Friday, January 31, 2014

Fa la ninna, nella braccia della mamma.....

Do you believe in fate? That twisted paths cross in life ?  Not to be dramatic (too late!!!) but I do.

When I was in high school, I knew OF a girl named Jen, who was a year older than me.  One of those....yeah, she's a year older than me, and that's about all that I know!

If you would have told me in 1999 that "that girl" Jen would not only be one of my bridesmaids someday, but the godmother of my son.......I'd say you be cray!

But, in a long winding path that we like to refer to as "our 20's", "Jen" was roommates with my (future) husband.  Future husband and I meet through a mutual friend (another twist of fate) and I say to Jen, "Hey, didn't you go to (insert name of high school we went to)?" We all hang out....yadda yadda.....Jen's my bridesmaid 2 years later.  Jen and Chad get married (the guy with bright white sneakers and a red Eclipse who kicked his menthol cigarette habit for her).....yadda yadda....we love them to pieces.....yadda yadda.....I get pregnant with future son....yadda yadda.....Who's Catholic that we know and we'd trust to be loving godparents.....yadda yadda....Jen & Chad become Jackson's godparents..... (insert picture)

Flash forward a year....Jen's pregnant! Yay!!!! Baby Shower attended....necessary baby monitor given.....but I was left thinking, "I wanna MAKE something for these very special people."

Flash forward to a nice lunch after Christmas where Jen and Chad say that the nursery is done (Baby Boy due February 11th!!!), but the walls need decoration.... (insert picture here)

(My brain) "Hmm....I think I remember a thing I saw on Pinterest (a lot of my brainstorming starts this way) where you can Mod Podge some stuff on wood and it looks fabulous!"

I decided to make a nursery decoration that incorporated their Honeymoon trip to Italy, and one of their favorite cities there....Positano.  They dazzled us with stories in 2008 of drinking from wine bottles on the beach while they munched on sandwiches.  And why pick a random picture off of Google image of Positano, when I have full access to their Facebook albums and can right-click and "save" with the best of them!!!

Hehe.  So here's what I did......

1) Stalk friend's Facebook Honeymoon album for perfect picture.  Right click. Save.

2) Open picture in PicMonkey (dot com!).  Amazing, free, photo editor for people that have no idea how to edit a me!!!

3) edit picture to soften edges, add some sparkle doo-dads, and create a text overlay with an Italian baby lullaby.....

4) Save picture on flash drive, take to Staples, have guy at Staples print one copy on computer paper to show me, and one copy on cardstock ($1.04) to use for project.  Take home.

5) Put baby down for nap.  Put all items on dining room table to craft.  Get cup of coffee.  Accidentally put cup of coffee down ON cardstock picture of Positano, leaving a coffee ring.  Say, "Crap!"

6) Decide that computer paper version of picture will have to do. Tell self that you are "so dumb"

7) Open 8x10 finished wood plaque bought at Michael's Craft Store

8) Get some white acrylic paint out of giant blue "craft bin of fun" and sponge brushes.

 9) get out Mod Podge.  Things are about to get real. 

10) Nail picture hangers bought at Michael's.  Later feel like an idiot because those things are supposed to go on the WALL, not the thing you hang.  (Later decide to take hooks off and hang ribbon with nails to the back)

11) Paint wood with white acrylic paint.  Let dry.  Get that paper ready for 'podgin'!

12) Carefully (for God's sake!!!) place computer paper picture on top of still-wet Mod Podged wood.  Curse because you didn't place it correctly.  Lift.  Place again.  Smooth out any air bubbles with finger.  

13) Paint entire picture and visible wood with another coat of Mod Podge using a sponge brush.  It dries clear, but try to be a bit light with it.  You don't need a coat the thickness of a Blue Whale's blubber.
(picture missing- what the heck? I am such a slacker)

14) Nail a pretty bow to the back of it (I chose a nice, neutral chevron.  Who doesn't love chevron???) Tie in a nice bow, and voila!!! Personalized, meaningful, nursery wall art.  Without any duckies or bunnies. 

