Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Spelling City Guest Post on Multiple Meaning Words

Sunny Days in SecondI'm thrilled to welcome Denise from Sunny Days in Second Grade!  If you've never been to her blog before, you're truly in for a treat!  Today she has some ideas for using Spelling City!

Denise here from Sunny Days in Second Grade.  Thanks so much to my blog buddy Sally for allowing me to guest post today. I've been working closely with Spelling City over the last few months to explore the wealth of resources available to teachers and students. I've been so impressed with everything I've found and I'm thrilled to be able to share some with you today!

Let's focus on raising student's critical thinking and vocabulary by exploring multiple meaning words. Here's a little picture tutorial that will guide you through the free content available to you!






Be sure to check out all of the other great content waiting for you at Spelling City and if you ever have any questions, I'd be happy to help the best I can. Enjoy, my friends!


Thanks to Denise from Sunny Days for sharing these great ideas!  Spelling City can be used many ways, and this is one that is useful for many, many kids at many grade levels! Of course, brain research tells us that if we add fun, the children will be more likely to learn.  Spelling City definitely adds the fun!  Thanks Denise for sharing these ideas!


Tomorrow is the Product Swap!  You may not know what "Product Swap" means right now, but by tomorrow at this time, you'll be busy enjoying ideas of loads of different, quality Teacher Products!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Common Core Standards and Some Resources

My district, like many others, will be starting to implement the Common Core Standards this year.  I've started to explore them.  I'm realizing we won't be able to follow our reading or our math programs quite as much as we used to.  Personally, that makes me quite happy, as I wasn't thrilled with either program.  I see strengths to the programs, but I also see the weaknesses.

I have been searching the web this summer, exploring all the Common Core materials I could find.  I bought the book Common Core Curriculum Maps for English Language Arts, which some bloggers of us will be studying in August.

I recently found THIS from Have Fun Teaching.  There are page sized posters for every standard, both English and Math, for K - 5.  Check it out!

If you're a Pinterest fan, I have a Common Core Pinterest board.

I'm also on a few cooperative boards including:

The latter board is connect to these blogs. (of which I am a contributor)  Be sure to check them out!

Common Core Classrooms

Common Core Kids

And, of course, there's the official Common Core website!  

I'll keep looking for more Common Core resources and sharing them.  Do you know of any good resources for the Common Core Standards?


Tell Me More, Tell Me More

Step into 2nd Grade with Mrs. Lemons is having a linky party. You might have noticed I'm a sucker for a good linky party. This particular one is asking bloggers to tell more about themselves. It caught my attention because the name of it sounds like the beginning of that song from Grease! (I'm a big fan of musical theatre!)

So, here are some things about me.
I'm not just a fan of musical theatre, but I'm an experienced actress! I've been in close to 100 different productions, and had some amazing roles. My first big role was Nellie Forbush in South Pacific. (It was also my first stage kiss!) I've also played Connie in A Chorus Line, Lucy in You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, Lady Thiang in The King and I, Golde in Fiddler on the Roof, and Sister Amnesia in Nunsense.

Here's a video from when I was in You're a Good Man Charlie Brown.  (I'm Lucy in the blue dress... sorry, the sound quality is terrible, but it was a super fun show!)

And from the same show, our finale... this is a great song!



Here are a couple of pictures.. this is my character Sister Mary Amnesia from Nunsense, singing a "duet" with "Sister Mary Annette" called  So You Want to be a Nun? This show was particularly funny for me, since I went to Catholic school many years ago. It was very special to me since it was an ensemble cast... only 5 women, and one of them was my daughter. (She played Sister Leo, the novice who wanted to be the first nun-ballerina.) Shows with ensemble casts have always been my favorite, since everyone matters, there are no egos. These casts tend to be particularly close, which makes it even more rewarding.

This last one actually appeared in a blog post not that long ago. This is Golde from Fiddler on the Roof. My character had just found out that Yente the matchmaker found a match for my oldest of 5 daughters. Again, this one is special, since my daughter was in it with me. She played Hodel, the second daughter who sang the heart wrenching song Far From the Home I Love.

