Sunday, October 28, 2012

Is it just Hurricane Sandy....or is change really coming?

So I don't live anywhere near the east coast or in the range of Hurricane Sandy, but I've been having a strange feeling that I don't think is being cause by the barometric pressure.  Have you ever had the feeling that change is coming?  The kind of feeling that no matter what you do, change is inevitable....but you're okay with it! 

For the past week I just feel like something is going to happen.  It doesn't feel like something bad.....just a good way.  I have  no idea what it might be, but I think I'm ready for whatever it is.  Why am I typing such a random blog post that no one else will care about???  I just feel like I need some proof that I knew it was going to happen, and that I should trust that instinct when it comes again.  Could I be change really coming?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

We voted!!!

We had the absolute best time learning about the election this week!  On Monday we viewed a powerpoint presentation I made highlighting the important words we would need to know.  These included: Republican, Democrat, delegate, campaign, electoral college, and ballot.

We read about the differences between the two major parties in this great country of ours, and learned that there are also third parties.  We used the Scholastic News site to watch two short videos about the qualifications of a president and how the voting process works.

We practiced our Nonfiction reading skills by reading an article in our Time For Kids magazines.  The article told us about the Republican and Democratic candidates and how campaigning works. We made these super adorable lap books that I found at Homeschool Share!  My student absolutely loved this project!

We wrapped up our short week with a Coke vs. Pepsi election.  We first watched a short Scholastic News video on how the electoral college works.  My kiddos were floored to find out that the American people do not choose our president by popular vote.  I loved this video because it explained things so simply.  We stopped several times through to re-explain, discuss, and ask questions.

We used the interactive Electoral College map here.  The kids each got 2 or 3 note cards with various states listed on them.  The card also included the number of electoral votes that state receives.  The students wrote their vote on the back of the note card and then I tallied the votes by changing the color on our electoral map.  Coke changed to red and Pepsi to blue.  My student were so excited about this activity.  They were all just bursting to get home and tell their parents what they'd learned.  I will definitely be using the format again in 4 years when we elect another president!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It's conference time....

I've got my fingers crossed that the next two days go by quickly and smoothly!  I had one early conference this afternoon and it went great!  I hope that is a sign for how the rest of them will go.

Tomorrow is going to be a very LONG day.  My plan time is from 8:45-9:45 and that is the only break I will get until 8:00 p.m. My first conference starts at 4:00 p.m. and I have 8 of them straight nervous that I will be yawning like crazy by the end.....I always think that makes me seem so uncaring. 

Thursday I have a full morning, a pretty open afternoon, and another full night!  Looking forward to having a chance to visit with all my little student's parents.....and REALLY looking forward to spending the day with my sweet girlie on Friday.  Conference week always means less family time and that can be tough.

Good luck to all my teacher friends!  I hope your conferences go wonderfully and that you hear nothing but kind, appreciative words!

Monday, October 22, 2012

10 things I learned this week....

10. A leaf vac/blower is a girls best friend!
I worked all day Saturday in the backyard getting a head start on the leaf clean up....I call it a head start because I usually do nothing with the leaves until spring.  I used the leaf vac to clean up under the bushes and around the fence, and I gotta  tell ya....I'm in love with that thing!

9. A hedge trimmer runs a close second to winning my heart!
Yep, that guy is pretty handy.  I borrowed it from a friend, and I'm thinking I just may need to purchase one for myself.  The bushes will be looking shapely and fine all winter long.

8. An  entire day to work in my classroom is the best gift I could ever receive.
Seriously, if you're a teacher you know this.  I actually got to enjoy my entire weekend.  I was able to get this weeks lesson plans all finished (granted it's only a 3 day week due to conferences on Wed. night, and all day Thurs. and Thurs. night), and a head start on the lesson plans for next week.

7. Kansas weather can be surprising and a bit annoying!
Okay, truthfully I already knew this!  It was an absolutely beautiful weekend!!!  Temperatures in the mid 70's, sunny, and lovely.  The high on Wednesday is 84, and on Saturday.....47!  I turned my heat on a while back when the over night low was 26!!!  That's fall in KS....heater one day, A/C the next!

