Thursday, December 29, 2011

11 in 11

Kristen from Teeny Tiny Teacher and Hadar at Miss Kindergarten are having an 11 in 11 linky party!  Yes, this is my third linky party in 2 days, but heck, it's fun stuff, and it's a great opportunity to reflect and grow.  Plus, did I mention it was fun?

11. Favorite movie you watched: I almost never go to the movies, but I've been to two movies this year.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and My Week With Marilyn.  I honestly can't decide:  one is from a classic book, the other is about a classic actress.  One is fantasy, one is fact.  Good stuff, each in its own genre.

10. Favorite TV series:  That would have to be Glee!  I admit, I'm a Gleek.  I love song and dance, and I'm a big fan of musical theatre, so, Glee is my honest answer.

9. Favorite restaurant:  This is a tough one, since I love going out to eat, and love most foods.  My favorite restaurant a year ago would have been easy, but that restaurant changed hands, and is no longer my favorite restaurant.  I guess I'd have to say... Not Your Average Joe's.  It's primarily a Massachusetts restaurant, and it's got a lot of comfort foods mixed with healthy and modern twists.  Fun stuff!
8. Favorite new thing you tried:  Well, this would most definitely have to be blogging!  It's right up there with Pinterest and Twitter!
7. Favorite gift you got: Another dilemna.  It's either tickets to Late Night Catechism, or the hoodie sweatshirt from Suffolk University.  Of course, these gifts were from my 2 favorite people, which might have something to do with it.  These are the people who know me the best, which also might have something to do with it.  Late Night Catechism is from my boyfriend, who returned from my past a couple of years ago... we had gone to Catholic school together from Kindergarten - 6th grade.  The hoodie sweatshirt was from my daughter.

 6.  Favorite thing you pinned:
 Again, we have a tie.  It's between Smile Breaks which is a Power Point of cute pictures that will get the kids to smile, and directions to Make Your Own Lottery Tickets.

5. Favorite blog post: This one is easy!  It's Speaking of Heroes.  It's a very personal one, where my old hometown dedicated a street and named it after my father, who was football coach and athletic director in that town for many years.

4. Best accomplishment:  Without a doubt, my best accomplishment is my amazing daughter. I'll bet  you were thinking I was going to say my blog... or at least my career?  Not even close seconds.

3. Favorite picture: Why do I have trouble making decisions? It's between these two. (again, my two favorite people!) The one with my guy was last year on New Year's Eve.  The one with my daughter was us goofing around during prom picture time. 

2. Favorite memory:  This would be a series of memories.  My daughter and I spent many years doing shows together at the Amesbury Playhouse.  The people we worked with, the characters we played, the story lines we portrayed, all these are fantastic memories.  Here we are together in Nunsense.

1. Goal for 2012: Between looking out for my health and continuing the career I love so much, as well as maintaining the wonderful relationships I have, there's not much time for much else... but I do have a goal for 2012: to increase viewship of my blog and sharing ideas, and develop my knowledge particularly in the area of brain based learning. 

Be sure to check out the 11 in 11 linky party!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Resolutions for 2012

I'm a sucker for a linky party, and there are a lot going on right now.  I suppose it's because most of us are on vacation and have a little more time to do fun things like blogging!  Also, its a time of year where people tend to reflect and set new goals.

Live Love Laugh Everyday in Kindergarten is having a linky party for New Year's Resolutions!

Well, here are some of mine!

Personal: I really need to look out for my health, which means I need to reduce the stress in my life. 
One way to do that is to get my butt out of school at a decent hour and do some relaxing at home.  I also need to spend more time laughing and talking with friends.
Teaching: I'm loving what I've learned about brain based learning, and I plan to keep looking for ways to apply this in my own classroom.  Don't worry, I'll keep sharing with you!

Blogging: I had planned to do some re-vamping of my blog design during this vacation, but I can see that's not going to happen!  But this is a plan I will put in motion once the school year is back on track.  I also plan to make more materials for TpT, and even charge for some! 

I have dreams of having huge numbers of followers and making huge amounts of  money from blogging, but that's not really what it's about for me.  It's more about sharing quality information with other teachers. 

Ultimately, that's my #1 goal for 2012:  to share quality information with other teachers. 
This I plan to keep!

Top Three Blog Posts

Fern Smith is having a linky party on her blog, Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas!  Not only is this a great opportunity to reflect my own year's blogging, but it's also a chance to reflect on lots of other blogs and what's successful in the blogging world!  Although I'm a little inhibited by some of the large number of views on what I've seen so far on the links, I have to admit I'm pretty proud of my top blogs!

In the top spot, with 953 views is Band Aid or Lasso.  This one is about a couple of tricks I use to help the kids remember when to use apostrophes.

In the second spot, Five Tips For Teaching Reading Using Recent Brain Research with 629 views. 

Finally, in the third spot with 622 views was Perfect is the Enemy of Good.

Interestingly, 2 of the 3 posts were written in August, when I was a very beginner at blogging.  (Although I'd hardly consider myself experienced yet!)   I was a little surprised that the third post did as well as it did, as it was just my frustration with myself getting my room set up.  I was hoping to see that type of popularity with posts like Did You Check for S.P.U.N.C? or Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds.

But it was good to reflect.  And I'm looking forward to spending more time reflecting on the top 3 posts on other blogs!


Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Happy and Peaceful Holiday to All

Taken on "Dress Like an Elf" day, December 23, 2011.
According to Norad Santa Tracker, Santa is someplace in South America.  My house is clean and the food prep is ready for tomorrow.  The gifts are all wrapped, and my daughter and I opened our traditional Christmas eve gifts.  (She got a CD, I got a book.)  There's more to open tomorrow, but we had our preview tonight. 

While we were getting the house ready, we watched Elf, It's a Wonderful Life, and The Christmas Story.

I'm looking forward to family and friends tomorrow being here for gifts and a turkey dinner.

All is good in the world.  This is my wish for you as well... all the work is done, and spending time enjoying the company of loved ones.

Have a wonderful, peaceful holiday!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Game Day

Finally, the last day of school before vacation is finally tomorrow.  We'll be spending the morning writing Thank you notes, and designing 2012 calendars, but I'll be giving the kids some time for playing strategy games.  Some of the games are not easy for second graders, but I love the games that encourage thinking!  These are some of my favorites:
Apples to Apples
Chess/ Checkers

What are your favorite strategy games? 
Do the kids get to play in school?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thank You Cards

Well, since our class "Winter Party" is scheduled for Thursday, and we still have school on Friday, guess what the kids are doing Friday morning!  We're writing Thank you notes!

At our class party, each child will be giving a gift to the class.  I will have a visitng parent write names and gifts on a paper (like at a wedding shower or a baby shower).  I'll type these up on little slips of paper, then on Friday, we'll go over the parts of the Thank You notes, and write them up.  The fun part is that they get to deliver them to each other in person! 
I think Thank You notes are a lost art.  But they are worthwhile and valued.

The parts of a Thank You note:
The Heading:  since this is a note, not a letter, all that's needed is the date, not an entire return address.
The Greeting:  Dear ______,  that's it!
The Body:  I was always taught that the body of a thank you note has two basic sentences. 
The first sentence is very specific:  Thank you for the _______.  The only time you're not very specific is when it's money or a gift card.  Then you just say thank you for the money. 
The second sentence tells what you are going to do with the item. 
It's ok to add another sentence or two, just friendly stuff, but those two sentences are essential to a thank you note.
The Closing:  Your friend,  Your classmate, Sincerely, or if you're writing to family... Love,
The Signature:  Your name.  That's it!

Enjoy writing your Thank You notes!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dangling a Carrot When Your Brain is Fried

My brain is in need of a vacation!
We're working all the way up to the 23rd of December.  The kids are totally fried and aren't getting much done at all.  I'm working hard to keep things fun and keep them interested in what's going on, but I feel like I'm fighting a never ending battle.  It's weeks like this that make me feel like I should have been a dentist. (I've had lots of practice this week at "pulling teeth"!)

My experience has taught me to always have some sort of a carrot to dangle.  This week, it's the class party.  I've always found it best to have that party the day BEFORE the last day of school.  I have always found that once the party is over, the children are amazingly calm on that last day.  They've been told all week that they have to EARN the winter party on Thursday.  Today wasn't great, but they've promised tomorrow will be better, and they will earn that celebration!

I have all my kids bring a gift for the classroom.  They can bring books, craft materials, consumables, games, etc.  I've been doing this for years, and I've always found the children bring some great stuff for the class!   They take such pride in what they bring, and they want to use the stuff for the rest of the year.  I have each child open one gift, then all the other children give a chorus of thank you, since the gift is for everyone!  Of course I have a few extra gifts on hand, so everyone will be sure to have something to open, even cute little younger siblings who are visiting.  The rest of the party consists of checking out the new stuff and trying a few things.  And, of course, music and dancing!

I also give each child a book and usually some little token. (This year it's a kaleidoscope.)  I couldn't imagine NOT giving them a gift, they're practically the most important people in my life! 


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Band aid or Lasso?

Do you have students who use apostrophes for everything that ends in s?

I remind my kids to think if the apostrophe works as a band aid or a lasso.  If it doesn't, it's not needed.

I don't claim the band aid story.  My students gave it to me, but it
sure is clever!  They told me the apostrophe is like a band aid in contractions.  Since the two words were squashed into one, some of the letters popped out, and the band aid is needed to heal the spot where the letters popped out. Of course, this story has evolved, and now I tell them certain letters were "surgically removed". They really enjoy saying "surgically removed", so I enhance the story to keep their attention! I also mention that the surgery doesn't hurt at all, in fact, it tickles!

I do claim the lasso story as my own.  When teaching possessives, I make sure the kids know the word "possess" means to own or have something.  I'll get into stories of rodeos, telling them how cowboys throw their lasso and claim their cattle.   I show them pictures I've googled of cowboys and lassos.  In a possessive, the noun with the 's owns the following item.  I even get into turning the apostrophe into a lasso and circling the next word.  They practice this on their whiteboards (I'm a whiteboard fanatic!) and love to draw the lassos. 

Naturally, if the word they're thinking about doesn't need a band aid or a lasso, they shouldn't be using an apostrophe. 

We know how these little stories help the children remember.  After 35+ years of teaching, I have lots of little stories and "tricks up my sleeve".  Recent brain research shows us these little stories help make the connections in the brain so the children can build their knowledge.  Plus, it's fun!

One of my favorite games has this Band-Aid/ Lasso theme. Click the image for the link!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Similes and Christmas

As I was reading The Night Before Christmas, I remembered there are some great examples of similes in there. 

It just so happens that similes are in the future for my students.  Feel free to try some on your own with my Christmas Simile Freebee.

You'll be as happy as Santa.  I'll be as delighted as Rudolph!  We'll be as silly as a bunch of elves!  Your students will be as smart as.... we are!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Ladybug Picture Book Award

Here in New Hampshire, we have a really cool activity in the month of November.  Children (K - 3) from all over New Hampshire get to vote for the Ladybug Picture Book Award!

I'm not sure how it's done in the other schools in New Hampshire, but in my school, all ten books that are nominated are read to the children by various adults from the school and the community.  (I had the chief of police read a children's book in my classroom, the kids were totally fascinated!)  All of the books nominated are new picture books, so the children get a chance to hear a nice variety of new literature.  I let the children have a copy of the sample ballot so they could write notes after each book was read so they could make an informed decision when voting time came. 

Well, the votes are in, and the winner is... Memoirs of a Goldfish written by Devin Scillian and illustrated by Tim Bowers.

I think it's a great learning process for the kids.  They hear some great literature.  This year really showed them a wide variety of writing styles, too!  Then of course, the children are learning the democratic process of voting and making an informed decision.  Plus, they got to meet some of the key members of our community who came to our school to read to them.  (That alone shows them the value of reading!)

Be sure to check out this link to see the other nominated books and how the voting went!  It was a great experience for all!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Celebrating With a Freebie

I have some reasons to celebrate.  In the last week, I have past 300 Facebook Fans, and over 800 Twitter followers!  Naturally I'm pretty excited about that, so I thought I'd celebrate by giving you this freebie I did with my class today!

Click my cover page to download 25 pages of homophones for the children to illustrate.

My students did a fabulous job with this activity today.  They had some fun, and really proved their understanding of the different homophone pairs!

I'm so grateful there are people out there who appreciate what I have to say.  Thanks so much!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dabbling in DIBELS

Last week I went to a two day training period for DIBELS Next.  DIBELS Next is an assessment program for early readers.  It stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills. 

We learned how to deliver every part of the test for every level.  Typically the assessment is given 3 times a year:  the beginning, the middle, and the end.  Different levels are given different parts of the test.   Teachers are able to Progress Monitor children who don't meet benchmarks.  The best part?  All the materials are available online for free.

The tough part?  It takes about 10 minutes per child at my level.  The tests are given individually.  The tricky part is finding time to do this while keeping up with all our classroom responsibilities. 

But it's a wealth of information!  This is the first time in years our school district has used any kind of assessment that is standardized.  The older children have the state mandated tests, starting in third grade, and we've had the unit tests from the reading program we use.  DIBELS will be giving us specific information concerning what our students know (or don't know) about reading.

Why is this good?  Because it tells us specifically what we need to teach the children!  (I suspect you already knew this!)  With all the testing we've been forced to do over the past few years, it's a pleasure to have an assessment tool that helps us figure out what we need to do. 

DIBELS doesn't necessarily tell us what to do to raise the scores, but there are tons of resources,  many of which we explored through the 2 day training. 

So, I've started Dabbling in DIBELS.  During the last couple of days, I've Dibbled 4 of my students.  It's a little late for the beginning of the year baseline, and a little early for the midyear assessment, but I'm just practicing giving the test.  (And getting information about my kids!)  Honestly, there's not really anything I didn't already know about these kids, but it's valid information that I can bring up at meetings and share with parents. 

So far I'm happy dabbling in DIBELS!  Whatever keeps them reading!


Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Hardest Part about this Holiday Season

I can honestly say the hardest part of this holiday season is trying to decide which holiday ideas to use in my classroom.    Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are exactly 20 school days.  (Yes, we go all the way to the 23rd!)  There are a whole lot of fabulous ideas out there!  In fact, there are so many, there is no way I could use them all!  As a matter of fact, there's no way I can use even some of them and still do all the "have tos" for my school district. 

Here's a huge example:  Rachel Lynette of Minds in Bloom collected holiday ideas from 50 teachers and compiled them into a FREE book!  It's over 50 pages with tips, freebies, and reproducibles on each page.  Just this resource alone would keep you busy for the season.  (Click the picture to download!)

 But there's more!

Charity Preston from The Organized Classroom Blog put together this book of ideas on holiday parties.  Lots of great ideas!  While you're at her blog downloading the ebook, be sure to check out Charity's 12 Days of Christmas (free if you subscribe to her newsletter) and her link to her Winter Pinterest Goodies!

But there's more!

Denise of Sunny Days in Second Grade is sponsoring 5 days of Holiday Giveaways!  Check it out!Even if you don't need the ideas, just reading her blog is a pleasure.  While you're at it, be sure to check out Denise's Teachers Pay Teachers store.   Lots of super ideas, and many freebies!  I have to say, my own students have done several of these activities, and they love them!  They are the perfect combination of practicing important skills and fun! 
Make it fun...that's one thing brain research has taught me... they'll remember it if it's fun!

Click to download my free math pages!
I could go on and on, but life goes on, and my report cards are waiting.  However, don't forget to go to my very own Teachers Pay Teachers store.  I don't have much, and most of the stuff is free, but I sure do love to share what I have.  And I really, really try to make it fun!

Hope you're enjoying the holiday season!
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