Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tried It Tuesday! (

A colleague of mine has turned me on to this new website:!  It is completely free and you can sign up your whole class if you wanted.  There are lessons with practice that you can assign to the kids to complete at home.  It is a video tutorial on the indicators we teach.  It is directly aligned to the COMMON CORE starting from 2nd and up! 

You can assign each student a different assignment based on their needs.  You can give them more review on concepts or enrichment lessons that we will be coming to soon. I have had many great reviews not only from the kids but from the parents as well.  The parents love that they can see how the lessons are being taught as well.

Did I tell you they have lessons in READING and MATH!!  Check it out, and let me know what you think

Friday, September 20, 2013

Parents: Can't live with them, can't live without them!

Last night was our BTSN and overall it was good, and in some ways annoying.  I came up to fourth from third so I know some of these parents pretty well already, which means I have a better understanding of their thinking.  Dealing with parents was not my forte.  I was blunt, to the point, didn't sugar coat, and probably told the parents too much what they didn't want to hear.  I have learned over the years how to make it a mutually beneficial relationship, sometimes I am successful, others I am not, but always a learning experience.  So far this year, we are all smiles and they are in love with me. I haven't completely changed how I communicate but I've tweaked it and added some proactive approaches to deterring meltdowns.  Here are some ways I build a good relationship and communicate with my parents. (my 5 for Friday)

1.  Take a cute notepad, put one student's name at the top from your entire class, over and over again.  Each day, pull the top paper and write a positive note home to that child and their parent.  I know we have some kids that it would be difficult to find a super positive for, but it can be anything.  Try to send one to every kid in your class within the first two weeks, and then keep doing it throughout the year.  The kids love taking positive notes home, and the parents appreciate that you've recognized their child.

2.  Make your expectations for your parents clear just like you would with the students.  if you've told your parents to give you three days notice before bringing in cupcakes, and they bring it in the day of or before, simply say (like I did yesterday), because you only gave me one day's notice and I've asked you to give me a week, she will have to take her cupcakes to the cafeteria to share with the students and won't be able to do it in class.  It can be hard to do, and you want to appease them, but just like kids, if they know you mean what you say the hassle will be less later.

3.  This tip has worked wonders for me.  A weekly email, not newsletter, a detailed, this is what your child will be learning and expected to know this week email.  I always start with reminders instead of for the end, then I go into each and every subject detailing what lessons they will be taught and what it will look like.  i provide examples, websites, and links for more information. I get so many emails saying that they love these emails because it helps them to know exactly what is going on and how to support them, that I am never turning back.

I know many of you have newsletters that your grade level, district, school sends out.  THEY DON"T READ THEM!!  But they do read those emails.  Keep them concise and not overwhelming.  Save them.

4.  Document, save, and file all emails from parents.  My outlook at work deletes the email after 3 weeks, and there have been too many times that parents call me to the carpet over not informing them, or they were not made aware, etc.  I don't pay them no mind, I just forward the email where I did inform them, highlight their email, and press send.  It may seem harsh, but it works.  Also, if a parent decides to go off on you, it's your documentation for your principal.  Hopefully, this has not happened to any of you, but it has with me, and it saved my behind.

5.  Be thoughtful when you communicate with your parents.  You NEED to be honest, they need to know what is really going on with their child, sandwich it.  Positive, negative, positive.  But don't sugar coat it, if you do that too much, they may not think the negative is that serious.  Even if it is all positive, give them some kind of feed back to help in some way.  

Those are my five thoughts.  If you have more to add, please do.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Crazy Kuzner now Crazy Chae Motivates

So, I am sitting in a dark kitchen, just finished up reading some blogs, thinking what else do I have to add to this world of teacher blogs.  I am not sure, I feel that most of you know what I tell you already.  But here it goes...

I motivate them by being me, aka crazy.  I am sarcastic, loud, and wave my arms and body around.  To give you an idea, one time I told the class if one more person asks me what they were supposed to do when they were done, I would fall down dead (I know, maybe not the most sensitive, but oh well, I said it).  Well, as you can guess, one more person asked me, and I don't think because they wanted to see me fall down dead.  Well, I flail, gasp for breath, clutch my heart, and fell dramatically to the ground motionless and with my tongue hanging out.

I know, kinda weird.

