Valentine's Day Problem Solving

I came up with these problem solving questions earlier today for my kids to work on in math journals. It gets them thinking a little outside the box from our regular math program. If I add more, I will let you all know! Enjoy!

Valentine's Problem Solving

Please let me know what you think. This is one of my first attempts. Good? Needs work?

Three Little Pigs Mini Unit

This week, we are focusing on the long e sound in words. For my students who are a little more advanced and able to work on their own, I created this little mini unit to use with The Three Little Pigs story from Scholastic. It's one of the little phonics readers. It goes along with the long e sound and everything else we have been working on. This is something they will work on either independently or I may let them work together since this is the first time they will be doing something like this. I needed to make some changes to the way my groups work, so I am hoping that this will help me make those changes. (Changes = more time to work with the kids who don't get it since no one bothers to help them at home!).

I'm still learning to use clip art, so hopefully it works like I want it to!

You will find the mini unit here


New toy!

I am so excited! My new computer was ready for pick up last night. It's still in the box this morning, but I will be hooking it up today, just as soon as I get my stuff off my old one! I will actually be able to make my worksheets at home and put them on google here at home, rather than break the "rules" and do it at school! I say this, but I haven't seen my computer yet to know what it will do. But it should be good, since my hubby is jealous of my new computer. I told him he gets a new one as soon as he passes this "little" test he has to take at the end of the month. I have been the sole bread winner for the last 5 years while he went to school, now he just needs to pass this test so he can bring home the bacon, too! (And his "bacon" will bring in a lot more $ than mine ever will...just pass the damn test!!!!). Anyway, happy Sunday! I'll be busy playing with my new toy, as well as dealing with the piles of laundry!

Winter again?

For those of you on the east coast, or anywhere east of say, Arizona, you are tired of winter. You are ready for spring to come and melt everything! For us, we have had a typical La Nina year. Well, except for the deluge of rain in December. It has been sunny and dry since about January 3rd. But today, it's cold (for us), cloudy and a chance of rain is in the forecast. It was so nice to not wake up to the sun burning our retinas. It was nice that my daughter slept in for a bit longer today waiting til the clock said "7" before she walked in my room. I am hoping we get a little more rain this winter, since we do live in a notorious region for insane fire seasons. I would like the plants to stay green beyond April, if possible. Last year was nice because we didn't get our hot summer til August, which normally we get in May. If you think back, there wasn't a lot on the news about California burning down last year, thank goodness! So, pray we get more rain, and I'll pray that you don't get anymore snow! Deal?


Bring on February

This month has been a challenging one. And I have only been back to school for 3 weeks. But those 3 weeks have kicked my butt. The first week back was OK, the second week back I was sicker than a dog and this last week I felt like I was in a whirlwind. And I hate feeling that way. But we survived the week, got through with no tears (from anyone) and actually did some of our best work yesterday!

In our reading series, we read the story The Sleeping Pig. It hasn't been my favorite story in the last 9 years of using the reading series, but this year, I liked the story. I changed up a bit how we were reading it, too and I felt like we actually learned something. More on that later. Anyway, I had my kids draw a pig yesterday and color it and then they had to write about it. I have to say, this was probably the very best work I have ever received from my kids. I was amazed at what they turned in. Mind you, there was still crap from a couple, but I can't have it all.

We have been talking about animals in science. I have mentioned before that there isn't a ton of time to do it in, so it's been very choppy and appears to not be very well thought out. But, the kids are having some fun learning and are learning some things about animals. Here is a couple charts we made to go with it.

A couple weeks ago we finished talking about penguins and birds, but my computer and my camera weren't speaking, so I never posted pics. Here is a pic of the cute penguins they drew. We are becoming not-so-artistically-challenged now!

Our math unit right now sucks. Plain and simple. They have taken too many important concepts, shoved them into one unit and expect the kids to know them in one tiny lesson. We have been on the unit for a week and have barely covered 3 lessons. Yesterday's lesson - inequality symbols - because all students know what that means. Here's my take:

Next week will be February. A short, crazy month packed full of fun, learning and testing. Can't forget testing! This next week, we will celebrate the 100th day of school on Tuesday. I have lots of fun math activities planned, and hopefully I will remember my camera. The kids' favorite is making the fruit loop necklaces. And it makes the room smell good. I hope my ceiling rats (yeah, I said ceiling rats, ain't I lucky?) don't chew through the tiles to come visit! We're going to do some writing, some math and have some fun. Wee'll read some of these books, too!

Wednesday we will celebrate Groundhog's day. I have always done a big thing in the past, but with the principal breathing down our necks with testing the following week, I don't know if I can justify 2 days of "light" work. We'll see. We do a prediction graph the day (or 2) before about whether he will see his shadow, what that means, etc, we make a cute puppet, they write about what it means, depending on what the grounhod does and more. And we will spend the week reading some groundhog stories!

Monday will be another busy day. I decided, for some unknown reason, to take down some things off my wall that had been there for almost 3 years. I did it yesterday at 3:50, when I had to leave at 4:30. Not too smart. But, I am feeling a bit in a slump and need a change. So, slowly I will make one. I have already rearranged my reading groups so I can focus on those who won't help themselves and give the ones who do what they are supposed to some more "freedom" and some extra fun work. We'll see how it goes!

