Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Fraction Clip Art Product - Free to First 5 Comments

Hi everyone! I can't tell you how excited I am about my newest product! Fraction clip art!

Now, instead of explaining to kids that 1/2 is just like the one half you write on the board you can insert these clip art files!

Follow the link on the picture!

The first five people to comment on this post will get it for free :).

Asking Questions

We all know how important it is to teach kids to ask good questions, but how often do you do it in class? If you are like me, not enough. However, in our recent social studies unit on the Native people of Washington I had a great opportunity to have my students ask the questions. They did a great job - take a look!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Exercise in the Classroom

My first year teaching I attended a talk by John Medina, the author of Brain Rules. In his talk he suggested that schools might be more successful if everyone wore workout clothes and every hour or so took part in some physical activity.

He suggested this for two reasons. First, several studies have shown that our brains work better after exercise. Second, in order to remember something our brains need to hear it over and over again, but not all at once. So, by taking a break to exercise our brains have the time needed to process and store new information over time.

I fell in love with this idea, but being a new teacher I didn't feel comfortable asking for permission to do it. Three years later, I am feeling brave.

I also have quite a few students with ADHD in my class this year. They are, invariably, the students who are struggling the most in my class. They have also struggled in every grade. Not to say they aren't making progress, they are. Unfortunately, they are still very far behind their classmates.

I was talking to my husband about this fact, and he asked, "You know what the definition of insanity is, right?"

I said that I did know that it is crazy to try the same thing over and over again and expect different results, but that I (and the other teachers) am constantly trying new ways to get through to these kids.

His words stuck with me though. Am I really doing anything that different for these kids? What if it would take a radical change to get to them?

Then, I remembered John Medina. I wondered if there was any research on exercise and kids with ADHD. I know that I always feel better and more focused after exercise - is it possible that this was the case for kids with ADHD too?

A quick Google search confirmed my suspicions. There are pages of studies that show that exercise increases the ability of ADHD kids to focus and check their work for mistakes. Pages. From real scientists.

Why haven't we explored this connection already?

So, I am going to come up with a proposal for my principal, and see if we can implement a trial program in January, 2014. For one month we will take a break every 45 minutes to exercise for 15 minutes. We don't have anything fancy so I am thinking jogging around the school or jump roping - just something to get our heart rates up. After exercising, we will get right back to work.

There are three other fourth grade classes so I think we would have some good data to compare the two groups.

What do you think? Will my principal agree? Will I see positive results? 

The Magic of Collaboration

I am so lucky to be a part of a team that includes very different, but very helpful people. We all have a different way of teaching, but we also appreciate what others do. This combination creates an amazing work environment and gives students the best of what we all have to offer.

I have been thinking about how much we share in the lens of the additional licenses on Teachers pay Teachers. I do like getting the extra money from the additional licenses, but is it was is best for teachers and students? If one of the other fourth grade teachers found something amazing, would I really go back and pay for the additional license? Or maybe I just wouldn't use it because I didn't want to be unethical, but I didn't want to (or couldn't) pay for the resource... Plus, I am sure there are tons of teachers who just share because they don't know about the additional licenses.

This has been spinning in my head for a while, and I think I have come up with a solution. I am going to make all of my products available to all of the teachers at one school for the price of one license. I think I am allowed to do this since I own the copyright. If it turns out I am not allowed to do it, I will change it.

I believe that sharing resources makes all of us better teachers. Plus, I don't think that this will cost me sales. In fact, I think it will increase my sales. More people knowing about what I do can only be a good thing. I have tons of products available (and I am always adding more) so people will always have something more they want or need.

What do you think? What is your experience with sharing resources at school? What have been your experiences with selling extra licenses?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Why I Love A New Trimester...

Okay, so I have to admit something. I have a little bit of ADD. I have never been tested, and I don't want to take anything away from people with an actual diagnosis (so, please, don't think I am doing this here). I just have the attention span of a mosquito. In school, I was a straight A student, but my mom did have to come in for conferences every year because I wasn't doing my homework or completing my work in class. How did I still manage an A? I have no idea. I just didn't like to do things that I didn't find interesting.

For example, I would go home and take notes out of our Encyclopedias (yet, no Google back then) and write my own reports. However, I wouldn't complete the two page spelling assignment I had for homework.

Of course, I have come a long way from then. I do a lot of things that aren't particularly interesting or fun now. I guess that just comes with growing up.

Anyway, the reason I love a new trimester is that I can change things in my classroom and look like I had planned on that change all along, but really it is just my ADD kicking in.

And actually, the changes I am making on Monday (new trimester for us) are not really ADD related at all.

On Friday I had a great talk with one of the veteran teachers at my school. We are so different, but get along really well.

Here are some examples of how we are different...

Her students come in silently and get right to work. My students have a little chat and then (with my reminder) get to work.

Her class is super quiet. My class (while always on topic) can easily get a little loud.

Okay, I think you get it. Most of these things are noise related. Although, I also let my students move around the classroom more. Her kids are always in their seats.

Well, we were talking about this (and other stuff, I don't remember how this part came up exactly) and she said that her students have to earn the right to go to the bathroom any time they want. Not that she doesn't let kids go to the bathroom - they have seven opportunities throughout the day to go. Going any time you want is being in the middle of a lesson and getting up to go to the bathroom.

You all know what I am talking about, right? There are the kids who never ask to go to the bathroom, are always working, and are very polite in the way they ask. If one of these kids say they have to go to the bathroom it means they have to go to the bathroom.

Then there are the kids who ask to go to the bathroom every hour on the hour. When they ask to go to the bathroom it means, I want to go for a walk, I am bored, I wonder what is going on in the hallway right now, this work is too hard, or any number of things that have nothing to do with going to the bathroom. These also tend to be the kids who can't afford to miss a chunk of a lesson.

This idea of earning a privilege was really interesting to me. I have been trying to treat my kids as little people, not children. I let them chat in the morning because who doesn't like to check in with their friends in the morning? Teachers are the worst at this - have you ever been to a conference that started on time?!

I let them go to the bathroom whenever they need to because isn't that what most people do? My husband does not have to prove to his boss that he really does have to go to the bathroom. Plus, even if they just need a little brain break, isn't that okay?

Well, I do still believe all these things, but that idea that adults have earned these privileges is something I hadn't thought about before. Teachers and business people have proven that they can get their work done and make choice about what they do in the morning or when they go to the bathroom. I don't walk out in the middle of class and go to the bathroom. I wait until the kids are at recess or lunch.

There are some adults who do have to ask to go to the bathroom while they are at work. (Or if they are going to much, they might be fired.)

The freedom that I enjoy isn't given to me just because I am an adult, it is because I have proven that I can handle it. By giving this to students who haven't earned it, I have been doing them a disservice. I have four students in my class who are currently "Below Standard". I have been doing remediation, scaffolding, tutoring before and after school, and calling home, but am I hurting them by giving them freedom they can't handle?

I try to run my classroom using Love and Logic, but I forgot one important part. I need to treat them as individuals. As much as I don't like the idea of gluing kids to their seats, maybe this is what some kids need. They just aren't mature enough to make the choice to work with their friends on the carpet. Of course, many of my students can handle this and are doing amazingly well.

So, on Monday morning I am going to tell them that our first trimester was a glimpse at how I would like the classroom to run. I don't want kids asking if they can go to the bathroom or get a drink of water etc... But, in the real world you aren't just given this freedom; you have to earn it.

They will earn their freedoms back by showing me that they can think and work productively on their own. Everyone will have to ask to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, sharpen their pencil etc... (Only during instruction time - they can do all of these things at our transition or free times.) I will say yes to the kids who have shown me that they can handle it and no to the kids who have shown me that they can't. It will be the same way with working in groups or working around the classroom.

I think this will be a difficult transition for a lot of the kids, but in the long run I think it will be good for everyone. I am excited to report back in a few weeks.

I just have to remember - treat them as the individuals they are :).

Wow - that was a long post. Thanks for sticking with me!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Memorizing Multiplication Facts

Okay, I have something to admit. I didn't memorize my multiplication facts until college. There - it feels good to admit it!

Now, that being said, I am still pushing my fourth graders like crazy so that they will memorize their facts this year - before Christmas. I just see how much easier everything in math is if you don't have to think really hard every time there is a multiplication or division problem.

Most of my kids are doing great - way better than I ever did. However, I have a few kids who seem to be refusing to memorize their facts.

I have one student who comes to the classroom every morning (yes, every morning) an hour before school to work with me. Now, I admit that I don't spend that entire hour working with her one-on-one - I do have to get ready for the day, but I do work with her.

I was so excited when our instructional coach came to give her a multiplication test to see how much she had progressed. Well, she didn't improve. In fact, she got worse. What?!?

I sent the four students who haven't improved on their time tables home with a massive packet of multiplication work for Thanksgiving Break. Mean, I know, but what else can I do?

I don't know if any of them will do any of it, but hopefully something will stick in their brains.

Anyway, I am on the look out for new and different ways to help students learn/memorize their multiplication facts. Any ideas?

Lattices - Freebie

I just posted this new freebie in my Teachers pay Teachers store. My students love using the lattice method to multiply two-digit numbers, but can't for the life of them draw the lattices. I just printed up a bunch of copies of this sheet and they were able to get to the math much faster.


PS - If you haven't yet taught (or learned) the lattice method I will be putting up a video soon!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Daily 5 in 4th Grade

After reading The Daily 5 book this summer I was excited to try it out in my new classroom this year. I knew I would have to make some adjustments based on all the blogs I read about Daily 5 in intermediate classrooms, but I wasn't exactly sure what that would look like in my own classroom.

Two months in to school here is what it looks like...

First, we don't get to every round every day. There just isn't time. Some days we just do writing and others we don't do writing at all. I have sometimes managed to get a reading round in by combining it with science or social studies. I pull small groups for guided reading of a science or social studies topic while the rest of the class reads silently. It works really well because my class loves reading and they consider this a treat :).

Second, I know that a lot of people don't include Word Work in intermediate grades, but we do. Kids practice their spelling or Greek and Latin roots during Word Work. It is one of their favorite rotations because they can use markers and other art supplies.

Third, building our stamina was so important! If you haven't started Daily 5 yet, don't rush through this process. My kids were able to do it fairly quickly because they had been trained well through the years, but we still took almost two weeks to get to the independent place they needed to be. One thing I want to do, but haven't done yet, is pull them back again every so often to remind them what being independent looks like in our classroom.

Fourth, we don't to Listen to Reading. Well, I do a real aloud at the end of the day most days, but we don't do an official Listen to Reading station. I know a lot of blogs say this too, but I just thought I would add it.

I will add pictures to this post next week.

I will say that we don't do Daily 5 with any cute signs or stuff like that - we just do it. It seems to work well for my kiddos. :)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Importance of Homework

I know that the pendulum swings back and forth over homework. I myself have thought about it many different ways over the years. Our superintendent made a big deal about homework at his welcome message this year, but not in the way you would think. He wanted to encourage us to not make a big deal about homework. There are some kids who just can't do homework every night - through no fault of their own. He encouraged us to give these kids the opportunity to do homework at school without any penalties.

I liked what he said - it isn't fair to penalize kids for choices their parents are making. I have worked hard this year to only give kids the most important homework, and create time in class for the kids who didn't do it at home.

After a couple of months of this I have some findings to report.

It turns out that giving students the opportunity to do their homework at school doesn't matter. The kids who aren't doing their homework at home are not taking the opportunity to do their homework at school either (at least in my class).

I do have a few thoughts about why this is true...

1. The kids who are unable to do their homework at home are the same ones that struggle in school. By the time they get to fourth grade they are used to not being successful. They just don't know how to succeed on a very fundamental level.

2. The kids have not learned how to execute a task on their own yet. Kids who do their homework at home started with parents heavily involved in the process. Over the years the parents gradually stepped away and the kids took over. By fourth grade many students are able to sit down and do their homework on their own. The students who have never done homework at home didn't have the modeling and help that the other students did. Now they aren't sure where to start.

3. For whatever reason - too tired, too hungry, too distracted - these kids have a hard time paying attention in class. If they aren't paying attention in class they don't really know what is going on. Since homework is based on what we are practicing during class, they don't know what to do on their homework. Since they don't know what to do they get stuck.

So, those are my ideas about the homework situation. But is homework really important? Well, I have some thoughts on that too.

Homework for the sake of homework is not important. However, when used as a tool to give students more time to practice and think, is vitally important.

In every class I have ever taught there is a direct correlation (almost to the letter grade) between how much homework in completed and a student's final grade in a class. The more homework you complete and turn in, the more likely you will get an A.

Notice I said there was a correlation. I don't think it is a cause and effect relationship. Homework is easier for kids who understand the material so they are more likely to do it.

That being said, getting kids to do their homework every night is going to increase their understanding of the material.

So, what do we do as teachers to use the relationship between homework and understanding to increase student achievement?

I have no idea. I have tried many different systems throughout the years to make homework as accessible as possible. Now I even stay on Edmodo all evening so that my students can ask me questions and get answers back in real time. Unfortunately, I get lots of questions from my high achievers and none from my students who struggle.

I also keep the classroom open for an extra hour two days a week and have offered to keep kids even more than that. Again, my high achievers love it and come all the time. Struggling students... not so much.

What have you tried that has worked well for struggling students? I really, really want to know!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Success! I Just Learned Something New!

Sometimes I forget that my students are learning something for the first time - and just how hard that can be! No wonder they make silly mistakes; the process of learning something totally new can be really overwhelming so we can't see the forest through the trees. I am always grateful for moments in my own life when I am reminded of this fact.

One of these moments happened today. I went to turn on the garbage disposal and I got nothing but a humming noise. I was so frustrated! Eventually, (I have three kids so nothing happens right away) I made it to the computer and googled it (and may I just say - what did people do before the Internet!?!). I found instructions, thought about them for a while, followed them - and guess who fixed the garbage disposal all by herself?!

I am usually the fix-it person in our house. Not because I am any more mechanically inclined than my husband, but because I have the motivation to figure things out (I am the one home most of the time). I also know how to find the information I need. I think that a person (or a student) with motivation and an understanding of how to get the information they need can learn anything!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Love and Logic Triumphs

I just finished reading Teaching with Love and Logic by Jim Fay and David Funk, and once again (it always happens after I finish a particularly inspiring book) I can't wait to get to school and put it into action.

However, I don't have to wait until school starts to benefit from Love and Logic. I have three little ones - and I do mean little ones. My oldest is five and my youngest turns two in August so there is plenty of drama in our house. Lots of opportunities for power struggles.

