Sunday, May 25, 2014

Wow, things got crazy! Plus, Mentor text linky!

Things got really crazy one day when plans
were messed up by things out of my control.
Luckily, I had Jivey's unit for "Knots on a
Counting Rope" handy! The activity
included about having the kids write
about color turned out truly amazing.
Some of their pieces could truly be
published as legitimate poetry.
So, things have been really crazy lately. I'm sure it's the same for everyone else...unless you're one of my lucky Southern friends who are already on summer vacation! (What?!) We still have 13 days of school to go!

So, I apologize for never making Tunes Tuesday happen this month. I think it is going to go on hiatus for the summer and be back in time for the new school year. I will continue to sporadically post some lifehacks throughout the summer though! So be on the lookout for those!

I originally planned to share about all the craziness in a Five for Friday post...but then Friday and Saturday were crazy too! And stretching it Sunday seemed like a little too much... But I figured I'd throw in a couple of fun pics! If you're interested in Jivey's unit, find it here! It's a really great book, with some amazing examples of personification and figurative language! But that's not even the mentor text I'm sharing! Keep reading to see those!

First, I have to give a quick update on my trout! In case you missed it, I've been raising Trout in the Classroom this year! (well, really Trout in the Hallway...the tank is too big and noisy to keep in my room) We hatched the trout from eggs and raised them to be 2-3 inch fingerlings. It was finally time to say goodbye, so last week I drove them out to a nearby stream and released them into the wild! That's my buddy Dave pouring them in after we acclimated them to the temperature of the stream. Bye little trout! We'll miss you! *Sniff*

So...I wanted to share a few books as part of the Collaboration Cuties' Mentor Text Linky for Social Studies. 

I know we're used to thinking about Social Studies as things like American History, etc. but when I taught the primary grades for the first 10 years of my career I knew social studies truly as the name sounds. We were learning how to be appropriately social, how to treat each other, become good citizens, etc. My school still has a big emphasis on this in every grade level, and so today I'm going to share three books that get back to Social Studies at that more basic level. (I know we're supposed to focus on one, but I couldn't help it!)

Ian's Walk is narrated by the girl pictured here. She's annoyed and aggravated by her brother's unusual habits (he is a child with autism). He likes to watch the fan, smell brick walls, etc. At one point, he goes missing on their walk. That moment of fear the sister has when he is missing makes her realize how much she loves him despite his strange habits, and she spends the walk home allowing Ian to do the things he likes, and trying to experience them with him instead of being annoyed by them.

Because of my district's size, we have some schools that have autistic support classrooms, and some that don't. My school does host one of these classrooms, and as a result it is very common for most classes in my school to include one to three students with autism. I have always loved working with these students, though it is true that some of them present unique challenges, and occasionally these challenges can impact the other students in the room. This book is a great reminder that while students with autism might behave differently sometimes, the value they add to our lives as people, along with the unique opportunity to see the world differently that they provide more than makes up for the challenge.  

Speaking of differences, The Sandwich Swap is a great book that highlights how the differences in people are what makes the world more interesting. The two girls pictured are best buds, but each think that the other's sandwich at lunch looks disgusting. (One has a PB&J and the other has Hummus on Pita) A fight ensues, but in the end, they taste each other's sandwiches and discover that what they initially thought looked strange (because it was different) actually turned out to be delicious.

One of my favorites in this same vein of social studies is The Invisible Boy. If you've taught even one year, then surely you've had that one kiddo in your room that just seems to blend into the background. He or she is quiet, doesn't cause trouble, but doesn't excel necessarily either. This book is for them. I like how it kind of brings attention to the kids like that in your room... not just for the kids, but as a reminder for us teachers too. Even in the book it is mentioned how the boy is sometimes invisible to the teacher. With everything going on in a classroom it is sometimes too easy to let kids "fall through the cracks" on a social level. I think the book also lends itself well to a frank discussion with the kids in your class about why it's important that we don't allow kids to be left to become "invisible."  

So, I'm hoping to get my act together and share some more about some of the cool things we've been doing lately, and some of the cool things we've got coming up! It's going to be an exciting last month of school! And if you're a lucky one who is already out (I know you probably go back before me! So, HA!), I hope everyone will keep in touch and keep reading over the summer! If you're like me then your "teacher brain" probably never really turns all the way off!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Lifehack for Teachers #6!

Hi all! I just wanted to pop in with a life update, another fun lifehack and news about the next Tunes Tuesday!

Can you believe that until this past weekend I'd never been to Washington, DC?! Me neither! I used the excuse of being raised in the south as my main reasoning for that, but let's face it...I've been living 3 hours away from DC for 6 years now. So, Killer B and I decided to pack up and take a long weekend trip. As a big bonus I got to see my lifelong childhood friend and his family. And the newest addition to the family was especially exciting to see because he's named after me! 

DC was a lot of fun, and I can definitely see us going back in the future. We got a chance to see all of the main national monuments, a couple of the Smithsonian museums (I wasn't that impressed by the Hope Diamond), Arlington Cemetery and the changing of the guard, and of course The White House. Now if I can talk my beloved wife into going to NYC as our next long weekend adventure, I'll be good to go. (I'm embarrassed to say I've never been there either!)

Now for the lifehack! So... if you've been teaching for a while, or have kids of your own, then you may have seen this trick already. But believe it or not, I didn't learn it until about 5-6 years ago! As a teacher it seems like I'm bombarded with cupcakes. Between birthdays, staff celebrations, and holidays it seems like a week hardly goes by where I don't eat at least one cupcake.

But cupcakes and their icing can be so messy! Not with this handy cupcake hack though!

And in other news, Tunes Tuesday is coming back next week! I really hope some people will link up their ideas about how they're using music to help teach math! I know I've seen some great blog posts out there before. Remember, feel free to link up a previous post or a new one!

Also, because some people have asked for it, I thought I'd let everyone know that my Monster Math Battles - Division Tournament has been up in my store for a bit! It lines up with the Multiplication Tournament, so you can mix and match if you have both! 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Zero Waste Parent Night Success!

Recently I hosted a Zero Waste Parent Night at our school and I'm happy to report it was a huge success! The parent night came about because I was a person in need. As I've talked about before, I'm one of the school's leaders when it comes to our efforts to become more green. 

My team came up with this "Are you sure?" viral campaign,
and Liz and her kids made these giant signs. It really got the
kids talking. Later we introduced smaller signs throughout
the school with the same message. A week later we added
the terracycle items to the signs so that people would get the
message, "Are you sure that you're putting your trash where
it belongs?" It's been a great success!
Beyond serving on my school's Zero Waste Team, I am the originator and the person in charge of all of my school's terracycling efforts. If you haven't heard of terracycling, check out some of my previous posts or read about it on the website
The other members of my team all have their own projects. Liz handles the k-cups and misc. plastics, Ron handles the curbside recyclables and helps with misc. plastics, and Brenda has us all working on reducing our paper towel usage and trains kids to become Earth Heroes! 

My team has also eliminated the use of plastic utensils in the school. Kids eat breakfast in our classrooms, and for some reason every kid that buys breakfast used to get this little spork with a straw and napkin in a plastic wrapper. Half the time the breakfast was a toaster strudel and the spork, straw, napkin, and plastic went right into the trash can. What a pointless waste! Now the kids get a piece of real silverware and we collect them in the room and then return them to the cafeteria for washing. So simple!

We also pulled a sneaky trick on our fellow teachers! This year when everyone came back from summer vacation, a little change had occurred. Maybe they didn't even notice...but all of their trash cans had been replaced with smaller ones! We're sending the message, "You shouldn't NEED a giant trash can."

Look what we are getting installed with some
of that saved money! Filtered water bottle
refilling stations are going into each of my
school's hallways! Hurray for even less waste!
These are just a couple of our victories. Our total combined efforts have led to us being able to cut our dumpster tipping down from 5 days a week to just 2! That saves our school district over $250 a month in garbage collection fees! Not to mention all the diesel involved in hauling our trash to the landfill for 3 less days!

How did we get here? Well, it started small. For me, it all started about 5 years ago when I introduced my students (at that time I was teaching 1st/2nd grade multi-age) to our new service learning project and we began collecting ziploc bags and juice pouches at my school. That year I considered our efforts to be wildly successful. We collected a lot of stuff, did a lot of math, wrote some great persuasive pieces about which charities should get the money we earned, etc. Ron and Brenda has their own individual things going on too. Finally, we decided to join forces! Our principal has been a strong supporter of our efforts, and even gives us some covered half-days to do some of our work! 

See all our awards?! Our Zero Waste Zone is located front
and center in our school's lobby! As soon as you walk in
you know how serious we are about going green!
Fast forward to the present...we have now greatly expanded our efforts, and combined them with the efforts of my fellow teachers in other "green" endeavors. We now collect elmer's glue products, plastic tape dispensers, solo cups, dairy tubs, used markers, toothpaste tubes and brushes, and of course...the dreaded juice pouch.

I had four giant bags like this one just
full to the brim with rotten juice
pouches. Yuck!
Now, this is where the trouble starts. The students in my school have become AWESOME at terracycling. That means that instead of the 10-15 pouches a day we used to collect, we are now collecting closer to a hundred or so each day. Each one of those pouches has at least half a sip of juice in them that need to be squeezed out. Sometimes they're half full of juice! :( 

Before you know it a week has gone by and we haven't had time to squeeze the pouches. Fruit flies come for a visit. Juice ferments. Gross. Now that they're nice and gross, no one wants to squeeze them, so they just pile up more and more! Aagh!

So, I decided to host an hour long event after school one evening to have parents come and do the dirty work! I also had a few other teachers, kids, and interns stop by to help. By the end of the hour we had completely caught up on all of the nasty juice pouches! 

We stuffed this huge box with all of the now empty and flattened pouches. When I took it to ship it, it weighed over 45 pounds! That's going to go a long way towards making some money that my kids will give to various charities at the end of the year!

As a bonus, I had parents come and catch up on my colleague's pet project...k-cups. Did you know that k-cups are becoming a HUGE waste concern? The really horrible thing about that is that they shouldn't be! The foil top and plastic cup are recyclable, and the coffee grounds and filters are compostable! K-cups should be a zero waste item...but most people just throw them away! We collect them at my school instead!

Liz's class weighed up the waste we kept out of the landfill.
I'm pretty impressed with the amount of work we got done in just one hour. I wasn't sure that any parents would come to be honest! It's nice to know there are parents out there that care enough about our school's efforts and our planet to take some time to help!

What are you doing at your school to help conservation efforts? It can be a lot of work, but it's worth it!

And lastly, have you heard about the TpT Sale going on? You can get 28% off everything over a dollar in my store! Now's a great time to grab up some stuff to end this year with a bang, or to get ready for next year! I hope you'll stop by my store and give it a look!

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