Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Turning-point Teacher

Today I would like to celebrate a teacher that made a difference in my life. I am rarely this sappy, but as the school year begins I am reminded of the reasons why I do what I do and love teaching so much. My hope is that one day my students will be able to look back and feel the same way about me as I do about this stellar teacher from my youth.

Growing up in a small town, our teachers were often a part of our lives in and out of the classroom. This particular teacher lived in a little blue house, around the corner from my childhood home. Her yard was perfectly manicured and her driveway flanked with pristine white rose hedges. When I found out that she was going to be my teacher I was a bit nervous. I had seen her out in her "perfect" yard with her boys every Saturday. She always made them work until everything completed, even in the hot, sweltering sun. Slacking was not allowed and they could not come play unless all of their chores were done. I also knew that she ate apples in their entirety, core, stem, seeds, and all. Needless to say I was quite anxious on the first day of school, thinking that nothing short of perfection would be acceptable to her and at this time in my life I was far from perfect. I still remember entering the room and trying to find my seat, hoping that it was in the very back of the room. Of course, that wasn't the case, but little did I know that this was truly the place that I needed to be and that it was intentional on her part. What I found out, later in life, was that she had learned about something that was the mortar to a wall I was building as a child.  The previous spring I had been informed, through a cousin in spite, that my father was gay and had contracted HIV. I had never known why my parents divorced when I was so young, but when my mom confirmed the facts I shut down. I didn't know how to cope with or express what I was feeling.  I was confused, I was angry, I was scared, and as a child of the eighties I didn't feel like I could talk to or share this with anyone. Throughout the school year this teacher was intentional in her interactions with me and slowly the wall came down. She never talked to me about what was going on in my life, but her kindness, compassion, and endless encouragement made me feel safe again. Under her tutelage I learned that writing was the lifeline that I so desperately needed. She taught me to journal, to create imaginary places to which I could escape, and process my emotions in a reflective way. That school year, which in the beginning I dreaded, turned out to be the year I became a passionate writer.  This teacher still lives in the little blue house, around the corner from my mom. Her rose hedges are not quite as perfect as they once were, but she will always be the teacher who taught me the freedom that comes in putting a pen to paper.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where I Teach Wednesday

I am having another fun day of blog hoppin! Today is Where I Teach Wednesday. I did a complete make over this year. I posted a bunch of pictures not long ago, but in honor of the blog hop, here it goes....again!

Be sure to check out all of the other amazing spaces!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tech Tip Tuesday- Glogster Goodness

I am truly a techie girl at heart. I love trying the newest app, digitizing graphics, playing in Photoshop (<3), and finding tech solutions for my classroom and my students.  Today I am going to introduce you to a FREE (what could be better) program that will help you glitter-up your life!

Glogster is an interactive "poster" creator. This web-based program has a simple user interface! It is so simple that my 2nd grade students have been able to use with minimal assistance. What I love is that I can incorporate video, audio, slide shows, text, etc... all on one adorable splash page. The uses are endless. You can use them for newsletters, capturing important events, projects, invitations, and more. When you finish your glog, you can email it, embed it, send it via Twitter, upload to a Facebook Group page, etc... Here are a few examples of glogs that I have created:

Welcome to 2nd Grade (I emailed this to my students on the first day of school)

On this page I was able to incorporate links, QR Code for my contact info, our Twitter link, our class Facebook group, upcoming dates, and a video. This was a huge hit with parents and staff!

Next up is an interactive invitation for our 2nd Grade Invention Convention

Last Glog of the day is a field trip reflection:

Now, how to get this cool tool for yourself!
There are two versions. The first link is for the standard version of Glogster and it is free.  It has some limits, but I have used it plenty and it works well!
There is also a division called GlogsterEDU which provides additional "teacher" tools. A single membership on GlogsterEDU is free, but for a nominal fee you can set-up a classroom of users with individual EDU accounts. Glogster is truly AMAZING and quite addicting. This is a must do for tech lovers!

Check back next week when I talk about GIMP (another free program) and how easy and fun it is to use!!
Don't forget to check all of the other great tech tips at Blog Hoppin'

Bug hugs,

Monday, August 20, 2012

Must Have Monday!

It is teacher week at Blog Hoppin' and I thought that I would join in on the fun!
Here is the list of my favorite must haves.

1) My SF Cinnamon Dolche Latte made by the best barista on the coast, my son Austin!''

2) My Silhouette Cameo (it is worth EVERY penny!)
3) Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator (What can I say, I like to make pretty things!)

4) Post-It Notes (TONS AND TONS of them in every size, shape, and color)
5) My I-PAD (for apps and playlists for class)
6) Sharpies (every size and color!)
7) My Camera (otherwise known as my third arm)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Show off Your Space: Linky Party!

I linked up with Courtney over at Swimming into Second to show off my classroom glitter! Here are a few quick pics and the link to my recent post with LOTS of photos!

Classroom Glitter

Adventures in Attribute-Land

Over the last year I have been writing something that I have termed as Home Experiences. I have written a lot TONS of them. A home experience is an extension of classroom learning that engages students and allows them to have practical applications of skills that are being learned. This is the type of homework that students and parents LOVE. 

Each home experience includes:
-Parent letter and explanation of experience
-Pacing guide
-Skills/ standards being addressed
-Due date(s) and items to turn in
-A Reflection letter written by the student at the close of the experience
-Optional extensions for enrichment

Today I am giving all of my bloggy friends my first Home Experience for the year. It is an experience that focuses on the I.B. Learner Profile Attributes. While I.B. teachers will LOVE this,  it can also be adapted to use for other character development plans. Just click the photo below to download your own copy. If you download it, please show me some love and write a comment! What can I say, I am a sucker for notes!!

Hugs, peace, and chicken grease,

My Assessment Obsession: Testers Needed

     As teachers, we all know how valuable assessment can be. We make anecdotal notes, administer benchmarks, and review portfolios. Then, if all goes as planned, we utilize the information to "inform instruction." It is often a flurry of papers and post-its, which we then have to try not to misplace. My greatest frustration with assessment has always been the organization of the information and the time I wasted going back and forth between pages of notes and charts of information. I have tried binders, clipboards, cute notebooks, and graphs, but until the middle of last year, I really didn't have a way to take visual snapshot of it all at once. Moreover, my previous methods made it difficult to see class trends in growth and development. I was often in assessment overload.
      This last year, one of my professional goals was to create a digital system to simplify the recording of assessments. In addition, I wanted this system to synthesize the data so that I could easily note trends in achievement and identify outliers that need scaffolded support. After a lot of trial and error, I came up with a two part approach to assessment recording.
     The first piece was to have my students use Evernote for digital portfolios. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but soon discovered that my little nuggets were very capable of this task. They caught on quickly and eagerly added to their portfolios. There are many amazing things that come out of utilizing Evernote for this purpose. First, because I gave parents open access to their child's portfolio, there was a constant, open line of communication from school to home. Parents could easily view what the students were doing and their growth therein. They were able to read their child's reflections for their portfolio pieces and have a deeper understanding of their child's learning. They were also able to easily note any struggles that their child might have. Ultimately, it was akin to a never-ending report card and my parents LOVED it! Also, in addition to having the students add to their portfolios, I added rubrics, audio recordings of assessment interviews & students reading aloud, conferring notes from Daily 5, and photos and videos that also could be used for assessment purposes.  This was tremendously helpful.  If you have not tried Evernote, I suggest that you run, not walk, to get started. It is a free (unless you want additional space) on-line tool that can be accessed via the web, IPAD, IPhone, Andriod, and even email. So, as I am walking around the room documenting student learning (i.e. recording, taping, or photographing) I can, in the matter of seconds, upload the information directly to their portfolio. It is truly "da-bomb!"
      The next piece to my assessment system is an Excel macro that I created to easily document and compare assessment data from benchmarks. I must say, this took countless hours of creating formulas, testing features, fixing errors, and adding and removing components. I believe that I finally have it set (thank goodness) and it has become an invaluable tool. At our school, we use SRA Imagine It for our language arts program. The macro that I created is specific to this program. In this macro you merely enter the raw benchmark scores for each student and it calculates and populates graphs and charts, for both individual students and the class as a whole. It also notes if a student has fallen below the benchmark line. It has saved me so much time and makes it very easy to group students and note trends. Down the road I would like to turn it into an app that can sync with their Evernote portfolios (because I need more to do- ha ha). Before I offer this macro to the general public though, I would like to find a few testers who could try it out and let me know what else I can change, add, or do to improve it. I currently only have the macro completed for 2nd grade SRA Imagine it (I believe that it would work for Open Court as well). If you would like to be a tester, please comment on this post. The first 3 comments will be sent a free copy of the file.
Check back tomorrow for a little glitter!
Bug hugs,

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cameo Linky Party & FREEBIES

I LOVE my Cameo. I had a Silhouette SD for quite sometime and was very attached to it, but when the Cameo came out, I pre-ordered immediately. It is simply FABULOUS! I use it often both in the classroom and out. I often design my own files and will offer a few freebies as well.

1. My Mac skin created using a combo of Lettering Delights shapes, silhouette fills, and my own design. Do you notice the carving in the wood? This has gotten many the oohs and ahhs at staff meetings and in the class.
Treat Jar for a Teacher Friend

Valentines for my students:
The strawberry is a file from the Silhouette Store and the tag is my own (created in Photoshop)

Valentines that my daughter handed out:
These are a simple circles folded like a real fortune cookie. The tag inside is something that I created in Photoshop and imported into Silhouette to cut.

My leatherette birthday book:

Here are some of my cards & a FREEBIE

More Card Love

 3d Bow

 Easter boxes:
Last up: Baby Shirts
Made with the Funny Faces SVG set at Lettering Delights


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