Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

My goal during our winter break was to blog. Right. Well, now that I have failed miserably at getting on my computer I can honestly say that I don't mind. Yes, I enjoy blogging and writing about my class. I also enjoy writing a little more now than I used to. But seriously, walking away from my computer and putting up my 'out of town' auto response in my email was fantastic!

Looking ahead to the next half of the school year I have a few new things I'm going to try. I have a site set up, and approved through my district, on kidblog.com. I'm looking forward to being able to teach students the joys of writing publicly (I'm hoping that it will improve some of the grammar issues if they know others will be reading and responding to their work).

It's a really easy site to set up and the teacher controls are easy to use. I'm also looking at ways to incorporate journaling into writing class. Like, crazy doodling, lists, high/lows, all over, type journaling. I want my students to be able to express themselves in less structured ways so that we can use that format to make some of our more tedious tasks (like comparing and analyzing poetry) more enjoyable. I got some ideas on Pinterest already. Feel free to check out my Classroom Ideas board: http://www.pinterest.com/leekm2006/classroom-ideas/.

This one is probably my favorite version so far:
I'll post pictures of mine soon. I'm wanted to share with my students how fun, messy, and creative this could be. I'd love ideas on how to make this work for curriculum areas!

And finally, as I prepare to go off for an end of the year hair cut and pop by my classroom to build some book shelves, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year. Please be safe, read a good book, and make for yourself a goal that will sustain you through the next few months of teaching. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Math Journals and Parent Conferences

Over the years I have gotten slightly more comfortable with parent conferences. And by slightly I mean, well, seriously a small amount. I am so much more comfortable conversing with my sixth graders. I have nightmares about parents coming in and yelling at me, even though they have been mostly calm since the first day of school. I'm sure everything will go well, at the middle level they are so concerned about their children making friends that we can use the conference time to reassure and comfort. My intern and my advisory partner will be there to help, which will be wonderful to have another set of eyes and ears in case I miss something.

In order to prepare for conferences our students create goals. While they do not attend the conference, we do like to share their goals with their families. Most of the time everyone agrees on what has to be worked on. I also like to sit and type up some strengths, concerns, and/or goals for the children based on our observations in the classroom. With 15 minutes to meet each parent it certainly goes fast. I'll keep you posted on how they go. If you have conferences coming up soon, either as the teacher or the parent, please be kind :)

My projects today, I think, are a distraction from the above. I am loving, and I mean LOVING doing the math journals and stations with my students. Being a type-A planner I have math journals and standards matched up until the end of October. Here are the next two that we are going to be working on (again, Runde's Room was my resource for all of these ideas).

Equivalent Fractions

The week of Halloween - they will use them to explain fraction operations.
Happy weekend everyone! I hope you have time to do what you want, even if that means sitting and coloring math journals :) Let me know if you have questions about anything you see.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Feeling Like Fall!

Sometimes I absolutely love warm weather. Mostly at the end of the year, when Spring is right around the corner. Right now, I prefer my weather to feel like Fall. It's October people  (just sayin'). My motivation for this post is two fold. One, I think it'll make you laugh. Seriously, how can a day go like mine did. And two, if teachers can't laugh at themselves we'd all go crazy.
No idea where this is...but I want to be there!
Let's start with the fact that it's Monday. There, I said it. Monday. 2:30 in the morning and my dear sweet daughter was freaking out about the wind. It was really windy. However, I did not necessarily see the need for the wind to wake up said child. Regardless, I got her back to sleep and left the door cracked open more than I normally would because I promised to 'be right back.' Oh, don't give me that..you know you would do it to (it was 3am remember!).

Cut to a few short hours later and we have another wake up. This time..a cat. Yep, because I was 'that mom' I left the door open just far enough that our one cat saw the opportunity and snuck in. Mind you, this is OVER a baby gate that we keep in the doorway. She then proceeded to jump up in bed with my dear daughter (and when I say up I mean UP, it's a mini loft) thus waking her up in a terrified state.
Sooo cute! Not my cat. Just sayin'
Around this time I should have been heading in to the gym but, well, I was tired! So I got ready for work while the kiddo snuggled in bed with the hubs and watched Dora on my Amazon Prime app (if you don't have it, get it!). Got the hubs lunch packed, my coffee made, kiddo dressed and was out the door. But, I just happened to glance at my planbook and saw that I had forgotten to get the candy bars that I needed for my lesson in social studies today.

