Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: New Family Member

We got a new dog last night! Adopted from a lab rescue group, my boys are HAPPY! What is new in your life?

Let the testing begin!

I am ready to walk around for two hours and watch the paint dry! My least favorite time of the year is here, testing!
It is time to do this. Time to let them shine.
Why though, does it have to be so boring?
I would much rather take a test than watch the kids take one. 140 minutes of proctoring is bound to wear a teacher out.
As much as I am dreading this, I must say, I am ready. They are ready to move on. Bring on that testing tub and those exciting directions!
My son takes his first state standardized test today too. All along he has been so nervous. At the start of the year he commented, "I won't pass, so at least I made it to 3rd grade." How sad is that statement?
He will be fine, if he doesn't psyche himself out. He has aced all the practice tests, and even if he doesn't believe it, he is smart.
It breaks my heart to hear these self-defeating statements, and to know that with all of these tests we are creating highly anxious kids!
To ease the stress, I will keep things positive and low key. Lots of praise is also on the agenda.
So here is to the start of testing, may the bubbles be clean, may the erasures be limited, and may everything go as planned!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Test Prep Centers

Two more days until state testing starts for our school.
Friday we received an encouraging report regarding our writing tests, but as I stressed to my students, proof that hard work pays off.
So, here I am cutting, laminating, and planning in an effort to help them solidify and review their learning. trying to maximize our time, yet maintain their interest.
So tomorrow afternoon, they will rotate through centers with sorting, matching, and reviewing content in math, language arts, social studies, and science. 
I know many of you have wrapped up your testing, hope all went well for you. Some of you are wrapping up to test this week, many wishes for a successful testing season. And for those of you still teaching, may your kids soak up your lessons like sponges!
Have a great week!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: April 23, 2014 Homework

Wordless Wednesday: Homework
 Linky Party with Sugar and Spice
Wordless, and a little heartbroken, over the stress and tears this sweet 4 year old showed while working on his Homework from Pre-K.
"Mama, writing the "e" is so hard!"

What do you do to ease the stress of homework?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tried It Tuesday Figurative Language, Go Noodle, Geography, & Math Errors

Test time means high stress, trying to review everything in time for the big exams, and crossing your fingers that they retain it all! 
I am linking up with Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper to share some things I have tried in my classroom to help with the review and keeping the kids using their noodles!

As we reviewed, I realized the kids were still struggling with the differences between metaphors, similes, and personification. This meant it was time to review, again. Thank goodness for Teachers Pay Teachers and the awesome resources available from amazing teachers.
First up, the Close Reading Figurative Language Stories packet by Lovin' Lit'

During small reading we discussed and analyzed the passages while identifying the different examples of figurative language. Some were a little more difficult to identify which meant they had to closely reread the text We had wonderful discussions as they hunted for their answers and defended their answers. They became enthusiastic figurative language detectives!

The passages were great for reinforcement of the need to reread passages 3 times closely! They were useful during small groups, as homework, and as an assessment. 

I learned a little extra about my students' prior knowledge, several did not know who Dorothy from Wizard the Oz was, and we had a discussion about Tom Cruise.
Here is a funny snippet of a group conversation for you. While reading Princess Penelope, a student said, "Who is this Penelope person? Is she the one who's nose grows?" Several students turned in awe, saying in unison, "That's Pinocchio!" 
This child is my constant reminder about the importance of giving kids a chance to ask questions about content. You cannot assume they know the connections mentioned and will at times get hung up on small details, missing the overall meaning of the text.
To help reinforce figurative language further, we also read Owl Moon and worked on the awesome Figurative Language page (freebie) created by jivey. This activity was a wonderful opportunity for us to review poetry in addition to reviewing similes, metaphors, and personification. 

Owl Moon is a great book to read aloud. It is full of figurative language, a nice example of a non-rhyming poem, and full of beautiful images. 
Image from: Cricket Magazine
This time of year is hectic and stressful. In order to maintain my sanity and the kids' ability to focus, I have been incorporating a lot of brain breaks. 
In the past I would pull up youtube videos that I previewed, but sometimes still had to deal with pop-ups that were not so kid-friendly. I was more than relieved to discover Go Noodle, designed for kids and teachers. I kept reading about it on many of my friends' blogs, today we tried it and are Go Noodle followers! 

You need to sign up for a free account but it was easy and the kids LOVED the videos! This will be our daily reward, our midday breaks, and the motivator to get us through our final 22 days! If you have not checked it out, you definitely need to! 
During indoor recess today, we danced, sang, and then calmed down with some belly breathing so we could use our Noodles to cram geography in to our minds. 
Speaking of geography, I need to brag about another awesome product I am a proud to own and use. 

Monster Wrangler Mike designed it for Georgia Performance Standards, and it is perfect! At one point I considered creating a product for these exact standards, but time slipped away from me. 
Needless to say, I was thrilled to discover this product, it answered my testing prayers! It supplements our book, and prepares the kids for the geography section of our state exam!
Monster Wrangler Mike also has some great Goofus products to help kids analyze common errors. 

The kids have to find the error, explain it, and solve it correctly. We used this in math the other day, and the kids loved it. 

I absolutely love the answer that this student provided for the error...
I had to add a little "LOL!" to match her humor. The best part is that she typically HATES math, yet this assignment helped her express her wit decreasing the dislike she typically expresses in class. 
It was a great twist to the typical problems and encouraged them to look for those traps that test writers set for the {impulsive} kids to fall in to. While discussing Goofus, they really started to understand why I keep saying, SLOW DOWN! 
What have you tried lately? If you are looking for something new to try out, check out the links on Fourth Grade Flipper's blog

Friday, April 18, 2014

Five for Friday: Post Spring Break

Phew! Made it through a full week post-break. Out break was so exciting that I was exhausted when we returned, so making it through the week trying to motivate, inspire, and prepare for testing was quite a task!
I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from our trip....

If you read my post before break, I shared that his was a surprise trip to Disney. The boys lost patience with us about 15 minutes away from the park about our destination. They thought we were headed to Ohio. When my 4 year old pointed out Mickey on a billboard and said Disney, we confirmed that we were going there.
You would think the van would be full of screams of excitement. Nope, tears from the oldest two. We are probably the first parents to ever surprise the kids with a trip and have them cry. My 6 year old informed me that not telling the truth is lying. "Mom, you lied to us. I am mad at you for lying. Everyone told us Ohio was going to be fun, we want to go to Ohio."
I made it worse when I let them know that everyone telling them Ohio was fun was really talking about Disney, they were in on the secret. Ah, another lying lecture.
We laughed, yep, bad and mean parents.
My 4 year old was beyond excited and did not care about the "lies." He smiled and squealed in delight enough to make up for the tears from the older ones.
My kids are funny. They are super sensitive and do not always take changes easily. There are tears, door slamming, and sometimes anger appears when most would think they'd be happy. We are used to this and do not avoid changes or pushing them out of their comfort zone. And obviously push them to learn from experiences.
We explained our reasons for it being a surprise and my 9 year old let me know that if I had told him he would have been better prepared. Nope, he really would have driven me nuts with a billion questions.
The surprise meant they would have to go and enjoy without overanalyzing, overthinking, or worrying! It meant they would live in the moment and in the long run, it worked! Because my 6 and 9 year old did not hear about other people's experiences or warnings, they tried out rides that were scary and fun.
We all lived in the moment and tried new things! It was spectacular!
I have been teaching my favorite science unit, electricity! I love this science unit because it is all hands-on learning. This year, the kids have not persevered as much or been as enthusiastic, but I have pushed and they are learning a lot and definitely more than if they read about circuits from the book.

One day, they even worked through recess on electromagnets.

I loved watching the connections they made and their light bulbs light up!
We are knee-deep in test preparation. Ah, I am a nervous wreck. We have 7 school days until our first state test. Prepping, reviewing, and trying to motivate! Throwing in some games for review when we aren't building our stamina to sit and work independently for extended periods of time!

Fingers crossed!

Thank goodness for task cards and Scoot to get the kids moving, review lots of skills, and break up the monotony.

In math, we actually gave a quiz using task cards and Scoot, they worked really hard as they Scooted around the room. Who says you have to sit in one place to take a quiz?

Do you notice anything about this quiz? Yes, they answered every question incorrectly! Unfortunately the other quizzes did not look much better.
Why would they miss every question? Well, could it be because that is a ridiculous quiz? Yes, the answer is YES!
My classroom has had a student teacher this semester and it has been quite an educational experience for all parties involved!
This quiz resulted in a lesson of how to make a good assessment, as well as using the results to assess whether the manner in which instruction was presented was successful.
I have had to be very honest and it has been very difficult for me, tons of extra stress watching someone struggle to lead my class. This semester, I have been well outside my comfort zone in an effort to help guide the student teacher towards assessing their skills and future in education as well as  making sure that all of the instruction my kids needed was met while giving her a chance to try to teach.
I have learned again, not everyone is cut out for teaching.
Thank you for being the wonderful educators that you are, and always striving to grow and improve!

  Hope you have a fantastic Friday! Many wishes for a relaxing weekend!