Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wordless Wednesday {Hungry?}

I'm a snacker. And not the healthy kind. (Does that even exist?) I crave something sweet every day at 3pm. I try to alternate between healthy and indulgent. This week I'm going through my chocolate and peanut butter phase. :)

What about you? What do you snack on in the afternoon? When do your cravings hit?

Monday, January 19, 2015

The More We Talk...

We teachers talk too much. There, I said it. But it's not doing our students any favors, because the more we talk, the less they hear. This realization has transformed the way I've been teaching this year... especially as a teacher of 75 second graders (many whose first language is not English). I recently read that students begin tuning us out after a mere two minutes of listening to us talk. TWO minutes! As if we don't feel the constant race against time already: Teachers (and parents) are competing against ever-decreasing attention spans and the increasingly immediate feedback of social networking sites, video games, and screen time in general. 

With this in mind, I've started doing a few things to keep my teacher talk to a minimum in order to maximize student engagement and my feedback. After all, a very wise woman (one of my former principals), once mused, "Less teaching, more feedback" is the key. We want them to have plenty of opportunities to practice what we're teaching... even to make mistakes and then learn from those mistakes. 

Here are the things I've implemented in my classroom(s) this year, in an attempt to beat the clock and make sure my students hear what's important... and have plenty of time to practice and receive feedback from me.

1.  A Timer
I've started using a timer during mini-lessons. Before I start teaching, I set it for 5 minutes, and I make sure to have the students turn and discuss/respond to an idea before the timer goes off. Then I set it for another five minutes. I have to be done teaching by the end of that five minutes. (Because even if I'm not done, they're probably no longer listening anyway, right?)

2.  Partner Teach
I ask students to teach their partners what they've just learned, or what their takeaway is. This is similar to #1. The difference is discussing an idea vs. explaining their new learning so others can understand. This is a quick way to see who "gets it" and who doesn't. For the few who don't get it, I will be meeting with those kiddos as soon as I dismiss the others to get started. I don't re-explain and add time to my lesson if it's only a few students who are confused. 

3.  Directions: Visually, Orally, and With Movement
I give directions in four steps or less, written on chart paper, and have the students act them out with me while they're still seated on the rug. (I do all whole-group instruction on the rug.) For example, when students are starting a new word sort, and their first step is to write their initials on the back of each word, we act out turning over the piece of paper and writing our initials.

These three things save us a huge amount of time and confusion in the long run. Before I started teaching this way, I couldn't escape the dozens of questions before & during small group or independent work, and we almost never finished any task. Probably because they had already tuned me out by the time I got to the directions.

Now, as students begin their work, I'm ready to provide feedback individually or in small groups. This is where the true learning comes in, especially as they "try out" the new strategy I've taught. I'll be there to let them know how they're doing, and what they can do to improve.

I hope these ideas help you, too! What are the ways you keep your teacher talk to a minimum? I would love to hear what works for you!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

It's time for another Wordless Wednesday with Miss DeCarbo at Sugar and Spice!

After returning from our two week break, I was happy to have these reminders to refer to with students. We're slowly easing into this new year, discussing what they learned before the break and setting goals for our next units.

How do you keep track of what you've taught? Do you have a visual reference in the classroom? Do you (or students) refer to it? I'd love to hear what works for you!

Happy new year!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Currently January

Well, this is the first time I've blogged in weeks, and with good reason. I wanted to unplug during the break and spend my time with friends while enjoying my travel to Paris and Barcelona. Now, with only a few days left before I go back to school, I'm ready to get back to my normal routine... well, almost. ;)

The past few days in Barcelona have been a bit like a grownup slumber party... Hanging out with friends day and night but taking things easy in this city. These friends recently moved to Barcelona from San Francisco, so I'm not sure when I'll be able to see them again. :( Maybe this summer?

