Friday, June 19, 2015

Back to the Blog

It has been two days since I got back from the beautiful state of Washington, and I am finally unpacked and recovered.  It was a crazy rush to get on the road.  I was delayed by two days of buyback training and a root canal, but with antibiotics in my system, I was on my way.  As a little side note, the root canal was so much more productive and enjoyable than the buyback days.
 The top picture is the view of Mt. Rainier from my niece and nephew's bus stop.  The beach and Puget Sound are just on the other side.  They have adorable little bus stop shelters too!  So beautiful! 
 We took the ferry to Seattle.  My first ferry ride!  It was everything it seems to be in the movies...LOL!  Of course, I took the obligatory tourist pictures. 
 As we were leaving, I managed this picture of the Seattle skyline.  It was right after that when I realized that my FitBit had died during the day at 13,057 steps and 27 flights of stairs.  Technically speaking, the battery died, but I think it really died from shock
 Yes, I know these are just shots of green stuff.  You need to understand that as a native Southern Californian, the green stuff was the most amazing to me!  Does anyone know what that Dr. Seuss looking fern is called? 
 Dead Man Island and a beach of sand dollars!  Yes, those black rocks are really live sand dollars!  Never in my life have I ever seen anything that incredible.  I was afraid to walk around and mainly just stood there saying, "Oh my gosh" - over and over again. 
 The view down the hill to the beach and bus stop below my brother's house, and the view up the hill.  And yes, I went down and I went up.  Fortunately, my FitBit was not around to experience it or it would have died permanently from shock.

While I was there visiting my brother and his wonderful family, in between my outdoor adventures, I made a Greek costume for my niece, a stuffed snake for her staff, two quilt tops with my niece and nephew,  and attended two Little League playoff games and an amazing middle school band concert.  I tried to squeeze all the super aunt time in that I could.

On one of our grown up day excursions, my sister-in-law took me antique shopping.  At one of the stores, I found these for $8!

 They are magnets!  Magnets!  Plus, they were only $8!!!  My mind is reeling with ideas on how to use them, so many that I can't even narrow them down.  They would work great under the document camera.  There are enough for small group work with tiles on cookie trays.  They would work on the whiteboard....!!!!!  I can't decide!  Any ideas?
When I got them home, I realized that they came with decimal points!  Plus, some weird dollar amounts from $100 to $100,000.  Where did they come from?  My sister-in-law and I came up with a couple possibilities, but my favorite one is that they came from some backroom bookie!  What were they used for in their previous life?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Next To Last Day

Tomorrow is our last day.  It will be a minimum day, fast and furious from start to finish.  Today was our next to last day, and it was perfect.   While I supervised a few students making a last ditch effort to bring up their grades, the rest of the class worked on mosaics...

They worked out a system of helping each other tape the paper up and trace, without fighting or arguing.  They just sweetly took turns and were helpful to one another.

The only disagreement was about whether the new scissors were turquoise or blue.  Yes, we found a box of new scissors hiding behind the paint supplies.  Oh, getting to use the new scissors was like winning the lottery!
Did I mention that they painted "Greek pottery" and didn't make a mess?  We had one broken pot, and four of them sat on the floor giggling while they glued it back together.  They were very pleased with themselves because they were "like real archaeologists."

I think I forgot to mention that they did all of this while listening to my Sound of Music soundtrack.  Despite my begging, they drew the line at holding hands and singing Do-Re-Mi on the way to lunch.  They are adorable, but not saints.  I took them out a minute early, and they were the first in line.  They were so happy.
A little elf may have made them cookies tonight.

I am going to be a mess tomorrow when that final bell rings.  This group has been a sweet blessing amidst a year of Common Core chaos. 

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!