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!