Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Books Read

I am a reader. I have been since as long as I can remember. My siblings always made fun of me because I would have my nose in a book instead of being outside playing. I begged my parents to take me to libraries and still visit a library at least once a week. I love taking my daughter there. Even though she is only 1, I want her to love libraries as much as I do.

So, here are the books I read in 2014. I had a goal to read 25 and I read 26.

The Cuckoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith (really J.K. Rowling)
The Song of Quarkbeast, Jasper Fforde
The Abundance of Katherines, John Green
Death of a Maid, M.C. Beaton
A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett
I Shall Wear Midnight,  Terry Pratchett
The One, Kiera Cass
Wedding Night, Sophie Kinsella
Wintersmith, Terry Pratchett
The Bride Wore Size 12, Meg Cabot
Nation, Terry Pratchett
The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, Rob Thomas 
The Elite, Kiera Cass
The Woodcutter, Kate Danley
The Selection, Kiera Cass
Under the Dome, Stephen King
Reached, Ally Condie
Promised, Caragh M. O'Brien
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
The Saber-Tooth Curriculum, J Abner Peddiwell
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
Cultural Politics and Education, Michael W Apple
As Texas Goes, Gail Collins
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

The books in blue are the ones I would recommend reading. Looking at my list though, I finished all of these books so...they weren't all bad. Some years I have books on my list that I read because its there and I am holding out hope that it will be good. Not this year. If it didn't grab my attention in the first 5 pages, I didn't read it. Not something I would tell anyone to always do. But all of these books grabbed my attention really quickly.

What books should I add to my to-read list of 2015? I love finding obscure books that few people have heard of. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Would you Rather? Math Edition

Math. Love it and hate it.

It can be fun. But I find I love math when there are interesting problems to solve and not boring worksheets. I know my students feel the same way. 

I found this blog last week called Would You Rather?

John Stevens posts would you rather situations that require mathematical thinking to solve. 

Today I turned this one into a station. 

I changed it up a little so the students had to do more math with it. They had to answer the following question:

Would you rather...
Have a stack of quarters from the floor to the top of your head? OR

Have a nickel for every day you've been alive?

Students had to measure themselves, convert years to days, multiply decimals, divide, use fractions...etc. They had to take things they had learned and apply it to this problem in unique ways. 

The students didn't leave the classroom proclaiming it was the best day ever! (yet) But their attitudes were better, they didn't complain, students who grudgingly do math were excited to multiply decimals to find out how much money they would have. When it was time to go, they wouldn't stop. It was fun for me to talk to them about the work they were doing and they had fun explaining their choices. 

Look at all that math going on! I am excited for more students to tackle this problem tomorrow. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Every Kid Needs A Champion

My principal showed this video at our PLC meeting this week. It will be added to the list of videos I watch on the day before school starts. It is a reminder of why I teach. I want students to realize that no matter their circumstances, they can be somebody. It's why I love working in Title One schools.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Rules, Post-its and First Week of School

The first week of school is one of my favorites. It goes by fast, everyone is hopeful and there is so much excitement. It is a perfect time to talk to students about what they expect for the year and what they need. 

You've probably seen this activity on Pinterest. It isn't new and I've been doing it for at least three school years. I love getting the students opinions on how the year should go.

The students answer questions on post-it notes and then place their answer on the butcher paper I've put up. 

Here are some of the questions I have asked:

What kind of teacher do you need?
What do you need from your classmates this year?
What do you need to be successful in math this year?
Our classroom should be _____________ every day. 

The after is the interesting part. I take their answers and make a world cloud out of them and then present it to the class on other day. We can make classroom rules from the patterns we see. It is also something I get out after long holidays and as needed to remind ourselves what we expect from each other throughout the year. 

What do you need from your classmates this year?

Our classroom should be _________ everyday. 
What do you need to do to succeed this year?

To make the clouds, I have used Wordle and Tagxedo. These were made with Tagxedo.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


I will be doing Guided Math in my mathematics class this year. As I learn more about how it works, I will write about it. Essentially, it allows me to work in small groups with students while other students reinforce their skills in groups.

I think an essential part of getting Guided Math to work is getting students to rely on each other for support. Gone are the days when the teacher is the final answer in the classroom. I really don't want my students to wait for me to answer their questions before they begin anything. They need to learn to work together.

This is a short animated video that tells the story of collaboration and what can be done if two people put their heads together and share their strengths with each other. I plan to share it with my students as we begin practicing procedures for small group work.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Technology Integration

Another video to watch. I watched this for an assignment of one of my grad school classes, but it is something I am really trying to do this year as a teacher. I am lucky that my new classroom is the "Tech Grant" room so I have more technology in my classroom than I ever had. I want to use  I want the students to use that technology frequently.

