February 28, 2014

Five for Friday the Last in February

FIRST... The snowflake craftivity that we started forever ago is finally done. They are beautiful!!!
SECOND... My Side of the Mountain is DONE!!! The sixers created trioramas to depict their favorite scene and wrote a one paragraph book review. These will be displayed in the elementary library for all to enjoy.
THIRD... The eighth graders completed their unit on Informational Text Structures by writing a magazine full of articles depicting the various structures. This activity was inspired by a lesson featured at Teaching with a Mountain View. These turned out FANTASTIC!!! 
FOURTH... The sixers and I spent one afternoon mining for ore, chocolate chip ore, that is. We are learning about minerals (rock cycle) and the impact human usage has on our environment. What a fun lesson!
FIFTH... I put in a five day week, the first since early December. I am TIRED, and I'm not the only one! LOL!

Be sure to link up your own Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching!

February 24, 2014

Peek at My Week 2/23/14: Giveaways and a Sale!

It's time for a new week... and LOTS of fun!

I can hardly believe that March is just around the corner. Where did February go? Ha, around here it went the way of "snow" days, six to be exact! Combine that with a conference comp. day and Presidents' Day and that leaves not a whole lot of instructional time. This week is the first week since way back in December that we will have a five day week. Five whole days!!!! As a result, this will be a week of finishing up/catching up.

My eighth graders will be finishing up a non-fiction text structures unit. Today is a SCATTER using task cards. Tomorrow is time to work on a cumulative writing project. Wednesday is a test on the structures. Thursday is time to work on their writing project while Friday brings a SCOOT style sharing of their projects.

Fifth grade will finish up with Ms. Murphy's author's point-of-view lesson. They will be SCOOT-ing today and taking a test tomorrow. We will be moving them into Literature Circles on Wednesday which should take the rest of our week.

My sixers will be focusing on finishing up their snowflake craftivity (photos to come) while moving into a re-learning of adverbs. Why is it that this part of speech is so very difficult for kiddos to assimilate?  Does anyone have some tricks or tips for teaching these little guys?

As for blogging this week? It's all about giveaways and sales.

If you haven't checked out Deb's giveaway over at Crafting Connections, please go right now! She has a FANTASTIC set of 15 prizes that she is giving away in celebration of reaching some blogging milestones.

I'm planning a Milestone Mania giveaway, set to go live the first week in March. If you'd like to participate by donating a product, please visit this link for more information. There are already nearly fifteen bloggers helping me provide an AWESOME prize package for you. I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it if you would join in the mania as well!

Sale? I did say sale! TpT is hosting their first ever Thursday-Friday sale at the end of this week in honor of reaching a special milestone. Customers can earn up to 28% off of their purchases. It's time to go window shopping and create your wishlists, bloggy friends! Sellers are uploading loads of new items just for you! Get ready, get set, SHOP! Just be sure to use the special promo code TPT3 when you check out!

A Special thank you goes out to Theresa and Robyn for organizing this great linky!

February 23, 2014

Get Ready, Get Set... CELEBRATE!

WOOT! WOOT! The Teacher's Desk 6 has hit some major milestones (major for me, that is)!

One Year Blogiversary
Brand New Bloggy Look
300 Bloglovin' Followers
200 TpT Followers
900 Pinterest Followers

It's time for a celebration so I am putting together a prize package for my "Milestone Mania Giveaway"scheduled to go live during the first week of March.

In addition to a $25 gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers and $15 spending money for my TpT Store, there will be a prize package of teaching products donated by fellow bloggers. If you would like to be included in the mania by donating a product for the giveaway, please complete the following form by February 28, 2014. I can't wait to get the party started!!!!

February 22, 2014

Spark Student Motivation: Lunch Bunch

It's been a little while since I've joined my bloggy friend Joanne of Head Over Heels for Teaching for her weekly linky.

