Writing my way through the school year!

Archive for February, 2012

The WINNER of the book “Stinky Steven Stench” is…


A HUGE  THANK YOU to all who entered! Even though you did not win this wonderful book full of awesome alliteration, you can still order it for your class and/or library!

It is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and AuthorHouse.com!

A Classroom’s Simple Pleasures! Smiling/Laughing Allowed!

After reading Angela Maier’s 12 Things Kids Want from Their Teachers, I thought about the things in my classroom that really make my kids happy. I mean, besides the normal stuff, like getting an education, becoming global learners, using technology, etc… I mean the simple things that help you remember that they are just kids after all.

1. When I Laugh: I don’t mean a smile, a grin, or even a chuckle. I mean laugh until I cry. Now this doesn’t happen too often, so when it does, it really cracks them up!

2. A High-Five or Bumping Elbow at the End of the Day: Each child gets one. Every day. Even the students who are upset with me (or me with them) for whatever reason, cannot leave without giving me my high-five or elbow. For some reason, they get a real tickle out of the bumping elbow version.

3.  They Sit in “My” Chair:  There’s a chair at my kidney table in the back of the room,that I sit in when I conduct small groups. They love that chair.  Sometimes I choose a student to lead small group, someone sits in that chair.  Or when they collaborate, someone sits in that chair. Or they feel like working alone, someone sits  in that chair. Sitting in that chair provides great pleasure.

4.  They Get Chosen: Chosen to come up to the board,to be the Line Leader, share their stories, turn off the projector(I still don’t have a remote and it is on the ceiling) turn off the lights to watch a video. They don’t care, as long as they are given a chance to participate in some way, shape, or form.

5. When I Lose(Or When They Beat Me):  I played a game of Decimal Math Basketball the other day at the Smartboard. One of my boys represented the class versus me. I didn’t read one of the choices carefully(teachable moment) AND I was missing my shots! They were making theirs though. (Darn those video games!LOL) I think they really enjoyed my enthusiasm when I did manage to get one shot in! 🙂 I demonstrated good sportsmanship, and double  high-fived my opponent at the end of the game, amidst the cheering  in response to his skills at beating the teacher.

6.  Eating Lunch in the Classroom:  Always makes them feel special. When they can bring a friend from any 5th grade class, it makes it even better.:) Especially, if they get to shoot hoops in the classroom when they are finished eating.

7. When I Dance: I can dance. Of course, it is the “over the age of 30” moves. One foot steps, the other comes out, you know what I’m talking about. But, I do have rhythm, so that couldn’t possibly be what is making them laugh. Could it?:) I end my day with music. Instead of calling groups, I choose music from my Ipad and play it. The music comes on and they get ready for home. The last two weeks I used Shakira’s “Waka, Waka”, you can’t help but dance to it. They pack up their stuff, singing and swaying to the music, even the “cool” ones. Next week, I’m using Michael Jackson’s “ABC”.   In the event that our day didn’t go so well, a little music does wonders for the soul.

A classroom should be the place they come to learn, but shouldn’t it also be a  place where they get to enjoy the simple pleasures school offers?

Self Fulfilling Prophecy!(Gloom and Doom)

I remember when I was in college a LONG time ago, we learned about the self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t recall the professor who taught it, but somehow it has managed to stay in my head after all these years.  If you believe it, it could happen, good or bad, positive or negative, our expectations influence those around us. When the professor introduced this concept, he wanted to emphasize the damage we could do to our students if we had preconceived notions about them and what they were capable of.

In the education field this is particularly true.  We have a huge impact on what happens to the hundreds of lives who sit in our classrooms, year after year.  How many times have we heard successful people credit a teacher who believed in them? Teachers who refused to believe that  a particular student would amount to nothing?

Too many times I have heard comments about what “the population” of a school is,or is not, capable of.  Seen students who were judged by the behavior that they exhibited in prior years. Trying to get teachers to incorporate technology in their classrooms, and  being told that the younger students “can’t” do it. Determining the intelligence of  a child based on the behavior of a parent or sibling.