6. My daughter is spoiled rotten and I can't say no to her.
It's true!  I have a ton of stuff going on this week....including two 12 hours work days due to conferences, and my sweet little angel (dripping with sarcasm there people) decides she just can not possibly wear her school Halloween costume to the party she is attending Saturday night!  So, I guess when we are off of school on Friday we will be creating a new costume....ugh, why can't I tell her no????

5. I have a crazy neighbor!
Actually I have two crazy neighbors, but one is absolutely NUTS!  On Saturday while cleaning up the leaves about 6 cops show up at a house in the cul-de-sac behind me.  They go to one house and then cross the cul-de-sac to another house and begin beating on the door.  They do that for 20 minutes, yelling for the woman to come out.  They are in the backyard looking in the window, peeking in the front door, and finally she comes out.  Turns out the neighbor who's house they went to first called the police because when she came home from an  errand she found the other neighbor in her bedroom wearing black gloves!  There is more to the story.....but it's just too much to type.  Even though my neighbor is in jail at the moment....we will be very careful to keep the doors locked!!!

4. An entire day of relaxing and reading is necessary sometime.
Yesterday I finished a book, walked the dog, went to Sis's volleyball game, made myself shrimp curry, and did lots of thinking.  I usually work so hard on Sundays while the kids are gone.  I always feel like I should get a jump start on the week, do all of these extra things so I can enjoy more time with the kids when they are home, but this Sunday.....I needed a break.  I'm so thankful I was able to treat myself this way....I needed it!

3. Conferences make me nervous!
Yep, even though this will be the 11th time I've done Parent/Teacher conferences I am still a nervous wreck!  I've got an early one tomorrow during my plan time, and the rest are Wed. and Thurs......I am really hoping I'm not blindsided by some unknown issue.  I hope the parents of my students think I'm doing a good job and that I'm able to answer all of their questions.....ugh, I'm never any good with parents.....I know this and this is why I work with 9 and 10 year olds all day :)

2. Dessert always brings a smile!
I have been trying to make a small dessert each week for my little family.  It's never anything fancy or outrageously special, but they always love it and they always smile!

1. I am horrible with big decisions!
Yep, I freak out, stress out, and get all sick to my stomach.  I've got a big decision to make and I'm already feeling nauseous!  Why can't I be better with these things?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Help!!! I need some advice!

So I talked to my academic adviser today and I'm completely freaking out!  The plan is to start my Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction with the Reading Endorsement in January.  I have to take two classes per semester because I am taking out a student loan to complete the program.

My adviser said she understands my need for financial aide, but would not recommend that many hours to a person in my situation....single mother, 2 very busy kids, a full time job, and a part time job.  I just can't do this without taking out a loan, and K-State requires I take at least 5 hours to qualify for financial aid.  That means two courses.

I gotta be honest....I'm starting to wonder if I should be doing this.  My kids are so busy, and I don't want to miss any of this precious time with them.  They are growing up way too fast and in just 2.5 short years my son will be off to college.  My baby girl is starting middle school next school year and then our schedules will be really crazy.

Should I be getting my Master's Degree now?  Is it the right time?  Am I setting myself up for failure by taking two classes on top of everything else I have going on?  Can I afford not to have a Master's's the only way to increase your income in education.  What about during sale week (if that happens....a disaster has happened with that...can't even think about it right now)....can I work 14 hour days and complete the course work for two classes and  keep up with grading and lesson planning, and all the needs of my kiddos?

I just don't want to fail.  I don't want to start and not be able to finish.  I don't want to get half way in and realize I'm drowning and just can't do it. I'm so confused, and I could REALLY use some advice.  Anyone have some experience with this?  Any parents out there who obtained their Masters degree while working a job and half?  HELP!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Underground Railroad

As part of our study of the Southeast region we learn all about the Underground Railroad.  Our social studies teacher just wrapped up this unit and last week we got the privilege of having a local organization bring us their classroom on wheels so we could learn a little more about the history of slavery in Kansas.

