Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tech Tuesday : Prezis and Memes

Earlier this summer, I was determined to include memes in my classroom this year.  See this glorious post dedicated to my meme blurbs. Well, I've done it folks....

My first day presentation was a crafty, fun structured Prezi that included memes :) Two technologies in one!  About half the memes were a find from Pintrest, but the other half were ones I created myself of Imgflip.com.

Side note: I found out that many meme generators are blocked on my school's network; however I found that Imgflip is not blocked on my school computers!  WOOO! My students are most definitely going to create memes using it later this year!  

I love Prezi.  Its is interactive and less linear (which my jumbled brain loves) and has beautiful ways to present! My students were engaged on the first day, and we didn't go through the boring syllabus (which bores me by the end of the day... and I HATED "Syllabus Day" in college... my favorite professors were the ones that gave me the syllabus to read and asked me to do activities... I felt that freshmen need the information reviewed; however, I did not want to read from a syllabus).

I even had a student raise his hand half way though the presentation and tell me that I am now his favorite teacher because I used memes.  Gotta love Freshmen :)

On a fun note: I spent most of my day chatting with Freshman about conflict, plot structure, and fabulous movies!  I love when students make connections with things they love and English!  We even had a conversation about how Titanic is basically every conflict possible in one.... love <3. Plus we watched a clip from Aladdin.  It was a good day!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Classroom Management and Zen

My Classroom Feels Like This... WHHHHAAATT????

Week one has ended.  My brain is tired and many weary hours have been spent at school this last week preparing, organizing, and thinking.  I wanted things to run as smoothly as possible this week and I, along with the help of my wonderful colleague Jules, created lots of new management/procedural stuff to help the classroom flow and support learning.   I'm instituting a LOT of new management and learning mojo into my classroom this year: 
  1. We are following standards based grading this year in my classroom including pre, formative, and post assessments.  All grading is based 4 point (Marzano style) rubrics directly taken from the standards.  The goals is to have students focused on the skills and seeing how they can get better directly from the rubrics. Students worked so hard on their pre-assessment for plot elements and main idea/supporting details today!  I'm excited to see how they do and how that can shape what I teach!
  2. Students will track their learning and goals set.  We will keep all assessments/rubrics in a learning binder that stays in the classroom.  Students will track their learning on a "track my learning" sheet that stays in the binder as well.  Students will be officially introduced to this next week. 
  3. Since the classroom is focused on what students learn, students have the option to retry when they don't do well.  This year, I'm instituting a Request to Retry form.  Taken from pintrest and adapted to fit my students needs...... 
  4. I also have made a behavioral form to help students not only figure out how to resolve their behavior, but also to help me keep track of behavior and calls home.  

    Side Note:

     I am reading Touching Spirit Bear to my 5th period class when they return from lunch (5th has an extra 15 minutes in it to accommodate all 3 lunches in our building).  And this form reminds me of the "schoolified" version of the Circle Justice program Cole (the main character) is going through.  It's a great book to show kids how to deal with anger and hurt.  You should check it out! 
  5. Missing work form - taken and adapted from E, Myself, and I to help keep track of those kiddos who don't turn in their work
  6. While You Were Out form -  this form has been incredibly helpful!  First, it helps me explain what the students missed and second, it allows me to just put it in the folder and teach the student to be responsible for their absent work.  I've created a lovely little station of file folders for my students to find their absent work.  Today, I gently reminded one of my freshman who was absent yesterday to check the absent folder for the work she missed (hopefully, but the end of 1st Q it will be come natural to them just to check there and I won't need to remind) and she had it all ready to go! I didn't have to remember where yesterday's handouts were or get all the directions together for her.  

At the end of 7th period today, my intervention specialist told me that the classroom "just feels peaceful." And she's right.... the room has an aura of peace. Whether that is a beginning of the year thing, a personality thing, a management thing, or just a room thing.... only time will tell, but I'm going to relish in it for now!  

Off to grade Freshman pre-tests... I'm actually kind of excited to see how they do.. I'm such a nerd. :) 

Monday, August 19, 2013

SLOs (not to be mispronounced "slow") and other things to prove I'm teaching

Today, I officially began writing my SLO (Student Learning Objectives).  I have been in meetings since March about these looming documents.  I've grappled with student growth measures, data, and how to best assess my students for this state mandated, district run teacher evaluation quality.
These SLOs are a lot of paperwork to prove that my students are growing in their learning. We are required to choose a standard, create a pre-test over that standard, analyze the data from the pre-test, create a tiered growth measure to show how much students should learn in the next few months, and then in March give a post test where students hopefully show the adequate growth you predicted in your growth measure tiers.  I love all the pieces to this and it is what I'm trying to do in my classroom all year when my students track their learning with pre assessments and post assessments.   In theory, SLOs are great; however, no one can agree on how it will work and the state keeps giving districts new information. Basically, as my district curriculum director put it, "They are building the plane while flying it."

Needless to say, this has been a lot of stress on districts and teachers.  I have a two inch binder billowing with papers on SLOs. (Maybe all the paperwork is why no one can agree on all the qualities that make up an SLO).  I walked into my meetings today in a bundle of stress - I literally could not stop shaking.  It might have been the extra strength coffee, though.  I spent my morning creating a pre-assessment and my short afternoon creating the SLO itself.  Creating the SLO itself was not difficult and the pre-assessment just required some mulling and collaborating by my colleagues and me.  Overall, the amount of stress and paperwork applied to the SLO process made it much more daunting than it was.... however, it's not done yet!

What is your state and/or district doing to evaluate its teachers and analyze its students with the new Common Core Standards and imminent PARCC exams??

Tomorrow I'm off to district and staff meetings and students arrive Wednesday!  Tomorrow, in leu of Tech Tuesday - I will have a tour of my classroom including how I'm integrating technology into my beginning days! :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tech Tuesday: DocScan Pro (...and a fun post I stumbled upon for B2S!)

I love my iPhone.  I sit and listen to friends without iPhones who struggle to complete awesome tasks with their not as awesome smartphones and think... "If only they have an iPhone..." I tell them about iPhone (and Apple's) phenomenal apps and abilities and hope to convert them to the land of Apple --- Ok, ok.  I don't think I'm quite like this... but I can proudly say that I love Apple products.

One of my new favorite apps for my phone is DocScan Pro.  As a teacher, there are so many papers that I wish I had access to frequently, but I don't want to carry it around or save it in my email to jump through hoops to open on my iPhone's email when the 3G is lacking.  This app allows you to:

  • Scan documents into PDFs on your phone. 
  • Annotate and highlight on the PDF
  • Share the PDF with your Dropbox account or others with DocScan Pro.  
  • Scan a book and have it "uncurl" the pages.  
  • Organize all your pages 
The app cost $1.99 in the iTunes store. There is a free DocScan App; however, it does not allow you to share the PDF.  

I have found that this app is great for papers like school calendar or those staff meeting notes that you might need to reference while chatting with someone in the cafeteria (nowhere near your stack of papers) and it also allows you to toss those papers rather than ending up with a stack of staff memos a mile tall (that's never happened to me before..... ;)) 

Side Note: Fun Back 2 School Post

I love my Bloglovin' updates - it keeps me up to date with all my favorite blogs without having to check each site individually to see if they have updated their blogs..... if you don't have a Bloglovin' account, you should get one ... and then you should follow me! (see button on left top).  

Yesterday, on M*Print, Megan shared her favorite blog posts of the week in her Monday Mash-up.  She shared Love, Teach's post "If I Ran a Professional Development" and it is a truly hilarious writing that makes me wish teachers ran their own PD in my building.  Check it out!  I especially love the bear idea! haha

Friday, August 9, 2013

High Five For Friday :)

1.  My classroom is finally coming together!  With only one week of summer left, I've been busting to get my new classroom together.  I've still got class lists to work on, lesson plans, and a desk arrangement problem to figure out; however, it will soon be here!

2.  I ran 2.25 miles this week!  I can't believe I can run for 20+ minutes straight! Ridiculousness! In June, I couldn't run for more than 5 minutes straight.  The beautiful Ryan Gosling has been encouraging me.  Plus, the handsome Wade is a fabulously wonderful work out accountability man!

3.  Had a Girls Night in with the ladies last night: the giggling, eating of copious amounts of chocolate chip cookies, and ridiculous games of MASH which took me back to my days of junior high sleep overs---- all were vary much needed! 

4. JoAnn Fabrics has their Teacher Appreciation Days this weekend.  Stoked to go buy all my crafting and decorating needs at 25% off!!! 

5.  Going big city shopping with one of my bestie Laura and our momma's tomorrow :) Planning on buying back to school clothes and an engagement photo shoot outfit !  

Side Note:

A bit of grammar humor for the weekend: 

Linking up with Lauren Elizabeth for her HF4F.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Favorite School Supplies and a Freebie

I love the smell of new school supplies.  Crisp, clean, with a hint of crayon.  Wonderful.  Each year, the bundle of school supplies fall onto the shelves of my favorite shopping centers, and I become a full-fledged nerd.  I want to buy all the planners, highlighters, book covers, and more.  I spend hours in the aisles of the Back to School Section.

Because of this love for school supplies, this morning I am going to share with you the five most helpful/ lovely school supplies that every teacher needs!

1. Papermate Flair Felt Tip Pens, Assorted : These pens kick butt!  They are fabulous for grading because they stand out on the page more than a ballpoint pen, but they don't bleed through your pages.  They come in a million fun colors.  They are like sharpies, but better.  Fabulous purchase here.  Last year, I went cheap and only bough the 6 pack and I regretted it.  This year I went big... so I didn't have to go home.

2. Cardstock: This is Astrobright colors from Staples; however, any bright card stock would do.  I love cardstock.  I has so many possibilities.  I make bookmarks with reading schedules on it.  It makes a great binder cover because it slides down the front easily.  You can use it as a binder divider.  And it's bright... so you can't miss it!

3.  Various Binder Clips: The creator of binder clips had to have been a person on the verge of a mental breakdown.  The clips have been my life savor most days--- in all their various sizes.  They clip little stacks of papers, big stacks of papers. And they don't let those little papers fly away.  They hold your bangs back when you are going crazy during 6th period.   Binder clips are coveted in my building- our office ran out of them before spring break this year, so you want your own little stash of them to save your sanity to the end of the year.

4. Desk Calendar : While this calendar is not the most colorfully/aesthetically pleasing, it is wonderful.  I had it last year and bought another one of for this year.  It has great tabs in the corners of it that keep the calendar in its place, and it's great because you can put notes in the tabs and they don't fly away.

5. Highlighter:  I love highlighters.  I believe that these highlighters from Sharpie are the best around. The are long lasting and vibrant; however, any highlighters work.  I love highlighting as I read and I use highlighters in my classroom with my students to keep them focused as they work.  I often highlight as I grade and more.

This week, I created my own Teachers Pay Teachers store.  In light of that exciting fact, I'm sharing my first product for free:

Get To Know You Activity- Englishbook 2013-2014

An icebreaker activity for your English Language Arts classroom. Set up like Facebook, but entitled "englishbook". Get to know your students likes, goals for the year, family, and educational preferences plus have them give you a self portrait!

enjoy getting your classrooms ready for your students, my loves! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tech Tuesday: Online Stopwatch

I don't know about you, but students in my classroom often struggle to stay on task.  My students are in career tech programs and spend much of the day together- either in the same career tech program and/or in the afternoon they are in the same academic classes.  It actually becomes a community within the school-- and I believe it would be an interesting anthropologic study for someone (like Bones... I've definitely been watching to much of that show lately!).  However, the community it creates causes students to want to talk and be friends much more than they want to work on the compare and contrast chart they are doing.

That said, I love group work.  I think it is one of the best ways for students to indirectly learn communication skills and think out loud, and I'm constantly thinking of ways to make group work better.  During the last month of school, I  discovered this fun timing set that can be projected onto my Smartboard.  The timer is great when you want to give students a specific amount of time to work on something.  They can refer back to the timer to see how much time they have left.  It keeps them more focused because they recognize how much time they have rather than me nagging and reminding them.  The timer is also super easy to use.

The timer also come in a million (ok, not a million.  That might be a hyperbole) fun styles.  My favorite (which always makes my students giggle) is the swimming one (I coach HS Swimming).

The swimmers race until the end of the timer - and what's fun is someone different wins each time.  Timing my students visually helps them: 
  • stay on task
  • be independent learners (because I don't have to nag them) 
  • work on staying focused for short increments of time (I don't use timers for more than 15 minutes worth of activity and I usually try to keep my classroom activities to about 15 minutes in length)
    • This is good for classrooms with students with IEP goals that require them to practice staying on task. 
Check out the Online Stopwatch and comment below how you think it would help your students !  

Link up your own Tech Tuesday using the link below and please leave my tech tuesday button (see here) or say something like "Linking Up with The Oatmeal Chronicles for Tech Tuesday" at the end of your post! (please leave a link to my blog then!) 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Classroom Pintrest Wish List

Since my graduate work ended on Thursday, I've spent way to much life time on Pintrest... Pinning everything imaginable, but mostly things for my classroom.

Here is my own Top 10 Classroom Pintrest Wish List:

1. Fabulous First Day of School Activities: Awesome Acquaintance Alliteration Activity (no alliteration intended)  and Meme Syllabus (see my post on Memes

2. Better Planning and Organization (although, I think this is on every teacher's wish list):


3. Parent Communication: I've already submitted a P.O. for 4x6 cards to make this mini-binder (don't always have up-to date info in our schools progress book so these cards are great for a quick look up and a place to document contact).

4. Creative activities for my Freshmen's first unit on conflict and plot:
     A: Popsicle Stick Activity

This picture will take you to an elementary teacher's site where she has taken the date night popsicle idea to the classroom - students identify character, setting, conflict, and a "special idea" from different books on colored popsicle sticks, then you add to it  your own sticks with other possible characters, settings, conflicts, and "special ideas."  Students then pull one of each color from a jar and create their own story based on those ideas.  I love this idea for students to generate creative writing as well as practice elements of a story.

      B: Story Bags
I've know about story bags since working with some middle childhood majors during my undergrad, but I'd never thought about using them with high schoolers until I read this post by a parent encouraging creativity.  Fill the bag with items and students have to create a story using those items.  Students then identify setting, characters, conflict, resolution, etc in their own stories!

5. Anchor Charts
I'm officially obsessed with anchor charts on Pintrest (see my Schoolie Stuff board for all my anchor chart loves).  Many of the charts need amped up a bit to be more rigorous for my students, but the basic concepts are fabulous.

6. Evidence
I believe students need to support their answers with evidence (usually from the text), but many of my students balked at this last year.  My plan is to immerse my students in the idea of always citing and supporting your opinions and analyses. I'm going to make a bulletin board or anchor chart similar to this one for my students to know what I expect:

I'm going to change the "it said so on page" to "[author's name] said, '.........' (pg #)." and omit"from my reading, I know that..." .  I may also add some other ways to cite evidence on there.  I want my students to write and speak like scholars and well-rounded knowledgable high school students.

7.  Hitting all of Bloom's Levels/ Extension activities 
I've found somewhere in the world of TpT and Pintrest a set of cards that have "generic" literature questions aligned with Bloom's levels.  If I do not find them, I plan to make my own cards, color coded and laminated, to use for students who finish an activity early.

8. Fabulous Standards Based Grading Methods
This year, I and another teacher are integrating standards based grading with in depth rubrics from every standards and I discovered these small rubrics made on labels that would be fabulous for grading in student notebooks or formative grading instead of pulling out a giant rubric to grade on each time.
9. Bulletin Boards
I stole this one from M*Print's Pintrest Finds.  I loved it so much I had to share!  How cool is a board where students are encouraged to compose in their free time.  It just will require some monitoring, and high expectations, to make sure all things posted are appropriate.

10. Blog Loves
I've been struggling to find well-rounded secondary teaching blogs... and throughout my pintrest addiction moments these last few days, I found two awesome ones!

M* Print : Megan is new to the blogging world (like me!) and shares all sorts of lovely, nerdy English teacher things on her blog.  Just spending 5 minutes scanning her recent posts I found 11 Tips to Using a Classroom Facebook Page and Setting Soft Goals for Students (goals that are not linked to standards or tests - like passion, etc.).  She really wants her students to succeed and seems to love things like memes, vintage fashion and photos, typewriters, and poetry.  I think I've found a kindred soul.

E, Myself, and I i: Elizabeth is a blogger who shares about teaching high school English, but also focuses on real life ... and she has a real heart for her blog audience, not just freebies, etc.  I really enjoyed her posts on classroom organization and Classroom Organization Facts - she uses a "Missing Work" sheet in her classroom to help encourage students to complete missing work, remind students that more points get taken off the longer they wait, and to help her organize her classroom (the paper is yellow!).  I made my own version of this "Missing Work" sheet.

I've copied these on bright yellow paper, but I changed a few things from her original.
1. I asked students to give me the reason they've not turned it in.  I teach inclusion and often have students who feel overwhelmed by the project or who just need that extra time (all students, not just students with special needs).  I wanted to give them an open spot to let me know that they need extra time (if they have been faithfully working in class).
2. I gave the reminder to students that they will have points taken off the longer they wait; however, I did add that prior approval by a teacher for those students who need that extra time.

I'm excited to implement this in my classroom!  I hope it helps me avoid losing late papers and it encourages my students to complete their missing work sooner!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Phew.... One Busy Week

One day this past week as I lay in bed unable to sleep, I realized that I have less than 3 weeks until I officially go back to school--- this realization caused me to almost have a panic attack.  I realized I have so many things to get done-- unpacking my new classroom, placing P.O.s and organizing the P.O. classroom materials once I get them,  creating two new syllabi and a fun way to introduce classroom rules and procedures to students, lesson plans (for a whole new prep and a prep I'm recreating)... and the list goes on.

I've been in school almost every day this week unpacking my boxes of stuff, moving old German textbooks to the recycling (my school, sadly, cut the German program this past year and I have moved to the German room upstairs in the English hallway to be with my fellow bookworms), painting bookshelves, and cleaning the dust.  I'm very excited because the room is beginning to look like mine -- color everywhere and new blinds to shade my room from some of the glorious sunshine (!!! my old room was windowless and now I have a whole wall of window-- I'm stoked!) that the wonderful maintenance crew are installing (p.s. newbies- make friends with the custodians and maintenance crews because they will be your life savers) and re-arranging all the furniture to fit my teaching style.

I'll have pictures up before school starts with all the fun organizational features and color :)

This crazy slightly stressful week has ended well -- with a delicious new recipe with the fiancé and a realization that I will be getting married exactly one year from today, August 2 :)
So in light of that glorious realization, I thought to share some of my favorite wedding ideas that are in the process of becoming my own wedding:

enchanted romance:

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If you liked these items, the links to all of them and more wedding bliss can be found at my Pintrest board Love and Marriage and for many educational ideas (as well as many of my inspirations for my classroom this year .. see my link on the left to follow me on Pintrest!) 
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