Friday, August 28, 2015

Five for Friday - August 28

It's Doodlebugs Teaching's Five for Friday link up!

Today is a HUGE day for me.  I'm interviewing in Nashville for the state Teacher of the Year program.  Thoughts and prayers around 11:00 a.m. are greatly appreciated!  I am so excited to be representing my district, but I'm also nervous because I want to make them proud.  Kind of like those first day jitters.  :)

So, without further ado, here are my five favorites from this week.

This week was Stitch Fix week!  Which is kind of like Christmas around here.  Love!!!

I love this fragrance from Bed, Bath & Beyond.  It smells like happy.

This truly is not a shameless plug.  But, since I'm out today, I have LOVED being able to just pull this resource, make some copies, and know that my kids are productively engaged with fun work today that's aligned with our standards and requires just a little guidance from the sub.  Because we all know we'd rather drag ourselves to school on our deathbeds rather than get ready for a sub.  Grab your copy for Pocahontas or Amelia Earhart in my store.  More units will be coming out throughout the fall.  

This is going just okay in my classroom.  I got the idea from someone this summer to give each kid a pencil box with 5 pencils and one cap eraser on Monday.  Those who still have all 5 pencils and the eraser (even just crumbs of it) on Friday get a treat (for me it's a clip up).  I've got kids coming to me on Friday, though, with just 1 pencil left and no idea of what happened to the other 4.

So, our conversations go like this.

Me:  "What happened to your other 4 pencils?"
Kid:  Shrugs.
Me:  "Did you eat them?"
Kid:  "I dunno.  Maybe."
Me:  "Maybe you ATE them?"
Kid:  "Well, I don't know.  Maybe."
Me:  "No.  You didn't.  You can't eat pencils without getting seriously sick."
Kid:  "Oh."
Me:  "Did you take them  home?"
Kid:  Shrugs.  "Maybe."
Me:  "Didn't we talk at the beginning of the year that these pencils must stay at school?  Or we'll lose them all really soon?"
Kid:  "Yes."
Me:  "So why did you take them home?"
Kid:  "I don't know.  Maybe I didn't."
Me:  "You do realize you won't get to clip up?  And that I have to replace these lost pencils?"
Kid:  "Yes."  Looks at me with blank eyes.  I can tell that there is honestly NO knowledge whatsoever of what happened to their pencils.

I'm really not sure if this is any better than my traditional method of having a basket Velcroed to their desks and them keeping pencils in it.  Maybe a quarter of my kids actually have all 5 pencils at the end of the week.  I do think I'll stick with it for another week, maybe giving bigger rewards for those who keep up with their pencils, and see if it gets better.  But at this rate, I'll be buying pencils by December.

And avoiding THAT was the whole reason for the challenge in the first place.

Also, I would not make a good police interrogator.  I get nothing.

I love Frixion pens.  They are REALLY erasable pens (not like those you remember from the 80s that only kinda sorta erased).  These are smooth-writing gel pens that erase cleanly and completely.  I like to use them for me, but I also like to let the kids use them during math workshop.  When they bring their work to me for guided practice, I let them do our work together with a colored Frixion pen.  Then, what they do independently at their seats is done with pencil.  That way, when I collect work, I can easily see what was done with guidance and what was done independently and compare the quality of the work.  You can get them from Wal-Mart or Amazon.  

And that's it for my Friday!  Hop on over to the link up to see what everyone else is up to!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Techy Tuesday - Dream Computer Lab

Happy Tuesday, Folks!!

About a month ago, we had our district-wide inservice at our high school, and my principal told me that I needed to check out the new computer lab.  It was jaw-dropping!!  The teacher applied for and received a grant for a lab full of Macs, but then she went above and beyond in designing her space.  Check it out!

When you walk in, THIS catches your eye.  This is a computer table she built out of an old industrial chemical bin cage, some rope lights, a glass top, and reflective poster board on the floor.  This is crazy awesome!!

Here's another view.  She has colorful Post-Its, iPhone cradles, and neon Expos for the kids to use.  More pics are coming up at the end of the post.