I think a lot of lessons teachers plan don't necessarily need technology. The objectives can still be reached and some students will still learn without using technology.

HOWEVER, technology integration allows students to become more engaged and take more ownership of their work and learning.

Here are a few key points I liked from the video:

  • Technology helps teachers meet students where they are.
  • Kids respond better when they can share their stuff. It shouldn't just go sit in a pile somewhere to be graded.
  • Students can learn at their own pace and the teacher can formatively assess better. 
  • Its not about the tool, it is about the learning, the process, and the engagement. 
I am doing a research project this year on using technology in my classsroom to increase student attitudes towards math. I can't wait to see the results. 

If you are a technology guru or know a fabulous teacher-tech blog I should follow, leave a comment!

Monday, August 25, 2014

First Day 2014-2015

I hate taking selfies. But the only other person at home was my 10 month old daughter and I really wanted to change into my pajamas. (So I wasn't waiting for my husband to come home.) (Also, I know the closet is a mess. I've accepted it.)

I survived the first day of 6th grade. After teaching 5th grade for 4 years, I was a little nervous about these grown-up 6th graders. Guess what? They still mostly look like 5th graders. So they weren't too scary. 

The first half of the day was awesome. I was all ready to say it was the best first day of school ever! But I didn't want to jinx my afternoon classes. And while it mostly went smoothly, there is a class where I will need to be on top of things at all times. Overall, I still think it might have been my best first day of school every!

Years ago on my first day of 6th grade, I was a crying mess. I had just moved to a new school, I didn't know anyone, and I cried from the time I got home until I went to bed. And then I had to go back for day 2! For most of 6th grade, I dreaded going to school. I loved learning, but I didn't feel like I belonged. 

I really hope that no student left my classroom feeling like that. I learned most of their names the first day and really tried hard to pronounce them correctly. It is important to me that no child gets overlooks, because I often was. 

Tomorrow is a new day! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Day Before School

My annual tradition as I start my fifth year of teaching is to watch this video:

This year I am adding this to the tradition:

Good Luck to everyone who is starting school tomorrow!

Monday, August 18, 2014

New Classroom

This is my new classroom! It has 7 large windows! An entire wall of windows. My last classroom had one window that was 3x3. I am sure that I might get distracted by them sometime this school year. Especially if it is raining. Also, supposedly a guy will break dance around the school during the day.

My school is one of the oldest in my district. It is now an intermediate, but it used to be the high school and then a junior high. It is huge and has a lot of history. I love it already.

I just got into my classroom on Thursday because the outside walls of the school were being redone, so these would be my before pictures. Hopefully I can get all my stuff put up and ready for Meet the Teacher on Thursday!

I love the windows!

All the cabinets are already full! I don't know where my stuff is going to go yet. 

More Windows!

Not many bulletin boards to decorate! That's a plus for me!

Sunday, August 17, 2014


This year I will be at a new school, in a a new district, teaching a new grade! I will be teaching 6th grade math this year and I am excited for it. I have really missed teaching math the last two years.

However, I know that I will miss teaching science. I would really love a position teaching math and science! But this is not the year.

I was going to write a blog post saying goodbye for the next 10 months. I am really not sure if I can keep up with the blog in addition to a new teaching position and my last year of grad school. However, I really want to try. I want to share my ideas and hear ideas from other teachers.

So this is my new new start. If I don't post for another 10 months, you can guess why. However, I will definitely be back by after that!

And here is the other thing that takes up most of my time. However, she's cute...

Saturday, March 29, 2014


I like trying to bring science current events into my classroom but I want the students to be able to read the articles I give them.

I found this website after a lot of googling. is what I found. It takes articles from different newspapers and lets you change the reading level on it. Here is the same article in 8th and 4th grade reading levels. 

I've seen it go down to 3rd grade reading level. Some of the articles have short quizzes that go with it to. There are several categories. I have used the Science most often. It is a great way to make what we are learning in science seem more real life. 
So after a night of googling, I found I great resource to use the the classroom. What are some things you have found scouring the internet?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Anchor Charts

I have been making Anchor Charts this weekend. I realize that it might me a little late in the year, but I can always use them again. I tried to make them a bit interactive. It might help the students think a bit while looking at them. 

I have a Pinterest board called Anchor Charts where I've been collecting example for a while. You can check it out here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sharing Links Help

I need suggestions.

I have a bunch of links to online interactive science games that I would like my students to have access to. Ideally, I would like them to be able to go to a website, click on a topic and then see all the games/videos/websites available for that topic.

Does anyone have a suggestion for something that I can use. If I knew HTML and more about blogger (my goal for the summer) then I could probably add it to this blog. But I want my students to have access to it this month as we review for our STAAR test.

Thanks for any suggestions!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Quilt Squares

Back when we were learning about colonial geography and industries, my students completed a project where they connected the two topics.

