Saturday, June 28, 2014

Reading Logs for Teachers Who Hate Reading Logs

I am OBSESSED right now!  I always knew I had a font fetish, but recently, I found the cutest frames, borders, and backgrounds to use in the curriculum and materials that I create!  How is it that I'm just now figuring this out???  I've seen products with all that great stuff, but I never really thought too much about how they got there.  I just typed in my debit card number and downloaded my copy.  But now that I know where and how to get them, I can't stop creating!

Here are two items that I created a couple of days ago, with a little background to go along with them...  I HATE keeping up with reading logs.  I mean really, REALLY hate it.  As a teacher, what am I looking for?  A book title with a parent signature next to it that says you read for 20 minutes each night?  What's the purpose in that?  Yes, I realize that reading every night is important (I even have a cute chart that breaks down the total minutes per year vs. a student who doesn't do the reading).  But if it's not quality reading, what's the point?

And here's a dirty little secret...sometimes I sign my own kids reading logs when they haven't even read!  I know!  Sacrilege!  Please don't turn me in!!!

So anyway...I decided to create a reading log that will actually hold my students accountable for analyzing what they've read each night.  Each bundle contains 36 weeks of thought-starters or questions - one for each week of the school year.  (I tried to fit them to one or two pages to save the baby trees!)  The logs prompt higher order thinking in a multitude of ways.  Download your copy for FREE to see just what I mean!  Choose the Grades 2-3 logs, or the Grades 4-5 logs, or BOTH!

Daily Home Reading Logs - Grades 2-3*
Daily Home Reading Logs - Grades 4-5*

Happy reading, everyone!

*The links have now expired, but you can purchase the logs on my TPT store by clicking on the link in the side bar.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not (Just) Another Project!

When I was in school and heard the word project, I always groaned.  "Another project???"  It usually meant a research paper, or maybe we got to "create" some sort of display (which was really just a research paper all cut up and glued on poster board).  I didn't like writing papers when I was a student.  I got more caught up in the logistics of writing the paper than in actually analyzing the topic.  Have I written enough words?  Should I single-space or double-space?  Are the lengths of my paragraphs varied enough?  Do I need a header?  Should I include page numbers?  Is my bibliography accurate?  It seemed those were the things the teacher graded, rather than the content of my paper. 

Did I mention that, as a teacher, I HATE grading those infernal things?  But research is an elementary TEK in Texas, so what's a teacher to do? 

Sorry, Curriculum & Instruction, but we won't be writing research papers in my classroom.  I will teach my students critical-thinking skills, but I'm not going to make 10- and 11-year-olds get carpal tunnel syndrome typing a thousand-word research paper on animals and organisms.  I'll leave that to their college professors.

Instead of writing a research paper, my students created a magazine and a 3D model based on an animal or organism of their choice.  The Animals & Organisms Project*** is something I created to help keep my students on track.  It's a 15-page bundle that includes research guides, note-taking pages, checklists, a letter home, and other helpful information.

This was one of my kiddos' favorite activities this year!  Download it for FREE by clicking on the link above.  Click on the link in the sidebar to visit my TeachersPayTeachers online store for more activities that aren't just "another project."

***The Animals & Organisms Project link has expired, but you can always find it, and much more, in my TPT online store!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It's only Tuesday!

It's been a heck of a week!  I watched my Spurs win the NBA championship, dropped my cell phone in a cup of coffee, mowed, edged, & watered a half-acre yard, cleaned my house, ran 4 miles, created an order form for some sports photography I'm shooting on Friday, went to lunch with my family on Father's Day, captured head shots for an up-and-coming teen star, hung with some girlfriends and all the kiddos at the pool, and made my own dusting spray (because I was too tired to run to the store for some Pledge - and it's awesome - comment for the recipe!).  This is how I spend my "spare" time when my kids are with their dad.  And it's only Tuesday!

And yes, I'm still teaching summer school!  Six more days to go! 

At the end of last week, I got an email from my principal that she'd like me to present a mini-lesson to the faculty during staff development in August.  (Sigh of relief!)  I already have something that I used this past year.  Thank God for small favors!

My school kiddos really struggled with understanding decimals.  After the first assessment, I realized that they needed some serious reteach.  Soooooooooooooo...I taught a mini-lesson on ordering decimals, then used the Batting Average Decimal Challenge*** that I created as a fun activity to practice ordering decimals.  I added an assessment to the activity to monitor the success of the my reteach.  Click on the activity to download a copy!

Here's to the rest of the week! 

***The link has expired, but you can find the Batting Average Decimal Challenge in my TeachersPayTeachers online store!  Happy teaching!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer School Blues

I hate test prep.  That is so NOT why I became a teacher, and it's not how I teach.  It's just not. 

However, I am 4 days into summer school.  Around Day Two, I realized that I had a grand total of nine (yes, I said NINE) instructional days to prepare these kiddos for their third administration of state math testing.  All seven of my new babies failed to master the first two administrations, and this is their final chance to pass a test that determines whether or not they are ready for middle school (don't even get me started on that).  These kiddos are struggling in every category of math - geometry, measurement, fractions, place value, probability...  So it's not like I can focus on one area.  I have to review and reteach 180 days of instruction in just nine days. pressure.

Teaching this way lit a fire in me, a fire that usually doesn't rekindle til the end of July.  I want to jump into next year with an arsenal of strategies to target my kiddos' areas of need.  So I created Number Stumpers, a bundle of activities and assessments to do just that (click here*** to download a copy).  I teach 5th grade, so I started out focusing on decimals, but soon realized that math is a foreign language without a fundamental basis in number sense.  So I added activities to target developmental needs in primary and intermediate grades. 

