Sunday, November 2, 2014

Currently November

Mamma Mia, it's already November!  My poor, poor, neglected blog.  Another challenging year, another challenging class, and not a lot of time leftover for my sweet little blog.  The good news is that I am trying lots of new things in my classroom this year; I just haven't left myself much time to blog about them.

Anyway, I'm stopping by to link up with Farley for Currently November and pay a small homage to my favorite holiday month.  

Listening: As a present to myself, I took Amazon up on their kind offer to try a month of Prime for free.  Prior to that though, I made an order for some school things, and needed to get my total up to $35 so I could get free shipping.  So I indulged my guilty pleasure and purchased the 4th season of Rookie Blue.  SO GOOD!!!

Loving: I'm taking my dad up to OU next weekend to watch the OU/Baylor game.  SO excited!!!  Boomer Sooner!!!

Thinking: Don't they all?  I'm all for being social and enjoying myself, but I also put a lot of pressure on myself to get some schoolwork done (grading lesson plans, etc.).  Having just finished fall conferences and the first round of report cards, I could really go for a weekend of sitting at home and doing nothing.  Can anyone relate?  

Wanting: Even though it kind of bugs me that the Christmas Mania starts before Halloween has even come and gone, I can ALWAYS go for a peppermint mocha from Starbucks.  Plus, they built a new location a few months ago that's on my way to work.  Love it!!!

Needing: About a week ago, the middle of my back on the righthand side started hurting.  I didn't do anything to aggravate it, and it pretty much throbs all the time, despite my preventative Tylenol regimen that I'm on (see above about the challenging year.  Note also that the regimen includes previously unheard of amounts of caffeine for me.)  If anyone has any advice/stretches for me, let me know.

Reading: Not much right now, since school and my social weekends are keeping me busy, but I'm in the middle of: 

Reading for Fun (If you haven't read Me Before You, you SHOULD (even though it's a bit of a bummer, it's really good).)


Reading for Professional Growth.  Next Up: Building Mathematical Comprehension, also by Laney Sammons)

My current classroom challenge (other than differentiating everything for everyone due to the wide range of ability/readiness levels in my classroom) is vocabulary instruction for learners that are really struggling.  So that's up next for my research.  Anybody have any tried and true tricks?  

Thanks for reading!  I'm off to watch more delightfully crummy TV and grade papers while icing my back.  :-)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Oh my! It's Currently August!

Wow!  Where has all of the time gone?  This summer, in addition to vacation, a baby shower, a wedding reception, and the obligatory R&R, I have been busy working on my house (I didn't give it much attention during the school year.  My house got a new roof (hail damage, always fun!) and has been getting a major painting face lift (ALL of the doors/trim, though I'm not quite done yet).

Anyway, I'm back (a day late and a dollar short) to share my contribution to Farley's Currently August linky.  Check it out below:

Really, my answers are pretty self-explanatory.  I must, however, emphasize my response to "Needing."  I DESPERATELY need some back-to-school clothes.  I've got nothing!  How did that happen?  Where do you like to shop for back-to-school clothes?  I like to shop at Ann Taylor LOFT along with a few other places.  

In other news, I'm slowly, but surely getting over my fear of creating things a la TPT.  :-)  I'm trying to create some things that are immediately useful for my classroom.  I've chosen some big projects that have been fairly time-consuming.  Hopefully, I'll have something new to share next time.  I'm starting to get a bit quicker with creating, but it probably takes me WAY longer than the seasoned TPT professional.  :-)  If you have any tips and/or tricks for me, I'd love to hear 'em.  

Until next time,

Sunday, July 20, 2014

QR Codes in the Classroom and My First Freebie!

Happy Sunday to all of you!  :-)

I'm back with another post showing how I integrate technology into our second grade curriculum.  Today, I want to share a few things I know about QR codes.  I'm sure it is old news to many of you, but I'd rather be redundant than leave somebody without helpful information.

Last spring, as I was planning a research activity my grade level team had put in the plans, I came up with a way to do it with the set of 10 iPads my campus has at our disposal.  I looked online for websites that had information about the United States flag that were near a second grade reading level.

As I found each website, I entered the link into a QR code generator.  I used  You can download, print or e-mail the code that is generated for each website.  Once I had my QR codes, my prep work was done.

Once in the iPad lounge we have on campus, I helped my students locate the i-nigma app and went over how to scan QR codes.  They surprised me by taking to this technology skill even more easily than I thought they would.  (We use lots of technology in our classroom, so my students are pretty tech-savvy.)

The i-nigma app is free from the app store.
My students and I had a great time with this activity, and I'm excited to incorporate more QR codes into my class this school year.  (For those of you that are interested, my students recorded their research for this assignment that I have discussed today on a circle map, coming up with at least 10 facts about the American flag.  Unfortunately, since it's summer, I don't have pictures or student work samples to share.)

Now for the freebie.  Please note, that this is the first thing I have ever created in PowerPoint for my classroom.  I hope everyone will be kind.  :-)  I know it's not perfect or fancy, but I'm looking forward to developing my skills and learning more about creating products for my classroom.

Click here to download this freebie.  It includes QR codes for 10 websites with kid-friendly information about the U.S. Flag.    

This sample page shows that I have included both the QR code and the website link for your convenience.  

  My next project that I'm working on is a problem-solving set.  My district really focuses on what they call Intentional Problem Solving, where we have students solve a math word problem daily.  While I created these and printed them out daily for the students to glue into math journals last year, I'm hoping to get 180 of them typed up in a file that I can just project on the SMART Board for my students this year.  My plan is to just have students record their equation, show their work, and circle their answer in their journals daily.

Anyway, thanks for reading.  I'll be back next weekend ready to share another way that I use technology in my classroom.  Have a great week!     


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Just Claimin' my Blog on Bloglovin :-)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin Don't worry about this quick post. I'm just claiming my blog on Bloglovin. I hope you are all having a terrific Thursday. I'll be back later this weekend with another post about technology in the classroom.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Economics and PicCollage

Hey everyone!

I'm back, and I am trying to use summer to get ahead on blogging and planning for the next school year.  I'm "binge-writing" a few blog posts and scheduling them to go live throughout the month of July.  Hopefully that will help me to stay on top of this blog a bit better.

I'm going to go ahead and continue with my theme of integrating technology into content area instruction.  I'm doing this for my campus also, so it's making blogging a bit easier as it becomes just a matter of a little bit of editing of one post to serve two purposes.  Along with a few other teachers, I'm a campus technology leader which basically means that I model using technology tools in the classroom for my colleagues.

Today, I'm sharing how I used PicCollage to assess my students' understanding of economics vocabulary.

PicCollage is an app for iPad/iPhone.  You can create a profile on their website, which will show your collages, but you cannot create a collage on the site (To follow PicCollage on Twitter click here. :-) ).  Creating collages is done in the app.  Once you open the app, you choose a background and layout.  Then you simply tap anywhere to add your first picture.  The picture can come from your iPad/iPhone camera or from the web (we used Google Images in class).  You can also add stickers, text, and you can even add video now (this feature was unavailable earlier in the year when I used the app with my students).    

I had my students use PicCollage and the Google Images search to find a picture to represent each of the following economics terms that we had discussed: good, service, need, want, producer, and consumer.  After they found and labeled each picture example and completed their collage, we inserted a picture of their collage into a Google Docs word document.  Under their pictures, they typed 1-2 sentences for each vocabulary word explaining why their picture was a good example of the vocabulary word.  (Note: I had the students do their explanations in Google Docs because my school has embraced student digital portfolios, and I wanted the students to have this assignment as one of their artifacts.)

Check out what two of my students created below (students worked with a partner for the collage portion of the assignment, but each was responsible for writing his or her own explanation of how the pictures represented the vocabulary words):

Monday, July 7, 2014

Integrating Technology and Science Safety

Hell-ooooooooo blog friends!  I wish I were a more consistent blogger, but I guess I'll need a 12-step for that to happen.  :-)  In the meantime, I've been going on vacation, celebrating weddings and babies (none for me right now :-) ), and a little home improvement here and there.

As I prepare to attend my summer curriculum and technology trainings, my mind has naturally gone to the beginning of a new year.  I have a new technology tool that I've been wanting to try, so I applied it to our first science unit (Our math curriculum is changing again, and integrated language arts and social studies is always evolving, isn't it?  Naturally, science seemed like the logical choice.  :-) ).

My attitude with most technology is that if so many other people can do it, so can I.  So, I searched for a YouTube tutorial, watched it, gathered my science safety resources, and dove right in.  Without further ado, I give you my Science Safety Thinglink (to check out the links I've described, hover over the picture and click "Touch."):

Making this was so simple.  First, I found a google image of a science safety rules poster created using Glogster.  I saved it and imported it into Thinglink.  Next, I added several YouTube science safety videos.  Then I added links to several curriculum resources I had saved in GoogleDocs.  Finally, I searched blogs, Pinterest, and TPT to find additional ideas and products that I might purchase to help me.

I'm so excited that I'll have so many of my digital resources for this unit all together in one place.  That's one less thing I'll have to worry about during the always chaotic beginning of the school year.  I'm glad to have discovered another digital tool and to have found a meaningful way to use it in my classroom.  I can continue to use this app/website to organize my digital resources for teaching units.  I can post them on my class website and/or Edmodo site for students to view again at home or during computer lab time/extra time in class.  Students could even create their own Thinglinks to organize information they have found.  This app/site is clearly full of so much potential.

My hope is that you might find some use for the science safety Thinglink I have created.  If not, I hope that you might have learned about a new app today and/or found the courage to try and make your own Thinglink if you knew about the app already but were a bit hesitant to try it on your own as I was in the past.

Thanks so much for reading!  :-)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Saving Math Class (and a great TPT product to share)

Hey everyone!

I'm dropping back in today to tell you about something great.  (At this busy point in the year, dropping in from time to time is all I can manage.)  This year, my class is diverse in more ways than one.  I love having a diverse class, but this year, my class is particularly academically diverse, which does present some challenges.  It is so hard to give everybody what they need at their just right level, particularly when I find myself using a curriculum that is designed with the whole-group approach in mind.  In no subject is this more difficult than in math.

Some of you may have read my previous posts and might be aware that I have begun to move more toward a workshop model so that I can teach math at a variety of levels.  This has been accomplished largely with the help of many of you and your wonderful TPT products.

Today, I want to share a WONDERFUL product with you that has greatly helped me to transform my math class.  That product is her Take Home Math Kits by the wonderful Casey over at Second Grade Math Maniac.  This bundle of 30 activities is an absolute STEAL at $16.00.  Once you click on the link, you should probably just check out and purchase her entire TPT store.  :-)  Go check out her blog.  Her posts alone are full of ideas that will save your mathematical LIFE.

Second Grade Math Maniac

Okay, back to her product and how parts of it have been used in my classroom.  First, I used it with one of my second graders who I'm tutoring.  This was so easy for me to prepare, and it really built my student's confidence with money.  With a variety of amounts under $1.00, there are amounts from 6 cents to almost a dollar, giving students the opportunity to start small and build their confidence.  I liked how easy all of the activities were to prepare-super easy for a busy teacher to throw together during a conference period so that it's ready for after school tutoring. (Note, I also sent home a doubles activity from this pack with my student, but I just didn't manage to get a picture taken of it.  Tutoring is a busy time, as I'm sure you all understand.  What part of our day isn't busy, really?!)    

After seeing the success of this product, I chose several other activities from this kit to let my whole class try out.  We worked in groups of 3, and each tried a couple of the activities.  These activities are great for review, remediation (for some), and previewing.  One of the activities we used focused on odd and even, which we have covered before, but are about to revisit as our curriculum tends to spiral.  The game provided a fun way to practice this skill and introduce the new unit, while at the same time giving me some formative assessment data.  Since I have used these activities to supplement my district's existing math curriculum, the only thing I feel that this pack is missing (since we just studied it) is fractions.  I LOVE this pack and think it's fabulous, but the inclusion of fractions would really push it over the top.  

Odd or Even Sorting
Spin to 100.  

Teddy Bear Arrays

Ordering Numbers

Time to the 5 Minutes
Anyway, these are just a few of the many activities included in this pack.  Hopefully, you can see that it covers a multitude of skills.  My students and I both enjoyed using the activities in this resource, and I can't wait to try out the rest of them.  Here are a few parting thoughts about this terrific pack.

1) The activities are very appropriate for 2nd grade students, as well as strong 1st grade students.  My students' comments about the activities ranged from "a little difficult," to "just right," to "a little too easy," which shows me that the activities' level of difficulty is on target for 2nd grade (remember, my class has very diverse math abilities, so this makes sense.

2) I LOVED how easy these were to prepare.  They also require very little in the way of materials.  I put some coins with the money game, and I used a paper clip for the spinner, but that was really it.  Most of her other games don't require much other than some dice.

3) These activities are great for tutoring and math class alike.  While I have only sent them home with one student that I tutor this year, I plan to implement these early on next year and send them home to families.  Bottom line, the activities made math fun and different for my students, so that's a win!

4) This is just a small sample of the activities included in the Take Home Math Kits.  There's so much more, including measurement, skip counting, etc.  

5) Finally, I must apologize for any blurry pictures in this post.  I took them on my phone while the students were working.  Since spring fever has set in, my 2nd graders are always on the go and don't stop for much.  :-)  

Hopefully, I've managed to convince you that this is truly a wonderful resource, that is worth your time and money.  I know it was certainly worth mine.  Head on over to Casey's TPT store and purchase this invaluable resource for yourself.  

Thanks for reading!    



Friday, April 11, 2014

My First Five for Friday

Hey everyone!

I'm trying something new today, and participating in the Five for Friday linky with Doodle Bugs.  If you have any tips for me about this linky, please let me know.  (Please note, it was a CRAZY busy week, so only a few pictures will be featured.  The rest are all from Google Images.)  

1) We are continuing to work through our math Investigations curriculum.  We have been working with 100, adding up to it and subtracting from it.  Here you can see one of the games the kids played this week.  

To play this game, students first covered the game board with 100 cubes.  They rolled 2 dice or number cubes to determine how many cubes to take away.  After each turn, students said how many cubes were still on the board.

2) We have been studying weather and seasons in science.  Students made a poster this week that illustrated what each season looks like outdoors, which months fell in each season, what a person might wear in each season, and a typical activity for each season.  My girls made me laugh because we decided that they could wear "tasteful" swimsuits for their summer pictures.  


3)  With all of this beautiful spring weather in Texas, the only drawback has made its appearance.  Seasonal allergies.  When I have what I fondly refer to as a "sinus eye-graine" (that delightful headache you get right behind your eyeball), I find that there's only one cure (especially when I'm at school):

Needless to say, it's a good thing that our vending machine now takes credit and debit cards.  

4) This month at school, we are promoting Autism awareness, so we all wore blue today.  We also have been given ribbons like the one below that we are wearing each day this month.  

5) Tomorrow, my dad and I are finally going to go see Divergent.  I've read the entire series, and I remember Insurgent was a bit difficult to get through (not unlike Mockingjay from the Hunger Games series).  Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to seeing the movie.  The guy who plays Four (Theo James) is ADORABLE!!!  I know I'll enjoy watching the movie for that reason alone, if nothing else.  

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at the Five for Friday linky.  Head over to Doodle Bugs Teaching to link up and join the fun. 

