Friday, June 28, 2013

Mathematical Pinning

Yay for linkys!  Yay for linkys about Pinterest!  Yay for weekly linkys that give me an excuse to talk about Pinterest!  Yay for Ashley over at Just Reed!  Ok- Yay - let's go!

In the new, cleaner version of my Pinterest Boards -  I've separated my math pins into 16 different math categories.  Whether this will help or hinder me over time, I know not - but I figured I might as well give it a try.
I do love math in general - I was a math specialist for a few years at my old school.  It was during this tenure that  I fell in love with manipulatives.  There is something altogether pleasing about running my hands through a great big bucket of colored tiles.  I can't explain why.  And multi-sided dice!  Good Lord, at last I can love them and not have to play Dungeons and Dragons.  If anybody even knows what that is anymore.  I hit you with my +5 hand of righteous indignation...and I digress.
Once I started teaching second grade, I started to dig on the idea of small group math.  And aside from being a great way to utilize manipulatives effectively, there's all sorts of fun anchor charts and whatnots that go with it. 
So with great gusto (but also regret that I can only pick 10!) I present to you some favorite math pins.

1. I'm going to attempt to do a better job with word walls this year, and I liked this pin for the same reason as the pinner.  "Mathematicians Say" is cool.  I really like this idea of labeling ourselves as what we are.  During writing workshop we call each other "authors", right?  So it makes sense.

2. First off, I love this man.  How can this not be the best possible man on earth?  And he's married.  Which makes him perfect for celebrity crush status.  But anyway...  he has great videos all the time!  And I love this one about incorporating Angry Birds into a math game.  You get group dynamics, money, geometry, engineering, counting, parent involvement- the whole shebang!

3. Confession: I don't actually have this manipulative in my room.  Probably because I haven't found a good way to use it without making a mess.  But look at this here pin!  Looks pretty snazzy to me.  Small, quaint, perfect for one or two kids, stackable.  Starting to sound gooooood.  Still don't have this manipulative I'm thinking about maybe trying to make some out of sponges, and then we can add in QUIET to the list of awesomeness.

4. I like incorporating dramatic play into math- and this pot holder would be perfect for doing a lesson on greater than and less than.  They are made out of silicone, so I think that would hold up well over time as well.

5. This pin, aside from being cute for fall, also would make a great tie-in for incorporating lessons that might appeal to the naturalist intelligence.  You know, in our college classes they always bring up the multiple intelligences and the bloom's taxonomy, and then we get into the school system and end up forgetting about them because we're struggling to get the standards across.  So here's a nice easy way to do both!

6. Here's a recent pin I've found- a DIY rekenrek.  Which is a tool a bit like an abacus but better.  It helps kids practice decomposing basic facts to 20.  This is a pin worth investigating if you're looking for something new to try out in your classroom.

7. Well, I found out a LOT about how my kids have trouble estimating this last year.  Here's a pin I should have paid more attention to- but it was lost in my 13,000 pin mess.  This is a great visual- and what a cool way to practice on a weekly basis?  Pick a different sort of item each week, and always put ten in one cup and one hundred in the other, put the estimate number in between.  They should be excellent estimators by the end of the year, don't you think?

8.  Love this pin!  I can't wait to try it.  I'm not sure if the first time I do it I will have the kids make the watches themselves though.  I might make a set number of watches first - a class group that's just hours, just half hours, just quarter hours, and then five minutes to try out like a write the room activity almost.  Then when the kids are really good at it- they could make their own watch.  I want to build success from the start.

9. Seriously, could these be any cuter?  My thought as far as making it a dramatic play center, is having the kids having to refer to them by name and describe themselves to another "character".  My second graders really struggle with coin identification- especially dimes vs. nickels.  To me, this would be a great way to just have constant

10. It was tough to decide on the last pin.  Ultimately I decided on this one, because it's a nice break down of those first lessons to get your math year going.  So often we jump right in to the meat of the work we have to accomplish, because we're already aware of how behind we are before we've even started.  But taking the time to really teach the behaviors of how to learn can save us so much time in the long run. I want to create charts like these for each part of my day - and just really say - screw the curriculum pacing for the first six weeks- the kids have to know HOW to learn first.  Ennnnnd rant.

I hope you enjoyed perusing some of my favorite math pins.  I'm looking forward to going back through the linky and seeing what everyone else pinned.  Going back over these pins got me in such a mood to plan and create.  I just love Pinterest.  saved my teaching career, it did.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Animoto and some Football Season Preparedness

*Disclaimer* not a paid review.  Which, I don't see why they would, when they offer the product for free...but whatevs.  I just want you to know I love this program.

Today was my second tech class I signed up for this summer.  Yesterday I was awakened to the possibilities of Activinspire flipchart wowie wow wowness.  But that sort of thing takes time to produce, so I'm not ready with anything to show you guys yet.

Today though, was quite different.  Today I got submerged into a good dozen or more little technology tidbits which were fun and exciting and oh, oH, OH! I just can't wait to try them in the classroom!

I'll break it up into chunks though.  Just one a post.

My favorite of the day was Animoto.

I have only used the free version - which allows you to create 30 second clips.  Totally doable in the classroom- do you need them to go on and on and on?  This is a great way to teach SUMMARIZING.

Animoto is a video slideshow producer.  They provide an interesting animated background, a selection of music, and all you have to do is add in your pictures, video clips, and text and it composes it for you!

Seriously - it is as easy as they advertise:

I was at class and only had access to pics I found on Google- but I still had fun.  The music choices are good too- 300 with the free version!  And even though you can't pick from ALL of the backgrounds, there's still enough to whet your appetite.

