Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Factors Multiples Arrays OH MY!

It must have been all the sleep I got during the Thanksgiving Break, but I managed to finish up a math packet I've been working on for a bit. I started it when I noticed my students weren't having much luck grasping the idea behind multiplication strategies. I want them to have several ways to think about solving multiplication and division problems when standardized testing time rolls around. I usually start by asking the class what ways do they know to solve a problem like 3x12.

This year when I asked I got the logarithm method of straight vertical multiplication. When I probed for another way...*crickets crickets crickets*

Even when I lead them with ideas such as drawing 3 circles and putting 12 shapes inside each, or mentioned arrays I still got complete blank stares out of my 19 students. They were fascinated as I showed them the lattice method of multiplication and moved into the area model. They loved those and started using them right away.

And the idea for this packet of activities was born.

I didn't manage to get everything in this one, but after 34 slides, I figured it was time to let it go. Here's what I did include in it:

Classroom posters (1 each for Factors, Multiples, and Arrays)
Divisibility Rules
Factor Activities including worksheet and game
Array homework and worksheet ideas
Making Arrays
Array word problems
Multiplication tables (blank and filled)
Multiples word problems
Multiples games

You can find it right HERE

Sunday, December 01, 2013

TpT+Cyber Monday!

Did you survive Black Friday? Or are you still feeling the shopping itch?
TpT is throwing a huge Cyber Sale Monday and Tuesday, December 2 & 3. For these two exciting days only, I will be offering 20% off ALL of my products. Even more amazingly, TpT is going to stack their own sale onto mine, making for a combined 28% off my entire store! Make sure to use Code CYBER when checking out.
Might be time to grab that Frindle novel pack you've been eying, or that Mentor Sentence 10 week unit while you can!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Frindle - Novel Study

This year was the first time I tried an extended text as a read aloud. Extended text involves a lot of very close reading and asking the students to do more than just listen to the story or ask questions. It delves deeper into the text and the nuances of the novel, revealing more depth and meaning behind the text. The students need to do some serious thinking and interaction with the novel (insert groans and sighs from them here) but they come out on the other end understanding so much more.

Our first foray into this was Elizabeth George Banks's, Sign of the Beaver. I am ashamed to say I had never read it before. Once I did I really enjoyed it. It took us about three weeks to get through the entire novel. We did so many different activities that I pulled off of TpT for free that it got my brain thinking.

Our next novel was to be a little fun book by Andrew Clements. Scholastic had a sale on it in September for $1 so I bought the class their very own book. Now I could get them to do even more delving, this time with a highlighter! We've only read chapters one and two but already they are noticing things on their own and predicting about events to come. They love reading it and don't want me to stop.

As I was reading through it again for ideas, I started putting together a plan for what I wanted to teach. Well, that plan turned into an entire set of activities that I could use just from this short 135 page book. I worked on it over several days and finally had a product to put out for y'all to enjoy along with me.

But I had to know if it would actually work in a regular classroom, so I started using the activities in my classroom to get a feel for them.

And wouldn't you know it; they already noticed a mistake on one of the sheets. As we were going through the character sketch for Mrs. Granger, they saw that the textboxes actually referred to her as a 'he'. That's what i get for reusing a previous sheet. Don't worry. I already went back, fixed it, and  reloaded it.

I can't wait to try some of the other activities as well. So keep an eye out for further posts on this subject!

Oh, you can grab the Frindle Novel Study right here.

October S.L.A.N.T. Reveal

I am so SO so late in blogging about this. I hope Susan forgives me. I mentioned before in this post 
that I had joined in the SLANT bandwagon. I had absolutely no idea what to expect or what others were sending out in their care packages around the world. But when I heard it was a little SPOOKY themed, I was all over it.

I sent my contribution all the way to Australia and eagerly awaited my little box. Then suddenly it was here.

I was given the amazing and super friendly Susan from here as my buddy. She contacted me almost as soon as the list was out to introduce herself. She also completely made my day when she revealed that she was already a follower of my blog. It's still fascinates me that people actually read my ramblings. To have someone reference it makes me feel like a ROCK STAR!

And the happiness only continued when I opened that little puppy. Everything I pulled out, from the set of ghoulish drinking goblets, to the scented pens, to the hamburger socks. Yep, I said hamburger socks. I can't wait to strut through the halls of school with those on!

Thanks, Susan. You are wonderful!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thursday Tutorial - Recycled Science Projects

When I was teaching Third Grade we always did this recyclable materials project since it went with the curriculum. We would often adopt the motto of 'Go Green' to cut down on paper waste and reuse materials. It's a great lesson for students to learn and I kind of missed that piece when I moved to Fourth.

