Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Our Holidays

Hello! I'm sorry that it has been so long since I've blogged (again). I really have no excuse this time, since I have been out of grad school and school for over a week now. Hey! There's my excuse - I have been enjoying some down time with my husband.

I'll post some pictures of our festivities at the end, but for now I'll just tell you about them. First off, let me say that I am SO DISSAPPOINTED that I missed out on the white Christmas that happened in our back yard, but spending time with our families was well worth it.

We left for College Station on what Kevin likes to call "Festivus" (from Seinfeld). Otherwise known as the day before Christmas Eve. (I just now asked him how to spell that and he is yelling quotes across the house - "And now for the airing of grievances, because I GOT A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH YOU PEOPLE!").

Anyway, we arrived in College Station and spent that afternoon and evening just hanging out with my family. We took my sister into town and ate at our old Freebirds, which was amazing as usual. The next morning we got up and drove into Temple to spend the day with Kevin's family. We went straight to his Aunt Peaches' house where she made us a delicious breakfast of pancakes and ham. It snowed while we were with her! After spending a couple of hours there, we went to Christmas at his dad's side of the family. It was really great to see everyone and all of the adorable little kids there. His cousins have some of the most precious children I have ever met.

From there, we were supposed to go to Salado to see his cousin who was released from Parkland hospital here in Dallas a little over a week ago, where he was being treated for severe burns. After that we were supposed to go back to Temple for his mom's family's Christmas. Unfortunately the weather got so icy and dangerous that we had to head back to College Station early instead. We did, however stop by his mom's sister's house to drop off our gifts and some of my oreo balls, which were specifically requested by his cousins. I hear they went quite quickly, LOL.

Once we got back to College Station we spent the day with the guys playing Wii Mario Cart and the girls doing puzzles and chatting. It was a perfect Christmas Eve. Then, on Christmas morning, my Aunt Tina, Uncle Larry, and Justin joined us for my family Christmas. I love my family so much and enjoy every second that I spend with them! We tried for the second year in a row to do a gift exchange (the kind where you get a number and steal from each other). The problem is, everyone bought something specifically for them and ended up unwrapping and taking home what they brought. That was actually no fun, and may need to be re-examined for next year, LOL.

After we opened presents, we ate a good lunch and just spent time together with games, puzzles, more Wii, and naps. Then we watched Polar Express in 3D, which was so cool! Especially the part where they are squirting hot chocolate into the mugs - it's like it was being squirted right out of the screen and into your face!

We got up the next morning and ate a delicious breakfast prepared by my Grandaddy, and then we hit the road to come home. The next morning we got up and went to Kevin' mom's house for our small family Christmas with her and his sister's family. That was so much fun - once again we ate great food and spent quality time with family. Sydni (Kevin's niece, 6 yrs old) is my best little buddy and she brought most of her gifts from Santa to show me and to play with me. Debbie and I even played a Spongebob Cranium game with her. We opened presents over there, and then we spent most of the day just chatting with Debbie, which was nice.

Once we got home I took down all of the inside Christmas decorations, including the HUGE tree, while Kevin played RC cars with his little neighbor friend in the garage. I also ran the self-cleaning cycle on my oven for the first time since there was a big spill in there a while back, and I smoked up the entire house for 3 hours. Like eyes burning, coughing, need to get out of the house type of smoked up. Oops. At least it's clean now, though :) Then yesterday Kevin took down all of the outside decorations by himself while I ran errands and took a nap (payback).

It has been a wonderful holiday season, and we still get to go see friends in Houston to celebrate the New Year! Here are my pictures. I unfotunately did not take my camera in at the White family Christmas in Temple, so I have no pictures of that. I then also neglected to take my camera with me to the small Christmas at Debbie's house and therefore have no pictures of that either. Basically I am a bad photographer:

This is the snow at Aunt Peaches' house. You can't really see it :(

I was very excited!

Here is Bella in her Christmas robe.

My Grandaddy with Bella (and yes, she had a wardrobe change)!

Tex enjoyed opening presents this year, LOL

Lindsay, my dad, Justin, and Uncle Larry

My mom, Granny, and Grandaddy

Kevin and Me :)

Uncle Larry opening his own present

My dad, also opening his own present


Granny's eating here, so she has the attention of all of the pups!

This is my favorite picture. My mom bought Bella this jacket/vest SPECIFICALLY so that she could match her on Christmas. Pitiful, yes. Adorable, yes.

So there you have it! As I blogged this entry, I am sitting on my couch smelling chili in the crock pot and watching big, beautiful snowflakes fall outside my window. Life is good.

Check back soon - Kevin and I have some things that we are still trying to figure out, and work out, but we may have big news soon!

Everyone have a Happy New Year! We think 2010 is going to be a great year for us, and we wish the same for all of our friends and family!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Countdown Begins...

When I was growing up, my parents always filled a stocking for my dog, Sparkey. He would get a toy or a treat out of it every night leading up to Christmas, for several days. It was always so fun to watch him get excited and "ask" for his stocking. For a couple of years now, Kevin and I have been doing the same for our dogs. When we get the stockings out of the attic, Tex and Bella's noses go into overdrive. The stockings been hanging empty on the mantle for 2 weeks now, driving our dogs crazy, but that all changed tonight!

Tonight they got their first toy!

I love carrying on traditions; it's one of my favorite things about the holidays!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Post-Thanksgiving Update

Howdy, everyone! Kevin and I have been enjoying a nice break together from the regular stresses of life (for me, mainly just work LOL). We didn't travel this year for Thanksgiving, and instead had a really nice lunch at his mom's house in Fort Worth. It was really relaxing and the food was great!

Also, we decorated for Christmas. I have both of my trees up and Kevin got lights hung outside yesterday. Now I've started wrapping presents for under the tree! For obvious reasons, Christmas spending needs to be light for us this year. I love giving gifts, and the thought of not doing anything this year was just not sitting right with me. So I decided to hand-make my gifts. Every single gift that we give this year will be hand-made and special. I actually think that's what it should always be like, come to think of it!

Kevin's birthday is on Tuesday (the 1st) so I got him a little something today. Let's just say that I have figured out the way to please Kevin with gifts - pretend that I am buying for a 12 year old boy. His mom apparantly has this figured out as well, and gave him a remote control helicopter for his birthday. Which of course, he promptly broke while flying it recklessly in the cul-de-sac. Now we get to go to the hobby shop for replacement parts tomorrow, haha.

School has been going extremely well. I absolutely love my third grade class, and I am so glad that I switched to third this year. I have so much fun with them! I am so blessed to have a job which I enjoy so much. Sure, there is a lot of stress, some frustration, long hours, and tests of my patience. But none of that even matters because I enjoy my time with the kids 95% of the time.

In late September my students took a reading benchmark test to determine their comprehension on TAKS test-like passages and questions. They did less than spectacular, which of course is to be expected so early in the year. Still, it was extremely disconcerting to me as their teacher to see that only 58% of my students were currently in line to pass the test.

After this test, I immediately began working on a plan for comprehension skill-based small group instruction. My main problem with small groups has been that I never know when I am going to have time to pull them or what my kids will need help on at that time. I like to pull them 2-3 times a week, but it is really hard to plan for. And when you don't know how to plan for them, you don't get copies made, etc. SO I decided to put together a small groups file.

First, I went through the entire set of TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) for third grade reading. I took note of every comprehension strategy and skill that they need to learn (inferences, cause/effect, sequencing, author's purpose, summary, etc.) There are 20 of them in all. Then I made a chart of all of these skills and included rows under each column for each of my struggling students.

Then, I went through the benchmark test and determined which problems addressed each skill, and from there determined which skills the students had mastered. Next to those skills, the students got a check mark in their row. There were not very many checks on my checklist.

From there, I was able to search all of my resources (online, hard-copy, out of workbooks, and some that I created new) and pull 4-5 resources for each skill area. Some are games, some are worksheets, etc. I turned those in to get 7 copies of each and had them laminated. I then filed them according to skill behind my small groups table.

I immediately started pulling small groups and using my new materials with dry erase markers. I focused mainly on context clues, author's purpose, and summarization. When we gave a mock benchmark test last week, guess which skills they had mastered? On that test, 84% of my students passed. That's a lot better than 58%, huh? I'm excited to see what we can do by the time the TAKS test comes around in late April!

