Sunday, October 30, 2011

Candy Craziness

Have you ever noticed that kids also act out a lot right around the holidays? Can't blame it on the full moon this year, gotta blame it on the candy... I was ready to pull my hair out on Friday, but really tried to keep my cool. Here's how most of my day went:

Student: "Miss Battista!!! I need help!"  
Me: "Please sit down and raise your hand. But first, did you ask three before me? Do you really need to ask that question? Look around at what your classmates have on their desk. Look at the board. You can find out what you're supposed to be doing without even talking. DID YOU READ THE DIRECTIONS?!?"
Student: "No...."
Me: "Which question did you answer?"
Student: "None, I didn't know what I was supposed to do."
Me: "I meant which question of mine did you answer? Did you ask three people....oh forget it!"

(Random wrong answer shouted out)

Student: "Can I go to the bathroom?!"  
Me: "Is it an emergency? I'm teaching, you know the rule..." OR "You don't have to ask me, I'm not teaching. If there isn't another boy / girl out, please sign out and go!" OR "How many times have you gone today? We've been learning about cause and effect, what did I say? BECAUSE you were at the closet chugging your water five times this morning, THE EFFECT was you'd have to go to the bathroom again!"

(Random wrong answer shouted out)

Me: "Excuse me, girls! What is the whispering about? Please stop talking. It's distracting others."
Student: "BUT... she was talking to me FIRST!"

Me: "Please put that note on my desk. This is your last warning!" (Oh Ron Clark, why weren't you sitting on my shoulder reminding me to stop giving warnings?!)

I printed out this sign and kept pointing to it ALL DAY long.

I wasn't mean at all, and I never raised my voice, but I sure felt like a wicked witch. I even cackled like one. The kids just laughed. I'm thinking I might come in to school dressed as Miss Nelson's replacement Miss Viola Swamp ALL DAY for Halloween. I don't even want to know the next week will be like with all of the chocolate and candy floating around. I'm going to make it very clear that if I see a piece of candy, I get to eat it!!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

It's SNOWING in October?!?

So I've had the craziest week...and today it gets capped off with 4-12 inches of snow and a wedding to attempt to get to tonight. This is my view out of one of the library windows. 

Most of this week centered around testing....YUCK!

First, I found out the I passed the Middle School Language Arts Praxis in addition to passing the MS Science and Social Studies tests last month!!! I am so relieved to have it done with! Now I want to get one more science credit for certification (stinks that most science classes are 4 credits though), 6 more for language arts, and I just have to send in paperwork for social studies. Then I'll have 5 certifications! You never know just what our governor might do to cause more job losses, so you can never be too "certified" or pay for enough pieces of paper.... On a bright note, at least he's not running for President!
Between the Praxis and grading, I am all tested out right now. Our reading and math series required us to complete diagnostic tests at the beginning of the year. We have 3 separate sheets to keep track of scores on - 2 for the whole class and one for each individual child. We also had to give a writing assessment last week. I have to give a math test every three weeks, but a quiz just about once a week. We have to give reading and spelling tests every week, and a unit test every 5 weeks.  I'm not even going to talk about the science and social studies tests or homework.

Don't get me wrong, I can tell a lot about what my students learned (at least in the short term) by giving tests, it's just that I spend so much time giving them and grading them that it affects my planning time! I feel bad enough for the kids (who are used to it by now), but is even harder to keep up with grading 22 of everything!

Anyway, I have to celebrate finishing MY I added a sweet $15 Target gift card to my 200 Followers Giveaway...not many entries yet so you have a great chance of winning!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween Bulletin Board and Ideas

Here's one of my many fall / Halloween bulletin boards. Students had to choose a compound word to break into pieces. The first part was written on the top, the second part was on the middle, and the complete compound was written on the bottom. Example: scare + crow = scarecrow

You can find the candy corn clip art here or click the picture to download.

We did "how to" writing using transition / sequence words. Here's our bulletin board strip on how to carve a pumpkin.

My students made these jack'o "lanterns" and LOVED them. We used a full sized piece of orange construction paper, however, so I decided to scrap my original plan of using toilet paper rolls covered in yellow construction paper for the middle. Next year I'll try it with a half piece of paper instead!

I've really been trying to encourage our students and class parents to make good food choices, but I fell in love with these pumpkin rice krispie treats! 

I asked our room parents to use an all-orange food theme and to keep it healthy every day and for our party, so these other ideas are great too!

I found this idea for a school Halloween costume on Pinterest (definitely needs a little modification to be a little more school and weather appropriate!) We'll see if I can get a couple of other teachers to join in!

Have you entered my giveaway yet? It's another reason to celebrate! :)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Favorite Anti-Bullying Read Alouds (Linky Party)

I am linking up with one of my favorite blogs, Swimming into Second, to share some of my new favorite read aloud books. They mostly center around anti-bullying and character education because that is a focus for our school right now during Anti Violence Week across the state and the new NJ Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HIB) laws. I have been spending wayyyy to much money at Scholastic, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon, but I just loooove these books!

Mr. Peabody's Apples is a book written by Madonna. Yes, the singer. I didn't believe it either... but it is a great book that teaches children about spreading rumors and how they can create or damage a reputation for themselves or others.

How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids is a great story for teaching students to think before they act. Ever since I read this book to my students, they have wanted to find ways to make sure everyone has a good day. They especially look for other students or teachers who need a pick me up and make sure to fill their buckets!
I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self Esteem is a story cowritten by Jamie Lee Curtis. It seems like actresses and celebrities are writing books all the time now! It teaches kids to accept themselves and helps them to understand that everyone makes mistakes. Kids really enjoy the rhythmic rhyming too!
Don't Laugh at Me teaches kids to accept others, regardless of their differences. It also includes a cd with lyrics about tolerance.


Thursday, October 20, 2011


One of the most powerful reading and writing strategies to use is visualizing. I find that students who can visualize what happens in a story, especially when it does not include pictures, tend to have much better reading comprehension than students who do not. They are also better creative and narrative writers because they tend to be more aware of sensory details when experiencing something and transfer it over to their own writing.

Something I like to do is have students take a "mental picture" of me or an area in the classroom. I literally make them pretend they are pressing a camera button and close their eyes. Then I change something and asj them what was different. (Today I had a Promethean Board pen in my hand and I hid it.) They should start transferring this skill to the stories they read. Here are some resources I use to help students improve their visual memory.

Students are given about 30 seconds to a minute to study a picture. Then they are asked to answer questions about it. It helps them pay attention to details! My second and third graders were able to easily use Book #1.

For K-1, I'd use Spot the Differences pictures.

Great visualizing resources website with list of trade books for visualizing

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sensory Deprivation as a Writing Tool!

     I went on an interesting overnight field trip to YMCA Camp Bernie two weeks ago with a fifth grade class from our school while their teacher taught my class for two days. We had many objectives. The first was for our school to mix with another in the district (there are 11 elementary schools) to get the kids ready for middle school. Other objectives were to help the kids gain confidence and self esteem with a night away from their parents, plus awareness of themselves and their surroundings. 
     Each day, our meal wastes were separated into liquid waste, food waste, garbage, and compost. Students soon realized just how much food they were wasting and promised to watch what they threw out in the cafeteria back at school.
     Students challenged their fears through rock climbing and a walk in the woods in the pitch black. I consider myself to have great eye sight, even in the dark...and I had a tough time! We had to use our senses, especially hearing and touch (through what we stepped on) to find our way to a clearing and back. I was so proud of the kids for having done it because I know I was spooked myself! 
     The next day we had several activities, including a sensory development walk. Students were blindfolded and put on a rope course that had them walking deep into the woods. Once they reached the end, we walked them around by the hand, then led them to a tree. They had to keep the blindfolds on and explore the tree so that they knew it well and would be able to find it later. Once we removed them from the area, they'd have to find their way back to it using their senses of touch and smell. 
 noticing a decline 

 a parent chaperone makes sure no one gets hurt

 our camp guide giving directions

 using the senses

 talking to themselves about the tree's attributes (felt sticky sap, smelled and felt pine needles, scars in the sap, a cut limb, etc.)

feeling around the tree, including the roots

    Students were brought back to a clearing to take off their blindfolds. We walked them around in circles so they had to rely on their senses to find the tree instead of memorizing the path we walked them on. It was really interesting hear them describe their trees and even more interesting to listen to the descriptions they had written once we returned to school! I know they'll never write just "a tree" again!

