Friday, September 27, 2013

Five for Friday and Substitution Post-its

What a week it has been!  I have had about five posts floating around in my head and have struggled to find the energy or time to actually finish them off and hit "publish."  So many good things are happening in my classroom, so many things to share, but I hesitate because I want it to all be perfect before I post.  My OCD brain needs to process things for a while before they can be shared with the world.

So, I am finally linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for the Five for Friday linky party to share a little bit about my week.   This will be a double-duty linky; Five for Friday with a cool trick for substitution slipped in!

1.  This first one is my only complaint!  Allergies!  The ever changing weather has wreaked havoc with my allergies!
 Too many afternoons and evenings have been spent with my blessed Puffs Plus box and humidifier.  Make it stop!  Fog and then sun, rain and then the dreaded Santa Ana winds, cold and then hot!  I say again, make it stop!

2.  I am not ashamed to admit that the season premiere of NCIS was the highlight of my week.
 This really needs no explanation.

3.  Somehow I heard myself volunteering to teach Saturday School (again).  The words were coming out of my mouth, my fingers were typing an email, and my brain was screaming, "NO! We like to sleep in on Saturday mornings!"  And so, I will be at school tomorrow morning.  I have several of Erin's (of Lovin' Lit) Interactive Reading Notebook lessons for Literary Elements copied and ready to go.  Plus, I have math foldables ready and whiteboards cleaned.  This year is the year that puts "school" back in Saturday School!

4.  Then after resisting the email pleas for someone to step forward and coordinate our new afterschool RTI program, I heard myself agreeing to teach the 6th grade math if my friend would agree to be the coordinator.  Seriously, I need to stay in my room and resist the urge to help or communicate with other grown-ups at my school site.

5. Finally, I have to share a strategy that worked so well for my kiddos with "equations and their solutions" or variable substitution.  My students were really struggling with substituting.  They could not grasp placing a number in the place of a variable.  It was a nightmare, they were a sea of blank faces holding whiteboard markers.   

So at risk of becoming known as the Post-it Note blogger...
 and then I did this...
 yep, Post-it Notes...
 
the light bulbs started flickering on...
and they asked for a few more...
so we got fancy and used two colors...
Today they had a little flex time during rotations.  After their essay was peer edited and revised, they needed to study for the "Chapter Test" on Monday.  One of my boys came up and casually took the Post-it Notes off my table, and asked, "I can use these, right?"  He took them over to a table and carefully placed them on his whiteboard (just like we had done in class), then he and his study-buddy worked on solving equations from the review.  

I had grabbed them out of desperation, it never occurred to me that my students would be calmly using them as a math tool.  I love Post-it Notes!

Hopefully, I will post a little something about our Bigfoot narrative essays and my new organizer, but I have to read over them well first!  Have an awesome weekend! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Peek at My Week: Narrative Writing

Happy Sunday!  It is a nice day in Southern California, the heat is finally fading.  Of course it will heat up again and the Santa Ana winds will blow for Halloween, but I will take the nice weather when I can get it.  And since other parts of the country have been going through terrible weather and tragedy, I will not complain.   So this beautiful morning, I thought I would link up with Jennifer over at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for her Peek at My Week linky.


Narrative Writing
With Read 180, there is little time for writing, but I am determined to fit it in this year.  We started working on four-squares last week and wrote an essay together in our small groups.  However, as I much as I love the four-square, this group is struggling with it visually.  Thus I woke up this morning before 5:00a.m. thinking about narrative writing.  Please tell me that other people do that too?  It was useless to try and go back to sleep, so I got busy in my makeshift office trying to figure out an easier way for my students to organize their prewrites.
It took a little maneuvering and mock-ups (and maybe a little profanity), but after a few rough drafts,  I think I am onto something.  We will try it out in class this week, and if it works, it just might be my first "real" item in my TpT store.  Oh, did I mention that I opened a store over at Teachers Pay Teachers???

FitBit
This will be my 5th week of working out with my group at the YMCA.  We workout four times a week; weights, circuits, and the dreaded Zumba.  I am not "dieting," but rather just trying really hard to eat healthy.  This last week, I started to notice that my clothes were fitting better and I am definitely feeling better.  Yay me!  

Then tragedy struck...with all the new activity it was trying to keep track of my FitBit bit the dust.  Okay, maybe it was three years old and the casing cracked.  I broke down and ordered a new one.  

It came Friday and I was giddy with excitement.  It is pretty and new!  I know I can do more steps with this one! (I have found that being delusional really helps with this fitness stuff).  So after a week with no FitBit, this week's teaching will be carefully measured in steps.  On good days, I can get in 4,000 steps before lunch.  It helps me remember to "walk the classroom" and keep moving.  I do not want to turn into that old school marm who never leaves her desk!

R-Books
Our R-Books have finally arrived.  They were stuck in Purchasing Purgatory.  I have seriously mixed feelings about them.  At first when we realized that they were weeks out from arriving, I panicked and was frantically trying to come up things to do.  Then we settled into Maroo, our Interactive Notebooks, and writing.  It felt so good!  

So when the librarian called to tell me that they had finally arrived, I wanted to cry a little.  But, I know that there are really good things in those R-books, and they are part of the program that I am using (and accountable for) in my classroom.  After thinking on it, I am pretty sure I can incorporate the Notebooks fully into the Read 180 program. 

Later this week, if I have time, I will share what we have been doing with our Interactive Notebooks and how we are merging them into Read 180.  It will be a full post with lots of pictures to share, but today I have to actually grade the Interactive NotebooksI swear, I don't know how some of you bloggers keep up the bloggin' pace during school.  Me, I can only do so many things at once or my old brain explodes.

Don't forget to check out my NEW STORE (with only one item in it:) over at Teachers Pay Teachers, and pick up my Behavior Expectation signs for FREE!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Big Announcement, Freebie, and Give Away!

Deep breath...here it goes...MY Teachers Pay Teachers store is officially open!  Pretty crazy and wild thing for me to do, after all I have only been contemplating it for months...losing sleep over it, trying to decide if anyone would even care or want any of my products and ideas, how will this impact my taxes, will I still have time to watch NCIS, and making Lauren (@ Life in Middle School) crazy with my needy questions.  Since it usually takes me at least 2 years to research cars, and another 3 years before I actually buy one,  6 months for a huge decision might be a personal record.  Don't worry, this is not going to become one of those blogs that is all about their TPT store.

To start things off, I put my Expectation signs in my brand new store - for free!  

 You can just go to MY TPT STORE (<-- click there:) and download them for free!
  They will not be accessible on my Google drive any longer, because I have a TPT store now:).

This is where Lauren is going to remind me that I am supposed to sell things in my TPT store, but that is a big decision...and it might take me a few more days or months before I decide on that.  

So for now,  I will be moving some of my freebies over to my TPT STORE!

And don't forget to stop by Life in Middle School and enter Lauren's Anniversary GiveAway!

Oh dear, now I have to figure out how to put one of those TPT buttons on the sidebar...Megan @ A Bird in Hand Designs will be getting an email.

Deep sigh, now I feel like a real grown up blogger...because I have MY OWN TPT STORE!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lauren's Giveaway!

My good friend, Lauren of Life in Middle School, is celebrating her 2 year blogging anniversary by hosting a crazy good rafflecopter extravaganza!  She is the reason why I entered the blogging world, and I am so grateful!

If you click on over to Life in Middle School you will be able to enter to win some pretty awesome prizes from some amazing bloggers!

You might be thinking, what will Susan contribute to this crazy celebration give-away?  Well, when Lauren first asked me what I was going to give away, I said, "Cookies."

Since apparently that was not the answer she was looking for... I decided to send some lucky teacher a SURPRISE BOX full of goodies that I use in my classroom!

But wait!  There is more!  Not only will there be good teacher stuff (you know that there will be Post It Notes), but I will send that teacher my revised Student Led Conference packet - before I put in my yet to be opened Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

So, some lucky guinea pig teacher will get my first few products before they hit the virtual shelves, and a really cool box of fun teacher stuff (and maybe some cookies) to brighten their day!

Make sure to go over and sign up for a chance to win some fantastic prizes at Life in Middle School, and come back by later in the week for a final reveal of my beautifully and obsessively organized Read 180 library!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Points: A Tale of Bribery...or Motivation

Good Morning!  Before I go to Zumba (to prove that old swimmers should stick to the water and not dance), I wanted to link up with Joanne of Head Over Heels for Teaching and her Saturday morning Motivation linky.
Earlier this summer I shared my table point system and point keeping sheet.  At least I shared what I intended to happen with my table point system and point keeping sheet, because we all know what happens when we actually start using a "new" system.
Well, we are really using the points.  Not in the million pencil boxes that I bought to keep them in, but rather the $1 plastic coupon envelopes from Office Depot that I bought for something else entirely.
The "perfect" table point chart is being used, but we haven't gotten to all of the computation portions of it yet.  They are keeping track of On Time, Agenda, HW, Classwork, and HW Club.  They can tell me the totals, and we just started with the percentage portion.