The first time I used Love and Logic at home my husband thought I was some kind of magician. He had been trying to put our girls to bed - not an easy thing :). I walked in when he was yelling that if they didn't go to bed right away there would be no fun tomorrow. I wasn't judging - I know I have said things like that before, but fresh off my latest study of Love and Logic I was ready to try some new ideas.

The first thing I did was start asking lots of questions - "Would you like to read a book first or brush your teeth first? Would you like to brush your teeth in your bathroom or my bathroom? Would you like me to carry you on my back or on my shoulders? Do you want purple pajamas or blue pajamas?" etc...

Well, once the power struggle was gone the girls were easy! I had them happily in bed within 15 minutes of taking over. Needless to say, I am now on permanent bed duty :).

I had another Love and Logic miracle this afternoon after swimming. My oldest daughter hates pulling shirts and dresses over her head - she is always afraid she will get stuck and often, when she panics, she does. I brought her a dress that I thought she would be able to pull on, but it turned out it wasn't quite big enough for that. My sweet little girl then proceeded to start what could have been a giant tantrum in the middle of the women's locker room.

I was quick the empathize - I know how nervous she was about getting the dress on over her head - but I also asked her what her solution would be. This is something that is new for me - I usually swoop in with my own solutions because I want to help. She said she didn't know so I told her that was fine, I would finish helping her sister and then check back. I did just that. When I again asked her if she had a solution, she said no again. So, I said I would go get her little brother out of the childcare and come back to check again. We followed this pattern for about five more minutes. She wasn't screaming, just thinking.

At some point she decided to just try putting the dress on herself - and it worked. She was so proud of herself! It was a great moment. In the past I would have just pulled the dress on myself. She would have been screaming, I would have been frustrated and embarrassed - not a good time. This was so much better - and taught her (and me) some good life lessons. Not bad for a few minutes in a locker room.

I am super excited to use Love and Logic in my classroom because this will be my first time in three years getting to start the school year with my class. I was hired late last year (October) and it was the hardest year! It was a combination of the chemistry of the kids and my lack of a plan. I had never taught "challenging" students before so I wasn't prepared at all. A few of the other teachers tried to help me, but their styles were very authoritarian and that just isn't me at all.

Don't get me wrong, there were tons of things I loved about last year, but I feel like I could have handled situations better. I feel really empowered going into this school year with such a strong classroom management plan.

Plus - I think that it will really fit in with some of the other programs I am looking to implement next year like Daily 5 and focusing on showing our thinking.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Daily 5 for Fourth Grade

I just finished reading The Daily Five by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, and I must say it is amazing! I was so excited reading it - I could just picture my busy classroom :).

Parts of the Daily Five are definitely designed for younger students - for example, a lot of fourth graders would not find it necessary to spend 30 minutes reading the pictures of a book. However, a lot of the ideas are good for any age (as they continually pointed out in the book).

I am planning on using Daily Five in my classroom with just a couple of tweaks. We are definitely going to do Read to Self, Read with Someone, and Work on Writing as they are described in the book. I am thinking I will have to somehow combine Work on Writing and Writer's Workshop because I don't think we will have time to do both, but that doesn't seem like a huge change. I will just do the mini-lessons for Writer's Workshop during the Daily Five group meeting time.

I will be doing my own version of Word Work and Listen to Someone Read. For Word Work we will have two focuses - vocabulary and spelling. My students will be using Greek and Latin Roots to build their vocabularies (I have a complete school year set of these in my TpT store). I will have different activities for them to practice their five roots for the week, plus review of older roots here and there. Spelling is harder - I really like the idea of using clay, stamps, etc... to practice spelling, but I am not sure if this is too young for fourth graders... Help from experienced fourth grade teachers would be much appreciated!

I will still have students Listen to Someone Read, but I think I will limit it to once a week. There are few things better than relaxing and listening to a good book, but every day seems like a bit much. Instead, four days a week I am going to have my students work on comprehension. This has been the area I have seen the most improvement in with my middle school students. It is just one of those things that needs to be practiced a lot and most kids don't take the time to practice. I have lots of reading passages with comprehension questions at my TpT store as well. I plan on spending lots of time reading good fourth grade books this summer. Then I can jot down questions for each chapter so students can test themselves on the books they are reading. Finally, I have a free nonfiction reading passage note organizer that students can use at this stations as well.

I will definitely post pictures as I set up my classroom in late August :).

Things I still need to get...
chimes - to signal the class to stop, look, and listen
organizers for Word Work and Reading Comprehension Materials
anchor charts (prepared for work in class)

I still have a lot to do, but it feels good to know that I at least have a framework for a big chunk of my day.

Monday, July 1, 2013

My Favorite Place

If I wasn't a teacher I would definitely be a librarian! How fun to get to be with all those books all day!

If you can't tell, I was at one of my favorite places today - the library. I needed to get started reading books so I can make good recommendations for my new fourth grade students next fall. Unfortunately, everyone is super excited about summer reading and lots of the books I was looking for were gone :(. Sad for me, good for the kids!

Don't worry, I still found lots to read including several teacher books which I will be blogging about soon.

Yes, I am that crazy woman at the library who balances two giant stacks of books because I always forget my bag and find way more books than I can carry. (Notice the Princess and the Frog book? That is for my daughters who are both learning to read - I cannot even describe how excited I am about this! We are reading Ramona books at bedtime and I am in heaven - I still remember reading Ramona myself when I was little.)

So, my question for all intermediate elementary teachers - what books should I read this summer to get ready for a class full of young readers? Girls, boys, readers, reluctant readers, etc... I want something for everyone! Thanks so much!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Big News!

Okay, a little backstory here... Two years ago my husband and I (and our sweet little daughters) were living up near Seattle. I was teaching at my first teaching job and he was working for a financial firm. In April of that year my husband was offered a job at another financial firm. It was a big jump up - more money, less stress, etc... The only catch was that the job was down in Vancouver, WA, and he would need to start immediately. The job was too good to pass up so put everything we owned in storage, packed up him and the girls, and off they went to Vancouver. Luckily, my husband's parents live in Vancouver so they were able to stay with grandparents. I stayed in Seattle to finish the school year - it was a really hard month. Oh, did I mention I was about eight months pregnant?!

Fast forward to now. We have been living in Vancouver for two years and things have been going great. Great except for one thing - I wasn't able to find a full-time teaching position anywhere. I worked as a long-term substitute and took a very part-time position, both in middle school. Ever since I began pursuing teaching I have wanted to teach in elementary school - full-time in elementary school.

I felt trapped - like I was never going to find a school "home". Plus, time was running out. I wanted desperately to teach at the school my children attended, but I didn't want to move them from school to school either. My oldest starts kindergarten in the fall and I was feeling the pressure to get settled fast.

Well, this story has a happy ending! Last week I was hired as a 4th grade teacher at an amazing local elementary school! It is literally one of the best elementary schools in the entire county. It also happens to be about three minutes from my husband's office. (I keep pushing the idea of carpooling next year :)) I just can't stop smiling - I am so excited!!

Okay, I am 100% thrilled, but a small part of me is totally freaked out too. It is overwhelming to think about everything I have to do to get ready for the year. Even more so because I can't do a lot until I meet with the teacher I am replacing (then I can pepper her with all my OCD questions). I think about every other thought in my head lately is my future classroom, students, or curriculum. Luckily, everyone has been very patient with me.

