Saturday, December 13, 2014

Five for Fraturday!

This week has been one of the BEST weeks in our classroom this year.  There is something magical on our hallway and it just felt SO good.  I felt like I was finally back to the old me.  The me that I loved and the one that forgot about all of the other junk with teaching and just focused on her students! It felt amazing!  So, I've hopped on the Five for Friday train to share what happened in our classroom this week.  Unfortunately, the link is on vacation until January, but I wanted to keep it going on my blog anyway. I'll be posting more details about some of the activities later on this week for those of you who asked for more details on Instagram.

I absolutely love the community that I get the privilege to teach.  This year my little school had a float in the Christmas parade and I spent my Saturday evening serving hot chocolate to parents while we waited for the parade to begin.  The parade was magical and really kicked off the holiday spirit in all of use who were involved.  Our little float was designed by one of our first graders and the entire school pulled together to "pomp" the globe with thousands of tissue paper squares. 

We tidied up our study of mixtures and solutions with a fun day of cooking.  Students made different dishes to reflect their learning of mixtures and solutions.  We then wrote about how we would separate each mixture using different techniques.  When students took their quiz the following day, everyone got it!  So glad that I was able to get back to my roots and do the things I loved this week.  And Lola, thank you for starting this whole activity way back when!  It's still one of my favorites.

Yesterday we took a "field trip" in our building to read some of the student work hanging on the walls.  Our teachers create amazing displays, but too often, the work isn't read or noticed, just the amazing displays.  So, my group of kiddos and I set off to make sure that students were noticed.  We read each piece of work and left post-it notes about what we liked.  The kids loved it and we heard the kindergarteners loved it too.  Their favorite comment was, "Your writing has lots of swag!" and "Your writing is the bomb dot com."  Gotta love teaching 5th graders!

We ended our day yesterday with a little celebration time.  Sometimes you just have to throw the plans out of the window and remember that you teach kids - not adults.  My kids have worked so hard  over the last few weeks.  We took our Winter MAP this week and they grew by leaps and bounds.  Over 3/4 of the class met or exceeded their goals for Spring.  It was such a good feeling.  We did a last minute round up of ice cream and root beer and made floats.  While we were making them, they were making connections about solids, liquids, and gases, as well as mixtures and solutions.  I couldn't have asked for a better way to end our day.  By the way, you see that big smile on my kiddo there in blue...that was my goal this week - I needed to make him laugh and smile.  Think I accomplished that by Friday afternoon.  

We created a chant to help us line up on the playground each day.  That has been an area of struggle for my kids all year because some just don't pay attention and this teacher doesn't have a loud commanding voice they hear on the other side of the playground.  So, we took the song "Bottons Up" and wrote "Line 'Em Up."  I'll have video to share next week.  We ran out of time on Friday and my phone only had 2% battery left.  Ahh, technology!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

How to Beat the "I'm a Failure" Blues

Let's face it friends, teaching can sometimes be the most frustrating profession, not because we don't love what we do, but sometimes because we feel ineffective.  Maybe it is administration that causes us to feel this way, or the particular combination of children that are in our classes, or the crazy amount of work that has no bearing on our effectiveness in the classroom, but takes almost all of our time leaving us with little energy to plan those highly engaging, memorable lessons. (English teachers please look away from that sentence).  Sometimes, it's difficult to put one foot in front of the other because you just don't feel like you are making a difference.

You've been there, I've been there, we've ALL been there and will be there time and time again.

So, I've thought of ways that I brush the funk off of myself and remember that I really am good at what I do and my students really do love me.

1.  Find your focus - There are days where all you can do is focus on the behavior problems or the lesson that didn't go the way you hoped it would, or the math concept that fell on deaf ears when you were being observed.  That may have all happened in one day, BUT there was something good that happened that day.  Find the positive and focus on it.  It may be the one liner that one of your students mumbled when you passed by.  It could be the child who walks up to you at the beginning of a Monday morning and says, "Mrs. Looper, I just wanted you to know that I pray for you every day because I know that teaching is the hardest job on the planet and you are really good.  I love being in your class."  Use that focal point as your center.  If it is one student in your room - begin to look at them periodically in the day and make eye contact.  I promise, that one glance will make the funk fade quickly.

