Friday, December 28, 2012

Poppin the Question!

I know I haven't blogged in a few days. Everyone's being so busy-busy and I've done nothing. Every time I look at my laptop, I think, "Nooo....I don't want to go there." Opening my laptop starts a whole series of events that includes compulsively checking my email (which I already check on my phone anyway!) reading the latest Yahoo! news stories (or looking at the pictures anyway) and checking out hundreds of blogs. 

This takes a lot of time, and I've been on cloud nine, so I didn't want to. Why am I on cloud nine? Cause...

What's that? It's wedding bells! For me!

Yes, my hunnybun popped the big question on Christmas Eve. Here's the bling:

The smarty-pants checked my pinterest board to see what kind of a ring I wanted. 
That whole day, I knew he was going to do it (he has issues with subtlety) and I was so excited to get home already and exchange gifts (expecting one of those gifts to be a ring). I had spent the whole day nagging him. "HUNNY! Let's go home! Hurry up! Presents presents presents!"

We went to church first and I could tell his hands were cold during the Lord's prayer. Mmm-HMM! I knew it! Nerves!

We got home and he handed me my stocking. 
That sounds weird. Let me clarify: I demand a stocking full of things. Special things for me. I also fill up one for him. You're supposed to do stockings on Christmas Day (everybody knows) but he is so excited every year, that we can't wait. So he handed me my stocking and I hurriedly pulled out all the special things he gave me. Creamer for my coffee, a package of rolos, and some mini Oreos and a bottle of wine. 
Okay, so it covered both my favorite beverages and some sweet stuff, besides, but no ring? I was sure it would be in there!

I shoved my hand all the way in and felt around the toe. There was something small down there.
I grabbed it and pulled it out. It was a Rolo. The package had opened and there were Rolos rolling around down there.

I shoved one in my face.

Then he handed me a large red box. 
YES! A big box with a little box in it, I thought. I tore open the paper and saw


He got me the sneakers I asked for.

I was very confused. I shoved another Rolo in my face. 

At that point, of course, is when he laughed, got down on a knee, asked me to marry him. With a mouthful of Rolo, I said yes! 

So you'll forgive me for being post-less and comment-less since before Christmas. My head is in another place, full of pearls and flowers, pinterest boards with adorable dresses and favors. I'm excited. I'll let you know how these wedding shenanigans go. And I'll be pinning away for our wedding on my Someday I'll Get Married pin board.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

The Twelve Days of Christmas Brea

It is officially Christmas break. I say that it's official today because normally I'd be at work, and today, I'm sitting. I went to make cookies at my moms, and I ate about 10% of the cookies myself. And then I came home and sat.

It's wonderful. 

As I've sat here, I thought a little bit about what my plans are for this break. I decided to share these plans with you. In the form of a song.

Twelve Days of Christmas Break

On the twelfth day of Christmas break, I will have ...
drank 12 cups of coffee (with whipped cream all over)
eaten 11 (different types of) cookies
watched 10 episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
listened to Charlie Brown Christmas 9 times
worn 8 different pairs of pajama bottoms... as pants
consumed 7 alcoholic beverages (that number 7 is arbitrary and does not actually represent my alcoholic consumption.
visited 6 family households 
finished wrapping the last 5 presents
mailed 4 boxes (of gifts that won't arrive until after Christmas, so I'm a horrible friend)
taken 3 walks (because I feel guilty about the eleven types of cookies)
read 2 books (that I chose to read for myself!)
and gone to see the Hobbit ONCE!

