Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Brag Tags Work

It's What Works Wednesday, the last one for 2013. For this week's post, I decided to concentrate on "Brag Tags." 
I first started using brag tags last spring. I volunteered to be part of a linky featuring "Reading Olympians" called "Pass the Torch". The sweet ladies from "Reading Olympians" spent a tremendous about of time putting together their Greek and Latin Root Word units. Then, they contacted one of my favorite artists, Michelle, from The 3 AM Teacher, to get adorable clip art to go with their program. To showcase their newly revised units, they invited teachers across the country to participate in their linky. They provided the materials (for free!) and all we had to do was give them a try. 

As students became successful on mastering roots, I decided to make my own set of brag tags, for the kids. I purchased the clip art from Michelle, and invested in the chain, beads, ink, and laminating pouches. As the year wound down, the students were still proudly wearing their brag tag necklaces everywhere. This summer I decided to get creative and made tags for lots of occasions. 

When the year started, my second reading class soon became jealous that my students were earning tags for behavior, participation, and finally completing Reading Olympian units. When the principal provided chains with a "Rock the Test" tag as motivation for our standardized testing in the fall, I decided to include the second class. They have gone tag crazy. Every week they come up with a new tag I need to make for them. 

Some students leave the tags hanging on our "Bragging Rights" board, but others wear theirs everyday, all day (except phys. ed.). The one draw back for me is I am going through ink like crazy! Their parents will probably want me to pay the chiropractor's bill when they get sore necks from showing off their expanding tag collections. As I get ready to print a collection of holiday tags that were included in a bundle of freebies, I would have to say, Brag Tags definitely work to motivate my students. Have you tried them?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Snow Day

Last week I commented that we historically miss a day of school during this last week of school before Winter Break. Friday night through Saturday, my area received over 8 inches of snow. With a day to clean roads, many students and parents were surprised to see our school scrolling across the season finally of "Survivor" last night. I wasn't surprised. The winds were just strong enough to make the powdery snow wreak havoc on our country roads. We started with a two hour delay, but cancelled when the country roads were treacherous.

I decided to take advantage of my free time by finishing a gift for a friend, making a gift for my students, and then headed to school. When I left on Friday, I had centers ready for Monday, but with one less day, I had to do some editing. I always plan too big for this last week.

I copied my last root word units to get me through the semester in mid-January, made a sample of some projects, got pictures set for parent gifts, and wrote two blog posts. Not bad for a quick trip to school.

Former Principal sharing a seasonal favorite "The Sparkle Box"
I have things set for the morning. Our former principal is coming first thing to read "The Sparkle Box". She read it last year to my students. It is a nice way to reinforce our RACK project. Students will share their RACK from Saturday, then we'll wrap up our unit on "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe."

I have so many activities planned, I hope we don't get the predicted additional accumulating snow tonight. That will just make me a Grinch, as I am forced to cut more from my hectic schedule. I have lots of centers, purchased from TpT on Cyber Monday, and part of the TpT Holiday Freebies, besides my own centers I made. I will be back Wednesday with a What Works post, and will check in at the end of the week.

Happy Holidays Math Centers for Upper Elementary

How will you spend your week?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness for Sandy Hook

As educators, we remember and honor our fallen colleagues and their students from Sandy Hook School.  We honor them each day in our classrooms in which we continue their dream of teaching our children.  We honor their memory with our service.  Join with teachers everywhere in committing random acts of kindness to show our love for Sandy Hook.

All during this week, please promote the RAK on social media.  Use the hashtag:  #love4SH

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What Works Wednesday #2

It's Wednesday, Hump Day! Today is also "What Works Wednesday" #2. My colleagues and I are gathering for a "scrapbooking" party. Our pages won't be filled with photos of our latest vacations however. We are gathering instead to work on our evidence notebooks. I would love to be making an electronic version.

As I sorted through things for the notebook this week, I noticed a piece I had put aside for the Domain 1 section for differentiation. As a former special education teacher, I have always differentiated instruction to some degree. 

My selection for What Works Wednesday would be Spelling City. is a great site and app for differentiating spelling instruction. Spelling lists are easily differentiated. Students can easily have their very own spelling list. I post my list once, and then only add additional lists based on the students in my room that year. Last year, I had to work to find words that would challenge one of my students. She could spell any grade level would on the lists. I found similar word lists at a seventh grade level to keep her challenged. I teach fifth grade, by the way. 
 Here is a sample of lists for my unit that goes with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The list is further differentiated with different challenge /super speller words for individual students. I have two additional groups, one that is working on only sight words, and one that has simplified compound words this week.

I use Spellingcity to administer a pretest, practice test, and final test. The students like it because they can take the test at their own pace. I like it because they print out the test, and I can read every word. I also like the fact that the test is scored for me. I have students write their Challenge or Super Speller words on the test paper. I add those points to their total, record scores, and return them to students in minutes.

Students love the variety of activities available for them. I use classroom dollars to purchase the premium subscription, because they can access all activities. The basic subscription has many fun, differentiated activities as well. fits well with the spelling contract I have done for years. I added the activities to the bottom of the contract. Those activities are as popular as my "Rainbow Writers" with my Scentos markers. Students use the app on our two classroom computers, my iPads, the iPad cart when we get them, or in the lab. We go within the first ten minutes of the day most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I am committed to providing them with differentiated learning experiences, and to prepare them for the future. Whether they are taking the tests or playing Speedy Speller and Falling Letters, they are typing. This skills is important as we move to an online standardized test next school year. 

Differentiating Spelling with a spelling contract and works for me on this Wednesday.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What do you do?

I cannot believe it is finally late Thursday afternoon. With all the things going on here at school, home, shopping, etc. I have lost track of time. I had a "What Works Wednesday" post ready to go, but after my day yesterday, I didn't get it posted. I will set it to post next Wednesday instead.

With the holidays, we all get busy and things get stressful. Every year I have a student or two that struggles with the coming holidays. Often it is that money doesn't go very far, and they are looking at a bleak Christmas. Sometimes students are anxious over the prospect of being home for two weeks, or out of a routine.

This year's challenge came from a little one that has lots of baggage she carries with her. School isn't easy, and the parents struggle to help with homework. Yesterday, the last straw, a failing grade on an assignment, broke her. She had a royal fit. I didn't engage her in battle, which surprised her. The outburst and other fallout caused my girls to cry. The boys withdrew. Everyone, including me was shaken by the incident. We had to cancel math, because it really wasn't a priority. (Thank goodness they could run, and scream, and work out frustrations in physical education.) We went to read with our kinder buddies, and finished our day with a walk with our Walking Classroom podcast, my kids favorite stress reliever, by the way.

It spite of all I did, several students were "sick" as they left. Surely, stress was the cause. I didn't even touch school work, or my ipad last night. A rare occurrence indeed! We started this morning with a class meeting. The child returned, calm and ready to learn.

Today was uneventful. Tomorrow is a payday, jeans and sneakers day! Yippee!

My question is, "How do you handle those situations, when a child (Fifth Grader for me) throws themselves into a major temper tantrum, spewing hate and anger?"

Do you keep plodding along with the curriculum, or do you stop, regroup, and find a soothing alternative?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Currently and a Sale

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  I know I enjoyed the long weekend off, but missed my son. I cannot believe it has been a year since he moved to North Carolina with his honey.
I cannot wait for Monday for the Cyber Sale along with TpT.  My list is growing of my must haves. I'm sure some of them are also on your wish list! Be sure to stop by my store, I will have some new items. I am stopping long enough to get my Currently posted, then back to work.

Without any more delay, here is my Currently for this month.

We are having some decent weather. The sun is shining here in Michigan, and the last of the leaves are going to the piles. We don't burn because of my asthma, but compost them in the woods behind us. The dogs think if he is outside it must mean it is time to play.

With school starting after Labor Day, this weekend was the first long break for me. I had just one day off in November following conferences, but it was hectic. This was a relaxing, stay home weekend. 

We have three weeks left before vacation, and there are so many things to do. We started our "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" unit on Monday because it wouldn't fit if I had waited. We tend to have at least a delay or two in December (a girl can hope). We watch the movie with our party. I think I will do breakfast this year, instead of my usual lunch. I have a food allergy to work around, and want what works for everyone. I don't keep chocolate in my classroom or at home any more, and could use some right now. 

I may have to stop at the store and start the shopping. With hubby not working in three plus years, unemployment only went so far, so did our savings. However, good things come to those who believe, and he has just been hired full time, starting December 12. This new job can easily carry him into retirement. They loved that he has many years of coaching, and can handle people. I will miss the coaching, but with my youngest graduating, now may be the time to let it go. Things do have a way of working out. 

Our Christmas traditions when my three were younger were spent at Busia's in Florida. The youngest has only known a few Michigan Christmases. With hubby's new job, there won't be a trip to Busia's this year. This may be a year of very different things. We have a lot to be thankful for this season. Hubby's new job, a home, my father's vastly improved health, and good friends.

Thank you, Farley, for another Currently to refocus me on what really matters. 

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