Saturday, September 14, 2013

Organization Crisis

We've made it through week 3 here in North Carolina! It's been an interesting few weeks that is for sure!

As all teachers do, I found myself at school this summer setting my room up so that it was just the way I wanted! Well, what I thought was the way I wanted. 

On Thursday, I found myself in the middle of a classroom organization crisis! I couldn't handle anything anymore! I had gotten rid of my teacher desk because it was HUGE and was missing the storage. I have started using Math Workshop to teach math and felt like my room just wasn't set up for it! I was OVER IT!

Here is a glimpse at my classroom at the beginning of the week:

Walking in the door.

My front table - students turn in papers here!

My back corner, 2 bookshelves overflowing with books! The blank board is filled with pushpins for students to hang up their own work.

Let's be real here, this is ridiculous!

 Enter crisis here:

I went to Walmart and The Dollar Tree to stock up on all types of plastic.
It was meant to be! On sale for $6!

I'm not quite through the chaos of reorganizing, but here are some pictures of what is going on right now. 
The new front! Look how much more room we have to line up! I need to redo my bulletin boards, but that will be Monday morning's task. 

Back corner - much better!
And those fabulous purple drawers? One for each table!
Each is labeled with their table numbers - look at the clear table tops!
Here's what they are filled with:
Top Drawer: 

Middle Drawer: 
We do Spiral Review at the beginning of each math class. They get torn to pieces if the children keep them, so here they are safe and sound!
Each class' books get kept together.
Next week, drawer 3 will have rulers, calculators, and anything else I can think of. 

I'll keep you updated on my progress. What tips do you have for me?! 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Math Workshop!

I am super excited to use math workshop this year! I've read so many blog posts on it and heard you all talk about it, so now I'm putting it into action. I wanted a little extra guidance as I was thinking about my year, so I bought the book:

This was great! I could finally get a picture of what I was planning on doing. Now, we all know that plans almost never work out exactly as we wanted. So here is my flexible plan of what I am going to do:

My groups will be created based on pretests and Moby Max (which is fantastic). 
1. High
2. Medium
3. Low


1. With me: Working in small group with me either on enrichment, intervention, or grade level.

2. Independent/Partner Work: On the topic of the day - we've purchased some fantastic tasks from TPT!

3. Choice: Okay, here's were it seems a little tricky. Students have 3-5 tasks that they MUST DO by Friday. Once those tasks are complete, they have tasks that they MAY DO.
For example: 
MUST DO: Journal Entry, Moby Math for 20 minutes, Task Cards, Vocabulary work.
MAY DO: Multiplication War, Flashcards, Extra time on Moby (once the whole group has been on), and other math games. 


We are so incredibly lucky this year to have 80 minutes for our math blocks! I don't even know what to do with all of that time! 

10 minutes - check homework (~ 5 problems), mini-lesson
20 minutes - Rotation 1
20 minutes - Rotation 2
20 minutes - Rotation 3
10 minutes - whole group discussion/check over independent work


Last week, for the 1st week of school, we practiced with different games. We went through expectations of playing games and working independently. This week, we will go over each station's expectations and then start rotating hopefully!

What suggestions do you have for me?! I'm DYING to hear how it works in other classrooms, especially the upper grades. Any hints you have are welcomed!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Happy Back to School!

AHHH! School starts tomorrow! In celebration, my TeachersPayTeachers Store is throwing a sale! From August 18 - August 21, all items in my store are 10% off. In addition, use promo code BTS13 for an additional percentage off.

If you've already started school, I hope you have a class of angels. If you're just getting started, good luck and have fun!

Friday, August 16, 2013

And the Award for Worst Blogger Goes To:

ME! Sorry I've been MIA recently!

I have finally learned what "summer vacation" truly means. After spending a couple of days at a workshop in Charlotte, I flew home for some quality family time. The first night at home, I slept in until 12! What a beautiful thing! Then, my friend Rachel came to visit me and her friend Holden the turtle. Go check her blog out, I'm sure she'll be telling all about little Holden Undercover Diva: A Sitcom.