No problem, I had plenty of time! I drive to the store and pull in, as the gas light comes on in the car. I run in, grab my candy and wait for the lovely older woman at the checkout to stop her 50th sneeze so she can ring me up. I run to the car, head to the closest gas station (which I despise going to) and realize that half the pumps are out of order. After doing about a million k-turns I make in and fill up. At this point I had to text my intern to tell him how late I was running, did I mention we were supposed to meet to check in for the week?

After following 3 of the slowest trucks in the world, I made it to school with 8 minutes to spare. Ack! Got settled and realized that my room was hot. I mean hot. Writing was normal (thank goodness) because I told my students of my morning and I think they felt sorry for me. Seriously. And at this point the temperature in my room was so muggy my hair started to frizz. So I probably looked crazy too. Did I mention that it got so dark outside that we thought the world was ending? And then the rain came. Sixth graders inside, on a Monday, because of rain. Sigh.

And to top it off, I had a 'pop in' visit by my awesome principal and curriculum administrator during my first day of math stations. Which just happened to be a 10 minute catch up involving my students being told to do 'yoga' if they needed to read the upside down words on the screen because I just couldn't keep turning it.

Fortunately my day got more steady after that point. And my AC started working eventually which helped too. But man, I hope my Tuesday goes so much better than my Monday. Luckily, I realize it could have been so much worse, and I'm grateful for my amazing intern, patient students, and awesome administration who overlooked the frazzled teacher and focused on the lesson at hand. May all of your Tuesdays be exactly what you need. Happy teaching!
Took this one myself during our recent trip to Greenwood Furnace!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Where did September go?

Oh man. You know those 'blink and you miss it' moments? September was one of those for me. I can't believe that I didn't sit down and blog at all. I know how you all feel, back to school month is generally one of the most stressful. Parents and students alike are finding their way, communication is at an all time high (for the good and bad) and the demands of administration are often adding to what we already have on our plates. But..we survived! A few highlights of my September:
Kicking off our (in)courage group for teachers. Our community is small but supportive and I am blessed to be a part of it.
  • First field trip - hello Greenwood Furnace! 
  • Starting my mentor course via PSU - they offer a once a week class to new mentors to assist in training our interns, it has been amazing
  • Getting to know my students as learners
It wasn't all good, never can be, but overall I finally feel that we are settling in to our routine. I'm excited to share two lessons/activities with you that we are working through right now. The first is a lesson that supports the CCSS argument writing. We did a lesson on cats vs. dogs to introduce the language of claim, evidence, reasoning. It was so much fun! Here are some images from that lesson:

Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning Vocabulary based on Common Core definitions

I started by telling the class how much I LOVED my cats, and that we should all write about how awesome they are. I gave them 'evidence' to support my claim. And wouldn't you know...none of them agreed with me! 
Then they had time to work as tables to 'fix' my claim. These are some examples. We decided as a class to choose the opinion statement to work on the next day. 
Our final product, we worked together to create supporting evidence for our new claim. Finally we wrapped it all up in the reasoning statement. We will continue to use this language in all of our subjects. 
The second is that my intern and I are starting interactive math journals with our students. I picked up the amazing pack from teacherspayteachers.com from RundesRoom. If you haven't visited her website please go now. She's outstanding.
If you need ideas for math journals, go buy this now! Don't wait!
We started by modeling with the students our stations. There will be 3, and we are only doing them on Monday and Friday to start. Monday stations will be: guided teaching with me, IXL for independent work (great site if you need a math site for students!), and journaling with a small group and a student instructor from my homeroom. Friday stations will be: guided teaching with me, additional practice with my intern, and the journaling station to complete entries for an independent station. We set up our notebooks last Friday, modeled moving around the room, modeled what it sounds like...and now I just have to squish A LOT in the first day (doesn't that always happen!).

