Sunday, December 9, 2012

Parent Teacher Conferences & Help Wanted

Well, I survived parent teacher conferences last week. It is such a long process, but so valuable. It is tough to make every parent feel like you are there just for them after having the same conversation 30 times. But, I think I did it well and hope that my parents came away with as much inspiration and pride in their kids as I did.

Now, two more weeks until Winter Recess! I can't wait. I have several books waiting for me on my Kindle. I am afraid to even peek at them for fear that I won't be able to put it down and focus on anything remotely school or holiday related. So, I must hide the Kindle from myself. The fact that I can access it from my iPad, or iPhone is just going to be a test of my willpower.

We are working on stories in class right now. The kids are having a great time trying to save Santa who has found himself stuck in their chimney. My kids have great imaginations, but they don't seem to be putting them to their full use on this one. I am reading attempt after attempt to push or pull Santa by his feet or arms. Jumping on him seems to be another favorite strategy. I am having trouble getting them to think outside the box and create interesting and imaginative solutions to this problem. Last year's class was pouring butter and oil on Santa, using vaccuums, toilet plungers and Nerf guns. How do you all inspire your kids to be imaginative and creative? I tried modeling my crazy ideas in a parallel story about getting a cat out of a tree because I didn't want them to copy borrow my ideas for their story. The stories will be great, just not as great as I know they could be. Any and all ideas/inspiration to help this struggling teacher would be appreciated.

Until later... happy holidays and let the countdown begin.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Currently November

I can't believe it is already November. This year is flying by. Our first trimester ends at the end of the month and then it's conferences. I feel a little stressed that I won't get everything done that I need to accomplish before then, but all I can do is keep plugging away. Here's what's up with me right now.

Spooky Science

For the past 6 years I have been doing Spooky Science on Halloween (or the closest day to it if it happens to fall on a weekend). It is a favorite among kids and parents alike. I started out with a kit I purchased from Steve Spangler Science. Each year I replace items that have run low or add things to it that I find.

When the students arrive in the room I have my science lab set up in the front of the room. A black, plastic cauldron is "smoking" in the front of the room and they are hooked. I ask them to predict what is making the cauldron smoke. I get all sorts of responses... a candle, a fog machine, dry ice...

From there, I show them the small glass bowl in the cauldron with water and dry ice in it. I hand out a fact sheet about dry ice and we learn all about dry ice, its properties and how it changes from one state to another. We learn about sublimation (how it "melts" from a solid to a gas) and how it's made.

Next, we move into dry ice experiments and demonstrations. I have kids come up and warm up metal spoons as much as they can. As a class we talk about friction and rub our hands together to create heat. Once our spoons are warmed up, we place a small piece of dry ice in the spoon to create Singing Spoons.

Since I teach third grade, many of the activities I do are demonstrations, but I try to have the kids participate and experience as much of the fun as possible. My next demonstration is showing how the gas being released can create bubbles. I show this in several ways. The first is with a beaker full of warm water, dry ice and bubble solution. The bubbles erupt from the beaker. Kids love to come up and get a handful of the bubbles to hold and watch the gas escape when they pop.

The second way that I show how the gas is released is by making BOO BUBBLES. I use a special container from Steve Spangler Science. I blow bubbles using the gas and bubble solution. If the students wear gloves or put the bubble on fabric (like their shirts) they won't pop. The oils from our skin are not a happy environment for the bubble, so putting them into students' hands won't work. The kids love getting their own personal BOO BUBBLE to examine.

Another favorite demonstration is when I make a crystal ball using a large, smooth-rimmed bowl, warm water, dry ice and a towel soaked in bubble solution. By creating a bubble across the top of the bowl, the gas releases and fills it pushing it up to look like a crystal ball. It is very dramatic and fun! Unfortunately, we didn't get a picture of this year's crystal ball.

Lastly, we made Atomic Slime and talked about how molecules look in a liquid or gas state and how they link together when it becomes a solid. We mixed an atomic slime mixture with cross linker solution and shook. The liquid turned into a semi-solid solution. The kids got to see how it glowed due to phosphoresence with a black light. They got to take a sample of the slime home with them.

