Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's 4 a.m. Do you know where your ceiling is leaking?

That's right, bloggers... We had some thunderstorms that passed through about an hour ago (and I DO NOT like thunderstorms) that woke me up, and I kept hearing something that at first sounded like hail outside (which is quite possible).

So I got up and went to look out my living room deck doors...and felt something drip on my neck... and then saw that yes indeed, there was water dripping from my ceiling.  Went into panic mode, grabbed towels and my trusty bucket, and put it under the hole.

**SIDE NOTE** I'm no stranger to water mysteriously leaking into my living room.  At my previous apartment, any time that it rained, or snow melted, my AC unit would drip...no, often cascade... water into my living room.  FINALLY convinced that management to fix it one chilly February morning - which involved removing the whole AC unit, chipping away some of the brick from the building (because it had been installed with the incline draining INTO my apartment rather than down and AWAY from it) and then didn't have any more problems with it.

But anyway, back to my current leak.  Walked away from it for a moment, turned on some lights, and looked again...and noticed that a steady stream of drips was proceeding from a little hole.

This confused me, because the hole was not right next to the outside wall, it was a little further in...and I do not live on the top floor of my apartment building.  There is someone else's unit right above me.  How on earth could it possibly be dripping from where it was?

Went into panic mode x2, texted my mother, who actually called me right back (must have woken her up with my text, sorry mom...), eventually called the emergency line for my apartment complex, got told by an operator that they would contact the repair man, went back to look at the hole...

...and realized that that little hole was the least of my worries.  At least a foot by a foot patch of my ceiling was looking a little, well, bubbled out.  Touched it (where did that bravery come from?!) and it was soft...

Cue panic mode x3.  Waited in a nervous frenzy, repair man finally arrived (but no advance phone call, so that was a fun wait), strolled over to the ceiling, took some little tool and poked my ceiling, and caused a steadier stream to start flowing into a bigger bucket that he brought.

It actually JUST stopped it's steady flow, and he left like 10 minutes ago.  Blahhhhh.

So anyway, he will be back a little later, and I'm here, awake, babysitting the bucket, making sure Libby kitty doesn't get into mischief, and because I'm afraid to go back to sleep for fear of discovering more trouble.  So I leave you with this beautiful picture:

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday made-it!

I'm linking up today with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for her weekly Monday made-it!
This week I worked on my classroom rules display. I was inspired by a pin I found on pinterest of a teacher who had hung her rules vertically on ribbon, and was intrigued! I thought it would match my clip chart if I made mine in a similar fashion, so this is what I came up with! :)

Here's what the whole thing looks like.

And here are some close-ups.

And here are the files for my signs if they strike your fancy as well!  I printed them out on white cardstock, and then glued them to blue cardstock and laminated them.  Then I hot-glued them to the ribbon.  I love how they turned out!!

Another element of my Monday made-it is my new blog header and my new blog button!  I'm so excited with how they turned out, and think they look a lot more polished than my previous ones.  Hooray!

And FINALLY my most exciting Monday made-it item of all... a dress!!  I asked for a sewing machine for Christmas this past year from my parents, and have just finally started using it with a passion.  My mom has incredible sewing skills - she made just about all of my sisters' and my Halloween costumes growing up, and she made all of my homecoming and prom dresses.  I'd been hoping that I inherited some of her talent!  I finally found some really easy tutorials online of how to make some dresses without needing to use any patterns (basically just sewing the fabric to the top of a tank-top) and finally took the plunge and am so proud of how this dress turned out!! 

This is actually my second dress - the first one I made with a different fabric and a shorter length.

I knocked it out in a day - something around 9 hours altogether, with sizeable breaks between working on each part.  And I also added something that the online tutorial didn't call for - lining, since the bottom fabric is a really light color.  And I finished it!  I even wore it the next day to my friend's bridal shower, and got some compliments on it!  I can't wait to attempt other dresses and skirts - this was a huge confidence boost for me and my growing skills! :D

I'm hoping to be able to get into my classroom sometime this week to start the unpacking/decorating process, so cross your fingers for me, and stay tuned! 