If you are in need of any teaching ideas, feel free to hop over to Pinterest and follow my Classroom Ideas page. Most of my pins are for 6th graders (or can be adapted). I pinned RundesRoom's interactive journal packet on there if you want to check it out. It is completely worth the investment.

And finally, with October starting, I hope that you have settled in and feel slightly more in control than you did in September. If you have parent conferences coming up, like I do, I wish you the very best. May all of your parents come in with open minds and a willingness to work together in the best interest of the student. I'll be back soon (I promise to post more than once a month!). Happy teaching!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Encouragement and a Pet Peeve

Interesting title right? They don't really seem to go hand in hand. However, I have two things on my mind on this lovely Sunday. Pencil sharpening and encouragement. They don't really go together, they are just the two things that I have on my mind (hey, I'm a teacher, I multi-task!).

Let's start with the encouragement one since that is much more exciting and applies to many of you! How often do we go into school, push our grumps away, and put on that smile so that our students can feel loved and encouraged. How do we get that same encouragement when we need it? Well, let me tell you...I have the place!

Incourage.me is a fantastic website (and I'm not just that because my sister is a leader in the community section!) that aims to encourage women in many walks of life. There are community groups for working moms, stay at home moms, women who are single, women who struggle with depression. Basically, you name it, they have a group to life you up in prayer and community support. It's been on my heart for awhile now to be a part of this amazing group of women and in my humble opinion, we teachers need a safe place to, feel safe, ask for prayer, and hey maybe even a little bit of virtual chocolate at the end of a long day.

Starting on Monday September 16th everyone can sign up and join me! It will be a closed Facebook group community and we will get to know each other, pray for each other, share success, offer advice, and more. If this sounds like something you'd like to check out, please visit:  http://www.incourage.me/community for more information. Oh, and I have a fantastic co-leader Miss Amy, who you can get to know by visiting her blog over at http://amykrancewendt.blogspot.com/. She's a 5-Minute Friday blogger as well as an amazing woman. Please post in the comments if you have any questions.

Okay, and on to my side topic floating around in my head. Pet peeves. Ugh, so many...some days everything is a pet peeve (grump monster attacked my house today so everything is bothering me currently). In particular, at the top of my list right now, is pencil sharpening. It has only been two weeks of school so far but the common theme running in the room is either kids don't have a pencil (how I ask you...how!) or it needs sharpened. Oh, but that doesn't happen while we settle in to class. Oh, no. That happens in the middle of directions. Or while someone is asking a question. Or some other extremely inappropriate time...ahhhhhhh. Okay, thanks for the vent. My solution was relatively simple, and still makes sure that I am not sharpening pencils on my plan periods..because seriously....who has time for that? On Monday I'll have a cup of extra pencils sharpened for emergency only. Then, they can have the 2 minutes between classes to sharpen pencils. They are required to have 2 in case one isn't pointy enough for their liking. That's it. Plus I made this cute sign to remind them (it was either a cute sign or hiding the pencil sharpener...I'll start with this). Enjoy!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Meet My Class

What a first week! There were highs, there were lows, there were laughs, and a few tears, but we survived! The first week is generally the only week that I consistently assign morning work for my students to do. Once we get into our routine they like the extra time to get organized or go to the library instead of worrying with work to do. The first week it gives them something to do that is easy but keeps them from wandering. All of our morning work this week was meant so that my intern and I could get to know the students better. One of them is an All About Me questionnaire.

I always struggle with how to deal with the papers. They spend time wanting to share so I feel obligated to do something meaningful. Sometimes it is a nice message back about something they said that I connected to. Other times, like their Gazette pages, I'll put them together into a book so that they can read about each other during their free time. For the All About Me questions I decided to showcase our class as a whole. I looked at their responses and put them into a word cloud that I'll hang above their lockers. I chose to use abcya (http://www.abcya.com/word_clouds.htm) for this activity.