What I didn't think I would use table points for was as a reward for passing quizzes and tests.  I started off by rewarding their bravery for sharing their Interactive Notebooks under the document camera.  Then I gave the three students who passed the 1st Order of Operations quiz 5 points.  I didn't say a thing, just put 5 points on top of their quizzes in the pile on their respective tables.

When we took another quiz, I passed out their corrected quizzes into piles on their tables.  This time, I just put the points on top of the whole pile.  They came in that morning, and acted like it was Christmas morning!  They were so excited with their grades and their points that they earned for their table.  All but three students passed the last quiz, and they have been informed that they can earn their table points by coming in after school and retaking it.  One did just that on Thursday.

This is not a road I have gone down before with my students.  I have held firm to the belief that certain things are expected, and therefore, not extrinsically rewarded.  However, the last few years it seems as if my students were okay with failing, because "everyone else does too."  Lecturing to them doesn't work - I tried.

It almost feels like bribery, and I am not sure how this experiment will end.  Hopefully, this subtle nudge with points will continue to foster a classroom culture of achievement. 

Don't forget to go link up with Joanne and stop other blogs to see what they do to motivate their students!

p.s.  The hysterical thing about the points is that so far, the only "reward" has been for the top table to go to lunch a minute earlier than the rest, and a few erasers.  I love it!



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Boatlift- An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience


Today was a difficult day.  It caught me by surprise.

We watched a few clips from the History channel, and I answered their questions.  Well, I tried to answer their questions.

I still have questions.

It really hit me hard this year.  I think because to this year's group, it was something that happened a long time ago.  A long time ago...

Before they were born.

And for me, it was yesterday and the memories are still raw.

I teared up when I tried to explain the events of 9/11 to them.  Just like them, I find it unbelievable and heart wrenching, still.  I could not explain to them why people would hate so much, that they would do something like that to other people.

I came home and saw this video, Boatlift- An Untold Tale of 9/11Resilience.

My brother shared this video link on Facebook.  I cried some more.  I wish I had seen this sooner.

Tomorrow, we are going to watch this little video and talk about the amazing things that regular people did that day to help total strangers.

Thought someone else out there might want to do the same with their students.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Throwdown Linky - Post It Note Division

Update 11/28
 For more information on this strategy and a Flash Freebie, (sorry! Flash Freebies are over like that!) please check out my latest post and store.  Thank you!
 *******************************************************************************
Happy Thursday everyone!  It seems like it should already be Friday.  One three day weekend and I get so spoiled:)  Just in case you didn't check back in on Monday's post, Gus was found safe and sound!

While I was cruising through the weekend linky parties, I noticed that Erin from I'm Lovin' Lit was having a linky focusing on making learning more interactive.
Well, as I mentioned in Sunday's post, I have been playing around with an idea for long division.  My students are really struggling with long division.  We don't actually teach it in 6th grade, but we use it to convert fractions to decimals, probability, formulas....so, they need to know how to do it.  This year's group keeps asking, "Where do the numbers come from?"  It really got me thinking back to my elementary years, and being totally bewildered by long division..."Where do the numbers come from," and "How did that get there?"  Let us be honest, there are a lot of numbers and moving of them involved in long division.  I still get lost if I have to stop in the middle of a problem.

This year's group really needs to move and interact, so I pulled out an OCD teacher's best friend - POST IT NOTES!  We tried it out this week, and it really clicked with some of my struggling boos.  They are still struggling with their division facts, but they understand the steps a little better.  It seemed as if they were able to see how the numbers lined up and where they came from with the POST IT notes.

1.   I started out by using one color for the divisor and another for the dividend.

 2.   We kept the quotient and the product the same color as the divisor.  Why?  Because my kids needed a visual reminder of how they are related.  Yellow is for the difference.

 3.  Then we physically picked up the next number in the dividend and moved it down next to the difference.  At this point, one of my kids incredulously shouted out, "That is where that comes from?"

 4.  Keeping the divisor, quotient and products the same color...





5.  We just kept moving down the dividend and carefully lining it up with the quotient.


6.  At the bottom, the last difference was the remainder.


This worked well on the whiteboard with large Post It notes for my small groups yesterday.  They were big enough that the students could easily see them and move them.

If I was working one on one, I would use the smaller Post It notes and construction paper.

As far as whole class/partner work, I am considering making number tiles and mats to make to make a real partner activity (to save on the Post It notes).

I even think that this could be adapted to work as a foldable in our Math Notebooks.  Maybe with the paper number tiles and a foldout....

