Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reading in 2014

I don't use Goodreads as I'm sure it's meant to be used. I don't usually write reviews or communicate with other people on there, however I do use it to keep track of the books I read. I've written before that reading and I have had a rocky relationship over the years. I read voraciously as a child, but as an adult, not so much. A few years ago I vowed to read more. Last year I read 14-which was a vast improvement over zero! :) This year I read 26! I tried to expand myself a little bit and try out things like YA and a few classics. But most of them, are more the suspense variety, I've noticed. Maybe because they keep my attention and I have to read on to see what happens! I have to read some for my student book club (I have a pile that I was supposed to be reading over this break! *sigh*)-and of course, some professional books. I have to warn you, I have very eclectic tastes. It takes me a while to read and comprehend a story, so I'm a bit of a snob about what I read. 

Here's my year in review, in case you are interested. 

My favorites were:

A journalist is investigating the secret life her mother had with a turbulent family growing up. Funny and poignant at the same time.

I can see how this book would not be for everyone--reviews everywhere are truly mixed--my kind of book! It is very dark, but I think very well-written. I like when you are forced to keep reading because you are invested in what happens to the characters.

I know some people didn't like this one (ahem Tammy :)-but I like when I don't see surprises coming. I am not the kind of person (even with movies) who thinks as the story unfolds and tries to figure out the ending. But you know after you read it the first time, reading it again knowing what you know will probably be a completely different experience.

If you like Gone Girl-type books, you will probably like this one. A mystery again! :) Barnes and Noble's website used to have a section where you could see all the subsets of a genre. Family secrets was my favorite. Set in the mountains, a girl is struggling with finding out family secrets that she probably would have been better off not knowing.

Another mystery-a family loses their daughter and try to figure out what happened to her. Again the ending will surprise you.

I rediscovered Shirley Jackson this year. Again, not a book for everyone. It unwinds slowly and is a bit disturbing. But I loved it! Have several more of her books on deck for this year.

Does anyone else want to share their Goodreads list for the year? I love seeing what other people are reading! :)

Designing Christmas Trees

I know, I know Christmas is over! :) However, I am just going through pics now due to technical difficulties. 

I came across this very simple book that gave me a very challenging idea:

It's a book of different trees decorated for different animals/people. So the horse's tree has carrots. the cat's tree has fish, etc. I wanted them to show what a tree for a specific character would look like.

Originally, I had them fold the paper to give them 4 squares and gave them characters from the Wizard of Oz (which we had just finished reading) to decorate a tree for. That proved to be too difficult. So I changed it mid-way through and asked them just to design a tree for me. What would Miss Trayers' tree, the teacher's tree look like?

This is what some of them came up with:

This is a wheelchair tree.

A tree decorated with paper.

Various things including a pencil and pencil sharpener.

A glue stick tree.

Monday, December 29, 2014

My One Little Word for 2015

I don't make resolutions anymore-I choose one word ( that I put in the back of my mind and go back to throughout the year. Last year I really challenged myself and my word was: bold. I absolutely incorporated that trait-I presented to my colleagues, I decided not to teach summer school (which I will probably never do again :), I decided to have knee surgery--lots of bold decisions this year. Whenever my confidence wavered, I would just think about the commitment I made to that word. I said I would be "bold"!

For 2015, my word was not on the tip of my tongue. I've thought about it a lot the past week. Looked through lists of words waiting to be inspired. Well, I feel asleep with the television the other night and woke up to a televised church service. The minister was talking about forgiveness and how if people hold on to wrongs that have been committed against them, they get bitter. I think the universe was telling me my word for the year.

This is something I begrudgingly admit I am not good at. I beat myself up for a lesson that didn't work or not feeling adequate as a teacher anymore. I can't just let it go when a parent lodges a complaint with my administrator or I read someone's comments on a social media page and it just infuriates me. Somehow this year, I am going to figure out how to let that all go! I will remember this:

So this year I will try to be strong. That's my aspiration, we'll see if I can do it! :)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Karma and an Update

So I came home for the break, like I know many other teachers probably did, with a list of things to get done. Well, Friday night my computer went off and when I turned it back on, went right off again. I took it in to get it fixed (it's still there!) and borrowed a laptop that hadn't been used in years. When I turned it on it had 171 updates to wait for! I really think karma is telling me not to do any work over the break! :) I still don't have access to my pics that I downloaded. :(

If you read me regularly you know it has been a bit of a challenging year for me. I had knee surgery at the end of November and was out from school for 2 weeks. It probably should have been longer, but you know how that goes. When I came back, my motion was limited by crutches and even a wheelchair to go long distances. The kids and parents were uber-supportive and understanding, but it's still hard to feel so inadequate. You don't realize how much you walk or stand in a day on campus!

Well, yesterday in physical therapy....I rode a bike!!!! I went like 1/3 of a mile in 10 minutes (I had to go really slow) but I was so proud of myself! I'm down to one crutch now so I can do my own grocery shopping again and put out my own trash. It still has to get stronger-I haven't fully used it since before September because even before the surgery I was limping--but I will get there!

Ruby and I enjoyed our holiday! This is her with the toys Santa brought her-they didn't last more than 10 minutes, but that's how Christmas is supposed to be right?

So one week of vacation down and I really don't have very much accomplished. But I think that's what was meant to be! :) Hope you are enjoying your holidays and your break as well!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Best Parent Activity

I feel like a Grinch when it comes to this time of year in the classroom. I still ask my kiddos to do work and try to avoid the fluffier activities. I also don't like to have holiday parties. They don't need all that extra junk and we always have so much leftover food which is not only wasteful-- I'm afraid it will attract critters!

So this year I decided to do something different. I invited my parents to come in and set up rotations at each table. (I made the mistake of walking into Lakeshore at the time of year where you stop counting how much you've spent). I left everything very open-ended-they could paint their hands and make it into whatever they wanted. They made a snowman snack, decorated picture frames, decorated Gingerbread Boys/Girls, used watercolors, designed polar bear puppets and made designs using colored pasta.

The ultimate best part was seeing the parents roll up their sleeves and paint right alongside their kiddos! One of my kids summed it up for us "this is the best day ever Miss Trayers!"

Here are some examples of what they made:

My room looked like a craft store exploded!!!1

My favorite one-how creative-that's her handprint!

A pasta power ranger!

I'm so glad I decided to forego the usual tradition and try something new this year! I think I will make it our new class tradition! :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Being Readers

I faciliate for a student book club with some of the older students on our campus. It gets kind of stale this time of year. The ones who read a lot have read most of the books. The other ones are getting bored with it. So I had a party with them this week. We went around the room and discussed our favorite book so far and our least favorite (the district librarians make the list, mostly Bluebonnet nominees). Most of them would say this is my favorite-but couldn't tell me why other than it was "good".

I shared with them my Goodreads account, which honestly isn't much. I do track what books I've read and rate them with stars. Sometimes if I feel strongly about a book, I will write a review. Especially if I disagree with a lot of the reviews. For example, I read a book this summer called The Kept-which I do agree isn't for everyone, but many of the reviews commented on how depressing it was. I actually didn't see it as that at all. It was dark and disturbing, but also a tale of survival. I mean if you read the summary, you can tell it's a dark story! Every story, in my humble opinion does not have to have a happy ending.

 I showed them how I'm listening to an audiobook right now (I know some people don't actually think that counts as reading, but it gets me through the traffic of my commute, and sometimes the voices they do are even better than the ones I'd do in my head). I'm listening to The Road by Cormac McCarthy. At first I wasn't sure I was going to be able to comprehend the dense language auditorily, but I got the hang of it. I only had 30 minutes left and was dying to find out what happened. To me, that's the sign of a good book. That and characters that stay with you. I read a book years ago called Fall On Your Knees-not my usual fare, an epic story, crossing generations (in other words it was also long). Again, probably not for everyone but the characters in that story haunt me to this day. What a great thing for an author to achieve.

So I told them about The Road and how it was a story about an apocalypse. They said-oh, I know, like zombies? And I said, no there were no zombies. And they said "oh, a people apocalypse"! Now that should be a section in Barnes and Noble! I told them how we the author never really shares with use what happened and that actually made it more interesting to me.

Anyway, my point is that the students should see us reading and discussing books ourselves. It really surprises me how few teachers read! We had an outsider come in to do a training this year and she asked us to discuss the best book we read over the summer and the teachers were like-does People magazine count? I don't necessarily love physically reading books-because I read pretty slowly and so it takes me a while to get to the ending, but I do LOVE having read books and had that experience with the characters. I also enjoy talking about books with others and getting their opinions, even if it's different than mine.
We model reading to the kiddos all the time, I think we should model being readers as well!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gift Class Book

So we survived our week-long standardized testing! The kids were good sports about it and I'm very glad my room no longer looks like this:

I had to laugh. One of my students was absent and they came to get her for a make-up test. Well, about 10 minutes later her friends asks, "where's Mary?" and a boy answered "oh, she's getting a makeover". LOL! I guess they have never heard the words "make-up test" before and took it quite literally.

So we do a class book every month as an example of publishing their work. I take writing from each student on the same subject and we copy it, sending it home to share with parents. This month is my FAVORITE topic! I have each child write about their peers. The question is "Johnny is a gift to our class because.... " and several students (and I) respond. I love how the final product comes out, especially because we do bucket fillers and I am tyring to get them beyond "she is nice" or "she is pretty". My favorite one this year is "she opens her heart to everyone". That is a gift. I took out the students' names, but they do sign their comments.

She does Girl Scouts with me.
She is nice.
She is kindful. ( I love when they make up words! )
She shares.
She thinks about me.

Hope you guys are surviving these busy, busy days before the break. I know we have Winter Program rehearsals, a field trip to see Madeline's Christmas and a parent craft activity. Somewhere in there my assessor is going to come do an observation for my evaluation--should be interesting! :)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gingerbread Ethics

I use the concept of Ethics from Kaplan's Depth and Complexity in my classroom quite often. I think it's important for kids to be able to form an opinion and back that opinion up. We started a unit on Gingerbread stories--there are so many of them! We read many different versions of the story (I will post about those later on this weekend).

In many of these stories the food runs away and chased down to be eaten. Sometimes that protagonist falls for a trick and turns into a snack, sometimes it gets away. But my question was-is it right or wrong that they are all trying to eat the Gingerbread. I was actually very impressed with some of their answers.

Wrong because people want to eat him and he does not like it.

Right because it's delicious--very true!

They had the right to cook it. 

You need them to celebrate Christmas

Right because it may be the only food you have to eat.

Right because other people do it.

Right because (and I'm paraphrasing here) ---hello, it's a cookie!

Right because it's meant to be-- my future philosopher!

(please ignore the fact that they think they can write in cursive! :)

Wrong because the Gingerbread has the right to live. --A future civil rights attorney right here.

Wrong because, let's face it....he's cool!