Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Late December Currently

Hello blogging friends! I've been so busy with school work and prep for the mid-terms that we've been taking this week, I haven't been around much. For a little holiday fun, one of our student organizations held a door decorating contest. Here's what it looked like.

Santa's come to my classroom!

The group that did my door was chosen as the winner! Santa's hat and face took 2-3 bags of cotton balls from what I heard. He even got a fireplace complete with a nice fire and stockings hung with care!

I missed getting my Currently for December in on time. So without further ado, here's my addition to Oh Boy 4th Grade blogger Farley's Currently.

Listening: I've discovered the Pandora app for my iPad and promptly added some holiday stations to the ones I already had. Jim Reeves songs Old Christmas Card, C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S, and Senior Santa Claus are just a few of the songs I look forward to hearing every year.
Loving: Tomorrow is the last day of mid-terms and last day until next year! Hello 2014!
Thinking: With the holidays here, I think about some of my good college friends and the fun times we had. While I haven't seen some of them in many years, they're in my thoughts.
Wanting: Now, I know you must be thinking I'm crazy for not having my tree up. I've been going back and forth with doing so. With my 2 young fur babies, I worry about them attacking the ornaments, lights, or just the tree itself.  Maybe I'll put it up since I'll be home more.
Needing: My house seems to get more of a wreck during the school year and with so many changes to my teaching position over the summer, I didn't get much cleaning done. New Year's resolution maybe??
Favorite Tradition: Sorry, I couldn't choose just one!
When my brother and I were little, my family started a tradition that the night our tree went up, Santa would visit and fill our stockings with one gift for us to open each day until Christmas. My mom still fills them when the tree is up! 

More recently, we gather after church on Christmas Eve to open gifts and watch a holiday classic - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation! We can't help but laugh at Clark Griswold and his family.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Super Improvers Team

Admittedly, I've been slacking on using WBT in my classroom this year. With the huge grade level change (3rd - 7/8th math only) and all that comes with such a move, I've focused a lot on adjusting to the changes. However, I needed something to spark my students. Enter my Super Improvers Team! Sarah Meador, a fellow WBT teacher gave me some tips on how she has used the SIW but  as a whole class rather than individually.

Each of my classes has their own page. I created them using PowerPoint so I can easily edit the goals and print out a new one. To show the color changes in the levels, I'll print the class name using the colors.

 Like Sarah, I chose to have them get 5 marks for each goal. Each day, I choose a student to place the marks. The first level goals included 80% of students will be seated when the bell rings, 80% of students will have the necessary materials, and 80% of students will have their completed homework. So far, the classes have the first two goals and they are working on the last. One of the 7th grades may get it this week.

So, where do I go for their next goals? I'm considering 100% of students complete their homework since 90% would only add 1 more student (I have classes of 16, 17 and 12 students), something related to Rule 2, and a system of notebook "checks" as some students don't think it's necessary to actually write down the examples I give or even write down the problems we work from the textbook. Hello, this is math - that requires pencil and paper to be used, not just shown as having necessary materials!

Anyone else out there using SIT with their classes? What kinds of goals do you set for your students and do you let them have some input on what the goals are?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

November Currently

Hello blog friends! I apologize for not having anything new in a while. I even missed the October Currently! So, I'm playing catch-up. Here's my edition of Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade's November Currently.



Listening: I love NCIS and NCIS Los Angeles!

Loving: A little over 2 weeks ago, I added a member to my family. She's the cutie you see below. Her name is Chloe. She sat perfectly for her first picture! As you can see, she does like to sleep with me and even got a little comfortable under my sheets. The last picture I took a short while ago. The white cat in the back, Kitkat, who is actually a calico like Chloe according to my vet, is her sister. We aren't sure if she's a full or half sibling, but we know they have the same mom.

Thinking, Wanting: These 2 sorta go together. Thanksgiving is coming soon and I'm so glad! My school doesn't have a "fall break" like some others have, so we go from the Labor Day break all the way to Thanksgiving. It's hard on the students and teachers.

Needing: The weather here in Louisiana has been so crazy. Upper 70's to lower 40's. The kids are starting to come down with strep throat and sinus infections. I had to start a round of Claritin D along with some Mucinex. Still have the cough but it's getting better. At least I can talk - many teachers in my hall have lost theirs recently!

A yummy pin: This pin is a recipe that I've used for a long time, but not sure where I actually got it from. I call it strawberry terrific cake. I like it at this time of year. When I could, I've used strawberry or even French vanilla Cool Whip for some added flavor!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Currently September

Hello blogging friends! I must apologize for my absence here. It has been a wild start to school. My edition of the Currently link up with Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade might help explain that.

Listening: My 5 month old little kitten, Kitkat, has located her newest play toy. She's running around the kitchen batting a plastic bottle cap everywhere! I just love cheap toys!

Loving: Though I've only seen students 12 days, we had 3 pre-student days this year, so I'm so glad to have a day to recharge!

Thinking: As I mentioned, this has been a wild school beginning - probably the most chaotic of my 13 pervious years. My job position changed more times than I can remember this summer and is still changing. Tomorrow will hopefully be the final version of my schedule. I've got 2 classes of 7th grade math, a 7th grade enrichment class, and a class of recently 8th grade math. I'll be so happy to have no more changes!

Wanting: With these newest changes, I've had to redo my lesson plans to reflect the changes including dropping of the other enrichment I had, prepare lessons for this new class, and work on the tests so that I can get at least one grade in before progress reports go out.

Needing: Interesting for someone from Louisiana to say they want rain, but we need some. It's been a while and things are getting a little too dry. I experience it each morning on bus/car duty as the vehicles make their way through the gravel parking lot! Can you say dust?!?!

Love Yourself Goals: Here are my 3 goals, which for whatever reason all start with C!

First is clean my house some. You might think that isn't really a love yourself thing, but in my case it is. I was excited that though I had to move to another building and classroom on campus, I was able to leave my elementary things in my old classroom. Until they split one class and everything had to be moved out in a week! So now, all of that stuff is in a heap at my house and needs cleaning!

Second is crocheting. It's something my mom taught me to do when I was in elementary school and while I pick up a project to do every year, I'm not consistent. There are about 3 crochet projects I have lined up with time limits on each. The first has been started, so I just have to keep with it.

Last is to just chill. School, because of all these changes and unknowns has been very stressful. I've been missing my elementary coworkers since I don't get to see them every day and the extra last minute planning has been tough. Crocheting and some playing on my computer will help me relax!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Getting Your Room Ready Part 2

After getting my 5 Rules posters up, I moved on to the Super Improvers Wall. This little gem is great for individual motivation and praising when students make progress in many areas. Here's what my revamped wall for this year looks like.

The full view of my SIW.

The new header matching my Hollywood/movie theme.

My themed SIW levels.
The small pictures on levels 5 and 8 are the picture opportunities. For more information about that, be sure to check out Chapter 15 of Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids. Now what you might notice missing is the student pieces. Last year, I used in same colored index cards that the levels above are shown on. I plan on using the same this year, but I will more than likely cut the cards in half. Why? Well, I will only see my students for half of the school day, so instead of the normal 10 stickers/stars per level, we will use only 5. The index cards are kept in a storage container by my teaching area and I always keep a sheet of stickers nearby for awarding.

Some teachers draw stars on the student pieces when giving them. I use stickers for 2 reasons. First, I allow the students to put them on themselves and they beam when they get to do so. Second, like many other teachers, I have a TON of smaller stickers that were just collecting dust laying in folders or storage drawers. Now they'll get used.

Last year, I was not as consistent with giving out stickers for the wall as I know I should have been. All of my students reached the second level but only a few made it to near the end of the 3rd level. One of my goals is to be better with the SIW especially since I will not see my students all day.

Next up in this series - the Scoreboard and some WBT basics!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Getting Your Room Ready Part 1

My position for the coming year has changed so much recently that I've been neglecting my blog. Things seem to finally be set now. I'll be back in the classroom teaching math and social science (alternating science and social studies lessons) to the single 3rd grade section.

Know all of this has allowed me to start getting my classroom prepped for the start of school the second week in August. Let's start with the 5 Rules.

My Hollywood/movie themed 5 Rules posters.

My classroom has a Hollywood/movie theme so I made new "posters" to match. As you can see, my Rule 1 is the version that's used later in the school year to take things up a notch. I'll be putting up Follow directions quickly! in the coming week.

Why is it important to put these posters in a visible place in your classroom? Some schools/districts require it, but let's face it, those posters just collect dust in many cases. Not in WBT! The rules are reviewed every day, many times throughout the day. Most commonly, they are revisited after ever return to the classroom. Since I will see my students in the afternoons, that will most likely be twice - first when they initially enter for the day and second when the students return from their afternoon recess.

Once the students become familiar with the rules, they can be challenged by asking for them in a different order. Something fun to do is have a student leader lead the class in the rules and have them use a finger pointer to point at the rules as they ask for them. Using different voices (silly, robot, whisper, etc.) can liven up that daily rules review as well.

For future editions of the Getting Your Room Ready series, I'll talk about the Super Improvers Wall, Scoreboard, seating arrangements, and other related areas. Do you have something you'd like to see or read about in setting up your classroom for WBT? Leave a comment below and I'll consider it!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Currently July

The start of the month means it's time for the Oh Boy 4th Grade currently. I'm a little late in joining the party this month, but things have been really busy for me!

Listening: There's a Rocky marathon on one of the movie channels. I've been watching since I found it during Rocky II. I think my favorite is Rocky IV when he faces the Russian fighter. Great music in that one!

Loving: I've finally learned what I will be doing this coming school year and it's a major change for me and for my school. I will be taking on the role of math interventionist for 3rd-6th grade. No more regular classroom teaching. I'm both excited and nervous about how this will work!

Thinking: With roughly 50 students, I'm going to have my work cut out for me when it comes to organizing my student's work. Some students will come only one day a week, while others will be almost every day. I'm considering 2 different options, both using file folders color coded by grade.

Filetastic - Black
Pocket Chart from Filetastic
Pacon® Classroom Keepers® Magazine Holder, Assorted Colors
Color Coded Magazine Boxes
I think the chart would be easier for the students to find their folder in, but I will need to have the wall space for 4 or 5 of them. The boxes would mean all of a grade together in one small spot, which could make getting folders a longer process.

Wanting: As part of what I plan to do with these students, I've been printing out various games to review computations and rounding. These are the skills we're starting with. My poor all-in-one-printer is taking forever to print the pages out!

Needing: I need to make my decision on the organizing so I can start buying what I need, like the colored folders, mechanical pencils, erasers, and either the charts or the boxes. Aside from my decision, there's the mess I have in my classroom. The materials for 3rd grade won't be taken out for another week.

Tips, Tricks, or Hints: I'm sure you must be thinking I'm crazy mentioning a portable hard drive rather than a thumb/flash/jump drive for school files. For a long time, I used them, maxed them out, got a larger one, then repeated. When I started having problems with my largest drive, I decided to upgrade. This one was at Wal-Mart - 500GB for around $50.00. While I know they make larger ones now, I have all of my school, music, and personal files on it and have about 430GB left. It is bigger, but I haven't had any problems with it working so far.

Toshiba Canvio 3.0 Plus - hard drive - 1 TB - USB 3.0
Toshiba Portable Hard Drive

 If anyone has other suggestions for my organization dilemma, feel free to leave a comment for me!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

June Currently

I can't believe June is here already! For those of us in the south, it signals the start of hurricane season. More importantly, it means I know I'm on summer vacation! To celebrate, here's my addition to Farley's Oh' Boy 4th Grade June Currently.

Listening: My alma mater, Louisiana State University, is hosting a regional in the collegiate baseball playoffs. While I haven't been to a game in the new Alex Box Stadium, I can say that I went to one in the old one before it was torn down.

Loving: I just got a new flat screen TV for my living room. The old one I had, a hand-me-down from my family, became possessed last week. First, it turned on by itself. Then, it was running through the stations on the set without me touching anything! Not even unplugging it for almost a whole day helped. This new one has great sound and an awesome picture!

Thinking: There's a new Whole Brain Teaching book club blog and the first reading assignment has been given. We're reading and discussing the new WBT book shown below.

Click the book to go to the WBT book club.

It's available on Amazon in print and, more recently, in Kindle formats. After having read the first 2 chapters, I'm tasked with writing 250 words about it. Kinda hard to do while being distracted by that baseball game. :)

Wanting: I'm on a kick with these New Orleans famous Sno-Balls To Go! They are so yummy! You can find them at stores in some southern states. I'm enjoying a wedding cake one, but I really wish I had spearmint, which is my favorite flavor.  

Needing: There's an overflowing basket of clothes I haven't washed in over a week. Guess I need to stop procrastinating tomorrow and get at least some of them washed!
3 Vacay Essentials: I think my choices are self-explanatory. I'll be taking a trip with my best friend in a few weeks which means I'll have to fly. The last time I was on a plane was in college and that was over 10 years ago, so I'm just a little bit nervous. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Optimum Organization Linky Party

I like organizing things, so I couldn't resist joining the linky party hosted by Fun in Room 4B and Ladybugs Teacher Files. Here are a few things I've done in my room and are doing to get ready for this coming year. (Yes, I know it's not even June and school doesn't start until August, but I just can't help myself!)

Brag Tag Storage

Surfing Pinterest one day, I found a teacher rewarding students using brag tags from They have so many different premade tags, but the options for making your own are simple and really fast. So, I ordered some for my students and it quickly became something they liked. At first, I placed the tags in an ice cube tray I happened to have but they kept falling out into the zipper bag I placed the tray in. Then, I found this organizer for less than $5.00 at Joann Fabrics a couple days ago.

I added the tags plus the leftover necklaces from this year and now I've got some great organization for them! They all fit well into the compartments, including the larger birthday star tags I have.

Library Organization

Over the years, I have collect quite a few books for my classroom library. I use pockets and cards to help keep track of which books are checked out to each student. This container from target helps me organize the cards, pockets, and stickers I use in labeling my books.

It comes with 3 levels, but you can add to it. The top level is where I place the color dot stickers I use for Accelerated Reader levels and some pockets with the cards in them. The other 2 are for holding extra cards and pockets. I order all of these supplies from

Attendance, Lunch Choices, and Library Cards

The cards for my classroom library books along with some other management tools I use are done in a numbered pocket chart like the one below.


Each student has a number which is assigned alphabetically at the beginning of the school year. In the mornings, the students select a laminated slip indicating their lunch choice (school lunch, lunchbox, or milk only) for the day as well as letting me know they are present in the classroom. I can quickly look at the chart to know specific my lunch count and who is absent for the morning attendance.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

May Currently

I'm linking up with Oh' Boy 4th Grade's Farley for the Currently. Here's what is currently in May for me!

Listening: I happened to be running through the channels and caught the beginning of The Ron Clark Story starring Matthew Perry. It's based on a true story about a teacher trying to inspire a class of kids in New York City.

Loving: The recent arctic blast has dropped the temps here down, and I for one do not mind. Summer weather and heat will be here soon enough!

Thinking: There seems to be so much to do in the next few weeks. I still have one last test to make, my Candy Bar Awards ballots to count and get ready (more about that coming soon), and I haven't even started on the end of the year class video!

Wanting: The sap has risen and is starting to boil! Having such a long stretch between Easter break and the end of the year is taking it's toll on everyone. Just 3 more weeks!

Needing: So I have a tendency to procrastinate when it comes to things for me. I've been known to go for several months without getting a haircut. At this time, it's been almost 2 months...I think. Last time around, I cut a lot off and I think for my next visit I might so go for broke and get it much, much shorter!

Summer Bucket List: My first month off is just a little busy, all in the same week. I'll be going to the Whole Brain Teaching National Conference in Pineville, LA. Last year was such an awesome experience so I made sure I could go again. Then at the end of that week I'll be taking in the bright lights of Sin City. Beachbody has it's Coaches Summit in Las Vegas. I'll be attending for the first time and I'm a little nervous about it since I'll be flying for the first time since 2000!

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Currently

I'm jumping on the Currently bandwagon!

Oh' boy fourth grade

For months I've seen these on blogs I follow and I wondered about how to join in. Thanks to Albuquerque Amy's tutorial I'm able to post my first one!

Listening: It's 6:00pm, so that means local news time! I like watching to see what happening in my state.

Loving: It's our week off for spring break/Easter. We (the kids, parents and I) all needed this week long break!

Thinking: My tummy says it's time for something good. Microwave cheeseburger helper to the rescue.

Wanting: Before our break, we took our IOWA tests. I'm not sure how well my kiddos did, but I hope they show improvements from their scores last year.

Needing: So about 2 weeks ago, I went to the doctor for a sinus infection. A shot and 10 days of antibiotics later I'm still fighting what's left of a cough. It's really annoying and just needed to go away!

Advice: If you haven't heard of Whole Brain Teaching, you should check it out! Live webcasts are held on Monday nights at and feature Chris Biffle, aka Coach B, presenting lessons and techniques while offering live help and advice. Though this year has been a rough one for me because of things beyond my control, I truly believe in WBT and how it can really help students.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Universal Homework Model

Whole Brain Teaching has a great plan for students to complete not only homework that you really want them to complete, but also a way of encouraging them to do even more! It's called the Universal Homework Model, or UHM for short. Webcast 501 describes it all.

Students complete 1, 2, or 3 star homework Monday-Thursday in hopes of earning enough class stars for a Friday reward. Here is the plan for my class:
   1 Star: Reading/Spelling activity choice and
                           Math wkbk page/2 mins. flash card practice
        2 Star: 1 Star plus 20 minutes free reading time
3 Star: 1 and 2 Star plus a letter to teacher

The reading activities are on Monday and Wednesday while spelling activities are on Tuesday and Thursday. I have a list of activities that the student can choose to do. Some teachers choose to have their students do Super Speed Reading or one of the other grade appropriate WBT language games.

Math workbook pages are not done every day, so when there isn't one, students will use their addition and subtraction flash cards to practice their facts. Again here, some teachers use Super Speed Math, which I have detailed in 2 earlier posts. I don't choose to do so because I don't have enough copies for all of my students to take it home nightly and many do their homework independently.

The 20 minutes of reading time allows students to read books they might not read during class time. We use the Accelerated Reader program, so during school time, I prefer they utilize books within their ZPD which they can quiz on. This outside of class time gives them the chance to read books that may fall above or below that range or may be some other kind of reading material like magazines.

The 3 Star letter to the teacher for my students will be to write to me telling what they read about during their 20 minutes free reading time. In the beginning, I'm looking for hand-written letter with a paragraph for each book they read. Many of my students are still in shorter books, so it is likely they will finished more than one book in their 20 minutes. For those reading chapter books, they can write paragraphs about what they read in the chapters they completed during the 20 minutes.

Daily checking will be during the beginning part of the day. Students will have a "bookmark", half sheet of paper check sheet to record what they do each night. We will celebrate those who complete the extra 2 and 3 Star assignments as those are the ones that include work that they would not normally be assigned to do. We will tally up the class stars and chart them on the board in our classroom. If the class earns enough stars, they will have Friday academic game time. This could be Mind Soccer or any other productive fun game. I'm choosing to use some pre-made games I have so that students can play in small groups.

To earn the time, class must complete a minimum of 40% of the total possible stars. Here's the breakdown for my class and the accompanying game time.

115-172 Stars (40%) = 2 minutes of game time
173-229 Stars (60%) = 3 minutes of game time
230-288 Stars (80%) = 4 minutes of game time

As time goes on, I will increase what the requirements are for each star. There will be a sloppy copy and rewrite for the letter and an increased amount of free reading time. That's what makes the UHM so great! You can customize it for your set of students, the subjects you teach, and can adjust it as the year progresses and the students make improvements! Oh Yeah!