Sunday, December 14, 2014


Last week, I got two new students.

On the same day.

One boy was moved from another fifth grade classroom and the other was from a neighboring school.

The same day, I had four students who are normally well behaved decide to launch spit balls at one another.  This of course, is not okay, so we had to have a stern talk about classroom norms.

I did not scream, shout, or even raise my voice.  Instead, I shared how disappointed I was and gave them the opportunity to come forward, which they did.  We discussed consequences privately in the hallway and they determined what they thought was fair.  They then cleaned up their mess and apologized to the class.

We had a long talk about making choices and taking responsibility.  They made a mistake.  I told them that yes, they did and they will make more in their lifetimes.  It's what they do after the mistake that matters.  It's what they learn from the mistake that makes the difference.

Some of my students needed to hear this talk about forgiveness and making amends.  They weren't necessarily the ones involved in the mess, but it was a crucial moment for our class.  In six years, this was the second time spit balls have been an issue.

I don't know if it's the recent full moon, the two new students, the strange weather, or that winter break is a week away, but I'm having a difficult time with classroom management.   Anyone else in the same boat?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


My oh my, it's been a busy few days.

We've had parent-teacher conferences, which means I had a lot of prep work.  I like to be super prepared and while I know I made more work for myself, they have gone really well.

It's not an understatement when I say I spent all of last week working and grading.  I set up a fortress of papers at Panera and camped out for the afternoon.

I had one conference on Monday's schedule, but I had the surprise of one of my favorite students withdrawing.  She's moving out of zone so we had her conference after school. 

Tuesday I had conferences before school and until 7:30 that evening.  Today my first conference was at 7:30 am and went until 5 pm.  Tomorrow and Friday I have conferences at 7:05, then have full days of teaching.  We didn't have kids today to accommodate parents' work schedules.

I had two no shows, one of them was a student who has been out for two days.  If he's truly that sick, I'm glad he stayed home!

Almost every conference was extremely positive.  I heard that my students adore me (score) and I got to share the progress they've been making.  Most of my students came with their families, so they got to lead the part of their conference where we discussed data and growth.  They also got to share the reading goals they set for themselves, which is great.

I had one parent compliment my nails (woo!).  Many shared that their kiddos were feeling more successful this year and thanked me for making a difference.

This is why I teach.

In the words of one of my teacher friends, "Do what's best for students and the rest will fall into place."

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thankfulness Continued

I'm thankful for my collegiate education. I'm thankful for the scholarships I earned that made six years of college possible (and already paid off).   I'm thankful I was able to balance academics with fun because life shouldn't be all work.

I'm thankful for the four years I spent at Arizona State, which allowed me to cultivate such an intense dislike for the University of Arizona, in Tuscon.  Perhaps I'm just still sad we lost the duel in the desert today and the territorial cup will go down to Tuscon.

I'm thankful my family is easily accessible by car.  I could have flown (I think it's an hour flight) but I have some stuff to bring back, so driving was easier.  I'm thankful my car has *amazing* gas mileage and that it's a fairly easy drive.  

I'm thankful I have such a solid relationship with B that we could spend a few days apart without issues.  He really likes his mom's cooking and I really like Black Friday shopping with my mom, so we did Thanksgiving separate this year.  No biggie!

I'm thankful I was able to find some good deals for gifts for others...but didn't have to deal with the crazy lines.  I refused to go out on Thanksgiving and do not want this "gray Thursday" thing to become a trend.  We slept in and ventured out around 9 am.  Most of the things we wanted were still there, but I got a good night's sleep.  Win win!

I'm thankful I'm mostly prepared for Monday, so I can relax Sunday night.  By relax, I mean decorate our tree and get out all my holiday things, making a huge mess in the process!  

I'm thankful I got a few days to escape responsibilities and just be a couch potato with family.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Black Friday!

It's that time of year again!

From Black Friday to Cyber Monday, all of my products on Teachers pay Teachers will be 20% off!  It's a great time to stock up and you don't have to leave your house :)  Shop here!

If you're interested in treating yourself as well, head on over to my Jamberry shop.  There are 12 returning nail wraps that are only available from Black Friday 'til Cyber Monday.  

Plus if you spend more than $50 on Friday, you get a free Black Friday exclusive wrap!  The buy 3, get 1 free offer includes all their wraps and a portion of the sales goes to charity.  Shop here.

I'm all for online shopping and not fighting the crazy crowds!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Division Day 1

As I previously blogged about, we've had some disagreements about math.  

Today was day 1 of division in my classroom and it went really well.  They really liked using manipulatives and working together.  We went over the vocabulary for the unit (dividend, divisor, quotient, remainder).  They worked on problems and generated their own strategies.  

It was nice to see them struggle and problem solve.  I did have to talk to a few students who immediately saw the connection between multiples and division. I pulled them into the hallway and shared that they need to observe, letting others make their own discoveries to take ownership.

I was pleased to hear how well the lesson went in other classrooms as well!

I think my students' favorite part was when I told them they could write on their desks with the expo marker.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Sometimes the best teaching moments detour from the lesson plan.

We had this Engage NY activity sheet to give:

3 problems.  The time slated for this independent practice was ten minutes, then they were to go work independently in a textbook that's older than them.

That's not what we did.

I had them work collaboratively at their table teams.  I had them include written explanations of their thinking and justify their answers.  I had them show their work multiple ways.  It got a tad noisy, but they were all engaged.  It's amazing how the simple act of giving them markers and butcher paper turns an otherwise mundane activity into a lively discussion and collaborative activity.

When they were done, I had them do a gallery walk and critique the other groups' presentations, thus highlighting math practice #3.  

Did this activity take way longer than it was slated to? Yes (but it still fit within our math block).  Did they gain so much more from one another than they would have by silently working then going over the answers? Yes.  

Was it worth detouring from my lesson plan? Absolutely.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Said is Dead

Upon flipping through old posts, I found that almost exactly a year ago, I blogged about a "said is dead" lesson in my classroom.  I just delivered the lesson again in my classroom this year.  However, revising for better words for "said" is a lesson nearly 100% of the fifth graders need.

This year, I made some tweaks.  I paired this mini-lesson with another mini-lesson on dialogue and quotation marks.  This was a logical pairing that just took me a few years to figure out.

While I suggested this lesson idea at grade level planning, another teacher actually made the plans for it.  I was a little bummed when the plans turned out to be a piece of paper for them to glue into their notebooks.  

So I made my own plan and my kids did really well with it!

We glued the resource into our notebooks, but after we'd make lists together. I gave each team a different emotion or tone (happy, sad, angry, loud) to have them generate lists.  I then showed a few different images, like this one:

to have them create a dialogue between the characters (thus using the dialogue mini-lessons and quotation marks) and to replace said with more descriptive language.  

They did a free write for few minutes, then shared the words they used instead of said, which I recorded on the board.  They then shared their writing with a neighbor.

I like when they get so excited about what we're learning!  Although due to their excitement and chatter, we were a minute or so late getting out the door...oops!