My point is, I encourage them to be them, the nerdy, weird, the quiet, the athlete, the diva, the princess, whatever, but also to pursue the interests they have.  So instead of trying to fill every moment of their day with things to do when they are done with whatever (early finishers, as I used to call them, and I am sure most of you), I encourage them to seek something out that they are interested in, something that sparks their interest.  Last year, two girls were super into dolphins.  When ever they completed their assignment from me, they were able to get on the computer to research dolphins.  No dead line, no guidance, no nothing.  Just a point in the direction they were going, a suggestion for where to find more information, or a quick lesson in Word.

You should have seen the final product (wish I had a picture) and it was amazing.  They created a hard cover out of cardboard, and covered in a watercolor painting of a dolphin.  They included a table of contents with chapters using bold print, photographs with labels, and a glossary at the end.  They also made a poster of the parts of the dolphin and a map of their migration path.  THIS WAS THIRD GRADE!  They got up in front of the class and presented their project.

Now, not all my kids were able to go to this degree, but researching and learning more about what they were interested in motivated them to get their work done in class.  BUT not just get it done; they had to get it done well using their best effort.  They know I don't take anything but their best.  And when it is done, they get to do what they want.  They enjoyed learning about what they like so much, many of them would want to come in during recess do complete their projects.  I mean, I had someone choose Lamborghini cars to Muhammed Ali to whatever.  It didn't matter.  All that mattered was that they were motivated and they were teaching themselves by doing it.

So, that's how I try to motivate my kids, being me, saying it's ok to be me, them to be them, like what I like, they can like what they like, and we can all learn from each other.  I know I've learned tons from them.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ideas for us BUSY TEACHERS!!

So, apparently, I start every sentence with So.  I actually have to delete it and start over.  Not this time.

I've been reading all these posts of Currently in September and I've notice many of you have a common theme, you need more ME time.  I am going to give you some suggestions that I use to help me have my ME and FAMILY time.

1.  Meal planning: There are several services for low fees that will create a meal plan for you for the week.  They'll include the grocery list, the daily meal, and the recipe.  I've used eMeals but now I use Simple Clean Meals.  I like it better because each meal is on a sheet instead of all the recipes squeezed in on one sheet like eMeals.  It is also "clean" meaning the recipes use unprocessed food.  There a couple canned ingredients like tomatoes or beans but it is no big deal.  I don't use all the recipes, but I'll pick the ones I like.

2.  To Do Lists: about 15 minutes before I leave for the day I make a list of what I need to do the next day.  I prioritize what has to be done that day, that week, and what can be pushed back to the back burner.  I designate a small notebook for all my to do lists.  I don't like post-its because they lose their stickiness and they are all over the place.  So, I take that list, make a pile of what I have to do (copy, file, make) and leave my list on top or put it in my box (which is right next to the copier).

3.  Designated Space for everything!  Organization is what keeps me sane.  If I am not organized my ME and FAMILY time go out the window.  If there comes to be an item that doesn't have a place, I find a place for it.

4.  Take an hour for yourself, hopefully more.  Book a pedicure, go shopping, nap, watch TV, go see a movie by yourself. But it is important!

5.  I know this is hard for people, but don't mingle too much with your colleagues.  I will only speak with my colleagues for about 10 minutes after the kids leave because work is to be done.  I am friends with many but I will socialize after I am done.  Many will stay a long time talking in the halls and classrooms and stay into the late afternoon.  Not I.  I will set up HH or dinner with them but then that turns into my ME and FAMILY and now FRIENDS time.

6.  GO HOME!  Enjoy your family and friends, and your time!  I know it is easy to stay late or take it home because you justify that you can get it done when you have a moment.  Especially those that don't have children yet, it is easy to just always work.  I have a colleague that would stay til 8 or later every day.  It was a chore to get her out the door.  This year, she is determined to have a balanced life.

Your balanced life is important.  We all love teaching and we wouldn't do it if we didn't love it.  You need to love yourself first, and then you'll be your best for your students!

Here is my currently...

 I love my daughter too, but that is a given!  I also can't wait til next week, but I can't tell you why right now!!  I will tell you when I can...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Just Say No... Or just another time...

It is the first week of school and as you all know, that is a crazy time.  The demands on your time and your ability as a teacher are high.  Your county/district wants you to start the curriculum right away, seriously, my county gave my 5 lessons for the first week of school in just math.  They wanted me to start DAY ONE!  Do they take into account teaching procedures, or how long it will take to learn how your room works, or where everything is, or anything?

Our time is precious, and I want you to know that it is okay to say "No, let's do it another time."  You can say NO to the specialist that wants to introduce themselves 5 minutes before dismissal on the first day of school.  It is okay to say "No, we can't meet during our planning time because it is our planning time, another day will have to work."  It is okay to say "No, I will not meet with you during my lunch time because I didn't have a special (i.e. PE, Music, etc) and that is the only time I have to be by myself."  It is okay to say "No, I do not want to come early to school to talk to you about Johnny."

