Friday, April 27, 2012

Working Up a Sweat

Today was payday, jeans and tennis shoes, and a fundraiser. Our Royal Walk has students collecting pledges for the distance walked in an hour. Students get a mark on a card for every half lap they walk on the track during their time slot. Grade levels have to be assigned time slots because we have over 600 students K-5. Teachers and staff walk for pledges, too, since we also benefit from the proceeds.

The fifth grade walks with our kindergarten buddies. This works well because the older kids encourage the little ones to keep walking. Music plays over the PA system at the track, setting a steady beat. It is so touching to see tough fifth grade boys helping to tie dangling shoelaces, or grab a hand of a struggling little one to keep them moving. Most students do a mix of walking and running.  Water stops are scheduled twice during the hour. Students encourage each other to keep moving, challenging them to go one lap more. Fifth graders averaged 2 to 3 miles apiece.

Upon finishing, all are treated to a Popsicle. Students collect their donations, and then prizes are delivered. We raised close to $20,000 the first year of the walk, slightly less each succeeding year, but enough to replace most of two playgrounds. Our proceeds from this year's walk will go toward library renovations, including shelving, a portable iPad lab, and some kindles or nooks. This is a lofty goal, so it will take two years to see it to completion.

It was a great day! Sunny and a little chilly outside, but warmed by the thoughts of all the money they were raising.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Not Your Ordinary Dog - Sumdog

I love blog stalking. I find so many ideas to use in my classroom and to share with colleagues. One of the things I found early last Fall was Sumdog. I don't remember whose blog it was because I wasn't an official follower at the time. Anyway, Sumdog is a math site where students practice math facts and concepts while racing against others. Sumdog allows customized student passwords, and has concepts aligned by grade level. All free! There are some parts that are subscription. A few times a year they offer free State Contests. Beginning Next week, there is another contest. Students at registered schools compete to earn the most points for the day. Daily winners can earn free software for their school.

I don't teach math, but signed up our fifth graders in the fall. My teammate set aside class time one day, and then encouraged participation at home by giving homework credit. We were top point earner one day, earning software. Not bad for only having 79 students. Winners from each State are eligible for the first National Contest. Won't you join in the fun?

  Sum Dog


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why Not Art?

We had to alter our schedule to allow for our Alzheimer's presentation yesterday. We ended up our homeroom students all afternoon. (Love that when it happens!) Having an extended length of time, I decided to do a couple of projects. We had stories we needed to finish for writing, and it had been a while since we did an craft project. Notice I said craft and not Art. We eliminated our Art Program and teacher last year. We were expected to integrate art concepts into our lessons. Begrudgingly, we did just that. Then, at a heated school board meeting this past summer, the super said we still had art, we fought back and had refused to teach it this year. Our teaching contract says you must have a minor or major in Art to teach it. We finally reached a compromise with an adjusted specials schedule and have added "craft" projects where they fit. Before the blowup, fifth grade had agreed to do displays for our fine arts Spring Program. So I needed something quick. Enter our butterflies and dragonflies. They do "fit" into our fifth grade curriculum because we study invertebrate animals and even have a butterfly house. They also fit with math because of the tie-in with symmetry and geometry.


These should look lovely on display for our program, don't you think?


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Whose idea was this? Freebies

Report cards were sent home the end of March, but we had conferences Thursday from 8 AM to 8 PM, with a scheduled lunch and dinner. Needless to say, with parents having the cards for three weeks, the turn out for conferences wasn't great. Our fall conferences were by appointment and were with homeroom teachers only. The spring conference was with all of the teachers individually, in an open format. We chose to stay in our rooms as opposed to the gym. We figured we would spend about 5-7 minutes per conference. During the first three hours, I saw ten or eleven parents. Most popped in long enough to grab the progress report (electronic grade book glitch wouldn't give us access to last quarter's grades any more!), and made sure assignments were up-to-date. Things picked up through the afternoon and by evening we had three or four parents waiting at all times.