Flash forward to January 24, 2014.  With just weeks to go before Jen is set to birth Baby Boy, we invite them over for pizza at our house on a cold, Friday night.  Pizza is eaten, play with toddler godson commences....yadda yadda....Jen says she feels great, yadda yadda.....

Jen & Chad open picture..... "Hey, it's Positano!"  "'s YOUR picture.  I took it from Facebook!" "Oh, wow!"  If I may speak on their behalf....they loved it :) 

Flash forward to January 25, 2014, approximately 6:00 p.m.  Text from Jen informs that she is IN LABOR!!!!!!!! WHAAAT???????  Baby Boy has decided to come early!

January 25, 2014 at 9:19 p.m.   Baby Will is born to the world.

May God bless Baby William, Momma Jen and Daddy Chad.  We love you all and are so thankful to have you in our lives.  Here's to much love and happiness.....and.....

Fa la ninna, fa la nanna
Nella braccia della mamma
Fa la ninna bel bambin,
Fa la nanna bambin bel,
Fa la ninna, fa la nanna
Nella braccia della mamma.

(English)Go to sleep, go to sleepy
In the arms of your mother,
Go to sleep, lovely child,
Go to sleepy, child so lovely,
Go to sleep, go to sleepy
In the arms of your mother.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tweet Me

Because 4th graders (and probably most kids up to maybe....middle school) think any reference to social media is so fetch, but we're not "allowed" to use it in our school the way it's intended, I've instead tried to incorporate well-known social media sites into classroom organization or behavior management strategies.

Here we have Mrs. C's Twitter board.  Made with some black bulletin board paper, some sweet owl border and some icons from Google image, I've made a spot on the wall near my door that can serve several purposes:

1) "ticket out the door" style- end a lesson by asking students to "tweet" their opinion on a story we just read, or their thoughts on a test we just took, etc.

2) for the kids that NEED to get a random thought out to me during classtime when I KNOW it will totally derail our conversation or work......I say, "Tweet it to me" and they can slap it up there for me to respond to later

3) a place where kids can write ....anything!

 I let each child keep a stack of post-its in their desk and it's as simple as that.  Some tweets I answer (post-it note underneath with "@child'sname......" and sometimes we just keep positive notes up to remind us of bright moments that occurred.

oh....and it's writing in disguise!!!! Whatever gets my kids writing, I'm all about.

( we'll work on grammar another day.......)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Facebook an Historical Figure

Ever wonder what it would be like if an historical figure had access to social media, such as Facebook? That's a question I posed to my 4th grade inclusion Social Studies class when we introduced Pennsylvania's history and its founding by William Penn.

Lots of those dudes and dudettes back then had to obviously rely on letters and long trips on ships (we're talkin' MONTHS!) to get information back and forth.  Kids today live in an instant gratification world, where frustration can errupt when a text takes more than 3 seconds to send.  Showing them history's roots of communication of important events can be mind blowing to them because of the world we live in today.

I had heard of using Facebook or Teacherbook to create an online account as an historical person, but I had the idea to actually create a space in our classroom that would become an interactive Facebook page....on a blackboard.   I decided to corner off a bit of the classroom to create what I think William Penn's Facebook page would have said and consisted of, if he were to use it.  By simply using chalk, I updated his status (daily or every few days), added friends, changed his profile picture, and created a timeline of events to teach historical concepts.

I then created a " (student) likes this" strip for each child in the class, complete with "thumbs up" symbol and told the students to check the board during their morning routine or snack and "like" statuses or pictures as they wanted.  I have to say, the result was pretty darn cool.  As simple as it was, the kids loved seeing all the Facebook icons and lingo intertwined with learning authentic facts.

The prep work is a bit daunting, but once you do the dirty work....laminate that shizz, slap some magnets on the back (adhesive magnets bought in a pack of like, 500 at Staples), and keep it in an envelope for each year!

