Thursday, June 27, 2013

Neil Gaiman Book Tour

Last night was an absolute treat! Neil Gaiman was in town for a reading and signing as he tours for his new book The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I've briefly blogged about my love for Mr. Gaiman in this post. This man is pretty amazing. I love that he write everything from books for adults, to young adults, to kids, and has written screenplays, graphic novels, and last night he mentioned he wants to write a musical! Not only does he write a variety of books he does all of it to perfection and he has the accolades to prove it.

He read from his new book (which is great - currently the #1 NY Times bestseller - go get a copy now!) and, even better, he read to us from his next children's book which comes out in September. He had the audience in stitches with it!

Witty, charming, gracious. If you haven't been introduced to Mr. Neil Gaiman yet just watch one of the many videos of him. May I suggest the following from a 2009 episode of The Colbert Report when he talks about his Newberry winner The Graveyard Book.

If you are a teacher and haven't read Neil Gaiman to your students you need to remedy this immediately. His picture books are especially wonderful for the upper grades.



Also check out this fun book - it's great for a read aloud!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Going against the grain...I'm a Feedly gal

I have been a devoted Google Reader user for years, so, like many, I was devastated to learn that they are shutting down this service. I wasn't happy about trying out and finding a new reader program but about a month ago I started using Feedly. It was nearly love at first click. With one-click migration I literally migrated my Google Reader subscriptions to Feedly in no more than a minute.

The interface is sleek and smooth with a variety of options for viewing subscribed blogs. A few minutes later I had the Android app installed on my phone and was impressed with how quickly I was won over. A month later I am still lovin' Feedly.

If you are still on the fence about which reader to use (hurry - Google Reader retires on July 1!) I highly recommend Feedly. I know that all the blogs I follow have been endorsing BlogLovin' but I have already fallen in love with Feedly and although I haven't tried BlogLovin' I know it just isn't going to make me as happy as Feedly has. The point of having a reader is to easily follow all those awesome blogs out there - they make blog following so much better - so, no matter which one you choose just make sure to get your subscriptions moved over before Google Reader goes offline.

EDIT: I added both a Feedly and BlogLovin button in the sidebar for one-click following :D

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Where in the world is Ms. W? {part 2}

We've been back home for a few days now, but still recovering from jet lag. Thought I'd share a few more snapshots of our adventures.

Friday, June 14, 2013

It's my Bloggy Birthday!

I can't believe that it has already been a year since I started this blog and my TpT store. I didn't have too many expectations, so it has been a fun and interesting journey. I think the biggest effect has been that I feel like I am a better teacher because of it and I wish I had started blogging sooner! If you've been toying with the idea of whether or not to start a teaching blog don't think about it any longer...go get started!

It just so happens that I am out of the country visiting family and on vacation. Since I can't bring you all with me to celebrate I am having a sale today through Sunday. Everything in the shop is 20% off!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Out of this World Volunteer Gifts

I had the two most amazing volunteers this year! I could always count on them to come in each week to make copies and put together projects. I am going to miss them tremendously next year! I like putting together cutesy themed gifts for my helpers. Last year I put together a "summer fun" basket with some fun items.

This year I wanted to include something from LUSH. If you have never had a LUSH product you are seriously missing out. Their bath and body products are handmade and vegan. They have awesome bath bombs and soaks! I had seen some bubble bath wands around Mother's Day, but unfortunately they were exclusively for Mother's Day and had no more left when I went in. As I was browsing I saw these little Out of this World gift boxes and I knew my theme! I had so many idea of things to include with their gifts, but left several stores without the stuff I wanted to include.

I ended up getting dark blue gift bags and putting star stickers all over them. Inside I included the LUSH gift (which smelled divine and I got a heavenly whiff every time I walked past them), a starry notebook, a star post-it pad, glow-in-the-dark star glasses, and a STARbucks gift card.

To cutesy them up I bought this adorable clip art from ReviDevi and added some spacey sayings:
* You are out of this world!
* You're a STAR!
* You ROCKet!
* Thanks for helping us BLAST off this year!
* I couldn't PLANET without you!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

End-of-the-year Awards

I know many teachers give fun awards to all of their students at the end of the year, and I know mine aren't very novel, but I have been giving these awards since my first year of teaching. I was inspired by my 7th/8th grade journalism teacher who gave us these, and I'm sure if I dug through some boxes of old stuff I bet I could find mine too! They are really simple, just use the diecut machine on cardstock for the  ribbon shape and then glitter glue around it. I put a pin on the back so they can wear them on the last day of school. I try to make the awards fun and meaningful to each student and I have the class guess who the award goes to when I hand them out. Most of the time they know right away! Some might be a bit more difficult. The student who got the Pen Pal award was shy and didn't speak much. But she when she needed to talk to me about something important she would discretely leave a note on my desk and I would leave her a note in return.

I have had several former students say that they still have their awards. This year I had the sister of a former student and she said he has his hanging up on his wall at home. <3

Monday, June 3, 2013

100 Acts of Kindness

Ahhh, summer vacation is here . . . and now I have time to work (what's wrong with me?!)! I have so many blog and TpT items on my to-do list for summer. Some are a bit ambitious, and I'm sure I won't accomplish everything on our short 6 week break (we're on a modified year-round schedule), plus I'm going to be out of the country for two weeks! But today I got together with my friend Dana from Learning Required to initiate her into TpT (go follow her brand new store)!

While she was working on her first freebie I went ahead and updated my very first freebie. It is perfect timing because I was planning on posting about it anyhow.

With the last few weeks of school approaching my class seemed to becoming a bit meaner to each other (surprising because I had a very sweet class!). It was time to put operation 100 Acts of Kindness into action. It is such a quick, easy, and low maintenance way to get students thinking about being kinder to each other and recognizing their peers for their kindness.

In the past I have done this as a whole month challenge, but I obviously didn't have a month, it was our last full week of school. I cleared a bulletin board and stapled up a folder to hold the tickets then copied a bunch on brightly colored papers, cut them apart and placed them in the folder. A quick explanation and model of how to fill out a ticket and my 5th graders were all ready to go!

The students were excellent about filling the tickets out at appropriate times of the school day and they would quietly leave the left side of the ticket on my desk and give the right side to the classmate who was caught in an act of kindness. A few times during the day I would staple up the kindness tickets and seeing them go up on the wall prompted students to be more alert and active in giving them out.

Here is what our bulletin board looked like a few days later.

I updated the TpT FREEBIE to look prettier (but the tickets are the same). This is one of those easy-peasy activities to remind students of the importance of kindness and recognizing and thanking others, even if it was just for lending a pencil or picking up a piece of trash.

If you have used, or plan to use, the kindness tickets with your students I'd love to hear your ideas!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Next school year, I am definitely going to . . .

I've been following Kim at Finding JOY in 6th Grade since I started this blog last summer and I am so excited to participate in her first linky party - What will YOU do differently? I'm also excited because this is something that I do every year anyway. It seems like once state testing is over my mind starts to think about all the end-of-the-year tasks to complete as well as all the changes that need to be made for the next year. I've always got a post-it with ideas jotted down or a list going on the computer.

Some of the items are small, for example, I need to buy some screw eyes (you know those screws that have a loop on the end) to install in my window area for hanging student work. And some are a bit heftier, like being a team leader! Two of our amazing 5th grade teachers (half our team) are transferring to another school in the district so I have been asked to be team leader next year and not only will I be a first time team leader, but I'll have two new (to the district and grade-level) teachers to help.

Here are some of the other big items on my list for next year.....

Have you ever tried out something that you saw online or heard of from a colleague and it just didn't work for you and your style? This has not been the case with Class Dojo and Class-Yes. I tried both of these strategies out in the the last quarter of school and I am glad that I didn't wait until next year because they have both STUCK. Both have worked wonders for my chatty, too-often-off-task class, and I will DEFINITELY be using them next school year.

In the 5 years that I have been using a classroom economy system it has evolved and improved each year. But it is still far from perfect. I still haven't figured out what changes I am going to make yet, but I need the system to be more streamlined and take less class time. My bankers had been using Google Docs (now Drive) to manage bank accounts, but something happened with our district's filter (?) and suddenly Google was unavailable to the students. So my bankers had to use my computer, which you can imagine was a pain. I recently stumbled upon I set up an account and toured through it a bit and it looks like a great alternative. Each student has their own account, but I can also create teller accounts so that my bankers are able to enter checks. I also love the bank note generator. They can be created to have any amount of money and each have a one-time-use code. I will DEFINITELY be using this site as part of my classroom economy improvements.

Marzano is the new model that our district has adopted for teacher evaluation and the buzz for next year is to include more student data tracking. This is great, because I had already been planning on making this happen in my classroom. I've seen several great resources online and on TpT and I will DEFINITELY be investigating them and planning a system for my new 5th grade class.

Eeks! One of the challenges of moving to a new grade level (even though it isn't entirely new, it's just been a few years), is the different topics, especially in social studies and science. I relied on my new team to give me the lessons/activities they had done in the past, and to make sure we stayed on track. But that fell through the cracks, especially in social studies. Prepping for JA BizTown took a lot of instructional time as well, and that set us back. We should have covered American History starting with the first people and ending with the Civil War. Instead my class ended with the American Revolution. We never got to Westward Expansion and the Civil War. We will DEFINITELY be covering everything next year!

Thanks for the awesome linky Kim!