The day was a blast. The kids learned a lot of science and had a great time. I did, too!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'm a Believer

I'm not a big fan of change. Some might even call me a lot little set in my ways. Our District has rolled out a new data system in the past year and a few months. It is from Illuminate. Now, being on the District Tech Committee, it is my responsibility to learn these new systems, embrace their use and get others as "excited" as I am about them. It was a rocky start last year and this year wasn't much easier. With roster errors, students changing and all of the rest of the difficulties that come with the new year, it was tough to be the cheerleader that I needed to be.

Then came the gradebook function. It was an optional rollout. But, for those on the Tech Committee, optional meant required. I wasn't a fan. It wasn't what I was used to, but I soldiered on. I have to admit though that I was keeping my grades in two places... on the new "optional" online gradebook and my trusty old computer-based gradebook. Hedging my bets as some might say.

Now we are being introduced to phase three... our online report cards. They look just like our old report cards only we can do them through Illuminate and our gradebook is supposed to automatically link up and populate the report card fields. I was a skeptic, but after today... I am a believer.

I have completely changed my tune. I am an Illuminate gradebook and report card convert. All it took was my trusty trainer Ben to show me the light. He helped me link my standards and assignments to the right fields on my report card and with the touch of a button, voila, my report card was almost done. What a time saver!

So, when your District asks you to have faith and try something new... remember me and that sometimes, it does work out the way they say it will.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Red Ribbon Week

Today we had to create a slogan and poster for Red Ribbon Week. My little owlets did a great job. Here is their submission.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

You Say It's Your Birthday...

My friend over at Ms. Fultz's Corner is turning 30 on Friday! She is giving all of us the presents. Go to her blog and enter to win some great prizes. Christi is the wonderful blogger who designed the OwlSeeYouInThirdGrade blog. She is super talented and a great help in the world of blogging. Help me wish her a happy birthday by visiting her site and entering!


Teaching Subject and Predicate

Every year, teaching subject and predicate is challenging. Students choose every noun in the sentence as the subject and have difficulty with those predicates which contain helper verbs rather than action. This year, I got a crazy notion to go deeper into the standard and teach complete versus simple subjects and predicates. It is my hope that by teaching this, I will inspire my students to write more complex and complete sentences. I have found that the best way to learn this is through repetitive practice using student generated sentences. So, I set out to have my students make a subject/predicate pumpkin.

Prior to this activity, I had taught simple subject and predicate and created an anchor chart with the students. The students had practiced this skill in classwork and homework. Then we learned complete subject and predicate and practiced that, too. We added to our anchor chart to learn the difference.

Finally, as a culminating activity to this section of study, I gave the instructions for our sentence strip pumpkin Here are the instructions I gave the students:

We started writing on our sentence strips. After the student wrote a sentence on their strip that followed all of our requirements, they brought it to myself and my parent/student teaching helper to have it checked. If it was correct, they got a new sentence strip. We made a paper chain with the strips and put them on our board to make our pumpkin. Below the pumpkin you can see our anchor charts. The students were excited to write a lot of sentences to make the pumpkin bigger. They would have kept going, but I needed to call the lesson to a close for lunch. Students like to go to the pumpkin and point out one of their sentences in the chain.
It was a fun project that added some holiday flavor to our walls. So, for now anyway, we are moving on from subject and predicate... although I know we will be back!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Donors Choose Rocks!

Such an exciting week! Last week I submitted a grant to Donors Choose. My project, "Lights, Camera, Stop-Motion: Student-Created Lego Movies" asked for iPod Touches for my class to make movies in class. To my surprise, Disney fully funded it in less than a week. My iPods arrived earlier this week. Donors Choose encouraged me to submit another project because Chevron was looking to fund projects for Orange County teachers. I asked if I could submit the same grant again (since I wanted more iPods for my project). They said I could. So, I did... and guess what... Chevron came through for me and fully funded three more iPods for my class tonight. I am now up to 5 iPods! I am overwhelmed with the generosity of these companies. My students are going to have such a great time making movies! I definitely encourage all of my teacher friends to submit projects to Donors Choose. It's easy and you might just get something great!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Questioning My Methods...

