Sunday, November 30, 2014

Never Enough

As I sit here at m messy kitchen table surrounded by math tests I have just graded, my daughter's homework that is only half done, and the sound of my kids watching a very educational Care Bear movie - okay not so educational - I am thinking about a blog post I read about teachers not having enough. Of anything - money, resources, etc...

What I am really feeling right now is the fact that there is just not enough time. Not enough time to teach the way I wish I could - with individual attention to each students. Not enough time to help my own daughters become excellent readers. Not enough time to work on products for my stores so that someday my husband can stay home and take care of the household. Not even enough time to have everything perfectly ready for tomorrow morning.

Do you ever feel like this? What do you do? Lists? I wish I was a list person, but I just have trouble slowing down to make them - even though I know they would probably help me in the long run. I try to calm down, pick one thing that must be done and do it. The bad part of this is that my list of "must-do" items never seems to get any shorter.

Sometimes I think that I could get more done if I slept less, but I really need sleep. Without a full night sleep, I am worthless. Plus, right now I am getting up about three times a night to nurse an adorable little baby, so I really can't lose sleep - even if that means going to bed at 8:30 when I could be doing something on my never-ending list.

I wish I had some answers about how to solve this problem, but I don't. I guess I am just venting. Plus, I don't know if I would want to teach the way I aspire to. It would take all of my time outside of work. You always hear about people on their deathbeds wishing they had spent more time with their families. Well, I wonder if people who always chose their families felt the opposite? I don't think so, but I do have that fear. Should I be spending more time on work? Am I spending enough time with my family? Balancing the two feels very uncertain and difficult sometimes - way more complicated than just spending more time with my family. Does that make sense?

Well, it looks like I am getting very ramble-y right now. Plus, I have to go pump a few bottles of milk for my little girl at daycare tomorrow (one more thing on my list!), so I will just say goodnight. But if you have this balance thing figured out - please leave a comment and clue me in!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Getting Updated with Bloglovin'

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

I have been on Bloglovin' for a while, but with the shake up I did switching my web address I am making sure it still grabs my most current posts.

Sunday Scoop

So, I actually wrote this post on Tuesday night thinking it was Sunday night. Apparently my brain cannot process a day off in the middle of the week :). But, here it is now.

Now, go check out what other teacher-bloggers are doing this Sunday at the Sunday Scoop Linky Party :)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Classroom Organization - Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts I have done on classroom organization. It is also my first post using the Blogger app - so please be patient with odd formatting.

I had these rainbow drawers last year, but I didn't really know what to do with them. I tried a few different things, but nothing really helped me stay organized. (My poor class last year - they were total guinea pigs!) This summer I got the idea to make them mailboxes for my students. I could use them to return work or pass back all those papers that come from the office.

My plan has been working perfectly. Kids empty their drawers every day before they go home, so everything gets home in a timely manner. I even have kids that fill the drawers for me. The fewer daily tasks I have to deal with the better.

One new item in my classroom is this hanging file organizer. There are actually three of them around the classroom. The rainbow drawers have worked really well for returning work, but how to I give kids work they missed when they were absent or extra practice on a specific skill? Using the rainbow drawers didn't work - the kids would just take everything home and nothing came back. 

I actually looked all over the internet for something like this and couldn't find anything - I think I was using weird search terms. I found a blog post on how to make your own hanging file organizer and went to Office Max to get file folders. Well, what do you know, right across from the file folders was this handy organizer. So much better than I could have made myself!

So far it is working like a dream! Kids come and get work when they need it and nothing is lost as so often happens when I set things on their desks.

My final organization idea for today has to do with Engage New York Math. Our team is using this program for the first time this year, so it is learning time for everyone. A teacher I met from another school told me her team had turned all of the problem set pages into a workbook for their students. Unfortunately, she taught fourth grade, so we couldn't just use hers :(. It didn't take too long and it has been great for keeping the kids organized with their work. Plus, it can travel back and forth to school for homework when necessary. 

Well, that is it for now. Please feel free to share your favorite classroom organization tricks - if you can't tell, it is one of my favorite subjects!

Super Thankful Thread

I am linking up on this beautiful (and cold!) Saturday morning with the Primary Powers for their Super Thankful Thread Linky! Click the picture above to visit the original posting.

This is the perfect linky for me right now! I hate to brag, but I feel so lucky to be living the life I have always dreamed of. This is especially sweet because it took a lot of work and scary choices to get here.

Everything really came together two summers ago when I was hired to teach at an elementary school. We had relocated to Vancouver two years before so my husband could have a more reliable job, and I hadn't been able to find a full-time position in all that time.

I would have taken a job at any elementary school, but I was lucky enough to get hired by the best school in the district. Plus, it was three minutes away from my husband's office.

We spent most of last year commuting with three kids in the car. Half an hour is a lot longer with three little people arguing in the back of a car!

Luckily, last spring we found a house literally a block away from my school. Now, I walk to work!

