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!