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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Letters on a Sunday morning....

Yay! Time for my new favorite linky! Sunday Morning Letters with Michelle at Big Time Literacy! This linky happens every other Sunday morning and follows the rule of three.... comment on the two links before yours and then come back and comment on the link after yours!

I've been thinking about these letters for over a week! Eek!

Dear unaware lady at the gas station:
There were three cars besides me waiting for a pump.  Was it really the best move ever to park in front of the pump so that you could go in the store and buy a lottery ticket? Your vehicle wasn't even facing the right direction to put the hose in the tank. You can't fool me. But thanks for making me painfully aware of my road-rage issues.
Seriously?! Sincerely,
A citizen learning patience the hard way

Dear Michelle,
Thanks for accommodating a sarcastic teacher like me and hosting this fun little linky.
one grateful teacher with a sarcastic streak

Dear Students,
Thanks for all your hard work so far.  Please remember to look out for the underdog. This is a skill that prepare you for life.
Your tender-hearted teacher <3

Dear Parents,
Thank you for your patience thus far. I have not been as prompt as I was hoping to be with communication, especially in regard to opportunities to sign up or help out. I am extremely overwhelmed with the level of parent support! I love you all.
with gratitude,
Ms. Horn

Dear internet:
Seriously?! No commitment for two days? The on-again, off-again relationship we had last week is not going to work for me! I have lesson plans that include research online, math practice online, reading online, writing online, spelling practice online.... you get the drift?  Please don't make me break up with you. Your fickle attitude toward my plans has me in a tizzy.
Part of your network,
Teacher at MGS

Dear Students at MGS:
Your learning curve on the logo project was impressive. I was definitely skeptical when I heard the harsh words in your "wonders" and the adamant defense of your work, even in the face of real suggestions of improvement. However, I saw something very different when you had the opportunity to improve your work. I have been told what an extraordinary group of students you are. I have to agree, you are truly an impressive group of students!
One Impressed Newbie Teach

Dear Sammy,
We miss you too. Now if you could stop scolding us the entire evening when we are at home, we'd appreciate it. Your grumpy cat impressions are, well.... impressive. But please, give us a break!
your not-so-furry companions

Dear Daughter,
Your patience with your Momma's time spent at school is heart-warming. Thanks for supporting your Mom and please know that I love you even more for it.

Dear college-age child,
I'm so proud of your transition to life. I know it's scary, but you are well on your way. Thanks for hanging in there. I am impressed and proud. And I can't wait to see you blossom into the person you are meant to be. Enjoy these days while you can.
your puffy-hearted proud Momma

Friday, August 29, 2014

Five for Friday, August 29, 2014

What?! It's Friday? And it's almost over and I haven't gotten to write my Five things from my week yet. To be honest, just about every day this week was eventful and worthy of it's own blog. But I know I won't be able to blog daily. I plan to get a little better/more frequent, but by that I mean.... twice a week instead of one time a week. So... brilliance and great ideas will have to happen less frequently than they are currently.... what?! Wait a minute! I was just kidding. Bring on the brilliance. And I have to pause and brag a little... this is a GREAT class of kids. Brilliance galore. *sigh* love it.

Okay.... Five "random" things from my day or my week. From school or from home. Those are the rules.

1. We read some great books this week. They were not grade level for every grade. That is true. But I felt really good about the learning that happened on ALL grade levels. Have you read this book? I love Louise Mathews. The other book of hers that I am a fan of is a book about fractions called Gator Pie. This week we read Bunches and Bunches of Bunnies. It is a book about multiplication.  It also includes counting, grouping, doubles, addition..... So many concepts that are so important! Oh.... since we were talking about doubles and grouping anyway, we added skip counting by 2's, 5's and 10's as well. I love it when learning works out like this!

2. What is MMS? Mental Math Strategies. That is what we are calling these strategies we are putting into place to use over and over again as we continue to learn. Of course, we all know this. I think that students like it when they know the why. Why are they learning this? Because it will help them become better at math for a long, long time. And they love answering me when I ask them, "What is MMS?"

