Monday, April 30, 2012

Question of the Week -- Teacher Workload

Photo by The George Eastman House Collection: ca 1910
I often have high school and college students visit my classroom to see if they want to become a teacher.  The most recent one also interviewed me so she could write a paper for her Shadow Day.  She asked several questions about teacher workload.  How much time do I spend in meetings?  How much time do I spend planning and grading papers outside the school day?

It's not the first time I have considered how many hours I spend.  I try to fit what I need to do within 45 hours a week.  I feel guilty about that sometimes, because the work doesn't end.

When I first moved to the school I teach at now a veteran teacher made the comment that she wanted to be able to keep teaching for a long time, so she takes care of herself.  She works hard the hours she is there, but feels that time with her family is important, too.

What is your workload like?  Are you taking time for balance?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Quote of the Week -- April 29, 2012

“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.”
~Clay P. Bedford

Friday, April 27, 2012

Funny Kid Moments -- Pratfall

One of my students tripped and fell in my classroom, but started laughing right away.  His friend said to me, "He does that all the time." 
No one seemed hurt so I asked if it was a "pratfall".  After some confusion, the dictionary was consulted and the two boys discovered that pratfall was "to fall for comedic effect."
The boy who tripped pointed to his friend, "He likes prat-talking."

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photo credit:Partner Patter Purveyors

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Favorite Read Aloud #3 -- Mrs. Piggle Wiggle

Although this book was originally published in 1947, I was happy to see that it is still in print.  My mom read this series to me.  I enjoy sharing the books with my students.
Children still identify with the problems in the book and the character names are hilarious.
Update June 2014: Here is a link to a free character sketch graphic organizer. Each of the children that Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle helps has a problem and a strength.  Students collect evidence for each character trait in words and actions.

This post is a part of my series Four Reasons Why I Read Aloud. 

You can find me at Goodreads.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Question of the Week -- Field Trips

This week my students have a field trip to a local theater where we will see pianist Alpin Hong in concert.  I feel it is important to take students to performing arts events.  It fits with my vision to teach beyond the test and into my students' lives.

What great field trips have you taken with your students lately?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Quote of the Week - April 22, 2012

“Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.”

Roger Lewin

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Math Spies Episode 3 -- Around the World

I'm in the process of writing and posting a seven mission series in Math Spies.  Students use clues to find four numbers which when put into Google Maps show the coordinates of a place in the world.  Each place has its own code word and at the end of the seven missions, the student should have seven code words that make a sentence.

Watch out for red herrings!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Teacher Evaluation -- What Makes a Good Teacher?

Photo Credit: Timken Rolling Bearing, Co 1950 Calendar
"Teacher at Desk"

This morning we have an all district inservice to learn about the new teacher evaluation system we will be implementing in our district.  I am grateful to work in the state and district where I work. 

Our district has decided to adopt the Charlotte Danielson framework.  Everything I have read so far about and by her tells me that she respects teachers and our work. 

Washington State requires districts evaluate teachers based on student growth, but not our standardized test scores.  We are not sure what will be used to measure this, but we are allowed to bargain with our district.

Even the way that this inservice is planned feels respectful to us as professionals.  Representatives from administration and the union will be presenting the information together.

I hope I am as encouraged coming out of this meeting as I am going in.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Favorite Read Aloud #2 -- Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen


I once had a fifth grade student who made $100 in a weekend mowing lawns.  I tell my students that each year hoping to inspire them to find ways to make money on their own. 
Lawn Boy begins with a boy who learns that mowing lawns is a great way to make extra money, but the business soon grows bigger than he can handle.  The math geek in me loves that the chapter titles give financial terms for what is happening in that section of the book.

Click here for a free vocabulary sheet than can be used with any book or vocabulary list.  Students can use it to collect and learn the economics vocabulary used in the book.

June 2014 I read Lawn Boy Returns this year and enjoyed it.  I would give it a red ribbon while the original gets the blue ribbon.  For an explanation of my rating system, click here.

This post is a part of my series Four Reasons Why I Read Aloud. 

Find me at Goodreads.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Question of the Week -- Parent Communication

I write a classroom newsletter once a week for my parents.  In addition, I maintain a classroom website and I call or email individual parents as needed.

How do you communicate with parents?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Quote of the Week - April 15, 2012

“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” ~Sir Francis Bacon

Friday, April 13, 2012

You Know You're A Teacher When....

You know you're an elementary teacher when you have an atypical relationship with school supplies.

You begin collecting the back-to-school ads in July looking for the best deals.

You get strange looks from clerks who wonder what you are going to do with 27 packages of notebook paper.

You get more strange looks when you tell them "They're for my children."

You have a favorite brand of glue based on the ease of unclogging the top.

You curse the individual who invented flexible rulers.

You know which color crayon the average first grader loses first. You know which one will disappear second. (Black and red respectively)

You seriously consider buying each of your students a complete set of school supplies even though a complete list went home to each family last June.

Please share with me how you know you are a teacher:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Favorite Read Aloud #1 -- The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman

Imagine if your students could create a machine that would use the internet to do their homework for them.  In this book, one student does just that, and a group of students use it to complete these assignments daily. 

I use this book to talk about moral dilemmas.  Students, and many teachers, don't like homework.  Is it okay to let a machine do it? 

If you are studying this book in class either as a read aloud or as a whole group, it would be a good book to collect evidence from the text to support a statement.  Students could state their opinions about having a homework machine and find reasons and events from the book that support their idea.

I often read this book at the beginning of the year to establish teacher/student roles.

This post is a part of my series: Four Reasons Why I Read Aloud.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Question of the Week -- Do you follow the script?

In our district we have a pacing calendar to follow and many lessons that are direct instruction.  I find myself embellishing to make the script more interesting and more appropriate for my students.

How do you work with highly scripted materials?  What do you do to make them work for your class?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spring Cleaning Picture Writing Prompt

Spring Break at my house means spring cleaning.
There are jobs I don't mind doing and jobs I hate.
Write two lists of chores you hate and chores you don't mind doing.
How do you make the chores you hate more fun?

For more picture writing prompts go to this collaborative Pinterest Board.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Four Reasons Why I Read Aloud

For some reason reading novels aloud to upper elementary students has fallen out of favor with some educators.  Maybe it is simply being pressed for time with all our other obligations.

The most recently adopted literacy curriculum in our district recommends that teachers read aloud only be ten minutes and choose books that will illustrate the strategy lesson for the day.  Instead, I have chosen to double or even triple that some days.  I read novels that I think will inspire my students to read more.
I do this for four reasons:

1.  I want my students to love reading as much as I do.  How better to communicate this than to share with them some of my favorite books?

2.  I want to introduce my students to some great authors.  I feature those author’s websites on our classroom webpage, so my students can learn more about them and their books.

3.  I get to teach all sorts of spontaneous lessons about the craft of writing.  I don’t think my students should have to wait until middle school and high school to study novels.

4.  I want to stretch my students’ attention spans. 

Over the next few weeks, I plan to share some of my favorite novels to read aloud to students.  I invite you to do the same.

Grand Opening Sale

I have loaded my store with 20 of my favorite lessons.  Ten of them are already free.  Please come visit my store and mark it as a favorite.  I am just getting started.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring Break

This week is our spring vacation.  Our school district bargained with all of its groups to set the calendar.  Spring vacation is the first full week in April.

I wonder how that decision is made in other districts.  I know some states finish their school year in May and they have already had spring break.

In the comments, please answer:

When is your spring break?
How is that decided?
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