Tuesday, January 31, 2012

 Positive Test Prep

More Linky Party fun, maybe I can do one for each day of week!  Ms. Wainwright over at The Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher is having a Test Prep Linky Party.  I am sure many of us have lots of great strategies for test prep and many of our kids totally get it.  What I really wanted was to pump them up and build their confidence.  So many of them had such anxiety over the whole testing process, that even though they know it, they freak themselves out.

A week or two before we start testing, I ask parents to send a note school, encouraging their child.  I send home fancy paper, envelopes, and some suggestions of things to say.  They give the paper to family members, who write letters to their little test taker.  When the student goes to start their test I give them their letters, to read before they begin.

I send a lengthy letter.  The first side is all about the test and other things they might want to know about how state testing works. 

The second page is a list of suggestions for creating the best supportive environment for students.

The day of the test, I give students this positive paper.  We read it together, and then I tell them to keep it next to their space and refer to it, when something seems tricky.
And these little papers with some test strategies, also to put next to their space as a tool during testing.

Happy Testing,

Monday, January 30, 2012

 Class Newsletters

Another linky party at A Class Act.  How do you communicate with parents?  One way I do is through a weekly newsletter, sent home on Fridays.  It has two sides.  I do the front side and two students do the back side.  Each Thursday night I complete the front page information and then give it to the artists of the month for their additions. 

Happy Communicating,

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Blogosphere is being taken over by tagging!  Sara at Smiling in Second and Laura at Peace Love and First Grade brought me into a game of tag.

The rules are as follows:
1) Post the rules
2) Post 12 things about yourself
3) Answer the 12 questions sent from the person that tagged you.  Then create 12 new questions for the people you tag.
4) Tag 12 people and link them to your post.
5) Let them know you tagged them.

12 Things About Me:
1. The Best Endings has a great reviews of books.  Posts are written by different teachers and I am finding new books to read in different genres.  And I get to be one of the contributing authors.
2.  I want to write a children's picture book someday.
3.  Hey Girl Teacher and Hey Girl Librarian are two of the funniest blogs ever!  Tears every time, from laughing so much.  Here is one reason why....
4.  Lucille Ball is a distant cousin, of mine:-)
5.  The fact that Portland has NO baseball team makes me really sad and every once in a while I really think I need to move to a city with a baseball team.
6.  The Dodgers will be playing the Mariners on June 8, 9, and 10.  I will be using a personal day to make it too all three games and am trying to convince students we should make it an all class field trip:-)
7.  Two of my favorite shows (Arrested Development and Firefly) were canceled by FOX after short seasons, so I am always afraid to get excited about new shows on FOX:-)
8.  Goodreads.com is amazing.  You enter all the things you read and it will show you how many books you have read, in all and from year to year.  (I have read a lot.)
9.   I am a binge sleeper.  I stay up way to late on weekdays and then sleep A LOT on Saturday playing catch up.
10.  I have been involved with Bible Study Fellowship for ten years and it is the best, in-depth, applicable study.  There are classes, for all ages, all over the world all studying the same thing...insync! Check it out.
11.  I have taught at the same school for nine years, and my first class of students are freshman!  That class will always have a special place in my heart.
12.  I refer to Josh Groban as my future husband.  I know I have posted about this before, but it must be repeated!

Answers to Tagees Questions:
From Sara:

1. Favorite television show? 
Easy.Leverage!!!!  I have an obsession.
2.  If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Right now, New York, to see the Broadway opening of Newsies.
3. Famous person you would like to meet?
PeeWee Reese.  The Dodger who befriended Jackie Robinson, even though he had the most to lose.  (And Josh Groban)
4. What is your biggest pet peeve?
The hem of pants inside of the tongue of shoe.
5. What is your favorite activity?
6. What is the best thing about teaching?
Everyday is a fresh day.  We learn and we move on.
7. What is the most frustrating about teaching? 
Sending home communication, then e-mails and phone calls asking about things in the communicationJ (Parents who read/follow this blog, obviously I don’t mean you!)
8. Shopping spree to any store, where would you go?
Powells City of Books...it is a GINORMOUS book store of used and new books!
Reading Resort...my aunt's house!
9. What motivates you to be a better teacher?  
10. Why did you start blogging?
I read so many other teacher’s blogs and I wanted to contribute to the learning going on in the blogosphere.
11. If you weren't a teacher, what would you be?
My mind cannot fathom not being a teacher.
12. Where is your favorite place to read a book?
My Aunt’s backyard.
From Laura:
1. What was your favorite childhood toy? 
My Child Doll.  You could pick ones that looked like you and they were so soft!
2. How old were you when you got your first cell phone?  College?
3. Do you have a nickname?
Norm (from Cheers) and Footie
4. Diet or fully leaded drinks? 
5. What's your favorite way to exercise? 
6. Night owl or early riser? 
7. What's your favorite color combination?
Anything that goes with purple
8. Cold weather or warm weather?
Warm, but I do love RAIN!
9. Have you given up your home phone to go just cellular?
Cell only
10. What's your favorite thing to do during the summer?
Read! Play Frisbee Golf
11. What's the best book you have read lately/last?
Divergent  Stop reading this and go get it now!  SO good!
12. How early is your Spring Break if you have one?
Starts March 23rd. 

