Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Teaser Tuesday

Sometimes my insomnia is beyond frustrating, but sometimes it yields exciting new classroom ideas.  I'm thankful it's the middle of winter break and I don't really have anywhere to be until around noon tomorrow because my brain simply will not shut off.

I have a million ideas bouncing around in my head for the new year.

I have my next bulletin board picked out.  They're going to write constructed responses about the themes in their latest novel.  We're going to type these responses, thus giving extra computer practice for those who need it.  

I will then take the two novels that we've read as a class (Esperanza Rising and The Lightning Thief) to model comparing and contrasting how the authors arrive at similar themes (family, loyalty, bravery) using the characters. (CCSS/NVACS RL 5.9.  Yes, we've renamed the Common Core Standards the Nevada Academic Content Standards for well, in my humble opinion, ridiculous reasons.)  

I'm excited to start using music for transitions in my classroom, especially at the end of the day.

I'm excited to start teaching more mapping skills, geography, earth science, and most importantly, the return of the map:

Oh yes, we'll build it up again from scratch.  There was a disagreement within my grade level about how to approach maps.  I understand the idea of starting with the 13 colonies, but I also stand by my approach of teaching regions.

We're going to start with what they know: Nevada.  From there, we'll do the surrounding southwestern states.  We'll talk about things these states all have in common and I'll introduce the concept of a region.  From there, we'll explore the other states in a quasi-reverse Westward Expansion kind of way.  We can also connect the map with the settings from Esperanza Rising and The Lightning Thief, which will bring in an exciting literary aspect.

But perhaps the idea I'm most excited about shall be called Teaser Tuesday.

I'll take fifteen minutes or so after lunch to read aloud the first chapter or two of a book.  Read alouds are a pretty common thing in my fifth grade classroom, but here's the new twist: It'll be a mystery.  I'll have the book cover and title hidden.  I'll read just enough to get them interested and of course, stop at a good part.  From there, I'll have them do a written reflection on whether or not they'll want to continue that novel independently.

I've already brainstormed using the following novels:

Tuck Everlasting
The Giver
Number the Stars
Al Capone Shines My Shoes
The Bad Beginning
Steal Away Home
The Red Pyramid

Any other ideas fellow teachers? Must read novels that are super interesting to ten year olds within the first few pages or chapters?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Looking Backward, Looking Forward

With 2015 quickly approaching, I'm pausing to reflect upon the past year.  A lot has changed: new house, new school, and new friends.  I've jumped head first into new career opportunities (TpT and Jamberry) besides teaching.  I love my job, but I don't see being in the classroom forever. I'm not quite sure how to get to my dream job, so it's a good thing I've got a lot of time to figure it out!  In 2014, I've grown a lot as a teacher and as an individual.

I tried new lessons and strategies in my classroom.  Some of them worked, some of them didn't.  That's okay.  

What worked well:

Homework challenge packets. During parent-teacher conferences, some asked for more work.  So I'm doing brain teasers and logic puzzles, very similar to Sudoku and other number games.  It's not directly tied to the standards we're working on, but it won't hurt them to stretch their brains a bit.

I'm excited for a fresh start in January.  I am going to try music in my classroom for transition time.  I'm going to use the Saved by the Bell theme song for our end of day routine.  It'll be nice to give them some wiggle/dance time while they clean up.  I'm also going to make sure each student has an end of the day task to help keep them focused.

We're starting the new school year with new seats and new class jobs.

I'm also excited for making resolutions for myself and with my students.  

What new things will you be trying in your classroom this year?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Snow ball fights, Nevada style

Keeping students focused and on task on the Friday before winter break is quite frankly, near impossible.

I let them make holiday cards for friends and family and quickly realized we needed to do something loud and with a lot of movement.

So I grabbed scratch paper and told them to line up.  

We went outside to have a paper snowball fight (girls vs. boys).

It was adorable:

(To clarify, it was also pajama day.  My students don't normally dress like this!)

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."