost always coincides with getting out of school. Except last year. Last year, we had nine people for dinner at Thanksgiving. That was the first (only?) year I was decorated for Christmas before December!
What Tops Your Tree?
An over-the-top, crazily illuminated Christmas star. It was an angel for many years, but we inherited this star somewhere along the way and it is simply a familiar part of the whole tree-trimming process.

Favorite Christmas Memories or Traditions?
We have always celebrated Christmas eve. I loved having my family all together in one place. I only have one sister, so we are not a huge family. My "Grandma Sunshine" lived with us for a while when she was in her seventies or eighties and I have fond memories of my nephew carrying her into the house (She adored him!). I have had various friends join us along the way... but now my good buddy and her daughter have been joining us for almost twenty-five years. My "little nephew" is now a daddy with a sweet wife and two adorable littles.

For the past FOREVER, I have always been the one to pass out the presents. It is a calculated process to make sure that presents are distributed equitably and that the timing is critical. Kids can only wait so long, and you never want anyone-even grandparents--to feel forgotten. I try and keep a close eye on what lies ahead so I can space things out. It's kind of like being one of Santa's elves... with a good dose of management and product distribution thrown in!

FINALLY, my great nephew (yes, I am one hundred years old!) is old enough to read the tags and pass things out. Time to pass the torch...
Do you remember your favorite gift as a child? 
One year I wanted a "kitchen set." It was only made out of cardboard, but it was my greatest wish. At one point on Christmas eve, my dad convinced me that he heard sleigh bells. Then he suggested that perhaps Santa had dropped something off in the attic. And. There. It. Was.  We never had much money and it never mattered to me that my beloved kitchen was cardboard. I thought it was the BEST kitchen set on the planet. There was a refrigerator and a stove and a cupboard with a (pretend) sink. I was so excited, I sat down on the steps and cried. And I still remember how breath-takingly happy that moment was!

Do prefer giving or receiving? 
I love trying to find the perfect gift for each person I am shopping for. That is a little easier with computer access... but I still love finding the item that will just tickle the recipient. And, for the record, I am more-than-a-little uncomfortable opening presents in front of people. I always worry I won't have the reaction they were hoping for (even when I am truly delighted). I never open presents from my students at school. I just tell them I will enjoy them all on Christmas morning. And I do!

What is your favorite Christmas song? 
I like "contemporary" songs like "Mary Did You Know?" and "Joyful, Joyful" and I love almost all traditional carols. My "favorite" song changes from year to year... This year I have been taken with David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing "Little Drummer Boy"... (Remember I AM a hundred...)

I included a link below. Sorry you always have to watch an ad first!

Candy Canes. Yuck or Yum? 
Ummmm. I like chocolate. Sorry candy cane lovers. I like Junior Mints. Does that count?

Favorite Christmas Movie? 
I just watched King of Kings... I sobbed through it. 

Do you shop online or at stores?
I hesitate to go into malls. I am afraid of so many people in one place! I do a lot of shopping online, but I do make a list of what I need at the mall and I approach this task very systematically. I have to know what I am looking for. It is just too nerve-wracking to "browse" in a crowd. Unless I go very early in the morning or late at night... Then I can do a little more "looking." I could kiss my family members each year for giving me a list to provide some shopping guidance!

Photo Cards, Letter or Store Bought Card? 
I just LOVE when I get cards from the brave people who still send them! Does that answer the question adequately? The last time I sent "real cards" (besides those attached to the gifts I give at school) was... uuummmm... I am guessing at least twenty years ago! If it takes me four days to get a blog post together, it would take me years to do all of the thinking for cards.

I think I am late for getting the mashed potatoes going. Sorry for the elaborate commentary. There is a lot of time to fill while you are watching a turkey! Whatever you do today, I hope your day is wonderful and filled with JOY! 

Saturday, November 30, 2013


First (and most importantly), HAPPY Thanksgiving One Day Late! 

I hope your day was happy... and filled with friends and family and lots of JOY! I love this pumpkin-pie-eating buddy from Pink Cat Studio. Click on the turkey to take you to the collection on TpT... It's actually a fraction set. Neat-O!

Next, if I hurry, I can hit "Publish" while it is still NOVEMBER! And then I can link up with sweet Farley for the DECEMBER Currently tomorrow! (Or, knowing me, some day in December...)


