Sunday, March 29, 2015

Teacher's Pets Linky...(a little belated)

First, I should apologize for my belated post.  I'm not sure where the month has gone!  The week before our spring break was so busy that I haven't had a chance until now to officially write and link up with A First for Everything on her Teacher's Pets Linky.  I've been trying to be better about my blogging goals this year by linking up and connecting with other bloggers, but I'm still navigating that whole balance of time issue!  So here goes...

First of my boys!  People often think I'm a mom to human children because I've always called my fur babies "the boys" or "my boys," but to me, they are my real children.  That is why I was completely devastated last year when I lost two of my babies almost back-to-back.  My whole world turned upside down in a matter of minutes...and again just three weeks later.  But I still hold them close to my heart, and I'm dedicating this post to their memory!

Of all the photos in my collections, I think this one of us at Christmas a few years back is my absolute favorite.  It most certainly was our Christmas card photo that year!  I don't think there ever was a time again that they were all so still.  

Allow me introduce my West Highland White Terrier...Picasso.  He passed away last year, but not before he got to enjoy one more snow!  I was so glad that we had such crazy weather last year so that he could enjoy it.  We always joked that he must have been part polar bear because he loved snow more than anything!  This first shot of him is from that snow last year.

He also enjoyed Christmas...including the part where he got to open his presents!  Yes, he did it all by himself!  

He was also quick to get into mischief if ever your back was turned!  He's trying to steal the Christmas pillow in this shot.  But could that sweet face ever make the naughty list?

He loved playing football and soccer outside!  

And he could see everything from the top of his jungle gym!  (Yes, he was THAT spoiled!)

Perhaps most of all, he loved playing in the mud!  Not the best of hobbies for a Westie.  I definitely kept a load of towels going all the time 'cause of this little rascal.

But those moments when he would finally tire himself out...ah!  So precious it hurts my heart a little.  I miss him so much!

And then there was Chance.  Unfortunately, I lost him last year too.  He may have been the biggest, but he was the youngest.  That's one of the reasons I was so shocked.  But, as you can see from the photo, he was certainly a life force!  I miss that baby so much!  I was always a sucker for those big brown eyes!

When he first showed up at our house, it was like he picked us.  We couldn't find out anyone in the neighborhood to whom he'd belonged.  He was in bad shape, that poor baby.  He looked like Chance in Homeward Bound, and since we were taking a "chance" on him, we felt that was the perfect name!

He wasn't always calm!  I love this shot because this one really showcases his personality.  Happy-go-lucky and just proud to be here!

One of his favorite activities was riding to the park and chillin' in the creek!  We'd go for a walk or a gentle run (back in my fitter days!) and then relax creekside before going back home.

He seemed to like the snow too, but I sure wish I knew what he was thinking when I snapped this shot!

And he was definitely a Grandma's boy!  He loved going for a ride in her Jeep with the top down on a breezy summer day!  Just look at that face!!!

So now it's Buddy and me.  He's a long-haired Dachshund with one blue eye and one brown eye.  He's my little snuggle buddy

He loves close ups and trying to steal kisses when you least expect it!

He's a great helper when I'm working on the computer!

But his favorite thing is napping!


And rolling around in the yard!

But my favorite is when he snuggles with his Momma!

I just had to throw this extra shot in there...When Picasso and Chance passed away, my vet's office was so amazing.  They have done such an outstanding job taking care of all of us through the years, and they were so supportive during my loss.  When Chance died just three weeks after Picasso, I didn't know what I was going to do.  The very next Friday I had a delivery at my house of two pink for each baby.  And they were from my vet.  I thought that was the most tender, beautiful gesture, and I will always treasure that.

So...these products are actually more like toys and goodies for me.  But they relate to the post, so I thought this was a great place to include them.  

After Picasso died, I wanted a way to honor his memory.  I'd been thinking about an Origami Owl locket for a while, so I decided to make the investment and get one in his honor.  (I just didn't know I would lose Chance so soon after that, or I would've waited and done something a little different - like a combination locket or something.)  I added jewels that spell "Pic" which was his nickname.  Of course, I had to include the popcorn and soccer ball because those were his favorites.  The dangling dog tag that says "fearless" is my reminder that I would do well to be a little more like Pic sometimes.  He was certainly fearless and a great protector.  He inspires me to be braver each and every day, especially whenever I look down at the tag on my locket.  

Then for Christmas last year, I asked my mom for one thing...I wanted nice Shutterfly photo-on-canvas prints of the boys.  (FYI you can only get the square ones through the app and not the website.)  That was really the only thing I wanted, and I knew they would look beautiful on the wall going into my kitchen.  Sure 'nuff...look how beautiful!  Each one captures the personality of each baby.  (Yes, Buddy has been known to grab the marabou or other soft, enticing fabrics when your back is turned!)  

