Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reading Celebrations

I am joining Cara at Teaching My Calling for a Read Across America activity. On February 27 our classes are going to Skype. Her class will read One Fish, Two Fish.. My class is reading The Lorax to her class.  My class has Skyped with other classrooms before, but they are very excited about meeting her students and sharing a favorite Dr. Seuss book.

At our school, we celebrate reading throughout the month of March. Our theme this year is Hawaiian Luau. We have a Family Reading Night with staff reading favorite books to several hundred children. We provide dinner and many children come dressed in pajamas, ready for a bedtime story. We also have a Scholastic Book Fair during that week. On another night during the month, our PTO hosts a carnival with games as another way to celebrate family time that doesn't involve television.

 On March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss, my students will be joining others across America as we try to pass Accelerated Reading's record of tests taken on one day.  Last year students took over two million tests.  Are you participating in the Coast to Coast Accelerated Reading Quiz Taking Challenge, or do you celebrate March is Reading Month? I would love to hear about your plans.


Friday, February 17, 2012

A Little Appreciation

When I started this blog, I didn't think anyone but me would ever read it. I needed a way to vent my frustrations and share my successes. I even went so far as to make this blog part of my professional goal. So I was so excited when I got my first follower the beginning of January. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw that Emmy  at Dreams of a Student Teacher gave me an award. Thank you, Emmy! Love your sense of humor.


The Liebster Award is given to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers. I am to award 5 blogs for myself.

1. Farrah Kilgo at Think Share Teach - She has some technology tips to share.
2. Alissa at Fun if Fifth - Check out her blog and her States and Capitals game.
3. Ashley at Cards and Cardigans  - I love her card ideas. Just wish I had more time to create some of my own!
4. Laurie at Chickadee Jubilee - Love her art and literacy ideas.
5. Katie at Art of Possibility for Teachers - She also shares technology tips and so much more.

Check these out.  Bloggers new and not so new all need a little love and encouragement.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

No Complaints Here

In my previous blog, I wrote about my plans for Valentine's Day. The plan came off with just a slight snag. One student didn't bring the lunch he was supposed to bring. We quickly grabbed a slice of pizza from the cafeteria. I supplied an extra can of pop and an apple, and all was well. 

While catching up on blogs last night and today, I noticed a recurring sentiment. "Thank goodness the day and party were over." This was the same thing I heard in the lounge today and from my teammates. When the p made announcements today, mentioning how we had survived, my friends looked at me confused. One friend raised her hand and innocently asked what was so bad about yesterday. 

My friends joined in telling about all they loved about yesterday. They enjoyed eating in the room, being free to sit with friends, being able to talk and laugh, liking their lunch, and so forth. The best comment came from my most challenging student, "What I liked best, was knowing that someone want to give me a lunch and box they created just for me, not because they had to." 

Said child has REALLY challenged me mentally and emotionally this year. I have lost sleep coming up with ways to keep her behavior under control. She has had one struggle after another, but has won a place in my heart forever. I see her as one of my successes. She made lunch for another challenged child. The same child she bullied last year and the first half of this year. The recipient got a special chocolate purchased just for her, because her pal knew she would share it with the little brother. It was a reminder to me about what the day was supposed to be all about. I would have to say the school day was the best days I had with my kids this year.

I hope you found a bright spot in your day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day Party

I don't like the typical classroom parties. Over the years I have had too many students that didn't need any extra sugar, or others that had issues with food additives. When we departmentalized, our schedule made it even more difficult to work a party into the day.

What do I do instead?

I host a Friendship Luncheon. The students choose the name of a secret pal. The friend gives them suggestions on what to send in a sack lunch. This is similar to what they would normally pack in their own lunch. For the Secret Pal selection, we have boys choose boys, and girls choose girls. I usually add my name to the mix and choose a name as well.  After selecting a name, and learning what to put in the lunch, the students get creative. They design a container for the lunch, often taking into consideration the interests of their pal. We have had paper mache basketballs, a monkey, a dog, a football stadium, and so many other beautifully decorated containers. The "boxes" are entered into a contest with prizes being awarded for the most unique, best match, or most beautiful. 

