Goodbye week 8, and goodbye Quarter 1! Here are the highlights from this week:
1. Our 8th graders have been working on a Rocket unit in science class. This week, we took them outside to launch their final products. Our science teachers are really the best. I love this picture of them all looking up to the clouds.
2. I made it to the top 100 Middle School Teacher-Authors on Teachers Pay Teachers! I was just completely shocked and wonderfully surprised! Yeah, #98!!!
3. One of the best things about our school is that our students have a strong sense of pride and school spirit. You can see it everywhere you look!
4. Yes it is getting colder, and yes my furnace did break this week (grrr!!!), but I am forever looking for the silver lining. I take a walk every day after work – just by myself – to help me clear my head. I listen to audiobooks (right now, I am ‘reading’ Scarlet), and let my eyes take in all of the beauty. The fall colors are just GORGEOUS!
5. We have a special birdseed surprise in our backyard. Underneath our birdfeeder, some seeds have fallen and some really interesting things have come to life! Yes, even this late in the season, we have a corn stalk and a sunflower!
Have a wonderful weekend! I get a 3-day Long Fall Weekend, YES SLEEP!!!!
1. Data Wall – as part of the state-regulated Response to Intervention model, our school is creating a data wall in order to visualize and track student growth. Basically, we have transformed an unused classroom into a data room, in which staff can meet and reflect on student needs, progress, and goals. The chalkboards are magnetized, and we have a magnet for each student. On each magnet, we have colored dots to represent different groups/needs/demographics. We also write the students’ RIT scores (MAP scores for Reading, Language Arts, and Math) on the magnet, and we place them on the board from left to right based on their performance (Low, Low-Average,, Average, High-Average). It’s exciting to see this project finalized! Actually looking at the data laid out like this helps us to see where we need to concentrate our efforts.
2. Oh What A Beautiful Morning – Okay getting up at 5am stinks. I am a morning person, but right now, 5am still feels like ‘night.’ It’s dark and cold and yucky! But as I was driving to work on Tuesday morning, I had my breath taken away by this stunning view!
3. Time to Dance! My husband and I had an absolutely wonderful time at a wedding this past Saturday. It was an at Urban Ecology Center – what a cool venue!
4. All In! My students completed and turned in their Scholarship Letters on Thursday. They are so proud of their final products – they look so professional! For most of them, this is the longest and most important thing they have written in their lives. Before the iPads, I would get about 94% handed in – some kids just couldn’t cross the finish line with this project. Now, with the iPads, I got 100% of the letters. That’s HUGE!
5. Girl’s Night: On Monday, I went shopping with my mom and sister. We hit the mall for about 4 hours after work, then went out for sushi. I love shopping with these ladies! We visited J. Crew, Express, Ann Taylor, LOFT, and White House Black Market looking for a new suit and separates for my sister to wear on her interviews for dental residency program. It was definitely a successful trip! I think we spent way too much money… 🙂
Happy Friday, everyone! S’long, week 6! I’ll celebrate your grand exit by highlighting the best of my week.
1. My Brilliant Students: Last week, I did a fun warm-up with the iPads where I asked everyone to find a picture on the internet to represent how they are feeling today. Many of them did exactly what you’d expect – they found pictures of tired puppies or crying babies or emoticons to represent their feelings. It was fun, but it wasn’t especially challenging. So this week, I repeated the activity with one caveat – they may not use any emoticons or pictures that have faces in them. What a challenge! At first, they all balked and whined. But within minutes, it was like watching a slow-motion miracle as each student suddenly brightened up with an idea and set to work. Smiling devilishly, they dug through google images until they found just the perfect one to share. I let each student stand up and show their pictures, then ask the class to guess how they felt. They had pictures of fireworks, red monsters, trampolines, stoves, trains, and many more really exciting ideas. The warm-up became a real challenge in thinking metaphorically and stepping outside of the comfort zone. Students had just as much fun guessing the meaning as they did explaining their own pictures. The train, for instance, represented feeling motivated and charging ahead. The red monster represented anger. But you know what was the very best part of all? The kinds of students who were enjoying this – all of my struggling readers and writers were laughing, raising their hand, and having a blast. This was such an unexpectedly fun way to start class!
2. ORCA Testing: I finished Phase 1 of my data collection for my dissertation, which involved getting 180 kids on laptops to take an online reading assessment (looks a lot like facebook). Oy. Uff da. Now that was stressful. Thanks to Murphy’s Law, everything I planned to go wrong actually went right, and everything I couldn’t have foreseen went terribly wrong. The room I booked was unavailable, the school’s internet went down, students didn’t follow directions and their data was unusable. I haven’t felt this tense since I watched ‘Gravity’ in the theater last weekend (pssst… go see that! What a thriller!). BUT, I think I have enough usable data, and it feels really good to have at least one piece of the project behind me. Now to grade all of them!
3. Rocket Pencils: I blogged earlier in the week about using Rocket Pencils (Twist ‘n Write) with my 8th graders. I shared them with a few new students this week, and they are loving them!
4. Scholarship Letter: We finished writing all 5 paragraphs of the Scholarship Letter this week – phew! Now next week, all we have to do is peer revise and edit, and the final draft can be due on Thursday. Guess I know what I’ll be grading all next weekend?! I’m incredibly proud of my students because every single one of them – without fail – has been working hard at this assignment and they all have a full draft. This is no small feat! It was accomplished only through tons of encouragement, support, and careful scaffolding.
5. Something Fluffy and Pink: Okay confession – I MAY have purchased a tutu this week at Target. What? It was an impulse buy! What girl doesn’t need a pink tutu? I’m actually just thinking ahead to Halloween. Mrs. D always ‘brings it’ for dress up days!
1. School Duty: Are you blessed with an extra school duty? I have morning duty for first quarter. This means I get to monitor the ‘holding tank,’ a hallway in which students must stay before the first bell. I used to be pretty disgruntled about this – I mean, every second before school is precious time to set up my room, prepare materials, and get ready for the day. I am trying to reframe my thinking these days and cherish my morning duty instead. I actually really love hanging out with my students. I get to learn so much about them. Building relationships with my students is a cornerstone of my teaching, and this is a critical time where I can check in with students and hear about how things are going at home, problems they are having at school, or just sharing some laughs. Yesterday, my students wanted to use their iPads to snap some fun photos. On the top left, we used our feet to make a star, and on the top right, we made a giant star with peace signs. I’m the pink nail polish in both, of course!
2. Rewind, Pause, Review Day was such a success! (Read more here.) I am still so proud of my students and so grateful we took a day to get caught up. Progress reports were due today, and I know a lot of students who are going to get to keep their cell phones and video games thanks to improved grades …
3. French Twist Oh La La: I cut my hair 4 years ago for Locks of Love, and I’ve been keeping it short ever since. It’s just SO much easier to take care of, especially with the thick, heavy, wavy huge head of hair that I have. But my husband asked me if I would grow it out again, and I’m giving it a try. I was so happy to discover that I can do a French Twist again! Tres chic!
4. Fall: Yeah… I don’t usually have many nice things to say about Fall. But, since it is High 5 For Friday and the point is to find the silver lining, I will make a confession. I really do enjoy the satisfying crunch of golden leaves under my feet. When I take Rocket out for a walk, I deliberately hop from small crispy pile to pile.
5. Reading Interventions: I am making some real progress in creating a reading intervention system for our students. This year, I was freed up from the classroom for 1 hour a day to become our school’s Reading Specialist. I am defining my job as I go, which is lot like building a plane as I fly. I started by identifying all of the students who performed below the cutoff on our recent MAP Reading test. Then I deleted the ones on that list who already receive any other kind of support, like Special Education, Speech and Language, or Read 180 (a reading program). That left me with roughly 15 kids per grade level. Now I am deciding how to best serve those students through pull-out reading tutoring, small group interventions, additional testing, etc. Phew – my mind is swimming! But the good news is that I am making progress, and we are finally going to have a plan to address the students whose needs are not being met in any other way.
How was your week? Feel free to link up in the comments below!
Happy Friday! Whew, Week 4 is done! Summer feels like such a distant memory these days…
Every Friday, I do a High Five For Friday post to celebrate 5 highlights from my week. We’ve got to focus on the positive, people!
1. Goal Maps – This week in Language Arts, we focused on setting goals. We learned about doing a cost-benefit analysis of goals while reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. For a culminating project, I had students create a metaphorical map to their goal. They had to have a start (8th grade) and finish (end goal), goal posts along the way to prove they were on the right track (ex: for a goal of going to college, goalposts might be staying in school, acquiring good grades, finishing high school, applying, being accepted, etc.) and potential road blocks along the way (ex: dropping out of school, getting in trouble with the police, failing a class, missing a deadline, etc.). They did a great job with these, as you can see!