Part I: All Work and No (okay, a little) Play

The workshop in Charlotte I attended was fantastic! I and another member of my team were chosen to pilot a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program for the next 2 years. It was overwhelming the first 2 days. We were busy worrying about when the heck we would teach an additional Science unit in our already packed schedule. I absolutely cannot wait to see the kids work together on these projects! I really think that we can use this to push our students to the higher levels of thinking.

We were quite challenged by some of our projects. We had to test and rebuild A LOT. Perhaps I should have taken up engineering earlier in my life. Unfortunately, I upgraded to a new phone and can't get my picture off of my first one. I'm stealing a couple from my teammate:

Environmental Engineering: Here we learned about oil spills. We had to create a boom in order to contain the oil spill. The next project in the sequence is creating a boom and then cleaning up the spill. Very cool to see the progression in learning.

Package Engineering: Our task was to create a package for a living flower to stay in overnight. We had to create a water source for our flower to survive in.
I cannot wait to see my students work together and be challenged by these projects! It will be great!

Part II: All Play and No Work

I got to hang out with my gorgeous niece and nephew! They're getting ready to start 1st grade, I can't believe it! I loved being home and surrounded by family. Nothing's better than Momma's home cooking.

Part III: All Play and a Little Work

With Rachel here, I got to pretend like I was still on vacation! We spent a day on the beach and a day shopping. What could be better?

Now that my supercharged vacation is over, I guess it's time for me to start preparing for school! Monday is coming fast and so is a panic attack!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Shameless Plug - Science Daily

I am so excited for the next two weeks! On Monday, I am off to Charlotte to participate in the E4 STEM pilot program! Then, I'll be heading back home to Maryland for some quality family time before school starts. FINALLY, a summer vacation.

Before I go, I am really excited about my newest products in TPT! Check them out!

About halfway through last year, I started to really struggle with one of my Science classes. We have Science right after recess. By nature, it takes them a little while to cool down and relax. On top of that it was a rowdier class than the other. I was struggling getting the group to settle down and we ended up wasting quite a bit of time.

That was when I decided I needed some type of "bell work" for them to do when they walked in the door. Well, I searched and searched Google, TPT, and TN and found NOTHING that would fit my needs/wants! I already was using a spiral review in my math class which worked amazingly. I knew that that was what I wanted.

So, I created: Science Daily!
                                                   Science Daily - Weather               Science Daily - Matter and Heat

I finally created it, but by the time I had it created we were about a month out from state testing. So, instead of as bell work, we used it as review work! Really, this helped me to see how much review we really needed to do. Next year, it will be great to have that review/assessment happening daily.

So far, I have Cells and Body Systems, Matter and Heat, and Weather available and ready to go! Force & Motion and Ecosystems are on their way, as soon as I can get the Answer keys finished. :)

Topics covered include:
Cells and Body Systems:
- Plants vs. Animal Cells
- Cell Organelles and Functions
- Body Systems (Muscular, Digestive, Nervous, Circulatory, Respiratory, Skeletal) and their functions.
- Interaction of body systems
- Unicellular vs. Multicellular

- Meteorologist Instruments
- Air Currents and Ocean Currents
- High Pressure and Low Pressure Systems
- Warm, Cold, Stationary, and Occluded Fronts
- Types of clouds and the weather they bring
- Global Winds
- Hurricanes
- Climate vs. Weather
- Land Breeze vs. Sea Breeze

Matter and Heat:
- States of Matter
- Physical/Chemical Changes
- Physical/Chemical Properties
- Evaporation, Condensation, Melting, Freezing
- Weight vs. Mass
- Conduction, Radiation, Convection

See you in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

North Carolina Problems

I am probably about to break the biggest rule about blogging and I'm really sorry about it. It's about to get political. If you want to stop reading now, here is your chance.

