Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Eid Holiday = Happy Teacher Days

Here in the Middle East they have the Eid holiday instead of fall break (probably since we just started in September and it is a Muslim based culture).  Eid is pronounced eed.  There are two Eid holidays in a year and this one was the shorter of the two.  We received Thursday and Sunday off (remember my school week is Sunday through Thursday). 

Pulling up to school on Wednesday last week I noticed how few cars there were.  I checked my watch - we weren't extremely early or late.  My fellow co-workers and I clocked in and then hung out in the hallway and chatted.  Soon enough the bell for school rang and still there were only maybe 5 students in the corridors.  We slowly wandered to our classrooms.  Mine was completely devoid of students so I headed down the hall to my friend's room to discover the same thing in her room.  After about 30 minutes of chatting about teaching plans and what we could be working on, I headed back to my room to finally get those bulletin boards up.

Do you know how frustrating as a primary teacher it has been to have maybe 10 minutes total to clean up after the students, use the restroom, and then catch the bus home each day?  Talk about no prep time!  Over a month into school and I am still staring at blank walls.  On the upside I have finally, FINALLY, FINALLY got my ABC's up.  I cannot tell you how much that was bothering me.  The lack of supplies will be a whole other post...

So with no students I managed to get the ABC's posted and filed some work in the student's portfolios before we were told we were heading home early.  Part of me rejoiced and part of me was seriously dismayed as I looked around my blank, sad walls and finally had the time to do something about it.  But this is the Middle East and no one stays out in the middle of nowhere in the desert at a deserted school so when one goes, we all go.  I guess we are sort of like the 3 Musketeers.  Only the 44 Musketeers instead.

Eid Holiday = Happy Teacher Days because when we returned from break this week I only had 12 students (combined from my 2 classes!).  School was closed early for the students so I was given some more time to work on my room.  I managed to get one bulletin board trimmed out (had to hand roll tape cigars to put it up and it took forever)...

Eid Holiday = Happy Teacher Days because today was not only my birthday but the second day back from Eid.  Between the two classes there were 25 children so class was combined and I had until 10 am free to work in my room and then only needed to teach two 45-minute classes because they had a special the third 45-minute period.  Bliss!  Although the children were a bit roudy today.  But still!  I then managed to finish trimming out all the bulletin boards today (didn't get the pictures yet).  Now I just need to label and start getting my word wall set up.  If I'm lucky I'll have it looking like a used classroom by December.  Oh gosh,  I hope not!  It's sad seeing how little is in my room compared to the States.  I miss being surrounded by all that glorious teacher stuff!  Customs will be finding my returning suitcases strange I'm sure once I hit the old Dollar Tree and raid my teacher supplies in storage...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

First Year Bliss Linky Party

Ah, my first linky party.  I am linking up with The 3am Teacher to commemorate her first year of blogging by sharing my favorite first year memory.  Don't forget to grab her button and share your own story before time runs out!

I, too, have barely been blogging a year (my has it been that long?) and I am still learning.  Still.  Learning.  Slooowlly...like my students.  Perhaps it's because I spend too long perusing other people's blogs and neglecting my own???

Wait a minute, this was supposed to be about my favorite memory.  Right.  I think my favorite blog memory from this past year would have to be when I hit the "publish" button for the first time.  Since I was little I have always wanted to be a writer and there is something to be said about being able to type in your blog address and see your own words fill the screen.  Especially when you view your blog counter and see that your page actually encountered some traffic.  I have loved learning about blogs and am excited to pursue my blogging even more this year to document my year of teaching in the Middle East.

A special thank you to those who have chosen to join me on this journey and a best wishes for Michelle for another year of blogging bliss!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Interactive Math Notebooks

I am still hard at work on my image-based classroom behavior program.  Hopefully it will be done by the end of this week because I am tired of having to work without concrete ideas in hand.  Tonight instead of working on my visual aids I got sucked into the world of blogging and discovered a real treat - interactive math notebooks with...wait for it.....


