Spring days

Just a few weeks ago, I thought it would be winter forever. It was so cold, we had late season snow, and there was nothing good in the forecast. Today, the sun is shining and we are in the middle of a relative warm up- it's 50 today! To top it off, I noticed my lilies starting to come up in my garden. Wahoo!



A day late, but it's time for Doodle Bug's Five for Friday!


1. Does anyone else use Google Reader to follow all their blogs? I was shocked to see that Google will be "retiring" it on July 1st. I use it almost daily! Without it, I literally don't know how I would be able to keep track of all the blogs I love. It's so easy too- once you followed a blog using google friend connect, it automatically added that blog to your reader. Earlier today, I tried out feedly. They have been promoted as the reader that provides a seamless transition, so I thought they'd be worth a try. True to their word, they pulled all my subscriptions over easily. It will take some getting used to, but it will do. If you know of another rss reader service, I'd love to hear about it!




2. Our state high stakes ELA testing is over for the year. Thank goodness! My fifth grade warriors were prepared, calm, and ready when they took the test. They worked hard, took their time, and used the strategies they had worked on all year. Now, we're on to crunch time for math and science. Can't wait until after early May when all our high stakes tests are done!



3. Just two weeks until hubby and I go to London for April vacation. I can't wait! I am spending my weekend finalizing plans and setting up transportation. I refilled our Oyster Cards so we can ride the tube, booked a car service to and from the airport, and bought train tickets to Dover so visit the white cliffs. We prefer to stay in an apartment rather than a hotel so we can experience life living in wherever we travel. I highly recommend a sublet or short term rental to any traveler!

   

4. I've spent the past few days fighting off a lymph node infection that spread into my tissue. Talk about painful! I could barely walk without wincing at the height of it. I've been on some hardcore antibiotics, taken every 6 hours, and I'm starting to feel a little better. I have never slept so much in my life! Last night, I was in bed for over 12 hours. Guess I needed it!



5. This week, my darlings reviewed time zones in science. Boy, were they confused! They looked so bewildered as I was trying to explain that due to time zones it is "already tomorrow" in Australia. We watched a quick video on time zones and I showed them scenarios where they could fly somewhere and have the time zone changes affect them. They were very, very interested!


So, I totally missed the boat on the timeline for this one, here is the lie from last week's 2 truths and a lie:

  1. My father played guitar in a band with Rob Zombie when they were teenagers. This is true! They went to high school together, and his real name is Rob Cummings. His childhood house is just down the street. 
  2. My sorority nickname was Tarzan because I loved doing gymnastics all over campus in college. Also true! I was quite energetic. :)
  3. I have never been pulled over or gotten a traffic ticket. So very false. I'm really not a *great* driver- but to be fair, I hardly ever drive. The school I teach at is less than a mile away, and my husband always drives if we go out together. I have a bad habit of forgetting to have my car inspected, too! 



Have a happy Easter!

Winter blues

I've said it before and I'll say it again- this time of year is hard. We lose an hour of sleep for daylight savings time, there is no vacation or time off in March, and students start their first rounds of high stakes testing. The kids are feeling saturated, the faculty is tired and worn out, and everyone is so over the cold winter weather. Thank goodness it's almost April, which means it is almost April vacation. Wahoo!


On a more cheerful note, I won my very first blogger giveaway today! I am so excited. Cynthia at All Things Teachery hosted a 200 follower giveaway, and I won the package for grades 6+! Can't wait to use all the awesome products I won. 


This week, I started reviewing all the important science concepts my students have learned in their short academic career. Fifth grade students in Massachusetts take their first science MCAS in May, and our curriculum map vaguely tells us to "review all concepts" until the MCAS begins. What a huge task! It's so challenging to assess where my students are at, what we need to develop, and when they're ready to move on when reviewing so much information. To start the unit and try to get an idea of where my students are at, I decided to try something I called a "dry erase discussion." I had the kids sit silently for 2 minutes and think about everything they knew about the moon. I let them take notes, if needed. Then, I gave them 4 minutes to write what they thought of on the whiteboard. They all had to write something, no matter how small, and they had to remain silent. I also instructed them to read what their classmates wrote to see if it help them to remember other things. They were allowed to get up and write additional facts or thoughts as many times as they wanted. I have to say- I was impressed with how much they thought of!

Half the whiteboard- lots of great ideas!



A close up of some of their thoughts

I loved this activity because I could quickly see what they knew, and what they needed to be taught. I could also address any misconceptions right away, like the student who thought the moon changed shapes as it rotated around the Earth. The kids loved it because they got to write on the whiteboard (who knew that was such a valuable incentive?). They learned from each other, and really had a chance to think about their knowledge. Such a successful activity!

Let's Get Acquainted - week 2

Two posts in one day? Oh my goodness! There must be some sort of cosmic energy line up.


It's week 2 of the Let's Get Acquainted linky party hosted by Latoya at Flying into First Grade. This week is 2 truths 1 lie. Here is how it works:


Think of 3 things about yourself or your life.  You should make 2 of them truths and 1 of them a lie.   You can list them on your post in any order.  Do NOT give the answer yet in your post.  People will try  guess your lie in your in the comments of your post.  So remember to be very creative so that it is hard for people to get it right. At the end of the week you can share the answer in your comments from the post or include it in a post you make at the end of the week.

So, here are mine!


  1. My father played guitar in a band with Rob Zombie when they were teenagers.
  2. My sorority nickname was Tarzan because I loved doing gymnastics all over campus in college. 
  3. I have never been pulled over or gotten a traffic ticket.
So, what do you think? What are my truths, and what is my lie?? :) 

Delicious - bookmarking made easy

It's a miracle! In the midst of this crazy busy month, I've managed to get some real relaxation time. I took a personal day yesterday to have a long weekend, and mother nature further extended my weekend with 9 inches of snow. It's still coming down, but I am feeling ready to face the week now. I did all the laundry (still have to iron- ugh!), cleaned the house, graded, planned, and now I'm blogging. Seriously productive day to end my seriously relaxing weekend. Score! For now, I'm just going to pretend that the snow will quietly go away on it's own and we won't have to shovel...



I love technology. The fact that we live in a world where I can type "5th grade lesson plans on the  moon" into google and get millions of hits is really mind boggling. Finding new resources is the easy part, though. Keeping track of them is nearly impossible. I feel like I always find a great new site with tons of ideas, but can never find it again when I need it. Bookmarking it is great, but it's hard to keep bookmarks organized with folders and subfolders. Traditional bookmarks are only available on one computer, too, unless you use google chrome and log in at school and at home. Although this is a great service for home computer networking, I'm not super comfortable logging into my personal accounts on my school computer. A couple months ago I happened upon the answer to my bookmarking prayers, delicious. If you register for a free account, you can save bookmarks with tags so you can find them again easily later.  Here are my most commonly used tags:
When you bookmark, it will even suggest commonly used tags for sites like the one you found. I love it! If I want to find a math resource, I just login and search for "math" and they all appear. I use delicious primarily as a teacher resource, but it could be used in a flipped classroom for students to access videos or lessons.    You can follow people with similar interests, too, so you can find new ideas and resources. Check out my delicious page! It revolutionized the way I save websites.

Linked up with Technology Tailgate for Techie Tuesday!




Five for Friday


Friday means Doodle Bugs Five for Friday! Here are my five random things for the week...


1. I wore (and loved) my new zebra print shoes this week. I have a serious shoe addiction. The higher the heel, the better! Don't mind my plaid jacket- I was running late, and at least they were a similar color scheme!


2. My youth cheerleaders are doing so well! They have been practicing for weeks, and we are almost ready for our floor routine for next week's floor hockey game. I'm so happy with the progress they made. It's hard to teach and manage 70 girls between the ages of 9 and 11!


3. I found out on Monday that I'm done with unannounced observations and evaluations for the year! WAHOO! I am so glad that is done for this year.


4. I can't wait to go back to London in 28 days. No, no, I'm not counting! :) I've been planning our day trips, and we will be lucky enough to travel to Shakespeare's birthplace on his birthday. We're also going to be in the city for the Queen's birthday. Maybe she'll invite us for tea? I better pack an extra large hat, just in case. 



5. Snow can be hard to shovel, frustrating to drive in, and generally annoying. Somehow, it redeems itself with views like these. It's just a look down my road, on my 1/2 mile commute to work, but it is beautiful. Makes it worth the shoveling and frustration- kind of! We have another storm coming Monday night, which is no good. We have our state testing coming up! We need all the time we can get.


Link-tacular

I'm loving all the blogs I read. Seriously, I must subscribe to over a hundred- and I really do read them all! Probably not every post, every day, but I keep them in my google reader and don't mark them as read until I catch up. I can't help it- I love, love, love reading what other people are doing. I really believe in collaborating with my peers and sharing ideas, and I like to think of the blogosphere as a giant PLC. So, to celebrate that, this is my link-tacular post!

Layota at Flying into First is weekly hosting the "Let's get acquainted" linky party. 

