Monday, September 30, 2013

Freelance Writing and Store News

I have always been a writer from the scrap paper books I made in the kitchen while my mother cooked.  Recently my stepdaughter shared with me that Harper Lee was given money to stop working for a year and write anything she wanted to.  The result was To Kill a Mockingbird.

I look at my bank balance and sigh.  There is no way I can take a year off to write as much as I might want to.  I must be content with "writing in the margins."  Finding the time between a busy job and a busy family to scratch out blog posts and freelance curriculum.

The part of writing I hate the most is marketing.  I love creating and hope that someone out there will love what I have created enough to buy it, but I don't like anything resembling sales.   I know others will know what I'm talking about.

So it is with reluctance that I share my newest paid product: Math Spies Coded Messages.  This unit teaches students about factor tables and then they use it to solve coded messages.  My students love it.  The factor tables and puzzles increase in difficulty...and yes, I included an answer key. It's available in my Teachers Notebook store also.

Over the next few months I have plans to update much of what is in my Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook Stores.  I don't want to become one of those bloggers whose every post seems to be an advertisement.  If you're here for the freebies, I don't blame you.  Show up next Friday and see what I have planned.  It's a multiplication game my students have been playing to practice math facts.  Yes, it's free.

As always, I hope you enjoy using these activities with your students.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Quote of the Week

"Thought flows in terms of stories -- stories about events, stories about people, and stories about intentions and achievements. The best teachers are the best storytellers. We learn in the form of stories." -- Frank Smith

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hooray for the Bystander Poetry Printable

This poem was originally posted on my poetry blog, Poems of Silliness.

For more poetry to use in your classroom, visit Poems of Silliness.  The tags are organized by poetry form and the bar across the top allows you to search by key word.  No registration required.

I don't mind if teachers use my poems in personal lessons, but please don't use them in commercial products.  Thank you.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Thursday, September 26, 2013

List Poem in Honor of Johnny Appleseed

Update 8/17/14: I just posted a printable copy of this poem.  Click here to download Happy Birthday, Johnny Appleseed from my Google Drive.

Last year I posted a poem called Happy Birthday Johnny Appleseed on my poetry blog called Poems of Silliness.

Here it is:
Happy Birthday, Johnny Appleseed

What's your favorite apple?
Ginger Gold
Golden Delicious
Red Delicious
Granny Smith

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Crunch by Leslie Connor

Frequent readers know that I spend my summer reading books for my age group and deciding how they will fit in my classroom.
When I first read the premise for this book, I expected another dystopian book that is such a popular genre right now.  I have to confess that I wasn't looking forward to reading something so dark, but I commited to reading the first 50 pages anyway.  What I read was so uplifting, I want to read it aloud to my fourth graders this year.

Gas pumps run dry while Dewey Mariss is in charge of the family bicycle repair business.  He and his four siblings have to manage the business and take care of each other, because his parents are stranded without fuel on what was supposed to be a short trip.
Bicycles are now an important part of daily life and the Mariss family business explodes.  Although there are people in this story that take advantage of the situation, the theme of this book is the kindness and helpfulness of most people.
I was reminded of this Mr. Roger's quote, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.'"  This book embodies this quote.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Heating, Cooling and Wasps

The first full week of school, the weather was unseasonably warm -- 80 and 90 degree weather in Seattle in September is well above average.  Our school has huge windows that soak in the heat and a heating/cooling system that is always being worked on, so we opened the windows.

Wasps began flying in and because we have enough bee sting allergies and the like, I was concerned.

The custodian was sympathetic,  but he can't use any sprays at school.  We really can't do anything about it.

And this is my point: all these decisions are made in buildings far away from me.  When I want the temperature in my room changed, I call up the custodian who calls someone else who sits in front of a computer and changes the number in the computer.  This often has no impact whatsoever on the actual temperature in my room.

I understand in theory why we can't spray wasps, but that doesn't help the little girl with the swelling finger.

There are so many decisions that I feel like I could influence before, but now I feel like they just want us to stop complaining.  "They" always have a reason for their policy, but they don't know my students or my work environment.

It's time for the pendulum to swing back.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Quote of the Week

"The price of greatness is responsibility." - Winston Churchill

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Classroom Procedure Review

Classroom Procedures Review is available for free at Teachers Pay Teachers and Teacher's Notebook.

This year I used this form to help me teach my classroom procedures.  I kept a copy handy the first few days of school to make sure I was intentionally teaching how the classroom works.  After the first week of school, I gave the students a copy and we reviewed a few procedures at a time using a think pair share.

I know later in the year, I may have a new student who needs to learn these procedures.  When this happens I have the other students review.  I plan to use this sheet to help us all remember the routines in the room.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow

Lydia and Julie want to be popular so they create a notebook of observations about the popular girls in the school and their own experiments trying to get this desired status.  Results vary.

I have been collecting books that address upper elementary girl friendships.  This series is definitely added to my list.

For an explanation of my rating scale, click here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Seeking Balance Part 4: Stop Comparing

Last week I stayed late to finish putting together my student portfolios.  I was working efficiently and cheerfully until I met a colleague in the hall who was conferencing with her all parents the second week of school.

Immediately I began questioning how I was spending my time.  Should I schedule early conferences with all my parents too?

The week before another teacher stopped by my room where I was -- again -- working late creating lessons customized to the students and their interests in my room.  She was suddenly questioning whether she should do the same. Enough.

I know this goes on in every school building.  We all want to do our jobs well.  I have to stop comparing myself with other fabulous teachers.  I can't do it all.  Neither can you.

No one is putting this pressure on least at my school.  We have much freedom to run our classrooms our way as long as we are meeting the assessment deadlines and teaching to the standards.  I need to change the self-talk.  I am good enough.

Is anybody with me on this?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Quote of the Week

"No great man ever complains of want of opportunity." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday the Thirteenth List Poem

Today is Friday the Thirteenth and I thought I would share a poetry lesson I have taught about superstitions.

Directions to the students:

Collect a list of superstitions from your friends, family or the internet.  Write a story called "The Unlucky Day" or write a list poem using some of the superstitions you found.

Here is a free poetry printable of my list poem originally published on Poems of Silliness.

Here is my poem "Unless" that follows a Good Luck Bad Luck pattern.  (It also includes some more superstitions as a jumping off place for your research.)

For more poetry to use in your classroom, visit Poems of Silliness.  The tags are organized by poetry form and the bar across the top allows you to search by key word.  No registration required.
Update October 2015: I recently packaged all my superstition activities as a freebie in my Teachers Pay Teachers and my Teachers Notebook stores.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

When Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson's father is arrested and put in jail, her plans for cooking school are put on hold.  Her best friend's mother reappears after a mysterious absence and both children learn about family and the power of forgiveness.

Sometimes students have to live with big disappointments caused by their own parents.  I found this book realistic and relatable for ages 10-13.

For an explanation of my rating scale, click here
Find me at Goodreads.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What Not to Wear: Teacher Edition

Am I the only one who has mixed feelings that What Not to Wear is in its last season?  On one hand, I will miss the makeovers demonstrating that any woman can look classier.  On the other hand, I have cheerfully worn tees and jeans all summer without worrying if I will appear on someone's secret footage.

Here are my "rules" for dressing for work.  (We don't have a dress code.)
1.  Concerning retro, if it was in your closet as a trend the first time around, you can't wear it now.  (Unless it is spirit day.) 
2. No theme sweaters.  You know the ones.  They are made for each holiday with bright colors and applique.  (Unless it is spirit day.)
3. All clothes should be wash and wear.  No dry clean only and no ironing.  I don't have the time and the extra cash for anything else. 
4. When trying on clothes, raise your arms above your head to see if there is a gap.  Try sitting down in a chair and on the floor to see if you can do so modestly.  This is another place where I hope I don't appear in someone's secret footage.  I am grateful that I don't have to enter the 360 mirror.
5. When you find something that fits you and the above rules, it's okay to get it in a couple different colors.  I know this breaks the spirit of What Not to Wear, but when I find something that works I want to use it.

I want to thank Clint and Stacy for their wardrobe advice over the years.  I do know how to put together an outfit: trouser, blouse, completer item.  I know that colors don't have to match, they just have to go.  I still plan to wear comfortable shoes. (See previous blog post.)  I am relieved that they won't be showing up some day to throw out all my clothes.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Quote of the Week

“Greatness does not approach him who is forever looking down." - Hitopadesa

Friday, September 6, 2013

Free Birthday Graphing Activity

Our school went back to school this past Wednesday.  I usually have my students complete this activity the first week of school as a part of our team building get to know you activities.  I decided to redo my birthday graph and share it with you this week.