The instructions were to create a quilt square depicting a colonial industry. Once they had created the quilt square, they had to write a paragraph describing how the colonial industry was related to the geography of the region.

These were some of the quilt squares I got.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Metamorphosis Research

Last week, I shared the beginning of our metamorphosis unit. In the years past, the first lesson was writing down vocabulary and taking notes on each type of insect life cycle. I wanted to do something a bit different.

I am lucky to have some Window 8 tablets in my classroom. It isn't enough for every student, but I allowed them to bring their own tablets to use so we would have enough.

The task was to discover what the steps to complete and incomplete metamorphosis are. I found this website which another teacher put together. The students were to find two insects that go through complete metamorphosis and two insects that go through incomplete metamorphosis. As they found the life cycle of their insects, they needed to draw and label the stages.

As the students worked, I walked around asking them to describe their insects life cycle. Most were able to and it allowed me to see who still wasn't sure about it. Afterwards, they wrote a story about one insect and what its life is like, as it goes through each stage in the life cycle. This is where I need to fix my instructions. I wanted the students to be creative, but most just wrote an expository essay. Which is okay, just not the intent.

The next day, the students talked in groups to each other about life cycles and answered some multiple choice questions together. The goal of this activity was to have students talk to each other without looking to me for approval.

I was happy to see that double the amount of students passed this science test compared to the last one!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pictures, in the classroom!

I have been trying to figure out ways to get students to take pictures of science and share them with me.

I thought setting up and email where students would email me their pictures.

I show them pictures in class and they answer the questions "Where is the science?"

The day before spring break, I gave each pair of students a tablet. We went around the school, inside and out, and took pictures of things that reminded them of something we learned about in science. Afterwards they shared one picture with the class and explained where the science was.

Last week I was reading Life is Better Messy Anyway and she had a brilliant idea of using Instagram in the classroom.

So this is what I am trying.

My kids are on the Instagrams so I am hoping they will be excited (grudgingly excited?) about this. 

I'll see how they take to this. I might have to offer some kind of incentives. If they took pictures and properly explained the science in the pictures, I would be willing to offer a few extra test points or homework passes. 

So, follow me! Hopefully it works!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mealworms and Beetles! Oh My!

I am trying to incorporate my inquiry-based learning in my classroom this year. It is a really fun way to teach and the students usually have more fun. However, this type of instruction is new to them, so we are working on having fun while learning. 

In 5th grade in Texas, Students need to describe the differences between complete and incomplete metamorphosis. To begin this lesson, I dumped a cup on every group's desk containing mealworms and pupae. I asked students that if they knew anything about the insects, that they were not to say anything to take away someone else's discovery. (We talk about this often throughout the year. It isn't fair to take away someone else's learning opportunity. This frustrates the kids who know everything and really want to tell everyone else.) Students were also reminded that these were living creatures no matter how small and need to be treated with respect. 

After dumping out the cups, there were squeals and screams.  Some students refused to get close to the insects, others got their nose right in there. 

As the were observing the insects, the students were asked to write down any observation they had. This is where I have a lot of students ask "Is this okay?" or "Can I write this down?"It is hard to get them to understand, that most of the times, if they think it, it is okay to write it down.

Then we shared our observations. This was my favorite part. Getting students to communicate can be difficult, but with a bit of probing, they are getting better at it. Some of their observations (and inferences) were:

  • They look dead. (It is still and doesn't move when touched)
  • It looks pregnant. (It is swollen in one place, like a pregnant person)
  • It has 6 legs. (So it could be an insect)
  • It has a hard outside.
  • Some are brown, some are white.
  • It looks like it is in a shell.
Sometimes, I had to press students to explain what they meant. At the beginning of the year, I would get shrugs when they were asked to explain more. Now they are using more adjectives and describing more. I am glad that they are now talking more. 

I was careful not to give any terms or vocabulary. But some students predicted that the mealworm turned into the pupae and then into a beetle. Others thought it was the other way around. I kept the mealworms and pupa in the classroom all week and I had some beetles in another container that we continued to observe. The next day, a pupa started "hatching" from the pupa. The students were excited to see a life cycle in work!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A baby!

I abandoned this blog. School started, I started my master's and I had a baby. I have spent 15 glorious weeks off with her and I go back to work on Friday. A lot of people don't take that much maternity leave, or they plan the baby with summer in mind. After 4 years of trying for her, I didn't care when she came and I was going to take as much time off as I could.

And that time is up. So, I would like to continue to post ideas on this blog to share.

As part of my master's, I have studied a lot about inquiry learning in science. I will be trying to update my lessons to be more inquiry based.

We also have the STAAR test coming up closer than I want and they kiddos need to review.

We are more than halfway through the school year! Summer is going to be here soon!
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