So, without further ado...meet my class!
Our favorite animals

Our favorite books

Our favorite candy

Our favorite food (apparently I need to feed them tacos!)

Our favorite hobbies

Our favorite season...yep, they LOVE summer!

Our favorite sports teams...(trying to ignore the OSU response, sorry, PSU fan here!)

Our favorite stores

Our favorite subjects

Our favorite school supply
I hope you enjoyed meeting my class! I already learned so much about them. And to end the week we played a great game. If you are trying to find activities for middle school kids that don't take long this is a good one. It's called Aka Baka. Happy Labor Day weekend everyone. Relax and enjoy..and read a good book.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

First Day Success!

We did it, we survived the first day of school for the 2013-2014 year. While all of the students were on their best behavior (of course!) we were able to get to know each of them a little bit today. By we I mean my intern and me. Like many first days of school it was a whirlwind.

I always struggle to balance community building with the massive to do list that I know is important to teach the students. This year I think that we focused a tiny bit more on the community building as I began to realize that there will be time to go over the rules later this week. We set up our classroom expectations and discussed ways in which we learn the best. We talked about fair and what that means. We shared our names again, and again, and again to help each other remember. We took a tour of the building so that we wouldn't get lost. We did a few friendly worksheets to learn how to properly complete assignments and how to properly put names on papers. We turned in the papers so that we could learn the process for that as well.

The more I teach the more I see how important modeling in real situations is to our students. And tonight, as I sit here having been standing all day (in a puddle of water no less...AC is leaking...um..yeah), laughing, feeling overwhelmed, having made 3 anchor charts to start tomorrow for homeroom and math, my to do list longer now than yesterday, I cherish the fact that the following happened today:

  • My intern became a rock star and was the most helpful person in the world
  • No one cried! (not even me!)
  • I completed over half of the items on my lesson plans
  • I met 26 amazing young people
  • I left looking forward to it happening all over again tomorrow.
One of the final things that I do each year is send an email to all of the parents in my homeroom. I try to send it before students leave for the day, and it's just a short email that summarizes a little bit about what we did today and that we all survived. For parents of sixth graders it is nice to hear, and it gives them some ways to talk to their child later. This is just one response that we received tonight (names were removed for privacy):

Dear Ms. Lee (and Mr. xxx),
Thank you so much for this wonderful and inspiring note. 'X' came home today filled with joy - what a GREAT beginning for the new school year! All of us are looking forward to more.

All the best,

Dad and Mom

And that is why I do it :) Best and have a wonderfully relaxing night. If you started already I wish you the best, and that the students keep being good! If you haven't yet, remember how nervous they are feeling too. Prepare what you can but remember that they just need someone to care about them and they will be fine. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

This is it...

Heart pounding, rapid breathing, nightmares...yep, it's that time of year. Back to school...dun dun dun. Okay I actually may be a little dramatic there (ask anyone who knows me, it's not uncommon!). But seriously, every year I feel like this. The anxiety of the unknown plus the excitement of getting back into the classroom and teaching. I think that when I get to the point in my career that I don't feel like this it will be a sign to quit teaching.

There are many things that I worry about before the school year starts. Will the dynamic in my room be good, will I be able to meet the needs of all of my students, will I be nice even on my grumpy days, will they like me, will the parents be nice, will I have my materials prepared, what if I mess up? The list goes on and on. It probably explains why I am a little tiny bit type-A about prepping my classroom (if you haven't noticed). What I can control now makes me feel a little better.

In reality all of it is out of my control. I try to remember that my students are feeling just as anxious, and that it's okay. My  hubs is losing his 'summer wife' and I know the house is going to be kind of a wreck until our first long break, but it's worth it.

To add to the unknown I am getting an intern this year (woo hoo!). We start training together tomorrow and I'm really excited. For those of you who are not PA teachers, the preservice teachers had to choose pre k-4 or 4-8 for their certification. Kind of interesting and most likely not going to last, but in the meantime it means that 5th and 6th grade openings will be filled easier for the kids who chose 4-8th for their certification.