We were told we had to contact all parents that didn't show, so we worked into our lunch and dinner breaks. When 8 PM rolled around, we had a backlog of parents, so we were the last ones to leave for the evening at almost 9 o'clock! We had only seen about 70% of the fifth grade parents. We had a few more call. Our usual attendance? 95%! We will be sending the progress reports on Monday, with a notice to contact us if there are concerns. Hope the calendar for next year is different so attendance will be better.

The result of my morning spare time? I worked on upgrading some activities I use for spelling. I am including two as freebies to celebrate one more thing being crossed off my list for the year. Hope you can use them.

 Spelling Math                    Write Your Words


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Author's Purpose and a freebie

Our story this week was "The Memory Box" by Mary Bahr. It is the story of a boy learning to deal with his grandfather's Alzheimer's disease. Every spring we read the story and then have our p's daughter, who happens to be a social worker in a Memory Care Unit, come and talk to the students about Alzheimer's. She does a great lesson helping the students understand the disease. From our experience, fifth grade seems to be a good time to discuss this topic because many of them have great-grandparents that may be affected by Alzheimer's. We also visit her Memory Care Unit where we sing songs, play recorders, and provide some much needed love and comfort to the residents. It is one of our service learning projects that mean so much to the students, teachers, and Memory Care residents.

We also use the story to review author's purpose. Students were focusing on the three main purposes for writing: persuade, inform, and entertain. They did a simple assignment that allowed them to show they really understand the skill, by applying it to other stories. We use the PIE acronym to remind students, but I also included the purpose of express. The kids wanted to be able to add their favorite poems in this category.

                                                                       Author's PIE


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Making Spelling Fun, and a Freebie

I teach spelling to all of the fifth graders. I have differentiated spelling for many years. What does this look like? Of my 79 students (we are a small group this year), I have two or three separate lists. I give six separate spelling tests, two tests in each of my classes. To make spelling fun, we use activities on Spelling City to help differentiate instruction. I use a spelling contract to also differentiate. Students choose 50-100 points worth of activities to do. I also give a pretest on Mondays. Students that score 100% or better on the previous week's list are eligible for the pretest. Students must score 100% or more on the pretest to be exempt from the spelling contract and other spelling tests during the week. I give a practice test and final test. Some students score 90% or higher on the practice test and are exempt from the final test. Most students will retake to get the highly sought after 100% for the exemptions for next week.

An all time favorite activity for spelling practice are our spelling games we play on Thursdays. Bubble or Sparkle was the favorite game until this year.
Boggle (found on Pinterest and many blogs), has become a favorite. I choose my letters carefully to guarantee students can find at least a couple of spelling words. They earn bonus points for spelling words and word longer than six letters.

I also have a Word Yahtzee game that we play. For the Yahtzee game, you need to choose a Mystery Word. Students then try to make as many 3, 4, and 5 letter words from the letters in the word. We play this game when we have really long challenge words that can be the Mystery word.
I am working on a Scramble/Words with Friends type game. The kids like playing it on our iPads, but I can't get everyone through in a week, so I am trying to get a game board/center activity completed to try out yet this spring. I have a class set of Scrabble Games, but this isn't my most reliable group, so I am hesitant to use the real games. I find game pieces after every inside recess.

Freebies: Word Yahtzee
              Spelling Contract

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Say it isn't so!

My spring break has flown by. With hubby in class, as a full time student, and my youngest daughter on a different schedule, I had the week free for me. My kitchen has been scrubbed and de-cluttered. My floors are clean! We'll see how long that lasts with my preparation for dinner tomorrow.

I also decided I needed to spend time in my classroom to get it back it order. With no days off since January 3rd, the room had been lacking the usual day off clean up I usually do. With an evaluation (the p is supposed to be back :) and conferences coming, I knew a reorganization was needed.

