Sunday, October 18, 2015

Saturday Parent Conferences

Yesterday morning, when my alarm went off at 6:00am, I was pretty sure that I had made a terrible mistake by scheduling parent conferences for a Saturday morning.  Two weeks ago it had seemed like a good idea.  We had Saturday School yesterday (just to make up absences) and since it was at the end of our Conference week...well, it had seemed like the "good teacher" thing to do...last week. 

During the week as my colleagues discovered what I was doing and laughed at me, when my principal kept teasing me about bringing my sleeping bag, and even the kids questioned sanity of having conferences on Saturday, I started to question myself. 

So, when I woke up tired and relunctant, I reminded myself that the "brand new teacher me" would have and had done Saturday conferences.  So, I dragged myself out of bed, caffeinated my brain, and set off to school.

By the time I got there, my "happy to see you again" teacher attitude and smile were in place.  I collected some of my students who were attending Saturday School and opened up the classroom.  We had about an hour before the first parent to get missing work together and to get them started.  We chatted a little, and they again questioned my sanity.  When my first conference showed up, they went to the computers, signed in to Read 180, and put on their headphones. 

All five sets of parents that were scheduled showed up.  All five conferences went really well.  Some of the conferences had been ones that I was not looking forward to, but even those - no, especially those went really well.  I was more relaxed and the parents were more relaxed.  They were not rushed and tired from work and traffic.  We went over the grades, the all Holy MAP scores, and we got to talk about ClassDojo. 

Would I do Saturday Conferences again?  Absolutely!  Has anyone else held Saturday Conferences?  Did you love them too?  I would not reccomend doing them by yourself.  I knew that I had five other colleagues on campus - just in case I had needed support.  In January, on the scheduled Saturday School time, we will have an "open house" style morning for Student Led Conferences.

Yesterday, I let myself leave everything at school.  Today, I slept in.  After this, I am going do some quilting.  Tomorrow, I am ready to start a new quarter.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Classroom Reveal: Back To School Night #27 (or #28?)

As promised, my classroom “reveal” for 2015-2016!  This week was Back To School Night, my 27th or 28th…I honestly can’t remember.  I was just slightly horrified when I said it aloud to the parents, and I think they were a little amazed that I was still getting around so well on my own.  

Somehow I thought that by this time I would not be stressed out by the prospect of meeting the parents and making my room “perfect” for inspection.  Well, 27 or 28 years later, it still is the worst and most exhausting week of school for me.  One of these years, I am going learn how to not be so hard on myself.

Maybe it is because it was not the room I had planned in my head for this year.  Last year’s room was just a little hard to top.  I had wanted to paint ancient ruins and artifacts across the back of the room, and a giant game board running through them.  Next year…
Unfortunately, I was only able to get into my room for two days before the kids arrived.  They were installing a new fire alarm system at our site and they were not done until the NIGHT before school started.  I bribed them with homemade chocolate chip cookies in order to get in when I did.  I had to work around open panels, wires and strings. 
Not to mention because they needed access, I had to empty out my beautiful closet and take it all home over the summer.  I lost count of the trips and loads to and from the car.
With me being me, I couldn’t just throw up the perfectly cute and useful poster sets that I had bought and laminated.  Well, actually I did and then I took them down, then put them up some place else, then took them down again, and put them up some place else. This is their current resting place.
I just wasn’t feeling it.  Instead I went for big and colorful.  Fortunately, our secretary allowed me access to the color printer and I was able to get it up in just one day.
Last year I tried to get our school involved in Character Counts, again (but of course, I am the only one who has been there long enough to remember doing it the first time.)  This summer I took matters into my own hands and put together a calendar of “Character Focus Words” with related weekly quotes, and a variety of activities from various sources.  Fortunately, the rest of the school is going along with it (hehehe, one of the perks of being there so long).  I will share more about that in another post.
My classroom library books got to take a ride home this summer too.  I Lexiled all of them, looked up the word counts, and noted which of them are included in Reading Counts.  They are color coded by Lexile.  I want my kids to read OUTSIDE of the Read 180 books this year!   

By the time I was able to put them back on the bookshelves, the kids had arrived.  I had been debating how to organize them (which is why they were not on the shelves before the kids arrived), and was still waffling between genre and Lexile.  I asked the kids, and since they are going to be responsible for keeping them in order, they voted for by Lexile.  I am going with it for now.
These are new and I really like them!  The graphics are from Megan, of I Teach, What’s Your SuperPower.  I love her stuff!  Be sure to check out her store!  The sentence stems are from one of Dr. Kate Kinsella’s handouts.  So no, they will not be in my TpT store because they are her sentence stems.  I just made them pretty.   
They are laminated with those peel and stick magnets on the back.  I have them filed in a tub behind the board.  That way, I can put up just what we need for that day or week.  Last year I had something similar up, but they were so small that the kids could not read them; they just made the district people who walk the classrooms happy.  Love them!  Love the sentence stems, not necessarily the district people, but I don’t necessarily “not love” the district people (especially if they are reading this).
This will be my Read 180 vocabulary board and my “I Can” or standard board.  The shiny pocket chart that does not photograph well will hold the vocabulary.  I found these cute little clipboards in an outlet and nailed them into the wall (another perk of being in the same room for about 21 years, who is going to say anything?).  They make it easy for me to pull my “ICan” statements out of my binder and throw them up.  Since I have a self-contained classroom, I would be writing them on the board all day long.  This makes it easy!

This is how everything looked on Back To School Night with all the projects.

Year 27 or 28, here I come!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Interactive Long Division Update!

Shocking, I know!  I have been a very bad blogger.  As I was searching for a little more balance and less stress in my life, blogging got temporarily benched.  This school year, I hope to be sharing on a more regular basis.

This is just a short post to let you know that I have updated my Interactive Long Division packet in my TpT store.  After several questions and requests to provide mats with longer divisors/dividends, decimals, and fractions as remainders, and after several attempts to do so, I finally got it to work!

The revised packet contains 28 Interactive Long Division Mats which is 12 more than the original version.  Included in the new mats are Extended Mats for larger divisors/dividends - up to 3 digit divisors and 5 digit dividends. 

Plus, the option to write remainders as fractions. 

And of course, I included decimal tiles. 

All of this is in one zip, and if you have already purchased my original version, all you have to do to update is download again!  You are welcome!  I probably should have made a different product and charged you for it, but that is just not me.  I will NEVER be on that Top 100 Sellers list from TpT, lol!  More power to those amazing teachers, but I am just not comfortable with the "selling" part of it all.

Back to School Night is this week, be sure to check back next weekend for a tour of my room.  For now, here is a little peek.

Have a great week!  Oh, and please think good thoughts for me!  I have Jury Duty on Monday!  That is not what I want to be doing in the 2nd full week of school!  So think, "Your jury duty is cancelled, your group will not be needed..."

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!