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Teaching with Balance: My Essential Oils Journey

As teachers we all know how totally stressed our jobs can be.  We have demands from students, parents,  coworkers, and admin on a daily basis. I know many of us do our best to try and eat healthy, exercise and drink  as much water as possible during the day. I try to eat as much organic produce as possible, avoid carbs and sugars, but let's be honest, when its report card week and we have papers and conferences up to our eye balls, that doesn't always happen.  I'm always looking for other alternatives to continue my healthy lifestyle and remain calm, cool and collected.

At Christmas time, my sister bought me a diffuser for my home and as a homemade Christmas gift made me three bottles of essential oils blends.  One was called Healthy.  It contained Thieves essential oil which helps you to keep colds and flu at bay.  Another was called Calm which helps to take the stress away when the going gets tough.  The third was called Fun which just, well, smells happy.  It made me start to think about our needs as teachers to maintain balance, and I began to research a company called Young Living.  They appealed to me because they monitor everything they do from the time the SEED is planted on the farm to the SEAL of the jar.  Everything is monitored and tested for purity.  At first I was like meh.. seriously, it's OILS, but then I went to Marshall's and I started SMELLING some of the oils sold there.  I'm not saying there is anything wrong with them, but I could smell the difference in the oils from Young Living, they were cleaner, and stronger, and well, that appealed to me, so that's what I went with.

Since then I've been looking up different ways I can use the oils to promote a healthier environment for myself and my family.  I bought a starter kit which gave me a second diffuser for my home as well as 11 essential oils that I could combine in various ways to help relieve stress, help me sleep better, build up my immune system, help with sore muscles, aches and pains, and use to keep my home fresh and clean.  Using the kit  I've also found a much better balance using essential oils in my daily routine.  I've created blends and used oils to help me with stress relief, dark circles under my eyes, grow my fine hair, and to cook with!  My daughter has used products at softball that have helped her sore muscles after games, and we have gone the entire cold/flu season with literally a ONE DAY stint with not feeling well.
I wanted to take some time and just share that I was beginning this journey, and I was wondering if there were other teachers out there who use essential oils?  My goal is to share what I have figured out in a blog post once or twice a month, and maybe this will help you as a teacher find more balance in your life.  If you have found something amazing to use, please share with me in the comments below, and we can together find out more information about using essential oils.
If you want to find out more about Young Living you can go to: bit.ly/CCLPYoungLiving

Namaste my sweet friends!

Three Things I Loved About My Week: Mardi Gras Fractions, Friends, Facing a Fear

Hello friends!  I wanted to share the Three Things I LOVED about my week last week!  

#1: Celebrating Mardi Gras in the Classroom
This Friday we celebrated with a little Mardi Gras Fun in our classroom.  Fat Tuesday is coming soon, but we have our big state writing assessment on Monday, and I wanted to spend the last 45 minutes of the day relaxed, happy, and ready for the weekend.  Because I still have to teach curriculum and I teach math in the afternoon, I pulled out my Mardi Gras Float Fraction activity.  Students were told there are 12 krewe members on their Mardi Gras Float.  They worked in pairs to answer 10 questions relating to equivalent fractions and easy percents.  These questions told them what each member of the krewe had to wear on the float.  For example, one item said that there were twice as many girls as boys in the krewe.  Students had to figure out that meant there would be 8 girls and 4 boys on the float.  Another was that 75% of the boys had to have dark hair.  Students had to figure out that meant 3 out of the 4 boys.  When they were finished with the 10 math questions and had them checked, they were allowed to draw their floats. They LOVED this activity,  and I loved sneaking in a little extra math practice. The floats while having the same information were all completely different.  So many ways for them to be creative and practice mathematics skills at the same time! Math and art, you can never go wrong.  I love these pictures! 

#2: Time with Friends:  Filling my Cup
I had a few friends from New York visiting me this week.  We got a chance to go out to one of our favorite hangouts, Buffalo Wild Wings, and watch the Syracuse vs Duke game on Wednesday night.  The game was killer!  I mean a win at the buzzer against DUKE is the BEST ever!  But even more important, I had a chance to catch up with friends that I don't often have a chance to see, and well frankly, they "fill my cup." 

Do you have friends who do that for you?  Even though we are far apart I have a few friends that are just... well... there for me.  When I see them they fill up my cup!  I talked to my class about that on Friday.  They know I love Syracuse basketball, and they asked me about the game.  As exciting as it was, I found myself talking more to them about the friends I have who really help me out, and are just fun to be around.  It was honestly a great way to reinforce that Kind is the New Cool mentality, and I saw a lot of my students checking in with each other on the playground and including everyone in their games.  That also was a cup filler!!

#3:  Facing My Fears
My daughter also had an opportunity to "fill her cup" this week by having other friends from NY visiting.  We met our friends at Disney Springs for dinner and to hang out a little.  As a group we decided to go up in the hot air balloon.  Ok, so... yea.... I'm afraid of heights... but I couldn't be the ONLY person who didn't go up in that balloon, so I mustered up a little confidence... yea.. I used my Confidence Essential Oil roller... LOL... and I did it!  8 minutes in a hot air balloon.  I smiled the whole time but inwardly.. I .. WAS... FREAKING OUT!

So that being said, this week after out writing test I am going to read a book to my class called Courage.  We are going to spend some time writing an essay about what it takes to make a person courageous, and how they are courageous about something in their lives.

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Share with me something from your life that you LOVED this week, or a way you had your cup filled, or were fearless.  Any Mardi Gras parades or activities in you week?  I'd love to hear about them!

Have an amazing week friends!

Three Things I Loved About My Week!

Welcome to the weekend friends!  I wanted to take a moment and share Three Things I Loved About My Week.

I hope some of these make you smile or laugh, or give you a new idea for your own life or classroom. Spread the positive my friends... spread the positive.

#1:  Retired Teachers Make the Best Secret Pals
The retired teachers at my school are amazing!  Every month they bring in snacks and goodies for us, and we get a few days of heaven in the teachers room.  They are part of the reason why I never seem to be losing any weight.... ( the other reason may be that I have to get off my couch.. but that isn't something I loved, so we won't talk about it)
How delicious are these cakes looking!  Do you see how they made MANY MANY cakes!  NOT one cake or two cakes that are gone by the time the second lunch round is over, but CAKES for DAYS.....
Do you have anyone who is wonderful to you like this?

#2: World Read Aloud Day!
February 16th was World Read Aloud day.  To celebrate my class found their favorite picture books from my classroom library and a partner that they do not normally read with.  Together they shared their book for about 15 minutes.  Although this wasn't a huge amount of time it was nice see them sit together and read to each other. It brought a sense of calm to the sometimes chaotic classroom that we have, and it made me smile.

#3: Peer Editing and Collaboration
We have been working really hard on our writing skills since we came back from our Christmas break.  We are getting ready to take our state writing assessment in just a few short weeks, and I need my students to have a solid sense of both opinion and informative writing, and how our state will be assessing their skills.  We read a paired text on roller coaster design.  The informative prompt that I gave my students asked them to explain how roller coaster designers are innovative.  I have seen so many improvements in their writing, adding leads, and key details.  Their conclusions are getting stronger too.  One thing that has FINALLY clicked in for them is the importance of peer editing and discussion.  This week I had them practice being both the teaching coach AND the learner.  I pressed them to give specific examples, and we worked on speaking kindly to each other but still giving constructive criticism.  When each group finished students were able to grab a post it note and create a writing goal for next week.  Baby steps lead to giant leaps my friends!

I hope everyone else could find three things that they LOVED about their week!  Feel free to comment below and let me know what you loved!! I would love to hear about it!

5 Interesting Facts, Books and Fun about Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year my friends! Do you celebrate Chinese New Year in the classroom?
Chinese New Year is coming up January 28th.  2017 is the Year of the Rooster. I always like to teach my students something about Chinese New Year because it is a bright, fun holiday in the middle of winter.  Usually it is cold and dismal this time of year, and the thought of hanging a little color up in my classroom always makes me smile at the end of January.

Today I put together 5 interesting facts about Chinese New Year that also contain activities or books that you can use in your classroom to help your students learn about this fun holiday.

FACT #1:  There are 12 Animals in the Chinese Zodiac

In the Chinese Zodiac there are 12 animals represented.  The belief is that Buddha asked the animals of the world to come and help him celebrate spring.  Twelve animals showed up to the party and these animals became the Chinese Zodiac.  Each animal has special qualities, and you can relate your birth year to these special traits.  For example, 2017 is the Year of the Rooster.  The rooster is said to be confident and hardworking.  As a fourth grade teacher most of my students were born in 2007.  This was the year of the Pig or Boar.  People born under the sign of the boar are responsible and kind.  One activity that you could create with your students is a drawing of the animal and have them list the character traits that they are most like within that year.  Here is an example:

This would be a great lesson on synonyms and antonyms for words that correlate with the animal. For example if we were to do the rooster, I would have student look up shades of meaning words for confident and hardworking.  If they wanted to do the year of their birth, for example the boar, I would have them do shades of meaning with responsible and kind.

