Sunday, March 31, 2013

April "Currently" on the Eve of April

If I type really quickly, I can post this before it is actually April Fool's Day. Oddly, if I don't finish by midnight, then you might think I am fooling. And then I would have to post on April SECOND. Or... I could have written random, peculiar responses and then typed "April Fools" at the bottom. Nah... Too cheesy. I'm going to go with the real deal...

I really do have to type quickly because Farley posted this on the eve of April, and believe it or, it is not YET April and there are already eighty-eight link-ups! Twenty minutes ago, there were only seventy-one link ups. I just want to be in the first hundred. In April I think I was in the THREE hundred group. And I was LAST! Goodness that Farley can draw a crowd! Type faster, Kim!

When I walked into the house, there was an oboe concerto on TV. I'm funny about classical music. Some times, some days, some pieces... I adore this type of music. Other days, I want to cover my ears and run from the room screaming. The music tonight was quite lovely and I enjoyed it--although I never did guess the composer. There was an oboe in Peter and the Wolf--the duck, I believe. Fortunately, Peter, the duck and Prokofiev have left the oboe in good light.

I am loving that it is Spring Break. I normally get up very early on school days (usually to finish prepping for the day.) Vacations remind me that I could be a night owl if I didn't have to get up at 4am. It is a JOY to get up when I want to, rather than being summoned by the alarm clock. {happy sigh} I have lots that I want to accomplish this week--I just want to work at my own pace, with plenty of naps and Starbucks and a little ice cream thrown in!

I think I am going to need all of the sleep I can get because we are going to be in Test Prep Mania when we return to school. We are more-than-a-little behind this year. I think by slowing down, I taught things more effectively (although not always as efficiently as I would have liked!). But that comes at a cost; we will be scrambling to teach the remaining concepts before the test date arrives. I wonder if this will change when the test changes to match CCSS? Somehow I think testing is testing...

On that same note, I really need to feel okay about the progress we have made. My friend Barbara at the Corner on Character has really taught me the importance of looking at kids individually as well as collectively. We have grown as a group--in some very awesome ways that will never show up on any test. And many of the students have grown individually as well (also in ways that will not be test-apparent). And a few have gotten pretty good at algebra, have read lots of books, and have learned the importance of Mesopotamia in the development world civilizations along the way. But they have made the most growth in learning together. Despite the struggles, I want to look back and be happy that we spent a year together. In September, I didn't know if that was possible. Now I am beginning to see, with this group especially, that "learning" truly comes in many variations...

Hmmmmm. Now for advice for bloggers.... I mentioned Barbara above. She is a bloggyfriend that has become an in-real-life friend too. Blogging can do that. It can connect you up with people that begin to understand you and your way of teaching and your way of thinking. I am so BLESSED to have several of those bloggypals. Yesterday and the day before, my buddies left me the nicest comments on my blog. I practically cried feeling so lucky and so... friend-ful! (Thanks, Sweet Comment-Leavers!) So, if you're a blogger, keep at it! (And I am promising to do better at leaving comments on your blogs too.) So, if you aren't a blogger, consider starting to blog. Blogging does many things--not the least of which is building connections.

And I think my pal Farley knows that better than anyone. She has established an International Connection System that is nearing a thousand participants! Amazing, isn't it? So link back to the Currently party by clicking on the button below. I still have twenty minutes before the clock declares a new month. Remember to leave some love for those who are listed before and after you. And then, be brave! Pick out a few random folks you've never met before. Choose by grade level, or bloggy button, or just by the sound of their name. Make a connection. I know Farley would smile at you and share her advice, "Be you and Be true."

UPDATE: Phew! That was a close one! I came in at #92. I finally broke a hundred! And my post isn't dated April 1st!

Enjoying Spring Break and Playing the Noun Game

One thing I know for sure...

All of these sweet springtime elements are from Scrappin Doodles
I do love Spring Break. Not because I am going anywhere or doing anything "big"--but precisely because I am not going anywhere or doing anything big.

I'm just reveling in the fact that the hands on the clock can go all the way around and no bells will ring and no whistles will blow. Pure bliss!

So, I am going to spend part of my afternoon joining in on the next installment of Latoya Reed's Linky at Flying into First Grade (because the link will expire soon and I will be the last one linking up... again. At this point I am thinking I should change my bloggy button into the shape of a caboose!)

This past week, the task was called "The Noun Game," and it gave you the opportunity to name your favorite person, place, thing and animal!

1. Favorite Person: This is the hubs. He fills in the spaces in my life in so many ways. He is a volunteer tutor for the younger kids at our school twice a week, so he is forever "picking up something that we need" or "stopping by Starbucks" or "bringing something by" that I forgot. He wears a coat and tie to tutoring so that the little kids will know that learning to read is an important and serious business. Adorable! And then he spends time on his cell phone or looking through books trying to find a picture of a puffer fish or a trilobite or Gettysburg so that he can help bring the stories to life. On top of that, he is constantly setting something up, taking it down or building it or cooking it for an event at school. He listens to all of my stories and complaints and frustrations, and then knows just when to say, "Well, that's good"--even when it is the tiniest bit of improvement or a barely perceptible success. He's great guy. Best part: We've known each other almost 40 years...

Circa 1976

2. Favorite Place: I'd love to say some place exotic, but I like... my house. And I like... my classroom. I'm comfortable in both paces. And, of course, I like Starbucks, but that is a bit more transitory. I can stay in/on my bed and read or plan or work on the computer for HOURS. I'm a big fan of cozy. Give me some coffee (in a JOY cup) and I'm good to go. No fancy clothes required. Delight!

3. Favorite Thing: There are oodles of school-related things that I love. I love my Promethean board and my document camera. I love my laptop and all of my books and Sharpies and colorful clips. I love my decades-old paper cutter and my almost-brand new laminator. However, none of those things would be useful to me without my coffee. And not just any coffee. I love Starbucks--all kinds and temperatures and flavors  (except the green one. I haven't learned to like the green frapuccino yet.). I like Starbucks at home and Starbucks at/from Starbucks.

Here is my coffee cup wrapped up in a coffee cozy from Missy Squirrels. She's one of my favorite bloggy friends on the PLANET. You can visit her HERE. And you can check out her Etsy shop by clicking on the picture of the cup cozy! Missy Squirrels always makes me laugh! But you know what else? Missy Squirrels is also serious and warm-hearted and caring and compassionate (all at once). Oh, and she has a purse shaped like a chicken. With a name. Betty. But this paragraph was supposed to be about my love of coffee not (just) about my appreciation of Betty... Thankfully, Missy Squirrels likes coffee too. I'm not sure about Betty, though.

AND I like purple. Purple makes me happy! I have a lot of purple clothes. And ,many, MANY things in my classroom are purple. But, oddly, almost nothing in my house (decor-wise) is purple. I never gave that much thought until this minute. This minute, however, I AM wearing a purple sweatshirt and purple socks!

4. Favorite Animal: I am not much of a pet person. I did have a cat once... long. long ago. His name was Alex P. Kitten after Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties (The one with Michael J, Fox, right?). Eventually it was determined that Alex was a cat with some unique needs. If he were in my classroom, we would have to decide on a calm down area. And he would need some extra opportunities to practice being nice to our friends. Once, Alex (the cat) swallowed a piece of scotch tape. I was so traumatized, I almost had to ask the vet for some calm down medicine of my own! Alex flew to Colorado to live with some friends (of mine) and spent his days chasing ducks. And dogs. I no longer want to own a pet, but if I could pick an animal that I could just like from a distance, it would be a sloth or a manatee. Both are slow-moving, kind of chubby and not much concerned about being fashionable--just comfortable. I find those traits admirable and reassuring. This is definitely the kind of creature I could grow to love... from a distance, of course.

This sloth is from Scrappin Doodles. Click HERE to see him there!
Well, that's it for the nouns in my life. I have to scurry over and link up before LaToya closes the linky. I'm sure I'll be the last link again. Just call me the caboose.

Frame (above) and caboose are from Ashley Hughes HERE on  TpT

Don't forget to link up to LaToya's party too--or maybe you should aim for the next one. (Unless you can whip something up in the next hour or two). LaToya's got a plan for both of us, though. The new linky is already posted!

Check it out here:

Tomorrow is Easter. If you celebrate this holiday, have a wonderfully blessed and tradition-filled day. And whether or not you celebrate Easter itself, I hope that you will be able to enjoy a restful sunny Sunday with people that you love!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Zippin Down the Freebie Trail

It's here! The Blog Hoppin' Bunny has stopped by my blog! I am so excited!

All of this blog hoppin hysteria will go through Sunday, so you won't want to miss a stop... And I'm going to tell you how to retrace yur steps!

I am soooooooooooooooooo excited to be involved in this blog hop, I made TWO freebies! The first is a little "shout out" (more like a "tweet") to send home to share good news from school. I'm not a primary teacher, but I didn't want to have my primary buddies going away thinking, "Nope nothing for me here." So these little notes are for you!

Click on the image to take you to the location where you can download the notes. Cardstock is almost best, but I'm sure you already knew that,!

The second freebie is for older kids. It's a card game to practice exponents, and I made  it just for this very hop! The backgrounds are all pretty spring patterns from Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah-Designs! Love! (I believe if you are stuck practicing exponents, you should certainly have the opportunity to look at cute, colorful patterns!)

You can get the math freebie by clicking on the link below to take you to TpT. You can download it there (And if you teach math to bigger kids, I really hope you will)
I keep thinking that this whole product-making business will get easier.  Ummmmmm. Not yet!
I think I save each page about eighty-two times. I save it with a password to keep the creations of my clip artists-friends safe and secure. But then I have to desecuritize the same pages when I want to combine them with other pages and then save them again and re-protect them. (I hope you are as glad as I am that I am not making vocabulary activities, because I am almost certain that "desecuritize" is not a word. But it SHOULD be!) I remain a novice--but if anyone wants to be my product tutor, I'd be all ears... that's a little bunny humor for you!

So grab them both if you would like. Or One. Or the other. Or neither and just leave a Hello comment. Or just smile and think a happy thought or enjoy a sip of coffee. I'm fine with any of those!

And here's the best part: You can click on the link below to take you to another blog on the trail. You'll be headed for Kristin's/Little Miss Glamour's blog. What a sweetie she is. It will take you less than two seconds to fall in love with her blog--since the "home page" is all covered with shoes! So fun! And I can't wait to snag her freebie, so I will be racing you to get there. Just click on the link below...

And, just in case you stumbled into the middle of the blog hop by starting here, you should go back to the beginning and fill up your basket! The hoppin' started at Primary Inspired. Scroll back up to the top of this post and click on the orange egg. This way, you can start the adventure from its blog-hoppin' beginning.

Enjoy your day...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Searching for the Truth and Uncovering the Lie!

Whoa. That sounds rather ominous!

Thankfully, this all relates back to the fun link-up at Flying into First Grade...

Here were your options:

Statement 1: While working for the Hawaii Department of Education, I got lost in a sugar cane field with my co-presenter somewhere in the vicinity of the school where we were assigned to work. We drove through rows and rows of cane plants (which poked into our windows and nearly damaged the car) for over an hour and narrowly missed having the workshop canceled on our behalf... Or...

Statement 2: As a seventeen year old employed at a doughnut shop, I misread the directions while making raised dough (such as that used for glazed doughnuts). As a result, once I mixed the warm water and dry ingredients, the dough rose out of the mixer, filled first one large trash can, then two, and then nearly half of the dumpster in the parking lot behind the shop... Or...

Statement 3: During my first year of teaching, I was on duty as the recess supervisor when three large dogs from the house across the street broke free from their backyard and found their way onto the school playground. Hundreds of children watched amused and/or horrified as I ran back and forth across the playground, among four square, hopscotch and tether ball games, trying to catch and capture the furry friends with only the help of my whistle and a commandeered jump rope...

Hmmmmm. Are you still wondering? Which ones ARE true? And which is completely made-up?

Statement #1... True story! I thought I would be lost forever in that sugar cane field in Hawaii! Fortunately, the native Hawaiians were so sweet and friendly that once we finally DID arrive, they gave us some food and some juice and made us feel like everyone, positively everyone gets lost trying to find their training location.... I am chuckling now remembering that is was a rather large white building that we managed to miss...

Statement #2... True story! It was the one time in my life I thought I was actually living an episode of I Love Lucy! It was only my second job (if you don't count babysitting), and I was panicked. I am still paranoid about fractions, because clearly I read some part of that recipe incorrectly. I do remember securing the assistance of some rather cute box boys from the grocery store in the same parking lot. We hauled the dough out in big plastic trash cans (which were surprisingly heavy) and tipped them into the dumpster. And, yes, I admit that I drove by the next morning to determine that the dough was not oozing out of the dumpster like the blob that ate the doughnut shop (Good movie plot, though!)

Statement #3... Ah, there's the falsehood. Here's the TRUTH on this one: I am afraid of most dogs (although probably not Sydney or Murphie or Missy Squirrel's dog, Truman, who could probably fit into her chicken purse). I have a very bad feeling that if there WERE three large dogs (or medium dogs) (or, quite possibly, rather small dogs) loose on the playground, I might cry. Or I might say, "Oh My Golly! There are three large dogs loose on the playground... Somebody DO something!" Or, most likely, I would run up to a few of my sixth graders and say: "Look. Help me out here. I'll give you all homework passes if you can PLEASE help me out with the dog situation..."

Of my many (okay, nine) respondents, two people guessed correctly. Tamara and Nancy: Check your e-mail for a Starbucks treat! And, if/when I start my own CSI outfit, I want you to be on MY team!

Here's more news: Tomorrow, the Easter Bunny Freebie Trail is dropping by my blog! YIPPEE! I loved being a part of TBA's Bunny Hop last year. (I felt very "grown up" about it, for some reason. It was my first ever HOP!). And now the bunnies have hidden something special for you AGAIN!

So be SURE you hop by tomorrow and find a FREEBIE.

And don't forget to link up with LaToya at Fluttering through First.
Finally, don't you just LOVE all of these Ashley Hughes graphics? I left the link to her TpT store below. Such happy stuff! (And my numbers are from Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah! Click on the Zip to get there!)

See you tomorrow... PEEPS!

Artwork by Ashley Hughes on TpT
Fun fonts by Jen Jones at Hello Literacy and on TpT

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I Might Be Telling the Truth...

Hello My Bloggy Dears! I have missed you!

I'd like to say that I had sailed solo to Tahiti, or built a three story room addition or won the lottery, but, alas, no. I've just been overwhelmed by the craziness of being a sixth grade teacher when Spring Break and state testing are simply too close together!

Testing is only three weeks away, but all we can think about is S-P-R-I-N-G---B-R-E-A-K!

As a testimony to the state of mental exhaustion that has overtaken us, I misspelled "Spring Break" three times trying to type it in that last sentence. At least I caught my error before suggesting that I was waiting anxiously for Sping Break or Spring Beak.

In an effort to ease back into blogging, I am joining up with LaToya Reed at Flying into First Grade! I am already a week behind, so I have to jump in quickly before this link "expires," and then catch up on the new activity.

Week One's assignment {well THAT makes me chuckle} is to present the readers with two truths and a lie--and to leave you guessing (at least for a little while) which facts are true and which fact is untrue.

Ooooohhhh. I do like the sound of this! I've done this activity with my sixth graders in the past and we had a lot of fun. As I recall, they needed two sets of reminders. First reminder: There is a difference between "personal" meaning "about you" and "private" meaning "your parents won't be happy if they found out you shared this information with thirty-five of your closest friends." Sixth graders tend to blur those lines with some regularity.

Second reminder: The "lie" should be not be obvious. I remember students writing things like: "I won a million dollars yesterday" or "I stole three cheeseburgers and three hundred dollars at McDonald's last night" (So often, their world revolves around food, money, sports and video games!) Telling an almost-truth about themselves was not quite as easy for them to do! (Not to mention the importance of reminding them that this is a game and they are not supposed to be lying in the first place--especially if you are the one who stole my purple pen or broke that last roll of "boo boo tape"...) If you do try this activity with "bigger kids," these reminders might be helpful in the set-up of the game...

So, back to lying about myself...

Font from Hello Literacy... Chevron paper from Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs (see button at the end of the post)

Can you guess which two statements are true and which one is completely-falsified-so-that-I-could-include-it-here-for-the-sake-of-this-game? So...

Statement 1: While working for the Hawaii Department of Education, I got lost in a sugar cane field with my co-presenter somewhere in the vicinity of the school where we were assigned to work. We drove through rows and rows of cane plants (which poked into our windows and nearly damaged the car) for over an hour and narrowly missed having the workshop canceled on our behalf... Or...

Statement 2: As a seventeen year old employed at a doughnut shop, I misread the directions while making raised dough (such as that used for glazed doughnuts). As a result, once I mixed the warm water and dry ingredients, the dough rose out of the mixer, filled first one large trash can, then two, and then nearly half of the dumpster in the parking lot behind the shop... Or...

Statement 3: During my first year of teaching, I was on duty as the recess supervisor when three large dogs from the house across the street broke free from their backyard and found their way onto the school playground. Hundreds of children watched amused and/or horrified as I ran back and forth across the playground, among four square, hopscotch and tether ball games, trying to catch and capture the furry friends with only the help of my whistle and a commandeered jump rope...

Hmmmmm. Are you left wondering? Which ones ARE true? And which is completely made-up?

Thanks for checking in today! I hope that you will stop by Flying Into First Grade and learn some fun facts about some of your other friends in the Blog-O-Sphere. Just click on the colorful button above. And if you're not in the mood for scrolling upward, I added another copy of the link below!

The next time I link up with LaToya, I'll tell you the answer to my challenge. But for a bit of fun, you could leave a comment and let me know which fact you think simply cannot be true.

And just to make it a little more exciting... I have a little treat for you if you guess correctly correctly. I'll let you know Wednesday night (3/27/13) if your sleuthing capabilities have led you to the truth!

If you are on break this week, I am wishing you a delightful mix of fun and relaxation. If you're still waiting (like me!), I am wishing you patience and perseverance. And if your break is a thing of the past, I am wishing you a chance to reflect on the best-of-the-best moments of your time away from school...

The sweet fonts in my graphics are from Jen Jones-Hello Literacy at TpT and at her blog and the nifty chevron digital paper and the oh-so-cool numbers are from Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah on TpT! (Click the buttons or the links to see great stuff!)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

My First Five for (Last) Friday Link-Up (Such Fun!)

(And with a title like that, I am a little disappointed that I am not teaching alliteration!)

I am often reminding students to follow directions. I have seen this lovely graphic on many blogs and I have enviously viewed lots of posts linking up to these collections each week. Silly me. All along, I thought everything had to happen ON a Friday. Abut those directions, Kim...
This past week, I was so excited to have a number of activities that could add up to FIVE on a Friday. When I went to check on the details to prepare myself for the link up, I was thrilled to find out that Doodle Bugs actually allows you a whole week to come up with all of the excitement. Woo Hoo! Oh happy day... or... week! Delightedly, I am already planning to link up some other time with events that have happened throughout the week.

For the record, though, this time all of these happenings did occur ON a Friday.

First up, we spent some day cutting up flash cards for our Mesopotamia study. Students often make their own cards for different areas of study--but we were running short on time and I wanted to add a few to our study. This is a communal time... we play music and chat and study together. 

Then it's time for a quick clean up. I know it's strange to blog about a trash receptacle, but these make me smile. I bought them baskets at Dollar Tree last summer (to match my room, of course). In my room, table leaders are responsible for getting everything into the recycling bin which limits the number of kids up and walking around. This system keeps everything manageable and I'm always impressed that they their work spaces are always tidy after projects. {Happy sigh!}

As we near the end of our study of Mesopotamia, we tried out a little cuneiform of our own on some miniature clay tablets. Pictured below are bird, ox, fish, grain and bowl. I’d like to tell you that I know which symbol is which… but I can tell you that the students DO know! And, yes, they are wearing plastic gloves… but that is a topic for another blog post!

Like most teachers, I have students who have a range of skills and struggles. Sometimes, students need to go back and add some math skills from previous years in order to use them as a foundation for new sixth grade learnings. This year I seem to have a lot of kids who do not have a real understanding of decimals… and they use the word “point” without knowing what they are saying. They can do operations with decimals, but they don't know what decimal amounts look like--or what those amounts mean.

I use manipulatives to illustrate mathematical concepts whenever I can. For decimals, we use money, rulers, stopwatches, base ten blocks--whatever we can find in order to demonstrate those big ideas that help students understand mathematics. After doing activities similar to the one below numerous times, I heard what is considered music to a teacher’s ears: “OOOOOoooooh, I get it now…” And I’m pretty sure that she does!

Part of our behavior program centers around the accruing of “free time” points which a special time that we call “social studies{wink wink}” using giant air quotes and big winks. After all, it is a time to work on getting along and being SOCIAL! Students earn points through acts of kindness, above-and-beyond-wonderfulness and compliments from other staff members. They need to accrue at least 15 points to cash in, but they can bank the points and carry them over to the next week if they agree as a group to do so. We keep track of the points on the white board, and it is a student's job to add on points as they are earned throughout the week.

Strange as it sounds, kids have actually improved their social skills because there are three rules for this time: 1) You can’t say you can’t play, 2) You must involve yourself in an activity with at least one other person, and 3) No inappropriate conversations or activities are allowed. Students can choose from a variety of games I have collected over the years. I find this is also a chance for me to learn a little about my students through simple observations as well! And on this day, they even helped me clean up the cupboard!

I don't know about you, but almost every child in my room is sick! We are going through boxes and boxes of tissues each day. It seems that we are filling the recycling bin... with tissue boxes! I am so thankful that I have not yet gotten "it," and I am determined to outlast the variety of bugs that have been circulated through my classroom. So far, so good! (Personally, I think that Starbucks has curative powers!)

So that's my first contribution to Five for Friday. Click HERE (or on the graphic above) to see how the week went in other places around the blog-o-sphere. It truly is a wonderful link-up and I just know you are going to love peeking in on some other classrooms!

And, as always, thanks for stopping by!

PS I love my Stitched Flags from Ashley Hughes. You can find them HERE on TpT!