This is one of those activities that you will have to refine and adapt for your classroom.  For example, with some students the different colors might be confusing.  My kids really liked the patterns that the colors made on the paper.   Play with it!

The MOVING of the numbers, having to line them up, and the color codes really helped them see the process. They loved it, and want to do more this week.  More long division?  Crazy!

Don't forget to link up at I'm Lovin' Lit with your interactive idea!  And don't forget to stop by and see what great interactive ideas other teachers are sharing!


Monday, September 2, 2013

Currently and Gus

UPDATE!  Gus has been found! Safe and sound:).

For someone who vowed to keep the blogging monster under control, I am sure posting a lot this weekend.  I blame Farley and her Currently!  Or it could be this miserable cold is keeping me home and in the house...
Listening:  I am so glad that I found out about my faulty and decaying AC unit before this blasted heat wave.  And I am adjusting quite happily to forever having teal carpeting.

Loving:  This extra day, it could not have come at a better time!

Thinking:  My sweet cousin lives up in Mammoth (don't hate her, she is a sweet, sweet cousin) and while doing some shopping in Bishop, her beloved Black Lab, Gus went missing.  She is truly heartbroken.  Her love for her dogs was what originally inspired me to get my first dog as an adult.  
 If you are in that area, or know of anyone who is in that area, PLEASE share this with them!

Wanting:  Thanks to a day of rest and an early bedtime, the nasty cold is receding.  So I really just want Gus to find his way home.

Needing:  Well, life is pretty good:)

For me:  Well, I have committed to a training group at my local YMCA.  Getting to the workouts at the end of the day is challenging, but in the end it will be so worth it!.   Since school started, I have been in bed by 8:00p.m.  Since I am up by 4:30a.m. and out of the house by 6:ish, it makes sense.

Have a great month!  And please share Gus' information with anyone in that area!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Peek at My Week with Maroo, Daniel, and Division

It is Sunday, right?  This blessed three day weekend has me a little mixed up.  Don't get me wrong, I couldn't be happier about it!  It just feels like Saturday still:)  My week is really beginning to form in head and I am starting to get it out on paper; I thought you might like a little peek at it.
Jennifer of Mrs. Laffin's Laughings has this great new linky that is really encouraging me to plan and share what I hope will be going on in my classroom this upcoming week.

Conferences and SIT
Tuesday will be a full day starting off with an early morning conference with a parent, and concluding with SIT (or Student Study Team) meetings (this year, I have my own day on the SIT calendar) after school for four of my students.  The rest of the week will be spent catching up and rescheduling a few more conferences that got away from me last week.  Transportation and work schedules are big issues for most of my parents, so rescheduling conferences is the norm.

Maroo 
We will be continuing with Maroo.  On Friday, we stopped right before the men went off on the ill-fated ibex hunt!  So this week there will be a little sniffling and shouting going on in my room.  We will continue with their Interactive Reading Logs.  They are doing great work in them.  This week we will be able to do some small group work during Read 180/System 44 rotations, and I want to dig into sentences.  So this will be one of the lessons that we will work on in small group.
 

The overwhelming abundance of colons and semi-colons was just too good to pass up.  It will be very much a teacher-led lesson for my kiddos, but they definitely need to be exposed to it.  Afterwards, I am going to challenge them to use a semi-colon in at least one of their Notebook entries this week.

Daniel's Story
My 7th grade group and I will be doing actual rotations this week (thanks to our computer tech).  It will take a bit of training to get this bunch doing "independent reading," so we are all reading Daniel's Story together.  

I chose Daniel's Story because it is a very popular audio-book in the Read 180 library, but they tend to rush through it and miss some important details - like all of the historical background and they keep asking me when Anne Frank is going be in it (I love my kids:).  Listening to it together, stopping and doing what the "coach" is modeling, and filling out the Quickwrites together will really set them up for success when they really start their "independent reading."

Long Division
We are starting equations in Math this week, but we are constantly reviewing basic skills.  Most of my kids can handle addition, some can handle subtraction, a few can perform multiple digit multiplication, but NONE of them can do anything past the most basic of long division.  I have this idea for Post-it Note Long Division, but haven't worked out the kinks yet.  Give me a few more days, and I will post about it later in the week.
 
Grades!
Am I the only one who is occasionally blindsided by the fact that the district office actually wants grades turned in?  These first four weeks have flown by!  I have mid-quarter progress reports due on the 6th!  Yikes!

Enjoy your long weekend!  I am going to spend mine grading (and actually entering those grades) and trying to shake this nasty cold that my sweet, but snotty-nosed kiddos passed on to me!