Saturday, September 29, 2012

October: Special Days, Weeks, Events of the Month

October is One Busy Month!

I have quite a bit on my "to-do" list, both in the classroom and at home! After learning of all the "special days" for October, my list has gotten longer... Have a look at some below! I had to post this today so you could get started on any additions you want to make to your plans for the first week of the month!

1st week- 
  • Get Organized Week
Cleaning Out the Clutter! Throwing Away Tons of Papers "To Be Filed" and Never Got Filed!
That Garbage Bag in Pic is a LARGE YARD/LEAF Sized Bag!!! 
2nd week- 
  • National Pet Peeve Week --Do I Smell a Journal Prompt???? ;)
  • International Letter-Writing Week 
3rd week-
  • Teen Read Week -I love all of the mystery/fantasy books we use in literature circles for our Mystery/Fantasy Unit starting next week! See More about Teen Read Week Here

4th week-
  • Peach, Friendship, and Good Will Week
October is the month for:
  • Breast Cancer Awareness-- Visit Pink for October for badges, buttons, and backgrounds to show your support! I already changed my Facebook cover photo! And, here's one of their cute seasonal badges! ---------->
  • Domestic Violence Awareness
  • Adopt a Shelter Dog Month -You knew I'd squeeze something for my 4-legged friends in this post! I actually donate monthly to ASPCA! There are tons of things to teach young children and teens in regards to animals (responsibility, treatment, care, needs, etc.)
  •  Streaming video by Ustream
  • Energy Awareness 
  • Computer Learning
  • National Stamp Month
  • Squirrel Awareness Month
  • Positive Attitude Month
Days for many of us to note: 
  • World Vegetarian Day- October 1
  • First Day of Sukkot October 1 
  • International Day of Non-Violence- October 2
  • World Farm Animals Day - October 2
  • Balloons Around the World Day - October 3
  • National Poetry Day- October 4
  • World Animal Day - October 4
  • Do Something Nice Day - October 5
  • World Teachers' Day - October 5
  • Columbus Day (Observed) - October 8
  • World Post Day- October 9
  • Fire Prevention Day - October 9
  • National Stop Bullying Day - October 10
  • Dictionary Day - October 16
  • National Chocolate Cupcake Day - October 18 (Excuse for Class Cupcakes?? I think so!)
  • Rainforest Day - October 19
  • Reptile Awareness Day - October 21
  • iPod Day - October 23
  • United Nations Day- October 24
  • National Forgiveness Day - October 27
  • Summer Time Ends/Europe - October 28
  • National Cat Day - October 29
  • Internet Day - October 29
  • Halloween - October 31
Busy month, I'll say! 
What do you have planned for your students during October?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Focusing on ONE Topic? Hard to do sometimes...

Wow! I just realized I have not blogged since September 3rd! Where does the time go? As many of you are in the same boat, no doubt, I'm sure you can relate to the feelings of being overwhelmed, tired from the school day-week-month, attending extra-curricular activities, and of course planning, teaching, meetings, etc. etc. etc. Having said that, I cannot focus on just ONE topic to blog about----so many things are on the brain tonight! 

Go figure! I was in bed trying to sleep, and opened my eyes, realizing I was wide awake with the sudden urge to write on my blog- a random assortment of things I must say.

So, what have I been up to this busy month? 