I have to admit it- I am getting old(er)!  I not only am getting old(er), but I also have bad knees. My classroom is on the second floor of a very old school building which means lots of steps to climb. Suffice to say it is a chore for me to go up and down all day long. I only do the stairs when necessary! Lunch time is not a stair necessity so I began eating in my classroom last year. I normally pack my lunch, but if I do purchase a school lunch, one of my kiddos kindly fetches it for me.

At the end of the last school year we had a brand new, beautiful cafeteria addition built. It was such an improvement over what was with one exception. The new addition has a metal ceiling; metal reflects sound extremely well! We all know that kids need and like to talk during lunchtime. OH MY! Even when speaking in low tone voices, the new cafeteria is a LOUD place. This didn't seem to bother last year's sixers. This year's group though is quite different.

Around the second week of this school year, a couple of the girls asked if they could keep me company during lunch. They didn't like the idea of me eating all alone... little did they know that I LOVED the peace and quiet. As time passed there were a few more sixers joining us, some of them boys. They began to call themselves the "lunch bunch". It came out during our conversations (boy, have I learned a lot about 11/12 years old via these conversations) that they could not stand the noise level in the cafeteria; they couldn't hear each other to talk to.

By Christmas, nearly every sixer wanted to be part of the "lunch bunch" so we really had to set some limits. We talked about the responsibility of carrying food through the carpeted halls. If they spilled it; they had to clean it... not the janitor or another adult. Several students didn't like that idea so they opted to stay in the cafeteria. We also discussed that this was a time for peace and quiet. We wanted conversation, not chaos! A few others opted out. We also discussed the fact that "lunch bunch" was a privilege of sort... here's where the motivation comes in... so anyone who was not living up to being a super sixer shouldn't be eligible. I am surprised how a simple "Lunch bunch," softly muttered by me or a lunch bunch member brings any unruly or unacceptable behavior to a halt.

About 10-15 sixers join me each day for lunch. We have such wonderful talks... funny, heart-wrenching, sometimes bordering on a little inappropriate (think sixth grade boy) conversations. The kiddos also play games together or do their homework, but mostly they want to talk... with me!

Word of our lunch bunch has spread around the school. The guidance counselor has requested to join us, and the fourth grade teacher has asked to be invited. Just this week our principal stopped by to see... he couldn't believe that the kids wanted to eat upstairs in their room. He will be joining us soon as well. During parent conferences lunch bunch was a favorite topic. The kiddos had reported home that lunch bunch was so much fun!

What an INTERESTING motivator! I would've never thought that sixth graders would want to spend their free-time with their teacher... by choice! This motivator cost nothing, required no planning, yet was the BEST thing that we added to our school day. I have never been as familiar with any class as I am this year, nor enjoyed one as much... thanks to LUNCH BUNCH!

February 21, 2014

Five for Friday and Fuel Your Faith

It's Friday, so you know what that means...

First... My blog got a new design.
Second... We had our annual Science Fair... lots of work... lots of learning... lots of fun!!!
Third...Our student teacher, Ms. Murphy, presented her SPECIAL lesson... special as in HAD TO DO HUGE PROJECT IN ORDER TO BECOME A TEACHER project. I spent the week videotaping and snapping pics.
Fourth... FREEBIES...I've three foldable freebies for you.
St. Patrick's Day Comma Rules foldables
St. Patrick's Day Parts of Speech foldable
Adverb foldables
Fifth... My fur babies are finally getting along... 10 weeks, many gray hairs, and a hoarse voice from yelling, later... they are getting along... PHEW!

What a great week this was! Sure hope yours was wonderful, too! Don't forget to link up your Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching.

And because I had such a GREAT week, I am linking up with my dear bloggy friend Jessica of Joy in the Journey for her new weekly linky called Fuel Your Faith, a perfect way to help me remember where my gratitude needs to be centered.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

February 19, 2014

What's Happenin' Wednesday?

A brand new, BEAUTIFUL, bloggy face-lift! 

I decided to treat myself and my little old blog to a new look for our upcoming blogiversary... stayed tuned... more about this later in the week!

Megan of A Bird in  Hand Designs did an amazing job with redesigning my blog. I am so pleased with her work. She is just terrific to work with. If you are in the market for a blog design, she's your go-to person!

Thanks bunches, Megan!

February 18, 2014

Tried It Tuesday... Crafting Connections Collaborative Project

I've been waiting for a long time to be able to share this special post; however, due to that polar vortex and persistent bad weather that caused us to miss eleven twelve days of school (we are off again today) I had to wait and wait and wait... FINALLY it's time and what a perfect time! I am able to link up with Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper for...

This week (actually it took three weeks) I'm sharing a special collaborative craftivity project that I tried with Deb from Crafting Connections. Although this wasn't the first craftivity that I have completed with my students, it is the first collaborative craftivity project and the means by which I was introduced to these fun and engaging classroom projects. I blogged about my introduction to craftivities and to Deb in THIS POST a few weeks ago, and I blogged about using craftivities HERE and HERE, so I won't go into all the details.

Last summer Deb invited bloggers to join her in a collaborative project that she calls "Classroom Tested/Teacher and Student Approved"  wherein volunteers would test-drive her craftivities. Deb would send the volunteers one of her craftivity products to use in his/her classroom. After trying it, the volunteers would blog about the experience. I jumped at the chance and agreed to test drive her genre craftivity.

I had planned to do this during December, just before the launch of Literature Circles after Christmas break. However, my plans did not work out. There were too many interruptions, chief among them the Christmas program and the beginning of the bad weather. We actually missed a couple of days due to bad weather prior to Christmas.

I then decided to use the genre craftivity as an introductory lesson for my student teacher who started with us right after break. We did all the prep work and then.... the polar vortex. This craftivity lesson seemed to be doomed! But persistence paid off and we were able to finally complete the project early last week. Even with all the interruptions and delays, my fifth graders never lost interest! They learned the characteristics of the major genre and had a great time creating an attractive craft item.  Deb even includes a summative assessment piece to help track student learning accountability.

The following video captures my students' and student teacher's excitement, during both the learning activity and the craft.

Even though the craftivity was finally completed, the genre lesson was not. The students still needed a bit more practice with the material they had learned due to all the interruptions before they could successfully complete the summative assessment so I made a ZAP! game to help them review some of the fictional genre. ZAP! is the favorite classroom game of all of my students and a go-to review activity for me.

Here you see Ms. Murphy leading the fifth graders through the ZAP! game.

There was still one more practice activity before the students were going to complete the genre assessment. Deb also created an I Have, Who Has activity for genre.

I asked Ms. Murphy to do this activity with the fifth graders. This was a brand new concept for them so it was slow going at first. The kiddos actually asked to do it a second and third time, exchanging cards each time, so that they could practice a bit more.

After completing the craftivity, the ZAP! game, and the I Have, Who Has? the fifth graders were well-prepared and understood the various genre.  I am happy and proud to say that they performed extremely well on their assessment!!!

I am also happy to say that I am extremely addicted to craftivities, especially Deb's. 
Would you like to give one of Deb's craftivities a try? I guarantee you'll become addicted, too!

As part of her "Classroom Tested/ Student and Teacher Approved" series, Deb holds a giveaway for the specific craftivity featured. You can visit Crafting Connections to enter and read more about this fun craftivity. However, she is allowing me to offer the giveaway for her genre craftivity RIGHT HERE on my blog as well, AND she invited me to include my Fiction Genre ZAP! (or your choice of any other single ZAP! game) as well. WOOT! WOOT! THANKS, Deb! Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

February 16, 2014

It's That Time Again...

Time to join Jennifer from Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for a ...

It's another four day week. Tuesday is really Monday, so I guess I have two Mondays this week. LOL!

Ms. Murphy, my student teacher is doing an important lesson this week, one for her big student teaching project. We have to video bits and pieces of it so she can submit a video along with detailed lesson plans, photos, and student work. This is not only a university requirement but also a state of Ohio requirement for all prospective teaching candidates. PHEW! Student teachers have MUCH more to do today than I did 30+ years ago!
Ms. Murphy showing-off one of Deb Hanson's craftivity lessons that she lead.

Because Ms. Murphy is concentrating on her special lesson, I actually get a chance to teach, really teach, this week. My eighth graders and I will be finishing up a lesson about nonfiction text structures. We had started this a while back but due to calamity day interruptions and lessons taught by Ms. Murphy, we will be finishing it this week by completing a craftivity from Deb Hanson and playing  Scatter with task cards, creating a magazine, and completing an assessment all from Teaching with a Mountain View.

Here you see the craftivity in progress. These are almost finished!

This week is also the Science Fair. My sixth graders were required to participate. I'm anxious to see what projects they have completed. I know the topics but not the results. We lost a lot of in school time for development due to all the calamity days so I am a bit worried that they weren't really prepared well. I've been fielding text messages and emails from them this weekend so I know many of them are working on their projects. I have to wait until Wednesday to see them!

Speaking of sixth graders... I think we're going to be able to complete our snowflake craftivity combined writing combined video this week... more about this as it unravels.

On Thursday my family is coming for dinner. We haven't had a family meal in like FOREVER... again due to all the bad weather. It's hard to plan anything. I'm going to try a new recipe: Dr. Pepper Crockpot Chicken. My friend Diane makes it all the time; her family RAVES about it, so I'm giving it a go.

I'm still debating about what to serve with it... any suggestions?

I'm looking forward to my week. This is the last of the four day or shorter weeks, unless... well, you know... if the white, fluffy stuff falls again... shh!

Be sure to stop by Jennifer's blog to peek at more bloggers' weeks!

Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

February 14, 2014

Loving SAINT Valentine's Day

SAINT Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays. Many people enjoy celebrating this fun holiday; they love the chocolates, the exchange of cards, the bright colors, the flowers, etc. However, many people don't realize the origins of this "holy day". Yes, holy day. It is actually a Catholic feast day that honors a special saint whose celebration has crossed-over into commercialized society life.

Each year my sixers are awed by the story of the simple, humble man who lived in Ancient Rome and gave his life in honor and love of Christ Jesus. This year I came across an amazing picture book about this generous, loving saint.

How did Valentine's Day, one of our most popular holidays, begin? 

It started in ancient Rome when a kind physician named Valentine took an interest in a young blind girl. With his healing skill and his deep faith he restored her sight. What we now call Valentine's Day began when he sent the little girl a secret message, which she received after the Christian martyr was executed. For this tale rich in sentiment, master illustrator Robert Sabuda has created exquisite paper mosaics to suggest early Christian art that resonates with both subtlety and power
... Amazon.com

There was a stunned silence when I finished reading the book, until my student, the most unruly of them, said: WOW! I wish I could be like that dude. He was so not self-centered.

I couldn't have said it better myself. I asked them all to personally respond with why they thought Valentine was recognized as a saint by completing this simple notebook foldable.

There were such wonderful responses! Many similar to the one that my student had voiced aloud. However, one stood out. This one was from one of my boys who struggles with written communication. He has difficulty with spelling, with the act of writing, with getting his thoughts on paper, and more. In shaky writing, missing letters, and no punctuation,  he simply wrote...

he lovd everon

With just this simple story, my kiddos GOT the meaning and true message of Valentine's Day... SAINT Valentine's Day. It isn't about the chocolates or the cards or the flowers, it's about putting others before ourselves, it's about being a light for others, it's about our call as goodly(Godly) people...

Today is the perfect day for me to join my sweet, bloggy friend Jessica of Joy in the Journey for her brand new Fuel Your Faith Friday linky party. My students DEFINITELY fueled my faith this week.

It's also the perfect time to join Molly of Lucky to Be in First for her Lucky in Love linky where we share all the things that we LOVE.

Please be sure to visit both Jessica's and Molly's linky for inspiring and heart-warming blog posts on this Saint Valentine's Day.

