Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sub Tub Makeover!

I'm in the process of making over my Sub Tub, so I decided to revamp my Substitute Binder too!  I LOVE the ocean/submarine theme!  I've added it to my TpT store, so if you're interested, you can snag a copy or check out the preview file there.  As always, the preview includes thumbnails of each page so that you can see what's included in the file.  I have a copy of each page in my Substitute Binder, and then I keep it in a locker crate (for now) with the Sub Tub sign on it.  I keep this on the edge of my desk with emergency plans filed in it, games, and other resources.   By far, this is my favorite classroom management tool! It helped me successfully cope with two surgeries this year without missing a beat!

I've always been a little Type A when it comes to sub plans.  I typically write lengthy narratives when I know that I'll be out of school, and I typically spend HOURS doing it.  Many times, I feel that I type up the same routines over and over and over again while thinking, "There has to be a more efficient way".  I've also had days where I wake up and I feel like I'm about to keel over at any moment and I get hit with that feeling--- that dreaded oh-no-I-am-so-not-ready-for-a-sub-today belly flop.  So, in the past, I have dragged myself in to work after a thirty minute drive to organize my desk for a sub while the room spun around me and I miserably sunk into a chair.  Those days are now gone!  Phew!

Let's just say that this transformation, in my case, was a little stressful, and let's just say that 2010 was a bit of a challenge for me.  I underwent two knee surgeries over the course of the year (several months apart).  Last May, I wrote out my typical pre-sub narratives, and it was fine.  Of course, I was able to schedule my surgery for a Friday... and we happened to have the following Monday off.  I was back by Tuesday, and it was relatively painless--- the planning, at least.  I didn't fare so well in October.  After switching surgeons (because the first surgeon apparently wasn't able to locate my torn meniscus), I was only able to schedule my surgery on a Monday.  If I hadn't been walking around with torn cartilage for five months, I would have scheduled my surgery for another week, but the soonest they could get me in was the week of Halloween.  Just thinking of it now makes me cringe!  To make a long story short, knowing that I could be out anywhere from three to five days made the gears start turning.  So, in true Amanda fashion, I turned to Google.  I found a template that I used until I finally decided to upgrade & create my own system.

I created a template to fill in.  The nice thing is, I now will only have to write it out once a year... if that rather than  every time I'm going to be out.   I created a few pages of photographs that explained where things were located around the room as well.  In the back, I photocopied frequently used documents, their computer usernames/passwords, and other practical documents that they may or may not need during my absence.

I also bought a few documents that I added to other sections of the binder.  I bought emergency plans from Teacher's Clubhouse and Littlest Learners at TPT.  By the way, if you're looking for even more on the topic, Littlest Learners has a whole page devoted to the topic.  I put one copy of each document in page protectors, then I ran off 24 copies of each document and organized them into color coded file folders.  I keep them here, but I haven't added my new label to the tub yet!  Ooops!

I keep the Substitute Teacher Kit on the edge of my desk.  It's empty here, but has been filled with trade books, games, and the aforementioned emergency plans folders... just in case I wake up feeling like I'm going to keel at any point.  I keep this filing system next to it for "Papers to Grade".  I found it at Target, and I thought it was darling! I labeled each folder with the days of the week, and it was also a life-saver when I was out for a week.  I came back, and everything was super-organized.   Another perk--- if you're uber organized and detailed--- your substitute tends to repay the favor with a detailed account of their day(s) with the kiddos! Everything is spelled out in detail in my substitute binder, and luckily, I don't have to freak out if I'm going to be out.  More often than not, when I'm out a half-day for Literacy PD, a post-it note or two does the trick.  For somebody that used to spend HOURS freaking out before a substitute... even for a half-day release... this is pure magic!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's Testing Time, So Snag a Sign!

Tomorrow, my kiddos will be taking the Reading OAA!  It's crazy how I can simultaneously feel excited, nervous, relieved, and exhausted during testing week!  It's quite a rush of emotions.  :)  Honestly, at the moment, I'm feeling flat out drained.  Drained, but optimistic!  We had a normal day until around 2:30 when our school aired a special edition of video announcements. We created a testing parody of "All the Single Ladies"... and yes... I decided to partake in the hilarity.  If you want to see our inspiration, simply type "All the Harmon Students" into YouTube.  That should give you a good idea of what I looked like shaking my groove thing with some of my teacher friends.  :) My kiddos thoroughly enjoyed it. Actually, the kiddos' Fraction Spongebobs also made cameo appearances in the music video... and that made my little test-takers super excited too! You can probably imagine.  Cue the "Ohhhh, that's mine!"  After our viewing, we rounded our kids up for a pep rally that involved lots of dancing and singing.   Our principal gave a motivational speech, and then the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders paraded through the main hallways past the K-2 students and gave out high-fives.  Of course, my students told me that now they feel like celebrities and that they can't wait to take the OAA now.  Mission complete!

