Sunday, October 7, 2012

Post It Use # 98376261

I lost it this week.  Lost all my patience... and it was before 10 am.  My kids love to ask questions, which I love, except when they ask the ones I am just about to answer... (not really learning questions)

Example #1:
Me:  Please go to the next page in your journal and number it 28.
Student:  What's the title?  (They know fully well that I am about to give it to them, but they will not be patient... its this type of question that drives me NUTS)

Example #2:
Me: Please fold this paper like a book and.. (cut off by student)
Student:  What page do we glue this on?
Me: (Screaming in my head  AHHHHHHHHHH)

I love their questions about learning.  Its their questions without patience that drives me over the edge.  Please tell me I am not the only one...please!

Okay.... so I lost my patience and got onto my class for not being patient and I practically begged them to let me teach and then ask their questions.  Then I had to apologize for losing my patience.  Man.... this is a vicious cycle.    I told them I love their questions and wondering minds, but it's the timing of them that was making me crazy.  If they would just wait..... I guess that's what I get for living in a time of instant gratification.  I don't know about you but if Facebook doesn't load on my phone within 10 seconds I turn it off and check email or pinterest.  I know.... I am not patient person either.... what am I writing about???

Post-Its.   Hmmmm guess I better address that.
So I got irritated, complained to my partner teacher, who then gave me a brilliant solution.  Post-its.  Give each kid one and they can write their question on it instead of blurting out.

So that's what I did.  I gave each table a pack of post-its.  Each kiddo wrote their name on it, and I told them that whenever a thought crossed their mind to write it down.  I might answer it without knowing during discussion and they could cross off their question.  If not, when I asked if anyone had any questions, they could look on their post-it and ask.  If they wanted me to know something, but didn't want to talk to me directly, they could write it on the post-it.  Whatever questions I didn't get to in class, I would answer that evening on their post it.

It has been pretty awesome!  They leave me comments such as not being comfortable where they sit, or that their older sister is coming into town and she cant wait.  But they leave me some thoughtful questions as well.  Some have nothing to do with the topic I am teaching, but these are the thoughts going through their heads. This week (I've only done this since Tuesday) I received some of these questions:  what is dark matter?  why do they call it H2O?  what is carbon monoxide?  do you have any kids? 

Some I answered, some I tell them to google the answer, some I just put a smiley face, but my kids love the dialog we get to have on a post it.  If their post-it response is not on their desk when they come in, the first question is "Did you get to answer my post-it?"    The blurting has subsided (not completely but A LOT) and I love that, but more importantly I love seeing into my students' minds just a little more and I get to have an open dialog that lets them know that I care about each of them.  Post-its.... use #98376261.

How do you use them?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

CNN Student News= AWESOME!!!

Do you share CNN Student News with your students?  I really wouldn't recommend it for any grades younger than 5th or 6th grade, but it is my kids favorite part of the day! 
We start each and everyday with the news.... which is great for me because I hardly ever watch TV... much less the news.  In 6th grade, I am to teach all about world cultures- countries and their government, religions and how their economy works.  With CNN Student News, my kids learn a little of that each and every day.  And its not just other countries...its right here at home too.  My kids love to learn about what is going on and have great questions, but what has impressed me most of all, is the empathy my students have for others. 
Many times the news has showed Para-Olympic athletes and my first thought was, "Oh no...please don't let them snicker...."  I know that is what so many of the kids would have done in the school I grew up in; however, not one of my students snickered or laughed or mocked.  In fact, they remarked how difficult it must be to play volleyball only on your behind, and they oooooooohhhhhed and aaaaaaaahhhhed  as they witnessed an athlete who had no arms shoot a bow and arrow with his feet and hit the target over 200 yards away!  It was not just an amazing story in the news, but it was amazing to witness the understanding and empathy my kids have.   I love how the news opens my students' eyes to things they have never seen or imagined before.

How do I use it in my classroom?