Teaching third grade is never boring, and my students always have me laughing. Here are some funny (and some cute) things that happened just last week:

1. I was given this note:

When I opened it, about 30 little notebook paper hearts fell out and inside it said "Lots of little hearts just for you."

2. I also received a note (written in colorful marker) that said "Mrs. White ROCKS! And colors ROCK too."

3. I got a note in the shape of a snowflake that said "I thought you wanted a snowflake."

4. At lunch groups, a little boy said, in a very serious tone: "Mrs. White. Did you know something? Did you know that you have a MEXICAN in here? And it's me."

5. Also at lunch groups, the kids asked me what sports I used to play. When I got to swim team, a little girl had a story. She said "My mom won't let me do swim team because she says I can't swim. But really I can swim, she just doesn't believe me. One time I decided to show her that I really can swim, but the water was actually kind of too deep. So then I almost drowned. Yeah - I guess it didn't really help me out that much."

6. My recent favorite: On Tuesday I decided to give my kids a fake quiz. All it was were a bunch of hilarious questions about Thanksgiving etiquette which made them (and me) laugh. But I started out really seriously and told them to take out a piece of paper for a pop quiz. I warned them that it was so important that I was going to take 3 GRADES on it, so if they failed they would probably fail third grade. I know, I'm so mean. Before I could start the "quiz," P brought me a note that he had furiously cut out of his writing journal in the shape of a heart. On it were the words "Mrs. White, you stole my heart." He watched me read it and then asked me if we still had to take the quiz. I told him that I appreciated his kind words, but yes, they still had to take the quiz. He sighed and muttered "It was worth a shot."

Thanks for sticking with me through my long post! I'll try and not wait so long before I write again, but I can't make any promises. I stay unbelievable busy between work, grad school, and still trying to be a decent wife!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Finally an update!!!!

Hi everyone! I am so sorry that it has been almost a month since my last update. I have been swamped with a lot of things going on. There has been the typical - balancing grad school with teaching a new grade level. Then there has been the fact that Kevin and my life has been turned completely upside down over the course of the last month.

Kevin was laid off from his job one month ago on Monday. He has been really fortunate to have a lot of leads and a lot of very promising interviews already. In fact, we are waiting to hear back from two very good prospects tomorrow or Friday. Fingers crossed! They are both for Account Manager positions at landscape companies. With everything going on, its just been difficult to find time or energy to update. We both believe that his being laid off was a blessing in disguise for more reasons than one, and we are looking forward to the next step in God's plan for us.

Have I told you that I love my new job in third grade? I know I have, but too bad. It is so much fun to just talk with the kids, especially during our weekly Lunch with Teacher days. I always find out interesting information about a lot of things. Last week I found out all about a girl's 5 stepdads and how her mom ran off each one. This week a boy informed me that he was "cursed" and his milk would spill if he tried to open it. I then opened it for him and it spilled all over me.

They are so clever! When I was explaining a game yesterday I told them that the winner would be the person who had the most cards at the end of the game. I was then asked if "possibly the person with the LEAST could be the winner, since it's always the same old people with the most."

I was also told this week "______ called me ________ Markuhhh and I am NOT a wiyting utensil!"

Today at recess I was walking down the long sidewalk to the door that we line up outside of to go in. A boy walked calmly past me and Kara (another teacher) and said "So, who thinks they can beat me to the door?" I took off running, heels and all, and beat him big time. Then he told me I was "pretty fast for an old lady." He then told Kara "Your little friend over there is faster than I thought." It was pretty funny!

Yesterday I had this conversation:
Student: "_____ called me the a word."
Me: "The really bad a word?"
Student: "Yes."
Me: "Like, the really short, bad a word?"
Student: "Yes! Like the one that you put on the Boggle board."
I looked over and, yep, there it was. A possible letter arrangement on the bottom or my board clearly spelled out "ass." I made a shocked face and my class erupted in laughter. A girl then said "Yeah. You should really be more careful, Mrs. White. Last week it said 'damn' but don't worry I didnt write it." Yikes. See picture:

While I'm posting pictures, check out this one of Kara, me, Emily, and Casey on mismatch day of Red Ribbon Week:

Try asking your third graders this question: "What is the hardest mineral?" Guaranteed you will get answers like "rock" and "metal." At least I did.

