Saturday, December 3, 2016

Five for Friday

Happy Weekend!  Even though it's Saturday, I'm linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching for Five for Friday... I'm such a rebel!

Can you believe it is December?!  It is hard for me to process that... Mostly because it feels like time is flying by recently... but the fact that I had my air conditioning on this week doesn't help!

Last weekend I put up my Christmas tree and finished 98% of my holiday shopping.  I can't even believe it.  I have never, ever been "ready" for the holidays this early!  

Last night we went downtown to look at Christmas lights and see the "tree lighting" in our town... Which is kind of amazing because on Friday nights we are usually too tired to do anything.  We went with great friends of ours and had a really, really good time.  We are all dragging today though!  Being out late after a long week isn't really our forte. 

I'm not going to lie... it was a little hard going back to school after being off last week!  However, I keep reminding myself how much I love this time of year with the kids.  They are all so happy and excited.  We have some big, fun school events coming up... and we have another vacation coming up in just a couple of weeks!

So, a lot of this week was spent trying to get back on schedule... getting my own kids to bed, trying to get them up in the morning and trying to get them to focus on homework and "real life" when all they want to think about is Christmas, our elf, and what kind of treat will be in the Advent calendar in the morning!

We got a HUGE shipment from Amazon this week!  The materials I ordered from a grant I wrote recently came in and it felt like Christmas unpacking everything!  

Among all of the wonderful new things we received, were 4 more "ball chairs" to complete our new flexible seating.  I have been anxious to try out flexible seating for awhile now and I have to tell you... I just LOVE it!  I knew that I would like giving the kids more opportunities to move... I have never been a "sit at your desk" kind of teacher... but I had no idea just how fabulous it would be!

I was a little concerned because I like to keep a lot of structure and routine in my classroom.  I wasn't sure how the logistics of the new seating were going to work.  I read lots of blog posts and pored over Pinterest looking for ideas.  I found lots of great "choose your seat for the day" or "rotating seat" options.  However, I haven't used any of them!  So far, I haven't needed to.  I explained to the kids that the different kinds of seats were going to "help their brains learn and bodies move in different ways" and so they should switch their seat with each new activity.  

I was also very strict in the beginning and sent anyone who was "playing around" in their new seat back to a regular chair immediately.  After the second day it was not an issue at all.  (No one wants to sit in those plain old chairs anymore!)

I really feel like it has changed the energy of the room.  Everyone is a little calmer and a little happier.  I can't imagine ever going back to traditional seating.

We are going to start our Holidays Around the World unit this week and I can't wait!  It is one of my favorite units of the year!

I wrote THESE differentiated passages on 10 different holidays a couple of years ago.  They are going to be perfect to use with the kiddos I have this year!  I am also excited that I have (finally) finished a huge update to the unit!  I added an entire "passport" section.  

Inside the passport there is a short summary of the country and 2 pages for students to review/record their learning.  There are also cute passport "stamps" for each country a student information sheet and a few "extras".  I think they are going to be a lot of fun to use and will be perfect to keep my kids engaged during centers and in small groups.  (You can also purchase just the passport portion of the unit HERE.)

I also have a very detailed version of this resource written on a simpler text and vocabulary complexity level (perfect for kindergarten and first grade!)  HERE.

Have a great week!!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

5 for Friday (on Saturday)

Hello my poor, neglected blog.  I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday.  Yes, I know it's Saturday... but a day late and a dollar short is pretty much the way I am living these days, so I decided not to let that hold me back! 

So, I decided to use this post as a bit of a "catch up" post... but there is A LOT to catch up on!  This week was ridiculously crazy.  Crazy everywhere!  We have the entire week off of school for Thanksgiving next week.  (I don't think I could possibly be anymore grateful for that!)  So, there was all the usual "week before vacation" madness at school.

On top of the "regular" craziness we had the Great American Teach In on Wednesday.  It was a really exciting day and the kids LOVED it... but the "off our routine days" are never easy.

We started the morning with an active presentation about teaching karate.

Then, we went outside to hear FBI investigators teach us about how they gather evidence in the field. It was fascinating!

My mother-in-law came in and taught the kids about her small business and taught the kids how to sew.  They each got to make their own emoji mini pillow.  They were so excited and they loved it... but oh. my. goodness.  Sewing stresses me out under the absolute best of circumstances... and 19 7 year olds doesn't really count as the "best of circumstances".  Ha!