In the years I have hosted the lunch, only two children didn't remember their lunch. I always make sure I have some extras in case there is someone disappointed in their lunch, but am always amazed at the sharing that takes place. We eat lunch in the classroom, sitting on the carpet, benches, or at the table. It makes for a more relaxed atmosphere than what they get in the cafeteria.

My past lunch containers have gone on to provided beautiful sturdy containers that have gone on to become my treat boxes. 

We do some fun valentine activities. This year this includes our Valentine Boggle Game and some craft activities for buddies. 

What are you doing for your Valentine's Day celebration?


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Homework Linky Party

       I have decided to link up with Jenaya at The Lesson Plan Diva for her homework linky party. Let me just say I believe homework should reinforce what students learn during the day. Too many students don't have support at home if they are sent with new concepts.
       I was the only one on my team that assigned regular homework last year. We had a shortened class, and students weren't able to complete a regular math assignment successfully, so things were abbreviated. Our classes were lengthened this year, and so was the homework.
       It is assumed students will have less than an hour of homework nightly. Most students finish their math in class, or during homeroom work time. Their only "homework" for math is to finish work and to do a practice test. For science, students need to do a moon chasers worksheet, that shows the moon phases throughout the year.
       As the reading/spelling teacher, I ask students to read for thirty minutes, and to respond to their reading in a reading response journal. I was having students just record on a log, but saw that they weren't reading. They  weren't completing their reading contracts or taking AR tests. They didn't appear to be making connections with skills we were doing. Out of desperation, I added the journals. I use a collection response starters that I found online, but cannot find the original source, so I am not posting it. Students are making gains, although a few parents have complained about the work. Students have a variety of things they can do for their response. It adds 5 to 10 minutes to their reading. Many look back on the journal before taking AR tests. I check them only once a week or every other week.
       I also require students to complete a spelling contract. They have points they must earn based on ability. Their contract is based on learning styles. They have until Friday to complete the contract, and do get a few minutes to work on it during the day. This adds ten minutes to their homework. Some students are exempt from the contract, because they earn 100% on their Pretest. I added Spelling City and Puzzle Maker to the contract this year integrate technology.
       We struggle with students that don't complete work. We can only have students stay in at recess to get work done. I send notices to parents if students aren't reading, but also allow students to count time read on the weekend if they have a very busy week planned. I have students asking to read during recess, and many read any chance they get. They know I love reading, and often talk about books I've read or plan to read. I've never had a group like this year's homeroom, they beg me to read aloud, and complain when we have to stop to go home. Their recent STAR test show our reading is paying off.
         What do you do for homework? How much is too much homework? Join the party and share your ideas.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Picture It!

       A few years ago I stumbled upon Jennifer Wagner is the host. This is the site that offers several online activities, including the O.R.E.O. Project, Pumpkin Seed Count, holiday card exchange, and a St. Patrick's Day project. She tries to do a new brand new project every year.
       Her latest project is Picture It! My students are so excited to join twenty-three other classrooms as part of group H's project. Each of the classrooms were assigned one square of a cooperative art project. Students can either color the premade square, or reproduce the square for themselves. My students are busy practicing drawing what they see, so they can make their own copy to color and send on to the other classes. We are posting the black and white squares on a bulletin board until we get the colored replacement pictures in the mail.
       How is technology integrated? Besides transmitting the original work online, classrooms have the opportunity to Skype with other classrooms.Often there is a Voice Thread response. Teachers are encouraged to use Google Earth to find the other classes' locations. We have used this to meet students around the country and world. It gives students a chance to see how others live, and gets them to appreciate what they have themselves. If you are looking for some fun projects, check out the website, or her other Facebook page for more ways to integrate technology.
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