But that shouldn't mean that students can't be exposed to the idea of recycling to help their environment, does it? This year, as I was printing out the directions for our Solar System project, I realized I could totally slip a little recycling in when it had never been before. I found the part in the parent instructions that told them not to think they had to spend a ton of money to recreate the planets and such and added in more suggestions about using recycled materials. I had crumpled up newspapers, bottle caps, and rolled up socks as ideas for making the solar system.

Some of my kids surprised me when they started complaining they didn't know how to create this project, or they didn't have anything recyclable at home. Are you kidding me??? We talked and discussed as a class and we heard from some of the those that had already started what they were finding to use in their projects.

The due date arrived for turning in this assignment and I was blown away. They really did an awesome job with this and reused a bunch of odds and ends to recreate the solar system. With a little forward thinking, we can all help save our planet, the third from the Sun.

Wednesday Writing - PenPal Replies

Whoo wee! You should have seen how excited my kiddos were when I told them our Penpals from New York have written back.

Okay, well, you can see a picture here:

I had paired up with Jessica Ivey and Holly (Fourth Grade Flipper) as part of a project to get my students to write more often.

Jessica was telling me that her class has been asking about the return penpal letters ever since we sent the first batch off. Mine? Not so much. No one really seemed to be thinking about them or wondering at all what was going on up North.

But as soon as they heard what was in the package I was holding, their excitement really shone through. Totally made me smile to hand out these great colorful letters and all the fun gifts that Holly's students sent us. We had only two pouty faces because their penpal hadn't sent them anything extra. But I gave them the old 'Kill em with kindness' speech and they quieted down.

Mine immediately wanted to write back and send their pals gifts. I can't reveal what they are sending because that would just plain spoil the surprise! So be on the lookout Penpals!

We even got some tattoos that were super cool!

Tuesday Tried It - Weight Loss

It was someone's idea to have our school's picture day on a Friday this year. You've gotta understand. That is the one day we are allowed to wear jeans to school, but we have to wear it with spirit wear. It's not always the nicest looking outfit, but I am NOT missing a jeans day. Needless to say, I skipped pictures the first go around.

When picture retakes came through, I was ready. I got all dressed up and went right to the photographers before any of the students arrived so I wouldn't be rushed, sat right down and turned my head ever so slightly and waited. The gal behind the camera laughed and said, "You've done this before, huh?"

I got those results back recently and was a bit shocked. I have my picture from last year sitting up on my wall and as I compared the two there was a marked difference. All that working out over the past seven months has paid off. I have proof!

but I can't seem to make it turn the right way. Whaaa!

Monday Mentor - Moon Phases OREO style!

This is my third year teaching fourth grade curriculum. Help me Lord, but I look forward to making the Moon Phases out of Oreo cookies. Every time I am in Costco and spy the huge warehouse sized box of Oreos I think, "Is it time?" Finally the day arrived that I could buy that Monster box of cookies and not feel one ounce of guilt.

I lug them into the class and just watch my students eyes grow three sizes too big. As I'm explaining what we are doing I can tell they aren't listening to a thing I'm saying. All they care about is whether or not they can EAT their display. Even with all that glue stuck on it, they still want to pick the whole thing back off and stuff it down their throats.

I manage to hold them off from gorging themselves on chocolatey goodness long enough to show them how to arrange the cookies to represent the eight moon phases. We twist the tops off the Oreos carefully and use the non cream side for the New Moon. We scrape most of the cream off of the bottom into a crescent sitting on the right hand side for the Waxing Crescent. The cookies continue in this way all the way around the lunar cycle until they have the whole plate covered. This usually takes a while and requires a lot more glue than one would expect. I couldn't find my bottles of liquid glue, not sure if I tossed them during the summer move to a new room. Thankfully our art teacher is kind.

We set them on the floor out of the way to dry. I  know, torture. The next day I hand out a sheet of terms for them to cut out and label their moon phases. As I walk around with my grade book in hand, their glassed over pleading eyes beg to know if they can EAT now. Even after all the cream and the bottom halves of the cookies yesterday, they still want to gobble the rest. I give in and return to my desk to calmly enjoy my pack of 6 Oreos.

Until next year.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Thursday Tutorial - Salute!

We played a fun game at our annual Math Night. Once a year we turn the entire school into a smorgasbord of mathematical genius. The halls are lined with tons of games based on numeracy, graphing, operations, and algebraic thinking. All of the teachers turn out for a night of frivolous number crunching.

My fourth grade partners and I set up a math game called Salute in the hall outside our rooms. There is a deck of cards set out on two desks. Children sit opposite each other and a third player becomes the 'Caller.' The players decide it they will be doing addition or multiplication. Each of the students pulls a card from the deck without looking at it. The Caller says, "Salute", and they place their card up against the forehead. The Caller than tells them the sum or the product of the two cards. Whoever can identify their card first wins the set. At the end the person with the most cards wins that round.