These girls are practicing counting with a number line. They rolled the dice, and hopped up the number line and then did it again and made sure to count up from where they started.  Counting up from a given number, that is a Kindergarten skill. Learning to use a number line.... priceless. lol. There are many levels to this! Using a number line is a skill that is listed in the standards as a 2nd grade standard. The better acquainted I get with the standards at all the grade levels that I teach, the less scary this whole multi-age thing is.

3. We also read this book: Peanut Butter and Jelly: a Play Rhyme. We had SO MUCH FUN with this book. I asked the students questions about the book. And it came around to this: "Can people make homemade peanut butter?" Then it came around to "Can WE make peanut butter?" "How do we make peanut butter?" And many other questions.... about homemade vs. store bought peanut butter, about selling our peanut butter, which brought up other questions, like.... how do you make peanut butter stable for the life it lives on the shelf (shelf life). Guess what we are doing this week?
Yep. We are researching peanut butter, we are learning how to make peanut butter, we are learning what is healthy and what is not. I see so much potential. I got so excited when the students were talking about it I could hardly teach. Whoot! Now THAT'S what this Project based learning thing is all about!! We are just beginning.
Here are our notes. 
Then we thought of more..... what about shelf life? Will we need preservatives?

4. We just had to get our "HAPPY" on! Our internet capabilities were hit and miss for part of the week, which makes it hard to play wiggle songs and hard to research and hard to practice math skills on the computer. But somehow, for some reason, I could access my playlist on youtube. So we danced to "Happy" by Pharrell Williams to get our wiggles out. You can tell the girls are really getting into it!

5. There's so much more to talk about this week! From the upcoming marshmallow project, thought up by one of my awesome students, to the story about Dragons we wrote as a class, there is so much more to tell. BUT.... I leave you with these pictures of my daughter, the college student.
 We are putting together her desk in her dorm room and laughing and joking about how we don't need anyone to help us, we are strong women!

And here she is smiling at me when we went to pick her up today so she can spend the weekend with us this Labor Day weekend.

I can't wait to see what happens next week! I promised myself I would NOT do anything school related until Monday, but I have had stop myself from writing plans about this peanut butter project more than once. I love it that I love my job. I love it that I can't wait to see my students, that I love to develop plans and let the students carry them out in their own unique ways.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Five for... *sigh*.... Saturday.... again.

I'd love to tell some story about how I am going to get more organized and that Five for Friday will actually get posted on Friday one day soon. But the reality is that this is not even on the list of things I hope to accomplish as I get more organized. So if I post on Fridays, it will be a miracle, not really part of the plan. I am working hard to get more organized, to feel like I can just go to the file cabinet, or a box, or a bin, and find what I need because everything has a place, and that will speed up daily routines and make planning and class time more efficient. So THAT is my goal. I got a lot done after school yesterday. We stayed in town and I was going to work until 6, but 6 stretched to 7. Anywho.... here are five things from the week. Hop over to Doodlebugs and read about everyone's week! Welcome to my favorite linky party!

 1. We started another whole school project: branding or logos. What are they? Why do we "need" them? Does our school have a brand? What would our logo look at? and Why?

Here is some of our brainstorming at the beginning of the project

Here is one group working on their logo and slogan
We split into groups of four. Groups tried to figure out how to represent Mt. Hope Elementary School.

The above pictures of groups presenting and calling on students for "likes" and "wonders." I hope we train our students to use kindness when expressing wonders. It is the job of the group presenting to take the wonders seriously and to see if they can improve their final product. I noticed a little bit of Middle School type of cut-throat-like use of words this week. But students will respond to us as teachers when we present wonders and even if some wonders are hard to hear, we can teach them to express themselves in ways that will lend credibility and give them an edge in life, not just at school.
This is my idea of organization.... lol. I made an extra copy of the front card of sigh words flashcards
by grade-level and stapled it to the front of the folder so that in the future if we forget what level the picture
represents, we can look at the folder and see it quickly.
The previous teacher left a TON of resources, but guess what?!! We've been in school for over a week now and although I am pretty sure I came across dolch words before school started, I can't locate them now. So our word wall has been empty. Sadness. So I found this FREE resource and printed Dolch words for pre-primer through Third grade. The picture below has the blog on it, this is not my work, but I am so grateful for someone else's hard work.