Now that the new year is here, I'm thinking about freshening up the apartment. Right now it's painted with that awful off-yellow color, which makes everything look dingy and old. Especially the kitchen, which (in my opinion) should be nice and bright. It makes me want to spend as little time in that room as possible (even though I love to eat)!

In other home-related goals, I've already crafted a dinner plan template for the week, for me to complete and shop for during each weekend. I really want to have more consistency with lunch and dinner. I absolutely hate having to think about it every. single. day. UGH!

Since I'm not sure if I'm ready to adopt a puppy yet, I think I'm going to foster one. That way it's short term but I can also get an idea about the commitment required... and whether I'm ready to be a full-time mom (to a pup)!

Wishing all of you a happy, healthy new year!

And be sure to check out Farley's page for more Currently!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Scoop {12/14/14} with a Freebie!

It's time to link up with Teaching Trio again for The Sunday Scoop!

There's something about looking at only four more days before the holiday break that makes me feel quite a range of feelings. Part of me says, "Do I really have four MORE days? It feels like this holiday is taking FOREVER to get here!" And another part of me says, "Wait! What? Only four more days? There's so much more I wanted to do with my students this month!" But mostly I'm saying, "How the heck am I going to keep these Christmas-crazed kiddos engaged and even somewhat focused on learning and staying off the "naughty" list during these next four days??"

One of the tricks up my sleeve is winter-themed read-alouds. Plenty of them. One of my favorites is this one:

Also, these holiday kindness cards.
(Click on the picture for this FREEBIE!)

What do you have planned for this last week? I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Currently December

December is HERE! That means all kinds of festivities, decorations, friends, family, and food! YUM! To get this month started, I'm linking up with Oh' Boy 4th Grade for her Currently linky.

Listening: I know I'm the last one on earth to find out about this series, but I just started watching it on Netflix a few months ago and I LOVE it! The characters are great and the story lines are clever... I'm hooked!

Loving: So far, my students are still working hard and haven't become too distracted by the quickly-approaching holiday break. Fingers crossed. This could completely change tomorrow. 

Thinking: I've planned to do a LOT in these next three weeks, and I'm really hoping all goes as planned. (See above.)

Wanting: Since the beginning of the school year, I've been trying to figure out a schedule (and gym) that works for weekdays and weekends... Luckily I live only a few miles from where I work (but public transportation makes the distance seem greater!).

Needing: Well, now that December is here, I have to stop procrastinating and finish booking my flights for the holidays... I'm going to France and Spain! I still have one more ticket to book.

Giving: I wanted to give something that teachers could use this holiday season. I know we all focus on teaching and modeling kindness throughout the year, but this time of year it seems even more appropriate. So, here's my freebie! Use these kindness cards during morning meetings, as brain breaks, or to go along with the character education program you use. 

Happy holidays!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Holiday Desserts: Variations of Old Favorites

I don't know about you, but I LOVE holiday desserts. Cakes, cookies, pies, and basically anything with cream cheese or brown sugar. This is the time of year that my kitchen sees the most action. I love to share what I bake with friends, colleagues, and students, but this year I have a few students with (extremely) severe allergies, so I won't be taking any desserts into the classroom. So, it looks like I'll have to find other people to share with. :)

In this post, I've included several of my personal favorites. Most of them are classic holiday desserts... but with a slight twist. For example, these vanilla sugardoodles are inspired by the classic sugardoodles, minus the cinnamon and with more of a vanilla flavor. Mmmmm... vanilla.

That said, I have to admit that I've included one classic recipe without any twist... Unless you consider a homemade chocolate cake a twist. This cake is so easy to make that I will never go back to boxed cake again! And, I can pronounce all of the ingredients! Bonus!

Click on any of the pictures below to take you to the recipe. I hope you try some of these and love them as much as I do! :)

Soft and Chewy Vanilla Sugardoodles
Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache
Mini Chocolate Espresso Bundt Cakes
Strawberry No-Bake Cheesecake
Browned Butter Sugar Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles