Saturday, June 30, 2012

What Do I Want To Do Better Next Year?


 Seriously? Maybe not every little thing, but looking back I can see daily examples of things I can do better next time:
  • As the students write their final papers I realize I was not enough of an Editor. They are still writing such simple, poor, incoherent sentences! Maybe I let the focus be on too much self- and peer-editing, so the blind led the blind? I think I could have been tougher, more insistent on writing a quality sentence.
  •  (Part of this was due to them taaaaaaaaaking soooooooooo looooooooong to write! Our first research paper my first month took a week for the outline and two weeks for the rough draft, some kids never did finish, and overall final results were disappointing.  Maybe I expected them to write too much?  Maybe/obviously they were not accustomed to writing more than a paragraph?)

  • Talk less. Less words, and slower.  In my zeal to get the lesson out I talk to quick sometimes, especially when giving examples. Got to let 'em soak it in. My class was behind the other 5th grade classes from my 1st week, and it took me a bit to realize it's not a race or competition, especially with veteran teachers who know the material inside and out.  
  • Find more time to let students talk to me. Especially the ones struggling with behavior and/or lessons. Hear their ideas how to solve situation, and may hear underlying issues. Or sometimes they just want to talk.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I Still Want To Do More!

Plenty of time left in the school year, including more testing, but what do I want to try and get to before the summer job search break begins?

  • The American Revolution. Still working through Colonial America -- houses to build! newspapers to write! maps to illustrate? Colonial Games Olympics! -- but definitely want to give 1776 some attention.
  • Recycled Rollercoasters: they've started collecting "shape-able" recycled items (no cans or glass) and I'll have teams design/plans/build a track for a marble to roll down, extra credit for loops and jumps.
  • "I'm an Expert" presentations. What do they know? One of my phrases is "29 Teachers in this room" and now they get to teach us something.With visual aids, demonstrations, and hands on activities?
  • Book Reports. I've been showing class examples of, and encouraging them to think about/attempt, other ways to demonstrate their knowledge. We've watched videos on School Tube, explored right/left brain concept, did a little blogging, brainstormed alternates to daily (probably very boring by now) Reading Logs. Now let's see what they can put into action! I've heard there's already one rap in the works...
  • Create Your Own Scientific Inquiry.  We've listed "I wonder..." questions and topics all year, I wonder how much of their curiosity they can turn into an experiment? No explosives, please.
  • How to read/understand/appreciate/create graphic novels -- looking for good websites for my students to make their own comic on?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Good Things I Done This Year

Why, just as I sit down to finally write something, does my wife decide to put in one of the greatest movies of all time? Butch and Sundance, here I come...

Ok, back to work.  

What do I think I did well this year* in the classroom, and outside of it to get ready for the classroom? Hmmm...

  • Read out loud. I took a regular turn reading Science, Math, Social Studies, Reading texts and read several picture books to introduce and supplement lessons. I'm reading them Nicholas St. North whenever I get the chance, a chapter here, a chapter there. I also put vocabulary (synonyms/in context) from each chapter up on the big screen as I read.
  • Got 'em moving. We got up out of our seats to act out the solar eclipse, classifying data, the circulatory system, water cycle and evaporation, bar graphs, vocabulary words, as well as going back in time to review a lesson. (How? With tin foil hats, hula hoops, and a black hole video from, of course. How else would one go back in time, with a Lamborghini? Preposterous. Would never work.)
  • The blood stream activity worked well.  The students paired up to act out and tell class the jobs of heart, lungs, cells, etc. and other students traveled through the stations telling us where they were going (from the heart to lung, capillary to cell) and what they were doing (delivering oxygen, exhaling CO2).  We switched up roles several times and I think it really "flowed"...

*not that the year is over -- we go to July 20th!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

No, we are not going to McDonald's...

But I do want to find some cool yet educational things for my classes to do over those last days of school.

I think that one of my "I could do better" motivations in becoming a teacher was the number of movies, parties, and "Free Play!" days my sons talked about.  Now I realize they may have been exaggerating the length and depth of these activities, and I may be setting myself for a full blown revolt, especially after studying the Revolutionary War, and will find myself scotch taped to the desk with an eraser in my mouth while my students abandon class to hang out in a room with popcorn and a Disney DVD, but I'd like them to do something they probably will NOT do for the majority of their summer break. You can't tell me kids these days will not eat a single bite of fast food or watch a single movie all summer...

So what should we do? Debates? Art? Recyclable material race tracks? Daily surprise quizzes?

