Monday, May 27, 2013

What Will YOU Do Differently? (My First Linky Party... with a GIVEAWAY!)

Although this school year is not yet finished, I have already begun planning the things I will do differently NEXT year...

Actually, I think teachers are always thinking. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has found herself reflecting: I should have used a picture or a video with that lesson... That would look better on different colored paper... We should have practiced fractions a little more before starting that unit on decimals... Why is that box in the corner of my classroom?... What's in that box in the corner of my classroom? Why didn't I use a different font?...Why can't I ever find the texts on friendship? Why do I have 5,000 pattern block pieces? Those "wonderings" are endless!

So this year I am going to start out AHEAD! I am going to think of what I want to do before I forget to do it!

And, if you're already thinking ahead to next year, I hope you'll join my Linky Party and share how you are planning  for the new school year... in MAY! (Don't worry: You are not alone!)

with fonts by Dana Lester and JenJones-Hello Literacy... all on TpT!

Here are some of my "hope-to-do" plans for next year:

1. This is one of my greatest struggles! Somewhere around January, I often notice that the "First Day of School" poems are still on the boards and are curling around the edges. I am not "good" at bulletin boards, and I often get more involved in the "doing" of teaching rather than the "seeing." Next year, I am committed to making a concerted effort to have my bulletin boards match my instruction...

2. When I have not planned carefully, I just keep teaching. I need to keep the "endpoint" of a unit in view, so that the path will be clear. When I taught fifth grade, I always got stuck in the Colonies. There were just so many fun things to do! However, by staying in the Colonies, I always neglected to "go West." I got stuck because I didn't keep the next steps in mind.  Several years worth of fifth graders may still wonder how any new land was explored and added to the Union... But they could make a hornbook, and a barrel, and johnnycakes, and, and, and...

3. I am fairly good at gathering data, just not particularly skillful at organizing it. With Common Core on the horizon, I want to plan instruction and data collection around the new standards.  I've already started making my Common Core posters for my daily agenda. If I can link data to the standards for the day's instruction, I should be one step closer to organizing my data for analysis... and report cards!

4. This is always a HUGE challenge for me. Somehow I am expecting myself to be an expert on Common Core (and everything else) and it is still new. When I am a little more gentle with myself, I have more energy and resilience to try again another day. There is still so much to be learned...

And now it's your turn!

First, recognize that it's not your eyesight--my graphic is a little blurry. But in an effort to "Be less critical of myself," I am celebrating my first Linky Party attempt and moving forward (after five hours, I have run out of ideas to fix it anyway!)

So, what are YOU going to do differently next year? 

Just fill in the graphic and link back to this post... You can link the graphic or add my bloggy button--whatever is easiest for you. Don't forget to add your link at the bottom, so that other bloggers can get some ideas and motivation from you too!

graphic by Ashley Hughes... fonts by Jen Jones-Hello Literacy
And here's the special part about this Linky Party. When the Linky closes next Sunday, I will use the Random Number Generator to choose one person who joined the Party... and that person will win a $25 gift certificate to TpT!

So, I hope that you will join in... I'd love to see what YOUR plans for next year include--maybe I will add them to my list too! Don't forget to add your blog link to the list below.

P.S. No matter how many ways I tried, I could not get the credit for the graphics and fonts to stay legible. So, I hope the artists will recognize my efforts. And, I hope that you will click on the links above to see some of the wonderful graphics and fonts available onTpT.

P.P.S. I know many of you can join Linky Parties in your sleep without a second thought, but for some of my new BlogPals, this may be a new experience. If you have never participated in a Linky Party, I know of three strategies to copy the image for the Linky Party (and I am sure there are more--and better ones too!) 1) You can right click on the picture and choose "Copy Image," 2) You can use the snipping tool, or 3) You can take a screen shot (and these choices may depend on which program you are using and whether you use a Mac or a PC). Then paste the image into PowerPoint (easiest, I think), or Word or whatever program you like. Add a text box to include your thoughts... then save (as a jpeg or png)--or, if you get stuck, take another screen shot and save... and then add the completed image back into your post...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Five for Friday: Getting Close to the End...

YIKES! I'm not sure how two weeks have flown by so quickly! Every minute seems jam-packed and, yet, it seems like so little is getting done! As usual, my Five for Friday is being posted on a Sunday, but at least it's being shared (Last week's post came and went without ever getting out of the camera!)

ELEVEN days left of school!


I have checked in the last set of homework and classwork for the year! We still have plenty of "work" left to do (including two benchmarks!), but report cards are due this week and I now have LOTS of data to review. I have been drowning in paperwork all year and finishing this task is so liberating!


Family Life Education is DONE for another year. I'm not sure who is more thankful: the students or me! Aside from the "typical" lessons on parts, ailments, and responsibilities, our district has recently included a lesson on cyber-safety. The videos are haunting reminders of the dangers of "making friends" on the Internet. This lesson really impacted the students... and it made me even more conscious of how easily our students can become victims just by sharing their name...

Last week I was away at a training for a day. And I was away from school one day this week. And I will be at a Common Core training for two days next week! I feel like I am writing sub plans in my dreams.

If you haven't tried out any of the items at 4mulaFun (TpT) you are missing out. That's one of her triangle activities in the picture above. This blogger/creator has lots of interesting activities, wonderful units and terrific lessons for math notebooks. Check out her store HERE and her blog HERE.

And, if you haven't ever read The Cay--or, better yet, read this book with students, just do it. (Please forgive me, Nike!)


Speaking of Common Core, this is the book we are reading for our writing project. And our trainer is the author, Larry Ainsworth. I am learning a lot about curriculum design... specifically how hard it is to do!


Ever see something in a store and simply KNOW you have to purchase it? Yep, that's how I felt when I saw these storage boxes. Math centers? Art materials? Guided reading sets? I don't know what I will be using them for, but just looking at them makes me happy!

In other news: I am trying out my first LINKY PARTY! 

As I have been reflecting on the last ten months of school, I have made a mental list of things I am definitely going to do DIFFERENTLY next year. In fact, although this year is not yet finished, I am already planning next year's lessons, classroom management strategies, activities, and decor! Are you doing that too? If yes, this Linky is for you!

And this one has a twist!

The Linky Party will be up for a week starting tomorrow. Then, next Sunday evening, I will use the random number generator to choose one of the people who has linked up and joined the party. That person will win a $25 gift certificate from TpT. What a great way to start gathering those resources for the year to come!

I am so thankful that tomorrow is a holiday. Just sitting in one place is a delight! I hope that you have the day off tomorrow too--and that you will come back to join my Linky Party.

Until then, if you are still in school, I am wishing you at least a few moments of rest or relaxation. And if you are already out, enjoy the bliss!

PS Those little doughnuts/cookies are from Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs. The numbers are already on them, so making math materials with them is a snap! You can get them HERE!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Five for Friday... A Week Worth Appreciating

It's Time for Doodle Bugs' Five for Friday! (Shhhh... let's just not tell anyone it's already Saturday, Okay?) Click on the picture below for a peek into this week's adventures in other classrooms.

This week FLEW by! It seems like there was something important happening every minute...

Monday was our last day to review for The Test. We finished our English Language Arts testing last week and this week we had two days of testing for math. I've changed the way we review for testing... I've added more partner work, move "move-around" games and more group study. Time will tell...

By Wednesday it was all over. And I was soooooooooooo proud of my students. They really worked hard! It was funny to be watching them and suddenly hear someone say "Yes!" (Translation: "One of my answers is in the list!") and "Oh, Oh, Oh!" ((Translation: "I've seen a problem like this before"). Even if their scores are not all stellar, I will be more-than-pleased with their efforts. The state measures their scores against a standard of proficiency. In my mind, they all worked at a proficient level... including those who waited quietly (and waited and waited!) for their classmates to finish. I'm glad that's over!

Wednesday was Teacher Appreciation Day. Some of my students brought flowers... and chocolate... and sweet notes... and they left me a giant note on the white board with everyone's name included. I left it up for an extra day because my heart wouldn't let me erase it!

My principal gave each teacher a book for Teacher Appreciation Day. (I love that my principal is a serious reader!) Mine was called Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach. (I wrinkled the ribbon, sorry, J.) and the quote on the card was "The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited" --Plutarch. I thought that was so inspiring (and thoughtful). And, of course, I loved my purple pen! My favorite section is called "Holding On." Now I know just where to look when I need a little extra motivation to try again the next day.

Our PTA puts on a luncheon for the entire staff at our school... and our tiny staff barely filled six tables! Yep, we are a small school. But what we lack in numbers, we make up in determination!

Yes, I did do laundry, but that's not why this picture is posted! Sometimes, when the stars are all aligned, I can manage to sneak in a surprise for my colleagues. Under the guise of "practicing for promotion," twenty sixth graders learned a song in sign language called "Do I Make You Proud?" Our colors are white and royal blue, so they dressed in school colors and took the stage. Some were nervous and some were... more nervous!

Just like the differences in students' voices, their signing is different too. Some sign in a "timid" way and some sign in a "dramatic" way. It makes the whole performance that much more touching. And, since they only had two days to pull it together, it was so gratifying that they managed to shine (brightly!) on stage. They were SO precious! I was fine for the first few verses, but at some point, the tears started and that was that. Later, they said they thought it was funny that I was crying, but I think they knew it was just an acknowledgement of how proud I felt at that very moment...

If you have never heard the song--or you missed a season of American Idol, I left the link below. Imagine it from a student to a teacher... Pretty sweet, huh? The part about raising my hand really affected me because we worked so hard this year to become participants. The video is a little "over the top," but twenty kids in blue and white shirts, signing with all their hearts would have made even Taylor Hicks proud!

Friday was Western Bar-B-Que Day. By 10:30, the smell of hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill had reached every classroom. We sneaked out a few minutes early--only to be among the three other upper-grade classrooms who were thinking the very same thing!

Living in suburban southern California, most of my students don't own any "western wear." Three kids had a variation of a cowboy hat. A few had plaid shirts and jeans, but we didn't look very festive. The night before, I had made a trip to Boot Barn. This is a local store filled with cowboy boots and other western attire--quite dissimilar from the shorts, t-shirts, and tennis shoes worn by most of my students to school each day. The salesperson was laughing as I sorted through the big barrel to find 32 bandannas. She didn't know that I was thinking with each choice: "Ashley will want a pink one, Marcus will probably be wearing black basketball shorts, Roxie's favorite color is green..." That morning, I let them choose bandannas, and soon we looked ready for a photo shoot... or at least for a tray of "special" food prepared by the Food Service people!

Once lunch was over, we finished our Mother's Day letters, and then my cowboys and cowgirls waited for the clock to finally tick its way to the weekend.

Twenty more school days. I keep alternating between being excited and feeling a bit melancholy. This is definitely a class I will always remember...

PS  Don't you just love those cupcakes? Just another wonderful clip art set from Ashley Hughes... find them  HERE at TpT!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Calming the Chaos Blog Hop... Organizing for the End of the Year

Even though I have five weeks of school remaining, I am already wanting to start organizing my room to wrap up the school year. I think this comes, in part, from the fact that we have been so busy lately, things are literally piling up around us!

Many activities still lie ahead for my sixth graders. We still have two more days of standardized testing, two more benchmarks and math placement testing for middle school. We are planning a surprise presentation for Teacher Appreciation Day and a performance for our Staff Appreciation Luncheon. And then there are end-of-the-year activities, including the Sixth Grade Picnic, Game Day and the Awards Luncheon. (I wasn't sure which words to capitalize in the preceding list... so I capitalized anything that sounded like fun!). And, of course, our Promotion ceremony...

As I look at that list, I am suddenly aware of why I have a headache!

Many of my bloggy friends are finishing the school year in just a few weeks. For them, the end-of-the-year organization is already in full swing. And some of my Canadian bloggy friends stay in school until the END of June. I think we should think extra positive thoughts for them... their end-of-the year is still a bit in the distance!

With that in mind, Kristy at 2 Peas and a Dog has organized an end-of-the year blog hop to provide some strategies and suggestions to help us get ready as the year draws to a close. There are lots of fun ideas to help keep kids engaged for the last few weeks of school and some sweet send-off activities that will help you end the year on a happy note!  Click on the sweet graphic below to go to her blog. Once there, you can find lots of bloggers who have linked up to share their ideas for "calming the chaos."

These bloggers are also listed at the bottom of this post!  And there's a rafflecopter giveaway for an adorable Memory Book from Mrs. Beattie's Classroom. Seriously cute! And a perfect activity for ending the school year!

As for me, I am a serious list-maker. I have been known to make lists of my lists! Last week, I started detailing those year-end items I often forget. (Every year, I get at least three phone calls to affix the students' pictures to their files in their "official" folders!) I need to keep my list handy--and then delight in each item crossed off. Knowing my tendency toward disorganization, I'm guessing no one would be surprised if I told you I was already on page TWO!

Here's the list I've been using... and if you need a list get you started, you can click on the graphic below, and print this one from!

I am currently obsessed with these scalloped borders from Graphics at the Pond. And I am ALWAYS obsessed with HelloFonts from Jen Jones-Hello Literacy. Whenever I revert to "regular" fonts, my flipcharts always look like they are missing something...

Grab My ButtonIf you have never been to Jen Jones' blog, Hello Literacy, you should go there right NOW! And bring your coffee cup because there are about eight gazillion things you are going to want to see! Her fonts are legendary, but Jen also has wonderful Common Core resources and lots of information about reading and phonics and fluency and many other oh-so-important things. You may think you are getting ready to organize for the end of THIS year, but you'll quickly find yourself delighted about all the things you have discovered that will be helpful as you plan for NEXT year! I adore Jen Jones!

So how are YOU doing on organizing for the year's end? I hope that these next few weeks will find you reflecting on happy school year memories and the sweet anticipation of summer!

Blog Hop Participants
Check out this Great Giveaway!