Something else about me: I've been a single mom for 20 of my daughter's 23 years. This certainly wasn't by choice, but when I look back, there were a lot of advantages to being a single mom of one. For one thing, it was easy to be involved in theatre, since she loved it too. Another great thing was that it was easy to travel. We took a few trips together, but the best were the semi-annual trips we took to Disney. Our first trip was right before she turned 3. (right after her father left) Then we went again when she was 5. When her dance troupe went to Disney at age 7, we realized we'd started a tradition. When she was in college, the tradition is broken because we no longer had the same vacations, but we have some fantastic memories. Now that she's out of college and in the working world, she gets to choose her own vacations, so we went back to Disney in April of this year. 


Not really me, but related to me: My brother David Bondelevitch, also a blogger, recently won his second Emmy! He won for Sound Designer for the documentary Above the Ashes. David is an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado. (Teaching runs in the family, my parents were both educators, and my sister teaches Family and Consumer Science at a high school!) David's blog includes loads of topics, but the main focus is film, of course.  (If you ever want to know what movies to see, read his reviews HERE.) Interesting that he and I both lean toward the arts, while our dad was a Phys. Ed. director! (My sister got the athletic genes!) 


Well, this is more about me than anyone would ever want to know!  Hopefully I haven't scared you away!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Everything Tool Kit

I always like to start the year with lots of learning tools for my students.  I've always bought those fancy name tags for the children's desks that have extra pictures and tools for the children to use.  I keep looking for the perfect name tags, and I can't find them.  Last year I made name tags with plenty of tools. It was kind of a pain, but I made all the parts and cut them all out and put them on the name tags.  
I've always given the children a 4 1/2 by 8 1/2 card with the Handwriting Without Tears alphabet on one side, and a number grid from 0 - 120 on the other side.  Those cards were incredibly handy! I'll make those cards again, but I have also made the ultimate tool kit with just about everything I could think of!  

I started with math.  I made a color coded number grid from 0 to 120.  I also made a even/ odd number line as well as a count by tens number line.  I made a place value grid, a money table, a clock, an addition and a subtraction table, a ten frame, and a shapes reference.

For writing, there's a short vowel chart, a long vowel chart, a word bank made from Dolch words and common words for this age, and a list of writing traits.

For reading, there are lists of fiction and non fiction genres, suggestions on choosing books, qualities of fluent readers, and a list of reading strategies and reading skills they'll be working on this year.

For Social Studies, there's a map of North America along with directions and a compass rose, names of the 4 oceans and the seven continents, and a reminder for left and right. 

For Science, there's a list of vocabulary words, planets, the 5 senses, the science process skills, and a list of healthy habits.

I've put together a sampling of these materials as a freebie.You can download this freebie (as shown above) by clicking THIS LINK and downloading the Preview.

It took forever to complete all these parts, but it's going to be soooooo worth it! I'm going to have the children cut out the parts and paste them onto individual folders, one for each subject, then I'll laminate them so they can use these tools all year.  I want the children to put them together themselves so they'll be more familiar with the materials and will have some ownership on how they are designed.  I'm thinking I'll color code the folders, so it will be easy to find the tool they need.  For example, when they're working on writing, they'll pull out the red folder.  

I hope you're as excited about these tools as I am.  If you're interested in the full set, Click HERE or click the image to the left.








Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me, and a Freebie for You!!

Well, my birthday is just about here.  I was born the day after Disneyland (in California) opened.  (If you look it up, you can figure out my age.)  Trust me, it was a very long time ago.

Today I went to the Apple store at the mall, and bought myself a birthday present... my very own ipad!!  I bought an ipad 3 in black.  It's beautiful!!  I'm still working on how to use it.  I think it will take a while before I'm really handy with it.

I'm definitely open for suggestions on ways to use it in the classroom.

Of course, this all got me thinking about birthdays and my students.  As a second grade teacher, birthdays are pretty important to my students!  I have a little tradition that I've had for years in my classroom.

Rather than giving each student a book for their birthday, I have the children choose a book to give to the class library.  The child gets to bring the book home to share it, and brings the book back when he/she is done to be put into the class collection of books.  The child's name will always live inside the cover of the book, so in a way, the child will always be "a part of my classroom", even long after they're gone.

Trust me, they remember this, and come back to my classroom years later, still remembering the book that is in their honor. As I sort my class library year to year, I peek inside the covers to remember those special people who are still a part of my life.

If you click HERE (or the image), you can download the materials I use for my birthday tradition!

I give them a pencil and a book mark, too.  They get to keep those
forever!

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Few Things Going On!

