Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Chris Van Allsburg Author Study

Blog Post Part 1

Well over 10 years ago I started an author study unit of Chris Van Allsburg books for my fourth-graders.  One of my colleagues, Shane, worked with me to refine this unit over the years.  Then I moved to third grade and had to leave it behind.  No big deal, for me it was a chance to create something new.  Then I came back to fourth grade after 6 years.  The level had continued to make tweaks to the unit while I was in third.  However, it no longer completely aligned to the updated standards, so back to the drawing board I went.

After several weeks of frantically trying to cram curriculum into the days where school wasn't closed due to snow/cold/etc, and trying to help prepare my students for the upcoming PARCC testing (which I would only do a minimal amount of because of principle), this was a needed day of enjoyment with my students.

It was Read the Most from Coast to Coast, and every student had a blast reading and answering questions about these great books!  Upon getting home that evening, my husband asked how my day was (which he always does) and for the first time in a while I replied, "Great!".  Here are a few pictures.  You can visit our classroom blog to see more.

Blog Post Part 2 - Warning, this will contain a lot of rambling!

It's been over a month since I've posted, over even kept up with reading blogs for that matter.  Somewhat due to the stresses mentioned earlier in the post, I pulled back from my usual rigor with school related things.  I did some serious soul searching to try to figure out what was going on.

What I realized was that the wonderful ideas I've been bookmarking, liking (or "heart"ing) to save for later were piling up.  Yet, I was unable to implement hardly any of them because of the time needed to complete other parts of my job that also have been piling up over the years.

Here are some things that now eat up my time, either at home or during instructional time, that weren't around 10 years ago:
  1. Standards-Based grade cards (this one counts as 10)
  2. PBIS
  3. RtI
  4. OTES (our new teacher evaluation system)
  5. SLO's (although I didn't have to write one this year)
  6. UDL????  Don't get me started on this one...

I'm sure I'm missing several other small details, but these are the biggies.  Now, most can't be controlled, as they are state mandated, but number 1 on my list...  That's a local decision.

I'll spare everyone my long list of problems with trying to assess over 60 students on 43 individual standards (in just ELA) with allowing every student multiple attempts to demonstrate mastery.  I can't do it well, AND find time to plan, prepare, and implement great new lessons.  I'm stretched, frustrated, and resentful.

Believe it or not, I don't mind the idea of report cards.  I like being able to communicate with parents about student progress.  But knowing that parents don't give our current grade cards much attention (some not at all!), and then thinking about the hours, HOURS, spent creating them...I'm just done.  If I'm in the same position next year and things don't change, well, I don't really know.

Blog Post Part 3 - Focusing on Me

I'm a hyper, high-energy person who needs a project.  School usually provides me with ample projects to keep me busy.  Yet, for the reasons mentioned in Part 2, I just haven't had the desire to go in that direction.  So I'm back to running.


Now, I've signed up for the half marathon, and am so glad I did.  For the first time in a while, running feels good.  In the back of my mind of been contemplating this as a springboard to a full marathon in Detroit in the fall.  If things keep going well, there's a good chance I will.

With focusing on a healthier me, comes eating better too.  We already eat pretty well at our house, but there's always room for improvement.  I bought the Runner's World Cookbook, amazing!  I've already made several things, and I hate cooking.


These muffins were my first success - and yummy!
 If you're interested, I highly recommend this book.  It's full of great recipes, and wonderful information about nutritional needs for runners.

Well, that's all for now.  I'm sure few people will read this to the end, and that's okay.  I needed to get back on the blogging-horse, and get a few things off my chest.  This entry was really for me anyways, but if you read it - thanks!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Rafa Wins! FREEBIE Celebration

So, I had my husband wake me up at his time of 5am so that I could start watching my recorded tennis match.  The first two sets took less than an hour (even less for me when I can speed through commercials).  And although the third set was much tighter, it was an easy win for Nadal.

Check out my TpT store for this celebration FREEBIE.  Up next, Kevin Anderson.  Vamos Rafa:)

Happy Friday everyone!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Double Celebration! VAMOS!

This will be my first TpT store sale in celebration.  First, I'm celebrating 100 followers.  Second, I'm celebrating Rafa Nadal's win today at the Australian Open!