As always, I am open to ideas.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

25, 26, 27 hours in your day?!?

Time manipulation? Unholy alliance?
Alien technology? A trip to Mr. Johnson's crossroads?

How else do you do it?

C'mon, you educators that post pictures of clean, bright, fantasy-schoolhouse classrooms to go with  your time-saving and tree-saving yet engaging, all level differentiated, in line with every state's Standards lessons that you post on your professional quality and heavily "Best of" honor-bedecked website which connects to your Pintrest, Twitter, Facebook, and blog via smart phone, iPad, and probably ESP -- AND you have time for quality personal reflection while you share 702 up-to-the-second latest technology ideas for the flipped i21 space station classroom during a tweet-fest with all 13,756 of your closest friends and followers???

How in the holy name of Angela Watson* do you find the time to do it all?

Help a brother out!

Don't know what I'm doing wrong. I get in early, make sure I have all supplies and notes ready for each lesson, sharpen a few pencils and away we go... 6.5 hours later I kick 'em all out. Homework Club on Tuesday but none of my students ever come so it's right to planning the next day(s): Gotta... man, I can't even write down what I gotta do cause I getta more tired and need to go to bed.

Actually, I feel better already. Just the thought of bed led me to the thought of that first cup of coffee in the morning, then the anticipation-filled drive to work, then the heartbeat of joy that always thumps when I pull out the keys to my classroom door. AND I get paid for this!


 I guess I'll be okay...

*Arne Duncan? Michelle Rhee? Do teachers have a patron saint?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Making It Up As I Go Along

I love History, enjoy the Founding Fathers/Birth of Our Nation period, and was looking forward to Social Studies with my new 5th graders. Except I was told S.S. is not on the State test, 5th grade has a Science benchmark, and besides, the students don't like it anyway...

My little red. white, and blue heart was crushed, from the jump.

So we did a lot of Science, took the test, and will keep doing Science cuz it's on the State test too, but I must get in some George Washington or I will feel like a failure as an American and a teacher.  Especially since we're studying archetypes in LangArts and there would be great connections to heroes, rebels, etc.

Then I looked at the textbook. Oy, several chapters still to go before 1776, and they don't look like the kind of chapters that keep 11 year old eyelids open. I suppose I could skip stuff, but they do need some background, right?  Then I started getting ideas, whether from the ghost of Ben Franklin or what I learned Education was really supposed to be like in my Credential classes I'm not sure, but I'm gonna go with it....

I'd love ideas, suggestions, warnings, project-based, um, projects, places to check out and things to do online, whatever ya got to help make this work. Call me naive and foolhardy, but I really do want my students to learn something AND not hate Social Studies!
So here's my Lesson "Plan":

Notes from a work in progress. The only part we've done in class so far is assign the groups and discuss where on the map we are (my Native American group wanted to be Hopi).

  1. Gave each table group their assignment: Middle, Southern, New England Colonies, Great Britain, Native Americans, African Americans. Spent several minutes convincing them Great Britain, Britain, and England were one and the same. They didn't like this choice until I mentioned one of them could be King! The African American group probably has the least info in the text, so I gave it to a group of good researchers.
  2. Each group of 4/5 students also will assume characters -- 1 or 2 children and a reporter, a politician/leader, and a farmer or businessperson.  They can find out how their characters would work, play, dress, live, etc and compare with same character in the other groups.We're voting on a class Postman (need to work Franklin in here somehow) and students will be able to write letters/questions to other characters, hopefully more or less in character. I'm also hoping we can use their blogs to post a diary/journal for each character so others can read and ask questions. Through all of that will each student learn about the other groups w/out having to read the entire text and do all worksheets?
  3. Need some good historical fiction...
  4. Students can build houses (Popsicle sticks?) to show the various ways people lived.
  5. Each group's Reporter will create a newsletter to publish info and events from their area -- maybe discussing famous people from their area? Op ed and letters to editor as we get closer to shot heard 'round the world?
  6. Art: pose as artwork from the period? Work up a script, what are these people doing, saying, and why?
  7. Hmmm, King vs Colonist tax policy debate? Family Feud  game show?
  8. Each group has a political figure, gov official, tribe leader. What power/responsibility does each have? How were they chosen? Why did they want position? Interesting to compare the various styles of gov. For AfrAmer need to find a Northern figure, or could they be represent a slave?
  9. If there are 5 students in a group, do their characters all need to be connected? Same tribe, same town, etc? Will students have ability to research needed if all separate?
  10. Time lines (or is it timelines?) -- I love timelines, and the kids love folding papers into cool shapes and gluing them into their journals, so we'll make a time line that expands out of their books and they can add events/dates as we go through unit. I'll start with them making a personal timeline and checking out something cool online, hopefully interactive -- any suggestions?
  11. Maps. You know I love maps. Students can research cartography (right, like we have time for that) and create maps showing their groups area(s) and how connected to other groups areas -- follow that mail carrier! How would a letter get from one person/place to another? 
  12. They also need help with paraphrasing, too much to use the Dec of Independence and have them reword it a little?
  13. I need music! Need to start playing them colonial/British/spiritual music while they read and work... now what section if the record store will that be in?
  14. Thanks to this awesome LiveBinder and a cool "foldable" I saved from my son's class got an idea for them to collect their key info (and anything involving folding and gluing they really get into).
  15. I need to make a big puzzle where each group's puzzle piece fits together to make the map we've been looking at, Great Britain to the Adirondacks. On each piece they can illustrate key elements. I suppose each group's big piece could be broken into smaller pieces of puzzle, 1 for each group member to work on.  Now the question: How do I make a giant puzzle? Working out details of puzzle on google doc (link below)
  16. The Domino Book! Liked this idea since Son #3 brought one home a few years ago, and now I know it's called a "Foldable" -- the tricky part will be getting the less hand-eye coordinated students to not end up with a big ball of paper. The facts for each category will be across the folded page from an example and/or illustration, when booklet is completely unfolded one side shows all facts and other side all examples.