This is the back of the room.  (This tour isn't making a whole lot of sense because I was jumping around taking random pictures of things.  Sorry.)  She will be teaching computer coding, and the kids will get to present their cumulative projects to the folks at Google in California.  Way cool for rural west Tennessee!  Or anywhere, for that matter.  

I also love how she mixed industrial and natural materials to make a space that's so calming.

AppleTV is included.

This is a shot of the bank of Macs.  Sigh.  Isn't it pretty???

More shots of the cool class table.  The little guy is an iPhone cradle - she said she got them at Wal-Mart.

Neon Expos (They're really window markers, but can work on whiteboards.  I checked.  Because I went out that afternoon and got some.  Self control with office supplies isn't my strong suit.)

More shots of the table.

Obviously, we can't all get a humongo grant for Apples and set up a space this awesome, BUT we can all get a little inspiration and apply what we learned in our own classrooms, right?  Like using the window markers in my classroom.  Also, I love how this space isn't overdone - it's clean and inviting, but not so "done" that there isn't space for the kids to work.

Hope you get a little takeaway from this incredible computer lab that you can use in YOUR space!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Five for Friday - August 21

It's Friday - and time for Five for Friday with Doodlebug's Teaching!

I blogged on Monday about how much I love Catherine's stuff at The Brown Bag Teacher.  I am really loving how she organizes and differentiates learning stations - something I'm really trying to do better this year.

Thanks to Catherine, I ordered VersaTiles last week, and my kids are L-O-V-I-N-G them.  Check out this video to see how they work.  It's truly like magic.  The first time I modeled doing one for my kids, their mouths literally fell open.

This.  This is in my cabinet at school.  Dark chocolate.  Sea salt.  Almonds.  It's good for what ails ya.  

I thought this was the best idea from Amy Lemons at Step Into Second Grade.  Who wouldn't love a staff fridge stocked with goodies for the beginning of the year?

My kids started learning to code last Friday.  They loved it and were total rock stars at it.  Check it out for yourself at Hour of Code.  And, no, you do not have to know how to code to do this with your students - I learn right along with them!

And that's my Friday, folks!  Stop by Doodlebug's link up to see what everyone else has been up to, too.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Focus on Primary Sources - American Rhetoric

Today's focus on primary sources is all about speeches.  Speeches are sometimes forgotten when we talk about primary sources, but they are powerful pieces of history.  Just think about some of the famous speeches we all know:  Gettysburg Address, I Have a Dream, FDR's Fireside Chats.  Studying speeches - especially within the context of their associated historical events and periods - is a great way to integrate close reading with social studies content.

Of course, you could search for each speech individually, but American Rhetoric has them housed all in one place!

The online speech bank here is great - you can search by speeches to find what you need.  They also have a compilation of the top 100 speeches of all time that is a great place to discover new jewels.

What I especially love about American Rhetoric is that they have audio recordings of the speeches, too.  Where possible, the original speaker is recorded, and for others they have narrators or celebrities reading the speeches.  I think it would be fun to have the students study the speech closely, THEN listen to it and see if their understanding or perceptions of the speech changed after listening.

This is a definite "must add" to your sites for primary sources!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Techy Tuesday - 8 Ways to Speed Up a PC

Let me start by saying that 6 months ago I became a total Apple devotee.  Like many, it started with the iPhone.  Then the iPad.  Then I read the Steve Jobs biography.  I resisted a Macbook for a long time, but when my PC died, I took the plunge, and I will never, ever go back.

That being said - our school district still uses PCs, and, unlike Apples, they get bogged down every now and then.  They start running slow and get temperamental, and that's usually when I'll take it home, sit down with some TV, and do a little clean up and maintenance to get it running smoothly again.

Here are the 10 things I do to get my PC back in shape.

1.  Clear out unwanted programs.  Go to your Control Panel, open up your programs, and uninstall anything you don't want.  Be careful, though - you don't want to uninstall something you really need. Anything with Microsoft in the name I leave, and anything I'm really uncertain about.  But if it's something I recognize and I know I no longer need, I get rid of it.