Happy Saturday! Here's to the last of our sunny days...we may get some rain this week. And then be warm again! Off to soccer!


I need answers, please!!!!

Here's my questions for you all!

1. Do you do a formal handwriting program? If so, what is it? If not, do you worry about handwriting (neatness)?

2. Do you do whole group language arts or just focus on small group with mini lessons? I have always done whole group and then broken into small groups for reading instruction, but I am getting the feeling I am one of the few out there who does this!

3. Do you have aide time in your room? If so, what do you have them do? I have an aide for 3 days a week that isn't really mine and she's not the greatest and I can't have her practice with the kids on their reading (long story). I need some better ideas!

4. I would love to see copies of your daily schedules to see how you get it all in. Everyone seems to be doing such wonderful things and I feel like my kids get to do nothing fun, as there isn't time! Help! After 13 years, I feel like I am in a rut this year, even with all the changes I have made. I really think it's the time of year and the fact that winter has falt like spring and we all have spring fever and are ready to be on summer vacation!

Thanks in advance for your help and answers!


Mammal Unit pages

We are starting a unit on mammals to go along with talking about all the groups of animals. Well, the major groups, anyway! Sorry spiders, not this time! This is just something I came up with this morning. It's a few things I will have my kids do after we read about mammals and make some charts in class.

The chart with all the different places should be the other way, but I'm still figuring this out! Enjoy!

Download here


Random thoughts that are more like frustrations

I am enjoying the weekend at home and finally feeling a bit better. It's such a difference to what I felt like over the week. It was a bad week and I will admit to anyone who asks that I was not nice to some of my kids. I was tired and cranky, which isn't really a good excuse, but what can I say. I am only human. I am going to make a concious effort tomorrow to make sure I apologize to my class and my students and work harder at not taking it out on them, unless they truly deserve it. You know the ones...the slugs that sit there and do nothing all day and then when you ask them a question just shrug their shoulders since they haven't listened to a word you said since "Good Morning". We all have those students, and if you don't, well, you are extremely lucky!
In past years, I have taken great pride in teaching reading. I feel it's my strong suit. I feel I give time to my struggling readers and help them come along nicely. This year though, I feel as if there isn't enough time to do a darn thing. The schedule isn't much different, the reading material is the same, but for some reason, I don't feel there is enough time in the day to get it all done. And I feel I am not being effective. It bothers me tremendously, but I don't know how to change it. In fact, I feel more pressure to get my kids "test worthy" instead of teaching them what they really need to know. It sucks. I don't like it one bit. In fact, my principal is walking around and making sure we are working on the skills that will be tested on in a couple of weeks. When she walks in, she has her little standards chart for this term and is looking to see what we are covering. It isn't good. I feel like I am teaching to the test and not teaching what the kids really need to know - how to read! And with the testing, I am just as competitive as the next teacher, but we have a couple of teachers who may or may not give the test in the manner it's intended to be given. And wouldn't you know that their students almost all get 100%????? Even the ones who can't read? Interesting, huh? But, as long as the test scores are high, no one seems to care how they get that way. To me, it's not a true representation of what the student knows (or doesn't know) or how well they are doing in class.
Teaching writing is not my strong suit. Never has been, never will. I have tried to find new and different things, but it hasn't helped me. I see so many wonderful writing projects out there in blogland, and I look at my students writing and I feel like I have failed them. We don't have time to get it all in. Part of me wants to throw in the towel and just write for fun each day, but that won't help them on the writing prompt each trimester. But then I think it will help them to be a more well-rounded writer. I don't know. I just want to scream!!!! And no one can help me figure it out. If you ask one teacher (who may or may not talk out of her ass all.the.time.) her kids are wonderful writers and she has done a marvelous job with them. (Side note - they can't spell worth crap!!!!!) She's no help since she toots her own horn and enjoys seeing me struggle. Maybe I will just go with the flow and see what happens with my writing as the year progresses.
I had such high hopes for the year and they are being squashed. Or I feel they are, anyway. I was so optomistic before I went back in January, but it didn't last long. I know a big part of it has to do with me being sick. I haven't had the energy or desire to do much. I want to, but it doesn't happen. Basically, my last week looked like this: drag myself out of bed late, go to work, yell at my kids, do work, clean the room, get my daughter, come home, sit on the couch and watch TV, eat dinner, go to bed, do it all again the next day. It wasn't productive. I was grading papers on Friday afternoon instead of coming home early. And when I did get home, I went to bed! Yep, mother of the year, people!

