Thursday, May 23, 2013

Service, a Bundle, and more

With the tragedy of the storms, anything I had to say here seemed insignificant. I hope you don't mind a delayed sharing. It has been a high point in my week.

Tuesday had to be one of the most rewarding days of this year. We completed our second service learning project. We previously read a story about Alzheimer's and had our principal's daughter, a geriatric social worker, talk to our kids about the disease. Many of the students have a great-grandparent that has been diagnosed with the disease.

We went to a memory care unit to visit with some Alzheimer and dementia patients. This was a very emotional day for the students and teachers alike. Students visited with patients and colored pictures. Then, they played songs on their recorders, and sang. It was very emotional to watch patients that don't remember much of their lives, or even what they just had for breakfast break into song. When students saw the principal's daughter crying, and realized how many of the patients were singing along to "This Little Light" they had to do an encore. Almost all of the patients joined in, including the resident hummer, that can no longer speak. Hardly a dry eye in sight! I was so proud of my kids! This was very meaning for them and all involved.

As I looked around I realized how blessed I have been. My thoughts and prayers went out to all of those affected by the devastating storms. This truly has been a year filled with so many tragedies and challenges for so many. As always, the educational community has come together to provide much needed support for those affected by the horrific tornadoes. Teacher's Notebook has a bundle of products to provide support for Moore, Oklahoma. It is available through Tuesday.

Tuesday was also made memorable when I reached 200 followers. Yipee! I am planning a giveaway, but need some time to get it organized. Want to help by donating a item? I would love to hear from you!

Hope your day was rewarding, and memorable for the right reasons.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kidblog? Tried It!

I love to integrate technology into my curriculum and instruction. I participate in online projects regularly. Last year I had my own classroom blog through Blogger. I didn't like that the kids had to be "guest bloggers". I tried other blogging programs, but didn't like them. This year I tried I wrote about it here.

What I like about Kidblog is that I can monitor what is written. Only registered students can leave comments. The teacher has to approve all posts and comments. Kidblog has given students an authentic reason to write. Often we write posts and copy them to word to post on our display boards in the classroom.

The students like different aspects of Kidblog. They liked choosing their backgrounds and creating avatars/icons on their own. They have so many technology skills that they love to showcase, and this allowed them to show off.

It has truly been a good experience for students. They hate to see the year end, and want me to leave their blogs in place so they can keep using them in middle school. 

A drawback, if there is one, is that the space for each classroom appears to be limited. We use a lot of space because of the photographs on our posts. The kids know I blog and take pictures for my Learning in Bliss blog, so they insist on using pictures in their posts. They are waiting for me to upload our service learning pictures. 

Would I use Kidblog again? Probably. I may give Edmodo a try with kids before we end this year. I like some of the features, but haven't tried it with students yet.

Do you use Kidblog or Edmodo? Is there a better choice that I don't know about? Love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Service Learning, Part 1

With less than a month to go, my students have been bombarded with special events and projects. One of our all time favorite projects is growing flowers in our Life Lab. Our award winning life lab was one of the first at an elementary school. It houses plants, a pond and stream, a butterfly house, and numerous animals. Every spring the students get flower plugs to plant. They grow a flower for every student's mother for Mother's Day. We also grow flowers that are transplanted downtown.

Last Friday was our Downtown Planting Day. Our Downtown Development Authority pays for the plants and dirt. Our fifth graders then plant them in decorative pots and urns throughout the downtown area. This year's plants are an ornamental grass, yellow coreopsis, and a purple wave petunia. The purple and gold theme is a favorite, since it reflects our school colors. To show their appreciation, two restaurants that overlook the planters gave students discount coupons. The students were eager to eat at the restaurant, and the restaurant owners are pleased with the way their businesses will look with the flowers in bloom all summer.

Now all we have to do is hope we don't have many more cold nights! It has been a wet and cold spring in southern Michigan.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

For Next Year...

Pinkadots Elementary is hosting their first linky. School supplies are the topic.


What supplies do you ask your students to gather for the next year? As we head into the homestretch for this year, most of us are simultaneously thinking about prepping for next year. As grade level chair, I have to have our supply list ready to go home with this year's current fourth graders. We send the list at the end of the year, as well as posting it online and having copies at Target, Walmart, Staples, etc.
My students use journals for writing. I provide one composition book for the math journal but students must provide their own writing journal. I let them choose between composition book or spiral. If they choose it, they are more likely to use it. We decorate them with photographs and memorabilia. Students must have a binder. We prefer a basic 1 1/2 to 2" 3-ring binder. Trappers don't fit in our lockers easily. Students are expected to keep our Student Planner/Handbook in the binder. Parent communication takes place in the planner.

I have my own list of necessities for making my life better.