This free resource is from

 3. Friday we played BINGO. I had one student working by herself because we had one student absent, and the rest I paired in groups of upper and lower grade level students so that the older students could help the younger ones to do the math. I would call out a number, and students had to see if any of their equations equal the number. This covered a multitude of standards on a number of grade levels. It also introduced something I wanted to focus on for upper grade level students: how many ways can you make one number?
I love this resource! I found these bingo cards at:
This is a free resource as well, and very nicely made. The cards are small, but they are well put together.

 4. Yep! The next task (for some students) was to write out how many ways they could get to one number. These are all addition facts. We will look next week and see if we can multiplication equations, like you obviously can for the number 16.

 Even though we are not planning (at this point in time) to move to Mount Hope, we do want to be involved with the community. Especially because my daughter attends school here in addition to my teaching here. And we are loving it so far. I was told in my interview about how supportive the community is, but words cannot prepare a person for this kind of community. I have to say once again, I am blessed beyond measure.
 We got a salad and pizza from the local pizza joint. Then little miss Punky wouldn't eat her salad because it had "that funny lettuce in it" (Spring mix). But I found out that one of my parents is also gluten free, she has celiac. So she gave the Punky-girl a hot dog, and even had gluten free ice cream treats!
Ready for the movie.... 

We brought popcorn.... 

See all the kids in the background? There are at least that many on the other side and they are tossing
balls back and forth and just generally having a good time..... 
Mayor Somers giving the greeting as the movie is getting ready to start.

Community members ready to watch the movie.... one of our class members ready to see the movie Cars.
The families that played large roles in putting this together are parents of students at Mount Hope Elementary! It just reinforced in me that I have landed in the right place. This was a lovely community event with families bringing food, or going across the street to LMNO Pizza, watermelon and cookies were provided and ice cream treats were provided! I truly felt "a part of."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

And the school year has begun

There is just so much to say this week that I didn't know if I could say it. It's exhausting to have thoughts racing toward the page as fast as your fingers can possibly type them. This week we dove in to a school wide project right away by asking students to decide on, define, rules for our school.
Students are volunteering rules
after writing a long list, we decided that a lot of what we were writing
would be summed up with the word Respect.
After a lot more discussion we decided that some rules are about Safety. Staying safe. Making sure everyone else stays safe. And eventually (though this one was more difficult to arrive at), we realized that responsibility would describe the rest of them. So we arrived at Respect, Safety, Responsibility. The next part of the project was putting students into groups and each group needed to create a skit, with a script, that summed up all three rules.

some groups had to really think things through

some groups worked hard on props right away
Teams performed their skits on the second day of school. The question we asked our selves was "How did that go?" And my partner, the one with the PBL experience (I am still very green at this), mentioned that other projects have possibly been more successful. But as we talked more, we realized it was really a great learning day(s). First of all, only about half of our students are familiar with the learning projects and working like this.  So many were getting the exposure and experience they needed to become great learners. Secondly, we as teachers learned so much. I learned a lot about pairing students and who can/should be grouped together and who shouldn't be together. I learned about the process. We learned that we'll need to put more time limits on work times, as in, take more breaks. Those kinders were needing to get out and get a little exercise and let their brains focus on something else at times.

Do you do this as a teacher? Are you incredibly hard on yourself? Does your lesson analysis take into account the change of status of students, the "crowd" (so to speak) you are catering to, the fact that it is all a learning experience, whether or not it went as deep or as smoothly as you first thought it would/could/should? I hesitated to write about this, but it's a valuable part of the teacher evaluation of the success of the project. I know that the 5th-8th grade class will take this lesson deeper and talk about what worked, what it means to have rules, they will probably write about the process, and they will likely talk about ideas of what to do differently in the future. I also know that once we truly dig in, a project will not be considered to be complete until we get there, we take the time to analyze, adjust, edit, re-think, re-work, etcetera. We will have a final product that all are happy with. That is one of the basic principles of our school. Sometimes we have to remember that it is so different on the first few days of school and things will continue to progress and change. 

If the students learned half as much as we did, they are off to a good start. 

Once in our own room, we worked on classroom procedures, classroom rules, and management. We practiced a little Whole Brain Teaching. I said "class," they said "yes." We also practiced the "please freeze" idea. 

Notice the cups? This is a signal system that we are planning to try.
There is a red cup beneath the green cup. When they need help from the teacher,
they put the red cup on top, when they understand directions and are working,
the green cup is on top. 

These are the classroom rules that we arrived at with discussion
and guidance. (if you know me, you know these are already my five rules, I guided students
to get to where I wanted them. I may have to change the word "talk" to "speak." I don't
know if I can re-train my brain quickly and efficiently! 
 We did a "mixer" activity on Friday so they could get to know more people's names (and faces).  It really seemed to work well.

 I came home exhausted and energized both. I have lesson plans to write for next week, but I can't wait. I am so excited to see what this year holds. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Five for Saturday

Five for Friday is my one of my favorite linkys. I love linking up and giving everyone a glimpse of my week. So hop over to Doodlebugs and read about everyone's week!

1. Our first gluten free birthday celebration. Punky only wanted one friend over to celebrate her birthday. On some ways that is a real blessing. In other ways.... it's a lot of pressure on one friend to deliver fun and loyalty!
Besties, ready to swim. That's my colorful Punky on the left.

My first ever gluten free pizza crust. It was not bad, the leftovers didn't taste so great.... 

Make a wish!!! Gluten free cake from the bakery. Hippie/tie-dye themed. 
2. Yes. I voted. I almost didn't. I don't like declaring a party. I don't like what the candidates stand for, and I feel like I am choosing one political evil over another political evil and they don't really represent the American people at all. So there's my political rant.

3. The Cool Beans idea has survived. I adapted this from the behavior management used in the classroom and school where I student taught. When I student taught, the class could get a smiley if~ they earned a whole class reward or if  a student filled their individual reward chart. Whole class rewards could be earned if they received a compliment from another teacher/adult, if the entire class exhibited exceptional behavior, and so on. How "Cool Beans" work individually is: each student has a sticker chart, they can earn stickers for being "caught" doing something good-- maybe it is working quietly, or following directions when no one else is, or exhibiting good citizenship skills (compassionate acts, reaching out to a friend, helping someone in need). Once a student fills their chart, we cheer for them, and then the student puts up a "big bean" on the whole class chart.  The student also gets to chose a reward coupon.  These were my first ever TpT purchase and worth every penny. Check them out here. I love Mel's Seusstastic stuff! I have some new favorites that perhaps I will have ready to share for next week's FIVE. We have a lot of fun with the rewards. If a student chooses the "stinky feet" reward, they can take their shoes off in the classroom for a day. If they choose that reward we all chime, "Hooo-ey! Stinky feet!" in a pig-call sort of voice. Anyway.... once the "big bean chart" is full (4 rows of 5, so 20 beans) we will have a whole class reward. Students will make suggestions and we will vote on them. The first few times I usually offer some ideas so they can see what types of rewards they might choose.... extra recess, popcorn and movie, pajama day, eat lunch in our classroom day.... those are few ideas.

4. Lunch choice. I was a little surprised to hear that the secretary would come into the classroom, call each student's name, and they would answer whether they wanted hot lunched (purchased) or whether they brought their lunch (sack lunch). I think we can manage this ourselves.  So here's the board I came up with. I think that we will add pictures and numbers to the clothespins and then as students gain confidence about procedures in our class, one student's job will be to mark the hot lunches and/or sack lunches and take the list to the secretary. I got so excited about making this, I forgot to make the "home" area before I laminated. I could have printed out a cool picture to use too. But this will do.

5. Apparently I told the Punkinseed that she needed to focus on something positive and find something positive in every day. So she made this box to put in positive sayings and to tell about something positive happening in her life. She made the Redhead and I do this too. It was too cute. What a great idea!!!
This says "J's Positive Box"
 There's a paper that she put a velcro tab on to open the box with so we can read the positive thoughts we put in there.
Here the Punky is adding some decoration and all the lettering.
This is a glimpse at my week. I've been working frantically in my classroom and trying to make sure I am ready for students by Thursday! Monday and Tuesday we have inservice and Wednesday is a compact day~ parents and students come in, bring their supplies, put things away, conference with the teacher and then school officially starts the next morning, August 14.

When is your first day? Do you have much parent contact before that day? What are your beginning of the year procedures?