Monday, May 28, 2012

Fun Activities for the Last Days of School

The last 3 days of school are upon us! I cannot wait to spend these days making memories and finishing strong with my students. Here are a few things I plan to do with my students. How will you be spending your last week?

1. Freckle Juice
All of the 2nd grade teachers read Freckle Juice to their classes and then serve them "Freckle Juice". I always make a big deal about it and say that Mr. Morgan and I stayed up all night making the Freckle Juice exactly like the recipe in the book. I take the first swig and then distract the kids by having them look in another direction. While they are not looking I quickly add freckles to my face with a blue marker. When they turn back around, they see my freckles and want to drink the juice too!  Of course, my students are so smart, they usually figure out that we are drinking Hawaiian punch and want to have freckles added to their face with the blue marker. It's so cute to see all of them leave school with blue freckles!
2:  Whiteboard Drawing Competitions:

Miss over a A Faithful Attempt has a great idea for White Board Drawing Competitions. Give the students a word like "zombie", "vampire", "clown", "monkey", etc and then give them a few minutes to create. You could pick a winner or two for each round or have the students vote. I have a feeling my kids will like this one.
3:  Shaving Cream!

 Denise over at Sunny Days in Second let her kids use shaving cream on their desks. I used to do this when I taught pre-k, but I know that my 2nd graders will LOVE this activity. My plan is to remove all of the name tags and stickers from their desks and let them "clean" with shaving cream!
3: Write a Final Blog Post

My students are writing their final blog post: This is a time for them to reflect on their past year, tell about what they are doing this summer, and to look ahead to the next grade. Some of mine have expressed interest in having a certain teacher for next year so I have sent the link to that teacher for comments.
4: Skype!
Revisit a class that you Skyped with earlier in the year and ask what they will be doing for summer vacation. 
5: Hands-On Fun
Allow students to explore manipulatives before they get packed away. Mine love exploring with magnets, balance scales, linking chains, linking cubes, and geometric shapes.

6: Board Games
Games: Set up stations around room with different games and have students rotate through: Candy Land, Twister, Don't Break the Ice, Connect 4, etc..
Finish Strong, Make Memories, and Have Fun!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Books for the Last Week of School

I am excited about my new collection of books for the last week of school. What will you be reading to your kids?

Gilbert is worried that he won't get an end of year award, but is surprised at the end when he receives the "Good Friend" award.

Companion to the "First Day Jitters". The students worry that Mrs. Hartwell will miss them over the summer.

Companion to "First Day Hooray!" captures the excitement of the last day of school.

A play on "The Night Before Christmas" as a family prepares for summer vacation.

I love this book - it reminds me to be grateful for what we have.

Makes me cry but I read it anyway.

Friday, May 25, 2012

It's Friday! Do you feel like this? I know I do!

Feeling Honored

Tonight I was presented as Sycamore Elementary School Teacher of the Year at the Crowley ISD board meeting. What a humbling experience to be part of such a wonderful group of educators!
With my wonderful principal who has encouraged and supported me for 7 years!

     My personal beliefs about teaching have developed over the years as I have experienced growth and change within Crowley ISD and among the students. Our students come from many different situations that require sensitivity and skill, along with patience and understanding. Setting goals and sticking to them gives me the framework I need to provide an optimal learning environment and meet the needs of all my students. This year, my first goal was to implement The Daily 5 (Boushey and Moser) as the basis for teaching literacy. This program fosters independent learning and motivates students to work and achieve growth and success. My role is to guide the students and allow them to choose how they learn. As role model and mentor, I also provide daily, one-on-one feedback that encourages the students to challenge themselves. As a result, my students are reading and comprehending on or beyond a second grade level. My second goal was to implement blogging as part of our writing program. As part of this, I encourage peer review by having students read each other’s blog posts and then make constructive comments and ask questions. My students learn to find their voice, to understand the important connection between writer and audience, and to hone their editing skills.  My third goal was to teach global awareness and flatten the classroom walls so that my students can see what lies beyond their neighborhood. Using technology seamlessly and effortlessly allows me to teach in new ways that appeals to today’s digital natives
     My teaching philosophy can be easily observed in my classroom. Students work independently and are engaged. Students get one-on-one time with me, and they are encouraged to explore and take their learning to the next level. Although our required, formal testing measures knowledge of content, I assess my students informally on a daily basis. Working one-on-one and in small groups allows me to observe the students and make adjustments as necessary. Student collaboration and group work provides opportunities for students to learn from each other as well.  An observer would also see that I have set high standards for my students in both academics and behavior. They would also see that I have a personal connection with each of my students and have built rapport by learning what interests and motivates them and how they learn best.  My past experience as an insurance customer service agent taught me valuable communication skills that I have used to build relationships with parents. Weekly communication via email or phone with parents builds trust and understanding. Parent communication involves positive feedback and is not just reserved for when problems arise.
     As a mentor and role model, I must also set high standards for myself.  I have learned that I cannot rely just on district training to provide me with skills I need. I have built a (PLN) Professional Learning Network of teachers throughout the world to whom I can go to with any questions or advice I need whenever I need it. For example, almost every Friday evening I participate in a Twitter Chat (#D5chat) with teachers from the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK. Each week we focus on one aspect of The Daily 5. We provide links to resources, troubleshoot, and share what works best. It provides group collaboration at its finest.  I am also part of the Global ClassroomProject and Hello Little World Skypers. We communicate daily via Skype instant messaging and video conferencing. I recently Skyped with a teacher in northern Chicago because I needed advice on how best to present our Cinco de Mayo project to many classrooms throughout the world.  When I needed help, I went to an expert. 
     I am my students’ expert and I must strive every day to learn and be better for them. I am enough of a realist to understand that I can’t reach every student, but I am more of an optimist to get up every morning and try.
My students are like the lotus blossom.
They rise up from the mud of the swamp.
They grow up through its murky water
They penetrate the air and
Aspire towards the light of the sun.
They bloom into great beauty despite their dark environment.
My students are like the lotus blossom. ~ Preston Morgan  2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Son is in Argentina

