Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year, New Blog Design, and a Linky!

Can you believe another year has gone, and by gone I mean FLOWN by?!? 2012 brought its share of heartaches and challenges, but as the new year approaches, I am ready for whatever comes my way!

I have to say that I am absolutely loving my new blog design!!!! Megan over at A Bird in Hand Blog Design  did such a FABULOUS job!!! You like?!? She was such a breeze to work with and FAST!!! If you are thinking about changing up your blog, or like me, beginning a brand-new design, do it!!! You will not be sorry!! Check out her work. She is amazing!

Thank you so much, Megan, for your incredible work!!!! I apologize for the blurry picture! It's the best I could do at the moment!



I started this blog as a way for me to document the happenings in my classroom. I have to admit that I do not have the best memory, and when I say to myself, "Oh, I'll remember this next year," you can be sure- I forget!!! Having this blog to look back on has been amazing for me! I love to scroll through and remember the things we did in our classroom AND it will prevent me from forgetting the things I want to remember!!

I say all of this because when it comes to linky parties, I always get excited at the chance. But then, I remember that I have only been blogging for a few months, and I really don't have that many crazy exciting things to share. However, the second point of me creating this blog was to push myself to go above and beyond what I might normally do - find creative ideas and try them- and my main source of inspiration is.... you guessed it! Other blogs!! So, with this new year, I am going to try something completely new and link up! Yikes!!

Thank you, Jen from The Teacher's Cauldron for starting this linky, and thanks to Stephanie over at Third Grade Thoughts for inspiring me to join!!


This linky is all about resolutions. To keep it brief, because I could go on forever with resolutions (lol) I'm going to share one for blogging, a personal one, and one for my classroom.

To begin, my BLOGGING resolution this year is to simply do more of it!!! I am a beginner blogger and I love the experience of blog world and everything that comes with it! Writing, reading, sharing, etc! I want to do my part in contributing as much as I can!!

My PERSONAL resolution is to have more discipline. I know that seems very vague, but I need discipline in so many areas of life it's ridiculous!! I need it when it comes to being more healthy, working LESS, relaxing MORE, etc. I, like most teachers out there, have a tendency to work myself to the bone and forget to take care of myself in the process. So, if you know me personally, I'm going to need a few kicks in the pants over the next few months!!!

And even though this is not a part of the linky requirements, I'm going to add in a resolution for my classroom. My resolution for my CLASSROOM is to create more meaningful experiences for my kiddos. I want my kids to walk away from third grade and have memories that will last them a lifetime and the knowledge that hopefully stuck with them, too! Creating those experiences is not easy, and requires work, but my kiddos deserve the best from me! Thanks to all the wonderful teachers who are so graciously willing to share their ideas on their own blogs, I feel like I already have created a few good memories this year. Now to keep that up for the rest of the year!!!

That's it! Three resolutions! Let's see if I can find the discipline to work on those (as I sit here eating M&M's...)!!

If you would like to participate in the linky, head on over and link up!!!!

I hope that all of you have a truly wonderful New Year. Take some time to reflect on 2012, the happy, the sad, and all the in between. Challenge yourself and your students to set goals and then keep yourself disciplined to stick with them (or find a really good friend who doesn't mind being a relentless coach to help you out- and throw away your junk food)!!

 Enjoy this break and spend time with your loved ones!!

Happy New Year!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holiday Week Recap

 We made it to Christmas break!!! I cannot believe how fast this year is flying by. It's hard to believe we are already halfway through the year.

Last week was a whirlwind of activities in our classroom. After three days of testing, we ended the week with a little bit of holiday fun! 

I have to start off by saying how much I appreciate the blog world and Pinterest. It was around Thanksgiving last year when I first discovered both and my world was completely expanded by all the wonderful and creative ideas floating around. I appreciate the teachers who are willing to share their ideas with everyone else via the web. I have many people to thank for our holiday activities! 

The Grinch visited our classroom Wednesday afternoon and stirred up some trouble from the very beginning. (Please ignore the drawn-on feet. I couldn't find them, so I had to draw them on!) He mixed up some of our words! The kids had to work to unscramble words that we frequently use. They loved it! Some of those words were really tricky! 

Once the kiddos restored order in our room by figuring out the words, we read the story How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It doesn't matter how many times they have heard it before, it is always a hit. Of course, now that they are in third grade, we focused on how the Grinch changed and grew as a character. Gotta fit in those character traits! We made a chart with adjectives that described him at the beginning of the story and the end. We discussed the turning point of the story and why the Grinch changed. Thanks to Cara Carroll at The First Grade Parade for the idea!