1. School, of course! It seems I've had zero time online (sniff, sniff) because I've just been downright too busy from 6 am til 10 pm--and then I'm pooped! Seriously, legs ache, head hurts, and ears in desperate need of silence...
  • Grading!!! It seems as though I have this ever-growing stack of papers to GRADE! Do you have that feeling? Will I ever catch up with all the papers? I feel more pressure over last couple of years since parents check grades on computer ---religiously.. ;)  I think I may have to have a "Come to Jesus Meeting" with myself about feeling as though I must grade every stinkin' thing the kids do---
  • Planning/Preparation-- While I have "boocoodles" of things to use in planning for each week, there's so much that goes into getting ready for upcoming week's lesson plan--the copying of papers is the BIG time stealer, the "cute" notebooks/flip charts to go along with the week's agenda (Yes, this is something I've grown unable to live without, lol), reading upcoming literature selections prior to class time, and more.
  • Make Up Work--wait..... MAKE UP WORK! I have had more students out, due to illness, vacations to other countries, accidents, etc. I spent a ridiculous amount of time in last month putting together make up work for students....more so than any year I can recall. It's unreal how much time gets taken up with getting individual student make up work together. Am I the only one that finds this stressful? Yes, I tend to have my little "system" for make up work---pulling items from the day's lessons and putting them in each block's make up folder for students; pulling tests to put in test make up folder, blah blah--you know the drill! ;) While I totally understand absences happening and make up work just being a part of teaching, I just have to say I've had more absences in August and Sepetember of this year than any I can ever remember....and it seems to be that way with other teachers in my department/grade this year too. 
  • Meetings-- You know what I'm talking about!  Department meetings, faculty meetings, book study meetings, and parent/teacher conferences are the main/routine meetings to which I'm referring. Remembering what day of the week I have which and seeing one thing after the other occupy afternoons on the calendar can really make a girl tired.... yawn.... :) 
  • Ending the School/Work Day-- Even though I've tried very hard to STOP grading papers at home and grade a lot less at home than in the previos years,  I've still struggled with leaving school at school (work at work), and I'm trying to remind myself that I have a "life" and need to tend to things at home-- which brings me to my next topic ;)
2. After School/Work! After a long day at school, you know your day isn't over---and, knowing you totally understand the feeling, I'm dog-tired after school...
  • Cleaning house
  • Tending to 5 dogs/ 1 cat (and my hubs!)
  • Laundry
  • Dinner, dinner, dinner
  • Errands (before everything closes---since teachers can't exactly swing by salons, doctor's appt.., banks, pharmacies, groceries, etc. on lunch Well, I can't at least...I'm doing WELL just to get 5 secs to wash my hands before lunch and maybe RUN to restroom between classes.)
  • Home Projects---Does your list continue to pile up faster than you can cross things off of it? (still painting outside of house, attic insulation, dealing w/ dryer vents, new light fixtures, garage door issues....blah, blah, blah (Don't even get me on the list I HOPE to get to do in next year or two! It's waaayyy too long!)
  • Bills---yes, remembering to pay the bills, recording expenses, etc., etc., ---I don't think my hubs realizes how good he has it not having to remember to do that! I am the main one w/ that duty. And, yes, "bills" occupy time--even the scheduling of payments with online banking...I'm always stressing that I'm forgetting something!
  • Last--Finding time to spend w/ family, friends and actually getting out to enjoy this beautiful thing known as LIFE! I'm trying harder to do that since I basically was a computer/online geek all summer----and, it seems every weekend has been consumed with out of town functions and football games this month. (October is already packed every weekend...) 
3. Down-Time!   Wait.....what was that I just said? Does that exist anymore? I try to decompress--recently in the hammock w/ the spurts of fall weather in the air!! ;) Or, after I've done all I can physically/mentally manage for one day, I jump in bed to read to have some "quiet" time or "me" time--but usually, I doze off w/ the book/magazine in hand! 

Why am I sharing all of this? 
Well, Not to complain--please don't fuss at me or think I don't love my job or life, because I do! I have TONS to be thankful for and have been truly blessed with so much. But, I'm human.
I'm also sharing because I'd love to hear if others can relate to my ramblings..
And, I'm also feeling the need to jabber on about the bazillion things in my head---in hopes that "blog therapy" will take them off the brain, even if momentarily. (This reminds me of that show "Awkward"--ha, I just admitted to watching that show--last Sunday's marathon anyway!!) 
Another reason for sharing and ALWAYS lingering in my thoughts is that I've been feeling that I'm neglecting my blog, collaborative blogs, my interaction with the SUPER AWESOME network of friends I've grown to know through my blogging/social media "pow wows" --and, well, I've been paranoid about being so MIA. Don't even get me started on how BUGGED I am that I've not even thought about sitting down to create my next resource for my store! But, it's as if one day has rolled into the next before I've realized it. I need a couple of hours added to the 24 hr. day!!! ;0 Yeah, not happening. 
So, if you've read this far, THANK YOU for letting me get it all out! ;) This has been a true "Blog Therapy Session" for me! From this point forward, I may refer to it as BTS time! -ha, ha! I'm Serious! People say journaling, keeping a diary, etc. helps. I'm guessing that IS TRUE! I feel a little better already, now that I've BLOGGED about it! This is the first blog post in a while with no pics, products, freebies, giveaways, or basically teaching related content---except for the whole "life as a teacher" thing! 

Tell me, how do you find time to ENJOY life, wind down, and remember the "important things" in the midst of all of the daily demands that will always be there?  I would LOVE to hear your "time management tips" because they would be very helpful! :) 
A. Smith middle school teaching Innovative Connections
P.S. Since I RAMBLED on and on this evening, in attempt to "blog it out," I ask that you kindly ignore any all errors, as I'm just not feeling up to proofreading tonight--Toodles! ;)

Monday, September 03, 2012

Currently September... Too Much To Do, So Little Time!

With September comes lots of things...
Oh' Boy 4th Grade Link up Innovative Connections A Smith First, the month begins with Labor Day, which means....a school holiday! Love it! Second, Football Season is full throttle! Third, Fall is lurking around the corner, teasing here and there with hints of cool weather---Bring ON the FALL weather, already!! It's so hot and humid....                                             AND, There's Also TONS TO DO! Wow, so many papers have already stacked up to grade! How did that happen so fast? I need a autograder!!!!  Fall weddings to attend, football games to watch, home projects to complete as soon as it's not scorching outside, did I mention grading papers? Seems like there's much on the agenda between now and say....Thanksgiving?? Lots of it fun, some....uh, not so much!

On to some favorites...
Gotta admit....that's one awesome stadium! I Love Maroon and White!
Oh' Boy Fourth Grade Farley Currently Link Up
No, that's not my horse or my land, but I do want to go riding!!! 
And, nope, don't have a pic of my blue dress or new clothes! :) But, I'm sure you get, if you like wearing new stuff! There's just something about new clothes, a new school year, a new season, cooler weather, etc....They all seem to feel, smell, and look CRISP, FRESH, and CLEAN!, I'm not weird! But, it's true!

Anyway,You gotta check out the Oh' Boy Fourth Grade's Link Up! I just love the "Currently" that Farley does each month! I find out so much about fellow teachers/bloggers and it is just cool to learn about new people each month and even more about others I already know! What's pretty cool is how much so many have of us have in common! 

Slip on over to Farley's blog to see all the other "Currently" posts!! 
They are fun to read!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Definite Value in Students Working in Small Groups and Pairs in the Classroom

Do you take advantage of cooperative learning? 
As a middle school teacher, I've learned that small groups and pairs both offer so much! That being said, I even let them pair up and do various reading/writing assignments together, in class rather than at home. In this manner, critical thinking and  applying reading/writing skills tend to be more fun for them---less "work" in their minds anyway.
By implementing small group tasks, I'm also eliminating chances that a student goes home to no help or no art supplies needed to create that brilliant something in his/her brain. (But, yes, when it is outside of class and individually, my kids know upfront that they can come to me for materials if they need them.) Additionally, it's very TRUE that kids learn from each other, and when they pair up for any assignment, they learn even more from one another without even realizing it. That's invaluable in itself.

Snapshots of Partner/Group Assignments in Class:
partner/group assignments
A Smith Innovative Connections Middle School Language Arts Literature Groups
small groups come together to share, students end up sharing/gaining multiple perspectives

These are a few instances of small group activities "After Reading" assignments for The Call of the Wild. Students are easily engaged in discussion. After completing group tasks, we usually share with the whole class, which is why I love the big bulletin board paper! I go through so much of that stuff. Throw out the BIG PAPER and the MARKERS, and they will work! :) It's another way to get them moving some, as they have to get materials, many stand as they are writing/drawing and sharing...and, if you have a block schedule like we do, then you understand their need to move around some! 
When small groups come together to share, students end up sharing/gaining multiple perspectives, depending upon the task, about novels, story elements, inferences, etc. It's a quick way to informally assess comprehension too!
What is your take on small groups/pairs and cooperative learning activities? No matter the subject, share what you like/dislike about it!
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