Speaking of science, though, we had our first science benchmark test today (my first ever; we didn't take them in first grade). You wouldn't believe the stuff third graders are tested on - all kinds of measurement and facts about the sun and planets, renewable/unrenewable/inexhaustable resources, and even Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness! My kids really did their best, and EVERY single one of them passed it! In fact, my class average was a 91. I am so proud of them.

This afternoon, we also took a math test. EVERY single one of my kids passed that, too, and the class average was an 88! The test was difficult because it was problem solving. There were a lot of two-step problems, extra information problems, tables, etc. The math (after they figure out how to set up the equations) was three digit addition and subtraction with regrouping. There were also a LOT of critical, higher-order thinking questions. Again, I was so proud of them! We ended the day with a little bit of an extended recess as a reward for their hard work during almost four hours of testing today.

Reading is looking up, too. On our Scholastic Reading Inventory last week I had several students increase their scores significantly from the test in September. In fact, two kids raised their scores 300 points and another raised her score 350 points! It's really starting to come together.

Kevin and I are just sitting on the couch, trying to catch up on some shows we have on DVR. A minute ago he said "I didn't VISUALLY see it..." I teased him and asked him if he auditorily saw it, or if he tactilely saw it. Annoyed, he said "Speaking of TACT, you have none." Haha

This post has definitely been disorganized, so I apologize. I'll write again soon, at least sooner than a month from now! I'm going to go spend some time with my hubby now :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Third Grade Comics :)

I was very impressed by the creativity my kids showed in writing their comic strips in the computer lab today. I took pictures of my five favorites to share with you. Hopefully they'll put a smile on your face like they did mine.

Click them to make them larger so that you can read the words.

"The Look"

"Dancing is or Weirdos"

"Do You Have School?"


"Old School"

Monday, September 28, 2009

School update

In class, last week I had the kids start practicing a few reader's theater scripts just for a fun little activity. Today I let them spend about 20 minutes rehearsing and making costumes for their performances. It was so cool to see their creativity at work! Of course I can't post pictures of the students, but there are a few that I think I can get by with:

The best was when Chicken Little tore up some pieces of paper to use as corn to peck on the ground and then went a little overboard with the pecking. That's when I found myself saying: "If you don't stop pecking the ground, your beak is going to fall off." Shortly after that I started wondering what kind of circus act I'm running around there...

Speaking of child creativity, Thursday was presentation day for the kids doing my independent study program that I blogged about here. It was one of those times that (as a teacher) I was so proud that I thought I was about to cry. I didn't tear up when T taught us about famous chemists and then performed two chemical reactions for the class (soliciting a TON of ooooooohs and aaaaaahhhhhs). I didn't tear up when J taught us about pop art, or when H taught us about killer whales. I didn't even get teary eyed when J taught us all about Einstein's childhood or J spoke about how to become a PE teacher. What got me was when M sat down in my rocking chair to read us her children's book (that she wrote) about giraffes. She asked us to close our eyes and pretend were were baby giraffes, and she was going to be our tour guide through our early lives. She then proceded to read her (beautifuly written and illustrated) book in an Australian accent. Precious!

It was truly amazing and I was so proud of my kids.

Have I mentioned that I LOVE teaching third grade?

...Not that 1st was bad....

But I'm happy right where I am!!!!!

And guess what else? I am OFFICIALLY 1/2 way finished with my M.Ed in administration!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A quick one. Okay maybe not so quick.

Hello, family and friends!

I have been feeling guilty about not updating very often because I've been told recently by people that I don't get to see very often that they check my blog often to see what's going on. I'm going to try and do better!

I guess I'll start with a home update. I got pretty sick last Thursday and left after school with an over 100 degree fever. I stayed home Friday, slept all day, and started feeling better by Saturday. Saturday Kevin and I went to dinner and Speed Zone (putt-putt and go carts) with some friends. Jarrett and Van were visiting from Detroit and it was so awesome to see them and spend time with them! Afterwards they and Allen and Casey came over and played some serious Guitar Hero, lol. I tried the drums on "hard" and it almost killed me! Sunday Kevin and I went to the Ranger's game, out to dinner with the same friends, and then came home to relax and watch the Cowboys. I did some laundry and got to sleep early while Kevin watched the game in bed.