It's fun and silly and just a great way to practice their facts. I love watching the little kindergartners try to figure out what card they have stuck to their forehead. Fun fun.

Wednesday Writing - Spider vs. Fly

Something a little fun this week from the Writing World of FrynsTown. I completely stole the idea from Jivey, but it was just too fun to pass up. I started out by reading the poem (fable) Spider and the Fly:

The Spider and the Fly
By Mary Howitt 
Will you walk into my parlour? said the spider to the fly.
Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy,
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there.
Oh no, no, said the little Fly, to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair, can ne'er come down again.
I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high
Will you rest upon my little bed? said the Spider to the Fly.
There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in!
Oh no, no, said the little Fly, for I've often heard it said
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!
Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, Dear friend what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I 've always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that's nice
I'm sure you're very welcome, will you please to take a slice?
Oh no, no, said the little Fly, Kind Sir, that cannot be,
I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!
Sweet creature! said the Spider, you're witty and you're wise,
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I've a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you'll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.
I thank you, gentle sir, she said, for what you 're pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I'll call another day.
The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing,
Your robes are green and purple, there's a crest upon your head
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!
Alas, alas! How very soon this silly little Fly.
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue
Thinking only of her crested head, poor foolish thing!
At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour, but she ne'er came out again!
And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed.
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly. 
Then we read an article about how helpful a spider actually is:
Followed up by whether flies are useful:
I have them take notes on a t-chart to describe how each animal is helpful or harmful. 
Finally I give them the choice to write an opinion piece from the point of view of the spider or the fly.  They write up a thought bubble of sorts using the voice of their character and tell the other creature why they should or shouldn't be eaten. They have to use some of the information from the articles to 'prove their point'. 

When they were done I have the more brave of my students read them out loud but using a different voice. Some read like Dracula, some a cowboy, some as a Southern Belle. It gave me a chuckle to hear their arguements. 

Tuesday Tried It - Field Trips

I believe children should get out of school and experience the real world as much as they can. I think they should be exposed to culture more often. I think bringing them away from the four walls of the schoolhouse brings them further life experiences that enrich and further their education. That is why I always volunteer to head up the yearly field trip at our school.

It is not an easy endeavor. There's so much paperwork and math involved. Did I mention there is math? Ugh. Calculating how many miles and how many buses we can squeeze 225 fourth graders on is just mind boggling. Don't make me mention the idea of getting every child to bring in $8. It's like a race to the very finish to get all the money in so we can actually leave the building.

This year we went to see a production of Peter Pan and Wendy at our local theater (it is 4 miles from the school, which means 8 miles total). We took over the entire theater and displayed mostly appropriate behavior throughout the play. I liked how they made it a bit more interactive than the production we saw last year. The kids were clapping and answering questions and shouting at the stage to keep them interested. We made it back to school exhausted, but at least a little more fascinated with culture. I call that a win.

Mentor Monday - Planet Cookies

We are in the thick of it with our Planet/Stars/Moon unit. Next week will be Week 3, totally nice to have an extra week to get through all this content. I think this curriculum is fun. I learn something new every year and the kids love soaking up as much as they can with me. I learned that there is to be a replacement telescope for the Hubble sent up in 2015. It was supposed to be this year (which would have been totally cool!), but something must have happened. Another thing is that Pluto is not the only Dwarf Planet categorized in our Solar System. There are four more!
One question I had from this year was how did they manage to get a satellite through the asteroid belt to explore the Outer Planets? Pretty intelligent stuff.

The point of this post was to be about this cool thing one of my parents did for us. So I guess I'll stop babbling about Planets and talk about that now. The second student to leave us this year was going to have his last day on Friday. His mom contacted me and asked if she could bring in some cookies for the kids to decorate as a treat. Never the one to miss out on a teachable moment, I wrote back and said that would be perfect. Could she come during our Science block and we could have them decorate the cookies as planets to create a Solar System model? She agreed.

We had the BEST time. She brought so much frosting, jimmies, sprinkles, and two types of cookies. We talked about how the sugar cookies were better than the oatmeal ones for the Outer Planets because the bumpy ones looked more rocky like the Inner Planets. Content with a twist!

Friday, November 01, 2013

10% Sale - So I cheated a little.

I was feeling a little generous, must be all that sugar I've consumed in the past few days. There's a little sale going on over at my store. Check it out!  SG Store

Thanks to all those who played the BOO Game.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I've just been Boo'ED

I woke up this morning to find my Facebook feed splashed with pictures from my sister's Halloween Party she held last night. Sadly, I could not be there since she lives in Maine and I live in Georgia. It got me thinking though, about how the holiday of Halloween has changed.

