Monday, January 26, 2015

Semester's end and honoring students

Today was the start of our new semester. I would love to be able to say kids came in to a new set up, and that I was raring to go. Unfortunately, Friday was the end of the first semester, and grades were due at 8:00 AM this morning. For the first time since we went to computerized grades, my grades were almost finished when I left here on Friday. I only had one set of writing papers to finish, and the comments to add to that section of the gradecard. I procrastinated all weekend. I blog stalked, read Twitter feeds, pinned on Pinterest, and more. I lived my outside life.  Finally late last night I slapped the last comments down, and called it a night.

I am emotionally wiped out. I just spent an hour discussing with my teammates about our upcoming awards program. Last year we started doing honor roll recognition at the end of each semester. The program is wonderful if your child has one of the top academic honors in a subject area, is an all A, or A/B student. What message are we sending to our RTI students, or Special Ed. students that won't earn one of these awards? Last year I spent an hour on the phone with a parent on the Saturday morning following that first awards program. She was worried her son might hurt himself. He cried himself to sleep every night for weeks following the program. He saw himself as a failure. Another child sat in a fetal position throughout the program, sobbing uncontrollably. She didn't get an award, and knew she never would based on grades. So many of my students in my two classes are great kids, just not the top in academics.

What message should I send my students this year? I could give awards in my classroom separate from the assembly. The other parents would never see them beam as they are recognized for their achievements in behavior, or character, or whatever I deem appropriate. Will that token award be enough to erase the idea of failure from their mind, as I try to get them ready for high stakes testing?

I would love to know if you do an awards program for academics. Do all students get something? Should they all get something? I am looking for some guidance as I try to do right by my kids.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Review

I live and teach in a state that used to do testing in the fall. We spent the first few weeks reviewing all of the previous years standards. We seldom got test scores back before spring, which rendered them almost useless. It was too late to really make an impact on those that had just missed proficiency. At-risk students had usually been receiving support in RTI.
This year we are finally joining the rest of the country in doing our state proficiency test in the spring. Testing windows vary. Our window for fifth grade begins the day we return from spring break. It runs for the next three weeks. This year we were going to do Smarter Balance Assessment, but the state decided to go with two versions of a new test, the M-Step. One is a paper/pencil and the other is computerized. We have opted to do the computerized test. This new test is very different from the old "MEAP". It is much more like Smarter Balance. It is also testing common core standards. They have opened a Spring Preview Test. I am going to give my students plenty of time to check out the sample questions. Luckily, this group of students did a pilot of Smarter Balance as third and fourth graders, so the test question format should be familiar.

Unfortunately, our math curriculum is not aligned. To prepare students for the test I am supplementing my math curriculum with task cards and other activities. I don't have as much time to make products as I would like, so I look for good deals. By following blogs and facebook pages, and stores on Teachers Pay Teachers, you can get lucky and win products. My textbook series doesn't get to operations with decimals for a few more weeks, so I jumped at the chance to grab some task cards and activities for centers. I happened to find to great products to help with decimals.
The first product was from Melissa O'Bryan from Wild About Fifth Grade. Melissa sent me her New Year's Decimal Centers.

New Years Decimal Centers Grades 4-6

What I loved about this set is that it included Task Cards, Independent Worksheets, and Math games. Students practiced rounding decimals, ordering decimals, adding decimals mentally, and multiplying decimals. 
My second product was from Verena Scrivens at Diary of a 5th Grade Teacher. She sent me her Dividing Decimal Task Cards.
Dividing with Decimals Task Cards


This set helped fill the requirements for dividing with decimals. I liked that Verena has the CCSS listed on each task card. This was helpful when determining which particular standards my kids still need to practice. This was a great way to practice skills, and made planning a breeze.




Thursday, January 15, 2015

Re:marks Review

I recently had an opportunity to take a look at a new product. The product was from Re:Marks Personalized Designer Address Stamps. The stamp comes with a designer self-inking stamp featuring an interchangeable die plate. It allows you to use a single stamping device for all of your stamping needs. 


You can get a plate with your address, a monogram, one for greeting cards, etc. The setup is for a square stamp image. The stamping device is a sturdy design. I like that you can use one device for several different stamps. I think the only thing that would make it better would be for it to have additional storage for the other plates you might want. It would be helpful for organizing and storing multiple stamps.

The one that I received was a "Thank you" stamp design, a double sided black ink cartridge, and a redeemable certificate for a custom stamp design of your choice. So many choices made it difficult to choose my free one. They have so many styles from which to choose. You can even design your own stamp by uploading your own image. A direct Amazon.com link to Re:Marks product will allow you to purchase your own Re:Marks Stamp. I have used Re:Marks stamps before and love them. The ink lasts. 

I used my stamps to make Thank You cards for gifts my students gave me. It was fun, and a breeze to do with the Re:Mark stamp. 

If you are looking for a great stamping product, check out Re:Marks Stamps. They are a good dependable product with some great design choices.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

January 1, 2015 Almost

 I was just thinking about Farley's Currently linky because I need to run the copies of "Currently in the Classroom" for my kids to do as homework on Monday. I saw that Farley posted the latest linky, so here goes...


