New Year's Eve Reflections, Linky, and Freebie

New Year's Eve is here..., I just spilled a glass of Diet Coke (just Diet Coke, although I am seriously considering opening up something a little stronger after this post) all over my desk and both computers, my lawn is still not mowed, and I still haven't even managed to finish the laundry.

However, I did make workouts this morning, managed to dry both computers off (and they are still working), and I did finish up a new FREEBIE for everyone.  So, HAPPY NEW YEAR'S!

I had this silly goal this year to make a hundred posts by 2014.  I am at 99 posts.  I have a serious thing about even numbers, but posting twice tonight would be ridiculous.  It would be ridiculous, right?  Of course it would, so I am asking you to hold me accountable - call me out if I post again tonight.  

My other blog related goal was to reach the magical 300 followers by 2014.  At last check, I had 280 on Bloglovin and 71 on Google (again, an uneven number!).  So, in blogging terms, I am a total failure...unless you can add the Bloglovin and Google numbers together????  I need someone else to make that call for me.  Is there a blogging referee out there that can clarify that blogging point of order? My self-worth is in the balance.

Jennifer of Mrs. Laffin's Laughings had a post yesterday about picking one word for the upcoming year, rather than making a list of resolutions.  I am still working on my word.  It might have to be a creative word, something like...


 I am still working on editing it down a little.

Jennifer linked up today with a Simply Kinder for a Teaching Blog Linky Party.  I checked it out, and decided I really liked the idea of linking up without any pressure to post just the right thing.  Love it!
So click on over and find some new blogs to follow and some cool teaching ideas! 

Finally, I wanted to share a FREEBIE.  It is up at my TpT store, and will be FREE forever.  This is not a flash freebie gimmick.  It is something that I have been working out for a while, and since so many other people can use  Earning actual money with this TpT thing is a little difficult for me, and sometimes goes against the teacher in me.  So, I want to make sure that items that are really needed by a large group of teachers are available for all to use.
 Those of you who are followers (I am not pointing fingers, just saying that I am 20 followers short:), know that I teach Read 180 in a self-contained classroom, and to an Intervention period of 7th graders.  Finding the main idea and supporting details is something that we work on daily.  I wanted a form that would walk them through doing it outside of small group.

They love the Perfect Paragraph Organizer, and I see this being a similar tool for my classroom.  If you are interested, it is in my TpT store - click here to download!  If you like what you see, please don't forget to "follow" and leave some feedback.

Seriously, it has been a joy and pleasure to share my teaching adventures with everyone out there in blogland.  When I started this little blog back in April, I could not have imagined the connections and friendships that I made.  Thank you for your support and friendship!

Happy New Year’s!

The extra special fonts are by Shelia Melton!  Visit her store!

Flash Freebie - Skip Counting Cards for Intervention

Just a quick post tonight!  I revised and "prettied up" something for use in my classroom and wanted to share.

These are intended for use in a small group or Intervention group setting.  I made them after realizing that my little afterschool Intervention group of 6th graders had absolutely no idea how to count by 2, 5, or even 10.  Instead of working on multiple digit multiplication, I threw my humble little lesson plans out the window and spent time working on skip counting, and basic number sense.  We spent several weeks practicing, chanting, and dancing while working on concepts that they missed in the primary grades.  Unfortunately, most of the pre-made cards that I could find were just a little too perky, primary, and cute for my struggling middle school sweeties.  And that is why I made my own set of Skip Counting Cards -  a straight forward, yet colorful set of cards for the slightly older learner.

2’s or even numbers are in RED
Odd numbers are GREEN (except 5’s, which are BLUE)
3’s are underlined in YELLOW
10’s have a BLUE CIRCLE

I suggest printing them out on cardstock, cutting, and gluing them back to back (so that the color set of numbers is on the flipside of the black and white set of numbers), before laminating.  
 After that, they can be used in several different ways.

Seriously struggling students can sort using the color coded side to help them
Students can sort or pull out specific sets of numbers using the black and white side of the cards, and self check by turning them over to peek at the color side.
Have students identify even or odd numbers from randomly selected groups of cards.
Using the black and white side, make a giant 100 chart of the cards.  Flip over the even numbers (or any set of numbers), so that the students can “see” the color pattern.  
You can find these Skip Counting Cards in my TpT store by clicking here!  They will be free until I get up tomorrow morning!   If you do decide to add them to your collection, please don't forget to click on that "follow" button and leave me a little feedback:).

