Tuesday, May 29, 2012

You Asked For It. . . Again!

Just a quick check in for a couple of reasons:

1.  I've gotten a lot of recent requests for the VOICES headings I use.  I actually got a lot of requests a while back and did a post with a link that will allow you all to download them.  Here's the link to the post:  VOICES Headers  It should still work, but if it doesn't just let me know in the comments.

2.  And, the other thing. . .  It was nine million degrees in my classroom today!!!!!  (Yeah, the second thing is just me whining about the heat.) Well, not really nine million degrees.  But, it doesn't feel like much of an exaggeration.  It was 91 degrees outside and close to that inside  I happen to have a second floor classroom with a wall of windows.  Only three of those windows open, and for safety reasons, they only open about ten inches.  It was a steamy day to say the least. 

My friends had to take a math test this afternoon, and I knew they were going to be too hot to concentrate.  I couldn't even think today.    So, being the smart cookie that I am, I knew just what to do. . .

Flavor Ice to the rescue!  I actually picked up a box of 200 at Costco last week and threw them in my freezer.  My friends and I are in school until June 15th, and history tells me there will be a few scorchers among those days.  Today being one.  This morning I grabbed a bunch and put them in the freezer in the staff lounge.  When it came time for the math test, everyone got a Flavor Ice.  You would think I handed them gold.  End result?  Happy, cooler children who did very well on their test!

Here's hoping your day was cooler than mine.  :-D

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lapbooks and Cheesecake!

Let me take a minute to address my post regarding Staples new rewards program for teachers.  I thank everyone who commented.  It seems I am not alone in my dismay with this revised program.  Please, reach out to Staples and let them know how you feel, whether you agree with me or agree with them.  It is important for our voices to be heard either way.  I would love to see them revert back to the old program or at least offer up some reason as to why the change was necessary.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I wrote a post a while back about foldables and lapbooks.  If you haven't seen the post, go visit.  I was able to link to some great pdfs of foldable books by Dinah Zike, the queen of all things foldable! :-)  I used some of her foldable ideas on lapbooks my friends were working on recently.  I have done lapbooks on occasion before, but they are not a staple in my teaching for one main reason; they take a long time to get done!  While I do believe they are worth every minutes spent on them, the current curriculum I have to follow does not allow me to linger.  I know that they can be done in less time if you do them on a smaller scale, but mine always seem to take on a life of their own! 

I like doing them because you can really do so much with them.  Most importantly, my friends love the project feel of it all.  Every time I have done them, my friends are always eager to work.  Also, when they see their final project completed, they are a little in awe of themselves.  Love it!

In our guided reading groups, my friends were working in three different books, one on volcanoes, one on King Tut, and the last on the history of Jazz music.  Speaking of which, on a total aside, do you know the Cheesecake song as sung by Louis Armstrong?  If you don't know it, watch this!  I show this to my friends every year, and we end up singing it all year long.  I promise you will have this song stuck in your head!  And, just wait for Bing Crosby to come hopping through!  Too funny!

Isn't that just great!!!!  We will often substitute the word cheesecake with pizza or tacos or any featured lunch menu item. Any two syllable word will work.  Most of my friends are also in their second year of instrumental lessons, so they love seeing some of the instruments they play featured.

Anyway, back to lapbooks!  I thought I would show you some of what we did.  I forgot to get pictures of the Jazz books, but here is some of what my friends did with Volcanoes and King Tut.  Be warned, many pictures to follow!

One of the big lessons for this activity was getting my friends to effectively summarize and show synthesis.  I'm happy to say they did a very nice job.  What was also another perk was the interest my friends had for the books they didn't read. Once they saw the various lapbooks, they wanted to read all the books.

I have to say, I do love doing lapbooks with my friends.  But, for me, it can be very time consuming.  It also requires a lot of pre-planning.  You have to have the foldable papers cut to size and ready to go.  You also have to carefully plan what you will be doing with each section.  You also need to be prepared for that friend whose fine motor skills make a mess of the folding!  Always have some extras ready to go!

Having said that, I will definitely be doing lapbooks again next year.  :-)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Staples, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

I hadn't planned to post until this weekend, but an email has me so annoyed I had to share.

Remember when Staples was my new BFF?
It's been a great relationship.
I would like to say we even went beyond being BFFs this year and gotten as close as an office supply store and an elementary teacher can get.

