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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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Books, Books, Books

My Promethean board is finally working great, we used the clickers, and we just spent two days doing some light research on the iPads. It's been a good few days technology-wise. I also just discovered Scholastic Reading Club's TAB - middle school book order form!!! Hooray! I'm really hoping I can get some orders so I can earn some free books!

Speaking of books... my first period class is chock full of readers. I have a small classroom library that I really want to grow, but it has about 175 books in it at current. I try really hard to have high interest reads for my kids, and I seek out books I know get checked out of the library a lot. We don't have library orientation until Friday, so the kids can't check them out of the library until then, but they have already put my little classroom library through its paces! I have a library log where they write down their name, class period, date, title, and author of the book they are checking out, then they date it when they turn it back in. First period alone has filled up three log pages. I have a few who are on their fourth or fifth book.

I keep a "Shopping List" pinned to the bulletin board closet to the door where the kids can request books. I got two requests added to it on Friday, so I went this weekend and bought those two (along with several more). The girls who requested those two, plus the girl who loves Natalie Friend, for whom I bought two more Natalie Friend novels, were ECSTATIC!!! I also got the first three novels in the Beautiful Creatures series, Divergent, Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, three of the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod books, and a hefty handful of others. I LOVE Second & Charles. I pay anywhere from $1 to $4 for most of my books. I did pay $7 for a Libba Bray book that I needed to replace one that got lost last year. One of my girls started Great and Terrible Beauty, and I told her if she liked it after she got a few chapters in that I'd buy a new copy of Rebel Angels.

Ugh. Now I have to grade Panem maps. Wonder how many I'll get through before I pass out...

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Getting to Know Your Students

So I briefly touched on this yesterday... I think. But I want to devote a whole post to it because I feel like it's that important. As teachers we all know how important it is to get to know our students. The more we know about them better we can individually help and push and encourage them. But it takes a long time to get to know all of them, especially in upper grades when you have tons of kids. I have 137 this year, give or take a few. It could take me months to get to know all of them, and for some it would be too late at that point. Now, some teachers like to talk to last year's teachers and get the "low down" on the kids. I don't. I know from experience that kids change A LOT between seventh and eighth grade. I don't like to start with any preconceived notions. Or, at least as few as possible. Of course they are super awesome or super trouble I've heard the name, but I don't go seeking any information other than the occasional name pronunciation. As far as that's concerned I tell them the first day "I don't know anything about you guys, so here's your chance to start fresh." Instead, to get my information I go to the source - their parents.

Every year on the first day of school I give my students homework (get your syllabus signed) and I give their parents homework. I send an information sheet that is two-sided and ask all about the kids. I ask about strengths and weaknesses, goals, what they enjoy, if they have a homework routine, if they have siblings, motivation, five words they'd use to describe their child, if there are any medical or personal problems I should be aware of, and then a big space for "Anything else you'd like me to know..." I do it every year, and every year I get GREAT info back from 80% of the parents. I call that a win. And every year I'm amazed and touched and humbled by the things they share with me. Most of them take it seriously and are brutally honest and very open. I find out about family situations, custody battles, health problems, self-esteem issues, and home life. I tell them if they want to send it back in a sealed envelope, that's fine, or if there is something they would rather email me or talk with me on the phone or in person about to just write a note asking me to call. I tell them "I want to know everything you want to tell me. Nothing is too minor or unimportant, and everything will be kept in confidence." I feel like it gives me a jump start in making connections with my kids, and it also build rapport with the parents because they know I genuinely care about their kids.

I just think it is such a great tool, and I really encourage everyone to do something similar! If you want mine, just comment below and I'll be happy to email it to you!

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Geez Louise!

It's been a week since I blogged, and I'm sorry! But the past week has been so crazy. Last Wednesday and Thursday we had our Parent Orientation nights. 5th and 6th grade was Wednesday; 7th and 8th was Thursday. I'm also PTO teacher rep, so I worked the PTO table Wednesday, then had orientation Thursday. I didn't get home until 10 either night! Then I spent all day Saturday moving my sister into her college dorm.

Yesterday was our first day, and I did an "Intro to Me" sheet and went over the syllabus. I sent home a parent letter to be signed that also asked for email addresses and a sheet for the parents to fill out about the kids. I got almost all of the signature sheets back today! I was so impressed! Out of 137 kids, I'm missing something like 7. Sweet! I also got at least half of the other sheets back even though they aren't due until Friday. For eighth graders that's unheard of!

