Monday, November 21, 2011

Barnes and Noble Book Fair!

For the past two years, our school has teamed up with Barnes and Noble to do a fundraiser/book fair event. From 4-8 pm on Wednesday, November 16, families were invited to come get free cookies and cocoa, listen to stories being read aloud, be entered in a drawing for prizes and buy books (with a percentage of the proceed going to our school!). It's a pretty fun event and a nice excuse to spend a few 'quiet' hours at the bookstore. :)
Last year, I was babysitting my roommate's daughter during the event, so split my time between listening to the stories, playing with the trains, and raiding the cookie table. This year, I was off-duty, so I brought my laptop and a book and decided to just relax.
When I was announcing the event to my students, I told them I would be there from 4-6 and they should make sure to come find me so I could get them a free book. They all freaked out when I said this.. half of them were freaking out at the thought of a brand-new, free book... the rest were freaking out because they thought I was going to be playing Hide-and-Seek in the store and they actually had to FIND me! I assured them it was just a saying and I would be in very plain view and not hard to find at all. (If it wasn't the middle of No-Sweets-November, my location of choice would've probably been very near the cookie center again!) :)
During the time I was there, we had a pretty decent turn-out. I only had two of my kids come, which was fine by me, although it is always fun to see them outside of school so they realize I don't actually live there 24/7.
The mayor's wife was one of the readers, as were some teachers from our school, our principal, and a few staff from other local middle schools. It was cool to see all of the community getting involved.
I eventually got recruited to hand out cookies and was VERY proud of my self-control in not taking even a bite of the super soft, sprinkled sugar cookies or the chocolate chunk chocolate cookies! When the mad rush of students and parents wanting cookies had ended, I was relieved by another teacher and the assistant principal, so I said my farewells and came home!

The Reading Specialist from our school enthralling students in storytime!
It sure was a PARTY!
You don't understand how much will-power I proved myself to have by not eating these!

Friday, November 18, 2011

November 11, 2011

11/11/11. The luckiest day ever. :)

After a short debate from my students as to whether or not the world would end on this day, we got down to business. It was Veteran's Day, so we spent some time talking about how to honor our servicemen and women. Then, I announced that at 11:11, we were going to take a class picture that they would always remember. I told them that when I was in 7th grade, my whole school gathered in the gym at 9:09 am to celebrate 9/9/1999. I shared that it was a moment I would always treasure and remember and I wanted to give them the same experience. It was a touching moment. They were all super stoked. I was excited and smiling until Mr. Smart Aleck in the group had to shout out, "You were in 7th grade in 1999?! I wasn't even born yet!" Follow that with a 10 minute discussion on my age and that shining moment was over.
We did end up taking the picture, and I do believe they will remember this day for a long time, as will I. How lucky are we?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

And then there were 26...

While we were celebrating a fellow 4th grade teacher's retirement at the end of last year, it was a joyous occasion and we were all extremely thrilled for her. We were also excited by the news that a new teacher would be joining our team, one who we all knew and got along well with. Well, over the summer, things change and turns out our "numbers" weren't high enough to warrant that new teacher being hired at our school. I think it was about 4 days before school started when this news was finally broken to us and we came to the realization that we'd each be maxing out our classrooms this year. I got my first 'tentative' class list with a whopping 25 students on it! There were definitely some periods of freak-out with that news, but seeing as there was nothing I could do about it, I tried to keep a positive attitude and set up the room for all of the smiling faces I'd be seeing soon. (It didn't help that every 3rd grade teacher or administrator who saw my class list made a sour face and basically said "good luck!"...). Well, the first day of school came and went. Three students from my list hadn't shown up, but three new ones got assigned to me that day. 25 students. I can work with that.
About 2 weeks into school, one of my girls moved out of state, so I was at a comfortable 24. We had gotten into our routines and we hardly even noticed that we were the second largest class in the whole school.
Fast forward a few weeks to Halloween. I already knew it would be a crazy week, but it turned out to be crazier still when I got the news that I was getting two new kiddos! Up to 26. At first it was frustrating, but the longer I think about it and adjust to the news/reality, my perspective changes. Instead of stewing on the negatives and complaining about how difficult it is, I try to see the positives. A) I get to provide a quality education to 26 students who will one day make up our nation's leaders and workforce.
B) Lots of teachers around America/the world have wayyy more than 26 students in a class and often much smaller/lower quality facilities! I should be thankful it's only 26 (for now, at least! I heard I'm not "maxed out" until I reach 30.... holy moly!) and I have a huge, beautiful classroom for them!
C) My principal/the administration must trust me with all these little ones or they'd find a way to send them (or me!) somewhere else. That's a lot of trust!
D) More students = higher probability of funny stories for my blog! :)

Hopefully I can keep this attitude up in the middle of the day when all 26 of them are talking at once and I feel like storming out of the classroom!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Just Call Me Sherlock

About a year ago, I did a post highlighting some of the additional duties assigned to a classroom teacher (read it here if you missed it!). As I was grading my students' Science Tests and some reading homework tonight, I realized there was one very important role I forgot to mention... Detective/Code Breaker. Now, I know the government pays big money for their agents to be trained to decipher all different types of codes and information, but I might venture so far as to say that money is being wasted. I think those agencies should just consider hiring some elementary school teachers (or students) to do this decoding. I spend about 9 hours a day doing just that... let me show you. :)

Science Test:
Q: What are 3 Natural Resources in Virginia?
A: Stach you of libary. 
Literal Translation: Statue of Liberty.
Interpretation: "Obviously, the Statue of Liberty, located in New York, is made of copper, which is a mineral. Virginia has many mineral natural resources."

Q: List 3 ways to conserve water.
A: Trun of the foset.
Literal Translation: Turn off the faucet.
Interpretation: "When you're brushing your teeth, when you're washing dishes, when you're taking a bath, when you're skipping Ms. Wacek's Science lesson to play in the bathroom... think twice. Don't waste water."

Reading Homework about Mount Rushmore:
Q: If they were to add another president to Mount Rushmore, whom do you think they should add? Explain.
A: Maten Luther King Jr.
Literal Translation: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Interpretation: "I want John F. Kennedy's head on Mt. Rushmore. MLK supported JFK and both of them were assassinated."

Same question, different student...
A: Benjim Frakiln he was a genuis beouse he create eltrsid.
Literal Translation: Benjamin Franklin - he was a genius because he created electricity.
Interpretation: "I think Franklin D. Roosevelt should be added to Mt. Rushmore because he was president during the depression when people couldn't afford to use electricity. And he created thousands of jobs, which is almost as big a feat as inventing electricity."

Obviously, I'd have to go back and confirm that that's verbatim what my kids were aiming for, but considering I'm in my third year of teaching, I have a good feeling that my decoding is pretty accurate.
If I stop blogging within the next few months it's probably because someone in government read this and came to recruit me for my incredible skills. Or something like that... :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

America's First Nurse!

With the start of the second quarter, comes a shift in focus for Reading instruction from Fiction to Non-Fiction. As a whole, I'm not thrilled about this change because I find Fiction a whole lot more interesting, but hopefully we'll find good books to use to make it bearable, and make me smarter. (In the first week, I've already learned more about whales than I'll ever need to know!) :)

While we were studying "Questions to ask when reading a Biography" (thrilling, I know!), I assigned a homework page all about Clara Barton (founder of the American Red Cross). With the passage were 7 questions for the students to answer and while grading them, I decided the answers were too good not to share. :)

Question #7: Would you like to become a nurse? Explain.
Yes, because that lady helped soldiers in need and I felt it was sweet and brave. (THAT lady? The one who you just read a whole page about and now can't remember her name?)
Yes, because I would do anything to help and save others from death.
Yes, because I would take bullets out of them. (Limited view of what a nurse actually does, but....)

No, because I would not think it's cool. (Molly, about that Career Day speech... Are you going to make it COOOOOOL!?)
No, because you can touch some blood.
No, because I don't want to be in a small clinic.
No, because I don't want to get sick and die from other people. (Valid.)
No, because it's too much to take care of, too much work and it's nasty, too. (Well said.)
No, because I want to (insert choice profession here)... teach/be a policeman/be a football player.
No, because I don't want to give kids shots! It might hurt them and it might hurt me! 
No, because I am a boy. (Helllllo sexism!)

I love it when I get a chance to peek inside their brains and see what they're thinking. They're so wonderful and ridiculous!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Time for Celebration - Minute to Win It!

The first quarter is over! Holy cow! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, so my apologies for no blog posts! With the end of the first quarter came Benchmark testing (my kids rocked the Reading and have some work to do in Math...!), Report Cards, piles and piles of ungraded work that needed to be entered, meetings, conferences, etc. You name it, it's happening now! On the positive side, though, we also successfully had our first "Time for Celebration"! Every quarter, the kids have a target number of days that they need to stay on green (show good behavior) in order to earn this very valued reward. This quarter the magic number was 24! Of my 26 (that's right, TWENTY-SIX!) students, only 6 didn't make it!

So anyway, the day they'd all been eagerly waiting for finally arrived. After answering the question "What time is the celebration?" what felt like 100+ times, it finally arrived. I handed out the green tickets and we headed down to the gym. Every Time for Celebration has been a little different, but the kids have loved all of them just the same. This one was themed after the TV Show "Minute to Win It." The premise is that you have 60 seconds to complete the given challenge. At our celebration, there were 10 different challenges the kids could attempt.

My station was Ping-Tac-Toe. I have no idea if I had them playing it right, but they all enjoyed themselves and I still had a huge line when it was time to leave! There were 9 plastic cups taped together and the kids had to bounce the ping pong balls in one at a time to try and get 3 in a row. It turned into quite the workout for me picking up ping pong ball after ping pong ball, but I can use it, I'm sure. :) At one point, I was joking around with whoever was playing and one of my students looked up and said, "Ms. Wacek! I didn't know you liked to have fun!" Oh jeez. It's only the 1st quarter and they already think I'm a grinch.... :)

The other stations included:
- "Breakfast Puzzlers"(students had a minute to arrange cut up cereal boxes),
- "Balloon Bobble" (students had to keep 2 balloons airborne for a minute),
- "A Bit Dicey" (students had to stack 3 dice on top of a popsicle stick they were holding in their mouths)
- "Keep it Up" (students used an air pump to keep a feather airborne for a minute)
- "Tweeze Me" (students had to move 5 tic tacs from one bowl to another using only a tweezers)
- "Face the Cookie" (a cookie was placed on students' foreheads and they had to get it to their mouths using only facial muscles)... this was a lot of their favorites, go figure!

- "Speed Stack" (students had to stack and unstack 10 cups into a pyramid in a minute)
- "Egg Roll" (students had to roll a plastic egg down a hallway, around a cone, and back using the wind created from fanning a pizza box)
- "Fast Art" (students had 1 minute to color a "Time for Celebration" picture)

When the 40 minutes was up, the students chatted their way back to class and any onlookers would've thought they had each just been given $1,000 dollars with the smiles on their faces. Hopefully the enthusiasm was enough to motivate the 6 who spent the 40 minutes in a "booster session" learning about respectful behavior! That'd be enough for me, I'm sure! :)