2015: A Year in Review

Happy New Year's Eve my friends!  Did you sleep in today so you can be wide awake at midnight and celebrating the start of 2016?  I always love this time of year because it gives me an opportunity to reflect and think about my life in general.  I always like a new beginning, and in education we seem to get two of them.  One in August or September when the new school year starts, and one in January with the new year!  I've spent some time thinking about 2015, which has brought some tremendous changes in my life.  I wanted to share a few moments with you.  Some are personal, some are educational, well... that's just me.

2105 was a year of Travel:
I spent most of the summer traveling with my daughter and her softball team.  They had an opportunity to play is Louisiana, Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports, Atlanta, Montgomery, and Tennessee.  As a result, we stayed in a few amazing places, met up with wonderful friends that we hadn't seen in a few years, and explored the TN mountains.

I'm sure this summer will bring even more travel.  I hope that some of it will be back in the Northeast!

2015 was a year of Science Mastery:
I spent two weeks of my summer delving a little more deeply into my science curriculum.  I worked with my teammate and read over/ completed several labs that I'm looking forward to doing with my students this spring.

Going to Tennessee and walking through several of the caves gave me great motivation to work on my Rocks and Minerals unit.  We have been working on incorporating reading across our curriculum, and creating informative articles and interactive notebook activities for my science units has really helped me become a better science teacher.  My students have enjoyed science MUCH more this year too.  We loved mining for minerals and finding tons of gems!

2015 was a year of Math PLT:
I am the PLT at my school for sixth grade math.  I've really enjoyed meeting with other teachers across our county to learn how they are teaching certain curriculum sections in their classrooms, and to share what I am finding works with my students as well.  Lately I've really been trying to use my small group time as much as possible to meet with students who are missing small individual skills. We've been playing a lot of games like this interactive fraction review game

 and using our Scoot and Compute cards.  

I like these because I can differentiate them easily.  My high kids can work on skills that are challenging in groups on their own, while my other lower groups can work on easier numbers, and I can gradually increase their computation and math language skills.

I also spent time talking to my PLT about increasing math language.  I shared these Conversation Cards with them.  They are FREE in my TpT store if you would like to use them in your classroom.

2015 was a year of Friendships:
I loved being able to meet up with many of my BBBs this year at the TpT Conference, and with my softball travels.  These people really inspire me to be a better teacher and friend.  I have had moments where their positive energy and support has really been what has gotten me through some tough situations, and I am forever grateful that I took the chance and began blogging.

Thank you to my readers whom I have not met!  I appreciate that you stop by with your Coffee Cup to sip and read!  One of my goals is to become more consistent with blogging in 2016.  I hope you will continue on this journey with me.  Happy New Year!!

Choosing Kind: A Classroom Christmas Project.

Merry Christmas friends!  I hope that everyone has had the opportunity to finish up in their classrooms, and you finally have time to sit down to enjoy a break filled with fun, family, and Netflix binging!

I wanted to share a project that my class completed before Christmas.  It filled our hearts with so much joy, I couldn't wait to blog about it.  We have been reading Wonder this semester.  Every week we have a guest reader from the community come in to read to us for about 30 minutes.  Ours happens to be the mayor of our little town.  When he first started coming, I thought Wonder was the perfect book for him to read, and the kids have really looked forward to our Thursday time.
One of the big lessons I have been trying to teach and promote this year is Choose Kind.  It doesn't matter if you teach in a big or small, rich or poor school, sixth graders deal with peer pressure. Period.  It is one of the biggest years for them to learn to navigate these slippery slopes.  The precepts in the book make great discussions about the best way to be your own person and handle yourself.  As we were continuing to talk about showing kindness to each other I thought this Choosing Kind project was perfect for my class.

I happen to teach in a fairly rural Title 1 school.  Most of my kids don't have a lot.  My heart was breaking for them, listening to them tell stories about cars breaking down, and no heat during a recent cold front.  I knew I had to do something to make sure they had at least one meal over the Christmas break that was fortifying.  I contacted a local church that does a character ed program in the morning at our school, and they donated enough mason jars for our class to make soup and hot chocolate to take home, plus a batch of hot chocolate to donate back to the church for other needy families.  I used some donation money as well as classroom money that was not designated for instructional purposes.. although I think my class was getting PLENTY of instruction in doubling classroom size recipes,  and bought the ingredients for pasta fagioli and homemade hot chocolate. We didn't want anyone at school to know about our project so we called it the Super Secret Santa Ninja Mission... because well, who doesn't want to be a Secret Santa and a Ninja!

The last week of school we stealthily went to the cafeteria every morning to create our jars.  My students loved being able to make something that would feed their families over Christmas break! They were proud that they could contribute to their families meals, and help their parents feel less stress.  It was such a wonderful way to bring our classroom community together.  Everyone helped each other measure, mix and pour.  We listened to Christmas carols, talked about books and fractions, and more importantly spent time coming together as a family.  It completely filled my heart!

When we were finished we had 27 jars of soup, and 54 jars of hot chocolate mix!  We decorated bags for each item, and then on our last Thursday we presented 21 hot chocolate jars in gift wrapped bags to the members of the church!  They were so excited to be receiving this gift, and my students were so proud to be sharing something with their community.  It was an amazing experience, and I'm so glad we were able to find a way to #choosekind and think of others during the holiday season.

Yes, we learned more about fractions and measurement conversion.  Yes we learned about making text to world connections. But, more important, we learned how we can make connections between people.  It was well worth the experience to give up my "precious test-teaching time"-- yes I said it, to create a memory for my students that will help them choose to do something for someone else when it is needed.

Thank you for letting me share! I hope you all have a wonderful, happy and healthy holiday season!


Thankful Five for Friday

Happy Post Turkey Day my friends!  Are you still in your jammies sipping coffee?  Or did you head out with the masses for a little Thrill of the Hunt Black Friday Shopping?
I headed out early with my family and a strong 'cuppa Joe to people watch and let my youngest enjoy his first Black Friday experience.  We made these great t-shirts to wear... so fun!

Meanwhile, I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs to share a little Five for Friday!

1) Before I left last week we worked on finishing up out unit on Independent and Dependent variables.  I'm really proud of my students with this unit.  They seem to have really gotten the relationship between the linear equations, tables and graphs.  This can be really difficult, and I will continue to review this concept with them throughout the year, but I'm impressed by their development, and I hope it will pay off for our middle school teachers next year!

2) We also worked on informational and media text with articles about Turkey Hatchery's from one of my blog buddies, Erin at I'm Lovin Lit.  She has great activities that are perfect for teaching the argumentative informational article.  My kids get so incensed by the inhumane treatment of turkeys.  I love this discussion every year.  I follow up the article and media activities by having my class visit our special educator.  He actually has a small farm and raises turkeys.  He brings them into school for a few days every year, so we headed out to the pen where he was able to talk to us a little about small time turkey processing.  This is such a great way to really sum up the articles!

3) While we were working on our turkey activities we also created a class book:  A catalog to help turkeys survive Thanksgiving.   They loved this project, and they came up with some really fun ideas for saving the turkeys including invisibility cloaks (Harry Potter fan made that one) or a map to a camp just for turkeys? (someone is reading The Lightning Thief).

This activity is from my Thanksgiving Turkey Survival Kit pack.  Which, btw is in the process of getting a HUGE makeover.  So if you like the idea you may want to put it on your wish list over at TpT.

4) We finished up with a viewing Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and some popcorn.  I was amazed that I had students in my class that had never seen an air popper before!  They were such a big help at the end of the day.  Popcorn of course had flown everywhere, but the class pitched in and helped make the room tidy for our return.  I think there may be more popcorn parties in their future!

5) Finally, I am enjoying a wonderful week with my family.  We have had a great time dancing, eating and watching a tree lighting ceremony.  Today as I said earlier we are off with the masses getting those great Black Friday bargains!
I hope you all have a wonderful long weekend with your families.  Eat lots of turkey sandwiches, gobble up some pie, and wear some yoga pants!  


