Thursday, April 9, 2015

All I Have Energy For...

This is all the post I have energy for...

We are in the middle of something at school, that I am legally obligated to not speak is a four-letter word...oh, I mean acronym. 

Next week, we get to do the R-Skills...actually, that might be this week, but regardless, it will not be getting done this week.

And then more of the four-letter word...oh, I mean acronym.

Then we get to finish "it"

...just in time for Spring MAP.

Tomorrow, my kids have a free day from "it."

And I swear by all that is holy, I am locking my classroom door and letting them color all day. 

You will be able to find me under my desk...

.....rocking back and forth in the fetal position.

Unless I have to period sub, again.

People, there are not enough leftover Cadbury Eggs to make this better.

Just wanted to update you on the situation...

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Stretching Read 180 Stretch Texts

It has been ages, I know.  The last month has left me a little weary, a little tired, and a little raw.  Coming home, playing with the dogs, and curling up in bed was all I could bring myself to do...well, I did summon enough energy to peel foil off of Cadbury eggs before falling asleep - a girl has to survive.

It was looking up and then we got the news that our SBAC testing was moving up a MONTH, because they want to make sure we have time for Spring MAP testing.  Heaven forbid we don't have time to test them one more time!  Is it time to retire yet?  I have to remind myself that it gets like this every year at this time, and in the words of Taylor Swift, "Shake it off!"

On the bright side, my class is still wonderful.  Amidst all the chaos, they are still chugging along, getting better everyday.  They are showing so much growth in their writing and reading; it makes me proud to be their teacher. 

Last week, I agreed to take in three eighth grade honor students for my 6th period.  Their teacher was out for the day, and she farmed them out to make her giant class more manageable for the sub.  They were angels, and spent the period working on annotating an article and filling out an graphic organizer on the computers.  My kids were fascinated.  They were a little amazed that they were doing the same sort of thing with paper and pencil that the 8th graders were doing.  "Marking up the text" suddenly took on a whole new importance for them.  After a few phone calls and a quick conference, the girls came back this Friday to teach my kids how to annotate a reading passage using Word on the computer.
 Since we are a self-contained class with Read 180, they were used to the rotations and it went great!
With ten computers, and one eighth grade honor student for every two of my kids, it was a dream!
Since I have been juggling/struggling to keep up with the pacing guide for Read 180, the new Stretch Texts have not been used to their potential.  I simply took the Stretch Text for Workshop 7, and put it into Word.  At our site we have designated computer drives for students to access teacher created documents, so I dumped the Stretch Text into my folder.  The 8th graders did the rest!

Side note:  Yes, I know that this is not exactly how the Stretch Texts are meant to be used.  I conducted an act of "program fidelity" treason.  Good experienced teachers deviate and modify when necessary.  After teaching Read 180 for ten years, I know when, where, and what I can improve on related to "program fidelity."  Please don't get me wrong, I think Read 180 is a great program...but it is a PROGRAM and not a teacher.  So, I stretched the Stretch Text?  It needed to be done:).

In three fifteen minute rotations, they walked all the students through accessing the class folder, opening up the correct document, guided them through the first section of the Stretch Text, and showed them how to "annotate" or "mark it up" with their comments.  It was so easy!

I have to admit that I was a little surprised at how easy this was for them.  They simply opened up the document in Word.  By highlighting the text, and clicking on "New Comment" in the toolbar, the comment box popped open for them to write in.  Mistakes can be easily deleted with the "Delete" button.

For the first article, I am going to have them print out their copies to bring to small group.  That way, they can compare comments and actually read over what other students wrote.  In the future, the girls are going to come back and walk them through attaching a document to their student email.  This way, Stretch Texts can be worked on throughout the whole workshop.  They will be able to really preview the articles before they come to small group.

My 8th grade colleague is thrilled too!  She wants her students to really become leaders and this gives them a safe place to grow their leadership skills.  And the bonus for her is that she will have thirty students walking into her class already knowing how to annotate using Word.

Of course, the bonus in this for me was watching my kids interact with the 8th graders.  Some were shy and serious, all were eager to impress, and some of the boys...well, it is spring.

Hope this helped someone!  Here's to a good week!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


I wanted to post and tell you all about my Student Led Conferences, but I am running out of time before bedtime.  I will post examples and share later this week.  They were wonderful!

As you have undoubtedly heard from every other blogger and TPT seller, there is a big sale tomorrow!  I am not much of a salesperson, but it did occur to me that I should mention it.

720 × 90

One of the things that I am working on this year is balance.  To keep things in perspective and balanced at school, I am trying to walk a little bit at lunch.  Just me, with some tunes playing and the fresh air.  It really perks me up and relaxes me a little bit.  This was my view today on my walk. 
Not a bad view of the green hills that surround my school.  It was a beautiful breezy day here in Southern California.   We had a weekend plus of rain - and we need it.  Most of the year, the hills are covered in dry brown brush, but the recent rain really brought out the green.   In another few months it will be smoggy and over 100 degrees, so I am enjoying it now.   I realize that other parts of the country have been struggling with the ice and snow weather, and am feeling blessed.  Please take care in the icy parts of the country!  I have been thinking of you!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Five For Friday - Book Recommendations for Read 180!

It has been a little bit since I linked up for any linky, so I decided to jump back in with Five For Friday with Doodle Bugs!


Have you ever had one of those weeks when you stopped to buy a lottery ticket...out of desperation?  I didn't win.



My kids are still adorable!  We had a frustrating week with technology, impending R-Skills tests, and middle school drama.  Plus, some of the older kids on campus made several poor choices.  Which resulted in two afternoons ending with an "important announcement from your principal."  After which, one or more of my babies would look at me and ask, "What is he talking about?"  Oh, my babies!  They are so adorable, at least for another few months!


With all the technology mishaps, we had a little unexpected time available to us.  So, I got the kids started on Book Recommendations.

I was so pleased with them!  We tried them at the beginning of the year, and it was a failure.  This time, they ran with them!  They were writing, consulting with their elbow partners, and editing with very little direction or help from me.  Before you judge them, don't forget that they are in Read 180 for a reason.


Did I mention that we had a little unexpected time because of the technology mishaps?  Not to mention that I am pretty sure I broke them on Wednesday with my amazing (not) tape diagram lesson (otherwise known as the longest and most painful lesson in the history of teaching).  I felt a little guilty and let them do some mini-book projects.
 They were so happy to just create and color.  They were very happy to color and not do tape diagrams.  Most were content with just coloring a book cover.

 Most of them were content, but not all of them.  One of my students thinks outside the box.  At the five minute warning, I noticed his entire table scrambling around getting things for him.  I wandered over, and was met by a chorus of begging, "He just needs a little bit more time!"  He was amazing them with his scene.  These pictures really do not do it justice.  He had three scenes of Alcatraz on his paper.  One was an "aerial view" of the island.  Another was of the cell blocks and the actual escape ("on the right people are going to the hole").  And a "3-D modle."  Yes, a "modle."  It is clearly labeled, "3-D modle."  I know that I should have corrected it, but it made me smile.  Do you see the sharks?   I LOVE my kids!!!!!


In honor of their wonderful Book Recommendations, the form will be on sale this weekend at 20% off!  It is a steal!

I just changed my mind.  Everything is 20% off!  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Back At School With A New Attitude!

Yes, I am still here!  Maybe my New Year's Resolutions will explain a few things.

Susan's Non-OCD New Year's Resolutions
1. Strive for balance in everything - work, nutrition, exercise, and play.
2. Don't feel guilty about resting and relaxing.
3.  Make time with family and friends a priority.
4.  Spend more time doing what I enjoy.
5.  Have an adventure.

I realize that some of those seem like no-brainers, but my resolutions last year consisted of a four page carefully organized list of everything that needed to be done around the house, school, TpT, and how much exercise I needed to do and when.  This is a much healthier approach to the year, and I am off to a great start.

This weekend we went to the Pantages and saw Wicked.  It was my niece and nephew's first time in Hollywood (much squealing and picture taking), and their first time seeing a professional production.  That smile on her beautiful face stayed there all night.  Worth every minute of the Friday night traffic and sleep lost on the late night.

I have spent many a night happily knitting.  Over the last month, I have pretty much knitted something for everyone in my family (who would let me, nephews in their twenties are not very fun).  It relaxes me, allows me to be creative, and I love it.

Hank and Lucy are very happy because our walking has once more become a regular thing.  Not the frantic paced "workout walk" of before, but a leisurely couple miles after school.  

I am working really hard at staying focused at school.  I have been using every minute of time preparing and grading, no more tangents and stress-pity parties.  Not only that, but with a few exceptions, I have been out the door and in the parking lot within an hour after the kids leave.  The best part, nothing is going home with me during the week.  On Fridays, I do take home a few select sets of papers and things to plan with for the next week.

One of my few late days was because I attended a Read 180 meeting for the district.  They shared our district wide results for the SRI.  My partner and I had the best results of any middle school in the district - by a landslide.  I allowed myself to enjoy the praise and shared it with my class.  They were thrilled!  In addition to an average growth of 147 Lexiles in three and half months, six of my System 44 kiddos blew away the SPI and moved into Read 180!

