Thursday, February 23, 2012

....and I get to spend time with this EVERY weekday!

There are some days where I sit down after all of the kids have vacated campus and just think back on the ridiculous things that happened.
Seriously, some of the things that come out of their mouths are amazing. Some are hilarious. Some make me want to put my head on my desk and never look up at them again.
Honestly, it amazes me that the short weeks actually feel the longest, but I have moments and comments to get me through....oh, and fantastic classroom neighbors.

Favorite moment of the week requires a small amount of backstory. Two of my students are best friends. Both have been Star Student already this year, and both plan on being Paleontologists (like Indiana Jones) when they grow up. They are going to do it together, because they're best friends. One of them, H, lights up like it's Christmas when the topic comes up. A grin spreads across his face and you can tell that it is radiating from his soul.
This week was writing central. We worked on our summary of "Ants," having spent Tuesday creating our graphic organizer;

We wrote a letter to this week's Star Student; and we ended the day writing to our pen pals. During the final writing of the day, it seemed quiet enough (what?!) and controlled enough to put on a CD, and in thinking of H, I knew the perfect one.
This called for "Here Comes Science!" brought to you by They Might Be Giants....particularly the song, "Paleontologist" in honor of H. When he started listening to the lyrics, that smile from the soul spread across his face. Kind of amazing!

The real question is: how is it that the spazzy ones are ultimately the sweetest? I mean, really. Most of the time they drive me crazy, but then they do something that puts a smile on my face and keeps them endeared to me.

The desk fairy made another appearance this week too. There is apparently some sort of story that the whole class has concocted about this fictitious individual....I guess she has an evil counterpart who steals stuff from desks and moves it to other tables (personally, I think that would be another specific student....) In any case, I found that it was difficult to find different desks that were deserving of a visit from the desk pretty much all the same kids got the note. So much for equity when it comes to neatness! I tried.....really. Problem being, most of them believe that papers just naturally migrate into desks at the end of an assignment or at a transition....which makes me so wonderfully happy.....

I have so much to share. Literally, I have to keep reminding myself that things do not have to all go in one post. It will especially help me to post when I feel as though there is nothing else to write about, so I am saving them until later....I can tell you that it will be about how every kid in our school (kindergarten through fifth grade) will know what metacognition is.

Finally, I shall leave you with my Valentines. They were cute, and I am happy to share what I stole from Pinterest!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Four Day Weekend!

Time to celebrate the conclusion to a much-needed and very relaxing four-day weekend!

For the amount that I have thought about my next post, I do hope that it is not underwhelming. I sat down to write it a couple of times and then scrapped everything because I was utterly unsatisfied. Let's try again.

So here it is:
Angry Birds!

Context: I painted Angry Birds to go on my bulletin boards. One day we had a rainy day schedule. That is what I got.

What did I do when I got the call that I would have a job? I painted birds.

and pigs....

But in all of that, I was missing one wonderful and idea-creating thing: Pinterest.

I saw a picture on Pinterest last week that caused a very massive face-palm moment. One of those, why-in-the-world-did-I-not-think-of-that moments. We studied verbs ages ago, and they illustrated their verbs so very nicely....but nothing would have been so wonderful as this:

ANGRY VERBS! This will certainly have to be re-created as a review day and whatnot. Write a sentence using an amazing verb on your bird or pig. The kids seriously are obsessed with Angry Birds. All sorts of hats, clothes, valentines, toys, etc. They would eat up the idea of Angry Verbs....Plus, I have been trying to think of a good open house board configuration....since I am being lazy and leaving up my fun Ancestor Board all the way until then.....because it is cute and it took a lot of effort to get things in the right place....and I would rather just do surgery on the pieces that fall off than recreate the whole thing in May....look at me justifying my laziness.

Pinterest will ultimately be the death of me. I find myself perusing whenever I have time and there are far too many lesson ideas to fit into just one school year. In addition to that, there are far too many options of everything to fit into one lifetime.

In conclusion: Angry Birds.
The end.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Roller Coasters and Javelin Catching

I sat down to write this about an hour ago. In the process, I decided that since I needed my pictures from my phone, I would just upload them all and go from there. This is the point where my brain exploded and I decided to go through my photos in the iPhoto library and title all of the which point, I noticed that all of the pictures had uploaded twice. After fixing all of that, I have finally gotten to where I wanted to be an hour ago: telling you about Roller Coaster Day.

All I can say is, "Wow." I knew my kids were awesome, but I didn't realize that they were amazing engineers. Comedians, yes. Engineers, no.

2nd grade just finished up a whole big science unit on force and motion. Throughout the process, all of my team members were coming back to touch on the logistics of Roller Coaster Day, which essentially meant almost nothing to me until yesterday. I was completely in the dark, and they kept telling me, "Don't worry, all you do is give the students the pieces and let them go."

Let them go? Have they met my class? As it is, I have issues with letting things go. I put all of this to the back of my mind and merely collected the donations of empty water bottles, cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, and masking tape. On Thursday, Co-worker and I cut some foam tubing in half to create the "track" that the students would be using. (I really wanted to use the tubes as javelins, but kept the majority of my maturity and decided against it.) That was it. Collecting and cutting 12 pieces of tubing. All the prep.

(*I did organize some of the supplies into "starter kits" before we got going. Each group received a grocery bag with X paper towel rolls, Y toilet paper rolls, Z plastic cups, masking tape, 3 pieces of "track", and a marble. The large quantity of cardboard boxes, water bottles, and coffee cans were stored in the classroom library and were shopped for on a first-come-first-served basis.)

It is a serious struggle to leave my class to their own devices, but since that was what all team members said I needed to do, I just sat back and braced myself.

This was the result:

Careful planning.

Calculated testing.

And serious engineering.

These kids impressed me like crazy. Don't get me wrong, even though they drive me crazy, I love their silly brains and senses of humor. This day was one of the first ones this year that I've had the "This is why I am a teacher" thought.
But, I mean, look at them!

This isn't even the half of it. These are the better pictures for showing what we did....but there were a whole lot of hilarious antics happening the whole kiddo stuck a box on his head and used it as a helmet for the entirety of the project. He gave it to other students and they posed for pictures together...during which he would shout, "Mr. Helmet!" instead of cheese. Wow.

Here is some more:

Their roller coasters had to have four things:
- A hill
- A loop
- A curve
- The ability to stop the marble on its own

As they put all of those elements together, you start hearing words like "position" and "friction" and "gravity" and all is right in the educational world. The group pictured below was the only one brave enough to attempt two loops. They were nearly successful; however, one of their loops was positioned where two tracks were taped together. Not entirely "loopy" so the marble didn't entirely make it through. Valiant effort though.

What I should have done is taken a picture of the clean-up. The whole day might have been wonderful and fantastic; but when it came time to dismantle and go to music, things fell apart. Literally. Tracks were knocked down, boxes kicked, water bottles thrown, patience lost....I herded them from the room as quickly as possible and returned to consolidate. My desks are set up in a rectangle around the room, giving me a big space of carpet in the middle. I begged our wonderful custodian for a stack of trash bags and then began tossing everything that had just been used in construction to the middle of the rectangle. When the kids came in to the apocalypse after lunch, their job was to do away with all of the junk.
Having tweaked my back working out on Thursday, I taped trash bags to the board (labeled for trash, recycle, and boxes) and then sat back and watched. Fortunately, I have trained their cleaning well and we were spotless in less than 10 minutes; leaving plenty of time for a debriefing and some writing about the day.
Go team.

Despite the fact that I have letting-go issues, that was a pretty excellent project. Here's hoping that I can refine some of it for next year, and make it even more successful!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Great Desk Dump of 2012

Last week, I hid my frustrations about my class by having them tip their desks over, dump everything out, and clean/organize EVERYTHING.

Today, the desk fairy visited all of the desks that were still nice and shiny....since it's only been a week. Oh man, it was tough....some of those landfills fill up quickly. Who would have thought that was possible when I have passed out only 2 small packets since then...and they both live in the fix and finish folder.

It amazes me what finds its way into the desk, drawn by the magnetic quality of their personalities, I suppose. In the Great Desk Dump of 2012, I found beanies, all of the pencils I had been missing, menus from months ago, toys, food, basically anything that I had ever told them to take home or throw away. (Further proving that we need to continue to work on listening skills).

Regardless, most of the desks weren't awful today, but about six were exceptionally amazing and still organized exactly the way they had been organized a week ago...go team OCD!

In other news, this trimester our writing focus is on the friendly letter. We are told that this standard will go away at some point, but for now we are focusing a little bit more on our Star Student letters each week and trying to figure out good ways to make the topic more interesting...We had been tossing the idea around for a couple of weeks, but today Co-worker and I sat down and paired our classes up for pen pals!
Oh man, I am probably more excited about this than the kids are! We tried to put friends together, and I am exploding with curiosity about what they'll say!
Co-worker is ahead of me and already had her kids writing their letters today - which is great, because it will inspire my kids with questions to answer as well as questions to ask (just in case they didn't know their pal) so that they will not sit and stare at me like I'm a crazy person for assigning this project. While C7's letters were being written, I was compiling cards to deliver the names of their pen pals:

A note card, clip art, tape, and procrastinating on prepping next week's copying during silent reading....not bad! I set them to work on their persuasive posters/presentations while I put on the finishing touches, and then I got to deliver the mail. Like I said, we tried to put friends together to the best of our not-out-at-recess-with-them abilities, so the joy that happened when the kids received their pen pals was hilariously awesome. Everyone left in a good mood! Now I just need to make a cute mail box that our classes can pass back and forth.

Finally, our whole district has been learning about and using the CHAMPS program to fine-tune our classroom management strategies in a positive way. Yesterday, our staff meeting was all about analyzing what sorts of chronic behavior issues crop up in our rooms and why (attention seeking, lack of awareness, etc.)...Most importantly, we talked about how we should be reacting to these issues. What did I walk away with? Don't react emotionally to issues in the classroom.. Oh that something I need to work on, or what?!
How often do I find myself with a mental face-palm about the fact that we are HALFWAY THROUGH SECOND GRADE! Why are you still acting like that?!....Usually manifests in some sort of side discussion that nobody walks away from happily.
Today I opted to not react with my emotions (I swear, my kids probably think I'm bipolar), and it was wonderful! The morning was so productive that I pulled a small group to read! I never get to do that without crazy chatter around the room. Plus, I got to have a great conversation with one of my very silly squirrels (who usually produces very little work) about how he kills all sorts of zombies on his video game. Like highly detailed. I love zombies and all, but I love him talking about them even more. He is protected from the zombie "invasion" apparently. Said something about machine gun, missiles, and body armor? Cool. I'm going to your house in the event of Zombieland, dude!
Granted, by the end of the day I was more drained than was rather difficult to keep everything bottled up 100%. We shall see how it goes tomorrow! Hopefully they will become as calm as I appear to be. Just as long as they are not as wound up as I am in my head, we should be good!

Pull-up workout from Monday was ok, but bench press workout from yesterday was exhausting. My upper body is about to give up on movement. I say that's time for bed!