I have been reading lots of fourth grade blogs trying to get ideas and I have been blown away by is Fourth Grade Studio. I love the way she challenges her kids to problem solve and think deeply. This has me busily planning for things to do in my own class.

One idea for my classroom I came up with today is the "Helper Sheet". On one of the first days of school we will all complete the "Helper Sheets" in class. The sheets have a place to list both things the person is good at and things the person struggles with at the moment. My idea with these sheets is that it will give students an opportunity to think about what they understand and what they don't, they will show students who to ask for help if necessary, and they will also show that everyone struggles with something and that is okay!

Students will be able to update them as often as they like, but I will probably use it as a class exercise about once a month. This will give every student a chance to shine and keep students thinking about what they need focus on during class.

Since I made the worksheet for my own class I decided I might as well share it on TpT. It is up as a free resource (it is really just one page). I hope you enjoy it! I would also love to hear if you use it in your classroom or similar things you have done in your classroom.

Oh - you may have also noticed the dot border. I looked all over TpT for something like this (something kids could color/decorate so I don't have to use color printing, but it can still be colorful) and I couldn't find it. So, I made my own. I will be posting it as another free product soon :).

Monday, June 24, 2013

Disneyland Reading Passage

I finally wrote a reading passage on one of my favorite subjects - Disneyland! It includes the reading passage and one page of multiple choice/short answer questions.


New Alphabet and Number Practice - Free Today!

I have a new product up for preschool/kindergarten students! Kids use "tokens" with letters and numbers on them to complete different activity mats. There are nine different tokens - one to fit each month of the school year. Watch the video below for a preview :).

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Science "Memory" Book

So, I just found out that my experiment kit will be collected on Monday. School doesn't get out for two more weeks and I had experiments planned up until the last couple of days. Well, that plan is out the window!

I started thinking about how inspiring it would be for the kids to reflect on everything they have learned this year (instead of doing experiments) next week. Then I got the idea to make a picture book - like kids do in elementary school. Each page would be about a topic we covered this year and would include a place for a picture and a very short writing prompt. I am hoping that this will be fun and silly enough that the kids will be motivated to do it on their own.

While we have fun with it next week, it could also serve as an important tool for them next year. I am not sure about the logistics of storing the books for them over the summer since I won't be coming back next year, but somehow I want to keep the books for them so that next year they can use them as a reference. We cover a lot of similar material in 7th and 8th grade and I think the books would be a great way to jog students' memories quickly.

I went ahead and made the book tonight so I can get it printed up in plenty of time for school next week. In my opinion it looks pretty awesome. I am excited to share it on Teachers pay Teachers and Teacher's Notebook, but it is very specific to my school. As a result I am making it a freebie and leaving it as a PowerPoint so that teachers can edit as necessary.

I am going to bed tonight, but look for it in the next couple of days.

Video Previews on TpT

It is important to have good previews for your products on TpT, but it is also important not to give away too much for free.

I started just putting "Preview" on my pages for a preview, but discovered that it is pretty easy for people to convert the file and take the "Preview" off. I don't know if people are actually doing this or not, but I like to try to help people be honest.

Some sellers create the collages with Picasa so that buyers can see all of the pages in the product. I have tried this to, but it just didn't work for me. It would take me forever to arrange the pages and it just never looked right. Plus, it was hard to see what was on each page.

Finally, I came up with a solution. I create all of my products using Power Point - it is so much easier to move pictures and text boxes around! When I am ready to make a preview I simply record my slide show. Each page is shown for a second or two. I then save the file as a .wmv file and it is a movie. Buyers can see every page in extreme detail, but can't grab any of the pages. Plus, as a bonus, it is easy to do!

Here is the preview of my Word Family Practice -am Words:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Word Family -at Words Now Up

It is free for the rest of the night! Get flashcards, worksheets, and an assessment all for reading -at words. A great early reading resource for preschool, kindergarten and at home!

Plus, check out the preview! I made a video of each page so you can see exactly what you will get! I will be featuring how I did this on another blog post.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Two New Products - Free for Followers Until Tomorrow

I have been busy working this holiday weekend and I have two new products up.

I created this packet for my daughters who are leaning to read. It includes flashcards, worksheets, reading practice, and an assessment for the -an word family. More word families to come!

On the other end of the spectrum, I have been polishing up some Civil War products that I have been working on for middle and high school. Ken Burns Civil War is amazing and these questions will help your students stay engaged with the material - it can be a little overwhelming without a guide.
Episode 6 of the Ken Burns Civil War documentary covers Grant and Lee, the battles between the two generals, and Sherman's march for Atlanta.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What To Do When Kids Go Crazy?

Okay, I really need an answer to this question. Today my students were just cranky! They kept arguing with each other. Plus, we had a substitute principal who wasn't following the usual school plan. We send kids to an administrator pretty often (at least with my students). This is the way it works at this school. Well, I had a boy yell out an answer to a quiz. This is the second time he has done this so I sent him down to talk to an administrator. The substitute principal sent him right back to class without even talking about why that was so inappropriate. (The quiz was just three questions so I had to have the entire class throw away their quizzes and we will try again tomorrow.)

Once I got this student back after about 30 seconds I realized I that the standard protocols for the day were out the window. I kept hauling kids into the hallway to have a "talk". While the kids I pulled out would simmer down another kid would start mouthing off. I thought I was going to lose my mind!

In the school I worked at last year we had buddy rooms - we would send kids having trouble working to another classroom to fill out a reflection form. I liked this because it was much quicker than going to the principal's office, but still got the kid out of the room so he/she could refocus.

So, here is the question. When everything is crazy what do you do to keep your students working?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Organizational Linky Party

Okay, I am not participating in this linky party - but it is just too good not to share! There are some amazing organizational ideas shared in this linky party. I have been following links for over an hour now.

This year I was hired late and am sharing a classroom so I don't really have a good organizational system except trying to stay out of the way. I can't wait to get a call about a job for next year - mostly so I can start planning my classroom and setting up my binders! Oh, how I love binders!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cheap and Effective Summer School

Kids and teachers alike can't wait for school to end this year. No more setting the alarm, riding the smelly bus, or similarly smelly cafeteria food.

However, for low-income students the end of school means falling either further behind their peers. Studies have shown that every summer many low-income students fall up to three months behind their wealthier counterparts. This means that when school starts again in the fall these students will struggle significantly. That is because they are not just three months behind - those three months compound every summer so by the time they reach high school low-income students can be three years behind their peers.

In order to combat this summer slide school districts often offer summer school. Summer school can be quite expensive - an estimated cost of $3000 per student. In a perfect world cost would not matter and every student who needed help would have access to a summer school program. We, however, do not live in a perfect world and many districts are cutting summer school programs to save money.

In Florida two researchers piloted a program to both prevent summer slide and save districts money. Instead of enrolling students in summer school they gave students 12 brand new books - selected by the students. Their early results showed that the students who were given the books showed the same gains as students enrolled in summer school. As of 2010 the program had also been used in Georgia and South Carolina.

It turns out that all kids need to read at home are books. As hard as it is to imagine in households full of books, many low-income families have no books in the house. The public library isn't always a good option for families with transportation issues or parents who work long hours. Giving books to children who otherwise don't have access to them is a powerful way to get children reading.