Then, when I was shopping with one of my friends I found the other canvas on the table at T.J. Maxx.  I burst into tears when I read it, and I knew I had to have it.  Eventually, I'm going in invest in a new book shelf to go here instead of the cabinet and place their urns there along with the canvas photo and maybe a shadowbox with some other mementos.  

For Picasso's birthday last year, my mom bought a McDuff book in honor of Pic.  I cried when I read the story!  It was the perfect gift to treasure our beloved Westie, and I would highly recommend it for any classroom.  McDuff books are sometimes hard to find though, but I hope to begin a little collection...starting with this one! 

Thanks for coming by and checking out all my boys' crazy antics!  It's so awesome to connect with fellow teachers who are also dog lovers, so head back over to A First for Everything to read everyone's posts.

Spring in Our Step Linky & Giveaway

I can't describe how excited I am to be a part of my first linky with a giveaway!  I'm joining my blogger friend Marissa at Inspired Owl's Corner to celebrate her birthday and a major milestone in her blogging career!  It just so happens that yours truly has a birthday coming up this week, so I couldn't resist joining in the fun!  

So many wonderful things have happened this year that I feel all too blessed to be where I am with my students.  I've been reflecting on which moments this year put the MOST "spring in my step" to share with you. 

Well, I posted on this previous month's Currently linky that I would be spending my Spring Break recovering from my far, so good!  I'm feeling better, and I'm looking forward to getting back in my exercise groove and having more energy!  I was also excited that, at the weigh-in before my surgery, I calculated that I've lost about 20 pounds or so since my highest weight.   Now that I have the surgery behind me, I need to get back on MyFitnessPal and get busy

March was also an exciting month for me as an ESL teacher because our district hosts an International Fair in the spring!  This year was our second year to do it, and we nearly tripled our participation and doubled our event turnout!  I was so excited!  The night was such a whirlwind that I didn't get to slow down long enough to look at ALL the projects, but all the student work that went into the performances and presentations was AMAZING!  I embedded my Flipagram below from the event.  Believe me...this is merely a GLIMPSE of all the ones I took from that night!  It was epic...and I was certainly #happy about that!  

P.S.  I have no idea why it won't center this Flipagram.  I've tried and tried, but I can't figure it out.  If you know, please comment below so I know for the future.  It's stressing me out!  LOL! 

So, before I totally leave the topic of International Fair, I have to give a tremendous shout out to my mind-blowing, awe-inspiring fourth graders & their projects.  We used my Heroes for Diversity unit to study the biography genre and write our own biographies of heroes that inspire us.  It's a project I began with my fourth graders last year to showcase diversity at our first International Fair.  This year's fourth graders were all to happy to continue the tradition.  In fact, after we'd had multiple unanticipated snow days and lost instructional time, I wasn't sure we were going to have enough time to thoroughly complete the project.  So I gave them two options...1) they could complete the project in our class time and we could save it for next year OR 2) they could work on it independently...meaning homework...and they could try to finish it in time to share at this year's fair.  They chose the second option, and YES, they DID THE HOMEWORK!  Can you believe it?  I was so impressed with their finished products and their work ethic that I couldn't stop bragging on them.  I even teared up because two of them chose to write about relatives in their family rather than famous heroes.  Reading their reflections on how their ancestors or siblings have influenced them was perhaps one of my proudest teacher moments.  Look at them working hard on their display board!

Speaking of reflections...I just did what has been the best professional development of my career!  I videotaped a few of my lessons recently and learned SO much about my instruction and about my students.  I watched the video back multiple times and found something new each time.  I realized that I was talking way more than my students were!  Even though I know that student-led discussion and negotiation of lesson content is the most meaningful way for students to learn, I was inadvertently dominating the class conversation because I was so focused on giving them as much information as I could in the short time we have together!  I've taped a few more lessons and have improved, but it's definitely challenged my thinking and my practice to be more aware of what I do and how I do it.  I also made some significant student observations that I think will really impact my future instruction with those students.  I shared the last video I made with the students' classroom teachers, and we taped a reflective session of all of us discussing our observations.  WOAH!  That was perhaps the best discovery of was deep, meaningful, purposeful TRUE COLLABORATION!  I can't wait to keep pursuing these methods to improve my instruction and be an effective teacher leader too!

I'm wrapping it up after sharing my milestones, celebrations, and reflections, but before you go...don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter below!  You don't want to miss out on these awesome prizes!!!  Good luck...buena suerte! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hump Day Highlight Linky: Heroes for Diversity

I've made a new friend through my new Instagram account!  (Follow me @insidebellsbrain!)  So today I'm linking up with Mrs. Stanford's class to bring you a little Hump Day Highlight.  This week I thought I would tell you about my latest creation and how we're using it in our classroom. 

