Sunday, April 26, 2015

Build-A-Library Baby Shower


I was on a roll last year with this blogging thing... this year... not so much!

I just can't find the time! 
Sunday evenings: Hockey
Monday evenings: Girls on the Run
Tuesday evenings: Teach after school (one more day!!!)
Wednesday evenings: Plan with my Team
Thursday evenings: Usually some some committee meeting or school group
Friday evenings: asleep by 7 pm because this girl is t-i-r-e-d
Saturday evening: out and about for SOMETHING.

See what I mean?

I have lots of ideas and things to share about our classroom happenings...
it just ain't happenin'

Maybe this summer.

Anywho.

Last Sunday, I threw a baby shower for my older sister who is having twins! My mom and I hosted it at her lil' house (They just bought the house last year and many people hadn't been to it, so we did it there so people could see it. Good thing too- there's no way we could have gotten all the gifts home in one trip!). I've been spending a lot of my free time the last 2 weeks to getting stuff ready for it. 

I had the attitude: "Oh, I can make that." "Oh, I can find something like that." "Oh, that wouldn't be hard to put together."

Woof. It was super fun, and I loved creating everything for it, knowing it was for my awesome sister, but man, I overestimated the amount of time it would all take. Good thing I only have one sister.

Since she and I are both teachers, I knew I wanted to through a book-themed baby shower. Take a look into the special day for my sis!

Decorations

I made a hot-air balloon mobile to go over the cake (you'll see later). Pinwheels were made out of a book one of my students "accidentally" ripped up. They spruced up her flower bed right by her door. I also made the party sign. You can't see because it was windy and rainy, but there were balloons tied to it also. I made it from all wood-like things from Michaels and a lil paint + gorilla glue. I didn't go too crazy on decorations as a) it's a small house b) we were planning on 25+ guest coming= space issues and c) time.

My sis kept saying she wanted a onesie garland... but I wanted to keep the book theme. So I made up these little onesies all book inspired. She loves Harry Potter so I had to include some of those. And because they are twins, you know they had to have a Thing 1 and Thing 2 set. I made a few others too to complete the garland.

Food
Strega Nona's Pasta Salad and Stink Cheese Man Cheese Plate
I scoured Pintrest to find book themed menu items. I literally was so rushed that I barely got any pictures before guest arrived (or even during it because it went so fast). So these are literally the only pictures I got of the food. Not the best. Still learning how to be a hostess and all (I need my own house so I can practice).

Cloudy with a Chance of Barbecue Meatballs and Veggies from Peter Rabbits Garden (sitting in flower pots)

Very Hungry Caterpillar Fruit tray (more like fruit bowls), Popcorn Favor Popcorn Bar, and the AMAZING cake inspired by Oh, the Places You'll Go.
My teammate Kate (McDee's Busy Bees) creates cakes as a hobby. Isn't she ridiculous?!?! This is the front and back of the amazing cake... and it tasted delicious as well!
Drinks
I told you I struggled with getting pictures- check out the nearly empty lemonade haha. On the left is the "Fizzy Lifting Drink" made with raspberry lemonade, pink Moscato , and Sprite... it was delicious! Note to self: Don't put little frozen berries in these containers- they love to get stuck in the spout and make it difficult to dispense liquid, thus having to use  a ladle in a make-shifty way.
Shower Time!
 Again, I barely got any photos of the actual shower. :( Oh well... the memories will stay either way!

My sister and I, and My mom and sister. She's 25 weeks here.
Side note: Good thing we did it last weekend- 2 days ago we had a little scare. As of now, everything is fine, but I'm glad we got to do a little celebrating before! You never know with twins!


It was sad to cut into the beautiful cake- put totally worth it.
Gifts!
Because it was a book theme, I asked guest to bring a book for the babies. Here are the invites (Again, I thought it would be cheaper to make my own... yes, it was cheaper... but super time consuming!). I painted this crate from Michaels to match the babies room. Once we know their names, I'll add their first initials to the front of the crate too. For now, it just has a big ampersand on it. And I kinda like it. People were so gracious with the books- we filled the whole crate!

Guest were also gracious with the gifts. We ran out of space to put them so we started to pile them into the cribs for now. Car seats, strollers, clothes, and toys... these little ones are all set! I'm so excited for my sister and brother-in-law!

And I'm excited to just be a guest at the next shower next weekend... this one pooped me out!


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Strategy Seminars: Revising Edition

We are powering through our last major unit in writing- a fairy tale unit. It's fun, allows creative juices to flow, and builds off of skills from earlier in the year... a perfect unit while we wrap up this test prep in reading and prepare to take our big state test for the year. Today we started the revising process. We haven't done a whole lot of it this year- largely due to just learning the basics of writing to begin with. And sometimes, the revising techniques are great for some of my writers, but not for all. I had to think of another way to give them more opportunities for revising that fit their needs and now that they are more independent than at the beginning of the year; I had an idea: enter strategy seminars.


I looked at my students writing over spring break and noticed some reoccurring areas that could use some improvement. I wrote down some "glowing" things as well as some "growing" ideas to each of their drafts to help give some feedback to lead them down the revising path that could benefit them. 


I created 4 different seminars and prepared some station materials. Each station had the station name complete with a teaching point. On the back side of the frames, was the revising poster to remind them why we revise. We noticed that these different strategies help us revise in different ways, so it was nice to have this reminder.


Students got one of these half sheets to help them plan and record which seminars they attend. Why do I call them seminars? Because students ultimately have the choice. Really, most of them would benefit from any and all of the strategies, so I like that they have some choice- it gives them power and makes them invest in the work.