I used this idea two years ago to start a Million Minute Challenge. Our students were struggling on the reading portion of the MSP and I spent many days and nights thinking about how to reverse this trend. All of the research pointed to more minutes reading. To get our students reading obscene amounts for the last half of the year I ran the Million Minute Challenge - our students would read one million minutes in a little less than six months. This wasn't a large school - one class per grade - so this was a lot of reading. We ran weekly contests, had incentives like extra recess, and gave away lots of books.

Unfortunately, the school did not make the Million Minute Challenge. However, the students did show impressive gains on the reading MSP (Washington's yearly standardized test). It also turned out to be a positive because the school extended the challenge over the summer and had a big party when the students got back to school in September having read more than a million minutes.

I really believe in the sending books home program. I have seen it work with my own eyes.

Click here for the original article.

The Myth of the Tiger Mom

Amy Chua's book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, sparked lots of controversy last year. She argued that her style of parenting - putting incredibly high expectations on her children, limiting social activities, and hours of forced practice on musical instruments, created "better" or higher achieving children than typical parents. Some lauded Chua's book and her findings while others equated her tactics with child abuse.

Despite the conclusions reached by both sides of the argument, up to this point there was no meaningful data to support either side. Now, we have that data. Su Yeong Kim, an associate professor at the University of Texas, was already in the middle of a study of 300 Asian-American families when Chua's book was published. Kim's study is now concluded and she has some surprising results.

Scientists have been studying parenting styles for years, but most of these studies were focused on white American families. Scientists used the data from these studies to classify three different parenting types: permissive, authoritative, and authoritarian. Permissive parents are characterized by lots of warmth, but little structure. Authoritarian parents showed high levels of demandingness and low levels of warmth. Authoritative parents used a combination of warmth, openness and structure. The authoritative parents have been shown time and time again to produce the highest-achieving and most well-adjusted children. Authoritarian parents can produce high-achieving children, but they often struggle with low self-esteem and depression.

Kim was trying to discover what type of parenting style was effective in Asian-American families. In order to do this effective Kim slightly tweaked the traditional parenting style categories and even added one. "Supportive" parents were rated high on warmth and low on control (like permissive parents). "Easygoing" parents scored low on both warmth and control, "harsh" parents were low on warmth and high on control, and "tiger" parents (a term Kim borrowed from Chua) were high both in warmth and control.

After compiling the data, Kim found that the most successful children (measured by academic achievement and several other more subjective factors such as depressive symptoms) were raised by easygoing and supportive parents. Children of harsh and tiger parents had lower GPAs and a higher incidence of low self-esteem and depression.

It turns out that effective parenting looks similar no matter what a family's origins.

You can view the original article found in The Columbian here.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Blogger MIA

I know I have been MIA for a while. The end of the year, trying to find a position for next year, three kids under five... Pick an excuse. Lately by 8 I am knocked out and under the covers - not a great way to blog :).

Here is one thing I have managed to do... watch three seasons of Downton Abbey. It was a lot of work, but I did it. I fought watching it for a long time, despite how many people raved about it. I will say it took me about two episodes to get completely hooked. I started watching it with my husband, but couldn't wait for him and ended up watching all three seasons. Now he won't let me tell him what happened and I have no one to talk about it with! If you haven't watched yet you can get Season 1 on Netflix, Season 2 on Hulu Plus, and all three seasons on Amazon - if you are an Amazon Prime customer all three seasons are free to watch on Instant Video - otherwise it is $14.99 to download.

On the job front things are looking good. I have an interview with a local school district on Friday. The district doesn't interview for specific positions so I am a little curious about where that could lead. I am also hoping to get interviews for a few other elementary positions in other school districts around the area. Right now I am definitely feeling overwhelmed by all the unknowns for next year! We are looking to buy a house wherever I get hired, but can't really get looking until I get hired somewhere. Also, my oldest daughter starts kindergarten next fall, but we can't register yet because we don't know where we are living. All I need is a position and then I will be one busy lady getting everything else set up.

I am working on a few things for TpT - focused on elementary school since I am hoping I will need these things next year. Watch Facebook for announcements that I have new products - everything is free for the first 24 hours!

Thanks for checking in - I will try to get more posts out this week. I always have lots on my mind to share!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

End of the Year - Blog Hop

Welcome to the Calming the Chaos Blog Hop hosted by 2peasandadog.
All of us bloggers have come together to share our top tips for making the last month of school run smoothly. Visit each of our blogs to learn something new and catch a freebie or two!
Happy Hopping
I definitely have a love/hate relationship with the end of the school year. Of course I love the sunny weather and who can't use a break by June?! However, I hate how the academic push ends in May. Ideally, I would have my kids working hard and learning new things until the very last day of school. (I know, I am such a mean teacher!)

Unfortunately, with standardized testing happening in early May, kids (and some teachers) don't see the point in working hard into June.

I have been reading a really interesting book called Crazy Like a Fox about a principal who took over a failing charter school in California. In order to get his struggling students to achieve he used a lot of new policies and procedures - some more controversial than others.

I was really excited about one of his ideas in particular. His teachers got an entire year of academics into the space between September and state testing. This was beneficial to the kids because they had seen every topic that would appear on the state test.

After the state test the school didn't slow down at all. Instead, they began the work for the next year. As a kid I would have been so excited about becoming a 6th grader (or 7th grader etc...) early.

I won't be using this idea this year because I am teaching 7th grade science (no state test and no clear differentiation between 7th grade and 8th grade work), but if I am lucky enough to get into an elementary classroom next year this is definitely something I will try to integrate.
Blog Hop Participants
Check out this Great Giveaway!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Powerful Math Manipulatives

I am a very lucky mom! My daughters both love all things school (except the nap required at their preschool). My youngest daughter, 3, especially loves math. Math is like dessert to her. I have actually said the words, "You may only do math after you have picked up your toys."

We have used a variety of manipulatives to help both of my daughters understand math. My husband started "jelly bean math" when they were very young - maybe that is why they love math so much :).

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about what makes us love things like Disneyland and Cirque du Soleil so much. I have decided that, for me, it has to do with the attention to detail. The creators of these entities immerse their customers in an entire perfect world. This is the kind of detail that I want for my own classroom and lessons - at least a goal.

With this in mind I made some very cute math manipulatives for my daughters. Instead of just using whatever I could find laying around (something I have done many times) I really invested in something that would be visually appealing and representative of the world I want them to experience while learning.

It has worked out quite well. Watch the video below of my youngest daughter, Natalie doing some addition.

In addition to being great for math, we also use these manipulatives for early word practice. I will upload a video when my daughters are in the mood to be filmed again :).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Totally Unrelated to School - Child Modeling

I am posting this because when I went looking for information on going on an audition for child modeling I couldn't find anything helpful. Also, I know that people have strong opinions on child modeling - this is not a post on the pros and cons of child modeling.

My oldest daughter has been signed up with a modeling agency since she was about 9 months old. She was an adorable baby (of course - every baby is adorable) and she had a very sweet temperament that made taking cute pictures easy. We signed up with an agency that did not require any money upfront and that did not require professional head shots. (Zero investment on our part.)

For five years I have continually updated her "portfolio" - sending in new pictures as she changed. Not once in this time did we even get a call for an audition.

Well, finally we did! She was invited to audition for a local clothing company in Seattle. We lived in Seattle when we signed her up with the agency and have since moved to Vancouver. We decided to go for it and make the long drive (and spend a little time with grandma and grandpa).

The problem was - I had no idea what to expect. I was completely clueless as what to do and what to tell my daughter to do. So, for any parents who just got the call for their child's first audition here is what happened next...

I dressed my daughter in a brand new sundress with shoes that were relatively new looking (I did read about the importance of good shoes on a blog about child modeling auditions). Overall, she was looking her very best. Although she was wearing no make-up or jewelry (something required by the company).

At the audition I was surprised to see that most of the other kids were just in jeans and t-shirts. They weren't concerned about what they were wearing because most of the pictures were being taken of the kids wearing the sample clothes (lots of moms pulling clothes on and off their kids). I don't think that this is the case with some auditions, but this is what happened for us.

My daughter tried on about 20 different outfits. Each time she got something on she would stand in line for a turn with the photographer. She would then stand in front of a white sheet backdrop and smile (just like a school picture).

When she had tried on everything in her size they excused us to leave.

At the request of the agency we brought "head shots" (8x10s of her school picture copied at Kinkos) and a "resume" (a list of the classes she had taken - ballet and gymnastics). We did notice that many of the kids had professional photos and long resumes, but I didn't get the impression that it was that important.

I hope that this was helpful - I hate not knowing what to expect in a new situation.

I will say that my daughter had a lot of fun and she is still young enough to not really understand (or care) about getting the job or not. To her, today was a crazy game of dress-up and that is just fine with me :).

Sunday, April 21, 2013

New Product - Review Video

My new product is a little different. It is a video (using PowerPoint) to help students independently review the rock cycle. I have had many students in my class that just don't understand the rock cycle, but I can't keep reteaching a handful of kids while the rest wait around.

The beauty of the video is that they can watch it anywhere. I have quite a few students with limited access to technology other than a phone and this video plays beautifully on a phone.

I even included two versions of a quiz on the rock cycle to help teachers continue to assess student learning about the rock cycle.

This format is new for me so I am excited and anxious about it!

The video and quiz set are free on TpT for 24 hours so snap it up and let me know what you think.

Friday, April 12, 2013

First post on iPhone

I am sad to say that I wasn't that surprised by the cheating scandal to come out of Atlanta. It seems that any time a school district makes amazing progress a scandal is sure to follow.

My question is why. Why can't we seem to figure out how to educate our children?

I know a lot of people are talking about the evils of high stakes standardized testing, but I really don't think low test scores are the problem - they are just a symptom.

I realize that as a teacher I am supposed to hate state testing, but I don't. I realize that it may not be the best way to assess all students, but it does give us a picture of how are students are progressing. A kid that knows their stuff will do fine on a state test ( I do realize there are some people who are just bad test takers, but I do believe they are the exception and their data should be easy to spot.)

I do not believe schools and teachers should be expected to get every student passing a standardized test. That just doesn't make sense when kids are coming in and out of classrooms so often (I have had at least 15 changes to my class roster in the past five months alone) standardized tests work for showing how much progress a student has made in a year, but if you have been the child's teacher for a month how can you be held responsible for an entire year?

2nd Grade Common Core: Language

I am working on a new Common Core set - 2nd grade language. I have already listed the first piece on TpT (Collective Nouns).

I don't know about you, but I like to have everything ready to go to teach and assess a standard. With these products you get several different types of practice and  two different assessments to measure student learning.

These would be especially helpful in states currently adopting Common Core since (at least at my school) we are moving to Common Core, but don't have any materials designed around the standards yet.

First three comments get Collective Nouns free! (Although it is based on a 2nd grade standard it would be helpful in older grades as well - even middle school students need some practice with collective nouns.)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Awesome Lesson Today!

I had the best class today! We did my workshop lesson on landforms and everything went perfectly. I had all of the students engaged and excited about the topic. (I even had some kids ready to fight over our discussion of how certain landforms formed. - Fighting is not good, but it was great to see them so passionate about science!)

This lesson (and the other workshop lessons we have been doing) have gone exactly as I pictured when I created them. The idea is that I give the kids the basic information during the mini-lesson then I have them do something with it during the workshop time.

In this lesson we went over the pertinent vocabulary together then I gave them nine color foldables showing pictures of different landforms (two important things: (1) color is expensive, but it is worth it here and (2) if you can, cut out the foldables before class or you will lose them as they cut them out and chat with their friends). They then had to use a list we created together to determine what each landform was called.

The next step was to categorize the landforms by how they are formed (tectonic activty and deposition (building up) or weathering and erosion (tearing down)). This was were it got quite heated in our classroom.

Some of my normal troublemakers in class were my most passionate debaters today. I think this is because the lesson was very tactile - moving pieces around etc... and the information was accessible to them. They didn't have to find the information in the book and then classify it.

I realize that reading is very important, but sometimes it blocks my struggling students from accessing the material. I do have many workshop lessons that involve reading, but I try to chunk the readings so the kids aren't dealing with more than one idea at a time. (I will post how these lessons go later.)

Anyway, to celebrate my success I am making my Landforms Workshop Lesson free on TpT and TN all night long - yep, today was that amazing! (Okay, TN wouldn't let me list it for free without completely relisting the product so I changed the price to $.25.) I will run a giveaway too or, if you really want it free, just head over to TpT.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Free for Today - "4 Types of Fossils"

 Get my latest product, 4 Types of Fossils, completely free today! Just click on the title to visit the dropbox location with the link to the .pdf and .pptx files. Enjoy! (If you need more Earth History materials visit my store at Teachers pay Teachers or Teacher's Notebook.)

Mother's Day Linky Party

One of our fabulous sellers on TpT is having a baby any day! Being a TpT seller, of course her first thing on the list is throw a linky party :). So far there are lots of Mother's Day activities there, but I posted by Kindergarten Common Core Set (practice for almost every single kindergarten common core standard).

Click the picture to visit the Linky Party! (Plus, there is still time to link up!)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Workshop Model

My school uses the workshop model in classes. We also have a problem of practice that states that the students will be doing the majority of the reading, writing and speaking in class.

Well, this is great in theory, but what if your kids aren't ready for it? I have some kids who can't really read the textbook. They can read it, but they don't understand it. I had a meeting with my principal about this fact - that my kids can't function independently yet and I think we came up with some good solutions.

Instead of running one workshop per period (like most of the other classes in the school) - I will start running two short workshops. This way I can focus on one simple idea for each workshop and give the kids a little bit of time to work with that idea independently, but cut down on the amount of independent reading they have to do during the workshop time. We will still be reading, but when you have a tiny section planned and do some of it together in a mini-lesson it doesn't seem as daunting to my struggling readers. It is also easier for them because all of the reading will be on one topic instead of a few different topics that require them to mentally shift gears.

I have also come up with the idea of assessing my students after each mini-lesson. Just a short quiz that should take less than five minutes. The important part of this is that students will know how they are doing on a subject right away. Once students have a good picture of how they are performing they might be more motivated to work harder or go back and relearn material they didn't understand before a test. I know some kids won't do this, but I do think some will.

The bottom line is that this kids need to learn how to be students. I am hoping these changes will help them figure that out so they can be successful in all of their classes. I do think that these kids who struggle would do a lot better in a self-contained classroom. The consistency and structure would help them a lot since it seems like they lose their minds every time the bell to switch classes rings.

Do you have an idea to help kids learn how to be students? Please share!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mapping the Human Brain

President Obama announced earlier this week that he wanted to spend 100 million dollars to begin mapping the human brain. This money would just get the project started - it would take millions more dollars and most likely decades to complete the project. That is because there are approximately 100 billion nerve cells in the brain - that is as many stars as there are in the Milky Way Galaxy. In addition to all of the cells there are all of the connections between them - over 1 trillion connections. One brain cell can have as many as 10,00o connections.

Our brains are amazing and probably hold a lot of information that would be helpful to know, but part of the problem is that scientists don't know exactly what they are looking for yet. That is what happens when we explore new things.

Crazy Like a Fox?

Today I just finished reading Ben Chavis' book, Crazy Like a Fox. It describes how he, as principal, took the failing charter school (American Indian Charter School) and turned it into the top charter school in California.

It was a really fun book to read. I am always interesting in hearing about what is working in education and based on test scores, what Chavis was doing was working. Not all of his methods were politically correct or even popular, but he was able to get results.

American Indian Charter School is a middle school - which we all know is a tough time for kids.

Here are some things that I really liked about Chavis' educational model...

He used self-contained classrooms so that the same teacher taught every subject. I really like this idea because (1) you become a family as a class, (2) you don't waste time moving kids around from room to room, (3) kids can't get away with a lot of the junk they pull at other schools because the same teacher is always watching them, and (4) I love all of the subjects equally and I would love to be able to explore them with my students.

He corrected student behavior with logical consequences. For example, giving detentions (more school) when students were late to school or skipped school. It has never made sense to me that we punish kids by keeping them out of school. I also liked that he would have students do manual labor. Everyone helped out a little bit to keep the school clean and tidy, but those students who didn't want to work on academics were given manual labor to do - the kinds of jobs they would have if they didn't get a good education. The kids figured out pretty fast that it is a lot easier to sit in a desk and work than mop floors and clean toilets.

He created a culture at the school that accepted nothing less than excellence. There are too many excuses today in education - bad parents, not enough time, not enough money... I really like that at AICS no excuses were made - everyone just got to work.

I was about to make a list of things I didn't like about the school, but there was really only one thing I didn't like at that is the public humiliation. Yes, Chavis advocates humiliating students to get results if that is what it takes. Maybe I am a soft-hearted liberal (like the ones who run so many failing schools), but I just couldn't humiliate a kid. I feel so much empathy for them - I remember what I life was like at 13. I was so insecure without someone berating me.

Of course I do come from a middle class white family with lots of parental support. Chavis makes the point to say that humiliation works with the minority student he works with in Oakland. This could be a cultural thing. Plus, if I tried everything I could to get a student to stop being a fool then I would rather humiliate them than see them get killed doing something stupid...

Anyway, as I said I just finished reading this book today. After finishing it I went online to find out more about the school and educational model. (Chavis opened three more schools using the same American Indian Model of Education.) What do I find? Just a couple of weeks ago the Oakland school board decided to close three of the AIM schools.

The decision to close the schools was based on alleged financial impropriety by Ben Chavis. He paid himself, his wife, and companies he owned significant amounts of the school's money. He is also currently a landlord for one of the schools.

I didn't get a lot of details about what was wrong with these transactions, although hiring your wife as a "consultant" does seem a bit fishy to me.

What hit me was that many schools and educators that have amazing results, like American Indian Charter School, end up scandalized. I don't have to think too far back to remember Michelle Rhee and the cheating scandal that followed her from Washington D.C. Are these people really unethical or are they targeted because they are so successful despite going against traditional educational institutions? Maybe both.

It would just be nice, for once, to have an educational leader who finds a way to educate students effectively without any baggage. Is that too much to ask?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Teachers pay Teachers for Parents?

I am wondering if anyone has tried marketing some of their products to parents. I know that some products just don't make sense to market to parents, but some would be very helpful to parents and kids.

I wanted to test this theory out so I am putting some of my products on Amazon as "books". I realize that they are perhaps priced high as books (my novel is selling for just 99 cents right now), but I didn't want to have a lower price than on TpT or Teacher's Notebook.

If you have marketed to families I would love to hear what you tried and how it worked.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Mini Workshops

I had a very productive talk with my principal last week about designing mini workshops for my students. I have a very interesting class that gets "lost" easily. They have made amazing progress, but use me as a crutch - so if I am not there they don't work.

The idea behind these mini workshops, at least as I understand it, is to teach just one concept at a time. So I will be introducing information to the students in steps. When they work they will only be working around one idea. The ideas will build on each other and we will end up in the same place as the other science classes at the end of the unit.

I really like this idea. I think it will help some of my students who lack confidence in their abilities. I also have a class with a lot of weak readers so focusing on one idea at a time will significantly decrease the amount of reading they will have to do at one time to access the material.

Another issue I am currently dealing with in my class is absenteeism. This was especially bad the week before Spring Break. Kids use being absent as an excuse not to do work (one of their many excuses for not doing work). Well, I don't have time to go back and reteach every time a person is absent. I have started using Edmodo to give quizzes so that students can take them from home if necessary. I have also started posting what we are doing in class every day and an alternate assignment for any students who are absent.

I have wrapped all of these ideas into my latest products. These are lessons that I am writing anyway for my own classes, but I was so excited I just had to share them. Everything you need to teach these very simple one idea lessons is included in the product. I even include a reading passage and question set for re-teaching students who don't pass the included assessments or for students who are absent and missed the workshop in class.

Available at Teachers pay Teachers


Available at Teacher's Notebook

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spring Sale - 20% Off at TpT

I wanted to celebrate Spring and this wonderful weather in the Northwest so everything in my store at TpT is 20% off! Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mr. Parr is Awesome!

Someone pinned Mr. Parr's song/video on the different types of rocks on Pinterest a couple of weeks ago. I saved it because we were about to start a unit on rocks. It is so awesome - perfect for kids because it is fun and includes all the information they have been learning.

Anyway, I just checked out his You Tube channel and he has songs on tons of different science topics. Plus, if you need something and can't find it you can send him your notes on a topic and he will try to make a song for you! That is incredible!

I really wish I was talented and creative like this, but I'm just not. Lucky for my kids, I look on Pinterest a lot :).

Thank you, Mr. Parr!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Kindergarten Common Core Math - Newest Product

My newest product is up!

This is a product I designed especially for my own adorable (most of the time) daughters. We are working on kindergarten math at home, but we have raced through the book I bought for them. When I went to get another book I was shocked that it was $30 at the teacher store!

I decided to try my hand at making the worksheets for them and it was actually pretty fun. I have always been a little bit afraid of working with the really little kids (except my own), but I may be reconsidering...

Anyway - the product has 50 worksheets that cover most of the kindergarten common core math standards. I even included an answer page for each worksheet so that kids could check their own work. The preview has a few of the worksheets as a sampling of what you will get for your money.

I will also be giving away copies to the first three comments on my Facebook post about the new product. (I would do it here, but then people have to leave e-mail addresses and it just gets complicated. On Facebook I can just send it in a message.)

It is also up at Teacher's Notebook.

Close Readings

Today we had another class in a series of professional development classes aimed at preparing us for the transition to common core. This one was on close readings.

The idea behind close readings is that students read the text more than once and really focus on what the author is trying to say. This would include looking at specific word choices, sentence structure, text details, etc... In this way the students interact very deeply with the text.

It was a very interesting lesson and I really enjoyed talking about the sample text with my small group.

The next part of the lesson was a little more frustrating. We were sent into our PLCs to create a close reading lesson using a text for one of our classes. Now, I don't know about your science textbooks, but ours are definitely lacking the "meat" that is necessary for a productive close read. That leaves supplemental texts, but none of the other teachers in my PLC had any supplemental texts. We were a little bit stuck. (I realize we could have easily started searching online, but it is a long story - don't get me started.)

So, for any middle school (or high school) teachers out there. What supplemental texts do you use in your classroom? We are studying rocks/Earth history right now, but any topic would be helpful.

Where do you find really good science writing?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lap Books and Foldables

Now here is something I am a little bit embarrassed to admit. Until today I did not understand the appeal of foldables at all. I thought it was just a gimmick for elementary teachers - not something I would ever use in my middle school classroom. (As everyone knows middle schoolers are basically grown ups and remember everything I say during class perfectly because they understand how important it is.)

Well, that all changed today. I needed a fairly simple lab to run a lab practical for my students so I was browsing on TpT. I found a perfect lab (Lab Tomato Race Student Design), but it was only $1! I definitely would have paid $3 for it. Anyway, I needed to get over the $3 mark in order to get the lab so I was browsing for products relating to rocks and minerals (our next topic).

I happened across Rocks and Minerals Lap Books and Foldables by Life on the Fourth Floor and I just thought it was the coolest thing ever. She even has a link to her product that describes how to make Lap Books and Foldables which was really helpful as well.

Now I am addicted to making foldables :) (Yes, addictions can come on within just an hour or two of first exposure.) I really think that my students are going to be more engaged in class and they might actually go back through their notebooks if they are full of these fun foldables.

I was already planning on doing more pasting into our notebooks (their handwriting is for the most part awful) and I think this will add even more fun to the process.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Unmotivated Students

Today was a really hard day. We have a big test coming up - the last one of the trimester - so I set aside a big chunk of time for kids to review for the test. I gave them a couple of worksheets to use as a guide and then split them up into teams. At the end of the class we were going to have a team game for points and prizes. I thought this would motivate them to work hard and make sure they really knew the material (you know, prizes or the big test they have on Friday).

Did it work? Not at all. As soon as kids finished the worksheet they immediately began wandering around the room, talking to friends, etc... I was constantly redirecting students, but it was like playing whack-a-mole. I told them today that this obviously wasn't working and we would do something much less fun tomorrow.

My frustration is that I can't will these kids into succeeding. I am doing everything I can think of to show them that they are smart and capable, and they are doing everything to show me that they could care less about school.

What I hate most of all is that when I have a day like today it totally affects my own sweet children at home. I feel worn out by the day and have no more patience. This puts my kids on edge and before you know it someone is crying.

I have been researching how to motivate unmotivated kids and all of the ideas sound good on paper, but implementing them in my classroom seems impossible. Maybe this is because I am not a good enough teacher, but I have 27 kids in my class and probably 20 of them are on a 504 plan for some version of ADD. If I am not literally standing over some of these kids they start making trouble.

They have gotten much better. If I give them an assignment that is doable for them they will sit and work on it, but the minute they feel they have some choice they always choose to disrupt others. This includes any assignments with the tiniest bit of freedom or choice.

Today was one of the few days I have really fantasized about quitting and never having to see my class again...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

State Testing Resources

State testing is just around the corner (at least in Washington State) and I thought it would be a good time to start compiling resources to help prepare students for the test. One of the reasons I have so many reading passages in my TpT store is that I can never find enough quality reading passages (let alone reading passages with appropriate question types) to give my students the kind of practice they need. (In addition to helping with the state testing these passages also help to teach reading comprehension which is difficult even for middle schoolers.)

Have you developed something that is helpful in prepping students for state testing? If so, please share it here!

Thank you in advance!

The Preschool Investment

While some experts are lauding President Obama's decision to push universal preschool (starting with children living at double the poverty line or less), others question his assertion that there will be a $7 savings for every $1 spent.

It is true that studies on the subject aren't as conclusive as they first appear. Some of the problems come from the long-term tracking a study like this requires. One study tracked preschool participants until they were 40 years old! There is also the question of what is causing the savings these studies show. It is impossible to completely control for all other factors when dealing with people living in the real world.

Finally, some of the trials were not completely randomized. There may have been many reasons for this. Many preschool programs funded by the state require extensive parental involvement - this would lead specific types of parents to enroll their children in the program. This creates the question of why the children show greater success later in life. Was it the preschool, their involved parents, a combination of both, or something else all together?

At this point it cannot be stated with 100% confidence that preschool programs show a 700% return on the investment. Does this mean we should hold off on universal preschool until we do have the data to prove that they will get this large return? I don't know about you, but that seems pretty ridiculous to me. Even if the preschool programs only produce a $2 savings for every $1 spent - that is a good return on our money. Not to mention the higher quality of life it would bring to both the children in the preschool and the members of the surrounding communities.

What I found most interesting about the Wall Street Journal article on the subject (Economists Study Early Education by The Numbers Guy) was that the program with the highest annual rate of return (of the four programs included in the article) was not actually a preschool program. The only program that yielded an annual rate of return of over 20% was one that involved a nurse making home visits to children and their parents from birth to either two or three years old.

This fact illustrates a few things that I strongly believe. First, parents need help. Especially parents who didn't have strong role models growing up. I believe that I did have strong role models, but parenting is still one of the most difficult and frustrating things I have ever done. There are times I just want to scream at my kids. Or lock them out of my room and just stay in bed all day. I do not do these things because I know how harmful they can be. If I had a parent who treated me this way as a child, would I do the same things to my children?

Programs involving home visits with trained nurses are able to break this cycle (in many cases) because they empower parents to make better decisions regarding their children. I believe that every parent desperately wants their own children to be happy and successful, but she (or he) may just not know how to do this. Having help from a professional bridges this gap.

I also believe that there is no one answer to breaking the costly cycle of poverty. The example of the home visits from the nurses shows that children and parents, especially low income children and parents, need support throughout children. Relatively inexpensive programs should be run both before and after preschool.

As a teacher I realize how important I am to my students' futures. While they are in school I am happy to serve as part of a support system. I realize that my job is much bigger than teaching them scientific principles. However, the school day is only 6.5 hours long. I only see my students for a little over an hour a day.

This is just not enough time to give them the support that they need. A strong after school program with passionate adults would fill an important gap for many of the students at my school and my others across the nation. I don't think it matters if a program is academic, athletic, or centered around the arts because the most important skills kids learn from these programs are life skills like discipline, working with others, and respect for both others and themselves.

I often fantasize about opening up a center where newly pregnant mothers can come and learn about prenatal nutrition and how their babies are developing. Families would return when their babies are born and learn how to engage their babies for maximum developmental benefits. Preschool and other classes would be held for older children. Tutors, coaches, and other experts would hold lessons in the center. Eventually kids would get help choosing and applying to their first jobs and college. For their entire life cycle as a parent, individuals could come to the center whenever they needed support. Fully screened volunteers would be available to hold the baby with colic so the mother or father could get a few minutes of much needed relief. Parents could talk to each other about their struggles and realize that they aren't alone.

The problem with this center is that it would never generate any money... but think of the adults it would create.