Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wonderful Wednesday

Happy Hump Day! This week has been super busy but I SWEAR I blink and my morning is gone. This is no easy feat considering we have a very LONG morning (the only day I have a special in the morning is Friday--otherwise I have my class from 8:30-12:15 uninterrupted every day). It's great for instructional blocks but can seem really long some days.

This week we finally started our Math Workshop and I think that is what is making the days go by so fast. My mornings have been looking like this:

8:30-8:40 Student Arrival/Pledge
8:40-9:30 Students work on Daily Fix it (from Reading Street), we correct it orally and then do the day's reading lesson whole group
9:30-10:00 We either do a Walking Classroom podcast or a Vocabulary Cycle 
10:00-11:00 Daily 5
11:00-12:15 Math Workshop (15 minutes calendar board, 10-15 minutes spiral homework corrections, then math rotations)

So aside from the whole group lesson with reading, we're moving and grooving every 15-20 minutes because we've been in groups or moving between short activities. It is AWESOME!

I really, really REALLY love this group of kids. I'm so, so glad that I got to be with them again. My "tough guy" has very much fallen into line. I think he realized it was easier to keep me happy, and therefore keep himself happy, than to try to push the line with me. I knew it wouldn't take me long to break him. 

 
We're doing some shuffling around in our school because they finally decided we needed another teacher (yes a month into the year!). My 3rd/4th colleague is going to move to a 4th/5th split. (They asked me to do it a few weeks ago and I refused.) There will be shuffling around pretty much across the board. But I advocated for myself AGAIN and said I refused to give up any of my kids to go to this split. I already have the lowest class (including SIX resource kiddos--the most I've ever had!) in the 4th grade and I'm not giving up my only on level kids. Thank goodness Mr. Principal is a realistic and understanding man. He wasn't mad at me when I stood my ground, in fact, he said he totally thought I had a valid argument and agreed not to move any of my kids. 

Today Mr. 4th grade was out (he's been out all week on a medical issue) and one of my former 2nd graders has been in some trouble so his dad came to get me since he knows me. We talked to Mr. Principal and agreed that this little friend of mine is either going to be added to my room (which I would be fine with since I know him and his dad is very supportive) OR will go into the split. Mr. Principal said, well if we put him in your room you'd have to give up a student to keep it even....but I said, nope, I am totally okay with having two more kids than Mr. 4th Grade in order to make it so this kiddo has a GOOD year this year.  I know, with all of the recent events, that it was totally God's plan that I ended up back at my school with this group of kids. They need me as much as I need them.


What else have I been up to? Well, as if I have nothing else to do (haha!), I decided to cave in to the request of my friend and become an Independent Thirty One Consultant. I just got my box of goodness today and oh my word! I want to buy everything. The enrollment kit has just enough really good stuff in it to make you want more haha! I am having my first official party next week at my school! I can't wait. It will be so, so fun. One of my colleagues is even going to have a Facebook Thirty One party with me. Those are short but super fun! I would be totally okay with doing 100% Facebook parties but it IS fun to be able to hang out with new ladies and for them to actually see the products in person (which are all way bigger than they look in the catalog).

I am even trying to talk The Oldest into having a party at her school when we're there for Homecoming. Those girls at that private Christian college or going to LOVE these organizers!
 
 
 
 
The Caffeinated Teacher

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What We've Been Up to! (Picture Post)

Friends, this week killed me. I got sick early in the week and was just drained all week long. Thus I haven't been posting, reading, thinking or doing much of anything but sleeping once I get home! I almost took Friday off because I had been feeling so yucky but thankfully I was feeling much better and made it (barely) through the day. Now I feel like a bus ran me over. Ugh.


Here are some pictures of what we've been up to in the past couple of weeks! I just have to point out that I absolutely LOVE this class. With only two exceptions, all of my kiddos follow directions, are learning to work hard and I KNOW will make amazing progress this year.



While we were reading "Because of Winn-Dixie" in our anthology, I paired the kids and had them read the second half of the story in the partnerships. This was mostly so I could gauge where the kids are in their reading before all of our MAP results were done.






When I thought I was going to be teaching 1st grade, I bought this set on Teachers Pay Teachers from Ashley Reed (the numbers are from Tara and not part of this set).  This hangs outside of our room and every day when the kids come in there is a new question and they move their number to either yes (on the left) or no (on the right). The cursive one was inspired by a debate we had in our Scholastic News.



In math, we have been working with factors and had a Common Core Math Task (CCMT) that required the students to take a number and make as many factor arrays as they could with it. For a few of my students, I gave them a prime number to see if they would get stumped or not (as we've been working hard on the terms prime and composite). It is really interesting to listen to them debate whether or not they have all of the arrays they are supposed to have for their number.





This week, as an incentive for students who did all of their homework, we pulled out the iPods for the first time. (Which btw, the MIS people told me one was lost and therefore not tagged this summer...but it was in the box, exactly where I left it. I mean honestly!) In this first picture, it might look like the second little guy is annoyed because his chin is in his hand but he was actually just patiently waiting for his partner to finish his turn on the math game they were playing. ♥ I love these kids and how much they take care of each other!





We've been kicking some behind with our vocabulary cycles! I am so impressed with how well the kids have jumped on board with our Vocabulary Journals. This week we busted out the dictionaries for the first time. (We've done them together the first two cycles to help get my students into the routine.) This week, I gave them the words and they set our working together to look up the words and find the definitions. They are struggling to find synonyms and antonyms in the thesaurus but I am working with my principal to get our iPods connected to the internet so the kids can look up synonyms and antonyms online. I think, even in today's world of technology, that we teach kids dictionary skills and this is the perfect way that I can incorporate this into my instruction. 





Additionally, on Friday, I was talking to my new principal, and told him that, in all honesty, my previous principal had never liked me. Mr. Principal said, "how could someone not like you?" ♥ He has a sense of humor and it is so refreshing. He does RECESS DUTY with his teachers if he is free to do so. I can't tell you how refreshing that is!

He also backs us up. Yesterday our 4th and 5th graders were just awful with the fabulous effects of the full moon. Honestly, I wondered where my good class went. They got in trouble in art (!!) and at lunch. So I had our lunch aides who the kids were so bad to, come upstairs and made the whole floor apologize to them. My team and I also decided that our 4th graders would not be allowed to have basketballs or soccer balls at recess because they aren't listening to the teachers and lunch aides when it is time to stop playing. Mr. Principal totally backed that up. My team also decided that since they had been so disrespectful at lunch and I had recess duty Friday that the kids would have to stand on the line (something I DON'T like doing but they need to learn that they can't just act up). Mr. Principal totally backed me up on that too.

I swear, our jaws collectively drop continually when he supports us and follows through on what he says. It shouldn't be so shocking but considering the non-support we had before, we ARE shocked. In a very good way.

I'm SO grateful that I got to come back to my school because I finally, finally have a principal that understands me and I know will support me. It's a great feeling!

 
The Caffeinated Teacher

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Weekend Weport

We made it completely through our first full week of school! :) I really am so thankful that I didn't end up teaching 1st grade. I know I would have been fine but 4th grade is SO MUCH MORE FUN! It is, by far, my most favorite grade. It also helps that our Reading Street stories for 4th grade are super fun!

On Monday, I posted this super fabulous blog over at PlanbookEDU.com! A reader even sent me a message on Twitter about the post. ♥ Love!

I was SO WIPED all week and I don't know why. I would come home every day and just want to sleep. I thought for a bit that I might be getting sick....but I'm not so I'm not sure what the deal was. Perhaps I'm still just trying to adjust to being back to school. 
 
On Wednesday,  I found out that my Kids' Food Basket unit I wrote this summer is live at learningtogive.org!  It's so cool to see something I slaved over posted on a website for thousands of teachers to utilize :)

On Thursday, my new principal, who has been doing pop-ins all year so far (to get to know us AND be visible to the kids, which is AWESOME and hasn't happened in the previous 3 years I have been in this building), came in and sat while we were doing our Daily 5. Let me mention this was the FIRST day that we actually moved in groups. I'm focusing on Read to Self, Work on Writing and Word Work right now. Eventually I want to add technology but these are the areas that I want my kiddos to focus upon right now. We have practiced each station as a whole class and Thursday was the first day we put it into action. Then my principal comes in! Oh my. But it was FLAWLESS. The kids did a great job, even when Mr. Principal wasn't in the room, they were so quiet and worked the whole time. I was overjoyed with them. I got to all 4 of my groups which has NEVER happened the first day that I've done rotations. Ever. Plus one of the questions we were working on was about fluency and I told my students, "Now Mr. Principal is my boss and he is sitting right over there, but I'm going to tell you that *I* don't care how fast you read--I care that you know WHAT you read. It's all about making meaning in our class, even if you read slower on your own than you do when we read together." When Mr. Principal was leaving the room, he told my group he totally agreed with me on that. ♥ VALIDATION! The problem has not been me all these years. (I knew it wasn't but here's some concrete proof.)

Friday was a good day. I was a bit nervous about Friday the 13th because I had recess duty and it is just a day that lends itself to disasters. But the day was AWESOME. We use Everyday Math and our district "removed" the spiral and created units that correlate with the content that matches each standard of the Common Core (so we start with lessons in Chapter 2 and then end up in Chapter 12 for the first unit our district made). They also added Common Core Math Tasks (CCMTs) and Formative Assessment Lessons (FALs) within the units. This allows us to monitor with real Common Core like tasks and assessments if our students are "getting it" before they get to the test. They are well designed too.

Friday for math we did the first CCMT of the year which was about factors. We use the Calendar Math from Stephanie so they have had a lot of practice with the factors. I was very pleased with how their work turned out! I have to take some pictures of the final product still but it was very easy to see which of my students had grasped the concept and who still needs some extra support. 

Additionally, we did our first real "walk" with the Walking Classroom this year and it was great! A bunch of kids forgot their headphones so they had to walk without listening but the other kids really liked it. Our story in Reading Street is "Lewis & Clark & Me" and there is a podcast about Lewis & Clark. Perfect! We will be walking again tomorrow and I am excited to see how much better they do with the second walk as compared to the first one.
 
 
 
The Caffeinated Teacher

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Random Happy Wednesday :)

Happy Hump Day! We've been moving right along with school! We are just about finished with our reading MAP tests. We've had so many issues with the server that we've had to keep pushing back testing. Our poor media specialist is on her own trying to do all of this stuff (we've always had two literacy coaches to coordinate and now we have none) and it's been overwhelming. Alas, all but 5 of my students are done with that part now and I can finally start making groups for reading and really get things moving in terms of our schedule.

I have some LOW kids. I have a student who scored at the early kindergarten level! I have never had a kid score that low...even when I taught 2nd grade. Poor guy. Thank goodness he already has an IEP or I would cry because I wouldn't even know where to start to help him. He's sweet and eager to learn so that helps.


This Saturday I am chaperoning a field trip to the MSU game! This will be my 3rd year in a row going. It is a LONG day (about 8 hours) but it is so much fun, especially because these kiddos are likely never going to see a game like this on their own (their parents can't afford to spend money on tickets like these). But the alumni club at MSU always sponsors our school (and several others) to attend one game per year. I can't wait to go again. My hubby agreed to chaperone too so we will have a blast. I get to be "in charge" since the gal from our school who usually is has a wedding on Saturday. I don't mind bossing people around so I agreed to be in charge lol (Really my job will be to make sure all of the kids get their t-shirts, the chaperones have the right kids and all of our kids get on the bus! We haven't lost a kid yet and I don't plan to let it happen on my watch!) I am SO excited about it. I've had to practically sign my life away to go on this trip, even though its on a Saturday but whatever. It will be so fun.


I got home today to discover something REALLY cool. This summer I worked on a curriculum unit for Kids' Food Basket, a local non-profit. I am so excited that my unit is live and available at www.learningtogive.org! You can check it out here! Its kind of a bummer they didn't put our names on them to give us credit for writing it but *I* know I wrote it so that's all that really matters.


Finally....if you feel sad....just watch this video. I promise you will smile.





The Caffeinated Teacher

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Happy Weekend!

We made it through the first week back! My goodness, I always forget how tiring the first week is, simply because things aren't always "in place" and then you're teaching and reteaching your procedures and routines and trying to throw in some curriculum and/or baseline testing too. Whew! 
 
I was in bed and OUT by 9:30 last night! The Oldest started her first week of college this week (she's been down in West Virginia since mid-August for band camp but her classes started this Wednesday) and has been giving me daily updates on her schedule and classes, Middle Child started middle school this week and we've been helping her navigate 6 classes per day instead of two (they departmentalize in the elementary here) and The Youngest is happily hanging out in 5th grade. It was a big week of firsts for us and it wiped this poor momma right out! I always feel really lame at the start of the year when I fall into bed by 9 or 9:30 just completely drained :)

I brought home some stuff from Friday that I'm going to need to look through so that I'm not behind come Monday but I took 26 solid hours OFF from being a teacher. It was wonderful too. I left school just before 4 yesterday and drove to a friend's house to pick up a new Thirty One wallet, then came home and basically ignored my Teacher Bag. And kept ignoring it until about 8 o'clock tonight. I haven't done much except rearrange my schedule since I traded a special with a colleague and reviewed what I need to finish up this weekend (mostly grading and a tad bit of planning).

I need to do this more often. I NEED to make it a point to make Friday night - Saturday night off-limits for school stuff if I can possibly help it. It was SO nice to just be able to be with my kids, talk about how school is going for them, play on the computer with them, watch a little TV (something I rarely do). Today we played more computer games, went out to dinner and to buy some new shoes for the girls since we didn't make it to the shoe store when we were back-to-school clothes shopping. It was nice to do that as a family (although it feels VERY weird to not have The Oldest with us). 

Tomorrow morning we are going to see a Dinosaur exhibit in town that the girls really want to see. I expect it will take most of the morning and into the early afternoon to get through. Then I have to come home and play teacher again. It would be great to get to the point where I didn't have to do ANY school work on the weekend at all but this early in the year, it's not likely to happen. 

Now that I have my new schedule in place because of trading my art time to Friday, I'm hopeful to be able to get most of my grading done during that time so that I can leave right after school on Friday and be school-free for the whole weekend. It may be a lofty goal but I'm going to do my best to get there. If I have to put in 1-2 hours on a weekend, that's okay. I just don't want to have to give up most of a day to plan or grade as I did last year. Too draining and I need that time to be a mom and wife rather than a teacher.

Have a great rest of your weekend!
 
 
The Caffeinated Teacher

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I can see Friday! :)

Happy almost Friday bloggers! We've nearly made it through the first week of school here in Michigan. It's been gloriously warm and I'm very thankful we have air conditioning in my building, especially after walking up three flights of stairs in a sun-filled stairwell! You walk into the upper hallway and a blast of cooling air hits you. Bliss!

I am LOVING being back in 4th grade, not being in a split. LOVE.IT. The 3rd/4th split is dissolving to become a 4th/5th split (yes, my very job that they claimed wouldn't exist this year...ha!) and the interim principal asked me if I would take it since I had it last year. I said absolutely not. No way, Jose. I even went so far as to point out that if they made me do it, I'd quit (and I knew they couldn't make me anyway). I took that job last year when no one else wanted it and how was I repaid? I had to apply for and interview for my own job, which I didn't even get, then got jerked around all summer just to end up back where I started. Not doing that to myself again, thankyouverymuch. (Plus it would be totally unfair to make the same person have the split twice in a row. Share the wealth people.)

Besides, I would not be able to part with any of my 4th graders. Even my "toughest one" (and he isn't nearly as tough as he thinks--I give it until the end of September before I "break him" so to speak) isn't worth giving up. In fact, I got a new kiddo both Wednesday and Thursday (late enrollments from other schools) so I had to rearrange my tables and groups because I had way too many (I prepared for 30 just in case) so we had enough room for my 25 kiddos but weren't moving around tables we didn't need. I put this "tough guy" at a single desk on his own and today was A MILLION TIMES better in terms of helping him control himself. I really hate putting kids in single seats like that (especially so early!) but apparently that's what this little guy needs so I feel okay with the choice. He isn't so far removed from everyone that he can't work with a partner if needed but he has his own space and that seemed to help a lot today. 

I really love my class. I do. They are talkative but what kids aren't? I always seem to get the low kiddos too. I'm not sure why that is. We started MAP testing today and I emphasized to the kiddos that they didn't have to finish the test today but several did and their scores are VERY low (early 1st grade!). Yikes. Alas, this isn't terrible because it gives us TONS of room for growth but its still overwhelming and a bit terrifying to think of the level of work we have to do to get the kiddos up to par. But I have had this happen every year I've been at my school and my lowest kids always end up making a ton of progress so I'm hoping that trend continues.

They are super sweet and they get my silly so its quite fun going to school. :) In 3rd grade they have this huge project in cooperation with a local art museum and in 4th grade, we continue on with that project for our first writing unit. It's a SUPER fun unit wherein the students look at art from varying perspectives and then do some writing about it (both informational and narrative). I loved teaching it last year and was very much looking forward to working on it this year too. We started today. There is a picture the students look at with animals on it and we focus on details and descriptions, what they see, what they might hear if they were there, what they might smell (and yes, one kid hesitantly said..."poop?" haha!). To make it more fun and memorable, I asked them to think about what the animal might taste (or want to taste!) and said, "Maybe that Lion sees Mrs. Wood and notices the lil bit of extra flesh around her belly button and decides she's going to make a tasty meal", all said while patting my tummy. The kids giggle like crazy so I turn it up a notch and say, "well, that Lion decides he needs some dipping sauce so he's going to have Mrs. Wood with some {student name} dipping sauce" and they're roaring. But I can promise you that when we review descriptions in a week, every single one of those children is going to remember that lesson because I turned my silly on. :)

During reading this morning I told them that I was going to give them a present and they all gasped in delight. I pulled out my Total Participation folders and they were so happy! What could be better??? I mean, honestly. It has taken them a bit to warm back up to school mode but every day they are more engaged, more willing to share and are getting more comfortable. I know this year is going to be a long road in terms of the amount of progress we need to make, but I also know it is going to be one of my best year's yet. I can just tell by how amazing this first week has gone (a miracle in and of itself with all of the transition our school has gone through with changes in staff and getting a new principal). 

All of that said, however, I am looking forward to a weekend with my family. We are taking the girls to see a dinosaur exhibit (its Middle Child's current obsession). It will be awesome to spend some time with my family without worrying about all of the school work I need to do because I'm almost entirely set for next week's plans and just have a few grades to finish up from today. Love that! :)
 
 
 
The Caffeinated Teacher

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Day (in pictures) & Sept CURRENTLY

Wewt! I survived my first day of school with enough energy to BLOG about it on the same night :) I had the nervous energy going last night. Wow. I was fine all day yesterday until about 7:30 last night and then I was buzzing like a bee trying to keep myself busy because I was suddenly very nervous!  I didn't know what to expect today--we knew we had higher numbers than we were likely going to see due to our neighboring school reopening but no one could predict who would (or wouldn't) show up in our classrooms.

Today was, by far, one of the best first days I've ever had. Except for a little snafu at lunch where the previous lunch was running over, everything went very well. Even dismissal was awesome for the first day. I got a lot of hugs from former kids who thought I wasn't going to be back and ended my day with two compliments from two amazing families. I am a very lucky lady.

We had an amazing and busy day in fourth grade!

We did a little math screener this morning that I got years ago from a colleague. It helps me to see where the kids are when they come to me. This is a screener that tests 1st-3rd grade skills so its perfect for early 4th graders to assess where they are coming in at.

To break up the procedures and rules teaching, we did the Summer to Tweet about craftifity I got from Amy Lemons last year. The kids love to color the bird!




Calendar Math courtesy of Stephanie! ♥ this!



I had the kiddos do a writing prompt after lunch, simply asking them to tell me whatever they thought I needed to know about them. I purposely left it open-ended because some of the more needy kids will be very honest and tell you that they have had some behavior issues but it also tells me a LOT about them by the way they write about themselves. (And we have our work cut out for us with writing...whew!)



We ended our day with some goal-setting. We made Peek-Face portraits. (I do not remember where I got this last year!) So cute and its amazing to see the kind of goals my kids set (and how many of them just don't know how to do that, which is sad).

 
 
All in all, a productive and successful day. I know I have a lot of work ahead of me in terms of getting these kids up to par with 4th grade Common Core standards but I'm up to the challenge and I know they will be too. I have a few chatters but nothing I can't handle. Only 23 kiddos which is AMAZING (I haven't had a class this small in YEARS). I had 37 originally, then they added a class and a bunch of kids didn't show (which I assume went to the reopened school). I am not complaining through! 23 is a great number. My colleague has 21...only 3 girls! I felt bad for those little girls! I'm not sure how that happened. 
And finally....I'm linking up way late but here's my Currently for September!
 Listening - The hubby is watching TV in the room next to my office and it is serving as my background music ;)

Loving -- I LOVE having this small class and I hope that it stays this small. It is awesome!

Thinking -- I am procrastinating looking through all of my papers from today...and I need to get through them so I'm not dealing with them still tomorrow! :)

Wanting -- Oh man would I give anything for a fruity cocktail and some curly fries. Evil and not diet friendly at all but it would be SO worth it. Might have to indulge tomorrow. It's margarita night at the best Mexican place in town :)

Needing -- a mani/pedi! 'Nuff said!

For Me -- I need to get myself back on a schedule with my weight loss. I haven't lost weight (and have gained some back) since May and I need to get back on a schedule now that I'm back at school. I also need to take advantage of my double special on Wednesdays and get all caught up on grading/planning so that I'm not working on weekends. Those days need to be reserved for my family. Finally I need to drink more water. I'm a Diet Coke girl through and through but at work I need to be better at drinking water. 

 
The Caffeinated Teacher