I have a birthday coming up on Wednesday!  I'm long past the days of celebrating, but I think I'm important enough to treat myself, so I'm buying myself an ipad!  Yes, I know, everyone else has one already, but I'm getting one for myself!

How do you use yours?  Do you have any recommendations for aps?  Should I get black or white?  Can you tell I'm excited?

Another piece of news... even though I don't want to think about getting older, I want to share my "special day" with folks, so I have a few things going on.

My Teachers Pay Teachers site has tons of Literacy activities on sale at half price until Wednesday.  My Teachers Notebook site also has a bunch of Literacy activities on sale at half price until Wednesday.  I wish those ipads were half price, but hopefully I won't be shopping alone!



A few more things you might like:


Is this little guy the cutest?  My blogger friend Hadar at Miss Kindergarten created this, and you can find more about it on her blog or at her TpT store!






Here's another very cute "Back to School" activity by my friend Heidi from My (Not So) Elementary Life.  Go to her TpT page to see her Beach Ball Craftivity!



Melissa from Dilly Dabbles is posting a series of "Back to School" posts, including freebies and linky parties!  Her freebie today is adorable, so be sure to hop on over and check it out!

Still more!  My bloggy friend Tessa from Tales from Outside the Classroom has posted a new It's About Time clock game on her TpT page!

Heidi from Grade School Giggles has a new blog post showing her new Beach and Owl themed Classroom Packs along with some editable Substitute binders as a freebie!

Jen from The Teacher's Cauldron has a Land of Goldilocks Unit hot off the press!  It's adorable, go check it out!

Michelle from Apples and ABC's Adventures has 3 new Sight Word Packets!


Corinna from Surfin Through Second has brand new Differentiated Spelling Lists!


Caitlin from Kindergarten Smiles has a new Monsters Back to School Activity Pack.  Again, another adorable product!


Wow, I'm realizing all my blogging friends have been very busy getting ready to go back to school, but I only got out a month ago, so I'm going to bask in the joy of my new ipad.  Of course, I suspect I'll be using that ipad to make back to school stuff very soon!

Don't forget my 50% off "Happy Birthday to Me" Sale at Teachers PayTeachers and Teachers Notebook until Wednesday!



Learning About Learning from Teaching Golf

As I mentioned in this post, I'm helped out my gentleman friend with his golf camp this week.  Yes, that really says golf camp, but don't faint, I  didn't actually teaching golf.  I know better than that!  
I really don't know anything about golf.  I've always been terrible at sports, and really don't have any desire to go there.  But I enjoyed watching my guy in action, and it got me thinking about teaching and learning.  

In a way, I'm envious.  What he teaches is far less complicated than what I teach.  He has far less students, and only has to teach a few different skills, that just keep getting practiced for the rest of the week.  I'm also a bit envious because the kids that are learning golf have far greater attention spans than the kids I work with!  These kids are ages 9 - 16.  My second graders are 7.


I found myself comparing my job to his job.  I guess teachers always make those connections, it's who we are!

These are some things I noticed happening at golf camp, that also happen in the classroom:
  1. Feedback is essential.  In golf, the ball gives the feedback.  If it goes where you wanted it to, you're doing it right.  If it doesn't go where you want it, you need to adjust.
  2. There is a lot of repetition on important points.  These guys worked all week on the basic strokes, and they often were quizzed... "How is chipping different from pitching?"
  3. The vocabulary is used over and over until it flows naturally.  Yes, I really do know what chipping and pitching are!
  4. Even golfers need a break to let their learning settle before they hear something new.  
  5. It's important to practice correctly.  Practicing incorrectly could create a bad habit.  Those bad habits are harder to correct than learning to do it right to begin with!  (Accuracy trumps speed in reading!)
  6. Talking about it helps!  Those conversations about what you're learning helps you understand what you're learning.
  7. Movement helps the learning. In golf, that's easy!  Once they get the feel for each stroke, they can focus on the details, it's all about moving.  It's not so easy to include movement in the teaching of reading, but it helps!
  8. Making connections helps the brain remember information.  When the golfers were taught each stroke, they heard connections to other sports and other movements, particularly when it came to the "follow through" of each stroke.  Readers make connections to the books they read.  The brain needs these connections!
  9. The use of humor is necessary and appreciated.  Brain research tells us that emotions help the learning stick.  My guy tends to slip jokes into his demonstrations, even though a few of them were over the heads of the kids.  I admit, I tend to do that too.  If they kids aren't entertained, at least I am! 
  10. Even golfers have assessments!  On the last day, the boys were asked to "teach" something they had learned to the others.  It was very impressive!  They were a little quiet about it, but they used the right vocabulary, and described the details of the different strokes!  My gentleman friend got the feedback he needed on his teaching skills.

Interestingly enough, most of the above items go right along with what brain research has taught us about how the brain learns!  Isn't it amazing how much teaching golf has to do with teaching reading?  or math?  or social studies?  or science?

The other day I was inspired to make this "Par 3" math game.

It was so well received, that I was inspired to make another golf themed game!  I made this phonics game.  It also works like a Bingo game, and works with dice.  There are enough game boards so it can be played with a whole reading group.   

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Looking for Some Health Benefits?


I happened to hear something interesting on the radio on the way to golf camp the other day.  

They said that kissing was good for your health!  

  • One thing they said was that kissing helps to fight bacteria, because it produces saliva which helps fight the bacteria in your mouth. (It even helps prevent tooth decay!)
  • They also mentioned that kissing is great for stress relief!  When I think about it, I rarely feel stressed while kissing!
  • It also burns calories!

So, when I got home, I looked it up and found an article which gave me more information about The Health Benefits of Kissing.  I found out a few more things:

  1. Kissing is good for your self esteem.
  2. If you kiss your partner goodbye in the morning, you'll live 5 years longer than those who don't.
  3. Kissing releases endorphins that are 200 times more powerful than morpheme.
  4. It also tones the muscles in your face, preventing aging!
Be sure to click the link and read more.  I realize this has absolutely nothing to do with reading, mathematics, teaching, learning, or even the brain, but I thought it was interesting enough to share!

And if you really, really try, you can sort of see a connection to the brain!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Olympics Are Coming!

If you've been following my blog for a while, you know I'm a huge fan of the Olympics!  I used an Olympic theme at the end of the school year as a culminating activity.  I wrote this post and this post.  The first post was my initial thought process about the whole idea. and the second post was a description of how the first day went.  Although it was hectic and exhausting, I'm not sure who had
more fun, myself of the children!  It was indeed, a spectacular way to end the school year!

Olympics
As I see the ads for the upcoming Olympics in London, I've been thinking that this would also be a great way to start the year.  There's something about a little competition that builds team spirit and helps kids get to know and accept each other.


Last spring I made an Academic Olympic Freebie.

I've taken that freebie and developed it into a beginning of the year Academic Olympic Team Building Unit.  I've included lots of ideas and suggestions, and lots of activity sheets as well!  You can find my new resource here.
Olympics



I honestly think the best part of the Academic Olympics were the rituals:  Opening Ceremony, Closing Ceremony, and the Medal Ceremonies.   If you want to do it right, you might need something like this! (You can find flags and CD at Amazon.com, just click the image!)   Enjoy!

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That!


1.  A little bit of this, a little bit of that...   As I typed the title of this post, the song "Anatevka" from Fiddler on the Roof popped into my head.  Now I can't get it out of my head, but I thought I'd share a photo from when I did the show a couple of years ago,  Yep, I was Golde, the mother of 5 children.  Good memories!

This post is just like that... popping from one topic to another, a little bit of several different topics.  If you're not a fan of musical theatre, relax, I'm done with that topic!


2.  The Linky Party!
Fabulously First

Deb from Fabulously First is having a "Wit and Wisdom" linky. What advice would you give a teacher just starting out?  


I can barely remember those first few years! I was totally raw. Luckily, my college education gave me a strong background in teaching reading, but I didn't get such a strong background in life skills, and really struggled in many ways! Luckily, my dad's advice has come in handy. I sure wish I could relive those first few years, knowing what I know now!

But since we learn from our mistakes, I must be quite the teacher now!


5.  My guest post at Really Good Stuff !  I was honored to guest post at Really Good Stuff on Thursday. Click the link below to see my post on Ideas for a Successful Back to School Open House!
Click this link to see my guest post at Really Good Stuff!
6. My guest post at The Filipino Teacher!  I was honored last week to guest post at The Filipino Teacher. Click the link below to read my post:  12 Simple Strategies for Brain Fitness!

7. My latest adventure:  Now you have to promise not to faint over this next piece of information. Next week I'm going to be helping out my gentleman friend as he teaches kids at a Golf Camp. Yes, that's right, GOLF camp!  He ended up with more kids than expected, so he's asked me to help out. Luckily, I know a lot about kids, because I know pretty much nothing about golf! (He'll teach the golf, I'll hand out the snacks and help with crowd control!)

