Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lifehack for Teachers #9 - Keep spiral binding bound!

There's nothing worse than having one of your spiral bound teacher editions start to fall apart become the spiral pops through the top hole. And once it has slipped out, it's tough to get it back in. 

But don't worry! Just hot glue/super glue a pony bead to the end of the spiral, and your spiral binding will stay bound! 

Color code your beads and you'll be able to pull out the right book on the first try every time, too!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Our Astronomy Unit!

This kiddo had quite a bit learn still.
Before the winter break we wrapped up our astronomy unit. I started off the unit with a quick pre-assessment where I asked the kids to draw our solar system as best as they could, and include as much detail as possible. I asked them to try and think about scale, and to only include things that are actually in our solar system.

Ah...much better, but still some misconceptions to clear up.
After looking through the pre-assessments it was pretty clear that my kids had a wide range of basic background knowledge. Some could draw the planets in order, and even come close on their sizes, while others drew the planets in a grid format, all the same size.  It was pretty clear that even my students with a lot of background knowledge also had a ton of misconceptions. (One of my favorites was that many of my kiddos drew stars as part of our solar system) There were also many elements missing from all of my students' drawings, including things like dwarf planets and the asteroid belt. 

I taught a bunch of lessons during the unit, but I'm going to mention a few of my favorite things that are easy to share.

We started with the basic idea of My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles. A great mneumonic to help kids remember the order of the planets. And no, we don't teach about Pluto as a planet. It is just one of the 5 discovered dwarf planets in our solar system...not even the largest of them, and's been this way for nearly 9 years people! :)  

This website from NASA is obviously chock full of information about the planets. My kids used it as a resource when they completed the planet brochures I'll share about later. If nothing else, it can serve as a great way to get yourself caught up on all the recent changes in the world of space exploration.

Of course no science unit would be complete without watching one of the classic Bill Nye videos. Kids still love them, and he has one of the best visual representations of the scale of the solar system that I've seen. 

Brainpop isn't a free resource, but you CAN sign up for a free week trial. They have an entire section of videos about space, with a quick little video about each of the planets, and many other things related to space as well. I made great use of it during this unit. At least three of the videos are free without a sign-up too.

We made these Oreo Cookie Moon Phases as kind of a fun wrap-up to studying the phases of the moon. 

I used a few web resources for teaching this.

I also made this Planet Research Brochure for my students to complete as a side project. I thought it went really well. My kids had a lot of fun making the brochures, and when we had a gallery walk to show off their finished products, the kids were really proud of the work they had put in to making them look great. 

I went ahead and added the brochure to my store for two bucks! Grab up a copy if you teach about the planets and use it as a whole class project or an enrichment opportunity for fast finishers. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lifehack for Teachers #8 - Reign in the hand sanitizer

I don't know about you guys, but for some reason my kids love to get a giant dollop of hand sanitizer and slather it all over their hands and forearms. It drives me nuts when I see a kid who has slimy hands dripping with WAY more sanitizer than is actually needed to do the job. 

Most of the time the pump squirts out more than even I need. I learned this trick to wrap a simple rubber band around the neck of the bottle to limit the amount the pump can depress, and it has solved my problem! It's adjustable, so you can control how much gets pumped out now. Love it!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Adoption Update for January 2015

I wanted to share a quick update on our adoption progress! We are happy to say that we have reached the point where we are completely qualified to adopt. All the paperwork has gone through, we've received a copy of our finished home study, and we've started applying for birthmother situations. So far we've tried to match with four birthmothers. We haven't been selected yet, but are hopeful that we will be matched soon. It is pretty much out of our hands at this point!

Now that we've kind of reached a waiting point in the process, we decided to go ahead and put some effort into some of the things we can nursery furniture! We emptied out the room we'll be using as our nursery, and plan to paint it soon. We've purchased a crib, dresser, and changing table too. We were wary about "jinxing" ourselves at first, but decided that was silly. And with the sometimes alarmingly close due dates that some of the birthmothers have, we figured we should be prepared at least at a basic level for the potential of a sudden arrival!

I can't promise that our nursery will end up anywhere near as cute as this one, that my friend Amelia set up. But I'm hopeful that our gender-neutral forest theme will be somewhat cute. My wife is not the decorator of the house, which leaves the task to we'll see!

And thank you to all of my readers and to anyone who has ever purchased anything from my store. Every cent of my earnings have gone towards this adoption, and as of right now my earnings have managed to cover about 70% of the total estimated cost! My wife and I literally wouldn't even have had the opportunity to adopt with TpT.

Monday, January 12, 2015

New Year's Resolution Progress?

This year I decided to keep it simple with my New Year's Resolutions. I wanted them to be attainable, and something I could stick to pretty easily. 

The first was to blog at least twice a month. I've found that the craziness of the school year really puts a crimp in my blogging style! Haha. I find myself wanting to blog about more things than I end up making time for. Blogging is important to me, and I want to make sure that it remains a priority. I think I can do it!

The second was more personal. I've found myself snoring a bit more, and that basically translates to me putting the pounds back on that I successfully lost over the summer! Once again, a priority has gone to the wayside to make more time for teaching. This one is a little trickier...but I decided the most realistic thing I could do right now is to walk more!

The good news? I found a way to gamify it! It's an app called "The Walk," I love stories and games, so finding this app has been a really cool way to motivate me to keep walking. Basically, the more you walk, the more of the story you unlock! I was skeptical at first as to how good the story would be, but it is actually really entertaining!

Without ruining the story, you are basically tasked with delivering a world-saving device to the other end of England. An EMP has gone off, and you are forced to walk to make the delivery. By the end of the app you will have walked the entire length of England. Every few minutes of walking, you unlock another one to two minutes of audio story. Pretty cool, huh? 

So far it has been working well for me. I look forward to getting a chance to walk so that I can find out what happens next!

Now that we are a couple weeks into the new year, how are your resolutions coming?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Personal Narrative - My Middle School Candy Empire

I recently attended a workshop on teaching writing. As part of the workshop we were tasked with writing a personal narrative. We brainstormed the ideas for our narratives by drawing a map of our neighborhood and then noting on the map where some of the interesting memories that popped up in our minds occurred. 

Since I took the time to write it, I thought I'd post my narrative here for anyone with a burning desire to get to know me a little better! Please forgive the fact that I have only mildly edited the piece for any typos/errors. I was afraid that if I edited too much that I might be tempted to change the story! Sadly, this entire story is true. Haha.

When I was in 4th grade I managed to hobble together ten dollars and seventy cents that I had earned from odd jobs. I had been saving it up for quite a while for a specific purpose. I had a plan. Months before I had noticed that the Wal-Mart down the street from my house had 10 lb bags of jolly ranchers for sale for $10. At one buck a pound I knew that was a great deal, and I saw great potential in that colorful bag of sugar.

I walked up to the check out counter with my money and the giant bag of jolly ranchers, and the tired looking checkout lady said, "How you gonna eat all this candy, boy?" I nervously chirped, "Oh, it's not for me," slapped my money down on the counter and rushed away before the receipt was even finished printing. I lugged the bag all the way home in my bookbag and hid it in the closet in my room. The next morning I took out a handful of jolly ranchers and headed to school. 

In my first class I showed the handful to a few kids around me and whispered, "10 cents." Before I knew it I had sold out of the jolly ranchers, making the fastest dollar I've ever made. That dollar could buy me another pound of jolly ranchers, and it had only taken a fraction of that to make. But even better, I had a feeling of exhilaration that I normally didn't have in school. That first taste of doing something sneaky while making money, yet not hurting anyone, was just the beginning of a quickly growing addiction. 

Over the course of the next couple weeks I quickly sold out of the entire ten pound bag of jolly ranchers. I never ate a single one. I saw that candy as a stack of money, and the idea of eating away my money was abhorrent. By this point I had accumulated a huge stack of comic books, and a couple of new games for my Nintendo. I'd also found a new problem...where to put all the coins? And I couldn't keep paying for my comics in coins; The old man at the comic shop was starting to get suspicious. I finally figured out that if I rolled them up I could exchange them for bills at the Wal-Mart, though the thought of having to buy the little paper rolls bothered me. By this point I had started to get requests for other types of candy, so I took some of my profits up to the store and bought more jolly ranchers, now-and-laters, sour gum, and atomic warheads. The checkout ladies always gave me the strangest looks, but I didn't care. 

At one point in my journey from small-time candy pusher to candy kingpin, my mom discovered my wad of cash and asked me where I had gotten it. She feared the worst, that I'd been stealing it or doing something else unsavory to earn it. I had no choice but to come clean about my growing candy empire. Surprisingly, she wasn't upset, instead I think she was impressed by my entrepreneurial spirit. 

In the coming months, I noticed a few copycat businesses appearing. One kid sold commissioned drawings for a dollar each. Another sold his cootie catchers and other origami creations. I saw other business go from birth to death in a matter of a week or two. No one could compete with candy. And for some reason, no one chose to try and compete with me in my business. I had a monopoly. November was my enemy. The first few weeks following Halloween were the worst. Demand had slumped so low that I couldn't give my candy away. By the end of Thanksgiving break I was back in business though!

I continued to grow my candy empire, under the radar, over the course of the next 3 years. Somehow I never got caught by the school administration or teachers, and they never figured out where all the candy was coming from. (Or if they did, they decided not to intervene.) As the business grew beyond my ability to manage, I enlisted the help of my best friend. I realized that by expanding my territory into other classrooms, I was increasing my profits exponentially. By the end of 8th grade I had two employees in each of the grades below me selling candy and keeping five cents for every quarter they made. I passed out the candy to my minions before school each day, and collected my cut at lunch and after school. Profits were handed over due to a mixture of the honor system and a bit of intimidation. If I felt I was being cheated, a kid would be cut off from the "family" and couldn't sell OR buy candy. Only one kid ever crossed me, and he quickly learned the error of his ways the next day at lunch when the rest of us were all counting our coins and he realized he'd lost out on future profits by stubbornly keeping one day's worth. 

Thanks to my complete lack of respect for the "No candy in school" rule, for most of my middle school career I was rich (by kid standards) in my neighborhood! I spent most of the money on school lunch, video games, and comic books. To this day, it's still the easiest money I've ever made! I'll always remember the last day of 8th grade, when I handed the business over to my most trusted 7th grade employee. He shook my hand with both of his, with tears in his eyes, and so ended my career as Don of the Rothschild Candy Empire.

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