Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Those Lil Monsters

I have been totally MIA. Sorry! Things are super, incredibly busy and blogging is the absolute last thing on my mind. Conferences, snow days, my teaching partner retiring, finishing up a grad class and starting another. I've been busy.

Alas, I wanted to pop on and share this picture because it makes me giggle. I'm glad I snapped a picture of it even though my resource colleague thought I was off my rocker when I did so.

We have lots of glass on our doorway areas into our classrooms. I have covered mine for the last few years as it really cuts out on the kiddos distractions when other people are passing by in the hallway and whatnot. My homework spot is hanging on the inside and on the outside I put various things over the years (last year it was my Question of the Day board). This year I had frogs and caterpillar cut outs to represent the kids but some got ripped or torn so I ended up taking them down.

I found these little monsters at Dollar Tree and since my theme has been monsters, I couldn't resist them. No names on them because it was the only pack and didn't have enough for all of the kids. The Oldest put them on the window for me last Friday when she was finished with her college classes and helping in my room for the last 30 minutes of the day (I'm her ride home so she helps until we leave).

Of course they shut the heat off over the weekend so things end up falling off the walls and stuff. When I got to school Monday morning, this is what I saw outside my room: 

It kind of looks like they were having a party and jumped off the window. (Seriously aren't they adorable?!) I walked up and saw this and just started giggling -- kind of embarrassing since when I giggle like that I sound like Betty Rubble. But it was a good way to start a Monday considering my alarm didn't go off and I didn't wake up until after my girls were already supposed to have been on the bus (oops!). 

The Lil Monsters had a party and didn't invite me. Rude! :)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Vocabulary Shenanigans

Happy President's Day!  I have the pleasure of having today off for mid-winter break. Thank goodness too since we have more WIDA, data review and conferences this week. Whew! 

My kids all have school and hubby is at work so, for once, I actually have the house to myself! I wish I could say I was sitting around being lazy but nope. Too much to do for that (although I wish I *was* sitting around being lazy). It's also the last week of my graduate class so there is a ton going on for that too. When it rains, it pours, right? :)

Alas, as I was sifting through the piles of grading I am behind on, I was grading vocabulary. I know it's important for my kids to be able to use these words and last year I did a bunch of stuff with Word Nerds. I still use a modified vocabulary sheet but don't use all of the activities because I just don't have time. One thing I did insist upon keeping is the 7-Up sentence wherein they have to use the word in a sentence that a) makes sense with the definition and b) has 7 or more words (hence 7-up...it's 7 or more). 

I hate grading the vocabulary notebooks because a good chunk of my kids, despite doing these 25 times this year, do not give me good sentences. We do all the rest together and they have to do the sentences on their own (to help me see if they really understand the meaning of the word). Sometimes it's like pulling teeth to grade them (and I have tons of kids who never turn them in despite having a week to complete them). 

So yeah. Not my favorite thing to grade. But today, I'm glad I did grade them as I was surrounded by looming piles of things I need to do by tonight. Several of my students had me cracking up at their sentences this time. They are just hilarious. (Good thing I'm home with just the dog and cat so no one hears my Betty Rubble laugh.)

Here are my favorites from this grading session:

  The definition we have for enchanted is "to delight greatly"....so I'm guessing she's saying I delight students. :)

 I literally laughed out loud at this one....

 This one is a little hard to read but it says, "Mrs. Wood said when she goes to meetings, they are exhausting." I guess they do listen ;)

This kiddo just cracks me up. He is so sweet and I'm never letting him go to 5th grade so I can keep him forever. He is such a delight.
For the word intense, he writes "A strong man is so intense he can carry a 3 foot rock. P.S. no one can lift that." Bahaha!

I will probably never again have the joy of grading vocabulary that is truly this hysterical. Thanks 4th graders, I needed the laughs :)

Friday, February 13, 2015

{Five for Friday} ~ Friday the 13th Version


1. Testing, Testing
We finished up MAP testing this week and I'm pretty sure  my students heaved a collective sigh of relief when I told them it was over. They did an awesome job for the most part. So proud of them.

2. Crazy, Crazy
This month has been a real crazy one (thankful it's also short!). Last week was a full moon and this week...who knows? Cabin fever maybe? Pretty sure we were all climbing walls yesterday afternoon. 

