Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

The seasons are a-changin' and summer weather is almost a thing of the past! I'm coming to find out that a lot of my friends consider Autumn their favorite season. While mine is definitely summer, the fall has been growing on me the past few years. I enjoy spending the cooler days outside, wearing sweatshirts/sweatpants, drinking hot apple cider, candy corn, changing leaves, football and getting ready for the holiday season. I do NOT enjoy hurricane season and the accompanying rain and shorter amounts of sunlight (it's way too dark outside when I wake up!). Since the first day of Autumn was only last week, mostly we still have summer weather out here (broke a record for high temperature on Friday!), but the rain has started setting in. Since we had a pretty bad drought this summer and I do enjoy cuddling up to a movie on a rainy day, I am not upset about the rain itself. However, when a teacher wakes up on a Monday morning and sees that the forecast for the week is rain EVERYDAY, it kind of puts a damper on things. Being stuck in a classroom with 23 hyperactive 9-year-olds for 5 days (with only one 30-minute block of PE as our very last activity on Friday) cannot be healthy for anyone! Needless to say, this week has started off interestingly.

Yesterday my kids were TERRIBLE! They could/would NOT stop talking in class, in the cafeteria, during music, in the hallway, in the bathroom, etc. One of them (if you ever came to my classroom you could probably identify him the moment you walked through the door!) spent no more than a total of 45 minutes in his seat the entire day (despite CONSTANT requests and consequences) because he was too busy doing everything he knows he is not supposed to do at school/in my classroom. A few of the kids were arguing about stupid name-calling issues the whole day. Ugh. It was so miserable. I ended the day with all of them putting their heads down and telling them that part of their homework was to think about how 4th graders are supposed to act and how we can make sure we never have a day like this again. Once they were gone, I headed promptly to the gym to release lots and lots of stress! And from there, headed to a friend's house to hang out and make sure I had lots of time and conversation with adults!

Believe it or not, today was incredible! Apparently they took to heart what I had told them to think about and they came in and were on-point all day! We were laughing and joking around (which hopefully they'll start to realize is what happens when Ms. Wacek doesn't have to yell at them all day!!) and got through a lot of learning. One particularly funny incident was when I was reading a (dumb, but required!) story to them for writing. It's called "The Mud Pony" and is about a poor Native American who really wants a horse, so he makes one of out mud and it comes to life and saves his life and makes him famous. Anyway, the purpose of reading was for the students to pay attention to the Organization of writing (good beginning, organized middle, conclusive ending). So, after I read the first few pages that said something along the lines of "there was a poor
Indian boy who would always go and watch the other boys take care of their horses and really wanted one for himself," I paused and asked students what they thought of the beginning/if it made them want to keep reading, etc. Then, just because predictions are a huge deal in 4th grade, I asked students what they thought would happen next. I got a few typical responses, and then one boy raised his hand and said "He's gonna man up." I laughed because the way he said it was very atypical of this student, but then stopped to think about it for a second and realized I had absolutely no idea what that meant. I decided instead of try and get to the bottom of his statement, I would just keep reading. Oh, if only it were possible to understand what was going through their pretty little heads. The rest of the day was awesome with only one little freak out period after I found out they had misbehaved in the cafeteria. I'm hoping that tomorrow (being an early-dismissal day) will be equally as great!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Let the Year Begin!

Ok, I realize we just finished week 3 of the school year, but in some ways it was the first REAL week. The first two weeks are part of what's called the 8-Day Count, during which time students and teachers get moved around based on class sizes, schedules are changed, extra attendance procedures have to be done, etc. Not to mention, that so much time is spent on routines/rules/welcome back activities that it seems like less learning is done. But, by week 3, the students are comfortable with each other and me and we're really starting to look like a class. We are hitting the curriculum hard and rocking it! I've been blessed with a WONDERFUL group of kids and it's been awesome to see them open up a little and let their real personalities come out.
One girl who I thought had no friends in the class and reads/keeps to herself as much as I'll allow, really woke up this week. We were playing a review game called King and Queen and it was her turn at the board. All of a sudden, she put on her crown, turned around and started dancing and giving thumbs up/pointing out into the crowd, just like a celebrity would do while receiving an award or something. Then, later that same day, she came and told me she had written a story and asked if she could read it aloud to the class. We had a few extra minutes, so I let her, and the class was absolutely captivated. It was a really cool experience and definitely inspired the rest of the kids to be writers, which I love!
So, while she was positively coming out of her shell, I also started to see the trouble-maker side of some of my sweet little boys. I was lucky enough to intercept a note being passed around that was full of lists... there was the Sexy List (which only had the names of the two boys passing the note!), an Ugly List, a Weird List, a Dome (which is their spelling of Dumb, ironically enough!) List and a Couples List. Since I can't stand having drama in my classroom, I passed the note and the culprits off to the guidance counselor who was able to spend some time talking to them about respect and other people's feelings, etc. Haven't seen anymore notes since then, so hopefully they got the point... for now at least.

