Changes are Happening!

There has not been a post in a while on this site! That is because my family is going through some changes right now – all good things! School started up again in August and during this time, I also began my application for graduate school. I’m now in the process of taking classes (in addition to teaching full time) in order to get my master’s degree which keeps me busy! We also are now expecting our 3rd child, due in February!

Needless to say, I haven’t thought about updating the blog much the last few months. I may add things here or there, but I don’t expect to post consistently for awhile!

Back to School Bulletin Boards

I can’t believe I’m saying it, but it is back to school time! Although it is only July, I have had to start getting back into the classroom to prepare for a new year. We will be traveling the first few days of August, then celebrating my sister’s wedding, so I’m hoping to get as much done as possible beforehand!

One of the first things that I do in my classroom is put up my new back to school bulletin boards. Some of these boards are year round boards, but take awhile to complete at the beginning. This year I reused quite a bit of material from past bulletin boards. I knew I had saved all that for a reason!

Theme Board

My first bulletin board relates to the theme verse. This year that verse is Philippians 4:8. “Finally dear brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or prasieworthy – think about such things.”

Typically, my theme boards take a lot of time to put together. However, this one was probably the quickest I’ve had in a long time! I painted the words to “think about” on a piece of poster board, then cut it in the shape of a think bubble. Next, I found a clipart image of someone thinking. To make it the correct size, I enlarged it on the projector screen and simply traced it and cut it out. So easy!

Scientist of the Month

This board is a repeat, but an excellent one. A few years ago, I was wanting to make a board that was somewhat interactive, but I had little time to put anything together. Thank you to TeachersPayTeachers for this extraordinary find! This Scientist of the Month packet came with 10 different scientists (we are only in school 9 months, so there was an extra!). A picture, a fact sheet, and a sheet with QR codes for students to look at on their own were all included. It was WELL worth the $4 I paid. My bulletin board is set for the year (although remembering to change it every month was sometimes tricky…) and I plan to use it every three years or so! Perfect.

Keep Calm and Do Science

I had seen this board floating around on Pinterest for awhile and had it pinned several times (Does anyone else actually do that-pin it like three times without realizing it?). I figured it would be a good one to start the school year with. The Periodic Table Flash Cards I found here were perfect! I simply printed the elements that contained the letters I needed (looking at the picture for guidance!), cut them out, then highlighted the letters to spell “Keep Calm and Do Science” so they would stand out. Easy peasy!

Not the best picture, but the one I took from a straight on angle had a terrible glare. Sorry!

One bulletin board, three sections, complete for back to school! Now there are a few in the hallway I have to get to…

Summer Time = Get Organized

I completed a huge task this week. My classroom closet is finally organized! I began this project the last day of school and worked diligently on it for several hours the first day of summer break. And then that was it. The gusto of summer time = get organized left and the pleasure of “relaxing” with the kids at home began.

Until this week. My husband was able to stay home with the kids for a few hours one morning and I reluctantly needed to go to school to get a few other odds and ends done. I did those odds and ends, and then tackled the last shelves of the closet. The closet looks great and will hopefully stay that way for awhile! At least until the second day of school…

Here are some before and after pictures:

Before:

All of this came out of the closet. The trick was putting it back in!

 

After:
I can actually see what is inside! Yay!

Now, school is not the only place I have been trying to get organized. This is always an ongoing summer project at home. The problem at home though is as soon as a slave for hours getting one room of the house organized, another is totally destroyed. With two small ones nothing stays organized for long either!

I used the following guidelines to stay organized as much as I can!

  1. Do a little at a time – I work on a nap time schedule when it comes to organizing. Sometimes I only have 20 minutes! However, that is the perfect amount of time for cleaning out a drawer or organizing a shelf. Usually if I just have the goal of clearing just one part, I get into the swing of things and do more than I intended!
  2. Get rid of things you don’t use! – This can be difficult at times. I tend to save things “just in case”. However, when I organize, I try to have the mindset that if I haven’t used it in several months or more, it probably needs to be moved to a new place or trashed.
  3. Take a few extra minutes here and there to maintain the work! – Another one I have trouble with doing consistently! Spending a little time here and there to keep up the organization would save much more time! Easier said than done though…
  4. Don’t be too hard on yourself – You know what? We all do what we can when we can. Sometimes keeping your giant science supply closet organized is NOT top priority. That’s ok. And sometimes snuggling and reading a few books with your toddler needs to happen more an organized sock drawer.

Happy Birthday, America!

Hope you all are enjoying your summer! Make sure to take some time to celebrate our country this week! I’ve been taking some time off writing posts, but hope to be back soon. Happy 4th!

 

 

3 New Tech Tools

Another week of summer has started! Is it just me, or is it going by super fast? Between swimming lessons, birthday parties, weddings, and open houses, we are squeezing in a lot of relaxing time! I haven’t completely disregarded school work though. Does any teacher? Last week, I actually attended a fabulous two day conference focused on integrating technology into the classroom. I love this conference – it is in town, run by one of the nearby school districts, and many of the sessions are run by other teachers. In my opinion, those are the best kind of conferences – other teachers being real with what works and what doesn’t!

Here are some of the tech tools that were brought up in some of the sessions that are worth taking a look at!

  1. EdulasticBy far the best of the tech tools I discovered for the session. Edulastic is an interactive online assessment program containing prewritten, standard-aligned questions.  The site describes edulastic as: Technology-enhanced assessments instantly show who’s on track and who needs help so you can take action and see growth.You can select questions or make your own. Students can go online to take it. Results are immediate and you can track and keep record of different areas that your class and individual students need work on, all with a few clicks of a button! I definitely plan to use this in my math classes this fall.
  2. Pear Deck – Want a more interactive slide presentation for your students? Look into Pear Deck. This Google slides add-on allows students to enter information from their devices along with your slides presentation. Rather than stopping to ask a few students their opinions on various topics, all students have a voice! Although I have experienced the “student” side in a presentation, I have yet to check out the teacher’s end of this extension. The basic version of Pear Deck is free to use, but like many tech tools, you can gain more features by paying.

    Pear Deck
    Check out Peardeck.com
  3. Quizizz This is another tool that I will immediately be using in all my classes. My best description of this site is a calmer version of Kahoot. Yes, students love Kahoot! But sometimes it is almost a little too wild. Sometimes students got so excited, they clicked the buttons without looking at the answers. Quizizz actually lets students go at their own pace on their individual device. The classroom may actually  be quiet since students are still awarded more points for faster answering, but don’t have to wait for time to run to go on. You can choose already created assessments or create your own. And best of all… it’s free!

    From Quizizz.com

So try these three out – I’m sure at least one will be a hit. I have a few more that I’ve found, so stay tuned!

The Summer Packet

Do any teachers out there give out “summer homework?”

You know, the packet you give to students before the break. The one they need to do to “keep up” the skills they learned? This packet that most won’t complete until two days before school starts? Teachers typically give it to students to prepare them or to keep their skills “fresh” over the summer months. Maybe it is a book to read, or workbook pages to complete? I have not done the “packet” in my years of teaching, but I have thought about some simple project like collecting a few leaf samples or rocks from places you’ve been.

However, I had to share something that I found online a few days ago and I’m sad I did not find it before school got out. I think this is a great idea to give to students INSTEAD of that “packet” or assignments. Now, I don’t think it is a bad idea to keep up with the basic skills students have learned. Yet, summer is so much more than just a “break” from school. It is a time to learn more than what can be taught in the classroom, explore further than the recess field and spend extra time with your family.

The Summer Packet

This article from ABCNews.com emphasizes those things! It is a summer “homework” list, more for the parents than the students. Although it is directed more towards younger grade levels, I think it rings true for parents of any kids. As parents, we need to remember that some things are not and cannot be taught in the classroom! Kids get tired of being pushed and pushed and pushed in academics. And even if they succeed in those academic skills, social and emotional aspects are just as important!

The article ends with a quote that I love the quote from Betsy Eggart:

“I just wanted to remind my parents to slow down, look at their children and live some life together this summer,” she said. “I can’t put life on a worksheet.”

