Saturday, February 18, 2017

Five for Friday

Yea!!! It's the weekend!  I swear, the weeks seem to keep getting longer and longer recently!  I have to admit... I am pretty jealous of the 3-day weekend that I hear so many people are enjoying right now... Kind of makes my "regular old 2-day weekend" seem a bit less exciting... but I'm trying not to do that whole "grass is greener thing"... a weekend is a weekend, so I am going to enjoy it! So, I am starting off by linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for another five for Friday (on Saturday) post.  Here we go!

I'm sure you noticed that Valentine's Day was on a TUESDAY this year... Just like Halloween was on a MONDAY. (We really need to speak to someone about this- This can never, ever happen again!)

ANYWAY, even with plans for a very calm craft and valentines saved for the very end of the day (with just a lone cookie and juice box...) it was MADNESS.  Complete and utter madness.  I think my  little sweeties lost their minds.  I have THAT group this year.  They are sweet.  Individually, they are very endearing children... but together... they are... A LOT... just A  LOT.  But they were happy.  Hopefully they made a memory.  (My husband and I often have to remind each other that "Making memories isn't easy!" - This is the family motto that makes us smile when we are carrying multiple children through a 100 degree parking lot at the end of a crazy-long day somewhere "magical" ;) )

Speaking of magic, this is the valentine-gram that one of my twins sent to his brother at school on Tuesday.
The valentine-grams are purchased the week before Valentine's Day.  The note and a treat are sent to anyone in the school.  So, this was delivered to his classroom by a PTA volunteer.  His teacher stopped passing them out long enough to text me this photo.  I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe.

I find it both hilarious and kind of horrifying.  What has happened to my sweet, precious little boys?? On one hand, it is so sweet that he is still sending his brother a "Be Mine" card on Valentine's Day- but seriously- "even though you are a butt"?!?!  When did that happen?  Last year's card ended with "You are my BFF" and the year before ended with "I love you".  Bittersweet.

(*Although, I really should not complain at all... because they both also sent ME a valentine-gram telling me that they love me.  They are still sweet... just not to each other...)
Speaking of my boys, a big part of this week has been devoted to helping them with their "Monument Projects".  This Tuesday night they are giving speeches and presenting their "living monument" creations.  They are very, very, very excited.  I am too.  Their speeches are fabulous and it is really going to be a great night.

However, they didn't really get a "project mom"... you know, the kind of mom who always has spray paint and knows how to do things like paper mache...  I'm not that kind of mom.  I'm the kind of mom who gets very "deer in the headlights-y" when the word project is mentioned... I mean, I can Pinterest with the best of 'em... but the actual follow-through... not really my thing.  

So, you can imagine my feelings about these particular monuments.  Danny is presenting Luxor Temple.  This is a screenshot of the photo he is using as a guide to construct his monument (that he has to be a part of... and give a speech as a part of). 
Sure, easy peasy.

And Matt is presenting on Easter Island and the Moais.  Here is his photo.
So... yea...

I'll let you know how it goes....

On a sunny note, my new intern started this week.  She is WONDERFUL.  I really, really, really, really like having her in my room.  She is so excited and energetic.  She has great ideas and is "a natural".  The kids love her... and she loves them.  (She even loves the ones that are a little harder to love, and that makes ME love her too!)  

She has been doing lots of fun, hands on things with the kids.  This is a soil experiment that she did with them this week.  It's funny, because when I looked back at the photo, this photo looks very calm... but they were SO excited.  I don't really know how I caught a calm look on anyone's face... Soil has never been so exciting!

So, just in case you were impressed a few weeks ago when I mentioned how ahead of the game I was with my Black History Month unit... have no fear.  I haven't even mentioned Presidents Day yet.  (Ya can't win 'em all, right?)  I am going to roll with it and begin some Presidents Day activities when the students return on Tuesday.  (After the long day of training that I have on Monday- when I will NOT be relaxing at home... just for the record.)

I have a couple of Presidents Day resources that I really enjoy using with the kids, so they will all be pulled out on Tuesday.  One of my favorites is this set of "Fun Facts" posters.  I made them 2 years ago and I think I love them as much as the students do!

I find the facts FASCINATING!  Do you know which president was a college cheerleader?  Or who had a pet raccoon in the White House?  So many fun things to talk to the kids about!

Of course, it isn't all "Wrestling Hall of Fame" trivia.  I also teach them the more important things... but, I have to say, I really do love the silly stuff!  

However, if you are looking for something more serious, I do have a Presidents Day close reading resource... AND this Abe Lincoln differentiated close reading resource is a great, ready-to-go FREEBIE!

I saw this yesterday and laughed so hard... then I kind of wanted to cry... #5 is I am very, very, very tired.  I need to start sleeping better.  For real... so, please don't dream about me ;)

I hope you have an awesome weekend filled with naps!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Our Favorite FUN Test Prep

While I deeply believe in the need for ongoing formative assessment- the kind that gives me information to drive my instruction- I just CAN NOT STAND the "big" tests that we give to such little children these days.  I feel like I am being asked to give my second graders the SATs or the LSATs every quarter.  It hurts my heart.  And while I refuse to make a big deal about any kind of assessment with my students (the tests only get a quick mention here or there) I do know that if they aren't thoroughly prepared it will be a very stressful experience.  So I know that I do need to do some "test prep" with my students.  I need to make sure that information is fresh in their minds and that they are very familiar with the "testing language" that they are going to see.  I am always looking for developmentally appropriate, fun ways to do this.  (Please send me your great ideas!  I would love to hear them!)

Recently, I stumbled across my favorite "test prep" game yet and I wanted to share it with you today.  (If this post sounds a little like a commercial it is just because I am THAT excited.  This has been in no way sponsored...I just love, love, love this game!)

Have you heard of Kahoot?  This week we were "Kahoot-ing" like crazy!  I was introduced to Kahoot  by one of my daughter's high school teachers.  At Open House she asked all of the parents to take out our cell phones to experience the vocabulary "warm up" she uses with the class each day.  It was so cool!

If you have never done it, you have got to try it out!  You go to to set up a free account and to make up your own quiz game.  (You can also search for games that others have already made.)  Then, when you want to play you will sign into your account and click "play this kahoot" and a code will come up on the screen for the players to enter.  Your students go to and enter the game pin.  

Then, the Kahoot is played like a gameshow.  It is SO much fun.  A question comes up on the SmartBoard (or wherever you are projecting) and each student or team rushes to answer.  They receive points based on correct answers and speed.  

You can play on any device that has wifi.  (We used iPads and desktop computers.  My daughter's class uses iPads and cell phones.)  The first time that we played I only had 5 iPads for the class.  That time we played in teams, which worked out fine.  After that, I began having some students work on desktop computers and borrowing some iPads from other teachers.  (We have 5 iPads and 5 desktops per classroom at my school.)  However, the time that every student had their own device, the wifi gave us trouble and about half of the devices wouldn't work... so there is always a "real life" factor to be ready for... My kids enjoy playing so much that it isn't really a big problem.  They know to just join the person or team next to them if their device isn't working.

When I say they love it, it is the understatement of the year.  They go CRAZY for it.  They beg and plead for it.  I made several Kahoot quizzes to review for our science common assessments.  I knew they would enjoy it, but the engagement and joy is really unbelievable.  They beg for it ALL THE TIME.  

I was really amazed with how much science review we were able to get done in this format.  The kids were SO motivated by the game that I would find them talking about the questions at lunch and dismissal so they would be "ready" for the next time we played.  (I found that playing the same game several times motivated them to study and/or learn the answers that they got wrong the first time.   I made several different versions of the same quiz and we played each one several times.)

Now, it is not always a calm activity... In fact, it never is.  It is almost impossible to keep the cheering quiet... but the engagement and amount of content we are able to cover makes the noise worth it (most of the time).  

I have heard that is similar.  I haven't used this one yet but I am going to try it this week.  From what I hear, the difference is that students are answering different questions at different times.  I think the idea is that they are working more independently and not looking at someone else's answer.  I am thinking it might also be a bit quieter... I will let you know ;)

One of my students also mentioned that her dad (who is a 3rd grade teacher) found a SmartBoard game that is similar... I need to find out more about that.  Have you found any great games to use for test prep?  I would love to hear about them!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

5 for Friday!

Happy weekend!  Did you survive the "teacher trifecta" this week?  Apparently there was a lunar eclipse, a comet and a full moon all on the same day... I heard this was "a once in a lifetime astrological event".  If your week was anything like mine I'm sure this is not new information to you ;) but we made it!!!

To celebrate making to the weekend I am linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching for 5 for Friday (on Saturday... because that's how I roll!)

Yesterday my oldest daughter didn't have school.  I secretly love when I have school and she doesn't. (Actually, it's not very "secretly" since I cheer, clap and rejoice.)  When she has a day off she comes to school with me to volunteer!  She has been doing this for years and she is the BEST volunteer.  She works so hard and gets so much done.  The kids absolutely love her... and I don't feel like I have to do any of the "work" of getting ready for a volunteer.  You know how when you have a volunteer coming you usually have to get nice, organized piles of work ready for them.  Then you have to write out clear directions for everything.  Plus, you have to make sure that you have tasks "ready to go" so you don't waste their time.  Well, when Kirsten comes I can just point to a closet and say "Will you work on that?" and she DOES!  She organizes and gets it all is heaven.  AND I get to have her around for the day... which I love :).

We started learning about rocks in science this week.  I find it interesting how much I love to teach science.  I mean, I love, love, LOVE to teach science.  However, I was not ever a kid that loved to learn about science.  Which seems it seems like all kids like to learn about science!

I think a lot of it has to do with the non-"hands on" approach to learning that we used in "the old days".  Luckily, I loved to read.  So, book-based learning usually worked for me.  However, I work really hard to make sure that my lessons are as active and hands-on as possible.

However, rocks are not really "my thing".  I don't know much about them and have never really been interested in them.  I mean, they are just rocks, right?  Wrong apparently!  

Luckily, my new intern (who is amazing) and my mother-in-law both have great rock collections that they brought in for the kids to explore.

They had SO much fun describing the properties of their rocks, comparing and contrasting, sorting and learning about their rocks.  It was much more fun than I ever knew rocks could be!

In math we are all about money right now.  We have coins coming out of our ears!  I bought about a thousand "money games" during the big TPT sale last week.  However, the favorite so far is when we play Race to a Dollar as a whole class.  (Kind of like when your kids get a great gift and spend the afternoon playing with the box.) 

 I gave each student a set of coins and a die and projected values up on the board.  (Roll a 1-take a penny, Roll a 2- take a nickel, Roll a 3- take a dime, Roll a 4- take a quarter, Roll a 5- Your choice!, Roll a 6- No Coin!)  My plan was to play one round as a group and then to have them pair off and play with a partner.  However, they were having SO MUCH FUN playing whole group (we called it "BINGO style"- They yelled out "MONEY! MONEY!" when they reached a dollar) that we just continued playing together.  It was really fun... I highly recommend  it :)

I love teaching my students about Black History Month.  It is a favorite of mine.  This is the bulletin board that I put up this year.  We are having a lot of fun learning about all of the different people that are featured.  (The favorite lessons this week were on Jackie Robinson and Ruby Bridges.)  You can read more about my love for Black History Month and these lessons HERE.  This post also includes freebies and links to some videos that we have really enjoyed this week. :)
I am going to end with a smile this week.

I saw this on Instagram earlier this week and I laughed SO HARD.  I'm not sure exactly why it struck me as so hilarious...maybe because it is crazy how wrapped up the world gets (myself included) in "celebrity news" sometimes. Whatever the reason, I have been saying this all week and making myself giggle.

...And this is the note that one of my sweeties gave me as she was leaving yesterday.  It was a very chaotic, crazy afternoon.  I didn't shine, I can tell you that... but her sweetness made me smile and warmed my heart exactly when I needed it.  

I hope you had a great week and that you have an amazing weekend!!  I hope you get to take a nap, have a glass of wine and laugh until your sides hurt :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Black History Month- Resources, Freebies & Videos for Primary Classrooms

Happy February!

I have never been much of a "Groundhog's Day" fan... I think it might be because I still remember having to copy down the looooongest "morning message" EVER on Groundhog's Day when I was in first grade.  (I hated that stupid morning message!  It took sooooooo long to write... I liked reading it... but we had to copy it down... and I hated copying it.  I remember being 6 years old and vowing that when I grew up and became a teacher I would never make my students copy down a long, boring morning message... a vow I am proud to say I have kept for all 17 years of my teaching career.)  Anyway, my daughter's preschool teacher must be a fan of Groundhog's Day because she delivered such an enthralling lesson that my 4 year old could not sleep the night before Groundhog's Day.  Seriously.  She kept popping up her little head excidedly whispering, "Mommy, I am TOO EXCITED TO SLEEP!  I just don't know if that guy is going to see his shadow or not... I can't wait!".  Precious.  Apparently he saw his shadow (so I hear...).  She was very satisfied.  However, we aren't too concerned either way since our air conditioning is on and our flip flops are in regular rotation here in sunny Florida.

While February, in my classroom, does not begin with lessons about rodents predicting the weather ;)  it DOES bring some of my very favorite lessons of the year!  As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I jump start my Black History Month unit with Martin Luther King day.  I really love focusing on Black History Month in my classroom.  It has become one of my favorite times of the year... it is right up there with teaching about Growth Mindset, Women's History and Veterans Day.  I L-O-V-E finding ways to inspire my little students!