Using Foldables and Games to Review Numeric Expressions and Order of Operations

I love being able to teach math first thing in the morning!  It is a great way to start my day.  I use my morning work time to have my students cut out or color in their interactive notebook foldables.  Then when we are ready to start our day everything is organized and ready to go.  In this way I have a full 45 minutes to teach math, and not worry about the few slow kids who are always the last ones done cutting.

Today I wanted to share a few resources for reviewing numerical expressions and order of operations:

1) Foldables Foldables and Foldables-  Have you started to use foldables and interactive notebooks?  I started using this several years ago and it has really changed my teaching. It's NOT about cutting and gluing!  Used correctly, foldables are a great study tool for students who need the kinestic touch to study.  They provide parents with the needed vocabulary to help their children, and a great way to teach students about organizing notes and their thinking.

I used three different foldables with this section of my Expressions and Equations unit to help organize vocabulary and give my students a reference point for justifying and explaning their answers.  One reviews basic operations.  We created a four door foldable and put words that can be found in questions and word problems on the inside.  It's basic, but it gets the point across.

My students cut and colored the front during morning work.  Then we completed an activity where students had to sort key operation words.  These went into the inside.

Here is an example of the inside when they finished.  This was great for teaching them about how to "speak" math.  We refer to it a lot throughout the year when we learn how to correctly justify or explain our thinking in words.

The second is for exponents.  I use this foldable for vocabulary as well.  My students need to learn the different ways an exponent can be written.  They always have trouble with this.  They can never remember that the exponent tells how many times the base is used as a factor.  They also have trouble remembering that the expanded form can also be called product of the same factor and repeated multiplication.  Those pesky test creators always use different names for this and it throws my students off.

The third foldable I use is for Order of Operations.
The PEMDAS explains the order that needs to be used with these numerical expressions.  I really stress the way that I have students enter information in this foldable.  My kids always forget that you can multiply OR divide which ever comes first.  The same with adding and subtracting.  So I always put a lot of emphasis on this section.

You can find these foldables {HERE} if you want to use them in your classroom.
I also include examples foldables in our notebooks. Here, we made what I call finger foldables for numeric phrases.  I like to keep things color coded. So when we complete these foldables I have students circle key words using the same color they used in the operations foldable I mentioned above.  If addition was green, then all the addition words are circled in green, etc.  I believe this really helps make the visual memory connection in vocabulary.  After we circle the key word and write the operation on the inside of the foldable we translate the expression.
Here is an example of the finger foldables.

2) Fun Videos
Have you seen Ron Clark perform his Order of Operations song? It is perfect to get your students up and singing about the Order of Operations. My students love it, and I love when I hear them singing or humming it during an assessment!  There is a great link from an Atlanta news station which shows the group dancing on desks and performing.  ***You have to watch about 5 seconds of an ad before you can skip to the video **


Here is another great video source that I use in the unit from Flocabulary.  There are tons of resources that Flocabulary has to offer.
I found it on YouTube

3) Interactive Games
My students love to play math games... I mean who doesn't like being able to work in a group and talk... and when the talking is about Math-- HOLLA!
Try this Order of Operations Freebie. It really gets my smarties thinking because those placement of numbers is important to win this game!

We also have loved playing Exponent Dominoes to practice making the connections between exponents, numbers in expanded form, and standard form numbers.  I printed these in yellow, orange and white cardstock to give them a Fall theme because I teach this unit in the fall.  But they work just as well any time of year. 

Have access to IPads?
You may also want to try this IPad game.  It is perfect for centers.
5 Dice- Order of Operations Game
This game is similar to my Order of Operations Freebie.  Students are given a target number and five dice.  They must create a numerical expression that is as close to or equal to the target.  You can set the game to use just addition and subtraction, or all four operations with grouping symbols.

I hope these resources are helpful!  Have a great day!

Sparking Teaching Motivation: Ron Clark and Learning to Move Your Bus

I recently had the opportunity to go to our local university and listen to Ron Clark speak.  Most teachers know, but just in case, Ron Clark is an educator in Georgia who teaches at and runs the Ron Clark Academy.  This is a very prestigious middle school that does an amazing job of teaching it's students how to prepare for life.  They also have thousands of teachers visit the school each year for professional development.  I hope I can visit there one day!  In the mean time, I was super excited that Ron Clark visited South Alabama and I was able to go listen to him for free!  I wanted to link up with one of my BBBs Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching and sparking student motivation. This isn't student motivation, but sometimes teachers need motivation too!

Mr. Clark is a dynamic speaker and motivator.  My attention never wavered the entire speech.  One thing I really loved was how he defined the people at your school.  There are runners, joggers, walkers and riders. These terms all come from his new book Move Your Bus. Runners are people who basically push your school forward.  They are constantly on the move, involved and innovative.  They have new ideas, and go above and beyond what is required.

Joggers are next.  They are a lot like runners, but not quite as fast.  They get involved in school activities, and help push and move the school to be innovative; they do their jobs well without pushing themselves.

Walkers barely move the bus. They get pulled along by the runners and the joggers.  Riders pick up their feet and let the others do all the work.  They tend to slow down the entire process.

One of the stories I liked best about Mr Clark's speech was his story about "Don't trust the bundt cake." It describes the type of teacher who comes in and is super friendly to new teachers and staff. Outwardly they seem like the go to people, friendly helpful etc.  But really they are saboteurs.  They talk about what people are or are not doing at the school, but never contribute anything positive to the school as the whole.  He ended this segment of the presentation with Don't trust the bundt cake. I went back to school and used one of my sentence strips to write #donttrustthebundtcake and put it up on my teacher wall. It is a great reminder to neither be the teacher who accepts the bundt cake, nor the one who bakes it.  LOVE THAT!

Clark talked about basic rules that apply at his school.  Things like: move and have passion, if there are kids in the room, don't sit down, improve the QUALITY of time that you are teaching, NOT the quantity of what you are placing on kids.

Normally, I would consider myself a runner.  I like being involved in activities at my school, but honestly, I feel like lately I've been more of a jogger.  I need to get my Fred Flintstone feet moving.

Have you had the opportunity to hear Ron Clark or visit the Ron Clark Academy?  At the least, check out Move Your Bus.  It really gave me food for thought! You can click on the picture below to go to Amazon and check out the book.

Sometimes, it's not just about motivating your students, but motivating yourself!
Thanks Joanne for letting me link up and share a Spark of Motivation!


Using Mentor Texts to Teach Personification: Twighlight Comes Twice

We have been steadily working through a review of figurative language here in Coffee Cups land.  I like to start out my year giving a basic definition of several types of figurative language, and then spending a week or two digging a little deeper into their use.  When I have finished with each type, we spiral through again throughout the year with different activities.   I try to introduce each type with a fun video.  Geico Insurance is a master as personification in their commercials.  Here is the video I use-  It's fun and grabs their attention.

I also like to use one of my favorite mentor texts: Twilight Comes Twice by Ralph Fletcher.  He has such a beautiful way with words.  It is very easy to get caught up in the imagery of the text.
Amazon Link

I mean who would not fall in love with text like this:
Fireflies appear, swimming through the air, writing bright messages in secret code.

I begin by reading and discussing the text with my students.  We talk about the other types of figurative language that are found in the text, and there are tons!  It is a perfect review if you have already done similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia and alliteration.  Then I give each of my students a half sheet of cardstock and a strip of paper.  Each paper strip contains an example of personification from Twilight Comes Twice.  As a class we review the sentences and discuss what the "person" is in each sentence, and then how we could draw a literal example of the image.  Finally, each student spends class time drawing an example of their personifed sentence.
Here are a few examples from my class.

Don't you LOVE when students take different perspectives of the same topic!  They never cease to amaze me!
There is also a video of Jeff Hardon reading Twilight Comes Twice on Youtube  which has great music added to it.  I use it in my classroom as a reference tool for students because our next step is writing personification poetry.

Have a great day!
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