Monday, September 26, 2011

Math ans Science fun!

The past couple weeks have been so busy but I have had a lot of fun with my kiddos in Math and Science. Thanks to all the bloggers I follow and the Pinterest boards I follow I was able to come up with some really great ideas for our math and science concepts.

We'll start with Math. After seeing this idea on Fourth Grade Frolics I knew I had to try it out with my kiddos. We have been working on fact families and they absolutely LOVED making Fact Family Portraits! The children were each given a different fact family that they were to illustrate. We showed them the pictures from Fourth Grade Frolics to give them some inspiration and I was so pleased with the results! They worked so well on there portraits. Several of them wanted to do a "theme" others just wanted to do an eclectic portrait and we gave them carte blanche to do what they wanted with their Fact Family. Below are some of their masterpieces

8, 9, 72

3, 8, 24

6, 11, 66

6, 8, 48

In science we have been studying the states and properties of matter. So my kids created a tri-fold that shows the positions of the particles in each state of matter. They used cheerios to show the particles (I got this idea from a blog over the summer and can't remember it now so if this was your idea thank you!. Then on the bottom of the foldable they had to write 3 facts and 2 examples of each state of matter. They came out super cute!



My kids loved doing both of these activities. During the time they were working on their Fact Family Portraits I overheard one of my students saying to his group "This IS math, it's just fun math!" LOL

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reading Block Woes

Ugghhh, this has been a very frustrating first 5 weeks of school. Don't get me wrong, I love my class, they are great! It has been frustrating finding a rotation that will work for my reading block. I have 3 reading groups that I meet with 4 days a week for 20 minutes at a time. My lowest group consists of all my students who are pulled first thing for school wide small group reading intervention. That way they get a double dose of reading, once with their intervention group and then again with me. Now, herein lies the problem, my students that are in that group are not all at the same level, there are 4 of them that are low readers, average of about a 2.5 reading level. The other 3 students are really low readers, with an average of about a 1.5 reading level. So I feel like if I go too slowly or provide activities that are on a lower level then I am not challenging the "higher" students in that group, but if I move faster and provide more challenging activities then I am not meeting the needs of the 3 lowest. So I am debating on whether I want to split that group up and create a 4th group. But if I do a 4th group then I have to cut 5 minutes out of each of the other groups to create an equal amount of time for each group. So I am wondering if I will be doing anyone any good if they only have 15 minutes a day of small group time. I have thought about making the 4th group and then alternating days to meet with the two higher groups so I am still meeting with each group for 20 minutes but I know how I am and I would not be happy with that arrangement, I am the type of teacher that MUST meet with my kids every day that I do small groups. Also, considering that my 2nd highest group consists of students who are still reading below grade level, I would not be comfortable meeting with them 2 days a week instead of 4. The good news is I don't have to figure it out right now, because right now I have a senior intern so I can divide up that group and have the 4 "higher" low students work with her while I work with the lowest 3, but I only have my student teacher until December, then I have to figure it out on my own.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Student Teacher, Specialist Degree, and Sickness

It has been a little while since I last posted and I have been super busy. I have my student teacher that has started her semester with me. She is a great intern and has really jumped right in. My class just loves her and since they are a pretty good group of kids they are making her feel very welcome. I have also started my first class in my journey towards my Ed. Specialist degree with a focus in Special Education. I just completed my first assignment tonight, and made the mistake of looking at my next module, I am now officially overwhelmed. I have to read 6 chapters in my textbook, and 5 articles, plus I have to interview a special ed teacher and write 2 papers. Oh yeah I am also one of the new co-advisers for my school's K-Kids program. It is a great community outreach club for 4th and 5th graders. So I have oh about a million things to do Agghhhhhh!!!!!!! Ok, I feel a teeny tiny bit better after screaming LOL Oh yeah and to top it all off I have been sick for the last few days. I am very thankful that I am beginning to feel better at least.

My students did a really great trifold activity for States of Matter that I will post next week. I forgot to take pictures of them so I'll wait until I have the pictures to write about them. Right now I am going to go and do a little reading for enjoyment before I am swamped in academic reading this whole weekend - with the exception of a few hours I will take off tomorrow to watch my UCF Knights play another great game of football!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/01 - I will never forget

There is a song that asks "Where were you when the world stopped turning, on that September Day?" and I can say that I will never forget that day. Even 10 years later I can picture exactly where I was and what was going on. 

When I was younger I could remember my mom telling me that she could remember exactly where she was and what she was doing when she heard that JFK had been shot. I had no concept of a memory that vivid. I thought there was no way she could really remember every detail of something that happened so long ago, before I was even born. Well I have to say that after the events of September 11, 2001 I can say that I know exactly what she meant. 