I have learned that no matter what, the work is going to be there, but time with my family is not.  I work very hard when I am at school, but when I come home, I enjoy my time with my family.  I do not bring work home with me (unless it is right before report card time).  Too many a night, I've lugged that bag home just to lug it back the next morning untouched.

Of course, pick your battles and what you will say no to, and I usually say yes more. BUT, when that NO needs to be said, ...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Peek into my Week!

Today was my first day back and I would have to say it was a success!  I did not get to everything I had planned done but we got the big items done, and I rearranged all my undone stuff to fit into the rest of the week.  Some of my kids thought it was a short day because before we knew it, it was 2:45 and had 15 minutes left!  I took it as a compliment, "Time flies when you're having fun!"

After school I sent an email to all the parents that I had an email for and gave them a first day update.  I have learned to be proactive with parents.  The more they know the less they are popping in your room as you're letting the kids in asking how their kid is doing.  Seriously?! I send a weekly email to my parents just giving them the gist of what is going on in each subject.

I even got my first positive email from a parent letting me know that her child is excited about the up coming year!  It made my day.

So, I am getting into curriculum stuff tomorrow.
Place value, reading and writing multi-digit numbers using base ten blocks, virtual manipulatives, brainpop, etc.
I'm reading Freedom Summer (a historical fiction) discussing character traits, how the person affects the outcome, and the point of view of the narrator.  I'm using foldables, sorts, interactive journaling, group, and partner work!

In writing, I am starting with opinion of the character (character analysis) with two books.  First with Hey, Little Ant.  It is about a little boy that wants to squish the little ant and explains why, and the little ant doesn't want to be squished and explains why.  At the very end, the book actually prompts the reader to make a decision, to or not to squish.

Social Studies
In Social Studies, we are studying identifying human-made/physical features of the U.S. and how those feature effect settlement pattern in the U.S.  I don't have anything fun, KWL, sorts, concept maps, but I am trying to think of something fun. Let me know if you have ideas.

Between it all...
I'm reading several read alouds.  The Name Jar!  When I read it for the first time, I had to keep myself from crying.  It is about a girl that comes to the U.S. for the first time and she is embarrassed about her Korean name and wants a new American name.  Her class creates a name jar and they put names into it for ideas they got from people they know or books they've read.  In the end, she chooses to keep her Korean name because it is who she is and it is something to be proud of.  There is a boy in the story that helps her realize that by asking a Korean clerk at the a Korean market to give him a Korean name, and he choose the Korean name for FRIEND!!  Loved it.

Also reading, Just Kidding.  I haven't read it all the way yet, but it is about how teasing or just kidding isn't just kidding, that it can hurt and words are more powerful than we think.

And another for this week, Voices in the Park.  Tells the same story from the perspective of 4 different characters.  Haven't read it all the way yet, but have heard great reviews.

Alright, that is it for now.  I am going to go work out, and relax!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Preparing for the New School Year and my MANY thoughts!

I start with the kiddies on Monday.  I've been reading all these BTS posts and seeing how a lot of you have to buy your kids supplies!  I am not sure where you teach but I was surprised.  I thought the kids bought their supplies, at least, ours do, except the composition notebooks, folders, pencils, and paper, but our county allocates money for our school to divvy out to the teams to purchase those materials.  I would love to know where you teach, how your district works in terms of buying needed student materials, and how you feel about it, and if there is anything to be done about it.

My second thought is about my vision for my year.  I usually start every year out with a vision of how I want my year to go, the feel I want it to have, ways I am going to accomplish that, and things I need to improve in my teaching and in my logistical manner.  I've learned that without organization and thoughtful planning my year usually goes down the toilet and pretty quickly because I end of winging it day to day.  I hate that feeling.  And as you all know, planning takes time, getting the materials organized takes more time, and delivering engaging lessons just doesn't happen without it.

So here are my goals:
1.  Meet DAILY with every group in reading and math! (sometimes I was only able to meet with one or two a day and the others 2/3 times in the week)
2.  Stay on top of my grading, and not let it pile up! (plan my assessments better; with this new curr. assessments could be anything so I was grading anything and everything and became bogged down)
3.  Give feedback to assignments quicker.  (I am great at feedback when it comes to my observations but those longer writing assignments and projects that go with them, not so much)
4.  Figure out how I am going to do silent independent reading every day in my packed schedule.
5.  Make Science and Social Studies more fun.  (It is already fun material, but I have 20 minutes to do it, that's it!)