Post Christmas Apocalypse and Flash Freebie!

Well, Christmas is officially over.  Our family got together yesterday for an extended day of fun, eating, talking (lots of talking), and eating.  There might have been a few bottles of wine involved too.  Sisters, sister-in-laws, and wine really go together, right?  Wine that I actually got carded for when I bought it - best Christmas present, ever! 

As for the fun, picture grade school aged cousins running through the yard and house playing hide and seek...with their college age cousins (one qualifies as a giant) playing with them.  Not to mention my giant brother's mini-pin and my fluffy Lucy chasing each other around and around the house.  You know it is a Christmas party at my house when my brothers are using flashlights to hunt for the Nerf arrow that got shot five houses down the block, and one grown up has to make up a rule about "Nobody under the age of 16, steps off the sidewalk."  Good times!

There was lots of good food too!
This bread was so easy, and so delicious!  Flaky canned biscuits cut in half, placed together to form a "loaf."  Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese crammed in all the nooks and crannies, then a wonderful mixture of melted butter, roasted garlic salt, and parsley poured over the tops.  I cooked them at 375 for about a half hour, but I kept checking and watched them closely.  This pan was wiped out by the hordes of nieces, nephews, and brothers.

For dessert, I played with brownies.  I made the Reeses peanut butter cup ones.
And then I made these Rocky Road Brownies.....
To be honest, I am not sure I could ever (or should) duplicate this recipe.  I found my nephews and brothers gathered in the kitchen, eating out of the pan.  So rich, so gooey, and so very sinfully good!

My sisters and sister-in-laws took care of the main course with delicious enchiladas and tamale pie casseroles.  Which meant I didn't have to deal with any dead bird carcasses - always a good thing.
All in all, it was a great family day and I am really glad that I finally decorated for "Christmas."

Flash Freebie!
Finally, I know!  But I had to make sure you knew that I wasn't a total Grinch about Christmas:).    Onto the Flash Freebie that I just put up in my TpT store.  Earlier this year, I made a Book Recommendation form and threw it up on Google Docs.  To be honest, I was not really thinking about fonts, graphics, and giving proper credit.  So, now that I understand all that stuff, I revised it and gave credit where credit was due.  
You will not be able to access it on Google docs any longer, but it will be a FREEBIE until I wake up in the morning (I do admit to being an early riser, but on the West Coast:).  After that, it will be very inexpensive.  If you do pick it up, please click on that "follow" button and leave me love!

New Semester's Resolutions!

Hope everyone survived the holidays and the After Christmas shopping!  Me, I stayed home and moved furniture, took down curtains, and...decorated for "Christmas."  I know!  It is awful, and I am a horrible person.  The end of the semester, grades, conferences, and doggie troubles drained the life out of me.  I kept saying that I would do it the first Saturday of vacation.  Then after hitting four different Targets and driving through LA to meet my sister-in-law with the prized gift that I found for my niece (I have mentioned that I am the best aunt ever, right?), I was a little drained.  Our big family gathering (at my house!) isn't until this Saturday, but still this must qualify me for the Bah, Humbug Award.

Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas!  I delight in trimming my trees to perfection, finding the perfect gifts, and searching antique shops for mid century Santas.  This year, it just took me a little longer to get the groove going.  But it is all done, and whereas I am just a little embarrassed, I think my house looks beautiful and Christmassy.

Onto school stuff!   While I wasn't decorating for Christmas, one of my ideas for the first day back at school had to be put on paper - well, digital paper.  Our new semester starts when we return from Winter Break, and I wanted to have my students write resolutions.  Now, we don't go back until the 13th of January (try not to hate me too much, remember the opening paragraphs, I am obviously feeling fragile), and "New Year's Resolutions" seem a little dated by that point.  So, I thought we would call our resolutions something different.
New Semester's Resolutions has a passage explaining the history of resolutions, as well as explaining their purpose, and then space for three New Semester's Resolutions.  I plan on reading through the passage, brainstorming, and writing the resolutions during our first day back during small group rotations.  It seems like a perfect way to get them back into school and refocus them after being off for three weeks (don't hate me:).  You can find it in my store on TpT where I am throwing my own little After Christmas Sale, and everything is 20% off!

