Friday, February 21, 2014

Five for Friday--It's my Birthday!

Why am I blogging on my birthday, you may ask? Well, since my husband is deployed, my bff and mother are currently on their way to Florida from NC. Aren't they the best?! They have about another hour to drive, and I've already cleaned, cooked, cleaned some more, walked around in circles, and just can't find another thing (I want) to do! I'm about to go insane with impatience! So, here I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday.

1.  Birthday goodies from my kiddos!

Because I definitely NEED 19.75 ounces of Reese's... and the brownies and 2 kinds of cake I've had today, too.




Ironically, 1/2 of all these birthday cards I found on my table this morning mentioned Reese's.. possibly not a good thing!

2. The picture says it all.

This will be me if I actually eat all those Reese's! 

3. I shared this picture on my Facebook page last week because it made my heart happy. 


4. Jamberry nails. I'm hooked! I've ordered like 6 pairs already and love mixing and matching. I'm currently having an online party if you want to order some, too! You can click {here} to do that. It ends Sunday! (Be sure to click Mandy's party if you decide to order. Help support my addiction. :))


5. Literacy Stations
 In ELA, we do whole group for about 30 minutes, then my students rotate through 4 stations: small group, read/respond, table 2 work, and test prep. Each station lasts about 15-20 minutes. The table 2 work station is just that--work at table 2. Each student has their own folder to keep track of their work.

Everyone started off with nouns, because as a class we needed practice. The students know the deal--grab your folder, check for feedback, and get started either fixing your work, or on your next activity. Each folder has a working on it side, and an I've mastered it side.


When students finish an activity, they turn it in on a small desk near where they work, and after rotations I check their work. This is easy because maybe 8 students turn something in each day. It isn't hard to find time to check 8 recording sheets. I make notes if corrections are necessary, or give them a smiley face with the date written next to it once they've mastered the skill. Then they record the skill, put the mastery date and file it on the right side of their folder. Easy peasy! Also, this system lets me see their misconceptions and really target individuals. I love it! And the kids do, too!

I hope you enjoy your weekend, friends. I know I will.. especially since I think my husband is calling tonight! :)



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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tricky Math

From what I gather from the blogging world, everyone is engrossed in the lovely world of fractions. I'm so over that F-word I could scream. It's such a BIG concept that our kiddos must have this conceptual understanding of to be successful in anything we do with fractions. Then you put fractions in a word problem and sweet Jesus, it gets REAL!

I'm linking up with Jivey for Workshop Wednesday: Tricky Math. (Yes, it's Thursday. My life has been slightly consumed with, well, things of life.Forgive me.) We, too, have been knee deep in all things fractions, mainly using fractions to solve word problems.


For any word problems, my students use the stop sign strategy. It isn't something I created, but something I picked up somewhere along my teaching journey. It makes sense, though! It's basically a way to teach students to break long, confusing word problems apart into more manageable sections. They read the problem, then the next read, stop at various points and take notes. Then they use notes to tackle the question. 

When I first introduce this strategy at the beginning of the year, I do so in small group. This way I can make sure the kids understand the point of it and how to use it correctly. It doesn't do them any good if they simply write the entire question over again, rather than taking notes. Taking notes seems to take a bit of work to get out of them, but they're golden once they've got it. The kids like when I read the problem and they get to yell "STOP!" at me whenever they see a period, comma, or any of our other stopping points. 

This is just one small way we tackle tricky math in our class. If you'd like a copy of the stop sign strategy, click on the picture and grab it. Enjoy!

...and relax, teacher friends. It's almost Friday. Praise the Lord!





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Monday, February 3, 2014

February Currently + My New Focus Wall!

Happy Monday, friends! I didn't even get to experience Monday today.. I woke up and showered, did my hair and make up, packed the car and then woke my lil' mama up.. only to discover she had a fever of 102.5. So yeah, no school for me. Let me tell you just how sad I was... :) Now that's it's almost 9 I've decided I should be productive with  my life, and what a better way to procrastinate even further than a February Currently?!



Listening: Jake the Pirate. All day today. All day every day. Lilly loves her some Jake. At least it's not Gabba Gabba anymore!

Loving: Like I said, I didn't work today. So this means I'll have kids tomorrow, Wednesday, a half-day Thursday (for professional development) and none of Friday. I'm going to a class so myself so I can have student teachers. Yippie!

