Thursday, July 25, 2013

10 Things I've Learned from Teaching

Good morning!
I'm linking up with Miss Kindergarten for 

So here it goes.. 10 things I've learned from teaching Fifth Grade:

1.  They are not as "big" as you think.  I remember getting my assignment in a tough school for teaching 5th and I was slightly nervous, but I had absolutely nothing to worry about.  They are just tiny little kids in sometimes big bodies.  It took me a couple classes to really solidify that.

2.  Have a life outside of school!  My first year I really burned myself out and spent too much time doing "everything school." Now I make it a point to make time for myself, and leave when I get to that point where no matter how long I stay at school I am not going to get anything productive done.  I've joined a gym, tried classes, and it gets me out of school.  Sometimes that is the best way to be productive!

3.  Inevitably they will always slip up and call you mom, and then turn 1314 shades of red and pretend like they didn't. :)

4.  They will always remember when you slipped up and said something silly or got something wrong. I was reading The Great Gilly Hopkins,  and if you've read it, you know there are a lot of inappropriate words.  I was thinking about something else and reading aloud, and I slipped and said, "damn" and immediately slapped my hand over my mouth.  [Imagine the shock and horror! haha!] That happened in January and my kids were still talking about it in June.. *sigh* That must have been good dinner table talk at home.

5.  Don't eat in the staff room.  There's too much negative talk up there.  

6.  Even if your lesson plans don't go the way you intended them to, keep calm and act like it was the plan all along.  If the kids see you falter...not good.

7.  It's ok to mess up! My kids LOVE when I mess up a problem on the morning math and they get to correct me.  Sometimes I lie and say, "good, I did that on purpose to see if you're paying attention!" but really... I messed up.

8.  The janitors are your best resources.  Be nice to them.  They can find things in the building for you that no one else knows exist.  

9.  Have at least 1 piece of chocolate a day.  It makes everything better.  

10.  Love the students like they were your own children.  I've learned that they just "know" when you really care for them, and that makes the relationship they form with you that much better.  Sometimes you are the person who gives them the most attention and love, so don't take that for granted.

There are a million other things I've learned from teaching.  In fact, I learn something new each day.  That's why I love my job!  They teach me more than I teach them.

Keep learning, friends! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Common Core App for Your Phone

Hello all!
I'm going to keep this post short and simple.  

There is an excellent app out there called Core: Common Core Standards.  It's free (at least in the iPhone app store)!  With so much intense focus on the CCSS it is nice to have access to it at your fingertips.  It's so great that I have to share it with all of you!

Here's what it looks like in the app store:
The layout of the app is so simple and user friendly.  This is the first home page:

If you click on standards, it brings you to this page:

From there, you can select your grade.  They have all grades listed, from kindergarten to 12th grade.  I picked 5th because, well, it's my life! This is math for fifth grader, and all the standards are listed in a nice simple list.

Reading is set up the same, with all the standards in list format.

 Even better, there is a Resource tab on the home page for Math, Language Arts, ELL Application, and SPED Application.  It covers all the bases!

This is the Math resource tab, and there are lots of good things listed here that are helpful.

Hands down this is the best app I've found for the Common Core.  I highly recommend it!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Newbie Blogger here....

Hi friends!
I was scrolling through my blogs on bloglovin' and happened to stop on over to The Meek Moose (and follow her btw..she is great!).  

The Meek MooseShe was commenting that Cindy from Diary of a Grateful Teacher was sad because she had readers, but they weren't commenting on anything she writes.  So she just has these "stalkers" and I use that term lovingly because I, myself, am a "stalker".  I used to read TONS of blogs and not say a peep.  I've learned, now, that that is 1) not nice and 2) bloggers love to hear from their readers and make friendships through their blogs.  

Cindy went on to say that she feels like such a newbie with blog design.  I am right there with her.  I mean, I look at these GORGEOUS blogs and thing, "man, I want that" all the time.  I have learned a few basic things.  It's not much, people, but it's something!  From Marcy at Searching for Teacher Balance she has a good tutorial here about creating a teacher signature.  I also learned that Google is my best friend, and because I am such a visual learner, YouTube is my second best friend in learning how to do things on my blog.  I'm not so confident in writing html code and designing my own blog design, but I got my background from ShabbyBlogs and they're FREE!  And I love free things!  That's pretty much the extent of my learning.  I still can't figure out basic things and that is so annoying to me because I just want it to work!  I'm sure we've all felt this way too at one point or another.

