Monday, April 29, 2013

Too busy to blog?

Teachers in general are very busy people, yet somehow many of us have made time for blogging.  Teacher-bloggers amaze me!  Well, this week I am finding myself just too busy to blog.  There is not a lot going on here that has really sparked my interest to write about and there are not enough hours in the day this week. (Are there ever enough hours in the day?)

I promise to be back this weekend with very exciting news!

While I am gone, you might like to check out this giveaway happening at Teaching Special Thinkers.
Have a great week!
P.S. If any of you lovely followers want to guest post on my blog this week, please email me at

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Reaching Students Through Music

The thing I miss most about teaching preschool is the little kid music. (I may be the only teacher that listens to kiddie music to relax when I'm alone.)

This year I am teaching three multi-age English Language classes.  My little ones (K-1) love my little kiddie music (Yay, that I can now listen to it as "lesson planning!").  It has been trial and error finding the music they like and are willing to practice their English with by singing along. We were stuck with the ABCs and "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" for the longest time. Though it was cute catching them singing in English during free time!  I finally got desperate for a change and started singing other content to the tune of "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes."  I really made them laugh the first time when I started singing the ABCs while doing the motions of "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes."  We chanted our numbers and colors to the tune too. 

I noticed that what really engaged my students was the movement.  (They do spend most of their Spanish language day seated doing worksheets.)  So, next I went in search of a great "Hokey Pokey" track.  I tried a few, but the ones my students like most is by Dan Zanes & Friends.  They love the way he plays with his voice in the song.  Low and behold, after the first few times of just me singing, students started chiming in playing with their voices as they sang English sounds.  Success!  It has taken many months (due to being in a Spanish environement) for my students to break out of the silent period and start trying out English.

I have tried so many other songs repeatedly.  My students have enjoyed almost every one and learned with each one, but I was still struggling with getting students to sing along.  Then I tried CJ Handy's "5 Little Monkeys." 

This song holds a very special place in my heart as it was one of my PreKs favorites.  My Preschoolers loved the song so much, that we went to the University video production lab and made our own music video for the song!  (One of the many perks of teaching at a University lab school!)  I was so happy to see my ELL students singing along to this song.  We are still working on the exact wording, but right now each students gets a huge bravo for trying to speak English!  I also caught them singing it after school hours!  I really won them over with this song by incorporating motions (jumping, shaking their finger, etc.) and also with the fun voices CJ Handy uses.  Now I know my students' weakness!  I am on the lookout for other great movement and vocal play songs.  Suggestions welcome!

For my middle schoolers and high schoolers, I am enduring some Justin Beiber and One Direction.  Singing their favorite songs are huge motivators for practicing pronunciation and trying to extract meaning from the lyrics.  I also use my crazy teacher skills to find examples of good and bad grammar.  I am always amazed how I can tie it all together!

There you have it, all three classes (K-12) engaged by music!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Internet troubles :(

I worked so hard tonight to finish a complete set of 28 Thank You Notes (See the freebie I posted yesterday).  Now, I can connect to only selective websites...and TpT isn't one of them.  Can you say bad timing to have interne problems!  I am so excited about the feedback I have been receiving on my freebie.  You all are going to love these note cards...if I can get them uploaded!

*Wouldn't you know, just as I finished typing this post, I was able to connect...then lost it again...then got it back!  Here is the link to the Thank You Notes Bundle. :)  Your feedback is always appreciated!

Thank You Notes- Freebie!

Working at a boarding school requires that I am much more than just a teacher. (Though I think most teachers are more than just teachers to their students.)  This year we are working very hard to teach our students to be thankful.  Everyone who comes to the school receives a thank you card and gifts made by the students.  This gave me the idea to make premade cards that we can print and have the students sign.  Save time while teaching an important character trait!  I have two sample note cards uploaded as a freebie on TpT.  I would like your feedback on them as I make a more extensive set.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Student Inquiry of the Week

I love when my students ask questions!  I can not always figure out the train of thought and I do not always have the answer, but it sure is fun to explore the topics my students are interested in.  This week I had a little girl ask me about the reason behind the shape of snakes' tongues. (Totally random!)  I do not like snakes and do not know much about them other than that they shed their skin and some are venomous.  (The hardest part is admitting I do not know!)  This little girl of course asked the question at a busy transition time, so I directed her to search the kid's encyclopedia computer program during afternoon computer time.  She was not able to find the answer there (though she learned a lot of other interesting snake facts!).  I googled the question and found some interesting webpages for us to explore.  The kids favorite was a youtube video of different types of snakes sticking out their tongue.  The joy of teaching in a mixed age classroom is that the older students were teaching the younger ones the names of the different varieties of snakes.  I learned a lot too! 