I follow this activity up with some word work in centers about finding synonyms in context with facts about the Chinese New Year using these cards:

Fact #2: The Chinese New Year Celebrates Spring Cleaning
Out with the old, and in with the new!  That's the motto for Chinese New Year.  What a perfect thing to start daydreaming about during the frosty month of January!  You could relate the idea of GROWTH MINDSET  to the broom.  Have students make two layers of the broom on the bottom. The first layer would contain ways that they used to think about problem solving:  I can't do this, It is too hard, etc.  Then have students place a layer on TOP with new growth mind set.  I CAN get this far.. etc.
It may look something like this:

Fact #3: Red is the Color of Good Fortune for the New Year
One Chinese tradition is receiving a red envelope with money during Chinese New Year.

As a morning work writing activity, I have my students complete a quick write about what they would do with money they received in their red envelopes.

I also try to sneak in a few stories about Chinese New Year during the week when we sit down for our Grammar and Writing time.  Some of my favorites include:

Usually I buy red envelopes on clearance after Christmas, and then we place our quick writes in the envelopes as a bulletin board, but I forgot to buy the envelopes this year, <wah wah wah> so I will have to improvise a little.

Fact #4:  Chinese New Year Allows You to Honor Your Relatives.

It is customary during Chinese New Year to make lanterns to honor relatives who have passed away. The celebration of Chinese New Year usually ends with a Lantern Festival where red lanterns are hung on families homes and gates.  Sometimes the lanterns contain a riddle which makes the festival more lively.  This year as something new, I am going to give my students a center choice about making lanterns.  Our riddles will be math puzzles to help improve our mental math.  Usually I try to complete a brain break math riddle with my students every day.  It helps them to keep them thinking and using their computation skills.  The math riddles are 5-6 step directions that I differentiate and get progressively harder with the skills.  The number riddles never go above 100, so students that need a little extra visual to solve the problems can pull out their hundreds boards and multiplication charts to help them.

I use cards similar to these as my brain breaks:

Then for this lantern craft I will have students write their own riddles that we can include on the lanterns.

Fact #5: Chinese New Year is about Celebration with your Family

Families spend a lot of time eating and celebrating during the Chinese New Year.  What a great way to celebrate the great job your students are doing by having fortune cookies!  We have many Chinese restaurants in our area, and I will be asking them to donate fortune cookies to my students to celebrate.  Even if I have to go to two or three places, it would be a fun treat during our Morning writing work.  A great quick write activity would be to explain how your fortune could be a theme for your life, giving key details that support the central message.  Just something fun to get them thinking and writing. You could also have orange slices or tangerines as your snack during the week.  Many families that celebrate Chinese New Year eat oranges which symbolize luck and wealth.  This is a perfect healthy snack for us living in Florida because oranges are in season.  Some of my students even have orange trees in their yards, so this is a great way to get them to eat better and share a few facts with their families!

Along with the activities above, I also use Tikki Tikki Tembo
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as a mentor text for the week.  I have the Mentor Sentences pack from Ideas by Jivey, so this is an easy no prep lesson for me.  The focus skill is compound sentences, so it is a perfect review and incorporation into our writing work.  We also work on some other word work activities like identifying pronouns, homophones and sentence combining.  These are part of the pack I created for Celebrating Chinese New Year in the Upper Grades.

I would love to hear how you plan to celebrate Chinese New Year, and I hope that you will be able to try some of the activities and books that I've mentioned above.

May the Force Be With You!

Martin Luther King Jr. Opinion Writing with Martin's Big Words

Last week I focused on Martin Luther King Jr. during my writing and word work time. I wanted to share a few activities that we completed in case you were looking for something that was short and sweet, but still helped you cover some of your CCSS standards.

For our word work time I am focusing on prepositions, which was difficult for my smarties to identify in a sentence before break.  I'll be using Martin's Big Words as my mentor text, and since I don't reinvent the wheel, my mentor sentence work came from Ideas by Jivey and her mentor sentence lesson for the week.  It is part of this [Unit].  If you haven't used mentor sentences before, Jessica is a great go to person.  She has several different webcasts you can listen to, and she has written many good blog posts about how to get started.

Beyond the basics of word work with the text, we are also working on opinion writing, so my review/focus is based on opinions.  I took the "Big Words" from the text... Freedom, Peace, Together, Love, and Dream, and we worked on deciding which word was the most powerful.  Together we crafted an opinion paragraph using OREEEO as our organizer.  No, that isn't a typo... I don't use just OREO.. my students are required to give me more.. so we go for TRIPLE STUFFED!
O-opinion, R-reason, E- evidence, E-evidence, E- elaboration (give me the how and/or why connection, O-opinion/transition.  We even had triple stuffed Oreos as a quick reminder snack when we started this discussion.

In their paragraphs, students had to choose which of Martin's words they felt was the most powerful, provide a reason,  back it up with evidence from the text, and then elaborate or extend the connection. I borrowed a few copies of this book from other classrooms in my building, and I also used a reading on YouTube, (You can go [HERE] for it online), so my students had extra access to the book.
We wrote our final copies on a half sheet I created, and then we completed a directed drawing for our bulletin board.  I don't do too many directed drawings with my fourth graders, but I thought this might be a good opportunity to practice some listening skills work since we have been out for 2 weeks.  The directed drawing directions I found for free [HERE].  I love the way they turned out.

Need to order Martin's Big Words?  Click the picture below. (Amazon Affiliate)

Do you have plans for Martin's Big Words that I can add to my list for next year?  I would love to hear about them!

May the Force Be With You,

2016: A Year in Review

Happy New Year friends and family!  I'm sitting here with my coffee cup in my quiet new kitchen doing a little reflecting about 2016 and all that it has had to offer.  At first I was majorly beating myself up because I haven't blogged in... I don't know... FOREVER!! Even after Megan created this beautiful new design for me in the summer, but then I thought... STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP.. put in the past what is in the past and start being in the here and now.  SO.... for here and now, here I am with a little bit of year in review.. both educationally and personally... well, if you've stopped by with your coffee cup before, you already know that about me.

2016: was a Year of Interactive Math:

I worked hard in the early part of 2016 to come up with ways to make mathematics more interesting and fun for my sixth graders.  They were NOT keen on having to learn fractions, and algebra and distance on the coordinate grid, and we had some major intervention to do.  I started a bi-monthly blog post called Mid-Week Math Motivation, (which I'm hoping to kick start again) which helped me think out and share some of the ideas I had to keep math engaging.  One of my favorite activities was creating a gigantic coordinate grid on the cafeteria wall.  We rolled foam dice for creating the integers on the grid, and I had candy prizes at different coordinates.  The kids had to tell me the integer and it's quadrant to keep the prize.  You can read more about it in this post {HERE}.  My class loved this activity.  It was engaging, fast, and fun.

2016 was a year of a BIG MOVE:
In the summer this year I moved with my kids to be closer to my family in Florida. I also found an amazing house for us to live in, and I'm proud that I have managed to buy it and run it all on my own.  I love the area where I live.

I have a pond in the back of my house that is filled with Cypress trees.  There are literally hundreds of birds that live there.  I love sitting with my coffee cup on the deck in the morning watching and listening to them chatter. We also have a gator we've named George.

What better way is there than with perfect Rae Dunn mug... yes I've become a collector of these,  and Fiesta dishes.. I need more quirky and color in my life!

2106 was a Change in Grade Levels:
Along with the BIG MOVE I also changed from teaching sixth grade to teaching fourth grade in a new state.  Learning new curriculum has kept me VERY busy this first semester of the school year, and I will definitely blame my lack of blogging on treading water at school.  I do really love my class, and the staff there, and we are working hard at improving our school report card.  We are a D school right now, and we want off that list! My smarties are working hard, and they have ME working hard.  That has its pluses and minuses as I've totally gone off of my taking care of myself regime, and I'm spending WAAAAYYYY more time at work and doing school related planning than I should be, but I'm hoping things will even out in 2017.  New Year... New Hope... <Yep.. that's me, putting in the whole Star Wars reference... You know I shed some tears over the loss of the Princess, but I digress>

I mean how can you not love that THIS is the type of place you get to go to on a FIELD TRIP!

Gorgeous right!

So that my friends in a nutshell is why I've been MIA for the past few months.  I'm hoping to get back to blogging and catching up with my peeps in 2017.  I have always enjoyed connecting with teachers and sharing ideas.  Let me know what was amazing about your 2016!

Back to School First Week Fun!