These last 2 weeks have felt like a whirlwind of crap, if there is such a thing. Looking back, I should have taken a day off last week. I should have stayed home and relaxed. But most of the subs we have suck. I don't want to leave my students' learning to someone who doesn't really know what they are doing. Mind you, there are some good subs, but they are always working! I need to somehow change my attitude and mindset and try to block everything else out. I don't know how to do that, and it's making me frustrated and I end up questioning myself and what I'm doing. I think I have second-guessed myself more this year than before. I have never really done it in years past, but now I am and I don't know why. Things to ponder.
This week is another whirlwind week for me. We have an assembly Tuesday morning which will make the rest of the day suck. It's the reading rewards program for the minor league baseball team we have out here. They come, put on some loud, abnoxious assembly and then tell the kids to read 10 books to get a free ticket to the game. Most kids don't do it and I haven't been to a game since I was like 25. Damn, that was a while back! The kids get so excited over the stupid mascot and then they can't stay calm til Wednesday. Then on Wednesday, I have an IEP to go to in the middle of my reading time, so that means the kids won't have me there for groups. No groups Tuesday or Wednesday now. Then on Thursday, I have 2 SST's in the afternoon during math time. So that means Thursday's lesson will suck. What a week of some wasted learning time!
But, next week is a fun week. We'll celebrate the 100th day of school and do some Groundhog's Day stuff. We'll have to review for the benchmark test, but that's nothing new! Oh, our district and union have reached an agreement for next year to save jobs. This is the earliest EVER that they have a deal. We'll still be furloughed next year for 6 days, which will keep our pay less, but at least we aren't giving up even more than we did last year. Hopefully the new govenor will get his bill or tax or whatever passed so we get to keep what $ we have, but who knows. California is a weird state!
Happy Sunday all! Time to finish the laundry I didn't do yesterday, do plans and hopefully sit out and enjoy the warm, sunny weather. 80 degrees today! My kind of winter!


Spring Fever in January Spells Disaster!

Oh my word. It's nutty out here in So Cal. We haven't seen rain since the very beginning of the year, which isn't uncommon, but the temps. have been warm. Too warm for January. We've seen 70's and 80's, which will make those of you in the snow jealous. And maybe a bit violent. But, it's not all it's cracked up to be. The kids go nuts. They think summer is just around the corner and it's time for them to be done with school. Um, no. We still have half the year left. Sorry!

This has been a bad week for me. I have to admit it, I wasn't the nicest person this week. I had no patience, my kids were nuts and I have been sick. Still sick. Going on week 2 now. Yeah, I should go to the doctor and see what's up, but I would rather not subject my body to more antibiotics. You can only be on antibiotics for so long before you feel gross. I should know, it's how I felt last year. I seem to get sick at this time each year (now that I'm at the school I am at) and it lasts, on and off, for the rest of the year. I was on antibiotics last year 5 times from February thru May. And I felt horrible from them. Not again. I guess I will just be miserable and try to fight it off as best I can on my own. And, I don't think having allergies on top of a cold is helping, either. We have trees starting to bloom now thanks to Mother Nature and that isn't helping.

Anyway, my kids were crazy and I was, too. This time of year, I get stressed about getting them ready for second grade. I don't feel that they are ready and I feel the pressure. I want them to all be ready and show the 2nd grade teachers that they are good students. And then when they don't listen, finish their work, talk too much, I lose it. I am hoping to feel better on Monday so we can start the week off on a good note, but it's gonna be a crazy week. Actually, the next 2 weeks are insanely busy with work and fun stuff, but we are still cramming for the benchmark test in 3 weeks. Yikes! I hope the kids are ready! We've been reviewing, but making it practical for what we are doing. I don't like having to teach to the test, but...

In 7 days, we will celebrate the 100th day of school. The next day will be Groundhog's Day. 2 of my favorite days at school. And 2 very busy days. One year, we had both 100's day and Groundhog's day on the same day. Talk about busy! One thing I do it have my kids to a "family take home project." They have to creat a poster with 100 things. It can be whatever they find. Some are very creative and some are just sticking noodles on a board, but either way, they have fun doing it.

Well, it's time for me to get up and get some things done. I am feeling pretty good this morning, so I need to tackle the laundry and my daughter's room. How a 4 year old can make that much mess, I don't know! Happy Saturday!


Dressing for work...revisited

A while back, I posted about what people wear to work. You can read it here. I was thinking about it the other day and it got me thinking again.

I took my daughter last week for some frozen yougurt. When it's in the 70's you don't care about things being frozen! Anyway, the store we go to us located next to a charter school. The people there are nutty (the one's I know, anyway), but a couple of them walked in. I was shocked at how they dressed. They were very professional. Heck, they were in high heels, which is something I would never do, but hey, more power to ya! I thought about what I was wearing and was OK with it - a sweater, blue pants (not jeans) and shoes.

Then I thought about the people I work with. In my grade level alone, there are 5 of us. 2 teachers wear jeans every day. I could say 3, but one teacher will wear sweats when she's not "feeling it". Um, I would never wear sweats as mine are a) not flattering and b) are used for working out or sitting on the couch on the weekend! The other teacher goes between jeans and wearing nicer clothes, depending on her mood.

Now, I am not the dress to the 9's teacher or anything, but I try to not wear my jeans unless it's Friday. I figure I need to look somewhat professional. I will say that when it rains, I will be in my jeans, simply because we have to walk through half the campus to get anywhere and jeans keep the water off my legs better than my other pants (like khaki's).

But, after seeing the teachers at the charter school dressed all nicely, I felt bad for our kids. They get the teachers who look like they rolled out of bed, through on clothes from the ground and went to work. I like to look like I care a little bit. To me, it isn't practical to be in suits when you are working with first graders, but we need to look a bit better than dressing like it's the weekend.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents. I know many teachers in other places dress nicer, even when there is bad weather. I guess I need to change my clothing style to fit how I want to dress and show my students, parents and others that I am professional - or at least not wearing my workout clothes to work!

Happy Thursday!