I did find a way to have a little math fun.  The school I'm at for summer school has a beautiful courtyard with a HUGE painted map of the United States smack in the middle of it.  Though we have no "official" recess, after lunch on Thursday we headed to the courtyard.

Me:  "Find four states whose borders create perpendicular lines." 

Them:  "Miss, what does perpendicular mean?"


***The link has expired, but visit my TeachersPayTeachers online store to get yourself a copy!  (link in the sidebar)

Monday, June 9, 2014

What Was I Thinking???

Summer school started today.  This is the first time in thirteen years that I've worked during my vacation.  I'm still on the fence about whether or not it will be worth it.  Certainly the extra money will be nice.  But God gave teachers several months of vacation for a reason!  By the end of the year, we are very near burn-out (if we haven't spontaneously combusted!). 

When state testing ended this year, I knew it hadn't truly ended for me.  As of today, I have nine kiddos that need me to help them pass their third attempt at the standardized math test so that they can move into middle school.  How will we do it in eleven instructional days?  I'm hoping today's freebie will help.  Fractions are difficult, especially for children with learning disabilities.  Games break up the monotony of test prep, and that was my intent with this activity - racing to change improper fractions to mixed numbers, and vice versa.  Click here to download Fraction Find!***  All of my products are always available at my TeachersPayTeachers online store, but if you sign up to follow my blog, you will never miss a freebie!  You'll receive an email every time I update!

Eleven days.  That's what I keep telling myself.  Just eleven days.  And then my summer can officially begin...

***The link to Fraction Find has expired!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

(Not) The End.

Today was the last day of school, and much more bittersweet for me than usual.  I've been teaching for 13 years, but unlike previous years, ending my first year as a 5th grade teacher was full of tears.  The last day of school is always the preface to a new book in the series, no matter what grade you teach.  It happens every year.  But for me, this year was different.  

This wasn't just my first year as a 5th grade teacher - it was also my first year as a special education collaborative teacher.  More than half of my class had a learning disability, and they had to pass two state tests - reading and math - in order to move on to 6th grade.  Almost half of them did not master one or both of the tests last year.  I entered the classroom on the first day of school full of doubts and questions, mostly about whether or not I could cut it.

Today, nineteen kiddos walked the stage.  Today, 180 days of hard work paid off.   It wasn't always pretty.  There were definitely tears (mine and theirs).   My collaborative partner and I worked harder than we'd ever worked before.  But those kids put forth more effort than I could ever dream of producing!  They did extra homework, attended ENDLESS tutoring, listened to me drone on incessantly, muddled through intervention after intervention...and 100% of them passed both tests. 

I decided to post my kids' favorite activity from this year.  We read The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo because they were struggling with making connections in literary text.  I developed the activities and assessments in this bundle to get them thinking about symbolism.  They especially loved the project - comparing symbols of good and evil in the novel through art.  We did an entire lesson on chiaroscuro, an artistic element that boldly contrasts light and dark.  They used what they learned to analyze symbols and characters, and then created paintings to demonstrate these symbols.  I wish I had an example to post!  But, I'm an overzealous packer at the end of the year, so they are buried at the bottom of my closet.  Enjoy the download by clicking here***, and don't forget, it will expire with the next post.  But you can always find it on my TeachersPayTeachers online store!

As teachers, we always have moments that touch our hearts forever.  Today was one of those moments for me.  My tears were pure joy and amazement and PRIDE.  Nineteen faces smiled up at me for the last time today.  I want to be just like them when I grow up. 

***The link is now expired!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Four Days and Counting...

I'm rolling my eyes as I sit here and write.  This is my third attempt at a blog.  Yep, you heard THIRD attempt.  My first attempt was a spiritual and (hopefully) encouraging look at life.  At some point, my life became jam-packed with encouraging moments, and I couldn't seem to find the time to write about them - not a bad problem to have, wouldn't you say?  A Voice from the Vine is still active, and maybe someday I will find the time, but for now, it is what it is.

My second attempt at a blog came with my photography business, which I started about a year-and-a-half ago.  I thought blogging would be the perfect way to showcase my work.  Alas, Facebook has proven to be much more efficient, and so that is where Courtney Lindsey Photography currently lives.

So why this blog?  Why now?  Well, for starters, summer is right around the corner - four days and counting!  I will have GOBS of time on my hands in between summer school, three kids, four dogs, swim team, photography, VBS...  OK, maybe not.  But luckily, these blog posts will be short and sweet (with the exception of this one!), and they will give away free stuff! 

You see, I also create lesson plans, activities, curriculum, recording sheets, posters, anchor charts, vocabulary cards, games, projects...just about anything that this obsessive-compulsive single-mom teacher can use to make life easier, a.k.a. more organized and efficient.  Yes, my OCD can be ANNOYING (and sometimes counter-productive)!!!  I wish I could just sit back and stick with last year's stuff.  But as soon as I kick my feet up, my fingers start to twitch and, before you know it, I'm back at the computer, poring over fonts and creating text-box after text-box.

So back to the blog...  I decided to share my creations with anyone who moseys on over this way, because let's face it...if you're taking the time to read my nonsense, you deserve to get something out of it!  And if something I've created can make your life easier, then WOOHOO!!!  Here's my first freebie - an End-of-Year Memory Book*** that's sure to keep your kiddos engaged while you finalize grades, stuff report cards, count textbooks, and pack up your classroom for the summer.  I created it for my 5th graders, but it will work for other grades, too.  Go ahead, download it!  It's FREE, but the link will expire with the next freebie I post, so don't wait!!!  Never fear, though - if you miss out on something, it (and TONS of other goodies) will always be available in my TeachersPayTeachers store

***The link to the Memory Book has expired!