Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Big Test Tomorrow!

I am giving my kids a big practice test tomorrow. I think I am more nervous than they are because this doesn't count toward their grade, but shows me how much they have learned. I am cautiously optimistic that they know what they need to know, but I am also scared that when left of their own they will be lost...

I hope it will be a wake up call for some kids who don't do the work in class too...

One thing I hate about Standards Based Grading is that it doesn't show the students' effort and it makes me, as a teacher, feel much more responsible for doing everything it takes to help them succeed.

Now, don't get me wrong, I will bend over backward to help a student that is trying, but what drives me crazy are the kids that come to class without a pen or pencil, never write anything down and are constantly distracting others. I spend hours trying to figure out how to engage these kids and they can't even try to understand new concepts?!

Okay, this is sounding more like a rant than I meant it to...

Bottom line - I will either be really excited after the test tomorrow or really, really frustrated.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Sale!

Thank you to JD's Rocking Readers for organzing a huge Halloween Sale! Everything in my store will be 15% off on Halloween! Come by my store and check it out!

You can also visit JD's Rocking Readers for a list of all of the stores participating in the sale (discounts will vary by store).

Thanksgiving Literacy Pack On Sale Now

I just listed my new Thanksgiving Literacy Pack! It gives students practice on identifying simple subjects, simple predicate, nouns, verbs, and adjectives. It also includes a reading comprehension passage with mutliple choice and short answer questions for standardized test practice.

What I love about this set is that I learned so much about Thanksgiving making it! Every sentence in the packet is about the history of Thanksgiving! If you can believe this, I didn't even know who Squanto was when I started researching - I need to have a talk with some of my old teachers! :)

I had so much fun making this packet and I hope you have fun using it!

Thanksgiving Literacy Pack

As a thank you for putting up with my at times random blog posts I have included a sample of the packet here for you - one simple subject worksheet and one simple predicate worksheet. Enjoy!


Cirque du School?!

I am currently in Vegas celebrating my 30th birthday with my wonderful family! Last night my husband took everyone to see the Beatle's LOVE show by Cirque du Soleil and it was amazing! This is not our first Cirque du Soleil show, every time we come to Vegas (which is not often at all) we try to see one. (So far my favorite is O!)

Anyway, I was just blown away by the show (which I am every time I see one) and it got me thinking about education (most things do :)). I was thinking about how amazing the people at Cirque du Soleil are - it is this amazing combination of physical strength and flexibility (and a lack of fear of heights), beautiful make up and costumes, moving music, and incredible technology.

Before Cirque du Soleil started no one would have guessed that a circus could be like that. Now, it is a billion dollar company.

So, how does this relate to education? Well, it shows me that we have to think outside of the box and do something amazing and beautiful and moving in order to change the game in education. How do we do this?

I have no freaking clue! But I can't stop thinking about it! If someone can do this is will be a game changer.

Maybe you think there has already been a game changer in education. If you do, tell me what you think it is - I would love to hear about it!

As for me, I will be thinking and thinking about this for the rest of the trip (and beyond!).

PS - Did you notice how many times I used the word "amazing"? I am still in awe of the show!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

100 Products Sold!!

I hit a major milestone today! Since starting on Teachers Pay Teachers in September I have sold 100 products! I have loved every minute of being on Teachers Pay Teachers. Selling 100 products isn't about the money, it is just great to know that people really like what I am doing.

The best part is the new community I have become a part of. I love collaborating with other teachers and the teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers are the best of the best!

Now that I have hit 100 products sold I can't wait to get to 500!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

First Year Bliss Linky Party

I am joining the First Year Bliss Linky party! Since I have been blogging for maybe a week I know I still have a lot to learn, but my best "memory" so far has been getting each of my followers. When I started my blog I was afraid that no one would want to read it. Each time I have gotten a follower (I think I am up to five) I am just so happy that someone wants to hear what I think!

Even though I have only been on Teachers Pay Teachers for a couple of months and blogging for a week, I really feel like I am part of a fun, supportive, amazing community! Every time I do something that feels scary I have people I don't even really know in real life cheering me on and it feels great!!!

Do you have a blog? Old or new link up with Michelle at The 3am Teacher to join the linky party!

Best Day of Class Yet!!!

I have been teaching one period of science at a lower income school for the past week. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster - one day the kids will really struggle then the next they will be great. Well, yesterday was awful! I saw some kids totally checked out of the lesson - a lesson I had worked hours on!

We were doing a review of the digestive system so they would be ready for a grade-wide assessment and a few kids weren't even taking notes on their worksheets!

Well, I realized that it wasn't their fault they weren't engaged, it was my fault for not finding a way to reach them. I went home and looked for advice on inspiring low income students in science. I found a great article that said that low income families speak a different language than middle income families. As a result these kids don't know how to ask for help from a teacher (or the teacher can't understand when they are asking for help).

I realized that my biggest distractors were probably not understanding what was going on, but didn't want to look stupid to the other kids. My problem was how to work with these kids without bringing attention to the fact that I was singling them out.

I came up with the idea to assign the kids into "random" groups. I put all the kids I wanted to work with in the group near the front so I could linger there without looking like I was focusing on one group.

It worked so great! The first time I had put the kids in groups it had been a disaster because I couldn't be with every group the whole time and they quickly lost focus if I walked away. Well, this time it was amazing! They were working together so complete their assignment! Even the group I had planned on babysitting was doing great without me!

I was so happy I was practically dancing! We are going to try it again tomorrow for an experiment - I hope it still works!

The Dangers of Being a Teacher

I would say one of the worst things about being a teacher is all of the germs we are exposed to! I feel like I get sick all the time! You think I would be over it by now and have a super strong immune system, but nope!

I hate being sick because, like everyone else, I have so much to do. These past couple of days I have been getting over a cold and have wanted to do nothing but sleep. Unfortunately, that isn't really an option with three kids and a class of kids depending on me.

Sorry for the little rant post - I was feeling guilty about not posting anything all day yesterday and this was the only thing I could think to write about right now.

Hopefully I will be feeling better soon!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Another Giveaway!

The Intentional Momma is having a giveaway this month with lots of fabulous prizes (including a $35 gift certificate to my store)! Visit today to enter to win! Good luck!

Greek and latin Roots Weeks 1 - 5 (Revised) Up

After working to revamp my Greek and Latin Roots set I now have the revised version up in my store! Very excited!!!

I also lowered the price down to $5 for 5 weeks. Do you think this is a good price or is it too low (or too high?) I think pricing is my least favorite part of all of this stuff!

Anyway, head over as see it - I think it is great!

You can also get the accompanying "Word Wall" that includes at least five suggested vocabulary words for each Greek and Latin root - that's at least 25 vocabulary words a week and 125 words for the entire set.

Adding a Copyright to Products

I had been reading on the TpT forums about adding a copyright to every page in a product. I realized this was probably the smart thing to do, but I wasn't sure how to go about doing it.

Based on other reading in the TpT forums I had begun creating products in PowerPoint and I am lucky I did because it turns out it is easy to add a copyright to each page.

Here is what I did:

Along the tool bar select VIEW then within that tool bar you will see "Slide Master". Select this and you will have several different versions of blank slides. I used the first blank slide, my "master slide" and inserted a text box (the same way you would insert a text box on any slide). I then went to INSERT and selected "Symbol". There you can find the copyright symbol. I followed it with my name so it looked like this:
© Cate O’Donnell
It automatically appeared on every one of my slides! That saved me a lot of time since I didn't have to insert it to every slide by hand.
Maybe everyone else already knows this, but I was pretty excited and wanted to share in case someone else was looking for a time saver!

Win Prizes!

A fellow teacher on Teachers Pay Teachers, O "Fish" Ally a First Grader, is holding a huge giveaway to celebrate 100 followers for her blog. Visit to enter to win prizes, including my Entire Alphabet Letter Practice Set!

Good luck, everyone!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Diffusion, Active Transport, and Concentration Gradient PowerPoint Presentation

My newest Teachers Pay Teachers product is a PowerPoint presentation on Diffusion, Active Transport, and Concentration Gradient is now up! I used this presentation in my classroom earlier this week and it was so successful I wanted to share it with everyone.

Available at

Don't forget to visit my store!

