Saturday, June 29, 2013

Currently...SUMMER! (July)

Oh My, July?! What happened to June? Please, dear clock and calender... Slow down!

I didn't put it on Currently, but I have to figure out Bloglovin SOON! I have dropped from almost a thousand followers to almost... two hundred. SIGH. I hope I haven't lost my BloggyBuddies. My techno-skills are rather... elementary. But I WILL get that button on my blog this weekend, I will. I will. I will! I'm just giving myself a little pep talk there...

Whew! With that aside, here's what I am thinking on this almost-July morning...

I am stuck between wanting to accomplish a thousand things (and read almost as many books!) and just doing nothing. I'm not really a do-nothing type of person, but I do like to sit and think. I never get to do that once school starts. I take about five minutes to ponder and then a thousand items from my To Do list start yelling at me and I'm out of the chair and DOING again. These past few days I have just been enjoying the chance to think about doing--which, by the way, is best accomplished with an iced mocha-machiato. I'll tell you more about that in another post, but, my-oh-my, such delicious-ness!

I have to got to school on Monday and finish cleaning my classroom. I have those four giant drawers in the built-it cabinets. Do you have those too? I'm afraid of those drawers. I rarely open them.

Things have been hidden away in there for years, decades even. I have visions of opening these drawers and seeing things scurrying. Or, worse yet, seeing things that have stopped scurrying. I am going to wash and clean and sort everything else in my room... and then... I WILL open at least one of those drawers.


Finally, I know I always need to blog more, blog better, blog with pictures, blog about something interesting, etc. But this summer, I want to focus my attention on Blog Responding. I haven't done that as well as I used to. (It's that TIME thing, you know?) And I need to go back and add some comments on TpT because I have purchased A LOT of really wonderful items and I haven't let much feedback. My one little word was APPRECIATE. I've practically forgotten about my word. And sometimes I have forgot to appreciate...

I think that bloggers (and sellers) like to hear nice things, But I think they really like to hear REAL things. I am so lucky and blessed to have SWEET BloggyFriends who leave me comments. (NewsFlash! On my recent Teach Like a Pirate post, the author of the book left a comment on my blog. I almost fainted. And it was so kind! Click HERE to see what a nice man Dave Burgess is!)

I need to work harder to do the same. I want you to know I feel blessed to be a part of this wonderful blogging community and that I am glad to have a chance to say hello. And, so, I am extending a quick apology to those I have neglected and a promise to do better in the next few weeks...

And, so with that hopeful sentiment, I will be on my way. I am meeting friends for lunch and then I plan to read a little and just think. I've got a notebook filling up with lists and thoughts and quotes. Sigh. {A happy sigh!} Isn't summer wonderful?

Don't forget to link back to our dear, DEAR Farley (just click her button below)... and take advantage of the LOVE-filled rule of THREE to make some connections and to enjoy all that is wonderful about our blogging community.

Sending sunshiney thoughts your way...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Teach Like A Pirate: The Third Circle...Consider Presentation!

Gotta love a Pirate Girl... especially one designed by Nikki from Melonheadz
So excited. So excited. So Ex.Ci.Ted! Today I'm a Pirate Girl! (Truth be told, I'm not really a pirate-kind-of-girl, but today I get to blog like one!)

I have been on vacation for a week... and my biggest worry wasn't whether our camp site had running water or whether there would be a Starbucks in between stops--it was whether I would get home in time to blog about Teach Like A Pirate, a wonderful book by Dave Burgess. And while the sunlight is beginning to wane a bit, I am here on my assigned day to share some details about my "chapter" in the book--the one called "The Third Circle."

Mr. B.  (do you like the way I have made him my new good buddy?) explains his opening premise with this nifty diagram. I added the star to reflect that when all is right in the universe, all three circles meld together and the magic happens...

I think that most teachers are well-versed in their grade level content (although as Common Core takes a tighter hold, I am a bit fearful that this circle will get even more attention until our "instructional comfort" returns again. This is my fear, however, not one shared by Dave Burgess.)

The techniques and methods that most teachers use are selected almost intuitively based on the content they are teaching. For example, teachers seem to know, without much thinking, that small group work is a good match for math remediation or that watching a debate might help students strengthen their thinking for persuasive/argument writing. They know that hands-on experiments help convey information in science and that compelling reading passages will spur discussion in a literature lesson.

So, we know WHAT to teach. And we know HOW to teach it. Still I am certain that I am not the only teacher to have taken a step back and pondered: I taught the material... but, somehow, the students didn't learn it.

This is where that Third Circle comes in. In the next few sections of the book, Mr. B. will offer a variety of strategies to help engage students so that the teaching AND learning will happen. It's all about presentation.