Newly Tagged:
The Accidental Teacher, Mom, Runner
Swimming Into Second
Teaching in Flip Flops
Second Grade Success
Runde's Room
The Bubblegum Tree
A Class Act
Think Wonder Teach
The Teacher's Jungle
2nd Grade Pad
Second Grade Silliness
Learning With Mrs. Parker
New Questions: (#11 answers are what I am looking forward to the most)
1)  What blog do you most look forward to new posts from?
2)  What is your favorite teaching topic/unit?
3)  What is the 1st thing you do once all your students are gone?
4)  What one thing would you buy for your class if money weren't an issue?
5)  What is the best thing about your classroom?
6)  What is your favorite movie?
7)  If you had to choose one book to REread, what would it be?
8)  What are your favorite shoes, for school?
9)  What is your "go to" school lunch?
10)  What is your best childhood memory?
11)  How did you come up with the name for your blog?
12)  What is your favorite canceled tv show?

Oh my what a post! 

 Favorite Picture Book

Happy Dally is having a linky party/book giveaway.  My favorite read aloud is Thank You Mr. Falker, by Patricia Polacco.  It is such an inspiring based on a true story.  Makes me cry every time I read it, and maybe gives hope to those struggling students.

She recently a follow up book, Junkyard Wonders, that is just  as wonderful!

Happy Sunday,

Saturday, January 28, 2012

 Teacher Area Challenge

Clutter-Free Classroom's Project Week 4 Challenge is the Teacher Work Area. 
Here is the arrangement of my teacher area at the beginning of the year.  It was my small group meeting area as well.  

What I Like:
*The CAFE menu on the board behind it.
*Small filing cabinet for student info and small group materials.
*Blue drawers in the corner are so wonderful.  They are wide enough for posters, charts, etc and deep enough to hold little baskets to sort all the supplies inside.

What I Don't LIke:
*The table is right by the classroom door, so students were distracted easily
*Half of it always ended up collecting papers, books, lesson plans, and clipboards, etc. (as evidenced by the picture)

What I Would Like to Change:
*Condense all the work space.  The table against the wall, the blue drawers, and the kidney table all provide work space....pretty sure I don't need three.
*Have a space to put everything once I finish with it, so it isn't left on the table.
*Want to have a smaller place to conference with one or two students.

What I Changed:
I didn't do too much to the blue drawers, except label the drawers and make space for the paper cutter.  The blue box has all the supplies for making lunch choices and then sending our lunch order to the office.

I found a shelf that was just about the same height and width as the blue drawer.  I need to fit some boards on each shelf so things won't fall through, but on the other hand, having the holes keeps me from putting stuff there:-)
On the second shelf, I put a tub for reading, math, social studies/science/health, and art.  Then when I am done with that part of the day, I return the teacher guides and materials to the appropriate box.  This keeps stuff off the table.

The 3-drawer plastic container is a teacher must have.  There are so many in my room, I could be keeping Sterlite in business.  And bulletin border is the perfect size to cute it up a little!  Next to the drawers are two magazine holders, turned on the long side.  This is where I keep my lesson plan binder and all the student info. clipboards.
The Tables:
I realized that a large part of the problem came from the size and location of the table.  So I simply moved it into the classroom library area.  This has been a brilliant move.  1)  I can meet with a group and have easy access when helping students change books.  (We still have some issues making appropriate choices)  2)  The space is far away from the door and papers don't get left there, because it would be out of the way to drop them off there.

Final adjustment:
Love the giant running records binder!
Move small table to the front of the room.  This is a perfect table for conferencing with students.  And it is still just in front of the CAFE menu.

