Sunday, May 31, 2015

End of the Year Sale!

It's my last Sunday night of the current school year.  Tomorrow will consist of students vs. teachers kickball, round two of a lip sync battle, desk clean out, and various other end of the year tasks.  As my year is winding down and my summer plans are taking shape, I thought I'd take a minute to pause and appreciate one of my favorite websites: teacherspayteachers. 

Yes, I have a store here.  But I love looking at others' sites and pages.  Even better, I know with each purchase, I'm supporting a fellow hard-working teacher who has spent hours developing supplemental materials for his/her classroom.

To appreciate these fellow educators, and my followers, I'm holding an end of the year sale!  Monday through Thursday, everything in {my store} will be on sale for 20% off.

Thanks for all the support!  Year six is almost done!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Alphabet Count Down, part 3

Ah, the end of the school year.  Today was our last Friday of the school year with students.  It was an interesting day, complete with a dunk tank (but more on that later).  

We are almost done with our alphabet count down to the end of the year, which you can read more about {here}.  Our spirit days continue!

S:  Tuesday brought stuffed animal day!  Several of my students brought in their stuffed toys and read with them.  

T: Twin day!  My colleague Mrs. H and I rocked the twin look with gray school shirts and yoga pants. Any day with yoga pants is a great day!

U: Uniform Day.  Many of my students wore sports jerseys.  I wore one of my brother's old hockey jerseys (with our last name on the back) and once again, yoga pants.

V: Video day.  We watched a Magic School Bus video on gravity between all of our Reading Ranger celebrations. I'm so glad we've got Discovery Education to stream videos!

Next week, our last week, brings letters W-Z!

W: Watermelon day.  I'm not entirely sure what this day will bring, especially since I'm not a huge fan of watermelon...perhaps snacks in the lunch room?

X: X-tra recess day! We'll take it early in the morning before the weather is triple digits.

Y: Yellow day.  Students are supposed to wear yellow, but it's also my students' dressy graduation day and well, yellow doesn't look good on everyone.

Z:  Zero days left.  This day will be a half-day, filled with a BBQ and a morning at the pool across the street.  

Monday, May 25, 2015

Motivation Monday: Minute to Win It

My fifth graders get bored with repetition, so I am always looking for new ways to  motivate them. 

Our school does Reading Rangers, which is a program to inspire students to read independently and move up through badges and ranger level graduations.  While it's in no way perfect because no program is and not every strategy works for every student, I found that in my first year of using this program my students were extremely motivated to read and talk about their books with each other, which is a welcome change.  Last year, even with all my high readers, I still struggled to get them to complete their assignments.  This year, a much higher percentage of my students were motivated to independently read, which is fantastic.

However, it's also the end of the school year and many of them need an additional push.  So, with the help of pinterest ideas, I came up with mystery motivators (minute to win it challenges).

I used a random number generator to make five student groups and they were competing for:
-highest overall percentage correct
-most number of quizzes passed (with failing quizzes counting for negative points)
-most engagement from the whole team

They had a week to complete their goals and I did daily points updates.

After a week of competition, I revealed the winning teams.  The top 3 teams in each category got to participate in minute to win it games.

I chose the following games:
1) Cookie to mouth, using oreos.  Students had a minute to get the oreo from their foreheads into their mouths without using their hands.

2) 100 cup stack challenge.  Goal: create the highest cup structure in a minute.

3) Balancing act.  Using a tongue depressor and linking cubes, they had to stack the cubes on top of the tongue depressors and hold their structure for sixty seconds.

Here is a snapshot of the challenges:

My favorite part? The total cost to me was under ten dollars and they were so motivated to read and win!

How do you motivate your students?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

It's been a while...

I've been reflecting on my classroom management and decided I needed a few tweaks.

I've decided to do a "ten for ten" where students are working toward earning perfect 10's in specials (perfect behavior).  Each time they accumulate ten perfect reports, they get to pick a ten minute classroom reward!

I've also noticed my attendance is a concern because some students have accumulated a lot of absences.  To try to combat this, I've also created a "perfect attendance" sheet where students will get to fill in a letter for each day that the whole class is in session.

The best part?