Monday, October 17, 2011

San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge

The week before school started, I finally made it to my first of the Seven Wonders of the World! Of course, I was going to California to visit friends and check out baseball in Los Angeles and San Francisco too! Since my class just finished reading Pop's Bridge (a great story about honesty and pride) in our Journeys reading series, I promised to upload my pictures and video of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed my trip!

 me at the Golden Gate's much colder and windier there than most of California...this picture was taken in August and I have a winter jacket on!

the bridge is covered by fog on most days

video of crossing the Golden Gate Bridge (it's very windy on top of a double decker bus so TURN YOUR SOUND DOWN!!!!)

360 degree view from the side of the Golden Gate Bridge

seals in the bay

2,866 miles to Cooperstown!

fog rolling in off the mountains at night at AT&T Park

Preview the book Pop's Bridge here.

Check out Pop's Bridge and videos with the author here.

Practice spelling words from the story here.

Find vocabulary games for the story here.

Read the story online here. (Requires password)

Some great paired reads with Pop's Bridge are:

You Wouldn't Want to Be a Worker on the Statue of Liberty!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Songs for teaching kids

I just have to say that every day that I play music in the classroom, we're all in a better mood and the day goes much more quickly. I realized the power of music for teaching when I had to teach Spanish to my third graders. It was on their report card and we didn't have a Spanish class or materials, so I felt obligated to teach them something meaningful if I was going to grade them on it. Luckily I had taken three years of Spanish in high school. I also taught students who spoke mostly Spanish as a first language when I student taught and in my first two years in second grade.
However, I had a very challenging class that year in third grade - 12 of my 22 students received a special service - from Resource Room with an IEP (4 students) to a 504 for ADHD (2 students) to OT (4 students) to Pt (1 student) to ESL (1 student) to speech (1 student) to basic skills (4 students)... As you could probably tell, some students received multiple services. I didn't include pull outs for gifted and talented or instrumental music in that either! Needless to say, I hustled up and finished my Masters degree in Special Education that year!
So anyway, back to the of my students who had an IEP for a specific learning disability sat there during the Spanish test on colors and stared into space. His mom assured me they had studied, and that he should be okay since they spoke Spanish at home. I had taught the students little strategies, like rosa = red roses and verde = very green and we listened to a song about the colors over and over. It wasn't until I hummed the tune of the song that he started to work very quickly...and ended up scoring 100%!

I'll keep updating my Pinterest with more songs and videos...but for now, here are a few of my favorite cds / song resource you have any to recommend?
The cool thing is you can preview a lot of it before buying...the bad thing is there isn't a cd, so you have to figure out the pacing (they give you the tune and tell you the song it was modeled from) AND you have to sing out loud with the kids! (My old roommate even used some of these for her HS history classes - the kids got a kick out of the presidents song!)
Stuck in my head:
"Noun names person, place or thing
office, doctor, school, or ring
school or ring, place or thing

Monday, October 10, 2011

Organizing Teacher's Edition and Classwork Materials

First and foremost, a disclaimer: Please forgive me for my well-worn materials....even though they aren't that old, they are dragged around everywhere with me between my classroom, the faculty room, the copy machine, to the airport, and they even come with me when I get an oil change...cause to be honest, there's never enough time to get everything done!

Here's what I do to organize my Journey's reading teacher's edition book. It's like most basal-based reading programs, so there is one book for each unit (5 stories each), and 6 units for the year.

The top of each lesson has a post it on it that shows where each lesson planner is. Journeys is really cool because it's a new program so it includes the Common Core Standards and makes lesson planning easier.

I used a black and white scroll sticky tab to show where our vocabulary word cards are in the book.

I used a pink and white polka dot sticky tab to show where the beginning of each story is.

I used a yellow and white polka dot sticky tab to show where the spelling words and sentences for the pretest and test are.

For each day of the week, I use a certain color folder to hold that day's materials.

I keep homework, tests, and other materials on the left and classwork (which tends to be the bulkiest) on the right side.
I can get a week or more ahead with copying because I have it down to a routine and I have several sets of folders that are the same color as the ones I use for the current week.

I keep a binder with all of my originals. Post-Its with the lesson number and story name help me figure out what is where.

For guided reading, I use these folder pocket charts from Really Good Stuff. Students keep their guided reading books and worksheets in a Ziploc bag inside the pocket. They can easily put the bag in their homework folder and bring it to and from school!
See my other post on guided reading organization here.

What do you do to keep reading materials organized?


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