Monday, September 30, 2013

Text Suggestions on Native Americans

This might be the longest I have gone without blogging.  This school year is actually going really well.  I am enjoying my students this year so much!  The second year of doing something is hands down ten times better than the first year. Last year was my first year to teach a grades 4-5 class in a blended learning environment, where we combine technology and teacher interaction to meet the needs of our students. It was also our first year last year to have any elementary grades at our school. There was so much to figure out from schedule to curriculum to identifying what blended learning looks like for elementary students at different phases. This year I have been able to learn from my experiences last year and start off the year with more consistency in schedule and curriculum.

I decided this year to pursue my PhD in Gifted Education part-time while working. While I am really glad to be able to give my students more consistency this year and watch them thrive with it, I am struggling with it myself.  Once again that whole issue of balance comes into play. I am trying to sort out my own schedule and routine for work, lesson planning and grading, going to class for grad school, studying for class and doing assignments, working out, eating better, being married, cleaning, etc. Almost all of my students have had a cold or a stomach bug in the last couple weeks. I woke up with the cold last Wednesday and have been fighting it.  I slept most of the weekend. Anyway, I apologize if my blogging lacks the consistency I usually strive for, but I will do my best.

One of my favorite resources I discovered recently was a website called I mentioned it before.  They have curriculum maps for Social Studies and ELA.  I am loving the curriculum maps for US. History.  It is making it so much easier for me to choose texts to incorporate Social Studies into Language Arts.

We started the year reading The Discovery of the Americas by Betsy and Giulio Maestro.

This kicked off our study on Native Americans.  It was a good introduction because it discusses the land bridge between Asia and America and mentions tribes across both of the Americas. We learned about Aztec, Inca, and Mayans first by doing some research on the following website:

Then, we learned about the tribes of the four major regions in North America. In Language Arts, we have been working on plot and theme.  I decided to incorporate some Native American folk tales into our discussions.

We read several folk tales from The Girl Who Helped Thunder

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This book works really well as a read aloud when studying Native Americans.  It divides North America into 6 regions and has 3 tales for each region.  Each tale is 2-3 pages. Each story has an obvious theme, so they make a great short read aloud to review over character, setting, events, problem, solution, and theme. We also discussed what we knew about each tribe based on the story.  We could infer information about their values, the types of homes they lived in, the climate, what they ate, etc.

Last week we discussed conflict and the difference between external and internal conflict.  We made mini-anchor charts to show our thinking about conflict.

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Then, my students read different Native American folk tales and made a chart to identify the characters, setting, problem, external conflict examples, internal conflict examples, solution, and theme to the story they read.  Then we shared as a group.

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What are your favorite texts to read when studying Native Americans?  This week we are starting our Explorer unit.  I will share more of those texts in another post.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Smoking Buses and Statistics

Hello blog! I have missed you. I have missed sleep for that matter as well. The last two weeks  of trying to get in the school year routine and getting used to being a graduate student again has been hectic to say the least.

Even now I have so many things I want to blog about, but my eyes are drooping even as I type.  I am running on empty and no sleep.  I have spent the last two days working all day and then coming home to hours and hours of my own studying and homework to do.

Yesterday, we had a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art.  It was our first field trip of the year. We are a very small school, so the entire school grades 2-12 go on field trips together. I wish I could tell you I loved going to art museums with elementary kids, but I don't.  They get bored. And you spend the whole time trying to keep them in some sort of suitable etiquette. Well, as we got about halfway to downtown the bus started smoking.  Smoking as in kids were asking why the bus smelled like BBQ. The bus driver pulls over on the side of the highway and has us get off the bus quickly and go stand in a grassy area off the highway. The older kids are videoing and tweeting pictures of the smoking bus. Two fire trucks stopped to check out what was going on, as well as the toll road authority.

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The firemen clear the bus as okay and tell us it is okay to get back on the bus.  We teachers are all thinking you rushed us off a smoking bus on the side of the tollway and now you want us to get back on the bus? We really kind of wanted to wait for a new bus, but the bus driver and the firemen all wanted us off the grassy area on the side of the tollway. They assured us if things started smoking again we would get off on the next exit.  We did not have any more smoking bus, so we made it to the museum like an hour late and missed most of our guided tour.  Then, we had 2 hours of self-guided tour time.  Two hours... Two hours of self-guided time in a museum asking kids to walk instead of twirl and reminding them like 5 seconds later. The last 45 minutes or so we went to the park across the street so the kids could play.  They were done.  We got a new bus for the ride back in the afternoon.

I ended my exciting field trip today with a 3 hour graduate Statistics class. Did I mention I had done 8 hours of homework Monday night and had only had 4 hours of sleep that night?  After Statistics, I came home to a couple more hours of homework last night.

I'm not sure I really have a point in sharing all of this other than sometimes life can be a little crazy, and you have to find the humor in all situations...especially as a teacher. Today was actually a great day! I think I was really happy to have normal routine day and know that I did not have any assignments due tonight for grad school.  I am excited to actually go to bed before midnight or even eleven.

I hope you are having a good with maybe no smoking buses or Statistics.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Website Tracker - Free form to track usernames and passwords for websites

I hope I'm not the only one who feels scattered at the beginning of the year. Today I got up all ready to go to yoga and drove to the wrong studio location. Then, a few hours later I drove almost all the way to a friend's house for her son's birthday party before I realized it is next Sunday. It was not my day!

I spent the afternoon and evening trying to organize and get ready for the week.  I am starting my PhD this fall, working, and trying to work out/eat well.  I am still working on the best way to organize it all and allocate my time to get homework done, reading, and still have time for blogging and products. Apparently today, I was scattered and had too much swirling in my brain.

A couple weeks ago, I went to the orientation for my PhD and heard all about the dissertation process and the different qualifying exams I will have to take along the way. I essentially need to take notes in every class with the assumption I will see the information on a test in a couple years.  I need to take careful notes on all of my readings with the same assumption. I am planning on using Evernote to organize my graduate notes since I can access it from my iPad, my PC at home, and my Mac at work.  At the same time, I have to take notes on paper. I just do.  I was trying to toy with the idea of just using my iPad to organize me and let the paper planner go, but I'm not sure I'm there yet or ever will be.  For today I put all due dates in my Erin Condren Life Planner and my iPad.

I do want to utilize my iPad a lot more this year, though.  I like to use for lesson planning, and they have an iPad app now.  Mastery Connect makes it so easy to pull up the Common Core Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards with their apps.

We'll see how it goes.  Hopefully as each week goes by I will feel a little less scattered. I am going to be using with my students this year, and Edmodo has an iPad app.  My students will use Edmodo on their laptops as their planner. I will still probably offer a paper planner if any students prefer to use paper, but we are going to start with Edmodo.

We actually use a lot of websites all the time, and many of them have lots of different usernames and passwords.  Last year I grabbed a little freebie form from a blog to help keep track of those usernames and passwords. It came in really handy to keep in the front of our binders, so I made one for this year.

The Website Tracker will help us stay a little more organized. You can get a copy here for free.

How do keep from feeling too overwhelmed and scattered at the beginning of the school year?

Friday, September 6, 2013

First Week of School: Team-building, When I Grow Up, and the Importance of Rules

The first week of school has been crazy!  I have wanted to blog every day and my evenings have been filled to the brim. The first day of school we handed out supplies and labeled everything. We always do some orientation activities as an entire school where we talk about the vision of the school. We did some writing activities about summer.  I didn't have them just write about their summer. They had to use the topic of summer as inspiration for their writing.

Early in the day, we talked about information we might share when introducing themselves.  I asked them to think what they would share if they couldn't give their name.  I gave them each a sheet of paper.  They had to write or illustrate information about themselves that did not include their name.  It made them think!  You can see my poster below.

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We also got in groups and did an activity to think about rules.  We put them in groups and gave each group some marbles.  They had to create a game to play with the marbles and then write out directions to play the game.  Then the groups rotated in a circular fashion to play someone else's game following the rules.  Later in the day, we did the same activity but gave them a dice with the marbles.  They once again had to create a game and make rules to play the game.  This activity was great because they had to think about how to work in groups, make clear directions, and the importance of good rules.  Here are some of their rule posters they made.

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We used this to transition into a discussion of classroom rules. We made a list of possible rules and had them think of more ideas that night for homework.  We ended the day reading First Day Jitters and talking about it.

The second day of school we talked about the rules and narrowed them down based on what they had in common.  We chose the rules as a class.  Here are the rules we decided on:

  1. Be respectful to everyone and everything
  2. Use words to compliment, support, and help
  3. Always do your best
  4. Be open to new ideas
We also followed up the activity with the marbles by doing a procedural/"how-to" writing yesterday.  Each of my students chose a topic to write a how-to-writing.

Today we talked about discovering what we love to do.  We read the book When I Grow Up by Weird Al Yankovic.  It is a very cute story with great vocabulary about a boy with lots of imagination trying to think about what he wants to be.

We talked about how to think about what we want to be and learn to recognize our talents and strengths. We did some journal writing about what we love to do.  We ended the discussion by building resumes.  They used their experience as a student as their "work experience."  We used the ReadWriteThink Resume Generator. We also worked some on organization this week, but I will blog about that in a separate post.  What kinds of activities do you to have students think about who they are and what they might want to be?  What kinds of activities do you have kids do to think about the importance of choosing good rules?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Currently - September

I can't believe I haven't blogged in almost two weeks.  Anyway, I am glad to link up with Farley's Currently.

I am sitting in bed and listening to the sound of the fan spinning.  I figured if I got up and started doing some things on the computer while sitting in bed it is closer to sleeping in than getting out of bed.

I LOVE my Australian Shepherd, Nala. She always makes me smile. :)

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I did bootcamp Saturday morning and then yoga yosterday. Every muscle in my legs hurt.

I need to figure out what I want for breakfast.  I have been avoiding grocery shopping the last few days so we have no food.  (When I get really stressed, I avoid things.)

I went up to school yesterday and finished organizing my classroom. School starts for me tomorrow. I need to go up today and do some finishing touches and some lesson planning. Below is the start of my bulletin board.  I need to add colored paper for the place for where I will display all student work.  I love how using ribbon border turned out though.  I don't think I will ever go back to regular border. I like the rubbon a lot more.

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My goal all year has been balance.  I have been doing hot yoga for several years now.  I find yoga helps me destress and stretch out the tension. This is my 200 class wristband I just received. It took me several years to get it, so I am proud of finally reaching that goal.  I generally have only averaged going once or twice a week so it took me much longer to get there than some people do.

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I have been doing a bootcamp fitness class for a couple months now.  I absolutely love it!  I am getting stronger, and it is never boring. I just show up and someone tells me what kind of workout to do. I do much better with accountability.  Even with yoga I try to get friends to go with me because I do much better with that accountability of someone is meeting me there. 

With lots of working out, I know I need more rest.  I also am starting my PhD this semester, so between school, graduate school, and working out I know rest is going to make a difference in my sanity. The other thing I try to do for myself is pack bento lunches.  I find if I pack a healthy lunch with variety all in the same container I eat better.  Lately, I have been packing a lot of veggie wraps with spinach, veggies, and hummus on a tortilla. Somehow salad on a tortilla seems more appealing than actual salad does at lunch time.

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If you want to see what I will be packing for lunches, you can follow me on instagram at
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