Each one had a teaching point tied to a revising strategy in my Editing and Revising Strategy Poster set. I included a small reference card of these posters to go with each center to help provide support for the group. I prepared some guided note pages for 4 different strategies.  On the front, students were to notice and discuss from a 'sample' of a student's draft (I just wrote one to fit my need). There were discussions prompts to have at the end with others at the seminar to help them realize the problem this writer faces. On the back, students then had a chance to practice a strategy to help this writer accomplish the teaching point. Plus, it serves as a reference for them to keep and look at when they do it in their own writing.


Students then got to pick their first seminar. Only 5 were allowed at each one (6 for 2 due to our numbers). Surprisingly, they split up pretty well. They worked together to read the sample text, carried on their own discussions based on the prompts, collaborated on the practice activity, and most importantly, stayed engaged and created their own learning with their peers. It allowed me to float around, check in with groups and guide. 

After about 10-12 minutes, students went back to their desks and applied the strategy with their own writing. My teammate (who also used these today on a last-minute whim... she said it went GREAT) had a genius idea I wish I would have thought of! Each station had a different colored pen. That way, she can see what types of revisions her students made! I wish I would have done that! Next time...


Many found the strategy they worked on to be helpful! And they were able to apply it to their writing. Tomorrow, we will continue again and hopefully get in 2 different seminars depending on time (since we had to take time to model expectations today). I can't wait to make some of these revising seminar practice pages for our other units for next year!

How do you deal with the revision step of the writing process? I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why all teachers should play hockey...

Are you a teacher reading this? Well you should be playing hockey. Did you know that? Ok, maybe not hockey... but maybe something else that you know practically nothing about! For me, it was hockey. And I wanted to share why I think that hockey is making me a better teacher in the classroom.


Once I became an 'adult,' I got very comfortable. I married my high school sweetheart, I've been living in apartments for the past 7+ years, I've taught in one school, my only school, for the past 3 years (just got the news that I'm renewed for next year too) in the same classroom, with the same grade, with the same teammates (mostly). I ate the same meals night after night, watched the same shows over and over and so on. Do you see a trend? I found things that I was comfortable with and I was content. But I soon realized, I wasn't growing much anymore. Now, I haven't grown in height since the 7th grade, so I'm not talking about that kind of growth. I'm talking about those uncomfortable moments that push us and make us discover more about ourselves. Enter hockey.

My teammate, mentor, and friend just loves to try new things, especially around exercising. She wanted to join this league, and so I thought, "Oh, why not?" It's been a very humbling experience so far- and one that I've been able to find a lot of connections back to the classroom and why "best teacher practices" really are, the best.

We joined JMS or Just My Speed so we can learn the game at our own pace!
Best Teacher Practices Realized Through Hockey



The Power of a Safe, Classroom Environment
We all know how important classroom environment is. I like to think I create a safe space for students to grow and take risks. But I didn't truly realize the importance until I was doing something brand spanking new. That first night I showed up for my first hockey game, all I wanted was to feel welcomed and supported as I tried hockey for the first time. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, "I'VE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE... PLEASE DON'T JUDGE ME!" and... I kinda did say that. I wanted people to know this was new for me so they wouldn't judge me, make fun of me, etc. And it made me think of my students when I ask them to try something new. It can be intimidating! It wasn't until I was in this environment myself that I realized how you can really thrive if you feel safe to take risks and knowing that you'll be supported. I'm grateful for Coach Rob and the people in my league (so far) that have allowed me to learn at my own pace. 


The Power of Specific Feedback
Speaking of Coach Rob, I stated from the get-go that I knew nothing... I didn't know what off sides were, positions, how to stop, you name it! And he took me under his little wing and looked out for me. He would give me little tips that I could apply right away, even if it meant pausing the whole game to do so. And on Sunday, after my first shift in the game, he came over to the bench and told me that was my best shift yet and stated that I hustled up and down quickly and had good placement depending on the puck's placement. What did it make me want to do? KEEP DOING THAT! I knew what I was doing right thanks to his feedback, so it helped remind me what to do. And I thought, yes! We are always told to give our students specific, immediate feedback. Again, I know it's best practice, but until you are on the other side of giving it, you realize how much of an impact it makes in terms of confidence and performance. It took Rob a little extra time to skate over to our bench and share that, but it was really helpful for me and I appreciated it, so I want to do the same for my students.

The Power of Reinforcing and Encouraging Language
I remember getting off the ice on one of my shifts and skating over to the door (I can't hop the side yet). As I stepped in and sat on the bench with the other people on my team (many who I didn't even know their names... and still don't... we've only played 2 games and not everyone puts their name on their helmet) and they said, "Nice job out there, Kelli." I looked around and thought, "They must be talking to someone else... I don't know what I'm doing out there." They continued to do that as I skated by the bench going for a puck- I could hear them say, "You got this, Kelli, go for it!" Knowing my teammates, who I didn't even know, were encouraging me, made me want to work harder and made me feel welcomed and safe (see reason #1). This can be taken back to the classroom. I try to encourage my students and have them encourage others, but again, until I experienced it in a situation where I didn't feel super successful, I realized the power of it. 

So what do I mean by all of this?
I'm not saying to go out and try hockey. Although, if you haven't ever, maybe you should. It is super fun, and you can feel yourself get better each time with practice. But if you're like, "No, thanks- not really my cup of tea," then try to find something that you are interested in, but have little to no experience in it. It has to be something that you are pretty new to, to experience any or all of these powerful moments. Also, it's helpful to find something where you can get feedback from 'experts' and team centered for the other aspects. I think if you do, you'll realize the real reason why these things are best practice in the classroom and hopefully make them more of a priority (as I will now put more emphasis on making sure these things are always at the forefront of my mind). It is a very humbling experience that I think is making me a better person and a better teacher.