Saturday, August 23, 2014

Gone are the days by the pool, And here we are back to school!

I swear, I didn't mean to rhyme :) I'm linking up a little late with Doodle Bugs Teaching with my Five for Friday (on Saturday).

1. I work with some of the most talented and creative people. I was gone for three days at the Minnesota Reading Corps Summer Institute (more on that below) and when I came back on Friday, this is what I saw:

We were thrilled to meet the kiddos and their families at our school's open house earlier this week. The children were excited and and seemed eager to return to school. I have a feeling this school year will be one of the best!

2. While we have been putting 12+ hours each day decorating and organizing our classrooms, we have also been spending a lot of time digging into our new reading curriculum, National Geographic Reach, which so far seems to be the best curriculum out there for targeting the high percentage of our ELL students. There is also the standard version too for schools with a lower percentage of ELL students, National Geographic Reach for Reading

I really like what I see so far. The curriculum is completely aligned with the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. The carefully aligned standards are taught through content with a huge emphasis in science and social studies. The textbook is filled with all of those exciting and beautiful pictures we have seen all of our lives in the National Geographic magazines. Also, we have access to several exclusive National Geographic videos that are tied to the content we are teaching in the classroom.

And here's my favorite part: this curriculum encourages teachers to, well, shut up! Admit it! We teachers talk way too much! The teaching guides give the teachers specific academic language frames during each activity to increase peer-to-peer interaction. Language proficiency will only happen if we give our students ample opportunities to interact with each other. Less teacher talk = more student interaction = increased language proficiency!

What experience have you had with the National Geographic Reach curriculum? Please share with me!

3. At the end of the last school year, I gave the first grade and second grade classroom teachers a summer packet that I created to give to their students on the last day of school. The classroom teachers gave the students an incentive to complete and return the packets during the first week of school. Several of the students came to our open house rushing to their previous teachers to return the completed packets. We were stunned and might I add, proud! The parents and families of our students were very appreciative of the modest amount of work we gave them. I hope the summer review has helped them retain what they learned last year. I guess we'll see!

Anyway, after seeing the summer packets I created, a few of the teachers asked if I had plans to make morning work following the same format. My original answer was no because it's so much work, but over the last couple of weeks, I was able to put together 1st grade morning work for September. I'm committed to the project now, so stay tuned for the rest of the months... 

4. I am now the internal coach for our school's Reading Corps Tutor. We are so lucky to have recruited a full-time tutor that will be working with Tier 2 children, 1:1, on a daily basis.

While I'm thrilled we are receiving the extra support at our school, I was a little bummed that I had to miss three days of professional development to attend the training for internal coaches. I was happy to be back at school on Friday. Being gone for three days felt like being gone for three months!

I don't know too much about Reading Corps and its potential impact on students and the school as a whole, so I will share what I learn along the way!

What experience have you had with Reading Corps?

5. I love my new home! Each morning I step onto my deck and this is the view I have of downtown Minneapolis.

Click the image below to join the Five for Friday linky! Thanks Doodle Bugs Teaching

Enjoy the rest of the weekend and happy new school year!


Saturday, July 19, 2014

It's time to start thinking about BACK TO SCHOOL!

Thanks Ellie from Ms. Woodward's Class for spending the last three and a half hours with me over coffee and lunch! We came armed with our laptops ready to tackle the ever-growing list of things to do to be ready for back-to-school. Catching up with Ms. Woodward gave me some much-needed motivation for thinking about back to school. It's hard to believe that we're already nearing the end of July.

This summer has proven to be the busiest summer I've ever had. For starters, I also just completed the second week of summer school with the new, incoming kindergartners. Because I teach reading in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade, summer is the only opportunity I ever get to teach kindergarteners. 

We focused on counting, identifying and writing the numbers 1-5. I used a lot of finger plays like "Five Little Ducks" and "Five Little Monkeys" to engage the children. First, I read the books to the children encouraging them to join in with the predictable pattern while counting backwards with their fingers.

Next, I printed duck and monkey masks and glued them onto craft sticks for the children to act out each story. Click on the images below to be redirected to Classroom Jr. Teaching Resources to print your own masks.

I purchased a set of 12 bingo daubers from the Dollar Tree and a ton of stickers. The students practiced number formations using the daubers and stickers before attempting to write the numbers with a pencil.

To help the children practice writing, identifying and counting numbers 1-5, I created several practice worksheets and activities.

Our theme for summer school is "Under the Sea." After reading and learning about sea animals, the students made their own fish.

I am also currently taking an intensive, 3-credit course in Foundations of Reading. It's the first of six courses I am taking to get obtain my additional license in reading instruction. While this course has been a lot of work, I love having the opportunity to communicate and share with other teachers from all over the Twin Cities. The two books below are required reading for the course. I highly recommend them for any K-12 teacher, regardless of the grade and content area you teach. Reading and discussing the books has reignited a dormant part of my brain. I can't wait to apply the reading instructional strategies I have learned in my classroom in the fall.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!


Friday, May 2, 2014

Five for Friday-5/2/14

1. My New Nephew

Grumpy Teacher has a new nephew! My sister Linh welcomed her second child, William, earlier this week on Wednesday. While I've had my fair share of experiences with newborns, I still have to admit, newborns terrify me. They're like aliens. I called my niece "E.T." for the first few months of her life and this little newbie to the world is no exception. But for an alien, he's still pretty darn cute.

2. Testing, Testing and More Testing

We just completed our second week of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, our state's standardized tests. Testing is so taxing on the children, but I'm continually amazed by the students' motivation and enthusiasm. They worked hard all year long and really shined over the last two weeks. My wonderful colleague in 4th grade left a treat each morning for her students--the treats and notes really got the children excited!

3. Fun with Idioms

A few weeks ago, I spent several days creating an Amelia Bedelia Book Unit. I love this book by Peggy Parish and couldn't wait to launch this book unit with a lesson on idioms. The kiddos had so much fun with idioms. I used "Hit the Hay" to introduce idioms. I created posters to display in the classroom to remind the students the meaning of the words literal and implied.

I Do:

We Do:

You Do:

Since majority of my students are ELL students, I wanted to make sure they had a firm understanding of key vocabulary words from the book before actually reading it. After teaching each of the 12 vocabulary words, I had the students cut out the vocabulary cards to review the definition of each vocabulary word. After reviewing for about 5 minutes, we played "Pictionary" using the the vocabulary words. The students and I had a ball! For each remaining day of the week, they spent about 5 minutes to complete a vocabulary worksheet for further practice. The kiddos are anxious to read the book next week.

4. The Countdown to Summer Vacation

The week of rain definitely made us even more anxious for summer vacation. It's hard to believe we just have a month left of school. While we teachers all look forward to the much needed break, we also all dread the "summer slide" and worry about what the students will retain once they come back in the fall. Back when I used to teach first grade, I would send home a summer packet to review the concepts we covered throughout the year in math and reading. The daily review summer packet would take on average 10-15 minutes each day for the students complete so it provided just enough daily practice for 8 weeks without cutting too much into their "summer fun" time. The first grade teachers at my school were thrilled to receive a copy to send home with their kiddos. Get the first week of the Summer Packet: Going into 2nd Grade-FREEBIE!

5. My New Watch

It was so incredibly difficult saying goodbye to such a wonderful family. I spent the last four years tutoring three amazing sisters every Saturday morning. However, as I venture further and further into my career as a teacher, I'm finding spare time is difficult to come by to spend with my family and friends. I also hate saying this out loud, but now that I'm well into my 30s...I just get worn out so much quicker than I did in my 20s. While I love the challenge of additional responsibilities at my school, it was a tough decision to resign from my private tutoring position with this family. They surprised me on my last day with the most beautiful Baume & Mercier Hampton watch, thanking me for the time I spent with their family. I was so touched!

Thanks to Doodle Bugs Teaching for the linky! Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Random Act of Kindness

I'm not quite sure why this random act of kindness happened, but it definitely brought me to tears. Some people might argue that everything brings me to tears, but this particular event truly made me cry because I was so overjoyed.

A couple of my teacher friends and I went to dinner after work. As many of you are aware, when teachers gather together, the conversation inevitably turns to the sharing of classroom war stories. While I would love to say that we only shared inspiring and positive reflections of our teaching day...I just can't because it was a full-blown venting session. We've all been there right? We were in the middle of our rant when the bartender said, "For some unknown reason, the woman sitting next to you at the bar took care of the bill for all of you."

We were elated...and confused. Why would she do that? Maybe she heard parts of our conversation and realized we were teachers and wanted to do something nice for Teacher Appreciation next week? Or perhaps she came into the restaurant knowing that she was going to pay for someone's bill and we just happened to be the lucky four who sat down next to her?

I'll never know why she chose us, but I'm fine with that. I'm fine with just knowing the ultimate message that she was probably trying to leave with us:

Be kind.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Freebie Friday: Magic Number Cards

You will love this freebie! Sometimes a lesson ends a little earlier than expected and teachers need to reach into their toolkit to find something to occupy the kids for a few minutes. This is one of my favorites...Magic Number Cards! Okay, so it's not really magic, but your students will think it is! Your students will be amazed when they learn their teacher has magical powers.

This simple math trick uses the binary number system. Don't worry, I'm not going to get into what a binary number system is and you certainly don't need to know it to dazzle your students with this trick. However, if you're curious, you should look it up--it's very cool!

Anyway, this is how it works:
  • MS. MAI: Johnny, I can read your brain! Pick a secret number from 1 to 63. DO NOT tell me what it is. Then, write it on this little whiteboard without letting me see it. (This ensures that the student won't change his answer.)
  • JOHNNY: Okay. (writes down the number)
  • MS. MAI: Now, look at these 6 cards. Give me every card that has your secret number on it. If the card does not have your secret number on it, I do not want it. 

  • JOHNNY: Here you go Ms. Mai. Each of these cards have my secret number on it.
  • MS. MAI: Hmmmmm...I'm reading your brain...(add the first number in the upper left-hand corner on each card: 2 + 4 + 16 = 22). Your secret number is...22!
  • JOHNNY: (shows the number 22, written on his board to the class) How did you do that??
  • MS. MAI: Magic.

I hope you enjoy this freebie! Thanks for hosting "Freebie Friday" Teaching Blog Addict!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Over the years, my kiddos have given me several pieces of writing and artwork that make me laugh out loud. Here are a couple of my favorites.

The other day, we finished a lesson a little bit early and the kiddos had about 5 minutes before moving to art, so I said they could use the extra time to draw a picture. While I was circulating around the room, this girl Vanessa kept asking me question after question. I was a bit distracted while checking in with one student so I just answered without paying much attention to what she was doing. Here are some of her questions:

Vanessa: Ms. Mai, how do you spell your name?
Me: M-S period M-A-I
Vanessa: Ms. Mai, how old are you?
Me: 32.
Vanessa: Ms. Mai, are you married?
Me: No.
Vanessa: Ms. Mai, do you have kids?
Me: No.

After the children lined up and left the classroom, this is what I found on my desk:
This is an old piece of writing from when I was teaching first grade for the first time in 2008...geez, that makes me feel old! The children had to write about the hero in their life. Yasmin chose me and this is what she wrote:
I really liked how she said that I'm always nice, but then later stated that I'm a little mean...ha! But my favorite was her use of quotation marks. So funny!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What makes a Grumpy Teacher??

While I love all of my students, they can really drive me insane sometimes. With all the cold weather we've had, I just don't understand why it's so cool to be cold! It's below-zero, yet the kiddos just hang the hood of their coats on their heads without actually putting on their coats or leave holding their mittens instead of wearing them...what gives?? That vein starts protruding out of my neck as I'm shouting at them, "Good grief...put your coat on! Why is it so cool to be cold?" And then they just give me that giggle, you know, the you're-too-old-and-unhip-to-understand giggle.

Secondly...tiny pencils. Why is it so hard for students to part with their little pencils, even when I'm offering them new, free ones?
In case you're wondering, I discreetly stole this pencil from a student...I'm terrible!

And last, sometimes I'm a Grumpy Teacher when I'm just green with envy. This door decoration from one of the first grade teachers in my school just makes me want to hang my head in shame. I still have autumn leaves stuck to the windows of my classroom door...and I didn't even put them there.

What makes you a Grumpy Teacher??

Friday, January 31, 2014

Five for Friday...brrrrrrrr!

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for my first "Five for Friday" post in the new year.

I did the celebration dance when our winter break was extended for two days due to the extreme cold. I welcomed the third "cold" snow day last week because I got a lot of chores done in my apartment. But when the fourth and fifth "cold" snow day of the school year was announced earlier this week on Monday and Tuesday, I started to dread the potential school days that might be added in June. Students don't want to learn in June and let's be honest, teachers don't want to teach in June. But what can you do? Then, we got dumped with snow early yesterday goodness. But we can't complain considering the situation in Atlanta...

An extra-long winter break made time for a "Sex in the City" marathon which directly resulted in an online shopping bonanza for me. I bought a Vince Camuto down coat, a pair of Paige skinny jeans and a pair of Stuart Weitzman wedges. Within days of receiving the three little items that cost me a fortune, I suffered major guilt. I didn't need any of the items, I just really, really wanted them. But it's Carrie Bradshaw's fault for glamorizing the lifestyle of those who perpetually live paycheck-to-paycheck in exchange for designer clothing and shoes. After all, I am single and I need to look good! Anyway, the arctic chill we've been experiencing in good ol' Minnesota has helped ease the pain of buyer's remorse. I've gotten a lot of wear out of my new, warm coat. I can't wait for warmer weather so I can wear my new shoes!

This next one also has nothing to do with teaching, but hey, to the shock of my students...teachers do have a life outside of school! I'm participating in a charity event called "Date for Life" that benefits the Children's Cancer Research Fund. This event raised over $200,000 last year. My participation is interesting too. I am one of twelve bachelorettes that will be auctioned off. The highest bidder for each bachelorette gets a date. Wish me luck for this event that will be taking place in two weeks. This will definitely be a funny page to add to my diary!

All the cancelled school days has afforded me a lot of extra time to create. My kiddos already learned how to find the missing number in addition and subtraction equations (1.OA.D.8) so we started reviewing the concept last week. Our curriculum doesn't offer enough activities and worksheets for the students to gain enough additional practice to reach mastery, so I created my own. I'm ashamed to admit that as an 8th year elementary teacher, I've never played "Scoot." I'm glad I took the time to make the task cards to play "Scoot." I played it with my students last week and to my amazement, most of my students were familiar with the game so I didn't have to spend much time explaining the directions. We had so much fun playing it and only one kid toppled off his chair! I have the "Missing Numbers in Addition and Subtraction within 10" available on TpT. My product includes 24 task cards for addition equations with a recording sheet and task card answer key, 24 task cards for subtraction equations with a recording sheet and task card answer key and 6 practice worksheets.

My students still sometimes struggle to read and write contractions properly so I wanted to give them extra practice. I wanted a hands-on activity for them to practice their contractions so I created these foldable contraction strips with a heart theme for Valentine's Day. The activity is called, "Fix the Broken Hearts." It's really simple, but a fun way to get the kiddos to practice making contractions. The students first write the two words on the left side of the strip on their recording sheet. Then they fold over the other side to "fix" the broken heart and to reveal the contraction the two words make. Last, they write the contraction on their recording sheet. If you're looking for a fun Valentine's Day activity, you can purchase this "Hearts Contractions" product on TpT. The product includes one set of 8 folding strips for 'm, n't and 'll, 8 folding strips for 's, 've and 're and blank folding strips to write your own words and contractions. All the strips are available in color and in black and white. The product also includes 4 practice worksheets.

Don't forget to link up your "Five for Friday." Have a great weekend!