  • We watch it first thing each day using my elmo to project it from the computer.
  • Students take notes from each story in their notebook (they usually need 2 pages for 5 days worth of notes), being sure to write important names down (using the red bar at the bottom).  This helps them become familiar with listening and taking notes along with being able to write main ideas.
  • After the news, students talk for 3 minutes about the notes they took and the stories they saw.  
  • On Friday, students take a CNN Student News quiz using their notes with a word bank provided (I give 20 words but only 10 are used)------- You can find the quiz on the CNN Student News Homepage and click on the Discussion box in the bottom right hand corner....the quizzes are available on Fridays.
  • If students are absent, it is his or her responsibility to watch the news at home and make up their notes. 
I am thinking I might make my own quiz questions... some of them seem to be really tough for my 6th graders, but even though the quiz is tough, the kids would never miss the news.  I even have some students who will wake up early and watch it at home!!!!  I love that THEY LOVE LEARNING!

Friday, September 21, 2012

What's New?

What's new with you? For me... I am living in a world called NEW.   A new school year, a new batch of kiddos to love and teach, a new subject (added the Wednesday before school started), a new teacher to our 6th grade team.... make that 2.... starting Wednesday.... a new beginning for my partner teacher and great friend.
Ah, "new".... how do I love you?!  Gotta admit, all this newness is about to make all my hair fall out not to mention my face wont quit with the breakouts!  Ugh "new".... I am definitely not liking you.  Its the end of the 4th week of school and I am trying so hard to keep my head from spinning from all the new things happening in my life!
Let me share a little into my whirlpool of a year so far.... but please do not think that I am complaining.... its just what is happening right now... well I am complaining about my breakouts but how do you look at the bright side of that?!?!  anyway..... here's the 411.
  • August 14--- I had surgery and was laid up on the couch for 2 days.  I have to admit my husband was pretty awesome!  and I didn't have to do any cleaning :)
  • August 17--- First day of in-service.... on a FRIDAY.... ummmm who does that?? Its like saying "Bwahahaha... no more 3 day weekend for you for the next 9 months.... bwahahaha."  Friday in-service is no bueno.  <---- complaint???  truth????  tomato (long a).... tomato (short a).... I just LOLed telling you how to pronounce my writing.... kinda stupid of me....... I digress....
  • August 22---Wednesday before school starts.... my partner in crime... AKA our 6th grade ELA/SS teacher gets a job offer in a school district far away in "the city."  Tears and sobbing... loud...
  • Sobs and more tears....... wait....... shes going to stay 4 weeks..... smiles..... tears and smiles...... at least its not sobs so much......
  • August 22--- I tell my principal that I will teach SS.  There is NO WAY I would or wanted to throw a new teacher without a summer and 2 months late into the school year with 2 subjects to teach and one in a STARR tested area while the light of Heaven shined down in my classroom of only having to teach one subject....Science.   That would be torturous for that new teacher..... my future partner.... and I wasn't going to do that to her/him..... but most likely her.... no offense men-folk.  So I took Social Studies... World Cultures.  Ummmm this is NEW for me.  
  • August 27---- the first day of school.  We have a 3 way switch.  Total of 61 students.... wait for it.... 15 have ARD papers.... BOOM-Shaka-laka!!!!!   Yeah..... that's a lot... out of 61... BUT---- these kids ask some of the most thoughtful questions and have the BEST personalities that keep me smiling all day long.  I am learning something new each day teaching them.  I. LOVE. MY. KIDS! I might even give y'all a quote of the day!  we will see....They are pretty hilarious.  :)
  • September.... what is today(21).... 19.... September 19--- Tuesday.   Interview 3 teachers who have no experience.... but that's okay.... as long as she has the drive..... (no men-folk applied)  Picked an awesome mom who is eager to teach and hired her.  Mrs. Newsome (pretty perfect name and no.... I did NOT make that up.... I couldn't make this stuff up)
  • Fast forward to next Tuesday.... September 25.... my partner in crime's last day.  I already can't stop my eyes from watering when I think about her leaving.  She has been my rock for over a year.  I haven't really talked much about my personal life outside of the classroom, but she held my hand through the past year of having to deal with infertility.   I am still at war (going over 2 years now) with infertility and I get so sad over my own selfishness.  Ugh..... I am not ready to go there today.
  • Obviously Tuesdays are not my days.  
 And so my NEW year has begun; yet it starts again next Tuesday with a new partner that I am really excited to get to know and mentor, but that day will definitely be bitter sweet.  Embracing change.... running towards the new is tough sometimes, but if I didn't, I wouldn't be a Jack of all Trades.... or at least trying to be. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Crunch Time.... Clock Partners

Oh. My. Goodness.  Where did my summer go?  I am sitting here on the couch on my last day of summer.  Tomorrow I return for my first day of in-service.  Who starts in-service on a FRIDAY??  Who does THAT???  and more importantly... why did the school district to that to us?!?!  ugh....

I know I sound like I am complaining.... well yes.... I am complaining but not about starting school!  Just in-service on Friday....but I AM really excited to start this school year off!  In fact I am pretty stoked about teaching one subject (SCIENCE) and working on getting all my tweaks out from last year and trying out new labs and all sorts of finds on pinterest :)

Which brings me to my latest find.... clock partners.  Last year I had my students keep the same table partners for 9 weeks, and usually if they did partner work, it was with the person they sat across from.  It became boring fast, but I didn't want to let them just go willy-nilly and go around working with anyone they chose.  We all know what happens when we do that!  Nothing.... except talking.... about what happened last night.... not about what we are learning.  Ugh.  6th graders.

So I saw something on pinterest about Clock Partners.  The students pick who their partner is at each time slot and they make sure they are on their partners clock at that same time slot.  This will be perfect during the first few days of school, especially when we are setting up our Science Notebooks.  So today I made my own Clock Partners worksheet.  We will fill it out, color it,cut it out and paste it somewhere in the front or back of our journals.  I usually don't decide where to place things until the day of.  So if you would like to use it, it's all yours!  Click here for the Clock Partners worksheet!  You can also see more of my files to share in the green tabs on the left.

Enjoy your last few days.... hours.... minutes.... of sweet summer time!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Craft Time... Baby Elephant Pictures by Busted Button

Isn't this this most adorable gift ever!!! Yes.... Yes it is..... So naturally I had to make one because this isn't mine.  And I have about a MILLION friends having babies.  Does anyone else feel that way... like everyone is having babies????  Couples turning into bunnies???  I digress...

This too-cute elephant is a PIN from the most wonderful PINTERST but more importantly it is made from the blog BUSTED BUTTON. She even has a tutorial on there that was really easy to follow. Click on the links to check out her tutorial, and also her site!  It's AWESOME!!!  Check out her Art Portfolio... she does some great artwork. 

I did have to make a quick trip to Hobby Lobby.  Side note:  wait to buy your frame when they go on sale for 50% off.  This happens usually every other week.  I took lots of picture when making it, so I will go through real quick and tell you how to make this gift.

Grab your wallet.... and go to Hobby Lobby.
Buy this 3 pkg of canvas boards for 6.99.  You'll find them in the canvas aisle.  Use the 8x10 size--- you need this size for your fame and how big the elephant is.
I had to buy buttons.  Unfortunately buttons are one thing I don't hoard collect.  Ok..... honesty is the best policy.....hoard.   But believe you me, I will now.   I sorted my buttons because I am psychotic and love to see organized colors.  But this also helped me see that I can not make another yellow elephant.  

If the frame is on sale, buy it.  If not just wait til next week.  Also if you are not a hoarder of paint, you will want to buy some acrylic paint while your at Hobby Lobby.  Now go home.

And make a stencil of an elephant.
I drew out mine but you can maybe find one on the Internet???  Its not hard to draw... YOU CAN DO IT!

Trace your stencil.  Try to keep your elephant either a little off to the left or in the center.  You will have balloons that take us some of that space on the right.
Paint your elephant the color of your buttons.  You can add some water to make it a little less thick.
I put my buttons in baggies so now they will stay organized.   Get out that hot glue gun... LOW temp!!  You will get glue on yourself and we all know what those high temps do to our skin.  No bueno.
Place your buttons... I liked using my bigger button on the bottom.... don't worry we are going to layer this elephant.
See... Its layered with buttons.  And that stupid hot glue string.... start pulling that off.... and layer some more until you cant see much of your paint anymore.
I don't have black buttons, so I used a dark purple one for the eye.  Also you see that little line of darker pink buttons??  That's his ear... or her ear.... I would feel sorry for him if he was pink.... poo
Use a sharpie.... THIN.... and draw some lines for the button balloons/flowers/ whatever circular thing you want to call it.
Glue them down. 
Gotta add some button grass! 
Place in your frame!  I could not put the glass in first and have everything fit, so I just kept the canvas being the top layer, but put the glass behind it along with the backing of the frame.

I've done 3 so far...

And I have a at least 2 more to go.....
Again.... when did people become bunnies???

Happy Crafting!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Teacher Toolbox: Organization Central

VBS is over and it was beyond AMAZING!!! But now that I don't have my mind racing in a million directions, I can focus on doing stuff for school... including crafting.   So I am finally going to contribute to Tara's Made it Mondays!  I know it's Friday.... but I am going to join on Monday.  You can check out more of her great ideas and other crafters linking up here
Well Leslie, what did you make??

I made this awesome toolbox!
 I have been dying to make this thing since last summer when I saw Rebecca's Toolbox.  Here is a picture of hers.
You can read about her Tool Box on her wonderful blog
So how did I make mine???  First head to Lowe's or click on the Amazon link (if you can wait a few days) and buy yourself this little beauty. My friend and I had a mini- pinterest party and each made one.  Love Pinterst Parties!!!   Gotta get one going for Back 2 School.
 Focus.......  I didn't like the blue color, so that meant SPRAY PAINT.... Take out all the little drawers.  Then go outside, prime it and paint it.   
All the little drawers
Ready for Paint
YES!!!  Don't forget the Primer
Lots of Primer.... should have put more on mine
A glossy white spray paint is added

Dry Time

Now while your box is drying, go visit Rebecca's site Create Share Inspire and print out 2 copies of the labels that she made onto 2 different colors of card stock.  She has a link on her site.  Now if you're like me, you might not use all her labels.... like chalk or rings, but you can always double up on one you use a lot of.  For me... that was Paper Clips.... I live off paper clips... they are always in my pockets and my husband goes nuts finding them in the washer or dryer.  Oh well.... you never know when you need a paper clip. A-D-D...... Focus...... labels...... Cut the labels out.
Now using scrap book paper, trace around the big labels on the back of the paper.
Then cut out all your large rectangles that you traced.  I used 2 different types of scrapbook paper.
My paper
Kim's paper

Now trim your big labels.  I used my trusty paper cutter.

Look at the nice fan formation Kim made.  She laughed the whole time I took pictures of EVERYTHING!

Now use one of those sticker dot roller things to place your labels on your paper.
Then get yourself some of this tape.... its double sided sticky tape that is clear.  LOVE IT! And why does it say permanent??? Because its not... you can remove that stuff... no prob.... maybe not from the paper....
I never use this tape, but had it in my junk drawer and it was perfect for this project.  We tried placing tape on the back of the labels and then along the side, but it just was not working out.  Just get some of this stuff and place it on the front of your label... I know its going to be tough... I had the moment of apprehension thinking that I was about to ruin my nice label.  But trust me... no one will see this tape on the front of your label.
Kim's Box
My box.  I told you..... you cant see that tape.... right??? No....
 The final finishing touch was adding our names to the top of the boxes.

Cute Cute!!!  Thanks Rebecca for the inspiration!!!!!!  Happy Crafting!!!

Friday, June 22, 2012

M.I.A for VBS

Sorry yall!! I know I have been out.... for almost a month now!!!  But I can not believe how much my blog has blown up over my post on the No Homework Binder!  Thank you all for reading, pinning and commenting on my post :) 

I just wanted to let you all know that I have been hard at work for my church.  We have VBS next week... in fact it starts Sunday and I have been decorating, decorating, decorating for the past few weeks.  Please stay tuned in for a post on taking some of the ideas to the classroom. 

Our VBS theme this year is Lifeway's Amazing Wonders Aviation which would be perfect for a school theme such as Around the World in 180 days!  (We did that 2 years ago... wish I had done this VBS several summers ago). 

One quick idea... keep your eyes posted for churches around your community and ask them for any of their left over decorations to donate to your school or classroom!!! You never know what you will get! 

Hope you all are having a great summer... I promise Ill write more the 1st week of July!  Much love!!!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Goodbye Math... Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow....

I love math.  I love the organization of it all.  I love that there is only one right answer but a countless ways to get to it.  The methodical approach of each step and the elimination of a number leading me to the answer.  I love my notebook filled with foldables, notes and knowledge.

But now after 6 long years of always teaching something different, I finally get a year where I am going to teach the same thing twice... but, it's not math.


And although I am sad to give up math (not the STARR test though...doing a little dance on the couch... literally.... are you dancing too?  you know that giving up that test is a relief :)  ), I am totally stoked about just teaching Science.  I love the creativity of it all.  The creation, testing, analyzing and justifying of each thing.  The search for the answer to why?  and the explanation of how you finally figured something out.  Sometimes people have a hard time being a Christian and teaching Science, and I totally can relate to some of that.  But so much of science justifies that there must be a God to create all of this... to make these systems work in such a specific way that if one thing went wrong something would die or cease to exhist.  How awesome is HE!!!

If you have read any of my About Me section, you know the journey I have been on for the last 6 years and how much God has led me, even when I wanted to pull in another way.  How I have taught something new EVERY year, and moved so often. 

This past year I have become the Children's Director at my church. and I have really loved it!  I would NOT be able to do it if I wasn't at the school I am at right now.  To just do Science next year not only means I can focus on one subject area, but I can spend more time doing labs, more foldables, and spending more time on my church kids.  This past year has been a huge blessing, and I just am so excited to see what God has for me next. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Linky Party: Music In the Classroom....Nay or YAY!!!!

YAY!!! I know yall know how much I like to search You Tube for school videos.... so I thought about making a little linky party for all those great finds all us teachers search high and low for.

Let me tell yall a little secret... I am not a fan of rap, hip-hop, or much of today's music.  I grew up on the alternative radio of the '90's (love it), but I now listen to Texas Country and Christian radio.  Obviously my taste in music clashes with what my kids like, but when it comes to learning, some of these rap songs couldn't be better I think.   Go to You Tube.... yes right now.... just open a new tab... type in Mr. Lee.  See all those different songs about Science?  My kids LOVE them.  In fact after I showed the one on the Rock Cycle a few weeks ago, tons of my kids went home and searched more songs of his.  Warm fuzzy feeling taking place:)

One of my students came in the following day and said, "Mr. Johnstone, can we please listen to the Phases of the Moon by Mr. Lee?  I love that one."  Wait.... you want me to play you a learning rap song??? Ummm YES!!

So without further ado... here a few that were my students favorites this year....
Meet Mr. Lee (also has lots of science and math songs)
Meet Mr. Duey (great math songs)
Meet They Might Be Giants (Science songs for all ages)

Do you have any songs that you love to play for your kids?  Link up and share! (this is my 2nd linky party... I hope it works right!)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The No Homework Binder: How to Document the Excuses!

Ahhhh  homework... the dreaded word that makes kids groan... not to mention teachers when we have to deal with the million excuses as to why the homework didn't get done the next day.  Read my post on why I think homework is necessary... but evil... here...

After 5 years of teaching and having to deal with the homework issue, I have found a way to document all those times it doesn't get done.... in one place... and can whip it out in no time during parent teacher conferences.  Yes... this idea has been one of my save-all's when it comes to conferences.

Behold.... The No Homework Binder.

Simple.... beyond simple.... yet it holds so much power!
 If you like the cover, you can download it from here.
All you need is a 3 ring binder... a 1 inch binder would be fine.
Get some of these dividers.

Give each student one of these sheets.

All they need to do is put their first and last name and their homeroom teacher.

Pick up all your sheets and put all of them behind to correct dividers.

You can find my download sheets also in the tab on the right at the bottom under "Files to Share."