2. Happy Happy! – My family had a party on Sunday to celebrate 3 July/August birthdays, and 2 wedding anniversaries. We had so much fabulous food, laughter, and just a wonderful relaxing time!
3. Vinylux – Well have you heard of it yet?!?! It’s great! It’s the new gel or shellac manicure without all the pain. I purchased it on Amazon for a very reasonable price. It dried completely within 8 minutes, and I have been ‘chip free’ since Sunday. I’m sold! This color is Lavishly Loved.
4. Haircuts – I got a haircut, and so did Rocket. I think we both look pretty great 😉 By the way – his haircut costs more than mine, argh!!
5. MAP Testing – My students finished MAP testing this week. They took the Reading test on Tuesday and the Language Arts test today. The MAP test is a standardized computer-based test to measure growth over the year. My students are totally wiped out, and I don’t blame them. I’m glad this week is over, but that was kind of overkill for everyone involved. I’m also glad it’s over, because the MAP test results are part of the data I am collecting for my dissertation.
I am starting a new blog tradition called “High Five For Friday.” Each Friday, no matter how stressful or hectic my week was, I am going to take a moment to be positive, optimistic, and grateful for the 5 highlights of my week. I am going to focus on what is good, and what went right!
So this week definitely felt like it was 9 days long, but I made it to Friday! Here are the highlights:
1. We found Rocket! Ugh, what a story. On Wednesday night, Ryan and I took Rocket out for his last evening walk. Suddenly, Rocket noticed a rabbit and instantly took off running. Ryan didn’t have a great grip on the leash, which slipped out of his hand. We both watched – stunned, numb – as our dog ran off into the dark night. We live by a busy street, so this is not good news, people. Well we split up and started darting in and out of backyards, calling out his name. My throat slowly started to squeeze and clench, and I could barely squeak out a high-pitched, “Roooooockeeeeeet!” – riddled with panic. After 5 minutes, Ryan hopped in his car and started driving up and down the street and alley. That’s when I had an idea; I ran home and grabbed a squeak toy. Oh boy, did I squeeze that thing. I squeezed the life out of it. Again, I darted in and out of backyards, morbidly checking the street out of the corner of my eye every now and then for a small body in the middle of the road. It was dark, I was alone, and terrified. FInally, I paused for a desperate moment under a street light, listening. I squeezed one more time, and THERE HE CAME barreling toward…. the toy. Not me, the toy. The stinker has no idea how he gave me a near-death-experience. I feel as if I aged 4 years that night. Oh I am SO glad to have him back! It was the worst 20 minutes (felt like an hour) ever! I am grateful for him every minute of every day.
2. Open House was a great success this year. I had so many parents with great questions about the curriculum, my expectations, etc. It was a nice turnout. It felt so rewarding to hear some parents saying that their older son/daughter (who I had in previous years) said that they were happy that their younger son/daughter got to have me this year because I am “the best!” It’s great teaching the whole family – there are some parents that I have gotten to know by teaching 4 of their children – wow! I love building a relationship with the families and communities. It’s part of what makes my district so special.
3. The 5 Keys – Currently, we are reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. We are doing our best to use the iPads and ebackpack for taking notes, doing assignments, etc. This week, however, we’ve had more than a few technical glitches. Our district needs to expand our wifi network (which is getting inundated and really slow), and ebackpack keeps crashing on us. The students are being good sports about this, but I can tell they are getting really annoyed with the dysfunctional technology. I had an idea this morning on my drive into work to quick whip up a graphic organizer for our reading today of the 5 Keys to Goal Setting, Habit 2. You should have seen the look of relief on their faces when I told them today that we were going ‘old school’ and taking a technology break. I’ve never seen them so happy to have a graphic organizer. They loved filling in the notes, and they honestly did a fantastic job with their summaries.
4. Signature Stamp – Wahoo, it finally arrived! I’m going to have a blast filling out those blue and yellow slips for PBIS!
5. Seat Marker Success – I am SO impressed with my students. The seat markers are working out like gangbusters. Even in the middle of class, students will get up, grab a seat marker, then head to the bathroom. They never have to interrupt a lesson. You might imagine that this could get out of hand – that students would want to go at all the wrong times, or abuse the system. This is completely not the case! They are being incredibly mature and responsible. I think they are grateful and honored to be treated like young adults, and they are rising to the occasion. Of course, if I see students abusing the privilege, I will revoke it, but it’s so nice to have this mutual trust and understanding.