Some Tips:
*Have a misc folder, for papers, ideas, etc that don't have a home yet.  At the end of the month whatever is still inside, recycle!
*Compete with your students.  Each table group in our class earns points at the end of the day for stacked chairs and clean work areas (only pencils in the basket, nothing on top or under the desk)  Well apply the same rules to yourself and have students award your work area.  My kids LOVE checking and deciding if I get points for the day.

Happy Organizing,

Friday, January 27, 2012

 Finally Friday

We started our week with a Chinese New Year poem.  I printed it on the top of the paper and students had to draw their mental image.  Thank you Teacher Bits and Bobs for the fun poem. 

 Then we worked on creating a background for our Lady Liberty portraits.  We started with oil pastel and created spaces across a paper. 

Using only red, white, and blue, we filled the spaces with lines, shapes, patterns.

And then painted with red, white, and blue water colors.  Watching the oil pastel resist the water colors is magical!

 Add the portrait, and finished!

Happy Finally Friday!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

 Lady Liberty

We have been living in Lady Liberty world this week.  Each day we read a little bit, from the book Lady Liberty.  Amazing illustrations and the pages switch between each of the people who had a part in dreaming, creating, financing, and building the famous statue.

We have also been viewing live Liberty cams.  This website is so fun.  Live cams from famous places all around the earth.  We have been viewing the ones from the Statue of Liberty. 

There are so many great units out there in the blogosphere!  U is for U.S.A. from www.oopseydaisyblog.com, America Math and Literacy FunAmerican Centers and More are three of the units we have been using for tons of fun.  As well as our GLAD units.

Here are the step by step directions, I had students follow:
Steps 1, 2, and 3
Steps 4,5, and 6.  Sorry about the orientation!

We used oil pastels and drew some step by step drawings of a close up view of Lady Liberty.  Thank you We Heart Art for the drawing help.  My kiddos said they looked like the Starbucks girl:-)

We also wanted to find out how the Statue of Liberty turned green, so we put pennies in vinegar and salt and left them to soak overnight.  LOVE the trays.  They are from IKEA and good for everything....painting, putting out group supplies...love love!

Unfortunately, the vinegar smell has taken over the classroom.
 Finally we measured the length of the Statue of Liberty's foot.  (25 feet!)  Then we predicted if our class, standing shoulder to shoulder, would be equal to, less than, or greater than the length of the foot.

Standing right next to it, to see how much space he was using.
All lined up, testing our predictions!
And recording our data and results.

And we learned Portlandia is the second largest free standing copper statue!  (Liberty the first, of course)  And to view it, it is just a 20 minute drive into Portland.

Happy Thursday,

Monday, January 23, 2012

 I Heart Build a Bear

Confession:  I LOVE Build-a-Bear!  It is a store where you create an animal.  We have one in the mall.  You pick an animal, add the stuffing and a heart, then they sew it up and you have a new animal.  You can also pick all the accessories your heart (and animal) desire!  Thank goodness I have a class full of students otherwise collecting these things, must just be silly!  So imagine how excited I was to find out a dragon was the newest edition...A Dragon....just in time for Chinese New Year!

Our collection of friends Brett the Baseball, Tate the Turtle, Reese (named after a famous Dodger player) Johnny Apple-cow (who only stays with us during the apple planting off season) Penny the Penguin, Paige the Panda, and Lacey the Lamb. 

And our newest addition.....a New Year's Dragon, yet to be named something alliterative.

Our friends do amazing things in our classroom.  Since they are so short, they are the perfect students to sit on the risers in front of the projector.  That way we don't forget and accidentally block the screen.  They LOVE to be read to, but only with one person at a time, so Read to Self is our only choice, if we want to read to one of our friends.  Our room is just a happier place with so many lovable friends!
Everyone loves Read to Self!

Happy Monday, 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

 Daily 4 Art

Every once in a while, I like to throw an art component into the weekly Daily 4 choices.  I find a poem, quote, or short phrase and ask students to illustrate it.  Sometimes we talk about vocabulary, if I think there are words that would be completely unknown.  Like, "pirate's loot."  We read the quote and then draw away.  A chance to use the right side of our brains.
Our quote for the week
Some of them just looked at the word "pirate" and drew a whole pirate scene and others focused on books, or just treasure. 
Two islands:  Book land and Treasure Land

Love the pirate's feet!

Every island needs a tree of books.

This one is my favorite.  A giant book that looks like treasure.

Happy Sunday,