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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Currently... January 2015

Hooray for the new! Out with the old! I can't believe that is it a new year and that the school year is half over already. Check it out at Oh' Boy 4th Grade and read 'em all and maybe even link up. Here are the rules:
Here is what is happening Currently!
I am listening to Chopped on Netflix while the world is saying good-bye to 2014.

I am loving the laziness of break. I enjoyed time with family and time to read and sleep and play. I love staying in my pajama pants all day and living without a schedule.

Thinking... about everything that is expected of me this next semester and wondering how I will accomplish it all.

Wanting.... the Christmas stuff to just miraculously be put away! I want my home back to "normal" and order restored. I just don't really want to invest the work.

Needing to map out January and create, buy, print, laminate centers for all grade levels for this month, starting off with good habits and effective organization will only help me for the rest of this year.

Yes: I will work diligently to achieve some balance between work and home and give my home-life a fighting chance.
Maybe: I have high hopes that I will take better care of my health. I have done some reading and think I need to de-stress and get away from processed foods
Wish: I wish I had my custom built dream home in the country and that I could write all day (and night when the ideas hit) and give credence to that author that is hidden within my soul.

Happy New Year to all! Here is wishing you all the best in 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One Word Resolution, a linky party

Today I am linking up with Primary Powers: The Superheroes of Teaching for a New Year's Resolution linky party. I know from past experience that making a lot of changes and goals makes it easier to quit, give up and give in. This year I will only make this one resolution and it is summed up in one word: Balance.
This year is actually my second year in a classroom, but it feels as foreign and overwhelming as my first year. As a first year teacher, I uprooted my family and moved 4 1/2 hours away from my friends and family to teach school in the Oklahoma panhandle teaching Kindergarten to a class of students that had more students that did not speak English than students that did speak English. The not speaking English part is not why we moved home. It was the high cost of housing and the moving away from all our family and friends that made it so difficult. One of my girls was a junior in high school and let me know that she intended to graduate from our hometown, with or without the rest of the family. We were so fortunate, we got to move back into our home that we love in a community that we love. I was unable to secure a teaching job that first year back and I worked in a reading room teaching guided reading groups and reading intervention groups. So.... this year, I am teaching in a small project based learning school and because of our small size, I am teaching grades Kindergarten through Fourth grade. Sound challenging? Yes. I would say that I am either brave or stupid to undertake this challenge and which one of those answers it is depends on the day! However, I love what I do. I love building relationships with these students, planning things, and the vast differences in not just learning styles but ability and where the students are at. But I spend far too much time at school and then I come home and spend every evening well into the night working on school work. I am trying to set some limits on my time at school and to be present when I am with my daughter at home, but all too often I come home and submerge myself in whatever I have left to accomplish for the next day. I can't keep doing this and need to find more balance. I cannot afford to just "leave school at school" but I can't continue to put my children on the back burner. I must find a balance that works! Now, let me just say.... I need to apply this balance theory in many areas, but this is the focus right now, the balance between work and home. I am not the best teacher I can be if I am neglecting myself and my family. It robs me of spiritual and mental/emotional health and leaves me exhausted. I love teaching, but I know I'll be a better teacher if I learn to balance school and home a little bit better.

What is your goal? Can you sum it up in one word? I am going to mount the word BALANCE on my laptop and my mirror so I see it often.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Fourteen in '14.... a linky

I am joining this party hosted by the above blogs. Join in or just hop over and read more!
blessed. That's my word for this past year. I think it's true of every day of every year really, but I see so many blessings in this past year. Last school year I was working in a school in a classified position, or in other words, for an hourly wage. Don't get me wrong, I was grateful for that job, but getting back into a classroom into a certified teaching job.... that was just what my soul needed. Looking ahead I think my word will be.... balance. I know my job deserves everything I've got, but so do my kids. I've got to find the balance.

Woooo-hooo..... I have so much to learn about Project based learning (or project based teaching) and I have so much to learn about multi-aged classrooms. My goal for 2015 is to excel at one of these areas and to become proficient at both without letting my family completely slip away. It is a lofty goal and it may not be attainable in just one year.

