Monday, July 2, 2012

Announcement - I'm Moving!

I've been keeping some news "under my hat" for a few weeks.  After 8 years teaching 6th grade in our middle school - I found out that I'll be teaching 5th grade next year at the elementary school! 

There was a sudden opportunity at precisely the grade I wanted at exactly the school I was hoping for, so I jumped on it.  I have really loved being a 6th grade teacher and guiding my students through such monumental changes - switching classes, remembering locker combination, dealing with hormones and drama.....
However, I am really excited about the opportunity to practice teaching in the environment where I always envisioned myself - with a single set of students and a chance to put my own personal stamp on our classroom.

Sooooo.......since Diary of a Sixth Grade Teacher clearly isn't going to work anymore,  I hope that you'll join me on my new site.  (And for all my fabulous 6th grade follower friends - I still have TONS of great resources and information to share about the last 8 years of my teaching experience, so there will be lots there for you!)

Please stop by and check out the new digs!
 See you there!


P.S. - A special thank you to Misty and Erika from the Honey Bunch Blog Design for dealing with my anxiousness over the name change and making the transition to the new site as smooth as possible. I am forever grateful!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Putting Myself in My Students' {Dancing} Shoes.....

This summer my dear sister-in-law suggested that we take a dance class together.  I guess after two years spent together in the ballet studio's lounge waiting for our daughters, it seemed like a decent idea.  So....even though I have zip-zero-zilch in the way of dance experience, I agreed to join her for a six-week summer session of ballet/hip hop/modern/jazz.  And hey - I've watched every single season of Dancing With the Stars! How hard could it be?
 Well........... here is my visual of how I would look in dance class:
(That was before I discovered that we would not be wearing pointe shoes.  Hmph.) And here is how I actually looked in dance class:

I know because there is a GIANT MIRROR running all the way across the room. I sorta kinda forgot about that. And here's the thing I realized - I never try anything that I don't think I'll have at least some success with.  I'm just not used to failing so miserably. And that first week was - as my students say - an EPIC FAIL. I immediately sympathized with those students I've had that hang out in the back of the room hoping desperately that I don't call on them. Two things happened in that first class that helped me take on a new perspective.

1. The class went WAY too fast for me.  Most of the dancers had much more experience and already knew the moves and dance lingo. I barely had time to absorb one set of moves before another was added. Lesson Learned: Give my students time to practice at their own pace. Explain and demonstrate any tricky words.

2. My sister-in-law did something awesome and was singled out for praise. I messed up and was singled out for correction. Ouch. I shook it off and tried to do better, but....still....ouch. Lesson Learned: Find a way to give corrective feedback in a quiet way and in private if possible. Always find something to praise, too.

And although I am not going to be a prima ballerina anytime soon - I can say that with some focus and practicing on my own at home - each week has gotten a little easier. And I've taken the "Finding Nemo" inspired advice of my classmates: "Don't worry - just keep dancing...just keep dancing!"  And there's a lesson in that, too.

Tonight when I got in my car to head home after dance class, I laughed out loud when this song shuffled through my ipod - and I just had to sing along.............

"I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" - The Scissor Sisters

" I'll just pretend that I know which way to bend....."     :-)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Last Day of School - Hooray!

Let me tell you - I am SOOO sleeping in tomorrow morning!!  For the last week, I've been up at all hours of the night entering grades for report cards, finishing the reflection for my APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review), and creating/framing the personalized Wordle gifts for my 50 students.  But...they came out PERFECT!  So a little lost sleep was well worth the smiles on their faces.

Take a look!


It was lots of fun experimenting with different fonts, layouts, and colors to create a look unique to each student.  (If you haven't seen it before, you can check the full directions and a free guide to download on my previous post right here.

Okay - now off to do something mindless - watch an episode of True Blood and have a little Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Therapy ice cream.......  Hello Summer!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Black Hawk Visit!

This afternoon a crew from Fort Drum landed a Black Hawk helicopter at our school.  So awesome!!

Every year, the Character Connection Club teams up with the local Lion's Club to coordinate sending huge boxes of supplies and goodies overseas to the soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The soldiers were greeting by a screaming throng of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders (no one can scream like a middle-schooler!) as well as our local Patriot Guard Riders.

You can also check out our news clip here:

A super thank you to Captain Fernando Martinez and everyone from the 10th Mountain Division!  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Show Me Sunday- Favorite Websites Linky Party

It's that time again on 3-6 Free Resources..... Show Me Sunday! 
This month's theme: Favorite Websites Used in your Classroom

Here are my top three sites:

Terrific site where students can design their own storybook. We used this site to publish our Fractured Fairy Tales with color illustrations, title page, dedication page, and an About the Author page. Every student received a free color paperback book with the option to buy extra copies or a hardcover version.  So awesome!