The kids get to attempt picking cotton and are timed,

they are asked if they would like to squeeze in to a box much like one a slave stayed in for 24 hours on his trip to freedom via the Underground Railroad,

they do a little research and question answering on iPads,

and they get to read all kinds of information about how some Kansans helped to abolish slavery.

Check back in the spring when we will enjoy a novel study on the book Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad.

I have not taught a 4th grade class yet that didn't absolutely love this novel study.  We have all kinds of great activities that go along with it that I'll be sharing.  We wrap it all up with a day long field trip to various sites that played an important role in the Underground Railroad!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sea Turtle Week!

So I'm changing things up in my 4th grade reading program this year.  I am following an idea from  a 6th grade teacher in our building and I'm skipping around our reading book....that's right, I'm not doing the stories in order....not quite a rebel, but I'll take what I can get :)  I've decided to pull out all the nonfiction stories and do those first.  I'm grouping them by themes, monthly celebrations, and what we are doing in social studies.

Two weeks ago we read the story "Mangrove Wilderness" and my kiddos LOVED it!  Our Social Studies teacher is wrapping up the Southeast Region and since this story discusses the mangrove forests of Florida it's a perfect fit.

Last week  the kiddos complete a readers theater called "Emeralds Eggs".  I don't know about your kiddos, but mine just love readers theater.  I put this little nest together to share with them, and to get them excited about our week of learning!

We spent the week rehearsing our parts for the play,  researching 5 types of sea turtles (I adapted some information I found at Sea Turtle Inc. to create an information sheet for each type of sea turtle...the kiddos used these sheets and the text book for their research.  I also found the coolest little video on United Streaming of a sea turtle laying its eggs),

creating a graphic organizer with our information (this idea came the oh-so-creative Tara at 4th Grade Frolics),

and making our very own sea turtles out of paper plates (I wanted to borrow Tara's rock idea, but out Dollar Tree was all out of rocks, and I had paper plan B it was)!

I was off for half the day on Friday, so I only got to see the excitement in one class when I told them we would be making sea turtles!!  They wrapped up this fun week by partnering with someone who had researched a different type of sea turtle and together they completed a Venn Diagram identifying the similarities and differences between their two types of turtles.

Monday, October 15, 2012

How we do Halloween!

A little walk down memory lane at my house.  Here are a few of the Halloween costumes we've had over the years.  Most of my favs are pics that I need to scan and don't have access to at the moment, but there are some great ones here.  Just looking at all of them reminds me of just how lucky I am to have such an amazing life!!!

This year is probably our last year of trick-or-treating....while I won't miss the actual trick-or-treating, I will miss the days of planning and preparing these super duper fun costumes!  My kids are just growing up
WAY too fast!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

iPad Question????

Do any of you have an iPad in your classroom?  How do you make the best use of one iPad in a classroom of 23?  What reading apps do you love?

Today we have an entire day of Professional Development and a portion of it will be dedicated to iPads.  I'm just dying to know how others are using theirs.  I only teach Language Arts and I teach it to 3 sections of 4th graders.  I'm just not sure how to best use one iPad in a LA classroom with 23 kiddos?  I would absolutely LOVE to hear what others are doing!!

Please chime in and help this clueless girl out.  I am pretty skilled at using it for myself, and my daughter is a pro at playing games on it, but I want to know how to best use it with my students.  I would also love to hear what LA apps you all are using and loving.....let the helpful comments begin!!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What are you doing for Fire Prevention Week?

I'm not actually doing anything until next week, but am wondering what others have in mind.  At 4th grade we pretty much have the fire safety rules down, and have done the fireman visit a few times so I'm looking for new ideas.

Here is one that I thought about using last year but never got around to......Laura Candler rocks!

I found these two little worksheets on Pinterest and thought they might make nice activities for early finishers next week.

I thought this might make  a nice homework assignment to get everyone thinking about their fire safety plan,

I also picked up a free packet from NFPA and thought I might adapt it.

Our reading series has a short nonfiction piece called Flame Busters about fireman and the fire academy. I borrowed a few short articles from a colleague that might make great activities for Read to Someone during Daily 5.  What else am I forgetting....what are you doing?????

10 things I learned this week...

This week was rough, and I learned plenty of lessons....some not so pleasant.  I'm going to mention some of those not-so-great lessons, but I'm going to try to find more positive ones than negative ones.  Here goes....

10. My son is a horrible at telling a lie.
He is an amazing kid, trustworthy, kind, respectful, smart, athletic....but this week he lied to me.  Not a huge lie, but a lie none the less.  He lied about a soccer game so he could stay out later and finish watching the game even though I told him to come home.  See, nothing huge, but it's the small lies that turn into big lies, that turn into bad choices, etc.  Well, he got caught because he just might be the worst liar on the planet!  Things didn't work out so well for him and I don't think he'll be lying in the near future.

9. I can't live without a microwave!
Our microwave died this week, and I realized just how much I use that little guy!  I didn't have a chance to go out and get one, plus I'm not sure what kind I want so I ended up eating cold leftovers all week for lunch.  Then, my small and weak brain remembered that I have a microwave in my classroom...duh!  I brought it home and we will be using it until I can do a bit of research (a.k.a. shopping) and find the one I really want.

8. 11 year old girls really care about picture day....ALOT!
Katie had picture day this week so that meant a new top ("Cuz mom, nobody sees the waste down in the picture.") and a fancy hair style.  The hair style required getting up 25 minutes earlier, flat ironing her hair, and then curling it into locks.....people, my girls got a boat load of hair....I mean thick, shoulder length, and wavy. The flat ironing went pretty smoothly, but about half way through the curling session, her curling iron died!  She was majorly disappointed that we had to just go with flat, straight hair, and I was bummed that I will be shopping for another small appliance!

7. I love decorating!!!
Okay, I already knew this, but when I get some time to do it, I realize how happy it makes me.  Here are a few (okay, a ton) of pics of some fall decor in my little ol' house. I made the little banner out of book pages and jute, then hand wrote the letters....I love it!!!

 6. Sunday volleyball makes me happy!
Here's my girlie and her team in action!  Sorry for the poor picture quality, the lighting in the gym and my camera do not work well together!

5. High school homecoming brings out the crazy in my son.
He turned the 8th grade dance, red tux, into this for the homecoming gameFriday night. Katie painted the M for him :) Let's remember it was 40 degrees when he got home....wonder who will be sick on Monday????

4. A giant Boy Scout sticker is hard to remove from the screen of a laptop!
On Wednesday I noticed that one of the boys in my class had stuck a Boy Scout sticker on top of my desk.  I had a discussion with them about giving me a sticker and letting me choose where it goes.  I explained that when I handed out the stickers I did not choose where they put their sticker, they got to choose, just like it was my right to choose where I put my sticker.  Then I had to scrape and scrape to get the cheap sticker residue off my desk. On Thursday, after I had high-fived every one and sent them out the door, I sat down to check my email, and the same type of sticker was smack dab in the middle of my laptop screen.  I FREAKED OUT!!!  It took me almost 30 minutes with rubbing alcohol and a paper towel to get it off.  I was in tears by the time I got home.  I can't imagine which one of my little kiddos dislikes me so much, or is so mad at me that they would have the nerve to go behind my desk and repeat the same action I talked about the day before....bad, bad day!  I'm guessing I will never find out who did it :(

3. I take all bad behavior to heart!
Yep, the bad behavior of my students really affects me.  I stress about it, and lose sleep.  I've got a tricky one this year and it is wearing me out.  I'm trying different strategies to deal with it, but right now it's just really got me down!

2. Having my son's spare key is not such a good thing!
He locked his keys and his cell phone in his car Thursday night while he was at his basketball training session.  I had to load up Sis and Charlie and rescue him at 8:30 at night.....I'm guessing this won't be the last time.

1. Pumpkin Bread and movie night with my sweet girlie can fix a horrible week!