 Of course, it is hard for me to not look at the bottom few and question my teaching.  However, I am trying to be more positive.  One student moved, one was leaving for vacation that day and was frantic, and the others still exceeded the district expected growth.  Still, I wanted all of them to shine.

Finally, I wanted to share what I found on my desk the first day back.
Our administrators left a personal note on each teachers' desk.  I can't tell you how nice that was to see on Monday morning.  It changed my whole attitude about starting back.  We have about 45 staff members.  That was a lot of note-writing over break.   Mine is clipped above my desk in the back of the room.  I must have read it over twenty times.  It still fills my teacher heart with a happy smile every time.  This is my 26th year of teaching, and I have never had such a thoughtful note to greet me on the first Monday back.

Bring it on 2015!

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Semester's Resoultions! (SALE!)

Happy New Year!  Like many, I have been relaxing, enjoying my time off, and not blogging!  Many teachers are back at school this week, but I have one more week (don't hate me:).  A week that I intend to enjoy.

Our family holiday gathering was just two days ago, so Christmas just came down today.  Why is it always harder to take it down than to put it up? 

So today, I sorted and packed all of my tree decorations by color and size, into little tubs.  It made me so happy.  You are probably not surprised, or you are surprised that they weren't already that way!  I need to get back to work.

In my head, I am planning for lessons and our conferences!  My school does not require a second set of parent conferences, but with my boo-boos, I like to do them again at the semester.  One of the things that will be in their little packet is my New Semester's Resolutions!

 It will be on 20% off until Wednesday afternoon!

Now, I have to finish a scarf for my niece, make a bunch of Bigfoots (or Bigfeet, or just Bigfoot? - in any case, it is a long story and a post for another time) for the classroom, and relive my twenties by watching Friends on Netflix (darn them and their evil plan to keep me from working)!

Hope your holidays were filled with love, friends, and family!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

May Your Season Be Bright!

Last year, I was a little bit of a sad Grinch about Christmas.  I waited until the very last moment to decorate and only because I had family coming over.  Let me just admit to being a tad depressed last year about the holidays.  This year, I am totally in the spirit:).

My house is decorated.  Not crazy lady decorated, but nicely done.  Just enough to make me smile, and I love what I did.
This little antique basket is full of gold, stars, and snowflakes.  It sits on my kitchen table, and I love the way the morning light catches it.
I have been leaning towards an serious obsession with little trees.  As a little girl, the Betsy books by Carolyn Haywood were my absolute favorites.  Betsy and Star had a little Christmas tree in their room, and I have been obsessed with the idea of them ever since!  I am only letting myself buy one little one every other year.  There may be a few more that are not in the picture...
My day has been spent filling these little boxes with lights!  Every year, I make myself insane with baking, fudge-making, and more baking.  I find myself rushing around to the point where I am cranky the whole last week of school.  I get so stressed out about those little presents for my colleagues and office staff.  I promised myself that I would be "in the moment" with my kids this year, rather than distracted by a million other things.  Over Thanksgiving break, I was at Ikea (indulging in my little tree obsession) looking at Christmas tree decorations when they put the whole display on sale, right as I was standing there!  I scooped them up and counted later!
Beautiful, right!  They took a little putting together, but once I figured it out, it was easy!  The little LED lights each have a snowflake that snaps over them.  It felt like holding a magical fairy bouquet in my hands.  I spent the whole day giggling and covered in snowflake lights.  Tomorrow night, I am going to tie a little bow on each handle with a tag that says, "MAY YOUR SEASON BE BRIGHT!" 

The boxes were a freebies, and I figure that the lights, snowflakes, and batteries might be a little more than what I would spend on baking supplies, but I am not going to be baking ALL WEEK!  Plus, the left overs are not going to find their way onto my hips!  I plan on doing a little baking for treat week in the lounge, and some extra for a few of the guys (who probably would not appreciate snowflake fairy lights, and they have already asked what day I would be bringing their cookies:).  Please don't get me wrong, I love baking.  I just don't love baking all night and getting stressed out about it!

Before I sign off, I wanted to let everyone know that I am fine.  Southern California got hit hard with a few storms, but my house is fine.  I am about a million dollars shy of living in those neighborhoods that were damaged in the awful mudslides.  We needed the rain, just not 8-10 inches in one 24 hour period.

I will post a few pictures about what I am doing for my kiddos later this week!  In the meantime...

May Your Season Be Bright!