I'm thinking I need to take little Bella to the vet again because she has developed some sort of allergy on her legs. I'm thinking it's from the grass or some sort of weed in our backyard (or maybe a fertilizer or something)? It's weird because we havent changed anything in our yard but this started a couple of months ago. It doesn't matter if she's only out for 2 minutes; when she comes back in she'll have these red blotches all over her feet and legs. She's been licking them so much that she's starting to lose hair around her toes. Yikes. I feel like such a bad dog mommy, but I have been so busy! I've been washing her feet when she comes in and giving her baby benedryl morning and night. I just don't know what else to do but to take her in. Sigh.

Okay, on to school. This morning I got up super early and arrived at school before 6:15! I knew I would have a lot of grading and clean-up to do since I had a sub on Friday. I got it all done before school and was happy to see my kids. One of them said "I can tell you're feeling better because you're smiling today. You weren't smiling on Thursday." After school I had tutoring from 3:00-3:45, and then PACE from 3:45-4:45. Man that was a long "kid day." There are two types of long days when you're a teacher: There are days that are long because you stay late to catch up on things, grade, etc. And then there are long "kid days," days that you can't get anything done because you are running a million miles an hour in front of the kids and involved with them. That was today.

I gave my first math assessment of 3rd grade today. I was terrified about it because it was SUPER HARD. I'm not kidding you guys - ridiculous. Well, Kara was right and my kids really came through for me! The work they were showing, along with the fact that several of them suprised me by making 100% on, made me seriously want to jump for joy! I was so proud of them :)

I have to share this with you because it was so hilarious. The other day we were writing about the worst day we've ever had and his little boy wrote: "The worst day I ever had was when I was playing baseball with my friends and the ball aimed right for my KIWIS." HAHAHA. Hilarious.

I'm still loving being a third grade teacher, in case you couldn't tell.

Annnnnd then there's grad school. I am one week (one assignment, a discussion, and a test) away from being 1/2 way done with my program. Six classes down, six to go! The good news is I've heard that I've already gotten the worst 2 out of the way during the first half of my rotation, so that's a relief. In about 3 months it will be time to take my Texes Principal Competency exam...shudder. I'll also get really busy with PDAS and ILD training...two more things required for certification and graduation from my program.

I'm watching one of my new fave shows now, lol...HOARDERS! I just finished up some laundry and got my crock pot ready for tomorrow's dinner (bloody mary chicken). After the show's over I'm going to sleep. Goodnight!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Update :)

I can't believe I've gone two weeks without posting...again! Actually I can - life has been so busy lately. Between adjusting to a new grade level, working three days a week at the after-school program on my campus, and trying to survive my online M.Ed. program, I barely have time to breathe!

School is going well. I enjoy my older students because I am able to spend almost my entire day teaching rather than reminding them how to behave in school. I can also laugh with them and genuinly enjoy talking with them. Every Tuesday I host "Lunch with Teacher" day for students who choose to purchase it with their tickets. I typically have about 6-8 of them and we just sit in a circle and talk and laugh. I really like it! I am very happy with my class.

It's been a little difficult adjusting to the increase in grading and the (already) increase in stress to prepare them for the tests in the Spring, but for the most part it's been a smooth transition. It's also been stressful figuring out how to differentiate my instruction to benefit ALL of my kids, since half of them are gifted and the other have are struggling. I really have no "in between," which is who the district-provided curriculum is intended for. I think I've just about gotten it figure out, though. When my principal asked me if I would ever go back to 1st, I quickly responded "No!" Not that I didn't love 1st, but I've realized how much MORE I love 3rd :)

Last weekend I spent a relaxing weekend with my family in College Station (my parents, Lindsay, and her boyfriend Ben met me at my grandparents' house) with my family. We spent most of the weekend riding 4 wheelers on my grandparents' land, which was so much fun! We like to blaze our own trail through the brush as we go along in our train of 4-wheelers, the Ranger, and the jeep. One evening we went into town and ate at Mr. Gatti's, and then the 4 teens (my cousin, my sister, and their significant others) played games (ok, maybe I played a few too). All in all, it was just a great weekend.

This weekend it's rainy in FloMo, and we slept in until after noon and watched a movie. Then I took a midterm exam and graded 7 stacks of papers. All that's left to do this weekend is get my nails done and clean the house - maybe not in that order! We're currently debating what to have for dinner and where to go to church tomorrow. Decisions, decisions.

I do have a couple of funny stories to tell you from the week, actually the first is from last week but whatever.

1. I've befriended the man who comes to do maintenance at our school every two weeks, but I was still surprised when he brought me a gift back from his trip to Mexico the weekend before. He walked in near the end of the day while my students were working and handed it to me, and then I thanked him and asked him about his trip. No big deal. It was a cute circular woven box with flowers on the top (perfect size for tortillas). After he left, one of my students and I had this conversation:

Student: What's in that box?
Me: Nothing. This IS the present. The box is actually the present.
Student: I think theyuh should be a wedding wing in theyuh.
Me: Um, well, I actually already have one of those (I show him my ring).
Student (flustered): Oh. Okay then. Maybe anothuh kind of wing then, whatever kind of wing you pwefuh then!

2. During our Tuesday lunch, I high-fived one of my students for some reason. She then said. "Okay. That was really weird. High-fiving your teacher is really weird, but very cool at the same time. I'm glad I have a young teacher to do awesome things with!"

3. Two of my students interviewed the math-science lab teacher for their independent study projects. Both of them happened to be in Tuesday Lunch shortly after. One of them announced that Einstein was kicked out of school for bringing a skunk in his lunch box releasing it in the classroom, and chasing it around "squeezing his sprayers to stink up the place." Immediately after, the other boy says "So kids, who wants to take a big whif of sulfuric acid?" What interesting conversations we have...

I'm sure I'll think of more after I publish this post, but I'll just have to post them later :)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Quick update

Let me just say that I LOVE MY NEW JOB teaching third grade. Love it. I am busy every second of the day, but it doesn't phase me. I catch myself walking around with a huge smile on my face. I wish everyone could feel this way about their jobs. The kids are so fun and much more independent. I enjoy teaching more difficult material and spending less time teaching how to behave in school, how to sit in a desk, how to flush the toilet, how to sit on the carpet, how to walk in a line, etc.... Don't get me wrong: I LOVED 1st grade and I was hesitant to switch. But I haven't looked back since the 1st day of school!

So today I was told this by a little boy: "Mrs. White, yesterday I had an ARMY of lices in my hair! I think we got all the adult lices out, but there may still be some eggs stuck in there."


Also a little boy wrote about how one time he was really excited when his mom bought him two new dogs: a boy and a girl. He wrote about how he played with them outside for a while and then got hot so he went in to watch TV. Then he wrote this: "Two hours later, my second dog was pregnant."

Well, little boy, it's a good thing you were watching TV instead of your dogs, then.

I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

More updates later in the week, when I can find time between grading papers, doing grad school, and....oh yeah.... being a wife.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Our new bedroom!

Kevin and I had a very busy day today, arranging our new bedroom! We moved into this house almost a year and a half ago and have been putting off buying a nice set of bedroom funiture since then. We just didn't want to spend the money. Actually, we still didnt, which is why we were so lucky that Kevin's mom decided to sell us a set of her furniture for a ridiculously good deal. The stuff has barely even been used, and it is really nice! We also got a basically brand new matress and box-spring from her, which is a huge upgrade from what we were sleeping on before.

I had fun running around town picking up decorations on a tight budget. I actually did the whole room (all bedding included) for $100! I painted the canvasses myself to save money and to make sure they were a perfect match. We put our old stuff in our third bedroom (that used to be the office), so it will be nice to have an extra bedroom. It's definitely not as nice as our other (more put together) room, but it will serve it's purpose!

Here are some pictures. We love our new room!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Back to School!