Now, I've come home and fiddled and made the following.  But I am warning you now that it is, indeed, an ADVERTISEMENT, for me though - not Animoto..  Don't want anybody feeling like I schnookered them.  I posted to TPT this evening my new Football themed math pack called Run For The Playoffs.  The clipart is ours as well, and up in the store.  We used our Kids to create this Football Kids Clipart Package.  And that's the end of the sales pitch. 

But do watch the video and check out how great the transitions are, and the music is pretty groovy too.  With already having these photos ready for TpT, I got this done and published in under five minutes.  It would have only taken longer if I had to prep the photos first.

Make your own slideshow with music at Animoto.
Registering is free, you can upgrade any time you want.  The next package up, which offers you ten minutes worth of show, and also the ability to download- is just $30 a year.  And I am seriously considering that as a school-related expense.
Not because I'm thinking the kids would need more time to do a quick video- but I'm thinking about me as a teacher.
The applications for this are pretty endless- if we want to get super clichey about it.  But let's break it down - engaging music choices and interesting backdrops - could you not deliver an introduction to your unit with one of these exciting slideshows?  Would it actually be possible to get kids up and excited to learn about erosion with some carefully placed flash flood video clips and an electronica beat?
Back to school night - pretty easy way to introduce myself to the milling around parents.  Or put together a montage of what sorts of projects their kids will be doing this year with photos from years previous.
What if the kids provided the pictures to a story, you scan them in, put them in the correct order, then add captions with the text and create a video storybook?  Would probably want more than thirty seconds for that.
What about end of the year student gifts where you put all your photos together?  I know of teachers who have spent hours on other programs making these.  I have never done it for just that simple reason- but look at this?  All I have to do is load up all the photos I've taken over the year.  Each photo takes up about 2 seconds of space.  Ad in a caption, it adds another second.  Add a "spotlight" to make it linger a bit longer and there's another couple of seconds.  Add in whatever text you want for another couple of seconds a slide.  You could show a lot in ten minutes.

Ah, me!  It just hit me now - I took this e-course from Fairy Dust Teaching on music in the classroom, and there's this section on how to introduce composers and artists and musical instruments to your kids- and this would be perfect for that BECAUSE - they have quite a selection of classical music pieces available in their music library.  Stopwatch on- scratch of an idea- it is 7:27...

and I'm back at 7:52.    I had nothing prepared for this and had to search for stuff on the internet.  Took 25 minutes.  Most of it the searching.  The actual creating, like I said before, less than five minutes. Voila:

Try our slideshow creator at Animoto.
 I'd definitely need the upgrade to do this one justice.  But, oh! The possibilities!
I think it's so easy that I know I can teach my second graders to use it. Could you use this?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Notebook Phobia

Don't get me wrong- I've seen plenty of posts about notebooks and it seems easy enough. But I can't do it. I'm completely petrified of notebooks.

Any time I've ever attempted notebooks in the classroom, I end up giving up on them and they go home mostly blank. Mostly blank notebooks make me feel like a failure. It's a professional embarrassment. So, to avoid the trauma, I just don't do them. 

But next year, I have to. New team composition, new ideas. One team member really wants to try an interactive science notebook.  I really want to do lap books. The compromise is notebook for science, lap book for social studies- reevaluate at end of year. And we're all going to try Words Their Way, and apparently you need a notebook for that.

I'd probably have been fine if I hadn't had a conversation about notebooks with my daughter. But I did. She brought home all her notebooks from third grade, and gave me the run down on each one.  You know what phrase she kept saying over and over? "What's the point?"  

So here I am, already a hot mess when it comes to notebooks, and my girly has confirmed my inner fears. If kids are feeling this way about notebooks- then they are probably telling their parents. And even if they aren't, the whole point of the notebook is to help the student, yeah? But are we helping with these things?

Don't just take my word for it: 

Squirt on blank pages 

Squirt on what she had to write inside them

Squirt on storage

*horrors* Squirt on Word Study

Squirt on her future plans
I can tell myself I'm just being silly when it's only me thinking it in my head.  But hearing my daughter say it - FREAKING OUT.
Which, I suppose, is a silly thing to do.  But notebooks are like, a thing teachers DO.  Are we all failing at them, even if we think we're cool with it?  How do you make a notebook useful, necessary, interesting, and worth keeping?  If you can't, if it's not meant for that, then WHY are we bothering?
Somebody weigh in.  Let's get real.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Was There Life Before Pinterest?

When I first got invited to join Pinterest, I can remember that I let it sit there, empty, for months.  I don't know why.  Maybe it was during my Farmville obsession period. Regardless - one day, I pinned something.  And now I have over 13,000 pins. And they are a mess.

Recently I felt prompted to start a new Pinterest account to clean up some of that mess- when it comes to my educational pins.

So here's my new cleaned up address:

If you still want to see my mess, and get the occasional (ok, all the time) doughnut recipe, you can continue to visit the train wreck at .  I don't know HOW to clean up that disaster.  Just let it go for now, I suppose.

In the meantime, in celebration of my new and cleaned up pinterst board - here's a linky I've been keeping my eye on, sponsored by Ashley over at Just Reed

1. Whole Brain Teaching.
When it comes to class management, this particular pin changed my whole style. Aside from the fact that I wish I looked like this woman- it was the first video I ever saw about whole brain teaching that made me think - I can do that!  And now I am hooked.

2. Heather's Heart blogs about using non-judgmental teacher language in the classroom. This post is what changed my mind on how I talk in my classroom to my students.  Even though I haven't been able to convert 100%, I am a work in progress, and a believer in the big picture.

