Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015: I'm Ready! {OLW & Nerdlution)

On the eve of this new year, I am looking forward to the experiences, challenges, and opportunities that are ahead.  2014 was a wonderful year -- my best yet! -- and I know 2015 will be even more amazing!

I used to be one for making lots of new year's resolutions...lose weight, watch less TV, be kinder, blah, blah, blah....You know how that goes.  Come January 15, I have completely forgotten (or chosen to ignore) my resolutions and I'm back to my old ways.

Then last year, I discovered the power of adopting just one word to guide my entire year, instead of making a million resolutions.  This one word is so powerful, so easy to follow, and it took me to amazing places last year.

For 2015, I have a new word:
If you'd like to use my button for your own OLW, here it is.  Feel free to copy it and use it.
Now, while I no longer make resolutions, I cannot resist being a part of #Nerdlution2015, thanks to Colby Sharp and the amazing people at the Nerdy Book Club.
nerdlution (1)
I'll admit it, this past year one of my most exciting discoveries was that I, indeed, was a nerd.  Nerds have over-the-top passion and excitement for something.  For me, that turned out to be books and teaching my 4th graders. (I am not alone though...I am finding many "nerd friends" that have been hiding out at my school, just waiting to share their nerdiness with others.  :)

As part of #Nerdlution2015, I pledge to write every day for the next 50 days.  This may be working on a story, writing in my journal, or blogging, but I will produce some kind of writing every day.


I've said it.

What will you be nerdy about in 2015?  Join the #Nerdlution!

Monday, December 29, 2014

It's Monday, Here's What I'm Reading {12-29-14}

Thanks to Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee from Unleashing Readers for hosting this weekly reading check in.  It is my first check in in a long time (maybe ever???).
This winter break has really helped me reconnect with my reader-self.  One of my goals for 2015 is to read more kid lit.  With amazing book talks flying around on Twitter and in the blogosphere, I know I will be in good hands.

Here's what I've been reading:
A fun story of a young girl who struggles to fit in because she moves around a lot with her mom.  Finally, she and her mom end up living with her uncle and she finds the stability and home that she so desperately wanted.  Through all of this, she uses her writer's notebook as a source of strength and connection as she finally makes a friend in her new home.  This would be a great story to share with a student who is shy and looking for a way to connect with others.
After hearing all the buzz about this book on Twitter, I finally finished it last week.  I love that it is a graphic novel (my first one!) and is a story to perseverance and imagination.  Although there are some things I wish the author would have left out of this book, knowing that children would read it (teachers smoking in the lounge...), I do recognize that it is autobiographical and those things probably did happen back in the 70's and 80's.
Who knew there were so many jobs done by the simple feather?  This is an amazing informational text, packed with fun facts and tidbits.  I know my students will enjoy this one!

This week, I am hooked, hooked, hooked on this book:
There is a lot of award talk going on about this book and I can see why!  I will finish it soon and post next week.

My other goals for break are to read:

Ambitious, I know, but I do have a new goal to work on!  Wish me luck!

What are you reading?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Positive Thinking Thursday {12-18-14}

Happy Thursday, friends!  Just two more days until Winter Break begins.  That is the inspiration for this week's Positive Thoughts.  I hope you find some giggles here today!
So far this week, my students have been doing a great job of hanging in there.  We have stayed busy, which helps... a lot!  But I know not everyone is experiencing this bliss, so in honor of this week before Winter Break, I present this week's Positive Thoughts!
Funny Christmas Season Ecard: Teacher's Survival Tip #87. . .In December, remember it's just crowd control.
Mrs. Laffin's Laughings: A Peek at My Week {12-15-13}
MAKE IT TO WINTER BREAK: every student and teacher's goal for the first half of the year

I wish you a great last part of the week.  We can do this!!

See you next Thursday for Positive Thinking Thursday Winter Break Edition.  :)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Positive Thinking Thursday {12-11-14}

Thanks for stopping by for Positive Thinking Thursday, my weekly linky party where you can share your positive thoughts with all of us.  I am so glad you're here!
We have seven school days left until winter break.  We are lucky and have two full weeks off.  I'm sure the time will go quickly, so I want to make sure that I spend time doing the things that I want to do.  I don't want to get to the end of break and ask, "Where did all the time go?"
How are you planning on spending your break?

Wishing you a wonderful day!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Math Troubles? Write About It!

We are just finishing up our long division unit in math and I've got to tell you...this was a painful one (for both me AND the students).

Unlike any other year that I've taught math, my students really struggled with finding a method that worked for them.

Some of this can be blamed on Common Core, I am sure.

Whereas we used to teach one tried and true way to do a division problem (now called "digit by digit," but some of us may know it by its other name, Does McDonalds Sell Cheese Burgers Rare?), students now need to have exposure to dividing a variety of ways, especially those based on place value.

We have been working on long division for four weeks.  In the beginning, I'm sure my students thought I was trying to torture them.  Complaints and whining ("This is hard...") brought about my need to introduce the word "yet" into our classroom vocabulary.  (See this post for more information on how the word "yet" transformed our thinking.)

Every day was painful...for all of us.

Being a writing person, I decided it would be a good idea to have my students get their worries and concerns down on paper so we could discuss and address them.  I had them write me a letter telling me:
     1.  What they knew about division.
     2.  What their concerns, confusions and worries were in regards to division.
     3. Anything else they wanted me to know about their thoughts about division.

I collected these letters and kept them in their writing Treasure Chests.

Fast forward three weeks...Lots of practice, lots of collaboration, lots of reassurance, lots of perseverance, lots of the word "yet."

We are now getting ready to take our division test.  The mood and attitude toward division has changed DRAMATICALLY in my classroom.  There is confidence and composure and dare I say it -- excitement -- for division.

Today I had the students write me another letter telling me:
     1.  What they knew about division.
     2.  What their concerns, confusions and worries were in regards to division.
     3.  If they felt they were ready for the test, giving evidence to support their thinking.

Here are a sample of their letters.  Each picture shows the before and after letters for the same students:

Reading their "after" letters today brought me such joy!  There was a definite change in the tone of the letters.

I shared the before and after letters with the students and we talked about why there was a difference in the letters.  They told me that perseverance, patience, and hard work helped them understand.

One of the best parts of these letters is that now my students have them as a part of their memory.  The next time we do something hard in class (say...fractions), we can recall the before and after letters of division as proof that we WILL make it through, as long as we work hard and understand that even though we may not get it "yet," we WILL.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Believe You Can Succeed

This year, a new word has become a major part of our vocabulary in my 4th grade classroom.

It's a simple word, really, but it hold so much power.

The word?
One tiny, three letter word has made all the difference.

"I don't get it" becomes "I don't get it...yet."

"I'm not finished...yet."

"I can't figure it out...yet."

"I can't do it...yet."

Adding the word "yet" to the end of these sentences establishes a growth mindset for my young learners.  "Yet" tells the student that with hard work and perseverance, they can succeed. It puts them in control. It encourages them to keep going, that learning something new is within reach, that hard work can pay off.

Before, students would say "I don't get it" (my favorite), giving themselves permission to avoid hard work.  When I began introducing the word "yet", students would need a few reminders to add it on.  Now, it is a natural part of our classroom conversation.

A funny story...Last week, I was helping a student with a long division problem.  I had been working with this student almost every day to help him learn how to divide, but he just wasn't catching on.  He was having much difficulty and was trying to explain to me where he was having trouble.  He explained his thinking as he pointed to the digits in the division problem, but I was becoming more and more confused at what he was trying to do.  I said, "I'm sorry...but I don't understand you."  He responded, "Mrs. Laffin, you don't understand me...yet." me a taste of my own medicine.  :)

Try introducing the word "yet" in your classroom and see what happens.  I'd love to hear how it goes!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Moving for Math

At the beginning of every school year, I always ask my students to share their concerns for the upcoming year.  Without a doubt, many students share that they are worried about fourth grade math.
Logic problems are your foreign language. | 23 Things People Who Can't Do #Math Understand  :D #lol
Perhaps this is because they have struggled with a math concept in the past, they don't have automatic recall of their math facts, or they have an older brother or sister who has scared them about how difficult it is to do long division and add fractions. (That never happens, I'm sure....)

To help change this feeling,  I am trying to put a fun twist on math time that can serve as a good transition activity and brain break as well.

Now, we begin each math class with by Moving for Math!

What is Moving for Math?

It is a short (3ish minutes) of stretching, breathing, and cardio.

We always begin by stretching out:

We stretch our arms, our wrists, our legs...

Then after a good stretch, we hit the cardio to help get some fresh oxygen to our brains and activate more thinking. Usually, this consists of jumping jacks or running in place.  If we do jumping jacks, we count off by multiples of a certain number (to work in a little extra math :).

After a few minutes (once everyone is thoroughly woken up and ready to think), we take a few deep breaths to re-center ourselves.  

Then...we are ready for math.

Moving for Math is fun brain break and a good way to incorporate more movement into our day.  If we are in a rush or I forget about it, the students are quick to complain or remind me.  They have made this short time for exercise a part of our math routine that they rely on.

What I really love is that it starts us out with a positive mindset toward math (especially if we are working on a concept that is new or difficult...long division!)

I find this activity to be a great way to motivate my students for math. I'm linking up with my friend Joanne's Spark Student Motivation linky.  I hope you'll head over to Joanne's blog to find other great ways to motivate your students!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Twelve is the Magic Number & Positive Thinking Thursday {12-04-14}

Happy Thursday, everyone!  I'm so glad you stopped by today.  I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!

Before I get to this week's positive thought, I wanted to share a very quick, easy & fun writing activity that you can do today -- The Twelve Word Poem.

Why do you need to do it TODAY?  Because December is the 12th month and there are 12 days of school left before winter break.  (Really, you could do this any time, I just thought it would be fun to try to make as many connections as possible!)

Here are the guidelines:

  • Your poem can only have twelve words.
  • It must be about December.
  • It must make sense.

That's it!

Here is the poem my students and I wrote together to get warmed up:
It's hard to see, but I wrote twelve lines on the board so we were sure to only use twelve words.

We have been studying a mentor poem each week, so the students thought it would be a good idea to put in some line breaks for emphasis:

After they wrote their poem, they typed them up, added a graphic if they wanted, and printed them out for their writing treasure chests.  Here are a few of their poems:

This was a great quick writing activity that even reluctant writers enjoyed because they only had to come up with twelve words.  I hope you will give it a try today!  (I'd love to hear how it goes if you do!)

And now for this week's Positive Thinking Thursday thought:
Life is crazy, crazy, crazy, isn't it?  I hope you will take a few minutes to stop and take in the beauty that surrounds you today and every day.

Wishing you an amazing day!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Currently December...FaLaLaLaWhat???

Holy moley, the calendar says it's December!  How did that happen???

A new month means it's time to link up with the wonderful Farley for Currently...The best part of turning the calendar page!
Listening:  Rosie is sleeping. (She's always sleeping)  And she snores....loudly.  (But it's cute!)

Loving:  I really don't like winter, but I sure love a cozy sweater!

Thinking:  Just coming off a short two day vacation last week, the two week vacation that is looming on the horizon is oh-so-tempting.  Fourteen more days, fourteen more days...we can do this!

Wanting: I love decorating Christmas cookies.  I love them so much that very few of them actually survive until Christmas...yum!

Needing:  I have a package that I need to mail to our former exchange student in France.  My goal is to get that baby to the post office THIS week so she has it in time for Christmas.

Giving:  Practicing those Random Acts of Kindness every day!

What are you CURRENTLY up to?  Head on over to Farley's blog and share!

Hope to see you back here on Thursday for my Positive Thinking Thursday linky party.  Have a great week!