I have always had high expectations for my students, I refuse to lower my standards to fit a mold others think they fit in.  I hold them responsible for their education and believe that they are capable of so much. And I have found, repeatedly, that most of my students rise to my expectations. The new term  is “rigor.” Why is it new? Why isn’t this something we should have always expected from our students? From all of our students?  If we continue to teach students according to our expectations of them, and our expectations are low, what will the results be? If the Robins are challenged every day, and the Sparrows aren’t, when do the Sparrows get a chance to spread their wings, to fly beyond our enforced limits?

I have a student who was truant last school year.  When he arrived in my class, the pattern began again.   He would show up for school twice a week, if that.  According to statistics, the general consensus is that he will eventually drop out of school, and his life will be pretty bleak. He might, he’s 13 in the 5th grade. But now, I am not going to worry about that prophecy, right now I am going to believe that he can, and will, succeed.   He’s only missed one day in weeks. His grades have improved, he is willing to share his thoughts and his work. He raises his hand and participates in discussions. He High 5’s me every morning and afternoon. (The afternoon High 5 is accompanied by the word, “tomorrow.”) He’s so much more than a statistic to me.

I know, it’s pretty idealistic. “I believe, and if I believe , it can happen.” I realize this is not always the case. But wouldn’t it be great if our prophecies were positive, and most of them were fulfilled?

“Stinky Steven Stench” Picture Book Giveaway! A Story of Alliteration!

Another giveaway! YEAH! This time I am giving away a copy of the picture book, Stinky Steven Stench!”   This book was written by Lavern T. Robinson, who is a 14 year ELA teacher.  It was illustrated by Lowell Hildebrandt.  This is her first children’s book and she is very excited about sharing it with other educators!

“If you enjoy the tongue twisting craft of alliteration, this book is for you.  Stinky Steven Stench and his sassy sister are always squabbling.  See how their everyday sibling rivalries lead to disaster.”

I am sure your students will empathize with Steven and his sister, while learning how alliteration can bring a story to life!  Hopefully, it will encourage them to create their own stories using figurative language!

The book is available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and AuthorHouse.com!

So, if you add a comment to this post, your name will be added to the drawing!  I will use Random.org to choose the lucky winner. The drawing will end on February 26, 2012! Good luck to all!

Torn Between Two Parents! Dealing with Battling Separated/Divorced Parents.

The dad walked into my classroom for M’s parent-teacher conference.  I was surprised because mom said she would be attending.

His first words were, “I know SHE said she was coming, but when she heard I was coming, she decided not to come.”

My response was a simple, “Well, I am glad you were able to make it”, coupled with my best smile.

As the conversation about his child continued, it was interspersed with comments about what SHE said, or what SHE was doing, and what SHE thought about, you get my drift.  I managed to remain noncommittal each time he mentioned HER name, but I was getting frustrated. I always switched gears and guided our conversation back to  a discussion about his child.

Later that day, while checking my email , I received a note from the mom explaining that she did not want to sit in the room with HIM, and that is why she did not attend. She requested a phone conference. I was a bit annoyed, having to repeat the same information twice, but I called her. I had already sent home copies of everything I had shared with the father, with her son.  Of course, her conversation was dotted with references to HIM. And like her ex, none of it was positive.  I managed to avoid the potholes in this conference as well, continuously steering the conference back to my one and only issue, their child.

I have to say, this child is very well-adjusted for what he must hear from each parent on a weekly basis. He spends one week with one parent, and the alternate week with the other. They both stated that I can probably clearly see the difference when he is with one or the other. Actually, I can’t. I believe they are both good parents. But you wouldn’t know it from them.

My  kids come from a divorced home, and no matter my issues with their father, a common front was presented when it came to their education. I never wanted the teachers to feel awkward or uncomfortable, and I certainly didn’t want them to “take sides.” But in this situation with some of my parents, I get the feeling that they want me to become their ally in this war. A war that will have only one causality, their son.