As I type, the washing machine is humming away--filled with clothes from a spur-of-the moment adventure. With little advance planning, we decided to do some traveling and spend Thanksgiving with our "extended family" in San Francisco. We got up at four in the morning on Thursday and drove eight hours northward (Is that a word?!). A few hours later, we sat down to enjoy dinner with twenty friends and family!

The next morning, I was in Starbucks by 5:00, happily sorting and grading papers and sipping my current fav: a mocha macchiato (keep the vanilla, hold the foam!). I got so much accomplished, and it was just... BLISSFUL!

By noon we were in downtown San Francisco... half of the group went ice skating while the other half went shopping (Shouldn't take you more than three seconds to know which group I was in... Hint: Shopping doesn't require skates!) Then there was eating and sight-seeing and general merriment... followed by left-overs and more visitors.

This morning, we were out the door by 5:00, and eight hours later, we were home again. A whirlwind event--but a fun one--especially since I didn't have to do any of the driving. I spent my time napping, singing (off-key), grading a few papers and trying to use my iPad without feeling carsick. I couldn't read or type very well, but I did polish off a few rounds of Sudoku. (I know, I know, such an old-school choice, but I once read that games might help keep my old brain semi-functional--and Sudoku and Tetris are the only ones I can play for more than five minutes without giving up!)

Since vacation started, I have been planning some fraction lessons for my sixth graders. We went backwards to go forwards... and are looking at fractions in many contexts. Teaching fractions conceptually is so hard when students THINK they already know what they are doing. They have bits and pieces of "steps," but no concrete understanding of how or why. I'm actually having fun inventing lessons "from the beginning." I'm anxious to see if we make any progress... And I have my fingers crossed that we do!

I have my day planned out for tomorrow to finish up some loose ends for Monday. I hate loathe arriving at school with  parts of the day incomplete. Those are the days when the copy machine is broken or you can only find eight dice when you need nine. I want this week to run smoothly. I've got a formal observation coming up on Thursday, so I want the kids to believe that our days always run like clockwork. Do you think they can forget some of the chaos from the last three months? My To Do list is well into the second page, so I will have to be efficient. I'm sensing at least one visit to Starbucks will be necessary to see me through!

This month's (soon to be LAST month's!) Currently asked for something delicious... How can you look at this picture without drooling? It is doubtful that I will ever make this cheesecake. But I would be more than happy to buy it--and tomorrow would be soon enough! Click on the picture if you want to do some chocolatey baking! And let me know if you feel like sharing...


Of course I am leaving a link to Farley's... but it will only get you back to November's link-up. It's been all crickets there for a while. But, by tomorrow, the race will be on! Will YOU be in the top 100? For the record, I am #301 for November, so it's likely you will be posting your link before I do. That's okay... There are THIRTY ONE days in December. We've got lots of time!


Happy November (for one hour and fifty one more minutes) and JOYful wishes for December too!

P.S. In case you missed the link, check out all of the cute clip art and other good things available from Pink Cat Studio...

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Post that Went Unposted!

Happy. Happy. Happy. I am so happy to be blogging again!

And I was touched (and honored) to find such SWEET comments from such wonderful BloggyBuddies! Thanks, Pals! You made my heart happy!

Melonheadz BFF bundle HERE on Tpt

Ahhhhhh. Don't you just love a No-School Monday?! I have just enjoyed the TIME! It's been a productive weekend-plus-a-day. I checked in and/or graded EVER last paper from first semester. And I am almost finished filing the papers that will be part of the students' conference portfolios.

I am so lucky to have a friend who comes in and helps me sort, file and grade once a week. She retired after teaching for forty (!) years and still comes faithfully to school each week--even though she lives an hour away. What would teachers do with their friends? (And what would I do without Melonheadz clip art?!)

Tomorrow when I go back to school and my house will look quite different. Why? Because I will be able to see the carpet! I finally moved the back-to-school boxes back into the garage. It's so much easier to walk through the living room when you are not tripping over bins of spiral notebooks, packages of colored paper, and boxes (and boxes!) of books and teaching materials. Yes, I know it's November, not September, but I am celebrating "task completion" rather than lamenting the speed of my success. I just walked in circles in the empty space, saying YIPPEE! Thankfully the blinds were closed. Alas, my neighbors already know I am a little nutty!

This is going to be an odd week. Monday will be a Tuesday (and all day I will be asking: "What day is today?") Then on Wednesday, my students are going to an all-day Environmental Awareness activity while I spend the day in a meeting about "school improvement." And Thursday I will be in Portland, listening to Laura Robb talk about "Smart Writing: Meeting Common Core Standards for Middle School Writers." I am sooooo excited!