The kids then made their own little organizer of how the Grinch changed. On the left side of the paper, they described the Grinch at the beginning of the story, on the right they described him at the end, and at the bottom they wrote a sentence explaining why his heart grew three sizes. The bottom is cut off in the picture below, but the student wrote "The Grinch's heart grew three sizes because he learned that Christmas is not all about gifts and all, but it is about being with your family and friends." Perfect! 

 

We then talked about how all of us sometimes get in a "grinchy" mood. The kids wrote ideas of how to make a Grinch grin. I got the idea from Deanna Jump's Grinch unit, but I ended up drawing my own face, which is why it looks the way it does! Ha! This is why I am a teacher and not an artist! The kiddos drew their own hats and cut them out. Too cute! 


On Thursday it was all about gingerbread! I LOVE gingerbread stories and I love reading to my kiddos, so gingerbread day is my absolute favorite! 

To begin our day, I introduced the class to Gingy, our gingerbread friend who was visiting our classroom. The kids loved him immediately and he became an exciting conversation starter. 


We started by reading three different versions of gingerbread stories, The Gingerbread Man, The Gingerbread Cowboy, and The Gingerbread Girl. After reading each version, we filled in a chart that compared the characters, the settings, the refrains, and the endings. I had one large chart on the board and the kids had their own chart to fill in as well. Another thank you to Deanna Jump for this idea! 



After reading all of the stories, we took a restroom break. When we returned, Gingy was gone! He had disappeared and left a clue in his place. He explained that he didn't want to be a treat, so he left! The kids immediately decided we had to go out and search for him. So, we followed the clues he left for us around the school, and we ended up back in the classroom where Gingy had decided he belonged. He had also left us some yummy treats! A big thank you to Jodi at Fun in First for the scavenger hunt clues and to my wonderful instructional coach, Mrs. Carroll, who helped make this wonderful surprise happen!! 


After the kids enjoyed their treats, they interviewed each other to see which of the gingerbread stories was the class favorite. It was no surprise that the wise Gingerbread Girl was the winner! 


To wrap up the day, the kids designed their own ginger person and wrote a descriptive paragraph describing them just in case they decided to run away! 


I had so much fun watching the kids during these activities. It was a nice break from the usual hustle and bustle of hard work and testing! 

Another special element in our classroom this year was our holiday village. My amazing mother collected these beautiful pieces throughout her career as a special education teacher, and when she retired she passed her collection down to me. Together we set up the village after school one day and the kids were so surprised when they walked in and saw it! 


The village is made up of several ceramic buildings that were designed for kids to enjoy. The pieces are a part of Department 56's North Pole Collection and include a Play Doh house, a Barbie house, a Crayola house, and several other pieces with child-like themes. The pieces are beautiful and they all light up. Several have moving parts which the kids were fascinated by! Seeing the expressions on the kids' faces when they saw the village for the first time was priceless! I let them oooh and awww to their heart's content. Thank you, mom, for allowing me to continue this magical tradition with my kiddos! It is sure to be a favorite for years to come! 


Our party on Friday was a huge success. Of course, being the absent-minded person I am, I didn't take a single picture! It was a flurry of ornament-making, gift-giving, and pizza-eating! 

Now to enjoy a nice long break and rejuvenate before the hectic spring semester! 

I hope everyone has a truly relaxing break, a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!!!! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Potpourri

Well, I haven't posted in a LONG time- mainly because I was without internet for two whole weeks! Insane!  It's amazing how dependent I have become on the web to keep me going. So what did I do with my *free* (lol) time?? Did I wisely spend it reading books on my reading list? Did I use the time to get a jump on plans? Nope! I caught up on my TV. Sad, I know. It just goes to show how much I rely on the blog world and trusty 'ol Pinterest for inspiration and motivation!
I feel like I can also blame my laziness on the fact that we have been in a testing frenzy. Science, math, reading, grammar, you name it, we are testing it! Our poor kiddos are earning their break for sure!! 

While we were reviewing for our grammar test, one of my little ones wrote this sentence- it cracked me up and I had to snap a picture! 



On a completely different topic, we have been discussing acts of kindness this week. I love all of the ideas floating around. I was really inspired by Stephanie's post over at  Third Grade Thoughts.
As a class, we came up with ideas of how we can show kindness to others. I threw in some extra contributions from my Light 'Em Up jar thanks to Judy over at Kindertastic. I printed out her pages of ideas, laminated them, and stuck them in a random jar I found. I used my handy Xyron machine to turn the label into a sticker and stuck it on. Head over to her blog to download your free copy!

 It was so nice hearing the kids share all of their wonderful ideas of how they can be kind to others. We made cards for teachers telling them how much we appreciated all of their hard work The kids were so excited when they were able to hand deliver their cards, and hopefully the teachers were, too! Let's see if my kiddos can keep it up for the rest of the week and the year!!! ;)

On another random note, this week has been bitter-sweet for me. As I think about the tragedy that occurred almost one week ago, I am reminded about how precious each and every day is with our kiddos. Even in the most frustrating moments (like when they bubble their answers wrong on their test! ARGG!!) I have to appreciate the charge I have been given- to educate young minds and prepare them to succeed in a world that is rapidly changing. I can only do my best to try to teach them how to be the best they can be and hope that they will carry that knowledge with them as they grow into adults. 

As a teacher, especially an upper elementary teacher, it's sometimes easy to get so wrapped up in things like test scores, Scantrons, showing work- you get my drift- that it takes an event like last week's to stop us in our tracks and remind us of our real purpose. 

Yesterday, I was finishing up the book My Teacher is an Alien with my afternoon class (an absolutely wonderful book, by the way!). For some reason, I decided to forego my rocking chair and I sat down criss-cross on the floor with the kids huddled closely around me. We sat like that for a good thirty minutes, completely wrapped up in the story. It is those precious moments, those moments when 18 innocent faces are hanging on my every word waiting to hear how the story ends, those moments when the kids are ever-so-slightly inching toward me because the suspense is almost too much to handle- those are the moments that are absolutely priceless. Those moments cannot be planned for, they cannot be forced, but they are the ones that stir our hearts and re-ignite the fire to teach. Sitting there inches away from my class, I had to stop myself from getting teary-eyed. I feel so blessed that this is what I get to do everyday. 

My heart breaks for the community of Newtown and the parents of those innocent victims- for the children who will never hear another story read aloud to them by their teacher or their parents, and for the teachers who will never experience another moment like that. I know that I will appreciate every minute I have with my kids even more than before.

I'm going to sum up with this prayer I found at Religious Prayer:


To all of you teachers, take time to enjoy your kiddos these last few days- even through all of the pre-Christmas chaos! 

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

In Loving Memory




Twas' 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38,
When 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven's gate.
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy, they didn't know what to say.
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
"Where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
"This is heaven." declared a small boy. "We're spending Christmas at God's house."
When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
But Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name,
And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring.
Those children all flew into the arms of their King,
And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
One small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had,
He gently whispered to her, "I'll take care of Mom and Dad."
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below,
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe.
Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
"Let My power and presence re-enter this land!"
"May this country be delivered from the hands of fools."
"I'm taking back my nation. I'm taking back my schools!"
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
"Come now my children, let me show you around."
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
"In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT."

Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA

The students and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School who lost their lives will forever be remembered. May they rest in peace. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wow! Did You Know??

For the past few weeks, we have been studying expository texts. I refer to them as "expository" texts rather than just general "non-fiction" because it gives a more specific reference to the type of non-fiction we are reading. Anywho, I have been having an absolute blast learning right along with the kiddos!

I have been reading my few fav find, Strategies That Work, and I was reminded that- duh- kids should be directing their learning and asking the questions, not me. It's crazy how we lose sight of the basics when we feel the crunch of stress and testing! The authors of the book provide some great sentence starters to help kids write down the information they learn when they read expository texts. By the way, this book is full of great information. It's a must-read for any reading teacher. A blog post about this book will be coming soon :)


It is true that expository texts provide a wealth of information and can sometimes be hard for kiddos to grasp, and that kids need to understand the importance of text features and how they help readers comprehend, but most importantly- kids need to realize that you can learn so much COOL stuff from reading expository texts!!! At the end of the day, I want my kiddos to crave reading more expository books so they can fill their minds with interesting facts about our world and quench their curiosity.

To stimulate that excitement, and to tie in text features, I created a little recording sheet that my kiddos will be using to record their learning when reading expository texts. Kids use sticky notes in my room to record their learning, but I like the idea of having a central place where all of their thoughts can be stored on one page.

We will use this together as a class when we read a text, but I am also thinking about putting it in a station. It's versatile! I am going to have the kiddos glue the small cards in their reader response journals to serve as prompts for recording their learning and laminate the larger poster for the station and to hang in the room. The note sheet provides a place for the students to record the facts they learned, take note of the text features the author used, as well as record questions they still have about that topic.

If you would like your own copy, click any of the pictures below:






Tomorrow, we are reading about animals and how they use a variety of tools. I can't wait to hear the kids' reactions and read the cool facts they write down!

Now to finish my growing mountain of laundry and get ready for the days ahead. Just a few more weeks until a long, relaxing break! Hang in there!

Have a great week!