Thursday, December 16, 2010

Broken Brain

Today at Kumon one of my students was just guessing at the sentences, instead of reading them. When I reassured him that he knew the words and if he looked at them he could read it he replied with, "but Mrs. Brandi, my brain is broken!". When I asked him why it was broken he said he had been thinking so hard to do all the homework (he had neglected to do it for some time and had twice as much as normal) that it broke and now he "just can't think anymore".

It took all my effort not to smile in front of him. I understand the 'broken brain' feeling. It happened often when I was in college. When I had been studying or writing a paper for so long that my head hurt. You know that feeling. So I composed myself and looked into this darling little preschooler's eyes and said, "I can help you fix it". "You can?" he said with much doubt. "Yes, we just need to change your batteries" His face lit up. We stood up, wiggled a little then sat back down.

He got right to work reading his sentences. Right before he left he turned to me and said, "Mrs. Brandi, does my brain take double A batteries or triple A batteries?" I told him I wasn't sure because we didn't have to take them out. He smiled and left.

Oh, the joys of the little moments!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sub Notes

Up until today I have had teachers leave very detailed sub notes to where everything was, what work we were to do as a class, etc. Today, however, was quite different.

I went into today knowing it would be an interesting day. I subbed for a special education teacher who goes into several classes to offer assistance to students in inclusion classrooms. While these students are in their least restrictive environment as a student, I found today that often their social skills are lacking in comparison to their peers.

Today I came into the classroom and saw the schedule with the classroom numbers, the students names I am to assist, and the times I am to be there. All in all, that was fine.

In several classrooms I worked with students individually or in small groups to provide them with the needed RTI time. While I have knowledge of RTI and the various tiers, I was not familiar with all of the programs and books that they were using with the students. My instructions for this included a post it that said the time of day I was to use it and what page number. Thank goodness the students are used to the program, because they deviated from the book in most situations-something that was not explained.

As stated before, the schedule had room numbers on it. This would have been great if the room numbers were on the doors to the classrooms, or the names of the teachers on the schedule, but this was not the case. The classrooms had numbers, but they did not match what was on my schedule. I ended up asking students and teachers where my next class to go to was, because I've only been in a select few classrooms in that school. I felt all day long I was relying on other teachers to tell me what students I needed to work with and where classrooms were. I was consistently having to question the students on procedures for the various programs and how many pages in the book they do. I felt more like an intruder than a help to the school and students. While everyone was happy to help me out, I felt like my level of athority within the students' viewpoint was compromised and I was at their mercy.

I could understand if I got called in this morning because a teacher was unexpectedly ill. However, this was not the case. I had planned to sub for this teacher since last week, plenty of time for her to write up notes on what I should do throughout the day.

At the end of the day how do I write a note to this teacher telling about the day? I wrote what we did in the RTI groups and apologized if this was not what she had planned. But what else was I do do? When the principal popped in to chat during my 'plan time' I did my best to show enthusiasm. But all in all, today was more frustrating than it should have been.

If nothing else, I gained a greater appreciation for teachers that leave detailed sub notes, and now know where the rooms are, should I ever need to sub for this particular teacher again.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Still Learning

Some things that I learned/ learned again in the classroom this week:

1. Time to wiggle is essential for pre-kindergardeners.
2. Pre-kindergardeners have a difficult time saying Criminger. It often comes out as Criminer or Riminer.
3. Second graders can be both helpful and deceitful. It is good to have more helpful ones in the classroom, as they point out the craftiness of the others.
4. I am constantly being observed (both by the students and by neighboring teachers).
5. Children still draw mustaches on the pictures of those that aren't their closest friends.
6. Something as simple as a marker line on a picture can hurt feelings and stir up a need for revenge.
7. Even at age 7, students still need to be told to put their coats on and zip them up when it is below freezing outside.
8. It doesn't matter how many times I see it, the 'ah, ha' moment still makes me smile.
9. Every classroom and group of students is different.
10. I came from a small town and a part of me will always feel at home in a small school, like I grew up in.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Parents on Board

Since teaching Kumon I have realized once more how important it is to have the parents on board with the students' learning. The way that Kumon is set up I am able to work with each student for a half hour twice a week; one hour each week. Although this time is valuable, as I am able to work with specific skills that go with their worksheet homework, but encompass much more as far as literacy goes, the parents typically spend 10-30 minutes each night with their students on Kumon homework (the nights they do not come to the center). This totals up to anywhere from 50-150 minutes each week (or about 1-2 hours). A parent who is spending time reviewing flashcards with their students in addition to the worksheets will easily spend 2 hours a week or more working with their student on learning (which is twice as much time as I have to work with them).

Where my frustrations arise is when I have parents (and I have several) who do not feel that it is important to be on board with the students' learning. I have a couple of students (remember these are 3-6 year olds) who are responsible for doing their homework on their own and if they choose not to do it, it isn't done. I can understand a parent letting the student suffer the consequences in 4th or 5th grade-but in preschool? Most students don't have the self discipline yet to make sure it gets done. This snowballs when they come to me, take the whole 30 minutes to do their worksheet (because they don't understand how to do it or haven't had practice in their homework) and I have no time to work on the fundamentals of reading, such as letters and the sounds they make and strategies to figure out unknown words. This is just one of the struggles I face (yet have no power to change) while I teach Jr Kumon.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Education Reform Obama

Obama interviewed this morning on MSN about education reform, something that many agree is drastically needed. It is important to know what the government is considering in this area, as the children of today are the leaders of tomorrow. Please take the time to view this interview, if you haven't already click here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Forever Learning

So I felt I learned more from the students today than I taught them. This is partially due to the fact that I was subbing in a life skills class, so the goals for the students were very basic (such as responding via a recorded message board and reaching for the items they wanted). But I feel as if I came out of there knowing much more about students with disabilities.

Don't get me wrong, I have worked with students with disabilities in the past and nannied for some children with disabilities, but only one of those children was on the same level of extremity as these children. I learned about "talkers" today-a nifty tool that allows you to record phrases for nonverbal students to use to communicate. I learned a lot about how important it is to encourage students, even in the littlest things (such as eating lunch and wheeling oneself down the hallway without assistance) and how rewarding it is to see the smile of a student who doesn't speak, but is proud of herself for her accomplishments. I learned how some "regular education" students have a wonderful ability to show kindness and compassion to those less fortunate and the cruelty others display. It has been awhile since I was in high school, so I also rediscovered how strong cliques and social groups are to adolescents.

I love that each day I spend in the presence of children how I learn new things, how I am challenged to show patience even in difficult situations, how the teacher in me shines out, and how great my desire to help others learn becomes. How, even though I may be in charge, I am at the mercy of others, aides, students' moods, resources, helpful (hopefully) staff; and these all make me a better teacher and person.


Today is my first day subbing. I am excited but a little anxious. They are high schoolers, special education, but high schoolers non-the-less. I fit much better with the elementary students, but who knows, maybe this will turn out great and I will love them. We shall see!

I have been teaching in a slightly different area of late. I am a Jr Kumon teacher at Kumon Math and Reading. It is a Math and Reading program driven by the worksheet model, to enhance the students' practice methods. Although this is not how I would teach in my classroom, I am certainly become diversified and learning more about the Indian culture and what the typical parent expects from his/her child-which is very high standards for learning. Although it is not the typical classroom, the typical setting or what I would consider to be typical curriculum, it is good for now, while I wait to see what else God has for me to do in life. He has blessed me abundantly, and for that I give him all the praise!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Music and Kids

There are those that argue that music does not effect children, that it does not matter what they listen to, the words are just words. I am attaching a link to a video here. I dare you to watch it and then try to argue that children do not listen to and know the words in the songs they listen to.

Parents- please listen to the lyrics in the music your children are listening to. Are they wholesome and uplifting? Or do they tear others down and teach your child about things you don't want them learning yet?

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Welcome to my new URL!! I hope you got here without becoming frustrated. I found it interesting that blogger did not have a way to change the URL by linking it from the last. So I took matters into my own hands and 'kept' both URL's-with this one being the active one. Happy Reading!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Book to Movie

Let me begin the post by saying I love the idea of taking books and turning them into movies. In theory it would give extended life to the story, plot and characters. The problem lies when Hollywood's reproduction does not follow the storyline of the book.

A few months ago I viewed a movie tailor for the motion picture Percy Jackson and the Olympians The Lightning Thief. It looked like an exciting adventure. When I discovered that it was first a book, I decided to read the book prior to watching the movie. I like to read the book first, because, obviously, the author's tale was the inspiration behind the movie to begin with. I purchased the book, thinking my future students might enjoy it as well.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mr Riordan's masterpiece. The book was unpredictable and held twists and turns in the plot that kept me up one night long past the time I normally retire. I liked how I got to grow with Percy and learn things about the half-bloods as he did. I will not give away the plot line to anyone who has not read it, but it is certainly worth reading.

The movie, in itself, was a good movie. The problem was when it did not follow the storyline of the novel. The basic idea of the book was present in the movie, but the plotline and events that led to the ending were scarce. A couple of funny parts that were present in the novel were left out, and multiple fights were left out. Some characters (important ones at that) were left out of the movie. It almost appears as if the filmmakers asked a forgetful person who had read the book what it was about, and wrote the script on that, rather than the novel. Needless to say, I was disappointed with the movie.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Running to Learn

Since getting married, my husband has been encouraging me to run with him. Running has never been something I have been inclined to do, nor is it something I particularly enjoy, but I have been keeping up an intense schedule of going three miles and gradually working on running more and more of it. Currently I am at the halfway point.

While I was out the other day, I began thinking about how running is like learning, especially for students who begrudgingly learn (as I run). As well as getting in better shape, I am also getting a better perspective of how students sometimes think.

For students to whom learning does not come naturally, going to school each day is a struggle. Just as rolling out of bed can be a challenge when I am not motivated to run. Blake encourages me when my motivation is low, just as a teacher and other peers need to support each student in the classroom.

The classroom, then, should be a safe zone, where students can feel free to "fall while running" and know that they will be supported by the rest of the classroom. The classroom should be a place where students can help others grow and push themselves to reach places in which they feel are unreachable. But that task is much more difficult, if not impossible, without all students knowing that the classroom is a safe zone where we can be free to grow as learners and as individuals.

Monday, May 31, 2010


Upon browsing educational quotes, I came across one that really made me stop and think:

"The individual learning model is a foreign territory for most Net Genres, who have grown up collaborating, sharing, and creating together online." ~Don Tapscott in Growing Up Digital

I have not read his book, but it would appear to be that the Net Genres would be the students of today who have grown up with the genre of internet (net) as a key aspect in their lives. Or perhaps 'genres' is an abbreviation for generation, but either way, it refers to the students we are currently teaching.

Some may question how much our students know about and use technology. Allow me to provide you with a few examples. During the summertime I nanny children of a variety of ages. One household I work with there are two boys, ages 3, and 5. Their television is hooked up to an external hard drive, has wireless access, and is also used with a play station 2, a Wii and a blue ray player. Yes, it took me a few times to master switching between the devices. Could I do it, yes, it just took some time and understanding of what wires went where in order for the device I wanted to use to be turned on and hooked up to the right sources of power. The three year old and the five year old can and do switch between systems at a rate much more effective than I can. Do they use technology? Certainly. Another child I sit for told me that he has a time limit of five hours a day of video game and online computer playing time. Five hours?! He is certainly using technology on a daily basis, much more so than I. One of my students asked to be my facebook friend the other day. While I politely declined her invitation I wonder what reason a 10 year old has to have an account on a social networking site. I suppose it is the same reason I have an account-to keep in contact with other people. Our students are using technology.

Thinking back to the classrooms I grew up in, the teacher was lucky to have a computer in the classroom. Many classrooms now have at least three computers, and this is a good thing. But are they being used? Using computers simply for students to take Accelerated Reader tests is a waste of such a resource. There are wonderful sites online that challenge students to learn by making learning fun, and bringing it back to a format they are familiar with. We no longer have to teach students how to read a website, they grow up learning that. We have to teach them how to read a newspaper and look up a number in the phone book, because those are the things teachers grew up learning, but students today lack understanding in.

Blogs are a wonderful avenue to express thoughts and exclaim in wonder over new-found knowledge. Obviously, I am using it as such, but do I take the time to show my students how to effectively blog? I could have integrated more of that into my student teaching. Had I more time, I could have made our blog into a conversation of literature, rather than a method of reporting. A blog can be used for both, that is part of the beauty of it. I would like to try that with my first class, provided there are resources available to do so.

I would also like to try setting up a classroom wiki with my students. It would be a page where parents could track what is going on in the lives of their children while at school, as well as a safe place for students to discuss educational related material with each other. The students of today need to be able to learn in groups, it is how they grew up learning, and will be a stronger method of learning for the majority of them.

Does this mean that individualized learning has no place in the classroom and should be entirely thrown out? Certainly not! Students also need to learn to work on their own, as life will require that of them at times as well (it certainly does in higher education). I value the individual learning model, so long as it is used in conjunction with the cooperartive learning that is likely to become the norm for students. Education needs a healthy balance of both to be effective. Who am I to teach solely one way when my students learn in so many different ways? It would be selfish for me to do so.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Graduation and Such

Celebration with my fellow Professional Development School class of 2010 was awesome! There was food, fun photographs, plaques given by the superintendent of Pekin District 108, tears, food, family, friends and goodbyes. It astounds me that the 24 of us will be sprinkled across the state of Illinois, with a few even venturing out of state. We have been together for so long, it seems surreal (in the best of ways) that we will be teaching in so many different places. I wish them all jobs in schools that are the right fit for their personalities and interests.

Graduation was a little over a week ago. It went well, despite the person who had a seizure during the Dean of Education's speech. The newspaper said he was alright.

About an hour after being handed my diploma, I was lifting cardboard boxes and moving all of my earthy possessions to a new apartment. Two of my wonderful friends stayed to help with the monumental task. Over a week later, I am still putting things away, but the end is in sight. 13 days before I spend two weeks at my parents' house preparing for my wedding. 25 days until the big day. So much is happening so quickly. Isn't life wonderful?!

How far I have come in the past year: how much I have learned.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wrapping it Up

My last full week in the classroom with the students! We have a lot of wrapping up to do. This week we will listen to the podcasts the students made about the regions of the United States of America and taking quizzes on them, encasing eggs in various materials in an attempt to keep their fragile shells from cracking, graphing Lucky Charms (and various other data), and wrapping up our literary essays. Busy, busy fourth graders!

I am still in the classroom Monday and Tuesday, but my mentor takes over again (which I'm sure will feel different for me, as I have been planning and teaching the class since February). Almost everything for Illinois State University is done and uploaded, so things are coming to a close all around. Two projects left, but they involve me unleashing my inner creative mind, so of course, I will have a blast.

Saying goodbye to my students will not be easy, but I feel I am ready to embark on the journey of continual learning through a classroom of my own. Applications are in and I am trusting in God to lead me to the school I will be best suited for, as I know He will provide!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Graphing and Technology

Great Kid Friendly website to enter data and make graphs:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fantasy and Science Fiction

I got a free copy of Fantasy and Science Fiction the bimonthly edition for free with the promise to blog about this issue. I was excited to receive it, as we are currently reading the science fiction genre in my fourth grade classroom, and I can always use more resources. I had never heard of this magazine, until another educational blog pointed me in the direction of their website. I have to say, it has been some good reading.

What is Fantasy and Science Fiction bimonthly? It is a collection of authors who write-you guessed it: fantasy and science fiction! They are short stories, but the bimonthly editions are certainly not. My free edition was 254 pages! Intertwined with the stories are fantasy and science fiction books to read including the authors and approximate retail prices. I was disappointed that the books they chose to showcase were mostly over $25. Although they are new releases within the past couple of years, so I suppose that is to be expected. Nothing I would buy for my classroom anytime soon.

Although I was looking forward to my highest reading group (6th grade level) being able to read a short story in guided reading, I'm not sure this will be a resource to use in that fashion. Although I have not read it all, the ones I have read are at a higher reading level than sixth grade, are graphic in nature and not appropriate for students. A great read for mature adults, or even young adults, but not appropriate for ten year olds. Don't get me wrong, I don't intend to shelter my children, as literature is a fine way to introduce concepts that are difficult to discuss. Some of these stories just do it in a more graphic manner than I am willing to undertake. The vocabulary is the biggest deterrent for using this as a resource. Although I could read it aloud and break down the vocabulary, it would be a long process and I was looking more for something to fit in the span of a week.

Overall, a fine read for ages 15 and up. Not recommended for younger audiences.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Multi-Step Project

I had previously written that my students are doing a research project on various regions of the United States of America. The students are recording their research in a class blog. Many are coming along nicely, some need to be revised and some need to be finished.

Since this is an online blog, no names are posted. The security is very strict, as I had to create a guest user name so that others could read our blog (mainly family members). The site is and the guest user name is: FamilyMember with the password being wilson Should you be interested in seeing how these are coming along, you can view them at that location. Because it is set up as a guest account, you can not comment on the blogs or edit them. It is a read only account. I love this about the particular blog site I chose to use.

We have also begun the pod-casting process. The students are excited about this level of the project. Once they are finished and posted on the classroom website, I will post a link for you to listen.

It is a challenge with various groups at different stages of the project. Our classroom is fortunate to have 5 computers in the classroom to use, but with a class of 26 students, it is difficult to get them all done in a timely manner. I have developed an extension activity because of this. I am new to using a blog within the classroom as well as a podcast (the one I made to tell the students how to use it was my first ever!) I love that my school has the resources to be able to incorporate technology into the classroom!

There are definitely challenges, but all in all it is coming along nicely. Today I wanted to have three or four of me in the classroom, as many students had questions about various stages of the project-yet that is all part of the fun. Trying to juggle all the questions and help everyone in a timely manner. I am thankful my mentor teacher has been leaving the room and leaving this up to me to handle by myself. I know this will prepare me for when I have a classroom of my own-which I hope is soon!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

8 Months in and Still Learning

The name of my blog adequately describes my experience as a teacher. I am forever learning. I do not think the learning process will ever still. Not that I want it to-learning is half of the fun!

Yesterday I continued to grow in understanding a particular student who has a tendency to get angry and explode when he does not understand what is being taught in the classroom. We had just begun long division, a topic that is difficult for students to grasp, as it is not easily taught in a concrete manner. Many students were struggling and while I was helping them, I mentally was trying to think of different ways to reteach the concept. I noticed the above student was frustrated. When I approached him he looked up and me and said, "I don't get it" in an already defeated tone of voice. When I inquired further to what parts he was confused on his face became red (a sign of him starting to become angry) and he said, "all of it". I remained calm, while completely in tune to his body language and other mannerisms that I know from experience happen before blow up.

Then I did something so simple (something I do with all of my students) that I was surprised by the reaction. I asked him what I could do to help him learn, to which I received a shrug of the shoulders. Then I encouraged him and worked through the problem with him (fully expecting the white board and marker to be thrown across the room when he reached his boiling point).

His face returned to its normal shade and he looked up at me. He said, "oh, I can do that" and went about finishing the problem. I looked up at my mentor and she smiled. In my head the "hallelujah" chorus was playing. I am still not sure if it was the encouragement, calm tone, or if a light bulb lit up in his brain, but I am thankful for the avoidance of an explosion. I firmly believe if I had seen him three minutes later it would have been a much different outcome.

Friday, March 19, 2010


I learned about Wordle while I was browsing a new blog. Currently I am brainstorming ways to use it in my classroom. The "sticky notes" on the site (thanks to fellow diigo users-a universal bookmarking site that also has many other features) helped me to understand it. However, before I use it in the classroom, I need to make sure it is used in a meaningful way that is more than just fun. What did I create my first wordle on? This site! Click here to see everything that is this site and the neat way wordle puts it together.

Teacher Appreciation

Borders is having 30% off this week for teachers. I'm not sure what their "Special Reception" entails, but it is Saturday the 20th from 2-6 pm. Take a look at the link to their site for more information.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Today I rearranged the classroom because the new seating order was not working out. Typically when this happens, it is to seperate two students who do not work well together or two students that are too chatty, and are not paying attention. Today it was the latter.

The difference in today's movement and movements I have made in the past, was that today it was between one of my better students. When I write "better students", I am not playing favorites. This is just a student who is very successful in school and seldom gets in trouble. When I approached her to let her know her seat would be moved, due to much talking with another student, she seemed surprised.

She said something to the effect of, "well both me and him [the other student she was conversing with] are getting our work done, we can listen and talk and we are not bothering other people". I told her that was true, but I do not allow others to talk while I am instructing and it would be no different for her. After school, I switched her seat with another student's.

It was surprising to me that she thought the rules did not apply to her in the same way that it applies to other students. It makes me wonder if maybe she was a 'teacher's pet' last year and therefore had different privileges. Or perhaps she is just not used to having consequences for her actions, as her actions are typically positive.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Life without a Smart Board

So the projector on the smart board went out a few days ago. We are suppose to be getting a new one, today, we shall see.

This has forced me not to rely on technology to aid my instruction. The students had to look at their worksheets and follow along on the page as I explained it, rather than look off of the document camera-shocker! *laughs*

The timer for timed tests was on the Smart Board (I had to improvise last second, because I didn't think of that until it was too late). Good old fashioned clocks work just fine, though!

My biggest adjustment was writing on the white board (which had been covered by the Smart Board). I slant my words upward unless I am really thinking about it. My students call it "the wave". As I tend to get writing, forget about it, then remember and come back down. One told me yesterday, "Good thing we are so smart we can read the wave", I'm glad my students have a sense of humor-because they certainly need it with me as the teacher. I'm not sure what my new student thinks of me. Probably that I am either a big goofball, because of the projector missing or that I am a Nazi, as the students have been rowdy of late.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Multiple Intelligences

I found this wonderful kid-friendly site to test my student's multiple intelligences. I integrated a computer station into after Illinois State Achievement Testing activities, so that my students could each take the test and I would have a better understanding of where their strengths lie. Ideally, I would have done this at the beginning of the year, but since I am just now able to officially take over the classroom (planning included), this is when it got accomplished.

Each student took the test. Some students I was surprised at their lack of confidence in their skills, as I thought some should have been much higher. Others tested right where I would have predicted them to test. The surprising thing, however, was how many of my students tested high in musical abilities. By taking a look at my results, it is clear that musical abilities are lacking, at best. So this is where my research began.

What can I do for these musical students?! I want to bring out their strong points and give them choices in how they are assessed based on the multiple intelligences, but how when I am so musically ungifted? My research tells me to allow students to write song lyrics related to the learned subject, preform a self written rap or make up sounds and sound effects. These options I can handle. The others included: giving presentations with appropriate musics accompaniment, write a new ending to a composition that explains the learned material, create a musical collage to depict the learned material and presenting a short musical on the learned material. How do I go about having my students be able to do the last set of things when I, myself couldn't do them?

I have a starting point (the easier ones), but I want to make this more meaningful for my students and to be able to incorporate this throughout the rest of the school year. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Today I learned that the students fully understand how important standardized testing is. I yawned while reading during read aloud (at the end of the day). One of the students said, "Miss Speerly, you need to get enough sleep tonight, ISATs are tomorrow morning". Students make me smile :D

Job Hunt

I attended the Illinois State University Job fair yesterday. It was incredible how many districts were there! Too bad there weren't more closer to where I am wanting to teach. Oh well. I have decided that I have put my resume out there, and it is now up to the administration to pick the teacher that will be best for their schools. I would rather wait than be in their positions (Lord, give me patience). I can't imagine interviewing hundreds of applicants, even one hundred would be daunting, in an attempt to find the one that is the correct match for the schools.

Good Luck to the administrators out there. I will be waiting to see if I am lucky enough to be considered for a position in your schools.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Give without Spending a Cent!

There are some websites I have come across that allow you to give without giving a cent! By simply using them, they will donate to charitable foundations. The one I like best is a search engine powered by yahoo called You pick the charity and every search they donate one cent. The other two are education based: and At each site they donate either water or rice to countries in need. All you have to do is correctly answer questions. This is a great tool to use for extra practice in the classroom! Plus it promotes helping others out.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blogging and Podcasting in the Classroom

So I am planning on integrating blogging and podcasting into an activity post Illinois State Achievement Tests. It will be in conjunction with our unit on regions of the United States of America. Hopefully the integration of technology will excite the students and give them that drive to want to learn (that is so hard to achieve sometimes).

How do I feel about this? I had a professor that required us to respond regularly on a wiki and blog as a part of the class (the blog was apart from this one, and actually inspired me to begin this one). So I feel I have some experience with this. But enough to teach students how to do it? I will do my research, set everything up ahead of time and all will go well, I hope. I do realize restrictions will need to be placed on the blog so that all the postings are monitored. But all in all, this should be an exciting endeavor and I will keep you updated as to our progress in this exciting step forward.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Celebrations and ISAT prep

Today I looked through practice ISAT tests that the students took last week. My focus was on extended response for the mathematics section. It is good we are going over this again this week, as many of the students did not do well. But there was one student who was a pleasant surprise. On the second extended response, most students tried really hard and explained their reasoning; unfortunately, it was incorrect or only a partial explanation. This particular student does not do exceptionally well at mathematics, but he doesn't struggle either. He figured it out and wrote the best explanation of them all. I was so proud of him! When I asked him if I could use his answer as an example when we talk about them later this week, he seemed shocked that I wanted to show his. He said he didn't think he did well. After assuring him that I wanted to show it because it was great, he agreed. I don't think he understood my excitement. Upon showing my mentor his work, she laughed because of my excitement. It feels good to know they can do it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Teacher Discounts

I recently had heard from another teacher that you may obtain a teacher's reward card at Office Max. This got me wondering how many other places offered discounts to teachers, unbeknown to us. So I did about a 15 minute internet search to compile as many stores as I could and what their discounts are. Most also include home school teachers, as long as you can verify it with paperwork.

JoAnn Fabrics-15% must apply for card within store
J Crew 15% with authentic paperwork
Staples teachers rewards card
Office Max teachers perks card
Ann Taylor Loft 10% with authentic paperwork and ID
Barnes and Noble 20% (not sure if this is a card or just proof)
Bookwarehouse 15%
Dell 2-4%
New York and Company 15%
Dollar Tree (ask for discount)
Hobby Lobby 10% (ask for discount)

Happy shopping to all educators!

One more to add:
10% off at The Limited

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I have always known that counselor was one of the many hats teachers wear. But I didn't know how difficult it was until this week. It seems that in our class it was a fourth grade drama production. Some had more of the lead parts in the play where others just had minor aches and pains. A few students chose to remain out of the spotlight (thank goodness), but I think that over half of my class had some sort of ailment, either emotional or physical this week.

I am now confident that I can teach a lesson, deal with some pretty major name calling, comfort a student crying student (because her leg hurts so bad), keep another student (who is on the verge of tears because of her broken finger's pain) calm, and motivate another student who prefers not to do schoolwork all at the same time. With all that accomplished, bring on Illinois State Achievement Testing!!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Who Wants To Be a Millionaire

I just found an excellent website where you can make your own questions for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. In my classroom I am using it as an assessment, as each student will be writing down the answers to the questions, while only one is in the "hot seat". Once you have created your game, it gives you your own URL to view it in. I made mine on perimeter, volume and area, with a few questions thrown in there just on shapes. Click here to view my game.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Graphing Paper

Next week my class is learning about perimeter and area. I knew there had to be some free printable graph paper somewhere online. The problem I ran into, however, was that I wanted the squares to be larger than that of typical graph paper. I found a site that allows you to adjust the size of the squares, color of the lines, and paper size as well. Here it is. Enjoy!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jan 25 Reflection

As of this point in my student teaching I have taken over math, word (similar to spelling, yet different), and this week I began with writing workshop.

Today in math the goal was to learn about similar and congruent figures. I started off the lesson with a video clip from United Streaming (a wonderful resource if you have access to it through your school). This short video clip (2 minutes and 15 seconds) is great because it introduces similar and congruency through the use of something the students see every day: flags. Then we went into a SMART board lesson next, which did not upload correctly, sorry (you may email me at if you would like it). All was well with both of those activities, but then came the challenge. Next on the plans was paired practice using geoboards and rubber bands. After an adequate explanation of safety rules, we began by one student making a shape and the other making a congruent or similar shape, depending on my direction. Part of my expliciate directions were to keep voices at a whisper, which the class had a hard time doing. I had to stop them several times in order to bring them back down to a reasonable level. Don't get me wrong-they were excited about the activity, their excitement just got a little out of hand.

Word was next. We were looking at January's words and breaking them apart into root woods, prefixes and suffixes in order to better understand the meanings of the words. The students took right to this activity and enjoyed discovering the meaning of larger words this way. Normally, the students have some in between talk during word time, but today they were completely engaged. I love that feeling when they are all on task and I can see their little minds turning.

Later in the afternoon came the first time I had taught writing workshop completely on my own (planning and teaching). Today we began a new unit on essay writing. When I told the students what we were going to begin learning, I got about 5 groans. Not the best way to start out a brand new subject for me and a brand new unit for them. After the groans, I deviated from my lesson plan to find out the source of the groans. It turned out to be the result of prompts the students had a hard time writing from. Good thing we are not starting out with writing prompts. we will get there, but we will spend time writing about ideas that hit home with the students first. My hope is that after we learn how to write good essays we can branch out and come up with ideas from other people's ideas. I think Lucy Calkins Writing Workshop book will lead me, and the students, in the right direction, and get them back to loving essays.

So, all in all, a good day, with a few rough patches. But hey, isn't that what teaching is all about?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Current Events

Today a fellow student teacher clued me into a great website. If you have students who are interested in rap, this website could be your link to engaging students in current events. The makers rap the week's current events. This week it was everything from the aftershock of Haiti to the California mudslides to the solar eclipse to Scott Brown getting elected to the Massachusetts Senate position. The rap is done via a video and also shows news clips.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


This week is the first time I "officially" took over one subject in the fourth grade classroom. I have been teaching lessons since fall, but seldom had I planned and taught mostly on my own. I say mostly because my mentor teacher is wonderful and helps by guiding me (helping me to determine how long to spend on a topic) and offering me resources.

This week I am implementing math. It is probably the subject I am most hesitant about, as I do not view myself as a strong mathematician. The way I see it, by starting it first, I have that much more time to learn how to teach it and sharpen my mathematical skills. Today our lesson was on quadrilaterals. I had a neat SMART board lesson planned with interactive activities throughout the lesson in addition to a flow chart on various quadrilaterals. I had looked online to see if the SMART tech website already had a lesson on quadrilaterals before I created my own. I did end up using one slide from another teacher's creation and I added to it what I wanted to cover. Upon getting to school I realize that the flash drive I had saved my SMART slides on was still in my computer back at my apartment. Whoops! Thank goodness I write lesson plans so that a substitute should be able to pick them up and read them. Because of this, I had the questions and material on each slide written into my lesson plans and I was able to improvise. It was not as fun as I had planned, but it worked and the students learned the information. The students were able to do the sort the quadrilaterals slide, that I had used from the SMART tech website, so not all was lost. And I have a great SMART lesson on quadrilaterals for the future :D