This week was also our week to learn about Thanksgiving.  We had a lot of fun comparing the lives of the Pilgrims to our lives in America today.  I created these posters and the kids were totally fascinated by the photos.  It was fun to talk about and to listen to their observations.

One of the things that has surprised me about second grade is how much I have enjoyed teaching math.  I have never, ever been a "math person".  However, this year we are really having a lot of fun with it.  The kids seem to have the perfect mix of background knowledge and curiosity.   Some of the things that are working well for us in math are the "tool boxes" that I gave everyone this week and our daily Number Talks.  

We have been playing lots of math games and making sure that everything is very "hands on".  So, last week I made each child their own math "tool box".  In their box each student has: a mini hundreds board, 25 round "flips", 30 square tiles, 35 snap cubes, and 11 "10 rods" along with 25 "ones cubes" and a "10 rod style 100s piece".    The boxes have been a HUGE hit!

The other math tip I have for you is to consider daily Number Talks.  Our district bought these books and gave us training a few years ago.  I have used Number Talks inconsistently for a long time.  The problem was always the preparation piece.  There always seemed to be so many cards to make or  problems to "think through".  Well, I came across THIS unit on TPT and it is AMAZING.  Everything is done for you.  Every single little thing... it is so well put together.  It has made it incredibly easy to "print and go" and I am seeing a HUGE difference in the number sense of my students.

I've gotten my flexible seating up and running and we are truly loving it.  It is hard to imagine how I ever ran a classroom without these options!

I haven't been "together enough" to take purposeful photos... so I am missing a few things.  Right now, I have a table that I took the legs out of that we call the "floor table".  We also have hooki stools, wobble stools, ball chairs and scoop rockers.  

I haven't put a "choose your chair" system in place yet.  So far, I have just been telling the students to rotate throughout the day so that they get a chance to sit in different places.  Remarkably, it has been working out fine.  I am usually pretty "high structure" so I didn't expect to like this very much... but it is working out great so far! 

I have also been doing the usual "teacher mom" balancing act... Some days I do it better than others!  

Here is my crazy crew on Halloween.
 (Elsa, Alice -from Wonderland-, Harry Potter and Hagrid... obviously;) )

Here are my girls on election day.  (Which is the ONLY thing I am going to say about that.)

The twins were both thrilled that they made Principal's List.  Unfortunately, Matt had a migraine that day, so Danny collected both certificates at the ceremony.
 My beautiful girl went to Homecoming.  We had lots of fun shopping and getting our nails and her hair done.  She is having a really good year and I am enjoying soaking her up!
 Yesterday was a sentimental day for me... It was the 10 year anniversary of the day we adopted this beauty... or "Forever Day" as we like to call it.  I am going to write a little post about National Adoption Month and some ways to recognize it in the classroom next week.

So, for now I will just say that I am counting my blessings that I get to be the mother of this amazing, intelligent, creative, beautiful girl.

Happy Weekend!!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Veterans Day- Make it Meaningful in Primary!

I LOVE teaching my students about Veterans Day! Love, love, love it!  Check out THIS POST from last year.  It is full of lots of great ideas and activities for making your Veterans Day unit meaningful for young students.

Friday, September 2, 2016

5 For Fridays

Well, it's been a few weeks since I've been able to write a 5 for Friday post (or blog at all, for that matter)! Life has been crazy... like, CRAZY crazy...  So, I will try to use this post to give a quick summary of the crazy...This is three Fridays is one... Here we go!
So, the back to school craziness started off with the "usual" crazy... Long days of setting up my classroom, a busy "Meet the Teacher" night, and hours and hours of preparing for the new little kindergarteners that were about to be "mine".

Oh, I also had to get my own 4 kids ready to start school.  Which is no small task!  From uniform and supply shopping to haircuts they kept me running in circles.
 I have to be at school very, very early.  So, the girls get dropped off at their grandparents' houses before dawn each day.  (We are very, very, very lucky to have an amazing grandparent volunteer taxi service.  I don't know what we would do without them!) 

Anyway, Kirsten's "First Day of School" photo was taken in the dark... but you get the idea.  She looked beautiful and is enjoying her sophomore year so far.
These goofy guys come to school with me.  Taking their photo in my classroom should have been easy... except they have yet to stand still in the 9 years they have been on the planet!  They had a hard year last year and were not super excited to come back to school.  Luckily, the year is off to a GREAT start!  They have fabulous teachers and are really enjoying 4th grade!

My baby seems to be less and less of a baby each day.  It's so hard to believe that this is Ella and not Kirsten!  I swear my oldest was 4 YESTERDAY!  Anyway, Ella is loving everything about VPK.