I won't bore you with details, but it was an intense match.  I feel bad that I wasn't cheering for the American, but I'm loyal to Nadal.  The color in my sale banner matches his Australian Open outfit, and it's his logo in the tennis ball.  See, told you, obsessed!

Rafael Nadal and Tim Smyczek 

Click here to read about Nadal's sickness during the match, even throwing up on court (Yuck), or his opponent's amazing good-sportsman "give" during the crucial final game.  Or, if you want to understand my obsession a bit more, you can click here.  (For women only).

So, I'm inspired to finally throw a sale for my TpT following of 100, and have a little fun.  Each time Nadal wins I will have a flash freebie in my store.  Freebie will be announced on my store's page.

Now, I need to get ready for our district's negotiation team meeting that is at my house at noon!  We moved it earlier due to having no school today.

Vamos! Rafa!!!!

Monday, January 12, 2015

MMI - Love That Dog novel study

I'm linking up again with Tara, over at Fourth Grade Frolics, for her great linky called Monday Made It.

First of all, today is another snow day for us in NW Ohio.  This makes 5 days off so far this year (though one was early in the year for a fog that wouldn't lift).

I made a better, quicker system for new TpT products! 
(for me anyways)

Just about a year ago I really got going on TpT.  We had snow day after snow day, and I was very productive.  Last week we had three snow days, and I couldn't find the drive to get some of the products I'd already made TpT ready.  Those extra few steps were killing me.  So I thought about an easier way to finish up those details.

I made a folder called "PROJECT" and created sub-folders and put some files inside that I use for all of my products.  Inside the main folder is another folder that says "PROJECT" as well as a "screenshots" and "preview" folder.  Everything in all caps is a reminder to me that it needs to be renamed.  The other folders stay the way they are.  I have many folders with the same name ("screenshots" for example), but they only contain the screenshots for the folder they are in.  The main folder is for all of my working files.  Once completed, they are saved as a pdf, and placed into the other "PROJECT" sub-folder.  This sub-folder is eventually compressed for uploading to TpT.

Inside the main folder are two files, "cover" and "product information".  The product information file just needs to have the acknowledgements and product detail section tweaked for each product, and the cover file has preset graphics that I use in many cover files.  Once these are customized and ready, they are saved as pdf files and moved into sub-folder.

My "Cover" template.

My "Product Information" template.
The two files in the sub-folder do not need tweaking.  These are standard files that I include in every product.  The preview and screenshot folders are helpful for me to keep files separate.

So..... When I'm ready to start a new product, I hold down the Option key and click and drag this whole folder back into my TpT folder.  This makes a copy of the folder and everything in it.  Then I rename both the PROJECT titles to match my product, and get to work.  

Of course I wanted to try out my new system.  So, while my goal was to get my Love That Dog project uploaded this weekend, I actually uploaded another project.  It was one that I did months ago with my own students.  Of course I still had to polish up the files, but getting them ready for TpT was much easier!

student packet

This is one of my favorite books.  Like Dear Mr. Henshaw, I like how the story is told through a series of responses (only "poems" instead of letters).  It makes for a lot of great inferring opportunities.  The main character, Jack, starts in mid-September having to write a "poem" once a week.  His extreme dislike of poetry and hesitation of course leads to great things.  There are a total of 46 of his entries throughout the school year.  I came up with a quick question for each entry (put into a presentation) and a response packet, which is organized by month.  Below are some samples from October.

I was PLANNING to do this last week, but with 3 snow days, and another delay start, we didn't get very far.  Now down to only 3 days left this week...  The students enjoyed the questions and packet so far, and I'm looking forward to finishing.  There are opportunities for them to write some poems in formats like those in the novel, so I can't wait to see how the students do.

Students Published!

Earlier I blogged about having students write a persuasive paragraph about a local business, and then delivering those paragraphs to the businesses (click here to read).  Students were excited to see them hanging around town, but last week one business added them to his restaurant's Facebook page.  The owner also sent an email with an individualized paragraph for each student who choose that restaurant.  

