Sunday, April 6, 2014

Plant Lab Book

My students have been learning about plant life cycles. Last week we did a KWL (know, want to know, learned) chart on the board with post its. It went great! #1- They love using post it notes. #2- Any movement is good in my classroom, I have a few wiggle worms! However, I was surprised at some of the things they wanted to know. I was planning on planting seeds with them this week, anyways, but their curiosity spurred my plans in a different direction. Three of the things that intrigued me were: will plants grow if there is only a flashlight and no sun, will plants still grow if you give them root beer instead of water, and my favorite, will plants explode if they don't have sunlight? All great questions!!

So, rather than just growing plants next week, we will be experimenting, using those three questions as our variables. Some of the students will plant their seeds and stick it in a cabinet (testing the exploding theory-no sunlight), some will put it under our sink with a flashlight, some will plant them regularly, and others will give it root beer instead of water. So in order for us to track our findings, I created a cute little plant observation booklet. You can see thumbnails of what it looks like here. If you are a blog reader and want this file, I will email it to you for free until the end of April. Just shoot me an email (brandicriminger[at]yahoo[dot]com) and let me know you want it! After that, you can get it at my teachers pay teacher store for $1.99.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Something New- Whole Brain

I have lots of pictures that I have taken of various activities in our classroom, I'm hoping to post those with descriptions soon. The delay has been the process by which it takes to get the pictures. I take them with my (non-smart) phone, message them to my husband, steal his phone and his computer (a difficult task, if you know my husband), transfer them to his computer and upload them. But, I received an amazing camera for Christmas, so this process is about to become a million times (or at least a hundred times) easier!

Nevertheless, I wanted to write a blog post about a book I've been reading. Now, I just got it a couple days ago, so I'm not too far in, but so far it has been amazing! I first learned (kind of, really more like discussed) of Whole Brain Teaching from another teacher. She is amazing, and that more than anything else, is what inspired me to actually read the book. Don't get me wrong, I love reading. I just enjoy reading fiction more than non-fiction; it has to be pretty intriguing for me to desire to read nonfiction. She is currently working on becoming Whole Brain Teaching Certified. Part of that process involves her creating a blog, with videos of her teaching. You can find her amazingness here: That'll Teach 'Em. You should check it out.

The basic premise is scientific. If you are using multiple parts of the brain at the same time (much of this involves making sure students are actively involved in learning and I'm not just talking to them-at least that is what I've gleaned so far). if their brain is occupied in several areas, they don't have the ability to think of creative things to do to be distractions, because they are completely and wholly engaged in learning~doesn't that sound like the dream?! What I like most of all (so far) is tat in addition to telling you what to do, it offers "scripts" on how to introduce it to the students. Not that I used the exact script, but it gave me an idea about what is important to tell them verses what is "for me to know".

So, I've only begun, but day one of implementing the 5 rules I saw a significant change in my "naughties". Beforehand, we had discussed the school rules: be respectful, responsible and ready to learn. We had talked about what each of those meant at the beginning of the year. By mid-year and after reading the "rules" section of Whole Brain Teaching, I realized my kiddos need precise rules as well as a couple broad ones. The precise ones are, "raise your hand to speak and get out of your seat" and "follow directions quickly". The others are, "make smart choices" and, "make your dear teacher happy". I love that it calls me dear :) These 'blanket statements' can cover anything from hurtful words to not sitting correctly on the rug.

I had multiple students who would get up and wonder around the classroom. Some in "the name of getting a pencil" whether they needed one or not and others just in avoidance of work. While I could tell them to sit down before, they were getting sneaky smart. They often were seated and working until another classmate needed assistance and I went to help them. The rules about raising your hand have always been in place, but having a poster to point to that specifically states the rule and a rule number to refer to worked wonders today in my classroom. Granted, it is only the first day, but I was so pleased to see them working and not getting up for useless things or to avoid work. I hope the "magic" continues.

I'm excited to continue to learn new ways to engage multiple parts of the brain and see how it works in a real-life classroom setting. The research behind it is astounding, I can only hope it proves true for my kiddos and helps me become a better teacher.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Some things I'm learning

It seems I'm learning everyday! New ways to engage specific students, new ways to get their attention when they are off in daydream land, new ways to teach in an exciting and fun way. This is a list of some of the things I've been learning the past couple months, some about teaching, some about Oklahoma/my kiddos.

1. Children in Oklahoma say, "I have to use it" when they need to go to the bathroom. The first two weeks every time they told me that I asked, "use what?". Don't worry, I've got it down by now.
2. They are not used to cold (even coldish) weather. While I may be comfortable in capris and sandals on a 55 degree day, they are bringing their winter coats. I have to remember to let them take their jackets even if it is not cold outside.
3. My room will never look the same at the end of the day as it does at the beginning. Learning is messy! I'm trying to incorporate a couple of minutes for clean up at the end of each day.
4. Randomly my children all burst out laughing at me. I get a confused look and one of my goodies will tell me I'm still talking funny. A 7 year old informed me that he was going to ask the speech therapist if she had time for me in her day because I say strange things like "goodness gracious" and my words sometimes sound funny. I guess I say math funny, but if I say mathematics, it's ok. Who would have thought my students would analyse my accent so much?
5. Past tenses of verbs are a very hard concept. The often say, "we goed to music", so trying to teach them that went is the correct word is really difficult. I think we will need more time on this than I originally thought.
6. When in doubt, ask. My staff is AMAZING and will help with anything and everything! I am so blessed to be a part of this school!
7. Team teaching makes life easier. We plan together, help find worksheets, take turns creating materials and bounce ideas off of each other, and take turns disciplining when our students just aren't getting it. I would be be lost without my wonderful second grade team!
8. My kids often surprise me with what they know, both good and bad. Sometimes I hug them for knowing something far beyond the realm of second grade. Other times I try really hard not to let my jaw hang slack while I reel at the fact that they have seen particular movies. Honestly, when we talked about Abraham Lincoln, one of my students thought he killed vampires.
9. I'm adjusting to the weather. I got used to the air being on all summer because it was so stinking hot outside. I love that we could go camping in October in the mountains (so beautiful!) and sleep in a tent without freezing. I love that it is half way through November and I have worn my spring jacket exactly twice (and once it was raining, so more of a barrier than anything else). I am getting used to the constant wind.
10. I have 22 children and love them all!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

10 hours and 2 months later

Yes, I know, I've been a bad blogger! I've been away for awhile because I've been oh so busy! I wrapped up my aide position at the end of May and was offered a full time teaching position in Oklahoma City- a 10 hour car trip.

So in one month we packed up our apartment, I finished my job and had 2 weeks to wrap things up before the move. Luckily, my husband was done with school and able to do most of the packing~such a blessing!

So, not quite 2 months later and my classroom is set up, I have ad my first week and 2 days with my kiddos, we have bought a house, found a church and are settling into southern life. Whew! Yes, I will have pictures. I took some with my phone, but they weren't super great. I need to remember to take some AA batteries to school for my camera.

I have been keeping up with my reading, thanks to my Kindle. But have not been posting them on here like I thought I was going to, shame, I know. I've been trying to alternate between fiction and nonfiction, because that is what I will be asking my students to do and I figure if they ask me, I need to be a good example.

My school is great. The staff is wonderfully helpful, my principal is super supportive and we have a whole room full of leveled books for guided reading-yea! In future posts, I will probably try to break down my day and talk about different things we are doing for different subjects, but for now I will tell you our technology is good. I have 4 Nooks in my classroom, 2 computers a SMART board and the computer lab the students have access to is really nice (not old relics of computers, like some schools have). I am truly blessed :D

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

End of the Year, Moving on

It is the end of the school year. I finished my last day with the kids today and we have one more day of institutes tomorrow. I have been very blessed to work with amazing teachers this year who have loved me, supported me and encouraged me as life was turning this way and that way. I am very blessed to have had the oppertunities to aide the teachers I did this year and to be a regular substitute for second grade. I believe it was largely because of this position that I recieved a teaching job for the fall.

I am overjoyed, scared and excited all rolled into one. Mostly because the teaching job is in Oklahoma. A state I had never seen until a few weeks ago (after I accepted the job). Yes, my husband and I are moving ten hours away to start life in a new city, new state knowing noone- it's scary. But such a wonderful blessing as well! I am going to love teaching my second graders!

Yes, I will miss the kiddos at school, yes, I will miss my Kumon kiddos, yes I will miss friends and family. We will meet new friends and find a wonderful church family, I am sure. I'm so excited about this adventure!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Building Words

So this whole process began when I realized I was throwing away lots of bottle caps. Milk caps, water bottles, you name it and I got to thinking how much that adds up in the landfill. Now, I 'm not one of those people that has a bottled water every day (rarely, as I refill my washable bottle), but occasionally, I would go to the gas station and get a juice or water and have to throw away the lid, while I recycled the bottle. Milk caps, on the other hand, we threw away lots of! We go through about a gallon and a half a week (yes, just me and my husband-he loves his milk), so that really adds up! I started collecting them, not really sure what I would do with them, and this is what I came up with!

Ok, on to the project :) I've been looking for creative ways to build my first grade Adventure Group's phonics sense. My group is 7 students who need help with letter sounds (when more than one letter is combined, like oi as in oil) as well as sight word practice. I have a half hour for my group. We spend te first 10-15 minutes doing Michael Haggerty, focusing on the areas mentioned above. For the rest of the time we do activities that reinforce those concepts, or focus on sight word practice.

So I used my bottle caps to create a word building game to help with these concepts! Now I'm sure there are cute tile squares out there that accomplish the same goals, but this was convenient for me and cheap and it recycled those caps!

You will have to excuse the upside-down pictures. They are correct when I open the file, but blogger flips them when they upload. I tried everything to fix them, but haven't been able to figure it out. I think you will get the idea, regardless of the flipped photos. I used 32 caps in all, most I wrote on both sides. Something to note when you start collecting, the clear lids don't work well for writing on both sides, as you can see through them. The dark blue ones are hard to see (I discarded the black ones). Here is a picture of them all:

I did use the pink ones (milk) do do the vowel blends, but you wouldn't have to color code them. I did the entire alphabet (using fromt and backs, vowel blends, some common beginning sound blends etc. and a couple extra of common letters). Here is a picture of some of the consonant blends (with the exception of the le, not sure how he got in this picture!). This picture shows what the clear caps look like if you write on both sides.
 Ideally, this is what the students will do wit the caps (sorry about it being sideways). I think I will introduce them by building sight words (I have a list) and then expand later on to them building their own (which is the ultimate goal). The trick will be having them spelled correctly. We will probably do this in partners for awhile, so the partners can help monitor the spelling (I can't be everywhere at once!) This will also allow me to work with another group more closely. I love the ability to split up my little group so that I can have more personalized time with the students!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Feburary Books and a Great Program

My list of books for February includes more than 2. Which means if I keep this pace up, I will have more than the 20 I originally wanted to read this year. Since I bought myself a Kindle Fire with birthday and Christmas money, I've been doing much of my reading on it. Which I love! For those of you wondering, I got the Fire because of the ability to download apps. I don't have an I Pad, I Pod or I Phone, so I can't take advantage of apps on any other device. However, if you have another device with apps, you might as well just get the regular Kindle. Many of the books I will be posting in the next few months will be ebooks. Some of them may have paper copies, others not. I will try to link to each of them so you can check them out.

Here We Come Aggies Inheretance Book 3 by

The Pursuit of God by : This is the review I wrote on "I read this on my way to work (or rather the Kindle read it as I drove to work) this morning. Quick read, I think it took 20-30 minutes tops. Tozer obviously has a good sense of Biblical teaching and is able to bring it down to a level where it is applicable immediately. Yes, there are many things he challenges us to do that don't happen overnight, but the power of this book makes you want to get started in any way you can immediately. He discusses being humble in our work, something I feel most of the modern American Christians could use a reminding about- I know it was helpful for me. He lays it out in a very logical and Biblical way that it seems easy (even if it does take time and patience and a lot of prayer)." It is nonfiction, so I won't rate the characters etc.

7 An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jenn Hatmaker. This book is extreme! Jen takes 7 months and reflects on different areas in her life that she has excess of. The first month she eats only 7 foods, for an entire month! Each month she tackles something new: purging 7 things each day from the house, eliminating media, spending money at only 7 places a month etc. Her end goal is to focus on what God desires for us, rather than the American materialism trap that we so often fall into. She has a council that do variations of each month with her and this book describes her adventure, failures and victories in this journey. Since it is non-fiction, it doesn't go with my typical rating system. It is a good book and will inspire you if you are looking to simplify your life.

Leaving Carolina: Here is's summary: "Piper Wick left her hometown of Pickwick, North Carolina, twelve years ago, shook the dust off her feet, ditched her drawl and her family name, and made a new life for herself as a high-powered public relations consultant in LA. She’s even “engaged to be engaged” to the picture-perfect U.S. Congressman Grant Spangler .Now all of Piper’s hard-won happiness is threatened by a reclusive uncle’s bout of conscience. In the wake of a health scare, Uncle Obadiah Pickwick has decided to change his will, leaving money to make amends for four generations’ worth of family misdeeds. But that will reveal all the Pickwicks’ secrets, including Piper’s. Though Piper arrives in Pickwick primed for battle, she is unprepared for Uncle Obe’s rugged, blue-eyed gardener. So just who is Axel Smith? Why does he think making amends is more than just making restitution? And why, oh why, can’t she stay on task? With the Lord’s help, Piper is about to discover that although good PR might smooth things over, only the truth will set her free." This is a rather lengthy summary, and does a pretty food job highlighting everything. While church and truth are involved, I wouldn't consider it Christian fiction. She struggles with truth, but not really with Truth. While intended for adults, there is nothing in it that would keep me from letting a teenager read it. Character development I would give a 2.5. While the main character is doubting herself and many things around her, the emotion isn't there, just mediocre. Plot is predictable 2.5. No gore, nothing inappropriate. I won't be reading the others in the series, as I found it lacking description and character development. 

And [insert drumroll]. . . . .I found a great program that gives you free books (both paper copies and ebooks)! Yep, this girl likes free! And better yet, it's a Christian publishing company! You do things (surveys, book reviews etc) to earn points and then "buy" books with your points: and it's free to sign up. I'm so in! I've downloaded a couple free ebooks to my Kindle and will be excited about reading and reviewing them. You can sign up for your rewards by going to the following link: