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!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

December Currently - Bonus Post

This is a bonus post for the day.  It just won't happen if I wait until tomorrow.  I have missed the last few Currentlys and figured I needed to make it happen now.

Listening:  I know!  It is an outlandish movie, and I almost peed my pants the first time I saw it.  So silly, and so funny.  One of my nephews is deployed (in a relatively safe place) and we've been trading lines on Facebook.  
Loving:  I am totally planned for the upcoming week!  Enough said!
Thinking:  Really, really, really, have to be careful not to slip up and throw a line out there or it is all over until after Winter Break.
Wanting: No explanation necessary
Needing:  Stop blogging and go to bed!
Giving:  I need to be focused on the moment and not let myself get all stressed out by the season.  We are going back to MAP testing, R-Skills, SRI, and semester grades - I need to keep them moving, but I need to enjoy the little things with them.  They are such a great class, they make me smile and laugh everyday.  I need to do the same for them during this stressful stretch.

Don't forget to go link up with Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade!  She has a great idea about Random Acts of Kindness for the month - I am totally stealing it!

Big Sale and Read 180 Labels

Just in case you haven't heard from Teachers Pay Teachers and every other blogger out there...
Please make sure to swing by Teachers Pay Teachers and support your fellow teachers by picking up a little something to get you through the next few hectic pre-holiday weeks.

Earlier this month, I ventured into previously unexplored territory and started playing around with making my own labels.  I wasn't finding anything I really liked for my new Read 180 Next Generation library.  So, I made my own!
I have always loved the red and turquoise color combination.  Probably because at the old ranch house, my grandma's kitchen was all done in red and turquoise.  She had this awesome kitchen table with red vinyl chairs.  The plates were turquoise melmac (or were those just my mother's?).
In any case, I made a different design for each Lexile level.  Not that the kids will really notice, but it makes me happy.
These are all printed out and ready to go get laminated as soon as Lakeshore opens up.  I made oval ones too, but I am not really sure if I am going to sell any of them.  I am not sure how that part of TPT really works.  However, I will put the labels up with a few blanks for a super low price (there are too many pages for a freebie).  Please remember that the titles may differ slightly from what you have in your library.  It just depends if you added to it or kept books from the Enterprise edition.  These are about 3.5 by 3.25 inches.  They were made to fit on my Ikea cardboard magazine holders.  If you do buy them, please be kind.  This is a stretch for me!  

I spent a lot of time this week trying to make a product that I will never use in my classroom, and I realized at 1:30 a.m. that I had had strayed from my mission.  So just to reaffirm what my "store" is all about...

I will only create and sell products that I use in my classroom.

There are plenty of very successful and talented sellers on TPT who offer a wide range of products that cross grade levels and disciplines.  They have wonderful products and I totally respect them.  I am really not sure how they do it, and am in awe of them!  However, at this point, I am not straying from what I actually use in my classroom.  I will only put on TPT the products that have worked well for me.  I agonize over each and every one before I push that submit button.  It is just my personality.  I am a seriously an obsessive perfectionist, who is very organized and selfish about her personal time.  Plus, I am getting old and

This post was more for me than for anyone else.  I got a little crazy-pants this week trying to make everyone else happy. 

Please head over to Teachers Pay Teachers to make your wishlist!  Sale starts tomorrow!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Catch Up, Otzi, and Maroo!

It promises to be a beautiful California "fall" day this morning.  Blue skies and bright sunshine, with just enough chill in the air for me to wear my fluffy slippers and pull over hoodie around the house.  Before I go out and do the yard work, I wanted to take a few minutes to catch everyone up.

It has been a bit since I posted.  Nothing wrong, just happy and busy with work and life.  I have been working really hard on this thing called "balance."  I have been really trying to limit the work that I bring home.  Which has put a serious crimp in my posting, but has really helped me relax and get more rest.  One of the things that I have been working on is eating better. 
My homemade Lara Bars were delicious!  The protein banana pancakes, well.....not so much.

