Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snowflakes for Sandy Hook

We have been in a snow drought. The last measurable snow for our area was March 5. We haven't seen more than a flake or two. The forecast is calling for areas around us to get 1-3 inches tonight and tomorrow. Students are anxiously awaiting the white stuff. We decided to help bring on the snow by making snowflakes.

We made so many snowflakes because we are sending some to Sandy Hook Elementary's new school in Monroe, Connecticut. The Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Organization has set up a campaign to bring a Winter Wonderland to the students when they return to school in January. They are also accepting donations to help the students and teachers of Sandy Hook. You can help the effort by sending your contributions or snowflakes to:

Connecticut PTSA, 60 Connolly Parkway, Building 12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514. 
Phone: 203-281-6617

The heart is a favorite. Several are on their way to Connecticut.
E. mustache you if you like her snowflake.
 We used some patterns from  before venturing into our own designs.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mystery Skype

"What was that sound?" my students asked on Friday. The sound? The internet "phone" was ringing. My students were challenged to decypher some mysterious clues from the other end. The callers' clues were:
They became a state on April 30, 1812.
The state bird is the pelican.
They are located in the middle of the country.
They celebrate Mardi Gras.

I had students split into four groups. One group was using iPads and computers to search for answers to the clues. One group was using their social studies book's atlas. Another group used laminated desktop maps. The fourth group gave our group's clues. Our clues were:
Water is not in short supply.
We are located in the northern part of the country.
We are known for the large cherry festival in the northern part of our state.
We have a mix of flat land, rolling hills, and low mountains.
Our community is known for our three identical bridges that appeared in Ripley's believe it or not.
We are located near --° N, --° W.

They were able to guess our location as Michigan, and we correctly guessed they were from Louisiana. My students were excited to learn Mrs. Sheperd's classroom had sent us a postcard as part of our exchange. Actually it was her postcard and a post about Mystery Skype that helped us connect. My students are also going to Skype another room, just to exchange information, on Thursday. They cannot wait.

A student from Mrs. Sheperd's class reads her clue.

Picture "borrowed" from

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sparkle Box, RACK

The Sparkle Box: A Gift with the Power to Change Christmas 

Have you seen this book? This is the story of Sam, a young boy looking forward to his gifts on Christmas. He begins to realize the true meaning of Christmas, as his family participate in many Random Acts of Christmas Kindness. He sees that it isn't the gifts under the tree with your name that matter. It is only as he helps collect blankets for homeless, give money to dig a well in Africa, and other RACK, that Christmas gains meaning.

Our principal read it at a staff meeting, the first since her return from sick leave. She issued a challenge to our staff, to fill our own Sparkle Box. I decided to use this with my students to introduce our RACK activities during this last week before break. I invited our principal to read the story this morning. It was a good way to start our week in light of Friday's tragedy in Connecticut. My students generated a nice list of things they want to do this week.

Our goal of really getting RACK rolling was cut short when we had a short circuit that ended with a power outage in our building and an evacuation to the high school next door. It was amazing that in spite of all the things that could have gone wrong today, they didn't. Within minutes students were pulled out of the cafeteria, coats were on, and we were on our way. We got students settled and waited for the high school to vacate the cafeteria. All students that missed lunch were fed within the hour. We put a movie on to keep students calm and focused. Our support staff came to collect students as parents arrived. We had a significant number leave. They finally allowed us back in the building so remaining students were able to see things were fine. Dismissal went smoothly.

As a school board meeting highlight tonight, our principal decided holiday songs by our third graders were in order. The rest of her presentation? A tribute to teachers.

As parents say goodbye to their children every morning, they do so with full trust that we will watch over them, guide them through their learning, and return them safe each night. Our job is not an easy one, as proven on Friday. The positive caring impact we have on the children in our classrooms will surely bring more good. It is with this thought, that I bid you good night.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An Apology and Prezi

I am sorry I have been a bad blogger. The last two weeks have been very difficult. My father  had some major health concerns on top of a crazy schedule here at school. Our principal came back from sick leave, only to lose her again for a family crisis. I wasn't sure whether she would even be available for my evaluation, scheduled for first thing this morning. What was I thinking? I am not a morning person, so I start out s-l-o-w-l-y. I had a great figurative language lesson planned whether she was here or not. To do the lesson the way I wanted meant learning a new skill, Prezi.

Prezi is like PowerPoint on steroids. Prezi Desktop allows you to use your creativity to make a presentation. There is also a Mobile Prezi for viewing your Prezi on an iPad. Prezi has a free license for teachers and students. Many templates are available.  (Think of Prezi like a large sheet of paper, where you jot down your thoughts.) The program "follows" your path of thinking. It can zoom in and out to emphasize words or a picture. It searches Google for pictures for your presentation, or you can upload your own. Videos from  can be embedded. I  was able to insert a video into my lesson from YouTube (Yipee - finally unblocked!). I discussed the quality of things you can find on the internet with my students because I wasn't able to find the video I wanted without spelling errors.

It is a great tool. Learning to make it follow your thinking isn't always easy, and took me LOTS of tries. The end result was worth the effort.

Have you tried Prezi?

Sunday, December 2, 2012


It was almost sixty degrees yesterday and today. It certainly doesn't feel like December, but the calendar tells me it is indeed December. I am joining Farley's Currently Linky party.

With the mild weather, I wished I had time to put up outdoor decorations, but my time has been split between putting together collages for our Senior cross country runners, our banquet was today, and visiting my father in the hospital. Hopefully the weather lasts a couple of more days. I haven't really even started my shopping. I need time! 

I was glad to see Farley's RAK on this Currently. I had been thinking of doing RAK with my students since our principal issued us a challenge. We always adopt families at Christmas from a neighboring community. My students have been focused on doing things for our school and students this year. Money is an issue with so many struggling to pay for our upcoming outdoor education experience, so, RAK are perfect! We are going to brainstorm ideas, and have students record completed RAK (put in a special box). We will share these at our party on December 21. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's Monday...Mmm

I know, I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I love my class. This is a fun, creative group. They keep looking for things to do to have fun, without causing a whole lot of disruption. They came up with the idea (totally on their own) to have Mustache Monday. They thought it was the perfect compliment to my Fiction Friday. Their only problem was how to make sure everyone had a mustache. They decided milk and Kool-aid wouldn't be appropriate.
I found mustache stickers at Target. We wanted them to be durable/reusable, so we added some lamination and the a pipe cleaner (think old-fashioned monocle eye piece). They loved it and can't wait for the next random Mustache Monday. I will look for some eyelash glue to make it easier.

Now, I mustache you, "Have you done anything like this?" I would love to see your picture.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

No Talking!

Have you read Andrew Clements book No Talking! It tells the story of fifth graders, "The Unshushables", at Laketon Elementary School. They have a contest to see if the boys or the girls can go longer without talking.
Product Details

I had a group of students in my second reading class read it as a literature circle or "Lunch Bunch" last month. They enjoyed it so much, and drew so many parallels to our fifth grade, that I had to read it aloud to my homeroom. As soon as I started reading it, the students knew we had to try the contest. They set ground rules yesterday, and agreed to play through lunch tomorrow. Students are allowed to answer a teacher's direct question, read aloud if called on, and talk in three word sentences. "This is hard," was heard around the room. We "pause" the contest for other classes, the bus, home, etc. although the book didn't.

What we noticed, was that our room is "too quiet" at times. They agreed not to sing if I put on Songza's Top 100 (Clean Lyrics). (LOVE that app!)  All students finished the math assignment in class, the first time this year. Students went home and came up with ways to get around the rules. They have written on whiteboards, created three word phrases, used sign language for basic needs (restroom), and have finished each other's sentences. They have also held each other accountable. I let them talk in the cafeteria today for our Thanksgiving lunch. They were thinking up other things to do to show solidarity.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mixed Reviews and freebies

Some of my students lacked a strong math background when they came to me. Their fourth grade teacher encouraged the use of a calculator, where I focus on fact recall and how to correctly solve problems mathematically. Two students actually did a happy dance the day we did a division algorithm lesson because they were finally going to learn to do division.

To strengthen math skills, I give math homework twice a week, in addition to the math lessons. My kids love math homework. One of their favorites is from a program called "Drop in the Bucket", a blackline master book from Frog Publications.  Students actually cheer when they hear that we are doing a "Drop in the Bucket" as homework. I start with Level D (4th Grade) and work through Level E, which is fifth grade. These are a great way to make sure students are proficient on a particular skill.


When we are studying for a test, I give skill review worksheets I call scrambled eggs. I have included two as freebies.

Addition/Subtraction Scrambled Egg 1
Multiplication/Division Scrambled Egg 2

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thankful and a Freebie

With November comes cooler weather, shorter days, and parent teacher conferences. It also is a time to reflect on our many blessings.

