Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tips and Tricks: Reading Questions Card

Some of my students are great at making comments and connections about and to what they are reading, and some students just don't get it at all. The reading question card is a great solution. I have about 8 of these available to kids all the time. That seems to be enough for a class of 24 students. (At the beginning more people want to use them, but after the first week, this is enough!)

On this simple 2 sided laminated card there are lots of the standard reading questions. On one side there are before, during, and after reading questions. On the other side there are questions to link text to self, text to text, and text to the world. (They're the types of question you can find lots of other places online!) I generally believe that this is way more valuable for a life long reader than say, "List the main idea and two supporting details," as our textbook is inclined to do. That is the kind of questions that kids have to be able to answer for high stakes testing, but it's not the kind that's going to make them say, "I felt just like that when my mom moved out." or "This book reminds me of that other book we just read."

My favorite teacher reason for using the Reading Question Card is it eliminates all excuses for why students didn't write something on their school reading log each day. If you can't think of something to write, grab a reading question card!

What tips and tricks do you have for getting reluctant readers and writers moving?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Make It A Pirate Party

So I just hosted my 3 year old's pirate birthday party. Here we are at Make It Monday, and I thought I'd share my tips for how to make a fun party without spending much moolah! As you know you can spend a gazillion dollars on a kid party--whether it's for family, friends, or students. In fact there is even a lot of marketing that says this is what "good" grownups are supposed to do. If it's what you want to do, that's one thing, but if it is a have to, forget it.

Here are some of my best cheap bits.

The menu:

We were going to buy subs and add sails to them, but instead we just made them. It was way less expensive than buying an oversized sub sandwich to serve the same number of people. We added sails from a ship to make it look more thematic!

Goldfish crackers! The birthday boy loved a variety of goldfish crackers, and who wouldn't?

There was also "Shells and Seaweed" pasta salad with spinach noodles and shell pasta.

Daddy made peanut butter cupcakes with a rolo in the middle. I made the little decorations with cheap stickers, frill picks, and index cards. I estimate that we made a decorated 30 cupcakes for less than the price of a half dozen from a cupcake bakery.

The decorations:

The centerpiece was an old chest filled with gold coins and a toy pirate ship covered with pirate finger puppets. We hung jolly roger penants all around the house. ($6 from oriental trading co. for all of it)

Also, because I'm a nerdy teacher, we set pirate picture books all around the house--from the library for free.

Here are some of my/our favorites:
  • The Day I Became A Pirate
  • Pirates Don't Do Diapers
  • Louise, The Adventures Of A Chicken
  • Gingerbread Pirates
  • Archie And The Pirates

We also had pirate bandanas and eye patches for everyone. (Oriental Trading Co., too)

It wasn't fancy, but it was so fun. May you find fun in the party you host.

Here is the little pirate with his paternal grandparents:

and sword fighting with my dad:

Happy Birthday, Pirate Sam! You have brought so much joy into the past 3 years of my life. My heart is overflowing with love for you today!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pirate Party Palooza!

Yep, we had Sam's 3rd birthday party yesterday. (Monday is his actual birthday.) It was by far the most low key party we've done in a long time, but it was still really fun. There were lots of things I really wanted to do to add to the event, and I always think I need to make more food, but it was super fun!

Try our slideshow maker at Animoto.

Tomorrow I'm going to offer some of my tips on how to make a fun pirate party on the super cheap!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I'm A Brave Teacher and We're Moving Classrooms!

Everyday I'm a brave teacher. There are some days and weeks that require so much more courage! This is one of those weeks that is amazing on many fronts, but the amount of "stuff" requires huge courage.

On Monday I found out my classroom was being moved. I was not blindsided. I volunteered, but I found out on Monday that we were moving within the week. We've already started the move to a bigger airier classroom, and it's lots of work. Friday is the official move desks, switch lockers, drag boxes, etc. I'm also continuing to teach and grade. And, oh, yeah, I'm having more dental work done tomorrow. Did I mention I'm doing a 3 year old pirate birthday party on Saturday?

It's nuts! I'm surprisingly calm and completely exhausted and it's only Wednesday night!

What are the lessons for me?

  • 4th graders can get enthusiastic and ask about a million questions about anything!
  • This experience, just like all the others, is not going to be perfect and smooth, it's OK.
  • I'm not going to handle the experience or any other perfectly, and I'm still OK.
  • I always have a choice to be positive or negative.
  • The kindness and generosity of others is always amazing.
  • I can let go of stuff to make room for more life.
  • There is an end in sight to this very long week.
  • I can always practice yoga off the mat--just breath!
I'm sure there are lots more, too, but I'm too brain dead to focus!

I am so a brave teacher with amazing students, and we're moving to Room 14!

What's up in your brave little corner of the universe?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Everyday Math Game Organization

For 5 years now I've tried to figure out how to store my Everyday Math games. I took lots of other people's ideas because they sounded smart and organized, but in the end none of them worked for me. This year I finally has a system that works fairly well for me and my students.