2.  Surround yourself with people who make you feel good, but that you can also make feel good about themselves.  It may be a group of teachers in your building, but it may be your family.  The days where I just want to pull the covers over my head find me driving home just to sit with my husband and my little pup.  They make all things better.

3. Put school away for a day, or even - GASP - the entire weekend.  I know, I know, it is almost impossible.  I mean, I just spent 6 hours on a Sunday morning grading a pile of work that I put off because I set a boundary last week.  But, that break is needed, even if you aren't aware of it.  Remind yourself that you are human, not Wonder Woman or Superman.  Teachers need to take care of themselves too.

4.  Rejoin the world.  It kind of goes along with #3, but sometimes we need to step away, get out of the house and do something that is not remotely related to our profession.

5.  Take a walk down memory lane!  Remember the faces and the hugs of those students you've taught in the past.  Pull out the letters, the emails, the cards that you've tucked away and reread them.  They will immediately remind you of why you do what you do.  Mine are taped to the inside of my back cabinet in my classroom.

So, if you are in a funk, know that this too shall pass.  You are good at what you do and your students love you for it!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Sunday Scoop

I stumbled upon a new linky that may be just the kick in the pants I need to keep me active in the blogging world.  My class is taking a lot of time outside of the school building this year, so there has been very little left for me.  That's all changed this week though.  I have committed to turning email off at 6:00 pm and to try to leave work during the daylight.  In addition, I've let myself accept the fact that not every single paper has to be graded and returned on Monday.  Some can wait a week.  So instead of working ALL day on Sunday to get them graded, I have a cut off now.

Anyway, I visited with Teaching Trio this morning and discovered "The Sunday Scoop."  I decided to jump on board and test this one out for awhile.

Head over to Teaching Trio to see what the scoop is with everyone else!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November Currently

My favorite blog post all month long is Farley's Currently series.  It's the one post I know that I can tackle with consistency and I like the quick reflection format.

Listening It's my Sunday morning tradition so to speak, it was born out of necessity of time to grade the mounds of paper that I'm unable to get through during the week.  This week, the movie is Sixteen Candles.  Most mornings on the weekend it is my tv from the previous week or another 80s movie.  But, don't you just love you some Jake?   

Loving Fall is here friends!  I'm crossing my fingers that we don't see temps in the 90s anymore.  We had snow this week!  What?!!! I love the fall - cool evenings, jeans, warm socks, and flannel shirts.

Thinking I was out 3 days this past week and now I have a bag full of work to complete.  It's terrible to procrastinate, but I find myself wanting to do so.  If I could teach without grading, I'd really be a happy girl.  

Wanting Sweaters and boots are my favorite.  I love that I live in a state that actually has cooler temps so I can wear them.  My outfit of choice is a pair of great jeans, a flannel shirt, and a good pair of boots.  I have "athletic" calves, so my boots are usually short.  Wish I could find some tall ones that fit. 

Needing A magic trick to curb the talking in my classroom.  I feel like I'm on my children all the time for talking and I don't like the way that makes me feel.  But, I need a trick that will help it stop.  So, if you have one, let me know!

Reading Unbroken by Laura Hildebrand.  One of my favorite authors and one of my favorite subjects.  I love WWII era history, fashion, television, etc.  So, this book is right up my alley.  I started reading it last year and never finished it for some reason, but I bought it this week and I'm enjoying it immensely.  Add in the trailer of the movie that is due out soon and it's the perfect combination.  

Head over to Farley's to see what everyone else is currently up to this month!

Five for Friday/Sunday...

And here we are on the 2nd day of November!  Hard to believe that November is here and Christmas is almost here.  The month of October FLEW by and I honestly have very little memory of all of the events and experiences that happened.

I'm linking up with Doodlebugs for Teaching again this week to reflect on the craziness that was Halloween week!

I teach at a STEM school so we try to implement STEM into everything that we do.  We have specific engineering units that we use, but this week I wanted something quick and holiday appropriate.  A friend of mine, Beth Turner, from Oklahoma sent me an activity that required students to create a free-standing mummy using newspaper, toilet paper, and masking tape.  We upped the ante and limited the time to 30 minutes.  I may have shot myself in the foot with that constraint because only 2 groups were successful.  Wouldn't you know that my camera battery died before I was able to take pics of the finished projects.  Here is the only pic of one that made it to the standing position.