I am hoping that my fellow North Carolina teachers know all about this already. Our State Senators and Representatives have just passed a new budget. According to the NCAE (North Carolina Association of Educators) here are the things we all need to know about this budget's effects on education:

"TOP 10 Things Every Educator Should Know About the Budget

1. Eliminates 9,306.5 education positions -- 5,184.5 teachers, 3,850 teacher assistants, and 272 Support Personnel (guidance counselors, psychologist, etc.).
2. Provides NO pay increases for educators, continuing North Carolina’s race to the bottom of national salaries. In 2007-08 North Carolina was ranked 25th in the nation in teacher pay, last year our state was 46th. With no additional pay, next year North Carolina undoubtedly will be at the bottom.
3. While gutting public schools and educators, the legislature adopted a $50 million school voucher program ($10 million 2013-14, $40 million in 2014-15).
4. The North Carolina Budget eliminates career status for all teachers. Senate legislation, that received no public hearings in the House, was placed in the budget to eliminate career status for teachers. The new standard requires each school district to identify the top 25% of effective teachers without providing any criteria on how to accomplish this ranking of professionals. Teachers will be placed on a 1, 2, or 4 year contract. The top 25% will be given the option of receiving $500 to compensate them for the loss of due process rights. NOTE: the new system will be phased in over the course of the next five years.
5. North Carolina no longer values educators who work on their continuing education through Masters or Doctorate level degrees. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, educators will receive no additional pay for additional degrees unless your job requires (counselors, school psychologists, etc.)
6. Grades Schools (A-F), 80% based on standardized test scores, 20% based on growth. No other variables will be considered in this grading.
7. Eliminates the Teaching Fellows Program, once viewed as a national model for recruiting teachers into the classroom, the program is no longer funded.
8. Reduces targeted education funding:
• Cuts Textbook funding by $77.4 million dollars;
• Cuts Classroom supply funding by $45.7 million dollars;
• Cuts Limited English Proficiency funding by $6 million dollars.
9. Retired educators will receive NO Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA).
10. The General Assembly will be back next year."

My Thoughts and Concerns: 
1. 5,184 teaching positions eliminated. Say that classes are around 20 students each, this leaves 103,680 students without a teacher. (Oh, by the way, the budget also lifts the cap on class sizes so we will probably see that number dramatically increase).

2. No, no teacher went into the business for the money. However, we all need to be able to survive. As a first (now a second) year teacher, I make the least amount. It was in my plan to start graduate school this fall. This goal became impractical due to my budget (and now, this budget see #5).

3. Instead of investing in our public schools, it seems that the legislators have given up. Instead, we citizens are now supporting private businesses with the voucher program. This voucher program has failed on both the federal (DC Public Schools) and state (Indiana) level previously.

4. Performance based pay to be based on student achievement on standardized tests.

5. From Phil Berger's Chief of Staff "Graduate degrees have little to no effect on student achievement." At a time when other states are paying for teachers to go and receive advanced degrees, our representatives are telling us they do not matter.

6. 80% on standardized test scores, 20% on growth?! THIS IS RIDICULOUS. Students are students, not test scores. If I have a 5th grader that enters my classroom on a 3rd grade level and by the end of the year, that student is on a 4th grade level, isn't that a great achievement?!

7. With no Teaching Fellows Program and the lowest pay in the nation, what will North Carolina have to recruit the best teachers?

8. The saddest part about this is I entered my 5th grade classroom this year and was given a set of science books which were published in 2000. Let me put that in perspective for you, I was in 5th grade in 2000. I barely touched those books this year and I know that the movement is away from the use of textbooks. However, it would have been great to have something to base my curriculum off of.

9. Let's just hope that the cost of living doesn't change. Ever.

So what is my point? 
- If you are in North Carolina, please try to attend Moral Monday in Raleigh on 7/29.