When I needed 25 notebooks, Staples was there for me.
When I needed four new staplers because my friends pounded our old ones into oblivion, Staples was there for me.
When the power went out, my Promethean board died, and I had to kick it old school with chart paper and Mr. Sketch markers?  Staples was there for me.

So, I have to ask my BFF Staples. . .

Why have you forsaken me?

It was with a heavy heart that I opened my email to find a Dear John letter from my former BFF.  It seems that they have changed their Teacher Rewards program. It used to be that when they had Extreme Deals during July and August for the back to school season, you could buy an additional 25 of any extreme deal product at the same price.  In fact, last July I did an entire post about this deal.  I got index cards, highlighters, and pencils for just ten cents each! 

Remember these reading response notebooks?
Yup, purchased at Staples for just ten cents each!

So, what is the new program?  It seems you can buy the limited quantities of the Extreme Deal, which is usually about two, at the super inexpensive price.  Now, any extras you buy will be the regular price.  I KNOW!!!!  Here's how they think they are being a good guy, they will give you the full price of the other purchases on your teacher rewards to be used later.  Ahhhh, thanks Staples but really?  Not much of a perk!

Here's the email I received:
Important change for teachers.  Extended limits on Extreme Deals are now 100% back in Rewards.*  Last  year you took advantage of extended limits during the Back to School  season. This year, instead of getting an instant discount on additional  quantities of Extreme Deals, you’ll get 100% of your purchase back  in Staples Rewards on up to 25 items.    Just look for Extreme Deals on  the front cover of our Weekly Ad during July and August 2012. With these  savings, going back to school will be a lot easier.

For questions, call the
Staples Rewards® contact
center at 1-800-793-3320.

Email us >

Find a store
near you

Request a catalog >

Get the Staples Mobile app.
*Get 100% back in Staples Rewards when you buy any Extreme Deals during Back to School (July/August) 2012. Valid for Teacher Rewards members only. In store only. While supplies last. Maximum quantity eligible for Rewards is 25 including items purchased as part of the Extreme Deal. Items purchased over Extreme Deal limit will be charged at reg. retail price. Price eligible for Rewards is the amount paid at checkout after application of all promotions, coupons, instant savings, and Rewards redemptions. Purchaser is responsible for paying applicable sales tax. No cash/credit back. Limit one Staples Rewards account per person or at any mailing address. Staples Rewards are issued online monthly when the value of the Reward is at least $10. Rewards expire no less than 60 days after issuance. Monthly balances of less than $10 will roll over each month until the minimum is met for that calendar quarter. If the $10 minimum for the quarter has not been met, the balance will expire at the end of the quarter. For full program details, visit staplesrewards.com.
This email is intended to communicate important program information to Rewards members. The receipt of this email will not change your promotional email preferences. Make sure this email doesn't end up in your junk folder. Add staples@e.staples.com to your address book. Update your email preferences here.

Privacy Policy.

Staples Contract & Commercial, Inc., 500 Staples Drive, Framingham, MA 01702.

So, let me tell you why this makes me so sad:
  • I spend a lot of money purchasing supplies for my friends whose families simply do not have the means to buy them.
  • I don't get paid in the summer!  Being able to buy these items at extreme deal prices makes it affordable for me.  It's not so helpful to get the money back in rewards after school starts.
  • Being able to make sure  my friends have what they need to learn allows them to LEARN! Learning is the priority, not worrying that they don't have pencils or notebooks.
I understand that Staples is a business and like any business their goal is to make money.  However, I have to wonder.  Were teachers across the United States on the verge of putting them out of business with their crazy notebook buying every August?  What prompted this change of policy?  It just makes me so irritated.  I feel as teachers, our job is hard enough.  When you find something like the old Staples Rewards program that actually helps you do your job, you totally appreciate it.

I honestly used to think of Staples as a teacher friendly store, and it really did make me loyal to their company all throughout the year.  However, no more.  I simply don't have the funds to purchase 25 notebooks at regular price for my friends.  I can't afford to buy the extra supplies that I don't want to burden parents with.  And, if they aren't going to be so teacher friendly, I don't feel the need to be either when buying printer ink, paper, folders, and the multitude of other supplies I purchase at regular prices for school and home all year long.

It's time to end the love affair. 
Staples and I are no longer BFFs. 
As with any traumatic break-up, I'm off to drown my sorrows in pint of Hagen Daz now.

What's your take on this?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Still here. . .

Hi All!