I stayed after school until 6:00 to get everything in order for tomorrow morning.  After taking posters down and covering bulletin boards in my overly print-rich classroom and sharpening so many extra pencils that my hands are speckled with blisters, I plan on relaxing the rest of the evening.  Before I do, you have to check out Smencils.  (Google it!)  Our PTO bought each student a peppermint scented pencil to take the test.  Why peppermint?  Because peppermint stimulates brain functions...specifically memory retrieval!  Yay!  I love happy brains!

Help yourself to a testing sign to use on your doors during state tests, diagnostic tests, or whatever! 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Charlotte's Web Unit, Bowling for Products, and a FREEBIE!

I LOVE Charlotte's Web! I have been teaching this unit for the past five years, and every year I strive to make it even better. This year, I fancied up my old documents with new clip art and aligned the unit with the new common core standards! As always, the preview file on TpT shows thumbnails of all 33 pages, if you're interested in checking it out.  I'm posting a "Spider Web" to use with Charlotte's Web or to practice researching skills for free.  Make sure you grab a copy!

I also created a new multiplication game called Farm Bowling: Bowling for Products.  I was inspired by Sarah Cooley's addition game... but created this center to use with intermediate students!  It's a fun way to practice facts with dice involving the following factors: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Launching Our Poetry Unit!

We began to study poetry this week... and it was a short one!  We didn't have school on Friday, so I spent four days getting our feet wet.  We haven't gotten into any of the heavy, more involved components of my poetry unit.  Instead, I tore a page out of Deanna Jump's book.  We also spent time dissecting the genre, because I want to scaffold my kiddos A LOT before I expect them to be poetry connoisseurs!  

We discussed the meaning of poetry and how the sensory language in poems helps us to visualize.  I  used two posters from my poetry unit as anchor charts.  Then, we created Green Giants using the Jack Prelutsky poem.  I thought the idea was cute when I read about it on Deanna's blog, and it was so concrete!  It was perfect to launch mental pictures with poetry.  Of course, my students have been drawing mental pictures all year, BUT I want them to zone in on all of the subtleties in poetry when we get into more sophisticated poems.  This was a great launching pad.  We also worked with "My Neighbor's Dog is Purple".  If you'd like to use music to incorporate poetry and mental pictures into your genre study, I used Philadelphia Chickens, and the kids sketched Pig Island while the music played!  (I wish I would have snapped pictures, but we were so busy that day.  I forgot!)  I love all of the books/cds by Sandra Boynton!  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The little speech bubble in the corner says, "Oh my hamburger!"   Too comical!
We explored similes again, this time within the context of poetry.  I finally got a chance to use the little visual aids I made from the Lettering Delights Woody Whatnots set!  We read Crazy Like a Fox, and the kids got to complete each simile before I turned the page to find out which one the author actually chose to use!  Then, we used my poster set to create new similes that branched off of each example.  Lastly, the kids were able to make simile books or posters to create their own NEW similes!  They really enjoyed working on these, and I loved seeing how creative they were! One of my history loving students created a "Military Simile" book using similes like "as quick as a fighter jet" and "as sly as a guided missile".  Creativity!  As luck would have it, my camera died after this photo was taken. 

Another fun activity we did involved a wow words search after reading The Boy Who Loved Words! The kids were given a red piece of paper that they cut into the shape of a heart.  They looked around the room, through books, and in dictionaries for words that make them say "Wow"! They chose words that were fun to say, had interesting spellings, or sounded just plain fancy.  I told them to copy the words as carefully as they could, but of course, I still have students who struggle with this skill! So, the hearts were life-savers, because it allowed the kiddos to get their words down before coming to me with their wow words.  We added the words to our class chart (with conventional spelling) to help us pay attention to precise language as we examine poetry.  Poetry is concise.  Every word matters.  Every word carries weight.