I put a technique from his chapter to use when I served dinner this evening. Mr. B. talks about barbequing. I am not the talented, but you'll get the idea! I could have thrown it all on the plate (that's my usual style) especially since (as is also my style), dinner was purchased elsewhere. Instead, I arranged the bread in little slices surrounding the dipping sauce and threw in an little greenery for color. It certainly looked pretty... and I can't helped thinking it tasted better. The audience was impressed and happy.

It was the presentation that made a difference. Sometimes I think we would like to believe we are strong, capable, caring teachers and that kids are going to like what what we teach so much that we don't have to think about engaging them. Ah, if only it were so!

I teach sixth grade. I used to think that I had to turn cartwheels while dressed like a cave woman to get them to be engaged! I bet you think I am going to now add that this is not necessary, but sometimes it helps...

I have not yet attempted cartwheels, but I have dressed like a cave woman. In fact, I do so every year when I teach "early people" in social studies. As the day begins, I invite students to address me as Waheela, Huntress. A few defer to Ms. Waheela, but most of them get into the spirit. They observe my clothing as I comment about how I need to consider the environment in every decision I make. I tell a tale about chasing woolly mammoths, and talk about my desire to be a huntress at a time when most of those doing the hunting were men. I end the lesson with a sketch on my cave wall (inked over a lightly drawn outline...shhhh... trade secret!)  Once, as an end-of-the year gift, a family bought me a walking stick that had "Waheela" carved into the wood. Kids DO remember those impossible-not-to-be-engaged lessons.

I don't have a lot of stellar lessons in my magic backpack, and I have begun having visions of myself cartwheeling as an igneous rock. But, I am truly thinking of more ways to draw kids into learning. And this is where Mr. B. says it best: When you are designing lessons, everything is a choice. Even our non-choices are choices. The next several sections in the book offer lots of ways to "spend" our treasure--our choices--as we craft our lessons. It ALL matters!

I adore this quote from Teach Like a Pirate...

Pirate Boy designed by Nikki from Melonheadz

I am so inspired by what I have read in this book! It's like finding some unexpected gems and jewels that you knew existed, you just didn't have enough details marked on the map to help you find it.

As I think ahead to September, I am conscious that presentation must always be a consideration, and that ALL of the choices I make will matter, not only in my teaching, but in my students' learning.

If you haven't read Teach Like a Pirate, get a copy quickly and dive in! The book is filled with adventure and wonderful discoveries.

Be brave... Treasure awaits!
Pirate Girl and treasure designed by Nikki from Melonheadz
Want to read more about The Third Circle? Head on over to Rowdy in First Grade. Jennifer has some wonderful (and funny!) sentiments about this chapter that you won't want to miss!

PS Pirates by Melonheadz HERE and pirate maps by Teacherscrapbook HERE ...both on TpT!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Five for Friday... Away from School (Sort of)

This may be an odd post for me... I am actually talking about something other than school (mostly!)

School ended for me on Thursday. And although my classroom looks like a disaster zone, I couldn't get into school due to furlough lock-outs.

So I hopped on a plane and headed for Washington!

Every summer I have a chance to visit my two nieces in a little town in Washington. It's always one of my FAVORITE parts of vacation. They are such sweeties. They own a huge part of my heart!

We did lots of fun things... we went to Mount St. Helens, we went to the library (those words went UP a wall!), we saw a movie, and we went to Powell's Books in Portland. And we laughed, and ate pizza, and watched movies from when they were toddlers and we just had a great time! And my oldest gal turned fourteen while I was there (My younger gal turned thirteen in March.) Time flies.

And then it was on to San Francisco!

Just north of San Francisco, we visited the Hubs' niece and nephew--they're twins! We were there for their middle school graduation.
In addition to the graduation, we had a big celebration, we went to a Giants game and spent some time just chatting with the kids. Teenagers are amazing beings!

From San Francisco, we began the trek back towards southern California. And that leads to our next adventure... Camping! (But those adventures will be chronicled in NEXT week's Five for Friday!)

You can't see me because I am hiding in the tent. Want to know a secret? Here's what was in my backpack... 

And that's how you know I'm a teacher!

Wishing you plenty of summer fun and adventures...

PS The little cars came from Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs HERE, the sweet "people" came from Krista Wallden HERE, Washington came from DJ Inkers HERE, the airplane came from Poppydreamz HERE and the camping graphics are from Johnson Kindergarten Corner and Digital Clipart HERE.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Five for Friday... School is DONE!

I feel like the end of the year carried me away into Never-Never Land, and I am just now crawling back home...

Actually, I am not even at home. I am in Washington visiting my nieces. But what counts most, at this moment in time, is that I am not at school! WooHoo!

I know, I know, things are always so much rosier in retrospect... but I am really going to miss this group of kiddos. I think that is one of the reasons I like sixth grade so much: You have the opportunity to watch kids grow into... real people!

So, with Promotion taking up the majority of my week (and my waking hours!), here is my Five for Friday...

This was a week filled with excitement... for a variety of reasons!

