Sunday, June 29, 2014

Where I have been for the last two years...

I began this blog a few months before I accepted a principal position at my school. The past two years have been exciting at times, exhausting at times, and quite the experience. When my director had offered me the administrative position, I said that I would give it two years and then decide if I would like to go back to the classroom. This past year had been quite reflective for me, I found myself missing the my creative moments in the classroom and the personal relationships I was able to form with my students. During my observations of my teachers, I found myself missing the fun, learning moments with my students and the opportunity to get excited about learning with the kids. Over the last 4 months, I would go to bed and tell myself that I just couldn't find myself doing this job in the next 5 years. These thoughts were very real to me and I knew that if I was going to go back to the classroom, this was the time to do it.

I spoke to my director who offered my the position about my thoughts about administration and my urge to go back the classroom. He said, "Well, you said you would give it two years. Now is the time to go back." For people the know me really well, I love the mountains. I am an avid skier and I go out west 1-2 times a year. My director knew my love for the mountains and I told him this might be the time for me to go. He encouraged me to make the leap 'cause I only live once. I applied to about 10 Colorado districts and within two weeks I received 9 calls for interviews and had a job. Wow! It all happened so fast and can't believe that I am planning to move out to Colorado for the 2014-15 school year. I will be working as a 6th grade teacher just outside of Denver and will be able to ski in less than one hour. I am thrilled to fulfill two of my passions, working with kids and skiing. This change is scary, but the timing seems right and know that it will be the right thing for me to do.

My ultimate goal is to share my journey through this blog and document what I love to do for myself and with others. I know that going back to the classroom will keep me busy and blogging will need to be something that I schedule in my calendar so that I can keep my posts meaningful and timely. I have already began planning and reviewing my new curriculum maps (my new district has amazing resources) and look forward to sharing my adventure with you all! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

I love that Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies is having an upper elementary linky party! She's looking for all 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers to link up by posting a link to their blog. It is wonderful because I find it hard to find intermediate blogs. She has a long list links that I will need to find time to go through, but I am super excited about it.

So if you have been searching for some intermediate blogs, click over to Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies and check it out. I am looking forward to following a few new ones!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Angry Birds Have Arrived In My Classroom!

My students are super excited about this project! Awhile back, I came across an Angry Bird Project from Smart Chick Teacher's Blog. I altered the project a bit to fit my student's needs. I began the project by using it as morning work when they arrived each morning. They were given different prompts to plan and journal about their Angry Bird they were creating.

I truly was going to leave it at that, but as the students shared their entries I realized how excited they were about their birds that I decided to take it one step further. I asked them to write about their bird's adaptation and how this has help their survival in their habitat. We explored natural selection earlier in the year, so this was a great review for them. The students made their birds out of toilet paper rolls and I created the game board. Oh, and I also created the pigs. It wouldn't authentic without them, right? I honestly have only played the game a few times, so a few students helped me plan the display.

The final touch was the students warning sign that explain the bird's adaptation, what has made them successful, and what the citizens of the community should do to protect themselves. Each poster is connected to the specific bird with black string so viewers know which bird belongs to each sign. I have to say that I usually don't put a lot of effort into hallway displays, however this one has really gotten my creative juices going and I look forward to my next one now!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

And They're Off Blogging!

Today my students got their 1,000 Words in 10 Days Challenge. You should have seen their faces, some turned white as a ghost. My 6th graders did this challenge last year and quickly reassured the 5th graders that 1,000 words isn't really as much as it sounds. One of the great aspects of a multi-age classroom, the support they give each other. A quick description of the challenge can be found here.

 I began blogging last year with my students, however I was very new to it and was still learning how to use it myself. I gave my students a few assignments and I feel it was a good start. This year I have gotten a late start, but better late then never right? I have an account with Edublogs. This site allows you to open a free account and set up to 50 student accounts. You can manage these accounts and monitor the use of them. I have a pro-account which is about $40 for the year. This gives me a few more features and allows me to turn off the advertising on our accounts. I am the administrator of my students accounts, so I have to approve any comments that come through for each student blog. This prevents anyone from posting spam or disrespectful comments. There are many other benefits to Edublogs and they have made it really easy to allow students to incorporate 21st century skills into the classroom in a safe way. My goal is to have the students post on their blog once a week. I think this will be manageable for me and everything that I have going on in my classroom at the moment.

