Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Fun & Weekly Recap

Hooray for Friday!!
This is perfect!  If I give True/False questions, I always make them write out the word. Never thought it would STILL be unclear! 
And now a quick recap of the week.

 #1 - Clark's Reservation
On Memorial Day, we brought my daughters to one of my favorite state parks in New York - Clark's Reservation. Due to budget cuts, it was closed until recently so it was nice to share the trails with my girls.
#2 - Tuck Everlasting
Started reading this with my class this week - tough vocabulary but beautiful writing and the kids can't wait to know what Winnie will decide.
#3 - Lewis & Clark Play
The 5th grade team put on their play this week. My husband and I brought our daughters Wednesday to see the evening performance. Lots of laughs - Clark was hilarious!

#4 - Planted Annuals
After battling some bad weather, I was able to get most of my annuals planted, including my new window boxes. :-)  
#5 - More rocket fun
Most students were able to glue on their second fins today despite the uncooperative muggy weather. They are tricky little devils to get to stay put!

And as a bonus....
My End-of-the-Year Student Gifts were featured in the Busy Educator Newsletter. Marjan has linked to some fantastic ideas - you can check it out here.
Swing by Doodle Bugs to link up and share your week!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Next Year, I am DEFINITELY going to...

When it gets to be May, I already have one eye fixed on the future. I know what works (and what does NOT) but there isn't quite enough time to make a course correction so late in the year.  I am ready to be DONE - not only to enjoy summer vacation - but to tune up my teaching and do a better job next year.  So here are my top 5 things that I am DEFINITELY going to do....  Next year.
My morning routine this year hasn't been the best. Right now I post a "To-Do" list on the board but many kids still ignore it and I have to remind them. Over the summer I'm going to develop short warm-ups to target skills I want to stress, but may not find time to formally fit into the day - grammar, genre study, literary terms, writing reflections, and editing practice.
When I was teaching 6th grade, I had retooled many of my units to better address the standards. Now that I have a year of 5th grade under my belt and know the content, I feel ready to really dive into the Common Core (before they change it!) and make sure that I am really following what I know is the best way to plan: Target a standard or two, develop the culminating assessment, find the materials to fit and THEN plan the activities to best support the goals.
This year I started off with The Grand Plan for Daily 5. And I just couldn't make it all work. the interest of weeding out what doesn't work, I am going to pare down to 3 -Read to Self, Work on Writing, and Word Work. If I can get those running smoothly, I'll see about adding the other two.
Back in my middle school days, each of my students had a data folder where they tracked and created graphs for their pre-test and post-test scores, writing progress, and stored all their main writing pieces. Next year I'd like each of my 5th grade students to have a binder (sort of like this) to use as a portfolio where they keep track of their goals, graph their scores, and keep benchmarks and writing samples.
I sent out some e-mails notifying parents of upcoming benchmarks and key dates, but not consistently.  I had a newsletter for a couple months but just couldn't keep it up. Next year - NO Newsletter (I have a blog - they can look there) and more consistent e-mails.  I also found a really cool App designed for teachers to communicate with parents that I'm currently trying out. More on that later.....  :-)

So what's on YOUR to-do list for next year? Join Kim at Finding Joy in 6th Grade to link up and share your plans!
joyin6th Homepage

Coming Soon...  
Summer Relaxation Giveaway, Biography Resources & a Fantastic App to Improve Parent Communication 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fun Friday & Weekly Recap

It was a looooooong week  - so glad it's OVER!
 I'm in need of a chuckle or two - how about you?
 I definitely need to rethink my system for next year! 
I'm really appalled by how often this happens. My giant bag-o-stuff gets hauled back and forth daily with the same papers in it.  Grrrrr......

And now for my week in review - it's been a busy one!

 #1 - Adjust Blog Name
"Mrs. Allen's 5th Grade Files" is now "From Mrs. Allen's Teaching Files"!
For those who have been asking....Yes, I am staying at 5th grade (I hope for quite a while!) but wanted to broaden the focus of my blog beyond just one grade.

#2 - Cake!
Delivered a luscious cake from Biscotti's Bakery for the Teacher Appreciation Luncheon at my daughter's school.  It looked so good it almost didn't make it there without a bite.  :-)

#3 - Field Trip!
My 5th grade team traveled to Green Lakes State Park to explore the local fauna and flora. We identified trees and plants, discovered a snake in a pile of brush, and got nice and sweaty hiking through the trails.
#4 - Finished Investigations Math!!
I made it through my first year teaching this crazy delightfully wonderful way of presenting Math.  My students will be thrilled to toss the rest of their gigantic Student Activity Book in the recycling bin.  On to some review and fun Coordinate Graphing.  
#5 - Rockets!
My class started making their rockets this week! 
One of my young cherubs decided to cut his hair instead of his shock cord mount. And another little darling got his middle finger stuck in his engine casing.  On purpose. 
Sigh...which leads me back to.....
 It was a looooooong week  - so glad it's OVER!
So how was your week? Head on over to Doodle Bugs to link up!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Anti-bullying "Stand Up" Video

I am so very proud of my school for pulling this together! After being inspired by some other anti-bullying films, our P.B.I.S Committee challenged our school to make our own video.  The students in each classroom decided on a positive 3-word anti-bullying slogan and then picked a creative way to present it.  My class voted on "Embrace Your Personality!" and you can see how they decided to show that at the 5:00 mark.  :-) 

You can see a quick glimpse of me at 4:15 - I'm the teacher in the middle behind the huge "We Will Listen" sign.
How does your school deal with bullying?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fun Friday: Procrastination Humor!