Finally, we were rocked last fall when we found out I was pregnant with a fourth child. Needless to say this was a huge surprise - precautions had been taken! I spent a lot of my pregnancy being really upset about this development. We were done with diapers, could sleep in a little on the weekends, and I was going to be finally able to focus on my career.

Well, I don't know why I spent one second being sad because Marlow has been the biggest blessing to our lives. She is an amazing baby, and having one last ride has been such a gift. My other kids are fairly close together, so I don't remember a lot about any one baby - I was too tired! I am now soaking up every second with my bonus baby :).

Needless to say, I am loving life right now! I feel like the "richest man in town", and that is a good feeling.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Subtracting With Regrouping

So, apparently subtraction with regrouping is a big part of third grade. I did not realize this as the lowest grade I had taught before this year was fourth. Fourth graders generally know how to subtract with regrouping, so I have never had to teach it.

This year I was faced with kids who literally had no idea how to subtract with regrouping. These were smart kids - it just hadn't come up yet. 

This lesson was actually one of my first after returning from my very short maternity leave, and, I must say, it was one of my top ten lessons. The majority of my class came in not knowing how to do something and left knowing how to do it. It doesn't get much better than that, does it?

Here's what we did...

I passed out plastic bags filled with hundreds squares, tens sticks, and ones cubes to each student. I then used my own set under the document camera to solve a subtraction problem. First, I made the top number with my pieces, then I tried to take away the bottom number. So, if the top number was 342 I would lay out two ones, four tens, and three hundreds. Then, I would try to take away the bottom number of 158. I would start with ones and say, "How can I possible take away eight ones when I only have two of them?"

Kids figured out pretty quickly that we could break up one of the tens to get enough ones. We repeated this process with the hundreds. I did two examples and then I pointed out that this method, while effective, was super slow. I then shared the "10-second method" otherwise known as the algorithm.

I think the key to this lesson was going back and forth between the blocks and the algorithm. Kids were immediately able to see the connection between moving the blocks around and what we write while using the algorithm. 

This may be a classic third grade teacher lesson, but it was new to me. I hope this post was helpful if you are looking for a way to teach subtraction with regrouping!

Disney Character Traits

Our class has been studying character traits. The kids are doing a great job finding character traits in a book and giving evidence to support their ideas. What has been hard is getting them to branch out and explore character traits that are new to them. 

Each third grade teacher provided their class with a character trait list, but I estimate that my students understood about a quarter of the traits on the list - maybe less than that. 

I wanted to find a way to get the kids to start thinking about these more complex character traits, but it had to be fun. Who wants to spend an hour looking up words in the dictionary? Plus, I have quite a few ELL kids this year and I knew they would need some kind of picture to show each character trait. I couldn't think of how to draw most of the character traits, so, for the moment, I was stuck.

Then I started thinking about my favorite place in the world... Disneyland. I wish there was a school at Disneyland so I could work there. It isn't even the rides - it is just the whole experience. Everything at Disneyland is tailored to bring enjoyment and happiness to people (except the prices). That is how I want my classroom to be.

That brought about my brain blast. Even my ELL kids are familiar with Disney movies. What if we could link famous Disney characters to these new character traits? Then kids would have a foundational understanding of what these words meant that we could build on using the dictionary or other classroom resources.

Here is the board I created...

It is impossible to read the words, but these are the character traits from our class list that I thought would be high-leverage words for the kids. I wasn't able to include all of the words on the list due to space constraints, but if the kids end up knowing half of these words really well, they will be in a good place for fourth grade next year.

Here is my sample to get everyone started. It is hard to read, but it says, "Alice is CURIOUS because she follows the White Rabbit to find out where he was going." Pretty simple, and many of my students know what curious means without an example, but with so many ELL kids I cast a wide net on the board.

This sample worked out really well because this morning - the first time the kids have seen the board, I got a great submission. "Elsa is MYSTERIOUS because she has magic, but she hides it from everyone." 

At the very least our board will spark some great conversations. I am really looking forward to seeing what the kids come up with over the next few weeks as they work on it during Daily 5 time.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Classroom Organization - Part Two

Here is my second post on classroom organization tricks I use in my classroom. To see part one, you can click here.

I have seen many libraries like this on blogs and Pinterest, but I thought I would share my version. This is just a tiny part of our huge classroom library - I buy books at Goodwill and Salvation Army every chance I can. The boxes are labeled with the genre or series title. Then, individual books are coded for each box. For example, realistic fiction books are labeled with an "R". This makes it possible for any student in my class to return books. Last year the library was a mess by the end of the year because many students didn't know where to put back books. It took some time to label all the books this summer, but it was totally worth it!

This was an idea that came from one of my team members this year. Our students bring extra supplies at the beginning of the year - as I am sure all students do. Usually these supplies are then organized and kept by the teacher. I decided I didn't want to have any common supplies this year, so this wasn't going to work for me. (We had an issue last year with a couple of kids wrecking our supplies so by the end of the year we were short on everything. I had theories about who was doing it, but I never actually saw anything happen. We were just left with broken materials which was terrible, especially for those kids who were so careful with everything they used.) 