Place Value Problem Solving

The math series we have does not make the kids really think. There is very little problem solving that goes in to their learning. So, I have decided I am going to make my own problem solving question to torture them with! They are pretty basic, but it's what the kids need - to be able to think outside the box and explain how they got the answer. Here are a few I came up with. Hopefully it works today. I did learn that my home computer is crap and I need one that is new. Wondows Vista was a bad, very bad idea. I think I will just hijack my hubby's computer from now on! Place Value Problem Sloving here. Enjoy!

Oh, how I love Wednesdays

Today is Wednesday, which is minimum day. Really, it's just another afternoon of not being able to cover my science standards the way I want, but it's minimum day. The kids go home early and we can do whatever. Really, we can! If we want to leave, we can leave. If we want to stay, we can stay. It's pretty cool. But a big waste of time. Give me the afternoon back and let me get out everyday at 3:00!!!!!

Today my plan is to start re-organizing my file cabinets. Sounds fun, huh? I have an idea and want to do it, but haven't had the time or the energy since we have been back to work. And now I am fighting a sinus thingy (I refuse to call it an ifection) and have been really tired. I actually slept last night and feel good, minus the pressure in the left side of my face. Sorry, too much TMI at 6am! I am hoping to make my file cabinet more user friendly and get rid of stuff I haven't used in a few years. Sadly, there is stuff in there like that!

In reality, I know what will happen. The kids will leave. I will "grade" their papers and then I will sit in front of the computer and spend the hour or so doing who knows what. And then I will look at the clock, realize it's after 4 and then leave like a bat out of hell to go get my daughter. Good times! But, there won't be any kids there to keep me from wasting my time on the computer! :) That's why I love Wednesdays! :)


Test of Google docs...cross your fingers!

We're studying tens and ones and I had the kids to a simple problem solving question. Since we didn't have collaboration today, I have been sitting on the computer trying to figure out how to do google docs. Don't yell at me if it doesn't work! :) I'm still learning!

Try the link here. Let me know!


What a crappy day!

I am glad today was a holiday. It's been a crappy day and I will be glad when the day is over. First of all, I have a cold/sinus/allergy thing going on. I had one last year at this same time. And it didn't go away til June. I'm not kidding. I was on antibiotics for what seemed like an eternity. I am not going to do that again. It screws up my stomach, makes me break out like a teenager. Just nasty. I think I would rather be snotty than have the other side effects. I blame my classroom. My vents are dirty and all around them is black on the ceiling. The principal thinks its gross, but nothing has been done yet. Last year this happened and it took me taking pics and showing my old principal them and threatening to send them to the DO. I don't know what's in my vents or in my room, but I have never had sinus/allergy/cold problems like I have the last 3 years now. It freakin' sucks! But, I will carry on and go to work and act like it doesn't bother me. Maybe by June I will feel better. I spent half of Saturday and all of Sunday resting and sleeping, just to spend the nights awake. I am not a happy person today at all. But I have put off a nap in hopes of sleeping tonight. There may or may not be some Darvocet in the future to help me sleep. And give me some freaky ass dreams! As long as I sleep!

The other thing that made it crappy is my cat ran away today. I don't know if ran away is right, but my daughter accidently let the cat out this morning and we haven't seen him since. Besides being sick, I am heartbroken that my cat is missing. My poor hubby has spent all day looking for him, just to make me happy. My other cat seems happy that her brother is gone, since they don't always get along. But I am devestated. Hopefully he comes home tonight once it's dark. I hope he gets home before the coyotes are out tonight. These 80 degree days are making the coyotes go nuts. Here's hoping my cat returns tonight. Silly, I know, but he's my baby.

Good news is that's it's only a 4 day week. I wish I felt better, but I will be glad when this week is over. Ready for the weekend already! Happy Monday!


Week in Review - Penguins

I am so glad today is Saturday. It was a long first week back toppedoff by a cold. Lovely. At least we have a 3 day weekend to relax and regroup before a longer haul of 5 day weeks.

Unfortunaelty, my computer won't recognize my memory card today. I'm bummed that you can't see my kids great work! Here's a brief rundown of what we did the week with our penguin stidy. If I can get onto hubby's computer or get mine to work, I will post with pics. Grrrr!

1. We made the cute chart with "are", "can", "have" and the students gave me the info to put in each one. They liked how easy it was to find the information when we did writing.

2. We made our own penguins with paper. A simple cut and glue activity, but they came out cute. Some of them cuter than others! But, my art challenged kids are improving. For the most part.

3. We did a directed drawing of a penguin. I had them draw the ice on the bottom, we made the penguin, colored it and then added in the blue sky behind it. I am still trying to get the kids to color in just one direction, but they aren't there yet. Scribbling gets is done faster. I had a kid tell me that yesterday and asked me if I didn't know that. Um, yeah, I know, but it looks like crap that way. I didn't tell them that!

4. The students wrote about penguins using the information from the chart. It's amazing to me how many misspellings there are when they words are on the wall! But they fixed them and they will go up with their panguins on Tuesday.