This summer I made a trip to the bookstore to get the Daily 5 and CAFE books. I'd heard so much about them. While there, I picked up another book that peaked my interest... What Really Matters in Fluency by Richard L. Allington.

My District has used DIBELS for many years and I have relied heavily on those results. I have used the scores, in conjunction with others, to choose which students get intervention, how students are doing with reading progress, and to drive reading instruction.

Recently, I had begun to question how much information the DIBELS assessment is really providing. This book confirmed my thoughts and shed light on how little the DIBELS assessment really measures reading fluency, as it is widely defined, and how much it actually measures speed and accuracy of reading.

Reading this book has caused me to question many things about my literacy instruction and believe even more in the teaching methods outlined in the Daily 5 and CAFE books. I am transitioning from the traditional basal reader program to the Daily 5 and CAFE effective immediately.

I started out the year trying to do a hybrid of the basal reading program and Daily 5/CAFE. I wasn't sure that I could justify my use of the Daily 5/CAFE program to parents and administrators if I was asked. After reading this book, I have more than enough researched-based information to justify my choices to anyone who asks.

So, tomorrow I go in armed with information and determined to give my students what they need to become more confident, successful readers. I know this won't be an easy road, but I think for the sake of my students, it is a road worth taking.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Currently - October

I am linking up with Farley for Currently for the first time. I love reading these, but I haven't been able to get mine posted earlier. I hope this gives some of my blogging friends a chance to know me better.

I actually just finished reading My Father's Dragon to my class. They loved it! Kids always seem to pass it up because of the dated cover, but it is awesome and so much fun!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Technology for Teachers

I love technology! Finding ways to use it in my classroom and to make the job of teaching more fun and manageable is the greatest thing in the world. This year I am looking for more ways to integrate technology into both my teaching and management.

Last year I was fortunate enough to be awarded a grant to purchase SMART Response Clickers. They are awesome. I used them a little last year, but I am going full force this year. The kids have a great time using them and I love the instant feedback I get right on my computer. I use question sets I find on the SMART Exchange website as well as question sets I create to go with what I am teaching. My favorite thing about my SMART Response Clickers is that every kid has to respond, every time. No one gets skipped, no one can hide and there is no pressure to answer before your neighbor.

My iPad 2 is another one of my favorite tools to use when I teach. I love my SMART Board, but don't enjoy being tethered to it. I tried using an Airliner tablet, but never really got the hang of writing on it and not having a frame of reference of where I was on the board. I took advantage of an inservice opportunity at the Orange County Department of Education last year and learned about an App that has made my iPad an invaluable tool. It's called Spashtop. Using Splashtop allows me to mirror my computer screen on my iPad. I can hold my iPad and operate my computer and SMART Board from anywhere in the room without wires. It is awesome! I can move around, interact with students all over the room and make lessons dynamic. Check out their website and see if this would be a good solution for you and your teaching.

Pinterest came through for me again! I found a pin for Remind 101 and I am singing it's praises. This App allows me to use text messages to communicate with my students' parents. In this day of instant communication, using text messages helps parents and students stay updated and informed quickly and efficiently. I like Remind 101 because it keeps my phone number private and makes texting easy. I can schedule texts for future delivery, too. I am looking forward to using this a lot this year!

I am hoping to use our school's new N-Computing system this week with my students. Six computers running off of one tower. So far, I love it. The clean design and lack of hardware and cords everywhere has really improved my classroom decor. After we have a chance to use them this week, I'll weigh in on how they function.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It's Been A Wild Ride

Wow, what a crazy start to the year we've had. My class hasn't changed much, but everything around me was in flux until today. I started the year with 33 bright and shiny third graders on my roster. Thirty-two arrived ready to learn with one no show. Now, after hiring a new teacher and creating several combination classes and moving about 70 students from one class to another, I have 28. This is the smallest class I have taught since the days of true class size reduction. It is a dream. There is floor space in my room once again.

So, after all of this movement and turmoil, Back to School Night is tomorrow. To say I am behind on my preparations is an understatement. I just finished my presentation, have to make copies in the morning and still have lots of things to hang in my classroom. I am confident pretty sure that it will all get done. How's that for positive thinking? 