I can remember every detail of the day. I was in my 2nd year of teaching, and I was teaching kindergarten at Mollie Ray Elementary School. I had just dropped my kinder babies off at specials and was walking towards the office, one of the 4th grade teachers came out of her room and said "Did you hear? The World Trade Center has been bombed" I remember blowing it off and saying "Oh geez, again?" because I remembered the earlier, much smaller, attack on the WTC that didn't warrant too much media attention. She said to me "no this time they did it with planes" This got my attention and I quickly made my way to office to see what was going on. When I walked in the office, it was silent as everyone stared at the television and the site of both towers burning. I asked again what had happened and the receptionist said that 2 planes had flows right into the towers. I ran back to my classroom where a few of my teammates were hanging out, I turned on the television in my room and told them what little I knew. The pre-K teacher was standing at my backdoor (which lead to the playground where her class was playing) and we all watched as the buildings burned. We just watched almost mesmerized and we kept talking about the people on the plane and on the floors where they had hit and how terrible it must have been for them and we all hoped that it had been quick and painless. As we stood their watching and discussing how the firefighters and rescuers would get to the people above the burning floors, we all cried out in horror as we watched the side of the south tower begin to give away and then the entire building collapse. My classroom was filled with gasps, cries, and "oh dear God all those people!" We were all crying and staring at the television. It was almost surreal. My best friend looked at me and said "our entire life and world as we know it will never be the same." How prophetic and right she was. We had to tear ourselves away from the television to pick our our innocent babies who had no idea the world had just stopped and started spinning in a whole new way. We were afraid because as it was time to get our kids we were hearing about the pentagon being hit and other possible targets, I wanted to go get my own children at their schools and go home but I couldn't. There was no way I could teach the lessons I had planned for that day but I had to carry on for my little ones. We had our snack, and I put in a CD to let them sing and dance - while I made phone calls to my dad to see what all was going on. Parents started showing up to take their children home. By lunch time I only had 6 kids left in my classroom. My best friend and I put our classes together so that we could comfort each other and take turns keeping up on what was happening in the "outside" world. When we heard about the plane that had crashed in Pennsylvania we were saying "Dear God, what else is going to happen today?" it seemed like it was just getting worse and worse. This was before the time of mass cell phone use so no one in my family had one. I was relying on my dad, who was at home, to keep me updated. I had no way of contacting my husband, who worked out in the field, I wanted nothing more than to get to my own children and get them home where we would all be safe. 
At the end of the day when I got home my older son came running up to me crying and saying "Mommy one of those planes was going to come to Florida" it broke my heart that he already knew what was going on and was terrified that something bad was going to happen here in Florida (he had gotten confused by a news report he heard talking the white house being a possible target and President Bush was here in Florida). I reassured him that he was safe. My youngest son was in 2nd grade and all he knew was what his brother had told him, and seeing his big brother so scared, obviously scared him too. There was no escape for the children, even Nickelodeon, the children's network, was airing footage of the 2nd plane crashing into the South Tower. So I put in a DVD for my boys and let them have one more night of a world that wasn't filled with terrorists who hated Americans and took their hate out on innocent victims. 

It is a day I will never forget, and even now 10 years later the memories come back and the tears flow again. It was a terrible day in our nation's history. It changed our world as we knew it. Now tomorrow I have to teach 4th graders about this terrible attack, most of whom were not even born when it happened. There whole life has been in this world where terrorists exist and attack without warning and without cause. They don't even know that there was a time when we weren't afraid of what might happen tomorrow. 

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Imagine It! Help needed!!!

Today I became one of only 2 teachers at my school who will be piloting the Imagine It! reading program. In my district elementary schools have 2 choices for core reading programs; Houghton Mifflin or Imagine It! My school has used Houghton Mifflin since we opened in 2006. My principal is considering switching the entire school to the Imagine It! program next year and he wanted a couple teachers to try it out to sort of see how their students compare to the others who are using Houghton Mifflin. I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and I get to do it. I received a set of teacher's guides for the program today, we are still trying to scrounge up enough textbooks and hopefully workbooks for 2 classes so that we don't have to purchase anything until we know for sure we want to use it. I have to say I already like what I am seeing in the TE's it seems to really be a much better program that Houghton Mifflin. The only concern I have is time. We have a 90 minute reading block and to fully implement Imagine It! you really need about 2 hours. The good thing is the program seems to do a really good job of integrating science and social studies into the reading block so I could find the extra 30 minutes there if I needed to. I would really love to hear from other 4th grade teachers who use this program and could answer the following questions.

- How do you structure your reading block?
- How much time do you need for each whole group section?
- Do you break up the whole group and do workshop in between or do you do all the whole group stuff together and then do a workshop time?
- Since we are trying piece-mill together two classroom sets what do you consider to be the most important pieces of the program that you just can't do without (other than textbooks because we are already on the hunt for those LOL)

Any other information you can give me about how you use this program would be really beneficial.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Week 2 Done

Today ended our 2nd full week of school and things are going smoothly. Daily 5 is up and running (so much easier to launch when the majority of the class had it the year before), I actually have a schedule that feels good and I feel like I am getting everything done, plus I am able to squeeze in a short recess for my kiddos at least 4 days a week. My class is a sweet group of kids who are really eager to learn. My student teacher began on Monday and she is wonderful! I have been blessed with awesome interns every time I have taken one. My intern this year is a great asset.

My class started the novel Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing which they are LOVING. I told them that our next shared reading would be Fudge-a-mania and about 4 of my kids have come to me and asked if they could get a copy of the book because they have already finished Tales... and they want to get a head start on it! Before we started reading Tales... I had suggested it to them and they had turned their noses up at it, now they are devouring it LOL! Each day we read a chapter together and then we complete a box in our flow map. The kids are doing great, during read to self they can choose to read any book they want, including our class novel. I have had a couple of my kids come to me and say "I really want to read the class novel but I don't want to spoil it" I am so glad that I decided to leave the basal behind this year. My kids were never this excited about those basal stories, they never cheered when I said "Take out your reading book" but I get cheers, and a chorus of "yes!" when I say "Ok everyone take out your class novel" They can't wait to hear what book we will do next. I think after the 2 Judy Blume books we will delve into Roald Dahl's The BFG.

Math is a different story - We have been working on numeration, mostly rounding numbers and they are just not getting it. I have tried so many different things to help them understand but they still just don't get it. Any ideas or strategies you all can think of to help them understand this concept?