Friday, October 31, 2014

The Raven, round 2

Last year, we did the Raven with students.  The lesson went fairly well, but I made some tweaks for round two.

This year, we did the entire lesson in 1 day instead of 3.  

In my district, Nevada day & Halloween fall on the same day, so the kids didn't have school on the 31st.  We celebrated on the 30th instead.  Those same lucky kids have off next Monday AND Tuesday because teachers have staff development.  I'd love a five day weekend too, but I'll settle for three.

Since the day before Halloween and their epic weekend can be a tad challenging behavior wise (and their costumes don't help!), I wanted a hands-on, engaging task before their costume parade.

I read the first stanza of the Raven after we reviewed elements of poetry.  They then did a close read on the rest of the poem with their neighbors and I think they did a great job!

We then watched two different video clips on Teacher tube.  We compared and contrasted the video clips before talking about the multimedia elements that contributed to the video's meaning.  

They had a great time doing this grade-appropriate Halloween activity!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Percy the Pumpkin

As I previously blogged about, my class designed a Percy Jackson pumpkin.

I'm going to preface this picture with the disclaimer that it was 100% student made.  All I did was supervise and provide the paint.

The backside has a trident, waves, skull, and Riptide.

Here's Percy:

You can vote for our pumpkin here!

We really want a popcorn party :)


When I asked a colleague if the kiddos were allowed to wear Halloween costumes to school, I got really excited when I learned how into Halloween we are at our school.

There is a parade. 

I can have a class party.

The kids wear costumes.


I originally found this idea online:

I double checked, no food allergies!  However, I don't necessary want to give them snacks that are completely sugar.  I also would most likely damage these in the process of transporting them from home to school.

So I compromised with these:

I purchased the large tubs of cheese balls at Target and used the snack sized ziplocks.  While these aren't the healthiest snacks, they won't make a huge mess (like sprinkles or frosting), they are portion-sized, and I could accomplish the whole class for under $10.  B gets the left overs which he's pretty excited about.  I used 1/2 of each color tub, so if you wanted to stick with just one color for cheese balls, your cost would be even less.

(Plus I could make these while dealing with a migraine)

I also created a permission slip for students to participate in our class party, that way I am being respectful of my students' religious preferences.  They can still eat of course, they'll just visit another classroom during our "Halloween" party time.

I've also learned through the experience of having several dozen cupcakes to ask students to bring in different items.  I will also be providing capri sun, that way we don't run into the situation where we have two liter bottles and no cups (again, from experience).  Plus capri suns are less likely to spill.

This year I was proud of myself for creating different categories for families to pick from.  For example:

___ sugary snacks (candy, muffins, brownie bites, cupcakes (no bright colored frosting))
___ crunchy snacks (pretzels, chips and dip, crackers and cheese)
___ healthy snacks (cheese and cracker tray, fruit tray, veggie tray)
___ paper products (napkins, plates, cups, utensils, tissues, paper towels)
___ classroom supplies (expo markers, post its, glue sticks)
___ we are unable to donate at this time

Hopefully this will spread out the snacks :)

Now it's time to find where I put my ASU grad robes because for the last several years, they've doubled as my Gryffindor Quidditch robes because I go as Ginny Weasley. Always.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


I'm loving the fact that my new school is open dress because I get to see their cute personalities reflected in their cheetah print leggings and sport shirts.

While they can't wear them inside, there's also been a surplus of hats.  Now some of my boys are rocking football ones (naturally) and then we get to tease one another about football teams and scores.  One of my students wore a 49ers one after they'd lost to the Cardinals (my team), so naturally I asked him if he loved the game as much as I did.

I like that my classroom is such a positive place where we can  joke about things and feel comfortable with one another.

Recently, two of my boys have shown up in coordinating Batman hats.

Now, to say I love Batman would be an understatement.  I have a Batman class sign and hundreds of comics at my house.  So the fact that my students noticed and then made the effort to wear the hats so I'd notice is simply adorable.

I'm also being gifted quite frequently by my students.  I've received a half dozen bracelets, drawings, and flowers (picked from someone's yard).

It's nice to be at a school where I am appreciated. It's nice to be surrounded by happy students.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Even though October snuck up on me, I'm excited for the plethora of pumpkins in my life.