Well friends, I made it!  I just got through my 23rd First Week of School!  I know, I know, you are saying, WWWHHHHHAAAT!! There is no way she is THAT old, LOL.. It's all in the Ponds Moisturizing creme my friends!  Take care of your skin!
But seriously, I'm so excited to be starting a new adventure in a new state, new school, and new grade level.  I've been teaching sixth grade for about 18 years, and in my new school, I'm teaching fourth.  I love that I know right where those middle school teachers want my Smarties to be, and I'm going to do my part to get them ready!!

We had a great first week of school, and I wanted to share a few activities that I did with my class this week that I love.  I hope you can use some of them too!

I have to admit, I don't start the year with one of those Pinterest perfect classrooms.  I LOVE to look at them. I pine over their beauty when I'm wasting time on my phone, but honestly, I can't do it.  My walls are my kids walls, and I want them to create their beauty.  One thing that I do like to put up is a Salutations greeting.  I used Powerpoint, a fun font, and colored paper to print this sign.

My purpose was to give students a word they may be familiar with if they have read Charlotte's Web (our second graders do), but may not know quite the meaning of the word.  I use it as a spring board to discuss 1) Not everyone knows every thing on the first day of school  2) Vocabulary has several deeper shades of meaning.   Vocabulary is a big push for our students this year.  You can go {HERE} and read a blog post I've written about strategies I'm going to implement in my classroom.
I plan to add words to this wall during the year to get my point across about the deeper shades of meaning.

On the first day of school I read a fabulous book called First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
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 Have you read it?  I told my students there is a twist in the book, something unexpected happens, and good readers need to be on the look out for it.  They ate it up!  They were so excited to learn that Sarah Jane was the TEACHER and not the STUDENT!  After I read the book I introduced the bottle tree that I have in my reading corner.

 I plan to add a bottle to the tree every time we read and discuss a book in class.  On the back of the bottle we have to add three things:
1) Something important that happened in the book
2) A lesson that was learned or the theme of the book
3) A connection to the book.

At first I expect them to make a personal connection, but as the year progresses, I will be expecting text to text and text to world connections.  My Smarties did such a great job!  I was really impressed with the thoughtful answers they gave me on the first day of school!

Along with reading First Day Jitters, I also used the book to teach my grammar lessons in my writer's block.  I'm using my BBB, Jessica's, Mentor Sentences with my students.  Mentor texts are the way to go my friends, and Jivey made it easy to incorporate grammar skills right into good books.  Reading and discussing good books translates into good writers!  You can go {HERE} and see what Jivey has. If you haven't used mentor sentences before, she has several free lessons that you can download and check out.
Look at what my students accomplished with our mentor sentences this week! They could tell me parts of speech, diagram sentences, revise a sentence, and imitate it.  I chose several of the best sentences to hang on the wall for everyone to read.

We started science with a great idea from one of my teammates.  Since our first reading text is all about a scientist who studies tarantulas, we started our notebooks with drawings of what type of scientist we would like to be.

I had students put up privacy folders while they worked, so that each one would be unique.  They drew themselves in a labcoat, and then decorated the lab coat with what they would want to be a scientist of.  We discuss how scientists ask questions about the world around them, and then complete investigations and make observations to answer those questions.  Everyone was so excited to see all of the different types of scientist we have in our room.

A few other fun activities that you could use to start science or practice problem solving skills include Saving Fred.  You can read about this activity {HERE}.  I'm doing it with my class next week.  I also sometimes do the Index Card Challenge.  You can go {HERE} to find out about this activity (There is a link to a freebie where I wrote down the directions, and a youtube video if you need to see this in action). My class LOVED this once they figured it out.  I think I'll be saving it for a fun Friday activity a in a few weeks.

I am also planning to create a Back to School Dodecagon Ball with my students for Open House.  I don't normally start this project until the second week of school if I can help it.  We have to start to establish some routines first.  Basically my students will be getting 2-3 sections a day throughout the second week of school to complete.  Some I ask them to draw, others I ask for more of a writing component.  I'll use my writing time for this, as I'm still leveling students and trying to see where I have to start my basics at.  When we finish this project I'll have them up for Open House.  I know my parents are going to Love the way they look.  It is a great way to incorporate writing, math and art all in one area.  If you are interested, you can go {HERE} to check them out.

Of course, the first week wouldn't be complete without a guest coming in.. right?
Here is our little Nagini that decided she needed a little extra learning.  This racer snake was in the hallway one morning, and I just about had a heart attack.  I AM NOT A SNAKE PERSON!  Good thing one of my teammates is!  I hope the momma isn't lurking somewhere!

I'd love to know what you are doing for the First Week of School!  Let me know how it went for you! I'm all about gathering a community of teachers to support each other!

Have a great day!

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