I'm still here. 
Just dealing with some work and family stuff that has been overwhelming to say the least.
A perfect storm.

However, I'm hoping to be back with a new post and some more to follow over the weekend.

Thanks for your patience.  Hope all is well on your end!

In the meantime,
how true. . .

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Meaningful Cooperative Learning

I've noticed over the years that I tend have my friends do a great deal of cooperative work in all subjects.  It isn't something that I've done intentionally, but it is something I am very comfortable with and find it to be a very valuable learning experience for my friends.  However, it took me a long time to do it right.  Or, at lest what I consider right for me.  Below are some methods I use when having my friends work in cooperative groups.

Tactical Pairings
Some of my cooperative work involves pairs while other times I will have groups of up to four friends.  It depends on what they will be working on.  However many I group, I generally practice what I call Tactical Pairings.  I have a learning objective, and I need to create the best team possible to achieve that objective.  Sort of makes me feel like a Navy Seal commander!  :-D

Truthfully, random pairings seldom make an appearance in my room.  When I first started teaching, I used things like partner clocks where I could just call out a time and they could refer to the name on their chart/clock and partner with that person.  Over time, I came to realize that this sort of random pairings was not providing optimal learning opportunities.  Now, there is always some thought behind who works together.  My pairings can be higher and lower ability students, a linguistic learner with a visual learner, or two students with similar strengths.  The possibilities really are endless.  Most often, I look at learning styles.

When making cooperative groups, the first thing to take into account is the activity requirements.  For example, when we were working on owl pellets, part of the project was to create a teaching poster.  This was a perfect opportunity to pair a linguistic learner with a visual learner.  The poster project allowed them to combined their strengths to create an effective final product.  Another example would be an assignment that requires your students to build something.  This is a perfect time to partner your visual/spacial and logical/mathematical learners with your linguistic or kinesthetic learners.  To learn more about Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, you can click here and here.

This may seem like a lot to manage, but I have a fairly simple way to do it.  At the beginning of the year, once I get to know my friends a bit, I take a class list and jot down each students' learning styles.  I also make a quick note if there are any students who should not work together.  I revisit this list at the beginning of each marking period and make any necessary changes.  Then, when it's time to group my students, I just grab the list and call off pairs or groups.  Again, you have to keep in mind what the requirements of the project will be to create the most effective pairings.  Having the list ready to go allows me to make tactical pairings or groups quickly without any real planning before hand.
Agree or Defend
Talk is not encouraged in my cooperative groups, but conversation is required!  I want my friend conversing on the topic at hand.  Earlier this week, I paired my friends to work on a social studies project using elevation maps.  They had several questions to answer.  My friends know they have to discuss the answers before they can write the answers.  This means they have to both agree on the answer or defend their answer to their partner.  It makes for meaningful conversation.

 I should mention that the rule in my room is that when working in cooperative groups where each member produces their own work, they can have the same answers or they may choose to go with what they think is correct even if it doesn't agree with their partner.  Ultimately, they are responsible for their own work.  However, having to agree or defend their answer before writing it down forces them to explain why they think they're correct.   Not only do they have to be able to support a reason why they are right, they have to be able to articulate it to their partner.  This is higher level thinking at its best! Also, if they are incorrect, it is usually realized in the course of the conversation and fixed.

Key Words & Phrases
When we start an assignment, I will often write some key words and phrases on the board.  These are the words I would expect to hear in their discussions as  I walk around, as well as written in their work.  These words will be a few important vocabulary words pertinent to the lesson,as well as some words meant to help the lesson flow.  For example, in addition to vocabulary words I might add a few new transition words and phrases.  When they are using these words and phrases, they come to own them.  They will incorporate them into their own oral language.  As I walk around and listen in on my groups, I will often stop and prompt them with questions such as:  Is there a key word you could add to what you just said?  Hmm, I see the word *** on the board, how does that fit in with what you are doing? It allows me to guide them in their thinking as well as forcing them to use stronger vocabulary.

Offer your friends more than one way to complete an assignment.  An example would be the elevation maps my friends were using.  They had to create an elevation map.  There was no getting around that.  However, they had the choice of creating a map in several different ways:  flat contour lines, raised elevation using stacked paper, color physical maps, or maps using patterns to denote elevation.    Having choice makes for a happier student who is more willing to learn.  Also, your friends will almost always select a choice that fits one of their learning styles.