I don't like carving pumpkins. I don't really like pumpkin flavored or scented things.  However, I think they're cute and have ceramic ones in my house.

I checked with my students and they all celebrate Halloween, so I put up this banner in my classroom:

My students also requested a fall scent for our classroom diffuser, so I bought an apple cinnamon one.  For me, it's worth $5 to make them happy and have them feel like it's their classroom too.

At my new school, we do a pumpkin decorating contest.  As a class, we will vote on a book character to paint on our pumpkin.  I posed the question to my students on weebly (our class blog) and of the 30 responses, 28 of them are for Percy Jackson.  Well I guess we don't have much of a say!

One student wants to also add a trident (Poseidon), skull (Hades), and lightning bolt (Zeus).  I'm letting them take the reins and while we may not win, I will be proud that my students completely designed and painted the Percy Pumpkin!

Friday, October 10, 2014

October, where did you come from?

I had to change my classroom calendar.

It's October. Monday starts week 8 of school.  I don't know where the days have gone!

Oh wait, yes I do.  Devoted to learning.  Devoted to place value, powers of ten, rounding, and comparing decimals.  Devoted to reading the Lightning Thief.  Devoted to their Native American Indian research projects and writing extension projects.  Devoted to maintaining a positive classroom culture and celebrating successes.  

It's been a busy start to the year!

While B is out having a boys night, I'm enjoying a lazy evening with the DRV, playing with the kittens, crafting, and a tiny bit of grading.  I'm such a list maker, so let's make some October goals!


-Implementing another game day for my students to allow them to play with decimals and multiplication, allowing me time to reteach in a smaller group setting.

-Continue to have students be excited about The Lightning Thief. They are so invested in the story and keep trying to sneak the sequel, The Sea of Monsters off the shelf.  Sneaky wanna-be half-bloods!

-Continue to build positive relationships with my coworkers, admin, and parents.  

My assistant principal popped in today to share that a third grade teacher was struggling with math games and that she recommended he come see me.  She wanted to make sure that her suggestion was okay, and obviously it's fine! I'm excited that she sees me as a go-to person on making the classroom environment fun while still standards-based.

I've had some really positive conversations with parents lately and I hope it continues.  I had one mom come in after school to learn about the math organizer we're using in math.  We had a 20 minute conversation and afterward, both mom and daughter felt better. I sent them home with math games (because that's a way that the student will actually want to practice) and she had her retest today.  Guess what? She got a B. Progress!

-Stay ahead of my grading and math planning!  

-Add a few more products on TpT.  I have a few students that are finishing up novels that I've read, but haven't made chronological order sorts for.  When they skip  the sort, they tend to get around 80% on their AR tests...which doesn't count for badges.  However, when they do the sort, they earn 100%.  For me, it's worth a few extra hours to help them be successful.

-Continue to network for Jamberry.  I just got my business cards and am excited to pass out pretty samples to friends and family.  I love having pretty nails :)


-Finish the wreath I started for our front door.  Right now it's a styrafoam circle wrapped in burlap. I want to add some embellishments, but I'm not quite sure what.  Our door is navy, so perhaps something white or maroon.  

-Continue to organize books to take into my classroom...and get a handle on the guest bedroom.

-Finish Christmas shopping.  I've got my brother's girlfriend totally done and my mom mostly baby steps!

-Be better at blogging!

-Finish The House of Hades.

What are your October goals?

Saturday, October 4, 2014


I struggle at times with finding balance between my personal life and my professional life.  Sometimes I put more emphasis on the teacher part of me and neglect the rest of my life.  Making sure I strike that balance is becoming increasingly important and I am proud of myself for prioritizing me this year.

I get to work early.  I like the quiet time before most teachers are there.  I like having that time to collaborate with other early risers and not have to fight for the copy machine.  I like to have my day fully prepared before any morning meetings start.

That being said, I am trying to leave shortly after the kids do each day.  We dismiss around 3:30, so I aim to leave by 4.  That thirty minutes gives me enough time to save my documents, shut down my technology, tidy the room, and make sure the parking lot is clear before I start my ten minute drive home.  Some days I'm there longer, but most of the time I get home before 4:30 and that's a wonderful feeling.