An update is in order.
It's FRIDAY and I never posted these sentiments!
Better late than never?

AND... Here's another cool thing...
My friend Mg is having a FABULOUS giveaway... Hop right on over and check out the cool offerings! It could be your lucky day! Just click on that sweet button below to get there!


 I hope that you will check back tomorrow when I share about Laura Robb's workshop. It was such an inspirational day! I can't wait to get back to my classroom to try out some new strategies!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Running Away and Coming Back to Blogging...

One of my friends told a story about running away from home when she was a little girl... all the way to the front yard where she set up her sleeping bag, her pillow, her stuffed animals and some snacks. That was simply as far away as she was willing to go!

Bunny Source and Everything Else Source
The story has been a bit like that with me and blogging recently. My heart was here, but the rest of me was all tangled up in the business called School. After that... well, I just didn't know how to come back.

And then I found this adorable rabbit clip art, and I remembered Emmy's story, and I decided that it was better to jump in and get going again. Maybe I should have found some parachuting clip art instead...

It's really not all that great of an analogy anyway, because I wasn't really "running away" from blogging. It's more like school was stealing or kidnapping my time. But that clip art collection would have been much scarier. And I'm actually rather scared of scary things. So I'm sticking with the rabbit.

This year has been... ummmm... complicated. I can think of lots of other adjectives, but "complicated" seems to sum up a range of feelings. And, just like I said during the summer, I am STILL blaming Common Core--because some of the "complicatedness" falls on their shoulders (whoever "they" may really be!). Reconciling "rigor" with "reality" is not always easy.

I'm not giving up on either of those, but a peek into a part of our day may give you an idea of the paradox.

At this point, we are about five chapters behind in math. But only if you look at the "old" textbook. In the "new version" of math, the scenario is probably much worse. However, since we don't have any new materials and we have had very little training in how to implement Common Core math, I decided that the pacing guide would have to wait. You know why? Because most of my students do not have a solid understanding of fractions. In my little brain, I believe that fractions should be taught before decimals. (It's that wholes-and-parts thing, you know?) So we are doing things out of order, out of the pacing guide, and at this point, out of the curriculum.

What led me to this decision? Some very interesting assessment data.  Here are two examples... (I tried to re-create them on the computer to protect the innocent...)

Draw and color 1/6 of the circle...


Which is greater 1/3 or 3/4. Explain your answer, using a picture to support your reasoning...

One third is biger than three fourths cause its in the picher.

It's obvious that we have a lot of work ahead of us. But these kids are in a difficult situation. Some have had up to seven substitutes in the past two years. And some have just gotten lost along the way. It's not their fault. And I don't have all (or many) of the answers. But time is precious. And now that I know where we truly stand, we are moving forward. 

And I'm not really blaming Common Core--or giving up on it either. I'm just slowing down and focusing on kids AND standards--not just on standards.

I do have eight kids (out of 32) who have LOTS of skills. It is an added challenge to keep them interested and moving forward, but it is fun and I just consider it an odd version of a "combination grade." There are also some kids in our classroom with different struggles and challenges. This group is coming together in being patient and supporting each other when necessary. Further, my students have shown an enormous interest in our friends in the room across the sidewalk... all of whom have disabilities such as autism. My heart is warmed daily as they find creative ways to interact during recess or to be helpful when the teacher needs assistance or to be quick-footed when one of the students has temporarily left the area.

Sigh.  For all of the challenges that face us, those successes are far more important in the bigger picture!

So, that's where I've been. I don't know why that first step back was such a big one. (Maybe it's because I have such big feet?!)
Tennis shoes from HERE
I do adore being a part of the BlogLand community and I am thankful to be able to learn from such a dynamic group of teachers (and a wonderful counselor-friend too!). 

So... I will try to do a better job of blogging, and visiting blogs, and leaving a comment here and there. And I hope that you know that my heart was always here--even when my keyboard wasn't.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Currently... October!

Hello October!

background paper by Scrappin Doodles HERE... font by Amy Alvis HERE

I love any month that has a holiday that fills my grocery store shelves with CHOCOLATE (It's my favorite food group!)

My year is flying by... yet it seems like it is taking a long time to get into the swing of things. I feel like I repeat the same directions twelve times, only to have someone raise his hand and say, "What are we supposed to do?" At the same time, there are those sweeties who have followed the directions, organized the supply box, politely asked his tablemates to be quiet, organized his tablemates' belongings, smiled apologetically again, only to give up and whisper loudly, "I think she's waiting for you..." Sigh. I just need more patience. A lot more patience. Another truckload or two would be good!

