Wednesday, January 22, 2014

100 Happy Days

No, this post isn't about 100th day of school.  In fact, this post has little to do with school.  This post is all about finding happiness and joy in the small moments.  We forget to do that when we're stressed out about the next assessment, a lesson gone wrong, the pile of ungraded essays on the kitchen table, the loads of laundry piling up at home, and the day that never seems to have enough hours in it for us to be successful as educators/spouses/parents/friends (choose one or more!).  We forget to sit for a moment, catch our breath, and notice all the little things that make us smile.  Catching those little moments can be rejuvenating.  Capturing those moments in a picture allows us to relive those little moments again.

That's where comes in.  I stumbled across #100happydays on Instagram the other day.  Someone I follow added that little hashtag to one of their photos.  Now I'm not a hashtag person and have to be honest and say that I don't really understand them.  But I clicked on her little #100happydays and it took me to half a zillion pictures of things that have made folks around the world smile at in the course of their day.  I started smiling just browsing through them!

I know I need a little more 'happy' in my life and this might just do the trick.  Life IS about the small moments and I'm going to take the challenge to capture 100 happy days on Instagram.  I'll share my first three days here, but if you are curious and want to see more, you'll just have to follow me on my personal Instagram account (ltanner24).

Day 1:  I love my NordicTrack treadmill.  I can program walks
like this.  I walked 2 miles in vineyards in Tuscany!
Tonight I'll be walking through Tokyo.
Day 2:  I was looking through old pictures yesterday and found
this one of my two boys.  I can't look at it without smiling.
It was taken about 27 years ago.
Both boys are now pilots in the Air Force.
Day 3:  Remember, it's all about the small moments.  I decided that,
since it is never going to rain again in California,  I had better
stop by the carwash on the way home.  I have a CLEAN car!
THAT really makes me happy!

So what makes you smile?  Where do you find your happy moments?  Feeling up to a challenge?

Go find your happy!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Spot It! A Great Rainy Day Recess Game...if only it would rain!

Reading about all the snow days schools are having back east makes this a bit more difficult to admit, but here goes.  I want rain.  There are the obvious reasons I want rain.  Like the fact that we have had less than 15% of our average rainful this season.  That a good downpour would help to clean the dust and bird poo off my car.  That the lack of rain is going to adversely affect the wine grape crop I so depend on after a long week at work.  But there's another reason I want rain... rainy day recess.  Can you believe it?  I actually WANT a rainy day recess.  Go ahead and hate me if you must, but this 65 degree-blue-sky-bright-sunshine weather is getting old. I want to stay in and pull out the games and art materials.  I want to play "Mum Ball" and "Who's Missing?"  I also want to play a new game I was recently given:  Spot It! 

If you've played before, you already know how much fun it is.  I just got it for Christmas and have fallen in love with it.  I'm looking forward to sharing it with my class...just as soon as it rains!  The game comes in at least 10 different versions.  There's even a Spanish word version.  I have the one above and the camping version. Here are just a few others:

The game is designed for 2-8 players, but I prefer groups of 4.  So what's the gist?  It's a card game that tests visual perception.  Each card is covered with a variety of symbols and all cards have one symbol in common.  The object of the game is to be the first to recognize which symbols match and call out the match.  It's fast, fun, and a little bit loud so it may be better suited for rainy day recess than a quiet least for my boisterous class.

I'm going to go do my rain dance now.  Wish me luck because here's our 5 day forecast:

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Day in Our Life Schedule Linky

I have to admit, I've had a lot of fun looking at everyone's daily schedule.  For some of them, I'd gladly trade my first born child (but given that he's 34 now, I don't think many of you would jump at that offer).  Other schedules I've seen confirm that many of you should be wearing your super hero capes on a daily basis.  Yikes!  I'm not sure how some of you do it. Anyway, I thought I'd link up with Amelia over at Where the Wild Wild Things Learn and share my daily schedule.

Every other week, my 5th grade team has morning and afternoon duty.  Ninety-seven percent of our kiddos are on the free/reduced lunch program which means they all get to have breakfast in the cafeteria.  Morning duty is cold, but easy as we monitor the kids when they show up at their classroom doors.  

School starts at 8:00.  As my students enter the room, they complete the morning warm-up and have their homework ready to check.  By 8:15, we're working in our Greek and Latin Root binders.  This year I'm trying out The Reading Olympians: Prefixes, Suffixes, & Roots.  I'm not using it exactly as they suggest, but it's working great in my room.  My students LOVE doing the raps.  

