Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gearing UP UP UP!

As any teacher would admit, trying to prepare for school after a significant (3 weeks) amount of time off is extremely difficult! I've been in  Minnesota, enjoying the cold outside and the warmth of my family for a while now!

I was very proactive and have everything ready for next week!

I'm excited to be able to dive (not as deeply as I would like) into mythology!  I look forward to allowing my student to explore myths and legends of several regions around the world. I found a lot of awesome myths online, but I am starting with a myth that I know very well! They myth of Paul Bunyan  and Babe the Big Blue Ox!  Legend states he's from Minnesota, and I am excited!  :)

The kiddos will be exploring several different myths and presenting their findings and opinions to the class.  They will have to analyze the purpose, format, settings, and figurative language of the myths they are assigned.  I plan to assign myths according to reading ability.   A little differentiation never hurt! ;)

Then, they will create their very own myths.  They will need to take what they learn from the myths presented to them and come up with their very own myth with it's own purpose! In addition, my higher kiddos will have to present their myths to the class using Google Presentations while other students will be creating a poster for their myth!

I am excited to see some creativity come alive.  I have a lot of artists , and I love to have things to put on the walls of my room! I am not creative, at all, so it is always fun having things to decorate with!

I am excited to get back to Arizona (all 1700 miles from MN) and get back to a routine!

I am a runner and I need my morning runs in 40 degree weather versus the 5 degree weather here!

Please and Thank You

I know I will regret saying I am excited to go back to work in about 3 days, but hey, I am excited now!

Hopefully you all had a wonderful "Winter Holiday" (being politically correct here!)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Catching My Breath.... "Winter Holiday" Catch Up! :)

I promised a few I would blog... and I haven't kept my promise. 

Truth be told...

Blogging is the last thing on my mind as a new teacher! If you are in the profession, you surely understand. 

If not... Here is a look at my typical week.

 On top of teaching through the days:

Mondays:  Middle School Cluster Meeting... where we have been learning about our rubric for our evaluation system.  It has so much detail that we spent each weekly meeting talking about it... More about that program later!

Tuesdays:  No Meetings... if I'm lucky.  However, Tuesday is tutoring day!  My district really encourages tutoring for kiddos who have fallen behind or aren't passing the weekly tests we are required to give.

Wednesdays:  Staff meetings bright and early 7:45 am!

Thursdays:  7/8 grade team meeting to discuss those little rascals that won't give us a moment's rest.  Another tutoring day.  We also must post our grades on a weekly basis... that's funny because I don't usually put grades in on a weekly basis... SILLY SILLY ME! Oh, and we are supposed to have our lesson plans submitted... that never happens! ;)

Fridays:  Thankfully, no meetings! I am usually trying to lesson plan and get copies ready for the next week.  I don't get much paper, so I have to be resourceful!  :)

Don't forget Lunch Tutoring... that is always a blast! 

And during basketball and softball seasons... add in practice  and games (which is something that keeps me sane as a teacher...)  

Sometimes, when I look at my calendar... This is what happens!

Things obviously change from this schedule all of the time, but I'm flexible.  If I wasn't, I wouldn't be a teacher! hehe!

I always find myself needing to post really long blogs because I am horrible at keeping up on it! 

I've had a very lesson-filled experience throughout the first part of the year, but I wouldn't change it for the world.  I thoroughly enjoy the teachers I work with, and  I am learning to cope with a very "on top of things" administration...

According to this one lady... I'll call her 'The Master, "IT's ABOUT SUPPORT!"  I sure hope she reads this! :)

I would like to fill you in on life of an educator in ARIZONA....

1:  You can't count on any money coming from the tax payers... Arizona is EXTREMELY Conservative and any proposition or override that suggests tax increase or extra money coming out of the tax payer wallets, you can forget it!  Although I was impressed by the results of the presidential election this year  (as one of about 9 liberals in the state), the local elections were an eye opener...

Proposition 204:  To keep the slight tax increase as a permanent state in order to fund education got shot down.  I've looked for the exact numbers and I've found it was shot down by something like 65-35!  Not even a close race.  Ouch! 