Last year, our district had its first International Fair.  It was so exciting to see so much love and support for all the diversity in our schools and communities.  My fourth graders contributed a project called "International Heroes."  They did an AMAZING job!  I was so proud of their hard work, and I realized that their research and final products were so meaningful to them...academically and personally.  We did a very in-depth study of biographies and informational text, followed by their own independent and collaborative research.  Finally, they published their work in a typed report and displayed it for the Fair.

This year, I wanted to "beef up" my unit from last year.  I also thought it would be really special to share with other teachers who might be looking to accomplish the same goals.  I changed it up just a little (beautified the fonts and such), and now it's available as the Heroes for Diversity Biography Lap Book Project.  It's everything you need (including the planning map) to accomplish an in-depth info text study on major contributors to diversity throughout history.

My students love this project!  This year, one of my students even asked if she could write about her grandmother.  Of course, how could I say no?  I can't wait to see her finished product!

You'll get a planning map to help you pace your instruction for the unit, but it's also completely flexible to your needs.  I also give you a step-by-step description of how I lead the lesson in my own class. 

I've included step-by-step photographs to help you assemble the lap books, as well as a photograph of the finished lap book so you know what it should look like.

You have tons of templates that will save you time and get your students organizing their information with their hands!  It's been a great critical thinking tool for my kiddos because they're treating it like a puzzle and figuring out how all the pieces fit together.  (I've been SO impressed with their leadership in this part of our project!)  Each page also includes teacher directions in the yellow box of each template page so you quickly know how many copies of each page you should make! 

But you need more, right?  I've included reading passages for the heroes that I included in this project.  There are a dozen diversity heroes that I've included in this unit.  Of course, you're not limited to these people.  (There's a blank template if you need it.)

My next step will be updating the links for this research on my Weebly site.  (I should be able to work on this over Spring Break...I hope!)

Students then write, edit, revise, collaborate, and publish their work!  Voila!  A fun & informative unit to cover your reading and writing standards!  If you want to add this product to your classroom, you can grab it at my Teachers Pay Teachers store here.

Thanks for stopping by!  Head back to Mrs. Stanford's Class to see all the other highlights for this Hump Day!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Currently March 2015

I feel like I'm so ahead of the game (in blogging, that is).  I've made two posts in the last two days.  I give myself an A+.  But I think it was more a fluke than anything else...LOL!  So here goes my Currently for March 2015!

Listening...There have been some awesome movies on TV today, so I've had lots of great background noise while I worked.  Tonight after evening worship at church, I came back to find The Lucky One on ABC Family.  I LOVED reading that book, and I think they did a great job with the movie too.  Very well-cast.  Of course, the German Shepherd is who really steals my heart though!

Loving...Well, I really already talked about this, so I won't brag.  But, yeah, I've made two posts in two days.  I'm impressed.

Thinking...I wonder if I will ever get caught up with these lessons!  Of course, I am not trying to be negative, especially when I see how hard-hit the Northern states have been this year, but we had multiple delays and missed two complete days of instruction.  Although the snow was nice!  It's just that lovely time of the year when you truly start feeling like EVERY SECOND COUNTS!!!  Of course it does all year long, but there's something about SPRING that makes us all rush around like busy bees!  (I had a unit that I wanted my fourth graders to work on before our International Fair, but there's no way we can finish before then...10 days away, and I see them every OTHER day with my schedule.  I don't want to break the bad news to them, but I think I will let them go ahead and complete their projects and save them for next year's fair.)

Wanting...Which brings me to my next point...the International Fair!  I've been excited/nervous about our follow-up International Fair.  Last year was our district's very first one, and it was SO much better than we'd hoped for!  We weren't sure what the turn-out would be because it was our first time, but it was GREAT!  And everyone had so much fun.  But this year it's a little later than we had it last year, so I hope ballgames don't discourage our turn-out.  We shall see in 10 days though!

A photo with una de mis mejores amigas from International Fair last year!
Needing...I need to wrap up this post and jump over to my lesson plans for tomorrow.  So I'll keep this one short & sweet.  'Nuff said.

Spring Break plans...Well, they were going to be going to see Insurgent about a million times, but now I can't even go to the premiere.  :(  I'm going to have surgery that day, so I will be recovering during my spring break.  I think that timing will be convenient, but that's never how any of us WANT to spend our vacation days!  Oh, well!  I know I will be resting at least!

Now head back to Farley and check out what the rest of us are up to!