So my question to you, my fellow bloggers, is where did you start with blog design.  Did you have someone do it for you?  If so, who is a reliable and creative designer?  Also, any tips and tricks for blog design?  There are super cute fonts available and buttons galore, but how do you get them? 

I'm going to be brave and try out my first linky.  It might get no one, but at least there's a first for everyone! Link up if you have a tip, trick, or advice about blogging 101.  Let's help each other.  Link up people!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Liebster Award

Yay! Someone is reading my ramblings!  Amy from The Teacher Next Door, all the way from Japan, nominated me for a Liebster Award.  And by nominated, I mean, I get it.  So cool.  So, thanks Amy!  I so enjoyed reading her blog and her questions from her nomination.  Head over there right now and become her newest follower.  

So what is a Liebster Award?  Well, Leibster is German for "sweet, darling, beloved," and is an award given to new bloggers with less than 200 followers.  These are the rules:
1.  Link back to the blog that nominated you.
2.  Nominate 5-11 blogs with less than 200 followers.
3.  Answer the questions posted by the nominator.  
4.  Share 11 random facts about yourself.
5.  Create 11 questions for your nominees.
6.  Contact your nominees by commenting on their blog or sending them an e-mail to inform them of their nomination.
Here are Amy's questions for me:

1.  What is your favorite thing to do unrelated to school?
I love to cook, although I don't get to do it as much as I want.  It's a matter of time, folks.  I come home from work, tired, and end up throwing chicken, a baked potato, and veggie on a plate and calling it dinner.  I wish I could peruse the Food Network and recreate some fabulous dinners, but I just don't have time (or the energy) to do it regularly.  My aunt is an excellent cook and she and I have whipped up great meals together.  All of them include A LOT of garlic, because that's just what we do.  I also love to design flowers.  My mom owns a local flower shop and I literally grew up in a cardboard box in the workroom.  It must be in my blood, because I love taking flowers and making them into a stunning design.  I work there over the summers, not really for the money, but just for a chance to dive in and "play".

2.  How did you come up with the name of your blog?
You know, that was the hardest part! I literally sat looking at the screen, and nothing.  I couldn't think of anything.  Everyone has these adorable names for their blogs so it's hard to come up with one that is original.  I chose Ramblings because it's what I do... I ramble.  I thought it was fitting.

3.  Where did you go to college?  Why did you choose that school?
I went to Messiah College in Grantham, PA.  It's outside of Harrisburg and is a liberal arts Christian college.  I chose it because I wanted to go far away from home (not really, 6 hours from CT) and a couple of my good friends attended and absolutely loved it.  I also wanted the experience of going to a Christian school because I had gone to public my whole life.  It was a great experience  and I met my best girl friends there.  It's hard to believe that it's been 7 years since I graduated. Man, how time flies!

4. What is the wildest thing that has happened to you while teaching?
Hmm..this is a tough one.  I think there are more funny moments than wildest, like when I had one of my fifth graders flail like a seal and shuffle (like a seal walks...dragging the feet and using the fins) around the room during instruction.  That was weird.  Her mother was mortified.  And then there's always a point in a year when one student (usually a boy) farts, loudly, and tries to cover it up while all the girls giggle and turn 130423 shades of red.  He acts like he didn't do it.  And I have to pretend to get something at my desk because I have to laugh :)  Or a bee flies in the window on a hot day and I have to refrain the students from calling 911 and reporting an emergency and making a mass exodus.  There's always unpredictable moments each day, which makes it interesting and exciting. 

5.  What are you the most scared of?
Spiders.  It sounds so cliche ( I need that little accenty thing over the e) but I really can't stand them! I can be brave and smush the little ones, but when they are hairy and jumpy and have big teeth (ok...exaggeration) forget it.  I call in the reinforcements (my hubby).  I vacuum them up sometimes, but I have to leave the vacuum running for a good 10 minutes afterwards, just in case.

