Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ready to go exploring...starting with the Vikings!

I kick off my explorer unit with a mini study of the Vikings.  The ruthless warriors.

My SS text doesn't cover these people in depth ( paragraph) so I'm always looking for things to supplement.  


I found a GREAT site that I wanted to share.  

First, the Vikings are known for their sagas, or stories, and the kids really get into them.  I used to have this ancient record player I'd drag into class and they'd think it was so cool to play a record....well...I think it's finally died.  Enter this site.  The BBC does such a great job with these sagas, and I've treated my students to one a day (they're about 5 minutes each).  

They are funny and do a great job of modernizing these sagas so the kids can relate and remember them. 

My second site is also a BBC site.  

There's different tabs for the kids to browse.

Each tab has sections that break up the main topic, with pictures and videos.

There's games to play...the kids loved this!

The quiz was also great for the kids who are fast finishers.
I made a 10 question web quest for this site and you can get that for free here.  I also made an answer key so you don't have to go searching for answers.

**public service announcement - the content is no longer updated by BBC, so some of the videos may not work.  I still encourage you to use this site, as there is tons of information on it!***

The kids were engaged..they were learning new content...there was technology involved...WIN WIN!!!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

September Currently

Thanks to Farley for this fun link up!  
Bring on September!!!

Totally vegging out on the couch watching some good ol' Goonies right now...what a classic!

So I haven't gotten a paycheck since early June.  Let's just say that my bank account is VERY happy to see my paycheck again tomorrow!  

This week has been unseasonably hot and humid in CT - several districts have gone home half days this week because it is just sooo hot.  But not us.  We sweat.  It's supposed to be 90 all weekend and I'm so tempted to squeeze in another beach day - why not?!

This summer TV is for the birds.. I need my Scandal and Blacklist back ASAP!  

I need a massage...standing all day does a job on your back.  My niece says I'm  "totes cray cray" for not scheduling one these days.

My three goals are pretty simple, IF I stay on top of it and not let my desk get out of it is already and it's only the 6th day of school.  My plan is to stay late 1 day a week and get most of my grading/organizing/copying/planning done so I can stay current and leave on time to pick up my little one on the other 4 days.  We'll see if this happens.. Also, I'm SO CLOSE to fitting back into all of my pre-pregnancy pants.  I'm technically the same weight as I was before my daughter, but the weight must have shifted because I can't quite fit in everything.  

One thing I did do for myself was schedule a Stitch Fix.  I'm hooked, you guys.  I was on the fence for SO LONG and finally I just did it.  My first box - kept 1 shirt. My second box - kept the whole kit and kaboodle!!  My 3rd is on it's merry way to my house and I can't wait!!  Don't wait around like I did forever--schedule one.  It's so worth it for the sheer joy of seeing the box when you get home!  It's the little things....If you want to, you can use this link to schedule your fix!

Happy September!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Building Classroom Environment

The beginning of school is tough.

For teachers.  For kids. For families.  For me.

It's my job to make my classroom a refuge for those tough days.  I spend the first 20 days of my school year teaching routines and classroom management to build that foundation that lasts for the remainder of the year.  It's not easy!  This year my district is also implementing a guided math AND reading workshop all together.  I'm a little stressed...but that's for another post!

One of my favorite activities is such a great one to do on the first or second (or whatever day!) of school.  I have the students trace their arm and hand on white construction paper.  In their hand, they think about what makes them unique.  I give them brainstorm ideas, such as...

What do you do on the weekend?
What are your hobbies?
What makes you happy?
What's your favorite book?
How do you spend time with your friends?
What is special about your family?
Do you have a special talent or gift?
What are you good at?

They draw and illustrate, using words and pictures, their answers to these questions in their hands.  I stress that they can use words and pictures because not all students are great artists.  They also cannot have any white space, so they use lots of color to fill in those spaces.

When they are done with their hand, they cut it out.  We spend some time sharing our hands, and I let the kids know that they can choose to share their entire hand, or just a few items from them.  It's important to let them share what they are comfortable with to build trust, and I don't want it to be a forced activity! Some students who are reluctant to share at all will want to open up by the end of the discussion and want to add details about their hand.  When everyone has had a chance to share, I bring them to our bulletin board and we arrange their hands into the shape of a flower.  There are millions of pins on Pinterest that have different spins on this idea, and I shaped my lesson from many of these pins (so thank you!)  Here's a picture of how my bulletin board turned out this year.

I leave this up all year.  This board happens to be outside of my classroom, so I am greeted by this happy board each and every day.  Such a nice reminder that we are all different, and even on our toughest days, we can all lean on each other to make it the best day possible.  That's what it's really all about, isn't it?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Back to School! (already?!) A freebie letter to students on the first day!

When my kids come in the door on that first day, I want to make sure they have something to do at their desk.  It's always a little crazy with parents, new staff, and the general chaos of the first day so I have to leave good instructions to keep the early arrivers busy.

I like to write a letter to the students to read when they find their desk.  I do this for a couple of reasons:
1) I can see how they follow directions
2) It gives them something quiet to do while other classmates arrive.
3) I don't have to repeat the same directions a million times!

This year, my letter outlined the supplies they have on their desk and where to put them.  I made sure to use simple transition words and directions so all of the students could understand.  I like to linger in the back of the room that first morning, observing the student's behavior, seeing how they interact with their peers, and their behavior.  Some get to work right away and are very quiet.  Others are nervous and run and whisper to their friends who they're sitting next to.  And there's always the couple that make their presence known--we know how those students look, right?!

Here is a copy of my letter that I leave, and there is a blank template for you to use if you so desire!  The fonts I used were Too Much Paper!, Carton Six, and KG Miss Kindergarten.  

I leave a blank name tag on their desk for them to color as morning work (it's interesting to see what designs they come up with!!)  I use PowerPoint and type all of their names in appleberry font, which is my favorite.  Then I make the font huge and make it outlined, so they can color the inside.  These get laminated and then taped on their desks.  Easy, colorful, and cheap!  They are super proud of them when they finish too (some kiddos take a couple days to get it juuuust right.) 

This is an example of how they look before the kids color.  Of course, you can use whatever font you want!

If you'd like your own editable copy of the first day letter, visit my TpT store to download it for FREE!  Make sure you have the fonts listed above if you like the look of what I use.  I have embedded the same letter (different, more simple fonts) below if you'd prefer that too.  Click on Google Slides in the bottom right corner to edit.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Currently July

Yay it's July!! To me, this is officially the summer month... and I enjoy each and every second! Thanks to Farley for the Currently!

My little girl is starting to walk.. I'd say 60% crawl 40% walk.  Once she decides it's officially the faster way to travel, I'm done for! She is quite the busy baby and never stops.  She's keeping me busy this summer! 

I'm also in the midst of planning for her first birthday party (everyone says how time goes so fast, but really, really, I was in the hospital like yesterday...)  I'm thinking of mint, pink, and gold theme. I'm headed to Hobby Lobby today to start perusing and planning.  Pinterest is dangerous.. but it's ohhhh soooo goood for ideas.

I'm enjoying a hot coffee, and it's the little things that make it that much more enjoyable.  Not gulping down a sip in the midst of morning math, or secretly re-filling while the kids are at special.  Ahhhh.. this is one of my most favorite things.

I've got a few unfinished TpT literature guides- The Watsons go to Birmingham and Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry.  I love these books and I've got to push myself to finish the guides.

Maui-T minus 2 weeks.  It's my mom, my dad, my daughter, and me on the plane together.  The rest of the fam is coming in shifts, so I am most nervous about surviving the plane ride.  I just might be the most hated person on a plane traveling with a little person.  I can just see myself taking the 1329 walk down the aisle politely apologizing for my screamer.  OR it can go well.  I'm preparing for the worst.

And lastly, I am really good at being organized, being level headed, and having common sense.  I balance out my team because they can get a little wound up and I bring them back to reality, although I am guilty of doing the same thing at times too!

Enjoy the currently linky!!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Using Social Media in the Classroom

This is a topic that scares me.  Literally scares me.  There is so much that can go WRONG with using social media in the classroom that I have been so hesitant about using it in my room.

Until now.

I took the plunge.

#ifyoucantbeatthemjointhem is my motto.

A couple weeks ago, I polled my 5th grade class and asked how many of them had Instagram accounts.  I was surprised that nearly half raised their hands.  The other half said that their parents wouldn't let them, which I expected because they are only 5th graders.  Still, this was 50% of my classroom that is on Instagram allll the time!  I had to put this to good use!

I spent a lot of time on Pinterest, devouring posts and articles about how to properly use social media in the classroom.  There are teachers who use Facebook closed groups, Instagram, Twitter, and Remind101 (which I LOVE!! If you don't use that, at least start there! It's amazing, and easy!),  to communicate with their classes and parents.  I wasn't really ready for the FB or Twitter scene, so I thought that Instagram was a good starting point. 

I know many of you use it, but for those who don't, Instagram is a way to share photos with friends online.  People can comment and like your photos.  You can also direct message with students if you want. 

I want you to know that I really thought about this for a while... you hear so much about cyber bullying and I didn't want to add to this problem by creating a venue for it.  We had a class meeting on the rug and I told them my idea, and you could literally see the excitement in their eyes! They were sooo excited that a) their teacher knew what Instagram was and 
b) they could go on for school (take that mom and dad!).

I laid down some ground rules:
1) Be kind
2) Be appropriate
3) I have the right to delete any comment I find unacceptable or that doesn't relate to the post.
4) I will not "follow" them back - don't want to open that can of worms
5) Their parents are invited to follow me as well to follow classroom events

They agreed, and when that bell rang at the end of the day my instagram account blew up with all their comments and likes on my photo.  I made my account super easy to remember: mrs___teaches.

I found a bunch of ways to use it within the first few weeks, and the kids came up with ways to use it too. Here are some we tried:

1) taking pictures of daily learning
2) having a guest instagrammer add to the feed for a day (a student can be in charge for the day - ground rules have to be established for this as well!)
3) documenting a field trip
4) adding a hashtag to see what we're all reading
5) #TriviaTuesdays
6) taking pictures of important paper notices that go home to ensure that they don't get lost
7) posting pictures of our learning (ex, American Revolution) and asking a question for them to answer

Now, for those kiddos who don't have Instagram, we wanted it to be fair so they could be included too.  I set up the homepage on our shared classroom computer to the Instagram page, so they could scroll through in the am or pm and comment/like pictures too.  This seemed to work pretty well.

So how do I think it went?


I had about 12 student followers, and 5 parent followers.  I think the parents liked it because they could get a glimpse into their kid's day and ask them direct questions about their learning.  I received positive feedback from the kids, and they were bummed when I told them I'd be "kicking them off" at the end of summer to make room for my new kiddos!  Of course, I'll post all summer and keep in touch with them that way about trips they're taking or books they're reading.  It keeps them accountable that I'm "checking in with them" in a fun and meaningful way, and of course, they're on their phones and Ipods so it is even more enticing to them.

Have you jumped on the social media bandwagon?  I'd love to see how you're using it in the classroom or have you share about your experiences!!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Currently February

I'm linking up with Farley for Currently February.

Can't believe it's been this long since I've blogged/posted/let everyone know I'm still here!  It's been busy, that's for sure!

You might think that listening to nothing is boring.  To me, it's beautiful.  The hubs is out, the little lady is asleep upstairs, and the dog is passed out in the sunlight by the porch door.  It's pure bliss.   And I'm loving each.and.every.minute.  Rarely do I get a moment like this anymore.

So, yeah, big snow system in the works for tomorrow.  So convenient that it falls tonight, because we're having a Superbowl party (go Pats).  CT is still recovering from the last snow, and I may never see my mailbox again, but I'm still loving the fact that I am pretty sure I'll be spending the day in my sweats tomorrow.

A lot of pinning has been going on, and the hubs and I really want to make this house our own.  We're thinking of re-doing the bathrooms and the hallways, and I've recently been inspired by pins like this:

These projects will happen... I'm going to see to it!  I'll post pictures when these dreams become a reality!! 

I do want a vacation...really badly.  Doesn't everyone? It's madness at work.  Madness I tell you.  I'm sure you're in the same boat, so I don't need to ramble about that.  We haven't been away since 2013, so we're due.  The little lady was last summer's "vacation" so the hubs and I are looking forward to HAWAII this summer.  Can't. wait.

It's also amazing how I learned to operate on little to no sleep.  And I still function. People told me this would happen when I was pregnant, but I didn't believe them.  I "need" 8 hours of sleep.  At least, I thought I did. Now, 6 straight is a gift from above...but she's worth it.  She's 6 months already as of yesterday!  Time does fly!
Here she is in her awesome hat that Daddy picked out:

And for the pageant, I'm not really creative.  So I tend to find myself doing 23942 things at once.. hence, multitasker.  

Hope this February finds you rested and ready to tackle another month!