Prep work:

1.  Pick a person from the unit you are teaching that this could apply to.  I happened to pick William Penn because we have an entire unit and assessment dedicated to him during the 1st marking period

2. Google a general life timeline of that person.  I used Wikipedia, but I know any crazy person with a computer can edit the site as they wish.  Check for accuracy!

3. Write/type/organize that person's life separated by years- birth, school, early careers, marriage, historical significance, important events, death-  these will become your "status updates"

4. Did your person say anything rad?  William Penn is credited with a lot of mind-blowing quotes......these became status updates when I was in a pinch

5. Add "friend requests" to your person's wall as people entered that person's life.  Accept friend requests and add to their "Friends" bank---start with that person's parents as friends!

6. Relationship status/school information should be accurate- use years and pictures

7. Create a general running timeline off to the side of the "profile" so students can see an on-going timeline of events

8. Use Google Image to find Facebook icons

9. Use washi tape to block off sections of "profile" (found at Staples)

Here are some pics from my William Penn page.  Didn't take many, but you get the general idea.  Who could you make a Facebook page for???

Here's a Word document I made for my "student" likes strips and some icons.  Feel free to use and edit as needed! Historical Facebook

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Open Mic Poetry for Fluency & Expression Practice

Consider yourself lucky.  Damn lucky.  I'm about to share with you my favorite Language Arts homework that I give occasionally to my 4th grade Learning Support classroom.  Just like a general ed. classroom, my kids are all on different reading levels and are working on various aspects of reading- fluency, expression, paying attention to punctuation, etc.

**That's reminding me of something funny that happened in class today (have I mentioned my A.D.D.?) I have a student that is really working on stopping when there's a period.  In the book we were reading today the sentences said something like "......and the paint was smeared all over.  My grandfather showed me how to .....".  Well, take out the period and you've got "And the paint was smeared all over my grandfather"  a.k.a. HILARITY! No?  Okay, back to HW.....**

I have developed a homework that -
      - develops fluency skills
      - encourages expression in reading
      - includes a self-assessment component
      - exposes students to different types of poems
     - differentiates based on independent reading level

and most importantly.....

the kids LOVE. 

It's based on the concept of an "Open Mic" night or a Poetry Slam.  I told the kids that this is what all the awesome "adult hipsters" do in their free time.  They get up on stage and read poems to an uber supportive audience...right?  Totally. 

So, I assign "Fluency Packet" as homework on a Monday or Tuesday night.  The cover page of the packet indicates what they are to accomplish each night (with spot for parent to initial completion).  The second page of the packet is the poem they are to read, and the third page is a self-assessment check-list.  I had to pre-teach the self-assessment and explain what I wanted them to be listening for and working on for improvement. 

On Friday of the week that we have Fluency Packet homework we do an "Open Mic" where I set up a back-drop on the SmartBoard using Smart Notebook, and use the projector light as a natural "spotlight".  The other kids lounge on the floor with pillows, listen, and give compliments when each child is done. One girl in my class got so excited about it that she made a microphone at home out of a tennis ball, duct tape and some markers.  Love it!

For the poems and back-drop, I try to pick a theme.  Shel Silverstein poems are easy to start with because some are short, some are long (to differentiate) and most of them have funny pictures.  I snap a picture of the illustration with my phone's camera and add it to a slide in the Notebook file w/ the poem's name for each child that goes up to read.

Now, the tricky part is finding poems.  I have 8 students, so each time I do this I have to find 8 poems....that are somehow related.....that are appropriate for each child to read.  I've used Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky's book I've Lost My Hippopotamus so far. Most of the internet searches I do for "poems for children" come back with silly or gross poems about hating school and picking noses.  Ew.

 If anyone out there in teacherland is reading this, PLEASE comment with some books or internet sources that you love for poems written for children.

I've attached the Fluency Packet as a Word document.  For this particular packet, I used the Jack Prelutsky poems, but I did not let the students see the illustration that Prelutsky made to go w/ their poem until the day of the Open Mic.  During their "performance", I put the author's illustration up on the SmartBoard next to the student's interpretation of what the illustration should be.  Pretty cool to see what their brains came up with! Instead of making pictures as one night's assignment, I've also changed it to list 3 unfamiliar words that they found in their poems, and write a synonym.  Feel free to edit to fit your needs :)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

grab me my soaking salts, boy!

I've recently discovered epsom salts and they.......are.....delightful.  I'm exaggerating.  I really just saw some cool crafts you can do with them that makes things look like they have fake snow on them, okay?

Epsom salts are about the same in size as sea salt, and they have a bit of a sparkle to them.  Now THAT'S the delightful part.  And hence the fact that you can pretty much spray anything with glue, throw some epsom salts at it, and it looks like it's been poofed with snow- candles, pinecones, ornaments, and I've even seen flippin' wine bottles! Because nothing says, "I'm an all-seasons wine drinker" quite like a (fake) snowy wine bottle.   I digress.

They're also pretty cheap.  I got a quart (yes, it comes in a milk-esque container) at KMart for about $2-$3. Here's what I did with some plain, white pillar candles (also from KMart and about $4 apiece), some Elmer's spray glue and a little bit of winter spirit.

 First I started with a big ol' pile of epsom salts poured on some the garage (learned a little lesson from another craft I attempted with spray glue in the dining room.  Whoops!)

 Elmer's Spray Adhesive.  Clearly has some glitter battle wounds from the above mentioned project. It's some strong stuff!!!

 Two pillar candles from K Mart...

I sprayed those bad boys, then immediately rolled them in the salts.
The result are these purdy candles that give off a bit of sparkle.  All pics are from my sweet LG phone, so they really don't do the final product full justice.  The red candle holders (again, prettier and a deeper red in person) are also from KMart and were like, $5 each! Score! 

So, what do YOU put epsom salts on to make a snowy masterpiece? Picture frames? Ornaments? Small children? Share! 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Long Division......with Post-Its!

So, I teach 4th grade math to students in Learning Support in a resource room.  I have 4 kids.  4!!! And I adore them all and their willingness to stick with me....even though we all know math is hard.  Just kidding. But not really.

And because I'm allowed to teach the curriculum at an "adapted pace", we've spent a lot (a.....LOT) of time on the unit that involves long division.  And then (never start a sentence with "and"...unless you're blogging) Winter Break hit.  And (see what I did there?), it all flies out the window.  Coming back from break was sort of like starting fresh again.....but that's okay.

It's MY job to find new/different ways to teach concepts until they have their (ready for the cliche?) "LIGHT BULB MOMENT!!!"

I was noticing my students needed a lot (A LOT) of reminders to keep their numbers lined up, knowing which number to put where, and knowing when they were done.  So, I took a li'l technique I saw on good old Pinterest and "adapted" it.

1)  my kids love anything that gets them up and moving
2) they love using dry erase markers and......MRS. C'S SECRET STASH OF SMELLY MR. SKETCH MARKERS ***GASSSPPPP!!!**
3) they're obsessed with post-its

So was born......Post-it Long Division.

Each student got their own (big) li'l space on the whiteboard, a marker, and a stack of post-its.  We all started with the same divisor and dividend to learn what I wanted them to do.  Then, we took it one stinkin' step and number at a time.  And guess what?  They loved it! And it worked! Woo hoo! It seemed like writing out each number and placing the number with purpose helped them see WHY the numbers go WHERE.

I sent them home with their homework page tonight and a mini pack of mini, itty-bitty post-its.  Of which I somehow ended up with a billion in my supply closet.  BABIES!!! wastes paper, so my inner-hippie says to just do one problem a day using them, or you could re-use the numbers.  Ohhh...lamination and magnets????

oh wait......

And besides....there goes playing on their obsessions with all things Post-It.  (insert trademark symbol here)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Literature Graffiti

One of my main reasons for wanting to start a blog (of about 408.6 million "main reasons") was to become a Pinterest sensation.

Wellllll, maybe not (I'm totally lying, I want to be a Pinterest sensation.) No, but really....I was majorly inspired by stalking Pinterest like it was my second job this school year.

