Monday, September 30, 2013

How do you stack?

You may play with your food in this class. "Our Really Exciting Online" project (O.R.E.O. Project) by Jennifer Wagner from Projects by Jen and Oreo Project Weebly. Jen has organized this project for fifteen years, but I have only participated for the last few years. The concept is simple, stack Oreo cookies one cookie at a time with one hand. See how many you can stack without adjusting any cookie. The stacking stops when one or more cookies falls.
(Sorry about the poor video quality. My Flip Camera has seen better days!)

This year, I used Runde's Interactive Math Journals with the project. We documented how many cookies we averaged, as well as our reading buddies classes. The students enjoy this activity, but hated to see the cookies go to waste. We used two family packs of the original Oreo cookies. Students worked in small groups, with partners counting the stacks. Here are some of our favorite pictures.

We also had the opportunity to Skype with another classroom through the project. A third grade class in the central time zone needed a class to discuss their project. When I received the email late one afternoon, I jumped on it. The time (12:30 our time) was perfect. We were going to be wrapping up averaging one Buddy classroom's stacking before heading to our other group.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Older and Wiser

I was recently recognized for my thirty years of teaching. They have all been in the same district and building. I started in Special Education, in a resource room and slowly worked my way to regular. I still do inclusion, so I have many of the special education students in my room. I am on second generations now. Before I left special education, I learned to embrace technology. I am not your typical "well seasoned" teacher.

I love technology...most of the time. I hate it when it doesn't work correctly, and lately that seems to be the case more often than not. Our district recently got all new workstations and teacher machines with  Windows 7 and Office 13. They don't like to play well with our server, or some other programs. Another problem is our new version of Teacher Access through eSchool. It has been very finicky. The only good part is that our office has to run reports, instead of me taking time. I just sign and return. Love it!

I email parents with concerns and praise. I use a class webpage to keep parents informed and to share pictures, videos, and other evidence of our learning. I am also posting lesson plans for the principal and parents. I use Publisher and my webpage to publish a weekly newsletter to keep parents informed.

This year, I started using another program to improve communication. I use, a free service that allows you to send text messages. You don't need to use your own cell phone number, so there are no "after hours" calls if you don't want to share your contact information. With Remind101, you can send a text with up to 140 characters. I use my computer to set up the message, and can even schedule the text for a desired time. I have one "class" set up for my homeroom, and another for my other reading class.

    • Mrs. Hojnacki's Homeroom
    •  14

    Finish Math worksheets. Spelling practice test tomorrow. Study for Constitution Test on Thurs.; Moon Chasers and Food Web/Chain; 
I include information from the other teachers when relevant. I give a brief account of homework. Eventually, I plan to put copies of the actual assignments on my webpage so parents can get copies if they are left at school. The messages have brought many emails as well, as parents want to thank me or ask more questions. I don't mind these, as I can respond when it is convenient, usually while I watch television in the evening.

My parents that are using it love it. The students? Not so much! They cannot forget they had homework. As we strive to prepare students for jobs of the future, technology will surely be a part of it. Embracing technology now is essential. I also appreciate working smarter, not harder.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What to do?

This is our largest fifth grade class in several years. I have twenty-five students, while my teammates have twenty-eight, twenty-eight, and twenty-seven. I have an inclusion classroom. One student has a mandated one-on-one aide. Contractually I must have two students less than others. We have our standardized test in October, so we spent the first few weeks of school reviewing for the test. We also give STAR Reading and STAR Math, which are part of the Renaissance Learning family. We use this as a pretest. We also have district pretest we give. Only a couple of students are well above grade level. Several are below grade level. We don't have enough math textbooks for my class just yet, but they should arrive next week.

When I looked at my students, I saw some obvious needs in reading and math. I am trying desperately to do Daily 4 in Reading, and will be doing some version of math workshop when my review is done, or I feel ready with the reading progressing. My dilemma is what to do until books arrive.

Last year, two parents purchased a textbook for my really high students, so they didn't get sent by bus to sixth grade math. We used an alternative text that comes right before the course two book used in sixth grade book. I differentiate with two, three, or four groups for spelling, reading, and math. It is what I have always done. Unfortunately, my teammates are feeling pressure to keep up with me. They may wish for me to quit making more work for all of us.

Without enough books, I cannot get started with a similar approach to my teammates that are also teaching math, so I am doing what I think is best. I have a common core book to review fourth grade skills. Well, teach the fourth grade skills to a significant number of below level students. I am putting one or two in my Course 1 book because they tested at late sixth grade level, and above eighth grade level. I am also using lots of things I have made for math centers and Scoot games.