5. The students filled in a bubble chart/word web on penguins.

I really wish we had more time to do it all, but we have such strict times, that there isn't time to fit it all in. I really hope next year we do away with minimum days or collaboration. For us, it's 2 afternoons that the students are gone at 2 and we aren't able to teach. That leaves me 3 afternoons to fit in science or social studies since that is the alloted time to do it. I try to incorporate as much as possible, but it ain't working for me!
We started Time this week. Oh. My. Word. For the kids who get it, they get it. The understand. They pass the test. But for those who don't get it, they have no idea. I feel like I was talking to a brick wall with a couple of them. We only have to go to the hour and half hour, but that half hour is killing me. That and the fact that our math program has red and blue hands that are opposite of our little clocks we use for practice. I don't know how many times I said to look for the little hand first. I felt like a broken record. And some kids who needed extra help were given over an hour of extra time of instruction on telling time(doesn't seem like a lot, but it is when you think that the others kids were doing centers and not getting my instruction!!!!). Of course, the loud mouth teacher tells me that ALL her kids got 100% on the test. At first, I want to cry, but then I have to sit back and think that she does this all the time. She toots her own horn to make herself look good at the expense of everyone else. She must be very insecure in life and needs this to make herself feel better. It just bugs the crap out of me. And I know when her students go to second grade, they will not do well, the teachers will complain and be frustrated, but they don't say that about mine! :) Next week we venture into the world on 10's and 1's and prepare more for our lovely benchmark test next month!
I've decided my new goal this year (one of the many that I haven't followed through on) is to learn how to use google docs and find cute clip art (compared to th eugly clip art I have on my computer). So, to those of you techy people who have it all together...Where do you find the cute clip art? How do you use google docs? I never felt so un-techy as I do now seeing all your cute stuff! I am jealous of your creativity and abilities!
And for all of you still in ice or sitting and watching things melt (hopefully), it will be about 80 here today in So Cal. All the mud we still have will dry out, all the weeds will grow about 2 feet this weekend and we will be out in force showing off our bright white legs and unpainted toes! Well, my toes are done, but I will be in pants to spare people the horror of my whiteness! Enjoy your winter weekend, while we bask in an early spring! Before you get too jealous, for us this means that things dry out faster, which ups the fire danger, our trees are shocked and don't know what to do and eventually, winter will be back and we will be flooding again and have landslides. Oh, and there is always the fear of earthquakes! How many of you can say that? Happy Saturday!


Eat Your Heart Out

For those of you enjoying your snow days at home, I just wanted to let you know that it was 73 degrees here today and sunny. It was a bit chilly in the morning, but nice and warm this afternoon. We are going to be in the 80's this weekend through Monday! :) Jealous?

This week has kicked my butt. I am tired, getting a cold and ready for bed. Hopefully I will post pics this weeekend!

Happy almost Friday!


Off and running

Well, today was Day 2 back at work. It was so hard to get up this morning and get moving, but I am glad to be back. My daughter - not so much. She's having mommy issues with me at work, so it makes it even harder. But, we'll get through it! She had school today, so all was well with the world!

We jumped right back into learning yesterday. We started on long vowels with long a. I am making my lower kids learn it, too, which is something I haven't done in the past. I am hoping that it helps them fill in some gaps so we can cover them all later. We'll see. So far the kids seem really with it and ready to learn. Bad thing is, progress reports go home on Friday and it's hard to justify to a parent why their child gets a progress report after "1 week", even though the term is half over (6 weeks already!).

We are also working on telling time. Our math program does a crappy job of teaching time. They give them 2 lessons on time to the hour (that's a Kinder standard in CA), yet only one lesson on time to the half hour. That's the dang standard, and there's only one lesson? So we will be supplementing the rest of the time on learning time to the half hour. And that's basically all they cover. I think there is some on elapsed time, but really, a kid has a hard time understanding how long an hour is!

We started our mini unit on penguins. I am in heaven. It's so much fun to do something new. We made a chart yesterday (that I borrowed from a few blogs). I put a penguin on top and then had 3 columns - can...have...are. Why I was never able to think of this, I don't know, but it made so much more sense to me and my kids. And I bragged about it during collaboration and my principal said it was genius. So thanks to all of you that have done it and gave me the idea. I got props from the principal!

Now it's just getting through the rest of the week. It's hard the first week back, but I have the 3 day weekend to look forward to! I wish I had some exciting plans. Maybe I will talk the hubs into going somewhere new on the weekend, like the Living Desert out in Palm Springs. Maybe it will be warm there. Sorry for those of you in the freezing areas, but it was about 63 today and I was cold all day. That's why I live here and not anywhere else with ice!

Time to make dinner, get things cleaned and ready for tomorrow and go to bed. My head is pounding and it wants sleep. Happy Tuesday!


Back to Work

Tomorrow will be back to work for me. I have had 3 great weeks off, but I am excited to get back to my kids and get back to teaching. I have some new units we are going to start, some new ideas and practices to put into place and a whole lot of learning to do.

We are going to do a mini unit on Penguins this next week. I am a little late since everyone else has already done them, but I have taken some great ideas from the blogs and am axcited to incorporate them into my teaching. Thanks to all for putting up their stuff and sharing. One of my goals is to learn how to use Google docs so I can share, too. I never pictured myself as being technologically dumb, but I do now. I also need to learn how to use clip art better and may even go buy a cute clip art CD or something. What do you all use? I want something that I can take with me, not just downloaded onto one computer. HELP????