I find in literacy, there are numerous way to provide choices that fit different learning styles.  I have paired students who have similar learning styles and just from that know exactly what project they will pick.  This happened recently when we were doing a character study.  I grouped my friends who had similar learning styles.  Then, I offered  the same assignment that could be done by writing and singing a song, drawing and labeling a life-size picture, writing a letter to the author, or acting out a scene from the book.  Something for everyone!  Not only did they have fun with this, but I had active learning and participation happening while everyone was working in their strength. 

And. . .

In addition to the strategies above, I have my friends interacting when just sitting at their desk for teacher directed lessons. Let's face it, not every lesson can be a project.  Sometimes, we just have to teach.  There are many ways to keep them actively involved, but one of my favorites and most effective is. . .

Turn & Teach
When teaching a new concept, particularly in math, I will often stop midway through and have one student turn and teach the concept to the other students.  My friends sit in groups of four, so they are always partnered.  I will ask them to turn and teach their partner how to do ***.  They have to pretend their partner knows nothing at all about it. However, if they do make an error, the partner is allowed to stop and help.  I then walk around and listen in. It lets me see who has it and who doesn't.  You have to know it to teach it!  This really only takes a minute or two, and then we move on with the lesson.  The next time we do it, the roles are reversed.
So. . .

Overall, it might seem like I put a lot of (too much?) time and thought in my cooperative groups.  Well, I do and I don't.  I do in that I always try to make sure my groups are put together with purpose.  I don't in that the tips above are second nature to me at this point.  Having the list of my friends' learning styles makes it easy to make pairs and groups.  Once my friends are used to having to discuss, not just talk, with their partners, it becomes habit for them.  A good one!  I don't have to put much time consuming thought or planning into my cooperative groups.  And, as teachers, we never have time to waste!  Nor do our students.  This is why having cooperative groups that provide a real learning opportunity for our friends is so important.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

WOW! Thanks Teacher Hub!

All I can say is WOW!  I just found out that TeacherHub.com did a "Shoutout to 26 Awesome K-12 Teacher Blogs," and I was one of them!  Honestly, I can't even begin to tell you how thrilled I am.  Thanks you so much TEACHER HUB!
The first link above will take you to their top 26 list.  I was included in the 5th grade blog category along with Runde's Room, an excellent blog that I also love to read.  I link to the article not to toot my own horn, but to tell you the other 25 blogs are all well worth checking out.  Along with grade level categories, they have categories for Best Resource Blog, Best Ed Tech Blog, Best SPED Blog, and much more.  In addition to the 26 blogs they name, they provide additional links to even more blogs in some of the categories.

I have been a longtime reader of Teacher Hub, so it is especially meaningful to me that a site I respect and enjoy took notice of my little blog.  If you are not familiar with Teacher Hub, please go check them out!  On their home page you will find tabs for information regarding lesson and teaching tools, education news, professional development, real teacher blogs, contests and community, as well as info on graduate programs.  There really is something for everyone at this site.  Here is the blurb from their web site that tells a bit more about them:

TeachHUB.com is the online resource center for educators provided by the K-12 Teachers Alliance.The K-12 Teachers Alliance is a professional organization dedicated to saving K-12 educators time, money and energy while ensuring the utmost quality in the classroom. With so many standards, schedules and students to keep educators busy, it is no wonder you feel overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated.
It is the mission of the K-12 Teachers Alliance to ease the challenges, stresses and burdens facing today’s educators. We cut through the myriad of resources available to teachers and principals to provide a one-stop shop of only the most useful, affordable, or free information and assistance available.

One of the reasons I started my blog stemmed from the fact that I am also a strong believer that the best teaching happens when teachers learn, plan, and teach as a community of professionals that share thoughts and ideas.  I wanted to share what I do.  As you can see, Teacher Hub has a similar philosophy.   If you have a chance, visit their site and browse around. 
Once again, thank you Teacher Hub!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Just a quick note to those that have asked for the rubric I used for the t-shirt book talks.  I only have a hard copy of the rubric and directions, and I was planning to bring them home, scan them, and post them this weekend.  Unfortunately, we had a "thing" at dismissal on Friday, and I completely forgot to grab them when I was finally able to leave the building.  I will do my best to get them up this
week.  Sorry for the delay!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Finally, I wish you all a very HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY tomorrow.   I will be spending the day with my mother, so I'll be back on Monday with a new post. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Packing Up the Classroom

It will soon be time to pack up my classroom, if you count 29 more school days as soon. I do! Over the summer, everything in our classroom is moved out into the hallway because they strip and wax our classroom floors.  This means everything in the room needs to be boxed or stored.  This year, we have a new principal so I'm not sure what he will require us to do.  It still has me thinking about how long it takes to pack my classroom each year.  I thought I would pass on some ideas that have worked for me.  Some tips are for packing the room with an eye towards preparing ahead for September.  If you are an experienced teacher, I am sure you know most or all of these tips.  How helpful they are will also depend on how packed up your room needs to be at the end of the year.  I envy those teachers that don't have to box up every little thing!