Have a great week everyone!  Since today's day off doesn't also have sub-zero wind chills, I might actually brave it into our building today to get some work done.  Or... I'll just get some work done here with this guy to keep my feet warm.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ahh, new learning overload - looking for advice!

I'll apologize in advance for this post that I'm sure will be all over the place.  We had a 2-hour delay Monday, no school Tuesday, full day yesterday, and again a day off again today.  Tomorrow I will be out for a conference, and with the weather forecast, I'm hesitant to start figuring out my sub plans.  Needless to say, my brain is scattered.  I'm home alone on an unexpected day off, it's already 1:00, and I don't feel that I've gotten anything accomplished.  So if this post gets completed, I'll be happy!

In addition to the many items I'm planning to write about, I've decided to link up with Teaching Trio for their Technology Thursday.

My "share" for today is quite simple, and likely something that many of you already do.  Every year I have many students who leave my room for various things, such as going to speech class.  And for many years my classroom phone would ring, and it would be the speech teacher, or whoever, politely reminding me to send a student down (because I'd forgotten and they are now late!).  Thank goodness for my iPhone.  I program in weekly scheduled times, and let my phone remind me.  I haven't gotten a phone call in two years now!

You might notice that I give myself 2 minutes warning with the times I set.  I'd love to hear about other simple ways that teachers are using their phones to help make them more efficient.

So, now....I'm really looking for advice and HELP!

A while back I signed up for Twitter.  I never really got it, but never really tried.  And then I found out that I kept being mentioned in Tweets by people who obviously meant to tweet Mary J Dressel the sensual romance writer, which is NOT me.  So I started over Monday, and am using 4thworks for my new username.

I was in a hurry to sign up because I wanted to join a chat that I read about from Susan over at Passion in Portable Land.  I'm not sure why I thought I could jump into the deep end of Twitter after just joining, but I did it, and the people at #4thchat were extremely nice.  There is supposed to be another great chat on Sunday night at 10pm, but that's too late for me:(  If not for you, it's #TMchat for Thinking Maps.

I'm still not sure I understand when Twitter would be the best social media tool.  Any advice on how to use this, who/what to follow, or anything else someone wants to share, I'd be very appreciative.

Like Twitter, I also created an Instagram account a while back (mostly to keep tabs on my daughter) but rarely used it.  So I started over and created again a new account under 4thworks.  Now this I get more than Twitter.  It's like Facebook, and I've already found some great ideas.  I haven't posted anything myself yet, but I will.  Feel free to find me, so that I can follow you.  Or, let me know if you have any suggestions for great users to follow.


Again, signed up a while ago.  Did a bit more than with the others, but not much.  There wasn't a need to start over with this one, but my goal is reorganize my boards and use this more.  I know there's a lot more to this than just pinning to your own boards (which is all I've done), so there's learning to be done here too.


Finally....Power Point.  So, I know that Power Point is more common than Keynote.  Today I downloaded a free 30 day trial to play around with.  Yet another item clouding my brain today.  I've played around a bit, and it is so much better than Keynote.  I will likely continue with it after the 30 days.  

I'm very happy with all that I've done, but I think I should be doing these one at a time.  Oh well, that's me, and I need to accept that.  

To all of you in the Midwest with me, stay warm.  I saw this on FB this morning and got a giggle.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Fourteen in 2014

Not only have I been bad about blogging, I also haven't been keeping up on reading the blogs I follow either.  As a matter of fact, I haven't done much at all that is school related.  This is good for me, as probably like most anyone who is reading this, I tend to spend more time than I'd like to admit planning, thinking, or creating things for my classroom.  But I found this linky today, and thought I'd join Miss Kindergarten, Teeny, and Dragonflies in First for reflecting on 14 in '14.


LEARNING! - I've always loved the opportunity to constantly learn new things as a part of my job, but this year I've enjoying taking on my own learning to include jumping into the TpT and Blogging World.  This learning has also allowed me to share my ideas, and to get ideas shared by other amazing educators.  This has sparked a new energy into my teaching!
This is going to sound cliche, but running.  In 2013 I ran a marathon, and was less than 2 minutes from qualifying for Boston.  In 2014, I barely ran at all, or did any other exercising for that matter.  I'm not waiting for the new year, I've logged a couple of runs in the last week+, and plan to do another run today.  I even signed up for the Glass City half-marathon in April to MAKE me stick with it.  Ultimately, I'd like to run a full again in Detroit this October, but I'm not making that my 2015 goal, just a hope.

