Friday, September 25, 2015

Revamping Regions

As I {previously shared}, I'm in charge of social studies long range plans.

I thought I'd just be able to reuse what I made last year, but after I looked at it again with fresh eyes, I decided that I needed to just start over. 

I wanted to focus more on the landforms of each state so students could see how regions were geographically similar.  I wanted to include vocabulary that they'd hear in the FOSS Landforms Kit (which is being taught in humanities).  I wanted to be more consistent with each state including the same information (images of state flag, state quarter, state seal) and the same basic layout.

This, unfortunately, is a massive undertaking but all the fifth grade classes are not only using it, but enjoying it as well. 

Last night, many, many hours after my contract time ended, I finished the introduction and Intermountain region powerpoint.  Coming in at 119 slides, it took quite a while to upload to Dropbox and TpT.  I designed it to be a ten day unit, with the first being an overview of what defines a region and how they're created.  The next eight days focus on the eight states in the Intermountain region, with one day at the end for a test.  I zoomed in on Yellowstone National Park, so that could be a day within itself.   

You can snag it {here}.

I designed the lessons to be about 15-20 minutes per day, since that's all we seem able to squeeze into our schedules.

This weekend I'll jump into the West Region with an additional topics on volcanoes, the Northern Lights, and tectonic plates.  From there, I think the Great Plains and the Midwest will be the next two regions, followed by the South, New England, and Mid Atlantic.  After all the states are covered, we'll be working on Native American Indians, Exploration, Plymouth, Colonial Times, the American Revolution, and the foundation of our government.  The year will end with a civics and government unit.

Hopefully this year (lucky #7) will feel like the last year that I have to keep reinventing the wheel and working so hard to create curriculum for my students.  There will always be tweaks and trying new things, but I feel like a first year teacher all over again.  It's a little rough this year.  But at least it's Friday!

Is it October 6th yet?

My dear friend Rick is releasing his newest book, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (book 1, The Sword of Summer) on October 6th and I'm even being close to patient about it.

I'm not quite at this level, but close...

Captain A is with me!

(Disclaimer one: I don't actually know Rick Riordan, but I have nothing but the highest respect for the man.  I love his books and he's easily my second favorite author, ever.  Sorry Rick, no one tops JK Rowling, ever.)

In the spirit of my excitement, I'm pleased to announce I'm having a:

All 39 of my products that are related to any of Rick's books are 15% off from October 5-7th!  That's right, anything related to Percabeth (Percy & Annabeth), Jason, or the Kane siblings will be on sale to celebrate the newest book's release.

Stock up {here}!

Monday, September 21, 2015

The DEN visits Vegas

In the fall of 2012, I was sent to yet another professional development training.  I prepped for a sub and showed up at Chaparral High School, looking very much like a high school student.  Even though I proudly displayed my school district badge, I was still questioned multiple times about which class I should be in.  I know, someday I'll appreciate looking much younger than I really am, it's just not that day.

I arrived in the room marked Discovery Education and found a seat near the back.  The room was decorated with a race car theme and the leader's bubbly personality was infectious. 

Throughout the course of the day, we learned all about resources on Discovery Education that extend far beyond assessment.  One of the most pivotal things we learned about was becoming a STAR educator, which allows access to even more resources.

So I applied and was accepted. 

Then we learned about the Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute, which would be held in Burlington, Vermont that upcoming summer.  Impulsively and on the provided lunch break, I decided to film my application video.  Mrs. B, who was my fellow colleague, filmed it on one take on her phone and I submitted the application before leaving the training.

I returned to my school excited to share what I'd learned, but put the application in the back of my mind.  Why would they pick me, a newbie, who had been a DEN STAR for all of twenty minutes before applying?

Well...they did pick me.  I attended the summer institute and it was amazing.  Catch up {here}.

Upon returning, I participated in the ambassador program and shared the DEN with my colleagues.  I then switched schools, moved, and skipped applying to DENSI 2014.

Once the dust of major life changes settled, I decided to apply for DENSI 2015, which I was blessed to attend.  Each year they pick a different location and it's always amazing.  Catch up more on my adventures in Washington DC {here}.

This year, we're gearing up to make the DEN even bigger in Clark County.  For the past two DENSIs, I was the sole representative for not only my district, but the entire state.  

Nevada, we can do better.  Vegas, we can definitely do better.