Within the first week of school, I explain the "No Homework Binder."  I explain to the kids that
  • For the most part, I will only assign math homework.
  • Homework will only be given on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.  (Wednesday many of my kids have church, so I dont assign on this day.)
  • Homework assignments will not take students longer than 30 minutes to complete.
  • I understand if you once in a blue moon do not do your homework due to an emergency, but when you are consistently not doing it, that is when it becomes a problem.
  • When homework is not done, fill out the table in the no homework binder.
  • I give a Test grade at the end of the 9 weeks grading period.  If you did all assignments, you get a 100.  Each one you did not do is -5 points from that 100.  
  • Parents will be contacted if you miss 3 assignments in a row.
Now when the kids want to give me a million excuses as to why their homework is not done I just tell them I don't want to hear it and write it in the binder. I will look at it later.  While students do their warm up, I stop by the binder and just do a quick look to see that it was filled out by those who did not do the assignment.  The most popular reasoning under "Because..." is "I forgot."

And that's it.  Usually when a parent wants to talk to me about their child's work, I whip out my binder, and there..... in their child's own handwriting is the continuous confessions as to why they did not do their homework.

 I love having the students document this.  This binder has been so easy to keep up with, its been amazing and best of all I have the documentation for the whole year in one spot.
Do you hear that?? Its the sigh of relief!

Monday, May 14, 2012

MNM: Area of Trapezoids... WHY??


The most intriguing question that I ask and try to have an answer for.  So I was about to teach how to find area of a trapezoid, and I thought I could just teach them the formula and how to use it, but then the question hit me... Why??  Why is the formula like this???

My students had a formula chart we refer to as the "cheat sheet" (they get to use this on their STAAR test) and I knew I would not be a good teacher if I didn't explain why the formula was the way it was. 

My students already had figured out the formula to finding the area of a triangle: bh/2 because a triangle is 1/2 of the area of a rectangle or square. 

They figured that out all on their own... with a little jogging by me.  But I had NO IDEA why the formula to a trapezoid was (Base 1 + Base 2)h/2.  Why was the formula this?? And if I couldn't figure it out, how on earth could I teach it???  AHHHH....

So I sat at the kitchen table with my husband and drew, thought, scribbled, reassessed, guess and checked and learned all over again.  The divide by 2 made me think... somehow a triangle is involved here....Then it hit me.... duh... 2 triangles make up a trapezoid.... but they have different bases.  If I find the area of each one and add them then I can find the area.  And it worked.

So I used my jogging questions to help my students figure out the formula to a trapezoid. We started with a trapezoid cut out that I provided to all my students.  I told them that triangles and trapezoids were related.  Using one line, can you figure out how and draw it?  Gotta admit... it stumped some them... they really wanted to draw a square and a triangle(just like I did the night before), but soon enough the light started turning on and they drew a line cutting the trapezoid into 2 triangles.
I told them they already knew how to find the area of triangles, so what could we do to find the area of the trapezoid?  ( Find the area of each triangle and add them)  And so they did.  You can see the work in each triangle and the adding of the 2 triangle areas in the bottom right hand corner of the journal page.

Once they understood this concept, I told them there was an easier way then finding the area of both triangles and adding.  I asked what did the 2 triangles have in common? (the height) What was different in both triangles? (the bases) Well both the bases are being multiplied by the height. right... couldn't we just add the bases and multiply them by the height since they are going to anyway?  Lets test it and see what happens....
Sure enough... we got the same answer.  So why can we do this?  (both of the bases are being multiplied by the same number)  Then I asked what did they notice about the 2 bases? what kind of lines were they? (parallel)  So how can you always find the bases in a trapezoid?  (look for the parallel lines)

With much practice, they can do the formula in no time, but even more importantly, when I ask them why we add the bases, or divide by 2, they can tell me exactly why.  Warm feeling filling the heart now...

And on a side note.... didn't I learn all this in 10th grade Geometry???? When did 10th grade become 6th grade math!??!?!

Gotta get my warm heart feeling again after that blood pressure spike....

Happy Teaching the answer to WHY???