So, I thought I would share some of my favorite ideas and activities for Black History Month in primary classrooms.  Here we go!

This is a bulletin board that I put together in the front office of our school this year.  

 On the bulletin board I posted these "Biography Briefs".  I created these a few years ago and I really, really love them.  There are 28 different African Americans featured.  There are athletes, scientists, educators, politicians, civil rights activists, and so many more incredibly inspirational people!  Here they are featured on one board all together- but I originally created them so I could introduce one new person for each day in February.

My friend Charlotte is teaching third grade this year.  She decided to present all the cards to her students and to let them each choose one person that they would like research further.

The "biography brief" cards can be purchased on their own and are a great starting point for any Black History unit or research project.  They are also offered in a Black History Month Bundle that includes reading passages, text dependent questions and writing prompts that can be used along with the cards for student research.  (This is especially helpful for young students who are new to research.)

The reading passages are differentiated.  Each article is written on 3 different levels of text and vocabulary complexity.  This will help your students to work independently and provides deep content at early and transitional reading levels.

Here are some other FREE Black History Month resources that you might find helpful :)

This is a great Martin Luther King Jr. book being read on Reading Rainbow

This one is Kid President talking about Martin Luther King Jr.  (I LOVE, love, love Kid President!)

Great cartoon about Jackie Robinson's life.

Great cartoon to introduce students to Frederick Douglass and abolition.

Introduce your students to the struggles that Oprah Winfrey overcame to achieve her current success.

This video gives an overview of the fascinating life of inventor George Washington Carver.

This video is a great read aloud of the book The ABCs of Black History.

How are you teaching your students about Black History Month?  I would love to hear some new ideas!  I will be popping in again later this week with a few more ideas and some examples of student work.  I hope that some of these resources or ideas help you to inspire your students to "think outside the box" and find ways to make the world a better place!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Door Decorating Ideas for Literacy Week

  So, last week was Literacy Week... and somehow between our early in the year inspection from the (very strict) Fire Marshall and our new principal we were allowed/encouraged to decorated our classroom doors.  I have been at other schools that had "door decorating cultures" (ha!) but we have never been able to do it at my current school... and I feel like Pinterest was just becoming a "thing" when I came to my current school (maybe it wasn't even a thing yet... or maybe I was behind on the times and didn't know it was a thing...).  The point is for most of us this was our first "scour Pinterest and figure out what to put on your door" experience.

  As I mentioned in my last post it was also a testing week and about a million other things going on... but the doors were decorated none the less!  And for a "non-door decorating school" I think we did pretty good!  Actually, they were really, really good.  There were "teacher decorated doors" and "student decorated doors".  Some were decorated with photos, some with book reviews and others were decorated as book covers.  This post will pretty much act as my own little Pinterest board as I show off everyone's  cute doors.  (Actually, this is the first round because my camera battery died because... well, because that's how I roll... So, more doors to come!)

My "Super Readers" are pictured below.  The superhero tape was a cute touch and I've gotten lots of compliments on it but it is not very strong... I keep waiting for the whole thing to fall down...

Our art teacher pretty much outdid herself.  Isn't this David Shannon door great?  When my 9 year old twins saw it they literally gasped.  They were especially impressed with the handle.  They think it looks like the handle to Camilla Creme's bedroom (?).  I hadn't really noticed the handle but I find the whole thing very, very impressive!

I love this first grade door.  I love everything about Elephant and Piggy.  they are favorites of mine.  I always love looking at projects like these where the kids are all making the "same thing" but they all look different.  (Look at the elephant with his ears straight up!! Love it!)

This Hungry Caterpillar door was a cute kindergarten class project.  I thought it was a really good "teamwork" project.  Everyone worked on a small part and it came together perfectly!

This door has photos of the kids reading along with their favorite character (and one of EVERYONE'S favorite characters!) Pigeon.

More Elephant and Piggie.  Love, love, love it.
I'd seen this one on Pinterest but I really loved seeing it in person.  The "reviews" that the kids wrote about the books were so cute!  

This one makes me giggle every time.  I thin it is so bright and happy looking.

This is the door to our media center.  Isn't it cute?  It is pretty simple but it is really eye catching and impressive when you walk down the hall.

Hopefully the Fire Marshall won't be making a surprise visit this week!! Everything is much too cute to take down :)  Does your school do a lot of decorating?  Are you limited with how much paper you can hang or are you allowed to go "all out"?  Let me know!