I got lots of the magazine boxes at IKEA. They're plain white. I just write the name of the game, and then I put the game sheets in that box. For some games I have laminated copies of the game sheets or boards. I also place the plain old copied papers in there. Next to the magazine boxes I have lots of little boxes with a pair of dice, a deck of math game cards, and beans for counters.

How do I know the system is working? Kids rarely interrupt me in my small teaching group to ask for directions!

What organizational tips do you have?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Make It Monday: Altoid Tin Upcycling

Welcome to Make It Monday!

When I have a little project that I've made or want to make, I will share them here on Mondays in the future.

Today I'm sharing an ongoing project in this ongoing series. I'm going to share different ways I'm using Altoid tins. I love these things! I shared my first project HERE last summer. I still really like my little box of affirmations.

I've been thinking what else I could do. If you like the box in the photos above, here's how to make your own:

You need: empty Altoid tin, your choice of tissue paper (torn into pieces the size of postage stamps), Mod Podge, a foam brush

1. Apply a layer of Mod Podge on the outside of tin
2. Begin applying layers of tissue paper. (I applied about 4-5 layers)
3. You're done with this part when you like the way it looks!
4. Use scraps of scrapbooking paper or colorful index cards
5. Write journaling prompts for yourself (or your students) on the cards.

Here were some of my prompts:
~What enchanted me today?
~What did I do today that could be enchanting?
~What could I do to feel more enchanted and magical?
~What did I do today that required courage?
~How would I like to enchant others today (or tomorrow)?
~Did I resist being enchanting or enchanted today?
~What do I observe right now in this moment?

I'm sure you can think of lots more that serve you!

I think this would also make a fun little gift--a blank book/journal, a pen (or set of pens) and a tin full of writing prompts! I know I would like to receive such a gift!

Another site with "manly" projects with Altoid tins is HERE. (Love these!)

What are you making these days?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It's All About Perspective

The universe is conspiring in my favor.
(It's conspiring in your favor, too--even if it doesn't seem like it right now!)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Enchantment: Week 3

Happy Friday, Brave People Everywhere!

This week I think the two things I've been most enchanted by are;

Quotes from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

here and here and here is what I wrote last year

and some amazing blogs. (I'm not sure why I'm being so drawn to design blogs these days--hmmm)
kyla roma and life is a canvas (I love her new art journal prompts!) and curly girl and lesley myrick

oh, and I must not forget pirate party goodness. Here are some crazy pirate cakes--I don't know if I'm inspired or frightened. (Yep, we're having a pirate themed party for the soon to be 3 year old, Samuel)

I was also inspired by the brave teachers who came to the Play Day at my house!

What's enchanting you?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Handson Crayon Rock Cycle

Kids really like this science activity, and it's another low/no cost science lesson.

I first saw this activity here.

Here's what we did:

1. Invite kids to bring in old crayons.
2. Every kid selects 2 or 3 crayons, a plastic sandwich bag, and a pair of scissors.
3. Kids shave crayons with scissors. It takes a llllloooooooong time, but not thousands or millions of years! (The first day I demonstrate the process and kids shave crayons, and that's it for the 40 min. class)
4. To create sedimentary rock, students apply pressure with the heel of their shoe onto the shavings in the baggie.
5. To create metamorphic rock students heat hands with friction and press with hands against baggie.
6. To create igneous rock, shavings can be placed in foil and floated in hot water (this is what I do when I demonstrate) or to melt many crayons in a short amount of time, we use a hair dryer.

There are many different ways that students can record their experience and findings. We do this in our science notebooks. It's a winner. Enjoy!

What activities do your young scientists enjoy?

What science is working for you?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Enchantment: Week 2

It's been another enchanting week!

It was also the last week of the semester for my students, so I'm knee deep in wrapping up work and cleaning up stuff. And it was my birthday week, too!

Here are some enchantments:

~Having my birthday breakfast at The Enchanted Cafe. I was especially enchanted because they made Sam a kitty cat pancake, complete with chocolate whiskers.

~Fantastic free printables over at Kind Over Matter. I'm so often enchanted by KOM, but this was a must see on my birthday.

~Starting Body Renovation is equal parts enchanting and frightening--I know I'm going to see the good, bad and ugly and be more amazing for it!

~Here's a fun one--let yourself be enchanted: Unicorn name generator: Mine is Tulip Pretty Mane--I'm a little bossy and pretty as a picture!

~I was super enchanted by my families generosity for me birthday--a SUPER EXTRAORDINARY Chocolate Cheesecake made by my brother Tim and Adobe goodness from my Dad and Jon.

I'm so blessed! It is good to be me!

What's enchanting you this week?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Super Excited For A New Class

For the past couple years my birthday present to myself is an online class. {Yep, my birthday is this week!--January 12} I can't imagine anything better for me. It really connects me to the kind of community that feeds my spirit. Each year it has been a real game changer for me.

Two years ago I did Mondo Beyondo with Jen and Andrea.

Last year I did Soul Restoration with Melody Ross.

These were both so powerful and fun! I'm still feeling the impact and reaping the rewards in my life!

This year, today, I'm starting Body Restoration with Melody Ross. I know this is going to be powerful and rich and difficult. I can't wait to dash home from school today and get started!

I know I'm so blessed to even be able to afford the time and the money to gift myself this way. Have you taken any of these classes?

Anyone out there taking Body Restoration?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Enchantment: Week 1

I'm going to blog about what is enchanting me each week this year. Some of it will be online and some of it will be real world. So here we go!

~I am completely enchanted by Sam's pretend play. Tonight he had a silly putty egg with a marble in it, and he said, "This is Henry. He is a talking egg. He's my favorite." He then put him (it?) on the bannister and said, "He's going on a roller coaster."

~I'm enchanted by Body Restoration, a Brave Girls Club online course that begins next week. It's going to be sooo good.

~I'm always enchanted by people who use small spaces, but this is amazing!

~Edible Columbus--I received a copy of this when I was on my little retreat last week. This is a stunning magazine and more devoted to local food.

~My house is feeling a little stale, and I'm enchanted by the thought of creating a more {restorative} environment in my home--an oasis for my little family and others.

What's enchanting you today?

Monday, January 2, 2012

How I Spent My Winter Vacation

I'm joining a Linky Party about how I spent my winter vacation. I'm just making a list of highlights--some of these have links to spots where you can see pictures or read more.

I've had a great winter vacation. I've been busy, but not too busy.

December 22 - 23 Making gingerbread snowman cookies for Santa with a 2 year old was the highlight along with cooking, wrapping gifts, cleaning and holiday preparations

December 24 We hosted a Birthday Party for Jesus with 8 preschoolers in the morning. We celebrated Christmas with my side of the family. I was too tired to stay up to go to church. I was in bed asleep before I could even hear reindeer paws on the roof. I'm not sure which part of that was the highlight!

December 25 We walk up to realize that Santa had visited our house. We opened gifts, ate baked pumpkin french toast, and then we left our house on our secret mission. We also went to church and then celebrated with my husbands part of the family. I think the secret mission was my highlight.

December 26 We caught our breath at home, played with new toys, and I started reading The Right Brained Business Plan.

December 27 - 28 Sam spent the first ever night away from both parents. The grown ups had a retreat at True Nature. It was our Christmas gift to ourselves and each other. It was perhaps the highlight of the whole break!

December 29 - 30 I did some reading, made some art, worked on some improvements and expansions of the Brave Teachers website, and discovered a new tv series, Leverage. I felt both productive and relaxed! I felt so good I put a great deal up on Brave Teachers for just a week.

December 31 Cleaned up the house for our New Year's Feast, and went to First Night Akron. The highlight of First Night was a Beatles tribute band called Hard Days Night.

January 1 Hosted a New Year Day feast with some family and friends. I announced my word for 2012, too.

January 2 Today is the last day of break, and I don't want to sound greedy, but there is possible lake effect snow, and I can't help but smile at the thought of an extended break!!!

What were the highlights of your Winter Vacation? Read other people's highlights HERE.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Enchantment is the Word of 2012

You might be wondering how I ended up with the word {enchantment} as my word for this new year. Here is a bit of the journey--

It actually started months ago--maybe August, when my friend Lori told me I was an enchanting person. She then asked me if I had read the book Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki. I was truly enchanted by the book. It impacted the way I approached my new school year, my interpersonal connections, and my business dreams for Brave Teachers. I'm rereading it these days.

When I started to think about a word for the new year (around Thanksgiving) nothing jumped out at me. I started to feel some pressure. I'm telling everyone else to do this word for the year thing, while I'm having a block! Every direction I was going was toward calm and peace and serenity, but I couldn't really settle anywhere. Enchantment did flutter by, but it never stuck.

And then this past week it flew in, it stuck, it let off some fireworks in my heart. Voila! I had my word for the year. The same day I was watching a video about Italy {sigh} and there was this quote:

"Enchantment is both the capacity of the world to charm us and the spell that comes upon us when we open ourselves up to the magic in everyday experiences." (Thomas Moore)

Perfect, I thought!

This year I want to be both enchanting to the people who pass through my life, but I also want to be enchanted by people and places and experiences I live. Some of my favorite synonyms for enchantment are: amazed, awed, captivated, delighted, ecstatic, enraptured, magical, wonder-struck, and wonder-working.

I'm not sure what all that means for me, but I believe it's going to be and enchanting year!

If you still haven't picked a word for the year, grab this free mini-workbook.

HERE is an amazing post (and cautionary tale) from Andrea Scher about the impact of a word of the year.

Best wishes to you wherever your new year takes you!