BIG GOAL!! Figure out how to make composting happen at my school.  If you have a composting program at your school, or some other kind of GREEN project, hit me up.  I'd love to know how your school does it.

I had a friend of mine come into my room today looking for help.  She needed a plan to organize her room because the sheer amount of things she thought she had to get done was overwhelming her.  And I know that feeling.

So this is how I helped...

1.  Visualize your room
2.  Start from your door and work clockwise listing all the things you need to get done
3.  List the days you have to do them in, so today is Tuesday, so she had today until Friday
4.  Thinking about how much time she had in each day to get it done we divvied up the items so by Friday she was all done.

At the end of the process, she didn't feel as overwhelmed and saw she didn't have as much she needed to get done as she thought.

The trick is, do one item at a time, and cross it off before you move to the next item.  And add-ons need to wait til all other items of the day are complete.

I was going to create a cute To Do worksheet for you, but something occurred to me when I was in the shower, which is where all my good ideas pop into my head, that or my car.  You can use a loose leaf piece of paper, or a page in your notebook, which I am sure you have.

I don't say that to be mean, or judgmental of those that like cute to do papers (I like them too) but you are just going to write on it, and then toss it when done, so why waste the ink and energy to make it.

Onto another thought that came into my head...I am not going to sell anything I make.  It is ALL GOING TO BE FREE!!  Once I do figure out how to do all those cool things, and use them, I am going to just let you have them.  You know why?

In my county, we use Outlook, and we have this shared folder that all the teachers in the county per grade can post to.  One of those shared folders is named Elementary Roll-Out and it is meant for all grade ___ to post and share ideas and attach (Powerpoint Presentations, Flipscharts, videos, worksheets, WHATEVER).  This one woman, whom I've never met, posts the best stuff, and she is always happy to share.  It is always useful, and I plan on sending her a care package.  Because of Kimberly, I plan on just sharing.

And if you also want to do that, great and here is a Facebook page that also gives out freebies!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Made it Monday! Freebie and Prizes

I have taken the past few days off because I go back to school tomorrow for pre-service.  I've gone a 12 mile bike ride, celebrated a friend's birthday, hung out with close friends at a beer fest and played bocce ball at cool new bar, and today, I am relaxing, getting some of my summer chores done.

Now, I know it isn't Monday, but I don't think I'll have time tomorrow to post, so I am posting early.

But I've also made labels for my kiddo's journals, and I am going to share them with you.  I hope that I can get them the way they are supposed to be (my font etc) and editable for you to make your own, click HERE.  They are formatted to be 4 by 6 inches.

If you can't edit it, let me know and I'll email it to you directly.

I'm also linking up with Teaching Fourth for her Birthday Bash Contest.  She has some really great prizes and hope I win!

I hope I make it to my first year.  There is such a learning curve to this crazy blogging world and I want to just know it.  I feel like it takes me 2 hours to do a post because I am reading tutorials, and trying to say something that is worth while not just to say something.

So, I am going to go work out.  My alcohol consumption and sweet intake was bad for my belly this weekend.  But what are you gonna do, color me disgusted. . .

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Behavior Management: It's whats for dinner!

So, I have several things that I do to help my kids do their personal best.  I fight with myself about behavior management strategies because I feel that they shouldn't be rewarded for expected and appropriate behavior.  But as we all know, some things have to be done, but I usually shed my strategies and stick to my first and formost strategy.


1.  I think giving praise for specific behavior is much more powerful than a warm fuzzy, or some kind of other tangible reward.  I think it boosts confidence and self-esteem and that transfers to their daily behavior more so than "rewards."  I verbalize and discuss my expectations daily and before each activity.  When one or several students get off task, I search for a student that is exuding that desired behavior (even if it is just one) and lay all my attention on them.  As you know, kids love attention, and they will get negative or positive attention, so try to curb the negative attention and load up on positive attention.  Eventually, they will automatically and continually exhibit positive behaviors.  But don't just give positive praise just by saying "Good job, Jane. I like what you are doing."  Say, "I like the way you are focusing on your task and referring back to the text to support your answer, Jane.  Keep it up."  Be specific about what you like about what they are doing.

  • I have a pad of paper that I write every kid's name at the top of (one name per page) and every day write a note to that kid's parent/guardian about that kid's good behavior EVEN IF THEY WERE HORRIBLE!  Find something positive!  They will be encouraged to try harder the next day to behave better. And every kid gets a note eventually and over again!

But before we do all that I use other strategies.

2.  Warm Fuzzies.  Each group of tables gets a jar, and whenever they are all on task or working collaboratively, or whatever you like specifically, I give the group a warm fuzzy.  Whichever table has the most at the end of the marking period, I buy them lunch and we eat all together.  They love it, of course, who wouldn't!

2.  Roadrunners.  Our school's mascot is the roadrunner.  Whenever another teacher comments on how quiet my line is in the hallway, they get a roadrunner.  They'll say, "That is a roadrunner line!" and we get one.  When they get 20, we get a group decided prize.  Extra recess, computer lab time, whatever you decide.  I also have a student passing out "stars" to those students that are exhibiting appropriate behavior.  A "star" is just a piece of small paper with a star on it that says they are doing their personal best.

3.  The Star Jar.  When a student gets a star, they put it in my star jar, and at the end of the week or month, which ever you decide, and they get a prize.  Again, I don't like candy or items, so I give something like computer time, or read with a buddy, lunch with a teacher, and I have those on cards they can choose from. This is recycled coffee jar and I used paint pens.  I didn't cover the silver because I thought it was pretty cool.

So these are my strategies.  I've used others but having too much can also be too much!  I think expressing your expectations clearly and often and holding them accountable for that behavior is so much better.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Organization Tips

I was at training all day and was all in the mood to get a ton of stuff done but guess what it is a beautiful day, and I am feeling lazy, and figure that I have very few days to be lazy.

I mean I really wasn't lazy, I did work seven hours.

So exciting news.  My composting program idea is on the ground running.  My friend saw my post and contacted me, she works for Chipotle, and said that she would love to coordinate a fundraising event to help me raise money for the program!  I contacted my VP and he are a go.  I am just waiting to see when we can do it.

1.  Ok, so for organization.  I use a reusable plan book.  I purchased a plan book from CFC and put them in protective sheets and write on them with transparency markers.  So far I love it and hate it.  I like that I won't use paper over and over each year, but it erases a little too easily.  I am still working out the kinks.

2.  I use DROPBOX to have my files available anywhere and at any time.  No flash drive, no carting around the computer, it's GREAT.  You can share your folders with anyone.

3.  I would add more but I've read it everywhere else in the link ups.  Leveled library by genre and grade level labels.  I don't use the number system with my library because I have the labels that tell the genre and a librarian that puts all the books back in the correct bin at the end of the day.  And so much other stuff.

Stick to #1 and #2, they are great additions to the awesome lists out there!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Chae's Classroom Tour

Second day of Teacher Week 2013 and I am super excited to show you.  My room is 90% done.  I am still waiting on class list and I need to make labels for my composition books.

So, I've spent many an hour in my room, inside my head thinking about my room, and searching for better ways for my room to be organized.  I have come to terms it is a work in progress, and that is fine because each class is different and we make it OURS.

So I've taken a pics of the components of my room and will explain each.

So this the on the left as soon as you walk into my room.  It has my No Homework Binder and Bathroom Sign out, Reflection forms in the red folder, attendance and lunch count in yellow folder.  That green glittery foam sheet is going to be where I put the lunch calendar for the month, the pink square is for my homework club.  Each magnet has a number on it and when they don't bring in their homework they take their number off, whoever is left at end of _____ gets a prize from me.  The green and yellow box is for box tops (our school is really into it) and the bee box is my compliment box.

This is not complete!  If you see the line down the middle that is where I need to cut the board.  Got those FELT letters at Michaels for .89!  And those clothes pins have circles glued to them with Boys, Girls, Nurse, Office on it.  That way they don't fall in the toilet or on the floor or however else they get gross.  The No Name Board will have clothes pins attached for those mysterious papers without a name!  

My jobs chart.  Got the labels from Clutterfree Classroom and attached them to a bordered post-it and then used green post-its next to it.  There is one loose one because I thought I would only have 4 groups of tables but I actually have 6, so now I'm thinking I'll arrange it into 4 now so I don't have to make my board look off.  I also need to put a title to this board.  Not sure what yet, something to do with bees.  Melissa means Honeybee in Greek.

This is my materials corner, used to have a whole table but it was annoying.  Made the toolbox, spray painted it of course.  The colored pencils are going to be arranged by color using toilet paper rolls that I've been saving all summer to fill that bin up.  I love to recycle.  I also spray painted my cups blue and labeled them "Sharp" and "Dull." Used to have Not Sharp but I like Dull better.  I also have a "Words that Impress" board for those words kids say verbally or use in their writing and we tack them up.  Above it is a magnetic board from Hobby Lobby that I love and just have pics of my family.  Hot glued every thing up; it's hard with cement blocks!

We are supposed to have a data board in our room to help our kids see their progress, here is mine.  Those blank pieces of paper are where I'll put my charts and goals as a class.  Above it, I use, again, Clutterfree Classroom's hand signals.  Missing four, need to print and laminate a new one.

Calendar and bee numbers with yellow duck tape as border.  I also have 6 mason jars for each table to collect their warm fuzzies in.  I'll go more into that tomorrow.

My Boggle board, again, from Clutterfree Classrooms and my library.

I use this open hanging folder to keep me organized.  On the right is every material I will need for each subject each day.  Then behind it I keep hanging folders for papers and materials I will use next week.  On the left, I have numbered folders for the students work.  Those of you that have kids with IEPs, documentation and work samples are very important.  

My bookcases.  Binders with all kinds of stuff.  My new pink pencil holders filled with a pencil, big eraser, half sock (to wipe white boards), Expo marker, highlighter, and post-its.  Use them for small group instruction.  See my bee stuff.  Love it!  There are three things on the right bookcase, bowl, plate, cup.

The blue folder holder is for my small group instruction.  Each folder for each group for math and reading, so I put whatever they're working on in there.  The white board will have the book their reading, and what they will be learning about in small group.

Stopped putting my schedule on the board, now I use these and I've already put my objectives up for the week. I'll put the time on them as soon as my school nails that down.  Underneath I'll put subject specific vocabulary.

I put all my text feature posters on ribbon and hung them up.  I used to have them above my front board, high, but I keep thinking about grocery stores.  Grocery stores put all the items that are more expensive at eye level because that is what we look at, we rarely notice things that are high up or too low.  So I don't use that space in my room too much, and also with ADHD kids, too much is too distracting.  I also have my "Getting Ready for School" poster made and will post it outside my room the first week of school, so the kids will see my expectations before they enter!

This is where they turn in their finished work.  I still need to label SS. and Science and Homework.  Also put that "Things to Do When Done" board right next to it for those kids that still have no clue.  Obviously it is blank now.  I also spray painted that holder thingy pink!

We do shout outs and Character Kudos at our school.  These are just simple Manilla envelopes (the small ones) that I covered in paper, put some lettering and directions on what to do.

I put my word wall on my cabinets because I have NO wall space.

And this is a view from my front door.  I have some empty wall space but I don't like to fill it all up because I want it to look need and we (my class) will fill it up with anchor charts and such.

So that is all I have.  Thanks for checkin me out.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Teacher Week 2013: All About Me!

Melissa Ruth Chae...

So, here's my story for my first linky party.  I went to University of Maryland for Criminal Justice.  I really had no idea what I was going to do with that degree, maybe cop, but the idea of me with a gun should scare everyone.  Lawyer was out of the question because 4 more years of school made me want to vomit.  I had an internship at the Supreme Court (that I hated) and was basically fired because I was a sucky secretary.  But it was a cool experience to see all the juctices, met Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Rehnquist at his birthday party at the Court!  

After college, I wandered and pondered what I was going to do.  Moved to CA for a bit and had a "comin to Jesus" moment: I have no direction in my life and I better get my life together.  Moved back to MD and saw a commercial for University of Maryland giving Masters if you teach in Baltimore City for 5 years.  I signed up, they put me in two schools over 10 classrooms, one of them being emotionally disturbed special ed. contained class over SIX MONTHS, when I was supposed to be in ONE class for the year.  I quit!

Pondered some more but teaching never left me, so I decided to go the traditional route with student teaching and all.  I loved it and never turned back.  I've taught third grade at Rock View for 7 years, and this will be my first year in 4th.  I've been team lead for two of those years and don't want to leave my school because it is so awesome.  I love my coworkers, I love the kids, and let's be honesty, I love most of the parents.

I am very organized, environmentally conscious, and prepared.  I like to learn how the kids think and how to help them click with the concepts.  I like to be colorful, not really a theme.  I am also very loud and goofy, I like to be crazy as my kids would call me.  I am sarcastic and love when they finally get it. You should see the look when they really don't know what to make of me.  I don't tie shoelaces, and I don't do whining.  I like to have fun and learn and be outside the box. 

I love this new curriculum because it has reenergized me to think outside that box.  Its basically all the same concepts we all taught in the old curriculum, but just the expectations are higher and applied more to real life rather than worksheets.  I am enjoying the service part of our curriculum.  It incorporates all subject matters and they get so much out of it.

This year I plan on either having the kids create a composting program at our school, we are already getting honors for our recycling program, but so much food is thrown away every day! And we have Green Kids at our school helping us with these kinds of projects.  OR a campaign to get our district to stop using styrofoam trays, those things never decompose.  

It will be great!  I've already had this conversation with the kids last year since I had them in 3rd, and we are on board.  Also, I got a local environmental group to give our kids 3 free field trips!  THREE!  One they came to the school to teach the kids how we are impacting the Anacostia Watershed, the second was building bird houses for the the local bird species because the trees are being cut and there are less areas for them to live, and a boat tour of the Anacostia River, explaining to the kids how "we" have impacted it and what we can do to help it.  I encourage you to look in your area for local groups that may have grants to teach kids.  We were able to teach every subject area on these three field trips and then created a bookmark business.  

Our third grade team had the kids "apply" for one of the 4 departments, marketing, production, sales, and accounting.  Then we put them in their departments and got to work.  Marketing came up with marketing strategies to get the most bookmarks sold.  Production obviously made the bookmarks.  I was in charge and they were assembly line style, THEY LOVED IT!!  Sales was in charge of how they were going to get the word out and get it out.  And accounting was in charge of totaling up all the money we raised.  We were only going to do it for 2 Days, but there was such high demand that we raised $500 to donate to Anacostia Watershed Society.

So that is me in a nutshell.  I just joined in on this blogging bandwagon and learning the ropes.  But I wouldn't have "charged in" if I didn't think I had something to add.  You know additive not repetitive.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Getting my Room Together!

So I've worked tirelessly getting my room together.  I've reorganized my library with the help of some of my 3rd grade girls from last year.  I taught them how to use Scholastic's Word Wizard and they looked up every single one of my books in my library to put the label on the front cover!  Please excuse some of my unlabeled book bins.  Waiting on preservice week for the laminator to be working at school; I know I need to buy one.

I've also created math and reading bins that I've spray painted with paint for plastic to do with Clutterfree Classroom's rotation board someone tweaked.  Last year I did it by team this year by rotation category. The purple is my math, and the pink my reading.  And I actually organized my stuff so much and purged of unnecessary "stuff" that I cleared a whole shelf that I am sure I'll be able to fill quite soon.

I've got more to share but need to take more pictures.  But one last thing.  You see that black sterelite drawer thing next to my bookcases, I've spray painted it PINK with that same spray paint for plastic.  Love spray paint!

Ok a couple things. I don't like using those super cute "I can" posters because I don't like using paper unesessarily. If I can, I try to use ways that minimize my paper use. So instead of those papers with individual statements that I will probably have to redo in a few years because a new way or wording will be in style I got these cute posters and labeled them with the subjects and write the objectives in expo marker (laminate poster first) so I can just wipe them off when I need to put new ones on. And underneath the posters I'll put subject specific vocabulary. Ignore what's on top. Not done yet. 
Then I've seen this done a couple ways but instead of storing my games in the file cabinet, I store then in these baskets from Five Below by indicator. For me, out of sight out of mind, so I try to keep all my resources out. Organized. Again ignore all the mess around. I was going through all my resource books to purge and found some I haven't used or even opened in years!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I recently did an exit interview for a "class" I took over the summer.  Basically, I get 3 graduate credits for doing the work in my class that I already do over the summer.  But because I have to do 75 hours and don't fudge it, I get very motivated to recreate, or tweak, or reflect on what I am going to do in my room and how I want to change for the better.

My point is, at this exit interview, we were sharing what we did over the summer to prepare for the upcoming school year, and I was very surprised that none of these seasoned and new teachers didn't know about Donors Choose! My school made us get rid of all our not up to code rugs because you know those educational teacher rugs are EXPENSIVE!  So when I was forced to buy a flame retardant rug, I immediately went to Donors Choose.  The have weeks where whatever donations you get they will match it, and you can post it to Facebook, and they will make it visible for every that visits the sites (individuals and companies!)

So you create an account, create a project (has to be for classroom, not for personal use), and make a page for it to advertise it with picture.  They have links to teacher resource online shopping (like Lakeshore) and you shop for what you want to get.  Then people come and contribute to it.  They also give you template emails to send to family and friends, and what to post on Facebook.

I was able to get a $600 rug with the help of mostly family and friends and their matching it!  I plan on using it to get organizational materials and a new up to date listening center!  It is also a great way to contribute to other's projects and to see how you can help! Check this blog out! She gives great advice how to use Donors Choose and to help our fellow teacher community.
Corkboard Connections

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Back to School Business

I am sitting in front of my computer, like I do every day, searching and thinking about how I want to improve the up coming school year.  How to be less stressed, less running around at the last minute, how to be more organized, and be more engaging with the new curriculum.  I have no final answers.  I have ideas, and one of them comes from another blogger that has inspired me and was the first blog I ever found.  She opened my eyes to the blogging world and I haven't turned back.  Clutterfree Classroom!  She is so organized and provides detailed instructions and well, I just love being organized.  One of her creations that I've already used in my class was her math and reading rotation board but found that I was not planned for it.  I would get into class each morning and change what each station is because a different group is doing it that day and they may need review rather than enrichment or just more practice on the skill.  I've created these planning sheets to help me with being more organized.  I am really excited about it because it is my first attempt to create something using powerpoint, and I think it turned out well.  Let me know what you think.

So, it isn't perfect, I haven't figure out how to save the fonts that I used, but this is it, minus it's cuteness.  I will figure all this out soon, it is all so brand new to me.

Reading and Math Workstations Planning Document

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Trying to make homework easier (for me). . .

and more meaningful for them!

Throughout my years teaching how I've done homework has changed drastically.  In the beginning, I would give long lengthy assignments in both reading and math.  Then check it the next day within the block which would take 15 minutes because I would check to see if they did it then go over it with them.

The passed few years I would just give a worksheet for math and one for reading on either the skill they've done that day or previously, and sometimes a new skill.  Last year, I started doing more at home/school assignments over a few weeks.  But finding the time within the day to check it was becoming more difficult.

This year I've created a homework calendar for each month, because research has shown that they ability in reading or math doesn't improve a noticeable amount with homework and that it is more important for that family time at home or doing other activities.  And if you think about it, when the parents get home (5 or 6) there's dinner, family time, getting ready for bed, soccer, etc... life.  And now that Susie (my daughter) is almost going to be in school, I can't imagine having to get all that done before bed time, which is 8:30.

But on the other hand, I think it is important for them to be responsible for something and to keep their mind sharp so TA DA the homework calendar.  Monday through Wednesday is a math word problem aligned with what they are learning at that time in the curriculum.  Thursday is a reading response question because reading 20 minutes a night is VERY important! I will check their math question first thing in the block and discuss it as an activator or transition to get ready for math thinking.  On Friday, I will collect their homework journal, read them and pass back on Monday.

Oh, did I tell you I am gluing them inside those small soft composition notebooks to be their homework journals.  No worksheets to lose, no waste of paper.  I hate wasting paper!  Next project is how to go a week without making new last minute copies, or no worksheets at all, just what's in the room.  But that's another post.  I am still trying to figure out how to implement my "Save the Planet One Teacher at a Time."  We use so much paper!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

First Post Ever!!

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Hey all,

This is my first post!  I've been following so many of the other popular teacher blogs that I was hesitant to start my own since I didn't know what my own voice would be in this new world I've discovered.

To begin with, I've been teaching for 7 years in third grade and this will be my first year in fourth.  I am uber excited and a little overwhelmed.  I am a very hard worker but don't do anything if it doesn't serve a purpose or function.  I like pretty but not just for the sake of pretty, I want it to be used and meaningful.  I am very organized and like things to have a place, it just makes my day to day so much smoother.  I love to share my ideas and help others whenever I can.  I hope that I can contribute to all the other wonderful ideas and collaboration that is taking place daily!  I don't want to repeat anything else you've seen, I want it to be original or a new take on an old or already used idea.  I tweak things all the time that I see and try to make it better or tailored for what I need.

So for my first recommendation:

PAINT PENS!  I thought every teacher knew of these but my colleague saw me using them and had never heard of them.  Sharpie makes them in really pretty bright colors which I love.

They are amazing and I use them to label everything from my sterlite drawers to clipboards because if I want or need to change it, it easily comes off (only on plastic) 

I also don't like to toss something that is in great condition just because it doesn't fit my theme or isn't uniform with all my other things.  

For example, binders.  We all love those white or black ones with the clear slide in pockets so we can label them and such.  Well, I have a ton that don't have those pockets or aren't white or black so how do you label them and make them pretty?  Paint pens!  I've used them on many binders so I don't just toss them, and I don't spend my hard earned and limited money on a new one.  

I don't like spending money on something I already have even if it doesn't "fit."  I get creative and make it fit.