Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Don't Forget to Market Yourself

As my long-term sub job ended today, I remembered something I want to remind all subs about. Don't forget to market yourself. Sure, you are in the sub system for your district, but if no teachers know you, you will be at the mercy of the random call. When you get a job, make sure you talk to some teachers around the school to make yourself known. And I highly suggest making yourself some business cards. And they don't need to be fancy at all.

You can certainly go somewhere and have them printed, or you could order them online through a service like Vista Print. But I made mine simply in Microsoft Word by using a pre-made template from the Word Document Gallery. I replaced a photo with a more "teacher-y" one, and added my information.

Make sure include the necessary information: your name (obviously), a district ID number if you have one, a few of your credentials, and your contact information. Then I print them on my printer using business card shells you can buy at any office supply store.

As I left the school today, I cleared with the principal that I could put my card in all the teachers' boxes. Now, the teachers can keep my card handy and request me the next time they need to be out.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hop into Frog Life Cycles

I found another creative use for the Brown Bag Books I posted about a couple of weeks ago. We all had a million ideas on how to use them, and I loved them all. Here is another one I came up with and had to share. My third graders spent two days studying frog life cycles. We had done all the basic lead-ups... watched a video, read in the textbook, observed a live tadpole, and took notes in their science journals.

As a creative assessment of their frog life cycle knowledge (and a way for me to work in more writing), I had them use the Brown Bag Books for a science writing activity. The instructions were to tell the story of the frog cycle from the perspective of the frog. In other words, pretend they were a frog and telling their life story to a child. They got to wear their perspectacles (again from a previous Sub Hub post), and I set the mood by playing Kermit singing "It's Not Easy Being Green" (which is an amazingly calm song in a classroom, by the way).

The stories went on the pages of the Brown Bag Books, and the life cycle explanations went on the index cards tucked into the pockets. The students had fun showing their learning, and I loved the creative results!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Seasonal Freebies

Have you seen this new page of seasonal freebies for teachers? It is a great one-stop shop for free seasonal teaching activities. December freebies are going up now, including my gingerbread plans and many others, so go check it out. And follow the page so you don't miss additional freebies as well as well as other holidays.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Show Students the Spirit of Giving

For so many of our students, the winter holidays are all about the gifts. I get it. It was for me too when I was young (and maybe still is... just a little). But as a parent and a teacher, I would love it if children would at least be aware of a deeper meaning of the holidays. This is a great activity to point out one of the true meanings of the holiday season.

First, I start off by having students make their gift lists. You can use fancy paper or a form, but I just use notebook paper. I guarantee that each student will have a list of many toys, movies, games, electronics, and maybe even a book or two.

Then I read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and talk about its theme... how the tree was willing to give everything it had to the boy, but the boy was never willing to give anything back. We talk about the ethics (one of the principles in Depth and Complexity teaching) of this, and I always accept all answers.

After reading and discussing, I hand back the holiday lists and give students the opportunity to change them... most usually want a new piece of paper to start all over. The change in the lists completely moves me to tears every time. I have had students whose lists went from: "DSi, bike, skateboard, remote controlled car, etc." to "a job for my daddy, clothes for my sister, etc." I give them the choice of sharing because sometimes those second lists can get very personal. A couple of times, those lists have even helped identify a student who needed financial help when no one at the school even knew.

If there is time, as an extension activity I have students reflect on the difference in the lists and why they changed. They can even place a value judgment on which list they think is better.

Every time I do this activity, it shows me and my students one of the true meanings of the holidays... GIVING. And there is no better feeling than that!

It's a Sunshine Day!

What's even better than being on Thanksgiving break, spending time with my family and relaxing? Finding out Sub Hub received the Sunshine Award 2011 from Charity at The Organized Classroom Blog! The OCB was one of the first teaching blogs I ever started to follow, and Charity sets such an amazing example for the rest of us teachers who aspire to help others by sharing what we know in blog form. So I am beyond honored that Charity would recognize my blog in this way. And if you have been hiding under a rock inside teacher blog world and don't know about The Organized Classroom Blog, you must click on the link and check it out. :-)

Here are the rules for accepting this award:
1. Thank the person who gave this award and write a post about it.
2. Answer the following questions below.
3. And pass the award to 10-12 fabulous bloggers, link their blogs, and let them know you awarded them.

So, here are my answers to the questions:
1. Favorite Color? Purple
2. Favorite animal? Otter (I have loved them ever since I was a kid!)
3. Favorite number? 12
4. Favorite drink? Hmmm.... I have to give two answers to this one. Adult beverage=margarita (I do live in San Antonio); Nonadult beverage=Peppermint mocha from Starbucks.
5. Facebook or Twitter? Definitely Facebook since I am just venturing into Twitter
6. Your passion? Teaching, blogging about teaching, hanging out with my family
7. Giving or getting presents? Both... I do love getting presents (especially those sweet handmade things given to me by students), but I also love to give to see how excited the person gets
8. Favorite day? I can't pick just one again. And I will have to be sappy and cliche and say my wedding day and the days my two children were born.

And now for the other fabulous blogs (besides Charity who obviously already got this award):
1. Lorraine at Fabulous Fourth Grade Froggies
2. Stacey at Second Grade Two Step
3. Debbie at Rainbows Within Reach
4. Jennifer at Empowering Little Learners
5. Gillian at Nyla's Crafty Teaching
6. Suzy at Third Graders Dream Big
7. Sally at Elementary Matters
8. Carloyn at Wise Owl Factory
9. Hilary at Rockin Teacher Materials
10. Melissa at Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Run, Run, Run As Fast As You Can... And Catch These Gingerbread Lessons

I know it may be a little early to be thinking of what to teach for the winter holiday time of year, but I was too excited not to put these lessons out. What I have created is a 1-2 week unit based on gingerbread. The lessons can be used as is for grades 2-4 and could be modified to fit kindergarten or fifth grade.

At the heart of the unit is reading as many different versions of the Gingerbread Man as you can find. There is a list of some of my favorites in the plans. There are reading lessons, a writing idea to take students through the writing process, science lessons, math lessons, and even a couple of social studies ideas.

Many of these I did last year with a group of third graders. We started the lesson about a week and a half before Winter Break. We did some of the lessons each day until the last day when it culminated in sharing their gingerbread writing and having their winter party where they built and decorated gingerbread houses and played gingerbread games. I had goodie bags for the students with all gingerbread-themed items. We had so much fun.

I loved hearing their versions of the Gingerbread Man. I think my favorite was the Gingerbread Spurs basketball player who was being chased by Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, and other stinky Lakers (sorry LA fans, but I am in San Antonio and so am a die hard Spurs fan). :-)

And, of course, you don't have to use the lessons as a whole unit, but can pick and choose which activities you'd like to do with your student. And they make great activities to leave for a sub and you can have everything ready well in advance.

So, run, run, run as fast as you can. And catch these FREE gingerbread plans.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Just the Facts... and Opinions

This week my third graders were working on fact and opinion. Since that is always a hard skill for them to grasp, I tried several ways of teaching it. First, we hit the basics: "a fact can be proven" and "opinion is a thought or a feeling." Then we looked at many examples and created a list of clues to help point them in the fact or opinion direction. I used those clues to create an anchor chart that we added to throughout the week (that's why it's in several different colors and not the neatest anchor chart ever). I did make sure they knew that these words were just clues. Here is the anchor chart we created together:

Each day we practiced the skill in a new way. One day I had them make a T-chart for facts and opinions they found in the story for the week. Another day I used a worksheet that listed statements, and students labeled them fact or opinion and then had to circle the words that told them whether it was a fact or an opinion. My favorite day was the day I gave each pair of students an ad from a magazine. The students had to look at the ads and decide which statements were facts and which were opinions. I particularly like this one because it also helps them read advertising with a critical eye.

I believe this helped my students have a better understanding of fact and opinion (just my opinion, of course). :-)

And to launch into the holiday season, I have created a Winter Holiday Fact and Opinion activity sheet. And that's a fact. :-)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A "Hands-on" Way of Teaching Main Idea

This week my third graders were focusing on main idea as their reading skill. Here are a couple of highlights from teaching the concept. First, we talked about how main idea is what the story is mostly about, and I created this anchor chart comparing main idea to a roof. Just like you have to have pillars to hold up a roof, you also have to have details to hold up a main idea. If you can find only one or two details to hold up what you think is the main idea, then it's probably not the main idea.

The next high point came in using an idea I saw on Pinterest. Students traced their hand on a piece of construction paper. I had them choose a page in the reading story for the week and write the main idea on the palm. Then details went on each finger. Again, I emphasized that we need all of our fingers so they needed to find that many details or the hand wouldn't work. Here are a couple of examples of the hands.

It seemed to be a more creative and practical way of reinforcing the concept of main idea.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Brown Bag Books... Endless Possibilities

I promised some sharing from the professional development I went to on Friday. Here is one idea I was particularly inspired by... brown bag books. They are made from regular brown paper lunch sacks and some index cards. And the possibilities of their uses are endless. Since my class is studying the wetlands, and inferencing is a skill that students always need practice with, I thought about combining the two. I will be having my students create Wetland Animal Inference Riddles. They will write the clues on the brown bag page, and the answer goes on the index card that slips into the openings of the bag. Here are the directions:

1) Cut off the bottoms of 2 or 3 lunch bags so there are openings at both ends.

2) Stack the bags on top of each other and fold in half. Secure the binding with staples or punch holes and tie the bags together.

3) Slide index cards into each pocket.

4) Write and decorate the book with whatever skill or theme you'd like.

I thought they could be used for moon phases, vocabulary, synonyms, antonyms, math story problems, etc. What else can you think of using them for?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Support for a Friend and Others

I have a list in my mind of the worst things anyone can ever hear. At the top of that list is: "You have cancer." Sadly, a blogging friend of mine has now heard those words twice! And she's only 33! And she does all the right things! It's the kind of situation that fuels my anxiety over little things. I always wonder, "What if it's not really little?" The good news is that this friend, Mandy at Cooperative Learning 365, has the perfect attitude. She's ready to "cowboy up" as we say here in Texas and fight this thing a second time. And I know she will do it. To raise awareness, Mandy is having a linky party at her blog, and I joined to show my support for her, and others I know fighting cancer. I show my support by posting this ribbon on my blog. How can you add your support?


FREE Fifth Grade Emergency Sub Plans

Finally, now my first set of elementary level emergency sub plans is complete! And just in time for cold and flu season. I just put the finishing touches on fifth grade plans based on the book Stellaluna by Janell Cannon. I know fifth grade teachers have differing opinions on the value of teaching through picture books. Many feel students at this age should be reading and analyzing higher level books.

However, my thinking here is twofold:
1) Practically speaking, these plans are meant to be completed in one day while a substitute teacher is in the room. A higher level chapter book cannot even be read in one school day, much less have time to complete activities.
2) Philosophically speaking, I am on the other side of the debate. I am an adult and still many times get much out of picture books. Fifth graders can take picture book analysis to a much higher level. So while, many students may already know the story in the picture book, they have not done such challenging activities with it.

All that being said, here are the fifth grade plans based on Stellaluna. As with my other plans, these contain a warm-up, a reading lesson, a language arts activity, a social studies lesson, a science activity, and some math problems.
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