I've bundled these two classroom motivators and posted them, for free, on TpT!  That's right, totally free! This is product #160 (wowzers), so why not make it a freebie for loyal readers and fellow teachers. I just ask that if you download 'em, you leave (hopefully positive) feedback.  Snag 'em {here}.

The Metric System

Ahh, the metric system.  Usually students either have an easy time with this or they think it's the most confusing thing, ever.

My students this year, however, did fairly well with the metric conversions.  I think a large part of this success is because we spent so much time in the beginning of the year building number sense and working with powers of ten.

I also modeled exactly what a meter looks like and passed around a meter stick:


As with every math unit, we did a gallery walk with challenge questions before the test:

We also did some sorting activities and used our "I have, who has" cards in small groups.

I also sent them on a scavenger hunt in their own fridges to find items that were listed in the customary system but that were also labeled with the metric system.

How do you teach the metric system?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

DENSI, round two

Now that I've confirmed my place and told friends and family, I'm pleased to announce that I'll be headed to Washington DC this summer to participate in DENSI 2015!

DENSI, which is short for the Discovery Education Network Summer Institute, is a week long collaboration event that focuses on networking, technology, and learning from other teachers.  I went two years ago in Vermont and had a wonderful time.  I skipped last year's event because I'd just bought a home and was in the middle of an extensive kitchen remodel (refinishing nearly forty different cabinet doors) and unpacking a home.  

This year I'll be back to continue learning from other amazing educators. I can't wait to take the information I learn and share it with my colleagues (and here online).

It looks like my Leslie Knope dreams are coming true after all!


ABCs, part two

The cuteness of my school continues.

As I previously shared, we are in the middle of an ABC themed count down until the end of the school year.

My students hare having a wonderful time with the spirit days.

Inside out day!  We wore our clothes inside out.

Joke day!  They shared all their silly jokes with one another.

Kickback day!  Also known as the teachers get to wear yoga pants and it's amazing.

Lollipop day.  They could bring in suckers and eat them during independent reading.

Mismatch day.  I had an important meeting after school that day (more on that later), so I needed to look presentable.  I did wear brown flats with a black sweater, which felt mismatched.  

Neon day.  Surprisingly this was mostly students participating.  As an adult, I do not own a lot of neon items.  I am also completely okay with this.

Octopus day.  They read fun facts about octopi.  That was really it.

Pajama day.  This day was glorious.

Quiet day.  Another glorious day that coincided with online standardized testing (Discovery Education, not SBAC.)

Red and read day.  Wear red, read a lot,

The next two weeks will bring the remaining letters of S-Z.

What fun traditions does your school have for the end of the year? 

Not the wisest choice...

I frequently need to remind myself that I can do anything, but not everything.

This slipped my mind when I thought the end of the school year was a good time to sign up for another graduate school class.  I already have my master's degree in education and am quite close to finishing up my post master's thirty two credits.

A technology class was offered through UNLV and our school district, so I thought, why not?

3 credit hours in four weeks didn't seem like that big of a deal.  I signed up along with my partner teacher, Mrs. H.  If nothing else, we could rely on each other for motivation.

However, then we went to our grade level planning meeting and realized all the expectations for the end of the year.  So we decided to lock our doors to minimize pre-work distractions, make a plan, and crank out the eight projects and papers required for this class.

By sheer motivation, copious amounts of caffeine, and lots of early mornings, we finished our three credit graduate class.  Not in the four weeks we were allotted, but in twelve days.  Yes, twelve days. 

So that, dear readers, is the main reason for the lack of posts in May.  Graduate class got in the way and I had to prioritize: sleep, work, grad school. Everything else just fell off my plate for that crazy two weeks. I'm steadily playing catch up with all the great things I have to share on my blog, so please be patient.  However, report cards are due Friday and I still have some grading to do...eight days til summer!  

SKYPin' it up

One of the many social studies standards for our fifth graders is learning about the three branches of government.  While this has been one of my favorite teaching resources from Lakeshore, I have added to this kit over the years:

We read about the three branches, made a foldable, and did a 3D tour of Washington DC using Google Earth.  My partner teacher, Mrs. H, had a fantastic idea of contacting her cousin, Mrs. W who works for one of our nation's governors.