I'm a couple days late with it, but I just discovered it today! The prompt this week is "share three things about yourself that you like or like to do using your initials."

My initials are MLB... here it goes!

M

Massachusetts. My home state! Don't get me wrong, not everything here is sunshine and puppy dogs. We get really cold weather in the winter, our state testing puts a lot of pressure on our students, and the cost of living and taxes are pretty high. The good so far outweighs the bad, though. I am so proud to live in a state that values education. We are the home of the first public school in the United States, and some of the finest universities in the country. As a state, we have upheld civil rights and been progressive in helping those who need it. To top it off, who doesn't love the home of the Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots? Some of the best sports teams around! We may joke about moving to warmer weather, but I will always be a Bay Stater at heart.

L 

Lattes. If you hadn't guessed by my blog title, I love coffee. Seriously, any kind. Espresso, latte, macchiato, americano. The only caveat- it has to be iced, no matter the temperature. 102 degrees or 2 degrees, I want to drive my coffee cold and with a straw. Weird, I know. I drink two giant 32 oz iced coffees every day... three on the weekends! Then I wonder why I can't sleep at night.... :)


B
Books. Who doesn't love them? You can get lost in a book and forget your troubles. You can read the words of literary icons that have long since passed. You can be transformed. It's funny, but so often the mood of the book I am reading dictates my own mood. I can't think any other medium that speaks to me the way the written word does. My newest obsession has been ebooks. I live in a very small house and already filled a room with bookcases, so I wasn't able to buy any more books. Since I have a nook, I can download ebooks instead of purchasing phsyical copies of books. No storage required! Part of me was sad to let go of paper books, but I embrace technology and really love having 20 books in my purse (on my nook) all the time. 


Traci at Dragonflies in First is hosting another great linky party!

What's the best teaching advice you ever received? 
For me, the best advice I ever received was from my mentor teaching during student teaching. She told me that there will be days that I would think I was a great teacher, and doing it all right. There would be other days that I felt like a terrible teacher, messing everything up. She told me not to take it personally, and to understand the ebb and flow of the classroom. As long as you are putting your best into it, that is all you can do. This advice has helped me through many, many a stressful day! If the lesson fails, just keep swimming. If you have an unannounced observation while moving seats (this happened!) just smile and roll with it. 


Finally, I linked up my "I can" statement printables with Love2Learn2Day for Math Monday!


Off to grade math tests... the fun never ends! :)

Monday again??

Mondays are never a joy, but this one seems especially tough. The kids were off, I kept tripping over my own feet, and even my cat was grumpy. With no other good reason, I blame the lost hour of sleep from daylight savings time. Don't get me wrong, I love the extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day- especially a long, dark winter. There is something to be said about the effects of losing the hour of sleep, though! A friend posted this video on facebook today, and I just had to share. It's worth the 6 minutes!



I was thrilled to wake up Sunday morning and see that Donna over at Math Coach's Corner featured my post about Class Dojo on Bagels and Blogs! I love Donna's blog, so it was really excited to be featured. Today, she blogged about Teach Like a Pirate. Have you heard of it? It's a great book by Dave Burgess, a high school history teacher with 16 years of experience. I heard about it a few weeks ago from the Monday night twitter chat (hashtag #TLAP), and bought it right away. I love it! There are some real world applications included, not just theories or ideas. On Amazon, he says:

I have been traveling across the country delivering my passionate and inspirational message about how to improve education for both students and teachers. This book is based on the completeTeach Like a PIRATE system that I have developed to help teachers become wildly engaging in the classroom and more fulfilled in their profession. It not only includes the entire Teach like a PIRATE system that has left audiences of educators unbelievably fired up, motivated, and ready to tackle the world, but also includes a comprehensive section on exactly how to craft and design lessons that are irresistible to students. 
The book includes over 30 hooks and 170 brainstorming questions that have been specially designed to skyrocket your creativity. The final section of the book is an uplifting guide created to help you overcome all of the obstacles and resistance that you will face on your voyage.
I can't tell you how many teachers have come up after my presentations and said, "You should write a book." Well, here it is! 

You've got to check it out! While you're at it, pop by twitter to check out tonight's chat about Teach Like a Pirate.

Class Dojo

Have you heard of Class Dojo? It's a classroom management took that helps teachers keep track of student behaviors. I know, we've all heard of a million of these, but seriously- this one is a winner. The kids love it, it's easy to use, and it's free. What else can you want in an app?


The kids love it because they are able to customize their avatars. I didn't think this would be as big of a deal as it is, actually. I thought it was a cool little "extra", but it turned out to be a driving factor. My 5th graders absolutely love logging in, changing their avatars, and checking out the avatars their friends made!