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cranium club - with printables!

So I want to share with you today the idea that I discovered earlier this spring that has made me SO EXCITED to be moving to an upper elementary grade!! (Though I'm sure you younger-grade teachers can find a way to adapt this to your learners if you so choose!)  It's an idea called Cranium Club, or Mastery Club, or any other variation, depending on how the teacher decides to name it!

I stumbled across a few different versions on pinterest, including a version by Mrs. Renz and a version by Leslie at Jack of all Trades (and just now happened to stumble across a version by Amanda at Teaching Maddeness), and completely fell in love with the concept.  It's a standing answer to the "what can I do, I'm all finished?" question from those fast-finishers, which is something I'm always looking to find!

I was also drawn to this idea because it reminds me quite a bit of a similar ploy used by my 7th grade pre-algebra teacher.  She had special puzzles called "quizzles" that she offered for us to do...probably for extra credit or the like.  I just remember that she told me at the end of the year that I was the only student who completed all 50 of them! :)

Back to Cranium Club though...basically in a nutshell, students have a list of "challenges" that they can choose to complete - participation is entirely optional.  Students can choose any of the challenges to work on, in any order, and can do so on their own time - at home, recess, or if they finish work early.  They have to memorize their answer to the challenge (with the exception of a few challenges that require special recording sheets) and can give their answer to the teacher before or after school, during recess, or any other free moment during the day, at the teacher's discretion.

With my version, I decided to expand it to 100 questions instead of 80-odd questions.  100 just seems like a  more finished number, in my opinion!  In my version, if students complete 15 challenges, they become a Cranium Club member, and get to have their name added to the "Hall of Fame".  Completing 25 challenges earns them "silver member" status, and 50 complete challenges earns them "gold member" status, which I will mark by their name with stickers of that color.

Here are a few pictures of what I am using to implement it and keep track of student participation:

These were printed on cardstock and laminated - I'll display these on a cabinet or wall (I wish I knew what my classroom layout looks like!!).  One page lists the rules, then there are 5 pages with challenges divided by subject category, one title sign, and my hall of fame (super stars) sign

My cranium club materials share a binder with my classroom economy (which I will post about soon).  The first page I have is a list of all the challenges - same as on the posters, just condensed to one page!  I will copy this page and give it to my students so they have a reference of the challenges available to them.

Following the list of challenges, I have pages where I will mark which challenges each student has completed.

For some of the challenges, I created cheat-sheets with the answers (or a variety of possible answers, for more open-ended questions).  I keep these answers in the binder too in case I need a reference!

I'm taking my next big blogging step, and learning tonight how to link files directly to my site so that any of you who are interested can download them!  With this post, I'm attaching my page that has the rules, as well as a list of the 100 challenges that I have decided to incorporate.  They are based off challenges I saw used for a 4th grade class.  As I mentioned, I added a few extra to make it an even 100, and I also had to tweak them (changing some of the state-specific challenges, and I also changed one of the counting languages to Chinese instead of Spanish (because that would be way too easy for my kids!)

So...here ya go! Enjoy! (Please please please let the links work!!)

Since this is a new idea to me, I obviously haven't implemented it in a classroom yet!  Do any of you have experience with a similar "club" in your classroom?

Monday, July 23, 2012

My teacher story - linky party!

We all come to the classroom with a story. Some are similar to others while some are very distinctive. What's YOUR teacher story? How did you get to the classroom? Has it always been a lifelong dream or did you come after being in another profession?

My teacher story is pretty straightforward, but how I got into bilingual education is an interesting path.

