Monday, June 29, 2015

Camp Go Noodle!

When I taught in Tennessee, I stumbled across my favorite teacher lifesaver!  Go Noodle!  If you've dreaded indoor recess since you began teaching, then GoNoodle is definitely for you! It provides the perfect activity and physical movement for your kiddos - and even yourself at times.

My 5th graders LOVED it and often begged for it after a test or a difficult assignment.  Of course, I honored that.

With students spending more time on technology at home than outside, it was an easy way to get my kids up and moving.

Well, this summer, Camp GoNoodle has started!  You can now join this summer and be active at home.  Even I need motivation to get off of the sofa in the summer.  If you are a teacher and use your school account at home, you need to go to the Camp Go Noodle link to get notifications for Camp.

The best part about Go Noodle, it is FREE!  It is a wonderful resource that I know you will get a lot of use out of, especially when your weather calls for a week of rain :)

Kindergarten Connections is hosting a Go Noodle link this week to kick off camp.  Head over to her blog to check things out!

Monday Made It: June 29

Our last day of school was in early June, but I only started enjoying myself last week.  I spent the week after school started writing curriculum for my district and trying to decompress from a taxing year.  My favorite linky in the summer is the Monday Made It series over at Fourth Grade Frolics.  It keeps me motivated to get a little bit of work done for the upcoming school year, but not too much.  Much of what I've been doing this summer is the necessary things - long range plans, unit plans, etc., but I have managed to do a few things that didn't require too much thinking. So, without further adieu, here's what I've accomplished so far.

Each teacher in my building is required to have a class website.  Last year, we moved over to Google Sites and it was soo much easier than anything else we had done in the past.  However, the most difficult thing to do is remember how to change headers and other things that pretty much stay the same all year.  It took a minute, but I got it.  Can you guess my new classroom theme by this picture?  
I used Power Point to create a background image and then was able to upload it easily to my site.  Look for a tutorial this week.

Along the same lines as #1, I made a desktop background for my school computer using the Fourth Grade Frenzy tutorial.  Again, I used Power Point to create this and saved as an image.  Fourth Grade Frenzy has an excellent tutorial for Mac users.  Aren't those little superheroes precious?  The ClipArt Queen did an amazing job!

Both of the above projects were done easily while my hubs and I were watching late night television.  Multitasking at its best!

Thanks to my dear blog friend Amanda, from Teaching Maddeness, I got a jumpstart on my planning for the new year.  Check out her planning series - it will make the start of your year so much smoother.  Planning is the bane of my existence, but because I sometimes get off pace due to excitement from myself, I am married to my Long Range Plans.  Amanda has made it so easy to adapt what you are teaching this year into her templates.

I started with the new 2015 standards.  Amanda shared this great template to use to organize standards.

Then I laid out my timeline for the entire year. Again, Amanda's templates!

 My favorite part was the calendar templates!  I plan on keeping these babies close!

  I then organized my units and combined all of the lesson plans.  Crazy amounts of work here!

The last thing I did was write a new engineering unit for my 5th graders that was embedded heavily with out social studies curriculum.

Part of my goal this year is to teach my students to be more intentional in their conversation.  I created job cards for our engineering units that include guiding questions for each role.  Hopefully, this will help my students understand how a conversation runs when working with others :)

Head on over to Fourth Grade Frolics to join in on the fun!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Eve of 40

I'm taking a weekend break from writing about all things teaching for now.  Today is Saturday and I am on the weekend eve of my 40th birthday.  For the record, I feel much younger than 40 and don't know how I arrived here so quickly.  It seems like just yesterday that I was the baby of my grade level and now I am the most senior member.  I'm the old one - one of the oldest in my building.  So, I thought it only fitting to do a tribute to the year 1975!  It was a good one!


In 1975, Space Mountain opened in Walt Disney World for the very first time.  I think it fitting that I was able to ride Space Mountain for the very first time myself on its 40th birthday.

Bic introduced the very first disposable razor!


And aren't we all glad things have improved since this little guy?

Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft!


Some days I'm thankful and others I'm not.

In 1975, this gem made its debut....


Jaws was released and soared to the number one spot!


And, The Captain and Tenille released this little baby!

I'd say that 1975 was a pretty good year!  So to all my fellow 40 year olds, here's to us!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Attention Special Needs Teachers!