Besides watching my little angels evolve into chatterboxes, it was a busy and full week. On Thursday, our school had 99% attendance, which is pretty much unheard of!  It also just so happens that it was the Autumnal Equinox and a full moon. One of the first things I remember learning from my cooperating teacher during student teaching is that kids get all sorts of out-of-whack on the day of a full moon. Walking around the school on Thursday proved that there was some truth to this statement, as literally every classroom I walked past I heard teachers saying how much recess was being lost or other consequences were being incurred.

Then today, my class and one of the other 4th grades got our chance to sit through Family Life Education. The boys got educated in the morning and the girls had the afternoon. Luckily, I had the privilege of entertaining whichever group was not in FLE and avoiding the awkwardness/stifled giggles of the kids. Thankfully, though, Danielle Bozung kept me in the loop about the topics being covered and some of the more ridiculous statements the 65-year-old Sex Ed teacher was making... (For example: She said, "blood brother, blood sister is dangerous. Find another way to be best friends or you’ll get HIV." Not to try and mortify the kids or anything, but they WILL get HIV if they touch another student's blood. Haha.) Apparently 4th grade is when they learn about their own gender/bodies/puberty and germs, and then in 5th grade they get to learn about the other gender and "how to make a baby". Another reason I think I'll stick with 4th grade. :)

Another awesome part of my week was getting to watch one of my student's football games. He told me about one last week, but I wasn't able to make it and so he came in everyday this week asking me if I could come on Thursday. At first I went to the wrong location and thought I had been given wrong information, but then found another field with the same name and his game. It was a wonderful cultural experience (I was one of 2 white people there), and I actually knew more people than I was expecting. I saw my student and his brother (who is actually one of Danielle's students from last year), and finally met their dad. I saw the mom and sister of one of my students from last year, and I saw another 5th grader from Palmer. The game was pretty typical peewee football, with not too much movement of the ball, and it ended in a 7-7 tie. My student played quite a bit, so it was fun to watch him in his element. It was truly a privilege to be able to support him and show him that I am interested in his life and what's important to him. Here are some pictures from the event.

My little All-Star. He's a scrawny little guy who plays Center and some Defense!
Teachers aren't allowed to have favorites. But if we were, he'd definitely be on the list!
Hahaha. Those players are the cutest things I have ever seen.

The Spartans vs. The Panthers under the Thursday Night Lights.

So, that was my week. In my life outside of school, the highlights had to be starting a new (challenging) series at church, ALMOST scoring a run in our kickball game (got tagged out halfway between 3rd and home in our 8-3 loss!) and the season premiere of The Office. I am blessed!

Grading Papers

Anyone who wants to be a teacher/is preparing to be a teacher/or any little kid who pretends to be a teacher LOVES grading papers. My sisters are always asking me to bring home papers to grade (which I GLADLY take them up on!) and have a blast helping me. Once you become a teacher, though, grading papers quickly loses its appeal. Instead of a fun little activity, it becomes a never-ending task. This year, it was my mission to stay on top of my grading and not let it pile up like I was in the habit of doing last year. So far, so good (week 3!). Since it's not such a huge burden anymore, it's actually hasn't been dreadful and I've actually been able to enjoy some of it. One of the things that is the most fun about it, is reading some of the students' RIDICULOUS answers.. or lack thereof.