So, in no particular order, here are ten tips for packing up your classroom:

1. Before you pack up anything, take a picture of your room from different angles.  Each year, I either draw a map or take pictures of my room and staple it to my bulletin board.  I leave a nice note for the custodians asking them to please put my furniture back according to the map/pictures if they can.  I then kindly thank them and tell them I hope they have a great summer.  In the past fourteen years, I think only once has my room not been put back in perfect order.  I would also suggest taking pictures of the different areas in your room so that you can see how you had it organized.  Maybe I'm just getting old, but there have been many times where I think, "How in the world did this fit in there?"  Having pictures helps!

2.  Put all your desk things in one box labeled "DESK."  It makes putting your desk back together much easier and is really the first thing you should do when you get back. I know before I even walk in my classroom, there are a million and one papers waiting for me in the office.  When I set up my desk first, I have a place to put all those papers.  I also always make sure I put a dollar store box opener in this box.  Then when I come back to set up for September, I am not scrambling to find something to open all my supply boxes that were delivered over the summer.

3.  Copy all your first week papers before you leave for the summer.  It's really nice to have those back-to-school activities ready to go.  It's even nicer to not have to fight for time at the copier as all the other teachers are copying right before school starts.  Then, store them in a file you know you will find in September!  A couple of times I have completely forgotten I did this at the end of the year and recopied it all again in September.  Yeah, not so much of a time saver that way!  Now, I stick a note in my "DESK" box to remind me.

4.  I saw this on a blog somewhere but can't remember where.  The teacher had a lot of book shelves full of books, some shelves that didn't have backs.  I have a few like that and it's always a pain to box up all those books.  This teacher went to Costco and purchased the big roll of plastic wrap.  She just wrapped her shelves in the plastic wrap!  Genius!  You don't have to worry about books falling out when the shelves get moved, and there's nothing to set up when you come back for the following year.  Just cut off the plastic wrap, and you are good to go.

5.  I used to shelve my text books by subject.  All the math books on the shelf, then all the science books, all the social studies books and so on.   My textbooks are all numbered and given to the student who has that number.  The year before last, I shelved the books in sets by number instead of subject.  So, my student who is #1 brought me all their textbooks and I put them on the shelf together as a set.  Then, I collected student #2's books, then 3, you get the idea.  In September, when it came time to pass out the books, I was able to do it all in one shot.  It was a real time saver.

6.  Organize your class library before you leave.  Even though this is a job in my classroom, our class library does get out of order to some degree.  This is a great activity for your friends at the end of the year.  I take all the baskets out and we put them on their desks.  Each friend has to make sure the books in the baskets match the genre or guided reading level before they can put it back on the shelf. While they do this, I have them keep an index card and write down any titles they haven't read yet but would like to.   It organizes my library, and it gives my friends a head start on some summer reading suggestions.

7.   Do your September bulletin boards now!  I have my Back to School bulletin boards done before I leave in June.  I use fadless bulletin board paper, so unless I need to change the background it's a quick change up.  This year I will be changing all the backing paper, put up some new borders and any bulletin board headers or decorations I want up in September.  To keep it all clean and intact from the custodians that clean the room over the summer, I cover each bulletin board with plastic tablecloths from the dollar store.  Then in September, it's just a quick job to pull off the plastic, and my boards are done and ready to go.

8.  If you didn't use it this year, seriously consider getting rid of it or passing it on to another teacher.  I am so guilty of not doing this, but have gotten better about it the past few years.  I had things like odd math manipulatives I never used, some weird writing paper that wasn't good for my friends, and a bunch of classroom decoration that I just never used or used at a younger grade level.  Since I couldn't stand throwing out a lot of it, I put it in the teachers' lounge on a table with a sign that said, "FREE!"  It was all gone within the day!  Less clutter for me and hopefully helpful to someone else.