I rolled out Google Classroom with my 5th graders a couple of weeks ago.  It has been an amazing experience.  Students are not required to complete assignments using Classroom, they may use the traditional paper pencil approach if they cannot access wireless anywhere, but it is an option.  As I was sitting on my couch one evening monitoring Classroom, I ran across this comment:

Later in the week, students were discussing the use of dependent clauses in their own writing and asking for feedback from each other.  Definitely made me smile!

I spent Wednesday-Friday at SC Ed-Tech in Greenville this week.  It was exciting to see new technologies and network with other teachers who are passionate about technology.  I was able to sit in on sessions by my PLC friends on Twitter and meet them face to face.

Friday night was Halloween and for the first time in 15 years, my husband and I lived in a neighborhood that had trick-or-treaters.  We sat out on the front porch and watched some adorable little people come up and ask in precious little voices for candy.  My favorite was the little dragon.  I dressed up too. I love me a little Rosie!

That night, we went to bed to mild weather, but could tell it was getting cooler.  When I woke up at 6:00 AM, this is what I found!

It went on to snow for several more hours and we ended up with a few inches on the ground.  By lunch time it was raining and the snow was gone.  But, really?!  I live in South Carolina and we had snow before Alaska!

It was a great week here and I can't wait to get back to it with my kiddos.  I missed their smiling faces while I was gone.  I dread the pile of work that was accumulated while I was out, though.  Looks like those Monday folders won't have as much in them because I didn't go back to the building on Friday.

Head over to Doodlebugs and check out the rest of the great reflections!

Have a great week, friends!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Technology Tuesday: Kahoot!

Are you looking for a way to engage your students like never before?  I found the most amazing little Web 2.0 tool that does just that.

I have 27 students and 18 of them are boys!  Can you believe that?  My boys are the MOST competitive boys I've ever met.  They are also the most active - always moving, can't sit in their desk, etc.  I had to find something that channeled all of those fabulous boy traits, but also engaged them in learning.

I stumbled across Kahoot!  It's an amazing little quiz tool that has totally changed my classroom.

I'm fortunate to have a 1:1 situation with my 5th graders, so this works beautifully.  Kahoot! allows you to create quizzes, discussions, and surveys to use in your classroom.  It is so easy to do so!  I've been using ActivEngage because I have a Promethean board, but their system is a little intimidating and didn't allow me some of the functionality I needed.

When you enter kahoot!  It's really simple to set up a quiz.  Just click on the quiz icon.

Name your quiz and get started!

Input your question and the answer choices. You can determine if your students can earn points by making it a points question and change the time limit.

This is my favorite part...I can input a YouTube video to play while students are logging in to the quiz.  I usually choose cute Sesame Street songs that have artists like Bruno Mars and Will. I. Am. in them.  My kids love them.

You can preview your quiz before you launch it with your students.

Once you are ready to launch the quiz, students head to and enter the game pin.  The above shot shows what you will display.

Students see this screen and just enter the pin that is on the board.

As students enter the game, you are able to see who has entered.

As questions display, this is what students see on your board or screen.

On their device, they only see the shapes.  They look at the screen for the answer choices.

After all students respond, a great little graph appears.  I use this to talk about wrong answers and students have to justify their choices.

At the end of each question, a ranking screen appears.

Students are also given the opportunity to provide feedback on the experience.  

My kids love it and ask for it EVERY DAY!  I'm getting ready to pull the plug and let them create quizzes for the content instead of me doing all of the work.  Thinking that may be a game changer too!

1.  User friendly!  My students can even create quizzes it's so easy.
2.  Works on ANY device!
3.  Embraces competition between students.

1. I can't see which student answered what...only an overall picture.
2. Web based...if the internet is down, you can't access it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Once in a Lifetime...

This past Friday I had one of those once in a lifetime, unbelievably memorable moments as an educator.  It was the completion of a dream that I'd been dreaming since about 2001.

2001 was when I was introduced to Ron Clark. I was a very new teacher in a small private school and happened to have a moment to watch Oprah.  Here is the first glimpse I had of Ron.

After that glimpse, I started loosely following what he was doing in the field of education.  It wasn't too long before I discovered his first book

I read it from cover to cover and started implementing the 55 in my classroom immediately. 

Over the next few years I kept an eye out for anything Ron Clark.  I read magazine articles, watched videos, conducted internet searches, etc. 

