Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is It Dedication....or Just Craziness?

Okay, so yesterday I woke up with a tickle in my throat. No big deal. Everyone around me is coughing (husband, kids, students) so I figured it would be coming sooner or later. By the end of Monday, I could tell I was a little hoarse, but I've never completely lost my voice before, so no biggie. A good night's sleep and I'd be okay. :)

Okay, enter Tuesday morning. No voice. NONE! Any other professional (okay, well, maybe not telemarketers) that would be okay. Teaching? Hmm....not so good! If you're anything like me, you drag your sick little keister into school usually because of those darned sub plans (5 pages people!!!). I mean, I have to get up and go, type the thing up, set things out...if I'm there, I might as well stay, right?

So today, no voice. Shaking my head in disgust, I did a half day (afternoon) and went to the doctor (our schedule today only had me teaching 1 hour this morning, so it worked out well!!!). Strep test negative, but throat very swollen. Got some meds and hoping they'll help, although the voice is NOT returning! (and how many times can my little second graders ask me what's wrong with my voice and expect me to answer???).

So, here is where the craziness comes in.....with my visit to the doc, I went by the dollar store and got.........a megaphone. You know, one of those little plastic ones (my daughter has already claimed the pom poms that came with them!). I almost came close to getting a noise maker as well, but figured that'd be a LITTLE extreme....I can flick the lights for that :)

Okay, so am I nuts? No voice (well, the croaky thing, but that's not really a voice when it hardly goes above a whisper) and using a megaphone tomorrow.

I'm already thinking of how I can use one of my students as a puppet to say what I need....ooh, or how about me writing on a dry erase board what I'm thinking....push that extra reading into math!

Yep, I think I've gone beyond dedication into looney land. :)

Don't forget about tomorrow's LEAP YEAR SALE at TEACHERS PAY TEACHERS! Please go visit my store and if you like what you see, please follow me! I feel soooo lonely without followers! Help a poor insane soul out! :)

Monday, February 27, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Literacy and Math Centers!

I'm so excited! I just uploaded my first "for sale" item on Teachers Pay Teachers! I worked REALLY hard this weekend on my St. Pat's day literacy and math centers! All are original and now at TpT for just $3.00! My fingers are crossed that my first "for sale" item will be a success!

We just found out that we are not getting a step increase this year (again) and our health insurance is going up (again) which means with my husband's periodic furloughs, I'm having to look into a second job :(

With a 5 and 11 year old, it's tough, so it's going to be on the weekends (which means I'm sacrificing family time). Not that I think I'll pass the $20,000 mark some of these awesome teachers are doing, (I'm simply amazed at that!), but I hope that if 10 people buy my hard work, it's $30.00 in my pocket! Keep your fingers crossed!

So that leads me to a good question.....

How do you promote your TpT or Teacher's Notebook store? I would love to make this a success! So far, I've had lots of downloads for my freebies, but no followers to my store :(

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Permission to Pin!

Oh my. I've been reading all about the "Permission to Pin." I know I have a TON of pins and had never thought about granting permission! I figured if it went back to the original source (like a bookmark), then it was fine! Hmmm. Gives you something to think about.

So, in that case....you are more than welcome to pin anything from my blog! Figure it doesn't do anything more than promote my blog :) I pin from my own blog so 1) I can remember what I've done from year to year (not to mention...I used it to show my students something we were doing that I hadn't had time to make a sample of!) and 2) get feedback from new sources!

So, pin away to your heart's content :)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Famous American Projects

It's that time of year again that our Famous American projects are due! I was SUPER impressed with my students' projects this year! I have to admit, I had my doubts about whether some would bring them in, but they DID and they looked AWESOME! I am so proud of the effort my kiddos and families put into these!

Normally, I am all about the family projects, but the make up of my class this year is very different, and I realize that not many are able to have the parental support at home. So, I scaled back on the projects, but I decided to go ahead and do this one, since it's a tradition in our second grade.

My students had three weeks (two weekends...very important when you live out in the country!) to complete these. They then presented them orally in class, which I recorded with the Flip camera. I'll be editing it and transforming it into a movie for the class to watch on Monday. Of course, I can't take credit for the camera work. Once you presented your report, you became the "camera person" for the next up. It kept the kids engaged as everyone shared their project!

The idea came from one of my teammates, which had been passed down over the years (not sure where the original came from). We also include the rubric and a template for the written report, as well as a list of suggested Famous Americans, but my students are able to usually do anyone they want (I had one request to do Bethany Hamilton this year). On the list, I also suggest websites that are kid friendly. While some stick to the ones we talk about in class (Jackie Robinson was a favorite this year), we also had John F. Kennedy, Oprah, Ben Franklin, the Wright Brothers (check out the picture--too cute!), Rosa Parks, and more!