My students have already emailed me their plans for their blog posts and explained how they will gather information to make their readers interested in what they have to say. I have one student that is going to post a picture and describe it in as many words as she can. The title will be "A Picture Speaks a 1000 Words". Sounds like a writing lesson I would do in my classroom! I am looking forward to their creativity and seeing how I can push them to post their best writing.

To assess the posts, I am going to use a blogging rubric I found at The rubric can be found here. What I loved about this rubric is that it is based off of Bloom's Taxonomy. If you scroll down there are examples of each rating as well. This allowed my students to understand what my expectations are when they publish their posts.

Hope this was somewhat helpful to you. Does anyone else manage student blogs in their classroom? I would love to learn what others do and how they are utilized.

Also, sorry there aren't any visuals of my documents in this post. I am trying to figure out how to create a "button" of the file and then link the file to that button. That would be much more exciting then my click here method. Having trouble finding a good site that explains this easily. If anyone has a good reference it would be greatly appreciated!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Heading to the Moon with Our Buddy Class

My class works with a 1/2 muti-age classroom on Fridays. Each of my students are paired up with a younger student for the entire year so they can form a relationships with them and help them with many learning skills. This gives them different opportunities to work with students in reading, writing, math, etc.  My students love working with the younger ones and it always amazes me how they become such strong leaders from this experience. My students that may not be the strongest leaders with their peers get the opportunity to show their ability to lead and guide with the little ones. I love finding new ways to integrate what we do in our classroom with others in our school. To make these experiences really student driven, I create the lesson plans with the students. This lets them see what it really takes to plan a classroom lesson. I then make sure they know the objective, the steps to complete the lesson, and what will be assessed. When the 1st and 2nd graders enter the room, my students are ready to be the teachers! 

Currently, the 1st and 2nd graders are learning about the Sun, Moon and Stars in Science. This week we helped them plan a story about a space person taking a trip to the moon. The students did a pre-writing activity together where they used large sheets of paper and copies of a space person to create a map of the different destinations and adventures their character experienced on their way to the moon. The goal of my students was to help the 1/2 students incorporate their vocabulary words and keep their story ideas focused. We have focused on the trait of voice in writing, so I want them to show strong voice in the story as well. Next time we meet, the students will begin writing their rough drafts of their stories. All the students are very excited about this project and I am looking forward to the student collaboration.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Meeting the Trait Lady

Today I went to a professional development day with Ruth Culham, the pioneering researcher of the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing model. I have been using this program for years, but it was great to finally meet the person who developed this writing model. Now I know that one-day workshops are the least effective way for us to really learn how to implement something into our classrooms, however since I already know how to use the system I was able to clarify and enhance what I already do. My school has been working hard to align our writing curriculum with the Common Core State Standards. Ruth shared a link that has the standards alignment with the trait writing program. This is an alignment for the the Scholastic Trait Program, but something is better than nothing and I thought it was a good resource. Currently only K-5 is completed, but she did say that 6-8 will be out in March.

A fantastic mentor text she shared for the trait of voice was Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude by Kevin O'Malley.
This is a hilarious book about a boy and a girl who had to tell a fairy tale to their class, but they couldn't agree on the story. There are two distinct voices in this book. The girl wants the story to be gentle and sweet, while he wants it to be adventurous and daring. I think this would be an awesome partner project for students to publish together. So I immediately stopped at the library after the workshop and check this book out. I am thinking that a digital story would be fun, however I have never done one before with my students so it will be a learning experience. Not sure how to really do it, but google is awesome and I am sure I will figure something out. This would make another great blog post! I also use  as a resource frequently and they have created a teacher guide for this book that has graphic organizers and lesson resources.

I ended the day renewed and excited to teach writing again. Something that is always needed since our jobs are so draining and sometimes we can get into a rut. This profession always needs inspiration!

Oh...and the last thing I did before I left the workshop
was get my book signed. I know, such a nerd.

Lastly, Lindsey from My Life as a Fifth Grade Teacher is having a giveaway! She is the one who really got me   to decide to do this blog. She now has over 200 followers and to celebrate she is giving away a $20 Target gift card. Head over to her blog to enter.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

So Here I Am

I have been stalking many blogs for sometime now, mostly about crafting and teaching and realized that it is a fabulous way to document what I do in my classroom. I am always looking for new and innovative teaching ideas for my students and I love seeing what other teachers are doing in their classrooms. I am excited to see where this little blog takes me in my teaching journey. One of the blogs I have been reading is My Life as a Fifth Grade Teacher. She has given some great ideas in ways to teach reading to intermediate students.