I have watched a lot of "cheesy" Hallmark movies during vacation. I don't know which one is playing because the storylines are so similar, just the actors and actresses seem to change. Lol. 

Hubby came home just in time to help me haul bags of clothing and old toys and stuffed animals to the donation center. Just in time for the tax write-off. Getting rid of the old makes more room for the rediscovered things hiding in the closet and dresser. 

The Christmas tree and lights will need to come down soon. I hate the thought of it because that can only mean vacation is almost over.

I have a pile of papers to grade. It would be wonderful if an elf or fairy showed up to grade them for me while I finish this post.

I have a lingering cough. Probably picked up from one of my eight or nine students that had bronchitis and other ailments before break. I don't sleep well with a cough, so I need it to go away.

I am slowly trying to remake my classroom into a literacy lounge. Think Barnes and Noble. I wouldn't mind a hot chocolate bar to go along with the stand up desks. I have a variety of seating choices, but need the stand up desks to meet the needs of some of my kiddos. I hope I can get funding for them from Donors Choose or Adopt-a-Classroom. 

What is Currently going on in your life? Link up!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One Word Resolution

In reading some blog posts, I noticed several were linky parties about resolutions. I decided to link with Primary Powers for their One Word Resolution. I never seem to be able to keep resolutions. I make them on January 1st each year. In a good year, they might last a month. Most of my resolutions are lucky to be in place after a week. Setting a one word resolution is different. I think by choosing just one word may work as a focus for me.

I considered many before I chose what I thought was the perfect one for me.
So what is my word?

The new year has me thinking quite a bit about being appreciative. As my own children get older, and have lives of their own where hubby and I are less of a significant influence, it makes me appreciate every moment we have together. 

Hubby is the love of my life. He has supported me through so many difficult times and walked beside me in new adventures. He has always been my biggest cheerleader. Although I may not always say it or show it, I really do appreciate him!

After thirty-one and a half years, I can still say I love teaching. I have been fortunate to be able to have my "job" change just enough to keep me challenged, interested, and revitalized when I needed it. Along the way, teaching became a part of me that cannot be easily separated. I do appreciate having a career I love.

So for 2015, I will appreciate everything that life has to offer. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Fun Book to Share and a Giveaway

I love books. I purchase almost one book for every book my students purchase from the book club. I have a variety of books in my classroom collection, but am always looking for new ones. I recently received a copy of a book written by Ali Maier. The book, Mom Made Us Write This in the Summer, is a graphic novel. It tells the story of twins, Max and Maggie, during the summer before they enter fifth grade. Like many siblings, the two love to drive each other crazy. After an argument in the beginning of summer their mother decides they will share a writing journal. Her hope is that as they write and read entries, they will gain greater insight and understanding of their twin. Each of the siblings will take turns writing in the journal. They will respond to the other's entry after they read it. Told through their drawings and "handwritten" journal entries, they realize that although they have different interests, they really do love and support each other.
                                                      

I received the book in the mail, but made the mistake of opening it in front of my students. Two of my students argued about who could read it first. I had to wait for them to finish, so I could read it. It is a fun, quick read. It could be a great way to encourage your own students to write. The author also has a Shared Journal and Family Quiz book. I think I will use this book next year as a lead into my shared journals in my writing center.

The author, Ali Maier is lives in Cleveland, Ohio where she loves to write, read, and spend time with her family. She has a degree in Elementary Education from John Carroll University.

I was given an opportunity to give a copy of the book to one of my readers. If you would like a chance to win the book, click on the Rafflecopter. Don't want to wait to win it? You can purchase it by clicking here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 1, 2014

It is Currently Time

I cannot believe it! Today is December 1st. I have so much to get done before the last day of school for the holidays. I am joining Farley for her monthly Currently Linky. I cannot believe I am in the top twenty to get it posted.

The news was running late with football running late. I am exhausted after a long weekend. I tried to fit in too much. I loved spending time with my girls on Thursday, and to steal a few minutes with my husband. Cannot wait for his schedule to change soon. 
I really need to go to bed. This will feel like a very long week. I need to leave for school earlier in the morning, so I will not hit the snooze button. 

I find myself wanting to decorate for Christmas. I put lights on my shrubs today when the temps were in the sixties. Now I want to put the tree up, but need to rearrange some things. I work in a school where we are allowed to put up Christmas trees, although my tree usually is in our school colors. I wait to put up that tree until after we read the chapter where Father Christmas arrives in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We are starting the novel tomorrow. It is one of my favorites.

I need to get my grades entered. Progress reports go home one day next week. I don't like them to go home so close to break, as it makes it hard to get all the late work done before vacation begins.

I am going to give three people one item from my store. Go to my store. Find an item you would like, and leave me a comment with your email. I will have my kids pick three random numbers Tuesday. In the meanwhile, happy shopping at the TpT and TN sales. I have lots of things on my wish list and a gift certificate to spend!


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