Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Catching Up and a Giveaway Using an Unusual Random Number Generator

Well, darn.  It's almost December.  My last post was in October.  Whoa. I guess it's time to dust off the ol' blog and fill in a gap or two.

So, what's new in Room 24?  I now have a student teacher.  It's only one day a week, but I love it.  Mrs. V. has jumped right in (her second placement) and is already teaching segments of our day. She has that teacher gene and the kids adore her.  She was a second language learner when she was in elementary school so she's made a strong connection with my ELLs. What's in this experience for me? A lot. I've always considered myself to be reflective about my own teaching practice, but having a student teacher working at my side makes me even more so.  It brings me back to my time as an instructional strategies coach when I would spend my days in classrooms working with teachers.  Let's just say that I love, love, love this experience.

Our Walking Classroom is going well.  The kids love their Walkkits.

 So far, so good...all Walkkits are still in working order and we've yet to replace a single battery.  One interesting piece of data I've gathered from using the Walkkits is that I have some students who really struggle with auditory learning.  While there are a few children with identified auditory processing disorders in my class, I'm noticing a few more who struggle with their post-walk assignments.  They just don't seem to absorb the information as easily as their classmates. I know, it's November and I probably should have figured this out sooner, but with 34 students it has taken me a bit longer than usual to decipher their individual needs. I've made a point of checking in with them more frequently during direct instruction and giving them smaller chunks of learning to digest.  Just an added benefit from an already great program. In case you haven't heard,  The Walking Classroom now has 4th grade podcasts!

A few months ago, Classroom Friendly Supplies sent me a shiny blue pencil sharpener.

Little Blue

While I probably should have written up my review sooner, I think it's more meaningful to write a review after a product has been used for an extended period of time.  Afterall, anyone can write a great review immediately after trying out a new product only to have that product fail a week later right?  Well, I've been using my spiffy pencil sharpener every day for several months now and I'm happy to report that I'm still madly in love with it!  I'm one of those people who might be described as being a tiny, little bit obsessive about having a sharp pencil in hand.  I keep my personal pencil cup filled with freshly sharpened pencils for me to use throughout the day.  The moment one gets just a bit dull, I pull out a new one.  Okay, that might be more than a tiny bit obsessive, but I'm admitting the obsession so it's all good.  Anyway, back to the Classroom Friendly Supplies' Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener that I'm so madly in love with.  First of all, it is quiet.  Quiet is good when you spend your days in a room with 34 ten and eleven year olds.  Obviously though, the most important quality of a pencil sharpener is its ability to look adorable on my desk....okay, that's not true.  But it is the prettiest blue ever and it comes in a variety of bright colors: Cool Blue, Midnight Black, Precious Pink, Groovy Green, and Firehouse Red.  Besides being quiet and cute (sounds like the perfect fifth grader doesn't it?), this thing can sharpen!  When I first introduced Little Blue to the class, I felt the need to caution my students as they walked away with their newly sharpened daggers pencils.  "Be careful, that's sharp!"  Now they stop me with, "You don't have to tell me, I know it's sharp."  Months later, Little Blue (yes, we named it) is still sharpening our pencils to a perfect point.  Bottom line:  Add this to your Christmas list.  Need gifts for your grade level team?  Classroom Friendly Supplies offers them in a 3 pack!  Go check them out.

Unless you've been living in a cave or under a pile of ungraded essays, you know that Teachers Pay Teachers is having their Cyber Sale on Monday and Tuesday. I made a little set of Winter Themed English Language Arts Review task cards just in time for the sale.

Then I started adding to my wish list. I added, and then added some more. Apparently there's no limit to how many items you can wish for.  I'm always on the lookout for engaging activities to use with my fifth graders.  What's on the top of your wish list?  If you know of a product that I just shouldn't miss out on, let me know by leaving a link to the item in a comment below.  Self promotion is okay!  If you've got a great product that I 'need' for my fifth graders, let me know about it!  I'll be giving a set of my task cards away to someone who leaves a comment with a suggestion for my wish list.  I'll be using Gus, one of the Wild Ones, as my random number generator.  Gus is rather vocal tonight. I might as well put his incessant barking to good use.  For the next 30 minutes, I'm going to keep track of how many times he runs to the window to bark at __________(choose one of the following)  blowing leaves, the neighbor's cat, the mailman, passersby, and birds.  So if he races to the window 9 times and you're the 9th person to leave a comment, you win!

Happy Thanksgiving Eve and may your turkeys defrost in time.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Little Bit of This and That for Saturday Snapshots

Cough, cough, sneeze, sniffle, sneeze...ugh... I caught the cold that's been going around my classroom for the last 2 weeks.  It made for a rough week, but I managed to sniffle-sneeze-cough my way through.  I even managed to get a couple of pictures of my week to link up with Miss Nelson's Saturday Snapshots.

I love going back into the staff work room and finding UPS boxes with my name on them!  I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of my materials from The Walking Classroom, so I was thrilled to find this box back there on Tuesday.  

If you haven't heard about The Walking Classroom, go check out their website.  I applied for  a donated set of classroom materials late last spring and kept my fingers crossed over the summer.  Now Room 24 is the proud owner of a class set of WalkKits!  

Each student has their own WalkKit that is loaded with a year's worth of podcasts directly aligned with 5th grade English Language Arts Common Core State Standards.  Each podcast is about 15 minutes long and is accompanied by a great lesson plan and assessment piece in the teacher's binder.  I'm in love.

From The Walking Classroom website:

"Listening to this content builds standards-related knowledge and listening stamina.  Walking improves students’ moods and appreciation of exercise, of their environment and, most of all, of their own ability to learn in a whole new way. Moreover, what they listen to isn't just a textbook being read aloud. It's enthusiastic discussions and presentations by teachers and kids their age about things they need to know. Written and produced specifically for audio, these educational and entertaining podcasts allow the teacher to take the class on a 20-minute walk each day. "

I'll be posting more about this program once we are up and walking!  I'm not sure who is more excited about it:  the kids or ME!

We also saved Fred this week.  This was in my plans for the second week of school.  Hmmm...what week is this?  The timing was right though.  It was Friday.  Our music prep was cancelled...again.  That left the perfect hole in my lesson plans for the day and Fred still needed saving.

The background noise in this video about sums up the engagement factor of this activity:  

I went home with a mighty headache, but it was so worth it.  Have you saved Fred yet?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Saturday Snapshots: I'm Back!

Wow, I don't know where the weeks have gone!  I feel like I'm finally crawling out from my cave, or maybe it's out from underneath the 34 fifth graders that reside in my classroom.  Anyway, I'm coming up for air, at least for a moment.  What better thing to do than link up with Miss Nelson's Saturday Snapshots?

I have to start with a picture that WASN'T from this past week, but the week before.  Both Tucker and Gus competed in the Pups and Pubs Toss and Fetch competition.  Tucker rocked the novice division taking first place and Gus....well Gus is a bit of a momma's boy and felt the need to come check in with me after each toss.  That had a bit of an impact on his score, but he seemed to enjoy his first competition.

The Champion!

See those lucky raffle tickets?  I won the 50/50 raffle at the end of the competition.  I ended the day with a big smile and over $180 in my pocket.

These past few weekends have been busy, but lovely!  Over Labor Day weekend, my younger son came for a visit.  He was in the states for some training and was able to jet over to California for the weekend.  I get to visit with him once or twice a year if I'm lucky, so I'll take a long weekend!  Last Friday, my oldest and his wife flew in for the weekend.  They live stateside now so I get to see them more often.

We spent Saturday in Napa valley.  Whenever company comes out, that's usually where we head.  You'd think I'd tire of it living so close, but I never do.  The traffic is usually a nightmare on the weekends, but it just gives you more time to soak in the beautiful scenery.

What's not to love about this view?

Castello di Amorosa

Who's Who:  Moi, my son, his wife, and my daughter

On Sunday we spent the afternoon at the Lafayette Art and Wine Festival.  Had I known they allowed dogs, I might have taken one of the Wild Ones with us.

A peek at the crowd!

Free photo booth...why not?
Any time spent with my kids is wonderful.  This past weekend was no exception!  

Don't forget to run over to Miss Nelson's and check out the other Saturday Snapshots!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Another Peek at My Week

I'm linking up again wih Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for her fun Peek at My Week linky.  It's a great linky!  It gives you a peek into what everyone has planned for this week.  I've already gotten a few great ideas from other bloggers.

Here's my week in a teeny, tiny nutshell because company just left and I'm exhausted:

First I have to admit something, I stole borrowed these cute little days of the week from Diane over at Fifth in the Middle. Adorable right?

This week is going to be a crazy blur.  To start with, it's only a four day work week.  Then take one more day out for common core training and we're down to three days.  One of those three is an early release day so it's almost like having a 2.5 day week.  