On the plus side, I have just as many divorced or separated who put their child first, this is not about parent-bashing. I’m just curious, what do you do when confronted with this issue? What do you do when the battle enters your classroom?

Write On! My Kids WANT to Write!

I have to admit, as much as I love to write, trying to squeeze it into my school day for my kids, was just not working. I mean, yes, we wrote in a variety of subjects. And yes, we had our Writing block, but…something was missing, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. The principal requested that we have our kids write every day, nonfiction writing. Why? Because research shows… Okaaay, that wasn’t working for me either.  I don’t know about you, but I would not want to write about nonfiction topics every day.

What to do? What to do? Hmmm…

About two weeks ago, I decided I was going to stop watching the clock, my schedule, the door(to see if my principal was entering my classroom for a walkthrough), and let my kids write, just write, for 5 minutes. Literally, 5 minutes. I set the timer, and let them go.  They wrote in notebooks I had given them in August that I called Daily Writing Prompts. I did not make up the name, it’s everywhere. To be honest, I forgot I gave it to  them.

Here’s how it works.  I give them a prompt topic, for example, aliens have landed in our school parking lot, and they take it wherever they want.  After 5 minutes,  they switch books with other students, read, and write a comment. (We talked about what a good comment is) Then I choose three people who want to share their writing.  I have stopped looking at the clock, my schedule, and the door, my kids can write! I guess my biggest thrill comes from hearing their interpretation of the prompt. Hearing from that kid who hardly speaks, but wants to share their writing. Loving the creativity and the spontaneity created by just letting them write.

What led to this post?  Today I was running behind, between Read Aloud(“A Wrinkle in Time”), introducing a new story(not a big fan of anthologies), I was basically playing catch-up. I started to move along to the next thing, and they shouted, I am not making this up, “Mrs.M, we didn’t do our DWP!” (Our pet name for Daily Writing Prompt).  They had already taken out their books and opened up to a clean page! Wow! And what’s funny is that Sunday, I was thinking of cutting it down to three days instead of five.

Well, just to make it a little easier, I reopened an account on PBworks.  Now they can write online, save it in the assigned folders, and more than one student can comment easily.  They will also be able to add to what they started. One of my students has turned his five minutes into a 3 page story, on his own, which he promised he will post on his blog. I’ve decided that I am going to let them share in suggesting topics for prompts, give them ownership of this activity.

I’m excited! I don’t know how long this will last.  Maybe they will get tired of it. I’ll adjust as necessary. But for now, write on Room 8, write on! 🙂

VocabularySpelling City:They Have a Way with Words!

I promised that after three weeks I would give an HONEST review of VocabularySpellingCity, and fortunately, I am able to give an honest, rave, review! There are so many ways you can use this site, too many for me to mention. (Scroll down to view overview in Youtube video.) However, I will share some of the ways I have used it in my classroom. Keep in mind, I have only used it for the last few weeks, so I am still learning all the ins and outs. Keep in mind, some of the items listed below are free, and others are part of premium access.

  • You can set up individual student accounts.
  • Instruction can be differentiated.
  • LOVE the fact that I can input my own words. (Reading, Math, Science, you name it, you can input it.)
  • Games/tests/tutorials/flash cards/ writing practice are created using the lists that you input. (talk about saving time)
  • You can view the assignments that were completed, who completed them, and how well they scored.
  • Reports and grades are generated for given assignments. (All this information can be printed)
  • There are TONS of lists in every subject already created. (Why reinvent the wheel?)
  • My students love to get on this site and “play” the games. (Aaaah, learning + fun, doncha love it?)
  • They are part of the Edmodo community (Sharing great ideas with great teachers)
  • There are so many games to choose from!


  • The price for premium membership is reasonable, especially if purchased by your school.

After requesting money to pay for a yearly subscription to another site,  my principal stated, “I see you have a passion for technology. Let’s sit down at the end of the year and decide what we can purchase for the school for the next school year.” (BIG smile on my face). VocabularySpellingCity will definitely be on my list!

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