Even with my nerves about the event, I am excited about Back to School Night. I worked hard this summer to decorate and prepare my classroom. I have gotten wonderful feedback from parents and students alike.  I can't wait to stand up in my beautiful, organized room and talk with all of my wonderful parents about my plans for their students this year.

I'll post pictures soon... after I get it all together.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Odds and Ends I have been working on...

 I really like Monday Made It because it motivates me to get things done. Thanks to 4th Grade Frolics for creating this to kick me in the behind and accomplish something.  So, this week I did a lot of projects both at home and and school. We are having a party at our home for my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary Saturday, so I am getting the yard and house ready. I refinished a potter's bench that had sat neglected for far too long, cleaned up flower beds, cleaned patio furniture, tamed the out of control cucumber plant that is taking over my garden and organized the side yard.

Now, onto the fun stuff... my Silhouette Cameo arrived as we were leaving for Hawaii. I am finally getting to use it and boy is it fun! Here are a few of my latest creations with it.
 This is my Box Tops for Education collection bin. I needed a bigger one and thought the open top would make this one easier than the last. I got the inspiration from Pinterest.

 My no frills No Name board. It is right above where papers get turned in, so it is handy. I didn't want to spend more time on this project than the students do when they don't put their name on their paper, so I went simple. Maybe I'll add more later.
This is my welcome desk with my attendance and lunch center. I used a regular white board from Staples and made lettering and borders on the Cameo. Each day the kids will move their magnet to the appropriate spot (buying/bringing) and I can count lunch orders and see who is missing. I have a monitor to do this and put magnets back. It turned out great. Magnets are from DW Magnets. I found them through New Management - Rick Morris' awesome classroom management site. Dereck is so great... he will custom make any magnets for you. I know we can do them ourselves, but who has the time.

So, that's all for now. I am off to a district technology meeting. We haven't started school yet... Sept 5 is the magic date.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Best Pencil Sharpener Ever

Just a little plug for the best pencil sharpener ever. I pre-sharpened many pencils today and this sharpener was quiet, efficient and it's so cute! I love it! You can get one here. I didn't get this for free and they aren't paying me. Just love this sharpener and know pencil sharpening is a BIG hassle in a teacher's life.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I'm in Kauai and school is in session here. I'm recharging my batteries and making mental plans for my year. How can you not be inspired with a view like this? We've seen turtles, paddle boarded and kayaked on the Hanalei River and we are zip lining Friday before we jet home. I'm actually excited to get back to my room and finish it up. But, until then, live, love, and sandy toes!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Classroom Update

Today I got a rare treat... 4 hours of uninterrupted work time in my classroom alone (thanks mom and dad for having Ryan over). I got to play my Jason Mraz Radio on Pandora as loud as I wanted, spend time making my classroom a happy and colorful place, and ease back into my relationship with my classroom after a long absence from one another. I found that I really had missed it.

Yesterday I tried to put together a desk I got at Ikea, but really needed a drill or electric screwdriver... or much bigger biceps. Today, I brought the drill and made quick work of the desk. I love it! It is for my laptop and document camera to live on. I especially love the pink legs... they just make me happy. Not a bad looking set up for $19.99. 

After tackling that project, I moved on to changing a bulletin board. I changed the border and title to go with my new owl theme. I think it turned out great. I am going to add blue clothes pins with a photo of each child hot glued on it on each black paper to hang student work from. I can't do that until the kids come on Sept. 5th. This will stay up all year.
My next project was to outfit my clock with some great little numbers that I downloaded from TPT. I can't remember who I got them from... if you know, please leave a comment... I would like to give credit where credit is due. I love them. It looks so cute!
When I was on one of my many shopping trips to Target, I found this great canvas. I love what it says and hope it inspires my students like it does me.
Finally, I did a little bit more work on my teacher corner. If you have been reading my posts you know I got rid of my desk and replaced it with a student desk from Target. This is what my teacher corner looks like now. I have my desk, lamp and chair from Target. The bins are from Really Good Stuff, my dad built the bookshelves (thanks dad!), and I found the cute tree and owl bulletin board from Carson-Dellosa. My personalized owl lunchbox is on my desk. It is filled with my personal items like lotion, mints, etc. that I can't store in my desk anymore. My pencil cup says "Smarty Pants". It was a gift from a former parent after I shared the story of my son (7 at the time) asking me why I called him a smarty pants since that wasn't where his brain was stored? He is very literal. The parent and I had a good laugh over this and hence the gift. It still makes me smile every time I see it! The file cart next to my desk was a Costco find several years ago. I am so happy with how it all has come together. I am going to fill the boards with student work and anchor charts when the kiddos arrive.