We are finally starting long vowels this week. It's gonna be a tough week with some of my kids and getting them to think, but I am hopeful that my lower kids will be ready to come in and kick butt with their learning!

We also have a month to prepare for benchmark testing. My principal wrote us that she wants to see us working on it daily, which I will, but I don't like the teach to the test philosophy. But, I'd better so my kids have a fighting chance against the 2 who don't necessarily give the test in the correct manner. :(

Well, I have a ton to do on my last day of vacation. Happy Sunday!

Thoughts on Arizona

I spent an insane amount of time yesterday watching CNN after the congresswoman from AZ was shot. I did my undergrad work in Arizona and have a soft spot in my heart for the state. I am not into politics at all, and really don't know anything about what each political party stands for. It is something that doesn't interest me in the least. I hate watching the news and seeing politicians say crap about others, simply because they don't have the same beliefs. Aren't we supposed to be teaching children to value others opinions? Yet in politics, it's OK to talk shit on other people simply for what they believe is right?

My husband had posted a comment on facebook about the shooting and then had people comment back to him. He didn't write anything about a political person or a political party, but his "friends" who commented back were all very quick to defend Sarah Palin. I thought it was interesting for them to jump to that conclusion so quickly. I am not in any means a Sarah Palin supporter, but hey, if you are, that's fine. I am not going to join anyone at a rally, but at the same time, respect what I think and don't tell me that I am wrong. I think some whackjob in the desert and shot at innocent people for whatever effed up reason. I don't care if the guy was a republican or democrat or what not. He was a freakin' nut job who deserves what he gets coming to him. People died. People were shot for being somewhere they had a right to go. Hell, a little girl died going to meet someone that she wanted to meet. How sad. Yet people want to focus on political parties and affiliations. I think politics is getting out of hand, but it's more like schoolyeard bullying gone too far. Politicians - in both parties - need to act like civilized adults and be good examples for everyone in America, both young and old.

A friend from college who lives in Arizona had posted a comment on FB last night saying that we should all be more aware of doing nice things for each other. We should all do one nice act of kindness for every one senseless act of violence. And I think that's my new goal. I am going to make sure I am doing one neice thing a day for people. And I am going to try to get my kids to do the same. They aren't into politics, but I hope they know that people are people and we need to treat each other with respect, regardless of whether you agree with that person or not.

It really bothers me to read things people write on Yahoo posts or AOL posts about what happened because it goes against everything we teach as teachers. But, unfortunately, that is America. People have their opinions, ideas and beliefs and hold them to be true and if someone disagrees, then they are wrong. And maybe it comes from how people were raised. My grandparents were from Texas, had strong beliefs about people of other races and my granddad held those beliefs til the day he died. He wasn't going to change, no matter what. I certainly don't have those same beliefs, but I was raised a bit different, in a different time. I wish I knoew the answer. I hate to think that in 15 years, my students could be out there with crazy, whacked out thoughts and go postal.

Yesterday just realy bothered me. I don't know the people. I don't know what the congresswoman stood for. And it doesn't matter. People were shot, killed and wounded simply for having a belief about something. There is too much on the news about this side is against that side and blah, blah, blah. I just wish people would work to make the whole country better, rather than trying to rip it apart. I'm going to do my small, itty bitty part to help my kids learn that there is more to life than always being right.


Shopping Spree

I had a shopping spree today. Well, a mini spree really. Our PTA gives us $100 to spend every year. For the last 2 years, we got $100 gift cards to Walmart for the beginning of the year. Perfect. This year, they decided they would reimburse us the $100 after we turned in receipts. And then waited 6 months for them to pay us. Um, no...I have a small income anyway and need every cent! They did agree to give us PO's to where we wanted. I didn't care about Walmart now that the schools sales are over, but I can always go to Lakeshore Learning. I love that store. I don't buy much, but I like what they have.

I have been studying the catalog, thinking about what I want the most and then trying to find the time to go. Alone. I did it today. Left my catalog at home and went shopping. Most of what I wanted had to be ordered, so I just bought things they had at the store that I wouldn't normally buy on my own.

Some of my goodies: coin stamps (I can make my own worksheets now!!); phonics stamps for blends, digraphs and vowels (both long and short); a grammar book; a world map I can actually write on and stick stuff on; flash cards for a word family game and someting else that I can't remember. I wish I had an unlimited income, but sad to say, I do not. Oh well. I got stuff that didn't cost me much (I still paid for some out of my own pocket) and it's stuff I wouldn't have bought otherwise.

I am almost ready for Monday, if you don't take into account that the alarm will NOT be my friend. I have liked sleeping in past 6 everyday (like 7:00 or later most days!!!) and 5:30 will be here awfully early!


Gettin' my groove on!

Today I feel really good about the things I have accomplished. While my plans aren't written in my plan book, I feel I have a better outlook on the rest of the year. I rewrote my daily schedule with more little mini-lessons thrown in, rather than trying to lump it all together. I have felt so bound by my TE's the last couple years that I am going to try to branch out a little and see if I can make it make more sense to me. I am also going to do more little things with my read alouds to make them more meaningful. I figured that if I can't fit my author studies in the way I want, then I will do something else for fun. So, here's my thoughts...let me know what you think!

