Friday, May 15, 2015

Five for Friday

Friday, I'm in love.  Here's a peek back at my week! 

1.  My newcomer ELL's have been learning about the Pioneers, and to finish off our unit, we played Oregon Trail! I didn't even know this was still around.  Apparently there's an app you can buy, but after a little googling, I came across this one!

2.  I wish I had video-ed this moment.  We are working on an economics unit, and the first part is a future budget simulation.  Today's activity was a Game of Life type scenario, where kids had to roll the dice to see how much money they would gain or lose from their budget.  My kids said it was the best game we've played all year.  I'll call that a win!

 Here's a shot of their simulation- so much fun!

3.  My teammate has an Osmo, and we have been borrowing it periodically.  It's a great 5 minute time filler, and so perfect for ELL's!

4.  This is Lacey's new trick.  Can you see her? She sticks her nose under the fence and pretends she is some ferocious guard dog.   She has a big imagination.

5. I passed my principal exam!!!  What a relief!  Thanks for your support and good wishes- they paid off!

What happened in your world this week? Link up with Kacey!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Plan a Moving Up Day for your school!

Did you ever get "first day jitters" as a kid?  I did, and I still do!  I used to beg and plead with my mom to let me stay home on the first day of a new semester, for fear that I'd go to the wrong place. To alleviate the stress of the first day, I implemented "Moving Up Day" at our school for Kindergarten-5th grade.

Students get to meet their next-grade teacher, learn about some classroom rules and policies, and be a little more prepared for the first day of school.  This event is easy to plan, takes as much or as little time as you have, and costs no money- perfect for the end of the year!

Below is the letter I send to teachers, explaining what the day is all about, and giving some suggestions for activities.

If you want to plan a Moving Up Day at your school, here are some tips and tricks to make it easy!
  1. Get the support of your administration early on.  
  2. Get a copy of the master schedule- it's the easiest way to see which times/periods will work best for you. 
    • Study the master schedule, learn it, be one with it.  
    • When you pitch your plan to administration, it helps to have a backup time or period, and be familiar with the teachers who are free then. 
  3. Are there students who won't be participating? Make sure you have a plan for them. .
    • In our school, 6th-8th grade doesn't participate, so I make sure that those students are all involved in an activity which frees up the classrooms in the middle school wing.  
    • For example, this year the 8th grade will be having graduation practice, the 7th graders will be corralled in the cafeteria with substitutes, and the 6th graders will be at their electives. 
    • Students being retained will not gain anything from attending the program, so find a teacher who is free that period and send all retentions to them for an activity period.
  4. Send your schedule to the teachers about a month in advance. 
    • This gives plenty of time for preparation
    • Resend it the week of the event with any updates
  5. Be clear about your expectations for the session
    • Provide a list of suggestions that will fill the time 
    • Ask your administrators if they would like to address any of the students or grades during the session
  6. Take a post-mortem survey of teachers, administrators, and some students involved
    • Ask questions that will help you plan for next year's event

 Have you planned a Moving Up Day event at your school? What are some things you do the same or differently?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Thank You, Teachers!

Whether they teach art, science, music, history, English, math, or phys ed, teachers play a huge role in making students the leaders of tomorrow.

Teachers Pay Teachers is throwing a site-wide sale in honor of all those fabulous teachers out there!  Now's the time to stock up on your end of the year and summer school resources.  Don't forget to leave feedback to earn credits on future purchases.  Happy shopping!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Currently May

Yay for May! I know lots of you are gearing up for the last few weeks of school, but we go until June 12.  That's pretty early for New Jersey schools, actually, so I'll take it!

1. It's a lazy Saturday morning here! My husband has never seen Holes so we're watching it together before heading out for the day. 

2. Congrats to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge! Can't wait to see her style that baby!

3. Next week starts the 2nd round of PARCC testing for my kiddos.  I wish I didn't have to stand by and watch them struggle.  Breaks my heart. 

4. I have quite a few events coming up- bridal showers, retirement dinners, baby showers, rehearsal dinners, weddings, graduations...I need some dresses, stat!  I'm on the hunt...where do you shop for all-occasion dresses?

5. I woke up with a killer headache today.  Hoping it goes away by the time we see Avengers tonight. 

6. I'm going to Las Vegas for the TPT conference!! 
I hope we can squeeze in some time in Cape May this summer- there is a restaurant called the Blue Pig Tavern that I love. 
We keep talking about re-doing our kitchen, but haven't started the process (besides endless pinning!). 

What's on your mind this month? Link up with Farley

Thursday, April 23, 2015

One Note for the Classroom Tutorial

How much paper do you use on a weekly basis? A daily basis? In my classroom, I use none.  Zero. Zilch. How do I do it? I use One Note.  One Note is a Microsoft Office program which acts like a 3 ring binder.  All the teachers in my school have used One Note for lesson plans and curriculum for about 3 years, and this year grades 3-8 were given access as well.

I'll start by showing you how I organize my lesson plans.  Since I teach multiple grades, I create a simple table that I can forward to administration.  The links lead to other pages within my Lesson Plan notebook.

Once you click the link, you are taken to a specific plan.

The scroll bar on the right (yellow) makes it easy for me to keep all the handouts and supplementary materials I need right next to the lesson plan.  Once I've collected all the materials I'm going to use in a lesson, I decide which ones to place into the notebook I share with my students.

There are quite a few ways to input documents into One Note.  The two ways I use most are below:

Click on Insert, then file printout.  Then you can choose your file to print the same way you would choose an attachment for an email.


In the print dialogue box, switch the printer to Print to One Note, then click print.

A dialogue box will pop up in One Note asking you where you'd like to place the document.  

If you create a class notebook through Office 365, you have the option to create a "handouts" space and a "collaboration" space.  Here's the difference: all students in that notebook can SEE and COPY from the "handouts" space, but can only edit in the collaboration space.  My classes mostly use the "handouts" space, which I call Student Work.  In Student Work, I have tabs for each subject I teach.  Along the right side are all the materials I've placed in that tab.

Once I copy and paste a worksheet into Student Work, I model for and tell my students which tab to go to.  I'll say, "Go to Student Work, Reading."  Once there, I show them the page they need to copy.  I try to always make it the one on the bottom of the scroll bar to make it easy. From there, students copy and paste the page into their own personal notebook, which only the student and I can see.

After copying the page into their notebook, students can use their finger, a stylus, or the keyboard to write and draw on their tablets.  We have Dell Pro tablets, but we have also used Surface RT's.  One Note is also accessible as an app for iPads.

To grade work, I simply access each student's notebook and find the page I need, then mark up as necessary.  This is quite tedious, as you have to go in and out of each notebook and find the tab and page you want.  Some teachers have their students email the page they've worked on, but I haven't tried that yet.

  • Pros of using One Note: 
    • we save lots of paper
    • it's extremely easy for modifications and organization
    • students are learning to use technology in the most efficient and effective way

  • Cons of using One Note: 
    • the grading process is not simple
    • it does take some getting used to for new students or faculty
    •  you are limited to printable-type resources (no interactive notebooks, flip books, or lap books)

If you'd like to learn more about using One Note in the classroom, send me an email! I'm happy to answer any questions you have.  Are you already using One Note? Let me know how you are using it in your own classroom!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Funniest English Teacher Video...Ever!

Do you teach English? Or English as a Second Language? Do you need a laugh?

I implore you to watch these hilarious videos of an "English teacher" in Thailand.  My ESL students shared them with me, and we spent quite a few minutes laughing our heads off.

The majority of the videos is in Thai, but you will understand a lot of it- do yourself a favor and watch, then tell me what you think!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Articulation Games for English Language Learners

In my position as an ESL teacher, I wear several hats: counselor, coach, social worker, and speech therapist.  I'm in no way certified in speech pathology (unless you count the one course I slept through took in linguistics) but we all know that when duty calls, teachers rise to the occasion.

Several of my lower-proficient ELL's have been really struggling to produce basic sounds, let alone full on words or sentences.  Some jumble through phrases, requiring multiple repetitions to be understood. Others get stuck in the middle of a sentence, not recalling what they've already said and therefore not knowing how to go on.  There are plenty of reasons for all of these examples: lack of first language (L1) proficiency, bilingual transfer (when words are forgotten in one language as the other gets stronger), or a speech disability which prevents the child from producing sounds in any language.

I decided to try to tackle these issues by mixing the bit I know about speech therapy with current trends in language acquisition theory.  I play a lot of conversational speaking games in my classes on a regular basis, but realized that I need a more targeted and intense focus for some of my Level 1 and 2 speakers, thus, my Articulation Games were born!

In these games, students can work on the goals and objectives that best suit their speaking needs.  For my lowest proficient students, I had them say/repeat the word, then identify it in the picture.  For my higher proficient students, I asked them to describe the word they landed on.  I included challenge cards (not pictured) which are great open-ended and higher level thinking questions.

Yes, we are using Christmas erasers. Yes, it's April.  #whateverworks
 Since my school is paperless, I simply printed the PDF into our file-sharing program called One Note, and my students were able to access it.  For a whole-group game, I displayed the game board on my white board, and each student had a different colored magnet to use as a marker.

 Our articulations and descriptive sentences started out low and slow, but soon gained momentum after plenty of modeling from me.

The current trends in ELL focus on learning language through the content area, and this is a great way to put that theory into practice. The language in these games all revolves around things we see in the spring, and touches on some science concepts.   

I was so pleased with the progress my students made in their speaking after just one class period!  We went from "Grass green." to, "The grass is green.  We walk on it."  If you're interested in trying these games out with your own ELL's or speech therapy students, click on any picture to head to my TPT store! 

 I'd love to give one away! Just leave me some love in the comments and I'll choose a winner on Thursday. Make sure to leave your email!