Now I am really done with school prep until after my vacation to Kauai for my in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary. I feel good to have gotten so much done today. I still have work to do, and my new Silhouette Cameo will be here when I return. I am sure I will find many creative projects that I just HAVE to do once that arrives.

Until then... ALOHA!

Monday, August 6, 2012

My Inspiration for Owls

I know.. two posts in one day, WOW! I have had many friends and family ask how I came to the decision to use an owl decor in my classroom this year. Many think it is because of the many cute owl items available in the marketplace today, but that was not my inspiration, they just serve to make my decision easier to implement. I have a friend who is a talented artist. She has the CUTEST studio in Newport Beach, California. It was even featured on The Real Housewives of OC when the ladies took a painting class there for their show. I too paint there from time to time.
Timree had this CUTE owl painting hanging in her studio and it caught my eye. I just had to have it! Now, it hangs in my classroom as my inspiration of my new classroom design.

If you want to check out Timree and her awesome handpainted items (ceramics, paintings, school and office supplies, painting parties and classes, etc.) just click here. You won't be sorry!

My First Monday Made It!

I am excited to join with 4th Grade Frolics this week for Monday Made It! I have been working in my classroom a little here and there when my son's busy schedule permits it. I had an old rusted student desk in my room that I used to hold the AlphaSmarts inside, pencil sharpener and pencil bins on top and the computer waiting list. It looked awful. It didn't match our student desks... I can't even remember where it came from. I decided it was time for a make over. I was so excited that I forgot to take a "before" picture. After masking the top and chrome legs, I painted it with RustOleum primer for rusted metal. I let that dry and then went for it. I painted it bright blue to match some of the bulletin boards and accents in my room. It turned out pretty good. It sure looked better than before! I searched and searched for Contact Paper that fit my classroom culture. I was not enthused with the results of my search, but settled for this black and white pattern. It doesn't look too bad. Definitely better than the chipped and stained wood grain top. This looks too pretty for the pencil sharpener now. I put it by my mailbox center and door as a welcome station. Can't wait to show it off to my fellow teachers and students!

Have a great week! I am not sure if I will post again since we are leaving Friday for Hawaii! We don't start school until September 5th.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I'd like to thank my parents...

Wow! My first week of blogging and I have already gotten an award! How fitting considering I am watching the Olympics and watching all of these talented people earn medals.

Thank you to The Common Core Classroom for your sweet words and award.

So, I have to include 7 random facts about myself. Here goes:
1. I started playing ice hockey this year in an adult Rookie league. It's fun and great exercise. Here is a picture of me in all of my gear with my son who plays a whole lot better than I do.
My first year of hockey - too bad it was at a Ducks' rink, not my beloved Kings.

2. My brother and I were born on the same day, one year apart. Irish Twins.
3. My husband and I met in 6th grade and "went around" with each other. We didn't last long, but rekindled our romance in our late 20's and got married when we were both 30. We've been married 11 years.
4. My first principal was my assistant principal in junior high school. It was kind of like teaching for my mom.
5. My mom was the sub caller for the district I teach in. Before I got my job, she would "call" me for the jobs that no one else wanted by yelling upstairs to wake me up.
6. I was nominated for Homecoming Queen at Chico State University.
7. I have two different colored eyes - one green, one blue.

Wow, I am not sure I have checked out 15 blogs yet... I probably have, but I am going to have to do some investigating for this next step. I nominate:

1.  The bomb diggity classroom
2. Teaching Third
3. We Read, We Blog, We Teach
4. Runde's Room
5. A Modern Teacher
6. A Teacher's Treasure

Well, that's all I have time for tonight... I promise I will come back and finish off my nominations.