Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Like Whoa

*EDIT: Okay, so my original title "like whoa" is totally appropriate - I wrote this last week and I thought I had pressed the "publish" button, but apparently I only pressed "save" and, a week later, I am just now figuring that out. So, while the below post is obviously now even more outdated and overdue, I can't not share it now because: it's been nearly a month since my last post; I'd rather focus on this than grades, which are due tomorrow; tomorrow is also our Living History Museum (see below) and ALSO our Camp Carnival (that's a whole 'nother post waiting to happen); and I found out this morning that my boyfriend's uncle passed away last night, so...this week is owning me, as will the weekend, as will next week since it's our last, and there you have it - more than enough reasons for this outdated, overdue post. I'll be back publish, not save!*

So...we have 10 days left, and I'll be lucky if I can make it until May 31st without going crazy first! Last week, after returning home from the wedding in Houston, I had to write three days of sub plans because I went camping with our school's fifth grade class - but, to make things harder, my sister's birthday was on Monday, and my boyfriend's birthday was on Tuesday, so by the time we left school on Wednesday for our three day camping trip, I was already exhausted. This is my third year to be a counselor with the fifth graders at their camp - the kids are split up into small groups and participate in team building and outdoor learning activities, like this one:
One of the perks of being a counselor = getting to climb the rock wall!

My fifth grade teacher friends and I.
S'mores for the teachers - this is just before the downpour!
But, as fun as being a camp counselor can be, making sub plans for three days at the end of the school year isn't exactly easy. Plus, the sub I thought I was going to have (one I knew and trusted and had already talked to about my plans and certain kiddos and their needs) ended up NOT being my sub, and the substitute I did have said something terrible to one of my students. Oh - and on Thursday, the rain gods decided to send a downpour to central Texas, and while we obviously need the rain, our outdoor activities at camp were canceled, and it made our day so much more tiring and stressful. And - as soon as I got home on Friday night, I got sick - like throat on fire, coughing, sneezing, heavy head sick - I guess that's what spending a day outside in the rain will do to you - so I spent the weekend in bed when I should have been catching up at school. (UPDATE: The sickness never fully went away, and now it's a sinus least, that's what I think. I don't have time to go to the doctor to verify, but since it's been two weeks and it's still not better, I'm guessing - sinus infection.)

Anyway, needless to say, when I got back to school on Monday, I had quite a few things to tend to. I wanted to share with y'all what my class did for Mother's Day before I left for the camping trip, but there was just no way that was going to happen. So, here's what we did: mom and me journals (inspired by this, found on Pinterest) and flower pens (this tutorial is close to how we make them). My mentor teacher taught me how to make these pens 5 years ago and they're still my go-to for Mother's Day because my kids can actually make them themselves, and the supplies don't cost an arm and a leg! Several moms have already told me that their kids have written them letters and notes a few times, which makes me SO happy!
The kids got to decorate the covers with scrapbook paper, construction paper, stickers, stamps, and whatever else I had! This is just the only one I remembered to take a picture of before it got wrapped up!
This student copied the sample letter I wrote, but the kids had the freedom to write whatever they wanted for their first letter, as long as they explained the reason behind the journal! I also added in ribbon "bookmarks" so they could keep their place in their journals. 

Then we wrapped up the journals with tissue paper and yarn, and they made sweet cards! Some of the kids had never wrapped a present before, so we had a little mini lesson on wrapping and bow tying!
 Now, my kids are knee deep in their Living History Museum projects, which is the big finale for our biography unit. My kids got to pick a famous historical person to research and learn about, and next Thursday, they will "become" that person in our Living History Museum. The kids have taken notes, made posters, and written speeches that showcase their person's life, and on Thursday, they'll dress up as that person, get a "button" (circle) drawn on their hand, and then the whole school/parents/teachers/etc. will come through our halls to press those buttons and watch/hear our kids come to "life" and present their speech, which will tell the audience all about their person's life. They write their speech in first person, as they are really pretending to "be" that person - it's kind of like a wax museum that's come alive, if you will. I'll take some pictures next week to show you how it all works out. The posters our kids make come from Scholastic, and you can find the outline we use to match the poster here, if you're interested. It makes the poster making so much easier, and then from there, the kids can easily write their speeches.

My class is also hard at work prepping for their student lead conferences - more info and files to share on that soon, I promise! 

Finally, I found out today at our staff meeting that we're going to have to spend a few days conducting interviews for the two third grade positions that are open at my school. One of my teammates, who got hired the same year as me, is moving to first grade next year, and it makes me so sad to think I won't see her every day. Her classroom is right next to mine, and she is the one person on my team that keeps me sane. So, with her leaving, and with the upcoming number of second graders, we need to hire two new teachers - I'm glad I get to be a part of the interviewing team, but to hold interviews right now just makes me more stressed out. (UPDATE: interviews are over and we have a few hopefuls, so I guess we'll see what comes of it!)

So, since the end of the year is kicking my butt, I just ordered myself an Erin Condren teacher planner - I've never had one or even seen one in person, but once I saw them pop up on Pinterest and on a few blogs, I couldn't stop thinking about them, and I can't wait to get mine in the mail!

Happy almost end of the year, y'all!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Camping Under the STAARs

This has officially been the longest week ever! We had a field trip on Wednesday, then Field Day on Friday, and immediately following that I had to rush home to get ready to head to Houston for another wedding weekend (last weekend we drove to New Orleans for my boyfriend's high school friend's wedding). Of course, Thursday evening my new upstairs apartment neighbors decided to have a raging party (my walls were shaking because the music was so loud!), so I didn't even go to sleep until around 2 am. Friday was a

Anyway, we made it to Houston right as the rehearsal dinner was starting last night, and then I went to sleep as soon as it was over. Now I'm taking it easy in our hotel room, and I'm finally going to share with y'all some of the activities we did in my class the week before our STAAR test.

Since I decided to go with a camping theme (I told the kids we were going to be camping under the STAARs), I asked my parents if they had a tent we could borrow, and one parent had a tent that fit perfectly in my room! My kids made stars to help them remember the STAAR acrostic poem (more on that later), and I hung them up above the tent. My students LOVED reading and working in that tent - it was the best motivator ever!

Each day of the week, we reviewed/practiced all of the reading and math skills and concepts we'd learned that year. For the multiplication and division review day, I decided to make things more fun by making a scavenger hunt. In this scavenger hunt, though, my students were hunting for the answers to the problems they'd already worked on in class. I gave my students 12 multiplication and division word problems (they came from an old Step Up to TAKS workbook), and once they finished solving/answering them in class, they would take their word problems, a clipboard and red pen, and a map of our school to go hunt for the answers. The maps had 12 x's on it, and each x marked where a tent would be posted. Each tent was labeled on the outside with the question number, and when you lifted the flaps, you'd see that question inside the tent, with the correct answer bubbled in. So, my students were able to grade themselves as they found each tent. By the time they came back to my room, their paper would be checked, they'd know which questions they missed, and I'd immediately get to go over those missed questions with them. While it took quite a bit of time to make the 12 tents, my kids all loved this activity, and now it's already made and ready to use again next year!

Another fun math activity we did had to do with graphing. I have 6 table groups in my class, and I told each group to come up with a question that had to do with camping (this group's question was What did you sleep in when you went camping?). Then I gave each group a large sheet of graph paper, and they created the answer choice options (I was very proud of this group for realizing that some kids might have slept in more than one of the choices [like both a tent AND a cabin], so they made answer choices for those options, too!). Then my kids walked around to each group and colored in/initialed the square that corresponded to their answer. After the data was collected, my students then had to use that data to create a matching pictograph. One boy was dead set on making one stick person equal 5 people, and when I asked what he would do for answers that were less than 5 people, he said each arm and leg could count as 1, so if the answer were just 3 people, he'd remove one arm and one leg to show that it's 5 - 2 = 3. I guess if just one person had answered that they'd slept in a cabin, the symbol to match that on his pictograph would have been a armless, legless person!

The last thing I wanted to share with y'all was the Tips and Tricks Tent we made. At the beginning of the week, this tent was blank. Then, as we reviewed concepts and ideas, we talked about the strategies and helpful things we could do to solve all the different kinds of questions that might be on the test. As my kids came up with ideas, I recorded them on the tent (one side was for math, the other for reading). Then, in the middle, I wrote down the strategies the kids thought would be helpful to use and remember for both reading and math. I was pleased they remembered so much - like the replacement strategy, for example, is one I taught way back in the fall when we were learning about synonyms, multiple meaning words, and context clues. Then, above the tent, I made my own stars to show the STAAR acrostic poem, which I found here:

          S - Stay focused     
          T - Take small breaks     
          A - Answer carefully     
          A - Always use strategies     
          R - Review your work

Since we were told we had to have all math/reading/test related things taken down or covered during the test, I just made bigger stars to cover the ones I'd made, and I used more brown construction paper to cover up the tent. Studies have shown that students test better in familiar, comfortable environments, so instead of taking everything down or covering it up with unfriendly black butcher paper, I just made it look like it had looked at the beginning of the week (although I just realized as I was typing this that I could have simply taken the tent down and just turned it backwards, with the words facing the wall, instead of covering it up with more paper - how wasteful of me!). That's why the stars that my kids made were only decorated - they couldn't have written the STAAR poem on their stars or else I would have had to take them down during the test - so I just told the kids to think of those stars as a reminder of what the poem meant. Since the poem was short and simple, they memorized it quickly and easily, and one morning for morning work, I had my students come up with their own testing strategy acrostic poem using their name (I found this idea here!), and the poems they came up with were awesome! I'm sad I forgot to take pictures - since we made these poems the day before the test, I had to send them home that day because I couldn't have them posted in my room or even in the hall.

We did much, much more than what I showed you here, but this was what I remembered to take pictures of! I realize none of those activities above are about reading, but we just read different fiction stories about camping, and then, to review how to read/answer questions/think about non-fiction stories, we read a bunch of books about different animals and insects that might live in the woods near a camp ground. I also bought this on TpT - Hope's activities definitely made my plans easier!

That's all I've got for y'all today - I am so ready for my schedule to get back to normal so I can feel on top of things again. We'll get back to Austin tomorrow evening, and then my sister's birthday is on Monday, JJ's birthday is on Tuesday, and then Wednesday - Friday I'll be going along with our 5th graders to be a counselor at their big end of the year camp. This'll be my third year to go, and while it's always a lot of fun (especially because some of the 5th graders were in my class two years ago!), that means I have three days worth of sub plans to on that note, it's time to get off my blog and get on to writing plans! Have a great weekend, y'all!