Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Positive Thinking Thursday {5-01-14}

Happy May Day!  If turning the calendar over to the beautiful month of May isn't sparking happiness in you, then maybe Positive Thinking Thursday will!  Thank you for visiting today to take in my positive thought of the week and (hopefully) to link up to share your own positive thought.
If you are new to this tradition, here's how it works if you would like to participate {and I hope you will!}:
  1. Write a blog post that shares a positive thought, story, video, etc. You don't need to type much else, unless you want to.  The positive message is what's important.
  2. Link up below to share your thought with others.
That's's that easy!  So, what are you waiting for??? Everyone has something to share!

Here's my thought for the week:
Yes, attitude is everything.... How's yours  doing?

Even thought I told you above to post one positive thought, I'm in a giving mood this week and will share a few more favorites I found this week on Pinterest.  (You can follow my Inspirations board here if you would like.)
you decide. :(:
Dimming the light

#Inspirational Quote

Last week, I also shared a short video about the Coke Friendship Machine and got so much positive feedback that I thought I would share another video this week.  We have been spending a lot of time talking about teamwork in our classroom so I think this will be a fun video to show the kids and see what they have to say about it. (Thanks to Mrs. Spangler in the Middle for this great idea!)
Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful and honest feedback about this linky party.  Ever since I have been practicing Positive Thinking Thursday at school every week, I can honestly say that it has made a huge difference in my life.  I really appreciate you sharing your ideas and enthusiasm for spreading a little positivity in the world...even if it is just one day a week, right?

So are you ready to share?

Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Peek at My Week {4-27-14}

It's that time again...Time to get together for another Peek at My Week!  Thanks for stopping by.  I hope you will link up and share your plans for this week too!
I can't believe that we are winding down to the end of another month and that by this time next week, it will be MAY!!!  April sure flew by...

I'm excited because in  reading, we are going to begin a three week study of Mythology.  I'll admit, when we first started working with Common Core and I found out that I needed to include Mythology vocabulary and allusions in my teaching, I was NOT excited.  I had never read any Mythology and didn't know anything about it, but boy, did my students L.O.V.E. it and now I LOVE teaching it too!

This year, I designed a new product that is based on many of the activities we have been doing in my classroom that my students have enjoyed.  I call it Mythology Museum & More!
If you remember back to the fall, my students did a Native American Museum project to learn about a particular Native American group that lived in Wisconsin in the past.  This was the inspiration for my new Mythology Museum.

This week, students will work in groups of three to learn about a Greek god or goddess.  They will then prepare a poster board to teach the rest of the class about their mythological character.  These posters will be set up in a Mythology Museum for our class and others to visit.  The Mythology Museum displays will include:
A drawing or sketch of their god or goddess
Five fast facts about their god or goddess
A bio poem
Trading cards for museum visitors to fill out and keep after visiting the museum display
Carefully chosen artifacts to represent their god or goddess.
This is a great way for students to be creative and crafty -- 
Bring on the Legos!

After learning about the major players in mythology through this project, we will read different versions of the same myth to compare and contrast them. (This is a Common Core skill for 4th grade.)

We will also discuss allusions.  In the past, I taught the most popular allusions (Midas Touch, Pandora's box, etc.) but they always seemed so disconnected from my student's lives.  So in my Mythology Museum & More unit, students learn about the allusions, but also relate them to their own lives.
If you are gearing up to teach Mythology (or have avoided it in the past because you didn't know what to do), you can win this unit simply by pinning it and leaving the link in a comment below!  Two winners will be chosen on Tuesday.  Or if you can't wait, you can pick up your own Mythology Museum & More in my TPT Store on sale through Monday.

I know my students will be so psyched to begin working on their museums.  I hope to have our museum displays ready on Friday and will share more pictures next week.  This time of year, we need to bring out all the fireworks to keep our students motivated to keep working and learning and projects like this do the trick!

I hope you have a great week!  See you back here on Thursday for Positive Thinking Thursday if not sooner.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Positive Thinking Thursday {4/24/14}

This week's Positive Thinking Thursday is in honor of Earth Day, which fell earlier this week:
Nope, not a one!  :)

I also wanted to share this video called the Coca Cola Friendship Machine from Youtube.  Coke built a special vending machine that offered two bottles for the price of one...but there was a small catch in order to be able to get the Cokes.  Watch it and see! 
Ahh...the power of working together!