I thought these were pretty funny since I've been known to be a bit of a procrastinator from time to time. (Ahem.  Okay.... a lot of times - but I'm working on it!)

These are from Mental Floss and geared toward college students, but just replace "Study" with "Write Report Card Comments!" or "Grade Narrative Essays!" or "Finish Running Records!" and the essence is still the same.  :-)
I'm not immune to griping about grading. (Instead of actually grading!)

Ugh...I only pulled one Allnighter as a teacher. And it wasn't because I procrastinated, it was because I was up all night with a sick child.  Never want to do THAT again.

And then there is Netflix.....the Ultimate Procrastinators Dream.
Hmm..maybe I'll just watch one more episode of Mad Men before bed.....   :-)
How have you conquered procrastination?  (Or have you?)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday Morning Inspiration: "This Is Water"

Truly - this video is worth the 9 1/2 minutes of your time today.  It's a brief film that brings to life part of the famous 2005 "This is Water" commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College that year. "Deciding how to see it" is a critical part of keeping perspective as an educator, but as Wallace says, remembering to do that day in and day out is challenging.

Hope you all have a fantastic week!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day!!  
I hope you are all enjoying some relaxation and time with family today. 
I am spending the day with my husband, Paul, and our two sweet daughters who gave me this gorgeous rose bush. I am trying to develop a green thumb and plant some perennials this year, so this is the next big step for me. Roses scare me a little (and it's not just the thorns!)
My girls have also been making me cards and pictures all week and bringing me bouquets of dandelions.
My 4 year-old drew this portrait of me.  I am the 6-fingered woman! With one rocking blue belly button! LOL!!
My 6 year-old made this one in Kindergarten class. It's a picture of us gardening.  Of course, the poem made me cry...  Mostly because it is the exact same poem that my own kindergarten teacher used for a Mother's Day craft over 30 years ago. It makes me think of this quote:
Later this afternoon my Mom is coming over with my Dad and brother to have Pulled Pork with Dinosaur BBQ Sauce, Wegmans' Penne & Mozzarella Pasta Salad,  and Salt Potatoes. A very Central New York summer dinner!  
 Have a fantastic day!!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day Craft: Survival Kit Freebie

On Friday, I helped my class make "Mother's Day Survival Kits" to take home. It was a fun, relaxing project to do during the last 20 minutes of the week when the kids are just antsy to get out of school. (And me, too!)

Discovering some dusty glass canning jars in my garage last week was the inspiration for this "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" project. I tailored the list to mainly include supplies I already had on hand, so most everything was free or easily found at the Dollar Store. Here is what I used:
  • Hearts (the students cut these themselves from construction paper and personalized them with a message)
  • Paperclips (used some of those little ones I don't like)
  • Erasers ($1 for 40 at Dollar Tree)
  • Snickers (a bag of mini Snickers was only a couple bucks)
  • Rubber Bands (had a million of those just sitting in my desk)
  • Tissue (no problem getting those - just sitting on our counter...)
  • Life Savers (Dollar Tree....)
  • Toothpick (leftover in my cabinets at home from a party)
  • Cotton Balls (used some of my stash from home)
  • Seeds ($1 for 4 packs at Dollar Tree)
  • Puzzle Piece (used a puzzle with some pieces from our beginning of the year team builders)
And....Viola!  A cute, thoughtful Mother's Day gift!  Altogether it cost about $12 - not too bad. And I repurposed a bunch of ribbon I had laying around, so that worked out well, too. Then I typed up a colorful message explaining the "survival" use for each object. I had wanted to make them into a card, but then the font was too tiny to read.  So we scrolled them up instead.
Super cute!
You can download a copy of the "Survival Kit" page right here.
(I know it's probably too late for this year's Mother's Day - but you can always Pin It for next year!)
Now I'm stumped for what to do for Father's Day that will be on par with this.  Any ideas??

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

End of the Year Student Gifts {Freebie}

I am so excited about doing this project again this June!  My students last year just loved them - and I loved seeing their smiles when they saw all the compliments directed their way.  Plus, this end-of-the-year student gift is not only budget-friendly, but meaningful - perfect!

 1. Give each student a copy of the class roster and a Positive Attributes sheet. (You can also use the Class List form included in the free download below – just change “Student” to the names in your class.)

2. Ask your students to write down one positive trait, adjective, or attribute for each person in the class. You can also include other staff as well, such as teaching assistants, student teachers, aides, special education staff, parent volunteers, etc.

3. Collect the papers and create a Wordle for each person at Type the student’s name in many times so it is the largest word, and then add the other attributes. The more times an attribute is added, the larger that word will be. Experiment with the font, layout, and colors. (I preferred the half horizontal/half vertical option, with "wild" colors. Also - the black background looks great on the computer, but will really eat up your ink, so I opted for white.)

4. Print a colorful Wordle for each student and frame it. (They had a ton at my local Dollar Store.)


*Don’t reveal the purpose of the exercise – it makes the surprise at the end of the year better!

*Discussing the definition of a trait, quality, or attribute ahead of time helps. I encouraged my students to use their own ideas but had the Positive Attributes sheet as a reference in case they got stuck.

*This can also be done as a carousel walk, where each student puts their name at the top of their paper and then they rotate to each student’s sheet adding a word. This does make it easier to input the words. However, I was concerned that they would be influenced by what others wrote before them. It also wouldn't really be anonymous and they might not give an honest response.

Take a look!


It was so much fun playing with different fonts, layouts, and colors to create a look unique to each student.  I hope this resource helps you have a fantastic end to your school year!