6.  If you were not a teacher, what would you be?
Good question! I would probably have been a florist.  It comes easy to me and I can see design in my mind. It's the business part that I would have had to go to school for.  I can't see myself having a job that I would have to be planted behind a desk.  I need to walk around and cubicle living is just not for me.

7. Have you ever lived in or visited another country?
Paris, France
Yes! I lived in England for 3 months while I was in college.  I studied abroad and went to the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham, England.  It's 2 hours west of London.  I met some GREAT friends there, and I still keep in touch with them through Facebook.  It's nice to know if I go to Wales, Italy, or England I have someone to put me up.  While I lived there we visited Scotland, Rome, Paris, Wales, Stonehenge, and others. It was one of my favorite life experiences to date.  
Vatican City, Rome
The Tower Bridge, London

8.  Do you have a nickname? How did you get it? (OR, how did your parents choose your name?
Well, I don't really have a nickname.  I am usually just Kristin, or sometimes Kris.  My roommates in college called me Klip because my initials at the time were KLP, but it's not really that exciting.  

9.  What is your favorite thing to teach and why?
I have my Masters in Reading and Language Arts.  However, I found that I love teaching math more!  It's structured, predictable, and I find it's "easier" to teach math.  I like the way it builds off previous teaching and I love how far the students come from September to June.  Not that reading is horrible- I do enjoy it - but I'd have to pick math.  

10.  What is your least favorite thing to teach and why? 
Spelling. Or the moon.  Ugh.. I dread it every year (and every year I have to re-teach myself about revolution and rotation and the phases of the moon.  It's year 5 though... I think the review session will be moderately quick).  

11.  What is your favorite story to read aloud to your class?
Usually, I read all different books each year.  Some of my absolute favorites are:

Some of them are for curriculum (Blood on the River) and some I love because they are series (Harry and Indian) and they usually "take off" with my students and they finish the entire series.  If you haven't read Wonder, GET IT NOW! It was fabulous and it sparked such amazing discussion with my fifth graders.  It hits on bullying and hot topics, and we fell in love with the characters.  We might have all had had misty eyes at points too.  Definitely put that one on your reading list.

Random facts about me:
1.  Like Amy, I too played trombone in the high school marching band.
2.  I can whistle through my tongue.
3.  I have two fabulous nieces, Gracie and Hannah (5, 8) who I adore and spoil them rotten.
4.  I just got a new puppy, Callie (you might have seen this post) and I have learned to function on less sleep in the past 2 weeks.
5.  I love tacos.
6.  I am an only child.
7.  I got tenured this year! Woot woot!
8.  We just bought a new house and are busy fixing it up and making it "ours".
9.  I met my husband at church and dated 3 months before we became engaged. It was a whirlwind, and we will celebrate 5 years of marriage this October.
10.  I'm tiny.  Only 5'1". Good things come in small packages. :)

My nominees:
1.  Julie at The Teaching Bug
2.  Sarah at The Eager Teacher


1.  What made you start blogging?
2.  Favorite all time movie?
3.  What is your favorite food/thing to cook?
4.  What book are you in the middle of, or what have you recently finished reading?
5.  Ultimate destination vacation?
6.  Best thing about your job? Worst?
7.  What is playing on your iPod right now?
8.  Do you have any pets/what are they?
9.  What was one of your funniest classroom moments?
10.  Coffee, tea, or neither?  What gets you movin' in the morning?
11.  In your school, what are you best known for?  

Have fun!
Oh, and if you haven't followed these nominees already, what are you waiting for!? 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pin Mania

I'm linking up with First Grade Parade to share some favorite pins from this week.  I pin in shifts..sometimes it's all the time, and then I take a hiatus and don't visit for a week or so.  However, I did some pinning this week and thought I'd share.

This is from Pier 1.... and I have a thing for elephants.  I'm not sure they still have it though :( so cute.

I mean, come on. This is cool.

This chicken crescent roll casserole was delicious.. probably not that healthy, but once in a while it's a good comfort food meal!

Ice cubes with lemons in cupcake tins! How genius is that for a big pitcher of lemonade or iced tea!