The first week of school has come and gone, and it has been a blur! I was at school late every day since I am teaching a center in the after school program 3 days a week, trying to get back into the swing of things with a new school year, and trying to stay on top of my responsibilities with a new grade level. Plus, Tuesday night was the PTA board meeting (I'm teacher rep this year) and it lasted until 9pm, and then last night (Thursday) was another late night because of Meet the Teacher night. And it doesnt help that my graduate class started on the first day of school, either.

But you know the really, really, cool thing about all of that?

I LOVE it! I am so happy to be back at school. I have always loved my job, but I love it even more now that I'm teaching 3rd grade. I was a little scared that I was going to miss first, but I can truly say that I haven't regretted my decision for a single second so far. My students are amazing. They are all so smart and so sweet! This is going to be a really great year because we're going to be like a little family in our class. Already the students are all over the whole "random acts of kindness" thing. It helps that they sometimes get tickets if I catch them, lol. They're also LOVING the bulletin board that I described in a post over the summer, on which I have hung about 30 "tired" words, such as bad, good, like, then, but, do, went, happy, etc. Under the words are pegs with rings of replacement words on them. I haven been highly impressed with the interest in using the large words, the students' ability to choose and apply the words correctly, and the finished product of their writing assignments.

We have a lot of cool things going on this year, including a GREAT new aspect of our reading curriculum which I do not have the energy to blog about right now. We've also implented daily Fluency Folders (on the second day of school - go us!) that have fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary components to them. Also, we've created writing folders for the kids - an excellent resource for all kinds of vocab, guidance on story starters and different types of writing, onomatopoeias, etc. They love to use their writing folders!

Since I've got a very large representation of gifted students in my class this year, I've been working hard to come up with some ways to challenge them. I made these "When I'm Finished" menus for each month of the year which contain enrichment activities for the students to do after they complete their work. So far it's a big hit, especially the science-related choices and silly writing prompts. We're also using more challenging work whole-class, like higher-level questioning and comprehension strategies, and also with our "Tease your Brain Tuesday" special morning work.

I've still been worried that my high-achieving kids are going to be bored, so I think I'm going to start an independent study program next week on a free-choice basis. In reading, I'm going to let my gifted kids (who already grasp most of the reading/LA material that I'm teaching) choose a topic that interests them and then help them develop a research question. They'll choose from a list I generated (based on Bloom's Taxonomy) of project outcomes - things like writing a paper, creating a poster, making a powerpoint presentation, designing an advertisement, writing a play, "authoring" a children's book, etc., and then work during class to complete the project. We'll enter an independent study contract outlining the rules and deadlines (if you want a copy of the contracts I've come up with, just ask and I'll email them to you)! The students will have class time (this is not work to be done at home, and often will take the place of instruction that they find boring and needless) to visit the library, research on the internet, conduct interviews, etc. When they finish, they'll present to the class to teach us something new!

In math, I plan on doing the same type of thing (I have contracts for this, too), but the projects are smaller and shorter-term. Basically I plan to pretest my students on a topic before I teach it, and allow them to do advanced, alternative activities on the same topic if they demonstrate 90% accuracy before I teach the unit - and trust me, several of them will. Sometimes I'll have brain-bender activities and other times I may ask them to write about the importance of the topic we're studying in their day-to-day lives. I may even ask them to create a game for the class to play to practice their skills. Sometimes I'll have them write story problems for each other and trade to solve them. I'm always looking for new ideas!

I'm sure you can tell I'm very excited. This is partly because all of these ideas are coming out that I wasn't able to use in 1st grade because the kids weren't quite ready for the independence, but part of it is also because I've already learned a little about myself this year. I need to stop running such a controlled classroom in which everyone is on the same page all of the time, and allow my kids to work at their own levels, even if it stresses me out a little. The very MINUTE that I explained the independent study opportunities for next week to my gifted group today, I saw their little faces seriously light up with excitement. They deserve this, even if it's a little more work for me! It makes it all worth it :)

Today a little boy wrote about a time when he was excited because his mom brought him two new dogs. He wrote about how he played with them in the backyard for a while and then went in to watch some TV. He wrote how the first dog kept following his second dog around and sniffing it. Then he wrote this:

"So I was on my couch watching some TV. Then two hours later my second dog was pregnant. She had five puppies later."

Is this funny to anyone else? It made me spit out my soda when I read it after school today.

Another thing I LOVE about third grade? My class jobs are actually a HELP to me instead of a burden! My kids run the show for the entire morning when they arrive and before they go to specials. I have a librarian who helps others check books in and out from my library, a homework helper who removes the numbered clips from our homework and makes a list on the board for me so I can see who didn't do it (and then puts the clips back out in order for the next day), a person who takes attendance on the board for me, a person who checks everyone's morning work and stamps it, a person who takes things to the office, someone who turns on the student computers, and I could go on and ON! Man it's so nice.

On another note, some of my kids are really struggling with 6 digit place value, so if any of my teacher readers have any good strategies for teaching this (mainly going from expanded form back to standard form) I would love to hear them!

Okay, sorry this post has been all about school. It's dominated my every waking minute for the last two weeks, so I pretty much have nothing else going on. I hope you have a great weekend!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Our vacation!!!

Kevin and I had a wonderful time at the beach (in Port Aransas)! We left Tuesday morning and took our dogs to his mom's house (who was sweet to watch them while we were gone). Then we headed out for our 7 HOUR drive to Port A and arrived at about 3:30 that afternoon. We had to take the ferry to get to the island, and I made a new friend on it.

We got to our resort, La Mirage, and luckily were able to check in a little early. We then went to get our groceries for the week and I rediscovered my love for H.E.B. Once we got back to our condo we unpacked and headed to the beach. Kevin wanted to "catch some gnarley waves" on his boogie board. Here are a few pics from the first day.

View of the resort from the beach:

our walkway out to the beach:

Getting the first of my sun:

The next morning we went back out to the beach for a while and then to the pool. Ryan and Ashley arrived shortly after lunch time that day, and we were very happy to finally see them. We ate lunch together in the condo and then went back out to the beach. Here are some pictures of the afternoon:

Kevin and me:

Some of my sand dollars:

Kevin and Ryan heading out to catch some waves:

Kevin and Ryan getting our chairs:

That evening we went to my favorite island hangout, Snoopy's, for drinks and a casual seafood dinner. It was so delicious - I had fried shrimp and hush puppies and we had this appetizer of jalepeno poppers that had crab meat all mixed in with the cheese! The owner of the restaurant goes out fishing every day and whatever he catches is what is served, so it is all really fresh and great. Afterwards we fed the hungry fish off of the dock!

Kevin and me at dinner:

Ryan and Ashley:

Ryan said it looked like a war zone:

We fed the fish our leftovers:

After Snoopy's we went to The Back Porch, a neat little bar also on the water. While were were sitting there outside, a storm started blowing in. It was blowing over chairs and ripping things up, so we decided to head back to our condo. We sat out on our porch and continued to watch it blow in.

Thursday was another full day. We woke up early and went out to the beach. I caught some more sand dollars and a lot of hermit crabs (which I put back). We did a little more body surfing and then went inside for lunch. We took naps and then went back out to the pool. That night we ate at Burger Company (slogan: Burgers and Booze). I had a "Mexican Burger," which had a cheese enchilada, sour cream, jalepenos, and avocado on it. We went back to the resort after dinner and headed out to the beach to catch some sand crabs after dark, which was more fun after a few beers.

The first crab:

I got him!

A close-up:

Kevin and me on our last night:

We woke up on Friday, had breakfast, cleaned up our condo, and hit the road. We stopped on the way out of town for t-shirts, a Christmas ornament, and stuffed dolphins for each of our dogs :)When we got back to our house, dogs in tow, at about 7pm, our friends Kyle and Tiffany from Houston were already here to stay for the weekend. We went out to dinner and had several people over for drinks and Guitar Hero afterwards. Talk about a long day!

Saturday Tiffany and I got mani/pedis while the boys watched golf on TV, and then we all hung out for a while before dinner. We met some more friends at Lefty's in Addison which was soooo good. They got up this morning and left to go home, and I have been cleaning and doing laundry ever since.

That's our last week news!

Tomorrow I go back to work (teachers this Monday, kids next Monday), and I am so super excited. I love my job and I can't wait to see everyone tomorrow and to get some stuff done. Plus, tomorrow is going to be a fun day :)

The countdown starts: