Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wrapping Up The School Year {2013 - 2014}

We all know how insane and busy it gets the last 1-2 weeks, sometimes 3, of the school year. This one was no fact, to me, it felt like the last month was all about trying to corral my students and keep them entertained. Thank goodness we get the time off to always revamp ourselves!

Our district actually had benchmark testing the 2nd to the last week of school, so we had to make sure we still fit in some skills.  Of course, this meant, I had to come up with ways to not only teach my students but keep them completely and utterly busy in a higher-level thinking way.  At this time of year, it felt like quite the feat for me!

I pulled out my Plot Elements Choice Menu, which I did not get to use at the beginning of the year like I usually do.  But since they were being tested on plot elements, I KNEW this would be the perfect way to give them time to review, push themselves, and stay busy as well.  We did a museum walk around the room so students could view and read everyone's products they created.

Maps showing change in setting and Award/Achievement Certificates showing theme

You can see part of an interview/broadcast script students wrote to demonstrate parts of the plot using the point of view of the story characters.

I was super happy to introduce a new product, an interview/broadcast script, I added to the menu when I created the version for students who chose it did a really great job actually!  I was afraid it would be too difficult for them or they would not be interested, but quite a few kids chose it and kicked tail on it.  Thankfully, one set of partners accepted the extra challenge of recording it as a radio interview (ignore the video and just enjoy the audio).  

 Several students made movies-in-a-box to show changes in settings

Once the benchmark testing was over and done with, it was time to "celebrate" and do activities that would still challenge them but yet keep them busy enough so they weren't getting into trouble.  One of my favorite things to do (for the past couple years) is the All About Me Choice Menu.  I found it on Teachers Pay Teachers HERE a couple years back and have since slightly revamped it to fit my teaching style in my classroom.  

This group spent their entire time during the museum walk playing another students' board game.  They were crazy into it.  Even as they argued their way through the trivia cards, they all learned a lot of new information about their classmate.  Score! 

They got to make menus of their favorite foods and shields.

Included were also Me Bags and candy bars that matched their personality

And last but not least, was the awesomely action-packed End-Of-Year Math Project from the talented TPT seller, Teaching With a Mountain View.  It was all about planning a party through the CCSS math standards.  My students rose to the occasion despite being over doing school work.  So, it was definitely worth it!

Are you out of school yet?  What do you like to do with your students during those last days and weeks of the school year?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fabletics {My New Obsession for Workout Gear}

Okay, so I just HAVE to share my newest discovery!

Perhaps you've heard of JustFab shoes?  Well...Fabletics is their version of a monthly membership for workout clothes co-founded by Kate Hudson!  If you're like me, you truly love wearing workout clothes that are comfortable but make you look good too. After all, we all like going to the gym or working out to feel looking good helps us feel even greater right?!  Fabletics gives me all of this!

It is a lot like Stitch Fix if you've seen my other blog posts about my monthly fashion fixes.  You get to take a style quiz to let them know what kind of workouts you prefer, where you work out, and what you like to show off (legs, arms, stomach, etc.).  I myself am looking for more yoga gear, so I filled my quiz out to accommodate my own needs.  You also include your measurements so they take the guess work right out of deciding which sizes to choose once you pick outfits or pieces.  Easy peesy!!

Most of my workout clothes are from Target's active wear line and it is great for Zumba and all, but they don't have much of a selection.  It is good quality and I do like the way their fitted capris feel.  But somehow Fabletics provides so much more!

Kate co-founded Fabletics because she wanted to have well-designed and nice workout clothes to take her from the gym, to pick up her son from school, and run errands.  Thank yoooooooooou Kate!!

Once you take the quiz, their stylists put together their outfit picks for you to match your wants and needs.  Your first 2-3 piece outfit is 50% off so you can get an entire set for $25!  Or you can pick separates.  I decided to pick a 3-piece since it would mean more for my initial $25 VIP membership price.  I chose...

Failli (3 pieces)

This is actually regularly $59.95 as a it was quite the deal!  I had been looking for a pair of capris almost exactly like this and a longer-sleeved top to wear to the gym when it is cold out or when I first walk in, so it was pretty nifty to also get a sports bra all wrapped up in a well-thought out outfit.

Here is what the three pieces look like on. Even sitting down in seated pose, these capris moved easily and weren't pulling against my knees or hip flexor area.  There is also a seam running above the rear-end, making them ultra-flattering as well.  I really love the sports bra because of the fun strap design. But it is uber comfortable and also quite flattering for a light-support sports bra.  Perfect for yoga!!

I am definitely hooked!  The Fabletics stylists put together looks for you on the first of each month. Yet, you don't have to buy what they pick for you. They show you other pieces outside of the personalized picks as well.  You have until the 5th to either decline or purchase an outfit or separate much or as little as you'd like with no obligation. No matter what, as a VIP member, you get a discount even on separate pieces.

Sadly, I wasn't paying attention and ordered a medium pair of capris instead of small. But their return/exchanges are super easy. They send you the prepaid label via email and put the size you need (if exchanging and if it is still available) on hold to send to you once they get the return.  Thank goodness! Great service, user-friendly, and absolutely wonderful items to buy?!  Say nothing more...this is why I am obsessed.

If you're interested, click HERE!  If you refer friends to sign up you also can earn reward points towards free outfits.  Plus?  If you review your pieces, you get points as well.  It's worth it no matter what.  And believe me...I am not just blogging about this to gain referral points.  I am THAT impressed with the selection, quality, and fit of my first outfit!  And please...if you sign up, post it on your own blog, Facebook, or Instagram and tag me/message me.  I would absolutely love to see what you choose!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Reading in the Wild {Summer Book Study}

Today I am joining with several dozen bloggers to invite you to an awesome summer book study showcasing Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild!

An amazing reader and teacher, Miller's first book, The Book Whisperer, shares her experiences in middle grades classrooms and how she has fostered a love of reading in her students. Her classroom is INSPIRING! The book is so down-to-earth, a fast read, and filled with simple (but powerful) ways to create a culture of reading in your classroom. In The Book Whisperer, Millers leaves you with her frustration - students leaving her classroom loving reading but faced with future teachers that do not share Donalyn's enthusiasm for reading. Gradually, her students leave the practice of daily, just-because reading.

Here enters, Donalyn's second book, Reading in the Wild. This books acts as a follow-up to the first and discusses how to foster a love of reading that is lifelong and sustainable...even when a passionate teacher is not present. As a 5th grade teacher, this is powerful to me. How do I structure reading and sharing opportunities that set the foundation for life-long reading? Reading in the Wild address this question!

I would love for you to join us! You can click here or the image below to grab your copy.

So, are you in??

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Summer Reading...And My Return to Blogging!

It has been way too long since I have been able to sit and blog away on my little keyboard.  I've been wanting to come back for awhile now, but time was most definitely against me.  Around the time I disappeared from the blog world, our district was hunkering down for state testing (AIMS here in Arizona) and then the due date for my National Boards retake was approaching very very quickly.  Then, when I thought I'd have a chance to sit down and put a post together...the end of the school year sprang up. So, everything just drained me in general.  Have you ever had one of those school years, weeks, or even days when you just need to come home and do mindless things to keep from collapsing from exhaustion (mental, emotional, and physical)?  Me too!!!

So, I've been simmering over several blog posts I wanted to put together to jump feet first back in to blogging.  Then, this linky party popped up over on Hands-On Teacher in First (Marie's blog) and it is just perfect!  Now that I have some time on my hands I have a growing summer reading list with both personal and professional books I've been hankering over.  Please join up with us and share what you plan or hope to read!

Professional Reads

Normally, I try to only pick one professional read...or I end up overwhelmed and try too many things at the beginning of the year.  But I ended up discovering a new book by Michael Linsin who wrote Dream Class, which I read last year and just loved.  So, the list became 2 deep.  Then, came an invite from The Brownbag Teacher to join in for a book talk for The Book Whisperer's Reading in the Wild...which I also didn't get to read this past summer. 

Teach like a Pirate by Dave Burgess | This particular text has been on my to-read list since last summer.  But I had to worry more about the two books I had set aside to help me prepare and study for my Assessment Center exercises.  I have only heard wonderful and fantastic things about this book and can't wait to dive into it!  It is most likely the best book to read to make a comeback from such a rough year like mine.  In case you haven't heard of this one, here is a peek into some of the topics:  Part I - Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Transformation, & Enthusiasm; Part II - "I Like to Move It, Move It," Long Live the Arts, Stand and Deliver, etc.; Part III - called Building a Better Pirate.  Sounds intriguing no?  In case that didn't convince you, here is the synopsis from Goodreads:  "Based on Dave Burgess's popular "Outrageous Teaching" and "Teach Like a PIRATE" seminars, this book offers inspiration, practical techniques, and innovative ideas that will help you to increase student engagement, boost your creativity, and transform your life as an educator. You'll learn how to: Tap into and dramatically increase your passion as a teacher Develop outrageously engaging lessons that draw students in like a magnet Establish rapport and a sense of camaraderie in your classroom Transform your class into a life-changing experience for your students This groundbreaking inspirational manifesto contains over 30 hooks specially designed to captivate your class and 170 brainstorming questions that will skyrocket your creativity. Once you learn the Teach Like a PIRATE system, you'll never look at your role as an educator the same again."

The Classroom Management Secret by Michael Linsin | I didn't plan on reading this one, but I get Linsin's monthly newsletter emails and one of them caught my eye.  It closely related to the issues I was going through with my students this year, so I actually took the time to read it closely.  Come to find out...he had also released this new book.  I enjoyed his personable and user-friendly process to create a Dream Class (which I wasn't fully able to do because of how thrown off I was by my group this past year).  I decided, despite management being my strongest ability as a teacher, I needed to rethink my system and make improvements.  This way, no matter what kind of group I get next year, I will be ready!  Before I bought it for my Kindle, I checked the Table of Contents and was immediately intrigued by the first several chapter titles:  Why You Should Smile on the First Day of School, 7 Keys to the First Day of School, The Biggest First Day of School Mistake You Can Make, Why Coming on Too Strong Will Force a Mutiny in Your Classroom, and more.  Here is the description from Goodreads:  "In The Classroom Management Secret, you will learn how pursuing just two simple principles will allow you to grab ahold of the rewarding and meaningful teaching career you've always dreamed of. Based on the popular blog, Smart Classroom Management, the book progresses step-by-step through 46 keys, showing you how to manage your classroom in a way that inspires your students to want to behave. By the end, you will have the knowledge to take over any K-8 classroom and create the kind of peaceful buy joyous learning experience your students will always remember."

Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller | I was, and still am, a HUGE fan of The Book Whisperer.  It changed how I saw and taught students how to love reading.  It also changed the reading lives of so many of my students.  They still thank me to this day for how I helped them become a self-selected reader who enjoys reading for what it should be.  So, when I found out Donalyn was releasing a 2nd book long before it came out...I added it to my wish and to-read list.  Sadly, I wasn't able to get to this one last summer either.  But I just found out The Brownbag Teacher is having a book talk on it and had to join in.  So...bring it on!  Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:  Teaching students to become lifelong readers A companion to the bestselling The Book WhispererReading in the Wild explores whether or not we are truly instilling lifelong reading habits in our students and provides practical strategies for teaching "wild" reading. Based on survey responses from over 900 adult readers and classroom feedback, Reading in the Wild offers solid advice and strategies on how to develop, encourage and assess key lifelong reading habits, including dedicating time for reading, planning for future reading, and defining oneself as a reader.Includes advice for supporting the love of reading by explicitly teaching lifelong reading habits. Contains accessible strategies, ideas, tips, lesson plans and management tools along with lists of recommended books co-published with Editorial Projects in Education, publisher of "Education Week" and "Teacher Magazine"
Packed with ideas for helping students choose their own reading material, respond to text, and build capacity for lifelong reading."

For Fun Reads

I usually have a HUGE list planned a couple weeks before my summer starts, so I can get to the library and start grabbing up books.  But, alas, that just didn't happen this time around.  However, I did come home this past Friday (our last day of school) ready to find a juicy and fun chic lit read from my long to-read list on Goodreads.  My book club of lady friends is reading The Monuments Men this month as these two are givens.  As for the rest of what I'm going to be reading this summer?  Perhaps I should read the 3rd book in V.C. Andrew's Dollanganger series.  I'm hoping I get off the wait list for Emily Giffin's new book soon, since I've been on it for the last month already.  I also have some Jodi Piccoult books I've been hoarding.  So many choices and so little time!!!



How about you?  What is on your summer to-read list?  I hope you take the time for yourself to relax and enjoy some good reads...whether they are for work or play!