3. Here is a pin I found recently and has my keen interest.  I'm going to be taking a parent involvement course with Fairy Dust Teaching this summer, and this pin seemed to feature great ideas on getting the parents more involved in your classroom. 

4.  I can't wait to try this one.  I've tried all sorts of things to get kids to not interrupt me when I'm at my small group table - but in the end - they just seem to think I am the ONLY person that could possibly answer their question. 

5.  This is something I do, and successfully.  But I don't limit it to running records.  I take anecdotal notes on these during math interviews, writing conferences, and guided reading time. And then I peel them off and stick them to a piece of cardstock I keep in a clear page protector in a three ring binder for data collection.


6. Here's another great idea I implemented this last year.  Except I made a separate one for each one of my students.  So when it was time for them to go to the computer, they just grabbed their passcode book and got on to whichever website they'd like.  I do believe that I'll make a second one this year, so that they can have one to take home as well.

7. How can I explain to you how badly I want this?  And not just for the kids - but for ME!  I use timers constantly - but to have one glow red at me when we're almost out of time would be so, so, gads, TUBULAR.  I had to go eighties with that one.  I want it bad!

8. I like this graphic.  A lot.  Granted, I will probably make one to go on the Promethean Board - but I dig the overall concept.

9. This past year I used "The Golden Spatula" to help with lunch room behavior.  And I will be doing it again this year, but I like this pin.  I would really like to have a physical representation of the expectations that they each make and can refer to if we have an "incident".

10. I am a huge fan of music brain breaks.  There are many, many, many that I keep on my computer - but this is a new one I stumbled onto this year that my kids liked A LOT .  I think what appealed to them the most is that they could follow along with the dance moves.  And they love the part where the dinosaur gets something from Burger King.  They thought it was hilarious. 

Ah me.  Just ten?  And there are so many more!


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summer Strategy 2013

I was just looking over what I wrote a year ago. What a train wreck. I didn't write half of the posts I said I would. Live and learn.

Trying a new tactic for this summer, I'm just going to make a list of things I KNOW I will be doing, and a list of things I'd like to ATTEMPT. And we'll see where it goes from there.

In the know:
1) tech class on creating Activinspire Flipcharts
2) tech class on Web 2.0 tools
3) tech class on Tech4Learning tools
4) a 4 day math seminarish dealio
5) a week long SPOT training
6) Fairy Dust Teaching Summer E-Institue

Category One - reading
1) re-read Laney Sammons Guided Math
2) Laney Sammons Comprehending Math
3) Words Their Way

Category Two - mess with
1) re-binding Jan Richardson's Next Steps in Guided Reading
2) re-upholster my crate seats 
3) make musical instruments

Category Three - investigate
1) online plan books 
2) digital portfolios
3) how to create a doppelgänger 

Category Four - TPT
1) Traci and I have tons of gorgeous clipart we're working on
2) I have a football math unit I'm working on
3) I have plans for some Shakespeare themed goodies

Category Five - team collaboration
1) summer emailing of ideas
2) creating a long range plan
3) sharing in Dropbox

Category Six - Pie in the sky
1) Sensory boxes
2) dramatic activities for Science and Social Studies
3) Entire year planned and packaged by September (Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa)

I feel better about listing it this way. It seems more doable, less pressure. And even a little fun to work on.  Good luck to everyone with their summer plans!


Friday, June 21, 2013

Resolution Revisit and a Giveaway

First off, Mizell  Multiage is hosting a great big humongous giveaway to celebrate 100 blog followers, and The Meek Moose offered up winner's choice. Tons of other cool prizes to win, so head on over and try your luck!

I thought this would be an appropriate time to revisit some resolutions I made back in August and see how I did.  If you didn't see this linky party last year, Amanda at Teaching Maddeness hosted a New School Year Resolutions link up. And I really hope she does it again this year (hint hint hint) as not only was it fun, but also helpful in setting up some long term goals.

My first resolution was:
1) I resolve to create a classroom environment that is comfortable, organized, and positive.  Which means, I will do a theme, throw out half of the clutter, and make a concerted effort to minimize the use of negative statements.

I think my room was pretty comfortable. I chose a robin blue, a lime green, and a brown to decorate with, and I thought it made the room bright but not over stimulating.

With the exception of keeping up with random important pieces of paper, my Promethean Board pen, and my keys- I did keep everything else organized.
As far as being positive, I started out really strong, and then sort of flatlined later in the year. I lost my oomph. I never did succumb to systems of shame though, and I did make sure I told my kids I loved them everyday even if they had driven me crazy.  You know, it's one of those things you just have to keep practicing. Three years from now I'll be Pollyanna.
My theme was pretty limited to the color scheme. By mid year I'd added in some moose knick knacks I'd come across, and by the end of the year I figured out that I should have just done a forest theme in general. So at least I know what to do come September.
I did throw out half the clutter. I might have even thrown out 3/4 of it. I'll let Flamingo Fabulous have a final say on that number though.

And it was a concerted effort in the beginning to minimize the negativity. But I do admit to getting to the point where I said "seriously?" By the end of the year. We all turned into fruit cakes after Easter.

Second Resolution:
2) I resolve to keep consistent lesson plans. I have a real tendency to go gang busters, and then slack, and then observation time rolls around and I go gang busters again, and then slack.  I am a roller coaster of efficiency.  This has never really been an issue before, since at my old job they never ever ever EVER looked at our lesson plans.  My new place though, we actually turn them in at the end of the year to be archived.  So I've got to step up my game and do what's expected.

