Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Objective Wall

Today was my first day of the 2013-2014 school year. It was wonderful, as usual. My voice is very tired and my feet are very sore and I keep looking at the clock to see if it's acceptable to go to bed yet. But, I wouldn't trade these inconveniences for the world! I love my job wholeheartedly!

Over the summer I decided to create an objective wall to keep me accountable in creating meaningful lessons for my students and to keep track of how my students are progressing through the material. You can get a copy of it here in my TpT store.

I laminated them and hung them on my wall in the front of my classroom. The funny thing is, the 4th grade sister of one of my students suggested to me on Orientation Night that these were crooked. They are...slightly. But remember, I'm a lazy perfectionist...and this definitely falls into that category. :) My plan is to have the objectives up the night before...we'll see how it goes. So far I'm two for two!

I introduced this wall to my class today as we went through each subject. They did an excellent job with them. It was a great way for me to assess what they learned as we went along. The students seemed genuinely interested in what the plan was for the day. I have some students who struggle with motivation, so I'm hoping this helps them see the purpose in what I'm teaching them. We shall see.

Monday, September 2, 2013

September Currently


So I've been a little MIA lately. Last week was In-Service week, and it was brutal. I always get really stressed out when we go over rules and procedures because I'm an incurable rules-follower. I even had a great post ready about my classroom and what it looks like, but I freaked out about posting it because I was afraid I would get in trouble by the cops who are helping our school become safer in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. See? I'm an incurable rules-follower/worst case scenario imaginer. Then we had to take out another loan to buy a new car because my husband's mode of transportation shucked out on him last minute. Ugh! It was a rough week. But, tomorrow starts a new school year...and I'm pumped!

Back to the September Currently...

1. My husband found out recently that the seminary he is attending in hopes of one day becoming a pastor is closing down after this school year. He has about two years of coursework left before he graduates with his Master's of Divinity (sounds weird and spooky, I know). But, with the school closing in a year, they are working with him/piling on the work so he can graduate in May. This is huge for us because it means we can move back to the Midwest to be near family a year sooner. However, he has to eat, breathe, sleep school for the next 9 months. Ahhhhh! Hence, he's translating ancient Greek on Labor Day. I actually find it kind of fascinating because I love languages and linguistics. He always tries to point out interesting translations to me, which I love!

2. I've been wanting a new school bag for a while now. I saw on another teaching blog how you can take the 31 Gifts utility tote and combine it with a file box to make the perfect teaching bag. I don't have any friends nearby who sell 31, and I didn't want to pay $50 for a teaching bag. So, I decided to concoct my own. I scoured several stores for something that would work, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, and then I made it to Target. I found a nice leatherlike bag and a file pocket with a handle that fits perfectly. The best part of this bag is it has a section that perfectly fits my laptop, and a section that fits the file pocket. The two sections are separated by a GIANT zippered pocket where I can store all my other necessary supplies. It actually ended up costing $45 with tax, but I think I like it even better than the 31 bag!

3. Last night I left the grocery store so proud that I was all ready for school now that I had my meals planned and groceries purchased...and then I remembered I forgot toilet paper...and we were on our last roll...enough said. Sigh. Perfection is not within my grasp, I'm afraid.

4. I'm so excited for the first day of school, which is tomorrow. I.CAN'T.WAIT. This is the most prepared I've ever felt. Ahhhhh...(that's the contented sigh kind of "ahhh")

5. Well, I wrote this one before I came up with my brilliant idea of a pasta salad for this picnic. I always have the ingredients on hand for it. It's going to be fantastic. Here's the link to the recipe.

Love to Myself:

1. I really want to spend more of my free time reading quality books. I gravitate towards TV when I'm tired because reading requires effort on my part. I do love to read and want to inspire my students to read more. My "Mrs. Rhine is Currently Reading..." sign should help keep me accountable.

2. I really need to stop stress eating. I did a lot of this last week because it was an awful week. My husband does this too. We were doing really well on our diets, but need to get back on the wagon this week.