I've recently fallen in love with Jamberry nail wraps and am excited to be an independent consultant during my free time.  I like that there is NO drying time and that these last through my real life.  Over fourteen days of teaching, cleaning, cooking, laundry, and actual real life activities, these wraps stayed firmly adhered to my finger nails. 

 I've gotten compliments on them from teachers and parents alike.  I keep my nails short so I think it's completely professional to have fun colors and prints (like this cheetah one!).  It provides me an opportunity to bond with my students (the ten year old girls notice my nails and want to talk about them).  

I've also started using DoTerra oils as a natural way to ease my aches and pains.  I love the calming effect of lavender scent before bedtime.  I'm trying to make healthier choices, so I am flavoring my water with drops of wild orange (instead of reaching for soda). 

I'm also taking time for friends and family.  Whether it's hour long phone calls with my mom or texting my Florida pals, I'm trying to put more time into those lasting relationships.  We are having gorgeous weather, so I sat on my patio with tea and talked to my mom for a while this morning.  Then I did some yoga and snuggled with my kitties.

I feel more balanced. I feel happier.  I am proud of myself for prioritizing my personal life as well as my professional life.

And as for my relationship with B?  He had a rough day at work, so I made him cookies. I coincidentally timed it perfectly because as he walked in, I was taking them out of the over.  Score for girl friend points!  We are seeing his parents later today, have a date night planned, and are meeting up with friends tomorrow to watch football.  Our teams are playing one another, so the losing team does dishes for the next few days!

I like that I'm happier after my change.  I like that my new grade level (and whole school really) is incredibly kind and supportive.  They recognize that teachers are first and foremost people with lives outside of our school.  That's important to me.  I need that balance and at my new school, balance is encouraged.

What have you done for you lately?


I'm a firm believer that school, especially elementary school, should be a fun and welcoming learning environment.  Since moving over to my new school, this mindset has grown because it's supported building-wide.

I checked with my students and since all celebrate Halloween, I put up a banner on the board.  I gave them new class jobs and the assignment sheet is orange.  The librarian is buying each classroom a pumpkin for us to decorate as a class with a book character.  Since we're reading The Lightning Thief as our class read aloud (and loving it), I'm hoping to steer them toward a Camp Half-Blood pumpkin. 

Our lounge was decorated with the most adorable Halloween signs and there was a feast of treats Friday morning.  I keep forgetting that the first Friday of every month is a brunch, so it's a pleasant surprise to find an assortment of homemade goodies awaiting me in the morning.  Our grade level is responsible for March's surprise, so we've got some time to think of a theme.  Although I'm seeing lots of shamrocks and green things on our table!

We are about half way through our math unit on decimals (NBT 3, 4) where we are focusing on rounding, reading, and ordering decimal place values to the thousandths.  I decided to take a day to do math games while I pulled small groups for reteaching.  I set the timer for 15 minutes for each game, went over the materials and expectations for each center, and allowed the table teams to pick.  For our first time, they did an awesome job treating my centers with respect and cleaning up after themselves.  I was very pleased with their respectful attitudes and how excited they were to talk about math.

For privacy concerns, I won't share the pictures because my students' faces are in them.  However, they had an amazing time playing.  I walked around and listened to their math conversations and they did such a great job coaching one another.  Many groups, without prompting, were explaining their thinking to each other.  Sometimes they can explain concepts in a way that makes sense to each other and as long as my kiddos understand the math, I don't care who they learned it from.  Plus, when they can explain their thinking, it shows me that they've truly mastered the content.

Some of the activities I made, but some I found on TpT.  The next two freebies were awesome and these hard working educators deserve a virtual high five! Thanks for making great activities to help students learn.

Here were some of the centers we played:

Spooky Sort, made by Jennifer Findley.

They sorted by the underlined place value, then put the cards in order from greatest to least.  If they had time left over (we used a timer), they played war with the cards.

Decimals to the Thousandths, made by Allison Harig.

They had some awesome discussions about math.  I love that one table had two students really struggling with comparing, so they chose to do this activity twice during the rotation time to make sure their classmates understood the concept.  

What's even more exciting is I found more cute standards-based games for the next math topic!  My fifth graders, while they might not admit it, are loving these festive fun learning activities.  Who says kinder should have all the fun?