Gangbusters first and second quarter. Lost steam on week four of the Third, and I didn't plan a single thing for the fourth.

Yeah. I know. Big fat F there. 

I'm not sure exactly what to do about that. I guess I should admit that I did much better than previous years and be happy for the improvement. I am looking into having an online planbook next year though, and collaborating more with my team for planning. Maybe that will help.
My school offers this one:


Does anybody have an opinion on this one?  I guess I'm imagining myself sitting with my teammates each week, putting together a basic layout- then copying and pasting to everybody's plan book.  Then we can add in our special flavor to each week, but still be on the same page.

Third resolution:
3) I resolve to keep a consistent grade book.  Yeah, welcome to Slackerville!  I totally put it off until report card time and then stay up for hours crunching them in.  It's a ridiculously foolish thing to do on my part, because I always end up doing it at home and I need to keep that time free for my family- not a laptop.


Ok- so I did the first quarter at report card time. And then I did second and third quarter at the third quarter report card time, and I sort of kept up with the fourth quarter except for the last four weeks.

BUT, I did always have my reports done on time. Still an F, but an improvement from the previous year. And I don't know how to fix this either, except to try collaboration. Like an exercise buddy. Except it will be a grading/planning buddy.
Last year, Flamingo Fabulous had done our long range plans, and had I just utilized them as I should have, then this would not have gone south.  But I didn't.  Shame be upon my head.  And now this year the document has to be rewritten, so I've lost my opportunity for an easy peasy practice year.

Fourth Resolution:

4) I resolve to keep a better data wall- establishing that the word "better" means I'll actually keep one.  Luckily, Karen did make a note of each type of assessment and date due on the long-range plans, so I just need to keep up with them.

I did this one! Pretty proud of myself actually. Room for improvement of course, but I can check off the "successful" box here. I enjoyed making it part of our morning meeting at each quarter so we could talk as a class about our successes and goals for the next quarter.
Here's an example of how I presented our number sense data. Yellow O's are like, they almost have it but not yet.  And Green X's are for mastery.  You can see at this point in the year, I hadn't taught estimating sums- so after we talked about this data together, we knew as a class that we would be focusing on that during the rest of the quarter.  They were also able to identify that they needed the most help in rounding and in telling time. I was able to incorporate specific math centers to help with this.
Fifth Resolution:
5) I resolve to actually complete all of the necessary reflections in the PYP Binders including student sample work AS each planner is completed, rather than doing a half-assed epic fail of it at the end of the year. And again, thanks to Karen, each week that this should be done is noted on the long-range plans.  Ah me, that girl will have saved my life this year.

I did a pretty poopy job on this one. Better than the year before- there were actually items in the binder this time, but I didn't really keep up with it like I should.
Keeping the portfolio became as task for ME, a task I didn't really have time for. But it's supposed to be the STUDENT's portfolio- so I am looking in to how to make them more responsible for it.  In that vein, I'm investigating digital portfolios. If I have the kids creating things, I feel it's easy enough to teach them to save it to a jump drive. Then everything is nice and tidy, less bulky than 23 three inch 3-ring binders, and not all on my plate.
I ran across this website after reading a post from Raki's Rad Resources:

It looked pretty cool actually.  And I've been looking into edublogs as well, after taking a free webinar a few weeks ago.

So, if anybody has any opinion on either of these they'd be willing to share- please do.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Packed Up

I got it all finished in a splendid fashion!  What a relief to know that everything is lovely and organized, and it all FITS!!! A huge change from a year ago when I left it a ridiculous mess and fretted all summer knowing what a chore it would be to sort out in August.
And what it all comes down to is the amount of stuff.  It was hard to let go of things this year. Difficult to change a long held mindset of keeping things because they could be useful potentially, even though I didn't have a use for them at that moment.
I did everything I could to give away every bit that had potential. So I'm not feeling like things got wasted or tossed unnecessarily. But it was also a mind adjustment to realize that not everyone sees potential in all objects- sometimes they just see junk. And in that vein, if I'm going to experience guilt over objects- then don't keep something that might have to be thrown away because I'm the only one crazy enough to see what it could be used for. If I am not going to turn it into something right then- dont take it.
We'll see if I can stick to that.
My lovely closet as promised.  The dangling strap doesn't help with the loveliness, but I am exceptionally pleased that most of my little things fit nicely in the totes and are easy to see through.
These are the types of bins I've been using.  I got mine at Target- but I've seen similar styles just about everywhere.  I really like the latch feature on the sides.  And they stack GREAT!  I like them a bit better than the shoe box style, only because they fit papers so well.  But shoe boxes still have their place in the world, and my heart, so I'm sure I won't go solely to this type.

The great thing about not having to switch rooms, is that I was able to keep all of my things on my built-ins.  I went through everything first and purged, of course- and then cleaned out the kids' cubbies and used those to store my books from the library.  So awesome to just take the basket from the library and shove it into a cubby.  Although, I did notice as I did this that a couple of my baskets are broken, and then they are heavy, and that made me think I need to find a new container system for my library.  Summer project...
The other side of my room is a long counter.  We are not to store anything on the computer counter, as Tech will be coming through this summer to update everything (YAY!), but there was still plenty of counter space left.  I used my big bins here- and my Dymo (love, love, love my Dymo!) to label the bins so anyone that comes into the room can know what's in them.  I do admit to labeling one "Yep, I gave up on this one" simply because I was down to one boxes worth of stuff on the back table and I just decided to be done.  At least I know there isn't anything in it that I plan to junk.  It's just a mishmash of supplies.  I'll sort it out in August.  Give myself just one box to worry about I suppose ;)
And here's the last bits- still on the back counter.  Slightly more precarious, but it's STACKED and off the floor!  Woot!

And joy of joys, this is the only furniture I need to bother with!  I'm getting rid of my desks and moving to tables next year- so this is IT.  For now.  I am also seriously considering getting rid of my teacher's desk- but I doubt if that will fly.  Think of the extra room though!
What have I learned this year about organizing and getting rid of excess?
1) It's easier.  So many times people came to my room asking "Do you have....?" and I knew exactly where it was and could get it right away.  Except for paperwork- I have not figured out how to organize the papers I use on a daily basis.
2) I loved the feeling of how easy it was to put everything away.  I loved knowing I was going to be done on time and not in a panic.  I was proud of myself from turning it around completely from the situation I started in.
3) Knowing what I have helps me make decisions about what I really need.  I usually have a lot of little toys and things about the room for decoration - and in packing up I realized that I don't need these things to have a good looking room.  Packed them up and brought them home.  That'll be some extra space come August.  I did keep my Moose toys though.  Stick with the theme and all that.  But the other little bits are not necessary, and dear Babyzilla loves stuffed animals, so there we are.  Everybody happy.
4) I do have a lot of teacher books.  And I don't use them.  Even though there are great things inside.  Next year, I'm going to have to take a hard look a those, and if I don't use them, it's time to visit McKay's used books.  I can use that shelf space for better things.
Did anyone else have some revelations during their packing up experience?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pea-utiful Goodbye

So today was it with the kids.  I would have had more time to get a good cry on, except that we had a torrential downpour at dismissal, so our goodbyes were quick to say the least.  I totally cried at the faculty meeting though when we had to say goodbye to my ESOL buddy, Marilu.  I admit to being just as crushed over Flamingo Fabulous leaving the roost- but I also know that we shall continue to text incessantly and meet up regularly.  But dear Marilu- she's going back to Mexico, and I will have to satisfy myself with Skype and email.  And it's just so upsetting.  She's like a sister to me. *Super big sniff.*

I must regroup and distract there's a better thought...

Back when we first planted our beans we had worked out that we should have a bean pod by the 18th of June.  I had told them to bring me one on the last day- this little cherub remembered!!!  Three or four others reported that they had one growing as well, but not quite big yet.

Sooooo proud!
Success! And validation.  I will plant again!  Just maybe, earlier...
I also was successful in my plan to eradicate some more junk from my room in the form of a Grab and Go shopping session with the kids.  They were ever so happy to take away the things I do not need anymore, thus clearing out four plastic bins for me.  My dreams of having a quick pack up are coming to fruition!
A random bag of booty. 
Bags provided by me, as I was needing to get rid of them as well.  Basically I put out everything I didn't want or need out onto the desks and randomly called student numbers to grab one thing and go- we did round after round until not a bit of anything was left.  I did this four different times in the last two weeks, and have cleared out a considerable amount of clutter.  One little girl even told me yeaterday, "My Mom said I can't bring anymore of your stuff home.  She doesn't have anywhere to put it!"  Ha!
But when it comes to my belongings, I just had to let the stuff go.  I was holding onto it for "the future", for "maybe one day" and all that.  And it's got to stop.  I had such a horrible time packing up last year, and unpacking this year- and I promised myself not again.  And it's working!
Today I have all of my check out signatures except my end of the year review with my principal, turning in my keys, and having the custodian sign off on my room - and I wasn't even in a panic about the signatures I got today.  I was READY!
As far as the room goes tomorrow- I have very little to do - just dust, put four boxes up on the counter- label my furniture and take down one bulletin board.  I'll be done by noon.  Which is a huge improvement from last year when I had to take two extra days and still didn't really finish.  And I'm going to have tons of empty containers when I'm all through!  Excited!  Except for that I have to take all the containers home for the summer I guess- might make my mom happy- maybe.  But STILL- I am in super shape I tell you.  I shall take pictures of the closet that I am exceedingly proud of tomorrow.
So what will be next for me?  Sounds like it's time to think up some Summer Goal plannin'!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Erosion Demonstration and a Giveaway

Kathleen at Middle Grades Maven is hosting a 1000 TPT followers giveaway on her blog. Shoot!  I've never seen so much stuff up for grabs!  The Meek Moose has contributed a winner's choice to the K-2 bundle- but she's also got a 3-6 bundle, a 7-12 bundle AND a freebie of class jobs posters featuring a tech theme.  Go check that giveaway out!

So- Erosion.

Confession: I pretty much ignored it during my science unit earlier in the year.  And I'm not really sure why.  Flamingo Fabulous had done a, let's just say it, FABULOUS experiment/discovery exercise with her class on erosion.  And filled with envy I made plans to do it as well.  And then, I dunno, I just didn't.  This happens a lot to me.  Let's say I'm suspecting myself of adult ADD. Or I'm going to use it as a crutch, either way, to explain myself.

But here in the last days, as I scrambled for things to do, since I didn't bother to plan at all- I remembered.  So I talked to my Dad about what I wanted to do, and asked him about what sort of goodies might be hidden down in the garage for me to utilize.  He went down stairs, fuddled about a bit and came back up with a million empty strawberry containers.  So right there, kittens, we can see that I come by the hoarding GENETICALLY.