3. I tend to neglect the dishes when I'm tired and busy. I don't have a dishwasher, so I have to do them every day...but I don't always...gross I know. I started getting in better habits towards the end of last school year in this area, and have done an awesome job keeping up with the dishes this summer. I've already done two batches today. Yay me! I get really stressed when my house is messy, so if I keep it clean, I will be much happier!

Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Peek at My Week (8-25)


I'm linking up with the new linky party at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for A Peek at My Week.

1.) I'm starting in-service tomorrow. It's going to be a looooong day with teacher meetings in the morning and insurance meetings in the afternoon. Let's just say it's a good thing I now have a smart phone and we get free lunch. ; )

2.) My husband and I may have to buy a new car this week. The scooter he bought to replace his car in order to save on gas, insurance, inspections, etc. shucked out on his way to work tonight. Perfect timing, eh? We really must have two cars because we both live too far from work to walk, and our schedules never mesh. Sigh. Maybe I should move to China where cars aren't generally needed in the big cities. It has been one car problem after another this year. Good news is, I might have to beg off the insurance meetings so I can take my husband to work or he can drop me at home. Fingers crossed!

3.) My classroom is almost ready for Orientation Night on Tuesday. The main thing I have left is filling half of a bulletin board at the back of my room. I want it to be for Language Arts, but I really don't know what would be the most efficient use of the space. I was thinking of leaving space to hang anchor charts there because I don't have wall space for that, but that seems kind of boring. Any suggestions? I've been searching, but nothing has hit me over the head yet.

4.) I've also been trying to come up with a good back-to-school gift for my students. I did have an idea, but I was afraid this year's crop of students would misread the cutesy saying I was attaching to it. They tend to have less-than-innocent minds I'm afraid. :( Any suggestions?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday Snapshots (8-24)


This is my last Saturday before forced responsibility sets in. Sigh. It's also the last Saturday where I wake up and don't feel like my day is evaporating before my very eyes. Sigh.

Here are a few glimpses into my week:

I made these little magnets for Orientation Night. I saw them on another blog, but can't remember which one. I didn't really follow a design or anything. It was a lot of fun, and hopefully they will help parents keep track of my contact info. I just know I will find at least one of them stuck to the side of a desk, though. Sigh.

My husband made these amazing sandwiches at like 11:30 last night. We were staying up late because he needs to finish this 25 page paper before Monday, and he must eat when he stays up late. I normally get incredibly sick when I eat that late, but miraculously I didn't! This sandwich consists of string cheese, cherry tomatoes from a friend's garden, and roast beef lunchmeat. He grilled them on the stove after he brushed them with olive oil mixed with Italian seasoning. They were to die for.

This morning I went through a massive pile of papers and threw away 90% of them. Why oh why do I save papers I don't need. If it weren't for my occasional "throw everything not nailed down away" binges, I would be a hoarder. Ugh. Anyways, I found my to-do list from the day of my wedding rehearsal on an unopened bank statement from over four years ago. I couldn't throw it away. It reminded me of how absolutely stressful that day was! Never again will I plan a wedding. Ugh! I am glad I married my husband, though. He's worth the stress. :)

My sweet mom mailed me this Little Bo Peep book this week. She found it at an antique store and remembered that I used to have a copy of this when I was a little girl. "Peep" is my dad's nickname for me, so it was extra special. I may or may not have gotten a little emotional when I opened it.

I love the illustrations and the rhyme scheme. I've already been thinking about whether or not this would work as a mentor text. :) Something tells me the boys in my class would be less than thrilled. I think I'll display it on my mantel until I put up my fall decor.

Speaking of fall decor, I already hung this on my wall at home. I had a fall craft night with some of my friends last night, and this is what I made. It's extremely simple-looking, but that's how I roll. (Hence "Simply Sixth Grade.") All I did was agonize over which scrapbook papers to choose and then cut out three ovals per pumpkin and affixed them to some tan scrapbook paper. I made little stems from scrapbook paper as well. I had another Pinstrosity in this frame already, so this project was FREE! I love free. Can I be considered thrifty if I just rarely spend money on decor? This might even be a good craft for my class...if I ever took time to do crafts with them. Most of my students have hated crafts and have art class every week, so I usually just don't do crafts with them.