This eating better theme led me to buying a bigger food processor and a new hobby - fighting with Cuisinart customer service!  The lid never fit properly.  Used it four times, and each time it got more difficult.  On the fourth time, it was impossible to remove and the food processor refused to even work.  After an HOUR with Cusineart "customer service," this is the result.  Their suggestions and my responses were as follows:

Cuisinart:  "Have you tried turning the lid to the left?"
Me:  "Really, the left?  Are you serious?"
(insert holding with scratchy holiday music)
Cuisinart:  "Have you tried soaking the bowl and lid in hot soapy water?"
Me:  "Yes, and I was able to finally force it off."
Cuisinart:  "Oh, good!  I am so glad to have helped you solve your problem."
Me:  "No, you didn't solve my problem.  Am I supposed to soak the bowl and lid in hot soapy water every time I use it?  What about the food inside?  Do I shake it out?  Do I use tweezers to pluck it out?"
(insert holding with scratchy holiday music)
Cuisinart:  "Have you tried force?"
Me:  "How much more force do you expect me to use?"
Cuisinart:  "I don't know what else to tell you."
Me:  "What about how sorry you are and how you are going to replace it?"
(insert holding with scratchy holiday music)

Poor little customer service representative.  Hopefully, I will have more Cuisinart Improv to share with you next time.  I am thinking about dedicating an entirely new blog just about my battles with Cuisinart Customer service.

Back at the Classroom...
My kids have finished their Iceman projects.  They did a fantastic job.  The amount of writing for them was a challenge.  We did three paragraphs together in small group, and then they were responsible for the others.  Are they perfectly cited paragraphs?  Nope, but there are moments of brilliance sprinkled in with the awkward, and I couldn't be happier.  
 From there we moved to character sketches of Maroo.  They had to find five quotes that told them about Maroo.  "This textual evidence tells me that Maroo...," was the sentence frame that we started with, but they ventured from it.  Interpreting the text was difficult for all of them, so I allowed them a few freebies of "description" rather than character.  Remember my kids are reading Far Below - primary grade level.
This last week, we have been concentrating on Science rather than Social Studies.  They were so "written out" from Maroo and Otzi, we did it a little different.  They have PE 5th period, and then come back to me for 6th.  They come back sweaty, smelly, and hyper.  This week, I decided not fight it.  I had a roll of old newspaper print that I cut up into desk sized pieces.  While they were "chilling and watching a video,"  I mentioned that they might want to take some notes and draw some pictures about the video.  I call it visual mapping.  With a word bank on the board, paper and colored pencils on their desks, and a cool video, they were hooked.  Pretty amazing stuff, and a real insight into how their brains work.  Some only drew, some wrote questions, and some did a combination.  I was really pleased to see how much of the important stuff they got down on paper.  No torture, just chillin' and little sneaky learning.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Post-Red-Ribbon/Halloween-Week Debrief

Red Ribbon Week and Halloween in the same week?  Really?  How much does the world hate teachers?  Maybe it is better to get it over with in the same week?  Yesterday should have been horrible, but it wasn't at all.  It was a wonderful day.  In any case, the start of the week was ROUGH!  Jersey Day, Crazy Sock Day, Backwards Day, and the Door Decorating contest with Halloween looming was just a little much for usually wonderful class.

Monday- Door Decorating Contest

For some reason, at 7:30 a.m., I went all Common Core and thought it would be an excellent idea for my kids to pair up and use graph paper to to draw a scale plan for the door.  After tearing through a ream of graph paper, I watched them as they ran for their lives from the room to lunch and cursed the idea and the Door Decorating Contest!  I did what any rational teacher would do and decided that we were NOT going to participate in the stupid Door Decorating Contest!

Tuesday - Jersey Day

I only have a Dodger jersey, enough said.

Wednesday - Crazy Sock Day

My normally wonderful class has been possessed.  I am walking around in scratchy novelty socks over my pants.  Yet, I still try to complete the Door Decorating concept again.  This time, no Common Core.  Just old school, "Write NO on this paper in dark crayon until it is smooth and shiny!  No TALKING!"  Then we did speed watercolor washing and they scrubbed the tables clean.

Thursday - Backwards Day

I hate wearing anything backwards.  The tags scratch.  Not to mention that the only tops that fit me backwards are T-shirts.  My curv-a-licious body was not made for wearing anything else backwards. And I do not know how many times I warned them not to wear their pants backwards!  Yet, a few did exactly that and regretted it when they tried to do normal bodily functions.