2.  Clean up your start up programs.  This can make a HUGE difference in your computer's speed, particularly when you first start it up.  Click the start button and type "system configuration."  Click services.  Leave anything from Microsoft and PC services.  Probably Apple, too.  But most of it you don't need to run at start up, like Adobe or something.  You want as little going on when you first turn your computer on.

3.  Run a disk cleanup.  Definitely get rid of your temporary files.  This can release a huge amount of space.  Click the start button and type "disk cleanup" and then click disk cleanup.  It will scan your computer to see how much space you can free up.  Just click to delete unnecessary stuff.

4.  Clean out your malware.  I like Malware Bytes.  Download it and then run a scan.  Authorize it to delete anything it wants to.

5.  Defragment your disk.  Your computer is likely set up to do this automatically, but it may be at a weird time, like 1:00 a.m.  If your computer isn't on, it can't defragment.  Click the start button and type "defray."  Then select the defragmenter.  It consolidates files on your hard drive so that free space is more available.  Then, either set this to be done at a more realistic time or make a note to do it on your own every week or so.

6.  Empty your recycle bin.  Self explanatory.  

7.  Troubleshoot.  There may be issues going on you don't know about, and this task will help you find and fix them.  Click the start button and type "troubleshooting" and then click troubleshooting.  Under systems and security, click check for performance issues.  

8.  Update.  Check extra utilities, such as Adobe, for updates.  Usually you'll get an alert when updates are available, but I'm bad about clicking "remind me later" and then never doing it.  Especially check for updates with your antivirus!

After you've done all of this, be sure to shut down your computer.  Many changes only take effect after you've rebooted, particularly updates.

Do all of this, and you should see a noticeable difference in your PC performance.

Of course, buy an Apple, and you don't have to mess with any of it.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Made It

It's time for Monday Made It with 4th Grade Frolics!

I was trying to think of a way to display exemplars for students to reference, so I put this on the bottom of one of my bulletin boards.  I plan to put student work samples there that meet exemplar standards with a note from me about exactly why they did.  I love these letters!  I also realized, after I took the picture, that yellow pennants hung a little closer would look like the sun's rays.  Hmmmmmm.  May be another MMI coming on.

Our PTO membership drive is beginning today, and our PTO officers always put up adorable decorations in the cafeteria to track how many memberships each class is bringing in.  This year the theme is minions, so each teacher was asked to decorate a minion to go on the walls of the cafeteria; they'll be judged by a "celebrity" judge and the winner gets a local gift certificate!

So, here's my George Washington minion.  Sorry about the glare.
The names of kids who join will be written on bananas and posted around our minions.  Love!!!

I love, love, love Catherine Reed at The Brown Bag Teacher.  She has posted about how she differentiates her learning centers, so I took the plunge with my math centers this week.

I love the visual directions she uses, too.  We'll see how they do with them this week!

This Monday Made It will definitely be a work in progress.

We are using Engage NY for our math curriculum, and I love it, but I didn't love how the student work looked.  The fonts are pretty small, and there seems to be a lot of white space on the page - my learners who need more scaffolding were struggling, and I thought that the work format may be part of it.  So, I redesigned the work for the next few lessons; I put boxes for them to write in and tried to use more rectangles than blanks so they could clearly see where to put their work.  I also included the learning target on everything (that's a big push in our district this year).  We'll see if it helps or not.

And speaking of learning targets, I made one of these for each of my reading groups.  It's hot glued to the side of a magazine holder I use to keep all of the supplies I need for each group.  Since all of my reading instruction is in small groups, and each group may be working on a different skill, posting the learning target on the whiteboard wouldn't make sense.  So, when I pull out each group's work, I'll leave this sitting on the table and use a dry erase marker to write the learning target for that group.  I've also included a general outline that each lesson follows so that kids have a visual reminder of what we've done and what we still have to do.

And that was one busy, but fun-filled, week.  I can't wait to see what everyone else has been up to!

Have a great Monday!