Monday, December 9, 2013

PIC... What?

So I work in a Title I school, my first ever, and up until now that hasn't really changed anything for me. We are school-wide Title I so our funds go towards things for the entire school. We use them to pay teachers, buy technology, pay for tutors so our kids have free tutoring available to them... all kinds of great stuff. But honestly, I didn't know it was thanks to Title I. It was just great stuff that my great school does because it's so great.

Then we went through state monitoring. I was part of that committee, and it opened my eyes to oh-so-much! And now I've been asked to serve as the PIC. The what? PIC. Parental Involvement Coordinator. It's now my job to get middle school parents involved. I'm a little at a loss, to be honest. I'm determined to do it and make it work, but I'm struggling with where to start.

My thoughts are along the cheesy lines of "they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." I think our first order of business is building the teacher/parent relationship. Being a classroom teacher who has sat in on more than a few parent conferences, my take-away is the most asked question is "What do I do now? How do I help my kid?" Parents so often come to us having done all they know to do, and now they're looking to the teachers for help. We're the ones who know their children, and we're the ones who know what's "normal" for a kid that age. I think part of my focus this first year should be equipping teachers to be that bridge that parents so often ask them to be. I envision a parent resource library full of books to help with strong-willed, anxious, ADHD, disorganized, unmotivated students, and DVDs to help parents help their kids with algebra and science and literary terms. I envision a file box for each team of teachers full of short articles that can be handed to the parents during a meeting covering these topics, done in a gesture of "we're here to help, we're in this together." I envision a "cheat sheet" for teachers who are about to walk into a conference/phone call/email with an angry parent.

Then next year I want to start having Parent Workshops like "How to Help Your Child Be Succesful in School" where parents can come up to the school to learn about things like study skills, organization, communication, and how to check grades online.

But it's all kind of overwhelming. And I didn't get the enthusaistic support I was looking for today, so I guess I'm a little bummed out about it all...

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Catching up and Cool Stuff

Jeepers, it's been a while! Our first 9 weeks just ended, and we are preparing for Parent Conference Night (tomorrow), so things have been crazy. Between state monitoring, EXPLORE testing, and PST (that's our RtI team) this past week, I missed two full days of being in class. That's always hard. I love serving on the committees, but I hate prepping for a sub, and even more than prepping I hate coming back after! My mom is the only sub I've ever been 100% happy with. And on the other end of the spectrum I've had some doozies! There was the crazy Russian lady who encouraged a pull-up contest (they did pull-ups on the door frame) and let them stand on the desks. There was the "candy-stealing missionary." There was the one who broke my ELMO and blamed it on the kids. There's the one who did magic tricks instead of the lesson I left. There was the one who played on the computer all day and paid not a bit of attention to the kids. See why I HATE having a sub? I'm a total control freak, and the thought of having that kind of chaos in my classroom makes me twitch.

But enough of that... there are a couple of cool things I want to share too! First off, Pinterest is starting Teacher boards! Yay!!! If you are one of my few followers (I love you!) who are here because you also teach middle school English (or social studies) you need to check out this post by Sixth Grade Tales. Pinterest is about the launch the middle school boards, and they've contacted Jamie to help get them started. And she needs our help!

And the other thing I'm super excited about? ISTE!!!! If you aren't familiar, ISTE is an educational technology conference. And I'm GOING! It'll be my first ISTE, and I could NOT be more excited! It's being held in Atlanta, Georgia this summer: June 28-July 1, 2014. I submitted my request to go last week. I found out Tuesday I was approved, and I got my PO to register on Friday! I'm positively giddy! If you've been before I'd love to hear about it - Tips? Don't miss? Don't bother? SQUEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

New Fav ISN Product

So I played at using ISNs (Interactive Student Notebooks) last year, but was rather unsuccessful and had all but decided not to bother doing them this year. Then I found two ah-mazing resources that I just can't get enough of! Erin over at I'm Lovin Lit created this awesome common-core-aligned ISN resource that is beyond perfect! I can't even put into words how pleased I am with it! There are two separate resources - one for literature and one for non-fiction. (I have both!)

It is truly interactive and my eighth graders are LOVING it!! She even includes YouTube links to short (1-3 minute) videos that pair perfectly with the lessons!

We've been using it for a week, and every day my kids have come in and asked, "Do we get to cut and color our notes again today?" And because everything is associated with a picture I really feel like they are retaining the information better. We started reading "Raymond's Run" and were using our Story Vocabulary to talk about it. Some of the kids couldn't recall a definition, and before I could say anything, another student said, "Remember, that's the vocab word behind the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood." Fabulous! It instantly jump-started their memories and they immediately made the connection and could tell me who the antagonist in RR was!

I'll try to remember to take some pictures of our ISNs in action next week!

