Saturday, December 31, 2011

Did You Know?

I was shown this video a couple years ago in a physics class for teachers. It helps me to keep things in I teach, what I expect, and whether I'm doing the best things for my students.

2012 Resolutions -Time to Link Up

So now that I'm back blogging and have 3 weeks worth of stuff to say, it looks like there might be the multiple blog posts again!  I love when I can do that. ;)  Over at Teacher's Treasure, Mor has promised to keep up on track with our 2012 resolutions.  I've never been one to make any, probably because I know I'll break them.  But, I'm willing to give it a try, especially since my 5th grader met all of her 2011 resolutions by off! 


1.  Be a better friend.  It's not that I'm a bad friend, but my family always comes first, and then rest and relaxation, and then my job, and get the idea.  This year I want to send birthday cards and set up dinners and make it a priority.

2.  Eat at home more.  I know how bad eating out is, but it seems that when time is an issue the drive thru is always easier.  I still make it a priority to eat it at the table with all the family together, but I know for my kids they deserve to have home cooked meals without all the preservatives, salt, chemicals, and fat.

3.  Use all of my massages from Massage Envy.  It happened before.  I can see it happening again.  I need to make time for me. :)

4.  Learn more about blogging.  I'd love to create my own designs and buttons and backgrounds, but I just don't know where and how to start.  I'd also love to be able to use Google docs better.


1.  Stay positive.  When you have taught as long as I have, and you see the amount of incompetency that I do, it makes it difficult.  This is part of the reason that I started blogging.  I LOVE what I do.  I knew I wanted to teach since I was in 3rd grade, so I need to find ways to stay motivated and creative.  The blogging community is full of teachers that are just like me.  They have passion about their careers and want to share.  This is what I need in my life!!

2.  Entertain new possibilities.  This is my sixth year of 6th grade.  I love this age, but know that change keeps people fresh.  I need to be willing to at least look into something new...7th graders maybe?

3.  Stay organized.  It's not that I'm not organized, but on any given day I can't find the top of my desk.  If anyone ever questions me, I say that my job is to teach kids while they are in my classroom, not to organize everything while they watch.  Maybe what I need is more filing places for papers!!

My Supersized Vista Print Order!

I've spent most of the morning playing around on Vista Print after I received some feedback from my last post...thanks Stephanie and Mor!  Stephanie's page was sooooooo helpful and it lead me to some other places, ideas, and even a Facebook page.  Who knew?  So as promised, here are the items that I ordered.  All but one for the classroom (my daughter loves owls) and several were free.  I had a $70 Groupon that I paid $17 for and because I bought an additional $25, I didn't need to pay for shipping!!  I will for sure be going back for more, and if you need some inspiration, here is Stephanie's site Teaching in Room 6 ~Vistaprint ideas.


             The Freebies
Pen w/my name, Welcome magnet for the door, From the desk of stamp, and "You've got the ticket" postcard that I'll use for our Friday Star Student

The Essentials
These are the items I actually planned on purchasing before I started. The fix it stickers, 2 magnets for in class, at home work, a set of Thank You cards that say from the desk of Mrs. Phillips, that actually shows my desk, Student information post cards, post-its for the copy mom, while you were out pads that can just be torn off (my favorite!), and a no name stamp in red so that when it goes home, parents can see it!

 The Extras
These items were ones I found that I didn't necessarily need, but thought they'd be nice to have.  A mouse pad, a poster for our independent math work, and an owl bag for my daughter!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Long needed vacation...and Vista print!

I've been on hiatus for several weeks now trying to focus on rest and relaxation!!  The holiday times for our family is so hectic, that some things needed to take a back seat so that the important stuff could be accomplished. :)  But, I'm back and am starting to plan for my return to school next Friday.  I have a Vistaprint Groupon I purchased a while back and need to use it by tomorrow.  I've seen so many neat things, but don't know what exactly I should do with my $70 (for $17).  And, to top it off, I've only ever ordered T-shirts for a family reunion through them.  Any ideas??  I will post pictures once I get my order.  I feel like this is definitely an undertapped resource that I need to utilize!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Holiday Gifts for Students

Every year, for the past six years, I leave school on the last day before Christmas break with enough loot to make me embarrassed.  Having once worked in Title I, I never came to expect anything from my students.  My students were lucky to have eaten the night before, so I always felt like I should give something to them.  Each year I would have stockings for them to decorate and fill them with goodies.  It's a tradition I've never stopped, even though my students now could care less about candy or trinkets that came from their teacher.  This year I have nearly 80 students and so I'm at an impasse.  Do I continue spending money on students to buy things that will end up in the trash before the end of the day?  What I have to offer is so insignificant in their world, that I'm not sure it is even worth it.  What do you do?  I'm curious and looking for some new ideas.

Here's what I was thinking about this year.  Some I've done in the past, some are brand new...

Candy bars with "Free night" homework pass.  I've gotten some super cute ideas off of pinterest if I use this this year.

Stockings stuffed with Oriental Trading Company goodies

Ornaments with their name/initial.  Again...some great ones out their on pinterest, but might take time to make.

Lunch with your teacher.  They still LOVE to tell me all kinds of stories and there is never enough class time.

Week of Giving (class gift).  One day I'd play with them in PE, one day in math they'd get to have game day, one day I'd eat with them in the cafeteria, etc.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Loose in the Lab

If you are in middle school science I'm sure that you know about Loose in the Lab!  Right now they are having a fantastic sale on some of their books, so I thought I'd share.  The books are only $3 and so I, of course, bought one of each of them.  They are full of quick demonstrations or labs that are on specific topics.  Click on the book to go to the sale!

More to be grateful for...

This morning I'm so thankful to be a part of the blogging world.  Getting to see others' ideas and inspirations is refreshing.  I'm also thankful to bloggers like Mor from A Teacher's Treasure that honors and features others!!

So I'm passing this along to others, whose blogs I find inspiration from!

Here are the rules for accepting this award:
1. Thank the person who gave this award and write a post about it.
2. Answer the following questions below.
3. And pass the award to 10~12 fabulous bloggers, link their blogs and let them know you awarded them.

My answers to the questions:
  • Favorite color? blue
  • Favorite animal? giraffe
  • Favorite number? 7
  • Favorite drink? Iced nonfat salted carmel mocha
  • Facebook or Twitter? Facebook
  • Your passion?  kids, inspiring others
  • Giving or getting presents? both
  • Favorite day? last day of school :)

Now to pass it along to others...this was so tough since I tried to find those who had not yet received it!! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankful for...

I'm really thankful for all the great inspiration out there and for all of you that have helped me become a better blogger!

For the rest of you that are thankful, you can link up at 2 different linky parties!!


Decimal Help!!

Our school uses the Saxon math program.  I loved it in the younger grades when students had plenty of hands on experience with math concepts, but in the upper grades where we use the "Course" books students really struggle with number sense.  There just doesn't seem to be enough emphasis on massed practice before moving on to the next day's topic.  As a result, our students seem to be steam rolled with new concept after new concept, without much understanding behind what it is that they are learning.  They memorize a "way" or a "shortcut" without having learned the meaning behind it, and it drives me INSANE!

I'm looking for resources to help my kids really understand decimal placement for +/-/X/div., why longer "numbers" aren't necessarily bigger, using a repented bar, turning decimals into percents and turning fractions into decimals.  We have plant of worksheets.  I'm looking for something concrete.  They really need some sort of model since their number sense is so poor in this area.  Please leave a comment if you know of something that would help in their understanding.  I'm even thinking that I need to go back a grade or two to help them understand basic concepts before they will be able to master our objectives.

Thanks for the suggestions!  I'm really needing some help thinking out of the box, or book!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Pinterest Obsession

It's just too easy.  I mean, really, really easy.  My craft blog that I started over a year ago ceased to have any updates after the start of the virtual pinboards. They are exactly what I wanted for my craft blog; a way to catalog all the great ideas.  So like all the other many fads, many teachers have jumped on board.  The ideas are incredible!  Most are for students younger than mine, but you know, those of us caught in the middle adapt.  The more people that repin my finds, the more people I find to follow.  Of course I do have other interests outside of teaching...mainly food which I eat lots of because of the stress my job creates...but I digress.  Here are some of my favorites that I've found so far from several different categories.  If you haven't checked it out, you can click on my new pinterest button on the left margin.

You don't have to follow me, but it's kind of nice to see what you are capable of doing by looking at someone that has some very full boards. I'm sorry for not linking each one, but I did leave the board name that I keep it pinned on.  For everyone that is already pinning, keep the inspiration coming!

Classroom Ideas

I thought that this was clever.  I always have things for students to do, but this provides dozens of activities to be stored in one area where students can easily access them.

Classroom Ideas

A quick creative writing activity that would be something out of the ordinary.  I've found the more novel the activity, the more students will invest time in their writing.  Obviously a five paragraph essay is out of the question, but a great place to work on voice at any age.


Interactive science content folder.  The flaps and diagrams, graphs and pockets provide an interesting way for students to not only keep all of their work in one place, but to study for a test.


This is AWESOME! Someone has created word cards for a word wall that includes pictures for each of the vocabulary terms.


Someone has planned a birthday party around science experiments.

Bulletin Boards

I just love how bright and colorful this board is!  It reminds students of a math strategy for solving word problems.

When I first pinned this, I thought of myself.  But the more times I see it, the more I see it as the basis of classroom management.  Teachers that have the most issue with student behavior and being seen as the "mean" one, have not realized that this is absolutely the case in a classroom.


This is called fairies in a jar.  It reminds me of my cooperating teacher who used to give kids bags of glitter with a note from the tooth fairy when they lost their teeth.  There is just something magical about glitter!


Apparently these last 4 days.  What a great idea for my teacher lunch!  I typically end up buying from the cafeteria, then wonder why I can't just make some things up ahead of time.

Home stuff

What a retreat for the end of a day of teaching! I might just have to try this out if my own kids don't take it over or spoil it first.

~There is even a linky party for pinterest posts!  When will I ever get my laundry done this weekend.  It's a rather old post, but the date is set so that other bloggers can continue to add to the list.  Come check it out, but set aside some time!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Science Centers in 6th

I teach 6th grade in an elementary school.  This poses problems when it comes to planning science labs.  I have no lab stations, my floor is covered in carpet, and I don't have access to lab equipment like I would if I were in a middle school.  So I have to make do.  Having been a primary teacher in another life, I decided that I would set up the energy labs in a center rotation.  Each rotation provided students with a lab sheet that not only gave specific directions to setting up the materials, but also provided guiding questions and enrichments/extensions for those that finish early.

Collecting gas after the baking soda and vinegar create chemical energy.

Students got to explore energy transformation through everyday materials that they probably played with when they were younger.
Students test static electricity's power.

Now with new connections to Newton's Laws and electricity, these seemingly juvenille experiments begged them to deepen their understanding, analyze, and pose new hypotheses.

Waterwheels transforming gravitational energy into mechanical.

It was an eye opening experience for me, and one I hope to repeat in the future.
All labs were taken from the JASON Project free curriculum on energy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Learning Differently and Dyslexia

Learning Differently

A year ago this month, my own 9 year old was diagnosed with a learning disability. It is most likely dyslexia, based on the symptoms, but I don't know for sure since a neurologist's scan of the brain is the only conclusive test. For me it's not about having a signed paper by a M.D. She show most of the signs of a dyslexic, so for me that's good enough. This is something that I naively thought that as an educated teacher I could somehow prevent. Nothing will ever change me in the classroom more than learning that what I do every day isn't enough to educate my own child. How could I be that person? How could I not help kids that other teachers have allowed to fall through the cracks?

Since that first a-ha moment 14 months ago, I have researched feverishly trying to find how I can fix her learning problem. What I learned about dyslexics surprised me so much that I feel compelled to share her story. She continues to be ashamed of her inability to read aloud in class, spell simple words correctly, or take notes. What she doesn't know, however, is that she is well spoken, compassionate, and mature beyond her years. Some day I am certain that she will run her own business or lead others in some way. But every day it breaks my heart that she hates school.

Below are listed a series of great resources for kids of all ages...even the older ones. The unidentified students "caught in the middle" especially need hope since a learning disability without intervention increases their chances of dropping out. I hope you find something to use or that inspires!

She was in town giving a free seminar right about the time I started suspecting my daughter's learning problem. Ten minutes into the information she presented, I was in tears. She was talking as if she personally knew my child. She was inspired to change her entire career for the love of her nephew. Her site is full of free and insightful information. If you are just starting, look through all she has to offer first. She has a wealth of experience and has developed a home problem that parents can use at home.

The special education teacher uses this program with my daughter at school. It has helped her to make AMAZING progress. I would recommend it to anyone, but should be presented by trained teachers.

A group that puts together a yearly convention for the improvement of those struggling with dyslexia. It was here in Phoenix last year, immediately following me writing my daughter's IEP. They provide incredible support to parents and teachers alike.

This online site has so many resources available online.

A different way of looking at educating all kids. There are free online staff development and countless resources as well.

What I showed my daughter...I just wish she knew how incredibly successful all of these individuals are.

Then she, having seen this in emails forwarded around, told me that this is what it feels like being dyslexic. "I'm running like all the other kids, then something happens and I get left behind.  But luckily someone's always there to help's so embarrassing, just like I'm sure it was for that guy!" 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Calling All Science Blogs!!

I haven't posted as often as usual since I've been soooo busy this week.  Our school's major fundraiser was last night, our computers were down part of the week so I had to rethink lessons, and I planned a brand new lab concept for teaching energy.  And if that weren't enough, I've been updating my science site to include science blogs!

I've been so impressed with all that I've found lately with the blogging world and pinterest, that I felt compelled to add a section to the website to link up blogs that focus mainly on science.  Having said that...I need help to flesh it out with more science blog links.  It's seen by my staff and other staff in the district, and I've shared it online through we teach and pinterest.  It is definitely a labor of love and something that is a much needed resource to teachers at our school.

If you have or know of a good science blog to help teachers, please leave their link in the comment section. (I'm still learning how to set up linky parties...hopefully one in the near future!)  Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Content Integration

I simply love when I can tie all my teaching together.  It makes me feel clever and I love when students ask, "Is this science or math?"  Today as we prepped for our energy lab rotations tomorrow, I had some extra time to introduce 2 sites that do a fabulous job wrapping multiple subjects into one.  The first is SRP's website about Powering our Future.  It is put together by one of Arizona's power companies...and it is impressive.  They also have other great resources for teachers as well.  Click on the catalog picture to the left to see all of the resources available for FREE!!The "eJourneys" located in the 4-6 Module allow students to explore different renewable energies and how they have been used throughout history.  The site is interactive and educates students on the different topics of energy while tying in events in history that are covered here in 6th grade.  It also provides lesson plans and lab activities while teaching students about energy type, transformation, and conservation.

The second site that we visited is one that I've blogged about before: JASON Project. You will need to sign up for the site, but it's free, as are all the products online.  After showing students how to find the energy unit, we spent some time exploring three of their interactive games that enrich the energy content.  The first is a transformation game that has students learning how energy changes from a wind turbine, for instance, to electrical energy in a house.  The next game requires students play the role of city manager/mayor as decisions must be made to balance energy need with conservation and other needs.  The last is a game where students design roller coasters.  They need to figure out how much energy is needed to power the coaster.  It's a great way to help students really understand the idea of potential and kinetic energy.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Next Generation Science Standards

Next Generation Science Standards are on their way, and will be to science what Common Core is to Language Arts and Math.  A representative from our district was chosen to participate in the process and so when she is able, she passes along great resources to our science cadre.  

The book Ready, Set, Science:Putting Research to work in K-8 Classrooms is one of those resources and is available FREE on pdf through the National Academy Press.  It is a fabulous book and something I think that any teacher K-6 should read.  As a bonus, there are sample lessons mixed throughout the chapters that support the big picture idea being discussed.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vocabulary Building

There has been a huge push in vocabulary instruction at our school over the past year.  We've focused on latin roots, affixes, word walls, etc. to help students with word attack.  My students have enjoyed playing what I just call "Free Rice."  The program donates rice to those in need while anyone can build their vocabulary base.  It is really a rote type of activity, but there is a little friendly competition that goes on to see who can score the highest in the rounds they play.  It gets advanced enough that even adults find it annoyingly addictive!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Teaching Math with Music

For all the students out there that need more than traditional instruction when it comes to math, Peter Weatherall has a series of songs/videos to help them remember vocabulary, rules, and formulas. Most of these are written with ELL students in mind, but they are definitely a favorite for my regular education class.

Here's a part of tomorrow's lesson on parallelograms.

Peter Weatherall's site

Other favorites...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Disney Products for the Classroom

A couple of years ago, my hubby picked up this great science video on energy at an NSTA conference.  Disney calls the series "The Science of Imagineering" and in true Disney style it's amazing!  So as I kick off our 2nd quarter theme on Energy, I had to share this fabulous series that brings real life jobs of science into the life of kids.  By the time the video about energy is over, I have a classroom full of kids itching to become engineers...I LOVE IT!

So last night as I was searching for the other titles in the series, I found that Disney has a educational page for teachers.  I don't know why they wouldn't, but I just had never come across it before.  They also have a catalog of other products including a line of smart board materials, a series from Bill Nye, and some items that you can get other places as well.

Here's the catalog...this is just one of the imagineering videos...I couldn't actually get a clip from the catalog jpg.

I can't wait to get back and see what else they have available!