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, ever since I was really young.  I loved all the teachers I had year after year, and knew that I wanted to follow in their footsteps.  I worked in a daycare as an afternoon/summer job in high school, and declared my education major as soon as I started college.  Well...I guess there was like ONE week in High School where I considered going into psychology (because I found that class fascinating) but even just IMAGINING not going into teaching left me with an unsettling feeling inside, so I quickly nixed that idea. :)

My journey toward becoming a bilingual/ESL teacher, however, is a little more interesting - mostly because it seemed that I tried resisting it every step of the way.  But for that story, I have to start with why I wanted to learn Spanish in the first place.  Growing up, my best friend's family spoke Spanish.  She didn't speak it much, but the idea of learning another language fascinated me.  I decided that when I had the chance, I wanted to learn Spanish, so that I could understand what her parents were saying.  My first opportunity came in 8th grade - I loved the class, so I took every possible Spanish class that I could during high school (which even included sacrificing a semester of band to do so!).  

Entering college, I decided that I wanted to at least maintain what Spanish I had already learned, and decided that I could probably pursue a minor in Spanish (because my first love was education).  However, during my sophomore year, I chose to take a Spanish course called Spanish for Service Professionals, which was a more personalized class of how you could use Spanish within your given major.  It was a difficult class, but very enjoyable - I told myself that if I survived that class, and thrived in it, I would consider changing from a Spanish minor to a double major with Spanish and education.  So, that happened, and I adjusted my course path to include more Spanish along the way.

That same semester, I took an education course which linked my class up with 5th grade pen-pals from a nearby inner-city school.  I learned that my penpal was in a "bilingual" class (which I look back on today and realize it is more ESL than bilingual) and was fascinated by the idea.  I got permission from my professor to go visit the school for a day, to see how that classroom looked, and I was intrigued.

Fast forward to senior year and student teaching - I made the decision to pursue a bilingual teaching placement, and landed in a "bilingual" kindergarten classroom (again, I put that in quotes, because while the students all were native Spanish speakers, this school was not teaching them first in their native language, it was only expecting them to learn to read and write in English.  Yet the school still called it bilingual...).  I loved the experience.  

So when I started sending out applications, I didn't discount any bilingual opportunities.  I wasn't necessarily seeking out only bilingual opportunities, but I didn't want to snub my nose at any offers!  And the offer that I eventually accepted happened to be for a bilingual second-grade classroom.  Taught bilingual second grade for two years, and then bilingual first grade for one.  I also took all the required classes to earn both my bilingual and ESL endorsements.  This year I made the decision to move to a different district, and accepted an offer to teach Bilingual/ESL 4th grade (how it exactly will end up being, I'm told will be based on the needs of the students.  Which makes perfect sense to me). 

While I love Spanish, I am actually really excited for the opportunity to actually teach in English this year, while still using my Spanish to keep it from getting rusty!  It can be exhausting, though, trying to remember all the vocabulary for teaching each concept in your non-native language, not to mention having to find alternate ways to explain concepts when your vocabulary is limited.  I am in the unique position to know EXACTLY how my students can feel at times, when trying to master a new language, and I cannot wait to see what this year will bring. :D

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Newbie blogger hop!

Still on vacation, blogger friends, so haven't been doing much yet by way of creating. But I love a good blog hop, and this one is especially for newbie bloggers!! So link up and tell everyone:
1. What state you are in: Illinois
2. Your current teaching position: 4th grade ESL/bilingual
3. Your teaching experience: I taught bilingual 2nd grade for two years, and bilingual 1st grade for one year
4. When you started blogging: I started my blog sometime during the last week of June 2012... So I've been blogging for almost a month now!
5. Share a blogging tip or resource: As simple as it sounds, I have found a lot of tutorials and how-tos just by googling "how do you...". :) Link up with Janis at Grade three is the place for me and join her blog hop!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blog hoppin' around the Internet!'

Came across a blog-hopping party on Amanda's blog and wanted to join! So here is my attempt to link up. Check out some of the amazing blogs below! :)

New Orleans!

Good morning bloggers! Posts will be sparse for a bit cause I'm on vacation right now! First stop: New Orleans! Beignets and cafe au lait for breakfast today! :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Classroom theme linky!

I was so excited to find Corinna's classroom themes linky, and to see some of the other fabulous ideas out there!  I want to share what I will be doing in my classroom this year, too!

I decided to go with a polka-dotted theme, using mostly black and white, but throwing in some green, blue, purple, and probably the other colors as well.  So here is a little bit of what I have worked on so far:
Some letters to use on my word/vocabulary wall

Close-up on my clip chart, so you can see the tiny polka-dots on each color!

The header for my "Cranium Club" display - more on this in a later post!! :)

 Some fun things I picked up at Michael's, Hobby Lobby, and Target!

Unfortunately I can't share any actual classroom photos, because I haven't been able to move into my new classroom yet!! I can show you this though:

The current location of my classroom materials!! (And that's only half the closet - the other side is just as packed!)

Now it's YOUR turn!! Share your classroom theme and some of your creations/decor for the upcoming year!

Great giveaways and a sweet site!

Let me mention two great giveaways that popped up on my blogroll this morning!

Stephanie at 3rd Grade Thoughts added more items to her package of "Brain Breaks" and is holding a raffle for a $10 certificate to her TPT store as a celebration!  Go check it out - you won't regret it!

3rd Grade Thoughts

And Sara at Fourth Grade Fanatics is celebrating her blog and holding a raffle for a $10 certificate for TPT as well as a $10 Target gift certificate!  Another give-away you won't want to miss!!

Fourth Grade Fanatics

Finally, although this one isn't a give-away, Kate at EduKate and Inspire posted about a website called Scootpad that offers students the opportunity to practice the Common Core standards in a really neat way!  She is much more eloquent in her description of what the site can do, so you definitely want to go read her post! :)

Enjoy, friends!!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fiction Friday!


I'm linking up with Amanda at The Teaching Thief today for my first Fiction Friday!  And the book that I want to mention today is a classic, but I'm continually surprised by how many people have maybe heard about it, but have never read it - A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L'Engle - it's one of my absolute favorite books!! 

If I remember correctly, my mom suggested it as a book for me to read in 4th grade for an optional, special program my school did called the Literary Society.  If you chose to participate, there were so many literature-based tasks that we had to complete (i.e. memorize and recite a short poem, read a Caldecott book and design a poster, read a biography, read a Newbery book and do a book report, write a poem, etc) and if you completed all those tasks, you were considered to be a "member" in the literary society, and I'm sure there was some sort of incentive that accompanied it as well.  But ANYWAY, I read this book as my Newbery book, and absolutely loved it!

Even students today can relate to the 3 main characters - Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin.  Meg struggles with self-acceptance and feeling like she's not anything special; Charles Wallace is constantly made fun of by adults and the kids in his school for being "different", and Calvin struggles with relating to his own family - all similar issues that students today have to deal with.

The plot centers on these three, and the book begins with the classic "It was a dark and stormy night" introduction.  The children meet three mysterious visitors, and must go on a quest and battle evil forces to be able to rescue Meg and Charles Wallace's father from the frightening planet of Camazotz.

This book would work great as a read-aloud, or for independent reading.  And the best part? It's part of a whole group of books that center on the Murry-O'Keefe families through a few different generations. :)

Another blog award!

Holy goodness, it's becoming hard to keep up with these (in a good way, though!)  These blogging awards really make me feel more like a member of the community, even though I've just started this blogging adventure!

The lovely Sara at Fourth Grade Fanatics awarded me the Liebster Blog award, which is an award designed for blogs with less than 200 followers, in order to give them a bit more exposure. Thank you so much, Sara! :)

The rules for this award are:
1. Copy and paste the award onto your blog
2. Thank the giver and link back to them 
3. Nominate 5 other bloggers and let them know by commenting on their blogs.