If you are a special needs teacher and have devices in your classroom, this post is specifically for you!  If not, tell your Special Ed Teacher friends!

Gumdrop Cases is donating 10,000 protective cases to teachers who teach special needs. Gumdrop will donate up to 20 cases per classroom and 60 cases per district. The program is open now for applications and will fulfill on a first come, first served basis.

Follow this link to secure yours now!

Devices covered through this program range from Apple iPads, Dell Venues, Kindle Fires, Lenovos, Nexus, and Samsung Tablets.

Take advantage of this program ASAP!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Tragedy in the Classroom

Written on Thursday, June 18

Waking to the news of tragedy in Charleston this morning had me flummoxed to say the least.  I’m still processing what happened and to be honest, it would be easier to compartmentalize it and remove it from my daily vernacular, but I can’t.

As a teacher, I have a huge responsibility to the students in my care - a responsibility that calls me to be a model of how to deal with tragedies of this level. My students look to me to learn how to process big events that cause us all to question.  They voice their questions and want to know my opinions and concerns.  It’s a responsibility that is not taken lightly.

Over 15 years, I’ve experienced my share of tragedy in the classroom.  Some have tiptoed into the lives of my students quietly and were delicately placed in my care while others busted in through the door and affected families and communities -  The World Trade Center attacks, Hurricane Katrina, students who have been abandoned, as well as, violence among families, local communities, and world wide.

I’ve taught students from all walks of life – affluent, middle-class, impoverished; on both sides of every issue; from Democrat and Republican families; liberal, moderate, and conservative; all races; American, Russian, Korean, Filipino, Asian, black, white; quiet, charismatic, magnetic; below average, average, and advanced, and more. 


There have been times where it hasn’t been easy to find common ground when dealing with complex issues in our society. 

When September 11th occurred, I was teaching in a school with a strong military presence.  Many of our parents were called to action and deployed to fight the war on terrorism.  My classroom was a mix of families who supported that effort and those who didn’t, but it didn’t change the fact that my students and I had to coexist in the same classroom despite the opinions that were shared over dinner tables.

When Hurricane Katrina caused the heart of New Orleans to pour into my rural school district and my town, the teachers in my school had to help pick up the pieces of brokenness – lost homes, lost lives, failed systems – without pointing fingers of blame.  We had to help students process what had happened.  I remember Haley who I had to physically pry away from her mother each morning as she yelled and screamed and cried.  By the end of the experience all of us were in tears.  Haley did not speak for the two weeks she was with me.  She had lost her home, her school, and didn’t know where her friends were.  During her time with me, she wouldn’t leave my side.  If I had to be out of the room, she needed to come with me because she would meltdown.  She experienced so much loss in such a short time she couldn’t bear to have me out of her sight.

The events across our nation over the last year have sparked anger, hurt, and fear among many and have trickled down to dining room tables and carpools around the world.  Students across our nation pick up every nuance, every word, every opinion that is shared within ear shot – right, wrong, justified, or ridiculous – and they bring it onto playgrounds, into cafeterias, onto the football field, and on the school bus – all creating a firestorm of emotion that students often don’t know how to navigate, but are expected to handle.
Over the years, I’ve tried a few things that helped not only my students process events, but me as well.

1.  Build Relationships:  I don’t know if there is a more critical thing to do with my students than this.  Be the go to for your students and create a relationship that will allow each one to come to you when life gets too big to handle on their own or they are experiencing emotions they don’t understand.  Stand in the gap for your students.  When one does come to you – LISTEN FIRST before you try to offer solutions.  I wonder if some of the kids and adults who have created the violence had someone who did that for them.

2. Provide an opportunity to express emotions: This can be tricky, but it can be done and it can be powerful.  When 9/11 occurred, I gave my students an index card to write what they were feeling anonymously.  Questions were asked, frustrations were expressed, hurt was exposed.  I then took each index card and filtered through the words.  The next day, we created a circle and I read some of the comments and questions that were gleaned from the class.  I did it again this year when our class experienced some events that rocked the world of some of my students.  This time I took the comments and created a wordle to display what my students were feeling.  This activity was probably one of the most powerful things we did this year.  It was silent and it was tense to begin with, but then a dialogue began to occur between two groups of students who had misunderstandings of one another.

3. Don’t go it alone: Tap into resources outside of your classroom.  Ask your media specialist for books to read with your kids that mirror the issues that are being faced.  Utilize the guidance counselor or other staff to help you teach students how to process emotions.  Keep in contact with parents.  Let them know what their child is experiencing so the dialogue can continue at home.

4.  Love: It sounds so simple, but it is so hard some days.  As a teacher, I may be the only example of loving without judgment.  There are days that I fail, but my students know that I love first.  I need to be the visual of what love looks like.  Be intentional with your students and celebrate the differences that make each unique.  Find the good in each one, every day.   Love through the hurt, the anger, the fear, and the tears.

How do you deal with tragedy in your classroom?  Share your ideas in the comments below.  We can all benefit from multiple tools in our toolbox for situations that require a delicate touch.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

I've Got the Music in Me!

Ever since I can remember, music has resonated me more than a lot of things.  While I still crave the written word, music is how I relieve my stress, express my moods, stay focused on a workout, and even get my anger out (who hasn't blasted Pink! at full volume after a stressful day!).

In my classroom, I love using music for multiple purposes on a regular basis.  Our media specialist has loaded lots of music files on our staff drive, but sometimes it's a hassle to get there.  So, I've done a few things, thanks to my district opening up filters :)

1.  YouTube:
I just did a basic search for instrumental music and found LOTS of channels that have hours of music that I just play.  This was especially great during the holiday season.  I usually don't show the video, but just have the music.

2.  Pandora:
One of my favorites for my demographics is the instrumental hip-hop channel.  Just be careful you don't leave the titles up on the screen :0  But, you can find anything instrumental there.  We listen to the Mozart Effect channel most.

3.  TV Theme Shows:
I downloaded a ton of TV Theme Shows for my class to use for transition times and thinking moments.  Most are about 30 seconds to 1 minute long, so they work perfectly.  I've used the following this year:

Mission Impossible Theme Song
Password Theme Song
Jeopardy Theme Song
Price is Right Theme Song
Muppet Show Theme Song (transitions)
Car Wash (pack up at the end of the day)
We Get Together (Grease theme song - first 15 seconds or so)

How do you use music?  What are some of your favorites?


Monday, June 15, 2015

Summer Bucket List 2015

Every summer I try to make a bucket list.  It usually has about 50 things on it and at the end of the summer I get discouraged that I didn't do everything I wanted to do.  So, thank you What the Teacher Wants for keeping this linky simple.  I think I can accomplish everything I've listed here.

Over the last few weeks of school, I started using Amanda's Long Range Plan format to sketch out my year for a couple of subjects.  This past year I was responsible for planning Social Studies and we had to boogie to get all of the standards in before testing.  We cover 1865 to present day, so there were tons!  I'm hoping that this LRP thing will be settled and I can stay on pace this year.  If you haven't checked out Teaching Maddeness' Lesson Plan Series, you  need to.  It will seriously save your sanity.

Today is the first day of our curriculum writing for our engineering units, and I hope to finish or revamp one this week.  I wasn't a fan of the units this year and they didn't match our standards very well, so here's to hoping I get one done.

I'm most excited about my classroom makeover!  My husband has gotten involved and that means two things - over the top plans, thinking about more details than I ever needed, and a for sure wow for my kids at the beginning of the year.  Just to let you know - he has me drawing shop drawings and elevations so he can make sure we have done everything correctly.  I don't want to reveal much, but keep watching the Monday Made It series beginning next week.  Sadly, I didn't have anything to link up today!

I turn the dreaded 4-0 in about 2 weeks.  I had originally planned on being in the best shape of my life by 40, but let's be honest, LIFE.  Anyway, my husband and I have been walking or hiking every night and I think I'll get my 40 miles in by 40.

We moved into my husband's grandmother's home last year and had great grandiose plans.  However, I needed a summer of decompression and didn't accomplish all that I set out to do, so there is still some work left.  I plan on painting 3 rooms in the house over the summer.  I've picked out the color and can't wait to get started.  One of the rooms on the list is my office - finally, a space for me!

I plan on doing a lot of kayaking or canoeing this summer.  More than likely, it will be in a canoe because we own one of those and not a kayak.  However, I want to be on the water and can't wait to get started.  We've also been daytripping to towns around our state to see what they have to offer and can't wait to head to a new town!

Thanks, What the Teacher Wants for this fun linky!


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Crash Course: Chapter 1 Building Relationships

**All names in the stories below have been changed to prevent identifying students**

Kim Bearden's book, Crash Course has been on my wishlist for professional reading for a few months.  I've been wanting to read it since I had the opportunity to meet Kim face to face last October.  However, I never took the time to actually purchase the book until recently.  At the end of the year, my students showered me with Barnes and Noble gift cards, so I took the opportunity to snatch it up this week.

The first chapter, "Chemistry," is all about building relationships with students.  As I read, I felt deeply connected with Bearden.  I've been in many of the same situations with students who are hard to love.  There have been missed opportunities on my part to connect with them, simply because I was exhausted at continuously battling with them daily.  But, I should have taken a few extra moments.

Over 15 years, I've had my share of "difficult" students. Some have stood out as road markers in my career that have taught me huge life lessons.

Early in my career, one little guy, Joe, in my 4th grade class liked to challenge authority every minute of the day.  If I presented an idea, his hand was the first in the air to challenge what I was saying or doing.  There were many times, especially in math, where he would swear that I was wrong (I really wasn't).  His social interactions with peers were difficult to say the least.  He didn't pick up on social cues that showed him the boundaries of his interactions.  He would argue, yell, name call, etc.  Other students didn't like him, to say the least.  When it was time for group work, it was difficult to find a group willing to let him work alongside.  There were MANY hallway talks about what he needed to do and how to do it more effectively. In order to keep my sanity, I invited Joe to stay after school to help with a special project for the class in the upcoming week.  During the time we spent together, we talked about class, behavior, etc. In addition, he helped put supplies together for the project - stapling booklets, organizing group supplies, etc.  While we had conversation, he had a purpose.

What I learned:  Dealing with behavior one on one is much more beneficial to me and the students.  Stopping to take the time to walk into the hallway or talk after school, during recess, etc., prevents kids from being humiliated in front of peers.  By inviting a difficult student to "help" with a project, it provides a sense of purpose and then there is a vested interest in the class.


Fast forward a few years, I was teaching 5th grade and had heard horror stories about the upcoming students from 4th grade.  I waited all summer to find out if John has made it on my class list.  I prayed that he wasn't, but in the back of my mind I knew he was there.  It just made sense.  John had spent the previous year checking out of class by sleeping.  It was best, if he was awake, conflict would ensue.

John would yell at the teacher when he didn't get his way, yell at students, get physical at any given moment, try to sleep, throw things, etc.  It was not what I signed up for, honestly, but it was what I had to work with that year.  John tested the boundaries of my management.  There were many days where I sat at his desk with my head in my hands, not knowing what to do next.  I didn't feel like I was what he needed.  I remember one particular incident that ended with me sending him to find another teacher that would accept his behavior in the classroom.  (Not proud of that move)  He ended up in the office telling our AP that no other teacher would allow him in their room because of his behavior.  He was in tears.  It was a turning point for sure.  John craved boundaries, so I had to find something that gave him the illusion of power, but was something that I could live with too.  So, I gave choices.  For example, if there were consequences that needed to be given, I would let him come up with two possibilities that I could live with, I would give two possibilities, and then he would choose.  We went on like this for the year and things did get progressively better. In addition, I discovered he was a talented artist and I found every opportunity in the world to allow him to showcase that talent.  At the end of the year, at Awards Day, John was an emotional wreck.  He cried during the entire ceremony and when it came time to leave he came to me and gave me a hug like I've never received.  He was bawling, I was bawling and those around us were too.  His words to me were, "I don't know what I'm going to do in middle school without you!"  Talk about humbling.

What I learned When students are allowed to have a responsibility in their consequences, they take ownership of it.  Finding something that students are good at and providing an opportunity to showcase it makes all the difference in the world.


To sum it all up, I strive to do the following with my kids each year:
1.  Build a relationship by spending one on one time with each kid early in the year.
2.  Find something that all students are good at and take time to showcase it through the year.  This is especially important with the most difficult students.
3.  Provide an opportunity for difficult students to have a vested interest in the class - give a sense of purpose.
4.  Allow students to have a part of the consequence process by giving choices.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Five for Fraturday!

I'm coming in close to the wire, but I made a commitment to blog today.  Like many, it is easier for me to participate in the Five for Friday link with Doodlebugs!  This is one of my favorite links in the blog world because I love seeing what all of my "friends" are up to during the week.  Life looks so different classroom to classroom!

This is my first official week of summer vacay, but I've spent much of it working.  I've done this every year for the last 10 years.  It's just part of who I am.  I have to be busy and continually working toward something.  This year, it's writing curriculum.

I turn 40 on the 29th of June and I had planned on being in the best shape of my life by 40.  Well, some of us know how that goes.  So, Im working on 40 miles by 40.  I need accountability, but live an hour from people who would help to do that, so I purchased a fitbit.  It's helping.  I paced the living room tonight to get my 10,000 steps.  There's such joy in having that little band vibrate when I hit that goal. I've set other goals with the device and so far it's keeping me on track.  Well, except for that pound cake today!

My favorite thing about summer is the unexpected day trip with my husband.  Last night I was asking questions about Aiken, SC - just an hour or so from us - and he spontaneously said, "Let's go tomorrow!" So, we jumped in the car and headed down the road to visit.  My goal was to find the avenue of oak trees that is always photographed.  I'm not sure if we found the right one, but we did find one that was beautiful.  We enjoyed lunch at Betsy's On the Corner!  It was great!  The BLT and the pound cake was amazing.  As was the homemade lemonade!  After lunch we saw the Aiken Historical Museum and decided to make a go of it.  We loved Aiken and will be going back again!

Part of that commitment to 40 by 40 has included a lot of walking.  I had hoped to be a runner, but over the last year, my ankles and feet have given me more problems than I'm willing to compromise by running, so walking it is.  My husband is more at home in the woods than a neighborhood, so we've been taking late evening walks on local trails.  We've walked the Ninety-Six Historical battleground and countless forest service roads.  We've seen turkeys, raccoons, deer, and toads.  Last night, Taku, our Jack Russell Terrier even found a creek to frolic in for a bit.

Meet Lucy, our school therapy dog!  Isn't she the sweetest?!  Our guidance counselor is raising her as a therapy dog and she is spending the days at school with us.  She has already provided some much needed therapy for teachers in the building.  On our work day this week I snuck into the counselor office and kidnapped her for a bit.  She is so snuggly soft!

Every summer I make a goal to read a certain amount of books!  I'm a voracious reader and will read all night to finish a book.  So far, I've read 4 books for pleasure and one professional text in the last 5 days.  My goal this year is 100 books this summer.  Not sure if I'll make it, but I'm trying!

Looking forward to seeing you again tomorrow!  Head over to Doodle Bugs Teaching to see everyone else's weekly wrap-up!


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Decompressing and Reflecting

This past year my blogging was sporadic to say the least.  I'm quite ashamed of my effort to share my classroom the last half of the year.  There was a lot of change in our grade level and a lot of slack needed to be picked up by my partner and myself.  So, I'm going to do a quick recap of everything that took place in hopes to catch you up on The Teacher's Loop.

here goes...
team leader goes out on leave and doesn't return; DisneyWorld field trip is in the middle of planning and has to be sorted; flash trip to Louisiana for Spring Break; testing season begins with a new test and new expectations - we had no idea what to expect; end of the year craziness - every field trip ended up being rescheduled to days within DW; Disneyworld trip with 83 people; awards day, field day, 5th grade day, and the end of school!

I'm exhausted and it's taking a few days to decompress from the pace at the end of the year.  I know I'm not alone in the awkward transition from school to summer.  It's hard to turn off school me and find summer me, but I'm trying.  Though, in all honesty, I've booked myself pretty solid this summer with curriculum writing for the local science center, writing for our school, and teaching summer school.  What's new though?!  I work best when I have a bunch of irons in the fire.

I do have goals for this blog though this summer, thanks to my friend over at Tales From a 4th and 5th Grade Teacher, Patti.

I plan to set aside one hour every day to blog this summer.  I want to share my plans for the upcoming school year (I'm super excited and my husband has me drawing shop drawings so he can build) and to share my heart for teaching and my students.

Thank you for sticking with me and still reading.