3. Valentine's, Valentine's
I love Valentine's Day as a teacher. It's so fun. This year I had LOTS of visits from former students with cards, trinkets and small gifts. My current students were getting a little jealous (and I had an embarrassingly huge pile by the end of the day). Life is better with chocolate.

WIDA is a test for ELL students. Imagine my surprise (and their delight) when they took the listening portion this week and it had fraction stuff....we have been doing fractions in math! Woot!

5. Misc, Misc 
(sorry I was trying to keep with the pattern!)
The Husband and I are going out for Valentine's Day. Like...out, out. Staying out. This has not happened in...ever. I'm really excited to have a real date night...alas it is snowy, nasty and super cold (like -30 predicted) so we shall see if our plans are thwarted.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Data, Data!

So I mentioned the testing we are doing....we finished up MAP today. I think I have 1-2 stragglers who aren't done but otherwise 25 kiddos all done.

When I have a bit more time (read: when this graduate class is over in two weeks), I plan to have a mini-series of blog posts of how and why I use data the way that I do, including our MAP scores. But for now, I will share this:

{Disclaimer: I do not love testing and more testing but of all of the big tests we do, I DO appreciate and value MAP because if you know how to use the data, it really sheds a lot of light on many, many things and offers areas of growth.}

I teach in an ESL school where most of our students are LEP. I have about 50% LEP (although it should be more but distributions were weird this year). Anyway, I LOVE teaching ESL kiddos because they just grow so much. I had a friend who gained two grade levels in reading in half a year! I also had a friend who gained 20 points in math! (This friend is brilliant and it is almost unheard of for our kids to make that sort of growth when they are already that far above grade level -- he is officially off the chart because he is so high!)

That is why I do what I do. And why examining data is so important.

Once this grad class (which is incidentally about data) is done, I plan to share how I keep track of my MAP data, how I help my kids keep track of it and what we do with all of it once we have it.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Testing, Testing

Ever feel like you're overwhelmed with testing?? (Of course you do, you're a teacher!)

I never heard anything regarding the National Board study and while it's a bummer....it's likely for the best. I have a ton going on at school and it's better if I'm there. As awesome as it would have been to be a part of that study, I'm being positive and looking at things as if God himself is personally guiding my path...wherever it leads me.

That said, we are testing and testing right now. Snow days are all good and fun until you realize they are really messing with your mojo :) We had one snow day on a Thursday and then one the following Monday. Doesn't seem like much but it really set us back a bit. We're finishing up MAP testing and are now starting WIDA testing for our ELL kiddos. Many staff are helping to administer this test because there are so many of our kiddos who need to take it. My brain may explode from all of the tests ;) (Really my concern is keeping the schedule straight -- holy moly.)

I've never given it before but had training last week (sidebar: it took me THREE TRIES to get to that darn training--first time I tried, I twisted my knee and ended up at the med station, second time was one of the snow days...I guess the third time really is the charm!). I did ELPA when we still had that here in Michigan so it shouldn't be too bad. The weirdest part will be the speaking just because the rubrics are SO different for each level. Alas, I have my little notes to use during the test just in case. 

I'll be administering the test to 4th grade (and 1 random 5th grader). Tomorrow is reading and listening. Wednesday is writing. Next Tuesday is the speaking portion which is done individually. I have the whole afternoon to test (about 2.5 hours). There is a tiny break in there for me between groups. 

Since I am not a fan of leaving a pile of busy work for my kids to do when I'm not with them, I had to think about what to leave for those afternoons. Our schedule is all weird due to the days off and whatnot so we're finishing up some things and skipping others. I decided to make MY life easier and not do a weekly story this week so that it wouldn't interfere with everything else. 

Tomorrow my kiddos will do a few fun activities from a super saver sub kit I bought last year on TpT. They will practice with adverbs, make Onomatopoeia comic strips and review adaptations we've worked on in science. On Wednesday, they are going to do this Division Movie Project. I bought this two years ago when I had my split and it's perfect. It has real world examples as the students design their movie theater but they also have to practice and review their math. It's super fun too.