Friday - Wear Red Day

Despite my worst fears, they were wonderful!  We are not allowed to do the party thing, so I had to sneak some fun in during the day.  I replaced our regular Math lesson with a graphing activity that let them draw a witch.  They happily did that during small group while I graded their notebooks and touched base with them about their independent reading.  We skipped ahead and read "The Fall of the House of Usher" in our R-books.  I turned off the lights and read it aloud to them complete with spooky voices.  Then I gave them the "how-to draw" Halloween stuff that I had pulled off of to help them with their afternoon mini-project.  We used 4x6 pieces of construction paper to make a mini-book about Halloween.  The only rules were that they had to include the five pictures from the "how-to draw," that it had to be about Halloween, and appropriate.  During this time, we did a 2nd computer rotation for Read 180 and System 44.  

It was heaven!  They were so happy and serious about their books.  They worked so hard and happily on their books that they begged for just a little more time on Monday.  I agreed, and they cheered.
They were doing such good work!

About 10 minutes before the end of the day, I called it and they cleaned up.  I passed out little treat (no candy or food) bags to them all.  I included some pencils, erasers, tattoo stickers, eye patches, fake mustaches, and a coupon for them to use for a missing assignment or extra points on a test.  They announced the winners of the Door Decorating Contest, and when we didn't win, one of my boys stood up and said, "Arrrrgh! We were robbed!"  Which, of course, led to a copy-cat chorus of the same and giggles all around. 
Blue suns added to protect my little pirates.
 I thought that they might think it was all too babyish, but they loved it.  I got hugs as they went out the door!  This does not happen in middle school.  Best Halloween Ever!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween and Unique Alternatives for Unique Kids

Shocking, I know!  An actual post!  It has been a bit since I last posted.   Oh, I have been busy, and I have a long list of reasons (mmmm...excuses:) for not posting.  Honestly, school was a bit much this last month.  I just needed to take a break from school related things once I got home.  All is good, just the typical busy stuff that we all go through with school.

Today seemed like the perfect day to get back at it and share something special with all of you.
photo by a close family friend, Jeremy Long
This beautiful girl is one of my nieces (well actually, all six of them are smart, strong, and beautiful).   Teghan is in the 7th grade.  Her life is busy and full of the things that she loves.  She spent the summer playing goalie for her club water polo team and being a Junior State Lifeguard.  She loves designing her own outfits and creating masterpieces with paint and canvas.  She volunteers at a dog rescue and raises money for them with a passion.  She is fearless.  Absolutely fearless, whether in the water, on the volleyball court, or defending her classmates from bullies twice her size and sending them running with their tails between their legs.  Since her daddy (my youngest brother) was in the Air Force, she has attended six schools and has made about eight moves (honestly, I have lost track).

Oh, and Teghan is dyslexic.  She doesn't care if anyone knows it.  Reading is a struggle.  Spelling is a struggle that often sends her into hysterical giggles.  Yet, she goes to school everyday, willing to try again.  School can be painful and stressful for her.  Yet, she goes to school everyday, willing to try again.  Teachers can sometimes be dismissive and demonstrate an appalling lack of understanding.  Yet, she goes to school everyday, willing to try again.  She is amazing.

This year, Teghan has a wonderful Language Arts teacher who pushes her to do unique and creative "book reports" rather than paper and pencil.
Since it is near Halloween, she had to use a pumpkin.  The only rule was "no carving" because the teacher (wisely) did not want the room smelling.  Teghan had just finished a American Girl book about saving the tidal pools.  She took blue painter's tape, made squares, cut them out in the shape of starfish, and secured them to the pumpkin.  Then she took an embossing gun and melted blue crayons all over the pumpkin.
After the melted crayon had cooled, she pulled off the starfish shapes.  Then she outlined them with a silver sharpie.  Later, she painted them lightly with silver glitter.  Amazing, right?
The same week, she made this beauty.  She got a styrofoam head at Michael's, painted it and went pipe cleaner crazy.  She was just in the Halloween mood.  Amazing, right?  She sent me a picture and I immediately thought of Medusa!  What a great idea for Ancient Greece!

She is amazing.  Many of my freebies and products are made with her in mind.  We all have amazing kids like Teghan (okay, not as beautiful and smart, because that would be impossible).  I want to be remembered as a teacher who "got" them, and encouraged them to find their place of strength.  I do not want to be remembered as the teacher who stressed them out and made them cry.  Not all of our kids will shine in school.  Some of them will shine once they are out of the confines of school.  As important as school is, it is still just part of the picture.  The longer I teach, the more I understand that truth.
This is Teghan's trial run for her Halloween costume.   Did I mention that she is creative and fierce? Don't forget the Teghans in your class!  Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Link Up and FLASH Freebie!

Yes, I am still here!  I had no idea how long it had been since my last post.  Life has been busy, and a little frustrating.  When I started this blog, I promised myself that I would not whine and be negative about school.  Thus, there wasn't much to say over the last month!  We upgraded to Read 180 Next Generation and I was so excited.  Then it came and..., well....
Enough said about that, lol!
So, I thought it was time to share something positive!  There is so much to share, because my kids are GREAT!  However, I will keep this post simple for Joanne's Spark of Motivation Saturday linky:)

Every year I have some sort of board to keep track of our Reading Counts "Word Count."  In the past, I have used pocket charts.  This year I decided to use some of that dead chalkboard space!
This is really a "2fer" because I have my "Homework" pennants (from Amanda Zanchelli) up on the same board.  Sadly, even though this picture was taken a couple weeks ago, we are still on "-OMEWORK."  Oh, my sweet little Diego..., but we haven't lost hope yet!

I just put a couple of those peel off magnets on the back of the index cards and put them up on the board with their word count totals next to their names.  This will make it easier to rearrange and not use up so many index cards because it changes weekly.

The kids were so excited to see their names up there!  When this was taken, we were only two weeks into using the program.  They are anxiously awaiting an update!  All but a few have completed books by now (some are are reading longer chapter books), and they want their totals on the board.  Every time they pass a quiz, they come by and tell me, and then they ask when I am going to change the numbers.

So simple and so exciting for them!  It holds them accountable and they are motivated by a little old fashioned competition.

Another way that I am holding them accountable for their reading is by using my new Weekly Reading Log!
They are putting it in their Reading Notebooks every week.  In Small Group, they have to show me that they have it filled in from their Independent Reading Rotation.  On Fridays, we have "Notebook Conferences" rather than Small Group lessons.  During our "Notebook Conferences" they share what they are reading, the progress that they have made with their QuickWrites and Graphic Organizers, and their recent quizzes.  I love Fridays.  It gives us all a chance to slow down and touch base.
Be sure to go over and pick it up at my Teachers Pay Teachers store this morning!  I just put it up as a "FLASH FREEBIE" this morning.  I will leave it as "FREEBIE" until I am done running my errands.  If you do pick it up, leave me a little love:).

Have a great weekend!  Me, I plan on doing as little as possible because it is supposed to be up over 105 degrees today.  Just praying that the electricity doesn't go out!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Peek At My Week

Labor Day Weekend, how do I love thee?  Please, let me count the ways!  Oh man, did I need a three day weekend!  It gives me just enough time to be a little lazy and not feel guilty about not grading papers!  Also, it gives me plenty of time to link up with Jennifer of Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for her A Peek At My Week linky.

Sunday:  The laundry is done, the yard work is almost done, and that just leaves cleaning the house and grocery shopping.  I managed to get most of the yard work done early last night, but my stupid lawn mower died again.  It just got back from spending a week in the shop, so I am not happy.  Before the grocery shopping, Hank and I are going to Petsmart for a little shopping/field trip.  Since starting work, we have been walking at 5am.  There are not any other people out walking dogs at that hour.  Consequently, Hank thinks he owns the world.  On our walk yesterday, he was not very nice when we encountered other dogs.  He needs a little reinforcement in a controlled environment.  After the shopping and cleaning is completed, then I want to get going with grading papers.  Later on, when it cools down, I will give my lawn mower another chance and try to finish the back yard - cross your fingers for me!

Monday:  We are going to be up early and go for a long walk!  Yesterday, we went way up past the park to the end of the street.
From my house, it was 1.7 miles and my according to my FitBit, 48 flights of stairs.  A few months ago I was afraid to even try the hike to the park, so I am pretty impressed with myself.
This was the view looking back, and it does not do the climb justice because it drops off steeply past those last trees.  Tomorrow, I want to it again and go up past the No Outlet sign and around the curve.  I think I am a lot more fit and stronger than I give myself credit for because I am not sore today at all.  I need to stop being afraid and challenge myself just a little bit more!  I am woman, hear me roar!

Tuesday: I get to go back to my classroom and see these adorable Mini-Me-Maroos hanging on the wall.

I am so glad that I made that frantic all over the town trip to get them the supplies to re-do them!  They were so happy when I told them that they could start over!  They were not happy with them either.  Parents were thrilled!
We put them up all over the back of the room.
One of my girls told me, "It makes me happy when I come in and see our Mini-Me-Maroos."  Well, it makes me happy that they feel that way about our room!  We are starting to research for our Otzi project, and while watching a video on Friday, I caught a group of them turning around and talking.  Just before I reminded them to watch the video, one of them said to me, "Our Mini-Me-Maroos are dressed like the Iceman!  We are dressed like the Iceman."  Connection made!  So, Otzi the Iceman projects are coming up!

Wednesday:  I need to prepare for a sub on Wednesday.  One of my sisters fell at work last week and broke her wrist and arm.  She is having surgery on Wednesday to put it back together with plates and screws.  I am taking her.  When I told my kids that I was going to be out and why, they all nodded, and one of the girls said, "Sisters come first."  That is kind of group I have this year:).  They asked for another packet like the last one - one of Lovin' Lit's sub day packets.

Thursday:  My Read 180 materials finally came, and the software is mostly up and running.  Hopefully, we will be starting to walk-through rotations for Read 180.  I plan on spending the whole morning doing just that along with lessons for finding the right Lexile level book for independent reading.  The afternoon will be spent working on our Otzi projects.

Friday:  More practice rotations and hopefully getting on the software for Read 180.  Greatest Common Denominator will be our math lesson.  And the afternoon will be split between Otzi and the Marshmallow Challenge idea that I am stealing from Joanne over at Heads Over Heels For Teaching.

More complete pictures of my room for Back to School Night can be found in my last Five for Friday post!  Don't forget to go over and check out what everyone else is planning for their week at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Five For Friday: Back To School Night!

Since I survived my frantic week, I thought it was time to unwind and share a little.  Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching is a great way for me to process and unwind for the weekend.  My "five" is really more like a million and one, but I am not sure I can even manage to get "five" posted before collapsing!

1.  Or 101° is more like it!  And I doubt that is even the high for the day!  We are getting serious summer heat.  Hank and Lucy got treated to a doggie day spa - low budget style!
Please don't judge the state of the puppy yard.  It was so pretty and perfect, for about a day.  Then I had to leave Hank and Lucy in it.
2.  One of the things I love about teaching is hearing the things that kids say and messing with them, just a little.  After 28 years, you would think I would tire of responding to every "Can I go to the bathroom?" with, "I don't know, can you?"  It just never gets old, it cracks me up every time; I am evil that way.

3.  Our Read 180 Next Generation materials finally got delivered!  In a gazillion boxes.  Right before Back To School Night!  OMG!

Of course, I couldn't just cram them all into the closet.  OCD me had to unpack them all and find the appropriate place for the contents of each box.  I am pretty sure that type of behavior is on some mental health checklist.

4.  After being promised access to the software for two weeks, we finally got it yesterday.  Today, my kids were on the SRI all morning.  I only have two or three who might need to move out.  Still, I am sad about it.  They are such a great bunch!

5.  Back to School Night!  It worked out so well!  Their Mini-Me-Maroos turned out so well!  OMG!  They are so cute!  I was so glad that I went to Joann's Fabrics and got them some material to use.  They were so happy that they got to start over again, more like thrilled!  I just wanted to share some long promised pictures!
This was the view from the door!

We did these on the second day of school.  They weren't allowed to use scissors.  Before we put them up, they tore the edges off.  We decided that they look like they belong in a comic book.

The overhangs were covered with their cave paintings.

Along with their Mini-Me-Maroos, we did an in-depth close reading and response.  It was a serious wake-up call for some of the students to see their "mark-ups and questions" compared to their peers.  We did a walk-around the day before we put them up.  They were able to take them home and work on them some more.  Most grabbed the opportunity and came back with improved passages and responses.

I wish that you could see how adorable their pictures are, but I am very protective of my babies.  We used pre-cut "people" and there was a selection of fuzzy fake fur and felt fabric for them to choose from.  They did such a cute job!  Parents were floored!  They had to take pictures of their child with the matching Mini-Me-Maroo.
 A long view of the back of the room to close out the post.

Don't forget to hop over to Doodle Bugs Teaching to find out what other bloggers were up to this week!