So, why do snakes have a split tongue? 
          Snakes use their tongue as their main sense to learn about their environment!
          (I debated putting a photo of a snake here, but I just can not bring myself to do that!)

While I was not wild about spending the afternoon looking at photos and videos of snakes, it sure was fun to see the children light up with excitement and learn so many new facts.  We built our vocabulary and communication skills as we described how a snake's tongue is shaped.  I, of course, tied this in to our study of shapes!  A snakes tongue is a rectangle with two triangles on the end.  We also worked on spelling the word snake.  It went perfectly with our study of the letter s!  Don't you love when it all comes together!  I am so proud of my inquisitive little English learners!

Check out their cute shape people!  (You can see the difference in their developmental levels.)

"Shapes come in all sizes" -A. (5)

"Don't forget the shorts!" -A. (7)

"Round head, long legs" -S. (5)

"Folded arms" -D. (5)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Library, Poetry, and Celebrations!

Today is national Library Workers' Day.  I just love the library!  Some of my fondest school memories are library days in Elementary School.  I particularly remember my third grade teacher who would bring us to the school library on extremely hot days because it was one of the few air conditioned rooms in the building.  We all sat on the floor and silent read or she would read aloud to us.  Perhaps this memory is jogged because of the extremely hot week we are having here in Guatemala.  How's the weather where you are?  Did you do anything special for your school librarian today?

This whole week is dedicated as national Library Week.  This year's theme is "Communities matter @ your library."  Community is a very important theme for me.  It is something I think we are losing in the United States.  Check out this link for a PSA from Caroline Kennedy about how libraries are important places for community and learning.  Do your students visit the (school or community) library at least once a week?

To keep the celebrations going, Thursday is national Poem in Your Pocket Day!  It is time to start preparing the poems students will carry in their pockets. I think it is great for students to carry a poem from a published author and a poem they wrote.  What types of poetry activities are you working on now that we are halfway through the month?

As a reminder, please hop over to Laurah's and help her fund new computers to replace computers stolen from her ELL students.  Her fundraiser is ending tomorrow, so this is your last chance to receive the bundle of TpT products ($120 value) for a $25 donation.

Finally, I'd like to leave you with a poem I wrote, entitled "A Teacher is like a Librarian."  Enjoy the rest of your week!

A Teacher is like a Librarian

© 2013 All Things Elementary



Children come with questions. 

Waiting for the answers, they look with eager eyes. 

The teacher must direct them and show them her delight. 

Her ability to guide them through the maze of knowledge is one well refined,

though she too is constantly learning and searching for gems inside. 

Each page holds answers but questions still abound. 

The books and knowledge are important,

but they’re nothing if the children aren’t around. 

The possibilities seem endless like the tall rows of shelves,

each book a knowledge morsel, so too the children are themselves.

Though the school walls loom large the children know who’s in charge;

 it’s the sweet teacher who reads them a book and doesn’t give them “the look.” 

Her room is one of comfort with the children gathered ‘round. 

The joy is in discovering how together we are bound.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

April Pinterest Linky

Today I am linking up with Diving Into Learning for her linky, "Time Spent on Pinterest Should Equal Professional Development Hours."  Below are some of my most recent finds on Pinterest.  Check out my boards to see more great pins!

Number Sense: Visual Number Line

Life Science: Animal Body Parts

Craft: Easter Egg Caterpillar

Don't forget to hop over to Laurah's to donate to her ELL students and receive a great thank you bundle of great TpT products!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Classroom Technology Stolen

Laurah over at Tools for Teachers has had her classroom robbed twice this year.  All of her technology was stolen.  The school district can not afford to replace the computers.  Laurah knows how important the computers are for her English Language Learners, so she is having a fundraiser to raise the funds to replace the student computers.  Many TpT teacher-authors have pitched in their products for the cause.

Your $25 donation=$120 worth of goodies for you, a very happy teacher, and even happier students! Hurry over for this great deal!  The fundraiser ends Wednesday (April 17th).

I hope you will consider helping Laurah's students.  You can find more information and donate on Laurah's blog.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Encourage A Young Writer

Today is Encourage a Young Writer Day! I love teaching writing, especially using the workshop method. Honoring students' ideas and interests as valid topics for writing validates their ability to be real writers.

Here is the cover of a book I wrote in second grade!  I was so proud to have my work "published."  I have kept this book all these years because it exemplifies to me the power of a teacher who encourages students by valuing their work.  This is no great writing sample, but empowering me as a writer by binding my work has stuck with me and encouraged me to continue writing.

How do you teach writing?
Please comment or link up!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mrs. Rios' 1,000 Follower Giveaway!

Congratulations to Mrs. Rios who has earned 1,000 followers!  To help her celebrate, I donated a "Winner's Choice" prize to her 107 prize giveaway.  There are five prize packs for you to win!  The packs are organized by grade level K-4.  Enter to win the third grade prizes to receive the product of your choice from my store!  Hurry, the giveaway ends April 13! 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Accidental Experiment

Sometimes things just do not go as planned.  Monday evening was one of those times, but it was a good thing!

As you may know, I am currently working and living at a boarding school for poor and orphaned children in Guatemala.  In my current position, I teach English and tutor in Spanish in the mornings and I work in the office in the afternoon.  I also run evening programming two to three times a week.  The students, especially the boys, are really struggling in school.  Part of it is simple motivation.  The other part is that they have not learned how learning permeates their whole life.  Their schedule has become learn in school and play outside of school.  I am slowly transforming that mentality through educational evening programming.  I often disguise learning outside of the classroom in games, songs, and thought provoking questions.  Have you ever randomly asked a kid if the Earth is round and how do they know?  It really makes a kid stop and think!

Well, on Monday I had planned to introduce the boys to some new educational games I had brought from the United States.  I had just returned from my Spring Break trip to visit family in the States and so the boys had not had evening programming for about a week and a half.  They were so excited to have evening game time again and with new games!  I tried to get them to be orderly by having them set up the tables and chairs while I brought out the games.  Then, knowing I had only 40 minutes to introduce two new games, engage the children in learning, and give them time for a few rounds of fussball, I quickly handed out the game pieces to the "addition math memory" game.  There is where I went wrong.  I had too much planned and not enough time, so I rushed and gave the kids the tools before the directions. 

One group (the two boys in the background of the above photos) did not bother to listen to the directions and instead invented their own game.  They flipped two pieces over and added up all the numbers.  It was a very interesting take on the "rules" as the students were actually doing three digit addition instead of two digit addition and matching the sum.  (I hope that makes sense!)  Instead of matching "2+4" and "6" they would add 2+4+6.  If they got the answer correct, they kept the pair.  It helped that they had a nanny helping to solve disputes.  So, I unintentionally learned a more challenging twist on the game.  Thank you, boys!

The other group that taught me a lesson were the two seen below playing "go fish" with the pieces.  They are seen in the above photo playing according to my rules, but about 15 minutes into play they had completed the memory match and had the brilliant idea to play "go fish."  They taught me to look at the pieces more flexibly and to not be confined by the name on the box of the game or the rules a company decides on.  Thank you, again, students for not following my rules.  I have to admire their innovation.

So, the evening did not go as I had planned, but the students learned a lot, exercised their creativity, and even found that math can be enjoyable.  Sometimes just giving kids the pieces is all they need to be learners.  In fact, if we leave the rules up to them, they might just become more creative, better communicators, and more motivated learners.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April is Poetry Month!

To celebrate Poetry month, I like to kick off my poetry unit with this WebQuest.  A WebQuest is simply a step by step of web links for students to go to.  In this Poetry WebQuest, students first watch a video of a young girl interviewing a real poet!  They then go to a few websites to read poems and research poets.  Student choose a poet to write about.  (Great for practicing biographical writing and including details!)  The WebQuest then leads students to websites and online games to help them brainstorm and prepare for writing their own poetry.  Students culminate the lesson by writing their own poems which they can then publish online (on a kid friendly poetry website).  I have even included the rubric I use with my students.  You can grab this fun WebQuest for $2.50 at my TpT store!  Click on the photo!
You can win this and other poetry resources at Rebecca Reid's Poetry Month Giveaway
How will you celebrate poetry month?