I cannot recommend this site highly enough. There are literally thousands of educational videos on any conceivable topic - from Basic Addition and Biology to Art History and Physics - all totally FREE.  All the videos are in bite-sized chunks about 10 minutes long done with a microphone and virtual chalkboard.  Most of the topics are clearly for a high school or adult audience, but there are several topics geared toward the lower grades and I love to explore this site when I need (or just want!) to know more about a topic. Free and easy content knowledge enhancement!  This would also be a great at-home resource to share with parents and students.

Love this website! It's a terrific tool that helps track and manage behaviors in real-time with your computer or smartphone. It's flexible, fun, free, has great features for parents, and the company is constantly upgrading in response to teacher feedback. I started this in the last quarter of the school year and I can't wait to begin the year with it. I have blogged about ClassDojo before, so if you want more detailed information, check out this post.  :-)

What are your favorite websites to use in your class?
Check out 3-6 Free Resources and join the Linky Party right here!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Farewell Flash Mob!

Check out our school's flash mob send-off for our students last year!

It was such a blast - even though I am an AWFUL dancer and refuse to reveal who I am in this video!
I can't wait to see what they planned for this year.......

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Having the "Stinky" Talk

Well, it's that time of year again.......the temperatures are blazing into the 90s and my poor little oscillating fan is merely pushing around all that damp, stagnant, STINKY air.....ick! So it was time for THAT talk.  Chatting with a room full of 12 year-olds about their body odor can be a little dicey - but if done with some humor and a light touch, I think they actually appreciate the information.
I typically wait for one of the first stretches of really hot weather, and a day when the mood in the class is really upbeat and there isn't a lot of interpersonal tension.  I make a big deal out of a student closing the door, so that we can have a quick talk - "just between us", and say something like:

You may have noticed that it's getting to be that type of weather when it's a bit more difficult for us all to stay as.....ummm...."fresh" as we'd like.  You're more active now, and you're growing up, so I'm just passing along a friendly reminder that showering and deodorant routines should be stepped up as you grow up. 

Then I might make some connections to Science class, where they recently learned about the skin in their Human Body Systems Unit. We talk about using sunscreen, and we share a few sunburn stories. Finally, I pull out the deodorant samples and they talk about the various options for "dude" deodorant and "chick" deodorant. 
Since stinky feet are also a huge problem in my class, I pass along my Mom's anti-stinky-feet method - I demonstrate how to use spray deodorant on your feet after a shower (yes, I actually spray my own bare feet in class!) and how to spray a little in your shoes to keep that nasty Micrococcus Sedentarius bacteria at bay. (I frequently have high school kids come back to tell me how much they still appreciate that bit of advice!)

How do you handle a "stinky" class?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ice Cream Party!

A couple weeks ago, our team had a Penny War Competition to see who could raise the most money for a charity.  Our girls raised a whopping $255.52 for the Make-A-Wish-Foundation!  And since I promised the winning team an ice-cream party......I opted for the hottest day of the week and scooped out 25 bowls for my gals.....

They brought in various toppings to share, and we had a "chill" afternoon just chatting.  It was really nice to relax for a bit and just enjoy each other's company without an academic agenda. doesn't that look delicious?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

FREE Colorful CAFE Posters for the Daily 5

Last week I attended a school workshop on the Daily 5 and CAFE - and came away so excited to start, that I wanted everything set up before I left for the school year. Things can get so hectic during the summer, that having my Daily 5 / CAFE bulletin board ready to go would be a weight off, and I could concentrate on other things.  I couldn't find exactly what I wanted, so I just made my own and thought I would share them with you.

Just click on the image below to download yours free from my TpT site.
I also just saw - literally minutes ago -  that Runde's Room is hosting a Daily 5 / CAFE book study sometime at the beginning of July.  YES!!  I can't wait to chat with everyone and share some fabulous ideas.  Perhaps I'll see you there!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Another One Bites the Dust.....

When I came across Amber's Linky Party at Adventures of a Third Grade Teacher, I just had to join in - I am constantly critiquing what I am doing, so an end-of-the-year reflection is perfect! 
 Although I still have four weeks of school left, I can already tell you what went really well, and what I'll need to work on for next year. So let's start!

The Good

1. Team Activities  This year my teammate and I vowed to incorporate more team building and group activities. We did a ton of awesome stuff this year:
  • Beginning of the Year Get-To-Know-You Team Builders (Cross the River, Human Knot, etc...) 
  • Making tie-dye t-shirts in our team color - Go Team Yellow!
  • Liquid Nitrogen Ice-Cream Making with a guest speaker from Cryo Tech
  • Hoot Pancake Breakfast with Cocoa before our Christmas Break
  • Storigami Storyteller Christine Petrell Kallevig
  • Mythapalooza Toga Party! - Students performed Pluto Takes a Bride & Perseus and the Sea Monster. Then we enjoyed some Greek food and watched the Percy Jackson movie.  :-)
  • Wordle End of the Year Student Gifts (yet to come!)
2. Class Dojo   This revolutionized my classroom management. Students were more involved and really working toward those positive points and trying to avoid getting negative ones. with any behavior management system, it works best when I'm consistent with it.