When he started the Ron Clark Academy in 2007, I secretly dreamed to be a part of that experience.  I believed in the message he was projecting to his students, his staff, other teachers, and the education community.  I became a Ron Clark groupie.

In 2011, I began to work at a new elementary school where the principal was also a Ron Clark groupie.  She wanted our school to embody the spirit of RCA.  I worked with her for a year and we implemented small things into the school that mirrored some of the components of RCA.  In 2012, she decided to bring Ron Clark into our district as a speaker.  I was thrilled.  I couldn't wait to be a part of that experience.  I volunteered to be his "host" when he arrived and make sure he got to the stage on time.  I couldn't sleep the night before.  I had my clothes all laid out, questions that I wanted to ask him, and was a complete nervous wreck as I drove to the event.
I spent about 30 minutes with him and was still in awe of all that he had accomplished.  I was more amazed at how he was genuinely interested in me as a teacher and my students.  He wanted to know my challenges and my successes, the things that excited me, the obstacles that I faced.  He encouraged me to continue to do what I was doing, even if it brought criticism, because I was doing it for my kids.  It was the message I needed to hear at that time.

The next year I was in a different state doing a different job in a very different environment.  One that broke my spirit and my motivation.  I hated every minute of the year and struggled to find my place.  I didn't fit and ended up broken by the people I worked with each day.  There were days that I remembered that small piece of advice that Ron gave me.  

I moved back to the school who was embracing the Ron Clark Academy as a motivation and this year has been amazing.  When the school year started, I was thrilled to be a part of the experience again.  I was in a building with so many teachers who truly wanted to create memorable experiences for their students.  I received an email not too long after the year started that informed me that I had been chosen to visit the Ron Clark Academy in October.  The email made me cry because that was  dream I had had for many years.

This past week was the day...Thursday evening we left and drove to Atlanta.  Friday morning we ventured to the school and there began the most amazing experience I've ever been a part.  There were many moments where tears came to my eyes because I was so thrilled to be a part of a group that truly was seeking excellence in everything they did, not for their own accolades, but the accolades of their students.  

We walked into the library and students were greeting us as music blared in the background.  Dancing, trampolines, and smiles were the norm.  We went to the main building and met Wade King on electric guitar and a slew of students singing us into the building.  One grabbed my hand and walked me through the masses and placed me on the stairs because he "thought I was too excited to be in the background."  

I met my dear blog friend Hope King who is fortunate to work in this amazing place and then was whisked away to Mr. Clark's math class.  I was mesmerized because he was teaching 5th graders - I do to -some pretty phenomenal math skills.  Every 5 minutes or so, the students broke into songs that helped them with the content of the lesson.  African drums were used by students who may possibly struggle with attention, chants were used, students hopped on tables to answer questions, Ron walked on tables to see student work.  One thing that completely amazed me was the short amount of time he gave students to work pretty complicated math problems - the largest amount was 24 seconds.  Students worked to push the red button - they needed 16 students to get a problem correct, but they were unsuccessful so he sent them to the teachers in the room to work the problem and we helped them achieve the red button.  When the red button was pushed, the song "Turn Down for What" came on, the lights were off, disco lights were lit and everyone was up dancing.  What an experience.

The next stop was to meet with Kim Bearden.  Loved her right away.  She's an ELA girl and I connected to that.  I walked away with so many ideas.  

I had lunch with 2 amazing 7th graders who carried my lunch, found me a seat, and then held a conversation with me about my life as a teacher.  The students were so eloquent and genuinely interested in my students.  

At the end of the day, the final experience was to become slide certified.  In the atrium of the school there is a huge, blue tube slide.  The slide represents that sometimes there are different ways to do things, you don't always need to take the stairs, sometimes you need to slide.  Every person there hopped in the slide and landed in the atrium with students singing and dancing.  We received stickers to show we were not officially slide certified.  The closing moment was when the students sang a version of "Stereo Hearts" that was rewritten to honor teachers.   I'm not lying when I say I was boohooing in the atrium of RCA as students looked me in the eyes and sang those words to me.  

This experience will live forever with me and has inspired me to continue to push the limits and go beyond.  I can't wait to get into my classroom this week and push my students.

But, the day didn't end there.  I tweeted out my experiences as the day went on just thinking that others would enjoy seeing the pictures.  Never in a million years did I predict or anticipate that Ron Clark himself would favorite one of my tweets. Talk about the icing on the cupcake!