Making Over Third Grade!
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Monday, April 2, 2018

Donors Choose is Such a Gift

Do you use I have had a few things funded in the past, mostly thanks to chairs as well some large floor pillows.) I was so bummed! I wrote to them and they reissued the gift cards and surprised me with an additional $15 since the original gift cards had (no joke) expired on my birthday.
my family - hey I will take it any way I can get it. Wouldn't you? I had a number of gift cards from my family from last fall when there was a matching drive. (I am not above asking for things when I think that they may give to my class - each gift card at the time up to $40 was being matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.) I didn't realize that these expire in 6 months so when I

went to use them when we found some really cool flexible seating. (Wait until you see it! I found it via Twitter as someone in my district was buying samples for teachers to try out and since 1. I didn't know about this and 2. once I saw it I was so upset as we had just posted a request for these chairs so you can imagine how excited I was when I was able to pay for the request with the gift cards and still had a few dollars left. (These photos are from my shared blog for our class.)

I created a second project for seat disks (can't wait for them to arrive!), a changing pod which we are going to use as a recording booth for flipgrid and other video projects. We got this idea from another teacher in our district (thanks Shawn!). We found out that this was funded just before the #bestschoolday that announced that a company had paid off all of the projects on the site. Were you one of the lucky teachers who got their projects funded by this surprise?

So after that day, since was on the news I figured it would be a great idea to create another project as we may have a better chance of getting it funded. So I requested a new iPad after Apple announced the new cheaper iPads for schools and an Apple pencil. Even though we are a 1:1 class with iPads our devices are older an do not have all of the functionality of iOS 11 so I am very excited to be able to show students how to conduct research by dragging and dropping information from one app to another. This was a rather expensive project so I was so happy to learn that Verizon was matching funds and we would only need half of the overall amount to get our project funded. I jumpstarted the giving with a small donation (I always like to make a small donation to motivate others) and kept tweeting and adding Facebook posts asking for money. I didn't really feel comfortable doing that as much as I did it but I was so worried I would lose the matching donations if I didn't really push it. So you can imagine my surprise when I received this email a few minutes ago:
So here I am awestruck and gobsmacked that we were able to get so much for our class in the last few weeks. I can't wait for the items to arrive and to share them with you when they come. 

Do you use What is the last project you had funded? I can't wait to hear what you have been gifted with.

Do Unicorns Exist? New Things From CTP!

Oh my goodness! I wrote this in January and thought it posted. I was cleaning out drafts and found it there!

Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post but all opinions of products are my own.

Do unicorns exist? They asked me when I pulled out the new stickers from Creative Teaching Press. Then of course I heard that they were "girl" stickers until one boy said he wanted the blue one - then all the boys wanted these awesome stickers too! They are awesome and big but sadly there just were not enough in the pack to satisfy the kids so they are in my shopping basket for the spring, Of course, they loved the other stickers that were sent to us.
In addition to the stickers we received two different styles of bookmarks, They were nuts about the emoji bookmarks and I just had to write their names on the backs of them so that they could keep track of where their bookmarks may be. We're saving the motivational quote bookmarks for test prep which begins in April. It will be here before we know it and sadly before we are ready for it.

We got a pom pom border which I will admit that I was unsure of when we took it out of the box but then when I saw it on the wall that Maria completed I LOVED it! I will have to add photos of the bulletin board so that you can see how awesome it is!

Our third-grade team conducts a STEM rotation the first Wednesday of each month. Maria and I have shared a little about this on our class blog Spot On In Third I will have to add a post here about this as well. Anyway, I have an issue with shopping for school supplies at the start of the school year so I have A TON of awards and I have been giving them to the kids who have the best STEM project or time for our activities. These STEM awards were a nice addition to our collection and I love to give them to the kids on these STEM Wednesdays.

We gave away the punch cards and tickets to teachers who use bathroom tickets. The 100-day banner was given to a first-grade teacher who we are sure will get a lot of use out of it. There was a Llama Valentine's Day bulletin board set which we also gifted to another teacher. It is super cute but just doesn't go with our Peanuts & Country Cute theme.

What are your favorite items to use to decorate your classroom with or to give to students? I would love it if you shared your ideas in the comments below.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Yet Again...

Yet again, as a nation, we are discussing gun control in response to a school shooting. I have been teaching for 14 years, I've been part of a number of lockdown/active shooter drills, and once as part of a lockdown due to a domestic issue near the school. It breaks my heart that my second and third-grade students have begun to worry about someone hurting them while they are school. I have no answers, just simply what I feel and what I do not want my students to feel. I do not want to have to explain to an eight-year-old why we have to practice these drills or comfort them and tell them that they are safe while at school. 

I have had to comfort them too many times over the past two years. I have had to tell my students that they are safe and will not be hunted down by ICE; that their parents are safe while they are at school; and that (most) people do not hate them. My kids are beautiful people who are just learning who they are and how to express themselves. I am trying hard to help them find a way to do this in the safety of our classroom. I do not know how successful my actions will be in the long run but I hope that each of these beautiful kids grows into a vocal adult who effects change in the world.

In the meantime, I have to start being more vocal too. I do not know how this will look beyond calling my congressmen/women and state representatives. Even this though will be a step in the right direction.

What I hope, what I pray, is that this generation will be the last to experience this fear, these events, and the aftermath of school shootings. I have hope for our nation. I see it each day in my classroom; it is full of hope, full of love, and full of joy. There is hope, and that is what I am holding on to. Hope.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

NBCT: Now That is Me

I have a confession to make. I like being a student and learning new things. Most of all I love the feeling I get when I have finished a course or program and I get the letter grade or certification.

When I was a child I told my parents that I wanted to have "all of the college diplomas." I was a
weird kid. But I never forgot that idea of wanting to learn. Still, school wasn't easy for me.  In third grade, I took home every book, every day in order to complete my classwork because my class time was devoted to an endless pile of worksheets that were not allowed to go home. In order to "catch up" and not have to take the books home, I had to spend an extra hour a day for a week at school working on those worksheets. Third grade introduced me to a hatred of worksheets, particularly as busy work. Still, that was the year I learned to love to read and I found books as an escape. This served me well as I grew up. I matured before other girls and was teased to the point of tears many times until I learned to ignore it and I created a safe place for me in my room with my books. Books were a lifesaver for me through middle and high school.

After high school, I started taking college classes but due to family issues, I had to stop for several years. I didn't go back to school until I was in my mid/late 20s. By then I was even more goal oriented than I was when I was in high school. I wanted my degree and I didn't want to waste any more time to get it. Thanks to the distance learning program from Thomas Edison University I was able to complete my BA in 3 years. I was that much closer to my dream of becoming a teacher.

I enrolled in my Master's program at the University of Phoenix Online and in 18 months had completed both my Masters and my CLAD classes for the state of California. I had my teaching credential and was ready to go!

After I had been teaching for a few years I decided it was time to get my doctorate. So I enrolled in a program at Argosy and worked on that degree for 3 years. I completed, and successfully defended, my dissertation on the use of mnemonics and their impact on student test scores. I had my Ed.D. and the title of Doctor. I had done as I had promised myself so many years before.

At that point, you would think I was done; right? Nope. Not even close. I enrolled in and completed my Autism Certification program through Cal Poly. Done? Not a chance. I debated getting a second Masters. Why? Because there was more I wanted to learn. In the end, I opted to try for my National Board Certification instead. I mean, I had nothing to lose, the district I teach in was willing to pay the fees so I just had to pay the $75 enrollment fees each year. If I didn't pass the components, no real loss right? That is what I kept telling myself. Though, in reality, I likely would have turned around and paid to retake them had I not passed for some reason.

Now, here I am two years later and now I am a National Board Certified Teacher. I am proud of this accomplishment but by no means do I think I am done. There is still so much out there to learn.

Do you keep signing up for courses? Why, or why not? I hope you share your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to hear about your experiences!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

STEMing it Up with the Help of OTC

My grade level team decided that this year we needed to make a commitment to our students to ensure that we are incorporating more hands-on STEM activities this year. We decided the best way to do this was to commit to one day each month as our STEM rotation day. The first Wednesday of each month has been set aside as our STEM day. The kids love it, and truth be told I think the teachers do too! At least I know I do!

To complete our rotations we split two classes so that we have three groups of students moving through the rotations. Two of the third-grade teachers float with the larger groups and three teachers remain in classrooms to lead the activities.

For December we chose activities with a winter theme. The first rotation was an engineering activity where students had to take a bag of materials (two napkins, a coffee filter, some string, and a Dixie cup) to create a parachute for Santa. We took our parachutes outside and let them go off the top of the playground. Since our Santas were a bit big for our cups we declared that any Santa that remained in the cup was a survivor and only those Santas that fell out of the cup were the result of an unsuccessful attempt. The kids had fun letting their Santas fall and determining if their parachutes were a success or not. The best part was when they were testing them during the first graders' recess. The first graders were enthralled!

Makingoverthirdgrade.blogspot.comNext year when we do this activity I think we need larger cups as our Santas were too large for the small cups we used this time. If you want to try this activity we used the directions and videos found here at the TpT store of All About STEM, and these bendable Santas from Oriental Trading Co.

Our second rotation required students to use 40 gumdrops and 20 toothpicks to create a barn that can hold Rudolph. We used dollar store toothpicks but they were too thin so I think it is worth getting the fatter round toothpicks for next year. Some students actually decided to break the toothpicks so that they would have enough for all of the gumdrops. There were a few groups though that figured out if they used triangles or pentagons they were able to use everything without running out of materials. We used these bendable reindeer from OTC for this activity. It was fun to watch the kids figure out that they could bend Rudolph to fit in their barns.
The last rotation required students to use 20 straws, a foot of tape, and two weighted gingerbread cutouts. The goal of this activity was to create a raft that would hold both weighted gingerbread cutouts, to be successful their gingerbread people had to stay dry for a minimum of 30 seconds. This year they had to take turns in the sink and some of the students began to get off task while waiting. Next year to decrease the downtime for this activity we will be bringing in buckets or small bowls so that all of the groups can test their rafts at the same time. Still, the kids had fun and they loved watching to see if their raft designs were successful or not. One group even created seatbelts for their cutouts and they worked! For this activity, we used two large boxes of straws, a roll of masking tape (we used the a roll of the colorful masking tape from Oriental Trading in part to give it color and also because our school tape never works), and two pennies per gingerbread cutout for weight. You can find this activity on TpT at Gretchen Hilley's store

While each of our third grade classes are incorporating STEM and other hands-on activities each month in our own classes we have found that devoting a day each month for the kids to work with other students and teachers has been beneficial for them and for us, as teachers, to watch some of the quietest students become the most vocal during these activities. I am glad that we committed to this idea last year and I am grateful that my grade level team has successfully implemented these rotations each month. I can't wait to see what next month brings! 

Do you do STEM activities in your class? Do you work with others to implement these activities? How do they work out for you? I hope that you share your ideas in the comments below! 

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by Oriental Trading Co., all opinions are my honest opinions. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

More Than a Hashtag: Teachers Helping Teachers

In recent weeks there have been two terrible hurricanes and now the awful fires that consume the airwaves. I always feel for the people affected and feel like what I do isn't enough. So when Harvey hit I started a hashtag #teachershelpingHouston and tried to get classroom decor and books for the teachers that were affected. The teacher who said she would get me a school address never got back
to me but a teacher at my site knew someone at a Texas school and her husband took what we had collected with him to the school her friend worked at.

We collected another box (it is sitting in our classroom) and it is earmarked for Texas but now with these fires so close to home. (I mean really close, I live in Fairfield.) I want to collect things to help local teachers get back on their feet as they prepare to open their classrooms as they rebuild or weed out things that have been ruined by smoke.

This doesn't mean that those in Texas, Florida, or Puerto Rico don't also need our help. (Though in
P, R. they are far from ready to start thinking about school yet.) There has to be a way for teachers to band together to help each other during these difficult times.

If you are at a school that needs help, or if you can provide help please add your information to the comments below. Together we can help others get their classrooms up and running again. Teachers Helping Teachers - a force to be reckoned with.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Evaluations: Anxiety & Action

It is that time of year again when evaluations are underway. I don't know why, but the idea of being evaluated has never gotten easier as time goes on. It always reminds me of Sally Field's at the 1985 Oscars:

It never gets easier. At least not for me. I was listing to the "My Bad" podcast (if you haven't listened to this podcast you should check it out), the teacher today was talking about mistakes he'd made early in his career and how he hadn't received the best scores.
Oh, the shame! For real! We seem to never tell teachers, particularly new teachers, that it is a hard job with a stiff learning curve and that they are not all going to emerge as superstars their first year, or even the first few.  It is a disservice to those teachers who are killing themselves and leaving the profession thinking they aren't good enough, and a disservice to ourselves in not helping them adjust to the demands of teaching. So, here is my story, not the only story, not the best, or the worst, but it is mine, and it may help. If it helps just one new teacher feel better about him/herself then sharing this publically is well worth any potential shame it may also bring.

All I ever wanted to do was teach. I was meant to be a teacher. I mean, I would play school with the neighborhood delinquent who was smoking butts from the gutter in second grade.  I would play school all the time - it was a part of me.

I started teaching later than most, my mom was ill and helping her took priority over school and my future so this isn't a right out high school and college story. Still, I think it may help, so here it goes.

I was hired after school started to take a class that would ease overcrowding. I was given books and kids all in 24 hours! My first classroom was half of someone else's and we literally had to walk sideways to get anywhere until our portable came 2 months later. I was always a week ahead of the kids in the curriculum, I had a revolving door for students, I think I had nearly 35 kids that year (class size was 20 - this is from them coming and going). I struggled to find my way and I worked ALL THE TIME. The year ended, I moved into a third classroom and prepared for my second year.

I took EVERY BIT OF CURRICULUM home, color-coded, and arranged it into files. I knew it all inside and out, backward and forwards by the end of the summer. I went to a local year-round school and observed classes during the first week of school. I felt I was ready and I couldn't wait for school to start.

School started and my first observation of the year was the day students were coming and going to take parts of the CELDT test. I thought it was a mess. I asked to have it redone and was told she saw what she was looking for. What?!? I am someone who takes everything to heart then stresses over it. So that was not an answer that made me feel good. During the debrief my BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support) mentor was there ready to take notes and I braced myself for whatever was ahead (even if I am getting good news I stress - so these things are ALWAYS stressful).  I was told that I had made 5 years of growth in one summer (really nice to hear) and that since my principal didn't want to bring me back (WHAT?!?) and that I was a pleasant surprise. Wait. What? Backup! That's right, she said she didn't want to allow me back for my second year, the vice principal talked her into giving me more time before she made that decision. I am so very grateful to him! I am indebted to him, and always will be. I had a wonderful year and received great marks the entire year but knowing that I had come so close to not having this dream stay a reality was crushing. That is when I decided to 1. always get to know the principal and let him/her
know me 2. help new teachers so that they do not feel so alone and lost their first year.

Years later, I had an observation where I tried something new. It wasn't working and the lesson crashed and burned in a slow-motion manner in front of my eyes. With one eye on the clock, I slowly watched the observation go down the drain and I couldn't help but think about what my principal (different from my first year) was thinking. When the time was over. I stopped the lesson, told the kids it wasn't working and took the steps back that I should have taken as soon as I realized the lesson wasn't working. My principal stayed and unbeknownst to me until later, he used this second period for the observation, My point is even good teachers have bad moments. Lessons fail. Plans don't work out as envisioned. Kids don't respond as you thought they would, Or some other thing is just "off".

Don't let one observation define you. Don't let one person's view or ideas define you. Ask others to come into your room. Ask for feedback. Be prepared to hear the good and the bad. Learn from your mistakes, correct them and move on, Don't dwell on the negative, If I had let that remark in that first debrief my second year define me I wouldn't be teaching, working as an instructional coach, or presenting at conferences. The best thing you can do for yourself is be the best you that you can be, allow yourself to change as needed, and don't be afraid of change. These are good reminders for everyone, think I will take my own advice as I prepare to be observed again this year.

So what's your story? Share in the comments below. I would love to hear how you overcame an adversity to become the teacher you are today.