I wanted to model finding poetic words and poetic language because I am in the process of creating poetry centers from Georgia Heard's Awakening the Heart.  It's an amazing resource!  Unfortunately, because of the copyright, I cannot post the complete centers here.  Ultimately though, the kids will be going on a treasure hunt for poetic words and phrases!  They will be looking through poems and picture books like Owl Moon or Twilight Comes Twice (books that we have already read together).  Then, the kiddos will record the poetic language they encounter before choosing one line to write and illustrate on a bookmark.  Viola!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Gallon!

We're working on measurement in math right now, and to be honest, I'm at that point in the year where I'm not entirely loving EveryDay Math.  My  kiddos come to me with very limited background knowledge of anything beyond inches and centimeters.  The current unit is set up to hit length, volume, capacity, weight, coordinate grids and some extras all in Unit 10!  So, I try to supplement this measurement unit more than others, because I know that my students require more time and more support than the teacher's manual gives.  Supplementing the unit has been extremely difficult after our eight snow days, because our state test is literally right around the corner!  I am trying to make every minute count...

Today, we worked on capacity.  I decided to have my kiddos make a version of Gallon Man!  I've seen so many versions out there, but I decided to invent mine as we went along to help my students connect to the equivalencies.  We started with one sheet of construction paper and labeled it "Gallon".  (It helps that we worked on fractions two chapters ago, because the students understood this as one whole too.)  Then, each student was given another whole gallon, and we folded it in half twice to make four equal parts that we labeled "quart".  This was glued to the gallon body to form arms and legs.  After that, the kids took another whole piece of paper (or gallon) and folded it into eighths.  They cut it apart and labeled each part with "pint" to form a hand (which we likened to a robot hand because it looked nothing like a human hand).  Lastly, we took a whole sheet of paper and folded it into sixteenths to make fingers.  We labeled each finger with the word "cup" and glued them onto our gallon people.  I sketched out a jug head and labeled it Mr. Gallon.  Each student had a copy, and glued this to the body.   The kiddos decorated their jug heads and colored them!  Some of the girls followed my lead and turned their artwork into Mrs. Gallon with eye-lashes and lipstick.  Sure, it's not the cutest most anatomically correct (gallon) person you've ever seen, but the parts are equivalent to the real thing!   They kind of remind me of crustaceans! Maybe it's because we're working with brine shrimp in science!  Ha-ha!  Despite the unique anatomy of this odd couple, it helped to have the students fold and cut pieces by starting with the "gallon" every time to see how each smaller unit compared to the gallon!  I just need to play around with the design a little bit for next year so that the feet don't overlap, and I'll be happy!

What are some of your favorite measurement activities?

Brine Shrimp (Enlarged)

                I couldn't resist!  Uncanny, isn't it?!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Our Book Recommendation Board: Revamped!

I stumbled upon Beth Newingham's website three years ago, and I have been using a book recommendation board in my classroom ever since!  I absolutely love her ideas... so I adapted them to fit my own classroom needs and management style.  Originally, I used clip art from Print Explosion Deluxe for my posters, but over time, I fell out of love with them.  I found much better clip art, and I felt that need to revamp my board! The kids love it no matter what!  I guess I'm just fickle!  :)

Here's the new view... so far.  It's kind of a work in progress.  I need to replace the monkeys and fix a few more things before I'll be totally thrilled with it!  This is still a huge improvement though!  If you uploaded my original packet... make sure to download the update!

I forgot to post our Mystery Box adventure.  I finally got to use Abby's lesson during our mystery unit last week!  Since we have been working on synthesizing, I put the nesting monkeys inside of the box.  The mystery box is also great for synthesis because the kids are able to see how their thinking changes with each clue.  Snapshot time!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Musical Words! Brain Friendly Review Games!

When I was a student teacher, I used to play a game called "Spelling Stop" with my second graders! It ran a lot like musical chairs, except nobody was ever "out".  I taped a sign to the back of three to four chairs around the room.  The kids walked around while music played.  When it stopped, they took a seat.  If they were in a seat with a sign, they were given a spelling word to spell.  The kids loved it!

A few years later, I had my own third grade classroom, and I was looking for a way to review test vocabulary with my kiddos.   I wanted to briefly review the terms they would be likely to encounter on our state test, but I wanted to do it in a brain friendly, interactive way.  So, "Vocabulary Stop" was born.  I use it to review terms like main idea, synonym, antonym, homophone, cause, effect, central idea, selection, etc.  You can also use it with Tier II vocabulary words from stories!  It works just like "Spelling Stop", except that the kids explain what their word means.  They give definitions.  You could give them the definition and ask for the term, if that works better for your class. :)  Our Reading OAA will be on February 27th.  Guess what we'll be playing next week!

If you're interested, I'm including the signs I use with my class.  Help yourself, & enjoy!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hocus Pocus! I Need Focus!

I don't want to go a whole week without posting, so I'm going to share some small Science snippets from our week!  I'm tired, sick, and scatterbrained, so I'll do my best to write a coherent post.  I'm having trouble focusing after my twelve hour slumber! I think I'm coming down with strep throat, so I may end up at Stat Care by the end of the day. If you need clarification about anything, leave questions and I'll get back to you!

Since we've been working with aphids and daphnia, we discussed the importance of camouflage.  The kiddos created their own paper butterflies and found items in the classroom to make them disappear into.  We taped them to the surfaces, then went on a butterfly hunt!  The kids loved this, and it was so easy!  There was basically no prep!  I just grabbed a stack of white construction paper, and viola! A memorable lesson on camouflage! Check out their creations!

We've been monitoring the interaction between aphids and our plants.  We planted fava beans, bush beans and pea plants before spring break, and now they are infested with creepy crawlies.  So far, the aphids haven't really multiplied, but eventually the plants will be covered by little green bugs.  The kids will be learning about producers, primary consumers, dispersal, and biotic potential through this lesson.  It's always really fun... unless you wind up with giant spiders in your room like I did three years ago!   :)  Thankfully, the spider was a great example of a secondary consumer in the food chain!

The little specks are aphids!
We also did a little experiment with brine shrimp eggs and clover seeds.  The kids had to make a hypothesis about which was a seed and which was an egg.  Then they had to guess which organism would grow in freshwater and which would grow in saltwater.  Each group filled four vials: two were filled with freshwater and two were filled with saltwater.  They put the eggs in freshwater and in saltwater.  They put the seeds in saltwater and freshwater too, and then we waited.  The next day, the clover seeds had started to sprout in the freshwater tubes, and they could see tiny bouncing brine shrimp babies in the saltwater tubes.  They loved this lesson... especially when they saw the enlarged photographs of brine shrimp!  To the naked eye, they look like tiny brown specks!

With the OAA approaching, I started thinking about pumping the kids up! It's also time to begin covering/removing all of the student work and anchor charts on my walls!  It's great to have a print-rich classroom until testing rolls around.  Ha-ha!  I decided to use an idea from the Lesson Plan SOS ladies to cover two of my bulletin boards and ease some OAA worries.  It's their Smart Little Cookies craft!  I usually have the kids make posters to cheer each other on during the test and those usually grace my bulletin boards and walls.  This year, I blended the two.  After completing the craft and smart little cookie recipe, I had the kids write messages to each other to build morale!  :)

Now for the Hocus Pocus!  Last night, my husband and I went to see a magic show by Joshua Jay! This was the first magic show I have ever seen in my life, and I probably never would have gone to see someone do card tricks if it wasn't for the fact that my friend is dating the magician! I've only met him once before, but when my husband read that he was coming to our little bitty city, he snagged tickets.  Joshua did a card trick at our wedding that was ridiculous. RIDICULOUS! He had me write my new initials, the date, and a symbol on a card.  Then, I folded it up, and put it in between my teeth.  He did the same, and put his card between his teeth.  Then he grabbed my hands and had me look in his eyes.  All of the sudden, Josh said, "Is this your card?"  He pulled MY card out of his teeth, and I had his card between my teeth.  WHAT?!  We had probably ten to fifteen people around us and our photographer snapping away, and nobody caught how he did it.  Last night was equally baffling.  How did a torn and rolled up dollar bill end up inside of a lemon?  And how did it match up exactly with the other torn corner?

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with teaching, and I assure you, there's a connection.  Josh talked about how much practice goes into each move to give the illusion of magic-- how a really great magician makes a really difficult trick look easy.  Isn't that what we do?  Don't really masterful teachers transform difficult topics into something magical?  Don't we entertain and instill wonder?  I assert that we aren't so different after all.