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: 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Old, New and a Book

Ok, I have a bit of everything to discuss today, so bear with me!

The Old-I realized last week that my student at Kumon with autism has been with me a whole year! We learn through the summer, so it has legitimately been a year. Thinking back to the first month, I am amazed at how much he has grown. Our worst day today would have been a miracle if it had happened that first month. Initially it was difficult to get him to: sit down, biting or pinching me and to stop singing/carrying on conversations with himself (just to name a few). He still doesn't answer my questions (good afternoon, how are you), but he will read for me, do work, stay seated (most days) and he has learned to ask questions when he doesn't understand- BIG YEA! He is no longer my most difficult student. Yes, there are still days when he is hesitant to learn and I need to break out the singing directions (this was much less embarrassing in our little room, now that we are in a room with everyone else, I try not to resort to hurting their ears), he still has days when he talks or sings to himself (but it is much quieter and he can work while he does it), and will still throw my glasses across the room (I just wear my contacts). But amidst it all, we are learning and the behaviors have increased exponentially.

The New- One of my students (new to me this year) moved away. I was starting to see real progress in his attention span, ability to focus, and learning his letters (sounds for most are still developing). He was one of those sweeties that has such a heart for others and loves to give hugs. He will be missed, but I'm sure his new teacher will find much joy in teaching him.

A Book-I finished one more! To review: one of my goals is to read 20 books this year. I have a list, but have been having difficulty finding books on that list available at my library or through the libraries in the inter-library-loan program. The ones that are in the program are taking forever to ship (seriously, one said it was shipping for 2.5 weeks)! I would still like to read all of those, but for now am deviating from the list, in order to keep reading. I figured that in order to meet my goal, I should attempt to read 2 books a month, and if I only get one read for 2 months, I will still meet my goal. See last post for January.  I have read one for February and have a review for you.

The Returning by Ann Tatlock is an adult fiction novel. It tells the heartwarming story of a man who struggles to put his life back together after 5 years in prison. While in prison, he found Jesus, but only his 18 year old son who has Downs Syndrome understands his relationship with the LORD. He returns to a wife whom he struggles to love, his 18 year old son, his 16 year old daughter and his 6 year old daughter (whom was an infant when he left). This book deals with many adult topics including, struggling with faith, voodoo, drinking, divorce, drugs, and adult relationships.Although there are some intense topics, they are dealt with in as realistic and gentle as they can be without dumbing them down. I'll give this one a 2 out of 5 for wholesome matters. I refrained from giving it a 1, because it stayed away from details which could have made it far less wholesome. The character development was superb! I laughed, cried and was completely wrapped up in the emotions of the characters: 5 points. The plot twisted and turned and left you guessing: 5. No gore, despite the amount of intense topics covered: 5. Overall, a fantastic book for adults to read (maybe upper teens, I suppose it would depend on the person).

16/20 completed. 0/20 on the list so far (give me some slack, I'm reading 2 on the list right now, they just aren't finished enough, so they don't go in the count til I finish them). That about sums it up: old, new and a book!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ok, I realize it's been months since I wrote, so here's the low-down. I'm still working at Kumon, still teaching the tiny ones, the cute ones, the ones that get so excited about learning, yet forget to cover their mouth when they cough (I've been less sick this year, I think I'm building up an immunity). I'm no longer working with the high schoolers with special needs. In August I was offered a job as an aide for K-4th grade in a small school
(one teacher per grade), this also came with some teaching when teachers were out. As I'm much more geared toward the little ones, I took this and love it! I'm planning and teaching guided reading, administering RtI interventions, doing informal interventions and helping out in classes in general. The staff is full of wonderful teachers, the school is full of technology and I was welcomed with kindness, it is great!

Ok, on to what I really wanted to write about: Reading.

If you've been reading this blog for very long, you know I love it and that I don't spend enough time doing it and that that makes me sad. So one of my goals for 2013 is to read 20 books in the year. I figured if I aim for 2 a month and miss a couple, I will still hit my mark.

Since I have a 45 minute drive to work each day (and consequently from it), I have started listening to audio books. They are wonderful and I can inter-library loan ones our humble library doesn't own. At first I was really disappointed. Our library's selection is decent- sized but I kept checking out books that looked wholesome from the cover and the synopsis on the back, but were far from it. I took 3 books back before I decided to stick to Christian books, children's books, ones that had been recommended by someone I trust or by Christian bloggers (I follow quite a few). So I started a book list. If you are interested, it can be found on my pintrest page here. What do I love to read? Wholesome fiction. So I decided to branch out, read some non fiction, some classics as well as fiction. 

Well, almost one month in here is my progress: I haven't read any of the books on the list. Now, before you lecture me about broken resolutions, let me tell you this: I have finished 3 books. 

Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith- Shortly after developing my list I realized there weren't any fantasy books on it. I thought, "Oh, well, I'll do that next year" then I was given this book as a gift. It's a vampire book. My first thought was, yikes! Now, I didn't read Twilight, but I watched the movie and wasn't thrilled. But I decided since this was gifted to me and I didn't have any fantasy, that I would give it a shot. Wholesome factor (on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being family friendly), I'd give it a 2. There was minimal swearing and no inappropriate moments. However, this is a vampire book, so there were bites, deaths and vengeance. My first thought was that the author wasn't very descriptive and that her writing was subliminal because of it. On second thought, I'm not sure that I would want some of the things in the book described in great detail, as it would have been much more gory. Gore rating sits at a 3. In the end, the plot was there and the characters somewhat developed. Plot development and character development rate in at 2. The main character was obviously the most developed character, yet I didn't connect with her as I do in most books. There was something missing and I think it might have to do with the lack of adjectives and adverbs. If you love vampire books (I'm not sure how many have been written), you may enjoy this. I enjoyed it, but was well aware of the elements it lacked.

Weasel by Cynthia DeFelice- This book takes place in 1839 in a pioneer setting. I love books on the pioneer life. I'm not sure why, but there is something about them that makes me feel blessed by what I have. Although this is a children's novel, you should be aware that it displays the hardships of pioneer life in a very real way. There is death, but the dead are honored in such a way that dulls the vividness of the situation. Wholesome: 3.5; there may have been a swear word or two, I don't remember entirely. I'd say ages 10 and up could read it, although I would encourage parents to read and discuss it with the children, as there are some dark moments. The reading level is 5th grade, so it was intended to be for 11-12 year olds and up. Plot: 5 Excellent plot. It was sequential with some twists and turns that are unexpected, definitely not boring. Character development: 5. It gets a 5 if it makes me cry; because I only cry when I am really in tune with the characters. Gore rating: 3, due to some of the raw nature of portions of the book and the descriptions (although very well written). This gal got an A+ on descriptions. Now I'm one of those people who is bored by a half of a page describing the house, yet want something to "build the movie" in my mind. She gave the perfect amount of description without overdoing it. 

 Being Nikki by Meg Cabot- As I was looking this up, I just realized this is book 2, this will change what I was going to write a little. This book is borderline sci-fi, as Em's brain gets transplanted into supermodel Nikki's body. Wholesome rating: 2. There was some swearing, underage drinking and partying, talk of drugs and anorexia. At a reading level of fifth grade, third month (October), I'm not sure I would let my fifth grader read it, too much crazy stuff. Gore level: 5, there is nothing gory about this book. The plot is ok, it could have thrown a few more surprises at me; I'll give it a 3, as it was about average. Character development was one of the areas I was going to criticize, but seeing as I didn't read the first novel, maybe some of it happened there. This book standing alone: I would have liked to get to know the "real Nikki" better and had more insight into Christopher. Character development (this book standing alone): 3. One thing that did annoy me throughout this book was that the author. . . . I don't know how to describe it, so I'll just give an example (not from the book, but something like what the author did). 'She threw the towel into the room out of frustration, finished brushing her teeth and called her mother while soaking her feet in the tub. When she was finished, she went to the other room to retrieve the towel, as she had thrown it there earlier.' Maybe it is just me, but if you already told me about her throwing the towel, you don't need to reiterate the point, I got it. She did this about once per chapter, and by the end it became annoying to me. This may not bother you, but it did me. Since I talked about the level of description in both of the other reviews, I will here as well. It was fine, not too much, not too little, but not outstanding either. 

On the list to start, as I picked them up at the library today (books on my actual list!): 7 An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker (isn't the title interesting?!), Leaving Carolina by Tamara Leigh (fiction). I also picked up an audiobook (that wasn't on the list), as my audiobooks I placed on hold aren't in yet. But it is in the car, so I don't know the title, right off the top of my head. 

 So, I am happy with my accomplishments so far, and hope next month I will have at least two more reviews!