- Contact Governor McCrory:
PENC has a form letter here:
OR e-mail/call

- Follow the NCAE for updates:

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Guest Blogger: Top 5 Reasons to Hire a First Year Teacher

Hi! It's Meredith from Diary of a First Year Teacher.  For those of you who don't know me, I just finished up my first year as a second grade general education teacher in New York City.  I am beginning next year on a new adventure of a 3rd grade special education teacher.  Same school, new position.  I am so excited to be swapping posts with Liz. We both finished our first year this year, and we are ready to dispel some myths about first year teachers!!

There are a million posts out there that talk all about the mistakes first year teachers make.  I promise you, this post is not to say that I didn't make my share of mistakes.  I definitely did.  But, I can also promise you there is a lot that first year teachers do right.  When I was looking for jobs, no one would hire a first year teacher.  "We are looking for someone with more experience" was the common line.  UMMM... how am I supposed to get experience if no one will hire me I griped.  I knew I had a lot to offer.  Here are my top five reasons why you should take a chance on a first year teacher:

1.  They have the energy and the drive to learn.  
I found my school, and my director was willing to take a chance on me.  I am so grateful to him for the opportunity.  He recognized that I was young, but I was smart and driven.  He knew I had a bright future.  He said to me this year that he hired me because I was smart and had the energy to turn that into  the skills of a great teacher.  I was ready, and I was going to prove to him that I could be a great teacher.  

2.  They are a blank slate
My school LOVES PD.  We have a bajillion hours of PD.  We have a full-time PD staff.  One for writing, ELA and math.   As a grade team, we have a weekly PD lunch meeting.  They each come on on a rotating basis, so we see them each once every three weeks.  First year teachers (or anyone new to the school) were given even more than that.  I was a blank slate.  I came in with no biases.  I was willing to learn and work with PD. PD helped me to set up my classroom in the way that I wanted, but with their goals as a school in mind.  Which leads me to number 3:

3.  They are willing to ask for help.
There is no "closed door" policy or pride with a first year teacher.  We need help!  If a school provides a mentor or support, we are ready to improve!  I improved so quickly because I would ask PD to support me in my lesson planning.  I went to the school psychologist to ask for tips about a student.  I know there are a lot of veteran teachers that do this, too.  If both the veteran teachers and new teachers can collaborate, think of the successful classrooms we could run!! 

4.  They are dedicated.
It is simple.  We know we are going to have to spend a million hours in our classrooms.  We are willing to spend that time.  No shortcuts. 

5.  They are tech-savvy.
Okay, I admit, there are many veteran teachers and bloggers on here that are WAY WAY WAY better at technology than I am.  However, I have heard a lot of complaints that the teachers in my school who have been doing this for 25 years don't use technology effectively.  The parents in my school are young.  Our kids are tech-savvy.  My teaching methods didn't need to evolve with technology, they started that way.

And a bonus:  they love teaching!!! 
No, that is not exclusive to first year teachers, but it is worth mentioning.  Teaching is what I want to do.  My passion shows.  

My advice to hiring teams:  hire that first year teacher.  Take a chance on them.  I know you will be surprised by how great they are.  

Stop by my blog to check out Liz's post and see my journey as a first year teacher!
Diary of a First Year Teacher

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Monday, July 15, 2013

The Importance of Word Form

In case you need to explain to your students why writing numbers in expanded form is important:
Sometimes you just need....

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Super Long (and overdue) Post - Liebster Award

So, I accidentally took two weeks off of blogging. Sorry! However, I was super excited when I logged back in today and saw that I was nominated for an award. WHAT? Lindsay at Just Keep Teaching has nominated me for the Liebster Award. In the middle of writing this post, I found out that Melanie from Finding the Joy has nominated me too! Aren't they awesome?

The Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers with less than 200 followers (I qualify with my lovely 30 :)) The award is given to recognize new blogs and welcome them to the blogging community. The word "Liebster" is German for sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant valued, and welcome.

So the rules:
I must: 
1. Link back to the blog that nominated me.
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers.
3. Answer the questions posted for you by your nominator.
4. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
5. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
6. Contact your nominees and let them know you nominated them.  

Step 1: First of all, thank you so much to Lindsay at Just Keep Teaching! She is getting ready to start her first year teaching and has a super cute blog! I am so excited to follow her and see her first year! Thank you so much to Melanie at Finding The Joy too! She's got fantastic posts with amazing information! 

Step 2: Okay, here are my nominations:
My Photo


 photo c2573f27-f3ce-4e19-a53f-cfd23c74edca_zpsb2c699c8.jpg

Step 3: Let's start with Lindsay's Questions:

1. What is your most fond experience in the classroom?
On my last day of student teaching, I was walking back from bus duty. A kid I had worked hard with all semester and who had struggles jumped up to give me a hug. He was one of those kids who you never knew how much was getting into his brain and he never showed emotion other than meltdowns. I'm not doing the story any justice but his story could be a whole blog full of posts. Regardless, it was an amazing way to end my student teaching. 

2. What lesson do you think made the biggest impact on your students?
This one is really hard. Honestly, I hope that the biggest impact was being kind to one another. 

3. Do you speak any languages? If so, which ones?
Does gibberish count? No, okay then how about 5th grader-ese?  I speak both of those.

4. Do you own any animals (furkids!)? If so, tell about them!
I WISH! I want a puppy brother so bad!

5. If you could choose one item for your classroom to be donated, what would it be and why?
I can only choose one thing? Does a class set count as one whole? I would love a class set of laptops!

6. How would you describe your teaching style?
Relaxed, open, high expectations, challenging, goofy, RIDICULOUS. 

7. How many years have you been teaching? If you are a newbie-where do you see yourself in ten years?
I'm a newbie! Well I finished my 1st year, so I guess I'm slowly being kicked out of the newbie club. In ten years, I hope to have a masters in (insert something to do with education here). 

8. Name your top five books that EVERY classroom should own - GO!
- Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
- The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Sczieska
- Hoot by Carl Haissen
- The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Sczieska
- And for us teachers... Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne

9. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you pick and why? 

I would live by the beach, surrounded by my family. It's hard with them 7 hours away!

10. What is your favorite memory of your childhood or your favorite teacher?
   My 3rd and 5th grade teachers are my favorites and stand out the most. Ms. Manos and Ms. Porter. In fact, after I got hired in 5th grade, Ms. Porter sent me crates full of books for my classroom and kids. Awesome!

11. What is your favorite resource that you've ever used for teaching purposes?
I love love love Moby Math - its a great online program that was just expanded to include reading and grammar. Best part: my kids love it too!

Now for Melanie's questions: 
1. If you weren't a teacher, what would you be?
  This is tough since I've wanted to be a teacher since I was little. I probably would go to Grad school for Higher Education and work in university student activities. 

2. What is your favorite thing about your classroom?
I  I love my wall of storage! It hides my clutter. :)

3. What do you like least about your classroom?
   I wish I had wall space, all 4 of my walls are taken up by cubbies, storage, or whiteboard.

4. What are you currently reading?
  Playing for Pizza by John Grisham

5. How long have you been blogging?
  6 months. I'm a rookie :)

6. Pets?
  Nope :(

7. What school supply can't you live without?
   Hmmm, I'm going to go with erasers! We make plenty of mistakes in 5th grade. :)

8. What is your dream vacation destination?
Bora-Bora-Resort-Society-Islands-French-Polynesia-  Bora Bora! It always looks absolutely beautiful on Pinterest! 

9. What's on your summer bucket list?
  To do as little work as possible and as much relaxing as possible. 

10. What is your "go to" blog?
I I have 3 I constantly keep track of: Teaching is a Gift Young Teacher Love, Joy in the Journey 

11. Favorite snack?
   Chips and salsa

Step 4: 11 Random Facts (This is starting to eerily look like an old-school Facebook note):
1. Pickles are the grossest food I've ever seen in my life. 
2. I'm a huge nerd. I read every night.
3. I am a die hard DC sports fan. I am obsessed with the Redskins and Nationals. 
4. I am way to stubborn for my own good.
5. I hate shoes. I wish I could live barefoot or in flip flops.
6. I am absolutely in love with my Alma Mater - Coastal Carolina University. While others were counting the number of days until we got out, I was sad about leaving. There is no better place in the world!
7. My favorite color is lime green.
8. I'm a chicken. No really, I hate heights, fast things, scary movies, and mascots!
9. I usually forget that I don't like mascots until I'm within 5 feet of them. They just look so stinking cute from far away!
10. I cannot survive without my morning coffee. 
11. I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

Nominees Questions:
1. Why did you start blogging?
2. If you were President of the United States, what would be the first thing you would do?
3. 10 years ago, did you think you'd be where you are today? If not, where did you think you'd be?
4. What are you currently reading?
5. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
6. What is your most listened to song?
7. Who is your celebrity crush?
8. What is your guilty pleasure food?
9. Where are you originally from?
10. Who do you admire most?
11. What is your blogging niche? 

WHEWWWW! I'm finished! That was long, but fun to write! 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The REAL Phases of a First Year Teacher

Phases of First Year Teachers
We've all seen that graph. You know, the one that tells us about the roller coaster first year of teaching. I'll admit, I read (okay, skimmed) a couple of articles all about my imminent disillusionment phase before I started. It all sounded fine and dandy with the scientific and professional jargon, but let me break this thing down for us and tell you what it's really like.

May: "WOO HOO! I graduated! I'm going to change the world" (after this summer of CONSTANT FUN of course).
Am I the only one that this happened to? Don't worry, my friends took care of me and yelled out my name correctly. :)
Summer: Pinterest Pinning Spree - "I'm going to have such a cute classroom. I have all of these great ideas for about 7 different grades, but I really, really want to be in ____ grade." Actively applying to every single job that is posted and taking every interview that is offered to me.

Later in the Summer: "WOO HOO! I have a job! I've got a million things on my To Do list, but I am so excited to do great things. I'm going to change the world!"
No, no I AM going to change the world.
August-November: "Oh crap, what did I get myself into?" This begins the constant state of anxiety. There is no time for ANYTHING! You wake up early, go to work, come home, do work, go to sleep (maybe) and repeat. Wait, did you remember to eat dinner? (Not always).


Thanksgiving Break: THE REVIVAL - Something about that turkey and stuffing gives a burst of delightful rejuvenation.

Post Thanksgiving: "Okay, I'm doing alright. I haven't lost or seriously injured any children yet (hopefully). I can make it through the next few weeks! It'll be great, I've got fantastic ideas for engaging my kids until break!"

Winter Break: It's a miracle, we made it! 2 weeks of pure, relaxing bliss!
              Week 1: "I'm not even going to think about school. I'm just so happy to be home relaxing. I'm going      to sit on my couch and eat and drink and watch Ellen all day."

            Week 2: Lesson plans, grades, Pinterest ideas. Schoooool is coming!
January and February: Why do these two months exist? I'll tell you, to torture us! It becomes very questionable as to whether or not we'll make it through the year. Everyone is driving everyone crazy.
Only, this was a conversation that happened in my mind. 
March: SPRING BREAK! This has taken on a whole different meaning than what it meant last year in college. Catching up on sleep is WAY more important than going out.
If he says it's okay, then it's okay.
April - May: OH MY GOSH Standardized Tests are coming. Okay, okay, we'll review. No big deal. Until you realize your students are remembering NOTHING about ANYTHING. PANIC PANIC PANIC!

June: *Collective sigh* I made it. No students were seriously injured, lost, or harmed. We all made it through the year! If you're like me, you may even shed a few tears at the little stinkers leaving.

There you have it. The reality of teaching. If we're lucky, we get to start over again in a couple of months.