The site automatically creates reports about student behavior. The teacher can log in and see her entire classroom, or an individual student. It's pretty powerful to look at a chart that shows what your class excels at, and what they need more work on. Students can also log in at home and see a report about their own behavior. It's a powerful tool for students in the upper elementary grades. They can goal set, track their progress, and see their success as it happens. The system automatically generates parent reports, too! If you collect parent email addresses, you can have them sent out automatically weekly. I haven't utilized this portion of the software just yet since I adopted it mid year, but I am looking forward to trying it next year.

And, my favorite part, the apps! I downloaded the app to my iPhone and iPad. When I'm walking around the room and talking to students in small groups, I can give dojos out to students who are working hard, staying on task, or participating well in their groups. At the same time, I can have the dojo class screen displayed on my projector so the students can watch dojos accumulate on their avatar in real time. Seriously, it's great! The students are getting the verbal recognition that they want, and also earning dojos they can see. Best of all, for them, we trade dojos in for classroom currency weekly. They can use that to buy rewards in the classroom. 

I can't help but coo over a free tool that my kids love, parents love, and I love. Check it out!

Linked up with Technology Tailgate :)

Today is the final day of Teaching in Blue Jean's birthday giveaway
Most people have birthdays and receive gifts, but Amy is giving them! Only 12 hours left, and there are TONS of items up for grabs, from all grade levels. Check it out!


Freebie Friday & Five for Friday

Freebie Fridays

Woo, it's Freebie Friday! This is my first time participating, and I am making it in right under the gun. I wanted to make something fresh and new for this linky party, so here it is. A colorful mean, median, mode, range poster to use in your classroom!



Download it (free!) here.

It's a busy day of firsts for me in the bloggy world. Today, I'm also doing my first 5 for Friday by Doodle Bug!
 

It's all about sharing 5 random facts about your day or week. So, here we go...
  1. Our school auction is tomorrow night at a local country club. All proceed go to our technology fund. Can't wait!
  2. My hubby is a mechanic. He just recently passed a certification test which makes him an ASE Master Technician. So proud of him!
  3. I booked a few day excursions for our April trip to London, today! Woo!
  4. Our state achievement test, the MCAS, is coming up quickly. It's such a stressful time of year for the teachers and the kids. ELA is in March, math and science are in May. 
  5. I'm loving how my kids are catching on with fractions! They've worked hard and the benefits are paying off. They are doing so much better with them!


I had big plans in my classroom today. We were going to finish up our light and sound unit, and start a unit on adding and subtracting mixed numbers. Mother nature had other plans, though. All week they had been predicting rain, rain, rain. Well, surprise surprise- the rain began and quickly turned into snow! Over a foot of the heavy wet stuff, when all was said and done. Since the temperature dropped enough for the rain to turn to snow, it also turned the rain on the ground onto a whole lot of ice. Not great for travel! I was surprisingly productive, too. I cleaned my entire kitchen and bathroom, did 3 loads of laundry, and vacuumed the whole house. So unlike me for a snow day! :) Here's to a surprise long weekend. Hope you all have a great weekend, too!



Lucky 7




Melissa over at Don’t Let the Teacher Stay Up Late has made a “Lucky 7” linky! The rules are simple- just list 7 things in your life that you are lucky to have, then link up! So, here we go…



My husband! We have been together for almost 6 years, and have been married since July 17, 2010. I can’t believe how quickly time has gone by. He is the one person that understands my quirky sense of humor, tolerates my temper tantrums, and celebrates all my achievements. I guess I’ll keep him!




My job. I am so lucky to have a position in this economy. So many of the people I went to graduate school with couldn’t find jobs after graduation. Many are subbing or nannying until they are able to find something. I was lucky- I got a job in the same school I student taught in.



My grandparents. Fun fact: I lived with my grandparents for most of my life. They are parents to me. I moved in when I was about 8, stayed until college, then came back once I graduated. In fact, my hubby and I live right next door to them now! They just can’t get rid of me, no matter how hard they try.





My niece. Kylie will be 2 in August, and she is CUTE! Although I don’t get to see her much, she always says “my Mandy” when she sees me in pictures. She even says “my Mandy” when she sees pictures of Kate Middleton. Kid already knows how to win me over, just compare me to royalty. Ha!




My kitty. Joey my fluffy furbaby. He loves to play with straws, steal bananas, chew on flip flops, and cuddle. He’s barely cat-like at all. He’s afraid of birds, and I trained him to high five. Seriously! He’s a funny little guy.




Our ability to travel. My husband and I don’t have a lot, but we always make it a point to save enough to travel. We absolutely adore Europe, and are going back during April vacation. We love to see new places and try new things. There is nothing like waking up in a foreign country, ready to explore. I love that feeling!




My sorority. I have a great group of girl friends that I met in college. We are all sisters of the same sorority, Kappa Delta Phi NAS. I know they say that sororities are for college years, but we have all stayed pretty close. I was lucky enough to make friends in other chapters of the sorority at different campuses, so I have friends from all over New England. We used to road trip to other universities to visit. Such great experiences!


So, those are the 7 thinks I am lucky, or blessed, to have in my life. Head on over to Don’t Let the Teacher Stay Up Late and link up! 

Dreamlike Magic


Check out my blog makeover, courtesy of DreamLike Magic. I love it! I had a free template before, which was cute- but just not quite me. Every time I looked through all the super cute blogs I am subscribed to, like Young Teacher Love, I was so jealous. Last night, I decided it was time for a makeover. My husband and I searched the blog design sites for a while, but kept coming back to all the bright and colorful designs at dreamlike magic. So, I made my order! I love it. I can’t get over how fast it was, either. I made my order at 9:30, and the completed template and files were in my inbox at 11:30. Seriously! I can’t say enough good things.



Meanwhile, I found this comic online and had to share. How funny is this? I love it!

So true, isn't it? I'm always amazed at how much money professional athletes make, especially when you compare it to what the average person makes. 


Congrats to Hokie Teach for reaching 100 followers! To celebrate, she's having a giveaway.


Collaboration Cuties is also having a giveaway. They reached 300 followers. Wow!! 



Time to get to business. It's getting late and I have papers to grade before The Biggest Loser comes on... man, I love that show. Hubby and I love to watch it while eating frozen yogurt. YUM! :)

Happy Monday!

March Madness and a fraction dash!

I'm about to embark upon my very own version of March Madness. Now, usually March Madness has a fun and exciting connotation- but not my version! Why, you ask? Well… it’s about to be the busiest month of my life. March happens to be the only winter month without a vacation. There is a long weekend, but it's not until the very end of the month for Good Friday. This month I will (of course) have my normal teaching responsibilities, as well as the big cheerleading game for the girls I coach, the school auction to raise money for technology, title one tutoring after school twice a week, and the last chance state-testing push. To just add to the fun, I also have a semester long state graduate course, 3 one credit educator professional development graduate courses, and a creative composition photography course- which I took "for fun." Ahh! I don't know how I will get through this.


A couple weeks ago, the teacher in the room next door retired. She was such a sweet woman, and I will miss her! She’s already off to finish the winter in Florida. So jealous! The girl who is finishing out the year for her is great, though. She is around my age, and has a similar teaching style to me. On Friday, we decided to open the wall up between our classrooms and have a “fun Friday” activity. We chose to do play the “Equivalent Fraction Dash” game I found over at Math Coach’s Corner. It was a blast! We mixed our classrooms up and split them into teams. They loved racing through the classroom and trying to beat the other team at finding equivalent fractions.


to the left is the classroom next door, to the right is my classroom. The cinderblock wall is the divider between our rooms. The wall with the fraction dash pocket chart is the collapsible wall between our rooms.



Students racing to finish the game!


 It was loud, a little rowdy, and tiring- but so worth it. The kids had a ton of fun, and they were angels the rest of the day. We told them that if they work hard, they can earn more activities together like this one. So much fun- make sure you check out the game!



Currently....


I've never done of these before, but here it goes! My "currently" by Oh' Boy 4th Grade. It was fun to fill out, especially on this lazy Saturday. I'm avoiding getting up and getting ready. I just want to lounge today!





Diane at Fifth in the Middle got the buttons created for each state for her Blogs by State listing. Check it out! It was a lot of fun to try to find other bloggers from my state. Right there, there are only two of us from MA. Spread the word to get others to link up! 

So, I had one of those "OMG I am old!" moments this week. I was teaching a lesson on light, and the textbook mentioned how light creates images on film in a camera. My students stared at my blankly, and one asked "do they mean like film on the screen on the back?"  I looked around at the rest of them to see who I could call on to explain what film was, and I was met with a sea of blank stares. Not one student had ever heard of a camera with film in it before. Not one. So, quick science detour to explain what the heck a film camera is. I did a quick google search and pulled up some pictures of film, 35mm cameras, and the process of developing film. They were shocked! They could not understand the concept of having to limit the amount of pictures you take because it cost money to take pictures.  Oh, it's the little things that make you feel ancient.





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