Our district override also got shot down pretty badly... You can look it up, if you're interested!  I know I have put it out of sight and out of mind. 

2.  Common Core Standards:  You may see them pop up on the news or on pinterest... They are quite the adjustment for any teacher!  This is the adoption year for my district, and they are tough!  I will become a Common Core Ninja though,  I promise!  The gist of Common Core is all about incorporating informational texts, reading, and writing across all content areas and not leaving it to all to the English teachers... THANK YOU! It is so much appreciated! Still, very tough. 

3.  TAP program...
It has ups and downs... but overall, it has helped me to become a better teacher. It is a program in which the base is a more rigorous evaluation system, but with more support and feedback.   We have a 7 page, jam-packed, rubric with so many indicators and elements, I can't keep them all straight.   If I were Wonder Woman, I would implement all parts of the rubric into my daily classroom because they do represent a "rock-solid" teacher. But, sadly, I am not. As a school... we are to shoot for a '3.'  This means we are aiming to earn an average of 3/5 on all indicators! It is tough! Many things seem like common sense, but it sure is an adjustment! My district was a shoe-in for the TAP grant... but we sadly did not receive it.  Each teacher who met the goal of 3 average on their evaluations was going to receive incentive pay.  That isn't going to happen.  There was some bitterness, but

 "The Master" does an amazing job supporting everything we do.  'The Master' is simply (or not so simply) our Master Teacher (I know, I'm super creative with my nickname).  She is phenomenal.  She is here to support any and all teacher with whatever we need.  I email her with an idea... she emails me back with resources.  I don't understand part of the rubric, she can come in and model a lesson.  I get angry or mad about something... I go to her office.. ;)  SHE IS THAT GOOD and I appreciate everything she does!
 This is a pretty good depiction of her :)

4.  Weekly Formative Assessments... 5 question quizzes, worth half of the students' grade.  Already created for me....making it really tough to teach entire topics!  Some of the formatives are really tough... I find myself double checking the answer key as I am grading.  Not to mention, they are multiple choice, with many questionable answers.  To say the least, they make my life difficult.   When I find a week that doesn't have a formative already created for me, I do a Happy Dance because I get to teach the whole concept instead of the content on the very specific tests!  :)

There are more, I am sure, but I don't want to bore you.

Some things I have learned:

My favorite:
 Must Do's and May-Do's:  Pretty simple concept, but it keeps kids working.  No matter what they are working on, they have a list of things that MUST be done... and a List of things they MAY do when they are done.  Simple concept? Yes... would I have thought of it on my own?  NOT A CHANCE!  Pretty cool!

Incentives:  I am so happy I took advice from The Master in creating an incentive board.  Below are some pictures, but the basic gist is rewarding students who do awesome things.  This varies from student to student. A student can earn something for the board (ie...feathers for a turkey or hearts for the Grinch), they put their name on it for later use.  
I give incentives for various things, for example: A student who never raises their hand raises their hand and provides a correct answer, they earn something for the board.  I might catch a student helping another student on the homework... they may earn something from the board.  At the end of the month, I put all of the names on the board in a drawing for a HOMEWORK PASS.  The kiddos eat that right up because they could earn a night without homework.  They love it!  :)

Written Objectives:  Having an "I CAN" statement on the board of what each student can do by the end of the lesson.  The students think it is all for them, but it's not! Haha, it keeps me on track! This is part of the TAP rubric.  Referring back to the standard and objective regularly helps ensure understanding.  I find myself wanting to create gestures sometimes ;)! 

Homework Folders: 
"Ms. Johnson, did I miss anything yesterday?"  Most of the time, I say, "No, we didn't do anything because we didn't want you to miss out!"  Haha. This is my reason for homework folders.  Whichever day you missed, you grab the work and get it to me by the following day (rarely happens).