Well, I think I am starting to sound a little redundant, but it is getting a job. I have some other really good memories this year.... my daughter graduating from high school ranks at the top, but always looming in the back of my mind was the need for a job. So here I am employed in a profession that I love, and it is a great feeling.
My classroom right after I got it set up. It doesn't look this clutter-free now! 
We had family photos taken and this psychedelic picture is one of the "artistic" photos that our friend Tim did. I absolutely love it. I also love that I have a J.O.B. and can afford to have family photos taken. Hallelujah! 

Our first "just us" project for the year.... Re-Creation of The First Thanksgiving. I rely heavily on the 5-7 teacher to pull us through all-school projects, and this was our first project that was independent of them. 
We learned that the first Thanksgiving was a political gathering and that the women were not actually invited to the table.

The women probably ate "behind the scenes" somewhere, behind the houses or inside, but we just set up a separate table.

This is our representation of a Wampanoag shelter, as they built their own shelter for the feast.

This is a pilgrim house.

Children's activities included leap frog

They might have played Blind-man's Bluff also.
One student researched the men's activity of Log Throwing. He gave a demonstration using a carpet roll cardboard tube for his log. 

I guess it is the blog I posted the day that I accepted my job. I am so, so grateful. Read about it HERE

I've been hunting around and trying to locate a favorite and honestly, it is a waste of time. I am more of a "user" of Pinterest.... I usually go to the site and then download what I want and if I download it, why pin it? Or bookmark the site. I do have some good pins, but there's no one favorite. Most of my pins are education related but I did pin a gluten-free brownie recipe for my gf daughter, which you can see here. 

These pajama pants are sort of Seussical and a little psychedelic and super, super soft. My para and her son (my student) gave them to me for Christmas. I have been wearing them all day long. 

I give up. I can't think of anything, which doesn't mean that there is nothing new in life or even that I don't have a fave, but my mind is seriously blank. I even did some blog-stalking in search of an answer, but to no avail. I haven't tried Stitch-fix yet. Hopefully soon..... 

Favorite restaurant..... we usually go to Applebee's because there are some foods my gf child can eat, but I really like steakhouses. I like Longhorn Steakhouse.  Lately I have been enjoying Montana Mike's Steakhouse. Really what I love at Montana Mike's is the rolls. 

I have recently given in and started watching Sons of Anarchy and I am hooked. But my FAVORITE is Parenthood. I am so broken-hearted that this the last season. I feel like the characters are real and like I KNOW them, they are my friends, they are like my family. 

I don't go to the movies very often, but I did go and see Need for Speed with a friend and we liked it. I think Aaron Paul is very charismatic.

Hmmm.... I don't really adore any of my clothes right now. I think my favorite article of clothing is not a so much one article. I am loving scarves right now. I love how you can take an infinity scarf and add it to a tired, well-worn outfit and it is all new again. 

Oh. my. goodness. So many! Here are just a couple! 

And a couple more:
"Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."

"Not my circus, not my monkeys." and really the way I heard this one first was.... "Just because the monkey is off my back, doesn't mean the circus has left town."

That was my fourteen! Hope you had a wonderful year and don't forget to hop over and read about everyone's year! 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The week of Christmas in our classroom

I have been anxiously awaiting my opportunity to blog about the past week or so but as I sit here in a quiet, sleeping house this morning, my thoughts don't come together very well. I don't know how you all do all the Christmas stuff. I fall asleep sitting up working on school stuff every night and I have two trees undecorated and decorations and ornaments sitting around here waiting for me to have time to do something different. My first night of break I "watched a movie" with the fam, which is code for, "they watched the movie and I slept in my chair." But today I look forward to a little relaxation and a lot of holiday. I did not bring home papers to check. I have some. I will be working on getting progress reports ready for parents and some students did not get their corrections finished until yesterday afternoon. But I brought home a few basics and that is all because I need the break as much as the students do, and my children need me to be present.

Our last project was A One Room Schoolhouse Christmas. We kicked this off with a field trip to Old Cowtown Museum visiting during their Victorian Christmas. Some of our students were present when a local news channel came out to film and are included in the news presentation that you can see here. The youngest students were responsible to research and create decorations for the tree and
schoolhouse walls. We made paper chains, learned to string popcorn and made popcorn strings, made paper Christmas tree balls (the idea came from a gentleman who attended a one-room schoolhouse in the 1940's), we made a chain of stars for the wall and covered a star cutout with aluminum foil to top our tree, taking the advice of the gentleman who attended the one-room school house and using whatever we had to make decorations. He also mentioned that this was one way they decorated with stars. We used a cedar tree for our tree, which would have been authentic to some one-room schoolhouses.

We did some math with popcorn too! We did a lesson on estimation! By the way.... Ms. Horn did not do a good job estimating how much popcorn we needed! We had a LOT of popcorn!!!! Here a student is measuring how long/tall their chain is by comparing it to their own height, and here is the bag of popcorn that I made for us to string....

We ended up with a question of the day. This is what happens when we are just doing our lesson plans and a teaching moment comes up and Ms. Horn can't pass it up. So.... here it is:
We worked together to create a process to find an estimate. The trick is in finding a process that can be repeated in similar but different situations. For some students, this was just about exposure to processes they might use as they get older, but some students will be able transfer and apply this information this year.

A few more things we did to prepare for the program....
Here a First Grader adds cloves to an orange to make a fragrant room deodorizer.

Some students arranged their cloves in the design of a face. 
 We placed the oranges around the gym and on the table with the programs on it for our One Room Schoolhouse presentation.
Candles were used to light the tree in the 1870's. Our goal was to make a realistic looking candle. Our students
decided to cut the candles from milk jugs and color the flames with crayon. We fastened them to the branches with pipe cleaners. 

Here is the deep thinker that came up with the idea for using the milk jugs. 
This is the tree in the recreated schoolhouse with everything on it.  I felt very good about the work these little learners were able to accomplish.
While some snowflakes hung on the tree, others were placed on the schoolhouse wall.

One day this week we read How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Students were asked to write about what the author meant when he said that maybe Christmas didn't come from a store. One student wrote that he didn't understand because Christmas DOES come from a store. This was a little bit of a heart-breaker. But this one was my favorite and showed some deep thought from this little Third grade student!
"Christmas doesn't have to come from a store. Christmas comes from God. We don't have to spend money on toys. Instead on Christmas we could be thankful for the stuff we have. We could spend time with family and God."
Thursday night was our program and Whew! We worked so hard to make it a stellar performance! I was impressed once again! Our students really ARE the best!

....and Friday was a day filled with Christmas activities.

We set up five stations for students. I had a station that included a little math.... I adapted the Sneezy the Snowman spinner game using the pattern but having students roll two dice instead and doing multiplication. I had a sheet that said what pieces of the snowman they could create when they came up with that product (for example, the sheet of paper might have said: 16 = 2 eyes). The Sneezy the Snowman packet I got from Deanna Jump on Teachers Pay Teachers, and you can get it here. This is a pack that I really love.

Another station I was in charge of was about Mexico. We taught about Mexico at Christmas and created a paper poinsettia, the Mexican Christmas flower. We learned about Sinter Klaus in Holland and made a clog cutout with carrots and hay for his horse. Two more stations were set up by my colleague, Mrs. Addis, and they were Germany and England. The station for Germany included playing a game called, "Topfschlagen" or "hit the pot" which is a game that children might play at Christmas in Germany. At the England station students made "crackers" to celebrate the season.

Kristen, a sixth grader, trying not to have her picture taken while making her Poinsettia
Making poinsettias with Ms. Ronni

This third grader with her clog filled with hay and carrots. 
 After a fun-filled morning with all these stations our afternoon went by quickly watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's Christmas Time Again Charlie Brown. As soon as we finished this, it was time for party festivities to begin. We played the infamous Candy-ball game where the candy is wrapped in Saran-wrap and kids had to try to unwrap a piece of candy before their friend to the left of them rolled a double and shouted out the sum. I have never seen someone so excited about math before!
For our gift exchange we did a boy and girl "musical gift" game where we passed the gift around the circle until the music stopped. The girls had a circle and the boys had a circle. It was a lot of fun and everyone enjoyed their gifts!

A couple of my favorite things overhead yesterday....

"This is the best Christmas ever!"an eager second grader said as we moved from one activity to the next during our party.

"Now I know what it means when people say they are so happy they cry happy tears!" one young man said as a little bit of happiness slipped down his face.

"I will miss you over the break Ms. Horn" one grinning learning said to me as he got ready to go. This one might be my favorite as this young learner seldom has something kind or happy to contribute.