Well, the laundry is done and the kitchen floor is probably dry now and the grocery store is calling my name. Better get going.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Five For Friday with a Freebie


I'm linking up with Doodle Bug's Five for Friday today. 

What a week! I don't really have many pictures to go with this, so bear with me. :)

 1.) I spent four out of the five days this work week working at school on school stuff even though in-service technically doesn't start till next week. Phew. I'm definitely out of shape for working everyday. It's going to be an adjustment!

2.) Last night I stayed up waaaaay too late helping my hubby stay awake to get a good chunk of his 25-30 page paper done before Monday. I'm getting a little too old to be staying up that late. I'm not a night owl! That's for sure!

3.) We went to a friend's for dinner on Tuesday, and she sent me home with leftovers, garden fresh cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and a fresh basil cutting! I love friends who share...especially friends with gardens. Tomorrow is going to be zucchini bread day. My husband hates all forms of zucchini, so I'm going to have to get creative to use it up without his knowledge. :)

4.) Tonight I had a fall craft night with some of my friends. It was so fun to be with only females and to prepare for our favorite season and to just talk about girly things. I'm not very social, but I always come away refreshed after hanging out with these girls.

5.) I started a Teachers Pay Teachers store this week. It's pretty empty right now, but I'm hoping to keep working on adding useful products. I have to get over my copyright infringement phobia first. Here's a glimpse of my latest product, which I'm planning to install in my classroom next week as soon as it's laminated:

Click here to find the product in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Here's a freebie poster set for teaching flat vs. round characters in cased you missed my earlier post.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

DIY Classroom Contact Information Magnets

As I mentioned earlier today, I have backtoschoolitis...aka I don't want summer to end.

So, instead of working on my reading curriculum binder, which is like top priority right now, I made some magnets I was planning to put on my students desks for Back to School Night. It has the school number (because I don't give out my cell phone number due some parents calling ALL the time about NOTHING) and the extension is actually the office extension because some parents call in the middle of my teaching time and expect me to tell them how Johnny is doing at that very moment, my school e-mail, and the class website/grading program we use and parents can access.

I can't remember where I saw this idea, but I thought it was great! I think the blog I found this idea on used the free magnets from Vista Print. I didn't want to use Vista Print because I already had magnet sheets at home leftover from a magnetic menu board I made last summer and blogged about here...and I didn't want a million magnets...and I'm stubborn and like to make things by myself.

So, I created a little box on Microsoft Word and messed around with fonts and colors and shadings until I liked it. Then I copied and pasted it about 19 times so I had a total of 20. Then I printed a sample copy to see how it turned out before I printed on my magnet sheets. Then I inserted the magnet sheet upside down in my printer because my printer flips the paper before it's done. Make sure you check out your printer carefully first. You better believe I printed backwards many, many times last year when I was making my menu board! Ugh.

Here's the final product:
So, I'm feeling a little less lethargic and a little more okay with school starting. Successful projects work well that way.

I Don't Want to Go Backtoschoolitis

Ugh! I was so motivated about the upcoming school year last week. I still have the last couple days of this week left and next week of teacher in-service. But......I'm starting to realize that my freedom is slipping away from me.

Yesterday I spent like eight hours in my classroom and was reminded that working that many hours at once is exhausting...and I almost never work just eight hours during the school year.

And there is this amazing thunderstorm raging right now and all I want to do is cuddle up in my bed with a book...but there is work to be done! Sigh.

Sometimes I forget that I'm a grown up and have been for a few years now and need to act like one. Sigh.

My lack of motivation may stem from looking through a friend's Europe pictures this morning. That may have caused me to...um...be a little dissatisfied with life. Sigh.

Must do work. Must do work. Must do work. Sigh.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Teaching Character Change

I've been working on developing a reading binder to help enhance my reading curriculum. It's a pretty bare-bones curriculum, so I've been really trying to supplement, supplement, supplement.

One key concept I want to work on this year is that of character change. I found some great resources via teaching blogs and Laura Candler's teaching files. I wanted to go a little further with it, so I created a couple of my own resources that I couldn't really find elsewhere (at least without buying something or searching for hours upon hours).

First, I wanted a couple of mini posters that would help my students distinguish between flat and round characters. I created them using PowerPoint. You can download them for free from my brand-spankin'-new Teachers Pay Teachers store. I plan to pull these posters out and display them every time I teach flat vs. round characters.

Then, I wanted some sort of blank timeline that I could pass out to my students to help them map the changes that the characters go through in a story. This may be difficult to get students to use at first, but I think it will be a great exercise in using evidence. You can purchase this resource as well at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

If you have any suggestions or a product of your own that you use to teach character change, I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Simple Sewing Projects

Today I installed my simple sewing projects in my classroom. Neither project was earth-shatteringly awesome or original, I just needed them to cover up some ugly spaces.

The first one was a fabric panel that needed to be hemmed to cover up the back of my now-exposed bookshelf. I rearranged my teacher's desk area to now include the bookshelf of teaching books I have. I don't have space in a closet or cabinet for these, and I certainly don't have space at home. Before they were facing away from my desk, and I had to get up and walk around the corner of my desk every time I needed a book. I also wanted to cut off student access to that side of my desk. Now they have to come around to the other side...at least they will in theory...somehow they always find a way to get to that side of my desk.

I had this fabric leftover from my old dorm room curtains that one of my roommates in college left behind when she went to student-teach. I don't love the fabric, but I hate spending money on something like this. So I just worked with what I had. I did buy some Scotch brand sticky Velcro squares for about $3.67 at Wal-Mart. I affixed these to both the bookshelf and the fabric. I had purchased them for the other sewing project, and thought it would be an easy way to stick the fabric to the bookshelf and still prevent the bookshelf from being permanently altered. I don't really like these little squares because almost all of the sticky comes off the back when you peel it from the plastic packaging. You have to really show it who's boss if you want all the sticky to come off with the Velcro. I probably would avoid buying this brand again.

It's full of imperfections, but I'm a lazy perfectionist and really don't care. I'm also putting a reading chair in front of this to hide some of the imperfections. Here it is:

The second project I just hemmed a skinny panel of fabric to wrap around the computer cords that were now exposed after I moved the bookshelf.

Here's how they looked before:

Once I got back to school, I wrapped the fabric around the cords in a tube-like fashion and then placed the sticky Velcro squares where I thought they would work best to keep the fabric in place. My goal was to make this stay closed without complicated sewing or button-hole making.

Here's how it looks afterwards:

My husband said it's a little lame (after I asked him for his honest opinion), and I sort of agree. It did fulfill my expectations, though, and will work for now. I kind of hate cords. The cords at my desk have been making me crazy for the past few years, but unless I put my desk with my back to the kids, it won't work any other way. So, I will deal with it in the meantime.

I guess there is really no main point to this post. I'm just showing you that projects don't have to be perfect or dazzling or life-changing or Pinterest-worthy complete with caption reading "50 Teaching Life Hacks. Mind=blown" or some other hackneyed Pinterest comment. Sometimes we just have to make do with what we have and focus on the important aspects of teaching...like the reading curriculum binder that is currently shouting my name. Better get working on that...sigh.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Five For Friday


I'm linking up rather late for Five for Friday. I can definitely tell that school season is creeping up on me. I've had lots of commitments lately, which frankly makes me happy because I've been a little bored lately. I don't have kids, my husband works a crazy shift, and this was the first summer I haven't worked since I was like 15 or 16! So, I've been a little listless of late.

1. The highlight of my week was our Back-To-School picnic one of my co-workers hosted last night on her "farm." We had sooooo much fun. I'm constantly reminded of how blessed I am in my co-workers. We get along so well and have so much fun together. I really miss eating with them every day during the summer. Some teacher's lounges are filled with negativity and crass humor (I definitely experienced this during student teaching!). Ours is filled with recipe sharing, vacation recommendations, embarrassing moment sharing, idea swapping, and lots and lots of laughter! I'm looking forward to school starting just so I can eat with my fellow teachers again!

Here's a pic of the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens for the potato salad I brought to the picnic. It was a big hit!

2. I've been reading/reviewing books for my class library like crazy this week. This book, Plain Girl by Virginia Sorensen, was excellent! This will be very appropriate for my classroom because we live near Lancaster County, PA so we are all familiar with the Amish lifestyle. In our immediate area we have a lot of Mennonites as well, so the students will be able to have a frame of reference when reading this book. The book basically explores some of the questions and doubts going through the mind of a young Amish girl who was forced to attend a public school. Sorensen does an excellent job of presenting all sorts of scenarios that really causes the reader to dig deeply to figure out what he or she ought to believe in these particular situations. Another great book by the same author, which happened to win a Newbery medal is Miracles on Maple Hill. This explores what happens to men who come home from war and the effects PTSD has on their families. It also takes place in Pennsylvania. This time at a maple syrup farm in the Pocono mountains, which is also near where we live. I love when I can connect books to our current lives.

3. I decided to try a couple extremely simple sewing projects for my classroom Thursday evening after my husband left for work. My grandma taught me how to sew back in high school, but I've never been great at it. Every time I attempt a sewing project I get super frustrated with my poor sewing skills and sometimes even end up in a fit of rage. I got a great chuckle out of Kim's post the other day at Joy in 6th Grade. Her experience with Mod Podge sounds exactly like my experiences with sewing. This time wasn't too bad, though. I only spilled my entire container of pins once, and even though I burned my fingertips with the iron, it didn't leave a mark! Best of all, I only had to rip out one seam! Now I call that success! If the projects turn out okay when I install them in my classroom on Monday, I'll show you some more pictures of what I did.

4. My husband and I started re-watching the Lord of the Rings on extended Blu-Ray this week. Oh how I love LOTR! I've watched them a million bajillion times and pretty much have the first one memorized since it's my favorite! I cannot wait until the next installment of the Hobbit comes out!

5. This last one is kinda sad. On Wednesday of this week, my husband got an e-mail stating that the seminary he's been attending for the past four years is closing after this school year. He still had about two years left before he graduated, so we're not really sure what all is going to happen. On the positive side, it means we might get to move back to Illinois sooner than we anticipated. On the negative side, we now have to decide our future by December. Yikes! I was resting in the comfort of another year and a half before we had to make any big decisions. Also, several people we've grown to love as friends and mentors are now without jobs. It's a pretty big deal. If there's one thing I've learned in life, though, it's God works all things out for good. We may not see it at the time, but ultimately everything will work out for his glory. Looking forward to where God will lead us in the next year!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Using A Heart Map in the Writer's Workshop

I'm actually re-posting a post I did last fall on using heart maps in the writer's workshop.This is from my other blog The Lazy Perfectionist from August 14, 2012.


Lately I've been researching new methods for teaching writing. The main method that keeps coming back to me is the use of mentor texts with writing workshops and writing notebooks. I've been really challenged to start my own writing notebook so my students can see that I, too write even though no one is making me. Students love to imitate their teachers. I'm hoping by my students seeing me write, they will want to write as well.

Tonight I spent a good hour and a half in Panera alone reading the book A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You by Ralph Fletcher. It's written for kids with the hope that their teachers will read it first and apply the principles to their own lives before forcing their students to apply it to theirs.
Tonight I started my very first entry. I created a Heart Map as suggested by a couple different educators. Here she is (I must say, I did a pretty decent job.):
It's of course rather childish, but I love everything about my childhood and wish I could return all the time. My favorite part of the this map is the center. I drew Ben as a stick figure in cowboy boots holding his fishing pole and harmonica. Not much else has been on his mind this summer other than those three things.

The purpose of this heart map is to remind writers of what is near and dear to their hearts. Writers do best when they write about either what they know or what interests them. I hope to come back to this map when I need inspiration for my own writing.

A year later, I can actually say this was probably my students' favorite activity we did all year. Some of them really do love to use markers, so I think that motivated them. However, I think all of us deep down love the chance to talk about ourselves and what we like and dislike. I know I sure had fun coming up with my heart map and then later sharing it with my students.

The important thing to keep in mind with this sort of activity is to remember to refer back to it throughout the year. I should have done a better job with this, but I was able to tell students who said "I have nothing to write about. My life is boring." that they could always refer back to their heart map and choose something from there to write about.

I hope to come up with some equally creative ideas this year to spur more students on towards loving their Writer's Notebooks. 

If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!
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