I have several kiddos who just don't get division yet -- partially due to their lack of mastery in multiplication facts -- but I still do it each year. It's a fun project and the kids enjoy it, even if it has to be more guided for some of them. 

I for one will be very grateful when the testing is all over. It'll be nice to get back to the business of just teaching -- I'll have about a month of that before it's off to Finland I go! I'd like to maximize that time so that I can leave my kiddos with some super cool and educational projects to do while I'm gone that won't require me to review everything when I get home but will still meet standards.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Professional Development

Yesterday we had an unexpected snow/ice day. Woo hoo! This week was supposed to be IN-SANE with the amount of after school commitments I had and having that day in there was perfect. I went to school anyway, planned for my sub for today (for a training I'll talk about in a moment) and got everything done for next week. Guarantee that would NOT have happened if I had taught all day yesterday since I was scheduled for a PD after school yesterday too. Whew!

I was worried that today's PD would be horrible...because you know that often we go to meetings and they sit and lecture us all the while telling us that is the worst way to teach. Thankfully, that wasn't the case today. It was very lively and engaging which made the day much more bareable.

The training was on HIV/AIDS instruction that we provide to our 4th-6th grade students each year. I had never been trained in it but have done the program with kids before. I'm glad to have had the chance to go to this training so I know what I can say and what I should defer to others.

The best part was all of the strategies we learned that I can adapt and use in other curriculum areas. One of my colleagues was at the training also and we were talking about how we could use some of these strategies for math or for vocabulary, especially in social studies since there are about a million words in each unit that they want the kiddos to know. 

In a perfect world, I would have lots of free time to create some resources using these ideas to share....but sadly, that isn't something I have right now. I am going to try to make some of them for a couple of things and see how they work out. Then maybe I'll have a project for the summer when I do have a bit more free time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I'm going places!

One of the reasons I worked toward National Board Certification is because while it's kind of awesome to put letters behind your name, I really want to make changes in education. Way too many people complain about education policy but don't put their proverbial money where their mouth is. I want to be a change agent.

This is one reason why I was so very excited about the possibility of the job that I interviewed for a few weeks ago. I want to be a change agent and really make policy changes and be progressive in education. I think that I could have been well on my way to some of that with that sort of a job, but the pay just wasn't going to do it for me, unfortunately. Alas, knowing that someone out there appreciates my go-to-it-ness (not really a word) and my determination to be a force to be reckoned with, I know that someone else will eventually to. I just need to do what I need to do until it's time for me to make a change.

I have been adamant for years that I am going to open my own school. People laugh at me and think I'm nuts but it just fuels my desire to prove them wrong (so, I might be a tad stubborn). I know that I have what it takes to make real change in the educational realm. I am not deluded into thinking that I can wave a magic wand and things will be epic. No, it will be tough and hard to accomplish but I am going to do it....or die trying. 

Over the past few weeks, after being disappointed in the job offer and realizing it just isn't my time yet, I have decided to just embrace what I have now and make the small changes I can along the way. Am I perfect? Um, no. I make a lot of mistakes, even today, that I learn and grow from. I'm always trying to be better than I was the day before...even if that is just in how I communicate and connect with my students.

So with this new found determination to just make myself happy regardless...I have been happier. I'm not delusional. I know there are things that need to change or I have got to make a change myself. I still have a restless streak but it isn't as strong as it was weeks ago. Once I relaxed, things began to come into my path.

A local university is seeking a TESOL professor and while six months ago, I would not have applied for this job, I decided to go for it. If nothing happens, cool...but what if it does?

Then today I got an email from National Board asking me to participate in a study regarding National Board's standards with reading and the Common Core since Michigan is fully aligned with the Common Core. I was flattered to be asked but also because they will pay my entire way -- including covering sub costs for my district and a stipend for me. And I get to provide my voice to something that will shape future teaching. How cool is that? 

It's not set in stone that I'm going but pretty sure that I will be able to do so. I'm excited. Best part is, the four days happen to fall on a week when I'm on break from graduate school (we get a partial week off between our courses) so the timing is perfect. I am excited for the prospect and should know next week if it's all set for me to go. 

If I do go, the stipend from this workshop is going to go toward the spending money for my Finland trip. Win-win!