Does a link to google docs work here? "Soc Studies Colonial..."

Teachers Done Got It Good

A comment on this much read and commented on post. I guess I'm just full of myself enough to repeat it here. ;)

We need a comprehensive, scientific poll: I always wonder how many teachers, the ones who love and respect the job and the ones who whine and complain (and yes, you could do both) would change careers if they could? Just pick another job and *poof* now you’re a contractor, lawyer, restaurant owner!* Then compare those stats to all who would switch to Teaching as their paycheck?

IMHO, and as one who as worked 20 years outside Education first, Teachers done got it good. Yes we work hard, yes we must be creative, yes we deal with bothersome irritations, constant frustrations, and seemingly unattainable expectations/goals, but what job worth doing doesn’t? Not to mention apathetic students and ignorant parents. Yet we are doing something that makes sense, means something, can and does have a positive impact, AND we can be home most days by 4:00 and never, ever work Christmas Eve!

Appreciate it, Respect it, and get back to work.

*Choosing “All Pro Linebacker” or “Multiple Oscar Winner” doesn’t count. Stay realistic.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Talk to ALL Your Students At Once!

I know, I know, that's called a "lecture" and it's easy to do. But do you really have every student's attention? How about giving every student feedback on essays they wrote -- detailed, personalized, meaningful feedback and assessment -- all at once?  Not only that, but the students can replay your comments and suggestions over and over, even let peers/parents listen and read to provide even more support and feedback. No more misunderstanding or "Uh, I forgot" what you said!

It all has to do with Google docs and screen savers, of which the details are all here, including great examples from actual student work.  I think it's a great idea/tool, especially with middle school and up.

Props and thanks to The Transparent Teacher -- awesome blog!

Vampire Teacher?

Am I a vampire? 'Cause I can't see any reflection...
As in, I know personal/professional reflection is beneficial and should be done in a timely manner, but I also know the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so I took a detour. I also know you shouldn't mix your metaphors with your beer and liquor, so I'll just hit enter and start over...

I planned on spending this Spring Break reviewing my first 10 weeks as a real live classroom teacher, going over the lessons, assignments, and planning so I could work out what could have been done better.  Well, it quickly became obvious the answer was "everything" so I put that on a back burner and cleaned up the office, organized the bookshelves, and read a lot. I also became addicted to Twitter, but that's another issue.

Now I'm in low-level panic mode because I did not plan every day through the end of school year.  I brought everything home from each subject and stacked it all up neatly, then dusted the stacks once a week.

Friday, April 20, 2012

History of English Language

Cool little video on where our words come from.  I'd show it in class (6th grade and up) but prob skip the slightly naughty bit (end of part 6, I believe).

 and here's the original on the Smithsonian page

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Classroom Photos

Too much? Too cluttered? Too yellow?

Bonus points for finding WHERE the events from CNN Student News or anything else covered in class actually is. Twenty push-ups if you cannot find where you live.