I am spending hours gathering materials, and don't have time to even cut laminated pieces out, let alone proof things I have made. I am willing to give away two sets if someone will proof for me. I have a "Take a Bite Out of Addition" task cards. It is for addition of whole numbers with and without regrouping. This is where some of my students are working.

Thank goodness for iPads, as my high students are using Math File Folders games, like 5 Dice. Easy to differentiate with multiple levels. Love it!

What would you do if you were me?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I tried the iDraw app

It is Tuesday, so I am linking up with Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper.

As you get more involved in blogging, you may want to add things to your blog, stores, etc. It may become necessary to learn to do some things for yourself. There are so many cute blog designs and add-ons out there. Tutorials can teach you how to personalize basic blog designs and buttons. Many have tried their hand at design. I still chuckle at my own feeble attempts to design a blog "way back when".

I am not able to pay for a new design, or even add-ons. I was fortunate to win my current design from The Honey Bunch, but recently wanted to add a round avatar on Teachers Pay Teachers, and to make products for my store.

I previously purchased an app called iDraw for my ipad. I have a stylus that I use with it. The app is easy to use. It helps if you are somewhat artistic. I love art. iDraw lets me create without making a mess, and can go anywhere I go.

Then, I started experimenting with my avatar for TpT. This is what I came up with by drawing simple shapes and adding some shadow and highlights. I think it compliments my design. The best part? I did it myself.

I break down a simple shape, like my ice cream cones and scoops I made for a math game. (The real stuff would have been better, with our 97 degree feel like temps this afternoon). A cone is a triangle, with some definition. A scoop of ice cream is made up of different filled circles. Add some shadow or hghlights and it looks real enough.

Try some other basic objects, like apples or frames.

iDraw is easy and fun to use. You can create backgrounds as well as clipart. Get creative and see what you can make when you try it.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

It's About Time!

September 3 was the first day back for my students. I finished the room late Monday. Well, almost had it finished. I think there are a few things left to do still. I finally picked up my Glofish for my aquarium.

The new principal is forcing our staff to post the lesson plans online. I have been posting them for awhile, so I am considered one of the experts to go to for help. That contributed to my finishing my room at the last minute. I took some time this morning to revamp and update my webpage. I wish I could just make it a blog, but the Super wanted some uniformity, now it doesn't seem so important to the tech department, so I may revamp again. I have learned ways to customize the other system, but it isn't unique like I want it.

My neon rainbow room is unique to my grade level and the school. Without further ado...onto my pictures. There are many!

Love my Reading Poster from Creekside Teacher Tales

iPad waiting to be added to the Rocker, and my Pets in the Classroom addition, minus  my Glofish.
Paper sorter with binder clip labels, picture frame with student check-off list. Love it!
My Daily 4 and Math Workshop from Clutter Free Classroom

My No Name sign from MMI

My Common Core Learning Targets will go here.
Love the Learning Styles (can't find the source)
My frames for stellar work and bucket fillers. Subway Art.

My bunting, Types of Text featuring Melonheadz and
VOICES board from Ladybug Files

Part of my library

Word Wall with my bunting. Clutter Free Classroom Black and White
Word Wall letters run on neon paper.

Genre (and Text Types) Posters from Rachel Lamb

My Reading / Craft Board and Classmate Wordle

My room is bright with lots of color. I love it. I will be posting a little more regularly, now that my technology issues are almost resolved and I am settling into a routine. Have a great week, I know I will.

Monday, September 2, 2013


I cannot believe August is gone. I go back to school tomorrow. I have been absent from blogging as I have been trying to get my room together, attending several in-service sessions, and teaching one. The last was a nightmare! Love technology when it works, but lately it hasn't been cooperative. I will be back later tonight or tomorrow with pictures of my classroom. I am heading back to school to stash put away the last two boxes I took back.

I love Farley's Currently, especially the love yourself spot on September's Currently. I am hoping that putting it in writing will help me focus.

I only watch morning television during the summer. Today is my last chance. This summer has given me lots of family time. I think my daughter is welcoming the return to school to get a break from me! I wish summer had not waited until August to arrive. We don't have air conditioning at school, and had a building and sinking fund defeated in August that would have gotten it for our building. It has been almost 90 many days, as I tried to get the room finished. Tomorrow is forecast to be in the low to mid 70's. Yipee!

Our assistant principal became our principal this summer. Things are already different, in a good way. More about that in future posts I am sure. 

My love myself challenge: get back to walking. I walked over fifty miles in a month, but haven't walked in two weeks, except at a cross country meet and laps to and from the copy machine. I need to focus on what is important. I tend to get caught up in the details, and it can be overwhelming. 

I am looking forward to a good year. I got some of the kids I really wanted for homeroom, and a few more are in my second reading class. It will be a challenging year, but change is good! Right???

Enjoy the last unofficial day of summer, and a great year.

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