As I look around I have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season. I am joining a linky party hosted by Storie for her "Top Ten Things I Thankful for". Enter to win a chance to get a $10 gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers.

 I made a "Be Thankful" banner for my classroom bulletin board. I am adding it as a Made It Monday project. The Made It Monday is the linky party by Tara at 4th Grade Frolics. I am sharing it as a freebie for those of you that follow my blog.

Free Be Thankful Banner

Saturday, November 3, 2012


You know the saying, "Time always flies when you're having fun?" Well, that certainly applies to this year. I can't believe the first marking period is over, and November is here. With the new month, comes another linky party from Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade.

My grading is finished, but I have to enter comments on my cards. Spending hours at the computer has my neck and back aching. I really could use an adjustment and massage. 

I do love playing music while my students work. I couldn't do it last year because I had a very sensitive student that couldn't have background noise. Our new music teacher has students showcasing singing and musical talents weekly. We record them for our class webpage. They love to listen to the audio replays and any songs from Pandora. 

Now it's your turn. What are you doing currently? Oh, and don't forget the rule of 3!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book vs. Movie and It's A Wrap

During our standardized testing window, my students read the book, Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. We have been so busy, that we haven't had a chance to watch the movie to do a comparison of the book and movie. Today seemed like the perfect opportunity. It was the end of the marking period, grades are due Monday- and no time to collaborate with my co-teacher, and it was pajama-rama (fundraiser for our National Honor Society students at the high school). I came up with a quick sheet for students to use before and during the movie. We would be able to justify to administration if they popped in during the movie. While students took notes and enjoyed the movie, my co-teacher and I discussed student goals and progress.

This was the perfect way to end the marking period with a read-in and movie.

Off to finish those grade cards. Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Service Learning

Do you participate in service learning opportunities for Make a Difference Day? We do. We have participated for many years. We have helped out numerous organizations outside of our community. A few of our past projects were raising money for Grand Isle school after Hurricane Katrina destroyed books and equipment, providing shoes for third world nations, and providing books and activities for children at Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Our fifth graders plan and run the activity. This year's theme for us was Places to Go and People to See.

The idea for this year's project came to me last spring when our kindergarten buddies had to cancel a field trip to the local zoo. Admission and transportation costs were going to exclude a number of students. Students that could not pay the full cost could not go. They came up with a last minute replacement activity, but teachers, students, and parents were disappointed. With that in mind, and our own outdoor education experience ahead of us, we decided to collect change to help defray the cost of the transportation and some of the admission price for each grade level's field trip. We sent a note home inviting parents and/or businesses to sponsor individual trips as well. Our kindergartners had parents and grandparents sponsor their transportation costs, so they will get to go to the zoo this year.

We are still collecting money for a few more days so we don't have a total yet. My students did "bag" each grade level's money, and were happy to report that the fifth graders needed a second bag!

Students got the opportunity to see the impact they can have on our community by collecting loose change. It is truly amazing how quickly change can add up. 

If you don't participate in service learning projects, consider one, it can have profound impact on students and the community.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Spelling Update

I have used Spelling City for a couple of years. I used only the free version until this year. I think there were enough options available on the free version to satisfy most students.

This year I decided to take the plunge and buy a subscription to Spelling City because I have three spelling groups, a below grade, at grade, and an advanced group. The subscription helps me track assignments and tests. 

The only bad part is that I give Challenge words that add to the score, but don't penalize students that miss them. The scoring on the site wasn't working to my satisfaction, so I have students take the spelling test online, print it, and then add the challenge words. I just look over the challenge words when I go to record scores. I love that I don't have to decipher illegible writing. Most of the grading is done for me. Students like the game format for studying words. Parents like it, too. I think the cost ($49.99) for a classroom of twenty-five students is worth it. Keep your eye open, as they offered a sale in August this year, for 33% off.

I also decided to alter my spelling contract to reflect the additional Spelling City activities for students. I am including it for any that are interested.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Appreciating our Heritage

We have a Heritage Day celebration, a day set aside for students to learn about our past. This includes demonstrations of lost arts, like weaving, spinning yarn, folk dancing, story telling, and a dulcimer concert.  Students enjoy dancing to accordions, eating fresh fry bread and tortillas, churning butter, shucking corn, and pressing apple cider. The wood carvers and scrimshaw artist were favorites, along with the civil war/revolutionary war camps, and World War II parachute demonstrations. We only celebrate Heritage Day every other year, and our fifth graders were happy it occurred in their last year in the elementary. Students were respectful. The weather was wonderful, being close to 80 degrees this late in October. We are thankful to Mrs. Miller for organizing this wonderful event. Students enjoy learning from our older citizens. The demonstrators enjoy visiting with the students. It's a win-win situation.