Writing and anything grammar related are tucked into a 30 minute block that goes far too fast.  When we're working on a larger project, I struggle to find time to conference with my students.  I only have about 6 or 7 who I would consider to be at grade level and the other 28 desperately need my help.  Oh, what I would give to have an aide in my room during this time!

Math typically runs from 9:00-10:05.  An hour might seem long, but I have so much remediation to do! My fast finishers are given the option to become Academic Assistants.  Peer tutoring is a big part of our math block. My assistants get to don a lanyard with an official badge:

Our recess runs from 10:05-10:20.   Two teachers are monitoring the kids on the playground while the third stays in for study hall.  This is also an opportunity for kids to head up to the cafeteria for Second Chance Breakfast if they didn't eat earlier.

We have 3 prep periods each week:  P.E. on Monday and Thursday (despite the Tuesday I put on my schedule above!) and Music on Friday.  This gives us three 50 minute planning periods each week.  On the days that I don't have prep (Tuesday and Wednesday), we use part of that time for a visit to the library and some additional science.

I'm liking (notice I didn't say LOVING) my reading block right now.  Things are running relatively well with my reading groups.  My 34 students' reading levels span from high first grade to about the ninth grade level.  It is definitely a challenge to meet all of their needs!

Probably my least favorite time of the day is ELD.   Did I say that?  I love the kids who come to me during this period, but it's not an effective use of time for my non-ELD students.  My ELD group consists of 17 intermediate ELLs.  During this block, my beginner and advanced ELL students go to the other two fifth grade classrooms and 5 of my highest students stay in the room to work on independent projects or Young Einstein Club. The rest of my non-ELD students go to leveled writing groups.  With so many kids on the move, too much time is eaten up during the transitions to and from these groups.  I would much rather keep my own ELLs and work with them during this time.  My other students could be doing meaningful enrichment and remediation centers during this 30 minute block.  Okay, my rant is over. On to lunch!

Lunch is our duty free time.  Yay!  We do have our Student Council meetings on Wednesdays during lunch and I hold Lunch Bunch on Fridays, so I actually get 3 quiet lunches a week.  I will admit that I love having lunch with my students.  It's a great opportunity to interact with them in a very relaxed setting.  Their true goofiness comes out and we usually end up in serious giggle fits.  

Math board is done right after lunch.  Math board is essential for our students.  So many of them are struggling learners and it gives us the chance to spiral through our standards and preview upcoming concepts.  

Following math board, it's time for either Social Studies or Science.  We just tried out Teaching in the Fast Lane's European Explorers Dice Simulation.  


My students really enjoyed the activity.  I did change one piece though.  Once students left Europe on their journey, ANY situation that caused them to return to Europe meant they were finished with their careers as explorers.  They were quick to note that very few explorers were truly successful.  

At 2:10 we start packing up and I read aloud to them.  We're currently reading Among the Hidden, the first book in Margaret Peterson Haddix's Shadow Children series.  They are hooked!  If you haven't read the series, you should check it out!  Fifth graders love it.

By 2:15, my room is empty and I'm outside for afternoon duty.   At 2:20, I'm back in my classroom for an hour of tutoring on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Grade level meetings and professional development happen on our early release Wednesdays.

Well that's my average day.  For now anyway.  I've seen a few schedules on this linky that I need to look at a little bit closer. I might just need to rethink parts of my day. By nature, teachers are always tweaking this or that right?  If you haven't done so already, hop over to Where the Wild Things Learn  to take a peek into everyone else's day and link up.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ahhh...The Smell of Freshly Baked Bread!

I'll get to the bread part in just a bit, but I figured that was a good title for this post since my house is filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread on this gorgeous Saturday morning. Freshly baked bread AND no polar vortex.  Jealous?

We started back to school on Monday and, much to my surprise, all of my students walked through the door.  You might be thinking, "That's a surprise? Aren't they all SUPPOSED to come back?"  Not at our school. We often have families that take the winter break as an opportunity to visit relatives in Mexico.  These visits sometime extend 2-3 weeks into the new year.  Right in the middle of the toughest part of fifth grade math...fractions. But not this year!  It was great to see ALL of my students sitting in their chairs on Monday morning.  I do have one who's leaving next week for two weeks, but she's one of my most conscientious students and I have no doubt she'll complete all the work in her independent study packet.  The worst part about her leaving is that she keeps me organized.  She's my 'right hand girl'.  She remembers where I put my keys, always knows what time it is, reminds me to send the attendance folder up to the office, and loves to stay in at lunch recess to straighten up my desk.  I'll miss her.

Here are some highlights of what I think has been a great start to the new year:

I read Memoirs of a Goldfish to my class before break.  The book was leaning up against the whiteboard when I left.  When I got back, I found it on my desk with this stickie note attached to it:

The photo isn't as clear here in blog world, but it says, "This book is Amazing. Make sure your students hear it.  Jason the Custodian."  Okay, how wonderful is THAT?  Our night custodian actually sat down to read this book during his shift...and LOVED it as much as we did.  That just makes my heart smile.

Around 9:00 on Monday, the office called to tell me to send someone up to escort my new student to the classroom.  New student?  Yikes!  My 'right hand girl' jumped into action and rounded up supplies while I raced out into the hallway to steal borrow the empty desk that was out there.  I hate not having any warning that a new kiddo is about to step into my classroom.  I want them to be able to come into my room and sit down at a desk that just looks like it's been waiting for them to arrive.  I want all the goodies in place with neat little nametags on the consumables and a cute name plate for their desk.  I want them to feel like we've been expecting them.  But that's not our reality.  So it's a mad dash to pull it together while I send our Messenger up to retrieve them.   My new student puts my roster back up to 34 and she's a great addition to our mix of personalities.  We're lucky to have her!

Monday afternoon was like Christmas all over again.  If you're a DonorsChoose fanatic like I am, you know what it's like to have your projects funded right before winter break.  It means you have to wait until after the holidays for your project materials to be ordered and shipped.  I was pleasantly surprised to find two packages in the office on Monday afternoon.  The first was our new Epson Small-in-One multifunction machine.  Yep, we're printing in color now!  The kids are really excited as they are about to embark on their journey of researching and writing explorer reports.  The second box contained this:

Let me introduce you to iPad #6 from DonorsChoose!  The kids were pretty excited.  Almost as much as I was.  Now, if only our district technology folks could be as excited as we are and actually allow us connect to the internet through their system.  But no.  Still, where there's a will, there's a way.  I use the hotspot on my iPhone to give them access to the internet.  I haven't had a problem with exceeding any data limits on my plan, so it's all good!

Next up on the week's highlights: "Pauly".  No, that's not his real name, but he looks like a miniature Pauly D. from Jersey Shore (I feel the need to add the disclaimer that I have never actually watched that show). "Pauly" has never liked school.   It has always been an incredible struggle for him.  This year has been no different.  So imagine my surprise when we had this conversation on Tuesday:

"Pauly":  Mrs. Tanner, something's wrong with me. I don't know what it is.
 Me:        You're not feeling well?
"Pauly":  I don't know. I don't know what it is, but ever since Christmas break, I think I LIKE school now.  I don't know why, but I want to be here.  That's weird huh?

I got a little bit dramatic and felt his forehead to see if he had a temperature and fussed over him as though he was truly ill.  He smiled and said, "No, no, no, it's okay.  I'm not sick.  I just hope whatever this is, it lasts."  I'm happy to report that it lasted all week.  I'm hoping that whatever he's 'come down with' sticks around for a while.

I had a college student spend the day in my classroom yesterday.  He sat quietly in the back of the room taking notes all morning.  I'd check in with him whenever I could to answer any questions he might have.  He didn't say much.  But then, when the kids went off to their music prep, he came up to me and said, "I love you."  There was the briefest moment of awkward silence after that declaration.  Then he continued with, "I wish you had been my fifth grade teacher.  You seem to love all your students and they love you back.  How do you do that?"  It was another one of those moments that makes my heart smile. I shared a comment with him that a friend made after I had a little rant about not having enough time to teach such a large and wildly diverse group of kids everything they need to know before heading off to 6th grade:

  "Thankfully, that regardless of the system...regardless of the outcomes, each soul you teach is blessed with caring growth and is transformed in a way which is good."

That's what it's all about, isn't it?

So, what's happening on the homefront this week?

I got a bread machine for Christmas.  Now I'm only ever a few hours from freshly baked bread without all the mess.  I'll be making some toast as soon as I finish this post.

Honey Oatmeal Bread...Yum!

I also have a new addiction.  Sadly, it's not exercise, but I'm working on that.  No, my new addiction is zentangling.  You've no doubt read about it on several folks' blogs already, so I won't go into detail.  I bought this book:

... a set of micron pens, a sketch pad, and artist tiles so I can do this:

My Day 4 Zentangle 
Zentangling is described as "creative drawing for relaxation, inspiration, and fun." The artist gene skipped a generation in my family, so I'm thrilled that I can actually produce a doodle like this.  I'm finding it to be a great way to unwind from my day at work.  I can't wait to introduce zentangling to my students.

And finally, I have my One Little Word for this year:  Choices.  I love my word.  I have completely embraced it.  It gives me space and holds me accountable all at the same time.  Just what I need.

I've got a piece of honey oatmeal toast calling my name......

Hope all of you have had a great start to 2014! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Catching Up and a Giveaway Using an Unusual Random Number Generator

Well, darn.  It's almost December.  My last post was in October.  Whoa. I guess it's time to dust off the ol' blog and fill in a gap or two.

So, what's new in Room 24?  I now have a student teacher.  It's only one day a week, but I love it.  Mrs. V. has jumped right in (her second placement) and is already teaching segments of our day. She has that teacher gene and the kids adore her.  She was a second language learner when she was in elementary school so she's made a strong connection with my ELLs. What's in this experience for me? A lot. I've always considered myself to be reflective about my own teaching practice, but having a student teacher working at my side makes me even more so.  It brings me back to my time as an instructional strategies coach when I would spend my days in classrooms working with teachers.  Let's just say that I love, love, love this experience.

Our Walking Classroom is going well.  The kids love their Walkkits.

 So far, so good...all Walkkits are still in working order and we've yet to replace a single battery.  One interesting piece of data I've gathered from using the Walkkits is that I have some students who really struggle with auditory learning.  While there are a few children with identified auditory processing disorders in my class, I'm noticing a few more who struggle with their post-walk assignments.  They just don't seem to absorb the information as easily as their classmates. I know, it's November and I probably should have figured this out sooner, but with 34 students it has taken me a bit longer than usual to decipher their individual needs. I've made a point of checking in with them more frequently during direct instruction and giving them smaller chunks of learning to digest.  Just an added benefit from an already great program. In case you haven't heard,  The Walking Classroom now has 4th grade podcasts!

A few months ago, Classroom Friendly Supplies sent me a shiny blue pencil sharpener.

Little Blue

While I probably should have written up my review sooner, I think it's more meaningful to write a review after a product has been used for an extended period of time.  Afterall, anyone can write a great review immediately after trying out a new product only to have that product fail a week later right?  Well, I've been using my spiffy pencil sharpener every day for several months now and I'm happy to report that I'm still madly in love with it!  I'm one of those people who might be described as being a tiny, little bit obsessive about having a sharp pencil in hand.  I keep my personal pencil cup filled with freshly sharpened pencils for me to use throughout the day.  The moment one gets just a bit dull, I pull out a new one.  Okay, that might be more than a tiny bit obsessive, but I'm admitting the obsession so it's all good.  Anyway, back to the Classroom Friendly Supplies' Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener that I'm so madly in love with.  First of all, it is quiet.  Quiet is good when you spend your days in a room with 34 ten and eleven year olds.  Obviously though, the most important quality of a pencil sharpener is its ability to look adorable on my desk....okay, that's not true.  But it is the prettiest blue ever and it comes in a variety of bright colors: Cool Blue, Midnight Black, Precious Pink, Groovy Green, and Firehouse Red.  Besides being quiet and cute (sounds like the perfect fifth grader doesn't it?), this thing can sharpen!  When I first introduced Little Blue to the class, I felt the need to caution my students as they walked away with their newly sharpened daggers pencils.  "Be careful, that's sharp!"  Now they stop me with, "You don't have to tell me, I know it's sharp."  Months later, Little Blue (yes, we named it) is still sharpening our pencils to a perfect point.  Bottom line:  Add this to your Christmas list.  Need gifts for your grade level team?  Classroom Friendly Supplies offers them in a 3 pack!  Go check them out.

Unless you've been living in a cave or under a pile of ungraded essays, you know that Teachers Pay Teachers is having their Cyber Sale on Monday and Tuesday. I made a little set of Winter Themed English Language Arts Review task cards just in time for the sale.

Then I started adding to my wish list. I added, and then added some more. Apparently there's no limit to how many items you can wish for.  I'm always on the lookout for engaging activities to use with my fifth graders.  What's on the top of your wish list?  If you know of a product that I just shouldn't miss out on, let me know by leaving a link to the item in a comment below.  Self promotion is okay!  If you've got a great product that I 'need' for my fifth graders, let me know about it!  I'll be giving a set of my task cards away to someone who leaves a comment with a suggestion for my wish list.  I'll be using Gus, one of the Wild Ones, as my random number generator.  Gus is rather vocal tonight. I might as well put his incessant barking to good use.  For the next 30 minutes, I'm going to keep track of how many times he runs to the window to bark at __________(choose one of the following)  blowing leaves, the neighbor's cat, the mailman, passersby, and birds.  So if he races to the window 9 times and you're the 9th person to leave a comment, you win!

Happy Thanksgiving Eve and may your turkeys defrost in time.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Little Bit of This and That for Saturday Snapshots

Cough, cough, sneeze, sniffle, sneeze...ugh... I caught the cold that's been going around my classroom for the last 2 weeks.  It made for a rough week, but I managed to sniffle-sneeze-cough my way through.  I even managed to get a couple of pictures of my week to link up with Miss Nelson's Saturday Snapshots.

I love going back into the staff work room and finding UPS boxes with my name on them!  I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of my materials from The Walking Classroom, so I was thrilled to find this box back there on Tuesday.  

If you haven't heard about The Walking Classroom, go check out their website.  I applied for  a donated set of classroom materials late last spring and kept my fingers crossed over the summer.  Now Room 24 is the proud owner of a class set of WalkKits!  

Each student has their own WalkKit that is loaded with a year's worth of podcasts directly aligned with 5th grade English Language Arts Common Core State Standards.  Each podcast is about 15 minutes long and is accompanied by a great lesson plan and assessment piece in the teacher's binder.  I'm in love.

From The Walking Classroom website:

"Listening to this content builds standards-related knowledge and listening stamina.  Walking improves students’ moods and appreciation of exercise, of their environment and, most of all, of their own ability to learn in a whole new way. Moreover, what they listen to isn't just a textbook being read aloud. It's enthusiastic discussions and presentations by teachers and kids their age about things they need to know. Written and produced specifically for audio, these educational and entertaining podcasts allow the teacher to take the class on a 20-minute walk each day. "

I'll be posting more about this program once we are up and walking!  I'm not sure who is more excited about it:  the kids or ME!

We also saved Fred this week.  This was in my plans for the second week of school.  Hmmm...what week is this?  The timing was right though.  It was Friday.  Our music prep was cancelled...again.  That left the perfect hole in my lesson plans for the day and Fred still needed saving.

The background noise in this video about sums up the engagement factor of this activity:  

I went home with a mighty headache, but it was so worth it.  Have you saved Fred yet?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Saturday Snapshots: I'm Back!

Wow, I don't know where the weeks have gone!  I feel like I'm finally crawling out from my cave, or maybe it's out from underneath the 34 fifth graders that reside in my classroom.  Anyway, I'm coming up for air, at least for a moment.  What better thing to do than link up with Miss Nelson's Saturday Snapshots?

I have to start with a picture that WASN'T from this past week, but the week before.  Both Tucker and Gus competed in the Pups and Pubs Toss and Fetch competition.  Tucker rocked the novice division taking first place and Gus....well Gus is a bit of a momma's boy and felt the need to come check in with me after each toss.  That had a bit of an impact on his score, but he seemed to enjoy his first competition.

The Champion!

See those lucky raffle tickets?  I won the 50/50 raffle at the end of the competition.  I ended the day with a big smile and over $180 in my pocket.

These past few weekends have been busy, but lovely!  Over Labor Day weekend, my younger son came for a visit.  He was in the states for some training and was able to jet over to California for the weekend.  I get to visit with him once or twice a year if I'm lucky, so I'll take a long weekend!  Last Friday, my oldest and his wife flew in for the weekend.  They live stateside now so I get to see them more often.

We spent Saturday in Napa valley.  Whenever company comes out, that's usually where we head.  You'd think I'd tire of it living so close, but I never do.  The traffic is usually a nightmare on the weekends, but it just gives you more time to soak in the beautiful scenery.

What's not to love about this view?

Castello di Amorosa

Who's Who:  Moi, my son, his wife, and my daughter

On Sunday we spent the afternoon at the Lafayette Art and Wine Festival.  Had I known they allowed dogs, I might have taken one of the Wild Ones with us.

A peek at the crowd!

Free photo booth...why not?
Any time spent with my kids is wonderful.  This past weekend was no exception!  

Don't forget to run over to Miss Nelson's and check out the other Saturday Snapshots!