Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mystery Skype

Are you somewhere in the world? Is your continent...

Does the previous line of questioning sound familiar? If not, you really need to try a mystery skype. I responded to a request for volunteers to team with a friend of fellow blogger, Charlotte. After many attempts, we were able to finalize a time and date to meet with her colleague Mrs. Debbie Dixon.

I had done a mystery skype before, but didn't use a firm set of guidelines. This time would be different. We had a greeter, questioners, responders, map readers, researchers, and a student that let the other school know it was their turn.  My students don't have access to Google Docs and don't have Gmail accounts. We decided to use Today's Meet to track questions. I had two students typing the questions they asked on laptops. The other students could see the question track on our iPads. Students used desktop maps, Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google.
Lists feed bottom to top
My students only knew the students were "somewhere in the world". Once they answered our call, the Skype was underway. My messenger was the only one that heard the teacher's "accent" and they were so involved they didn't hear the "y'all" comment at one point. Those two bits of information weren't needed. Fresh from a tornado drill, my kids asked if they were near Tornado Alley. Within 20 minutes we identified their state and city. We continued to search for the name of their school while they sought the name of our village.

It was such a fun, educational experience for both sets of students. We gathered some important question lines to ask our next visitors, and made new friends. We hope to meet up again with Mrs. Dixon's students.

My students are hooked on Skyping. Anyone interested in meeting with us? I have one other Mystery Skype planned for my other set of students.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

This wasn't funny!

My spring break was suppose to end at 7:30 yesterday morning.  Imagine my surprise when I pulled in the parking lot at 7:20 and saw no buses at the curb. Usually there are a few early ones. Instead I saw a hundred students standing outside the main doors. Huh? At 7:10 the power went out throughout most of our county. The power company could not give a restoration time. With having lost so much learning time already this year, they decided to take a gamble. We opened the doors and sent kids to classrooms. If parents were dropping off students they were encouraged to keep them. Breakfast was a cold pastry and milk for those that did not eat at home.


Arriving to my room was interesting. My room is dark most mornings with the tree and word wall blocking out the light. It was very dark. We used my cell phone flashlight to grab books to read in the hallway (which had an emergency light) and a spelling test paper. We couldn't do a normal pretest on Spelling City without electricity or internet. Within an hour, our gamble paid off and lights were back on. We could blog about our spring break and the crazy end to it on Kidblog.

The temperature yesterday was 70 degrees at 7:20 AM. By 3:30 it had dropped to 50 degrees. What started with rain around 8:00 PM turned into a ground covering of snow by early morning. 
Hyacinths and Daffodils covered in snow.

This is not the way I imagined my week beginning. I am glad tomorrow is "Happy" Hump Day. We are starting it with a song! Can't wait. Hope your day was warmer than mine.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Weather

This year has been a strange one. First we get over seven feet of snow and have a ridiculous number of snow days. Now it is in the seventies with a warm breeze. Rain is coming later, with snow predicted for tomorrow night. This is Michigan!  At least I had a few pleasant days of weather for the end of my spring break. Unfortunately much of the break was spent recovering from a cold, that has taken a turn for the worse. I am really feeling under the weather.

I was somewhat productive. I got most of my closet  and bedroom cleaned out, and my classroom library inventoried. I have a list of missing books. I hope to track down the culprits tomorrow. If I cannot get them to follow my checkout rules, the library may have to close for checkouts, and only allow for in class reading. This will put a damper on my reading plans for most of  this last marking period, and really penalize my second reading class. They borrow more books than my homeroom students. Most are "legal" checkouts, with only one book going out at a time. The list of missing books isn't huge, but many of the missing books are part of a series.

If you have any ideas on how to handle my 2000+ classroom library circulation issues, I'd love to hear them.

My four day week will seem much longer with that long afternoon and evening of conferences on Thursday. Hope your week ahead is short.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wednesday, April's Installment


For this installment of What Works Wednesday, I want to share a site I recently had a chance to use. I previously mentioned that we have conferences when we get back from break. We had to do things differently for this one. Usually we have time slots twenty minutes apart for nine hours of conferences. When we decided to add a student day (make-up) to that morning, shortening the amount of conferences slots we had to scramble. Grade levels could do twenty minute slots, or fifteen. My grade level chose to do fifteen minute slots. We could also invite a minimum of eighteen parents. Then we had to schedule our own conferences. After the last minute decision, our tech guy sent a link to Sign Up Genius

Sign Up Genius is just that, genius! I was able to register and set up my conference slots in the matter of minutes on Friday afternoon. I set the link to my parents through a newsletter, Remind 101 message, and a link on my web page. Within 15 minutes of dismissal, I had my first conference assigned. By the end of the weekend, over half had signed up. I got three conference slips I had to enter, and confer with colleagues. By Tuesday, all but three of my twenty-four students had conference slots. The last three (three I need to see) were finally scheduled. Twenty-four of twenty-four students scheduled. 

Parents loved they could get the slot they wanted. They just needed to fill in their name on the slot and give an email that will send a confirmation and a reminder. Easy peasy! 

It took the responsibility of coordinating conferences from the office and placed it in the hands of parents. It is their job to make sure times don't overlap. The one downfall I see is that the Special Ed. staff weren't able to use this, so they may have overlapping time slots. When we have to schedule our own conferences in the future, the Special Ed. teachers should schedule theirs, and then plug them into homeroom time slots. 
Partial schedule only

Sign up genius could be used in many ways. You could schedule snacks, parent volunteers, etc. I think it has merit as a useful, time saving site. I will let you know if this worked out as planned. I am on vacation this week. I will read blogs, but with this post scheduled in advance, I don't know if I will be blogging myself during the break. For those of you on break, enjoy!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Currently

Wow! It is April 1st and finally appears that winter is moving on. It was sixty degrees yesterday and should be a carbon copy today. I am joining with Farley for April's Currently.


After chatty kids yesterday and today, the silence is welcomed! The kids are as anxious for warm weather as I am. The snow has finally melted and we can get outside to walk. 

The marking period has ended. We have conferences after we get back from break. I have to have my grades entered before I leave on Friday. I better get busy because I want to roll with the buses. I am needing a break from school. Camp and our Wax Museum have taken their toll on me. I am battling a losing battle with laryngitis along with a cold.

My day is 7:30 to about 3:10. Kids come down to rooms at 7:37. Class starts at 7:45. We dismiss to music at 2:52. We can leave ten minutes after the buses. We had to add ten days, the state forgives six by our contract. We were hoping they would give us more calamity days like Ohio just voted in, but no such luck. We added one day, by having students come half a day on our conference day on April 17. The rest will be added to the end of the year. I hope we can keep kids focused that long!

Don't forget to link up with Farley. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring Cleaning Sale

This is just a quick post to let you know I am joining hundreds of teachers at Teachers Pay Teachers for a huge Spring Cleaning Sale.

I am offering many items on sale for 20% off. You don't need code to save with this sale. 


I have an empty cart now, but this sale and the thought of an extended school year have me thinking of lots of products I would love to have to get me through June 20.

Don't forget if you have purchased from my store in the past, or from others at Teachers Pay Teachers, you can earn bonuses by giving feedback for those purchased products. Bonuses can get you more for your money.

Thanks to Georgia Grown Kids for hosting the huge linky to help you find stores offering sales.





Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It Works! March's Installment

I have not been very consistent lately. I had this post planned for weeks, but needed the pictures. Here is my latest product review.

Quite a while ago, I was contacted by Scott Ertl from Bouncy Bands. He was willing to send me a set of bouncy bands to try in my classroom. What are bouncy bands? It is a piece of rubber that students can bounce their feet upon, reducing the need to get up and move. It is a great concept, especially for those fidgety children that need movement breaks. The first set arrived in the fall. I don't have student desks, but  use tables instead. I had to borrow a desk to try what was essentially a bicycle tube and PVC pipe. The tube ties to the legs of the desk and the pipes keep it from being pushed to the floor.

I thought the product had merit because it used inexpensive and reusable materials that may have ended up in a landfill instead. The downfall was that we had trouble keeping the inner tube tied on the desk's legs.

This student is vertically challenged and likes that she can
rest her feet instead of having them dangle.
Scott then offered me two new versions of the product. One has clamps that make the loops (yippee no more untying!) and the other is made from a rubber rope. Both are big improvements over the first version. What I liked about the set with the clamped loops is that it was still the bicycle tube, keeping it more "green" that the other. The last set is more practical, but also slightly more expensive. My students liked the ability to keep their feet busy. They didn't like that the original kind can only be used on desks. The rope and clamped tube stretches to work on our table legs.

I loaned the last two sets of bouncy bands to our occupational therapist. She works with several children in a few buildings in our county. I couldn't get the bands back. A teacher in one of the other buildings loved them and laid claim to them for several weeks. When attending a staff meeting, the OT watched staff members and the administrator using the bands. I guess they really aren't just for kids, but for anyone that struggles to sit still.

An Original Bouncy Band is $5 plus shipping while the new Bouncy Band is $6.50 plus shipping. They also can be purchased in larger sets. Each set comes with the set of PVC pipe.

I would have to say Bouncy Bands do work. You can find them here. If you use alternative seating as an option for fidgety students, you may want to consider adding Bouncy Bands to the mix. They are kid tested, teacher approved.

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