When I was a kid, I don't recall my elementary school holding costume parades or even allowing us to wear costumes to school on the fateful day. I do remember being pent up the entire day, vividly. That anxious anticipation of all out fun started about a week out when the Halloween shows began. My favorite to this day is It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. There were others like Fat Albert and Scooby Doo Halloween specials. Am I dating myself here or what?

One year I remember sitting on the couch watching the animated showing of Gulliver's Travels and just waiting for my mother to announce, "It's time." That meant I could finally put on my Darth Vader costume and grab my pillow case off the bed to scour my neighborhood for the best candy. We had to wait until it got dark before we could go out Trick or Treating. Then we had to hear the dreaded news whether or not we had to wear our jackets over our costumes because it was too cold outside to run around in paper thin plastic capes. My 'neighborhood' consisted of four streets packed with homes that ran along two main streets. My house was on the front busiest street so we had to start there to hopefully avoid the traffic. But the rest were a free for all as we ran hither and thither collecting sugary goodness until we couldn't carry out pillow cases without dragging them.

Nowadays schools have put a Stop Gap on anything Halloween, canceling all parties, worksheets, movies, and mentioning of the holiday. It saddens me but I understand that we need to respect the religion and beliefs of all the children in our classrooms. My principal has found a way to still throw some fun our way during this time. We are having a Book Character Dress Up Day on Thursday, October 31. My grade level has talked about going with a common theme for the teachers, but nothing has been solidified as of yet. I don't think there will be any candy passing, but there might be a parade through the halls. Should be fun!

That's me as Harry Potter for last year's parade. 

So, here's what this post is all about. I am BOO'ing two of my BBB (best blogging buddies) through their email and challenging them to BOO two others. Then they are to write a post about what they do during this time of year. Now I want to hear all sides, from those that still celebrate Halloween, and those who don't believe in it. I'm really interested in how Halloween is taken around the world.

Once you've BOO'ed and blogged, come back here and LINK up with this thread so I can read all about what goes on for you as October nears its end. Make sure to use my BOO Logo up above in your posts.

As some added fun, however many folks link up between now and October 31 will determine the sales percent I throw up on my TpT store. So if 100 people link up, I'll have a 10% sale from November 1-3. If 200 people link up, it'll be 20%. So make sure you encourage your BOO'EES to link up! Does this mean if 1000 people link up, I'll have a three day long FREEBIE sale at my TpT Store? (Yep, can you see my freaking out face right now?)

Thanks for playing!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wednesday writing - Thank You Letters

Today was the first meeting of our Photography Club. 20+ faces arrived bright and early at 7 A.M. to join me in my room as we started the year off right! I handed out yellow folders and explained that we would be talking all about Light and Photography, so yellow would help them remember how important light is to taking pictures. They all stared blankly at me, which I sort of expected.

Then I sprang the surprise I've been waiting for since August on them. I showed them the four cameras that we were given from donorschoose.org. I explained how some totally random people, complete strangers to each other and them, donated their hard earned money to help us out with our club. Their little jaws dropped when they heard how much money someone spent on them.

I asked how we could show our appreciation and they immediately wanted to make cards for the donors. I just happened to have some fun photo and film inspired thank you cards waiting to go. They jumped right onto it and managed to complete the cards before our 20 minute class time slot was complete. Yay!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tuesday Tried It - October Slant Boxes

I came across this little Swap Party on Bloglovin one day and thought I'd throw my hat into the ring. Who doesn't love getting mail that doesn't involve bills? One teacher sends you a box of goodies geared towards you (they kind of have to stalk your blog and social media to get ideas) and then you send a box to someone else. S.L.A.N.T. actually stands for Sending Love Across the Nation to Teachers and it was dreamed up by Jameson over at Lessons with Coffee.

She does this once a month and for October the theme is: Teaching can be Scary. That's another reason I jumped all over this. I'm having a scary time this year and I still feel knocked off my game of late, but hopefully a friendly chat with another teacher will help smooth the road ahead.

I've already been assigned and gotten email contacts from both  my person and my recipient. They are definitely eager beavers and I can't wait to find out more about them. My recipient actually lives in Australia. I'm sorta tempted to ask her if I can hand deliver the box to her, but it would be WAY passed the due date. Oh well.

The SLANT Box Exchange

Monday Mentor - Math Lit Connections

Today was a teacher workday, which translates into we were in meetings all morning. First we had an ESOL check up to make sure we were following our little darlings closely and adjusting curriculum to hit their weak areas. A lot of mine have problems in listening and speaking. I don't see much of a problem with their talking, they do that very well. But I digress.