Thinking: Last night I stayed up late finishing plans and my pre-conference form for my observation scheduled on Wednesday. Today my co-teacher called and told me the kids won't be ready for the math lesson I had planned last night until Thursday... meaning I have to create a new lesson tonight and new pre-conference form. No big deal really, except for the fact that I don't feel like doing it over again! See why I'm trying to talk myself into "Stop whining, Mandy. Just stop!"

Wanting: I want my husband to come home from his deployment already! When he isn't here I don't have anyone to whine to. And if he were here, he'd tell me to get over and just write new plans!

Needing: I love Diet Mt. Dew much more than water. I realize it is so bad for me, but it's kind of my addiction. I'm hoping if I write down the fact that I MUST stop, that I'll actually stop.

2 truths and a fib:

Fib: I WAS born in Germany but I don't speak ANY German. And I do mean any! My mother is of course fluent because that's where she grew up, but I didn't catch on!

Truth: When my husband gets back next month we're taking a weekend long trip to Disney. SO excited!

Truth: I've started the registration process and if all goes as planned, I'll be starting graduate school classes in May. Hello, master's degree, goodbye life!

Be sure to join the party and link up with Farley from Oh' Boy Fourth Grade!
Aaaaand. My new focus wall! I posted on Facebook and Instagram how this focus wall totally solidifies my Hollywood Stars theme. I more than love it! Sorry for the awful pictures.. my phone has been dropped several times by a cute 2 year old (and me). 




There are... mathematical practices posters, the scientific process posters, and reading strategies and skills posters (by Blair Turner). Some of the posters are ones that I created, but mostly they're the lovely work of Blair.

Enjoy your week, friends!








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Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Heart-to-Heart with Freebies to Know Your Students

Life is busy, to say the least. Jobs of any sort can be time-consuming. Throw a child and spouse in the mix and you're almost doomed to have grey hair  by your 30's, coffee in hand daily (sometimes hourly), and a never ending to-do list. I think my brain actually works in the form of to-do lists, with mental checks that make dinging noises as I've accomplished one goal for my day. Must be the teacher in me.

I am no exception to this rule. I have a darling, potty-training, wall-coloring, brilliant 2 year old daughter (Lilly), a military husband, and 24 "students" who drive me as crazy as and require as much attention as my 2 year old. On most days I add more to my list of things to accomplish than I actually accomplish. It's like I'm always living in the future, instead of being present in the here and now. Anyone with me?

I went to the Saturday night church service last night and came away with a couple points I'd like to share with you, that hit me hard. If you aren't necessarily a "religious" person, not to fear. These points are applicable to anyone who has children, works with children, or simply knows children.

In a series entitled, "PG: Parental Guidance," we were looking at the first 3 of 10 "things" we should give our children, or that children in general need.

1. Belief
 2. Presence  
3. Memories

When we got to the point about presence, and the pastor started sharing about the importance of presence--the importance of spending time and being available to our kids, I immediately felt convicted. Not just in terms of spending time with Lilly, but in terms of being a teacher as well. If we're being honest, I can't remember how many times this week the words, "Hold on Lilly.. Let mommy finish this, and then we'll..." have escaped my lips. As a mom, that's heart-breaking to sit and think about. She doesn't understand that I have to write lesson plans. She doesn't know that I'm getting observed soon and have to have the best lesson ever. All she knows is that mommy is too busy to throw the ball (probably into something breakable). In terms of my students, I could tell you by name which kids need more help with fractions and parts of speech. But then the thought came to me tonight about which of my students have brothers and sisters, and there were some kids I didn't even know the answer to,  for sure.

Not to go off on an emotional tangent, because I probably could, but the message I got tonight was to be intentional with your presence. Know our little people, whether our students or our own babies, because they are only babies once. They need our attention, they crave our attention. I'll say again how hard it is to find balance in the mix of work and family and life, but my new words to motivate me are "present" and "intentional." I plan to be intentional with my time so that I can be as present in the lives of all my babies, as much as possible. This may mean taking one for the team and working out at 5 in the morning, and writing plans during PE and nap time, but so be it. This also means for me to be intentional with my conversations with my students. To ask more questions relating to who they are, what they like--not just content related questions.

Towards the beginning of the year I shared a freebie about getting to know your teacher. My students filled it out on the first day of school, and got to guess information about me. Then they checked their answers as I shared. I'm going to give them that activity again on Monday, and another activity where they also answer questions about themselves. And I'm going to read every single answer, and know my students a little better.

If you'd like either of these activities, feel free to use them.








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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Hollywood Kingdom Context Clues: Sparking Student Motivation (with freebies) and a sale!

It all started with an idea. I was browsing around on Facebook and came upon Luckeyfrog's Lilypad's page.  She had shared about an awesome way she teaches context clues to her students, using made up words.

...and that's when I knew I HAD to do this, too! That's the great thing about social media and blogging. Teachers share great ideas and then other teachers can adapt those ideas to meet the needs of their students. It's a beautiful process!

Anyway, I looked though Jenny's Nonsense Words for Upper Elementary packet on TpT and was sold on the idea. As Jenny explained, some of our higher level students don't benefit too much from context clues lessons because they know most of the words we throw at them to "figure out." To solve that problem, Jenny created a bunch of nonsense words that kids LOVE to read and find the meaning to.. the only way they can actually do this is to actually use the context clues in the sentence. It really is a genius idea!

So, how did I adapt this genius idea in my own room? Well.. as most of you know, my classroom theme is Hollywood Stars. I knew that in order to sell the students on having our "own language" I needed for us to have a magical kingdom, which is where "Hollywood Kingdom" came from.

1. I downloaded free crown templates from {here}.
2. Instead of having students use paper to make the band of their crown, I threw out a mix of border mix-matches that I would probably never use anyway. Seriously, I've had some of it since my first year teaching because it was only a dollar and I needed it! Can you relate?!
3. I realize time for crafting isn't necessarily scheduled in my day, so I had to somehow make it content related. So, my students had to first review the parts of speech we've studied, and then write examples of these on their crowns. See.. 5 minutes of review and 10 minutes of crown making. Perfection!

Teaching is 20% content and 80% engagement, right?! 

4. To further the excitement of my class, I created dictionaries for each student to record their nonsense words. They loved them! These babies are going to stay in our class until the end of the year, and students will record new, REAL vocabulary words in there, as well!



5. To introduce context clues, well review really, each table had graffiti paper on it with the words "What are Context Clues." I just used butcher paper and spread it across each table, then glued on these pieces, which are the exact pieces on my anchor chart. Students had the chance to respond to several of my questions through writing, and didn't seem to mind when writing on graffiti paper!

What are context clues? Why are they important? How do they help good readers?

Throughout the lesson the students took notes on the types of context clues, and at the end, I had them write everything they knew about context clues so far.
 6. For our first "activity" and chance for hands-on practice with "real" words, I printed out these cards and resources from FCRR. You can check them out {here}, for free! (Note: I did use a couple worksheets from the Nonsense Word pack from Jenny, but I can't give you that! It's only $2 though.. a must buy!)


 7. Like I said, the kids had to grapple with this last activity! For real! And it was great to hear their thinking out loud as they talked with their partners. For this next activity, students got to practice with word meaning and vocabulary skills. The colorful strips were laminated so students could use vis-a-vis pens to write on them. Again, hello engagement! They worked with partners to find synonyms based on context clues and their prior knowledge.
My brother was tired and put his head down on the pillow. My brother was __________ and put his head down on the pillow. (Drowsy was the word card that went there).

We are certainly not done with context clues, but I thought through graffiti paper, Hollywood Kingdom crowns and dictionaries, and engaging practice, my students have more of an idea of what context clues are and how to use them. These types of activities from FCRR will be staples in my literacy block, so students can practice weekly. If you would like the dictionary I made, printables for the the graffiti paper and anchor chart, and one worksheet I make with nonsense words, click {here} and {here} to download those!

Link up with Head Over Heels for Teaching to share how you are sparking student motivation!!


In other news.. in honor of the super bowl, I'm having a sale, along with some other fabulous bloggers! My entire store, including bundles, will be 20% off for today and tomorrow!


Now I'm off to school with my Lilly to finish up my new focus wall. Eek! I'll post pictures on Facebook when I'm finished! (Do you follow me? Do that here!)







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