Read Aloud "study": For the stories during the week I read to the kids, we will look at the following things with each story (I do this anyway, I just want it to me explicit rather than implicit): characters, setting, prob/solution OR beginning, middle and end. I think the kids have a good idea of the first part, but the b/m/e throws them off and they are tested on sequence of events on our next benchmark test! Yikes! I also want to use more of the comprehension strategies we have in our anthologies with the read alouds - stories that they kids actually like hearing rather than some of the boring stories we have. Again, it's the stuff I already do, I just want to make it "more".

Math journals: I am going to give the kids a math journal and then give the a problem they have to draw out to solve. Our old math series was really good with this, our new one not at all. I figure I can explain it to them and then have them work independently while I work with my lower kids who still can't count. I bought some lined paper at Staples (in the $1 rack this week) and will hopefully get them made on Monday morning. Nothing like waiting til the last minute. Once the kids do their journals, they will move on to math centers. But this will be a 15 minute thing each day. I hope my mind can think about new problems every day!

Writing mini-projects: I hate teaching writing. There. I said it. I don't feel strong in writing, so I don't like it. I feel like a complete fraud when it comes to writing. I don't know how to explain it to the kids beyond writing a personal narrative. That's our one tested area, so I can teach it. I need to learn how to teach some other, more interesting types of writing, but no one in my grade level cares to share their ideas. So, I am just going to start jumping in blind and see where it leads me. Actually, I am going to start having my kids learn about writing a descriptive story about an animal. I got this idea from my friend who uses a word web to jot down ideas and then has the kids write each idea into a sentence. I'll see how my kids this year handle it. Any other writing ideas would be great!

I also had an epiphany about my file cabinet. I asked the principal a month ago if she could look for a new one for me, and I haven't heard a thing. So, I am going to organize it a bit differently than I have in the past, clean out some things I haven't used and won't use for a while (and save, of course), but then actually throw some stuff out that I don't want to have collecting cobwebs. I know it isn't natural for teachers to throw away things, but I want to start decrapifying as much as possible. Yep. It's my new word for the year: DECRAPIFY - to get rid of all the crap laying around that you really don't need! Now I just wish I could go to school and get it done before Monday, but, no it isn't in the cards!

I have already told my hubby that I will be home late on Monday. I am so motivated to get things reorganized and start fresh that I want to be able to spend as much time on Monday getting things done before the rest of the week hits me like a ton of bricks. Plus, I will have my daughter to pick up 3 days out of the week by 4ish, plus now we have soccer one of those days, and really, I shouldn't be living at school. I need to come home, exercise (hahaha) and spend some time with my family. Oh yeah, I told myself I was going to get up at 'o dark thirty to exercise before work. I'll let you know how Monday goes!

Well, time to go and sit on the couch and read my book. Gotta find out what happens next in the story and finish it before vacation is over. I told myself I wanted to read 3 books over vacation. If I get this one done, that will make 4, which is good for me. I just picked one up I had ordered at the library, so I will have to read that one quickly or check it out over and over again. Ahhhhh, 2 more days left of vacation!

A little rant

Today my daughter had speech at 8am. I am normally at work, so I gladly took her. I had a couple other errands to run, so I thought I would get everything done in one fell swoop. Boy was I wrong. Nothing was open! I can't say that. The dr. office was open, but I just had to run in, grab a paper and leave. I wanted to go to Lakeshore - NOPE. 10am. The bookstore. 11am. The library. 10am. How do these old people do it? Nothing is open when they are awake. It was very frustrating. I am glad I am at work when I am since there isn't anything opened. So tomorrow, I will take my daughter to school, come home, kill over an hour and then I can go get what I need at Lakeshore and the bookstore and then run to go pick her up on time. Grrr! When I want to feel productive, I can't since some people feel the need to sleep. Maybe I am just jealous that I wasn't one of them!

On the flipside, I did get some planning done and have now had a revalation about my planning! Yay!


Big plans or bust

Today was bust. Yesterday was bust for the most part. I had big plans to actually work on my plans the last 2 days, but that didn't happen. Yesterday I was busy with laundry (I swear it multiplies on its own) and cleaning and running errands. I did get part of my penguin made for our study, then had my daughter make one. After that it was time for dinner, dishes and bath and bed, and then it was Mommy time for TV. Today I was going to plan after taking my daughter to school, but the my hubby got sick and wanted me to take him to the dr. So, t hat turned into a 3 hour excursion to running other errands. I had promised my daughter a "surprise" today and that was a trip to the movies to see Tangled. Very cute movie. But, can someone tell me when it became so expensive to go to the movies in the middle of the day? WTH? I guess I will resign myself to going to the cheap theater. Yikes!

Anyway, tomorrow I will see if I can get some more planning done. Hubs has to work tomorrow, so it's just my daughter and I. I would really like to get some more deep cleaning done while he's gone (it's just easier that way!) but I also need to plan. We'll see how it goes. As for now, when I should be planning, I am a little tired from today's running around to top off a night of cruddy sleep thanks to weird dreams and my dog who wouldn't stop barking. Thanks Cookie...I needed that.

Here's to another shot at planning. I did find the greates reason ever to be off work another week - everyone is posting their fabulous ideas and lessons on subjects I will be starting next week! Score! Happy Tuesday!


Charts and other ideas

I guess it's back to reality and posting about real school stuff. At least for now. I was going through some pictures I have taken this year at school and realized how much I have done differently this year. It made me feel better about myself for a bit. I am going to keep up with what I have been doing and do even more!