And how cool is this to twist on the traditional book report?!  L.O.V.E. it!!!
This reading journal was amazing to use this year teaching.. I tweaked it to my liking, but it was great and I'm definitely doing this again!

Considering we just moved into a new house..and there are rooms that are literally empty.. I thought this was hilarious!

Those were my faves from this week of pinning!  Now I'm on the hunt for more great pins...such is the life of a teacher in the summer!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reading Journal Fridays

So last night I received a question on Teachers Pay Teachers about my reading journal that I do on Fridays with my fifth graders.  I answered it, and I thought it was a great opportunity to talk about it here.  I have a freebie for you too, all the way at the bottom.  So hear me out...

There's so little time in the day to really relax, be creative, and slowly learn how to be better at something.  It's CCS madness where I teach, and we are go, go, go all the time.  I know they need a break, and frankly by Friday, I do too!  So my grade level partner and I had a pow wow (love her) and Reading Journal Friday was born.

My students are assigned independent reading as part of their homework in the 5th grade: 800 pages in the first semester, 1200 in the second, and 1500 in the third semester.  It's hard keeping track of that (I use reading logs, reading responses for hw, and parent volunteers for book chats.  If anyone can chime in on how you tackle this, PLEASE share...I'm always looking for ways to change it up a bit). That boils down to about 100 pages a week for each student.  And I'm aware that they all do not reach that goal, but I want them to try.  Just read, people!  It's a good thing!  Anyways, I digress....

Friday morning comes and that's when they get to relax and write in their journals.  I turn on Pandora Film Scores Channel (or something similar) and let them write for 20 minutes.  They write about their independent reading for the week.  I structure it so they tell me a summary in the first paragraph of their letter, and a reaction paragraph as the second.  It's written in a form of a letter (so this doubles as letter-writing instruction) to me.  There's a specific rubric they follow so they know exactly what is expected.  
Anecdote time:

I had a student last year who HATED writing, I mean LOATHED it with all of his being!  He had 0’s on all of his district writing prompts because of his simple refusal to write.  Not that he couldn’t, he just “didn’t like it.”  And this is a bright boy, my friends!  When I sprang it on him that his new teacher in a new school was actually expecting him to write everysinglefridaymorning there was a lot of resistance.  However, by June, it was ahhhmazing to see how far he had come.  “Hey, when we gonna listen to music and write?” was a common question each Friday morning as he would walk into the classroom with his backpack wrapped around his forehead (everysingleday, forehead wrap).  I was so excited that my most reluctant writer ever, in my history of teaching, was actually asking me to write.  It’s the small things… So the moral of this story is that it is classroom tested and the students love it--even the tough ones.  

I also learned the hard way that you have to model, model, model EACH week.  When we first start this activity at the end of September, they need a solid model of what I am looking for.  I respond to the current read aloud so all students are aware of the book/characters, etc. I found that if I fail to model, their journals suffer.  I literally hand-write a letter to them, modeling grammar, penmanship, etc and we have a conversation as a class about the criteria for their letters to me. 

Now, responding to each and every child is the tricky part.  In my first year of teaching, I was completely overwhelmed to read 20+ journals on a weekly basis.  I vowed there had to be a better way! So, my refined-but-definitely-not-perfect way is this: I color code the journals with ribbon (usually 4-5 different colors, hot glued to the back cover). Some days, I might collect the only one color to read. That leaves 4-5 journals to respond to nightly, which is more manageable. Sometimes, I might collect a couple colors, depending on what's going on or how much time I have. Other options that I have tried are having the kids trade journals and write a letter back to their peer or having a parent respond to the journal for weekend homework.  On busy days where I want to check all the students’ journals, I might have them write a list of some sort that is easier and quicker to check. This might give you the opportunity to flip back in their journals and do a quick inventory of how their writing is progressing.  My goal is to write a letter back to each and every student on a weekly basis. It doesn’t have to be something long and drawn out, but just something that connects you to that child.

Second anecdote:

I had a select mute last year.  She would rarely talk to me or make eye contact with me, however, she was excellent at expressing herself through writing.  I learned more about that little girl through these journals than I would have if I spent a year on a deserted island with her.  She just felt comfortable writing…she didn’t have to share, her friends didn’t see, just me.  To top it off, she had great ideas and thoughts, and deep down she was just another bubbly, girly, pink-loving 11 year old.  And that’s something special.

So, here it is.  It’s always up for free here.  I just ask that you leave feedback. I'd love to hear how to improve upon this, or any ideas that you do in your classroom as part of a written response.  I know this was a wordy post, and thanks if you made it all the way to the end!  

Here's some pictures of my student's journals from last year:

Happy mid-hot July!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Our New Addition!

The moment has finally arrived...are you sitting down?  Okay.. here goes.  Me, the dog lover, has convinced my husband (well...ahem...persuaded deeply) to get a puppy!!  It has taken only 5 years, folks, for me to win this battle.  He just knows how much he's going to fall in love with her and he can't admit it.  :)

I love her to the moon and back already. It's actually been quite the experience watching her grow.  My mom has bred Golden Retrievers ever since I can remember, and often I had litters of puppies in the house.  Just last week there were 13 dogs in her house (10 of which were puppies).  The past couple of weeks literally I have stopped over every day. It's almost borderline stalker-ish.  I just couldn't help myself! They just grow so much each and everyday.  So I'm glad to say that finally I get to take one home to live in our house.  She has about 309410938 toys to play with, however, her favorite is the beat up towel I put in her crate.  Go figure.  PetSmart probably knows a sucker when they see one buying silly squeaky toys because the dog always ends up with a sock or old towel becoming their favorite toy.  And they know it. 

So here she is.. all 8 weeks of her.  Callie.  My Callie girl.     

This is the ratty towel that has captured her heart... and she does like the racoon as well.  

She was helping me take the picture!

She's a handful!  I'm off to chase her around and get out all that puppy energy so we can have somewhat of a good night's rest tonight. :)  Cheers to starting a new chapter in my life!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy (almost) 4th of July!

This is the holiday we hope our fifth graders remember WHY we celebrate...All that talking about the American Revolutionary War hopefully sinks in!  

Thanks to Flying Into First Grade for creating this SUPER cute and Patriotic button to link up with.  Thank you to My Life as a Third Grade Teacher as well because I saw the link up on her page.  You find great things when you stalk other blogs (he he he)!

You can find everything in my TpT store here.  Be sure to check out all of the other great products that are linked up too!  Never to early to do a little back to school shopping.  Or any shopping for that matter....

Happy Fourth,

Monday, July 1, 2013

Homework Organization

Being a teacher means you have to be extremely organized.  At least, I think so.  My room HAS to be neat, otherwise I go crazy.  Each year teaching I have morphed into a more organized person (at least I like to think so).  With 10 and 11 year olds, they NEED to see a model of organization to help THEM to be organized.  I know I always have 1 or 2 students with papers literally exploding from all corners of their desks or bins...but I digress.  Ugh.  Sometimes there is no hope...(or energy on my part).

So let me talk about a couple things that keep my homework center organized. I'm linking up with Kristen at Ladybug Teaching Files (love, love, love her ideas!!!) to share my simple homework management strategy. 

I used to have students turn in all their homework into a bin and I'd spend my special time sorting it out, checking off names, figuring out who DIDN'T put their name on their paper, and poof!  My planning period would be over and I accomplished...well...not that much.  So I knew I'd have to find a better way.  
I bought this from Really Good Stuff and put it in the front of my room where my students check in/sharpen pencils/pick their lunch.  I wrote each of their names on a pocket and viola! An instant          Homework Center.  

I actually had to buy another pocket chart that is half the size of the one above to accommodate all of my students.  Last year I had 17 students (a dream! I'm used to having 23-25) and next year I have 18.  I had to get this one: 

I just put them next to each big deal.  In the morning, my students turn in their homework in their pocket.  Simple, done.  From my desk, I can easily look and see who's homework is missing.  Even better, I have a "homework checker" collect the homework in order (I assign numbers alphabetically).  If a student forgets their name, I can tell who it is because of where their paper is in alphabetical order.  No more advertising "Who's paper is this?" or analyzing handwriting.  

I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier.  It's easy, effective, and such a time saver.  

There ya go! My homework routine! It's not perfect, and I'm sure there's still ways it could be improved, but it works for me and I love it!

Happy organizing!