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Halloween Goodies {and a FREEBIE!!}

I know what you're thinking... it's a little early for Halloween, isn't it? And to that I would say... yes. Yes it is. But the Target Dollar Spot says differently! And MAN, do I love that place! I decided to go ahead a grab a few goodies to put together little Halloween Happies for my kids' teachers. I got these adorable buckets...

 And then went on the hunt for some cute shtuff to put in them...

glow-in-the-dark subway art Beverage holder (or koozie, as we call them 'round here), candy corn tissues (don't know how practical, but SUPER cute!), and I got a magnetic list pad with spider webs on it, and Frankenstein post-it notes. Closer to time I'll get some candy of some sort to put in them too, but here's the "finished product" for now...

The black candy corn thingy in the top left is is the gift tag - I'll hole punch it and tie some cute ribbon through it later. Like, after I go tomorrow and buy a single hole punch. Because I don't have one. What?! I know, seems like a crucial item in the teacher/crafter world, doesn't it? I used to have one, but it must have grown legs and run away, because it is NOWHERE. Oh well. I need it for this project, and I'm also making my kids bookmarks. (More on that tomorrow when they're done!)

But I'm super pumped about the adorable gift tag! It says "It's no TRICK - you're a TREAT of a teacher!" I don't know where that came from. I'm not conceited enough to think I came up with all on my own - I must have seen it somewhere, but I have no idea where! If you have seen it let me know where so I can give where credit is due!

Anyway, when my mom laid eyes on this awesomeness, she had to have some too. I went to work editing and finding more pics to give her some options. And now YOU can benefit from it! I came up with six designs. The clip art for five of them is from my new favorite clip art website and the adorable Frankenstein is from

Here's the final product:
Don't you just LOVE them?!?!?? And want them for your very own? Of course you do! So here's the PDF! It's uploaded to my Google Drive, and that theoretically should work... if if doesn't work for you let me know and I'll be happy to email it to you! 

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Budding Blog Linky!

Jess over at I {Heart} Recess is hosting a great linky party... Budding Blog! The linky party is for new blogs with less than 200 followers.... and with a cool 6 I definitely qualify! :)

To participate just link up and answer Jess's 5 questions! My answers are below...

1. Why did you start blogging? I started blogging because I was spending a lot of time bog-stalking and thought "I should do that too! Surely I have something to offer..."
2. What is your favorite subject to teach and why? I'm currently teaching English, so don't tell.... but I LOVE teaching history! I taught 8th grade world history for two years, and it was the most fun I've had teaching ever. What's better than going to work every day to tell awesome stories and do fun hands-on history simulations?!
3. Describe your teaching style. My teaching style... I guess I'd describe my teaching style as controlled, technology-driven, and fun. As long as we get the work done, I'm all about a classroom full of laughter. But I'm also pretty OCD, so my kids know everything has to be just-so. Luckily I'm able to poke fun at myself about it, so they laughingly cooperate with my quirks!
4. Give three interesting facts about you. I got married in Las Vegas; I read insanely fast (casually read four or five books over the weekend); I'm completely tone deaf (in middle school the band director suggested I would be happier taking home ec!)
5. Do you have a TpT store? If yes, post the link :) No TPT store yet... maybe someday! In the mean time I spend a lot of time and money there!

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Sunday, September 1, 2013


So the first week of school we did the typical get-to-know-you stuff, went over procedures, did a learning style inventory and a True Colors test, and took our summing reading test. The kids all read Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins for summer reading. Until the movies started coming out we read the series as a school - sixth graders read Hunger Games, seventh graders read Catching Fire, and eighth graders read Mockingjay. Now we are phasing it out, so this is the last group to read them in class. With the switch to Common Core this year I really don't have time to read the novel in class, so I did it as summer reading. Week two and three of school are devoted to the fun activities I found to go with the book! Last week we worked in pairs to map Panem. I gave them a blank map of North America, a list of "clues," and an iPad to do some research, and they figured out what they thought Panem looked like. We also tied knots like Finnick (i gave each kid a 14" length of rope and ten knots to try), and we made silver parachutes and competed to see which group's fell the slowest. The mapping Panem activity and the silver parachutes were adapted from Tracee Orman's Mockingjay teaching unit on TPT (here). The kids loved it, especially the parachutes! And next week we are recreating the propos from chapter 8. On Friday I gave them a crash-course in Windows Movie Maker and showed some examples from last year. They are PUMPED and can't wait to get into the computer lab on Tuesday!

I went back to Second & Charles yesterday and got another bag full of books. This group has some serious readers! Two weeks in and we're on page SIX of my library log! They are going through my books like crazy. My morning classes finally got to have our library orientation on Friday and they got to check out some books. Sadly, our librarian had to close the library the second half of the day to attend a funeral, so my afternoon classes were really bummed. They'll get to check out at the start of the period on Tuesday, though. And I did some book talks with them and let them check out from me if they wanted, which placated most of them. :)

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