I think it would be easier if there was at least one holiday between the beginning of school and the end of October. Just one. Seems like a small request, doesn't it? After all, a week plus one day off in November is a delight. But... Couldn't we switch just one of those days to October?

As for a trick: I've got nothing, really... Except I did learn something accidentally the other day. I was softly humming a song (from this decade!) while waiting for the kids to line up. One of my students looked at me in astonishment and said, "How do you know that song? You're so old!" To which I replied, "I'm pretty sure my TV gets a lot of the same channels that yours does..." I think he's still trying to figure out exactly what that meant... but I did see him point at me and whisper to a buddy right after that. I pretended not to notice--but it was hard to keep from smiling!

Now, you know what to do! Head to Farley's and share the love. She gives us twelve opportunities each year just to look after each other and share some smiles...

I hope that your October is filled with plenty of patience--and plenty of chocolate too!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Whhheeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwww! The Year is Underway!

Okay... I admit: I'm not sure how to spell that sound that a tired teacher makes at the end of the first three weeks. I think the fractional equivalent is one-fourth excitement and three-fourths exhaustion.

At least I am doing better than last year! My woes at the beginning of the previous year were such that I had to disappear from cyber-space for almost two months just to catch my breath. Perhaps I have finally become immune to drama...

We are required to post our numbers on the board so that the principal can submit the numbers to the central office to allow them to redistribute staff as necessary. My enrollment seemed to change almost daily. One student changed classrooms on the second day, another moved after five days, another student arrived and departed within two days, and, starting Monday, another of my students has transferred to a private school! I think I will have thirty-three sixth graders this years. Or thirty-two. Or thirty-four...

Add to that a student who went on vacation for a week, followed by a sore throat virus and a fast case of stomach flu that moved from table group to table group sending them home (or at least to the office) in a steady stream. My most commonly used sentence frame seems to be "Is that the day you weren't here?" I spend a lot of time trying to picture the calendar in my head!

All that aside, things have gone gone fairly well.  Most of our routines are in place, Much of schedule has been cemented, and the kids seems to know when to be where and what to do when they get there!

This group is incredibly diverse. "Differentiation" will be the key word as I try to plan this year, and I keep wishing I could tutor every day after school for those who are so far below grade level. I am formulating a plan to support my strugglers, knowing in my heart that I am just one person and that there will never be enough time or materials. At times like this, I have to remind myself to delight in all progress, no matter how small...

The week ahead is filled with... adventures! 

In California, we have a yearly visit to show that we are in compliance with the Williams Act which ensures that all students have the textbooks they need and that they are being educated in a safe environment. At this very moment, all of my students have ALL of their textbooks on their desks ready for the "people with clipboards" who will arrive Monday morning. I have already coached them on the lack of personal space that they will experience as the auditors "lean in" to count their books. That sort of "closeness" makes students uncomfortable and I am hopeful that all of the thoughts in their heads will be shared AFTER the officials leave. Thankfully, my books are all numbered, so I think I have made it fairly easy for the visitors to get an accurate count--and move on to the next room!

On Wednesday, our school is participating in the K to College program. Students will be receiving school supplies and dental health kits and participating in an assembly focusing on career choices. Students are supposed to dress up to show the career they want to pursue. Honestly, I am not expecting much participation. Recently the additional suggestion was offered to dress in the colors of the college students hope to attend which did broaden the options. Still, sixth graders just aren't used to looking that far into the future. And many of them are already CERTAIN they have careers in professional sports or the music industry...

That same evening we have Back-to-School Night. It's a good thing this event falls after the first three weeks... I think I finally know which students are actually in my class! My sixth graders will be selling hot dogs for half an hour (which is not enough time!) before the PTA meeting. Guiding twelve kids (and hopefully a few willing parents) to sell two hundred hot dog plates in thirty minutes will be like an out-of-control event in Minute to Win It!

Barbecue graphics from Marie Truelove HERE on Etsy
 Then we have two rounds of forty-five minute presentations in our classroom during which we spell out our grade level programs. I have my fingers crossed that my technology will work. Talking through an invisible PowerPoint presentation is never fun!

On Friday, we will have more folks with clipboards as we welcome some observers who will be watching for the way in which we use "scaffolds" in our classroom to help support learning. Hopefully, by then, we will have the textbooks back on shelves and the Back-to-School barbecue materials out of sight! I think there will be three rounds of visitors. While I don't relish having people watching me teach, I know it is a part of the learning process (for them and for me). The hardest part is not knowing exactly WHEN they will arrive. There are some messy transitions as we move from whole group to small group and from small group to the next small group. I think we'll have to practice this a few times before Friday!

California has (almost) decided to suspend our state standardized testing this year in favor of assessments that approximate the "new learning" (and evaluation) of Common Core. This decision will save me from the two-part thinking that was plaguing me as I tried to organize for Common Core learning while, at the same time, preparing the students for tests which focused on the sunsetting state standards. I am thankful for the reprieve.

Okay, BlogBuddies, I think you are caught up on all that is happening in our sixth grade world. I hope that you are enjoying a wonderful new school year as well and that you are excited about the learning that is happening in your classroom! And I am so glad we can be cheerleaders for each other...

Cheerleader clip art by Joy of Kindergarten HERE on TpT
I found a new (to me) Linky Party HERE. I am linking this post to Mrs. Laffin's Laughings' Peek at My Week. I'm off to take a peek there as well!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Day 2...The Night Before...

After all of these years, I am still nervous the night before the first day of school! I am worrying that I will forget something. Or forget to do something. Or forget how to do something...
Butterflies by Fancy Dog Studio HERE on TpT
 Yep... Those butterflies are starting to flutter in my stomach...

Already I am starting the day at a disadvantage... My Promethean Board won't "power up." I was lunging at it from every direction with the remote... but to no avail. So it's chart paper and lots of demonstrations for us tomorrow.

I spent far too much time this evening trying to come up with 35 jobs. In my room, we take that "work together" concept seriously. Everyone has a job and it takes all of us doing our part to make things run smoothly.

Here's what I have so far. I always take suggestions from the kids and revise the list to include those jobs for which they can provide reasonable rationale. Jobs take place throughout the day, but we have a "job time" at the end of the day and everyone completes jobs left unfinished and signs out to show that they have completed the task for which they are responsible. On days when we run short on time, the students are always anxious to do their job and sign out. Quite often, they are more determined than I am to be finished and accountable! (Don't you just love that about kids?!)

It's close to midnight and I still have seven things on my To Do list, so I will wish all of the School-Starts-the-Day-After-Labor-Day folks a happy First Day. And to those who have been back for a while... Happy 4-Day Week!

I have butterflies in my stomach and a serious case of The Eve of the First Day Jitters...

Tomorrow is the First Day of School!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Day 3... Currently... It's September!

WOW. What happened to the end of August? September is here... and my whole world changes with the flip of a calendar page!

No more staying up until long past midnight. No more naps at ten in the morning. No more daytime TV. No more unlimited restroom use. Time to get this new school year underway!

All in all, I'm ready. Of course, there are always a hundred (or more!) other things I could do to my room. And I didn't do as much reading, planning and learning as I had hoped. And I haven't had my Common Core questions answered. But I am looking forward to KIDS!

We have several new-to-our-school students in sixth grade this year. I always love watching kids "adjust" their friendship circles so that everyone has a place. It takes time, but it always happens. And it still makes my heart happy as I marvel at kids' ability to be inclusive.

Like most Septembers, the weather has been hot. I know it's been hot everywhere, and I am trying to be welcoming, but I'm fearful of melting! A small room, without air conditioning, with 35 big kids is just a bit too warm for my liking...

I love that Farley urged us to take care of ourselves this September. I must admit, that is rarely on my To Do list. I need to eat better (Cocoa Puffs is not an entree?!) and get more sleep. Meeting both of those goals will be even more difficult as the new year unfolds, but I want to, at least, give it a try. And, finally, I need to look for the GOOD in every situation, in every child, and in everyone else. I am so much happier when I can see things in a positive light... and having a positive attitude makes it possible for me to be more forgiving, more encouraging, and more willing to see the issues from all sides. If I expect my students to demonstrate those characteristics, I know I need to model them as well.

Wishing you a September full of good things and nice surprises... Now it's your turn to add your Currently to the mix... and then hop back to Farley's and leave some love...

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Day 4... Trash Talkin'

I think Pinterest is haunting my dreams!

One of the first items I ever pinned was this:

Whenever, I would look at my Pinterest boards, this was always the first pin that would catch my eye. Last week, I was having a back-to-school dream, and there was a polka dotted trash can in my just-a-dream room. But the reality was: I really wanted a trash can like that!

For years, I had one purple and one magenta trash can. There were big cylindrical cans--just right for a big class--and, of course, the perfect colors for my room.

Time got the best of them, however, and, after years of devoted service, they both cracked. I tried glue. And tape. And I can strongly suggest against both options.

I searched for a looooooooong time for a another colorful replacement, but the best I could come up with was black. In fact, I never really did see many other suitable-for-the-classroom options besides black, white and various shades of red.

So, for a year, I suffered in a state of trash-can-boredom with my plain back cans. And then Pinterest came along...

After pinning that picture, I was determined to buy a Cricut. Or a Cameo. Or both. I needed circles. Thankfully, those purchases didn't happen, because I have since decided that crafts just aren't in my future. However, I DID find these...

These are circular decals. And I found them in PURPLE! And they are available in LOTS of other colors too. Click on the picture to see some options at this site. They have sales all the time!

And, happily, JOYFULLY even, I now have two trash cans that look like this!

I think I should have taken the picture without the bag... but you know that this is an authentic picture because the can is nearly full after a day spent readying my classroom. (And you can tell it is a public school by the so-sad baseboards and the who-would-pick this-color aqua tile!)

I just love my trash cans. Sometimes it IS the littlest thing that can make a teacher happy...

Friday, August 30, 2013

Day 5... Bean Bags and Pringles

I am trying to get this post done (before midnight!), but I keep falling asleep on my keyboard... which results in the post looking like this: uyrsfnvjchfvdavscfw!

We worked for hours in the crazy heat at my school today. It was at least ninety degrees in my classroom for much of the day and not a hint of a breeze...

Still, I accomplished almost everything on my list and I only have a few things to wrap up tomorrow in order to be ready for kids. Alas, my grand library re-do may need to wait a week or two. I am hoping to involve the kids in the set-up, but I had wanted to clean out a few bins and make some new labels before they stepped into the process. At least I cleared everything off of their desks so that they will have a place to sit!

Yesterday I talked about the bean-less bags that kids use in my classroom during independent reading. I love them--they look like giant Skittles. Or they used to. They weren't meant to be bean-less, but plenty of use had left them... ummmm... deflated!

As I mentioned yesterday, I found some beanbag refills at WalMart that came in these semi-giant bags. They took up a lot of space in my living room and I kept catching the collection out of the corner of my eye and thinking that someone had mistakenly dropped off a toddler at our house. No... Just a big bag of Styrofoam beans (Four to be exact!)

In the comments section under this product on WalMart's site, someone had posted a nifty little trick. It was such a great idea, I just had to pass it along...

Refilling beanbags requires some pre-planning. If those little styrobeans get loose from the packaging, you will have a disaster to clean up... and, with the slightest provocation, they will easily go flying like some kind of magical lava. In order to keep them under control, the reviewer suggested using a Pringles can.

I do not need extensive prompting to eat snacks. Pringles can... check. Empty Pringles can... check! (crunch crunch...)

Cut a small hole in the corner of the bag. Wait! Before you do that, put the roll of tape nearby. If the tape is not nearby, and you put the now cornerless bag down... Well, you get the idea...

Place one edge of the Pringles can in the corner of the bag and tape it down, making a spout of sorts. Insert the other end of the Pringles can inside the beanbag... and then tip. I ended up holding the bag o' beans over my shoulder sort of like bagpipes (or so I am assuming), and letting gravity empty the contents. Of course, a few beans did escape, and I must admit I had a great time capturing those that were on-the-run by chasing after them with the vacuum hose. It was like living in a video game! Times like that make me glad I work by myself in the far corner of the school. That gleeful cackle would have sent any listener in seek of the authorities...

If you are interested in a re-purposing of one of Jennifer Smith-Sloane's Interactive Notebook pages, you can read my guest blog post from today at Jennifer's blog, 4mulaFun, by clicking on the picture below.

I've never been a guest blogger before. I thought it was kind of scary! It made me glad that Jennifer usually does the writing at her blog because I learn a lot more when I am only doing the reading. Let me know what you think.... and I hope you will try the place value flippable. All of Jennifer's notebooking products are great, and my kids loved using them last year. I am confident we will be doing a lot more notebook activities this year as well.

Two more days until I meet the kids. I am experiencing an odd mix of nervousness and excitement. Mostly, I am looking forward to having the room tidied up and being ready to meet my new friends as they walk through the door...