Sunday, February 16, 2014

Snuggle Up and Read Day

     This Friday was my favorite day of teaching thus far! We had a half day of school plus it was Snuggle Up and Read Day plus it was Valentine's Day. Special days just seem to not go well with my class thus far. I've planned fun things to do on other days, and they either end up hating it or someone ends up in tears (usually more than one person, and yes I do have upper elementary kids; maybe I'll have time to go back and share these stories later; for now, I'm just glad to be blogging again). Anyways, Friday was perfect!

     Since it was Snuggle Up and Read (part of our two-week long Read-a-Thon), I focused most of our day on reading. I knew that some of my kids thought they were too old and cool to wear their pajamas to school, but I still wanted to make this day fun with lots of reading. So what did I do? Bring a tent to school! My roommate had a tent and graciously allowed me to borrow it so that my students could read inside of it.

     At the beginning of the day, I didn't have it set up. I wanted to be sure that we were clear on rules first. It was treated as a privilege that most of my boys didn't want to lose (this helped with the no tears part). Then, my class was sent to take their Bible verse quiz and a math quick check (might as well get the boring stuff over with) while I set the tent up with help from students who were called upon (everyone wanted to help or at least watch). Our tent was huge! Everyone who walked past our room commented on it. The rest of the day, we did our version of Daily 5 with Read to Self and Read to Someone in the tent, read with our little buddies (taking turns in the tent), had a small Valentine's celebration, and finished by fitting our whole class into the tent to read Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg (the author that we are studying for Read-a-thon).

Read to Self

Read to Someone
Reading with Little Buddies

Why did Friday go better than other days? (a little reflection)
-Having a tent to read in acted as positive reinforcement of behaviors. They didn't want to lose that privilege.
-It was still in routine, even though it was special. We still did our work; we just added a fun twist to it. This worked to keep my students focused  while having fun and enjoying the day.
-I was excited, but cautious. My students responded the same way. They weren't overloaded with excitement to make them crazy, but they were still excited enough to have more fun than a typical day.

What makes some days more fun than others for you? How do you balance fun with work and behavior boundaries?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Loving, Thoughtful Responses that Make My Heart Melt

     Today as I was grading, I found several papers that just made my heart melt. I thought I'd share them so that you can enjoy them and I can remember them. The first paper is a persuasive letter that is suppose to persuade the person to give you something specific for Christmas. I did an example as a letter to my class asking for chocolate for Christmas. Here is what one sweet boy asked for (after responding to my letter by bringing me some chocolate along with another Christmas present):

Dear Lord,
     For Christmas I would like you to make this the best Christmas ever, but not only for me but for everyone. I think everyone should know the real meaning of Christmas and have a happy Christmas this year. If this were to happen, people would maybe understand you and your love for us. Your love fills us up and you have the power to fill more lives up with your love. Lord your love lets me live, that's what I most desire for your beautiful Christmas creation.

Student's Name

     Isn't that awesome? The teacher asks for chocolate, and a student asks for everyone to know God's love. I was so amazed. Another thing I loved reading were their thanksgiving/praise journals. Back in November, I had students keep a journal as part of Bible class, saying one thing they were thankful for every day that we were in school. Some students had a hard time with this. Others couldn't stop writing! I just skimmed their responses, and here were some of my favorites:

-Thank you Lord for giving me self control when my friends hurt my feelings.
-I'm thankful that I got to paint my nails.
-Thank you for helping me come to school.
-Thank you for keeping my fish alive.
-Thank you Lord for giving me one true friend.
-Thank you for being with me when I was afraid.
-Thank you for healing me during the weekend.
-Thank you for makeing me move my clip up.

I love working at a Christian school!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Because of Mr. Terupt

     I spent this afternoon consumed in the book, Because of Mr. Terupt, by Rob Buyea. I originally bought this book for my classroom, but as I read it I felt that it was worth it even if I end up being the only one to read it. I found this book when I was searching for others on Amazon. It kept coming up as one of the most sold ones. After reading the description (copied in italics below), I knew that I need to read it and some of my kids did too.
     It's the start of fifth grade for seven kids at Snow Hill School. There's Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who's having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffery, who hates school. Only Mr. Terupt, their new teacher, seems to know how to deal with them all. He makes the classroom a fun place, even if he doesn't let them get away with much... until the snowy winter day when an accident changes everything - and everyone.
     In my class, I have at least one student if not multiple students that could fit into each of the bolded names above. Reading this book and seeing how these kids' lives affected them in the classroom was like watching a scene play out from my classroom. I'm willing to bet that many teachers would also relate. After all, I only have 14 students and if they can fit into these 7 kids lives, wouldn't a class full of 20 or more students fit even more so?
     This book does an excellent job showing how kids' emotions, home lives, friendships, and pasts all intertwine to make up who they are. This background is so important and can't be overlooked by teachers, who are sometimes more concerned with test scores. Impacting a child's emotional side, including friendships and relationships with their parents, can leave a much greater impact than simply teaching what they need to learn to move on to the next grade. This book was a great reminder for me as I begin our third quarter on Tuesday; it definitely has made me stop and think.
     My students come from all kinds of backgrounds. Some have lived all over the world: Canada, China, Nigeria, South Korea, and the US, just to name a few. Many only live with one parent. Some get to see the other parent; others don't. I have had students cry in class about this. They don't feel understood by their peers, yet so many peers just fail to admit to them that they feel the same way. Other parents are in the midst of a divorce. Some students feel loved, but others don't feel that way at home. Some parents push their students too hard in school; others don't even seem to care. Each precious child comes from a different background, has different opinions, and needs to grow emotionally in different ways.
     The description for Jeffery says that he hates school, but it is so much more than that. He has a broken family with parents who are experiencing such grief that they can't get out of bed. There have been three points this fall when I had students saying that they hated school too. They refused to come. Thankfully, two of the parents didn't let their kids push them over and not come to school. All three of these children didn't want to come because of a deeper issue, either with friends, at home, or both.
     This book also talked about girl wars. I know girl wars all too well. This fall has been roughest emotionally on my girls. One of the group leaders from last year left, and two grades were combined into one class. This lead to a beginning of the year fight to see who will control the classroom dynamics. Like Alexia in Because of Mr. Terupt, one girl seemed most popular at the beginning and used this power to be friends with one girl one day and her enemy the next. By the end of December, all of the girls realized what she had been doing, and her world came crashing down. Some felt shunned by the other girls, which led to equally bad problems, which were made worse by things happening with other friends outside of school. I spent more days talking with girls about friendships and conflicts at recess than I can count. There are only 6 girls in my class, so they need to at least cooperate with each other and respect each other to survive the day.
     How do I handle this all as a teacher? Do students respect me even though I'm a first year teacher? Are there things I let slide that I shouldn't? Do I care for each child's emotional growth when dealing with them? Do I show them how much I care and love them?
     The last two days before Christmas break, the president got on the t.v. and announced that school was cancelled until January. I was heartbroken! How dare he cancel my two fun days that I had planned with my class?! They had worked so hard and earned so much. I had been looking forward to these days to show them how much I appreciated their hard work and loved them. Then the president cancelled them. What could I do? After sulking over the weekend, one of my roommates suggested getting together with them because that actually is a perfectly acceptable thing to do at my school. So, I invited them over for a Christmas cookie party. 9 of my 14 kids came. I gave them recipes for chocolate chip and sugar cookies. Then they ran off their energy outside and came back in to play Apples to Apples while we ate our cookies. After the party, one of the other teachers said to me, "Wow, you must love your kids a lot to have them all over." One of the students commented, "I bet the other teachers are really jealous that you get to have your class over for a party but they don't." Haha. I loved the difference of opinion. What's most important, though, was that my kids and I left for break knowing that we loved and cared for each other. Now, parties aren't the only way to show kids that I care (it's just the most recent). Earlier this fall, I made one child's month by asking him to do a video editing project for me.

     I highly recommend this book to teachers and students. Although with students, I would note that on the second page one of the boys talks about goofing off in the boys' bathroom and urinals, which I know some girls could be mortified to see a book talking about the boys' bathroom. This book also deals with special needs as becoming buddies with a self-contained class in their school changes several lives. There are lots of family situations represented. This is a great book for teachers to reflect on and students to learn about emotions, friendships, and family lives. Plus, there's a sequel, which I can't wait to read: Mr. Terupt Falls Again.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Turkey Book Reports - Freebie

      Starting in November, I realized that many students in my class were reading their required twenty minutes at home, but they weren't reading an entire book or a book at their level. To keep them accountable for doing these things, I started giving a monthly book report. I keep it simple since my purpose isn't to test comprehension but to make sure that they are reading at least one whole book every month (not counting their literature circle) that is at or close to their level.
     For November, I made them do their book reports in the format of a turkey. My students enjoy projects, so many of them enjoyed making this turkey. Since we were learning about writing paragraphs, three of the five feathers required a complete paragraph. The report covered setting, problem and solution, favorite part, and characters. Overall, it went well, except for a few students who didn't read the directions or simply didn't do the project (yep, that was a big 0).

If you want a copy of the instructions, click the picture below.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Currently and Help Wanted

Hello to those of you visiting from Farley's Currently Linky Party! I am a first year teacher with a fourth and fifth grade combined class at an international Christian school in Venezuela.

     I've been a little absent from my blog recently. One reason can be summed up in three word: first year teacher. The other reason is why I would like some help: I have grown tired of the template I had on my blog for the past two years and am working on trying to just use the simple template and add my own picture as a heading. The problem is I can't figure out what to do. I'd like to make something with some different clipart that is more related to what I'm doing. I would like a globe or something that would represent the that I am at an international school. I would also like the colors to be blues and greens. Any ideas? I also like animals, math, and books. Does anyone have any ideas? As a missionary teacher, I don't really have money to pay for a blog update, but I desperately want one. Right now, I've taken my template down and am just playing with the bland, boring one. Help!

Anyways, here's my currently:

Listening: Christmas music and men making a garden - Okay, so first I put Christmas music. Then I decided that some people would think that's weird because it's only November, so I added men making a garden (it's right outside my door and mildly noisy), but now I realize that this also sounds weird to most northern people because you are probably done with gardening until spring. Well, let me explain. I live in Venezuela where it is between 60 and upper 80s every day (yet I'm still actually very cold right now). Therefore, it never feels like Christmas with snow, so we start looking forward to it early. Plus, I love Christmas music any time of the year, but we're also setting up our Christmas tree this weekend.  Since it's so warm, it's also always perfect gardening weather. My neighbors (I'm in a sort of townhouse) are rebuilding an old garden that is right outside my house.

Loving: Being done with parent-teacher conferences - Yesterday was parent-teacher conferences. While I only have fourteen students, it took all day. By the time I finished, all the other teachers had left. None were too bad, but I was frustrated that many of the other teachers basically had the whole day to work since they only had 4 conferences, but I was busy all day and now am behind on work.

Thinking: What do I need to do today? There are so many things that I need/want to do, and I'm trying to figure out how to prioritize it. Story of my life :) I'm excited to go to my first Venezuelan baseball game this afternoon, but I need to get some work done before then. I've been wanting to blog for a while, so I'm counting this as work ;)

Wanting: A new blog template - I already talked about this above. I'm tired of my old template and having troubles just trying to make a heading that I like. I'd appreciate any sort of help or ideas you have.

Needing: To grade and write lesson plans for next week - This is what I really need to do this weekend to be ready for next week.

A Yummy Pin: Chocolate Chip Cookie for One - This was very hard to decide. Lately, I've been looking at Pinterest for food ideas often. The problem is Venezuela doesn't have a lot of the ingredients most pins I want to eat require. After lots of searching, I finally found this pin, which makes a sweet dessert for one person and has ingredients I actually have in my pantry. Granted, it would be a special treat because the brown sugar and chocolate chips are from another country and flour, sugar, butter, and eggs go through shortages here, but it still sounds delicious.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any ideas about a blog template.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Creation Projects

     Since I teach at a Christian school, I have the privilege of teaching Bible. We use the ACSI curriculum for Bible, which I quickly realized was outdated when I found the workbooks, which are the exact same ones that I used and hated in fifth grade. Needless to say, I haven't used the workbooks for much other than a general guide of what I should cover. Since I am teaching fourth and fifth grade, I chose to teach Bible altogether, teaching everyone the fifth grade curriculum. Difficulty wise, it's fine for both to do the same thing as the only difference is what is taught. My fourth graders will go through the fourth grade curriculum next year.

     The fifth grade curriculum walks through the Old Testament, which some people might think is really boring. I'm excited for it though and hope that my students will see how many times the Israelites messed up and God still gave them grace and forgiveness. My class is an unique mixture of kids from different backgrounds. At my school, it is not required for kids or their families to be Christians, so some of my students have never heard of the Bible until they began at our school. Several other students in my class are pastor's kids or missionary kids. Some know great details of the Bible, and others have never even heard the story of creation or Noah.

     During the first week of school, we began with creation. Knowing that this may be something many of them know, I made it a project where they would teach the class about their day in creation. I was amazed as the students took off with this project! They put more effort into their posters than I had imagined. I quickly learned that they love projects, and it engages them more than other learning activities. Knowing this, I have planned in more projects than I anticipated.

Enjoy seeing their final posters!



Wednesday, September 4, 2013


      If you are visiting from Farley's Currently Linky Party, welcome! I teach a fourth and fifth grade combined class at an international school in Venezuela.
     If you have been following me for a little while, you will remember when I wrote two weeks ago about the fire in my classroom. Well, can I just say that apparently my class is not that bad. This week the first graders purposely started a fire. My students only accidentally start fires. One first grader brought a lighter to school to make their campfire (at recess) more real. So, we are doing just fine in forth and fifth grade and haven't started a fire since that first week. Anyways, here's my currently:
     Most of this is self-explainable. I have been very stressed at school during the first few weeks (this is my first year of teaching and I'm in a new country). Last weekend was very relaxing. I blogged, slept, and learned not to worry too much about school. My school is very chill. I never have to hand in lesson plans, and I can essentially do what I think is best and works for my class (yes, we do have standards but lots of freedom). A few other teachers have been teaching me to embrace this, relax a bit more, and go with the flow to make me a better teacher by being less stressed.
     For my wanting, I miss fall. I would love to be able to see the trees change to pretty colors, rake leaves, carve pumpkins, go to a corn maze, and read a good book outside. Enjoy fall all you northerners.
     Well, that's all I have for today. Relax, enjoy your students, and go outside today. Meanwhile, I'm going to bed. Good night!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Ups and Downs of Teaching

     Wow, did I really finish three weeks of school already? Time just seems to fly by! I can't believe we have been in school three weeks. I felt like we have not learned much except for the procedures and math (they just had their first test). Today, I'm going to share some of the ups and downs and teaching. We all know they exist, but sometimes I feel like other teachers who blog never have bad days because their blog is always to upbeat, so today I want to share about some of the hard parts of teaching.

     Some days I love teaching, but to be honest some days I don't even want to go to school. Yesterday was one of those days. I woke up feeling sick with a runny nose and sore throat from my students. Side Note: As a class, we've already gone through five Kleenex boxes, and we don't have many! Granted, we've had five bloody noses, a few students abusing the use of Kleenexes (using them to wipe off sweat), and students who don't know how to fully use a Kleenex, but still, that's a lot of Kleenexes (and I live in warm place). Anyways, I started thinking about some of my fifth graders and different things that they have done that have been disrespectful, and it just really got me down. I have lots of patience for misbehavior for younger children, but not much for upper elementary. Why? I understand many times that younger kids don't understand some things or forget more easily, but in my mind, this should not be as big as a problem in upper elementary. The problems that begin happening in upper elementary are because students are purposely disrespectful and disobedient, and I don't have any tolerance for that. It annoyed me as a child, and it annoys me now. For example, during the first week, one student wore a hat to school just to see if I would notice and what I would do. This past week, I saw one student throwing her graded work away before bringing it home. I told her that was not allowed, and she lied saying that she had already showed her parents. I had just graded it that morning! The next day, I found her work torn up and buried in our recycling bin as I was cleaning it out. These little acts of rebellion really bug me.

     I went to school anyways, had a great prayer time with another teacher about my class, put on my happy face, and forgot about my feelings before school as soon as the students arrived. Some days are just like. Once I start teaching, I'm fine and content, bouncing from one activity to the next. This week, I'm going to work on seeking out ways to engage and excite my learners. They are rarely excited for learning, except when they are doing projects, which they make very long and time consuming. Last year I was able to make my first grade class excited about learning much more than I have been able to do with my older kids this year. I need to figure out what they like soon so that we will all be much happier with learning and teaching. Some days can be like pulling teeth (we have actually already had two lost teeth during class) to get enthusiasm in my classroom.

     Last night was Meet the Teacher Night! I was excited and nervous to meet some of my parents. Since some only speak Spanish, I had the school secretary who is also a parent in my class translate. I explained that we are two grades but one class, how our day runs, our rules, their expected responsibilities, homework, and our classroom economy. Maybe I shouldn't have ended with our classroom economy, because a few parents had some very deep concern about why I make students pay to go to the bathroom or rent their desks. One set of parents were arguing about it in Spanish for a while. It really made me feel bad because I was doing what was best for our class in my opinion, and no students seemed to be having a problem with my policies in class. They knew why we had them, when they can go to the bathroom, and what I expect of them. In the end, these parents came up to argue their point afterward saying that their student had a urinary tract infection from not going to the bathroom during class and was starting girl issues, so I did understand their point and explained how I just needed to know about special circumstances. I'm willing to accommodate if I know it's an issue. I honestly don't believe her infection was my fault as they can go to the bathroom four times during the day for free with no more than two hours in between, and she's never asked me to use the bathroom during class. Afterward, I had about 6 other pairs of parents come up and say that they love my economy system, what I'm doing with the class, and that I shouldn't listen to just those one parents. That was very encouraging. In the end, I felt encouraged to continue my economy system, paying for bathroom, desks, chairs, and all, and will ask that student to use the bathroom every break we have this coming week so that I know she is using the bathroom every time she can.

     Teaching is hard work. Planning, grading, and being emotionally prepared for the day takes so much time outside of school. Some days I just want to curl up and stay in bed, but I know I have the responsibility to the students to continue helping them learn. When I'm at school and see my students starting to arrive for the day, I know that we are going to make it through the day and have some fun with it too. I can't wait for next week, but first I need to think about some better ways to engage my learners.

     In Social Studies, I am starting with a unit on the world, reading maps, and wanted to go back to the 1400s since we are doing world history from 1500 to 1800. I quickly realized my students didn't even know the continents, so we are spending time learning about them. I found my students love projects, so I think 14 students splits perfectly to have partners do a project on one of the seven continents. Before I finish, I'll show you some pictures from last week, when we put together world map puzzles (because what would a blog post be without pictures?).


     Well, that's all for today. Have a great weekend, and happy teaching! I will try to post more soon because I have so much to share.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Name Plates/Tags

     Before school started this year, I was trying to decide what to do for name tags on the students' desks. I don't like them being taped on unless they contain tools like the alphabet and a number line. I also only had access to premade ones that were very childish for fourth and fifth grade. Another thought was that I don't like my sloppy handwriting and didn't want to look at it all year. Finally, I decided it would be easiest to type them, back them, and laminate them. I still wanted them to be colorful though. Then it occurred to me: that would be a perfect first day activity!
     In the end, I printed off the students' names and put a rounded box around them. I made sure to print two for every student in case they messed up on their first, which ended up being a good idea. I then cut them apart and set them on students' desks to find. During the first day, I gave them time to decorate them. The rules were they couldn't color inside of the box and couldn't use crayons (I didn't want any problems with laminating). I also set out fun scissors that they could use to trim the sides. The students also chose which color they wanted it backed on during this time. This project ended up being a great assessment for attention span, care, how hard they work, and artistic ability. After school, I cut the construction paper and laminated the name tags on top of the construction paper. I also put magnets on them to stick them to the desks. I love how they turned out! The students love them too and were proud to show them to people who came into our room. They can't wait to take them home at the end of the year.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

First Week of School

     I survived my first week of teaching, and we didn't burn the school down yet. My class tried though. Yesterday, one student randomly threw his water bottle in the air, which hit a light. The light then started smoking, sparking, and became a very small fire before dying out. I quickly got the kids out of the classroom and found help, and it was fixed in no time after spending one of our 20 minute Daily 5 stations outside.

     It is certainly different starting some procedures with fourth and fifth grade then with first grade last year. My students quickly picked up on read to self and read to someone, so today we moved on to a new station. This year, my plan is to do stations similar to Daily 5 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Tuesday and Thursday we don't have enough time so we will do other things like literature circles. Last year, starting Daily 5 with first graders took them weeks to be ready for three stations, but my students already (for the most part) have the stamina built and were ready to do three stations all of next week.

     We are also doing stations for math, since it will be easier for me to meet with my math classes in small groups. This week they learned the At You Seat/Carpet station, which will be a Daily Math review sheet. I'm sure that I'll talk more about my math stations in the future. I am really liking what I have decided to do, but might change a few things around from my original plan to make keep my low fourth graders with me twice, since they will need more than fifteen minutes to understand a new concept.

     Well, now that I've talked about academics that were on my mind, let's go back to the first day with pictures! The picture above is my classroom ready for students. I still didn't have things like bag hooks and our schedule hung on the wall (I finally had that done yesterday). Other things like my computer weren't ready either, but we did fine without it. There was a message on the board, telling them what to do, and a blank nametag on their desk. In the morning, the students came in with their parents and most of their supplies. Some of my students had been hanging around school the week before since their parents worked at the school, so I put them to work. One helped me by making signs for where all of the different school supplies should go. Our spots quickly filled up and overflowed with supplies! Once we sent the parents to their meeting, the students and I dealt with the rest of the supplies that they will keep in their desk after giving me a few more things.

     In the morning, I had a circle time, where each child said one thing about his/herself and his/her name. We talked about the beginning of the year and what some of my expectations were. We also had an elementary school meeting, where we talked about school rules. Between this meeting, morning recess, and lunch/recess, most of the day seemed to fly by, except that I never had time to myself since everyone was on duty for everything.

     Later on the first day, I had students write classroom rules. I told them to come up with any rules that would help us work as a class. They did a great job and came up with seventeen. I then told them that seventeen was too many, and I would narrow it down to three big ones. We now have: 1. Follow directions the first time. 2. Do your best work. 3. Respect yourself and others. On the second day, we found how each of their seventeen rules fit into these three big rules. I also sent a sheet home about the rules to the parents for them to sign and send back.

     Another thing we did was write things we wanted to learn on the board. Why it looks like a graphic organizer, I'm not sure. The students are apparently well trained in using those because when I circled our heading, that it what they did. I have one boy who loves technology and making videos, so I will certainly incorporate a project sometime where he could make a video since that will engage him. We had a lot of science questions, so I'm excited to hopefully look at those.

     Well, this is probably a long enough post. I love my new students. We still have lots of behaviors to work on, but I can already tell they will be a great class. This week was fun, but very hard. Here in Venezuela, even walking home from school is difficult and makes me want to collapse as soon as I get home since I live up a huge hill. Actually, I walk uphill both ways to school, sometimes in the rain. I am so glad it's the weekend, and I can breathe. Maybe I will actually be able to plan for all of next week or make some longer-term plans. Hopefully, I will be able to at least.

     One of my students brought me a flower and a lovely note on Monday, which warmed my heart and kept me going all week, even when things were tough. I hope all of you are having a great week, and I can't wait to share more. I'm excited to have upcoming posts about our nametags (which I love!), math stations, economy system, and more. Have a great week!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Multiplication Games

     During the first few weeks of school this fall August/September (I no longer live in a place with seasons; my students don't even believe that they exist), I want my students to work on reviewing their multiplication facts since this is an integral part to forth and fifth grade math. I'll have to see where they are at, but I'm hoping to use a variety of games and methods to review multiplication. Here are some of my ideas (mostly borrowed from other places and linked to the actual information):

War - Use Uno Cards to play war where they have to multiply for the answer to win

Matching Game

Hidden Picture (Find the Wrong Equations) (Courtesy of Pinterest Pin)

Using Legos in Socks to Write Multiplication Equations

Ping Pong Multiplication Game

Multiply Four Ways Worksheets

Musical Chairs

Spiral Multiplication Game

Multiplication Board Game

Multiplication Bingo

Fact Ball (I really like this one!)

Color By Multiplication Sheets

     I also really need to have math centers (also called stations) since I am covering two grade levels and a variety of current levels. Here are some ideas I found from others who are doing math centers/stations:

BEAM Math Centers
MATH Stations
Guided Math in a Multi-age Classroom
Math Centers Linky Party

Do you do centers with your class?
How do you review multiplication? I'd love more ideas.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Student Teaching Suggestions

     Since it's the beginning of the school year and I finished student teaching last fall, I thought I would share some student teaching suggestions/advice for both the student teacher and mentor teacher. Some of this, I have seen similar things elsewhere, but I thought I'd throw in my thoughts based on my experience.

Student Teacher
  • Don't be afraid to try new things. It was when I worked hard to do something new rather than following the curriculum like all the other teachers were doing that I really had fun and loved teaching and the kids had fun too! Be creative!
  • Send home a letter to the parents during your first week. One of my teachers asked me to, and the other didn't. I wish that I had done this at both placements so that I could have learned more about parent interaction. As a young new teacher, transitioning to being a person with authority as the teacher needs to happen, even with the parents.
  • Talk with your mentor teacher bluntly. Do you wish you could teach more or a little less? Are you struggling with trying to reach all of the students? Don't be afraid to ask for help and share frustrations. They might be the person filling out references in the end, and in my opinion, I'd rather them say that I strived for improvement rather than was mediocre teacher. This was something that I didn't do enough. I mainly listened to what they told me rather than asking for things. At my first placement, I really wish that I could have taught more!
  • Be involved at the school. Is there a club you can help with? Are you doing crossing guard duty on some days? I went to a roller skating party at one of my schools, and it was so much fun! I learned about the students outside of school, met some parents, and gained respect from some students. 
  • Come early, and stay late. When I was the one teaching, I was at school before my mentor teacher and stayed later than her. Both of them had children, otherwise they would have stuck around, but it didn't matter to me if they were there or not. Either way, I was committed to doing a great job. I met other teachers after school and had an amazing opportunity to share stories, get advice, and ask questions that I wouldn't have had if I had only worked at my house.
  • Make sure you let yourself rest enough. Being a teacher is hard work, and it makes you tired. You will get sick more quickly if you don't rest. For the first two weeks of school, my whole house (including one teacher who had taught for 7 years) took naps after school. We also continually had an earlier bedtime of 10pm since we had to be up so early. I understand it's college and most people stay up late, but trust me, your body will thank you if you give it enough rest.
  • Be excited! You get to be a teacher! It's a wonderful job, and you are so lucky to make it this far. What ruins it is when we get a bad attitude. Attitudes are contagious. When you are excited about something, the students (and mentor teacher) will be too. I saw this most clearly when I taught writing. On one of the first days of school, my teacher asked who like writing. Not a single first grader raised their hand. A week or so later, I started Writer's Workshop with excitement and the goal for the first week to get them excited about writing. It worked! Writing became one of their favorite subjects by the end of my time there, because I was excited about it. Here's more on the story of what I did that first week. Library Mouse is a great start for any grade.
  • Find a time every day to meet with your mentor teacher without any kids in the room.
  • Get to know the principal and other teachers in the school. This includes their first and last name since you call colleagues by first name when there aren't kids but by last name in front of students. Call the principal and others in authority by their last name until they say otherwise.
  • Dress modestly and to impress. There was a jean day every Friday, and I never dressed down. That made an impression on my teacher, and she even commented well on it in my evaluation.
  • Remember that student teaching can be like a semester long interview. Show improvement, a desire to learn, and professionalism.
  • Learn and use your teacher voice. This was the thing most commented on when my college supervisor came. She was always looking for a better teacher voice.
  • Contact your teacher before the first day of school.
Mentor Teachers
  • Ask your student teachers what you can do to help them do their best.
  • Encourage them to branch out from how you normally teach it.
  • Schedule time every day to meet with your student teacher to talk, share, and listen when there aren't kids in the room.
  • If your student teacher does something wrong, use it as a teaching moment and remind them that everyone makes mistakes. Share some mistakes that you made your first few years.
  • Let your student teacher know what books or things would be helpful to them before they step foot in your classroom. I really wish that I knew my school would use Daily 5 because I would have read the book over the summer to understand it better.
  • Model how you teach routines and procedures or at least talk about it if you don't have them at the beginning of the school year. This is an important thing for student teachers to learn. I'm very glad that I saw my teacher set up routines and procedures. Otherwise, I would have no idea where to begin this year.
  • If you think they are lacking in an area, talk with them before you put it on their final evaluation. My school had us do a midpoint evaluation, and it really opened my eyes to what my mentor teachers thought of how I was doing. I wish that I had more feedback at the beginning.
  • Just like a student, student teachers need a lot of praise when they are doing a wonderful job. Even something as simple as them dressing appropriately, using a good voice, being involved at school. Let them know that you appreciate it.

I could go on and on, but I think this is long enough. If you have any questions or want to hear more about my experience, you can email me at You can also read my blogs about student teaching hereSparkles, Smiles, and Successful Students did a whole series this summer on student teaching suggestions that may also be helpful if you are looking for advice. She student taught last year like I did. Happy student or mentor teaching!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Third Culture Kids

     A few weeks ago, I attended a two week pre-field orientation for my job teaching in Venezuela. There were teachers going all around the world! At this orientation we learned about the stages of transition, how to handle conflict, how culture and values are different and important to recognize, and what third culture kids are. I thought I'd share a little about what I learned about third culture kids (TCKs) and cross-culture kids. We also read Third Culture Kids by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, which was an excellent resource on this topic. It was geared towards parents, but there was a lot of things teachers can learn from it.

     First of all, what is a third culture kid? TCKs are typically children living outside of their passport country. They are exposed to many different cultures. The three cultures that are considered are: (note there may be more than one culture under each of the three)
     1. Their passport culture or parents' cultures
     2. The host culture of any country or region they have lived in
     3. The culture of being an expat (TCKs can relate to each other, even if they don't have the same passport or host country culture)

     Now, you might be saying, what does this have to do with me? I teach in the same town that I grew up in and most of my students have spent their whole life here too. Well, this book also discusses how cross-culture kids and others have a lot of similarities. Do you have students that are constantly moving, leaving the school and maybe even coming back later in the year? I know I did last year. What about students that are biracial? Ones with parents who leave for periods of time? Kids who switch houses between divorced parents and the parents aren't on the same page? Students that speak a different language or have a different culture at home (I'm thinking of some Amish students I had)? Students that were adopted? Well, all of these children live in a little bit different culture, and it does affect them!

Some things that might affect them:
1. High mobility - Constantly going through transition is hard and makes children begin to do things differently down to the way they make friends. They might try to dive very quickly into a friendship because they'll leave soon or withdraw from making friends.
2. Confused which culture they are in - How should they act at school? This is why it is so important to teach these behaviors, especially to new students in the middle of the year. They need to know what's expected so that they can feel comfortable. Don't shame them until you have taught them what is expected.
3. Unresolved grief - This is a big one that can affect all students. Did they have time to grieve things? Whether it's moving, the death of a pet, the loss of their favorite stuffed animal, or even the loss of being the only child when a new sibling comes, children need time to grieve and to know that it's acceptable. Sometimes, they might not feel that they can because they have to be excited for something new, but they need to. Otherwise, it all begins to build up within them.

     Well, I barely skimmed the top of a wave on this ocean of a topic, but I hope it made you think a little bit. What cultures are your students experiencing? How does high mobility, confusion of culture (and rules), and unresolved grief affect their lives? I highly recommend reading more into this subject, whether it be this book or another one.

Friday, August 2, 2013


     I linked up with Oh' Boy 4th Grade's August Currently. If you are visiting my blog from there, welcome! I am a first year teacher and have a combined class with forth and fifth graders at an international school in Venezuela. School starts in one week, and I have been busily preparing for it. 
      My currently definitely reflects that I'm a first year teacher in a new country. Things have been going better than I expected. My classroom does have a lot of resources compared to what I thought. Now, I just need a place to put everything. I have a filing cabinet for some of my stuff, but it smells terrible, so I need to figure out if I can get it to be better. My biggest problem in I don't have containers like I would in the states to put things in. Hopefully, I can get it mostly organized for the beginning of the school year. It might not be pretty at the start, but maybe I can still get it to feel homey.
     For the back to school must haves, I stuck with some basic ones since I've never started a school year before as a teacher (except student teaching). New pencils, pens, and other things are critical for me. I want my students to feel like the classroom is new, fresh, clean, and exciting. This might be a challenge in my classroom here. As I sorted through it yesterday, I found layers of dust, broken bits of materials, and a classroom library full of many great but old and smelly books. Second, I must have a plan for how I will run my classroom. This is what I am busily trying to work on. I know generally some procedures and routines, but still need my schedule to finalize some thoughts. I'm also having to rework some as my original plan just doesn't work. For example, my classroom only has a door to the outside, so for my students to use the restroom, I have to unlock our door and then unlock the door to the rest of the school. Then, I would need to unlock it to let the students back in. What a pain! I can tell you that I am going to have a very strict policy about when they can use the restroom because it will waste so much on task time. My third back to school must have was books. Books were the one of the few teaching supplies I found room for. I love using books in all subjects, and they will be essential for my ELLs.
     Here are some pictures of my classroom in progress! My board was hung yesterday, and I moved the desks into groups. Some students may look far away, but they will actually be able to see around the pole and will mainly be at their desks when they work independently or in small groups anyways.
     In the back right of this picture, you can see my trapezoid table that I will use for small groups. I kept it near the board and books so those are easily accessible. I plan to teach most of reading and math in small groups, so having that as the focus should work for me. There will also be a carpet on the floor where the green chairs are that I will use for whole group.
     That's all I have today! Let me know what you think about my classroom and if you have any suggestions that would be helpful, I would love to hear them!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My First Classroom

     If you've been following me for a while, you know that this year, my first year teaching, I will be teaching at an international school in Venezuela. I arrived here earlier this week and have been doing new teacher orientation since then. School starts in a week and a half!

     Can I just say that packing to teach in another country when you aren't sure what resources you have (I did ask, but there wasn't not much of an answer)? Since I love books so much and use them in all of my subjects, I decided to pack my carry-on full of books. I even looked up the standards (AERO) and tried to find books that aligned with contents other than reading. My books (at least the ones I really wanted) all fit! I did get stopped due to these books when I went through security though. They had to be wiped with a small piece of paper to see if they contained something harmful. Also, I did not think about the weight implications when I packed this bag. I knew there wasn't a weight restriction, but I forgot that I should be able to lift my bag into the overhead compartment. Thankfully, two men (yes, it took two plus myself) were able to help me on both legs of my flight. One even took it down for me afterwards. I'm so thankfully to have books that I know, but I did find that the school has a few more books than I expected even if they are old and falling apart.

     Here are the pictures of my first classroom. When I came in, all of the furniture was in the middle and covered because they have to repaint the walls every summer. My goal the past few days is to figure out how to arrange my room. I'm still working on it, but I decided to post these pictures anyways.

     Since I have both forth and fifth grade, I wanted an area to have small group instruction, places for them to work independently or in small groups, and a whole group area. I also had to decide where I wanted my white board.

     My first step was to uncover everything. I found my curriculum! There is a lot of it since I have both grades.

     Then I found two bookshelves overflowing with books! We piled the books in this corner to move the somewhat ugly shelves (they're a burnt orange).

      Next, I decided it would be nice to have my small group area on this side of the room. With a lot of help (including from a student of mine), we unloaded the textbooks and moved the shelf to that area right next to the projector. I also decided to put the white board on that wall so that I can use it for whole group or small group. I'm hoping to use a carpet there for whole group.

     This picture shows the other side of my room. You can see my burnt orange bookshelves against the wall. I'm planning on scattering groups of desks throughout this side of the room. I don't plan on the students receiving instruction while at their desks often, so having them spread out more should be fine.

     I have already have met four of my fourteen students! I'm excited to begin but feel that there is no way that I will be ready. Teaching is overwhelming! I'm working on my room now and need to work on the first week of lessons soon. I will post more pictures as I am further along in organizing my room. If you have any tips or suggestions, I would love to hear your thoughts.