Enjoy pictures of our wonderful experience.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Blissful Year?

I have been reading many posts lately about blog anniversaries, and feel like such a slacker compared to many of them. I have been so inconsistent with posting. I  post when I have something to share, or when I join a linky party. I haven't been very concerned with growing my following. I guess this next year will be dedicated to those two things. Maybe I will venture into a linky party of my own. Until then, I will continue to link up with other bloggers, including Michelle, the 3AM teacher. She is celebrating her first anniversary in the blog world with a linky. If you don't know Michelle, she is a very talented artist that has beautiful clipart, often with freebies. The poster below is just a sample.

Michelle's linky wants you to share a favorite memory from the first year as a blogger. I have many wonderful memories, including getting that first comment and follower, having a request for an item I made, or getting an award. But, my favorite memory from my year of blogging has to be winning a blog design. Like so many of you, I started reading blogs, and soon became hooked. I had to have my own. I didn't know how to set up my own blog, but found so many bloggers giving advice. I learned to create my own background and button. I tweaked and tweaked and tweaked my design, but still didn't love it. I may have been learning, but it wasn't always bliss!

Just when I was ready to scrap the whole thing, I won a free make over from the lovely ladies at Honey Bunch Blog Design. I love that my design is unique. I still want to learn to add things to the overall design to improve the look and function. I really want to add a custom Melon Headz version of me. With my own anniversary this week, I just may have to splurge!

Don't forget to link up with Michelle and share your memories.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What a problem!

One of the most successful ways I have tried to motivate writers is to give them an authentic audience. This can be achieved many ways, but the one I like most is blogging! Last year I used with my students. They had to be guest writers on our class blog. It was okay, but not great. I had to use a separate gmail because our school doesn't have Blogger enabled. I don't like my school and personal accounts to be linked because most of my colleagues don't know I blog. (I'm not sure I want the administration knowing it either, although I know they could find this blog by a Google Search if they wanted.)

This year I am using for student blogging. I love it! Although my first post was October 14, most students already have two or three blog posts. Two that I said were mandatory, and the third is just because they love blogging. (See comments in the yellow above.)

With Kidblog, you sign up for the free account. You add students. You can assign user names and passwords. This makes it easy if you are using several online programs with logins. Students find the class site and then login.

The program works much like Blogger, as the screen shot shows. When I student completes their post, they have to Submit for Review. The teacher then approves or disapproves of the posting. Students can also post comments on other student's posts. This is where my problem developed. Faster than I could approve a post, students were posting comments. Comments also have to be approved by the teacher. Several students post several comments daily. I have told them that at this point, I will not approve posts or comments that are not proof read and spell checked.

On Friday, I showed students how to used Word to do the word processing (spell check included) and to copy and paste to the blog. We also added photographs.

My students are quite techy. Many changed their avatar (from a list) and switched blog backgrounds without saying anything. I was surprised. They love when we have the iPads. This lets them all blog at once. This regular Kidblogging has quickly become a problem that I can live with.

Monday, October 15, 2012


We usually do the game of "I've Been Boo-ed" at school. Not this year, as there is nothing usual about this year, with the principal not here. So, when I was "boo-d" by a blogger, it helped get me in the mood for Halloween.

Cynthia is having the great Linky Party above! Head on over and check it out!!! I was actually boo-d by Cindy Lusk at All Things Teachery.

The rules are: Choose a fellow blogger that has MORE followers, another that has about the SAME number of followers, and last, someone that has LESS followers.

Highlight their blogs with links to encourage others to check them out.  Don't forget to let your fellow bloggers know that you shared about them. 

Classroom Compulsion Rebecca at Classroom Compulsion always has such cute things. Right now she has a moon unit. Sure wish I still taught science.
 Teach on a Limb  Teach on a Limb  has the same amount of followers. She has only been blogging since June, but has quickly gathered a following with her blog. She has a variety of information she shares.
Button Marie at Beach Lovin Teach is a new blogger, having started in August. Please check out her blog.

I would love to share an item from my store, but I haven't had time to start one.

I do have a fun idea to share. Being a rural school, pumpkins are never in short supply for us. We have the students do Character Pumpkins. They can either be patterned after themselves, or after a character in a book.

Don't forget to check out the blogs and join in the fun.

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