Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mary Poppins - the bag lady!

I am linking up with The Inspired Apple's Teacher Bag Link Party! I love taking a peek into other teacher's bags and feeling better about my own accumulation of bags both at home and at school :)   
     With it being the weekend, my bags are fairly empty since I try to only bring my plans home to get done and leave activity planning to week day evenings. Otherwise, the insides of my bags would probably be a bit more full of RANDOM crap for lessons and activities (and I will probably add a couple of bags come Monday).
      I love my day-to-day Vera Bradley teacher bag, however I also adore reusable bags to carry all the other tidbits I drag between home and school (there are seriously some days where I have three of these on top of my teacher bag!). I always end up with a ton of writing utensils that range from highlighters and pens to my favorite purple felt tipped markers (of which I am currently carrying 3!) Other items include burts bees chap stick (essential for the coming season!), my writer's notebook - which I try and take home to write in every night to model writing for my students, my lesson plan binder, adorable Dr. Seuss bookmarks I got for my kiddos, Lucy Caulkin's writer's workshop mini-lesson book for weekend planning along with some social studies lapbook cutout books, sweet pumpkin garlands that I got at the dollar store Friday afternoon, cell phone - duel purpose = watch, my Sigg water bottle, lotion, robot stickers :), my keys and VB wallet, lots of extra bobby pins and hair ties for fly-aways and emergency up-do's! scotch tape, scissors, travel mug (for my morning chi lattes), and a sweater - since I always seem to get cold!

Teacher bags are simply Mary Poppin bags - stuffed to the brim with teacher essentials, treats, and surprises! This may have to be the next bag that is added to my growing collection *grin*

Friday, September 23, 2011

Constitution Day

       In honor of Constitution Day, our whole school dressed in Red, White, and Blue! I love dressing up - here was my "patriotic outfit" *grin*
     Since US Government is a 5th grade benchmark I planned our Social Studies lesson on the US Constitution to fall on Constitution Day. We have been learning about how the Constitution is like the "Play Manual" (connections to Video games and computers help with this new generation!) for all the laws and rules that are made in our Country. I also found a NEAT comic book blog (The Fourth of July Project) that compared the Constitution to a "Hulk-like" Superhero character.
The idea is that the Constitution creates a powerful federal government that rules our country effectively, HOWEVER, our Founding Fathers (wise men that they were!) realized that they may have created too powerful a government (a monster!) that had the possibility of  going rouge (like many governments we see today!) ... and so, as every good super hero story goes, they added a Side Kick, The Bill of Rights.
    The first 10 amendments (Bill of Rights) protect our rights as PEOPLE so that government can never become so powerful it takes away the fundamental RIGHTS of all men and women. I understood this difficult concept better with this funny analogy and boy did my kids understand this! IT WAS EXCITING!
Then we watched an AMAZING movie produced by Discovery Education Streaming that shows students what life would be like if we did NOT have the Bill of Rights (watch for a couple places where there are some inappropriate language - you would THINK that an educational video for kids wouldn't have any but these days ...ugh) Here is the link for the video - Bill of Rights Fright
We then partnered up and created posters identifying each of the 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights. These turned out really cool too!

I really feel like these lessons helped the kids connect with the Constitution and the Bill or Rights - both of which are very DIFFICULT concepts for kids to understand. SUCCESS!

Branches of Government

  Today, we learned about the branches of government. After a brief power point/handout fill in session, we headed outside to collect sticks to make our Branches of Government Mobiles! (a GREAT idea taken from one of the Scholastic Teachers, Angela Bunyi)
They turned out SO CUTE! Students could work alone or in pairs to create their mobile. I now have LOTS of them hanging from my ceiling :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Writing Journals

    I am a huge fan of writing and reading workshop, however, my district provides only a basel reading program (NOT COOL). This year, we have a new principal who is VERY supportive of me trying out a writing workshop and a reading workshop. Loads of research later, I have a random spread of ideas that I am attempting this year in my classroom concerning workshops. I am ALWAYS looking for mini lesson ideas!! I am incorporating a myriad of ideas from Lucy Caulkins, Ralph Fletcher, the Sisters (currently doing CAFE, thinking of starting the DAILY 5 next year) and many others into my instruction.
    For writing workshop we started this week by personalizing our writers notebooks and discussing that we are ALL writers. The students did a FANTASTIC job of making these special and completely theirs!
            here are a few of my favorites ...

Any ideas for good blogs or websites for lesson ideas, mini lessons, effective teachers, etc. 

Remembering September 11

     I understand it is almost an entire week after September 11, but it was such a profound learning experience in my classroom that I feel that writing about it a week later can be justified :)

    To be perfectly honest, I hesitated even making a big deal about September 11 this year. I know it was the 10th anniversary, but lets me honest 1) None of my kids even remember this event, they were either one year old or being born! 2) I never seem to have enough time to get in the content I am SUPPOSED too teach without holidays interrupting! (am I correct fellow teachers?!?).  However, as my husband and I laid in bed Sunday morning, watching the news, reliving that awful day 10 years ago, I realized I HAD to share this with my kids!
    The events of 911 were a defining moment for our generation. Similar to the death of Kennedy in our parents generation, we can name the very thing we were doing when we heard the news of the plane crashes.  So much changed, both physically and mentally: an intense new focus on national security was emphasized, most particularly in airports (remember the time we could meet our loved ones as they came off the plane!??), a SAD, new negative stereotype of Muslims and the Arabic culture, the publicity of the only real WAR many of us have known, the reminder that life can disappear in a moment, a rise in patriotism, in American ideals, pride in our anthem and  flag, and a renewed love of our country and her people.

But for the new generation, that awful event that changed OUR lives is exactly that .... HISTORY. 
We MUST help them remember and pass down through the next generations what WE can NEVER forget. My student response was AMAZING. Their understanding of peoples grief and patriotism intensified as they watched a short film portraying the crashes, the falling towers, and the way our country came together. Their responses were powerful as they discussed the reasons why it is important to remember this day: 
"to remember the people who lost their lives"
"to celebrate the hero's and remember their sacrifice"
"not to discriminate against other cultures/people just because of some bad people"
"to be proud of our country and of being an American"
"to remember to be there for others (even strangers) and to help one another"
"we should be proud and stand tall when we hear the national anthem or say the pledge of allegiance"
"I will think of other people's loss and help as much as I can"
"ANYONE can be a hero!"

SO PROUD of my kids!!! *grinning*
 On chart paper we shared feelings, images, and words that we think of when we think of September 11 

My own apartment window ... in honor of September 11. Any of you remember the paper flag that was in the middle of the newspaper that we were to place in the window?? That is one of the neatest memories I have of September 11 - ALL THE FLAGS!!!! They were EVERYWHERE! Reminders that we were all together - UNITED WE STAND!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Robot Classroom Theme

First week down!! A year ago today I was in tears (literally - after school at least!) ... what a difference having one year under your belt makes :) Not to mention the batch of kids ... I have a GREAT group of kiddos this year! Along with a MUCH more organized classroom which makes everyone's lives easier! Looking forward to a fun school year! 

Routines ... routines ... routines ... Seriously I feel like I haven't taught a content based thing yet! But I now know the value of routines and procedures and cannot complain. All teachers know that they are just as important as all the content we are to teach! 

My robot theme is going great - I absolutely LOVE my room this year, it really makes a difference you know?? When you love and enjoy your space the teaching and learning flow! 

To wrap up this amazing week, I thought I would post some pictures of my 2011 Learning Conservatory :) 
View of the front of my classroom - found a perfect place for my robot paintings :) 
View of the front from the door 
 View from my desk of my carpet area - just got my new rug! LOVE IT!
View of the back of the classroom - the students do not use their desks - instead they put all their stuff in their mailboxes and use the center buckets for supplies throughout the day - just tried this this year and REALLY like it ... no more slamming desk tops/messy desks/lost notebooks or homework!
 My desk area - I made the space a little bigger this year and am really happy with it. I also added the table beside my desk for individual teaching or student individual work place (for those who get easily distracted or need to be separated sometimes) 
The kids mailboxes where they keep all their school work, folders, and supplies ... at the beginning of the year I collect all the school supplies they bring and we place them in community supply boxes and use them to fill our buckets when we need supplies - it eliminates all those annoying "he has my pencil", "I don't have any markers" etc.
My reading corner - I am SO happy with how this area turned out ... it really makes the whole room cozier and warmer. Also it really makes writer's and reader's workshop organized and easy! 
 Entrance supplies area and my Welcome Robot bulletin board :) 
Found this great idea on - awesome alternative to curtains! 
Bathroom passes - I tore apart a $2 garage sale computer keyboard to make these authentic little pieces
Classroom rules, consequences, and other important room info
Cute little "Reading Survival Kits"that I gave the kids on the first day - another great idea I discovered online! 
I am trying "Bucket Filling" in my classroom this year. I am not having a bucket for each student (I just don't have the room!) but I am having them fill them out, place them in our community bucket and sharing them with the kids during our Friday meetings. We will see how this goes - this week I had three bucket fillers already :)
 Trying a Word Wall this year - I will be placing our greek and latin root word, suffixes, and prefixes on it
 My discipline chart - the students move their clothespin for negative behavior.
 My current anchor chart easel ... pretty sad I know! I've been trying to get my husband the make me one all summer! But you do what you gotta do as a teacher ...
My ADORABLE little robots that our art teacher made for me to help show the different voice levels here at school. 
0 = no talking (voices OFF) 
1 = whisper (no vocal chords) 
2 = conversational voice (group work or partner work) 
3 = presentation voice 
4 = outside/playground voice
 Our district require us to state our learning goals (objectives) somewhere clearly in the room for students to see. I go over these with the students at the beginning of the day and before and after each lesson. I believe this is becoming a national requirement with the new Common Core ... 
Do you have to do this at your school ???
I found these amazing little stand up dry erase pocket folders in the target $2 bins BUT I do not really do centers (which they seem perfect for!) and cannot think of what to use them for ... 
ANY IDEAS??? Please leave a comment if you have any!
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