So, fellow teachers in CCSD, I invite you to join me for the Fall Ambassador Program, starting October 1st.  Yummy food will be provided, you'll get to hang out with me and the DE staff (always a blast!) and most importantly, you'll learn strategies you can take right back into your classroom and meet fellow passionate teachers.

Register on Pathlore!

For me, attending one of these sessions opened the door to meeting my tribe, to re-igniting my passion for teaching, and for making some lasting connections with educators in other states.

(After School Update: See above flyers! I had a colleague already sign up, hooray!)

How will the DEN change you?

21: Words, Words, Words

Day 21: Favorite Quote

As a teacher, I often look for inspirational quotes when I'm having one of those days.  Those days, when the technology doesn't work, there are impromptu meetings, I've got several parent phone calls to return, and my munchkins are being more lively, non-compliant versions of themselves.  Those days do tend to coincide with full moons, long weekends, or worse, both.  

It's hard to pick a favorite quote.  I'm really, really blessed to be part of the DEN where one of our lovely members posts a daily inspirational tweet.  Most of the time, it's related to teaching, but it's always a nice reminder of why I'm working so hard.

These quotes are unofficially the quotes of the DEN, so I will share 'em proudly:

My tribe.  That's one of the things I'm falling more in love with.  I have the privilege to work along side some amazing educators at my school, whom I both respect and enjoy spending time with.  (These two categories are not mutually exclusive in some cases.)

However, at the end of the day, no one will stay there forever.  Families will move, new homes will be purchased.  I'm privileged to know I have such a great support system that extends beyond the walls of my school.  Heck, it's beyond the boundaries of my state.  Some days, I really, really need that DEN love.

Not related to teaching, but related to life in general:

In a post-breakup, angry, early twenties stage, I read a lot of self-help books.  I had quite a lot of anger that I needed to learn to deal with in a healthy way.  

Then I stumbled upon this quote.

This has really resonated with me.  A younger, sillier version me, had an unfortunate habit of dulling myself down when with a boyfriend.  Not all past boyfriends, but enough that it became a habit.  I was so uncomfortable "outshining" my partner that I'd always take a backseat to his successes.

That wasn't fair to either of us and was a definite red flag that those were not the relationships for me.

A few years ago, I decided to have "shine" tattooed on my wrist as a reminder of this quote and its message.  It's a subtle tattoo, done in a dark red color that blends well with my freckles and complexion.  It's in my own handwriting and is meant, 1000% for me.

(On a side note, my fiance B has never done anything but encourage me to pursue my dreams and shine.  #keeperstatus )

What words have made an impact on you?

Join the conversation and link up for the blogtember challenge!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Our Engagement Shower, Part 2

Since my mom was already coming up over Labor Day, we decided that was a perfect opportunity to have an engagement shower.  I started planning (and {blogging about it}) at the end of July...yet it still snuck up on me!

Nothing huge or fancy, just the bridal party and some of our close friends over for beer, games, and food.  I tend to overdo it on the food...but no one complains!

I used coupons to pick up these invitations:

I hand wrote them myself (hooray for gold sharpies) and sent them out about five weeks ahead of time.  It was over Labor Day weekend, so we figured we wanted to give guests enough notice.

I made some simple decor changes:

Not all our loved ones could make it, so I wanted to honor them:

So they'd know we were thinking of them.

I did some crafting:

Target has an awesome selection of gold and polka dotted things!  Since we're using gold as an accent color in the wedding, and I obviously love all things polka dotted, this is a win-win!

We were set up just in the nick of time because guests arrived promptly!

As I previously shared, we had a guest vase for people to sign.  I set up a guest table:

We'll be reusing the "be our guest" sign at the wedding and then in our guest bathroom.  

I'm debating whether or not I want to paint the wood frame gold.  It's cute as is and I'm slightly worried of getting paint on the white sign, but the gold would match both the wedding reception and our bathroom afterward. 

I did "pop" the question to my bridal party (the ones that could attend).  I got small favor boxes and filled them with flavored popcorn. 

I made ones for the groomsmen too...but that wasn't B's style.  

He asked them over beer.  (To be fair, they all popped the kind of counts)

The next day, I called my brother's girlfriend to ask her to be a bridesmaid too.  She said yes of course!

More on my lovely gals later!

We played some games, including:


Ally or Brandan?

This was the game with the mustaches and lips!  Guests answered independently (cough except for the mothers cough), then voted with their response sticks:

I used straw toppers, Popsicle sticks, and hot glue to create these.

We had such a wonderful time with friends and family.  Thank you all for attending!


A & B

Friday, September 18, 2015

Math Rangers

Our school highly prioritizes reading with the Reading Rangers program.  Students graduate through levels, with increasing complexity in texts and increasing ZPD levels, that roughly correspond with grade level equivalencies.

The program isn't perfect, because nothing is, but my students have reading stamina and want to read.  This is a welcome change from past years where getting students to read a few chapters within a week was challenge.

However, one criticism from both teachers and students alike can be that math is not prioritized.  It's a valid point, so the math committee decided to create a similar "Math Rangers" program.

We are focusing on students mastering their basic facts, because so much of later concepts relies heavily on the automatic recall of multiplication and division. Early elementary still needs lots of hands-on time with manipulatives, but they should also be exposed to thinking about number bonds.

One of the things I like about Common Core (and the Engage NY lessons we are using) is how addition and subtraction are taught they should be.  

We decided that as a school, there needs to be a focus on math as well as reading.  So the math committee, which I'm a part of, is piloting a math fluency program.  We went with an online component because it would take the grading off the teachers' plates.  We already feel overwhelmed, so telling us we have one more weekly probe to grade was not going to be successful.

We decided to go with mathfactspro, which has a free 30 day trial.  The cost was pretty reasonable ($1 per kid per year).  I made a tracking form, but after meeting with the committee, we're tweaking it again.  

I tried to have all my students use the computers today...that didn't work.  We'll be assigning tables and they'll go once a week during independent practice.

The students start with addition facts, then move on to subtraction, multiplication, and division.  The program tests both their computer skills and their math skills, so it's nice to have those skills embedded into math practice time. 

For me, the prep work was about an hour before I could get them onto the program.  I had to manually enter all my students, create passwords (their student ID numbers), set their levels, and set the number of practice questions.  I also had to make copies of their trackers because they are responsible for tracking their own progress.  They keep their trackers in their math data folders. 

The first time on any computer program is always a learning experience.  What should have taken ten minutes took forty.  We learned to hit the "no jokes" button and that it only worked for part of the time.  Hopefully with the purchased version we won't run into that problem. 

For the students, the logging in part is fairly straight forward.  For me, that's important.  I don't want to have to help them every single time.  I want to be able to go over it a few times and then hand over the control to them.  I don't want this to feel like one more thing I have to juggle because as a very overwhelmed teacher, that's important.  I want this program to be useful, but I also want it to be beneficial for my students.

The kids enjoy it and I'm excited to see if it makes a difference.  We'll compare math scores between our kids (only the math committee got licences) and the other classrooms.  

My munchkins are excited to be part of something new.  I told them that it's a learning opportunity for us all.  

When was the last time you tried something new?  How is it working for you?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Our frame

So it's like three weeks late, but one of my first tasks as co-chair of Sunshine Committee was to make a frame for first day of school selfies.

I appointed myself this craft project and didn't really ask anyone's permission.  

I used a velcro dot to attach the first day star to the frame.  There are matching stars for the last day and the hundredth day of school.

Kyla is one of my work wives :)

So is Mrs. H!  Her hubby knows of our close friendship.

Teachers need to have fun too!

Fifth Grade Team

The frame was a big hit and all the selfies were uploaded to our school's facebook page.

What fun first day traditions does your school have?

Typical Thursday

My desire to go to bed at five o'clock this evening should be a pretty good indication of how things are going at work.  

(I know I've shared this image before...but it's still true.  It's also tomorrow's morning meme.)

I got a new student this week.  She's number thirty four (one already moved back to Mexico, so she replaces the empty desk).  She's from a neighboring school and it appears her family moved, so luckily for me, she's already familiar with our school's Reading Rangers program.

I'm juggling planning social studies units with reading plans.  I'm making some major tweaks to last year's region works, but I will happily share (on TpT) once they're done!  I'm almost done with my beginning of the year tasks (setting up Class Dojo, getting everyone benchmarked, establishing procedures, setting up progress monitoring schedules, and so on and so forth).  I'm hoping this weekend, when I'm not doing exciting wedding planning things, will provide a lot of time to catch up and get a little bit ahead (crazy concept, I know!).  B is on call (extra money for the wedding), so I'll do my part in finishing up products.

I'm all caught up on my grading (for now), sent some positive emails to parents to try to build up that community, and tried to catch my breath.  