Five more will present on Monday (stomach bug and two forgot their projects) so I might add a few more pics then!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

FREE Items uploaded to TpT Store!

I've created two things this afternoon I wanted to share! So far, everything in my store is FREE as I am slowly adding to it! (does anyone else find this a great way to backup your original creations?).

Today's newest additions include a "friendly letter" rubric (one for individual student papers for the parents, another as a class list for the teacher) and a literacy center. I created the rubric today while checking my student's thank you letters and realized hmmm...interims are coming up. I need to let my parents know how my kiddos are doing since we seem to be sending letters, not really taking them home :)

The second item is an "oat" word family literacy center. Students use spinners to create "oat" words and build an ice cream float! This one I'm going to use for Episode 124 of "Electric Company" this Friday, but also will probably put it in a literacy center (I think it's going to be a big hit with my kiddos!).

So please head on over to my store and if you like what you see, please be a "follower" of my store!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Knock Knock! Inspiration Calling! :)

"I love it when a plan comes together."

Okay, I admit it - I was watching A-Team with my husband the other night. :) However, wanted to share with you my latest inspiration/"pinspiration inspired" activities I'm doing with my kids! The best part...most of it is FREE since I'm sure you have these things lying around your classroom or home! ;)

As always, we continue on our journey of silent e/long vowel sounds for word study. I was soooo pleased this week when my groups GOT silent e! I had already made this paint card inspired activity, using a gold sharpie for the "e" (the paint cards are from Lowe's...I love the ones with the holes already in them!):

We said the short vowel word first (even if it wasn't a real word), then placed the gold "e" in the hole and voila! The kids knew by adding the "e" it made it loooong! :) (And they still enjoy being loud and using all our breath to say long o, and using short breath to say short o!). I am excited that my lower ones are getting this concept and I'm seeing it cross over into their reading. Woo hoo! :)

The next center is math, using popsicle sticks (the wider ones) and again, paint cards. Love those paint cards! My friend says they're going to start charging me soon :) (I make sure to "spread the wealth" and take them from different stores each time). We are beginning comparing numbers as well as inequalities. They'll use the card and match the sticks so that the math sentence is true:

The last is what we did for Science today. Total Pinterest-inspired! My kids did AWESOME on our have/need/give chart...coming up with some "gives" that I hadn't thought of! I think it really helped set our unit off to a great start! :)

I have to say a great big THANK YOU to my friend, Valerie over at Enriching Kinders for introducing me to Pinterest (if you haven't checked out her blog, you should!). I feel like I have become a much better teacher because of it! I get so inspired by what others post, as well as giving me inspiration for my kiddos! (I mean paint cards...who knew?). Hope everyone has a great week! :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Super Sunday!

Okay, so after the aftershock at 2:12am (okay CA people...it's been 6 months...when do these END????) and thru the snow, my kids and I traveled to Staples to use a much-coveted credit to buy some cardstock. I go through some serious cardstock each year. I should buy stock! (no pun intended)

Anyway, as usual, I perused the store while the snow came down outside (our first accumulation this winter! I won't complain...even though we already had today off, so it didn't matter much in the way of school!). LOVE the clearance section. Last time I was there, found these great "Caught Being Good" bracelets that I use with my "STAR of the Week" we give out each Friday (we give out three...one from me, one from my assistant, and one from my collab. teacher....the kids are VERY into it!). They were 50 cents for a pack of 12! Woo hoo! Snagged up every one they had, figuring 3Xhowever many weeks of school we have left, plus leftovers for next year.

So, this time, my find from Staples, I was even MORE excited because I saw on someone's blog (I wish I remembered who! I think it was a Kindergarten one) that they used linking chains to create words. LIGHTBULB! My kids could do that in one of our literacy centers with their word study! So, snatched those up at 50 cents a bag! THEN I found dry erase calendars that were magnetic. For once, did not care about the magnetic part (and usually I am all over magnets!). What a great math center to do when we learn calendar! Too bad we already did it this year, but in they went into my box. Again, 50 cents a board! Complete with dry erase marker!

Yep, got my cardstock and a few other items, as well as my "treasures", and of course, used that credit ALL up! Are you as addicted to office supply stores as I am? That and Dollar Tree. I have already told my family and husband they can get me gift cards there for presents and I will be as happy as a clam!

If you haven't checked your Staples clearance yet, what are you waiting for??? :)

Last thought: This comes from my 5 1/2 year old. We ALL had a holiday today for President's Day (not sure how we swung that!), but of course, when my principal emailed and said the building would be open (delayed b/c of the snow of course!), I got so excited! Of COURSE I came in! (Sadly, I think I was the only one who did! What does that say about me?) As my daughter and I ran to Walmart to get something for my classroom, she announced happily, "I love teacher workdays!" I explained to her it wasn't quite a teacher workday, but she grinned and replied, "It is for US!"

So, is anyone else as crazy....whoops.... dedicated as I am???

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Electric Company - one of the best reading tools out there!

I truly believe this. I grew up on the 70s version of Electric Company - Spiderman, Bill Cosby, the gorilla, the woman who bellowed "Hey You Guys!"....but enough trips down memory lane....I'm talking about the new, improved 2000 version of The Electric Company.

If you haven't seen it, it's on your local PBS station, usually around 5:00 so it can hits its target audience - literate students that span from First through Third (although you could almost argue it for fourth as well!), a step up from "Between the Lions." Are you a workaholic like myself and never home by 5? Check out the episodes on the pbskids website or on youtube!

Enough standing on my soapbox here and giving PBS free advertising. :) How did I get involved with this hip, new version? Two summers ago, I attended the ISTE conference in Washington, D.C., and sat in a session sponsored by PBS about a "new" show coming out. Like the original, it was geared towards the "Sesame Street" graduates, and I came away with enthusiasm, a workbook (the activity sheets available on the website are better) and a cute flashdrive that became a bracelet.

So, that fall, I checked out the new show. LOVED IT! Last year, I had my media specialist record it on our Mediacast system every Tuesday, showing it to my class every Friday during our Writing time. Since the majority of my students that year were on or above grade level, it was 30 minutes of review, we'd hit on some of the covered concepts during reading time, and that was it. After our media specialist went out on maternity leave (and there was no one who knew to record it), I found that the website carried full versions of each episode. Heaven! No longer did I need to worry about reruns!

Enter this year. I've been blessed with the collaborative class (I do mean blessed - the teachers I work with this year are AWESOME). It's the reverse of last year - now most of my students are struggling readers. I once again looked at "Electric Company Friday" as my students call it, but this time, wanted my kiddos to get more out of it. So, I downloaded the PDFs (episode guide, activity guide) and started creating centers focused on the concepts covered for each episode. At first, I was hesitant and relied heavily on the activity sheets they provided. I started to gain a little more confidence in what I was doing and began to create my own centers, or use centers I found through Google Search (and now Pinterest) for word families. We do the centers immediately following the episode (about 26 min/episode), so it does take a chunk of time, but one well worth it AND showing results!

So here I am, more than halfway through the year and I have a 2 inch binder FILLED with ideas and centers for each episode. Season One is almost complete.

Recently, I realized my students needed help reading vowel digraphs. I searched through the different episodes (there are too many to cover one/week for the school year) and have found ones to focus on for the next few months. I began to embed the videos on my wiki page until the school blocked YouTube on student computers, but I will still pull up segments for my students to review for different concepts. They think it's very cool for their teacher to grab her laptop and bring it to reading groups! It also lets my non-homeroom students I teach reading have exposure as well!

This is such a fabulous resource, but I honestly didn't even think of sharing about it until I responded to one of the comments about my long vowel trouble. My students USE what they see! One of my lowest readers will sing to himself "Silent E is a Ninja" as he works with long vowel words and he GETS it! I've seen students refer to different segments shown during the episode or to different centers, during reading group time. Even my most reluctant learner loves watching this every Friday! The website has games to play as well, and it has become part of our computer center.

Have I convinced you yet?

Every episode has a story to follow, but in between the story, there are smaller segments that emphasize the focus for the episode (which are also embedded into that week's story). I've included two videos below for you to enjoy (two of my students' favorites). Enjoy! Be sure to check it out: The Electric Company

Oh! At some point (most likely this summer) I will share with you what I have for centers, esp. the "homegrown" ones! They will be available per episode on my TpT store. (And my summer list keeps growing! LOL). I'll post the pictures from last Friday's centers in a separate post since this one is kinda long :)

Electric Company Centers

Ok, so this is Episode 206: Goodnight Robot's centers. I focused on ite/ight and silent e. Here are some of the centers that I either created or downloaded from some of the great bloggers out there! :)

We watch the streaming episode first, then I go over the directions for each center. Some are independent, some are teacher-led. I'm lucky that I have a collab. teacher in the room at the time! :) We rotate about 5-7 minutes, so sometimes not all the centers are completed, but students can finish later either at their own time, take them home to finish, or it becomes part of our literacy centers for the week.

Sorry that some of the pics are blurry - I had two teacher-led centers and hopped up very quickly to take pics while my group was unscrambling their words! Wished I had previewed them first! ;)

Center One:
"Silent E is a Ninja": Students had to add silent e and write the new word, then draw a picture of its meaning (this is a second version of the same theme...we used another one for an earlier episode). I wanted students to draw the meaning to make sure they read the word correctly. This was a self-guided center. (I have some early finishers, so this was also combined with a SMART table activity on long vowels!)

"ight" word search: My students LOVE word searches! I mean, LOVE them - they cheer every time they have one! On the flip side was an "unscramble" (for those early finishers!).

"ite kites" (teacher-led): This is an original, and my favorite. I lucked into finding two scrabble-type games at Goodwill and literally scavenged the games for their different parts! This was using the letter tiles :) I had a list of words that I created, put the tiles in the baggies (encouraging students to pull out "ite" first) then unscramble the rest of the letters to form an "ite" word. (I had a word list for my lower readers). Students then wrote the "ite" words on the tail of the kite. Since we did not have time to finish this center, it goes in the "It's Electric!" literacy center for this coming week :)

Okay, my favorite that is not an original. I credit this one to The First Grade Sweet Life (the link will take you to the post...just scroll down). Love it so much, I found that I had posted in on 3 of my Pinterest boards! :) The kids had a great time "building" their cabins. This was also another teacher-led center.

I guess I should clarify "teacher-led." We are there for student support and questions, but still check on the other centers during the rotation.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed what you saw and can use some of it! I highly recommend The Electric Company for any third or fourth grade classroom. It also throws in character education, a little Math, Science, History, and TONS of fun! :) I have uploaded some of the shorter phonics segments from the show from YouTube on my Grammar/Word Study blog, if you'd like to check it out, as well as some links to online activities.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Linky Party: How You Met :)

Okay, so Chrissy B. (cool name by the way!) is having a linky party over on her blog, Buzzing with Ms. B...you'll have to check it out. :) I have an interesting story in how I met my (now) husband of almost 12 years.

Let's see....okay, so it was waaay back in 2000 :) and I was working my second year at a rural elementary school and living outside Richmond VA in a one-bedroom apartment...my first "real place" besides the home I had grown up in! My best friend at the time, Kathy, and I were waay into the local hockey scene at the time (alas, we are now sorely lacking a team), and if I wasn't at the game with her and her hubby, I was exploring this new computer I had bought and surfing the 'net with (hee hee) Compuserve. Anyone remember that? Kind of poor man's AOL.

Anyway, used to spend some time in the chat rooms (a bad habit I picked up from some of my friends in college) and found a group that was around my age that we just joked around, etc. It was cool - we were from all over, and I loved the fact that we were friends. Great thing about the Internet - no one cares what you look like, what you're wearing, or how ugly your hand-me-down sofa is! (mine was 70s plaid, but I LOVED it--sooo comfortable and you had to, honestly, roll out of it to get up!).

Anyway, so I would hang with my Internet buddies and one night, got to talking to this one guy and he mentioned coming to Richmond to a hockey game. Let me say, flashing lights and buzzers went off---I was sooo freaked out when I found out he only was 30 minutes away from me! Did I mentioned I liked the fact that everyone was from all over????

So, after chatting for awhile, I decided we could meet....as friends....for a hockey game, with Kathy and her hub in tow. Went to the game (and I had actually gotten into the....ugh....match.com type thing, by the way, and so far, I had been 0-3) and...........he didn't show up. Well, he did, we just missed each other.

Soooo....we tried again. Don't ask me why. Maybe it was gut feeling, maybe it was guilt :) This time, I decided to (gasp) give him directions to my apartment, and he showed up like a plaid lumberjack, complete with beard. We made it to the hockey game, my friend's hub at one point leaned over (who was like an older brother to me) and said "he's good--keep this one."

Let's just say....the meet up became a date, then became an engagement in March, a wedding in July.....what can I say? We didn't want to live apart for another year, and here we are almost 12 years later with an 11 and 5 year old. He cuts out my laminating and puts up with the fact that I am totally obsessed with teaching and stay waaay too late each night, and I respect that he's a drummer, a golfer (gasp), and has a bad habit of letting things pile up (okay, I'll admit it, me too!).

Here's a pick of the loves of my life (yes, I'm camera shy and usually the photographer!)

So, that's my looong story! Hope you found it interesting! Be sure to link up with Ms. B! :) Gosh, and I just invited my mom to look at my blog! LOL I can hear her now....what does this have to do with teaching??? :)