I enjoyed running a leg in the Glass City last year with these great ladies (and co-workers).  I training minimally for this, and know that only a half marathon or bigger will really force me to get back to it.  I'm also hoping to get one of those ladies in the pic to join me.  Hint, hint....I know she will read this!
 A whirlwind trip with my dad and kids this summer.  2,500 miles in just over a week.  We did Niagara Falls, Boston, Acadia National Park, and checked out 30 foot tide change in 6 hours at the Bay of Fundy in Canada.  As the photographer, I didn't get in many photos, but here's one I love of my dad and kids walking along the ocean somewhere in Maine.  I love shots from behind.

 Speaking of shots from behind, this old photo is one of my favorites.  My daughter (now 13) going fishing with her great-grandpa.  We celebrated his 90th in July, and then lost him in September.  This photo has been my Facebook profile pic since.  It also was one of his favorite photos.

I'll keep this simple, it goes with my number 1 item, blogging.  

No Prep Book Groups.   This was one of my Monday Made It posts.  I've been doing informal literature groups for years, but ideas from bloggers helped me to make it even better this year.  I've LOVED seeing some students go from hesitant readers to reading monsters!  A group of boys who struggled to make 1st quarter goals, before I opened up lit groups, now choose to stay in for recess to read and discuss, and are determined to hit 200% of their second quarter goals!

Okay, I'm not a big pinner.  But I think I'd like to get back into this more.  I also am thinking about trying Instagram too.  I'll add these to my goals for 2015.

We are not big gift givers.  My husband and I don't give each other birthday, Christmas, or Valentine's gifts.  Bah humbug, I know!  My meaningful gifts are all the regular little "gems" that students make and give me.  At the beginning of the year, one of my students from last year (last two years actually because I looped) snuck an elaborate origami rose onto my desk at Open House (I have his brother this year.)  And the many emails that I regularly get from this group of students are better than any wrapped gifts I could ever receive!

 Hmm.  Well, since I stopped writing this post yesterday to get ready for our New Year's Eve party, the first thing that comes to mind is the root mash dish I made.  Yes, root mash, and yes (to those that know me) I MADE IT!  I don't normally cook, but my husband was one of 6 of our party guests that were unable to make the party due to a bad virus.  So, I complete the meal.  The root mash recipe I got was from Tyler Florence, who is one of our favorite chefs to watch on TV.  I used celery root, turnips, rutabaga, carrot, sweet potato, and parsnips.  It was so much better than mashed potatoes, and no gravy was needed.  So my meal was a success, even the chicken en croute.

Okay, I'll admit it looks gross in the picture ;)

This is a hard one, I have so many.  I'll go with Burger Bar 419.  I've only gone there twice, but the menu is so unique, I'm looking forward to going back because there are so many things on the menu I want to try.  The Sirracha-Soy Deviled Eggs are amazing!

I don't watch much TV.  Besides tennis, I only watch a handful of shows with my husband, and Walking Dead is our favorite.  It constantly surprises my husband that I like it, as violence is not my thing.  Killing imaginary beings doesn't bother me.  There are times where the human brutality is too much for me.  I wasn't sure I could continue watching after this season's opener (if you watch you know what I mean), but I endured.

Also not a movie fan.  Most from this year were flops in my opinion.  I go with The Fault in Our Stars.  The movie was cute, but it was memorable as I went with my daughter after we both read the book.

My Long and Lean tank tops from Target.  I have a drawer full, and wear one under my clothing almost every day, and sleep in one every night.  I don't mind dressing up, but I'm really a comfy cozy clothing person.  I change immediately when I get home from work every day.

Now quotes I am a fan of!  I could take forever overthinking my favorite, so I'm just going to pick one that comes to mind.

Well, now the holiday parties are done.  My house is cleaned up and decorations are down.  I guess it's time to get back in the mode of school and start working on plans for next week.  I hope you all enjoy your final days of break, thanks for reading!