Something she did yesterday that looked fun was a "Linky Party"...still new to this. This party was initiated by Kate from Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher. It is called A Day in My Shoes. As of now, I have enjoyed seeing how everyone's day is so different from others! Here goes mine:

5:00        Alarm goes off. Snooze till 5:08 and the day has started. Shower, get ready, and head outside with  my dog Baxter. He is a quick one in the morning (thank goodness). We eat breakfast and he is ready for me to leave so he can lay around all day without being bothered.

6:10ish    Out the door and depressed that it is still dark out. Drive about 30 minutes listening to various radio shows because I still haven't found one that I like. You would think living in the Chicago area there would be ONE that I like, no such luck.

6:40       Get into my classroom where usually the first year teacher has beat me there. Nice to see that I am not the only crazy one that gets to school so early now. Check on my classroom zoo (Chinese Water Dragon, Ball Python, and Rabbit) and prepare for the day. Usually set lessons, prepare reading  and math lessons and make copies, however today is a half day so not as much.

7:30       The teacher I team teach with arrives and we review the schedule. Every day is so different it drives us nuts!

7:45       Assistants arrive, yes multiple. I have a aide that I share with another teacher and another to work with two of my students. A bit to manage. I update them on the day (if needed) and then make sure morning work is set.

8:00      The kids come in. Usually about 10 questions from my 5th graders and then I have to make sure my 6th graders aren't hanging out gossiping. Today they brought in music to support the voice of a paragraph they wrote earlier in the week. They had a blast with it, looking for really intense music or music that was really happy. We started the morning sharing them because I wanted to break this activity up so it wasn't 22 students sharing in a row.

8:20      Word Test. I use the Word Their Way Program so there are four, yes four, different tests to give. I am still not doing the program the way I should, however it is the most differentiated program I have ever used.

8:45      PE - I write my weekly newsletter and get interrupted about 6 times from various people coming into my classroom needing me. Nature of the game right?

9:20     Snow Fun! We had our first big snow on Thursday which is hard to believe living in the Midwest. Every year I promise the kids we can go sledding, but with our shortened schedule it can't happen. So we have Iditarod races, play snow golf and attempt to use colored water to make snow art. The boys ended up just using the yellow to write their names in the snow. I really couldn't say anything cause I would have done the same thing. It was really funny. 

10:20    Naomi our Environmental Educator came in to teach a lesson for her sustainability unit. She had a in-depth conversation about renewable and non-renewable resources. I continued to work on my newsletter and responded to a few emails. I joined in on the conversation when appropriate.

11:05   We continued to share our paragraphs with a strong voice paired with music. The students really like this activity. It was a great assessment for me to check fluency and see how their voice inflections are utilized to enhance their reading.

11:30    Students switch for math. I have the upper 5th grade math class. I have them split into two differentiated groups which is interesting to manage without an aide during this time. My assistant goes to the lower 5th grade class. I am using the 5th grade Investigations program which I am not in love with yet. I will post about that at another time to see if I ever get some followers that use it to see what they think. So basically I am going back an forth between groups teaching, guiding and monitoring games. A little nuts.

12:30    "Study Hall" time. It really is pack-up and work on homework or read time. I check the various students that need their assignment notebooks and backpacks check to go home. I have a student update my homework page online(thank goodness) which is the best thing I have ever done. He always remembers. Check to make sure my students are being productive if they pack up early who usually are my 6th graders.

12:50   Take the kids to dismal and monitor them. We don't have a bussing system because we are a charter school, so carpool takes FOREVER. Don't get me started on being an environmentally focused charter school.

1:15    Lunch - eat at my desk and respond to more emails and finish my newletter.

2:00   In-Service - We talk about different school initiatives, our monthly environmental focuses and planning of our classroom gardens. I won't bore you with the details.

4:00   Day is over. I pack up two bags of stuff to work on at home for the long weekend knowing I won't touch a majority of it. It just makes me feel good I guess to kill myself carrying the heavy bags to my car. 

4:30   Meet my colleagues out for a drink a dinner to "reflect" on the week and how we feel about our jobs. So most of us know why I put reflect in quotations right? Looks so much more positive. Ha!

So here is what my day looked like on Friday. Thanks for reading and have a great rest of the weekend! I look forward to continuing to share with others what I do and love.