Our year is off to a rocky start.  One of my students had her iPhone stolen from her desk.  Granted, it wasn't supposed to be in her desk and she was showing it off to her peers.  It's unclear when the phone went missing because she claims to have noticed it gone right after lunch, but didn't tell me until the end of the day...on a Friday.  I took witness statements and handed those over to administration (who in turn handed them over to school police), we advised them to file additional reports.  Not the best way to start the school year.  I feel so frustrated and violated because it happened in my classroom.  It also brings back unpleasant memories of some of the issues we dealt with last year.  

We also had another bombshell dropped on us today.  It's not a secret the district is having money woes.  The funds are there, they are just being extremely mismanaged.  (Yes, still irritated that I got a pay cut, but new teachers got a $4,000 hiring bonus because the school district's focus is on "recruiting new talent" apparently with no regard to retaining the talent they already have.)  Apparently, sometime before mid December, I have to attend an evening or Saturday clinic put on by the Teacher's Health Trust in order to keep my insurance for next year.  The insurance that's included in my contract as part of my benefits plan.  I don't know how they can mandate that we give up additional time outside of contract hours for what will clearly be a less than helpful training, but we shall see.

For the past few days, we've been in a school wide reading competition.  Our students have been reading up a frenzy and the teachers were evenly split between the red reading team and the blue rangers team.

I take spirit days very, very seriously.  Scarves, a red Gryffindor shirt, hair bows, a belt, and an Arizona Cardinals snuggie were all part of my attire at some point today.  Twenty four of my students participated in today's red challenge.

After reading all morning (and practicing our grade level chant), we headed outside for the kick off.  We had a dozen or so cheerleaders from UNLV, district employees, an author, and all of first through fifth grade outside.  

Naturally, we seized the opportunity to snap some selfies!  Kyla is one of my bridesmaids and I'm so glad she left our previous school and joined me at school two.  We took a big leap of faith together!

They announced winners of the reading competitions and all the teachers were strongly encouraged to do the Nae Nae.  Yup, I danced the nae nae in front of about a thousand people today.  You know, just your typical Thursday as an elementary school teacher. 

Luckily, tomorrow is Friday. I don't intend for there to be any dancing...but you never know with fifth grade.

Day 17: Obsessions

I took a few days off from the Blogtember Challenge, but now I'm back!

Day 17: Just for fun, your latest obsession.

Oh geez, this one was a little tricky for me.

First, I was going to tell you all about my {Jamberry wraps}.  See, I fell in love with these beauties over a year ago and haven't looked back.  

I love having my nails done, but couldn't deal with the smells of the salon or the cost of getting them done on a bi-monthly basis.  With a mortgage and planned house upgrades (water filtration system, new tile floors, new patio furniture, and new security door just to name a few), I couldn't justify the $60 at the salon.  

Enter Jamberry.  Armed with my mini-heater and about twenty minutes, I can easily create gorgeous nails at home (while in pajamas drinking wine).  As a teacher, I'm rough on my hands, so I appreciate that these are quite sturdy.

What really sold me was how easy they are to remove! Long gone are the days of soaking cotton balls in acetone or nail polish remover.  I soak my hands in warm water with a few drops of oil (usually coconut or lemon).  I use a dental flosser to break the seal under the wrap, then just shimmy it off.  If there is resistance from the adhesive, I simply soak my hands for a few more minutes.  The best part?  No nail damage.

Tada! Clean and healthy nails!

But then I realized there are other obsessions I should share...

I am obsessed with my pets. I am not ashamed of it.

Chloe and Crookshanks (yes, Harry Potter reference) are sisters and were adopted at the same time.  Waffles is also a rescue pet and is five months old.  We aren't sure how much bigger she'll get.  They bring me so much joy each day.  All three have very distinctive personalities and it's great coming home to such eager furry faces.

I'm also obsessed with diet Arnold Palmers.  

I'm really trying to drink less soda, so this is a good compromise.  I also have a box of these as K-cups and sneak into my admin's office to use the school's machine when she's not in a conference.  

I'm obsessed with {Younique} as well.  I've recently discovered this make up brand and think it does wonders for helping boost my confidence.

My am make up routine, after washing my face, takes between five and ten minutes depending on if I can find where I put all my brushes.  Not only is it great for my sensitive skin, but it stays on all day!  

Yup, no retouching for me!  

I could go on and on about other obsessions, specifically book ones, but I'm pretty sure the blog prompt of the day asked for one...which I ignored.

What are you obsessed with?

Link up and join the conversation!