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!