So I, in turn, will award the Liebster to:

Keep up the great blogging! :)

The Teacher Keeper!

Happy July 6th!! :)  Hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday on Wednesday!  I had a few friends over to my apartment, and we watched my (new) town's fireworks...and we didn't even have to drive anywhere!!  My town apparently shoots off their fireworks from just down the street where my apartment is, so my friends and I laid a sheet on the lawn next to my apartment building, and had a great view! :)

I'm starting to get used to the new town (but not to this oppressive heat wave we currently have!) and found my way to Office Max and to Michael's (which was in the next town over, but still, not too far away!) to collect some materials for the project I wanted to attempt today - my Teacher Keeper.

I actually made one this past spring when Angi showed me her "big book of everything".  A central place to keep all your important documents...hello, brilliant idea!  So I quick whipped one up too, with my then-limited creating and envisioning skills.  This is what it looked like:

Notice how advanced the design is...and the fact that the page for the front cover doesn't fill the entire pocket.  Blech!!

And the inside: 
I could only have as many tabs as came in the package of page dividers I had purchased, and I was at the mercy of the colors they decided to include in the package.  I'm not a huge fan of reds and yellows and the "warm" colors... I'm more of a green-blue-purple kind of girl.  So needless to say, I haven't been totally thrilled with the binder I had.  And some of the sections that I chose to create were not necessarily things that I would need to access on a regular basis.  Sooooo I decided that today I would make it my project to give my teacher binder a makeover!!

After shopping, I came back with these supplies:
Michael's had sets of cardstock in my favorite color schemes - I was so excited!! And that's right friends...I bought myself a paper trimmer!! No more having to trim sides time and again to make sure they are straight and even...boom!  Now I can do it in one fell swoop! (Plus, I had a 50% off 1 item coupon for Michael's... how could I not?) :)

So I got crafty, and this is the end result, of which I am 110% prouder than my first attempt!!

I even browsed around Pinterest for some naming inspiration, and came across Mrs. Pollard's creation, which you can see on her blog here.  I loved the name "teacher keeper" because it rhymes (for the most part) and literally it's going to keep everything useful that I need.  Yay!  I love using scrapbooking paper for the outside of binders now, because I can cut it to fit, and usually the pages have far more design than I could ever think to dream up!  Huge improvement!

Inside, I used Kristen's binder labels, found here, for the larger section labels.  I created the smaller ones, based on some of the same categories she used.  I have (the all-caps are her categories, and the sub-headings are mine):

lesson plans


class info
ELL info
meeting notes


AND I was able to do them all in the color scheme that I like!! I'm so excited with how the binder turned out, that now I kind of want to go through some of the pages I'm going to put inside and retype them...which I actually might do!  But probably tomorrow, because I should get some sleep! And Libby kitty wants some attention now too... so that might be a project for tomorrow! :)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

One Lovely Blog!

Many, many thank-yous to Steph at The Quirky Apple and Julie at The Hip Teacher and Mrs. Slocum at Teachers Don't Steal - They Share for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award!

The three rules to follow for this award:
1. Follow the person who gave you the award
2. Link back to the person who gave you the award
3. Pass the award along to 15 new bloggers

So now I am passing this award on to the following:

Your blogs continue to inspire me and other readers with all your great ideas!  Keep it up! :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

No-Homework Binder

Been busy creating all day today!  Unfortunately I didn't feel like turning on the AC today (some days I just feel like trying to save money and suffer the consequences!) so I've had my little tower fan right next to me, and been swinging it around between the computer and the floor where I was sitting.  But the afternoon sun has been brutal, so I may cave in soon... ;)

I wanted to share one of the quick projects I did this afternoon!  First, I have to credit Leslie at Jack of all Trades for the idea, which I found a few weeks ago through Pinterest!  Such a great idea, and easy to maintain - especially if I link it to one of the classroom jobs I have in mind, and put a student in charge of monitoring it when homework needs to be turned in... more on my ideas for classroom jobs in a future post, I promise! :)

So I present to you, my very own No Homework Binder!


I printed the labels on cardstock, and used packing tape to secure the labels to the outside of an old binder I had.  Unfortunately, after I was so proud of the shell of my little binder, I opened it up...only to discover that I hadn't looked closely enough and had taped the labels upside-down and on the back of the binder!!  Wahhhh!

So I tore it all off, had to re-print the small corner label with my name on it again because it ripped, and turned the binder over to the proper front.  A few more pieces of tape later, and I was good to go! :)

Inside the binder, I wanted to create a homework contract to be the first page - a document with norms that my students and I can all understand as far as homework expectations go.  I browsed around Google for some inspiration, and eventually just made up my own.

It basically states that there will be homework on a regular basis (how often?  I don't know yet, since I'm starting at a new school and don't know their norms yet... so I left it intentionally vague); that the students can depend on me writing the homework in the same place every time so they know where to expect to look; that if students do not complete their homework by the due date they will have to log an entry in the No Homework Binder; and that homework is a tool that will help the students learn responsibility and practice the skills they are learning in class.  I'll discuss the contract at the beginning of the year, and the students and I will all sign that page.  That way, if a student forgets to turn in homework or chooses not to do it, that homework contract is the first thing they see when they open the binder and hopefully seeing their signature will remind the student that he/she agreed to be held accountable.

The rest of the pages in the binder are each student's no-homework log.

If a student doesn't do his/her homework, he/she will have a personal page to record the date, assignment, and reason it was not done. Sad face.

I love this idea because it provides documentation of chronic homework evaders, all in one place, and it requires little to no maintenance on my part.  WIN!

Versatile blogger award!

Oh my!  Thank you to Amy at Adventures in Teaching for awarding me my first blogging award!

The rules for this award are….
1. Thank the Blogger who nominated you.
2. Include a link to their site.
3. Include the award image to your post.
4. Include the award image on your blog.
5. Give 7 random facts about yourself.
6. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.
7. When nominating other bloggers, include links to their sites.
8. Let those bloggers know they have been nominated.

Soooo...seven random facts.  Here goes!

1.) I have wanted to be a teacher ever since I was young.  The only time I briefly considered an alternative - psychology - was in 11th grade, but I felt so empty inside to think of not teaching, that I immediately scrapped that idea after about 3 days.

2.) I have been bitten by the travel bug - hard core.  And I usually end up taking crazy trips in condensed time frames.  For example, in the summer of 2008 I traveled to both Argentina and Zambia.  And then in the summer of 2010 I traveled to both Hong Kong and Guatemala.  I broke the trend this summer though, because I don't have any far away adventures planned. :/

3.) I'm really, really afraid of tornadoes, even though I've never been in one.  I don't even think I've managed to watch the movie Twister all the way through.  *shudder*

4.) I go through phases where I try to teach myself how to play the guitar.  So far I've had about three phases.  I even took a basic guitar class at my local community college one semester!  But inevitably I get busy, and then I forget to practice, and poor guitar just sits.  Maybe I'll bring him out soon and try again!

5.) I am absolutely terrible with directions.  I've gotten lost in my hometown city before.  My GPS is probably close to my best friend.

6.) I had to wear braces twice.  Twice.  And that included having them on for my senior picture, and during graduation giving my valedictorian speech.  I only /just/ got them off the week before I moved away for college.  But looking back now, I am incredibly thankful that I had them, as my teeth look so much better!

7.) I love to re-read favorite books and re-watch favorite movies.  Some of my friends don't understand why I would read something again if I've already read it and know how the story ends...but I feel it's not so much just about the conclusion, but about the development of the plot along the way too.  Am I alone in this thought?

And now...for nominations!  I nominate:

I chose your blogs to nominate because I love so many of the ideas I have seen from each of you, and always look forward to your new posts! :)