Yep! That's a real headline! And the school referenced was my school! In the middle of promotion practice on Monday (with fifty-two kids!) my principal whispered in my ear that there would be a lock-down. Not that she needed to tell me. After thirty years, I am a good observer. I had seen the firetrucks pull up, I had seen the men in khaki overalls, I had seen the custodianl conversing with police officers. Teachers SEE those things--even though not a single child ever suspected a thing. I was SO proud of my colleagues.

Two unsophisticted "devices" were discovered on our playground. One had been detonated, one had not. Within a short time, there were numerous emergency personnel all over our school. Yet, my friends walked calmly to their classroom, sat on the carpet and joined me in a read-aloud... as if they had dealt with explosive devices on campus a thousand times!

There would be more "materials" found the next day, and two more devices found on Wednesday. Later, a local teenager was  determined to be the culprit. {Insert big sigh of relief!}

Did I mention the MAYOR came to our promotion celebration this year?! Along with the bomb-sniffing dogs and a array of emergency personnel as well! Because we have students who are deaf on our site, we always sign all of the song and have the rest of the ceremony interpreted in sign language. The signing this year was BEAUTIFUL. I cried through most of it! The kids delivered their speeches with finesse and plenty of personality. They presented their wishes, hopes and dreams and spoke of their commitment to taking what they learned at our little school into their future. I think even the mayor was impressed! Our theme was "Follow your Dreams" and I have NO doubt that they will!

This was the year of FLOWERS!  There were so many pretty blossoms I was able to put a little bouquet in each room in my house... of course, I live in a really small house, so there were some in the kitchen, the living room and the bedroom, but it was all pretty!

My kids know me so well! My favorite candy is Kit Kat bars. I have always loved Kit Kats because they are so orderly! A perfect candy for an OCD personality... I am just so enchanted with the way they break on the lines. And, if you ever need to teach fourths... Your materials are conveniently available in red wrapper! I was honored to receive so many of these!

And what celebration would be complete without Starbucks? I love these Starbucks cards! I gave them to the people at school who helped me orchestrate promotion. I also mailed them to the graduating seniors who sent me a graduation announcement. And I kept one... just because I thought it was so cute!

So that was my week!  We are "locked out" of school because of some contractual agreement regarding furlough days. I don't really understand it all, but I followed directions and took a few days "away." When I return, I have to clean my classroom. And my living room. And my garage...

Or maybe I will just take my cute Class of 2013 Starbucks card, find one of their comfy chairs and enjoy saying the word "vacation" over and over...

Sending you summertime thoughts!

PS Those sweet little graduation hats are from Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs--available HERE at TpT. And the emergency vehicles are from Charlotte's Clips--available HERE at TpT.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Currently... It's June!

Hooray! It's June! Vacation is within reach! 
AND it's time to link up with Farley and Friends for another Currently...

Our last day with students is June 11th--which is also the day of our promotion ceremony. This is a day I anticipate (with mixed emotions) each year. This year's group has "grown" more than many other classes. And while their minds are already on middle school, I am reluctant to let go of more than a few of them. It has been a memorable year, to say the least.

However, I DO love summer. I have always appreciated being on a "traditional" schedule because it takes me a long time to unwind after the school year (and even longer to clean out my classroom!) Time is such a precious commodity to me. Just having time is a treat!

Oddly, my free time is often spent planning for school. I love the thinking part of being a teacher. Some people like hiking or canoeing or museum-visiting. Me? I like planning. Just give me my computer, some empty spiral notebooks and some terrific pens, and I will be happy for weeks!

This summer I am going to try to shift some of that time into reading ("normal" books, not teacher books) and relaxing. I am already struggling a bit with this idea. My brain seems to shouting: SEPTEMBER! Three times I had to check... Yep, this Currently is for June! (Thanks, Sweet Farley, for keeping me on track!)

I am excited to be visiting my (adored!) nieces in Washington and then some friends in San Francisco in the next few weeks. I wonder if I am the only one who spends more time worrying about my "thinking" elements over my wardrobe elements. I throw a few comfortable items to wear into my suitcase and then agonize for hours over whether to bring my computer or my iPad.... and which pens and sticky notes I must have... and how many books I can fit in the suitcase (school and "regular")...

And the older I get, the more I have gotten attached to having snacks. What if the plane is delayed, what if there is traffic on an outing, what if we are stranded somewhere (anywhere)??? I am just more content knowing I have snacks! Pretzels are my current favorite--but I can easily adapt to other choices.

So, how about you? Out of school? Last few days? Or looking longingly toward the end of the month like my pals, Jen Runde and Kristen at Ladybugs Teacher Files?

Whenever your year is finished, I hope that your summer is filled with friends and family and plenty of relaxation... and all of the fun you are hoping for!

Don't forget to follow the link below and join the party. And as always, leave some kind words to those who linked up before and after you...