High School Survival Kits

 May has ended and June is in full swing. For many, this means graduations are upon us! Those of you that still teach through June may have a few weeks to go, but no worries, you will get there too! My school ended right before Memorial Day weekend, so I’ve had a few days to rest, readjust and get acclimated to the summer schedule! However, I know how crazy those last weeks of school can be!

Our school’s graduation was on the second to last day. It is typically a big deal for our 8th grade students, since our school does not have its own high school. After graduation, our students scatter to go to the three (or more) different public schools or two different private schools in the area. Although we have small classes (our graduating class this year was under 20 students), these students have been together for most of their elementary and middle school lives! Students are apprehensive and thrilled all at the same time to leave the “comfort” of our school. We celebrate them with a special graduation ceremony with a big party in the gym afterwards!

Because of all the feelings that go along with graduating from our school and moving on to the next phase – high school – I have been putting together small gifts for the students, full of treats and Bible verses. These  “High School Survival Kits” are relatively inexpensive, but I hope students find some comfort and meaning!

High School Survival Kits

I originally found the idea for these kits online somewhere. I can’t remember exactly which, but the ideas were similar to the kits found here and here.

I actually created my own printable card (but I’m sure you could easily find some on etsy!) with the items I had on hand. I included one or two pieces of each item in a clear bag, along with the printable. The sheet had the name of the items and why they were included. I also added a Bible verse to connect to each item. I don’t always use the same items, as some can be easily interchanged for different candy or school supplies. You could easily adapt these kits to be any type of “survival” kit. For example, if you teach 5th grade, it could be a “6th Grade Survival Kit”.

This year I used the following items for my High School Survival Kits:

  • Smarties – To remember to study hard and to make smart decisions (Proverbs 1:7)
  • Piece of Gum – To remind you to stick with it, and that God always sticks with you! (Hebrews 10:23)
  • Hershey’s Kiss – To remind you of God’s love (1 John 4:7)
  • Tootsie Roll – to remind you not to bite off more than you can chew – and if you do, God is still with you! (Psalm 9:9)
  • Rubber Band – To help you stretch  beyond your limits (Philippians 4:13)
  • Pencil – To help you to complete all your tasks (Colossians 3:23)
  • Snickers Bar – To remind you that God has a sense of humor! (John 15:11)

Students typically enjoy the candy inside the most, but my hope is that they will also take the time to look at the Bible verses included. Even if they keep the card at the desk at home, they could refer back to it when needed!

Happy graduation!

Egg Drop Challenge

Every year, one of the highlights of 8th grade science is to create a device that you can drop an egg from various heights. This is not a new challenge by any means (in fact, I did this when I was in 8th grade!).

In the past, I’ve done the same thing with the 8th grade every year. The students are given a list of supplies to choose from to create their egg drop device, and those are the only items they can use. This year, I wanted to try something different! Rather than giving them a list of approved supplies, I decided to give a list of things NOT allowed. Students had to think more creatively and have a much wider range of materials to work from.

Someone created a rainbow chicken this year – and it worked well!
This has to be one of my favorite egg drop devices of all time, even if the egg broke a few times! This student created “Captain Cluck”!

I also think it’s funny when students make their devices look like a chicken. It cracks me up every time! The most creative design gets extra credit points, but I also throw in a few extra points for the chicken ones. They deserve a bonus for putting forth that slightly extra effort. This year, we had some especially creative designs!

The Egg-cellent Event

The big event happens in the parking lot of our school. All the lower grades that can come file into the parking lot area and sit in rows on the pavement. Our school’s amazing maintenance man actually does the egg dropping for me. He is amazing, and sets up the ladder against the school before I even arrive in the morning! (Somehow I forgot to take a picture of the set up this year!) I have the students drop their egg devices from a 3 meter mark and then a 4 meter park for their grade. If the eggs survive from both those heights, we also drop their egg from the “roof” which is really as high on the super long ladder our maintenance man is willing to go!

To summarize, here are my rules and regulations for the drop:

  1. Students may NOT use any materials on the “Do not use” list, which include food items, glass, metal, bubble wrap, balloons, etc.
  2. Students must have their devices ready to go at the time of the drop.
  3. Devices must be created so that the egg can be put into the device easily before the drop and then taken out once the drop is completed to prove there are no cracks on the egg.
  4. The teacher will provide all the eggs.
  5. Repairs and adjustments MAY be made during the dropping time. Materials needed for these repairs should be provided by the student and they have to make these repairs before their turn comes again.

