May 20, 2014

Review Game: Bump

One more day sick in bed. The other TA on my team texted me yesterday after school to let me know she was planning on taking my place on the zoo field trip so I could take care of myself. While her intentions were nothing but sweet, I was really looking forward to this ONE AND ONLY field trip of the year. Also? Staying back would mean that I would take over her classes for the day (since she would be with J), meaning I would be stuck with her anything-but-nice student. I decided this morning that I wasn't quite well enough to take on that responsibility today. So, I'm eating Popsicles in bed and watching The View instead.

OK... so it's Tuesday, which means I get to share a Teaching Tip!

I learned about this review game, called Bump from the FLEX (Foreign Language Experience) teacher, Sammy, in my building and immediately knew I wanted to keep this game in my bag of tricks.

Her seventh graders call it, "The Game Where Friendships are Made and Destroyed" because the competitive component is really what makes it so fun.

The instructions are simple:
1. All students stand in a large circle (around the desks works fine).
2. Teacher will read a review question and look for the FIRST student to raise his or her hand.
3. Student answers the question. If (s)he is correct, the student then chooses the person immediately to the left or right to be "out" of the game. If (s)he is wrong, (s)he is "out" of the game.
4. Students who are "out" must sit in the middle of the circle.
5. If students in the circle are unable or unwilling to provide a correct answer, students from the center get a chance. If correct, they are back "in" the game.

As you can imagine, it's quite entertaining to see the alliances formed and destroyed in just one round of this game. Nothing is funnier than watching a student be saved by a friend only to turn around and see the saved student "bump" the friend who originally saved him.

Sammy told me to play along with our students while we reviewed for our Spanish language and culture test, and I had so much fun. My strategy was to not raise my hand, letting the students take each other out. In the first round, I got second place and even bumped a native Spanish speaker, which my students really appreciated! I lost when my competitor raised her hand faster than me on the last question. And in my defense, my brain automatically translates everything into German first and THEN into Spanish because that's the order I learned foreign languages. It takes me a little extra time to raise my hand. Haha!

In our second round, I was bumped pretty early on... they didn't want to mess with me! :)

This is a great game for the competitive students in your class, and I like that there's an advantage for some of the quieter kids in the class (until they're in a position to get bumped, of course) as well.

May 19, 2014

IMWAYR: The One and Only Ivan

After my pity party last week, I ended up getting sick. Today is day FIVE of not being able to swallow without wincing in pain. I started antibiotics yesterday, but they're not really working yet. I decided it was best to stay home today so I can drool in peace calm my throat with all the Popsicles I want in my bed. Tomorrow, I'm scheduled to go to the zoo with our functional students... so I hope I'm feeling better by then!

The nice thing about being home alone is that I get to catch up on blogging while watching The View. And lucky me, it's a Day of Hot Topics! My favorite!

After sitting on the waiting list for MONTHS, I squealed with excitement to see The One and Only Ivan in my mailbox at work last week. I immediately abandoned my other books to read this one because after reading about it on your blogs for the past year, I knew I'd love it!

I'm an animal lover. Well... I'm a mammal lover. Slimy, scaly things don't do it for me, but I've always been fascinated by apes. In fact, if I make it to the zoo tomorrow, I funny intend to spend most of my day in the ape habitats, whether or not J agrees. :) When I was really young, my favorite book was Koko's Kitten. Remember that one? Yeah... I taught myself the ASL alphabet because I wanted to sign like Koko. True story.

In addition to being completely enthralled by all things ape, I'm one of those people who talks to my dogs like they understand what I'm saying. So, of course I loved that this story was narrated by a gorilla... because who wouldn't want to be inside a gorilla's head?! And a gorilla who thinks he's an artist? Be still my heart!

This story would be an easy read for most of my middle schoolers, but I think it would be a great pick for the reluctant readers. The short chapters and easy sentence structure take away a lot of the intimidation factor for those students. And they will certainly love all the characters in the book.

In short, if you haven't yet read this book, you need to get yourself to your nearest library or bookstore STAT! Your heart will break into a million pieces and then melt like butter in the sun. You'll want nothing more than to become friends with the animals at Exit 8 Big Top Hotel and Video Arcade. You'll laugh with them, cry with them, and hope for them.

OK... time for another Popsicle...

**Please check my book log for a complete list of my Monday book reviews.

May 15, 2014

Pity Party For One

I'm having a little bit of a pity party today, so I apologize in advance for my whining. If you don't want to be part of this party, you totally have my permission to skip my blog. I just needed a place to share my thoughts.

I found out yesterday through the grapevine that my principal filled all three positions in my school for next year. This information hasn't been formally announced, but there's a SPED teacher who is being transferred to an elementary school who requested one of the ELA openings in an effort to stay. She was denied and told the positions were filled on Monday.

I wasn't even granted an interview.

I never even received a response to the personal email I sent to my principal back in March about the openings.

In the past 24 hours, I have gone through a gamut of emotions. It's an understatement to say I feel slighted. I'm sad, frustrated, angry... no, I'm pissed!

I've worked my ass off this year trying to prove myself worthy of a teaching position in this school. I've taken on more responsibility than required on the TAs because I'm a certified teacher. They've used me for testing and small group instruction. Another TA and I have taught a class this entire semester because our students weren't able to follow the curriculum. I created and left behind a binder of modified work for future classes. I've taken on the responsibility of students who are not on my case load. I've graded papers, taken over for teachers in their absence, and even planned and taught whole-class lessons.

I've done much of this without being asked because it was necessary for our students. And sometimes, I've been asked to do these things (testing, small group instruction) because I'm certified. Do I get any extra pay for these things? No. Any acknowledgement from administration? No.

Above all, I'm angry at myself for turning down a teaching position for this. I had such high hopes that this would be the stepping stone I needed to get into this district, but now I know this is not the case.

I don't blame my AP who hired me (and encouraged me with stories of many TAs being hired in the district last year). I know he would have given me an interview if he were in charge of hiring. But I'm extremely frustrated with my principal. Mostly because she couldn't even bother to acknowledge me.

Lost. This is the best word to describe how I feel. I know it would be foolish to come back for another year. If she didn't interview me this year, she's not going to interview me next year or the year after that. Staying here would be a waste of time. And I can't afford it.

So, now that my hope for next year has been shattered, I have to concentrate even more on those stupid online applications that no one reads. It feels like I'm fighting an uphill battle... lots of work for no return. Getting interviews in the Chicagoland area is incredibly hard. It's all about who you know.

And silly me... I thought this year was going to help me "know" the right people.

May 13, 2014

Reading Aloud with Fluency

Today's teaching tip is inspired by this lovely meme I came across in a Buzzfeed list (because... of course!):

I recall doing this exact thing when I was a student for fear that I would stumble through my portion of the text. Nothing is worse than that on-the-spot feeling you get when you're reading aloud and come across a word you don't know how to pronounce.

When I was in third grade, I was called out TWICE during one social studies class when my teacher noticed I was on the wrong page. She thought I would be persuaded to follow along when she put my name on the board, but that just made me cry, leaving me even more distracted. And then that biotch called on me AGAIN (she was so evil) because she KNEW I still didn't know where we were, and I got my first and only check in my entire career as a student.

And the lesson I learned?

Don't get caught!

So, what is a teacher to do? You don't want to do all the reading all the time, and you know students of all ages need practice reading aloud so they can work on their fluency skills. But how do you keep them from falling becoming hyper-focused on only one section of the text?

When I was a student, another popular method was popcorn reading. I'm sure you're all familiar with this strategy where one person randomly calls on the next person to read without warning. In my experience, both as a student and teacher, this method is anxiety-provoking, which only exasperates our original problem of students not focusing on the content of the text.

Instead, here's an idea I can offer:

Step 1: Assign every student a section of the reading.
Step 2: Give students a few minutes to practice their sections independently (aloud).
Step 3: Circulate and assist with pronunciation and other fluency traps.
Step 4: Read the text aloud without confidence!

It's win-win, y'all!

May 12, 2014

IMWAYR: The Silent Wife

One of the things I love most about working with reading teachers is that we're always sharing book recommendations.

A couple weeks ago, my co-worker gave me The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison. She told me it was a book for anyone who enjoyed Gone Girl, so I was intrigued right away. After reading, I have to say that it's far less like Gone Girl than I anticipated, which has been a huge sorce of contention for many readers, but I liked it nonetheless.

I will also admit that one of the draws for me was the Chicago setting. I love when a book references locations I know and love, although, I have to admit that I laughed out loud when they referenced a weekend in the "country" by the Fox River. I happen to live right by the Fox River, and we are definitely a well-populated suburb, not the country.

The story is told through the alternating voices of Jodi and Todd, who have been together for 20 years. He's a self-made millionaire, and she is a psychologist. To be honest, neither is likable, but that didn't matter a whole lot to me.

Shortly after the story begins, we learn that Todd has been having an affair with the daughter of his long-time best friend. This affair is only complicated when Natasha ends up pregnant and demanding Todd leave his wife and marry her.

Jodi, we learn, is very good at tuning out the unpleasant things in life. Although his affair is anything but a secret, she's not willing to confront him with her knowledge. Instead, she wants to get her revenge and then move on in the perfect life she's built. All of this is threatened, however, when Todd leaves her and she's reminded by experts that she could lose everything.

Normally so calm and collected, Jodi seems to snap with this new realization and reaches desperation. How far is she willing to go to salvage the life she loves? Just when you think the book is over, another plot twist will leave you hanging until the very last page.

This book is definitely an adult read, but as long as you aren't expecting the same plot as Gone Girl, I think you'll find it to be an intteresting story.

**Please check my book log for a complete list of my Monday book reviews.

May 9, 2014

BFF Award

I fully intended to link up for Five for Friday today, but I shared my funniest student quote yesterday, and well... don't have a whole lot else planned. Now that the sun in shining around these parts (with the exception of today's rain), my focus has been on spending time outside and getting out of hibernation mode. It's May 9, and I STILL haven't linked up for Currently... and I've accepted that it's probably not going to happen this month.

BUT... I do have a something to share. I know these little awards are very meaningless to many of you, but I also know how they can help turn someone's day around. And if I can provide a smile on the face of someone I care for, I want to do that!

My sweet friend, Alison from Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin' surprised me this week with a BFF award! You can read about it here. I was so touched to receive this award, as I definitely feel like we've formed a close bond over the past year. Alison and I are always texting about everything and anything, and I absolutely adore her! In fact, we were laughing this week about how some people (ah hem.. certain men in our lives) may find it a little odd that we're making BFF with people we haven't even met... but we don't care! :)

So, now it's my turn to pass on the award. I have to say that my first SEVERAL years of blogging were pretty lonely, now that I look back. I really only followed a few friends from college, and I think my followers were limited to family and those same few friends. I remember getting excited if  I had more than 9 page views... I know! When I made the decision to dedicate my blog (mostly) to education, I finally had a purpose, and with that, I was introduced to so many wonderful teacher-bloggers.

One blogger in particular, my dear friend Erin from I'm Lovin Lit, has also turned into an amazing friend. She's gone above and beyond in providing me with resources and tips that have helped me both in the classroom and as a blogger/seller. I don't think I've ever seen a new product from her that didn't make me think, "Oh! I want that!" because I know they are top-quality and highly-engaging!

In addition to her generosity sharing tips and resources, she's also been such an encouragement and often checks in with me just to see how the job search is going. It's nice to know that I have her as a cheerleader and that she genuinely cares that I succeed as a teacher.

Thank you, Erin, for being so amazing!

May 8, 2014

The Measure of Success

One of my students wasn't following directions in PE this week, so I casually walked over to him, wrapped an arm around his shoulder, and reminded him that I'm more than happy to hold his hand and walk with him if necessary. This is the conversation that followed:

Student: Please, Miss L, I have a reputation to protect!

Me: Oh, please! Your reputation is only enhanced by my presence!

Student: Really?!

Me: Of course! 

Student: How many Instagram followers do you have?

Me: Is that the measure of success these days?

Student: Yeah. So... how many?

Me: I hate to break it to you, but I don't use Instagram.

He shook his head in utter disappointment and walked away. 

And just like that, folks, I've lost all my "cool" points. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to me! haha 

May 6, 2014

Help Me Understand This

Princess J had a melt down this morning because her group chose an orange piece of butcher paper for their brainstorming assignment... because when given the option, her choice is ALWAYS pink. Never mind the fact that I excitedly reminded her that the orange paper would be PERFECT for using a pink marker. We had tears, folks. Two periods of tears and zero participation.

We're trying so hard to teach her that she can't always have her way. She can't always go first. She can't just take whatever she wants. The world won't revolve around her forever. Her peers are so good about accommodating her to the point that they will put themselves in positions of disadvantage in order to appease her... all the time. But what is this teaching her?

With the exception of this paragraph, my post was written during 4th period. I ran out of time at the end of class and decided to edit when I got home. And... since it was so timely with today's post, I have to inform you that J had ANOTHER meltdown during period 5 that lasted until lunch (7th period) was half over. This time it was because she didn't feel like doing her work. She was supposed to answer ONE question about a text that was read aloud and discussed in class. ONE QUESTION! And we even told her where to find the answer.

I learned recently that her parents are the ones who push for her to be in mainstream classes rather than the functional classes where she would be among students at her same level. I have to admit that I don't understand the rationale for this.

There is not a single activity that we do in the mainstream classes, including note-taking, that she can do without modification. Although I'm not technically a 1:1 aide (and specifically requested so at my interview), that's what I've become. I have to modify every assignment and intervene in her interactions with peers and staff just to get through each period.

I wish her parents were privy to her daily schedule. I wish they knew how often she shuts down in class because the work is just too overwhelming or because it's incredibly boring for her when they might as well be speaking a different language completely. I wish they could see how much she comes to life when she's in her functional math class. Her peer interactions are much greater, and her confidence is apparent.

The reality is that she is not a student who will earn a high school diploma. She will end up in an alternative school where they can help her gain job skills and better prepare her for her future. Knowing this, I wonder why there's such a push to keep her in these classes that cause her to struggle so much.

Does it really matter if she learns the structure of a plant and animal cell? Is it really important that she read a book and do research about brain damage?

I'm fully willing to accept that this may be something I simply can't understand because I'm not a parent of a child with special needs. I know I'll never get the whole picture. But from where I'm standing, it seems like there's a lot of frustration and grief when there could be thriving and happiness. What am I missing here?


May 5, 2014

Weekend Recap with a Challenge Giveaway & IMWAYR: I Am Nujood, Age 10 & Divorced

What a busy weekend I had! On Friday night, Joel and I met up with a friend of mine from college who wanted to crash at our house in the suburbs for the night. We met for dinner at Lou Malnati's where I tried the meat-crusted pizza for the first time. I have to be honest and say that I was not very excited about this pizza, but knowing my friend keeps a paleo diet, I was willing to give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised to learn it was pretty tasty. I didn't miss the crust at all!

After a great night catching up with her, Joel drove me to the city on Saturday morning to meet up with one of my best blogging buddies, Amy from The Babbling Box, who is now my official first bloggy friend turned real-life friend. Yay! Amy was in town for a wedding, and we got to spend a few hours roaming the city and enjoying lunch together while her mister fulfilled his bridal party obligations. What amazed me the most is how natural it felt to hang out with her after being cyber friends for so long!

I told Amy she couldn't post this picture anywhere because... OMG... I look like a mess. But in the spirit of keeping it real, here's our lovely photo after lunch!
Joel was awesome and agreed to drop Amy at the salon to get her hair did so we could have some more time together. Since we were near Lincoln Park, I HAD to stop at my favorite bakery. Can you recall the name of said bakery? Leave a comment below, and I will send ONE WINNER any item from my TPT store.  And just look at these delicious cupcakes! OMG! I love them!
L-R Top: Strawberry, Peanut Butter Chocolate, and Red Velvet
L-R Bottom: Snickerdoodle, Oreo, Carrot Cake
After our day in the city, Joel and I joined some friends for our first official bonfire of the season. I'm not going to lie, I was more than a little chilly, but it still felt so good to be hanging out outside. The kiddos enjoyed their s'mores, and we all had lots of laughter. I always laugh so hard when hanging out with this group of friends, and Saturday night was no different!

Yesterday, I was spent. We still wanted to get out of the house, so we decided to take my parents' bikes for a leisurely spin. We didn't go all that far because it was my first time on a bike in probably more than a decade... maybe even two. And can I just say that my booty STILL hurts! I don't understand how people are comfortable on those seats!
Evidence of my bike ride. Too bad there's no plane flying overhead!
 The coolest part of our little bike trip was that the prairie path goes past the local (charter) airport. At one point, we stopped to take a break, and jet came in for a landing directly overhead. I think Joel took a video... I'll have to ask him for it when I get home so I can post it!

This past week, I read an interesting book that I'm excited to share. I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced offers a glimpse into the life of a rural Yemeni girl who is forced to marry a man three times her age before she's able to even comprehend what happened or what it means.

After he moves her to a remove village, she realizes quickly that her life is forever changed. No longer is she allowed to play with other children her age or attend school. Instead, she is subjected to the scrutiny and abuse by her mother-in-law every day, and despite his promise to wait until after puberty, she suffers sexual and physical abuse from her husband every night.

When she realizes no one will help her out of her predicament, including her own father and mother, Nujood decides she must go to the courts and ask for a divorce. The judge she encounters is immediately taken with her story, as offers to help her find refuge. She is partnered with a strong Yemeni lawyer who helps her navigate the customs and archaic legal battle that will leave readers in shock.

Through her journey, Nujood learns that she has become a symbol of hope for child brides across the Middle East. Because of her strength and bravery, Yemeni laws have been changed, and many young girls have been inspired to pursue their own divorces to escape their fates.

I have to say, that although the content of this book is harrowing, it's not at all graphic. Nujood is able to describe the realities of her experience without making me cringe at the details. I would use this book with mature 8th grade students to help them see what life is like in other parts of the world. It would fit very well with my multi-cultural unit where students explore a life very different from their own. This book offers insight into life in rural Yemen apart from being a child bride as well.

**Please check my book log for a complete list of my Monday book reviews.