I like maps.

Thank you Wonderopolis for the Spring Break Homework inspiration.

 That's as clean as it was gonna get. Eww, hope I didn't leave the apples there.

Friday, April 6, 2012

History LiveBinder

All things History, a collection of great websites. Way to much to investigate in one sitting, but what I saw looked great --

Interactive History on LiveBinder

Here's another place to find a ton o' good stuff: iLearn Technology

Blogs = 8 Track Players?

I've spent the morning going through the Twitter feeds and re-tweeting* (which of course posts straight to FB) all the incredible thoughts and ideas by Educators and Technology folk, then popped over here to post a few links and it felt... dusty? slow? something my mother would use?

Aside from a rant now and then that exceeds 140 characters, is blogging still worthwhile?

*"Twitter feeds and re-tweeting" Innovative, useful, engaging? Yes. Still silly to say? Yes, and always will be.
Finding a ton of great ideas here:

and here:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cereal Box Volume Activity

I'm pretty sure the idea came from... dang, can't think of the site now. I saw it here as "Juice Box Geometry" as well. Students had juice, cereal, and tissue boxes and measured with partners to find surface area and calculate volume. Next they used their measurements to design a net for the box, labeling the parts and dimensions. Then the boxes were carefully opened and pulled apart (juice boxes over the sink, please!), remeasured, and matched up to the nets. Volume was recalculated and compared to original figures -- how/why different? Why was the package designed the way it was? Could you improve on the design or increase the volume?

If I kept my Math students (they come from all three 5th grade classrooms) I thought it would be cool to transfer their nets and measurements into an Art lesson -- design your own product and packaging!

Cereal Box Volume Activity

Monday, April 2, 2012

Facebook: The Evil Empire?

Parents, please tell me Why in the holy name of Steve Jobs when I asked my classroom of 10 and 11 year old 5th graders how many were on Facebook 20 little hands shot up?!? Accompanied by big grins and shouts of "and Youtube!" or "Tumblr too!" -- I'm all in favor of the iGeneration being digital from the womb, but aren't there age milestones they're supposed to hit before being immersed in the potentially confusing, sometimes sordid world of social media?

"Do we ban pencils because one wrote on a restroom wall? Why do we do that with Social Media in the classroom?"  --   @JulieDRamsey
So now the District wants to ban all teacher/student connections on Facebook. Which I agree with on the underage side, there's no reason Elementary students need to have to have anything to do with FB. But if my students' parents were big FB users I definitely would set up a class site in order to pass along info and connect all the parents.  For my middle school students and my sports teams, I think FB is an instant and effective tool when used to connect teachers/coaches and students.  I know they all have phones these days, but am I really supposed to sit down and call them all when one post keeps everybody up to date?

Yes, there are creeps in the world. Horribly bad people. If I caught any of these rat bastards preying on my students there would be a very public demonstration of my fury. Do I trust my sons' teachers and coaches? Absolutely: I've met them, talked to them, watched them. I have also discussed the real world with my children.  Do I trust every coach, teacher, scout leader? Hell no, and neither should you. I joked about not meeting a single parent for the first seven weeks of being a brand new, mid-year teacher, and I still have met less than half my students' parents, but it wouldn't be funny if I was a lousy teacher, or worse. Stop by, peek in, look around! I was visited often by fellow teachers and the Principal dropped in randomly, and although I was nervous and self-conscious, I support and encourage the practice.

Back to Facebook.  I have seen the crap teenagers post.  I have two teenagers at home that have posted crap and been called on the carpet for it, not only be me but by aunts and an uncle and friends that knew better and were able to give him a virtual "love tap" and remind him of the rules for proper behavior. But c'mon, they are teenagers and they are going to be rude, obnoxious, inappropriate, and laugh at stuff we do not find funny. They are going to be mean and hurt others. They do not share our values and our interests because we are adults and they are still children. ("Children" by the way, that know so much more about the world than you did at the same age. They've known stuff for years you just found out about last month. They know stuff that would curl your parents' toes and put your grandmother 6 feet under.)

Which is why we need to help them, to watch them, to protect them. We need to save them from themselves, from the other children who also need saving, and from the life-damaging pain of the predators. We need to read their posts and texts just like we read their diary and the notes found in their pockets on laundry day.  We need to view their pictures and videos just like we view the movies, tv shows, and video games.  We must watch what goes into their eyes and ears exactly like we watch what goes into their mouths and bellies.  And most importantly we need to teach them discernment, wisdom, good judgement, ideally through the greatest teaching method ever invented: setting an example.

