Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fall Decorations, Bucket Filling, And Book Recommendations!

Fall Decorations--- A Cozy Classroom---- Sets the Mood for Learning!

Stimulating student imagination often happens via the senses.  Colors, smells, texture are exciting when the seasons change.  Fall has the smell of cinnamon, bright gold, red and yellow hues of the leaves, round orange pumpkins, the texture of straw, nuts and burlap. Owls, scarecrows, squirrels also add a fall touch.  

Fill the classroom with fall treasures to enhance the classroom ambiance.  A  candle will provide the cinnamon sent.  A garland of leaves brings nature into the classroom and lots of color!  Gather a few woodsy animal friends and you have a cozy fall classroom. A few things added can go along way to bring your students into the magic of the fall season.  Have Fun!!!

Here are two of my favorite art projects for fall:


Bucket Filling ------ A NEW Twist-- Take it to a NEW Level! 

 Reading Incentive Bucket Filling!

A Teacher’s smile, pat on the back, an encouraging note will do wonders for a student’s self esteem.  When a student does the same for another student, wonderful endorphins are released inside the child’s brain and joy happens.  Memories are made with a simple compliment scratched on a piece of paper and lovingly delivered to a classmate.  Why wait until Valentine’s Day to spread the love in the classroom?  Get started with a Bucket Filling system this week.  I know, some of you have already incorporated the bucket system because it has been around for years, SO I have something NEW for you!  You will LOVE the new twist to my bucket filling system.  

Bucket Filling System--- Getting Started
Student buckets are located on the front of my desk.  Each cup is attached with velcro and the name plates for each student is a magnet plate.  Fortunately, my desk is a metal desk!  Students write notes to fellow students on Friday and these notes put smiles on their faces, ending the week on a high note.  

Here is an example of a bucket system I used in 2nd grade.  The side of the air conditioning unit was magnetic.  Perfect!

NEW Use for Bucket Filling:  Surefire Reading Incentive- Double Duty System 

After hearing from a good number of parents at Back to School night about their concern that Johnny does not like to read, I developed this plan that has worked magic!  

In the supply bucket at each table group is a receipt pad.  Each receipt (NCR paper) makes two copies.   After a student reads a book from the classroom library, a receipt is filled out with a book recommendation.  I explain that a recommendation is like writing a short book commercial, which entices other students to read the book.  Students also rank the book from one to three.  Three stars is considered an outstanding book.  The white copy of the receipt is placed inside the book, so others may see the receipt.  The yellow copy is either given to another student by placing it in the bucket, or given to me.  Here are the great benefits of the system.  When I look at the library, I have instant data showing me which books are being read.  One group of boys read only Captain Underpants books, so I took the group aside I encouraged them to broaden their book reading experiences.  A group of girls, who are high readers, have started their own book club.  Girls that were not friends at the start of the year are now book buddies!  I can easily discover a student’s independent reading level. I see first hand that the struggling reader lacks the skill to reflect on what he/she has read, so I can give a mini-lesson on getting engaged in the story and what makes a good story.  The smiles at the end of the day on Friday are brighter and wider because they are excited about the complimentary notes, but also because they get a book recommendation!  Monday comes; the student is excited to find the book that a fellow student recommended!  Life is good!  Students are hooking other students to READ!  I discover what books have gone viral!  Book Buckets! Try it!


In non-teaching related news I have been redecorating and jazzing up my house like a mad woman.  Here are a few videos of my progress.  Be sure to subscribe to my shesparkletv YouTube channel!

My Garden:

My Pinterest yellow and grey guest room: 

Thanks for reading and watching all the way to the end! 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

How To Get Ready Before You Head Out To Teach!

A key part of being totally present for my students starts a few hours before the students arrive in the classroom.  I have a “before school routine” that helps start the day on a positive note. I wake early enough to make time for breakfast, which is sooo important.  Starting your day with some protein is a must.  My standby breakfast is centered around eggs/egg.  Somedays I opt for an egg white omelet, other days I will have a soft boiled egg.  An egg is just enough protein to keep me going until mid morning or longer.  To have that extra time for breakfast, I often lay out my clothes the night before.  There are several default outfits that I rotate through the weeks because they are so comfortable. 

When I grab my clothes in the morning, I am looking for comfort; so my clothes are often soft knits, pants with stretch, and light weight sweaters.  Recently, I am shifting toward a scarf for added pizzaz to any outfit or a chunky necklace. A colorful infinity scarf can be used with many outfits. I always look forward to fall, so I can wear my boots with jeggings.  

For a couple of years I did not set aside time for putting on make up, but that has completely changed.  Now my make up routine has become a critical piece of my morning routine because I feel I am putting on my happy, pop of color, alive and energetic teacher face.  I don’t stop at my face.  Over the years I have my favorite go to hair styles that change up my look.  I have fine, thin hair, so I know how to compensate; maybe I’ll use a doughnut shaped form that creates an instant teacher bun (so professional), an alligator clip, a spunky low or high pony tail to keep the hair away from my face.  

Give your morning routine ample amount of time.   Leaving photo copying and science lab prep for the hour before school starts is a bad idea.   Many unexpected, critical must dos erupt in the morning after arriving at school, a parent conference that was not planned, a teacher rushing in with an emergency, and more.  So doing the copying the day before is the smarter way to ensure sanity and ensure lesson plan readiness.  Because I have a 35+ minute commute, I have time to contemplate what I am going to do as soon as my car lands in the parking lot. I am ready to have a great day with my 25 wonderful 5th graders!!!!

How do you get ready in the morning?  What are your tips?  I always need new ideas and love hearing from you!  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

My Teacher Story


I fought the idea of being a teacher.  Why?  All things pointed to a teaching career.  I loved my magical kindergarten teacher; I pretended I was a teacher at an early age, I loved playing teacher in my mother’s classroom.    I knew how hard she worked; I felt the respect for teachers was not what it should be, I wanted more! However, like a magnet, teaching drew me in.  Freshman year of college, my mother, the summer school principal, hired me as a teacher.   Other summer school teachers thought I was a credentialed teacher; I realized this was within my skill set.   Then my college roommate decided to get a teaching credential.  I caved.  I changed my major and now after 8 years of teaching, I reflect on my teaching journey.   

The first couple of years I was consumed with being the perfect teacher; every waking hour was consumed by planning, prepping, perfecting every detail.  The teaching obsession was not healthy.  Fortunately, during those first couple of years, I had an amazing mentor, who supported me.  I cleared my credential with the help of the BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) mentor program.  I also had teacher colleagues who shared their ideas with me.  But soon my teaching world started crumbling around me.  The double whammy in my district was the economy and also declining enrollment. So I moved from one school to another school and then eventually got laid off, even with five years of seniority, tenure and outstanding reviews.  This tragic realization came with wounds: lost teacher friends, hurt feelings, loss of innocence around school politics, the realization that everyone is expendable.  I had not taken care of myself, put on weight, gave up precious work out time.  I was depleted.  The stress of moving every year from school to school, from grade level to another grade lever had taken its toll on me.  I was depleted.   Then fortunately, a new realization took hold, the next district that hired me as a kindergarten teacher had many wonderful qualities, change was good and I learned many things about my self through the forced change.  In addition, I realized I rocked as a resilient person, who would not be afraid of change.  My students were always the joy of my life.    So when my boyfriend decided to take a job two hours away, I decided to interview at a job that would mean I could be near him.  And when I was hired, it meant I was starting over AGAIN, new district, no credibility with parents, no teacher friends and going from kindergarten to 5th grade!  On the other hand I was teaching the gifted students and only 18 students. The stress accelerated when my mother had surgery and then my father died.  I was running on fumes. But I survived. My students took my mind off of the family hardships.  I had an amazingly supportive group of teachers at my grade level that looked out for me and supported me through this hard time.  

Teaching is not glamorous. I am not here to sugar coat it or be fake with you.  I want to make more money, more respect.  Teaching pushes all of my buttons.  I am a control freak, perfectionist, and competitive person.  I hate that a bell dictates my schedule and when I need to go to the bathroom.  There have been many times that I question if this is the right profession for me and when can I get out!  The politics, test score chasing, and overall bureaucracy make the job overwhelming.  Because of layoffs and jumping around I know that I am jaded.   Having the opportunity to teach a grade level for more than one year may change my mind completely about teaching!  I admit I  feel everyone is watching, parents, students, administration, the community, the world, test scores!!!!!!! 

The pressure is intense.  Every step could be a land mine  So why do I keep doing it?  My classroom. My students.  My classroom is my home.  I love decorating it, I love creating new curriculum, I love seeing an idea I have come to life with my students,  I love laughing with them, I love looking out at my class and thinking I did it----- the systems, the routines, the enthusiasm I had a part in this. I think back to my kindergarten teacher often.  She made teaching magical for me.  I have a drive to make learning magical for my students.  

(A special sign I had made for my first year of teaching!)

(My first year teaching kinder!  My mom helps go through the large book collection.  What a treasure...what a job!)

(One of my many moves!)

Sorry for the poor poor poor quality of this photo.  Just a little photo fun old school style.  Rainforest Open House.    I assembled a large Kapok tree in the middle of my classroom.  My first Halloween was dressed up as Tacky the penguin.  Ahhhhh yes, my old red ford focus.  This little sporty car took me to and from work.  When I taught my first year of kinder my mom came to school as Zero The Hero's wife for the 100th day of school.  Lots of great memories!