Today we did a procedures jigsaw. I was super impressed! I didn't have to tell a single group all day that they were too loud while working with their groups! And the kids really liked the activity. I typed up details for twelve procedures and hung them around the room. I divide the kids into 6 groups and assigned each group two procedures. They learned about their procedure and took notes, then I re-grouped them so they could teach their group about the procedures. Way more fun than having me stand up there telling them each procedures!

I'd write more, but I'm so tired I just tried to twist the knob on my bi-fold door laundry room, then thought, "Crap! Who locked this?" I think that means it's bedtime!

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Teacher Week '13 - Let's Talk About Me

This post may be awkward as I am posting (for the first time) from my iPad. I'm linking up for...


Today is "Let's Talk About Me," so here are ten little-known tidbits about lil ol' me!

1) I moved 13 times by the time I was 26! BUT I was only in two school systems. 
2) I'm a TOTAL nerd. In fact, I met my husband at a popular culture/sci-fi convention. 
3) I knew the sex of both of my kids before I was even pregnant. 
4) I've been teaching for eight years, and in that time I've taught seven different classes in four grades, in five schools, in four systems. Good thing I'm okay with change!
5) I'm a total techie. I love anything to do with technology, and I want to get my masters in Ed tech. 
6) I'm also a total professional development junkie. I will go to EVERY pd I can! I've even agreed to pay part of the expenses so I can go to ISTE next summer!
7) I don't match socks. I don't mean that I wear socks that don't match. I mean that I refuse, and instead throw them all in a basket for Hubs to match!
8) I love a view, but I hate being outside. I hate bugs, I hate heat, I hate cold, I hate snow, I hate sweating... I could keep going
9) I wear contacts, and without them I'm almost legally blind. I asked my eye doctor once what my "number" is ( like perfect is 20/20, what am I?). He laughed. When he regained his composure (the second time) he regretfully informed me that it doesn't go that high. I can't see the big E.
10) I'm the ONLY eighth grade teacher in my district. I have 143 students in five periods this coming year. I've never in my life been in such a small district, and I LOVE it! Our superintendent knows the name of every teacher in our school. That amazed me at Institute last year!

Okay, that's ten random, hopefully somewhat interesting things about me! 

Tomorrow is classroom reveal, which I've already done, but I'll have a few more pics for you!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Teacher Bag Wants and a Giveaway

Another great giveaway! Krystal at Lessons in the Middle is hosting an AH-mazing giveaway with prizes totaling $400+!! There are FOUR prize packages, and a bonus package for bloggers!

Back to School Giveaway Lessons From The Middle

Prize package #1 is my fav - I REALLY want a Thirty-One tote to use as a new teacher bag! You can get the Organizing Utility Tote (I want it in Party Punch - the gorgeous new chevron pattern!) and put a plastic insert in it to hold file folders and such... like this:

This Jill Scott's teacher bag. Jill blogs over at Controlling My Chaos and I adore her! I blogged about some ideas I got from her last summer. She's so crafty and absolutely hilarious! She got the idea from this post by Tiffany at The Nest Effect, who also uses this Thirty-One bag to organize her school stuff!

If I don't win, I'm totally ordering one from my Thirty-One consultant friend, Lorrie! I've been wanting one long enough that I'm willing to shell out the cash. I haven't had a new teacher bag in a couple of years, so I think I'm due! Don't you?
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Friday, August 9, 2013

CJayne Teach Giveaway at One Extra Degree

Hop on over to One Extra Degree where Amanda is having a CJayneTeach Giveaway!

The Teacher Anchor is CJayneTeach's answer to the Teacher Binder you've seen all over Pinterest. It keeps all of your must-haves in one place with simple, clean lines and everything you need to organize your year!

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Currently... a little late

So August is almost 1/3 over, but I'm just now getting back on the blogging train, so...

I've been blog-stalking several ladies, and they all participate in the "Currently" linky thatFarley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade puts together. I figure if I'm going to do the bloggy thing, I might as well do it right! Here's my "Currently" for August!

{Listening} hanging out on Mom's couch pre-sewing party listening to an episode of NCIS
{Loving} back to school sales! I know a lot of teachers who don't want to think about school quit yet, but I've been stalking the back to school aisles from day one!
{Thinking} about all of the things I want to do this school year... I have some new organizational methods for make-up work and attendance I'm anxious to try out!
{Wanting} to finish getting my classroom together... just a few more odds and ends!
{Needing} black ink... I've printed so many things that I'm all out, but still have a half-dozen things left to print!
{B2S Must Haves} iPad (can't leave home without it!), Icee (my go-to morning pick-me-up), and new pens. There's just something about having new pens for a new year!

Yeah, so I obviously have a few more kinks to work out, but here is my {oddly sized} Currently!

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A New Look!

Well, okay then! A new look for the old blog wasn't nearly as difficult as I had imagined. I found some GREAT tutorials on and found my new look at I think I'll live with this for a bit and see how I like it! What do you think?

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I'm Back.... with a Classroom Tour!

So I know it's been over a year since I last posted... oops! But I'm going to try this again! And I'm going to be {hopefully} giving the blog a much-needed makeover! I'm not happy with its current appearance AT ALL! But I know nothing about how to do that, so it might take some time!

I'm almost finished getting my classroom ready for the start of the year, so I figured I'd start with some pics! I'm super fortunate in that they did our floors the day after school got out (no exaggeration!) so I've had access to my room pretty much all summer. It's on the second floor, and they only run the a/c for the first floor in the summer, so there's a lot of actual sweat put into my room this summer! But it was worth braving the heat to have all the time I needed and be able to do everything I wanted to do. And now I have a few last minute things to do, and otherwise have all of next week to troubleshoot my new technology and help the other teachers work on theirs.

Before I unveil my pics, know that I teach eighth grade English, and have been told by more than a few people that my classroom is "too cute" and looks "elementary" and don't I know that upper level teachers don't decorate like that? But I pay them no mind! I figure I have to live in my room for eight+ hours a day, so it should make me happy to be in there. And it does!

So, without further ado.... my classroom!

 View from the door towards the opposite back corner. (The clock is broken and awaiting repairs, hence its location!) I have class sizes ranging from 12 to 35 this year, so I have to squeeze in a LOT of desks!
 View of the front of the room. My new Promethean board!!!! And we moved my ELMO to the front (it was in the back corner). I can't wait to use it all! The Promethean is mounted over my whiteboard, which isn't ideal, but I still have a little bit of board to each side, and Ill be using the Promethean most of the time anyway. I also have two bulletin boards, one on each side. The right side houses my calendar and info for the students (flyers, lunch menu, reminders), and the left side is "The Fridge" where I post funny memes, pictures the kids draw for me, ecards, and other random things.
 View of my desk area and student computer table from the door. I have three student computers for AR tests, make-up lab work, or whatever.
 View across the front of the room from the door. The black shelf by the door houses tissues and hand sanitizer, which the kids through like crazy! I also covered foam board with super cute chevron wrapping paper to cover the backs of the shelves, and I made a little sign that says "Library Books" for the basket on the bottom shelf. That way I can reduce trips to the library, and the kids can turn their books in there and one of the aides can return them for us!

 My desk area. I have a small computer table beside my desk so that my dual monitors don't take up my whole desktop!
 Student area - the green drawers house markers, colored pencils, and glue sticks; the tan file holders on the wall hold make-up work papers; and the kids turn their work into their "class drawer" (really bad close-up picture of the drawers below).

 This is a new addition for this year, and I'm so excited about it! After losing so much of my white board to my new Promethean, I begged my {most awesome} principal to let me get a second whiteboard. I taped it off with painter's tape and I'm going to post our agenda each day. It will stay up for a week so that it doubles as make-up work notification! Below the board is my classroom library. I scored a ton of great new books this summer from library sales and Second & Charles. I can't wait to share them with my kids!
 Front corner. It has my stool and podium in it, but I hardly ever teach from them. Last year my classroom library was housed in that corner, but it won't fit anymore!
A shot of my teacher area from across the room. Really I just wanted to show off all of that lovely cabinet space! The cabinets are labeled with contents so the kids can easily find supplies, dictionaries, copy paper, etc. and the decals on the cabinets are from Dollar Tree!

I move my desks around a good bit, but I keep them in rows for the first few weeks until I learn names and personalities. I'm not sure how it's going to work this year with SO MANY desks! I'll try some other arrangements, but I'm not hopeful that I'll have as many options as I've had in the past. 35 is a lot!

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my classroom! If you have any questions about it, leave a comment or shoot me an email! And hopefully I'll be back again before next summer!