But that's a rant for another day.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Voki Bear!

  ok, so maybe I've played around with these a bit longer than I should have, but I thought it would be a fun way to get my students creative and active on their blogs. Supposedly you can use your own voice and have the avatar speak instructions or lesson clarification.

Press play, and tell me what you think of my new accent!

Voki, as in

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I Need Inspiration!

  1. Dads.  Not fathers: Dads.
  2. Deion Sanders.
  3. Jules Verne.
  4. Music.
  5. My sons.
  6. My students.
  7. Crossword puzzles -- yes, #s 5, 6, and 7 also confound and confuse me, but their inspiration factor overcomes the grey hair production.
  8. A well planned meal.
  9. Frank McCourt
  10. Michael Collins.
  11. Van Morrison.
  12. A lot of Irishmen. See #1. 
  13. walk-off home runs
  14. quarterback sacks
  15. Special Olympic athletes.
  16. Mr. Boren, my 8th grade English teacher.
  17. Mickey Stonier, High School youth group leader
  18. Todd Morano, Teaching Credential professor
  19. Debbie Higdon, "Yes, you can do it" career mentor
  20. Matt "The Legend" Davis, inspiring coach
  21.  Los Lobos.
  22. The Boss.
  23. The Greatest: Muhammad Ali.
  24. The Coach: John Wooden.
  25. John Glenn.
  26. John Unitas.
  27. Super Bowl III. (sorry, Dad)
  28. Spud Webb.
  29. Charlotte's Web.
  30. President Obama.
  31. Condoleezza Rice.
  32. Jackie Robinson.
  33. Narnia. 
  34. My Wife. Obviously, my inspirations are not listed in order of importance.
  35. The man who coined the phrase "Happy Wife, Happy Life."
  36. Librarians! 
  37. Roald Dahl.
  38. Theodore Geisel.
  39. John Steinbeck.
  40. Toni Morrison.
  41. Teddy Roosevelt.
  42. Batman. 
  43. Haiku Education 
  44. Wonderopolis
  45. The Cornerstone
  46. Mr. Rogers, Big Bird, and The Electric Company!
  47. Jan Vermeer.
  48. The Sistine Chapel.  
  49. Christie Brinkley.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Do Not Go Quietly...

"Do not go quietly into your classroom. Engage. Be brave." *

I love that first sentence. Ironic,** in that several times each day I tell my class to enter the classroom qui-et-ly...

Anyway, on to today's frustrating issue, I'm sure largely compounded by this month's All Day But Could Have Been Completed In Three Hours Max Grade Level Meeting.

The Dilemma: I go back to class, start looking at the Math Homework turned in today, and see "0/12" -- dang, poor kid doesn't get it, I'll work with her tomorrow... -- then another "0/12" and a "1/12" and I check to see if it's the Chatty Cathy Trio. After 7 more papers the highest score I've seen is "3/12" so I look at the calendar for April Fool's Day. Nope, still on the first of next month! A few more dismal scores and I toss my hands, and the homework, high in the air in complete disbelief and frustration. Dang, I suck. What went wrong?

The Solution: Time Travel.  Before my Math class walks in I'll change the dates back to Tuesday and start the whole lesson all over again. I thought it was engaging and informative, we had guest speakers (some ancient Greek guy and the boys on BrainPOP) and worked through some problems together. Okay, the whole pi concept is weird, and some of the boys may have been distracted by drooling ("Mmmm, pie!") but overall I had no reason to believe the day was a total flop. I get a do-over. A mulligan. A move your player back when you're not looking. Wait, that last one is for Parchesi. But I WILL teach you this lesson again and I WILL teach it better and I WILL check for comprehension and I WILL scaffold and support until my legs start shaking and you WILL reward my dedication with demonstrations of your understanding and competence on the homework, the quiz, the chapter test, the CST, your SAT, and the way you raise your children! Bring us your finest meats and cheeses!

But Then... : I thought, wait. I couldn't have screwed it up that bad. C'mon, it was just circumference and area of a circle. Plug the numbers into the formula. The formula is in the textbook. And in their notes. And easily accessible online. I'll even bet more than 5 parents know at least one of the formulas, and can tell his or her dear inquisitive child, probably with a tear in their eye as a long-ago math teacher is fondly remembered...
So no going back, at least not quietly nor gently. But not loudly, in the hollering sense, I'm not that kind of teacher, just not quietly as in I cannot passively watch children not learn. They must learn to listen, to participate, to ask questions, to take notes, to say "Huh? I don get it." To take the book home and to OPEN it. And tomorrow, to memorize the formula for area and circumference.