Until next time,

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Currently April

I'm ba-ack!!!

Hi everyone!  I'm telling you, this is just one of those years for me where I just reset each day.  I have a very diverse class, which I love, but it also makes you feel like you need to work all.  the.  time.  However, I want to keep this blog upbeat and not use it as a platform from which to complain.  I merely wanted to explain my absence.

So here we go: Currently April (How did THAT happen?).

Anyway, as you can see above, I'm taking a much needed personal day on Friday.  My brother will be passing through town to attend a friend's wedding, so I'm looking forward to seeing him.  Needless to say, I'm also in desperate need of a guilty pleasure shopping trip to Target.  :-)  Hopefully, I can stop back by my blog sooner than 3 months from now, but we'll see how it goes.  Due to the varied levels of my students this year, I have made some changes in my classroom and my instruction that I'm excited to share with you.  I'm so thankful to say that many of you and your fabulous TPT products have helped me to make these changes, so for that, I thank you.  

Until next time!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

January Currently

Hey everyone, I'm back again to link up with Farley for some January Currently.

Listening: While I am a Sooner alum and HUGE fan, I'm watching this game today for my dad who is busy working and unable to watch.  Plus, as you'll see below, I really wanted to try out football-watching on my new HUGE TV.

Loving: Guys, I got a HUGE (50 ") TV for Christmas.  Not only is this a gift for my family room, but it's a gift for my bedroom as well.  I moved the old TV from the family room in there, so I finally have a TV in my bedroom.

Thinking: I received an LL Bean gift card from my grandparents for Christmas, and I have decided to put it towards a quilt for my guest bedroom.  The guest bathroom has blue and green towels, so I think it will coordinate beautifully.  

Check it out here-it's also reversible :-)  

Wanting: I've alluded to a few things, but I have also recently purchased dining room furniture, some of which is being delivered on Saturday.  Plus ALL of the paint in my house needs a touch-up, and I'm excited to say I am SUPER CLOSE to deciding on a paint color for all of the trim/doors.  

Needing: Pretty self-explanatory.  Just know that I consistently try to put this off as long as possible since it is one of my least favorite places to go.

Memory/Tradition: Again, self-explanatory.  I think this tradition was born because younger versions of ourselves simply couldn't make it to Christmas morning without opening something.  We were also those stereotypical kids who spent days leading up to Christmas shaking our presents and trying to guess what they were.  

This was a particularly fun Currently for me.  This month's version has shown me that I have a lot to look forward to as I celebrate the new year.  Many positive things are happening in my life.  What are you up to this month?  

A New Beginning/The Times, They are A-Changin'

Happy New Year (it will be anyway, by the time I finish this and get it posted)!

I have several items to discuss today:

1) I am the worst blogger EVER!  I can't keep a promise to myself about blogging, letting alone a promise to those of you in the blogiverse.

2) I have been thoroughly enjoying my Christmas break by doing a whole lot of nothing...

3)...and yet, this afternoon/evening, I found myself in total "school mode."  I think it's because a) I have a meeting for a student the Tuesday I get back and b) I actually have the time to put enough thought into my lessons to make them excellent.

I have made so many changes in my classroom this fall (some of them alluded to in previous blog posts).  I have been gifted a very diverse group of students this year.  They could not be more different from each other.  To best serve them, I have had to make some HUGE adjustments (and I mean HUGE!!!).  Of course, I realized this about 3 weeks before Christmas break when everything was completely insane.  My students needed change NOW and could not afford to wait for it.  So, I was forced to jump in and develop our new instructional routines as we went.  So what have I done/what am I doing?

1) I have made a significant shift toward math workshop.  With the use of our student workbooks that come with our curriculum, resources from many of the fabulous teachers on TPT (most notably Amy Lemons), and various math games, manipulatives, and technology from my classroom), our math workshop is up and running.  I can't wait to continue refining this system in my classroom, but here's essentially what it looks like.  I split my class up into 3 groups.  They all meet with me for one of the rotations and we work through problems in their workbook together.  Another rotation has them working on an activity that is either a review or extra practice of a current skill.  The activity has a recording sheet so that I can see what they do/don't understand.  Finally, the third rotation has the students doing FasttMath on the computers as well as playing various math games I have shown them in my classroom.   Not to make another empty bloggy promise, but I'd like to eventually get to writing another post specifically about Math Workshop.  It's so new, I haven't had the time to take photos of it in action in my classroom.  In general, my two inspirations/resources are:


Amanda Wilkie's posts about Math Workshop on her blog, Reaching for the Top!  
It has also occurred to me that I need to go back and review Guided Math by Laney Sammons.  

Do any of you use Math Workshop in your classrooms?  Do you do it every day?  What does it look like?  What tips do you have?  Who are your professional gurus?  Do you and your students love it as much as my students and I do?

2) Along the same lines, I have also begun to shift toward Reader's Workshop.  My grade level already does Writing Workshop, and we do it fairly well (there's always room for improvement, right?).  While my students are also on vastly different reading levels, reading time has not been nearly as painful as math time.  This change is mostly motivated by my desire to provide relevant, meaningful instruction for all of my students.  I have several ELLs who are really struggling with comprehension of whole group stories.  I believe this is because the stories are so far above their level that even the whole group support I provide to the class as well as the extra time I spend with these students is proving to be inadequate.  I realized that it was most important to me that the students master the specific reading skills instead of reading specific stories outlined by the school district.  One way I am accommodating everyone is to move away from the basal stories (I still do them, but I just expose my students to them, rather than focus on them) and instead use the companion level readers that are part of our reading adoption.  My goals for the spring include establishing reading response journals/interactive reading journals (not sure exactly what this will look like yet), and engaging my students in authentic literacy activities that they can complete with increasing independence, allowing me to meet more frequently with each of my students in small groups and individual reading conferences.  

Finally, I have a terrifying step that I'm going to be taking on my blog today.  As I change my reading instruction and tiptoe into reading response, I've been thinking ahead to the next story we have planned to teach from our basal.  We use Harcourt Journeys in my district.  :-)  While I decide which direction to take with individual reading response and good fit books in my classroom, I know I cannot stop teaching reading strategies.  I also know that I need to continue teaching my students how to respond in writing to what they read (they have had a small amount of instruction in this at this point).  I also know that I have one week with my students when we return next week, before I am drowning in mid-year assessments, and I want my students to be engaged in meaningful work while I swim my way free of those assessments.  With all that taken into account and the extra time I've had this week, I'm about to take a risk.  I have been wanting to get into the creating portion of blogging for awhile (although I'll be honest, I was scared to DEATH when in a previous blog post discussing The Book Whisperer, a sweet follower asked if I had created something to address a need I expressed).  I have done some searches and gained a small amount of tips for creating my own resources.  With all that being said, I looked at the objectives related to our next story and created something small that I could use with my students to address those two objectives for our story, The Goat in the Rug as told to Charles L. Blood and Martin Link (Geraldine the Goat is given credit as the story's author).  

The students are expected to summarize the story and draw conclusions about the characters.  Anyway, please keep in mind that this is my very first attempt at creating ANYTHING for my own classroom use.  I hope one of you out there in Blog Land can use it, and if not, I just wanted to share so I could be accountable to myself.  Be gentle with your feedback.  :-)  I do welcome any tips you blog/TPT superstars might have for me as I continue down this path of creating resources for my classroom.  Feel free to check out what I created below.  

Anyway, for those of you still with me, thanks for reading.  I'd love to hear any and all thoughts on the many topics I covered in today's ADHD-addled post.  :-)  Do you use math or reading workshop in your classrooms?  What tips do you have?  (If you do, leave me a comment-I'd love for you to be a guest blogger.)  Do you create your own resources for your classroom?  Tell me your best piece of advice.  

That's all for now.  See you next time I manage to blog.  :-)  

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