I teach 4th grade special education.  For this particular school year, that means I co-teach a 4th grade "general education" (the more P.C. term for "regular education") classroom.  I'm in there for homeroom, then I pull 4 students to a resource room for math.  Back to the "general education" room for snack/special/Social Studies.  Back out for Language Arts (11 kids this time).  Lunch/recess...boom.  Language Arts again.  Back in gen. ed. for Science.  I really do love it.

My Language Arts group I call (in my head, mostly) "The Breakfast Club."  If you don't get the John Hughes reference......The Breakfast Club is one of the greatest 80's movies ever made, and it speaks volumes on how a small group of individuals can represent an entire cosmopolitan of society.  Or in the words of Brian Johnson......

"Saturday, March 24,1984. 
Shermer High School
 Shermer, Illinois, 60062.

Dear Mr. Vernon, 

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did *was* wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us - in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed."

I love it.  And it sums up my room in my own, simplest terms.  

So, I started trolling Pinterest for some fresh ideas to keep my students interested in learning and I came across this awesome idea and spun it into.....Literature Graffiti.

It's as simple as.......

- put a giant piece of black bulletin-board paper on your wall
- label it "Literature Graffiti" (or whatever you want, okay?)
- leave several silver (ooooh!) Sharpies available for students

I explained to them what "Literature" and "Graffiti" mean separately.  Then we talked about what would be "worthy" of inspiration/laughter/motivation/etc. to put up on our board.  We read several poems from our current unit and came across a Langston Hughes poem...

I read to them with as much passion as I could.  When the poem ended with "I reach out my you."  I showed them how I had "chill bumps" on my arm.  How THAT'S Literature Graffiti worthy.  I challenged them to read, and bring in/write down what they think would be worthy to put on our board.  Here's our first page....

Some of it's from our curriculum, some of it's from their own books.  And yes....some of it came from the little poems published next to the obituaries in the paper.  Whatever inspires you, man!

So try it.......  How can this fit in your classroom?  

When each page gets filled up.....move it around the classroom to inspire you the rest of the school year.  

Oh.....and never eat an apple with a hole in it.  

mic check.....1, 2....1, 2.

Writing a first blog post is like......

walking into an empty auditorium all Mary Katherine Gallagher style (you KNOW what I mean) and looking around, ever so cautiously.

Hello?  Oh, hi.  Hi, hello.  What's this....a microphone? OHHHH!!!!!!! Let's just see if it's on.

Hi, hi hi?

HIIIIIIIII!!!!! :::: shuffle shuffle jazz hands side step high kick ::::::::  Oh what, no one here?  Perfect.  It's all about ME now.  ::::: high kick high kick ::::

This is my inner-monologue, pretty much all the time.

Well anyway, so ya start yakin' on about God knows what in that there auditorium until you hear a little giggle.  Creepy little clapping.  And there he is.....the creep in the back.

It's like..... this is my own little piece of the internet, but I want creeps listening.  Well, not CREEPS, but ...maybe a little audience of high 5'ers and head-nodders.  Maybe a posse???? Inspire me, I'll inspire you.  Be my creep, and I'll be yours! Just listen.

Hi. I'm Katie.  I'm a wife and a mom (my little guy is soooooooooo cute.  I'm watching him on the monitor now playing peek-a-boo with himself.  He cracks himself UP, yo!!!) I teach 4th grade special education.  Learning Support- math and reading.  And then I pop into a "general education" classroom for some Social Studies/ Science action! American Revolution, anyone?????

I have a lot to say about education. A lot.  And will a blog end me up on the front page of the local newspaper, talking about how I lost my job?  I hope not.  What's free speech and what is in my CONTRACT about free speech? Ugh. hmm......

And.....I'm coping.  Kestutis- to cope.

Coping with anxiety, coping with depression, coping with all that there is in this shiny blue marble we call Earth.  It's a lot, no?  So, come cope with me.  Let's cheer each other on like the Target lady.

YAYYYYY!!!!! Everyone wins!

Okay, I have a peek-a-boo game to attend to.