Happy Saint Valentine's Day,
Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

February 12, 2014

What's Happenin' Wednesday? Three in a Row... YIPPEE!

What's happenin' today? Three days of school in a row that's what! I can NOT tell you the last time that we were in school for three consecutive days. I think it was the second week in January, seriously!!!! It looks like tomorrow will be a fourth day. Maybe, just maybe we are turning the corner on this terrible weather in NE Ohio.

Something else that's happenin' is my sixers working with their second grade buddies. We have had a buddy activity planned for weeks and weeks. The best time for my sixers to meet and work with their second grade buddies during our busy week is Wednesday afternoon. We have not been in school on a Wednesday since, well, a long time!

Our buddies have been studying about penguins as part of an integrated Science/Language Arts unit. The second grade teacher had asked us to help her do a "fun" writing activity. I readily agreed and offered to find something "fun" yet filled with learning.

I discovered this FREE product on TpT and quickly downloaded it. Notice it's a craftivity;)

After sharing it with the second grade teacher, we decided it was a perfect fit for both of our classes. She would read aloud a nonfiction book about penguins that was in her class library. My sixers would guide her second graders in identifying the main idea and details by completing a simple graphic organizer. They then would write the information in second grade sentences (my sixers would serve as editors and coaches) on the cute penguin paper provided in the packet. Finally we would craft the penguins and display them for the other classes to enjoy.

It's been such a relief to get back into the swing of things, falling into that familiar routine. We have a scheduled day off this Friday and another on Monday. Normally I look forward to long weekends! I have to say that I almost wish that we were not taking the time off....ALMOST!

Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

February 9, 2014

Peek at My Week: Share the Love

Time to join Jennifer from Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for...

When I started planning the week ahead I was SHOCKED! This coming Friday is Valentine's Day. How in the world did that happen? Just last week it was the middle of January. That's what happens when you miss ELEVEN days due to inclement weather. Holidays sneak up on you. Other things sneak up on you also... things like observations.

I have been trying to set a day and time for my annual observation. Each time one is set, we have a snow/cold day! I'm ready to give up! My student teacher is running into the same problem. She has her first university observation this coming Monday. Dare I mention the forecast is for another day with subzero temps and wind chills? sigh!

We hopefully will be able to finish a few items that have been dragging on forever... My Side of the Mountain has been hanging over my sixth graders' heads since December. We are doing a quick read to just finish it! This novel is another casualty of bad weather. We had started reading this book via Literature Circles, but we will end it reading it independently and completing a triorama of their favorite part and a discussion of the theme. Hopefully, I'll have some photos later in the week of this project.

We're also doing some fun word work, grammar fundamentals with snowflakes. We're in the middle of creating a three dimensional snowflake on which my sixers are reviewing parts of speech, figurative language, and sentence skills. These will serve as a springboard for writing a poem about snowflakes that they will publish via Animoto... more about this project as (if, when) it develops.

Ms. Murphy will finish up the genre craftivity that she began last week with the fifth graders and start a new lesson with text evidence and nonfiction text structures with the eighth graders. Later in the week she'll be doing a Valentine/plot craftivity with the sixth grade while I complete a nonfiction text structure lesson with the eighth graders. All-in-all a VERY busy week! Let's keep our fingers crossed that Mother Nature cooperates with our plans.

Meanwhile, let's not forget to celebrate Valentine's Day! Each day this week I'll be doing some fun Valentine themed Language Arts review activities with my classes. I had super fun creating all of these and can't wait to share them with my kiddos. They are all available for purchase in my TpT Store; however, I'd really LOVE to share ONE with you.

Here's what to do..
1. Click on the activity of your choice. You'll be taken to its page in my TpT Store.
2. Pin the product on Pinterest or mention it in a blog post.
3. Return to this post and leave a comment below in which you place the URL of the pin or post. If you are a no-reply blogger, please also include your email address.
4. Do all this by the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, and I'll send you the product you chose as a Valentine's gift.

Happy Valentine's Day,
Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6