Our next meeting was with our Literacy and  Math coaches to plan out the next nine weeks. I can hardly believe the first quarter is done and gone. This second one always flies by. This year is going to be even worse because I literally will by flying by on Week 8 to Australia!! But I digress. The math coach did an awesome job collecting a ton of books for each teacher to have in their classroom. Each title addresses some math concept in fun new ways.

We had to pick from the bucket of goodness and come up with ways that we could use the book in our classroom. We could make mini lesson, whole group instruction, or station idea suggestions from our book. I grabbed this neat little book called Mystery Math: A First Book of Algebra by David A. Adler. It's October and this cover had all those perfect little ghosties and ghoulies on the cover. I used to love Halloween growing up but it seems to be squeezed out of the school system now.

This little nugget starts off teaching students what an equation is and why the two sides of an equal sign need to be balanced. Then it goes into variables and how to find the solution to algebra equations using all four mathematical operations. Mandy and Billy foolishly stop by a haunted house and have to solve the algebraic riddles to make it through. They count ravens on the wires, bats inside the belfry, and the obligatory skeletons in the closet. It's done in a simple and manageable style that I can't wait to try out on my students and make this a station for them to design their own story problems.

Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Friday - Spraguers Takeover Atlanta

Thankfully my brain was not on school time this morning and I was able to sleep until 8. Kelly, Ann Marie, and Sabrina had already left for their VIP tour of CNN. The rest of the group met downstairs in the lobby for the continental and then hopped onto the Marta. As we were going through the day I said we would be 'jumping on Marta' and Jess expressed a hope that Marta was not in fact a person. She soon found out the loveliness that is Marta as we rode it three stops to the Peachtree Center. Then, typical of Atlanta, we had to walk a mile to get to the Georgia Aquarium. It was a bit chilly this morning for wearing shorts, but I powered through.

We had our group shot done outside and then wandered in to feel the stingrays and sharks. Two fingers please, no poking. Kristen almost got attacked by a feisty little number who liked to wave on top of the water. I think what saved her was definitely her sailor inspired garb; she was simply too cute to maim so the stingray floated away.

The group moved en masse through the circuit of the aquarium, stopping to ooh and ahh over the lion fish and oggle the electric eel, as well as snap pictures of the albino alligators. We had to hold Jana back when she discovered that the penguin exhibit was closed for maintenance. But she was placated by the super adorable sea otters who showed off for us. Then it was onto the belugas before lunch.

We spent an entire block of time just simply enjoying the Whale Shark exhibit. The soft lighting, the cool blues of the tank, the serene music all combined to make it a wonderful experience. If we had had some hot chocolate and a blanket, we could have stayed in there all day. The manta rays were having a ball inside the tank. We all wanted to join them as they did back flip after back flip. Jess provided voices for each and every fish that floated by. It was totally hysterical as she provided running commentary for the manta ray, "Away!"

After the aquarium, the group split up with half onto the World of Coca-Cola and the others to head back to the hotel. I hadn't been back to the World of Coke since they opened up the new location so it was all new to me. With Kelly's suggestion us GA residents were able to secure two entries for $20 and got everyone in. We could have done without the little entry video with crazy weird characters apparently living inside the Coke machines, of which I'm now a little afraid to approach. But we did enjoy the bottling plant and the vault. Very few of us, okay me, was brave enough to sample all of the drinks. Even the 'Beverly' from Italy. Uck! All hopped up on caffeine we walked back to Marta.

Dinner was going to be tight if the whole group was to meet, eat, and then head out to our prospective movies. We had planned on attending the IMAX and martinis showing at 9 called the Hidden Galaxy, while Jess and her crew went to watch Sandra Bullock being assaulted for 90 minutes. I tried getting reservations for 16 at Mary Mac's Tea Room but they wouldn't take them on the weekend and said their space was large enough we wouldn't have a problem. However when we did arrive, they said the wait would be 45 minutes. Crushed, we had to juggle the opportunity costs of the evening. IMAX was let go as we opted for a nice calm dinner with the group.

That was before we realized that Mary Mac's would LOAD us up with tons of food. We each got to try some Pot Likker (try saying that without a Southern Accent). Then they placed bread baskets full of yeast rolls and cornbread on the tables. THEN they bring out the baskets of the tastiest cinnamon rolls ever. Unfortunately, food arrived after this and it was all so good we had to eat it! Did I mention we each ordered desserts? Uh huh, I had to force myself to down that Peanut Butter Pie. It was horrible.