9.  Painter's Tape is your friend!  We have to label all the furniture in our room.  For years I used regular masking tape which just seemed to bake on over the summer and was a monster to take off.  I've started using that blue painter's tape, and it's been great.  I just put a strip on any furniture that needs to be labeled and use a Sharpie to write my name and room number on it.  Come September, it just peels right off with no sticky residue.  I actually use painter's tape during the school year for  different things.  This year I used it to make a huge number line on the floor of our classroom when I was teaching addition and subtraction of positive and negative integers.  My friends were able to actually stand on it and solve problems by moving their bodies up and down the number line. 

10.   Enlist the help of your friends! They can do a lot more than just clean up the class library.   If you are planning to reorganize your desk arrangement for next year, have them do it now before they go.  It's much easier for them to each move one desk than for you to move a whole class.  I also give mine odd jobs such as sharpening all the colored pencils for next year, weeding out our magic marker bucket to get rid of all the dry markers, and going through the crayon baskets to get rid of bits and pieces.  I then have them refill these containers with new supplies for the next year. 

(EDIT:  I should mention that this post led to my being interviewed by Scholastic magazine, along with some other great teacher, on an article all about packing up your classroom for the summer.  If you would like to read the article, you can click HERE.  It has even more great ideas by other teachers!)

If you teach younger kids, or even older, there's a fun book you can read before enlisting the help of your friends in packing the room.  It is called Mrs. McBloom, Clean Up Your Classroom! by Kelly DiPucchio.
It is really cute.  Mrs. McBloom has been teaching for 50 years, and not once in all those years has she ever cleaned up her classroom.  Now that she is retiring, she has to clean that room.  It's very funny to see all the things the kids come across as they help her clean the room at the end of the year.  I should note that, if you click on the link for the book, for some reason the summary of the book at Amazon is for a totally different book.  The summary they have is completely wrong!  You can scroll down and see the reviews from other sources.  They are on the actual book.

Well, those were the tips I could think of off the top of my head.  I hope you found them somewhat helpful.   If you have any tips that work for you, please feel free to post them in the comments.  I would love to hear them!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

For No Reason Whatsoever!

I had a few little things I wanted to post about, but none of it went together.  None of it was terribly important, but I still wanted to blab about them.  So, here you go!  Two oddball items and four Pinterest fun finds.  For no reason whatsoever!

2 Oddball Items!
Clip Art  It has been a very nice weekend so far thanks to state testing.  Not having to plan instruction for the week allowed me to get ahead on my plan book.  I didn't have to bring it home this weekend!  That is a rarity.  I don't know how people get their plan books done during the week.  I always end up doing mine on the weekend.  Perhaps one of the things that slows me down is my penchant for sticking silly clip art in my plans whenever I can.  Take a look below.  These are snapshots of my plans for the coming week. 

Chock full of clip art!  We have the PTO plant sale this week, it's National School Nurse Day, and we have chorus so of course I need some silly singing faces.  Best of all, we have a class trip to Medieval Times on Thursday.  Yeah, I could just type in "Medieval Times Trip," but a jousting knight is just so much more fun! :-D

Here's a poster that hangs in my room. I have my friends come to the board quite a lot during the course of the day.  As they leave, I will always have the class tell them "good job."  A couple of years ago, I realized we needed to change it up a bit.  In looking around my room, I noticed that I had my own little United Nations.  Problem solved!  I sent a note home asking parents to help out.  If another language was spoken at home, or if they knew how to say good job in the language of their culture, I asked them to please send in the spelling and phonetic spelling.  We then add it to this chart.  Now, whenever a friend does a good job, we pick a language of the day to praise them in.    What's nice is that it also honors the various cultures in our classroom and we all learn a little something new. 

4 Fun Pinterest Finds
I've done this before, but it's so much fun I thought I would do it again!  My love of Pinterest has led me to pin a ton of different ideas that I can't wait to try.  I thought I would share some with you.  These are more fun things, not so much teaching/curriculum related.  All the pictures I used are from the original blogs I linked to, not the Pinterest pins.  I figure you have to give credit where credit is due, so I'm sending you right to the sources.  Here are four of my favorites lately.

Love these gummy skewers!  Found these over at Hostess with the Mostess Daily Blog.  The picture is directly from their post.  I think they are just so cute!  In June, my friends go to a local pool club for the day as an end-of-year class trip.  These would be a perfect treat for when we return.  They make so many different gummy shapes, you could probably find some to fit any theme.

