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...),52314

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...,52314

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.