A Learning Opportunity - at Home

This morning we had an opportunity to learn a life lesson. My family had been at a birthday party and when we got home we realized that our cat (the fearsome predator, Colby) had brought a bird into the garage. At first we thought it was dead (she brings us lots of dead mice), but when my husband bent down to scoop it into the trash we saw that it was still alive!

Well, even though I had a lot to do and really didn't have time for any distractions, I explained to my daughters how precious life is and said that we had to take the bird to the "doctor". This is a lesson I learned from my own mother when our cat attacked a bird many, many years ago and it has stuck with me (obviously - since I spent my Saturday driving to Portland with a bird tucked safetly in an applesauce box).

I don't know if my girls will remember today, but hopefully they remember the lesson - that all life is important.

Day 3 in the Classroom - Much Better!

Friday was my third day in the classroom for my one class of science. I was worried about how things would go because of the challenges I faced on the first two days (lots of talking - people not caring, etc...)

Well, I came to class armed with my "assess your own behavior" plan and a positive attitude and it totally worked! We had a great day! I did have to send two kids to the office, but I think that showed the rest of my class that I meant business and we had a very productive day.

First, they totally bought into the plan to assess themselves and have their parents sign the form (see previous blog post). It was great and I saw that most of the kids really did a good job of rating themselves accurately. I hope this keeps working! (I am also excited because I found the cutest prizes for our raffle on Monday!)

Second, there was real learning going on in the classroom. We were working on graphing from data tables and I found I had some kids who didn't know how to graph a coordinate point. Well, now they do! It was so amazing so see all those light bulbs going off around the room. I felt like dancing and singing, "You're learning! You're learning!" But I didn't because these are middle school kids and I don't want to lose credibility this early in the year :)!

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Challenging Classroom

I just got hired to be a science teacher for one period a day. I have taken on classes mid-year in the past so I was confident that I would be fine. Well, everything is fine, but this class is going to be a lot more work than I thought.

The school district I am in uses the workshop model and they have for quite some time. I assumed that the kids would be "trained" to use the workshop format. My first lesson for them involved a lot of working in groups to discuss and figure things out. (They are learning about diffusion and active transport.)

As I walked around the classroom I found that they did a great job staying on task if I was standing next to them, but as soon as I walked away they would start talking about plans for the weekend, their friends etc... As if they were getting a well deserved break if I wasn't there!

It wasn't like this was one or two groups - it was every group.

After realizing that nothing was getting done I broke up their groups and said we were going to work through the activity as a class and that they all needed to write down their answers.

This worked much better, but they were still one of the most out of control classes I have seen. They weren't bad they just didn't have a lot of impulse control. If one kid has a thought he would blurt it out. If another kid wanted to touch something that didn't belong to him, he touched it!

By the end of the class I had narrowed the ring leaders down to about six kids. I held them after class and explained that their behavior had been unacceptable and that if it happened again they were going straight to the Principal's office.

As much as I was frustrated by the behavior of the kids, I was also frustrated that I haven't been given any solid information about the school's procedure for dealing with this. I was told that I would get it, but two days into the class and I am still in the dark. This is partly my fault because I didn't go down before class and demand something on disciplinary procedures in writing.

All last night I worked on a plan to get my class under control. I don't want to use extrinsic motivation - it is hard to get middle school kids to continuously work for a prize (the kids you are trying to motivate tend to give up if they don't think they will get the prize in my experience). I was also warned against it by another teacher, she said that she has used it in the past and she spent most of her time dealing with students arguing about why they should get a prize, not lose points, etc...

So, what I came up with is a system where students are rewarded for monitoring themselves. Every day when they come to class a half-sheet of paper will be sitting on their desk. It will have our learning target and other pertinent information for the day on it. It will also have a place for students to give themselves a "grade" for the day. They will explain their reasoning as well. If I agree I will just check them off (and record their grade). They have to take these home and get parent comments/signatures. When they bring the sheets back to school they are entered into a drawing for a fabulous prize.

What I like about this system is that it encourages to students to monitor their own behavior. It also requires daily communication with parents. Finally, I like that students are still eligible for a prize even if they have a hard day. Obviously, a student will have other consequences for poor choices, but at least in this case they can still be invested in the program.

I am a little nervous about the management aspect of this program - how much time will it take out of the day, will parents be annoyed, etc... I am going to tell the class we will try it for two weeks (four prize drawings) and then see what we think as a class.

Here is my first draft of what it will look like.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I'm Having a Sale!

To celebrate the new blog I am throwing a sale at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Visit it today for 20% off all of my products!

(Note: I have temporarily pulled down all my Greek and Latin Roots products to revamp them, if you would like to purchase it at sale price just send me an e-mail and I will notify you when it is back up and give you the sale price.)

Sale lasts through Saturday :)

Teacher Evaluation Rubric - Proficient vs. Distinguished

Today was my first day teaching science at a local middle school. It was a half-day and we spent the afternoon in professional development talking about the new rubrics the district is introducing.

We were discussing the differences between a proficient teacher and a distinguished teacher. My group was assigned "Classroom Relationships" and "Classroom Management". We decided that the difference between a "proficient teacher" and a "distinguished teacher" as far as classroom relationships and management would be how much the students "buy in" to the classroom relationships and management. The goal is to get the students to have positive relationships with each other and the teacher and to have them managing themselves - taking initiative to move along through the schedule without prompting (or pleading!) from the teacher.

My question is (especially regarding middle school) how to you make this transition? By the end of the year most of my classes are capable to managing themselves for the most part, but I don't know really what I do to get to this point. I think if I had a plan of attack I could get students working on their own more quickly.

Do people start using rewards and then phase them out? We decided that the distinguished teacher doesn't need to use rewards to get kids to behave, but maybe other people have different thoughts...

I am especially interested in this topic for middle school students and teachers. I find it very easy to get elementary kids excited about activities and learning, but middle school students are hard to motivate.

I make my lessons fun and use lots of positive reinforcement, but I am wondering if I could be doing more...  Any thoughts???

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Can't Believe I Was A Copy Cat

I have taken down all of my Greek and Latin Roots products with quizzes in them. When I made them I was just thinking that I was using what I had been doing for years. Then tonight something clicked and I realized that all that time ago I had based my quizzes on something I had seen online. I do not want to copy anyone so I am revamping everything. I will post updates when I finish - hopefully soon! It will still be the same words and the same ideas, but I want to make the formatting unique to me.

I think that this will make the quizzes even better and more kid-friendly. They won't even know they are taking a quiz :).

Blog Design

Just bought the adorable blog template you now see. I spent hours trying to make something, but it would never be as cute as this. I think I spent way too much time looking through etsy to find the perfect blog template, but I am happy with the results.

So now I am ready to start blogging! I am thinking my blog will be a mix of what I am trying in the classroom, my experiences with Teachers Pay Teachers, and of course a little about my kids thrown in because how can you not talk about the kids?!? (For example, my son is sitting in his highchair next to me getting simply covered in applesauce and we have to leave to pick my girls up in a few minutes. Maybe I should put the computer away and get busy :)!).

Anyway, super excited to start blogging! I have found on the TpT forums that I have a lot to say about a lot of things!

Coming tonight or tomorrow: My PowerPoint presentation for teaching diffusion, active transport, and concentration gradients in the small intestine. Super fun!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bloom's Taxonomy

I just got hired for a part-time position teaching middle school science! I am so excited! It will be great to get back into the classroom and I am working with a great team. In fact, it was while meeting with them today that I was inspired to write this blog post.

The 7th grade science team is leading the charge of standards based grading. I have done a little bit of this at a previous school, so I thought I was prepared. Turns out - nope!

At the meeting we were working on writing a trimester test to test students' proficiency with the standards being covered. We were using Bloom's Taxonomy to write the questions in the different levels. It may sound easy and straightforward, but it definitely is not! At least, not for me :).

Despite the difficulty, I love the idea of using this framework to write questions so we know that we are testing students' thinking and not their memorization. One of the teachers, who has lots of experience writing these types of questions, says it just takes practice, so hopefully over the next few months I can post what I have learned to help everyone else.

Here is a quick review for those of you who can't quite remember Bloom's Taxonomy (that was me at the meeting):

We considered Knowledge and Comprehension a "1", Application and Analysis a "2", Synthesis a "3" and Evaluation a "4".
I will post some of the example questions I came up with after I get some local feedback on their quality.
Are you using standards based grading in your classroom? Do you use Bloom's Taxonomy? Any advice?????