I hope your plans are just as lazy as mine :)
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Friday, December 21, 2012

My Top 7 Christmas Movies

Christmas movies are probably the best movies out of all of the movies in the world. I don't think I am being biased when I say this. It's verifiable fact. How do I know? Well, after you finish watching some movies, you might think, "Wow. That was meaningful. I'm a little depressed." After watching a Christmas movie, you might think, "Wow. That was heartwarming. Let's drink hot chocolate an buy presents."
The choice is clear.
I do have one confession, though. I really like Christmas movies that give a naughty twist. So you may be very upset with me to realize that 

It's a Wonderful Life isn't on this list.
WHAT?! The outrage! The unforgiveableness! The blatant disregard for George and Mary and Angel's Wings!! 
But alas, it just doesn't make my cut. A little too deep for me.
These are my favorite Christmas movies, in reverse order of favoritism. 
#7 Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Why it's my favorite: Claymation is fantastico! And every time Rudolph's nose lights up, it makes this obnoxious and addicting noise. "WHOOOOO"
One problem: The island of misfit toys reminds me of a bunch of Debbie Downers. If you're already a little depressed, Charlie in the Box can send you right over the edge.
Favorite parts: Clearly, it's when Herbie says, "I want to be.... a dentist!" Great voice acting.
#6 The California Raisins Christmas Special

I don't know if this counts, but I'm the one writing the blog post, so it's going in.
Why it's my favorite: Um, do you remember the California Raisins?! Do you remember how cool they were?! I think it's pretty obvious why it's my favorite. The awesome factor is very high.
One problem: They were singing raisins, after all.
Favorite parts: Most definitely, my absolute most favoritest part was when the camels sang We Three Kings. All-time Christmas song high.

Isn't that lovely and weird?
#5 How the Grinch Stole Christmas: the real one. Sorry, Jim Carrey. Not doing it for me.

Why it's my favorite: Whos! And the general weird-ness of Seusstastic stuff.
One problem: Max makes me a little sad. He's kind of depressed and has to run around with a giant horn stuck to his head. He can't be enjoying it.
Favorite part: When the Grinch is slinking around the houses, gathering up all the decorations. It's exactly how I feel after Christmas, when I'm taking everything down and stuffing it into tubs in the garage. 
#4 A Christmas Story
Why it's my favorite: I know I wasn't even born during the time this movie depicts, but somehow, (grouchy father) this movie (mouth washed out with soap) seems to really resonate with me (gifts from family members that are completely age inappropriate). 
One problem: The kid has yellow eyes. I mean really? Also, Santa is absolutely terrifying. 
Favorite Parts: "*sob*Daddy's gonna kill Ralphie." (been there)
This part: 

And "You used up ALL the glue ON PURPOSE!"

#3 A Charlie Brown Christmas

Why it's my favorite: The kids' voices are charming and Vince Guiraldi really knows how to rock a soundtrack. 
One problem: This film can cause depression in those susceptible to it.
Favorite parts: I would say Linus' monologue, but that's understood. So I think my other favorite part would be when Lucy is trying to get Linus to play Jingle Bells. "No! Jingle Bells! You know, deck the halls and all that jazz?"
#2 Elf

Why it's my favorite: Ummm...cause it's hilarious? Will Farrell reminds me of myself around this time of year. 
One problem: Weirdly, every time I get to the part at the end where everyone's singing in Central Park, I cry. I don't think that's normal.
Favorite Part:
#1 National Lampoons Christmas Vacation

Why it's my favorite: Highly quotable. When in doubt, quote Clark Griswald. Or better yet, cousin Eddie! And I think it makes me happy to see a family in action that is more dysfunctional than mine.

This is exactly what my outlets look like.
One problem: Every family has a cousin Eddie. If you don't know who YOUR cousin Eddie is... maybe it's you.

He's been holding out for a management position.
Favorite parts: We're gonna have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny f*&#ing Kay! (been there)

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

I honestly don't know what to say, so silence is best anyway.

Join us tomorrow for a day of silence in the blogging community to honor and remember the children, teachers, and families of Sandy Hook.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

On the third day of Christmas, Ms. B gave to me...