Be sure to leave me a little love, and click on that "follow" button! 
Now, I am going to go watch White Christmas, again!  Suddenly, I am in the spirit:).

A Little After Christmas Sale!

Hope everyone had a beautiful Christmas!  Although the temperatures were up in the 80's with clear blue skies in my part of the country...
One set of my nieces and nephews celebrating Christmas today, California style!
I realize that it was seriously cold and icy in other parts of the country.  I hope everyone is safe and warm!

Our huge family gathering is not until this Saturday, so my Christmas craziness is not quite over - especially since it is at my house!  Over the next few days, there won't be a lot of time to post or create, what with family members sleeping in every conceivable nook and cranny, but there is always time for a SALE!

I have a few ideas for new products, but they are still in the testing stages.  In the meantime, I thought I would throw a little After Christmas Sale at my TPT store!  20% off all products!  Treat yourself to some easy shopping online!  The sale will run from the 26th through the 29th of December!  Enjoy!

Whew! Five for Friday

Oh my, what a week it has been!  Before Thanksgiving, it seemed like such a good idea to have Student Led Conferences the week before Winter break.  Last weekend, it seemed like a really good idea to make a Christmas treat bag of home baked chocolate chip cookies for each family that came to the conferences.  This week, I questioned my sanity.

There was no extra time nor energy for posting midweek.  I am in total awe of those of you who managed to post this week, seriously.  I have just enough energy to do a Five for Friday link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching, and finish watching Project Runway All Stars before I fall into bed for a long winter's nap.

1.  We lost our challenge with the other Read 180 class.  Not only did they reach 2,000,000 before us, but we could not catch them.  So, we (or to be correct, I) sang Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer for "B" lunch on Thursday.  We rehearsed and rehearsed, and had a little impromptu lesson on plurals  ("Reindeer, not reindeers," said the teacher, over and over).   I used this adorable FREEBIE from Mlle Cody... make our dancing reindeer props (for the front row to hide behind).  We used the document camera to  trace the cute reindeer, cut them out, and glued the pieces together.  We made eight regular reindeer and one Rudolph.  The front row jumped around when their reindeer name was sung.  "Rudolph" even brought his own blinking red nose.  The kids had fun, no sense of rhythm and unable to carry a tune, but they had fun!

2. Today we filled our morning with two more magnificent freebies from TPT.  A writing activity from Lisa Lilienthal.
 Almost an hour of complete quiet.  I owe this woman so much that I am tearing up just thinking about it.  I am pretty sure that more than one angel got its wings during that blissful period of peace and coloring.
3.  All but five of my students came in this week to do their Student Led Conferences. Six early morning conferences, and all of them showed up!  This time, we did their  little "psuedo-portfolios" conference folders in pocket folders.  They worked really well!
 The conference checklist went right inside the front pocket.  The reflections and work samples were placed in sheet protectors - the papers can be pulled out and the folders used again.  We started with the Math Reflection.  This time they had to demonstrate two of the skills that we have been working on for their parents.
I made these skill cards for every skill we covered in the last quarter.  They were folded in half, in a sheet protector, for the students to work from.  Using a white board and marker, they demonstrated and explained how to do the skill for their parents.  When they were through, the parents could check the backside of the card to see if they were correct.  Most of my kids did great, but some really struggled.  However, that is exactly what their parents needed to see.  It was eye opening for a few parents, in a good way.
Next, they shared their Language Arts Reflection.

Then we shared their SRI bar graph.  The red lines mark the Below Basic, Basic, and Proficient lines.  I am really honest with my kids about where they are and how important it is for them to work hard to close the gap.  It was important that their parents realize how big the gaps are too.  Some of my kids are so far behind that they can grow 300 Lexiles and still be Far Below Basic; it can be discouraging.  Being able to see those 300 Lexiles worth of steady growth on the bar graph, helped them SEE how hard they had been working.
After that, we shared their Perfect Paragraphs and their......
4. ....drum roll, please, ICEMAN PROJECTS.  Can you hear the angels singing on high?
 They finally finished them.  Done, graded, displayed, and explained to their guests. 

5. Finally, a little personal picture.
Disclaimer: I do not regularly dress my dog, nor do I take her to get her portrait done:)
The rescue that I got my Lucy from was having their annual Christmas fundraiser, so we had to go and visit everyone.   The photographer was actually the hero that climbed under bushes and trash bins in the freezing rain to rescue Lucy and her litter mates after he spotted them in an alley.  Not only is he kind and caring, but he was smart enough to marry my friend, Lauren of Life in Middle School.

Since I do not anticipate having the time to post again until after Christmas, 

Merry Christmas!

Dear "Regular" Teachers

Dear “Regular” Teachers,

Every once in a while, there is some confusion as to what goes on in a Read 180 or Intervention classroom.  So, let me start with the basics and explain what we do in our classroom.

We work.  We spend hours trying to fill in the gaps.  I carefully introduce new concepts, while spiraling back to reintroduce a skill that they weren’t ready for in previous years.  I carefully add layer after layer of instruction, while juggling small group rotations.  In our spare time, I read to them, or they read independently, or practice their basic math facts on the computer.  The only video they will see will be directly correlated to the curriculum.  Free time is non-existent in my classroom.  My kids work harder than any other group of students on campus - bell to bell, and beyond.  What comes easily to the “regular” kids can be difficult and exhausting for my kids.

If you are fortunate enough to have my kids in another class, or the next grade level, there are few things you should remember.  Most of my kids will grow three to four grade levels in my class, but in most cases they are still “far below” grade level and will need your support to continue growing.  Don’t give them a grade level textbook, tell them to read it independently and answer the questions at the end of the chapter, because they will not be able to do it.  Chunk the text, give them sticky notes to write questions on, use oral cloze and read it to them,  give them a graphic organizer to take notes on, give them sentence frames to start their answers with, and I guarantee their questions, answers, insights, and comments will amaze you.  They can be your favorite students if you work with them.

And let me tell you about their writing skills because even though they worked hard in my class, they still need help.  Most of my kids come to me struggling to put together a complete sentence, much less an essay.  That is one of the reasons they come to me, and not you.  We write every day.  Every answer is a complete sentence or it is not accepted.  This means that I hand back papers all the time.  This means that half of my class stays in during lunch and rewrites their homework.  This means that I walk the room tapping papers and reminding them that sentences start with capitals.  This means that first semester, it might take my kids a week to write a “perfect paragraph,” and weeks to write an essay.  This means that they need structured graphic organizers, models of what you expect, lists of transition words, and patience. This means that they know what a “real sixth grade essay looks like,” and desperately want their essays to look like one, but they are not there yet.  This means that when they get to your class you should look at those sentences that consistently start with capitals, those painfully worded complete sentences, the barely basic essays, and praise them for their effort and their writing.  Then you work with them to improve it, because it might be less than perfect, but they wrote their hearts out for you, and turned in an essay.

Finally, if you are blessed enough to have my students in the next grade level, or in another class, remember that they are funny, bright, active, and in their own way,  eager to please.  They might not be GATE, but they want so badly to do well, to experience success like “regular kids.”  You need to help them.  Remember sometimes they make impulsive choices, they get frustrated, and they breakdown and have a bad day.  School has not been fun for them, or they would not be with me.  I realize that they can be challenging; I have them for four straight periods, all by myself, without a break.

So, before you judge me or my kids, try to remember where they are coming from, how far they have come, and how far they can go with your help.

Thank you,

Your Humble Intervention Teacher

A Peek At My Week and Student Led Conferences

It is hard to believe that Sunday afternoon is here again!  That means that it is time to link up with my good friend Jennifer of Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for A Peek At My Week.

The Iceman

Yes, I know I should be in Egypt by now.  My stomach is turning and churning, and yet I will not allow them to turn in less than "perfect" projects.  There have been a few things out of our control that have delayed us, and then there is the issue of quality.  I really want them to feel good about what they do.  My kids need to be pushed, because they have gotten away with just doing something and turning it in.  In the past, some of their teachers were just happy that they turned anything in and accepted it.  Not this teacher, if this is the only project we actually have time to do this year, it will be something that they are proud of when it goes up on the wall.  Our semester ends in two weeks, so this is one of those real life deadlines that cannot be changed.  It will be finished!

Student Led Conferences

One of the things (aside from me ranting and raving about quality) that is motivating them to finish their projects is the prospect of sitting there with their parents and NOT having a project on the wall to share.  This year, I swore to have more communication with parents and this will be our 3rd set of conferences.  At the quarter, the parents were happy to hear that they were coming back in December for another round of Student Led Conferences.  All but three parents have signed up for a time slot, and conferences are still a week away!  As hectic as it may be that last week, we will be having conferences.  This week we will be preparing for them, after we finish the Iceman! 

This is the invite that went home last week, and their Math Reflection.
 This is to guide them with their Language Arts portion.  The kids in System 44 will have a similar reflection, except their scores are slightly different.
At the end of the conference, I want them to review the expectations for students, and parents.  We have been having a little issue with missing homework and "forgetting" things.
This is the checklist and "script" that will guide them during the practices and conferences.

Will this take time that I could be using to at least get through Mesopotamia?  Yes, but I cannot think of a better use of my time in the classroom than teaching them to self-assess, set realistic goals, and to take responsibility for their learning.  Years ago, I traveled all over doing inservices for schools and speaking at conferences about Student Led Conferences - if some of my stuff looks familiar, it is because I handed it out all over the country, this was before TpT.   I stopped presenting and traveling, because I hated being away from my classroom and my students, not because I thought Student Led Conferences were not important.  I never stopped doing Student Led Conferences.

On a Personal Note

Since so many of you were so sweet about my Maddie's surgery (earlier this year), I wanted to let you know that I said goodbye to my beautiful girl last week.  Without going into a lot of details, her long time vet and I agreed that it was time.  After thirteen years of love and devotion, it was time, and I realistically, I could not ask for more of her.  
The problem of getting a puppy as an adult is that you understand that there will be heartbreak down the road, but you go ahead because the pure love and companionship that you get from them is worth every tear.  It has been a hard week, but I will be fine.  In the not so distance future, when the right dog comes along, I happily go down that road again.  In the meantime, my little dog, Lucy is adjusting to life as an only dog - and getting spoiled rotten.

Have a great week and hang in there!

p.s.  Adorable paper in the frames is by Miss Tiina

Paratrooper Zombie Mice and Christmas Gifts!

Yep, parachuting mice!  I have to admit that I got "zombie mice" from one of my 7th graders, but it probably grabbed your attention! 

This morning as I was speed reading through the news, an article on MSNBC caught my eye; "Two thousand mice dropped on Guam - by parachute."  It was at this point that I knew I had been teaching at middle school way too long, because all I could see were little mice with headgear and parachutes jumping out of a plane right out of a 1940's war movie. 

After that, I could hardly wait to share it with my 7th grade intervention class - since they were probably the only ones who would appreciate it and because we had just read about Guam in our Read 180 R-Book, "Alien Invaders."  They loved it. 

Where does the "zombie" part come from?  Well, the USAF killed the little critters, injected them with acetaminophen (which happens to be one of the few things poisonous to brown tree snakes), strapped the "zombie" mice down to a piece of cardboard, and dropped them out of helicopters with their little green tissue paper parachutes.  Only 7th grade boys can love something that awful.

The reality of the article was slightly different than the visual that flashed through my head at breakfast.

However, not only did the article tie in nicely to our Workshop Alien Invaders, but it also presents an interesting topic for argumentative writing.  The article does a great job of explaining the problem that brown tree snakes present in Guam, and the reasons why they should be eradicated.  But, dropping zombie mice is not going to make many animal lovers happy.  Perfect article for a debate and argumentative writing, whether or not you are a Read 180 classroom.  Just wanted to share:).

TPT Christmas Gifts

I know, you are probably tired of everyone pushing their TPT store, but on the way home I had a flash of genius - it happens on a fairly regular basis, but most the time I forget by the time I get home:).  I was struggling with what to do for Christmas gifts for my fellow teachers.  Usually, they get fudge and cookies.  They love it, but no matter how hard I try, some of that fudge ends up finding its way to adding on a couple inches to my hips.  This year I am trying really hard to be healthy, and to get through the holidays relatively unscathed (calorie-wise).

That is when my TPT Wishlist and my Gift List collided!  Recently when I was out of the classroom for some unexpected training, I used Erin's (from Lovin' Lit)  A Day at the Zoo packet for my sub plans.  Sure, I did a little accommodating for my Read 180 kids, but the instructions were so easy to follow - for the sub and my kids - and it kept them busy ALL DAY.  Often, I am the one the secretary calls on for sub plans when SOMEONE DOES NOT have them ready (or if there is a real emergency), so to make my life just a little easier - I ordered extra licenses of A Roller Coaster Day!  It was already on my wishlist, and with a little Christmas clip art to dress up the e-card, everyone has their own set of EMERGENCY LESSON PLANS!  Not only does everyone get 7 hour sub plans, but it helps spread the word about Teachers Pay Teachers.  So easy, so genius...and if you already thought of it, just let me have this ray of sunshine on an icky day.

Something to think about as your making your final selections at the SALE.  Don't forget to check out my store too!  I used some of my TPT credits that I earned from leaving FEEDBACK, and took another $5 dollars off my TPT purchases.  Every little bit helps, and we really appreciate the feedback!

Don't forget to check out the paratrooper zombie mice article and have a great week!  On my way to Disco Zumba - I zumba so much better when the only light is a disco ball!

Currently and Peek at My Week Linky Double Duty!

Where has November gone?  This is insane!  Christmas is closing in on me, but that does mean that in three weeks I get three weeks off.  So, I guess I won't complain too much:).

Most of these "Currently" statements need no explanation, but maybe just a little about my favorite tradition.  I love baking, and if you have been following my little blog for any length of time, that is no surprise.  I especially love baking at around the holidays.  It is something that I did with my mother and grandmother.  My grandmother taught me to make the best chocolate chip cookies on the planet with her Bauer mixing bowl and wooden spoon.  My mother showed me how to make fudge that will melt in your mouth.  Now that they are both gone, somehow the mixing and the stirring of the sweetness transports me back to standing on the red pull out step stool, measuring and mixing under their close supervision.

Now that I am wiping away tears, I am not sure how to transition out of that paragraph:)  So, I will just remind you to go over to Oh' Boy 4th Grade! and link up with Farley for her December Currently.

A Reluctant Peek At My Week

1.  Scheduling Conferences
Before we went on our little break, I sent this home.
Looking back, I can only say I was exhausted and had the best of intentions of being super teacher .  However, it will keep me on track for the next three weeks.  I know that those conferences are scheduled, out in the universe for all to see, and now, I have to do them.  This will be the third time we will conference this year.  It is so important to involve the parents of my Read 180 kids every way I can. They will be great!  God willin' and the river don't rise....
Seriously, I can say that this notice lit a little fire under some student's tushies.  I had at least eight of them frantically trying to get their missing assignments together at lunch.  Oh, did I mention that I have started sending Weekly Grade Reports home in a non-lose-able blue folder?  This notice was tucked in their folder, and parents were expecting it.

2 Fraction Bars
We will be doing fraction bars.  I love doing this and it has been years since I have had the freedom to do them with my class.  It will take a few days worth of Math time, but so worth it.  This group needs to see it and do it, multiple times.

3. Persuasive Writing
We have been doing Perfect Paragraphs with the Scholastic Action magazine Debate articles, but now we will be moving into a 5-paragraph essay/letter.  It will be a little twist on the traditional letter to Santa.

4.  Interactive Reading Notebooks
Going into break, their Notebooks were getting a little sloppy.  I am going to hit them hard with our rubric.  Maybe even do a peer assessment mid-week.

Which reminds me, don't forget to make your wishlist!  The sale starts tomorrow and runs through Tuesday!  Everything (all 8 items!) in my store will be 20% off.   Plus, if you use the secret code "CYBER" at checkout, they will add another 8% discount.
Don't forget to link up my buddy Jennifer at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for a Peek at [Your] Week!
Be brave!  Soldier on!  We only have three weeks until Christmas break!