My son is touring Argentina with the Texas Boys Choir. Fortunately, their director has been kind enough to share their daily adventures with the parents. I have been posting the Texas Boys Choir Argentina Travelogue on my personal blog CLICK HERE to experience their tour first-hand!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Symmetry Butterflies!

Today we had our last visit from Mrs. Brenda Glass, my good friend who likes to do art projects with my class. I really appreciate her visits because our district does not provide art on the elementary level so it is sometimes hard to work it in on a regular basis.  My kids are thrilled when they know she is coming because they get to use materials that we don't regularly use like paint and pastels.

Today's project incorporated learning about symmetry by painting butterflies. Brenda used a powerpoint to explain a little about symmetry and then the steps for doing the project. The powerpoint really helped the students understand what they are doing before we get started.

First, the students drew the body and the wings in pencil and then went over it with black tempera paint.

Next, they painted the wings using one color at a time (yellow, red, and orange) .

Then they traced all of the different colors with black

Finally, they added white dots around the edges using a pencil eraser dipped in white.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Skyping with Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson!

Today my class Skyped with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American astrophysicist and science communicator. He is currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, and a research associate in the department of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History

To prepare for our Skype session, we watched the Pluto Files, a documentary on how Pluto was demoted from a planet to a dwarf planet. We discussed what we learned and came up with a series of questions for Dr. Tyson. Some of the questions were about Pluto, but there were other inquiries about other planets and stars, how he got interested in science and space, his marital status, and if he could get Bill Nye the Science Guy to Skype with us. 

Although the solar system is not part of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for 2nd graders, I used this as a cross-curricular activity that involved inquiry, questioning, reasoning, communication skills, and social skills. Skyping has changed the way I teach and I love that I have been able to take my students on a virtual field trip around the world this year. 

A big thank you to Dr. Tyson for taking the time to answer all of our questions. We hope you liked our "Elvis" thank you!

Some high school fan girls popped in for a visit!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Lysol's Healthy Classroom Sweepstakes

For teachers across America, LYSOL® kicked off this week on National Teacher Day their Healthy Classroom sweepstakes, which will run through September 14 and offer 100 teachers across the country the chance to win a $500 gift card towards the purchase of classroom supplies for the 2012-13 school year.  All teachers have to do is visit to sign up. Additionally, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) findings that children are a major source of flu transmission, LYSOL® will provide each winner with a case of disinfecting wipes and access to online curriculum to help teachers instill healthy habits in the classroom.
Up to $50,000 and LYSOL® Disinfecting Wipes Will Be Awarded to 100 Teachers!
The average teacher spends nearly $400 each year on classroom and instructional supplies, a majority of which is taken out of their own pockets. Beyond the usual paper, pencils and chalk, more and more teachers are requesting non-traditional supplies for the classroom, including disinfecting wipes. Recognizing the expenses and importance of keeping a well-stocked, healthy classroom,LYSOL, as part of their Mission for Health initiative, has introduced this nationwide campaign to help alleviate the strain on teachers’ wallets while providing disinfecting products that can kill germs in the classroom.

Make the Classroom a Place to Share Learning, Not Germs!
*No compensation was received for this post

Another Great Idea From Pinterest!

A few weeks ago I found an idea for a Mother's Day Card from Preschool Crafts For Kids on Pinterest. Well, today our whole 2nd grade made these for their moms. Another teacher and I created the template and then copied it on cardstock. The kids just folded it in half ad cut out the shaded areas...WOW!  Due to time limtatons, we didn't add the sequins and jewels, but we did add a picture (one of the adhesive pictures that the school picture photographers give us). Quick, easy, and fun!

template copied on cardstock
Fold and cut out the shaded areas through both layers.


Add some sweet words....

Add a picture...


The Frugal Teacher is Quoted in Local Newspaper

On May 3, 2012 The Fort Worth Star Telegram ran a story that quoted several area teachers including me! I recently won a $700 Target Field Trip grant to take our 2nd grade to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. The reporter, Jessamy Brown, found my blog post about it and asked administrators in my school district if she could interview me. Wow! What an honor. Thank you, Ms. Brown, for bringing to light what every teacher should be doing....

DFW schools finding creative ways to pay for field trips


RICHLAND HILLS -- A yellow school bus carrying third-graders arrived at the Trinity Railway Express station with seconds to spare Wednesday morning.
Luckily, the 8:41 a.m. eastbound train was a few minutes behind schedule, so the children and chaperons scrambled onboard before the train pulled out, blaring its whistle as it crossed Handley-Ederville Road.
To save money, the 49 students from Francisco Elementary School in Haltom City took the TRE instead of a bus on a field trip to the Dallas World Aquarium. To help pay for the excursion, the school won a contest on Facebook.
"This is the first time we've tried such an ambitious field trip," said Tammy Pope, the teacher who organized the trip. "We had tried to crunch numbers before and just had a real hard time with it. The grant kind of gave us the freedom to try it."
Francisco's field trip is just one example of how school districts are finding creative ways to pay for off-campus activities as they deal with massive state budget cuts.
Schools are cutting or scaling back field trips, asking parents to chip in, or turning to grants and corporate sponsors. According to a survey released this week by the American Association of School Administrators, 30 percent of schools eliminated field trips this school year and 43 percent expect cuts next year.
The Birdville school district allots Francisco about $1,200 per year for field trips, enough for one trip per grade level. But additional money from outside sources allows outings that are more extensive or expensive, Principal Janelle Rayfield said.
"We had about the same money budgeted for this year before we won this money. So this helps maximize the money," Rayfield said. "We are a low socio-economic school and our students are not able to go to a lot of different places. So we are able to provide some experiences for the children that they would not have otherwise."
'The money is there
for the taking'
Other districts are finding ways to get students out of the classroom as well.
On Tuesday, 62 students from West Handley Elementary School worked with master naturalists to learn about science, math and writing at the 160-acre Tandy Hills Natural Area in Fort Worth.
Last year, Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area launched a program for Fort Worth schools that pays for field trips, including buses and outdoor restrooms, said Don Young, co-director of the program.
In Arlington, schools that qualify for federal Title I funding receive extra money for field trips. And sometimes PTAs help support such trips, said Amy Casas, district spokeswoman.
Sycamore Elementary School, a Crowley district school in Fort Worth, won a $700 grant from Target's Field Trip Grant program that covered most of the cost of 115 second-graders' trip to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History in March.
"The money is there for the taking. You've got to go out and get it," said Sycamore teacher Louise Morgan, who writes The Frugal Teacher blog. "I think it is the new model. You should take advantage of the money that is out there before you take the school's money. That's being a responsible teacher."
The Fort Worth Zoo offers schools a virtual field trip of live lessons using technology similar to Skype. To expand the reach of its education department, the zoo joined Region 11's Connect 2 Texas program in April 2011 because transportation costs may make a visit too expensive or logistically difficult, particularly for distant districts, spokeswoman Alexis Wilson said.
The value of being there
Francisco's field trip was part of a 12-week unit on rain forests, and taking the train cost less than tying up a school bus all day. The school district charges $2 per mile to use a bus (it's 62 miles to Dallas and back), plus $15 an hour for the driver, not counting overtime.
A student day pass on the TRE costs $2.
Much of the funding came from the third grade's $800 share of a $5,000 grant in a Back to School Sweepstakes from Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Kleenex. Francisco was among 100 schools nationwide to collect the most votes from parents and supporters on the Facebook page for Kleenex.
Every grade level at Francisco got to spend part of the money on field trips, including a trip for second-graders to the Museum of Science and History, Rayfield said.
For Wednesday's field trip, families were asked to chip in $8 per student to help cover lunch and admission, Pope said.
Pope said she felt strongly that students needed to experience the train ride and the aquarium's seven-story exhibit on the South American rain forest.
"We can talk about the rain forest. We can show them pictures of the animals. But none of that does what walking through the rain forest does," Pope said. "Many of them have never been to Dallas. I have literally for at least 10 years been wanting to do this specific field trip. It's been my dream field trip."
Staff writer Shirley Jinkins contributed to this report.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

What a fun day we had creating our UStream video and celebrating Cinco de Mayo!

Live broadcast by Ustream

The students really enjoyed dressing up and feasting on authentic Tex-Mex fare prepared by their parents.  It was a wonderful, memorable day!

The girls looked lovely in their skirts and blouses - They had fun twirling!

The boys looked muy guapo! They were so proud to be dressed up at school!

Authentic Tex-Mex food!

Enchiladas and Empanadas!

Tamales, burritos and more enchiladas!

Thank you to our parent volunteers who helped make our celebration a success! 

Even our vice-principal, Mr. Shepard, joined in on the fun!
A fun day that we will always remember!