Is writing it 50 times enough, or should I make 'em do 100?

The quote at the top, by the way, is the link to a book which I haven't yet looked into but the phrase caught my eye and Inspired me.

*I almost ended the quote after "classroom" since whenever I hear "engage" it's in Captain Picard's deep voice.
**Alanis Morrissette ruined the term irony for me, I never know if I've used it correctly or if it's going to rain on my wedding day.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Can Google Create Time?

I'm becoming frustrated with the lack of hours in the day.  I wanna go, go, go and go some more but often have to wait... for... other... teachers. Wait for the gate to open AFTER the bell. Wait for my students to come back from Math. From Grammar. From lunch recess. I don't have time for all this waiting -- I need to teach them now! I have inspiring to do, impressions to make! Life-long study habits and love of learning to ingrain!

We are slowly but surely getting our routines down, the lack of recess seems to have curbed their propensity to chat and dawdle at every turn throughout the day.  The schedule can be tight and is fairly inflexible -- Read, Math, Grammar, Social (Library in the middle) Studies, one after another after another. But I feel all my students, from high to low, could use more time just to think and work. That is why I like the idea of "flipped" lessons, watch the basics at home on video then have more time to work together and with guidance at school, and why I'm hooking our classroom up to Google docs (thanks to the great ideas and how-to over at Think Share Teach ).  I know the majority of students don't have complete computer access/time at home, but maybe it will help a few be able to finish writing assignments?

Well, I wasn't done with this rant/whine but my keyboard froze and the old laptop decided it was done for the day. Whatever. I have a new bee in my bonnet tonight.

And why, oh why, do my students keep asking when we're going to McDonald's???

Twain's "Robot Jim"

Monday, February 27, 2012

Unfortunately, I Rememebered

...all the stuff I forgot that I had forgotten to get done over the weekend. Oh well.

I do hate being unorganized though, and instantly regretted breaking my Friday rule of leaving my desks clean and neat before hitting the road.  The disheveled stacks of papers, notes, pencils and half finished stuff was quite demoralizing at 6:30 this morning. When your 10 and 11 year olds have neater desks you know you're in for a long day...

I feel like there is soooooo much to do -- walls need decor, lessons planned, testing scheduled, report cards -- Lordy I have no idea how to do report cards! -- printer needs fixing, Promethean Board hasn't been used in 2 weeks, everything we started 6 weeks ago should be finished by now, behavior handled -- why are they still talking so much?!? -- and in the sacred name of Roald Dahl why have I not set up the class Library yet???

Not only that, but I haven't signed any contract paperwork yet so I'm still working at Sub rate.

On the bright side, I finally got a mail box in the office.

Damn. They spelled my name wrong.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wasted Weekend?

I did not read any of the Science book or planner.  I did not preview the new Math unit (and practice a few problems).  I did not figure how how to set up the grade book.  I did not get the next lesson ready for Power Hour.  i think there are a few more things I did not do, but I forget what they are.  Or what they are not, since I didn't do them either.

So why do I feel so tired?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Schooltube Math Videos

I think I did this right... we'll see if any of the students check it out:

**Next week's Math chapter**

Thank you, Schooltube!

Who Doesn't Love Free Stickers?!?

Your other one is probably four years old...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

World Panoramic Photography

I'll finish this post when The Wife and I get back from Paris...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Crossword Puzzles: Evil Incarnate?

Almost got this one first time through...

Yes, the NY Times one right next to it is is completely blank, but I'll take my victories where I can get 'em.

My sons have all brought home crossword puzzles in their homework packets, and as a Sub I've seen plenty of them left for me to copy and pass out. I have never understood how those were supposed to be educational since 99% of the kids just filled in one word, listed for them at the top of the page, then looked over at their neighbors' papers to fill in the rest.

I haven't worked one into a lesson yet but I see them as building and reinforcing the vocab while also sneaking in some new words. Plus there is the THINK factor, reading the clue for context and understanding -- why did the puzzle author choose that word? -- and having to actually try a word then erase and try again. Or in my case write over the error with a black pen and hope you don't notice.

Have you used word puzzles that actually challenge your students? When, how, etc?


and while I'm here, I love my desk. Just sayin'.

notes, notes, everywhere...

...nor any thought to think?*

I'm always taking notes, most of which I never find/see/understand after the ink is dry. But just as I was wondering why in the world I bother to scribble all that, and after a week of checking blank or doodle-filled, hence useless, notebooks, something I had written weeks ago (and could not find for you now even if you offered cash) popped into my head. I realized that whether the student actually goes back and re-reads his/her notes or not, the very act of putting pencil (leaky pen, fluorescent highlighter, crayon crumb, whatever) to paper somehow reinforces the fact or idea in those growing, connection-building brains.
At least, I hope it does.

So how do I get the students to take better notes?
Pretty colored pens and post-it notes? Copying my example to the letter? Grade them hard if they do not take quality notes? Any suggestions?

*my apologies, Mr. Coleridge.

Mr. Nauton's Wildcats

Don't shut me down, Blogger, but I went over to edublogs for the classroom website, just seemed a little more appropriate and less apt to get me in trouble when the students start clicking "Next Blog"...

Any suggestions, besides change the darn ugly colors? Do students get anything out blogging? I'm thinking publishing, editing, commenting, internet safety, as well as a place I can post links of interest for them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I Can't Drive 55

..but they sure can average a 55 on the test!

Ug. First big test of my career: Social Studies, 2 review sessions before the test, test questions taken from quiz and tests they had already taken, open book with students sharing page numbers as they found answers...

*sigh* I had such high hopes.  What can I learn from this? What do I take away from it? (Besides taking away the trash can I dumped the tests in, pee-yew it stinks!)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Learning is Messy

Great blog, this guy seems like just what I want to be when I grow up. His students are skyping, blogging, publishing, etc. Watch the Digital Learning post video -- very inspiring!

Learning is Messy

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Taking Notes is Boooor-ing

I've always planned on note-taking as part of my classroom, and my new school follows the AVID ideas and that's a big part so I thought cool, they will all know how to take notes! Then I did a notebook check. Oy vey. Let's just say that if my first paycheck (still to come) was based on the quality of these notebooks, I'd have to eat them for every meal for the next month. How do blank pages taste with ketchup? Which wine goes with scribbling and doodles?

What to do instead of listening and taking notes: Draw a Stickman!

I encourage drawings, arrows, the liberal use of color and highlighters, but with most of my students there is nothing on the page to draw an arrow to or highlight over.  The teacher's Math notes before me looked copied straight out of the book, a habit I wasn't going to continue, but if I don't write it they don't write it?  How do I get them to process the info into own words, own connections? I do need to remember they need TIME for notes, time to process the info and make some sense of it. I'm going to make a sign for myself: Time to Think, Time to Write. brb

(Four hours later...)*

How about this: well, nevermind, couldn't get the image here. It's a giant hourglass with the words
"Time to Think, Time to Write" big and bold so I don't forget to let them contemplate, ponder, put thoughts to paper...

I also heard mention at the AVID class something called foldables -- no, not a fruit snack or pre-packaged lunch treat, but things you do with paper so kids will get creative with their notes and reports. Here are a few sites with examples:    and   and

*no, it didn't take me 4 hours to make that. There were the inevitable distractions, i.e. my children, facebook, the Chris Van Ellsberg websites, and a huge carne asada burrito.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Vegetable Music: "In the Key of Carrot" *

Our music teacher, the oboe player, showed this video which led me to watch all the other videos -- rubber glove, potato, etc...

You are amazing Linsey Pollack, and I hope I can get the big video board working Monday to show 'em your stuff!

Which in turn led to other people playing vegetables as musical instruments. And why was I surprised there is a Vegetable Orchestra?

I'm thinking this would be cool for studying sound waves, when we'd also make those cool popsicle stick & rubber band harmonicas.

*not my line. sounds like something Bugs would say...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reporting From the Front Line...

Shhhh... I'm surrounded. My first post from the classroom, live as learning occurs at this very moment ! At least, I hope so.

Actually, they're taking a test. I finally got the printer hooked up to this beat up old Mac I liberated from my former school (since I'm not in the system as a real official teacher yet I can't use class laptop or Promethean Board. ug. grrrr.) and I'm looking up material for topic sentences, research papers, etc.

This has been a useful site for essay stuff. So has this one.
And this one has samples for letter writing.  Purdue U's OWL never disappoints; I know it's college level and slightly over the head of 5th graders, but I don't want to shy away from higher level material. They've probably had similarly simple/corny letters for several years now. Or am risking losing them?

Uh-oh, gotta go. The natives are restless...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Should I Unpack?

I do feel like a temporary lodger -- don't bother filling up the dresser drawers, just live out of the suitcase.  I, and everyone else, know I am low, low, loooooow man on The List and will be the first casualty come staff reductions. Pink slips are a way of life here in California Education and I will actually consider it a promotion when I get one; last year I had to tell every concerned parent that "No, I did not get a pink slip, I'm just a lowly sub working a full teacher's position for sub pay and no benefits."  Well, that's what I would have said if they stayed around to listen, but the sympathy dried up instantly after "did not get--" and the concerned parents quickly moved to on to the Real Teachers who were suffering greatly in their martyrdom. 

Anyway, the teacher that vacated this classroom left a bunch of stuff, most of it covered in thick layers of dust.  I was hesitant to touch anything, or move the furniture around, especially after the Principal popped in and mentioned he hadn't moved any of his predecessor's stuff for a year... But then I figured a few things:
  1. I'm going to be here until July, so I might as well look at my own kids, books, and pencil holders...
  2. I can't find a darn thing I'm looking for anyway, so might as well shove it all in the closets...
  3. It's all about the students, not about worrying about stepping on other teachers' toes...
  4. Whadda they gonna do, fire me?!?*
So yeah, I'm moving the desks and shelves and changing the wall stuff and marking my territory. Not literally, of course.

*not as funny as I thought it was going to be ten minutes ago. I don't want to get fired. I don't like pink. I love this school. Maybe I can just hide in there all summer and simply be there in September. Squatter's rights and all...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

So Far, So Good?

Well, I haven't made anyone cry yet.  I was always told the "Don't smile until Christmas" axiom but seeing as I started in January I waffled on which was the appropriate Holiday Target -- St. Patrick's? Cinco de Mayo? -- and then inadvertently grinned in front of several students. Caught. Damn.

And I have not been scolded/questioned/brow beaten by any parents yet.  In fact, I have not met a single parent from my class's students.  Maybe they're as shy as their children are, 'cause no one has come up to the door and said hello.  Do they even know what I look like?  Do they even know their kids have a new teacher?  I was so hoping for a welcome basket full of lumpia...

No rebukes either from Administration or Veteran Colleagues, yet.  A lot of the things I thought I was probably not doing right turns out eh, that'll work, that's just fine, keep doing what you think is working and needs to be done.  Which leads me to believe either they have complete confidence in my education, training, and experience, or...

Oh my God I could be painting the children purple in here, people!! No, that would leave visible evidence -- I could be teaching them Communism, Fascism, Environmentalism! Endless debates on the Hall of Fame merits of Fred McGriff! Plagiarized power points on the sexual appetites of polar bears, retired autoworkers, or country music stars! We could be watching "Sanford & Son" in there and no one would ever poke a head in the door to find out!  No wonder our kids are all screwed up, no one cares what or how the teachers teach 'em!!!

Unless of course, they know I'm doing a good job. Because of the hidden cameras...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Just A Teacher

Certainly not "Just A Teacher" -- inspiring things to read.

Day Eight

All I can say is, daaaang I'm tahred.
In fact, I am writing this with drooping eyelids and would usually at this time (8:30 -- my self from 2 weeks ago would scoff derisively at my new self's bedtime) be curling up under the covers to read my nightly 1/2 a sentence of Stephen King's 11/22/63 (and at 849 pages I'll finish it the evening of April 3, 2076. Unless I have papers to grade.) but tonight I am desperately trying to think of my Book Club's 5th out of 4 books -- I can't do a cool bulletin board set up for 4 groups and leave out the 5th, can I?

I need a robot in the classroom with remote control so I can have him/her/it roll around the classroom at night and look at things I forget to shove into the 85 lb backpack I bring home every night.

Not really.  I like doing things at home. Take off the tie, pet the cat, wife brings me dinner, think about lessons and look up stuff and wake up disconcerted hollering "5x! Magna Carta! i before e! Isosceles!" then wipe off the drool on my keyboard...

Man, I love my job.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day One

My First Day with My First Class of My Own

appropriately, in classroom #1... 28 politely smiling faces, a huge Promethean Board, netbooks for everyone, a working drinking fountain.  Who could ask for anything more?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Now What?!?!?

How quickly things can change -- within 4 hours I went from substitute PE Coach to interviewee to being shown my new classroom! Thursday I'm playing lego flag tag, Friday I'm being hugged goodbye by hundreds of little students, today I'm trying to figure out what's the first thing I say to a room full of 5th graders... any suggestions?