Monday is going to be a bittersweet day for me.  I've been lucky enough to have my son (the one living in Italy) visiting for the weekend.  We've had a very busy, fun-filled couple of days, but tomorrow I have to put him back on a plane.  I probably won't see him again until next summer which makes the goodbyes a tad more difficult.  After I drop him off at the airport, I'll be rushing over to my stepdaughter's house for a memorial for my mother-in-law who passed away on August 12th.  It's more a celebration of her life than a sad get together because that's the way she would have wanted it.  

Back to school after the three day weekend.  We've just finished up our addition and subtraction of decimals so it's time for an assessment.  I'm looking forward to seeing the results as I've noticed such growth over the past week.  With no prep periods on Tuesday, I'm hoping to get started on our pen pal letters.

Wednesdays are early release days for us.  Throw in a morning P.E. prep and I have very little time with my kids.  We'll be starting our unit on multiplying whole numbers and decimals.  This should be great fun as I've got so many students who are not fluent with their multiplication facts.  

Thursday will find me out of the classroom for common core training.  When we have district mandated training, our subs come prepared with district created lessons.  It's nice because we don't have to have lesson plans written for the day, but sometimes I wonder about the value of the lessons they bring.  I know, I have to let go of that.  It's just hard leaving the classroom this early in the year.  

Back in the classroom on Friday.  We didn't get to do our Save Fred activity last week, so that's on the schedule for Friday.  My daughter did it in her room last week and her kids loved it.  I can't wait!

I have NO plans for Saturday.  Right now I just picture myself relaxing, reading, and playing with the Wild Ones.  Maybe I'll have time to catch my breath and write a real post!  

Whoa, it's nearly midnight here on the left coast.  I'd tell you to head over to Mrs. Laffin's page to see what everyone else is up to, but if I were you, I'd wait until morning!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Peek at My Week - A New Linky Party

 I have been cleaning house all morning and decided to take a well deserved break.  Of course, I headed straight to my laptop to catch up on some blog reading (my favorite genre these days!).  However, I never made it past the first one I read.  Why?  Because I found a new linky party from Mrs. Laffin's Laughings... A Peek at My Week!

So here's the scoop...A Peek at My Week gives us a chance to share whatever it is that we have coming up this week.  It can be in the classroom, at home, or a combination of both.  You never know what little gems you might find through this linky!  I LOVE this idea.

What do I have planned for the week?  

We're heading into our second topic in math (rounding/adding/subtracting whole numbers/decimals) and I stumbled across a great resource at the Lakeshore Outlet store earlier this month.  This book has leveled practice pages which many of my kiddos are going to need this year.  We're not implementing common core until next year, but this book has far better practice pages than our current math adoption.

I'm sure everyone already knows about Ideas by Jivey's mentor sentence units, but this is my first year using them...LOVE them!  We're starting our second week.  The first week's work (First Day Jitters) was entirely guided and went wonderfully well.  This week we'll be reading Enemy Pie!

My fun project for the week will be setting up our new FREE aquarium.  I know, I know. I already wrote about this in my last post, but I'm so excited! To be honest, I can't remember which blog I found it on, but this earlier this summer I read about   If you've been thinking about getting a class pet, go take a peek.  

I've got a couple of fun activities planned for the kids.  We'll be trying to Save Fred (check out Fabulous Fourth Grade Froggies for the directions) and working with partners for Two on a Crayon.  I love this activity.  It's a great lesson on cooperation and non-verbal communication.  Students are paired up and given one crayon and one piece of paper.  They both hold onto the crayon and attempt to draw a picture without speaking to each other.  While the drawings are always comical, the students reflections about the experience are what makes this activity so valuable.  Go check it out. 

On the homefront....I'm getting ready for my son's visit from Italy.  He's only here for Labor Day weekend and I plan to make the most of it.  My goal is to have next week's lessons planned by Thursday so I can have a work-free weekend.

That's a Peek at My Week.  Put down your plan book and go link up with Mrs. Laffin.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday Snapshots...

Technically it is still Saturday as I type this.  My day was filled with errands and I was thinking I'd sit down and spend my evening writing this post.  Not so!  I got an email from my son who lives in Italy saying he was going to 'drop' by next weekend.  Suddenly I have a 'to-do' list a mile long.  I knocked a few things off of it tonight and decided to make some time to link up with Miss Nelson's Saturday Snapshots.

It was a crazy, busy first FULL week back in school.  I've got 34 very chatty personalities who bound through my door every morning. They. Wear. Me. Out.  I didn't have time to catch my breath let alone take many pictures this week, but here are a few...

 Hard at work already.  This class needs to move and they need to do it often!  I'm going to give them every opportunity to spread out as much as they can.

 Our Dream Quilt squares came out really cute.  We managed to finish them and have them displayed before Back to School Night on Thursday.

 Costco surprised our school with a backpack for every child from 1st through 5th grade.  Not every child in my class wanted one.  They asked if they could donate them to 'needy kids'.  It makes my heart smile because our school serves the lowest economic area in the city.  We have nearly 100% free/reduced lunch kiddos.  They may not come to school well supplied and nicely dressed, but they definitely come with big hearts.

I came home to a 70 pound Pottery Barn box on my front porch this week and immediately set to putting together this bookcase.  I bought the baskets at the Container Store and have been waiting for over a month for the bookcase to come.  So excited!

 Friday had a rough start.  The Wild Ones went outside around 4 in the morning and made friends with a skunk.  Then they came in and 'shared' their adventure with us.  3 dogs + 1 skunk = well, there are no words to describe it.  Luckily my husband was a trooper about the whole ordeal and took the morning off from work to do the whole scrub-a-dub-dub-three-pups-in-a-tub thing.  For future reference, the baking soda, peroxide, and Dawn dish detergent remedy really does work!

 Tucker was obviously the ring leader in all of this and took the most direct hit from the skunk.

 Friday was not only skunk day, it was a minimum day because we had Back to School Night on Thursday.  While we could have left work at 11:45, we opted to stay and get our planning and copying done for next week.  Fours hours and one trip to Starbucks later, we were ready for a nap!

As exhausted as I was, I rushed home, showered and got ready for a night out.  My nephew is a bass guitarist and was playing at the Rellik Tavern here in town.  Let's just say that no one had to twist my arm to go listen to some great music and drink pomegranate cosmos after the day I had.

Alright, that brings me to my errand filled Saturday.  This was the highlight.  Have you heard about  If you've been wanting a classroom pet, you have to go check it out.  All you have to do is fill out an online application, answer a few questions, choose a classroom pet, and they'll send you a coupon for a free habitat (depending on the type of animal you choose) and a couple of other coupons for a discount on the animal, food, and necessary supplies.  I submitted an application for funding last month and received my letter of approval and coupons this week.  I'm now the proud owner of a FREE 10 gallon deluxe aquarium ($70 value!) and a yet unnamed betta fish.  I'll be setting it up in the classroom on Monday.  The kids are going to love it!  It's been awhile since I've had anything alive in the room.  In the past I've had quite a zoo with rats, bearded dragons, boa constrictors, leopard geckos, a tarantula named Bob, king snakes, and hamsters.  I've been wanting another class pet for awhile now and this made the decision easy!  Go check out the website.

Okay, that's my week.  It's not officially midnight here so this still counts as SATURDAY Snapshots, not Sunday.  I'm hopping over to Miss Nelson's to see what everyone else has been up the morning.  For now, I'm off to find my pillow!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday Snapshots and Saying Goodbye

Whew!  I made it through the first three days of school.  It wasn't an easy start and my head still isn't 'in the game' as they say.  School started on Wednesday and, very sadly and somewhat unexpectedly, my mother-in-law passed away on Tuesday.  We made the decision that I'd go to work.  I honestly couldn't imagine not starting off the year with my class.  It was certainly a tough go.

Today was spent cleaning out her apartment.  Five of her grandchildren and one great grandkiddo were  there to help.  The day was filled with memories of all sorts.  Each time someone found another 'treasure', there were stories to be shared.  I have a feeling she was right there with us.

With such a crazy week, I only have a few photos to share.  I decided to link up Miss Nelson's Saturday Snapshots anyway.

I have to start with a picture of my mother-in-law.  This woman had more love in her heart than most people I've known.  The world is a bit emptier without her in it.

One of my little guys came up to me on Day 1 and handed me this apple and the Jif to Go wrapped up with a ribbon.

After I dismissed the kids on Thursday, I found this tiny little apple on my desk.  It just made me smile.

I ordered an Erin Condren planner for my daughter and it arrived yesterday!  I love it!  I almost wish I had ordered one for myself now.  I can't wait to give it to her.  She doesn't know that I added a few extra words for the front cover.  I wonder if she'll notice?

That's all I've got for this week.  It's been a long one.  Be sure to stop by Miss Nelson's to see what other folks are up to this week.