Instead of collecting materials I numbered plastic bags and had kids put their extra supplies in the bag. Now, when students run out of something, they go to their bag (stashed in number order) and get what they need. If they don't have what they need, it is their responsibility to borrow from a friend or let mom and dad know. So far this year it has worked really well.

This is not a great picture - sorry about that. The top shelf is what I was trying to capture. These are my baskets for parent volunteers. I have such a hard time putting together work for parent volunteers - I am just never ready when someone is available. So, I labeled these baskets with different tasks: return, copy, cut, and laminate. Now, when something needs to be done I put it in a basket. It is a good reminder to me of what needs to get done, and if a parent does come in they know exactly what to do without disturbing the class. (I do write notes to help them know what I need.) If no parents come in, I can do the work myself without too much fuss.

P.S.- Do you notice the large amount of hand sanitizer on the lower shelf? That is just a fraction of the hand sanitizer I have stashed around the classroom. I am literally drowning in hand sanitizer!

Okay - that is all for now. Check back for Part Three soon :).

Hooking Up With Bloglovin'

 Please consider following me on Bloglovin!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Engage NY Module 4 Is Up!

I am so excited by all the great feedback I have been getting on my Engage NY Interactive Math Notebooks! I will say, my students are loving it too! A post on that will be coming soon.

Anyway, Module 4 is finally up! Click on the picture to get to it on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Classroom Organization

Classroom organization is one of my favorite topics. I think I have seen every blog post and pin that offers suggestions about how to organize the classroom. Over the years I have tried so many different ideas! A lot have fallen by the wayside – they just didn’t work for me. This year, however, I feel like I have had a lot of success. I thought I would share what I am doing with all of you. 

So, here we go in no particular order.

Last year going to the bathroom became an issue for my fourth graders. This may be because we are in a portable and going inside the building to go to the bathroom takes a loooong time. Also, kids have to knock to get back into the classroom which tends to distract kids whether we are working as a large group or doing independent/small group work.

 I don't like being strict about the bathroom. I get that sometimes people just need a break - I have gone to the bathroom many times during professional development just to stretch my legs. However, given our classroom constraints, there needs to be some limits.

I saw something like this on Pinterest this summer - I can't remember where. That class didn't have the numbers on the clips, but I decided early on that everything in my class would be numbered so keep kids (and me!) organized. 

Each kid gets a clothespin with their number on it. If they hand me their clothespin, they can take the bathroom pass - no questions asked. (Unless it is two minutes until lunch or recess - which happens occasionally.) I collect the clothespin and clip it to my badge lanyard. This way I know who is gone in case of an emergency. After the child comes back I am supposed to move the clothespin to a "storage" spot for the rest of the day. (I usually forget this step and end up with a lanyard full of clothespins.) If a student has to go to the bathroom after their clothespin is gone they have to ask me. I usually question them a bit, but let them go. 

So far this system is working for us. I do have a couple of kids that go to the bathroom about twice a day during class, but I think they just need to. Maybe they need to go for a walk, or they drink a lot of water - either way I get it.

Wow! I can't believe I just wrote five paragraphs on going to the bathroom! That shows the kind of thought I have put into my classroom systems. Just ask my husband, I agonize over this stuff!

Okay, one more item for today. This looks like it will be a several day post.

This is my lunch organization system. At our school we have these colored cards kids hold up to show their lunch choices. Usually there are two choices (purple and orange), but occasionally there is a third option (green). The envelope in the bottom row has everyone's lunch number on it and it must be taken down the cafeteria every day.

You can't see it, but our lunch tub with all the packed lunches is below the organizer. When kids finish their work before lunch, they put things away, and then grab their lunch or their card. You would think it would get crowded, but it moves really quickly and smoothly. The best part is that I don't have to deal with the lunch process. That is really my goal in all of our classroom organization - I do as few daily chores as possible. 

That's all I can handle today. After typing all this up I do have some sympathy for my husband. This is a lot of information to process :).


 You can read Part Two here.

Shaving Cream

Shaving cream is definitely a luxury for me. Usually I am too busy to think about buying it and then using it. (I know this seems crazy, but really I just don't think about it very often.) Well, I remembered to use some shaving cream I bought months ago the other night and I was struck by how fun shaving cream is. I love how it feels to squish it between my fingers!

This made me think about my third graders. If I think shaving cream is fun, they would think it was amazing in the classroom! Of course, I wouldn't just let them play with it - there would have to be some learning involved.

The first thing I thought of was spelling word practice. I realize this is more of a primary activity, but it would still be a different way of practicing spelling words - especially for those kids who are kinesthetic learners.
Second thought - math facts. Again, I think the fun factor would be motivating for some students. We could also draw arrays, show place value - basically anything we do on paper we could do on shaving cream.

I am thinking I would put it on a back table and lay down newspapers around the area. It seems like a perfect "Fun Friday" activity - plus that means I won't have to set it up every day.

Do you use shaving cream in your classroom? How does it go? What do I need to know as a newbie to shaving cream?