Friday, April 19, 2013

And what a week it was!

It's Friday and time to reflect back on a week that included state testing....what is it about testing that feels more exhausting than teaching?  But it's finished, and I think my students gave it their best shot.  And there's nothing else that needs to be said.

It really does my heart good that, given a break in testing and a chance to relax (before we went outside and ran around.  Thank you weather for cooperating!) these kids just wanted to play with the tub of Legos that I'd brought in.  

When I first looked at these books, I got a little frustrated.  How could they get so abused?  And then I had one of those "hit-yourself-in-the-forehead" DUH moments.  They're not abused; they're well loved!  These are some of the books that my students read the most.  Like a well-worn blanket or teddy bear these books have been special in a number of 6th graders' lives.

Okay, true confessions.  It feels a little like Christmas every time a box of books arrives from Scholastic.  I just love buying books for my classroom library that will jump off the shelves.  I make a big deal out of new books, and by the end of my three Reading classes (they have to wait until all classes have seen the books) most of the books are usually gone.  Nothing makes a Reading teacher happier than seeing her kids excited about reading!
I have this thing about trying to grow things.  Not the normal, everyday stuff, but more unusual things.  So I have a huge grapefruit tree that I started from seed and a fig tree that I ate my first figs from last year (Yum!) This might not be a big deal to some of you in warmer climates, but up here in Pennsylvania, I think it's pretty darn wonderful.  So, what are these?  

Well, when kids and I get talking over the course of the year about growing things, they want to know if they can bring in seeds to plant.  They just don't quite believe that you can grow ALMOST anything from seed.  On the left is the beginnings of a date palm tree and on the right is a cotton plant.  The kids think it's pretty cool.  And truth be told, so do I!
Yeah.  Just picked the first two asparagus spears for this year from our garden.  Nothing says springtime like asparagus.  YUM!  Most of the time they never make it to the kitchen - I just pick and eat!

What's your week been like?  I hope it was a good one, and that the stresses of testing-behind or ahead- don't cover up all the good you're doing with your students!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Four down!

Just a quick post to say that I finally finished the last novel study packet that my one group of students are working with.  I think I mentioned that this class needs a little more structure than some of my other ones, and they seem to like having a packet to work through together, rather than having to come up with discussion questions on their own.

So, here's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to accompany novel study guides for The Fear Place, Bud, Not Buddy, and Among the Hidden.  Take a look at it on Teacher's Notebook:
 or TpT:

For those of you testing this week, here's hoping your kids are still staying the course.
Have a great Wednesday!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Five for Friday, or maybe Saturday

     It's Saturday, but I'm okay with that.  It's been that kind of week.  Reading other blogs, it seems like a lot of teachers feel that shorter weeks somehow take it out of you more than longer ones do.  Why is that?

(These cute numbers are from

It was hard to get up this week.  Plain and simple.  Just didn't feel like doing it.  I get up a couple of mornings a week and go for a run.  Didn't happen this week.  Not once.

While I'm whining....Do all of you have Spring breaks?  One teacher commented that they had a week off in February and now another one in April.  And I'm thinking, WHAAAAT?  Now, I might not feel so excited when June rolls around and I've got to teach well into it, but I could really use a break about now.  We were supposed to have six days off at Easter, but two of them were scheduled as snow make-up days, and although we didn't have much snow to speak of this year, we did have a hurricane blow through in the Fall.  But boy oh boy, I think all kids and teachers need a break around the end of winter.  All this napping that I'm reading about sounds good!

Yeah, I forgot to take the AFTER picture.  But this pile of dodecahedrons that was waiting to be graded got finished a few weeks ago, and they're all hanging up in the hallway.  It looks mighty cool!  Thank you Mr. Hughes for a fun way to get kids to respond to what they're reading.

Yesterday, my son came home from college so that he could run in a half-marathon this morning.  Now it makes me prouder than proud that this kid loves to run distances like that.  I'm always amazed at the number of people and generations that are represented at these races.  Now, lest you think running has been in my blood, forget that!  I started running in my twenties as a way to reduce stress.  I've never been very fast or very good.  But I enjoy it, and it keep me healthy, mentally and physically.  When I run, we're talking two miles.  Maybe three.  But this kid LIKES running mile after mile.  I'm impressed!  Enough to take a picture?  Nope!  Missed him leaving and coming back!  So here's one from his last year in high school.  Had to be pretty early in the Fall - look at those white legs where the sun didn't shine!

I have a student who's really been pushing my buttons.  He knows it and I do, too.  And I think he really enjoys it.  I can deal with lots of behaviors in my classroom, but passive-aggressive behavior really stumps me.  Any suggestions out there for a kid who stands when I tell the class to sit, goes to his locker when I tell kids to come in to homeroom, that kind of stuff?

Well, rereading this - this hasn't been the happiest posting.  But that's okay.  Teaching is learning, and in many ways, forgiving.  I know that when I come into school on Monday, there'll be a fresh slate to start on.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll remember to take a few pictures along the way!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Downton Abbey, Easter, and Novel studies

   The days have been flying by here and although I've hardly been on this blog, I have been reading lots of other teachers' blogs.  Mostly reading about what people did or hoped to do on their Spring breaks.  And I started to feel a little badly for myself, wondering if I was in the only district that doesn't have a break.  And boy, honestly, I could have used one!

     And then came Easter. And with it a (shortened) break of Friday and Monday.  But that was good.  We hosted some of my family on Saturday and then relaxed a lot the other days.  And that included talking out two daughters into watching Downton Abbey with us.

     You see, I'm a latecomer to this show.  But now I've got all three seasons on DVD, borrowed from a friend from church.  And my husband and I have been watching it, bit by bit.   Bit by bit isn't how my daughters watch movies.  Full immersion is more like it!  So they caught up to us, and then we watched some more episodes together.  What fun!

     In between all of that, I was working on some novel studies for some Lit Circle groups I'm doing.  I run my Lit Circles differently each year, but with one of my classes this year, I felt a need to create something a little more structured.  These kids are not the strongest readers, and so they don't always know what questions to come up with, or how to get a good discussion going, despite some modeling.  So I created packets for them to work through together, hoping that doing that would generate some discussion.

     The packets are filled with graphic organizers that the students work on together to make connections, determine setting and mood, summarize, discover cause and effect, character traits, predict, and more.

     So far, so good!  The kids seem to like working together on them and they're enjoying the novels they're reading.  I still need to finish one for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I promised that group that they'd have the second half of their packet on Friday!  So what am I doing?  Yup, blogging about how I need to get to work on it!

All three of these novel studies are available at my TpT and TN stores.  Just grab the links to my stores from the top of my blog (my stores aren't that large yet, so these products aren't hard to find!)  Let me know what you think.  Follow me on TpT or TN and you'll make my day!  And if you think there's a place for one of these in your classroom, talk nicely to me and I'll send you one!

Have a great rest of the week!