One thing I have done more of this year is charts. I am starting to make charts for everything. Well, I haven't done many for math, but that will be a new goal of mine to start with. I have been doing them mostly for social studies and science, but I am starting to do more with reading and will add math slowly.

Here are a couple I have up for reading, just as a reminder to the students. It helps them remember if they forget!

I have them for the long vowels that include the magic e, vowel pairs, etc. We will be starting long vowels next week when we go back, so those will start going up, too!

For my writing at the beginning of the year, we focus a lot on the subject (noun) and predicate (verb). We make charts with the words on them for the kids to use, but as the year goes on and I need my board space, the charts are lost to the side to never be seen again. I have never been one to use the little dictionaries, but I am wondering if I should start using them. Has anyone used them with good experiences? I am afraid it will turn into the kids who can use them won't need them and those who need them won't use them and then it's a big waste of money. Let me know your stories with those! Thanks!

I use a lot of charts for science. We will make word webs, graphic organizers or simply listing information we have learned. The kids use them a lot for their writing. Here are just a couple of examples:

There is a chart for matter listing things under each type, a list of information about apples and then a word web for weather. I think I am going to start making them more "shapely", using the shape for what we are talking about. For me, that's a big step since my creativity is at like a 1 on a scale of 1 to 100! But, we;ll see how it goes!

When we start next week, we will begin a unit on animals. My principal had told me, when I was panicking about getting it all in, she said we really didn't need to focus on the social studies as much as the science, since that is what's tested in 5th grade. I guess the district scores in science overall are pretty low, so they want to boost science. I can do that...it's more interesting than social studies to me. So, we will begin our animal unit which will last several weeks. We'll start out with birds, but I am going to start that with penguins and then we can compare and contrast penguins with other birds. I have started planning for penguins, but not fully there. This week though will be my planning frenzy week! I think I am going to make a big penguin and write the info we learn on it and then make another kind of (easy) bird to write info on it and then we can make a venn diagram to compare. Great ideas, but so little time. Hmmm...when to do it all! We'll see!

As I was trying to go to sleep last night, I had this vision of rearranging my classroom. Like big time. And in my head, I liked it. I have to think about it and play around with the idea some more, but it might work. I have been wanting to move things around, but I don't know how it will all work out. The things we think about at midnight!

As I read through the other blogs, I am shocked at how far ahead other states seem to be in terms of reading and math. It seems a lot of people have been on long vowels forever and we haven't really touched them. And for math, everyone is into fact families when we have barely covered subtraction. I am feeling very behind and need to push my kids more. Yikes! But, then I have to take a step back, think and go with the pacing guide and know that we get it all in and my kids do well in spite of what we throw at them!

I am going to start introducing fact families when I get back and give them a little bit of practice each day with them, along with their new math journal activities. We'll see how it goes.

I will be working on a few changes this week, and will post some of my ideas as they get solidified in my head. Please let me know what you think so I don't think I am crazy! Happy Monday!


New Year, New Cold, New Idea

It looks like I am greated with a cold for the new year. In fact, I was asleep before 9 last night and got out of bed for good at 8:30. Sleep must have been something I needed. I am so glad that I still have another week off of school since I have a cold. I would not want to have to go back not feeling 100%. I will take this week to plan, rest and take my daughter to where she needs to be. I can be Mommy for the week!

I am also going to get some planning done - or a lot of it really. I haven't thought of plans since I left in December. And, if I want to change things up, I need to get my butt in gear and get some things done.

One thing I am going to add to my daily routine is math journals. I think I am going have the kids work on them after our math timed tests. I will give them a problem to figure out, they will draw it out in their journals and then work on a center when they are done. This way I will have 10 minutes to work with my low kids in math on their addition, subtraction and counting. In my mind it will work, but we will see in the next couple of weeks how it works in reality. I think my high kids will breeze right through it while my middle kids will go either way. We'll see. I'll update later! But first, I will have to make the journals! I'm not going to buy them until I know I can make it work. So, I will have to run to the store later this week to buy the stuff, since we aren't allowed in our classrooms til we go back. :(

Not much else in my mind today, except the thought of going back to bed. But that isn't feasible with a 4 year old, so I am off to ponder the day on the couch! Happy Sunday!


Day 1 of 2011

Today was the first day of the new year. A new beginning. A time to start fresh. A time for optimism. And for me, a time to continue vacation.

I have seen many blogs today with people writing in about work on Monday. I am very thankful that I have one more week. As excited as I am about going back, I have no desire to be back just yet. I am not prepared and not ready to be prepared. I will spend this next week getting ready to go back, making plans and getting things ready for the rest of the year. I am going to try and change how I do things, so I need to get it figured out in my mind. But not today.

For tonight, I am going to bed early. I am getting a lovely sinus headache and am super exhausted. I wish I had a great story to go with being tired, but I don't. We spent the day watching the parade, being lazy and having friends over for dinner. Now I am ready for sleep. At 7:30. Bring in the new year! I am one crazy fool over here!

Happy end of vacation for those of you going back to work on Monday. I will be sitting at home (in the rain, again) getting things ready to go for next week. Or cleaning out my laundry room. Either way, I will be living life!

Happy New Year!