Anyway- my Dad is STILL the Mayor McCheese, because then he went out in the yard and "cut me up some sod".  Dudes, I live in the middle of the country- this is how you do it.  He filled this great big rolley container. The type you slide under a bed to hide things you don't really want to bother to put away. Even though I had explained that I only needed to fill seven of the million strawberry containers. He said he just wanted to make sure I got the right sort of piece.  Whatever that might mean.  I got to hack at it with a pick axe thing-a-ma-jig though! Sheeeeee-ra!  And discovered lots and lots of worms and ant eggs and other interesting bits so decided to take the whole thing to school anyway.

He also gave me a bag of potting soil that he had rescued from work.  "Someone was just going to throw this out!  This is good dirt!"

So now I was ready for some erosion.

I loaded up seven sets of two trays.  One soil, one sod.  We went outside to the sidewalk with some loaded up plastic boxes of water and a measuring cup - and my tub tints too!

First I asked them what they thought would happen when they poured the water on the dirt.  They unanimously agreed that it would turn into a glob of mud.  I asked what they thought would happen when they poured water on the grass- and they said mud again.  We took the soil out first and poured the water.  They were not prepared for the water to come rushing out the bottom and dirt to pour out with it.  Huge gasps of surprise and EWWWWWW echoed.

So I asked again- what's going to happen to the grass basket?  And they said- same thing, mud and dirty water.  So off we went and HOORAY, clear water poured out.  They were pretty stumped at this point.  Until- whew!- somebody said "OHHHH, it's the roots!  The roots are holding onto the dirt!"  Can somebody give that smart kid a high five?

We then added a tub tint to the water to pretend it was pollution.  What would happen if we poured polluted water on the two samples.  They decided it would run out of the soil tub, but it would run CLEAR on the grass tub.  Interesting....

Turns out though, pollution runs out no matter what- so we drew the conclusion- pollution harms EVERYTHING.

End super teacher moment.  No, seriously.  It all went downhill after that. 


The set up
the discussion
Splatter prevention position

the outcome 

pollution action shot

What did I learn from this:

1) I need to just do things when I'm supposed to do things. 

2) Buuuut, it was a pretty neat thing to do at the end of the year, all the same.

3) I liked the strawberry baskets.  I really like how it all poured out underneath and got the emotional reaction from the kids.  Emotional reaction equals MEMORY.  Note: would not ever ever ever use the strawberry baskets inside.  I would maybe do the pie tins like Flamingo Fabulous. Maybe.

4) I also like the additional discussion after adding the tub tints to the water and discussing pollution.  Not a standard for this grade level- but I thought it was some good stuff.

5) My Dad did indeed give me some good dirt.  We used the rest of it later that day at our picnic and dug for worms and other critters.  And we found dozens of fat wiggly worms for our worm hotel, and two interesting caterpillar like creatures that we clearly woke up from a deep sleep, and lots of ants eggs that we did not keep, but got to see a few stages of their life cycle happening in the patch of dirt.  And wild onions!  Which I thought was pretty cool, but the kids did not find interesting at all.  Oh well.

Tomorrow is the last day of school and I am sad, kittens.  I really liked my class.  And Flamingo is flying to elsewhere.  Boo hiss.  I will be drinking lots of pepsi and doing much emotional eating tomorrow me thinks.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Meek Moose Talks Chalk- June

Julie at The Teaching Bug is hosting another Chalk Talk. Here's this month's assignment:

In previous posts we've covered my deficiencies when it comes to long-term planning and organization- so it should be no surprise that I always sort of "wing it" during the last couple of weeks.  And this is bad.  I am bad, Bad, BAD for not planning.  I have come to the realization that I should over-plan my first month and LAST month of teaching.  And honestly, I probably came to that conclusion ten years ago, and have yet to actually do it.  Flawed.  Flawed person here.
Anyhow- here's a little something I stumbled upon this year.  Like the Three Little Pigs and the Continents- it came to me at the last second, a good two minutes MAYBE before the bell rang and the kids came in.  I was needing something that could keep the kids busy during the pack-up/sorting/expulsion of junk fiesta I've been having.  First Thought: BOARD GAMES
So here's how it went down.  We first had a group talk about board games- what they looked like, what parts they all had to have, etc.  Even got a little legitimate with the discussion when we compared this to how maps have specific parts, and how a board game can be like a map. Whoa! Accidental Super Teacher ALERT.
And then we talked about all the different themes a board game could have IF - here's the kicker part- all the questions had to do with things we learned during the year. Kids shouted out different themes and units until we had the entire board covered in what we had learned about.  Time to pick a theme and get creating!
I gave them a large piece of construction paper, four binder clips (for the character pieces), some cardstock for question cards, and free access to the art supplies.  As I was cleaning, I came across a large collection of bottle caps I had from last summer when I thought I would be making tons of board games.  And the nutty kittens went wild and almost all of them traded in their binder clips for bottle caps.  For serious.  It was like gold.  It made me wonder if I could actually get away with bottle caps as a regular prize....that's pretty awful isn't it?
We handled the how many spaces to move angle by using a spinner.  We traced a circle using the oodles of masking tape I have (can we say 11 rolls?  And this is not including another drawer full of duct tape...) And then splitting the spinner into three sections for 1,2, and 3 space moves.  And then I taught them how to attach a paper clip with a brass brad and flick it with their finger to make it spin.  You would have thought I had shown them the secret to the universe. Brass brads, bottle caps, Mr. Sketch markers- these are the precious metals of elementary school.
The first day was spent on construction, the second day they made up their question cards and without me even having to say anything or transition them, they started collecting into groups and playing each other's games together.  Blown away, I was- says Yoda.  It was an "academic hum" - the kind where you can tell kids are talking, but about something actually relevant.  
Here's some action shots:

My favorite moment: this is how she decided to deal with these two boys blurting out the answers to her question cards.  "He has to answer it HIMSELF!"

At least one little kitten kept the binder clips...also note the "slide".  A common feature on many of the games.  "People like to get to the finish FAST" says one game player.

In the midst of the process.

Bottle caps, spinner, and lo and behold! A bad luck card- "go back 8 spaces".  Ruthless.
What did I get out of this as a teacher:
1) I really liked the part where I taught them about the spinner.  It got me thinking about all the little crafty things I know how to do because of my Mom and Dad, and how not everybody gets to learn those sorts of things.  I wish I had more opportunities to teach my kids things like that.
2) On the whole- board game review isn't a bad idea all year long.  My kids were really into it- and it was great to hear them shouting out answers and being excited when they were right.
3) When I reflect on how I had originally planned on making all of the games- I'm left with WHY? The kids were more invested in the games they made.  They were more excited about them- they got to try out many different types of games and not just one.  I know I am not going to sit down and make 23 games about the same topic.  But they would.
4) So if I did do this sort of assignment at the end of each major unit of study- I could concentrate on teaching them one particular board game layout, one particular way of moving spaces, one particular way of asking the questions.  Do that six different times over the year, and as a culminating activity they can create a game using any of those previous skills learned to review the year.  As long as each time I did it the game was DIFFERENT, it shouldn't lose too much interest.
Do any of you have the kids create games?


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dabbling in the Drama

Soooo, I got to thinking about those continent books I had checked out from the library.  And I got to wondering what sort of educational value I could milk out of those babies during my last days...

And this is what I came up with!
1) Get the kids in seven teams of three
2) Give them a piece of butcher paper for a play backdrop
3) Give them a set on continent books on ONE particular continent
4) Tell them their assignment:
Recreate The Three Little Pigs based on your assigned continent.
-Your backdrop must reflect your understanding of habitats common to that continent.
-Your "pigs" must be animals native to that continent.
-You "big bad" must be a predator native to that continent.
-You must mention the name of the highest mountain, the longest river, the largest city or country, three animal facts about your "pig" character and one animal fact about your predator.

Shazam!  Kept them busy over the last two days.  Maaaaagical!

I took video, but my computer is refusing to allow me to edit it.  Boo hiss.  Luckily I also took pictures.

North America : The Three Little Caribou and the Big Bad Cougar
Mount McKinley, The Mississippi, and Greenland is the world's largest island

Europe: The Three Mice and the Big Bad Wolf
Mount Elbrus, The Volga River, and Moscow, Russia
Asia: The Three Little Pandas and the Big Bad Komodo Dragon
Mount Everest, The Yangtze River, and Tokyo, Japan
(looooved the blood coming from the Komodo Dragon, and they put bamboo all at the bottom of their poster, but you can't see it)
Africa: The Three Little Giraffes and the Big Bad Elephant
(they went with the bully angle instead of a predator)
Mount Kilimanjaro, The Nile river, Sudan

South America: The Three Little Parrots and the Big Bad Jaguar
Aconcagua, the Amazon River, Brazil
( poor B, he's ticked that the girls wouldn't read his script as he had "envisioned", and sweet L is ticked because B rewrote her script. Snarf) 

Australia: The Three Little Koalas and the Big Bad Kangaroo
( bully vs predator decision again)
Mount Kosciuszko, The Darling River, Sydney

Antarctica: The Three Little Penguins and the Big Bad Seal
Vinson Massif, there are NO rivers in Antarctica!, McMurdo Station
What did I learn from this?
1) My kids did a pretty good job finding the information in the books using text features we had learned previously in the year. They rocked that index I tell ya!
2) They all only seem to know the version of the Three Pigs where the wolf climbs down the chimney and falls into boiling water and runs away. (Personally, I seem to enjoy the one more where somebody gets eaten.  Is that bad?)
3)  The Australia group had the least difficult time saying their lines, because they cut them out and pasted them to the back of their masks.  Smart cookies!
4) The Africa and Australia group did a better job of putting their information into their play as they had each "pig" make a house at one of the locations they had to research.  The other groups tried this technique, but it wasn't as flawless.  But you know, they're newbies, so good job everybody!
5) I should do these sorts of exercises throughout the year at the end of major units of study.  One, it seemed like a nice way to synthesize our information.  For example, what if I did this sort of exercise at the end of our weather unit, but the three pigs had to encounter a different type of severe weather at each home, until they finally made it to the shelter and related storm safety tips?  Oooo, exciting ideas here.  There are three Native American groups they could encounter.  There are three major inventions for both Ancient Egypt and Ancient China.  Matter - solid, liquids, and gases.  Economics - natural, capital and human resources.  Famous American could be split into the presidents, the chicks, and the activists.  Three main habitats- forest, river, and grasslands.  yes! Yes! YES!  I'm on to something now!
6) By doing this throughout the year, I'd have opportunities to teach small snippets of fun stuff like puppet construction, or focusing the background on a main idea, or script writing techniques. So by the end of the year, with one big culminating activity, they could put all they knew together.
7) Why the Three Pigs?  Because they know it.  Because it has a clear sequence of events that makes it easy to separate other bits of information into.  Because it creates better group dynamics (for realz, yo!)

Ah, the wheels are turning again my friends.  Why does this always happen to me at the end of a year?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Trying out some continent research - and a giveaway

So first off- there is a giveaway going on at A Tale of Two K Teachers.  They are celebrating 200 TpT followers, but their blog is new new new!  So plenty of fun to be had.  They have three different rafflecopters going with 48 total prizes.  And The Meek Moose is in there too- winner's choice! Head on over there and try your luck!