On the third day of Christmas, Ms. B gave to me...another embarrassing story!
Embarrassing Story

It was my first Christmas in my own house, and I had invited my friends over for a Christmas party! I had bunches of people over - mostly my teacher-friends, and I was excited to have covered my house from top to bottom with garland. We had a nice evening and, upon teacher-request, I made a pot of coffee.
I am a big coffee drinker. I like my coffee a la Marilyn. Blonde and Sweet. But I use sweet'n'low. So to serve such a demanding coffee population, I had gathered up a few options from my mom's house. I had a little baggie of sugar and a little baggie of splenda.
I poured a cup of coffee for me, and one for my friend's husband, Mike and dressed them up with creamer and splenda. As I walked back to the den, Mike said, "Uh, Chrissy. This coffee is...bad." What do you mean? I asked. "It just tastes...bad." I took a sip. Yup. Bad. Very bad. Bad like acrid bitter coffee. It had a flat, yucky flavor. 
My brain went nuts. Can coffee go bad? Can splenda go bad? Was it my coffee maker? It was kind of old. What if there was something in the bottom of the mug? What if I poisoned Mike?!
I tasted my coffee. Gross. I tasted coffee directly from the pot. Ok. I tasted the creamer. Fine. I tasted the splenda.
I turned out, I had made myself three little baggies. One of sugar, one of splenda, and one of kosher salt, and I'd been 'sweetening' everyone's coffee with the latter!
Mystery solved. Coffee re-poured. Party ensued.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On the First Day of Christmas, Ms. B Gave to ME...

On the first day of Christmas, Ms. B gave to me... an embarrassing family story!

It's the Twelve Days of Christmas!

My family absolutely loves Christmas. We have a lot of traditions, and if we were to somehow have to 'do' Christmas without them, I'm not sure if we could deal. This year, I'm starting my own blog tradition. The last twelve days before Christmas, I'm going to share things with you. I will share a story and a thing. 

Today's story is an embarrassing family story. This is easy to do because I have an embarrassing family.

Embarrassing Family Story:

My youngest brother, Matthew, is a nice boy. The story I am about to tell you is not going to make him look like a nice boy. But he mostly is. We all make mistakes when we're hopped up on sugar.
When Matthew was little, he was a typical little boy. Except that he loved fudge. Absolutely loved it. He could eat entire trays of it (if he were allowed). And he was pretty much a fan of sugar altogether. 

One special Christmas day, when Matt was four years old, we had a house full of people. There were bowls/plates/trays of sugar in all of its forms: candy, cookies, and other tasty green and red colored items.

Matthew, while we were otherwise engaged, spent the morning going from tray to tray and consuming large quantities of any Christmas-ish items.

So by the time we were ready to open gifts, he was really just a clothes-wearing sugar boy. If you'd licked him, you would probably taste frosting.

Now, this was the extended family Christmas. We had already exchanged family presents, and now we were really only giving gifts to the people we hadn't seen yet. Matthew had one gift to open. A foamy football. He took it and went into his bedroom, we hoped, to nap. Or at least sit and watch cartoons. Or do almost anything other than what he actually did next.

My mother and I were out in the den with the large group of family. Everyone was talking and shouting over each other, until a moment of lull in the conversation. At the same moment the conversation died down, I heard a distant shout, bordering on a scream. My eyes darted across the room and met my mother's, who had clearly heard the same thing. She nodded at me, and I raced down the hallway to my brother's room.

I found Matthew sitting in the middle of his floor, surrounded by little green bite-shaped pieces of foam. I watched in horror as he raised the football to his mouth, took a bite out of it, spit the bite out onto the floor, and shouted, "I WANT PRESENTS!"

What a nice little boy he was.

Needless to say, we cleaned up the football bites, force-fed Matthew some protein in the form of a hot dog or some such nutritious foodsource, and never, ever, ever told my father.

As penance for Matthew's horrific behavior, I am sharing for free, until midnight tonight, my Word Work at Santa's Workshop centers from TPT! Grab it free until tomorrow, at which time it will return to 3.00!

Product for Free for a Limited Time!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

12 Days of Christmas starts tomorrow!

My principal is a sweet and wonderful woman who seems to love celebrations. At our school, each grade level and special team is designated a special day when they are responsible for bringing in something to share with the rest of the school. 

One of the teachers remarked that,  instead of the 12 Days of Christmas, it should be called The 12 Pounds of Christmas. So far, I've had donuts, cakes, bagels, hot chocolate, candy, and several other tasty treats sure to add on the poundage.

One special grade level gave us calendars instead of food. While I very much appreciated the thoughtfulness towards my waistline and closet, I must admit..... I like food.

Don't forget: tomorrow, it begins! That makes today the 12 Days of Buzzing with Ms. B's Christmas Eve! Exciting!

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Expository Text Structures

Our latest plans for nonfiction!
In fifth grade, the teachers are introducing expository text structures. The TEKS call for these text structures in fifth grade: cause-effect, compare-contrast, sequence, logical order, and classification theme. The teachers are reading different articles with the kids and searching for the 'signal words' that indicate the relationships between ideas. They'll build this chart as they go! 

At the end, we planned for them to distribute shorts texts to the kids and have them sort them by organizational pattern, and complete the graphic organizer for each one. 
Wish us luck!

To help your kids understand how to analyze text structure, you can check out this Reading Strategy MiniPack on TPT: Analyzing Text Structure! It uses the gradual release model to support kids in understanding how to analyze text structure in expository text.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

New Unit: Nonfiction Features!

Embarrassing Story:

Today my hunny and I went to Corner Bakery to do a little work on our laptops and enjoy some tasty stuff. I worked away (blogging, creating. You know the business) and he worked as well. He is the photographer for our district, so he was working on editing some pictures of the cute little guys we go to work for every day! At one point, he flipped his laptop around and showed me the most beautiful picture. A little pre-K boy with his tiny little fingers clenched in glee, laughing like he'd never seen anything so funny. I immediately cracked up. This little guy just looked so joyful.

Then I asked, "When did you take this? Why is he laughing so much?" and my hunny said, "It was the first day of pre-K and they were doing Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes during PE as fast as they could."

And this is when I became a smushy puddle of jelly. I started cry! Right there, in the Corner Bakery, I had tears spilling down my face and onto the napkins made of recycled material. Something about the sweetness of a little boy being so excited to do Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes on his first day of school was so moving that I fell apart like a person with a chemical imbalance.

Which I may well be.

Anyway, this is what I intended to blog about: (Don't you love my skill-less transition?)

Actual Blog Content:

One of the more difficult texts for kids to navigate is expository. This is unfortunate, because kids love to read about information and it's such an invaluable skill! I think it's largely due to the lack of experience kids have with informational text. The less exposure they have, the more difficult it is for them to glean information and identify how ideas are related.

My school has begun teaching about expository text this month. For the next several days, I'd like to share with you some of the things that we've planned to do in the expository genre.

To get started, we're helping kids do some basic text navigation by creating this anchor chart. Students often have experience identifying the text features. However, using them is a different story.

Ask a kid, "Where's the caption?" and he can probably point to a caption. Ask the same kid, "How does that help you? Why did the author include it?" and the kid stares blankly. (This is what I call the dead fish look.)

To me, this is a slight flag-raiser. Everything we do is to help our kids understand text and become better readers. If what we're doing doesn't do that... why do it? So to assist in this, we made sure we added a column on our chart entitled "Why was this feature included?"

Once students have learned to identify (and appreciate) the features text has to offer, they need to do these two things with them:

1. Use the features to make good predictions about the text
2. Gather information from the features

To help out with this, I'm sharing a couple of documents that you can use to help kids make and record their predictions and record facts they have learned from features of nonfiction.
(I require students to use the nonfiction features to gather information and record them on this organizer.

Grab them free at google docs!
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Monday, December 3, 2012

Saturday English Camp: Gingerbread Adventures and GIVEAWAY WINNERS!

Saturday was our last day of English Saturday Camp for our ELL students. They had so much fun. Our fifth graders read Too Many Tamales (love that book) and made ornaments. Our fourth graders read Braids and made bunuelos! And our third graders made adorable gingerbread men from salt dough.
I must admit, though. I spent a lot of time with second grade. They made gingerbread men, too. Out of gingerbread. These are just a few pictures of the fun things they did:

They made the gingerbread from a mix and rolled it out.

Then they oh-so-carefully decorated with m&ms.

And then, they baked in toaster ovens!

Tasty. I'd recommend it.

And, what you've all been waiting for...
These winners have each won the corresponding prize from my giveaway! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who entered!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankfully Stuffed

Tomorrow is the first year I'll be hosting Thanksgiving in my our home. My hunny moved in about a month ago and we're having his family over tomorrow (thankfully, just his parents and godfather) for Thanksgiving dinner.


I've helped to make every item on a Thanksgiving table, and made some of them exclusively by myself, but I've never made the whole meal from start to finish. Without supervision from my mother. This will be a challenge. To make things even more exciting, my hunny's parents only speak Spanish. I mean, there's a smattering of English in there, and I've got my high school Spanish, which you can imagine how excellent that it, but suffice it to say our conversations aren't exactly scholarly. They sound like this:

That's nice.
You like it?
Yes. I like it. It's good.
Yeah, I like it, too.
I don't like that one.
No, I don't like that. Fernie does.
Fernie does. Yes. I don't.

That conversation could have been about any noun. Cars, cake, sofas, television shows, people, blouses, any noun at all. And that's really all we have to say, despite a lot of things that we think. Today was PIE day. 

We (my mother, sister-in-law, and I) made fourteen pies, fifty-some empanadas, a lemon thing, and
cranberry sauce. Why am I so full? Because I taste-tested every item; some at multiple stages in their development. 

Hmmmm....that apple strudel looks tasty. Taste taste.

Now I'll put it on the apples and mix it up. Num nums.

Now I'll roll a little in a little ball of dough. Mmmm...

Not healthy, I know, but it is what it is. Just being honest. Maybe making some of you feel better.
I decided, at the very last minute, to participate in A Year of Many Firsts Stuffed with Thankfulness Linky Party! My thankful things are similar to everyone else's. No one ever says that they're thankful for baking powder or carrots (although those are two extremely useful things. Baking powder for making tasty biscuits and carrots for making...what else? Carrot cake). But it's good to share.
I'm thankful for this guy. He's my hunny. 

Not Martin Luther King. I mean, he's great, and I'm thankful for him, too, but my hunny is the one on the left.

He's on the right in this one. That other guy is Babe Ruth. 
These people make me pretty thankful, too:

My best friend, Rachel. 

My great sister-in-law, Stephanie. Super fun to be around, and she's a teacher, too, so we bore everyone with our teacher talk.

All my bros and my parents. This is John & Stephanie's wedding, about a two years ago. We're lucky that, even though we tease each other mercilessly, (see below) we all actually like each other; something my hunny frequently reminds me of.

The other day, we celebrated my brother Ben's twenty second birthday by playing the game "Partini." This is a dangerous game. For one round, we had to write things about the person who chose the card and the person had to decide which was funniest and which was truest. 

These were some of the statements written about me:

- I am a man who has funky teeth and I'm not as smart as I think. (from John. How sweet.)
- I am down to Earth (opinionated). (from Ben. This was truest.)
- I like tasty things (from Stephanie. This was funniest. Because it was true)
- I am the boss of can I can I have I can do anything I try to do! (this was mom. She struggled a bit.)
- I was such a mean teacher to my students they told me to teach other teachers. (from Matt. Insightful.)

Other highlights: "I'm the smartest one around. When I'm not around family." and "I can't fix anything without breaking it first."

That's pretty much what I'm thankful for. Of course there's a home, job that I love, and my furry friends, but the people are the biggest piece of the pie.

Go link up with A Year of Many Firsts!

And don't forget to check out my One Year Blogiversary Giveaway & Sales! That's how I am showing my thankfulness to you great followers!

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Marshmallow Multiplication - Freebie!

I get a little overzealous when it comes to the holidays. You may remember this from my Christmas Story post last year. I survived my Christmas lights debacle, but it's a challenge I undertake every holiday season and I really can't say if I'll make it out alive this year.
Last night, a cold front blew in. This gave me the justification I'd been waiting for to start making winter and Christmas themed products. It doesn't take much to justify my fetishes.
I spent all evening working on my Winter Themed Roll and Color Math Boards. I'm actually pretty happy with them. I wish I was a kid so I could go back to school and do stuff like this, instead of having Ms. Welch (true story) call me up to her desk in the front of the room and ask me my multiplication facts in front of everyone. I was not good at multiplication facts. I'm not sure why, but they were completely elusive to me in third grade. My brain wasn't ready to work that way. So every time Ms. Welch called me up, I walked hesitantly up to her desk and prepared for the challenge by hyperventilating. This did not prove an effective strategy.
Ms. Welch: 4 x 4
Me: 16
Ms. Welch: 4 x 7 
Me: 28
Ms. Welch: 4 x 9
Me: ...
Ms. Welch: 4 x 9
Me: ...
Ms. Welch: Go sit down.
Me: *squish*
How awful, right? And then I'd sit there and watch Jolene and Abby get them all right. I'm sure they're very successful now with all that multiplication fact knowledge at their fingertips.
Anyway, as I was saying before I interrupted myself with an opportunity to beat myself up, I made these fun games. And I got super psyched about Christmas and winter in general. So this morning, I awoke from a dream about making winter-themed publishing paper for kids to write on. I loved those papers when I was a kid and my kids always seem to love them too. I got up early (for a Sunday, anyway), and made some tasty coffee. I fed the dogs and began hunting for my Charlie Brown holiday set. What better way to get myself into the seasonal mood than watching Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving?
Just looking at it makes me happy.
I might need to add at this point that, when my hunny moved in, all of his stuff moved in, too. And a lot of his stuff included electronics. With wires. And plugs. And cables. 

In other words, stuff I didn't have.

So we had to find lots of places for stuff. Such as a playstation. And speakers. And an amp. And about a thousand (slight exaggeration) DVDs. 

My little stack of DVDs paled in comparison with his bazillions of them. So when I went to look for my Charlie Brown holiday set, I had several places to hunt.

I looked in the cupboard. I looked in entertainment center. I looked in the closet. I looked in my hunny's office.
It's gone. It's gone forever. I don't know where it is and I'm very sad.
So now I'm watching Elf. 
I'm still working on my holiday themed papers, but I am a little depressed about Charlie Brown. How suitable, I guess.
Even though I'm sad, I have a freebie to offer you! It's one of my roll and color boards from the Winter Themed Roll and Color Math Boards Pack. (That's a long title)
Oh, and by the way. My hunny just came out of the bedroom where he was taking his winter's nap. He asked me, "Hunny, why are you watching Elf?"
"Cause I couldn't find Charlie Brown."
"Hun, it's in the entertainment center."
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is. You have to look behind the other DVDs."
Oh. Found it.
Here's the whole pack - grab it at TPT or Teacher's Notebook.

And here's your freebie! At TPT or Teacher's Notebook.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday Camp: Super Fun.

If there's one thing I looooove, it's a good theme. No, the holidays. No, baking. 
Well, it's all of those things, and today was a great day, because all of them happened. At school!
Today was the second Saturday in our ELL (English Language Learners) Camp. In my city, we have a high proportion of English Language Learners, and in my school, it's the majority of the kids. A lot of our kids don't have the Engligh support at home and it is not uncommon to have new students, just arrived from Mexico and with little to no English language. We are up for anything at all to help our kids grow in the language, and if that means getting up early on a Saturday and doing some crazy stuff, then that's what's happening.
For our ELL camp, we invited our kids who hadn't made enough progress last year in the English language and planned all sorts of fun poems, songs, activities, and, what the kids (and I) will probably remember the most: cooking!
What kid doesn't like to cook? I haven't met one yet.
These are some of the things our kids 'cooked' and did today and last Saturday.
Last week, our second graders made rice krispie treats! It was hilarious.
This week, our second graders had a pumpkin theme.
They read and acted out Five Little Pumpkins, and then they did all sorts of fun stuff!
They measured pumpkins and cut them open to take out the seeds. They counted out the seeds and sorted them into groups!
"Ew! This is gross!" was the most repeated phrase this morning.

They made no-bake pumpkin-ish pies.
And they were actually pretty tasty. (That can be rare when children are doing the cooking.)

Our fourth graders had a Chato's Kitchen theme this week. 

They sorted beans of different types and made a graph. (A few kids requested their very own bean to take home as a souvenir lol)

Then they made enchiladas! Some very creative teachers brought in a little griddle and fried the tortillas for a minute. The kids dipped the tortillas into the chile.

They put cheese in the middle, rolled them up, and scarfed.

As I walked by the fourth grade room, I overheard them working on a sentence patterning chart. They were adding nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. As they were adding to their list of adjectives, one of the teachers said, "You'll probably know this adjective! I always say, 'I'm going to go-'"

Clearly, she was going to finish with 'crazy.'

"TO THE BATHROOM!" shouted one of the kids.
I cracked up. Kids have no idea how goofy they are.
These were just some of my favorite highlights from our little Saturday camp. 

So this is my big question. What do you do to support your English Language Learners? 

Also, I have a new product to share with you!
Gobbling Up Words: Thanksgiving Themed Word Work!

Grab it at TPT or Teacher's Notebook.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Writing Talk

I know my blog posts don't always show it, but I have a secret dream. It's probably a pretty common one. I am a teacher after all, and teachers love words.

Before I was a teacher, I was a nerdy child. This, actually, is an understatement. I was THE nerdy child. A straight-A student, following instructions to the letter, and never deterring from the self-righteous path that I had determined as the only right way to do things. I worse big, almost-perfectly-round glasses with wire frames. I had crooked teeth between which my tongue would occasionally protrude, trying to form a lisping "s". I say 'had'. I should say 'have'. I cried when I got my first B in third grade math, and I loved books. I loved to read. I spent hours squirreled away in my bedroom reading Anne of Green Gables. All of this undoubtedly pushed me in the direction of a young writer.

I had a notebook that I religiously carried around with me. An unceremonious purple spiral, with the wires uncurled and sticking out on either end, making it look like some kind of a medieval instrument of torture. It was filled with page after page of my "novel," about a magic hallway mirror ugh, the cheesiness in the house of some older, kindly women, loosely based on my aunts. Later, when I moved from Dallas to El Paso, the novel changed. It was now about Annie, a young girl who, not unlike myself, moved and started over in a new town. However, Annie, unlike me, quickly met a handsome young man with striking green eyes, and fell in love, her life surely to end in unbelievable happiness.

I had a penchant for drama, okay?

But all that cheese is not really my point. My point is that I loved to write, so I spent my time thinking like a writer. Thinking like a writer is what helped me grow, not only as a writer, but as a reader.

Do our kids love writing?

If they don't we have some problems. If they don't love to write, and spend much of their day doing it  - and I'm not only talking about fiction here; I'm talking about at all - then we are missing out on a vital tool that will grow them as readers, and thinkers, and individuals.

We're trying to build some reflective writing practices on our campus. One way we're doing it is by using the language of writing with our kids. We can help them grow in their sophistication by growing their thinking about the choices they make in their writing. Because writing is nothing if not a series of deliberate choices to make an impact on the reader.

Here's a little anchor chart I put together to encourage kids' using more sophisticated language to talk about their writing choices. I used the released questions from the Texas STAAR Writing Fourth Grade Test and other sources as well. Then I organized the stems into the three categories on the writing rubric, to help students think about the purpose of their conversations. 

You can also grab this freebie to use these tools in your classroom! Included in this pack: teacher reference sheets (color and black and white) and response cards to use in writing response/revising groups or for students to use independently to revise their own writing. Grab it free at TPT!

Let's grow some writers!
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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Indecision: our sofa adventures

So my hunny and I have recently taken to inhabiting the same domicile. That is, he moved in. And we're very very happy. 

One of the reasons we're very very happy is cleaning. For me, cleaning = something I do when I have nothing else to do or something I do when it's absolutely necessary = rarely.

For him, cleaning = something to do when it needs to be done = frequently.

So I'm cleaner now.

Laundry is another bonus. (Except for the socks I keep finding on the den floor.) And his technology skills are handy to have around.

Oh, yeah. And since I love him, I do like to be with him a lot. 

Those are the things we're happy about. There are other things, though. Things we're 'happy' about.

*We're 'happy' that we rearranged my furniture and found places for his stuff. 

*We're 'happy' that now, instead of my pretty cream comforter with off-white pinstripes, we have a poop-brown comforter on my bed. (For the cat, hunny, he said. To make her comfortable.) 

*We're 'happy' that he spent the afternoon stapling cables up around my our den ceiling so we can have surround sound which I don't care about. Which means we're also 'happy' that he put up five speakers in a small room to explode my brain.

We're incredibly 'happy' about all of those things.

I know that sounds like I'm not really happy, but we are actually very happy. And those things that aren't my favorite, but are his favorite, are just part of the territory of loving someone who isn't your clone. 

Having a non-clone hunny requires you to be an adult instead of a child. Specifically, it requires you to C.O.M.P.R.O.M.I.S.E. 

Yes, compromise. Such as you give a little and I give a little, and before we know it, we've reached a beautiful compromise that we both hate equally. This is happening right now with our own personal Indecision 2012: The Great Sofa Search.

My hunny is a picky pants. By this, I mean he has a perfectly good sofa and loveseat, which my bottom enjoy very much. However, he doesn't enjoy them for the following reason: "I don't fit." 

"What do you mean, you don't fit? I can see you fitting right now."

"Yes, but I don't fit right. Cause the armrests aren't smushy enough so I have to use a pillow and now I don't fit anymore."

I looked at him on the couch. He fit. He was using up the space between the armrests and didn't seem to require additional space. To me, that means he fit. That's what fit means. Look it up.

"You fit. You're fitting. You've fitted."

"No. I don't fit. Can we get new couches?"

Oh Lord. Decision time. Now we have to compromise.

I prayed we'd get lucky. I prayed we'd magically happen on a perfect couch that would match beautifully with the style of the house and provide the 'fit' he was looking for. We set off to our first furniture store optimistically, expecting to be pleasantly surprised.

We have since visited five different stores. We walked through New Deal, Furniture Row, Ashley, National Furniture Liquidators, and another store that neither of us can remember. (We must've blocked it out.) I can summarize this lame adventure with a few phrases.

- Nope. Poop brown.
- Nope. Arm rests aren't squishy.
- Nope. Looks like the eighties.
- Nope. Too narrow.
- Nope. Sticky fabric.
- Nope. Hate it.

My hunny's problems are due to comfort. For him, it's Comfort, with a capital C. He doesn't look at a sofa; he feels it. He pokes all the armrests before he sits down to make sure that they will be squishy enough for his dainty head. He smooshes down into the cushion to tell if frame is going to be hard. He lays down in the store to make sure he 'fits'. 

My problems are far more logical, I'm sure you'll agree. 

I like pretty things. 

I don't like ugly things. 

Most comfy sofas are ugly. Poop brown, eighties style, and another indescribable quality I refer to as "Ew." 

So we're at a bit of an impasse. I'm not really sure what should happen here. I think I should win. But I'm an adult now, so.... I may have to let him think he won before I actually win. You know, compromise.
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