Now's your chance to link up and share a positive thought with your blog readers.
Thanks for stopping by today and for sharing your positive thoughts with us!  Have a great day!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tried It Tuesday: Podcasts for PD

I'm excited to link up with my friend Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper today to share something new that I just love!
Like many of you, I do A LOT of self-directed professional development.  I am always reading blogs, reading books, reading journals, reading just-about-anything-I-can-get-my-hands-on to learn more about improving myself as a teacher and lifelong learner.  

Then last week while I perusing blog land, I came across a link to the BAM Radio Network.
If you've never visited this website, I strongly encourage you to check it out.  It is here that I discovered hundreds (if not more) of podcasts that I could download to my iPhone to listen to in the car.  Ahhh..taking my PD and making it mobile!

From this website, I found a link to the K-12 Greatest Hits podcast list.  
These podcasts are cutting-edge conversations about anything and everything that is important in education today.  Some of the speakers are well-known, and some are classroom educators.  Either way, the conversations are always engaging and teach me something.  I kind of think of it as talk radio -- but I get to choose the subject!

Speaking of choosing the subject, start looking for your positive thought of the week for this Thursday's linky party, Positive Thinking Thursday. (Click here for more info about this linky party and how to get involved.) I hope to see you back then!!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Peek at My Week {4-20-14}

Happy Easter!!  I am posting this week's A Peek at My Week linky party a day early because I will be spending Sunday enjoying the day with my family.  Feel free to link up any time!
I'm also going to link up with the very talented Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Spark Saturday Student Motivation linky because we are having fun, fun, fun with poetry.
Right now, we are in the middle of Poetry Month and my students are loving it! I have discovered a fun way to teach fluency, vocabulary, comprehension and critical thinking skills in just 10 minutes a day using poetry and have put my ideas together into a a new product, Pausing for Poetry.
Each week, I choose a new poem for the class, which students add to their fluency folders so they can practice it throughout the week. I also put a copy on our "Poetry Posts" bulletin board.
Each day of the week, we spend about 10 minutes reading and discussing the week's poem.  Each day has a different focus -- meaning, vocabulary, structure, figurative language, etc. -- so students really get to understand the poem by Friday.  Students then complete the day's response which is photocopied to the back of the week's poem.   As you can see, the responses are short yet very targeted to a specific element.
Our Poetry Posts bulletin board is very interactive.  One day a week, usually toward the end of the week, I have students complete a Poetry Think-Shot to add to our Poetry Posts board.  This is where they get to publicly respond to the poem and rate the poem--thumbs up or thumbs down.  (It is interesting to have students discuss why they like or dislike a poem too!)  They love reading each other's responses and it's very interesting to see which poems are most popular based on their rating.  I was very surprised by last week's poem -- I thought the kids would love it, but most gave it a "thumbs down."  Hmmm....

To get extra fluency practice throughout the week, students read their poems to others and ask for their autograph on a Poetry Pals page.  The student with the most signatures wins a small prize like a pencil or a piece of chocolate from my secret stash.

I have found that teaching poetry this way has helped my students realize a few things:
  1. Not all poetry has to rhyme or be silly.  We can learn from poetry too!
  2. We can use elements of poetry (imagery, personification, similes, metaphors, etc.) in our own writing to make it stronger.
  3. Close reading of a poem reveals more and more meaning each time we read it.  We love to put on certain reading lenses to look for particular elements in a poem as we read it.
  4. Reading all kinds of poetry helps us improve our fluency.
  5. Poetry can be fun!
If you are interested in seeing more of my new  Pausing for Poetry unit, you can find it ON SALE through Monday in my TPT store.

So, what does your week look like?

Don't forget to stop back on Thursday for my other linky party, Positive Thinking Thursday.  Lots of fun inspiration and positive thoughts to carry you through the week are shared by some wonderful bloggers. Start getting your positive thoughts ready!
See you then if not sooner!  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Positive Thinking Thursday {4-17-14}

I hope you have lots to feel positive about today!  If you don't, here are a few things to get you started:

  1. You woke up this morning.
  2. There's a good chance you have tomorrow off.
  3. Spring has arrived.  YAY!
  4. It's Positive Thinking Thursday!