My first day of school was a little less wonderful than the kids'.  If you remember, Rachelle and I were set to co-teach this year and were SO excited.  We were both caught a little off guard with the first half hour this year though... We had a LOT more crying than we have had in previous years.  And it wasn't the "I miss my mommy" kind of tears... It was "GET ME OUT OF HERE NOW!!!!!!" hysteria. 

We also had a really, really hard time convincing some parents to leave.  They always want to stay and we always have a few stragglers... but we have both been teaching for 16 years... We are pretty good and moving them on... But this year it was hard!!!  Which did not help the screamers.

I finally got through to one dad that it was really time to go... (His son was getting more and more upset... His being there was NOT helping).  Unfortunately, I wasn't expecting his (very tall) son to try to leave with him... and I really wasn't expecting him to head-butt me in his attempt to escape.  Luckily, I was able to grab him, hug him, calm him down and diffuse the situation pretty quickly.  Unfortunately I completely threw out my back.  During the first 20 minutes of the first day of school.  We are now in week 3.  After 13 visits to the chiropractor, lots of ibuprofen and muscle relaxers and many, many sleepless nights I am finally feeling a bit better.
The first week of kindergarten is no joke!  It is EXHAUSTING.  I don't even know if there is a word that accurately describes just how hard the first week is... and this year I got to experience it with excruciating pain in my back... Good times.

So, on the 7th day of school things were finally coming together.  The kids were learning the routines slowly but surely.  They were settling down and we were able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Then (on a Thursday afternoon) we were called into a meeting and told we didn't have enough kindergarten students to keep our 5 classes this year and that one of us was being moved to second grade.  Guess who... Yup.  I still can't believe it.  I was in complete shock and was not expecting it AT ALL.  My classroom went from looking like this:

...To looking like this almost immediately.  I cried and cried as I packed up my kindergarten unit and told my sweet students that they were going to have "even better" teachers and that I knew they would be so happy.  I was really heartbroken.

So, Monday I walked into an empty room... and I thought that was overwhelming... until the plant operators started bringing over all the second grade things... that were thrown into boxes and a complete disaster...

So, Monday and Tuesday were spent trying to sort through the mess.  (Thank goodness I have amazing friends that spent hours and hours helping me.)  It was not an easy transition at all. :(
So, last Wednesday I started teaching second grade.  Oh, and did I mention Open House was Thursday?  Seriously, not joking.  So, here is a quick look at my second grade class.  (I don't know how in the world I pulled this off in 2 days... but somehow it got done.  It always gets done.)

 Thank goodness for Teachers Pay Teachers!  As I have tried to teach myself everything about second grade in less than a week, I have been "saved" by some fabulous TPT finds.  (Thanks Amy Lemons!)

So, we are getting there.  My students are sweet and we are learning together.  Everyone keeps asking me if I "love second grade" yet... Not quite yet... but I will!  I am getting there... I am just still processing the craziness.

I will tell you what I DO love though... second graders are VERY independent!  They can read, write and tie their own shoes! It is a very different scene than kindergarten right now.

Our school uses supplemental, computer based math and reading programs.  Let me tell you... going to the lab with kindergarteners is HARD work!  I had to log-in 18 kids... and by the time you get to student #3 the first student has accidentally logged out.  It is HARD.

Taking second graders to the computer lab is a DREAM!  First of all, they love it (Kindergarteners whine the entire time)... and then there is that independence thing... Heaven.

So, I am a second grade teacher.  I don't really know what I'm doing yet (which I HATE)... but I am figuring it out... and trying to love it.
As if this wasn't all enough...

I got really sick (on top of my broken-ish back) last week.  Fever, sore throat, body aches... but no infection... which is technically good... but in the moment I was wishing for an infection that they could just give me medicine for so it would go away. :(
And we are currently experiencing the awful weather effects of Hurricane Hermine. 
My girls are pretty excited about school being cancelled...

But I am just exhausted from putting out a million (or 30) sandbags and stressed because this is what the river street in front of my house looks like.  I am really, really, really hoping the water stays out of my house... but the way things have been going recently, I am certainly preparing for the worst!
But I got to wear my cute, new rain boots... That's something, right?  (I know it's a stretch but I am REALLY trying to look on the bright side!) 
I am really sorry for the longest post ever... There is probably no one still reading this... but it was cathartic to write.  So... my "hurricane day" plan is to light a pretty candle, put on some comfy yoga pants and learn how to teach second grade!  What are you up to this week??