Tired, fat, and happy we all headed back to bed.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Spraguefest #6 - Let it begin


The second day of SpragueFest #6 is coming to a close. What a whirlwind, as always. It was so great to pull into the hotel and trudge upstairs to the room and see the door wide open just waiting for me. I called out to my normal roomie, Meg. The door across the hall flies open and out pours Ms. Jana and NanaJeanne. Seeing their smiles just made all my daily cares just wash away. The Hugging Time has begun. This is what I needed right now.

We immediately all gathered in the small couch and living area with a glass and just caught up. Hearing how Jana is enjoying her retirement, or, how she refers to it, her retarded time, and living it up without missing too much about working the grind. Also, hearing about how Meg's daughter is doing with her diving and how amazing she's gotten to the National level. I told them all about my new class and the daily struggle that entails.

By this time the sunlight is fading from the room and we get a text from the head group of Sprague.com that they are stuck behind an accident on 85, so we decide to head out for some pre-dinner food and spirits. We decide on the Prickly Pear right next to the scheduled dinner place. On the way we bump into four other Sprague Avatars coming up to the restaurant. They were going to drop off their fruit in the room and join us. Our giddiness of seeing each other did nothing for our usual restraint of menu ordering as we pile on the cheese dip, taquitos, BBQ chicken nachos and pitcher after pitcher. We totally took advantage of the gorgeous October weather and sat outside so we could keep an eye on the other restaurant in case another Avatar showed up.

It was getting later and colder but the laughter didn't stop. Around 8:30 I spy that familiar smile bebopping around the corner. Jessica Sprague had arrived. She saw us and set a beeline right for our table. Everyone jumped up and the Hugging Time began again. We paid up at the Pear and piled into Dressed, Salad with Style who turned out to be rude and told our friends they could only order something if they took it to go. Wow! Welcome to the Atl. The whole group skips back to the hotel and plunk ourselves out on their patio and just chill. The conversation was flowing so much we had to stop Jess so she could eat her sandwich after driving 8 hours to see us.

11:30 was our bedtime.

The next morning I was still on school time and was wide awake by 7A.M. Meg, however was not. I lay there staring at the ceiling debating whether or not to get up and blog, or pop open my tablet and read The Cuckoo Calling. But if I do that, I don't have the sound off my tablet and it would wake poor Meg up and that girl needs her sleep! Suddenly this tone starts building across the room. Her phone alarm is going off. Yay! I watch her reach for the bedside table then realize her phone isn't there, chuckle over her stumbling across the room to turn off her alarm. And watch her head right back to bed and throw the sheets over her head. She wasn't getting up.


But it happened again only 15 mins later. This time she puts her glasses on and I know she is up. I call out a cheery, "Morning" as I rush into the shower. I wanted to get downstairs and see how they had set up the Magnolia room for us to do our Speed-Spraguing. Plus, I needed coffee. I was dressed and ready in no time and came out of the bathroom to check on Meg.

She wasn't ready just yet. I head on down for some breakfast of waffles and blueberries with Britta. Then I checked into our meeting space and see the tables lined up in neat rows.This is not conducive to what I had in mind for Speed-Spraguing - think Speed Dating but with people you already know and love. It all worked out because as soon as we were all assembled you couldn't keep us quiet. We all introduced ourselves for poor Tristina who was the newest member of the Sprague Family. Then we all got caught up with each other's lives. We've been busy little beavers.

Around noon, we all headed out for a brisk little 17 minute walk to The Varsity for a little lunch. It was such a beautiful day and I got to chat some more with my favorite Tori in the whole world. We arrived to find the rest of the bunch already adorned with paper hats and wondering over their Frosted Oranges, or "F.O." Everyone agreed that the onion rings were awesome and this was a great choice for lunch.

We headed back for another walk down to Piedmont Park for our Photo Walk. I was leading this tour, so I was a little nervous. I dragged those poor ladies all over that place. We started at the 14th Street entrance and the Runner's Statue. They forced me to stand up on it for photo ops. Poor Jana thought the homeless man on the side of the base was part of the art and leaned over to take a picture. The look on her face when he moved was priceless.

We toured the circular recreation area and strolled around Lake Clara Meer. We crossed the foot bridge for some fun photos by the gazebo and then headed back to the hotel, very pooped. The hotel provided us with dinner vouchers at Marlowe's, which was our next destination. Had to start with the fried green tomato sliders and Kelly and I swapped out on some chipotle and bbq ribs. I recommend the Georgia Peach Lemonade.

The night was capped off with a little hangout session back in our conference room. Jess surprised us all with some really cool Basic Grey photo albums and plenty of embellishments to fill it up. She thanked us profusely for rearranging our lives to come and visit her. The gratitude was evident as she struggled mightily not to cry. We all hugged on her and thanked her in turn for all she has given us.