I am so excited to try this but it is of course another insanely time intensive process.  I already have such a laundry list of TPT things I need to work on plus my lessons for next week.  But still...I think my students would love this and my math is missing some serious structure.  I, like Janaye, love the well thoughout organization of these notebooks.  Her recent posts are from her fourth grade teaching days but she has since moved to first.  I'm hoping her ideas evolve into a notebook for her current kiddos.  Right now my students have such little English skills that I'm worried some parts of this are too much for them.  I think I will let the idea mill around in my brain a bit before I try to see if I will truly tackle this for my class.

  • Fun to use
  • Completely engaging
  • Handy year-long plus reference (especially if I loop next year)
  • Better than the insufficient math program I've been given as a resource
  • Easy to differentiate to my class since I'm behind the creation
  • Super time consuming to set up
  • Some concepts of student set-up (folding/cutting) difficult with language barrier
  • Lack of supplies (i.e. colored paper, glue)
  • Notebooks in UAE are super tiny so would have to modify things to fit OR purchase 50 notebooks when I visit the USA for Christmas break
  • 50 notebooks are expensive to pack in luggage with rest of teaching resources bringing back
  • Did I mention time consuming???
In the meantime, check out Janaye's blog if you don't know her already at Tales of Frogs and Cupcakes by clicking here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Out of Control Voices...Voice Chart Freebie

My two classes seem to consist of two extreme groups of children.  Those who say nothing and those who talk/shout/scream loudly.  It was driving me absolutely crazy so I set out to conquer the issue with my favorite tool - google.

An hour or so of reading blog posts and classroom management websites and I decided to give the old voice level chart a try.  Now the voice level chart is not new to me, I have just never felt the need to start using it in my classroom.   Until now that is.  Dealing with 50 students who don't understand you is hard enough but getting them to understand the concept of no screaming in the classroom is a different concept entirely.  I have been trying to be way more visual in my classroom management approach.  So I found some charts I liked and in true me fashion, recreated the wheel and made my own.

It has been hanging in my classroom a few days now and has made a dramatic difference.  I refer to it very frequently and for the start of each group we go back over what the different levels mean.  Having it so visual gives the girls a clear understanding of my expectations.  Now it's not to say you can hear pins dropping in my room but at least I'm no longer dinging my bell like a madwomen and shouting over the noise to gain attention.  Something I'm ashamed to admitting in public that has been my MO to date.  Trust me when I say it has NOT made me a happy teacher.

Grab your own copy of the voice level poster I created.  I have a small poster size and a two-page size (which is the one I use).  I taped it to my whiteboard in the front of the room and use a small magnet to signal which number voice we are to be using.


What works for you to quiet a crazy, out of control classroom?


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Roller Coaster Emotions

I have completed three weeks of teaching here in the UAE.  I can't quite say I've successfully completed them unless you consider making it through each week a success.  I also don't know if I can quite put into words what the experience here has been like so far.  Those who are on year two of their two year contract have told me, "You can't tell anyone.  You just need to experience it."  But the writer in me at least wants to attempt it.

Here goes..

It's like a roller coaster of emotions and recurring belief/disbelief.  You are always looking for someone to turn to and ask "Did that really just happen?  Really?"  Things like the mother that could not calm her absolute bawling first grader who clung to her abaya with no remorse to the point where the mother repeatedly hit her child on the arms - bone on bone.  Disbelief.  Shock.  I had to slowly back away because it is a perfectly acceptable thing here as long as it is Emirati to Emirati.  A Westerner would be fired, jailed, and/or deported.

The boys with the wheeling backpacks (why does this country not seem to have wheeless backpacks?) who zoom through the corridors with a reckless abandon only seen from wild animals in their natural habitats.  Boys who will then wheel the backpacks in dizzying circles and climb aboard to push each other down the hall.  On top of the backpacks.  And the racing, thumping, racing down the stairs with the wheeling backpacks while you say a silent prayer "please don't hit me so I tumble."

Then there is the older sibling who rushes up to you one day after class to inquire about her sister and gives you your first nose kiss.  A high honor reserved for those within their tribe.  I was glowing and grinning from ear to ear from such a strange thing as a nose kiss!  But it really made my day.

And the days where my students are so comfortable with me that they rush me for a classwide hug and cling to me as I try to enter the classroom.  Much like when I was little and stood on my dad's feet as he walked.

Today was a good day so my roller coaster has been climbing.

Part of my commute

The road to work

Friday, August 17, 2012

Al Ain, UAE

So I find myself in limbo now that I've arrived in the UAE (The United Arab Emirates) just a stones throw away from Jordan.  It's a bit strange being here.  Most everything is posted in English and Arabic and there are so many things you'd find in the States that you can find here.  Like virtually every type of fast food.  I would have thought I would escape that!
Mushrif Mall in Abu Dhabi - notice the Wendy's

Just like in the States, it's cheap here too! Lucky me.

My employer, ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council), has placed me in an incredibly nice hotel for a week now.  They've given me a key to my apartment (although it appears to have someone still living there - a slight hiccup in my plans) and I will be in Abu Dhabi for hopefully another week.  At the end of next week I'll have my first new teacher orientation - UAE style.  I just can't wait to see the school and grade level I'll be teaching.  You know how we are - we could plan all summer for back to school!  At this rate I'll only have about a week.  Yikes.

In the meantime I'm trying to just relax and meet new people.  Although most of us in this hotel are teachers, some have formed cliques awful quick.  My "clique" isn't quite working out so I'm still shopping around, so to speak.  The important thing is that I just remain open to new experiences and keep a positive outlook - especially since ADEC definitely has their own version of doing things that takes some getting used to.  All in good time - I have two years.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A New Adventure...Take Two

Okay, I walked away from a very difficult teaching assignment in February and have not been able to find consistent full-time employment since.  When everyone said the economy was bad, I arrogantly thought it wouldn't affect me.  So here I am knee-deep in craziness with constant bill collectors using up my cell minutes.  What's a girl to do?

Move to the Middle East.  Crazy?  Absolutely.  Nuts?  100%  A cool adventure?  That too.

I interviewed through a company called Teach Away and in just 2 weeks I will be flying away from the States to live in the UAE.  Hopefully in Abu Dhabi.  Some of the details are not set in concrete yet.  Which I keep trying to convince myself is part of the allure and the fun of the adventure and not the stress producing events that lead me to wondering "What the heck do you pack when you don't know what city you'll be in or grade you'll be teaching?"  Hmmm...

Did I mention I am also packing up to leave my house and visit my parents this Monday?  As in two days from now Monday.  Looking around my house there is still so much to do.  Not to mention the mail forwarding, address changing, going to be gone two years kind of things to do.

Part of my to do list looks like:
  • Create new account of cheaper incoming overseas transfer (to still allow me to pay US bills in US currency)
  • Order enough contacts for a year (and, gulp, receive them in time)
  • Weed through my important paper documents
  • List out my potential tax things for next April, seeing how I will be trying to do them from the UAE
  • Get a VPN on my computer -- I need to Skype!
  • Make duplicate house and mailbox keys, just in case
  • Buy a car cover
  • Sign up all my bills for paperless statements and auto payments (after setting up a new bank account)
  • Sort through my clothes for appropriateness (my personal version of What Not to Wear)
  • Order a new UAE friendly powersupply cord for my computer
And on, and on, and on.  Until my head spins.  Because of course I have a million TPT things I want to do and post before I go for Back to School usefulness.

Next on my list would be getting ready to go see some of my girlfriends for one last outing.  Then home to tackle a few more things off the list!

Finding Time to Test

This could be the question of the century.  How do I find time to test my students on a weekly basis on their sight words?  Well, I snatch time wherever I can find it.  Sounds simple enough but it isn't.  And yes, even I might sometimes not get to all the students I want.  But to have your students be successful the most important thing you can do is...MAKE TIME.  Nothing is worse than having a student so close to wanting to pass the list they are on only to be put off because you don't have time for assessment.  Eventually that little guy is going to throw in the towel.  If you don't care, why should he?  It may not be true but for a 6 year-old, it's all about perception.

So, back to the topic of this post.

One year I was super fortunate to have an "extra" computer time in the non-teaching computer lab.  What this meant is that I would start the kiddos on an educational website and once they were going, I could pull kids back to a table and test away.  Voila.  A built-in time for weekly assessing.

Of course things in education change quite quickly.  And then revert back just as quickly (but that's another blog post).  So when I lost being able to have this extra lab time I was faced with finding time in each day.  Literacy stations are a wonderful time for assessment.  I pull students for reading groups during my stations.  Once a week, or sometimes every other week depending on how much time I have for groups, I would test the students sitting with me for group before we got down to other business.  After you've had a few assessments under your belt you might only need 5 minutes or less per student.

My favorite way to find assessment time is to enlist volunteers.  Occasionally I have been fortunate to have student interns that could pull and assess students for me.  I dislike using parents for these jobs.  Especially if the parent likes to see where their student compares to the class.

But mostly I just do my best to pull students throughout the day.  Did they finish snack early?  Grab them to test.  During report card time I can be found with my assessment materials outside the classroom just in case I can snag sometime to test.  Heck, I've even done testing on class restroom breaks!  First one in can be tested while we wait on the rest of the class.

I am a true believer that the quicker a student learns sight words, the easier reading will be for them.  Then we can concentrate on the fun stuff like comprehension techniques and making connections.  Just remember that sight word testing should not take over as your only strategy for reading practice.  Kill and drill will not go very far in building avid readers.

Word Wall Wallet Assessment Binder

Sorry for the delay!  My wonderful Word Wall Wallets also come complete with everything you need to put together an assessment binder to make your principal proud.

Individual Student Record
Binder Cover

Class Overview - At a Glance

For the Class Overview page, just simply write in which list your students are currently practicing.  This will allow you to easily create partners that are on the same list.

Keeping track of an individual student is as simple as following the Student Testing Page.  I like to place a copy of all the lists (pre-primer, primer, etc) under the tab for each student.  By labeling the tabs by student number, I don't have to rename the tabs everytime a student moves away.
Please forgive the blurry pic, my phone doesn't take the best pictures!  My pretend student, Susana, was tested on Aug. 17th.  I have written this date off on the margin.  Then for each word she got correct within the 3 second rule, I gave her a checkmark.  For this example I stopped after the first row since Susana did not know most of the words.  These are the words I will assign her for practice during the week to be retested on Friday (or whatever day I have set aside for testing). 

In the past I have also tested all the words.  It really depends on the time you have available and your students.  If they are overwhelmed by the mounting pile of unknown words as you test, you might want to stop after a row or two.  Just test until you have at least a few words for them to practice.

Not shown here but included with the binder pages are a label for the binder spine and a testing schedule worksheet to help keep you on top of assessing.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Word Wall Wallets

I am super excited and proud of my newest creation:  the Word Wall Wallet.  I saw the Sight Word Sticker Book on TPT and it got my wheels churning.  How awesome would it be if kids could have a place to mark the words they know and have it store their sight word flash cards?  Voila!  The Word Wall Wallet was born.


Be the first person to become a follower and post a comment to this blog entry with your e-mail and I'll send you a free download of the wallets.  Contest ends June 30th!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Where Are We?

I have back to school on the brain.  Yes, I know most of you are barely out and enjoying your summer but I've been "out" since February.  I guess you could say I already had my summer.  Now I'm ready to dive back into things.

Starting with revamping some of my old favorites.  Like my classroom door sign that was a big hit with all the kiddos.  They loved being the one to turn the wheel to our special before we left class.

Make sure you check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store to get it at a great deal!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sub Woes

Oh. My. Goodness.

Can I just say it's a relief my two-day stint in THAT second grade room is over.  Within five minutes of sitting down after the first bell this morning, one of the little guys flipped off the Pledge of Allegiance then hightailed it under his desk screaming "Leave me alone.  I need my sleep now."  I like to deal with behaviors without office intervention but after all day yesterday with this defiant and disrespectful little guy, I dropped the students off to their morning special and asked for an intervention.  Turns out the little guy is supposed to be on meds and was most likely not taking them today. 

So...I know sub plans are a pain - I have written plenty myself and taken countless hours to do it, but teachers should give a heads up in their plans if they have any unstable students.  Don't you agree?

For all my two people out there reading this, I want to know if you have any pet peeves for subs.  Is there something you always think a sub should know that is a must have for plans?  Or is there something subs repeatedly do (and I've been on the receiving end of my plans being absolutely ignored after HOURS of slaving over them) that drives you bonkers?  Please share.  It'll be proof that I don't always talk to myself.  Which I do.  A lot.  But mostly at home.  Mostly.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mother's Day Activity

Looking for something to do for Mother's Day with your students?  Head over to my TPT store and check out my just uploaded Mother's Day card made from a paper lunch bag.  Yup, that's right - instead of making a puppet, now you can use a paper bag to make a cute gift card.

Since TPT is having some technical difficulties showing photos of my sample pages, here are some pictures of the card and activities included with the packet.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Gulp, Eighth Grade???

So, I've been going through a bit of a STRESSFUL time looking for full-time work.  To help pay (very loosely speaking) the bills, I've resorted to subbing.  This week there was slim pickings.  Which explains why someone with over 4 years in first grade wound up in front of a group of 8th graders in a science lab.

It's almost like one of those nightmares you hope you will wake up from.  Except it turned out not to be a nightmare.  I know, right?  I was beyond shocked too. Well in first period I had a very belligerent young man that I removed from my presence and sent to the office before I lost face in front of the other 25+ students.  After that it was almost eesy peesy.  Almost.

Minus one minor incident with a pencil winding up in the ceiling, a confiscated cell phone for texting in class (friggin' technology era), and a rude comment about my presence as their teacher for the day...

Luckily for me it was tolerable since I'm returning to the same school on Monday to try my hand at teaching reading.  For an elective.  Hmm...I wonder if teaching will be taking place or if it's like free time to read???  They do already have a language arts class.  Maybe a bit too much to hope for?  Although it is end of the year and after AIMS.

I did get some nice comments from the students about how I was a cool teacher and they wished I would be there all the time.  A comment that came from multiple periods.  Unless they were all sarcastic and laughing behind my back.  Ha!  I will choose to believe they loved me.  Or at least liked me enough to get their work done.  Mostly.   Maybe that was the threat of their grade in jeopardy?

Either way it was nice not wrangling little ones all day and asking them to sit on their bottoms.  I went home on a Friday after subbing from preschool to 8th grade surprisingly not too exhausted.  Of course I didn't have to grade the 140-ish papers the students turned in today.  Bonus for subbing!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Counting Strips

I finally finished my counting strips I had started quite awhile ago.  Such a nice feeling having something marked off my to do list!

These are a great tool to help practice counting to 10 and can be modified for skip counting and addition practice as well.


Skip Counting

Number Counting

Feel free to check it out in my TpT store if you like what you see. It comes with easy-to-follow directions for your students.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A New Adventure?

Well, it's the end of the year and although school isn't quite out, I am.  Life happens and things change unexpectedly.  So my current adventure is subbing.  And it is definitely an adventure!

Even though I'm starting a new adventure, my goal is to do more blogging.  I am such a fan of all those awesome blogs out there (my blog envy is getting a little ridiculous) and it's been MONTHS since I started this.  Whoops. 

On the upside this time off has given me some time to try to finish up some projects I have had on the back burner.  Coming soon you'll be able to check out my space unit on TpT and hopefully some of my genre units I used with my gifted students.

Here's a sneak peek the space unit in progress:

My goal is to have it in my TpT store by next week. eventually.
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