Every Thursday, I share a positive thought with the staff at my school that I found on Pinterest. (You can find my Pinterest Inspirations board here if you'd like to see more or follow me.)  I place these thoughts on the table in the staff lounge.  Throughout the day, teachers and staff read and/or take a copy with them.  It has been a great hit this year -- a tradition I'm glad I started.
Through this linky party, many teachers have begun their own Positive Thinking Thursday traditions at their own schools.  I hope you will consider joining in as well!  :)

Here is my positive thought of the week:
Perfect for spring, wouldn't you say?

Want to join in and share some positive thinking with all of us?  Simply grab my button and link back to your post.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Standardized Testing at What Cost?

Just spend five minutes reading teaching blogs at this time of year and it is difficult to escape the dread and dismay that is running rampant through many of our hearts...Yep, it's testing time!
Standardized test
I know that many of you have already completed your required round of testing or maybe (like me) had your testing earlier in the year, but there are still plenty of teachers out there who are waiting for our students to have the chance to show what they know (or don't know, or forgot, or panicked about and just weren't sure...).

When I think about the amount of learning time that is lost as we prepare for testing, it really brings me down. Some teachers spend weeks preparing students for the state test in the form of boot camps, test prep, after school tutoring, etc.  
  • Is this time well spent? 
  • Do student scores reflect the time, effort, and stress that both the student and the teacher put into the preparation?
  • What other learning opportunities are being missed at the sake of this prep work and the time spent testing?

I was listening to a podcast on my way to school this morning about how the loss of creativity in schools can be partially attributed to standardized testing.  I recommend listening if you are interested in this topic.

Standardized testing is summative.  (One administrator I know calls it an "autopsy.")  These tests often measure material and skills that were taught months ago.  They can be nit-picky, pulling isolated skills from the depths of the curriculum.  Unfortunately, they do not measure skills like creativity, practical problem solving, or team work.

And aren't these the skills that are necessary for future employment and success in life?

What are the benefits of this standardized testing?  Hmmm...

There is a new(er) wave in education that I am learning about that is based on these skills of creativity, practical problem solving, and team work -- project based learning (PBL).

PBL offers lots of opportunities for assessment, but not for testing.  Due to the nature of the projects, you can't give a one-size-fits-all test to the entire class based on PBL.  But you CAN assess how students are mastering the standards and learning objectives through creativity, team work, and problem solving.  You can provide students with immediate feedback on their learning, not results that come six months after you send your tests back to the state.  This is assessment for learning, growth, and active engagement -- assessment for important life skills.

For now, there is not a lot we teachers can do about standardized testing other than just try to get through it and hope for the best. As we remind our students, the best is all anyone can try to do.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Peek at My Week {4-13-14}

Welcome to another edition of A Peek at My Week, my weekly linky party where you can share your plans for the upcoming week.  I hope you'll join in!!
I don't know how, but I managed to contact another nasty bug....this one is a real hum-dinger.  So, as not to be a linky party pooper, this post is going to be short and sweet so I can get back to my sofa and sleepyland.

On Sunday, we are headed to Green Bay to have lunch with the in-laws and see the University of Wisconsin Varsity Band perform.  I'm really looking forward to it, especially for my own kids to see how important it is to stay in band because it can be such a fun experience in college.
We only have four days of school this week because of the upcoming Easter vacation!!  Two of those four days, I will be out attending Teacher Effectiveness Training for the state of Wisconsin.  Many of us are in the same boat where we have to be evaluated by our administrator on a yearly-cycle.  I'm not entirely sure, but I think this training is to be able to help with that.  I"ll keep you posted!
The Right Work
Preparing for a "guest teacher" for two days is not fun!  Like many kiddos, mine get easily confused and off track if their routine varies even one little bit.  My goal is to keep everything on cruise control until I can get back.  The students will be reading this book as a part of our Titanic unit:
Product Details
I know...not very exciting plans for this week but you know how it is when you are gone....and sick on top of it.  

I'm hoping you can inspire me with your plans for the week!  Do you have a short week too?  I hope you will link up and will give me something to do while I'm hanging out on the sofa trying to rest-away this cold.  :(