Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Greatest Science Experiment EVER

Today was the last day of school for us.  (Hello Christmas Winter Break, no alarm ringing, lounging in pajamas, and wasting time.)

And being the outstanding teacher I am, we were engaged in rigorous classroom experiences from the moment they walked in the door to the second they walked out.  (And that's not a joke, thanks to Mary's Polar Express unit. It's so awesome I'm plugging it on my own volition.)

However, Polar Express had to wait until we had finished our Reading Mastery lessons for the day, which is where I was privy to the most awesome hypothesis yet to be tested.

We have a thing in my room-we all like the spotlight on us.  And we will do whatever we can to make sure it's on us. 

Case in point:

Reading Mastery has just begun-half of my class leaves for different RM groups, but having a smaller audience means you can be more clearly heard, so we gear up for some pretty sweet soliloquys despite the less than full house.

I'm going over the checklist before we begin our lesson when I hear Precious say to no one in particular, "When white people get in the sun..."*

*This automatically gets my attention, as Precious can pop off some convoluted logic faster'n'a hot knife through butter so I can't wait to see where this anecdote goes.

"When white people get in the sun, they turn into black people." 

Y'all gotta understand that of the persons in the classroom, I'm the only white one.  I don't claim to speak for all Caucasians, but I know for a fact if I have sun exposure I don't turn black.  Red? Possibly. Tan? After the peeling subsides-maybe.  Pink? Yep.  Black-never happened.

Because I want to dispel this myth, I said, "Really?  Is that so?"

Precious pauses for a moment then replies, "Yes.  White people turn into black people.  My neighbor told me he used to be black, but he got the black smacked out of him."

I kept my composure until our principal did a walk through.  Taking the child and the principal aside, we repeated this newfound knowledge.  And in the midst of the ensuing discussion, we will be conducting a science experiment on that very hypothesis when we can finally go outside for recess.

And like all rigorous teachers, the data on this experiment will be unbelievable.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Letdown Tuesday

Okay, people, I'm coining a phrase: Letdown Tuesday.

Letdown Tuesday is day following Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday is after Super Sunday, Small Business Saturday, Black Friday, Thanksgiving, and (for many of us in Central Kentucky) No Work Wednesday.

You realize all the good sales are gone, along with your positive bank balance and pants that fit.

That many calamities in one day definitely classifies as a letdown, don't you think?

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Magnity of Our Profession

Thanksgiving is just a little over two days away, leading many to reflect upon the blessings and favors bestowed upon us.

I am no exception.

This morning I had a moment-a brief, shining glimmer into the weight of our profession.  Teaching is by no means an easy occupation, though the many snide remarks may lead you to believe otherwise.

Each day I utilize many skills-knowledge dispenser, nurse, psychologist, and, on occasion, counselor.  Teaching is full of noble tasks, the least of which is to supply students with answers to life's biggest enigmas.  Only a fool would take the sincere, tender, and gullible trusting innocence of a child and make it into an anecdote about which to laugh.

And today friends, I was that fool.

Let me set the stage: it's Monday morning, children coming in and trying to remember if they're in the right place, how to hang up a backpack, and what in the world to do on their morning work.  It's not normally a time for questions, but today Precious had something he simply had to get off his chest.

Precious came to me and quietly asked, "Miss Foster-yesterday at church a man told me if you kiss a girl all your teeth will fall out.  Is that true?"

Much like a child asking if Santa Claus is real, you have a split second to make a decision: a) tell the truth, b) flat out lie, or c) have fun with it.

As readers of this blog, you know what I did. 

I was uncertain as to the veracity of the church man's statement so I did what all super teachers do: marched Precious across the hall and had him repeat his question to Ms. D.  After all, Ms. D. has taught many more years than I and would know the answer.

So we did. 

Unfortunately, we couldn't understand Ms. D.'s response due to her laughter. 

But one day, we will get to bottom of this mystery.  And when we do, I'll be sure to let you know.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What I'm Reading: Professional Edition

Last summer was idyllic: no commitments, no family illnesses, no plans.  Lots of time to read, which I took complete advantage of.  Even participated in an online book study. 

This summer was not.

My grandmother died after a long illness.  Four other friends or relatives died bringing a grand total of five funerals in eight weeks.  Even though I know my grandmother is in a better place, with my grandfather, children she buried and her parents, it still hurts more than I care to admit. 

I took a 10 day summer class, missing the first two days due to my grandmother's burial and a massive migraine.  I had been pink slipped and was looking for a job.  For my class I had to come up with a year long literacy plan, which was made more difficult by the fact since I had no job I had to make the plan generic.  And not having a job was pretty stressful in itself.

All that is to say I'm behind on my reading.  I received a lot of books for my summer class and my classmates and I are to be reading them through the year.  Add that to the fact that super cheap books on Amazon are a personal weakness (I no longer buy any book that costs more than $1) and you have a reading list that amounts to 36 books between my Kindle and the bag lying next to my bed. 

To make things easier, I always sit down with post-its and a pen as I read.  I jot down page numbers I find helpful or interesting, sometimes making a notation.  Even though I'm a grown woman, I can't bring myself to highlight or write in bound books.  I feel like I'm vandalizing.  If I ever want to recall if a book is good, I can open the front cover and see how many notations I made:

(My notes from Smarter Charts)

I'm trying to catch up on my reading and have made a dent in it.  (I'm currently on book #10, if you're just itching to know).  I'll share with you some of the better books:

Smarter Charts by Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz

If you want a book that will help you focus on how to really get the most out of classroom charts, this book is for you.  It's an easy read, with nice examples of the various charts one can create.  Plus, they tipped me off to something known as "Repositionable Glue" which is the greatest thing ever.  Seriously. 

What's After Assessment? Follow Up Instruction on Phonics and Fluency and Comprehension by Kathleen Strickland 

The best part of this is the comprehensive menu of "If...Then" items.  It really reminded me of Jen Jones' menu you can get here.  But it's nice because it also has a sole chapter devoted to pre-reading strategies, during reading strategies, and post reading strategies. 

I've got more books I just adore, but I also have a two day work week this week and Thanksgiving dinner to plan, so needless to say I've got a bad case of short attention span. :)

If you're in the states I hope you and yours have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.  If you're out of the U.S., I hope you have a fabulous week!

Friday, November 1, 2013

The 5 Seasons

Like everyone I personally know, I was under the impression that there are four seasons.

Boy, did I learn a lesson today.

I was following along our Reading Mastery language script which calls for the recitation of various facts.  So I posed the thought provoking question: "How many seasons are there?"

To which 17 sweet voices replied, "Four!" and one indignant voice sounded off: "Five!"

I queried a second time to the same results, then a third, which is why I had to ask my small friend who kept insisting there are five seasons to clarify her thinking:
"Yuh-huh, Ms. Foster! There are five seasons!"

"And they are...?"

"Winter, spring, summer, fall and flu."

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dear Josh Hopkins

Dear Josh Hopkins,

Hope this letter finds you well.  Just a quick letter to apologize. And ask a favor.  A teeny favor.  Eensy weensy favor.  One that won't disrupt your every day life.  But first, the apology.

I sincerely apologize for lying when I told a six year old boy you are my husband.  But in the interest of being fair, I really didn't listen when he came up and started talking.  All I knew was he wasn't bleeding, violated or tattling and was excitedly asking something.  And holding this photo:

(Okay, so I might have thought he was asking to put the pic on my desk, which is as close as my 1st grade class gets to touching my desk.  And touching my desk is like eating from the forbidden tree in the garden of Eden.)

So this little mix up stems from an absent minded "yes".  I was helping a different kid with their work which is why I was preoccupied.  And in the child's defense, we do look kinda chummy.  And then I got so tickled at the absurdity of it all I couldn't fix my error.

Which brings me to the favor: Next time you're in Lexington and you see one of my students in Kroger and they start yelling, "Mom! It's Mrs. Foster's husband!! I would recognize him anywhere! There's a really cute photo of them on her desk!!", be a sport.  Play along.

I'll do the same for you.

Your (es)Stranged Wife,

Friday, July 19, 2013

10 Reasons Candy Crush is Like Teaching

10.  You can spend way too much time on it.
9.    You wonder how anyone else lived to tell about a difficult level.
8.    Like teaching children, there are more than one pathways to reach your goal.
7.    When you don't reach your goal, you immediately begin planning new strategies.
6.    You start out happy and energetic but by the end of the game all you want to do is lie down.
5.    You are constantly looking for your "in" to the level (i.e. striped candies, disco balls).
4.   When you meet a fellow Crusher, you really don't want to talk about anything else.  Everyone around you is bored by this talk, but you are energized.
3.    You go online for resources.  (I've Googled, "How to beat level __" at least three times.)
2.    After a difficult round, you sit back and think what a fine mess you've gotten yourself into.
1.    You don't give up.  After all, tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Observation(al) Humor

Because having report cards go home, a full moon, excitement over the upcoming spring break and two days of snow and temps that unseasonably cold wasn't enough, I got observed today for the last time this school year.

As I pulled out of the garage and saw the full moon shining, I was rest assured of three things: death, taxes, and certainty we would be squirrely.  (Anyone else feel like they can write a novel on the shenanigans that happen those unfortunate days we work and there's a full moon?)

On a good day, I don't like being observed.  It has nothing to do with my principal, I just don't like it.  Period.  You know those people who have testing anxiety?  I have observational anxiety.

For your entertainment, let me give you a rundown of how my day went:

2:00 a.m. 

It's pitch black and I awaken from a nightmare.  About the observation today.  One that involved my room being invaded by a SWAT team carrying body shields and wearing camo on their faces.  (I think I may have seen an Army ad before I went to bed.)  They came in through my window and the door between my room and my next door neighbor's. 

Needless to say, it was unsettling.

6:15 a.m.

Sit down at my desk.  Begin to print report cards to find server is down.  Realize I can't print my lesson plan.  Pray for divine intervention. 

7:30 a.m.

After printing out my eight page lesson plan I can no longer find it.  Reprint.  All but staple it to my hand.

10:00 a.m.

Principal walks in and the lesson begins.  I am reviewing the letter K and we are identifying the /k/ sound at the beginning and end of words.  Because we heard a story about sharks, we make shark fins to swim infront of our bodies when hear /k/ at the beginning.  Everything is going swimmingly until I see Precious up front.  Not content to move a fin infront, Precious begins to swim back and forth at the front of my rugs.

10:15 a.m.

I realized mid-sentence I am out of sequence.  I had meant to start by reading a book and now my lesson is all out of sequence.  I sheepishly admit this to the principal who just laughs and says he couldn't tell.  He was just enjoying the lesson. 

10:30 a.m.

Back on track.  After Precious infoms me that they were a machine and in sleep mode.  We take a movement break where one child proceeds to show the principal how skilled they are at galloping.

11:00 a.m.

Principal leaves and I am no longer in super stress mode.  I am able to form coherent thoughts again. 

  9:00 p.m.

Laugh about the observation.  Thank the Lord my principal is understanding. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Letter-Sound mashUP

(First, did you notice how I mashed up the font on the title?  Just wanted to point out that bit of genius.)

Riddle For You:

What to you get when you cross and J and an H?


A "JayCh". 

Don't believe me?  Ask the etymologist in my classroom.  He'll tell you.  But probably  because he invented it today. 

I can't wait to see what it looks like.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What I'm Reading: Intervention Edition

So I got an iPad mini for Christmas.

Because the weeks that followed suit were kinda...busy.  And sickly.  And time consuming.  So I'm just now getting around to really learning how it works and the fabulous apps that must be on your iPad or you will be that girl in 2010 who didn't have a smartphone.  (Speaking from experience here...maybe.)

I have just recently begun to download books and essays from Amazon. 

As intervention is something I continue to figure out how to best plan for and utilize in my classroom, I realized I needed more resources.


Product Details 

I'm currently reading this book and I love it.  The format is easy to use and follow and you can flip back and forth.  If you're looking for a book that will give you not only the instructional strategy but background knowledge on why it's useful (it's easy to share with parents) and sample lessons, this book is for you.

I am now wishing they will develop one for math.  Fingers crossed!

On deck:

Product Details

I'm reading this second because a)it's longer and b) it has to do with planning so I think it will be more beneficial when I have more free time to reflect on what worked best and what needed tweaking as far as RTI planning is concerned. 

I can tell you that I appreciate that this book has links so you can print out any forms you admire in the book.  It's also home to some very handy "If...Then" menus so you can see what to do if a student needs help with a skill.  The "If...Then" menus are so handy because not only do they show a plethora of strategies, but show if those strategies need to be delivered individually, small group, or whole group.

For fun:
Because all work and no play makes me a drudge, this is on my iPad because a) I LOVE Celia Rivenbark, b) it was free and c) it's nice to open my Kindle app and not see all school related materials on my personal device. 

She Drives Me Crazy: Three Favorite Essays

Here in Kentucky it's mid-March and while we should be thawing out, a fair portion of the state is under Winter Weather Advisory.  (My district also had a snow day on the first Wednesday of March.  Nearly a week into the month.  What is that?  Which reminds me I have a post I need to write about old wives' tales that are true, but I digress.)

Which means even though the days are getting longer it's still nice to curl up with a good book by the fire. 

And I will happily take any suggestions you have-happy reading, folks!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

We Like to Move It, Move It

The fun thing about kindergarten is they have boundless energy. 

The hard thing about kindergarten is they have boundless energy. 

(True story: if they don't get up, move around and act silly the first thing we do is check their temp.  Because my people are ready to sing and dance at the drop of a hat.  I guess it should be drop of a pencil since we never drop hats in the room but plenty of pencils. But I digress...)

Every 45 minutes or so we take a movement break. 

As I am so very fortunate to have a projector in my room, whenever we need a quick break we just tune into Youtube and find the perfect song.  It may sometimes be the chicken dance, the hokey pokey or Cupid shuffle. 

This week I'm loving this off of Just Dance 4:

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/zpymfdBLDPY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Between the melodrama of the song and the wrestlers it works perfectly.  Trust me.  (When all the boys in your class are saying, "I'm that one!" you know you've picked a winner.)  The kids are all sorts of engaged and you cannot help but hide a chuckle over the whole affair. 

If you need a quick movement break for your room, my go to site is this playlist.  I love since it's all kids, I'm not worried about the lyrics or costumes. 

And what classroom would be complete with Mario? 

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/OgKJDlMrSgI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

(Bonus points if you hear that music and it takes you back to your own elementary days.)

Hope your people enjoy these as much as mine!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Educating in the Bible Belt

I live in Kentucky, where we worship Jesus and basketball.

As a teacher, this can lead to some very interesting conversations and totally make your day. 
Cases in point:

A few weeks ago my classroom neighbor was teaching when a shadow darkened her door.  It was our principle.  All the K kids have an unspoken promise to do something unbelievable when the principle is watching.  And today was no exception.

My friend continues to do her writing lesson, which is so quiet you could hear a pin drop (or the wheels turning in their heads).  The stillness is broken by a sweet little girl jumping out of her seat, waving her arms wildly and saying loudly, "Stop!! Stop!! I have a message from God!"

Everyone, principle included, turns to look at Precious.  Now that she has the floor, she is not yielding to anyone (a la television evangelist).  With the same mixture of drama and sincerity she says, "God says those at the front of the line will be the last.  And those at the back of the line will be in the front of the line."  (When I heard this story, I knew right away she was referring to this Bible verse.  Her Sunday School teacher would be so proud.)

Every now and then something happens that presents a problem to my friend.  My friend, a seasoned veteran, was uncertain how to proceed after this exchange.  Enter her assistant, who is all awesome, who smiles at the girl and says, "Hallelujah!"  and my friend says, "Amen" and they continued the writing lesson with no further messages.

Which brings me to my class.  Last Thursday, we were visiting the restroom.  I had all my students in the hall except three girls in the restroom.  As I walk by to tell them shake a leg sweetly encourage them to get in line I walk in the restroom.  As the three who were still inside are rule followers, I wondered what on earth could deter them from following directions. 

So I step in and hear the three of them.  Talking about baptizing each other.  In the sink. 

There's lots of debate about the place of God in the schools, and these stories illustrate you can ban the adults from talking about Him all you want, but the kids will pick up the slack.

In one form or another.