Friday, April 26, 2013

Five for Friday... Five for Boston

I actually wrote this post last Thursday... And then suddenly it seemed like the world was turned upside down... in the span of a few days, so much changed. However, some things DIDN'T change.

Now that a week has passed, I feel like I can post the feelings that I had typed on that evening that now seems so long ago...


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Today, as I reflect upon the week that has passed, my heart is sad for Boston.

Artwork by Nikki at Melonheadz

Each morning when I have come to school this week, I have seen the flag, and I have remembered. I have thought a lot about the people whose lives were affected by the events in Boston on April 15th.

But, Boston is a city with historical strength. Bostonians have displayed pride and perseverance since colonial times. Consequently I wasn't completely surprised when I clicked on this video from a Boston Bruins hockey game that I found on the front page of an online newspaper .

While the singer may have expected to be singing a solo, it was clear that the crowd had other ideas. I've watched the video numerous times... and I have cried every time. Sometimes strength comes from people who have endured tragedy together...

And then there was more tragedy. In the same week, sadness gripped Texas as a fertilizer plant exploded and more lives were lost, more people were injured, and more hearts were aching. It just seemed too much too soon. Just. Too. Much. Hurt.

And although the heartbreak of the explosion in West, Texas may have gotten a bit lost in the national focus on the events in Boston, again people came to together, as Texans do. They rallied together. They leaned on each other. They cried together. And they worked with each other and for each other. All over again, I was overwhelmed by the strength of character of so many people...

Artwork by Nikki at Melonheadz

Strength of character. That's where I have been willing my mind to go. I hope that eventually the images of these tragedies will fade into the background of my mind and that other memories will take their place.

But there is one picture that will stay with me longer than the others... this sweet face. The face of Martin Richard. A pillar of character at the tender age of eight, a young person who made it clear that we can learn a lot from a third grader. This wonderful boy wanted "No more hurting people" and, instead PEACE. This boy was not there amongst his classmates when they returned to school... What did they think? What did they wonder?

This photo was "borrowed" from the Boston Post. I hope they will forgive its use in my efforts to celebrate Martin...

I hope that we will remember Martin fondly and that we will work hard to teach other children to value "No more hurting people." 

I feel more strongly than ever that my job extends far beyond teaching algebra, and earth science and complex sentence structures. And I feel more strongly than ever that I have a responsibility, indeed an obligation to help children learn to value one another. 

Martin's legacy can be celebrated with each child who recognizes the importance of community, and caring, and peace...

Strength of character. With that picture of Martin in my mind and on my heart, I need to work harder to help build that strength of character in other students that Martin recognized was so very important...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pruduct Swap with Jen Runde... With Love for Taten

It's time for another Product Swap hosted by Jessica Stanford from Mrs. Stanford's Class. Here's how it works: Two bloggers trade products and then review how the products were used in their classrooms. Such fun!

My partner for the product swap is Jen Runde. THE Jen Runde (like there could be any other?!) from Runde's Room. Cue giddy music (If you find some, let me know). Jen Runde is one of my bloggy idols! She could be the Princess of Product Swapping... Here's a picture of Jen... without her glasses...
Artwork by Nikki at Melonheadz HERE on TpT
Well, to be honest, Jen Runde is ALSO the Princess of NICE. And KIND. And CARING. I could give you lots of examples, but instead I'll just give you one...

This is Taten. He is a classmate of one of Jen's daughters. And right now, he is fighting cancer. Sigh. I don't think kids should ever have to face cancer...

And if you head over to Runde's Room you can read about him. Bring a tissue. You'll need it by the end of the blog post.

So here is how Jen is helping Taten... and YOU can help too!

First, Jen is having a SALE at her TpT Store (WooHoo! Don't you love a sale?!). It's a sale on EVERYTHING! Second, ALL of the proceeds from Jen's sales this weekend will go to help Taten. Such goodness. It's like getting two scoops of ice cream when you only asked for one!

Yep, I told you she was a princess!


And if you're looking for something to buy (and I know you won't have any trouble because there are so many great things), I am recommending the Math Reflection fans. This is the product that I tried out in my class this week...

Here are some details from the product:  

This resource contains over 100 different math reflection questions and prompts to use for comprehension checks of new concepts learned. They can be used for the reflection section in  Interactive Math Journals as questions to respond to in regular math journals, after problem-solving activities, for oral discussions, in math centers, after new lessons in math, as an end of the unit review, or beginning of the unit diagnostic, or for test preparation.

These questions would be PERFECT for use in Interactive Math Journals because they push the students toward higher levels of thinking. And, recognizing that students process and share information in different ways, the questions are aligned to various levels of Blooms Taxonomy--the updated one that are so much more student (and teacher!) friendly...

There are 6 different groups of questions and prompts - one group for each of the levels in Bloom’s  Revised Taxonomy.: Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create.  Each group of questions will make its own fan.  You can use a particular fan when evaluating a particular level of the taxonomy, or use different fans as they suit different learned concepts.  You could also group all the questions together on a binder clip circle and hang near your desk for easy access during activities.  I choose one or two particular questions or prompts that fit the concept, and display them under the document camera for the students to see.

I love that the questions are grouped (according to Bloom's Revised Taxonomy) and color-coded. (Okay, I admit: That always wins extra points with me! Give me a way to organize a resource and I am happy!). The icons on the left helped me keep the questions in the right group, and my students were completely taken with them (you never know what is going to interest a sixth grader!) Here are my cards coming out of the printer. LOVE the purple ones!

I was already giving some "quick checks" in my classroom, so I used Jen's questions to double assess. That sounds bad--but it was actually a great idea! I got two different kinds of responses... which allowed me to get a clearer picture of my students' thinking.

I also tried three different approaches: Let the students choose their question fan, allowing students to choose from a level (of Blooms) matched with a type of question, and my own selection of questions matched to assessment items. Here's a little secret: All three approaches worked well!

Here they are... hard at work!

We used the questions with area and circumference...

And with fractions...

And with ratio and proportions...

And with calculating angles...

The kids really enjoyed being able to use a different kind of thinking. Some of their particular favorites...although I could list MANY...

Today we used the questions as part of an assessment, but there are a lot of questions that are perfect to guide work done with a partner. I love how it can focus higher level thinking... and there is very little prep work necessary to see them. And, these same questions can be used over and over in different combinations with specific questions selected to meet the needs of the task.

Finally, Jen knows that most teachers will have questions specific to their grade level. So, being the forward-thinking person that she is, she included blank question cards onto which you can write your OWN questions! So, aside from the 100-plus questions Jen has provided, there is still room to personalize these materials and make them your very own!

So now you have some things to do...

1.  Click on the blog button below to go to Jen's blog and read about Taten.

2.  Go to Jen's store and check out her wonderful products. Remember the proceeds from all of her sales this weekend go to helping Taten.
3.  Try out these Math Reflection Fans. There are so MANY ways to use them in the classroom, and I know you will be pleased with the chance to see your students' thinking in a different light.

4. Link up with the Magical Product Swap by clicking on the button below to take you to the Linky. Lots of bloggers will be reviewing products in the next or two so it's a chance to have someone try out a product for you--so you know how it works before you buy.


5. And when you click on the Product Swap button, you'll be admiring Michelle's (3am Teacher's) work. She's the one who designed the button. Isn't is Cute! While you're at TpT, check out her clip art. Right now, I am obsessed with her gardening sets!

6. Enjoy your day. It's be a long tough week for many people across the globe. So, today, I hope we can focus on good things... enjoy someone's company, say Hi to a stranger, offer help, give a hug...

Artwork by Creative Clips by Krista Wallden HERE on TpT

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Teacher Feature: The Extra Energetic Educator

joyin6th Homepage

I have enjoyed getting to know Jennifer through her blog, The Extra Energetic Educator. I know that, if you haven't already met her, you will enjoy getting to know her as well. And if you have met her, then you already know she's terrific. She's not only extra energetic, she's extra nice too!

And here's where things get even better! Jennifer has come to visit my blog ready to share a freebie with you! (And it's a really great freebie!) While she is visiting, Jennifer is also going to tell you about a product available at her TpT store. It's called KaBlooEy! and I found myself giggling every time I said that word (and I'm thinking I should be embarrassed to tell you I have said it at least ten times just for the fun of it...)

So it my delight (indeed my JOY!) to begin this Teacher Feature by introducing you to Jennifer...
frame by Bubbly Borders and More on TpT... font by Kimberly Geswein on TpT.
My name is Jennifer from The Extra Energetic Educator.  I would like to thank my friend Kim at Joy in Sixth greatly for featuring me on her blog.  I have been in education for 12 years.   I have had a variety of teaching experiences.  I've taught collaboratively with Special Education teachers.  I've team taught and taught inclusion classes.  I've even taught all girl 5th grade classes....Yes, it was a quite a different experience, but believe it or not those years were some of my best years in the classroom.   For the most part I've taught 5th grade and a couple of years of 4th.  Currently, I am the Instructional Coach for a K-5 elementary school in south Georgia.

Since I was a young child, I've always wanted to teach. My 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Sherri, inspired me to go into teaching.  I admired her kindness and passion to help students learn.  This was one of the main reasons why I went into education.   I loved (love) to learn, and I wanted to help children learn!  I've always told my students that knowledge is one thing that no one can take away from you!  I'll stop before I get too mushy!

Here’s a freebie that I would like to share with you!  Sweet, Sweet Arrays allows you to give students quick practice on recognizing arrays. To play the game students must correctly match an array to the appropriate multiplication fact.  Take a the images to download this freebie if you are interested!   Please don't forget to leave feedback!

If you are interested in this freebie that you can use in centers, maybe you also want to use KaBlooEy! Kinds of Sentences can be used as a center as well!  KaBlooEy! pronounced ka-bloo-ee is an adjective that means "destroy"!  KaBlooEy! is similar to an old time favorite game! I wanted to give students a different word to yell in their excitement!  Besides, the word KaBlooEy just sounds silly!

This KaBlooEy! game is to practice identifying types of sentences and their correct end punctuation. The most exciting part of the game is when a player pulls a KaBlooEy! strip. When a player pulls one, everyone yells KaBlooEy! [C'mon it can be an inside, quiet yell!]   The player then must place all of the strips/points that he/she has earned back into the envelope, and it's the next player's turn.   Check it out here or click the images below!

Thanks again Kim for the feature!

Thanks for reading about me!


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Five for Friday (Tardy... Again!)

I love many things in life... but weekends are in my top ten! Ahhhhhh. The chance to collect my thoughts and reflect... Not to mention the chance to lose the alarm clock for  day or two.

It was a busy week... even though I actually missed two days of school--but more on that as I recap on another week that has flown by...

So here's what's been happening in sixth grade...

Task cards! When I close my eyes I see task cards. I'm surprised that I haven't had nightmares about being chased by my 1978-issue paper cutter. My kids really enjoy working with task cards--and I have seen an improvement in their reasoning skills--as well as their social skills. Besides, if you know anything about me, cutting things into equally sized squares... bliss!

So often kids are interested only in "right" or "wrong." I have been trying to encourage the students to reason through the answers together.  If they arrive at different answers, I want them to figure out where the mistake might be--and how to get on the right track. I also tell them that some of the answers might be wrong--so they should be able to show their evidence for an answer if they want to challenge what is recorded.

We rotated among stations during math this week. Thanks to my friends (known and unknown) at Tpt), I only had to create half of the task cards I needed. Task cards above come from the stores of Esther G, Kathleen Bing, Felicia Watkins, and BMore Teacher.

clip art by Phillip Martin

This week my students read a text about Howard Carter and King Tut. Don't you love when they look at you with anticipation and the "And then...?" look crosses their faces? They actually participated in small group and whole group discussions! As often as I ask them not to talk, I have been begging them TO talk during literary conversations. To my delight, their discussions were spectacular!

It was one of the few times I saw them really excited to turn the page. (They were equally enchanted with Amelia Earhart, by the way). Studying Egypt can do that to a kid--or to an adult who would pick being an archaeologist as a second choice after teaching. I guess it would depend upon how close my archaeological dig site was located to the nearest Starbucks...

On Wednesday I spent the day at an iPad training. It is fair to say that my teaching partner and I were among the oldest in the group. It would also be fair to say that we needed a little more help than some of the others... Comments like "Just tap it" were not uncommon throughout the day. It is hard not to be overwhelmed and discouraged in a training like this.. I know that my students have far more facility than I do when it comes to using technology. I am reminding myself there is still a place in the classroom for me... They cannot use all of this wonderful technology if they cannot read...

I was a Mac devote (I am trying to type "dee-vo-tay" but my keyboard won't let me) I think I have had every Mac computer since the earliest Mac classic. I had several of the first all-in-one iMacs, including a flowered version that I adored. I love all things Mac. Imagine my dismay when my district switched to non-Mac computers five years ago. It was difficult for me to catch on to a new "language" (and nothing was ever as "cute" as all of the Macs that I have owned).

So I am excited to have a Mac again (aside from my phone). And I DO like the iPad. It's small and well-organized and reasonably easy to use. And if you are really careful, you can play Angry Birds or Candy Crush when the trainer is not looking... ummm, I mean, when you are on a break...

SICK! I can't believe I am sick again. This is the second cold I have had in three weeks. I don't have time to be sick. I lost the little "cup" that came with the cold medicine and tried to figure out how big of a gulp equals a dose. For the record, I was careful. Also for the record, at least one person gave me that "Do you need an intervention?" look.

I am happy to report that I am now well on the road to recovery!

I finally finished my taxes! And it's not even April 15th! It takes hours and hours for me to get everything organized the way I like it. I have confessed before to being tax-crazy. Every receipt has its own page with a date and a total. And then everything is cross referenced to items on a spread sheet. This year I had a new category: TpT! Here's the good news: While organizing my TpT receipts, I found some items I had forgotten that I had purchased. I'm using two of them on Monday!

I'm sure you have finished your taxes. But for next year, it is really easy to get an itemized list from TpT by clicking the words, "printable receipt" next to the products. This made it very easy easy to keep track.

Looking over all of the receipts for school purchases in 2012 did make me catch my breath. I have a feeling I could have gone to Tahiti with what I spent on my classroom and my students. Oh well. That is something to consider for the remainder of 2013...

Wishing you a good week ahead...