Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Taming the Wild: Positive Reinforcement

I think I've finally figured out my classroom management strategy that keeps my class and me happy and focused on the positive. This is how it goes:

1. A student breaks a classroom rule:

Be on time to class, for group work, etc.
Be ready to work.
Follow directions immediately.

Bring these items to class every day: agenda, paper, pencil/pen, and a book to read.
Be ready to listen and learn.

Treat others with kindness and respect.
Speak using appropriate words at appropriate times.
Keep your cell phone turned off.

Do your work to the best of your ability.
Use your time in class to complete your work

Take part in discussions and activities.

2. I notice the misbehavior, look for someone who is following the rules, then clap once.

3. Students look to the classroom rules on the wall, ask themselves if they were following the classroom rules. Recalibrate, so to speak.

4. I will reward the student I noticed who was following the rules, then document both the student who behaved positively and the one who misbehaved.

Students love this because they get positive points for good behavior and negative points for misbehavior (I use the app on my phone). I also reward the entire class when they are quiet during fire drills, assemblies, walking in the hallways, etc. When students volunteer to read their personal writing aloud, I also give points. Eventually I plan to have a classroom party for those who have 20 points or above or something similar. This way, students don't get discouraged, thinking they can never win a prize.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Goal Setting Link Up with I {Heart} Recess!

I {Heart} Recess

I'm linking up with I {Heart} Recess for the Goals: Back To School Edition Linky!

Personal: Working out every day after school is something I need to do in order to maintain energy in the evenings. I've found that if I just go straight home, I'm too tired to do anything, but if I work out after school (yoga, gym, etc.), I am full of energy when i get home.

Organization I ordered a date stamp this year, and so far I have been using it daily. It is helping me to keep track of who turned what in on which day. I teach a total of 10 classes (7 different plans), so my world is crazy when it comes to students turning in papers. In order to combat this issue, I am planning to use Edmodo for the majority of writing assignments, and then I have a stack of trays labeled by class for the loose day-to-day papers. Once students turn in physical papers, I will stamp them, add a paperclip, and then return them to the basket until I get a chance to grade and add them to the gradebook. Once I do, I will add a checkmark and then transfer them either to the corresponding outgoing basket to wait to be returned to the student or to the student's working writing folder. At the end of each quarter, our students sort through these folders and decide what they want to keep in there. At the end of the school year, they choose one narrative, one informational, and one argumentative piece, as well as a writing to learn and writing to demonstrate learning example (these pieces can come from any class). These pieces are then recorded on a cover sheet and then sent to the next year's teacher.

Planning:  My goal is to have my lessons planned for all classes at least two weeks ahead of time, complete with handouts, electronic files, etc. That way I can spend my planning period handling other needed responsibilities.

Professional:  I recently started a low-residency creative writing MFA program, so I have a lot to juggle right now. I want to stay on top of my reading and packet deadlines for my fall and spring tutorials so that I can advance in the program and build my own writing skills and knowledge.

Students:  I want my students to take responsibility for their learning and for their moral character development. I work to encourage my students to be independent and consciousness  If I can enrich their lives by helping them to become more empathetic, well-rounded, and savvy, all of the time I've spent will be worth it.

Motto: Being a tool through which his/her students learn with excitement is the true responsibility of a teacher.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Goals Before TTC

I am struggling. Struggling to find the perfect spot for me between career, marriage, and motherhood. I know I'm not the first woman to be concerned with losing her identity when thinking about getting pregnant. I know I'm not the only working woman who wants to be able to spend as much time as possible with her eventual baby. I know all of these things, but that doesn't make my personal journey any less authentic or important. 

It was most recently triggered by a TEDtalk. If you've never heard a TEDtalk, stop reading my blog and visit their website NOW. It will change your life. Anyway, in the quest to cut TV watching--more specifically streaming certain shows (namely it alternates between Grey's Anatomy, True Blood, The Walking Dead, Army Wives, Orange is the New Black, whichever is currently running)--out of my life I am trying to find a healthier habit to transfer to while I eat lunch/dinner when I'm by myself at home. I tried reading, but I feel like my meal is a time when I need to veg-out for some reason, so I needed something educational to replace the mind-numbing mess of drama shows. Enter TEDtalks.