The worst culprit? My classroom library needed to be sorted and inventoried. I have the least responsible group this year. I let all of the fifth graders borrow books. I was noticing many books leaving shelves, but no sign-outs. Many students don't follow the rules, and simply put books back in any old basket. After a day and a half, all chapter books in the room are where they belong. The exceptions are curriculum support baskets and buddy books. They will have to wait for another day.

I am taking a break from updating my inventory list to write this post. I am afraid to see how many have actually walked away. I forgot the sign-out list at school, so will need to check it over before I officially close the library on Monday. I can hear the whining already.

Yes, that would be Naughty Nancy that probably has a dozen books in her desk, cubby, locker, and under her bed at home. I closed my library  for three days last year. Miraculously, all but 5 books reappeared. Considering I have over 2000 books, that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I will actually know my total when I finish the inventory soon. I am looking into doing an online book inventory. I tried a scanner, but can't do it anymore with our frozen system. An online one looks the best. What do you think?

Lastly, I decided to take advantage of the somewhat decent weather here in southeast Michigan, and have logged 20 miles of walking for the week. I am on a mission to get in shape. Our district has been on a challenge to "walk" from New York City to Los Angeles. I hope to add another 5-8 miles before Monday. I better get going!

Have a wonderful relaxing Easter with your family!

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Quick Game

I love a good game. Lou at Pencils with Pizzazz has caught me in a game of tag. Since I have just a couple of days left on break I will play along. Will you?
The rules? Answer her questions, make up ten questions of my own, and tag ten more people.

1. What is your favorite literacy resource? I use so many, so it is hard to pick one. Pinterest for the inspirations and links to so much!
2. What is one piece of advice you would give someone that wants to be teacher? Have a backup plan. With the current attacks on public education, I think it is going to be more difficult to see teachers with careers of thirty years in the near future. What incentive will there be to keep you going?
3. What is one piece of advice you were given that has stuck with you? Don't be afraid to be real in the classroom. Students need to see a teacher sharing laughter and tears.
4. If you could be anything OTHER than a teacher, what would it be? I would love to be a professional photographer.
5. What subject would you say you feel most comfortable teaching? I love teaching reading, but miss teaching social studies. I loved the technology integration I did with social studies.
6. Who inspired you to become a teacher? My parents. My dad should have been a math teacher, and my mother taught my siblings and me so much about learning and life. I also had many great teachers that also inspired me.
7. What is your guilty pleasure? Blog stalking and watching reality tv.
8. One teaching moment that really challenged you? The third Friday this year's class demanded their movie. My explanation of why movies weren't going to happen like they had in fourth grade, led to class meetings. They have been my most challenging moments, but most rewarding. Kids need to know they are heard. You just have to choose your own words carefully with a group like mine.
9. Favorite real aloud? The one I am reading at the time. I have so many...
10. Funny teacher moment? (Because these are just so fun to read) The time I was showing my student teacher how to use a stereoscope (Microscope with projector) with a kind of starfish from our saltwater tank. The serpent stars dropped the end of their legs, as a reaction to stress. It looked like animal droppings in my hand. The kids and I thought it was funny, and the student teacher was grossed out.

I am tagging:

Remember, here Are The rules: * Post these rules * Answer the 10 questions that the tagger posted for you * Create 10 questions of your own to ask the people that you're about to tag * Tag 10 people and link them with your post (and let them know they've been tagged!)

My ten questions:
1. What is your favorite holiday project for your classroom?
2. Which do you prefer reading/writing or math/science?
3. What is your favorite piece of technology for your classroom?
4. What was the last thing that happened in class that made you cry?
5. Who is your favorite children's author?
6. What is last song you listened to on your iPod or radio?
7. If you could go any where on a trip, where would you go?
8. Which do you prefer winter or summer?
9. What is your most memorable teaching experience?
10. Why did you decide to start your blog?

I will be back tomorrow to tell how I spent my break.

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