Glitter!  This one is just too good, especially if you teach the preschool crowd.  It's not just glitter, it's EDIBLE glitter!  It's table sugar mixed with some food coloring, and then baked in the oven for ten minutes.  Now, I haven't tried it but I sure plan to. The picture looks promising!  Glitter is expensive, so in addition to this being a non-toxic alternative, it's budget friendly!  I found this on the website Planet Pals.  The link will take you to a page that is full of recipes for non-toxic art mediums like puffy paint, paste, etc.

The Countdown  I saw this on Pinterest and pinned it.  When I went back to find the original site, I couldn't.  It just links to Pinterest.  So, with a little more searching, I finally found the original post.  It is from the blog Alpha Mom.  She does a great tutorial on how to repurpose leftover Halloween candy.  I'm thinking I could use this in a different way for my friends.   We have two weeks of school in June, ten days.  This would be cute to put a slip of paper in each cup that has a reward or treat written on it.  Each morning, my friends could just punch out a cup and they get the "prize."  I'm thinking the slips in each cup could have simple things like everyone sits where they want today, 30 minutes extra recess, and things to that effect.  For the full tutorial on how to make this, go visit Alpha Mom!

Maracas!  I so wish I had found this one when I did my post on how to use up all those plastic Easter eggs.  I also wish I had remembered that I pinned this one in time to do it before Cinco de Mayo.  Oh well!  But, I'm going to share it anyway because I think it's really a clever idea.  The blog Made gives a tutorial on how to make maracas using two plastic spoons, a plastic egg, some popcorn kernels, and a little masking tape.  Then, your friends can use markers to decorate them.  Instant maracas!  You don't need to wait until Cindo de Mayo for these. It would be fun to have a basket of these in the classroom for when you sing Happy Birthday.  They would be good for challenges where they shake their maraca when they know the answer.  I think they are just too fun!

So, there's my list of unrelated items for no reason whatsoever!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Whoooooo Survived State Testing?

WE DID! Very glad to have state testing done, and now it is back to work.  Well, sort of.  We have four days of testing, with Friday free.  Each year, my collegues and I have always done owl pellet dissection on the Friday after testing.  This year was no different, and the kids loved it.

Remember my big yellow bulletin board that was a literacy bulletin board turned math bulletin board?  Well, today it turned science bulletin board and looked like this:
Full of bone charts!  We used these while dissecting our owl pellets.

We began by watching a Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs segment with Mike Rowe on how owl pellets are collected.  It's a pretty funny and informative intro to the activity that's only about ten minutes long.  Plus, the teacher gets to look at Mike Rowe for a bit! ;-)

For the activity, the kids get an owl pellet, two to a pellet, and then they take it apart while completing a lab sheet full of observations and questions.  The pellet below really freaked out a few of my friends as there was a big bone sticking out of it.
Here's one unwrapped.  A bit icky!  At least that is what many of my friends thought.
Notice anything funny about the lab sheet?
Yeah, I really do have to remind them to not taste the owl pellet.  For a group of kids who, every year are without fail a bit freaked out at the start of the activity, they quickly get so involved that this becomes a necessary reminder.

So, on to the dissecting!

Can I just take a moment here and point out how the day of an elementary school teacher is so varied?  Unlike middle school and high school where you generally stick to one subject, we elementary teachers have to do it all!  Before testing we were working on algabraic equations, formulas for volume, learning how to craft a five paragraph essay that has quality content and tension, and now today I'm knee deep in rodent bones!  No offense to my middle and high school teachers, but ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS ROCK!

After my friends had completed the lab, we had about an hour left until dismissal.  We used that time to make some teaching posters about owl pellets.  I gave my friends free reign.  The only rule was the poster had to TEACH something about owl pellets and not just look nice.  It was also a way for me to use up some very bright flourescent poster board I had.

All in all, I would say Owl Pellet Day was a great success.  One of my friends even wore this shirt today!
Sadly, this is the last year we will be doing them.  The unit it relates to in our science curriculum was deleted this year.  We were allowed to do the dissection because we had already ordered the pellets prior to knowing the curriculum was revised.  Now, we really focused on physical science. 

If you have an interest in owl pellets without the mess, there is a great site called Kid Wings that has virtual owl pellet dissections.  It begins with a great teaching lesson on owl pellets, an owls digestive track, and more.  Then it lets you dissect pellets from a variety of different types of owls.  It's fun without the funk!

So, what did you do today?