Four Corners Folders: 

The kids love this!  I have handouts in four folders throughout the room.  The class is split into four teams and each team has a captain.  While being as loud and as obnoxious as possible, I time the students to see how fast they can get the papers passed out.  The classes compete for 10 days and at the end of the ten days, the class with the most 'winning' times wins a class drawing for 8 homework passes.  It is a fun and easy way to pass out papers and give kiddos a break! :)

Now, I've had some ups and downs.... Made some rookie mistakes so far... but I love what I am doing, and that is what really matters!  Arizona is different, but I knew it would be!  I may not agree with everything that happens, but in what profession would I?!

Here are a few other photos... :)

 Normally... Weekly (most weeks) Vocabulary is posted on this wall.  I happened to take this picture in between vocab sessions.... Only one bulletin board in the classroom means makeshift ones out of butcher paper! Works for me! :)
 Haven't done much with this, but I really like having a place focused on reading... near the "bulletin board, you can see a folder with a 1 on it.  That is one of the four corners folders! :)
 My class just so happened to have won the door decorating contest before Thanksgiving... My students didn't know it, but snoopy is from Minnesota! They chose pilgrim snoopy and Christmas Tree Snoopy.  They got a cotton candy party... barf!
And my desk area... A mess by day, clean before I leave at night!  My bookshelf contains my rookie teacher classroom library (always looking for free/cheap books).  Students lost the right to checkout books freely because books were returned in very poor shape, or not returned at all. 
Problem Solved! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Crazy Venture to the Desert Southwest! (Delayed!)

Well, I'm here... Queen Creek, Arizona! It was a lofty journey, but I am here and happy! It all started one fine Saturday morning... Everything was packed and I left this room behind!

I followed the big white van carrying my belongings and we were on our way (we being my dad and me!) We were headed south first, then west, then south again!

 First came the boringness of Iowa, followed by Nebraska, and then the gorgeous Colorado came into view!
All seemed to be going well, but then we left Colorado Springs (pre ridiculous fires, THANK GOODNESS)! It started getting pretty hott and my car wasn't built for that. The 153,000 miles didn't help! My car overheated and completely stopped! I was able to get it up to the exit, but this was the end result!

At least I got the license plate to hang in my classroom :)

After we got the car towed to a nearby salvage place, we packed everything into the big white van, I hopped in, abs we were on our way! Losing a car sucked, but the car had been a money sucker in the past 2 years... No windows, sunroof, doors didn't shut, tires needed replacing, etc.

On to New Mexico!! The official Desert Southwest! Man was it gorgeous! From the passenger seat, I was able to take a lot more photos! It is such a beautiful landscape. Comparing the desert to Minnesota is like apples to oranges! They both have their beauty in their own way.
We made stops in Santa Fe and Albuquerque to do some sight seeing! Santa Fe is such a cool city! All of the buildings are what I call "Wild West" style, like this Walgreens!

In Albuquerque, we were able to eat at a really fun brewery, called Kelly's, and see a little glimpse if The University of New Mexico! Dad loved the restaurant because it was an old service station that had been renovated. Good food, too!
We were finally in our last stretch! On to Arizona! We were refueled and ready to go! We drove and drove and drove and finally saw the state line for ARIZONA!! We did end up stopping at a McDonald's parking lot to get some sleep, we both crashed after a short stretch break!

2 hours later, we started driving again. I'm never listening to google directions again because they took us right through the mountains when it could have been avoided! In daylight, it would have been fine, but it was pitch black, hilly (mountainy?) and supposedly full of elk (we only saw one, but it was said to be the largest elk crossing in the country). To say the least it was a scary few hours. Then, the sun started to rise! I took the wheel for the last 25 miles or so because pops was exhausted! Sunrise in the mountains was one of the most magnificent things I have ever seen! All the colors were amazing! We tried to capture it on our dinky camera phones, but the pictures do not do it justice!

We stopped just before Mesa, which borders Queen Creek, at a river park overlooking the mountains!

We headed down the hill and into Mesa and Queen Creek! It is such a new and developing area! So many new houses
And stores! A perfect place for a young teacher!

We had to wait a few hours to check into my apartment, so we ate at a delicious Mexican Restaurant near my new place. Then, we did some running around for a cashiers check. Finally, we saw my apartment! I was so excited because the pictures on the website represent it perfectly!

I love my new place and the weather here! It is true what they say... It's a DRY HEAT! It has been 110 every day, but has that stopped me from being by the pool daily, not a chance! I will post more pictures of my actual apartment soon... When it is more finished!

Next came a car, which was an adventure all in itself! It took a few hours and some bargaining, but I ended up with a 2012 Toyota Corolla Sport! Talk about awesome! I will be paying for it, but it is perfect! I feel so much safer with a new and reliable car!

I'm getting a little anxious to start training for my new gig as a 7th grade teacher at MR, but I'm ok with relaxing a bit!

Loving the desert so far! Haven't seen any scorpions or snakes yet! I've only gotten lost 27 times in the past few days, but sense of direction on the crazy roads of Arizona will come with time!

I know this blog is a long time coming, but I finally have my computer and am sitting in a balanced math seminar as a 7th grade English teacher.... Wishing I was sitting by my pool!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Countdown is on :)

Okay, I'm lying, the countdown has been on since I accepted the job in AZ!  I am so excited that I will be making the move 5 days from today, June 23rd!

It is going to be one heck of a long journey down, but I recently purchased a FM converter for my ipod, so I should be entertained the whole way down! :)

I came up with an idea for my first bulletin board... if I even have one in my classroom? haha. 

I have a really nice political map of the United States and that will be the center of attention.  I will be taking a piece of yarn and showing my trip down.  I want to try and take pictures at state lines and put them near each of the states! 

I'm going to put a star on NYC because my sister LJ #1 lives there and I am also going to have students place pins on cool places where they have been. 

I thought it would be a cool way to show my journeys to Arizona!  

LJ #2, my younger sister, helped me to come up with a writing sample for the first week of school, as well.  It will go as follows:  "What would it be like to live in Minnesota?"  I thought the kids would get a kick out of this because I'm going to guess that most of them haven't been with in 200 miles of MN and will think it is all frozen tundra!

School also starts two days before the Olympics start... HOMEROOM OLYMPICS, here I come!  I hope other homeroom teachers will want to partake in this!  Could be a great bonding experience for the students! 

YAY! The clock is ticking and I'm going crazy!

Have a Marvelous Monday! :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer School Adventures

2 hours a day, 4 days a week, 3 weeks... getting middle school students caught up and moved to the next level of Language A. (English, Language Arts)

I'm squeezing a lot into these 3 weeks.

First off, these kids need structure, and I'm giving it to them.  Every class starts with 20 minutes of SSR.  The only way to get better at reading is reading... RIGHT?

I am always looking at new ways to encourage positive reading techniques and strategies... one of my all time favorites is taking a difficult literature task and applying it children's picture books.  Students LOVE reading them it breaks literature elements down into easier to understand terms.

Finding the climax of:
  is a lot easier than finding it in   

I really enjoy watching my students move from the picture books, to short stories, and eventually to books with things like the plot mountain, setting and conflict. Especially with students who struggled with these concepts during the regular school year, it really helps to break things down.

I've also been focusing on a great summary!  Along with the daily reading, they will summarize what they read. Before they can summarize, however, they need to write out the who, what, where, when, and why (why= what do you think will happen next, I had to cheat).  They then have to include these right in the summary.  It REALLY HELPS!  

This group of students is a big behavior struggle for me... however...

With middle school students, I am finding that making them laugh (with and AT ME) is the best bet.  It gets me on their good side.  I read them a book today called "ITS A BOOK."  Just a simple picture book about the difference between reading an ACTUAL BOOK and all of the technology of today.  It does have one "swear word" in it, so it isn't for the younger ones, but my middle schoolers loved it.  Here is the animated version: "ITS A BOOK,"  it doesn't have the swear word in it! 

We will continue to work on the basics throughout the week and I will continue to use Pinterest  to come up with new ideas as I plan for my new school year in Arizona! :) :)

Speaking of which... the countdown is on!  11 days until the big move.  I feel like I'm ready, but I know I will freak out right before!


The Beautiful Winona State University

The Beautiful Winona State University
One of the places I miss the most, WSU. GO WARRIORS!