So, as I count down my last few hours of summer, here are a few pins that I found inspiring as I began planning for this school year, and a fun purchase that I made to use in my room this year. Enjoy!
Me By the Numbers - will be doing this on the first day of math with the kids. I think it'll be great for the cover of their binders!
I'm going to try to add this in on the first day of school with my homeroom. I'll have them color a larger popsicle stick then put them in a shadow box to display with a team work inspired quote.
I love owls, and this is just too cute. 
And finally, my new purchase! A doc cam! I'm so excited, this little guy has great reviews and was less than $100. Very affordable on a teacher budget.  Amazon has it - the IPEVO Point 2 View USB camera.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Room Update & Reading Apprenticeship

Wow, what a day. I think my summer has officially come to an end. My kiddo was up at 3am which allowed for many snuggles (and a few elbows to the side and some gnashing of teeth..how can such small teeth grind so loudly?) before my training today. Needless to say a coffee IV would have been appreciated.

Before I get to the Reading Apprenticeship recap I wanted to share some photos updating the work I've been doing in my room for this year. Enjoy! (and scroll past them if you just want the Reading Apprenticeship recap).

This is my new quiet corner. I hope that students will appreciate having a private space to work. It's also right beside my intern's desk so they'll be monitored for progress :) I hung up some Dr. Who quotes on the side of the bookshelf.

This is the front of my room, we have a super comfy chair that I do read aloud from, and generally becomes the birthday chair as well. My intern's desk is the one in the picture, mine is on the other side of the carpet.

I made these for school last year and they were awesome! They are just simple picture frames with scrapbook paper and stickers inside. I use wet-erase markers and write up our weekly objectives (I teach too many subjects to have daily objectives).

Brag Boards - kind of. These laminated poster board pieces are numbered and are designated for each student in the class. I'm prepared for 25 students. They are used for social studies. Since we study Ancient Civilizations the kids make a name tag in the writing style from each civilization. We put them up on our boards to show off, but also to view how writing has evolved over the years.

Homework folders! Each student will be getting one of these on Back to School night. If they take care of them I hope that they last most of the year. The next two pictures are close ups of the front and inside.

Alright - on to Reading Apprenticeship! I received a call yesterday asking if I wanted to join a 3 day training about Reading Apprenticeship. Well, I love reading (my masters is in library science) so I said sure! Then I hung up and Googled Reading Apprenticeship. If you want to know more feel free to head over to their site: http://readingapprenticeship.org/cs/ra/print/docs/ra/home.htm

So our training began today and will continue for two days next week, and then 4 more dates throughout the school year. The benefit of going to the training...swag! We each got a huge binder and two books to help us. Our instructor was from the IU and she is amazing. I haven't been to such a beneficial training in a very long time.

Some of activities included using 4-square, think/pair/share, pair reading, VIP, ABC vocab charts, and more. It was very interactive and very informing. And this was only covering chapter 1 in the book. Our district is going to implement this over the next year or two and I'm excited to be in on the beginning stages of it. If your district offers this training I would highly recommend it. Once I learn more about the process and how I plan to use it in my classroom (and maybe how it will look on my evaluation!) I'll update more. Happy Friday everyone!

And a final picture - my finished Tardis door...go Dr. Who :)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Piles of Papers!

It's fall! Okay not really but it feels like it around here at the moment. We've had the windows open, puffy vests on..where is August? I will be the first to admit it, I don't mind. I like fall, it's my favorite season, and this weather makes me want to cookout and watch football. It also makes me think of school.

With only a few weeks left of vacation I have officially stopped my 'summer mind' and have gone back into planning mode. My dear husband has lost his 'summer wife' which he lovingly refers to me as during my time off work. I do feel guilt about not being able to dedicate as much time to the house, the hubs, and my daughter during the school year, which is probably why I try to make it up during the summer. Regardless, I love teaching and have great faith that at some point in my career I'll find a happy balance!

Now, why call this post piles of paper? Well, let me tell you! My partner teacher and I like to end the school year by sending as much stuff to our print shop in the district as possible. The goal is to get important and frequently used items copied, made pretty, and returned in time to file them away. Well, the only problem this year is that they wouldn't make our copies until after July 1st (our fiscal year). So this is what I spent the last day doing:

Yeah...this is only 2 tables worth, I had all 5 tables in my classroom covered with items. It was a little overwhelming! I don't like having file cabinets in my room take up space for papers that get used and recycled each year so I use crates instead. Yesterday I spent the time to organize all of this mess into the bins with labeled folders, I feel so much better now! There will still be A LOT of papers coming back for spelling and social studies but this is a good start. 

I also picked up a new planner (and made it sparkly) because I love my iPhone app to share events with the hubs but I am really a paper planner kind of girl. Don't get me wrong, I actually have an electronic planbook through our district: http://www.hellmansoft.com/  but something is special about seeing the week in front of me on paper. 

And just to leave you with a fun note on this cool August morning, enjoy this Pin that I found the other day. It makes me giggle and I'm seriously considering hanging it in my classroom somewhere. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Back to School Work

I can not believe August is here already. The summer just completely flew, partially because we got out of school a little later in June than we normally due, but also because I've been busy working outside on house stuff. Our 'to-do' list around the house was getting to be too big so I went ahead, put on my old clothes, and tackled a few projects. Resurfacing/staining our deck was the biggest one that I accomplished..I'm in love! The other was refinishing and painting our two eucalyptus adirondack chairs that were getting to be very old and weather, plus the matching table. They are now a fun pinkish color!

Unfortunately I can't procrastinate back to school stuff too much. I actually enjoy the planning, coming up with new ideas, finding things on Pinterest, the back to school aisle in the stores...yeah! This is all before the stress of the actual teaching happens (kids, parents, etc). And I'll be the first to admit I'm kind of a school supply junkie...love that stuff!

Anyway, here are a few things I've been working on. Enjoy! And feel free to borrow any idea you see, I'm happy to help a teacher in need :)

Our students have to bring in an accordion file to put their handouts. I picked up one for $3 to show the kids and parents at our Back to School Night later this month. It helps them to see how it will be organized. Plus I can give it to a student who might not have the finances.

Inside tabs - labeled for each instructional class they would get handouts in.

Our students are also asked to bring in a 5 subject notebook. I organize it with 2 sections for Writing, 2 sections for Reading, and the final section is split for Science/Social Studies. We have a table of contents that we add to and handouts that we tape in, along with areas for making heart maps, timelines, read aloud thoughts, etc. They get really full and the kids don't lose anything since all the pages stay inside. Plus they enjoy decorating the covers!

One of my bulletin boards in progress - no my room isn't crooked, I'm just bad at taking pictures! 

Label on the top of the pencil boxes that will be in the center of each table. They have pencil sharpeners, pencils, erasers, and sticky notes inside. I'm hoping it will prevent kids from wasting time! I put fun masking tape (who knew it came in patterns!) around the pencils like flags and labeled them with the table number and my room number. The pencils are small and those flags are big, hopefully it's a 'red flag' as I see them walk out of my room (haha).

Second fun addition to my room. I need to darken the lines around the boxes and add the top label (though since I only did half the Tardis do I only do half the words...hmmm). I'm also going to print out Dr. Who quotes that relate to the kids and school to hang around the door.

The pencil boxes stacked up..so pretty, and I love that they were $1.29 at Office Depot, and the fact that they are clear will help me to see when a table isn't taking care of their supplies well.

So excited to try this - saw the idea on Pinterest first. The box has hanging file folder inside, one marked 1-31 for the days of the month. When students are absent they look in the folder for the date they missed (i.e. September 9th would be in the 9 folder). They read the sheet that I'll have in there and pick up handouts they need. This will be the location for students who misplace their work to look as well, but only after the students who were absent claim their papers. I don't make a lot of extras but I always have a few. As the next date rolls around (i.e. from September 1st to October 1st) I'll clean out the file and put the new items in. I'm hoping this helps me file better but also keeps me from stacking up a marking period worth of extra papers for the kids. 

And finally, my planning place...so peaceful! Hope you enjoyed and got some ideas. Happy planning.