For instance, we took a math test today about place value and decimals. One of the questions asked, "Which is greater, 0.7 or 0.07? Explain." My favorite answers were:
- "No."
- "0.07 because it has more numbers."(Ugh. I seriously went over this like 8,000,000 TIMES!)
- "They both are the same except one just has another zero." (Then they're not the same!!!)

Then, I was checking the spelling tests... one of the words was 'spelling' which, thankfully, most of the kids spelled right. On one student's paper, the word spelling was spelled correctly, and then at the bottom was a huge "title" for the page that said "SEPPING TEST :)" Hmmmm. Not sure what to do with that one.. except show you proof.
See the correctly spelled word at number 5.. then see the HUGE incorrect spelling at the bottom!
They keep me guessing, that's for sure. And, the best part is, it's not something that only happens at the beginning of the year... My mom recently forwarded me an email I had sent to my family at the very end of the last school year. We were studying ecosystems and the students' answers were so ridiculous I had to share them with someone! Upon reading them again, I thought they were worthy of posting here.   

Question: How will the owl be affected if the population of rabbits suddenly decrease?
- "Fly away."
- "There will not be a lot of light."
- "He will be mega hungry."
- "I will not have anything to eat."
- "By dying." 

Question: What is the niche of the worm shown in this food web?
- "Squirrel."
- "Bird."

Haha. Somewhat discouraging because it makes me wonder if they EVER listen to anything I say, but all too hilarious to really care too much!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

You've heard of Bill Nye....

Well, he may be the Science Guy, but according to my class, he's got nothing on me. :) If you asked my last year's class at the end of the year what their favorite subject was, I think more than 75% would have said science. The reason being, the experiments. Since I know that everyone always learns best through personal experience and science lends itself easily to such experiences, I try to fit in as many experiments as possible to our curriculum. In 4th grade science we study cool things like kinetic and potential energy, the solar system, electricity, weather, and ecosystems... obviously, some are easier to find experiments for than others, but sometimes I just find a cool experiment that I really want to do/know my kids would love, so I stretch it to somehow make it fit into a subject.

Perfect example is the experiment we did on Friday. After teaching my kids about Manipulated and Responding Variables (I know, I know. Who in their right mind would ever put this in a 4th grade curriculum is beyond me!!), I figured I needed a way to reinforce these ridiculously long words/abstract concepts to my kids. So, my class joined up with Mrs. Bozung's 4th grade class and we decided to use the steps of the Scientific Method to figure out an answer to the problem: Which type of Soda will Shoot the Highest when Mixed with Mentos? We worked through each of the steps (research, hypothesis, constants, variables) and then headed out to the basketball court to get our data. Here are some pictures...

My kids were sold on this experiment as soon as I broke out the mentos. Adding the soda sealed the deal. Then when I told them we'd be combining the two to make an "explosion".. you can imagine.
If anyone has any ideas for catchy scientist names, please let me know. Rhyming with Wacek can be difficult.
Thanks mom for the sweet lab coat! My kids officially think I know something about science!
Mrs. Bozung rockin' her sweet safety goggles and making up some schpiel about safety first.
Orange soda was a dud.
Sam's Cola got up to about 3 feet
Diet Cola was the winner! Up past 5 feet high!! Our inference was that maybe it was because of the aspertame? Who knows. I just LOVE the look on each child's face!
A shot of the other half of the group during the Mountain Dew fountain.  A lot of kids hypothesized this would be the winner. It only got to 2 1/2 feet.

Such a fun day! Definitely beats a growing plants experiment!

My Classroom

Wow! I forgot how exhausting and busy it was to be a full-time teacher! I've hardly had time to sleep this week, let alone update my blog, so I apologize for that! I am getting more into the blogger mindset, though, and various times throughout the week have stopped and thought, "Hmm, I should blog about that".. so hopefully I'll get more into a routine and be able to squeeze some posts in throughout the week. Since that didn't happen this week, though, I'll just post everything today! I'll break it up into a few posts, though, so it's easier to manage! :)

First, I figured I needed to post some pictures of my classroom so you all can see where the wonder and excitement happens and have some frame of reference for my stories. The pictures are from Open House night (hence the food on the reading table!), as I figured my room would never be that clean again... ever! (And only 2 weeks in, I'm discovering my prediction was correct!) Those of you who have been removed from elementary school for a while, may be overwhelmed with the amount of color/posters/activities/overall busyness, but if you were 9-years-old, it would be just perfect. :) And, since this was taken before school started, the walls have only gotten more full with the wonderful projects, rules, and procedures that we've created in the past 9 days.

With that being said, take a look into my world!

The view from my desk. Only improved by the 23 little ones that fill up those empty desks.
The view from the doorway.
Last year, my door said "Here's the Scoop: 4th Grade is a Real Treat" and each student's name was on a scoop of ice cream on a giant cone... This year, I saw this popcorn set and really wanted it. Didn't put two and two together until after it was already up that people might start to wonder about my crazy junk food obsession. Oh well. I like to eat!

(**Note: If you click on the pictures, you'll have the ability to zoom in... I think. I'm new to this whole blog thing, remember?)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Week 1

This week has been LONG! I can't believe summer vacation was just last week... I'm quickly getting acquainted with my new kids and learning SO much about each of them! They are a WONDERFUL group and I'm excited for the year.

For those of you who are not teachers, I'll let you know that the first week can be a little awkward, difficult, nerve-wracking, etc. It usually involves a lot of awkward silences (especially Day 1 when the students are staring at you like you're some freak who walked off of a strange planet), rules and routines, a lot of get-to-know-you activities, rules and routines, a constant flow of new students registering and joining your class (leaving you to greet this new student and get him or her acquainted, find him a desk and all of the necessary textbooks and journals, all while making sure the other 20 students are doing something productive), reviewing from last year to get a grasp on the ability level of your students (after which there is either a HUGE sigh of relief and excitement or a HUGE groan and pulling out of hair wondering how this child ever made it to 4th grade!), and lots more rules and routines. Thankfully, I've been blessed with a terrific group of children so this first week has been positive and we've already gotten through a lot of learning!

Along with the first week jitters and craziness, there have been some funny moments. For instance, yesterday we did an activity to help students learn each others' names. In the game, the students each had to think of an animal or food that started with the same letter as their first name. (I only included food because often there are a lot of names starting with the same letter and we run out of animals or the child's name starts with a letter for which there are no animals!... next time I play this game, I will require students to come up with an action to go with their animal or food to assist in the memory part.) The first person in the circle says her name and her animal (Chelsea the Cat). The second person says her name and her animal/food, and then the first person's name and animal/food (Jamey the Jellybean and Chelsea the Cat). It continues around until the last person has to repeat everyone's name and animal. While the game itself turned out to be a lot longer than expected and the kids got tired of standing around and listening, I had a good time listening to the animals and foods they came up with. First sign of trouble was when one of my student's name started with a T and she decided her food would be Pizza... hmm. No alliteration there, so she changed to Tomato. I had another boy begging for me to let him change his name to something with a C (it's currently a B) just so he could be Cheetah. Then I had Nicholas the Nihilator (yes, you read that correctly) and Kaleb King Cobra. Haha. We study plants and animals at the end of the school year, so I take no credit for those choices.

Another funny story happened today during writing. The students were working on writing news articles about an important time in their lives. The directions said to include enough detail to answer the questions who, what, when, where and why. Now, through my explanation most kids gathered that the Why referred to "Why was it important?"... one child, however, missed that part. This girl was writing about her baby brother being born. When she got to the Why she asked "Do I have to answer the question "Why was my mom pregnant?'" Not wanting to have my Family Life Education lessons any earlier than required, I quickly said "NO! Why is your baby brother important?" and walked away. phew. They sure do keep me on my toes!


I've never done a blog before, but I always enjoy reading other people's! While teaching last year, I was constantly laughing at ridiculous things my students said or just crazy happenings in the classroom. I would occasionally text or email my family with the stories, but figured this was an easier way to get that information out, could be updated more frequently and would allow more people to share in the fun... plus my family's inboxes won't be overwhelmed with any more emails than we have room for (thanks to mom and her forwards!)

I'm not promising to update every day.. or even every week (let's be honest, life is busy and full!), but I will try to be consistent with it, and will most definitely include the funniest of stories (or at least ones that I find funniest... sorry if they don't always come across funny or if they're ones you had to be there for!)

With that being said, enjoy! Please comment if you can!