Thursday, December 31, 2015

Always Be a Beginner

I know this time of year is good for reflection. We have some time to really step back and look at what's working in our classrooms and what isn't. We have time to catch up on things-not only the things like cutting out new workstations but catching up on reading the blogs, etc. that I neglect especially when things get busy.

I also have been catching up on watching things from my DVR. I'm one of those people who has to delete things just to have the 5% I need to tape my Judge Judy every day. :) I'm down to 25% right now-I've been so productive! One of the things I often record-and don't laugh-is Oprah's Master Class segments. She interviews celebrities and asks them about their key to success and their life history. I was watching Justin Timberlake's segment-of all people and he said something that really struck me. He said you always have to be a beginner. In other words, try new things, things that may be out of your wheelhouse and learn to do that, rather than just do what you are already good at over and over.

I really like that thought. I couldn't have articulated it before-but that is how I see myself. I do try to learn about new technologies or read the new research. I'm one of those people who will ask questions if I don't understand. I think that's really important in our field and something not all teachers are willing to do. I can't tell you how many meetings or PD's I've attended where people will say "why reinvent the wheel?"--because that old wheel doesn't necessarily work anymore! People have been teaching for a long time, but classrooms today are much different than even just 10 years ago. You have to take those risks to keep things fresh not only for yourself but for the students. 

So as we enter into 2016-that's one thing that I'm really going to keep in mind. How can I try new things to accomplish what we need to accomplish. And I will definitely share my new discoveries, as always!

Happy New Year to everyone!!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Portraits of Me

I believe art instruction is really important in education. Unfortunately the powers-that-be do not agree with me. (I only I ruled the world :). We have an art teacher that the kids are supposed to see once per week-however that is not a constant. Whenever one of our ancillary teachers is absent or something is going on like Winter Program practice-their schedules get disrupted. My kiddos have not officially been to Art Class since Halloween!

So I have to make up for that in my classroom. We ask our kids to be creative in endeavors like writing-but we never teach them what that means. What better way to foster creativity than with art projects! We do portraits periodically throughout the year-painting them, coloring them, making them out of snack foods. We are supposed to introduce the concept of photoessays according to our curriculum (I know!). One way I do that is to take pictures of them making all different kinds of faces and then ask them to write about themselves. We did just that the last week of school. Here are some examples:

My favorite one! "I am so glorious"---yes, she is! :)

I know no sentences (it was the last week of school, they were checking out a little bit work-wise) but I still like the way she put her project together!

I make funny faces.

I'm not sure what the first one says but I am happy and I am serious I think are the last two.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Reading Log

I use Goodreads to track the books I have read. I try to set goals for myself and although it's not about reducing reading to a number or anything, sometimes I just need to motivate myself to read more. And honestly, you know I'm getting old-sometimes I use it to go back and find a certain title I know I read.

Last year I read 27 books, the year before that it was 5. I am busy with school and everything, but on top of that I'm a pretty slow reader. My goal for myself this year was to read 40 books--I ended up reading 55! Not only that, I challenged myself to read some classics I have always wanted to read, as well as some non-fiction books--which is out of my wheelhouse. I am proud of myself for making a commitment to reading more this year.

I usually share what I am reading, these are my latest books:

A recommendation that was made for me-more like a little novella or short story, but extremely well-written and moving. If I had a family, it would be a yearly tradition to read this story together.

I liked this story. The audiobook is narrated really well. A good no-frills mystery.

I read Gillian's (like we're on a first name basis or something :) Gone Girl before everyone else did (and before they made the movie of it) and I liked that story, I like being surprised by plot twists. Her Dark Places really disappointed me. So I read this one with some trepidation--but I ended up liking it. I saw the ending coming and figured out the whodunit, but I still think it was an intriguing story, disturbing...but intriguing.

For my 3rd-5th book club this year:

I really liked this one, even though I'm not usually a fan of time travel. I liked that the ending, although maybe expected, didn't happen in a cliched way-everything didn't go as planned with the characters. It's about a little girl whose father is unjustly found guilty of a crime and sent to death row. They go back in time to correct events that would change that verdict. The kids really liked it.

A very predictable ghost story. I can totally see them making a Lifetime movie out of this one.

I like Kevin Henkes, but really didn't understand the point of this book. It was a perfect example of what we tell our young writers not to do and that is to kind flounder all over the place, plot-wise. Not a bad story, but just hard to get into.

On a personal note, I had the port for my chemo surgically removed today! Yay for being able to wear v-necks again! Next step will be radiation, which is going to be hard because I have to go EVERY day for 7 weeks. Doesn't really fit into my schedule-know what I mean. But we do what we have to do.

I hope everyone has a happy holiday! :)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

My Favorite Class Book

I know everyone probably had a busy week this past week! Ours was no exception: field trip to the nursing home, Winter Program-two performances, and then a parent activity. Needless to say, I am pretty exhausted!

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite class book ideas. I print out one page for each student and it says "_____________is a gift to our class because.....". The students take turns saying nice things about their friends and I always write the last line. It's hard to post pics because there are so many student names, but I did take one picture to show you an example.

This was our cover page.

And this was where we wrote about one of my little girls.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Candy Cane S.C.A.M.P.E.R.

I love S.C.A.M.P.E.R. If you are unfamiliar, it's a great way to stretch your kiddos' critical thinking. I find it's pretty easy to implement when you have a theme like the holidays. So for candy canes, I would do the following:

Substitute: we watch a video on United Streaming that shows a candy factory and how they make the candy cane. So we could substitute something for the sugar, or substitute different colors.

Combine: Combine the candy cane with another food-what would you get? The possibilities on this are just endless-candy cane hot dog buns anyone?

Adapt: Adapt candy canes for other holidays, seasons or uses. Adapt a version of the candy cane for grown-ups or using specific occupations-what would a nurse's candy cane look like.

Modify: Modify the shape of the candy cane, what other shapes could we make.

Put to another use (I have examples of this activity below)

Rearrange: rearrange the colors-what creative candy canes could we make?

This is the "put to another use" activity. I demonstrate with a pencil-usually we write and erase with a pencil. But I could also use it to put up my hair, open a can of soda, etc. I do not want you to just write that we can eat a candy cane or use it for decoration-I'm looking for something creative! Think about the colors, the shape. Here's what my kiddos came up with this year:

a roller skate

to make lines

I laughed out loud-I said "how do you know what u-turns even are?" and he said "my car tells us to take u-turns all the time!"

like a regular cane :)

to color red and white

for a performance


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Hour of Code

This week schools across the planet are participating in the Hour of Code. I know many of you dismiss coding as something you don't know enough about to teach your kiddos. I will be perfectly honest with you right now-I had to Google the other day directions on how to upload music from Itunes to my phone. I am not the most tech savvy person. However, I understand this. If you log on this site:

and just play with the games a little bit, you will get it too. This is something you can do whole group on a smartboard or put up on the computers in your small groups for this week. The kids love it and they are getting a huge dose of critical thinking and spatial reasoning skills. The other thing I love about it is they are learning through trial and error. When it doesn't work they can't just give up, they have to go back and look at the code they wrote and identify their mistake and try again. It teaches resilience!

Terri gave some other resources on her blog here:

I am doing a Coding Club with my kiddos this year 2 mornings a week before school starts. These kids have been coming into school 45 minutes early to learn about technology. We are going to have a little celebration this week for the Hour of Code, but I'm just so proud of them!

I don't mean to sound like the Life cereal commercial-but try it, you'll like it! :) 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Good Morning

One of my jobs is to run our school Student Council. We often do community service projects with them, however the kids were saying that they thought the staff needed a pick-me-up this time of year. So on Monday we are going to serve them hot chocolate in these (now some of these pics are panoramic-very hard to capture a cup on film):

It has just started getting cold here in Texas (our version of cold anyway! :) So hopefully this will warm up some hearts and hands on Monday. And the kids had a blast making them too!