A Tale of Two K Teachers

I haven't really decided yet how to handle combining the products my sister and I have been making for TpT and how I blog about what's happening in my classroom.  Personally, I do not like reading people's blogs that are only about their products.  I'm reading blogs to get teaching ideas, not really for shopping.  But I don't mind the occasional mention of a product and how that teacher used it.  So I'm going to attempt to balance the two.  I'm sure someone will tell me if I don't.

In second grade the kids have to learn the seven continents and the five big oceans.  Locations only really.  They attempt to link it to also having to know which continents Egypt and China and the United States are on in relation to the ancient cultures we also teach- but I would have to say that connection is a tad flimsy.  I was looking for a way to make this more meaty. 

End of the year.  I know.  But it's a great opportunity to use my little kittens as guinea pigs.  So I made up this booklet using clipart my sister made of an Armadillo traveling the world.  And of course, I couldn't decide how I wanted the booklet to look.  So I ended up making two versions.  And then I started thinking about my kids handwriting - whether it be beautiful or hideous not yet matured.  So then I made the two booklets with two different types of lines.

In the booklets are the two songs we sing to teach continents and oceans.  The continent song, I do not know who to give credit to, as it's a song I heard a third grade teacher sing six or seven years ago at my old school, and she'd been singing it for awhile, so I don't know if she made it up or not.  But just in case, her name was Allyson Willis, and it's my understanding that she is now a fantastic principal in the nether parts of great VA.
So the kids learn the location of the continents by touching each one in order as they sing.  there are also body movements: You lift your left arm up as you look at North America, do a soccer ball head butt for Europe, lift your right arm up for Asia, put your hands on your hips and shake for Africa, kick out your left leg for South America, kick out your right leg for Australia, and then waddle like a penguin for Antarctica.  The kids sing this song all year long.  INGRAINED IN MEMORY.  Do they know what continent they live on though?  *sigh* No, kittens.  No.

The song for the five big oceans is from Flamingo Fabulous herself. Ok, the verse.  She apparently had a song for the continents to this tune, and then added on the verse for the oceans.  GENIUS.  She even sent herself singing the song to me in a voice memo text message which I had no idea was even possible, so now she's even smarter.  But I am not allowed to post that.  So here's just the words.

What is the deal with the Southern Ocean anyway?  I mean seriously?  Let's just decide this part of the ocean that's always been part of every other ocean is a brand new ocean and make all the kids learn it?  And make all the teachers learn it for that matter?  It's like how they messed with Pluto.  And now, come to think of it- whatever happened to "the seven seas"?  Isn't that a thing?  Or is that just all those Sinbad movies I watched as a kid?

And there I am again, tangent.  Back on track, back on track, chug-a-chug-chug.

Basically, these two songs cover what my second graders really need to grasp.  But, I mean, why stop there?  I'm at an IBPYP school- we need to get global with this baby!  Enter booklet.

I tried this out Friday afternoon.  We'd had a crazy whirl-wind like afternoon with our animal measurement fair, and I decided to do something more...sitty and on the quiet-mchush-hush side.
Huge bonus- I discovered that our library actually has some seriously really cool books on all the continents.  Not so much of a bonus- I always seem to wait until the end of the year to find out these sorts of things and the librarians had already inventoried that section- but the let me check them out anyway.  Bless them.

Some of the booklets I gave out on purpose to certain kids- like the ones who really need those handwriting guides.  I did let them choose between the folded booklet and the landscape version though.  And then let the rest have the same decision.  Turns out- they were evenly split on preference.  I thought one would win over the other, but nope- some kids like small booklets, and some kids prefer the booklet to cover their whole desk.

We ended up handling this a little like scoot- but it was only the books that scooted.  Partners had one book about a specific continent, had to turn to the page in the booklet related to that continent and look for a fact to write down.  The first time I just said "find any interesting fact".  Some kids just turned to the first page and wrote the first thing down- others didn't do well with the freedom and just couldn't find anything in the entire book worth writing.

On the second go, I gave them a specific item to hunt for.  "Find me a fact about a river.  Any river at all on your continent."  This was interesting because I was able to see them choose to use what they knew about text features.  Some flipped for photos, others went to the Table of Contents, and then still some attempted the Index.  Third round "Find me a fact about a mountain.  Any mountain at all on your continent."  And the final round was "Find me a fact about an animal on your continent."

This quick test-run was just forty minutes.

Two different booklet formats being used side by side.

 close-up of the handwriting guide lines

 some Table of Contents use

use of Labeled Photos to find information
What I got out of this as a teacher:
1) They still don't know where they live.  It was a huge mess sorting out their town from their state from their country from their continent.  I've really got to do something about that next year.
2) This sort of research would work really well as a center.  I would only have to put out the books, or even select one particular continent per week, and have task cards for what sort of information they should look for.
3) The work I had done with teaching text features had worked well.  They were still trying to use what they had learned.  I think I should do that lesson earlier in the year in the future and build on it all year long.
4) Next steps would definitely be on paraphrasing information, rather than copying straight from the book.
Interested in trying the booklet out for yourself?  I'll happily give out three to the first commenters that leave an email address.
Otherwise, you may check it out by clicking the picture below and getting re-routed to my TpT store. That's a booklet in two formats, with two types of writing lines, and 52 task cards with general continent questions kids can search for.  The booklets are in black and white and designed to be run front to back to save paper, and the task cards are in color.  The fonts in the package were made by This Little Piggy Reads.

Just interested in the awesome armadillo clipart?  We've got that at the store too! Click the picture to go straight to the first installment of his worldly travels.