So, without telling our students, we enlisted the help of our school's digital coach to set up a Skype call with her.  It was a fairly easy process once we found all the proper cords and did a test run with the iPads.

We casually mentioned the upcoming Skype call to our students a few days before it happened.  Hey, we're calling Washington DC to chat about our nation's government.  No big deal, just a typical day in the fifth grade.

They brainstormed questions which ranged from incredibly thoughtful (Which branch of government is your favorite?) to a tad silly (Have you met the first dog? Mind you, the dog. Not the President or First Family, they were only concerned about the First Pets.)  Mrs. W was incredibly patient with them and answered all their questions.  They loved it!

Huge shout out to my partner teacher Mrs. H and her wonderful cousin for letting our fifth graders Skype it up and enhance their learning.

Monday, May 11, 2015


My students needed a little extra practice with fractions before our test.  I could have assigned them book problems to work on silently, but that wasn't what they needed. They needed to work with each other and learn from each other.  During this time, I pulled the students who really weren't getting it to the back table for some intervention work.

The novelty of having mini-math problems was extremely motivating for them.  I also like to include the "create your own" option.  I can see their levels of comfort with the ideas based on the problems they choose to create and then solve.

Since it's May, many of my fifth graders are plagued with the end of the year-itis.  Any new strategies that keep them engaged are always welcome!

How do you keep your students motivated in May?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Guest Speaker

As difficult as it is for me to admit, I'm not an expert on everything.  So when it came to teaching about mixtures and solutions, we have some basic supplies but for my munchkins, this wasn't enough.

I invited one of my close friends Katie in to be a guest speaker. She holds a degree in chemistry and works at a local titanium alloy plant.

She prepared a power point and several basic experiments for the fifth graders.  She was gracious enough not only to speak to my class, but the other four classes as well.

She went over mixtures and solutions, demonstrating how mixtures can be separated out again into their separate entities while solutions can't.

Oil and water (with food coloring) as well as lemonade packets and water:

My students were super excited when they learned they were able to then drink the lemonade afterward!

Thanks Katie for coming to play science with our fifth graders!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Week Sale

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

I am starting the week off by taking a nap!  Our PTA and administration is providing lunch for us several times this week and Chipotle is taking care of dinner on the 6th.

I'm appreciating fellow teachers with a free gift for all online buy 3, get 1 free Jamberry orders!

I'm also appreciating fellow teachers with an online sale on TpT!  Stock up now :)

(This was amusing only because there's a 99% chance I've already found it, pinned it, and am in the process of making it myself!)

Saturday, May 2, 2015


Once again I find myself appreciating the cute, fun culture of my new school. With the school year winding down, we are doing an ABC count down until the end of the year.  Each day is a different themed spirit day!

Here's a recap of what we've done and what's coming up next week!

A day: Art Day

To be fair, we started calling the day ancient day because none of the computers wanted to connect to the server!  

I talked to my students about how book covers sometimes change over time.  We looked at examples (Hatchet, the River) and non-examples (Number the Stars).  

We talked about the different emotions that were evoked by the illustrations and which book cover would be the most appealing to read.  

I then had them redesign the covers of their favorite novels.  They had such a great time with our craft project and it was nice to be able to integrate reading and art!

B day: Beach Day

Students brought in beach towels and we enjoyed reading outside!  Granted, it's close to 100 degrees outside, so our reading time didn't last too long.

My students were super excited about my towel choice:


C day: Crazy Hair Day 

I babysat my nephew and niece the night before, so it was rough getting up this morning so I passed on the spirit day.  I also had an IEP, so that was my excuse with my colleagues. A few of my students really went all out and it was great to see how excited they were!

Next week will bring...

Disney Day
Exercise Day
Fruit Day
Geography Day
Hat Day

I'm not sure what I'll do for Disney day yet.  We'll be doing some brain breaks and stretching for exercise day.  Fruit day may involve a potluck.  Geography day will not only include learning about the Southern Region, but also Google Earth explorations as well!  Hat day is self explanatory and perhaps the day my boys are most excited about!

What fun end of year activities does your school do?