After listening to an amazing talk by Brene Brown on Vulnerability, one I had heard to before and loved just as much the second time, I followed a link to one by Larry Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career, which was actually not that good, BUT he did mention Steve Job's Stanford Commencement Speech, which I amazingly hadn't seen yet. It was impressive (as everyone else online in the 21st century already knows). That got me interested in his personal life and more specifically his wife and what she was doing after his passing. Laurene Powell Jobs is a pretty powerful woman. In fact, she is on Forbes 2013 The World's 100 Women Who are Redefining Power. As is Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Reading about her got me intrigued with her life and that led me to her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, which led me to Jenny Kuhle's blog and her post about being a working woman who left the workforce after having babies, not a new situation, but she really struggles with the same issue that I am about to face--what am I to do once I have a baby? 

Whether or not to remain at my job is not a question. I love teaching and it is a passion for me that is part of what makes me who I am. I've already decided that I will continue teaching, that I will continue graduate school, and that I will juggle to make it all work. However, that doesn't mean it will be easy and that doesn't mean that I won't feel pulled either to my job or to my child or to both simultaneously.

In order to help calm my fears about the whole baby idea, I've set a few goals in different areas of my life to accomplish this semester (this is not to say that we are going to TTC after December, this is just my first step towards being more okay with where I am before even thinking more about being a mom (Pinterest has pushed me too far along on that thought-train!)

Hopefully my goal sheet will help someone else trying to plan what to do before trying to conceive or what to do in the months before getting pregnant.

Preparing for back to school

I am about to start my 2nd full year (my 3rd school year, since I started in Jan. 2012), and I am nervous as always, but also extremely excited for the new changes to come. 

Below you can see a few of the projects I've been working on to spruce up my classroom.

We had a few throw pillows from our old comforter set that were a bit mishapen and not in our color scheme any longer, so I decided to transform them into a few pillows for the reading nook in my classroom. I am really in love with the hexagonal one and think I will try that again next time I need a new pillow.

I didn't have any hall passes last year, but definitely needed them. Not wanting to just purchase an ugly, generic wooden block pass, I decided to search Pinterest for an idea. I found a few pins that used clothespins as passes, which I thought was a great idea, except that my students would forget they had clipped it on them and walk out for the day with my pass still hanging on. To solve that problem, I found these cute blank name tags at Michaels and put a few old business cards in between two to give the pass some substance, then covered them in clear sellotape, punched a whole in the corner and threaded through some twin. I think I might die the clothes pins to make them stick out a bit more, but otherwise, I'm really happy with them. (I blocked out my name to post them online, but you can see that I included the room number so that if they are lost, they can find their owner again.)

I've also been working on streamlining my schedule and finding time to accomplish some grading and planning during the school day without so many interruptions. This is what I have so far:

I know, my schedule is a bit crazy, but you can see I've highlighted the times I can work with in yellow. I am really making an effort to only check email twice a day, but during each of those times, I plan to thoroughly sort and reply to emails rather than simply glance them over (which I've found is a huge time-waster as you end up having to look at the same emails several times over).

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Perfect Paragraph Hamburger Method

During my student teaching experience, the teacher I was interning with had a wonderful strategy to help her 9th grade Pre-AP students remember what went into a well-developed paragraph. She called it the perfect paragraph and used a hamburger as the visual.

When I finally had my own classroom, even though I was teaching 6th grade, I knew I wanted to implement this strategy. I developed a visual that embodied her idea, and my students reference this each time we approach a writing project. We use it for informational and argumentative writing and it fits the common core standards beautifully. The hardest part for students is the explanation, but I always give them the PB&J analogy (one my science teacher from elementary school taught us). She used it in connection with procedure. She said that you need to pretend like you are telling an alien how to make a PB&J sandwich. You couldn't just say, "Put the jam on the bread" because they might just take the jar of jam and place it on top of the loaf of bread. You have to walk them through the steps. "First, untwist the tie on the bread, then..." I explain to my students that explanation is similar to that. You think we understand the evidence without you needing to explain it, but pretend your reader is an alien in that moment. You have to explain why that evidence helps to prove your statement or your main point. 

I hope you fellow teachers out there will find use out of this. Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers site to download a free .doc file.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

CHAMPS Classroom Management Strategy

CHAMPS is a strategy I really want to start to use regularly. I have the poster printed out from the teacher resource center across the room from my desk with the intention that I'll see it when I address the class, but I don't always follow through on it. One of my goals this year is to use it regularly to address the class before an activity. You basically walk the class through each step before each activity so that they always know the expectations.

For example: 
"During this partner activity, I expect there to no noise above whispering. If you need help, you can ask your partner or raise your hand. We will be..... You are allowed to move around the room to accomplish your task, but please ask permission if your project involves you leaving the room. I will know you are participating when I see you working side by side with your partner. We will switch partners when the timer goes off."

I've found with any age group I've taught (Kindergarden, 4th-9th grade, Juniors) that you can never repeat yourself too many times and you can never expect kids to understand something you haven't expressively told them. It's better to over teach or over model than to have students confused and not following directions.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Favorites Lately

My MFA friend who writes at On Bruised Knees inspired me to make a favorites/thankful for list. I borrowed a few from her since we had similar experiences in the past month!

30 day yoga membership, enlightening counseling session, loving dogs, nearly potty-trained cat, breakfast smoothies, poolside business planning with friends, hour-long conversation each with MIL and Mom, pinterest and instragram breaks, local bookstore and coffee shop anniversary parties with live music, cake, and champagne  Murray State University MFA program, sunny walks around campus, friendly roommate, The Burrito Shack, Thai food with a new soul-friend, life/idea discussions, meeting published writers and hearing them read, workshops, new MFA friends of all ages, crazy/beautiful mentor, plenty of new books, making a plan, new soul-friend/house guest from Airbnb, white elephant sale at the UK Art Museum, gently used clothing stores, getting ready for school to start, planning, cooking, reading, and dreaming with Alek, our "village" of spiritual friends, Shabbat services, Rabbi Kline

Friday, May 31, 2013

Juice Detox Day 2

7:30am- Woke up to music wafting down the hallway. Groggily made some green tea with lemon juice and honey for myself and the hubby, then started washing and peeling vegetables and fruit for the first juice of the day.

Jolt Juice
       2 Apples
       1 Orange
       1 Cucumber
       1/4 Lemon Peeled
       4 Kale Leaves/Spinach

This is by far my favorite juice so far.

9:30am- Just now finishing the juice. Not sure why it takes me so long to drink these suckers, but two hours seems to be the trend. Feeling pretty good today. Bright eyed and bushy tailed so to speak. I've been tinkering around on my blog this morning, as well as reading in My Heart Is An Idiot by Davy Rothbart and Let Me Clear My Throat by Elena Passarello, one of which is required reading for my summer residency and the other is written by the professor (Elena Passarello) of the nonfiction residency.

I am just now beginning to draft my essay for the residency workshop. I'm struggling a bit with writing an essay, because my only background with essay has been through academic requirements. This is a new sort of genre for me, but I'm excited to try it. Rothbart's essays seem to be memoir vignettes while Passarello's are snapshots into theater vocals throughout time. Both are interesting, but they are unique and it's hard to find a common style to this genre. The only guidelines given were as follows:
Nonfiction: 1 or more essays (max. 22 pages total, double-spaced) We will forward all work submitted to your faculty mentor, who will select pieces to workshop during the residency. 

Here goes nothing!

12pm- Just mixed up lunch:

Bruschetta Tang
            2 Tomatoes
            1-2 Garlic Cloves Peeled
            1 Bunch of Basil (20 Leaves)
            1/4 Lemon Peeled

It's a little...different to drink garlic and tomatoes, but I think I like it okay. I keep thinking it would be really nice with some bread. Hubby isn't a fan of raw tomatoes anyway, so this is torture for him. I feel pretty good. He's getting cranky because he's doing school work and is hungry. I was planning on mixing up a salad for lunch, but we seem to be doing okay on just juice right now. I think dinner is a whole different story... 
5pm- Our hunger overcame us, so I made some soup. The ingredients are nearly all things we were putting in our juices anyway (and I even added some of the Bruschetta Tang from lunch that we didn't finish). It was tasty, but probably only in comparison to what we've been consuming.

Carrot-Spinach Soup with Dill

For The Big Batch
1 large onion, diced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
7 carrots, diced (about 5 cups)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon coarse salt
8 ounces green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

For Each Serving
1 packed cup baby spinach
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Juice Detox Day 1

11pm yesterday- After I did a small strength workout, hubby asked me if I'd like to try a 10 day detox with him. My brother's done it before with just V-8 so I was interested. We took it down to a 7 day detox because we'll be leaving for New Orleans pretty soon.

10:30 am- slept in as it was my first day off work from a year of school! Yay summer! Wasn't really hungry this morning and we hadn't gone shopping for juice supplies yet, so I just had a small cup of hot water and lemon and then a large glass of V-8 Fushion.

12:00pm- stopped by to see the bees, picked up chicken feed and dog food, went grocery shopping. Started to get a little hungry for something substantial. Hubby wants TexMex bad.

1:30pm- After washing the juicer and veggies, I juiced and made two Mean Green Juices. I blended mine with some ice and honey, and hubby shook his with ice (Just like our margarita preferences- frozen for me, on the rocks for him):

Mean Green
·       1 Granny Smith Apple
·       1 Cucumber
·       4 Stalks of Celery
·       4-6 Kale Leaves/spinach
·       1/4 Lemon Peeled
·       1″ Ginger

3pm- I'm just now finishing mine. The kale makes for an awful aftertaste, but overall it was fresh and filling. My stomach is full, but my mind wants something for me to munch on and chew. I'm considering grabbing some nuts since I DON'T need to lose weight and want to keep the muscle tone I have.

4:40pm- The hubby got hungry so we made "dinner."

Sunset Passion
·      1 Beet Sliced
·       1 Cucumber
·       1 Carrot
·       1 Granny Smith Apple
·       4 Kale Leaves
·       1/4 Lemon Peeled
·       1/4 Lime Peeled

7:40pm- I still haven't finished "dinner," but the hubby is "starving" and still wants to go out for TexMex. He even tempted me by saying we could get Thai food, which was really hard to resist, but I figure I only have an hour left before we can go to bed. We can make it! This is showing me how addicted we are to just the idea of eating something solid.  I'm starting to get a headache, which I haven't had all day. I've also had to go to the bathroom (#1) much more than usual. We'll see how I feel after I actually finish "dinner."

8:30pm- FINALLY made it through "dinner." I feel full. Headache is still there in the background. I think I''ll try drinking a glass of water here in the next 15 min.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Summer 2013 Goals

This summer's goals look pretty similar to last year's. Let's see if I can stick to and accomplish them this time around.

Summer 2012

-Tackle 8 DIY projects off of Pinterest {1 per week in June and July}.
-Focus on one habit per month. Throughout May it is to stop nail biting.
-Return boots and scrapbook
-Scrapbook high school and college on Blurb

-Exercise 30 min. cardio 2x a week and 30 min. strength 3x a week. Yoga on the days in between.

-laundry detergent
-ranch seasoning mix

-Go on two trips a month {We will be going to Florida and New Orleans in June}
-Have monthly date nights.
-Have bedtime 3x week.

-Write at least two handwritten notes every month to encourage someone/send b-day cards
-Get-together with a friend at least bi-weekly. {Ongoing}
-Call G-mom and Papa at least bi-monthly.


-Read through the following books:
-Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom by Marcia B. Imbeau, Carol Ann Tomlinson
-Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
-The Digital Writing Workshop by Troy Hicks
-Outspoken! by Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger
-Guy's Write book from Eva
 If I finish, I would like to start on my 6th grader's summer reading list.
-Keeping strict Office Hours for lesson planning/writing time each day. "Work" 8-12 M-F
-Meet with Liz a few times a month to plan.
-magnet board
-bathroom pass
-crate chairs
-paper towel holder display

-Spend only $70/week on food/entertainment
-Pay off cards.
-Keep up the green lifestyle
-Reduce paper use. {Try to use cloth napkins and wipes instead of paper towels.}

Just finished my first FULL year

I started teaching full time in Jan. of 2012, so while I have technically been teaching for a year 1/2, I was still considered a first year teacher. I might as well just get used to that and start saying 2013-2014 is my second year of teaching, even though it's my third school year.

I kept a self-reflection word document throughout the year, so these are the lessons learned from my first full year 1/2:

Spring 2012
·       All classes
o   POP book (includes not pushing in chairs (blue table, red table, etc.) Record names on board and in excel.
o   Rubric first
o   Anticipatory Activity (Attention grabber)
o   Student centered (no more than 5 minutes of teacher-led discussion)
·       LA
o   KPREP example
§  Give numbers instead of having students put names.
§  Switch with 2nd period, and give printed rubric
§  Have students write “why” they evaluated the paper the way they did
§  Have students rewrite until they reach a 4
·       Students who already have a 4 will either refine their response or try another example
§  On Multiple choice, print out one class set and ask students not to write on it.
o   Kony 2012
§  ALWAYS email parents before showing or sharing ANYTHING controversial.
§  Make sure to go over directions and project idea first. Make sure to fully research issue before addressing it with students.
o   Tornado Letters
§  Student choices (put top 3 choices, then name instead of just 1 choice)
§  Printed copy of letter example, figurative language, and rubric for every student. Walk the students through the format. Go over figurative language in class. It was a nightmare trying to get the students to follow SEE, have the heading, etc.
§  Have students turn rubric back in with letter for full points
§  Have students highlight sentence beginnings and figurative language
o   Speeches/Presentation
§  Have audience turn in their comments and self-reflection, then hand back to person
§  Make a presentation rather than a speech.
§  Stress the outline format
o   Narrative
§  Do life timeline and insist that it’s a personal narrative. The topics were too wide ranged including fiction.
·       CW
o   Memoirs
§  Day One
·       Rubric
·       “We will be presenting in front of the class”
·       Give a timeline
§  Peer editing
·       Give worksheet to evaluate (have this be a grade)
o   Freewriting
§  Weekly check-ins on personal projects
o   Plays
§  Offer the option to do in pairs or alone, but not as groups.
o   Fanfiction
§  Character page that tells about personality and character background
§  Do example peer edit on elmo as a class.
o   Fractured Fairytales
§  Ask to have illustrators from beginning.
§  Make more structured deadlines.
§  Teach Blurb in the beginning.

·       Generals
o   Lessons
§  Always make sure it is grade appropriate (4th and 5th)
§  Make sure to use “CHAMPS”
o   1 personal narrative in the fall that we edit, revise, etc. The rest should be short stories (under 500-600 words), poems, etc.
·       Drama
o   Like the folktales, but talk about the different cultures first, then do folktales in partners, but with individual worksheets. Have students act out the scene. Then give rubric and read examples for students to write their own folktale.
o   Monologues
§  Give example and rubric first
§  Have students make a monologue booklet like Amber’s example.

Jottings for next year:
  • Write Source vocab root each week
  • Lexicon words- choice/reading/original compound sentence/none straight from dictionary.
  • SAT words/pictures
  • Story/poem using 10 words
  • how many words do you know? Personal lexicon

Fall 2012
  • ·       Be more organized with grading so that there are no if’s/and’s/but’s about when and if I graded something. Get a unique stamp?
  • ·       Require students to keep EVERYTHING I hand back for each 4 ½ weeks, and if they can’t show it to me with a stamp on it, then they don’t get credit.
  • ·       Take Attendance EVERY day with EVERY period.
  • ·       3  Strikes you’re out rule.

o   1st offense, sign the board (after the third time in a 9wk period, sign the pop book)
o   2nd offense in the same period, sign the pop book and fill out a discipline sheet.
o   3rd offense in the same period (or already signed the pop book) call a parent
o   4th offense in the same period (or already called a parent) N in conduct
o   5th offense in the same period (or already has an N in conduct) U in conduct
o   6th offense in the same period (or already has a U in conduct) Saturday school
  • ·       I have… who has… game suggested by principal for review (formative assessment)
  • ·       Ask students, what do you ”see” and “hear” when reading.
  • ·       What do you perceive when listening and watching?
  • ·       Biweekly paragraphs

o   1st 9 weeks- Get to know you Prompts (Narrative)
o   2nd 9 weeks- Digital Anthology- all 5 types (Informational)
o   3rd 9 weeks- Video Debates- Pro/con (Argumentative)
o   4th 9 weeks- Poetry (Narrative)
·       Lit Circle jobs
o   Start with short article or fictional text.
o   Connector
o   Questioner
o   Literary luminary
o   Illustrator
o   Summarizer
o   Researcher
o   Scene setter
o   Word wizard
o   If not prepared, check at door, students sit outside group and finish
o   Absent? Phone or post on edmodo to participate
Checker sheet- did the discussion work? Yes or no. If no, why did the connecting not happen? Ex. Lack of prep, boring article/book, dif. Personalities, learning styles, etc.
If yes, describe 1-2 high points of discussion, topics focused on, questions latched on to. Evaluation your participation + = -
Review immediately and write responses
·       Grammar-
o   Starting with and…
o   Consistent verb tense
o   Comma usage
o   Fragments
o   Pronouns, dif. Types
·       Collect hw as they enter! Pass out missing assign. If they don’t have it.
·       As you watch the clip/video, compile a “viewer response” list of your reactions to things you see.
o   Direct quotes you’d like to comment on later in small group discussion
o   Things you learned or hadn’t though about before
o   Things you agree/disagree w/
o   Questions you have
o   Issues you’re still grappling w/
o   Personal connections
·       Reading strategies 1/week
·       10-12 p. / day of book
·       1 paragraph biweekly
·       5 words/week in lexicon
·       20 min/ night of reading
·       Grammar in class and occasional hw
·       ALWAYS PRINT A COPY FOR STUDENTS or fill in the blank for notes
·       Clear the desks
·       Slow down
·       Watch for students who are not engaged.
·       Bathroom signout closer to me.
·       Model in groups
·       1 group thick
·       2 group thin
·       SCAN picture books
·       Read biographies and compare
·       Handout assign. Instructions
·       Differenciate assignments
·       Check agendas and give more time to fill out during the first half of the year

Spring 2013
  •         Put together portfolio each year for each student.
  •         Coordinate Quarterly and Summer Goals with grade level colors and add to portfolio:

o   4th grade: Yellow
o   5th grade: Orange
o   6th grade: Blue
o   7th grade: Red
o   8th grade: Green
  •         Hold students accountable for Freewrite Friday reflections.
  •         Find a more authentic way for students to share their writing.
  •         Laminate and mat student published writing.
  •      Have Art minor do caricatures for each guest speaker.
  •      Always consider food allergies and have extra skittles in my drawer.
  •      Find a better book checkout system (one "librarian" in each class. Can only check out through them.)
  •      Find a better pencil checkout system (strong mechanical. Keep extra erasers and lead.)
  •      Put a pencil basket on each table for generals.