 3. Teaching Blog & Collaboration
When I starting this teaching blog, I had originally intended for it to be a place for reflection, and to share some strategies and resources through TpT. I didn't fully realize how much I would enjoy sharing and collaborating with other blogging teachers.  And I didn't realize how much I would learn and gain from others - Mother's Day printables, insights into implementing the Daily 5 and CAFE, and especially Charity Preston's advice at TBTS.  More locally, I've been lucky to have an amazing Teaching Assistant for most of this year. She is fully involved, jumps in with insights and explanations, happily helps with grading, brings humor to the class, and has become a terrific friend. I can only hope that we are scheduled together next year as well.

The Bad

1. New Spelling Program
We switched to a high-frequency focus this year with 50 words that all sixth-graders must master by the end of the year. Every two weeks students would focus on four words they personally missed on the pre-test, completing one homework assignment. That wasn't the bad part. The bad part was trying to efficiently keep track of which students were working on which words each week. Also - they had "Spelling Buddies" who would theoretically help them study and quiz them. But very often, they couldn't find their paper telling them which words they were doing, their partner could not pronounce the word accurately, and and if they got just one wrong, their grade was a 75.  And with only 4 words every two weeks, few of my students took it very seriously or ever really studied.

2. Individualized Student Interventions
With the switch this year from 80 minutes of English Language Arts to trying to fit in both ELA and Social Studies into 100 minutes, I've been scrambling to cram in the full curriculum of both subjects and have not been great at making time to meet with students individually. My students have grown this year, but not to the extent that I'm happy with. I really hope that the Daily 5 and CAFE will help with that next year.

The Ugly

3. Organization
Supplies, filing cabinet, desk arrangement, wall design, lack of coherent units....... EVERYTHING needs a tune up next year! Again, I think the Daily 5 and and CAFE will help with organizing classroom routines. I'm moving more items to binders and working on unit plans based on the Common Core. Here are a few ideas I want to try:

So how did your year go? Stop on over to Amber's Blog and link up!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Origami Stories

Do these look familiar to you?  If your students are anything like mine, you're discovering these darling creations all over your classroom - in desks, on the floor, fluttering past your head....   ;-)
So...why not harness your students' natural paper-folding tendencies to create origami?

Last week our team welcomed Storigami artist and storyteller Christine Petrell Kallevig to our school. She was pretty awesome  - demonstrating to the students how to fold a series of origami figures along with a story. A hat transformed into smaller and smaller kites and then into a crane.......    A pond morphed into a turtle and - poof! A box!

My sixth graders particularly liked her modular origami - colorful figures created using multiple component papers.  Each child can create one simple shape and then join them together into a larger object.  Isn't that red, white, and blue swan fantastic?!

 A class origami project could be an awesome team-builder at the beginning of the year or maybe a fun end-of-the-year closing activity. If you have time to fill during the last days of school, you could show your students a few videos and let them have at it. (Also works as a great way to clear out those stacks of old dittos you know you'll never use!)
If you're looking for instructions, video, and other ideas, the Origami Resource Center website is terrific.

Star Wars origami anyone?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Extreme Makeover: Blog Edition

An English friend of mine used to say, "start as you mean to go on".  So when I decided to begin blogging, I knew from the start - even though I was thoroughly green - that I wanted a truly great blog design. A space that was pleasing to view, welcoming to visitors, and also inspiring to myself since I'll be spending so much time immersed in it.

Blog "Before"
And from my point of view, Misty & Erika from Honey Bunch Blog Design absolutely achieved that. Here is the Before picture, which my darling husband so kindly called "ugly"!

And just look around for the After - to even say that it's better doesn't begin to do it justice. I contacted HBBD when I started noticing that the blog designs I liked the most were their work. Places like Tales From Outside the Classroom, Dennett's Teaching Tools, and Teaching in Sixth Grade.

When I first started talking to Misty, I had a vague notion of what I wanted, but nothing definite. Something that matched the "diary" of my title with perhaps some notebook paper.

And I am thrilled with how Erika brought it all together, highlighting the features I loved best like the clever flowers made of pencil shavings, string, and paperclips.

If your blog needs a little (or a big!) "lift", I wholeheartedly recommend Honey Bunch Blog Design. I just know you'll love their work! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Stealth Disco Prank!

 Click here to watch these awesome teachers play a prank on their high school students!
I sooo want to do this!  We did a Flash Mob send-off last year, which was great fun, but this would be even better!

Did your school plan something fun for the teachers to do at the end of the school year?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...