I love PaperMate's InkJoy pens for checking papers. I prefer colors other than black, blue, or red.
.Product Details

My must have are multiple sets of Scentos! My kids love Scentos for our Rainbow Writing in Word Work.

I have already started stocking up on my supplies for next year. What supplies should I add?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tried It Tuesday!

For this week's Tried It Tuesday linky from Fourth Grade Flipper, I tried switching from desks to tables.

We departmentalized the year I switched rooms. I grew tired of hearing students complain their pencils, pens, scissors, glue, etc. had been taken. Last year, I turned all the desks backwards to form tables, and made students keep supplies only in their cubbies.

This year, I took the plunge, and swapped desks for the round tables. I decided tables freed up walk space. The cubbies had reduced the amount of visual clutter. The round tables, although they don't all match, are more visually appealing and lend themselves to collaborative work and discussion, a must in my classroom. The tables do encourage a little extra talking, but when students have the opportunity to choose their seats, they will fight to keep them. Excessive talking moves them to the "time out" table.

I am negotiating with colleagues to exchange the two mismatched tables for the matching ones. I am also trying to get a new group work table for my co-teacher, a kidney shaped one. I need more table and floor space next year with a larger class coming. Mismatched or not, trading my desks in for tables was the best decision. My goal is to make my classroom into a "Literary Lounge". Think Barnes and Noble.

What things have you tried that made a difference in your classroom? Link Up!

Monday, May 13, 2013

May's Monday Made It!

I am linking up for Tara's monthly made-it party at 4th Grade Frolics.
Last week was a very busy week. Without hubby's help, we wouldn't have been able to make our Mother's Day project. He got up early and picked up our ceramic tiles for our trivets. (I was headed to Lowe's or Home Depot every day last week, but never got there!) He also helped us with our service learning project. More on that later in the week.

I saw so many variations on the trivet, including using student pictures, which I had my teacher neighbor do last year. I decided to do one of my own, but to use a Wordle. Students came up with their list of descriptive words to include in the word cloud. The only problem, I only have one color printer, so it took a long time to get all of the word clouds finished. We glued, Mod Podged, and sealed the wordles. The kids were thrilled with the results. They also had our flowers we grew in our Life Lab. We wrapped those in bright paper and a bow. 

For my next project, I made a spring-y sign to hang outside my door. My black/white/shots of color wreath had been there, but I wanted something bright. The sign was from Michael's. I just painted and wrote my name and message.
With a dark purple wall (School Color), it is hard to find something that doesn't get lost. 

My last project was inspired by Tara's previous post. I wanted poly zip pockets to store my math center activities, but wanted to be able to store them in three-ring notebooks. I scoured our area Staples store, and found these. As a discontinued item, they only had one pack in stock. They ordered them online and shipped free. I am organizing my games to store for summer, and for easy retrieval next year. Thanks for the idea, Tara!

 The best part, the poly zip folder can be used to hold the center sign on my display board next year.

Now I just have to print, laminate, and cut out all of my purchases I made during last week's sales.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Let's Get Re-Acquainted

LaToya has another installment of her Let's Get Acquainted Linky.

Her topic this week is a set of three questions.
Linky Questions
1.  What made you decide to become a teacher?
2. What has been your most rewarding experience as a teacher?
3. If you were not a teacher, what would you be?

#1 I knew I wanted to be a teacher in second grade. I loved the fact that my beloved Mrs. Shull had eyes in the back of her head. She was an incredible teacher, and I wanted to be like her. My father would have been a teacher, if he had been born at a different time. The depression and war kept him from his dream. He was determined to see each of his children got a chance at their dream. I became a teacher.

#2 I think my most rewarding experience as a teacher has been to change our school climate and the perception of special education students. Over twenty years ago, a regular ed. co-teacher and I started our version of inclusion. There was no name for what we created, it was just a plan to fit the education to the child. We shared a student. She always asked to keep him because they were doing something that he "had to be a part of" because of his intellect and connections he modeled for his peers. He couldn't read beyond the late second grade level in fifth grade, but tell him anything once, and he never forgot it. The following year, we concocted a plan for me to go into her classroom to do reading and math with her kids. We took eight fifth graders that were in need of special education support, and scheduled my day around them. We split the class, grouped and regrouped students, adjusted curriculum, etc. It was unheard of at the time. We just knew it was what was right. I learned to be a better teacher from working alongside of Peg. I fell in love with fifth grade, and the challenges they bring, hormones and all! Three years later I joined her at fifth grade, as a regular ed. teacher. We split the inclusion kids, and shared the special ed. teacher. I am still the inclusion teacher at fifth grade.

#3 If I weren't a teacher, I would be a professional photographer. I loved to take photographs. My favorite subject is our sports teams. Many of my photographs have been used in area newspapers. "When I grow up" I just might pursue that venture. By then, I will be too shrunken to hold my camera with the big zoom lens!

What about you? What drew you to education? Link up!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tried It Tuesday! QR Fun

I have been wanting to join Holly, Fourth Grade Flipper's Tried It Tuesday linky, but haven't been able to get myself organized.

For my first installment of Tried It Tuesday, I chose to share my experience with QR Codes. This seems to be a popular topic for this linky. My first experience with QR Codes in the classroom was last year. I stumbled upon a post by someone while stalking blogs. The post gave very specific directions on how the QR Codes were used to improve communication. I created a QR Code for my classroom website using

Then, I found a great tutorial this fall on using QR Codes in the classroom, by Mrs. Michelle White. She showed how to use a qr code to make a link to a Show Me video and a website, both easy things accomplished with QR Stuff.

 Shortcut to her worksheet

I was able to take it from there. I made a worksheet that used QR Codes as shortcuts or links to websites.

Google Docs

 (I learned that too many QR Codes on a worksheet are a bad thing when trying to save a Google Document. Save the document as a PDF file first. Google Docs sees all the shortcuts and cannot handle all the redirects.)

I made a QR Code to go with a novel we were reading.
From there I taught colleagues how to use them. I was even brave enough to teach a session at our iPad in-service last month. I included some of my favorite shortcuts as part of my lesson.
My students have become very good at using QR Codes. One has even made a scavenger hunt for us to use in the classroom. Blogging has exposed me to so many things that incorporate technology, like QR Codes. Have you tried them?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Just how much are we appreciated?

It is teacher appreciation week around the country. Parents, students, and various organizations acknowledge teachers for their commitment to our profession. The online teacher stores that feature products made for teachers by teachers are having huge sales. Chain restaurants and stores are offering discounts and specials deals for teachers with a current I.D.

At our school, our PTO goes all out. They provide lunch for our staff each day, complete with yummy desserts and soft drinks. It is so nice to not have to think about what to pack for lunch. I am sure I will be greeted by several students with teacher gifts for me. Our administration always gives a token of appreciation to us as well.

An interesting twist this year, our administration decided to make this week the due date for teacher requests for next year. In previous years, parents had to list two names of teachers for the next year. They also had to give specifics about learning styles. Many parents followed the guidelines, with their child's best interests at heart. Others did not. With high stakes testing being an ever increasing part of teacher evaluations, our staff asked for changes. We are already hoping it isn't a "Be careful what you wish for" situation. The number of requests per classroom cannot exceed six boys and six girls. Special Education students will then be placed. In all classrooms at a grade level, the intent is to maintain a similar ratio of boys to girls, as well as the ratio of high, medium, and low students.

This morning parents began gathering prior to 7:15 for the 9:00 application acceptance time. By 9:00 the line had growth to more than fifty parents, some acting as messengers for friends and neighbors. By 12:30 the count was at 134. Applications are being accepted through Friday. Most of the top spots at some grade levels are filled.

This year's teachers will have the daunting task of sifting through remaining students to balance classrooms. (Fourth Grade teachers will be making up my fifth grade class list.) The principal will no longer be to blame when we get "that class" that makes you count down from day 180. Our colleagues will bear the burden. The principal is maintaining the right to make switches (high for high, boy for boy, etc.) as new students enroll or exit this summer.

How are your class lists determined? Do you allow parental requests?

I'd love to hear. We may be begging for a new policy for next year!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

I Appreciate You!

I am having a teacher appreciation sale at both of my stores in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week. Teacher's Notebook is adding and additional 10% off for sales during this sale. It runs through May 10. All of my products are 40% off. Make sure you enter their giveaway for the $100 gift card from Oriental Trading.

My Teachers Pay Teachers sale is May 7-8, in conjunction with the two day sale sponsored by TPT. They are offering additional discount so you can save up to 28%. Use their code to save the additional amount.

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May's Currently

It has been a long time in coming, but I think Spring has finally arrived for good in southern Michigan. It's about time! It is also time for Farley's Currently Linky.

I think I am often listening to the late news while blogging before bed. At least the weather was a high point. It was 84 degrees today! I love it!

After losing his job during the economic downturn, hubby went back to school. It had been 30+ years since high school. He will graduate with honors. So proud of him. He worked hard and hardly sleeps now that he is in the middle of track season and final projects. 

I am sick of my hair, my weight, and my wardrobe. Stress eating and my ill father hasn't helped. I need a hair cut and color, and to get moving! 

My father had another downward turn. I worry he is giving up. It is so hard to see him this way. I don't get enough time with him.

My summer plans include a stack of books for me, including some new books to share with kids next year. I have a mile long list of projects that keep getting pushed aside. The reorganization of my home and room must be done to help me focus on what matters.

Hope tomorrow brings smiles and sunshine your way. Don't forget to link up.

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