Have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Moments of Courage

This post is about courage.  When I think about all the difficult days I've had in my life, and all the incredible obstacles I've had to overcome in my life and in my teaching career, that would be a long, long, story.  

The most difficult obstacle I've ever had to overcome was when my husband left me. I had to pull myself and my 2 1/2 year old daughter together and forge ahead. I'd tell the details about that, but it's far too personal to post online. All I can say is that I buried myself into my job and into being a mom, and I'm still here.  


I could tell about my stroke, but I've already done that.  (See When Bad Things Happen, Make Lemonade.) Instead, I wanted to tell you about a lesson I had, when I really knew the importance of making it through every day in the classroom, and giving each child everything you can.

I've been teaching long enough to see many of my students grow up to become adults, even wives, husbands, and parents. 

Unfortunately, I've been around long enough to see a few pass on.
By far, the worst, was a beautiful young lady with a 6 month old son, who was shot in front of the child by the child's father. I had Crystal when she was in 5th grade.  She wasn't a brilliant scholar, but she was a good kid who loved to read. Like many, math didn't come easily, but she worked hard. She was a very social 10 year old girl, and didn't hesitate to write to me in her journal about which boys she thought were cute and her frequent crushes. I always wrote back. I honestly don't even remember what I wrote, but I made sure she knew I cared.

Crystal went off to middle school and high school, and I never really heard from her, but I thought about her from time to time, especially when I'd heard she had a baby.

Then... the horrible news.  I saw the story on the news and read about it in the paper.  I knew I had to go to the wake, although it was tough. I remember seeing photographs of Crystal, several were taken around the time I had her in class. 

I'll never forget the look in her mother's eyes when I shook her hand at the wake and reminded her I was Crystal's teacher in 5th grade. I also remember how the mother clung to my hand, and wondering if she'd let it go.  

Finally, I left of the wake and started walking back to my car.  A girl about the same age came running over to me saying, "Ms. DeCost, I'm so glad you came!  You were Crystal's favorite teacher!"

I can still see her running over to me and saying those words.  It's moments like this that remind me that everything we do may matter in the life of some child. I'm glad I gave Crystal everything I could. I really hope I made a difference in her life.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Classy Mail


Ever have one of those days where you just can't come up with a writing mini-lesson, or just don't have the time to put it together? Maybe it's near report card time, or you are pulled for a meeting and need to leave something easy for an Assistant. Or maybe you're going to be out and need something to leave for a substitute! This activity is one I always keep in my "sub tub"! Run off the letter and envelope back to back, and you'll have a letter on one side, and the other side can be folded into an envelope. 

I like to start off by having each student fold and address an envelope to himself/ herself. We have the "Wee Deliver" program in my school, where children mail their letters in a "real" mailbox, and once a week, students work with a parent volunteer to process and deliver that mail. Everyone in the school has an "address" according to their classroom. (My street is "Broadway", as I'm a big musical theater fan!) Even if you don't have this program, you can assign a "class address" for each child, since using home addresses might not be recommended for privacy purposes.

For younger students, the envelopes can be pre-addressed. My second graders struggle to remember all the parts of an address, so I make several copies for each child and keep them for "those days". (Another advantage to this activity... it can be repeated over and over!)

Once the envelopes are addressed, the teacher collects them, and shuffles them. Then the children choose one of the envelopes (making sure they don't get their own) and write a letter to that person.

With younger students, I spend some time making sure the children have ideas for letter writing. We brainstorm a list, which I keep in the view of the children. I'll spell key words for them, and make sure they have plenty of ideas.

If someone is absent, I'll have early finishers write to them, or even better, I write to them myself. 

I find this activity to be rewarding for all involved: it's easy on the teacher's valuable planning time, the children enjoy interacting with each other, and it has "built in feedback"! When the children get the letters, they respond! If they enjoy the letter, that's feedback! If they have trouble reading the letter, that's feedback, too. Honestly, when the children have a captive audience of a classmate or friend, they tend to focus on writing so their audience will enjoy it!  

Brain research tells us that authentic feedback is the best feedback of all. It also tells us that interaction with others and activities with true meaning are motivating to children. What's more motivating than passing notes in class... writing letters to classmates?

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