I keep this part posted by my calendar so I don't forget birthdays. 
I celebrate summer birthdays on their half birthday and the way this chart is organized helps me keep track of that too.
 This year I found some stencil rulers at the party store and I made some simple name tags and attached with curly ribbon.  I am all set for the year.
I give very little direction for the graph side of the page.  I feel like this should be a simple graph for fourth graders to complete.  I can see who struggles to collect and organize information.
I hope you enjoy this activity with your students.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Trust Me: the book Swindle is much better than the movie

Books generally are better than their movies.  Hearing that from my students never gets old and we have a good discussion analyzing plot and characters, dialogue and description.

I have quite a collection of Gordon Korman books in my classroom library.  I haven't done an official author study, but I could easily pull it off with my fourth graders.

So, I was curious when I heard reports of a movie based on the book Swindle.  It was released last month as a TV movie for Nickelodeon starring several of the teen actors in their TV shows.   The plot is very loosely based on the book.  Teens sell a baseball card to a collector named Swindle.  Let's just say he lives up to his name. 

I accidentally found it one evening and almost didn't recognize it.  If you loved the books, I will save you time: don't watch the movie.  If students happened to watch it, I would send them in the direction of the books.  This may be its only redeeming quality.

For an explanation of my rating scale, click here.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Currently September with Oh Boy 4th Grade

I missed the first day of Farley's Currently.  I love this monthly blog party and I have already sneaked a peak at some other bloggers' answers. 

Currently I am listening to the Castle marathon with my stepdaughter.  We are both huge fans.

I am loving that I chose not to go into school today.  I spent time in my classroom most days in August.  The students arrive on Wednesday.

I am thinking about More or Less which I finally finished listening to today.  I wrote about this audiobook on this blog on Wednesday.  I want to conduct an experiment that he recommends, but I haven't worked out the details.

I want nothing right now.

I need to put a chicken in the oven so we will have meals this week.

The three things I want to do for myself this month are:
1.  Walk 3x a week.
2.  Leave work at 4:30 each day.
3.  Eat more salads for lunch.

Join the party.

Five Tips for Better Parent Communication

I originally wrote this as a guest post for  Raki's Rad Resources and I have updated it a little based on recent experiences.  This week I begin my twenty-third year in the classroom.  Although my career has not been totally free from conflict with parents, I want to share with you five things I consider when contacting parents.

Be proactive.  I start with a parent information form the first week of school.  At the top of the form is this sentence: “I believe that a parent is a child’s first and best teacher.”  It sets the tone for the year.  I included this form in a previous post.

Be positive.  All families advocate for their children. They just may not approach us in the way we like at the times we like. All families want their students to be successful. We may define success in different ways. Someone who doesn’t seem to cooperate is probably just afraid.  I need to remember that some of my parents have never had a good experience at school. 

Be predictable. When I transferred to the school where I teach now, I earned the reputation of working well with parents.  “You answer our emails,” one parent shared with me. I make it a personal goal to respond to a parent within twenty-four hours.  I make sure I am on time to parent meetings.  I want parents to know they can trust me with their children. If I put off contacting the parent, the problem generally grows worse.

Be professional.  It’s tempting to gossip in the staff lounge and speculate about family backgrounds.  The more parents know they can trust me to keep their concerns private, the more they are willing to share with me information that will help me teach their child.

On the other hand, talking with the student’s previous teacher can give you good information to help you this year.  Make sure this conversation is private and based on direct observations of the child and parent conferences.
If I do need to process a difficult situation aloud, I have a teaching buddy in another district who I walk with.  I know I can share and she will keep my confidences.

Be prudent.  I have had five or so parents in my career that made me uneasy for one reason or another.  It is wise to invite another staff member to attend these conferences.  Another person can be a buffer in a potential conflict or a neutral witness to what I share with the parent.  If you do this, let the parents know who will be attending the conference so they don’t feel cornered. 

The other side of this is inviting the parent to bring in someone he or she feels comfortable with.  It is tough to receive difficult information without a support system.

I make communication with parents a priority and I hope they see that.  I believe that this priority benefits everyone.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Quote of the Week -- September 1, 2013

"A teacher who can arouse a feeling for one single good action, for one single good poem, accomplishes more than he who fills our memory with rows and rows of natural objects, classified with name and form." -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...