I do grade this project. In order to receive 100%, students must follow all directions both in preparing their egg drop device and while the egg drop event is occurring. The eggs also may not crack when dropped from the 3 meter height AND the 4 meter height. If cracks appear or their egg breaks, they do get another try for these heights, but not at full credit.

Overall, this event, is one of the most anticipated projects. My eighth graders just love going out and having all the younger students watching them and cheering them on! It is something that the whole school looks forward too!

May-hem

We’re here – in the middle of the last few weeks of school. We are in the May-hem month. Does anyone else feel like May is just insane? Not only is everybody anxious (and bonkers) for the end of the school year, there are like 5 billion different activities going on!

School May-hem

Between the last days of April throughout the month of May, our school holds Grandparents Day, multiple concerts and programs, end of year state testing, finals, field days, plus all the rest of the stuff you are supposed to be doing like teaching the children every day.

And that is just what is happening inside the school walls. My husband has final youth group events, high school graduation celebrations, and other random end of year events. My kids, even though they are still small, have a church program, need daycare teacher gifts, and all the sign ups for swimming lessons, camps, and any other activity happening in the summer are going on right now! No wonder my house looks like it does.

Watch This!

When I saw this video by the Holderness Family, I knew I’m not alone in the May-hem of this final month of the school year. And I still love NSYNC. Watch and see!

(If you like this, you should see the other parodies they put together. Awesome!) But we continue to push through because we see the light! In just a few weeks, we will have the freedom of summer time!   So how do we survive the May-hem?

Get to June!

Class Auction Project – Tile Table

Every year our students create class projects to be auctioned off at our annual banquet in order to raise money for the school. The projects vary depending on the class and grade level. This year, there seemed to be a slight mix up in project ideas! With less than 2 weeks from the auction, my class had no project. Uh oh! Nothing like leaving these things to the last minute…

Several ideas were brought up for my class, and we settled on a tile project. We would have students decorate tiles, then place the tiles on a piece of furniture. Sounds great! Except we did not have any small table, shelf or other suitable piece of furniture to use! That same afternoon, I decided to stop at the Goodwill near my house on the way home. Low and behold, one of the first pieces of furniture I found was this perfect little side table! Seems like it was meant to be!

Prepping the table:

The first thing that needed to be done was give the table a good coat of paint. That weekend, I painted the legs and sides with white paint. It took a couple coats, but definitely brightened the table up. I left the table top unpainted to make sure the tiles would stick well.

DIY Tile

We went back and forth on what types of tiles would be best for the table and with the table size, decided to use 2” x 2” tiles. We needed about 80 or so tiles and it worked out for every student to do 3 tiles, leaving some tiles white. For the tile decorating, students used a technique that we found here . Can I just say, this was awesome! All we needed was Sharpies, rubbing alcohol, and paintbrushes.

First, students took their tiles and colored them with the Sharpies. Next, they took a paintbrush, and “painted” with the rubbing alcohol. This process was different for each student. Some used paint strokes, others put drops of alcohol on their tile, and some even figured out they could blow the alcohol across the tiles to make cool designs!

After their beautiful tiles had dried, I used a sealer spray to make sure the Sharpies didn’t rub off on anything. It made my entire classroom stink though, so next time I would probably try to do this outside! After allowing the tiles to dry for a day, I started arranging and gluing the tiles onto the table top. Making sure the tiles were spaced evenly took some time. I glued down an entire column and row to start, making it much easier to place the rest of the tiles.

Finishing:

Because of the coloring on the tiles, we did not want to use rough grout to fill in the rows between the tiles. This would have destroyed the kids’ beautiful designs! Instead we used caulk. And when I say “we”, I mean my dear husband. Seriously, I don’t think I could have finished this project on my own. He delicately caulked the tile area of the table and it looked awesome! He also put the last coats of paint around the top of the table with precision.

It looks beautiful! Now hopefully it will make some big bucks at our auction and be treasured in someone’s home!