Friday, May 31, 2013

Swirl & Twirl

Today is one of my FAVORITE people's last day of work.  My lovely and amazing mentor is retiring.  It's hard to put into words what she means to me.  And completely true to say that she has changed my life.

I am honored to speak today at a program in honor of our building retirees.  I am going to share with you my speech.  Hopefully you get a chance to tell your mentor(s) what she/he/they mean to you.

Seven years ago I was P's student teacher.  I knew it was going to be a good experience when I met her.  But I didn't know how unique it would be.  One day early on in student teaching, I got a glimpse of this when I walked in the room and she was dancing around and singing, "Loosen Up My Buttons." 

Since then, P and I have had many experiences together.  We've gone to conferences, concerts, classes, New York City, and our principal's daughter's soccer games.  P always lives life at full volume, and we love her for her crazy attitude.  But she also has so much passion, depth, soul, honesty, wisdom, and love.  And she shares these qualities with her students and creates community where students can explore each of these facets for themselves.

When I think about P's legacy, I think of the way she infuses writing into every lesson she teaches, the poetry slams she has started, her SIXTEEN student teachers (including me and a district principal), and the FUN she brings to her classroom and the staff.  It will truly be missed and is irreplacable.  P also has a great sense of what matters.

In student teaching, P said to me one day, "I can teach you the content and strategies, but you have to learn to swirl and twirl on your own."  That phrase has stuck with me and I know it always will.  Thank you, P, for teaching me that swirling and twirling and HOW we teach and make students feel matters more than any content we will ever teach them.  That is the legacy she leaves with me.

When I was intoduced to the staff as a new hire the principal stood up and said, 'This is Amy.  She'll be teaching 5th grade and she was P's student teacher.' 

P yelled out from the crowd, 'But I'd like her to be my daughter-in-law.'  Although that never came true, I want you to know how honored I am to call you my teaching mama.  It has been a true privilege to learn from the best.  P, pookie, mamasita, I love you and wish you all the best in retirement.  Thank you for changing my life.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Girls on the Run Follow-Up

A few weeks ago, Sweet Student and I completed her first 5k race.  It was a blast! And now, her sweet family totally blessed me with this video of our day. 


I just had to share, because it affirms that even through all the tough stuff and long days and data and Common Core, THIS is why I am a teacher.  These relationships totally make everything else worth it.

Trying to still be taller than Sweet Student's older brother and my former student (I may be cheating...) 

Thanks for sharing this experience with me, Sweet Student!  You and your family made me feel so special!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Harlem Shake

A special Friday treat for you... My class performing our "Reading Workshop Harlem Shake."  Enjoy (sorry it's so pixelated!  You can also watch it on YouTube)

6 more days!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Great Lemonade War

Do you ever have those moments when you say, "Next year!!"  (I'm guess alllll the time, because that's what good, reflective teachers do!)

Yesterday I shared information about our "Lemonade Day" Project tied with the book The Lemonade War.  NEXT YEAR, I want to step up our game by making this project extend beyond my little classroom.  And I discovered The Great Lemonade War, a charitable giving contest to raise money for childhood cancer.  How awesome is that?  Jacqueline Davies, the author is even affiliated.  Read an interview with her here.

All the money goes to Alex's Lemonade Stand, an awesome foundation helping kids who are fighting cancer.

And THAT is totally a great reason to get involved on its own, but the winning school also get a visit from Jacqueline Davies!

So next year we'll be asking for donations for sampling our tasty treats!  I'm excited already!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lemonade Day

Tomorrow is Lemonade Day!  What is Lemonade Day, you ask??

Well, as part of our Economics unit, we read The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies.  In the book, Davies explains economic concepts as she tells the story of a brother and sister who compete to have the best lemonade stand in town.

As our own twist on the book, students create their own "lemonade" product.  They have to market it with a poster, logo, drink packaging, and commercials. 
We shared commercials today and they were ADORABLE.  Want to see one? 
Love the way he shows off his knowledge of a testimonial :)

Tomorrow we're sampling the drinks and voting on our favorites!  The winners will get one of these "mystery bags" with a certificate for LaRosa's pizza and some candy.  Thanks for ATP for reminding me that everything is always better when you put it in a "mystery bag!"  Ha!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Field Day Fun

I can't believe that we're already to Field Day!  And 10 school days after today!

One of our students' favorite stations at field day this year was "Just Dance" in the gym.  ATP and I loved getting down, too.

It was such a hit that we did a few more dances this afternoon.  I'm definitely keeping "Just Dance" in my bag of tricks because it's a great, low-pressure, and FUN brain break!  Here are some of my students' favorites:
"Never Gonna Give You Up"
"Rock Lobster"

Saturday, May 18, 2013

ABC Economics

We're about to wrap up our last Social Studies unit of the year.  As a review, we played "ABC Economics."  For each letter of the alphabet, students had to list a term related to economics. 

First I gave the students about five minutes to see how many words they could come up with on their own.  Then I gave them about five more minutes to get with a buddy and add to their lists.  We share out and I was pleasantly surprised with all the terms they have learned.  The winners got reallllly close to being able to find one for each letter! 

The challenge was "X," for which we decided on "X boxes are scarce goods!"  Does that count? 

Bonus, every student said they did much better with this activity than they would have at the beginning of the unit.

It's a great informal assessment that could be used with many, many subjects.  Any good ideas?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Sweet student and I completed the 5K with Girls on the Run last weekend. I had a blast with her! She basically ended up coaching me up a smallish hill saying, "Come on Miss Sheets, we're doing great!"

Not to mention how special her family made me feel.  They treated me to lunch after!  Sweet student gave me a lovely card and pink roses.  It was one of those moments that makes you realize the amazing privilege it is to be a teacher.  It is such a blessing to be a part of students' and families' lives.

It was a true honor I share the experience with her and I look forward to being involved with Girls on the Run in the future.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Activating Schema

Monday I'm leading a professional development for teachers in another district.  So that means this girl's at school today!

It's always amazing how much preparing to lead and teach others helps me grow in my own knowledge of a skill area.

Tomorrow one of my discussions is on helping students activate their schema to improve comprehension.

I'm starting with a little illustration using this text:

The Batsmen were merciless against the Bowlers.  The Bowlers placed their men in slips and covers.  But to no avail.  The Batsmen hit one four after another along with an occasional six.  Not once did their balls hit their stumps or get caught.

Did you know it was about cricket?  Probably not!  If I had told you that prior to reading and we had discussed what we know about cricket teams, equipment, and scoring would it have helped your comprehension?

That's schema!

We're going to practice with a text on the American Revolution's Shay's Rebellion by looking at Tier 2 & 3 vocabulary and discussing ways to help students be successful with both. 

But I wanted a little more to help teachers visualize more specifically what building schema could look like in their classrooms.  Bring on Pinterest!  Check out these two great ideas:

This one is from blogger Amanda at One Degree Extra.  I love the way she segmented the poster to really dig into students' prior knowledge AND included the misconceptions section, too.


I also love this "Word Splash" poster from Really Good Stuff.  I'm not sure if I want to pay $5.50 for it, but I'm totally going to steal the concept. What a quick and easy way to front-load a unit or topic by posting key words before a lesson and reviewing them with students.

I'm excited to work with these teachers tomorrow and hear their own ideas to help students fully grasp and retain important vocabulary.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Scholastic Book Warehouse Sale

Deal of the century!  I got alllllll of these books below for $2 TOTAL!  If you haven't visited the Scholastic Book Warehouse Sale, you need to now.  The local sale runs through May 24 here with all books 25-80% off.  Most are around 50% off.
The real deals are in the "Scratch and Dent" aisle.  Since my students seem to prefer items that are scratched and dented, it's a great way to get books for a dollar or two!
Check out this amazing selection that I will use for our Civil Rights unit next year.  The most expensive (hardcover) book in this pic was $4!

These nonfiction deals were each $1!

This adorable book was 50% off.  It's got a great predictable text pattern that I'm hoping to use for some end of the year writing soon...or, someday, rather.

More price $3.

I know what you're thinking... "Uh, Amy, you just said you paid $2 total!"  That's right!  Two bucks, plus three hours of my time to volunteer as a cashier.  There is on-the-job training and you get paid in books!  Done deal.  If you're interested in volunteering, when you sign up on the Scholastic site for a coupon for the sale ($10 off $50 or $25 off $100, people!), there is the option to click "I'd like to volunteer."  Someone will email you with the shifts that are available.  I've been doing it for years and it's been a great way to keep my library up to date and growing in volume.

Check it out.  You won't be sorry (but your wallet might be).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Historical Perspectives

I can't believe how fast this school year is winding down and that my summer plans are already beginning to take shape.  Among those is an online class I will be teaching with the Ohio Writing Project.  It's one of my dear loves and a great network of teachers who want to continually grow in the art of teaching.

Our course is called Historical Perspectives (fancy!) in historical fiction and nonfiction.  I'm so, so excited to share with these teachers some of my work with book clubs and writing, but even more, to learn from them. 

And the resources and ideas are already coming in.  I met last night with SATP (Summer Awesome Teaching Partner...she has to have a derivative of my school team's nicknames!) and it's going to be an amazing course.  Contact me or OWP now if you're looking for summer credit!

Two resources just to whet your appetite:

1. Our required text is going to be one of my ALL-TIME FAVORITES!  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  You will not be disappointed...even if you're not a history buff!  It's told through letters by some of the MOST endearing characters in all of literature.
2.  The other is an article, Nonfiction as Mentor Text: Style, by Myra Zarnowski, Marc Aronson, Mary Ann Cappiello of School Library Journal.  It gives an annotated list of great nonfiction texts with VOICE and author's craft!  Always a win.  I can vouch for An American Plague by Jim Murray.  It flies off my shelf when students discover the amazing Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson.  TWO amazing texts!

Sidenote:  When I did a Google image search for the OWP logo for this blog, two pictures with yours truly in the background popped up!  Good thing it was a good hair day!



Saturday, May 4, 2013

Writing Marathon

Tomorrow is the Flying Pig Marathon, one of my favorite days in Cincinnati! In honor of the race, we did a writing marathon.

A writing marathon is a great way to practice writing fluency and creativity. It was first introduced to me in a creative writing class in college by professor Don Daiker.

At the start of the activity, each student writes down a prompt idea on an index card...from serious to crazy. How did you like these prompts?

Yep, teddy bear apocalypse and people turning into zombies... Hey, they got kiddos writing!

I pull 3-4 prompts per round and students can either write about one, a combination, or their own idea. The only rule is they have to be writing.

We do 3 or 4 rounds, depending on stamina, then have a massive sharing time. I love how excited students get to read their work.

I keep all of the prompts, whether they were read or not, in a basket in my room for stumped journallers. They love seeing student-generated topic ideas. And it's totally free & easy!

We've done a few writing marathons year and students actually cheer when I announce we'll be doing one.

In fact, it cracked me up when one of my students walked in yesterday, looked at the board with our agenda and said, "Oh, so we're just having fun today?" I love that a half an hour of writing and an economics activity made it into the "fun category!"

To end our week of testing, we also had a tasty visit from the ice cream truck! What a fun day :)

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Poetry Masterpieces

Check out these amazing masterpieces!  I have been so, so impressed with my poets this year and am loving the gallery that has developed in my room. 

A close-up of my favorite watercolor:

Beautiful symbolism in her work:

I think this piece is going to inspire a whole separate post later this week.  This little poet blew me away with all of his revision and hard work!  He was inspired by Billy Collins poem On Turning Ten.

This one makes me almost like geese!  (Don't mind the messy shelf in the background!)

Masterpieces for SURE!