It was a great night.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Monday Mentor - Goal books

I've been meaning to start this since the summer, but haven't thought of the perfect way to do it. I want my students to set weekly goals for themselves. It can be anything from finishing their AR goals, to bringing their SS grade up, to staying in their seat. They get to pick, but I try to guide them into choosing things that I have to constantly remind them to stop doing. I repeat the same instructions to the same children over and over that I should bring a tape recorder to school.

But, like the good man says, doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is the definition of insanity. It's time to shake things up.

It came to me out of the blue as I was walking around during math class on Friday. What about small individual notebooks that they can keep in their desks? Then I can write in the goals and make notes or do little punchouts on the pages for each day they are successful during the week. It will keep them on track and hopefully keep me sane.

I found all these cute little notebooks at Target and Jo-ann's. I now need to figure out how to let them pick their notebooks. Do I let the frequent flyers in my room go first so they they buy into the whole idea? Do I do it by the best behaved kids? Or pick names from a hat?

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Tuesday Tried It - Goal Weight

If you follow me on FB or have been reading my post blogs lately, you are going to be tired of hearing about this. But I am so freaking excited, I can hardly believe it.

I met my goal weight!

Back in March of this year I weighed in at my highest weight ever, 220. My family has issues with weight and I got complacent about watching it. Then finally I stepped on that deadly weapon, the bathroom scale, and my jaw dropped. It just got to that point where I said, "NO!"

Sitting with a friend in a bar snacking on buffalo chicken wings drenched in blue cheese I caught an infomercial about a weight loss program. They were doing the ubiquitous before and after shots and I turned to her and said, "I want to look like that!" She replied that we would make the perfect Before models.

Mmm-mmm. Nope. Not this guy.

I went home and bought the program called Tapout. It promised a slimmer and trimmer you in only 90 days. It wasn't a diet pill or involved ingesting chemicals into my body. It was just a good old fashioned workout program that would take the weight off naturally. I have a aversion to medicines and worry about taking the wrong ones, so I opted for buying this program hoping it would do the trick.

It's a dvd workout program where you follow an MMA style fight training for an hour a day six days a week. It was hard and I sweated a lot. But I kept at it.

By the end of the 90 days I did lose weight, 42 pounds. I was also noticing some muscle definition that I had never had in my entire life. I was pleased with the results but wanted more. I went through the program for another 90 days, but didn't lose a single pound. It wasn't until my third rotation that the weight started coming off again.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013 was the day. I stepped on the scale and saw that implausible number I set down almost seven months ago. 175 was the lowest I ever remember being in my adult life and that was some 12 years ago. And I did it.

My next goal? To get to my suggested height weight BMI number - 165.

Currently - October

I have actually been looking forward to linking up with Farley at Oh Boy! Fourth Grade again. It means another month has slipped away and the holiday season is upon us. October is like the gateway to non-stop holiday fun. I love me some Halloween and spend the entire month shivering on the couch watching horror movie after bad horror movie. My idea of F.U.N.

Farley had her newest Currently already up and running when I checked in this morning, so here is my version:

Don't you just love the spooky color palette of the background? Shiver!

Listening: So, G. informs me that we aren't in for our usual Saturday routine of laundry, groceries and the occasional haircut. He had to work. For two hours! I plugged away on the computer playing catch=up with my blog reading. Then he sends me off on my own to do the grocery shopping since he'll be another hour. Ugh.

Loving: Bath and Bodyworks had a coupon recently for a free small candle. They had some great new scents for Fall, like Leaves and Autumn Road. But I chose Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin. It is so yummy! I find myself just walking by, popping the lid and taking a whiff. Am I weird?

Thinking: I need to go shopping! I met my implausible goal weight of 175, down from 220, on Wednesday. Now even some of my skinny pants don't fit. In a good way!

Wanting: I have 38 wonderful online friends trooping into Atlanta this Wednesday. And to welcome them to town I wanted to make little goodie bags filled with treats. One is going to be a Savannah inspired pecan turtle. But I need a candy thermometer to make sure I reach the 240 degree stage to set up my caramel. Somehow it's going to be difficult to keep my hands off these treats.

Needing: Currently all of my belts are wrapping around my body and all the way to the back. I've had to drill holes in them in order to continue using them. But I want a real belt, preferably something cool. See Thinking above.

Trick or Treat: I live in my school's backyard, literally. And there are tons of kids in my neighborhood who attend the school I teach in. I see them occasionally, but would rather they not know which house is mine. I've had to turn many away when they want to come over and 'visit.' Halloween Night is tricky. Normally I go out to dinner and avoid the whole scene. I got started doing this because I had two crazy dogs that could never handle so many visitors at the front door. Imagine trying to hold a bowl of candy and restrain a wild beagle from attacking small children. Awkward. But this year, my pups have passed onto the Rainbow Bridge and I am free to open my doors wide. Will I? We shall see.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Life's a Beach

You would think that the week of parent conferences would knock me off my blogging track. Nope! It was the week after. Life's been sorta crazy over here. And next week is going to ramp it up a notch, but for a completely happy reason.

My annual get together with the most amazing online community will begin next Wednesday. The people at JessicaSprague.com are so cool and I love hanging out with them. This year they are all coming to ME! Needless to say I offered to help coordinate activities and funstuff for the weekend. So if you are reading my blog next week and see recaps of cool digital scrapping ideas and loads of trouble from Atlanta, you know what it's all about.

Hopefully life will be back to normal the next week and I will have more teaching life to share!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Mentor- Snowball Fight!

I found this great idea in a book on Differentiation. Here's what you do: As you are studying a unit or concept, have the students write something they've learned today or the past week on a slip of paper. They come to the carpet and make a circle. Have them crumple up the paper and flex their muscles. At the count of 3 everyone TOSS their snowball into the center of the circle. Next, have a small group of kids at a time reach in and grab a snowball. When everyone has one, at the count of 3 have them TOSS it into the center again. Do this for as long as you can stand it (a minute was all I could take).

Finally, everyone grabs a snowball to read out. You can applaud the interesting new facts students have put in their memory banks and also say, "Let's talk about that," when misconceptions are brought up. Everyone gets a chance to participate without feeling pressure that they might be 'wrong'.

Fun, right?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Wednesday Writing - Pen Pals

I know some seriously cool bloggers, but Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper definitely tops the bill. Not only was she the first person to donate to my DonorsChoose project, but now she is helping my class find an authentic audience to write to. I've done some writing of letters with my classes in the past, but we've never had pen pals before. Not until Holly posted on her blog that she was on the lookout for a group to swap letters. I didn't see the blog post first, though. My BBBIRL (Best Blogging Buddy in Real Life) Jivey did. She immediately fired off a response to Holly's request. Holly was looking for 46 students to share letters and with my 26 kids paired with Jessica Ivey's 25 we had more than enough.

This fits so perfectly with my original plan for my group this year. We ask our students to write every day in our classrooms, but often times it's just a response to a book or an informational report. The students don't really see their audience for these daily writings. I wanted to offer them some real authentic people to write to, which would in turn give their writing more purpose. We are currently crafting a letter to our Cafeteria Manager to suggest Meatless Mondays in our school to help combat childhood obesity. I plan on having them write to their favorite authors later this year. But nothing will produce such results as Holly's Pen Pal Project.

Jessica has already written about our pen pals on her blog , so you can read more about it there and see some pictures. It was shipped out on Friday, and now we play the waiting game. I can't wait for our letters to get their first reply.

Tuesday Tried It - DonorsChoose items

When I was researching which cameras I wanted to purchase if my DonorsChoose project got funded, I immediately gravitated to the Nikon Coolpix S31. I had googled 'Best camera for kids' and this popped up on the suggestions list. Once I saw that it was shatterproof, waterproof, and had over sized buttons for little hands, I was hooked.

Notice I said 'if' the project got funded. I am still shocked that it actually came through. But it became more real the moment the package was put in my hands at school. They arrived from Amazon in only two days. Maybe they worked out a deal to get in on the Prime membership.

These cameras are seriously cute. I got two of the pink ones and two of the blue. For some reason the blue were discontinued and I had to go in and select something else, but not from Amazon. They rerouted me to Best Buy and I ordered the Canon Powershots. We'll see how those compare.

I can't wait to use them with my Photography Club. We'll use these to learn on in school and then they can go home and use their own cameras or phones to complete some 'homework.'

Monday Mentor - Science Weather Reports

One of the most fun projects I assign my Fourth Graders is to do a weather report. I love watching them get into videotaping themselves give a weather forecast, or create a powerpoint with super cool pictures of tornadoes and hurricanes. Some of them have TOO much personality! I always find myself laughing while watching the videos parents have either emailed me or sent in on a flashdrive.

This is the first time that I grade them on public speaking. Makes for some nervous bunnies on presentation day. And it's usually the kids that talk the most when they aren't supposed to. Yet, when you ask them to speak they get all shy and mumble their words. Why is that?

Here are some shots of my kiddos giving their presentations:

One of the best things from this year was when my newest student, who speaks broken English, came in with a huge bag. When it was his turn to present, he begins handing out papers to everyone with cute little Smiley Face lollipops on them. He brings me this biggest lolly of all attached to a poem he had written. It was incredible as he read it out loud for the class, but I have a sneaking suspicion he was trying to buy votes. Future politician?