Wednesday, January 30, 2013

London, England

Hi all,
It's been a funny school week - I've taught only two days and am going in tomorrow, the last day of the week, for 3-way conferences. Why? We were in London! I'm not going to lie, this is not my favourite place. We've been a couple times, and it always seems sooooooooo so dreary there. Not to mention how Expensive it is! I mean, we always complain about the price of the subway in Toronto, which is about $3 CAD, but in London, the "tube" will run you $7 CAD - single way! Yikes.

All in all, those things were not so bad because we had an Amazing Amazing Amazing weekend. We went to an international job fair, had no idea what exactly to expect for ourselves, and of course had read many forums filled with "horror" stories before landing. In the end, we both found it an exhilarating, ego-boosting, and totally gratifying learning experience! We lined up several interviews, made some amazing contacts with top international world schools, and learned about a lot of schools in countries we hadn't considered. Plus, we got fantastic jobs at a really top-notch school in....

(wait for it..)

the Philippines!

What?! Yes, super awesome. So late July we will begin our trek there against monsoons, typhoons, and earthquakes of all kinds and measure. But, I'll take it over snow :) Definitely feeling humbled, blessed and crazy excited about this next step! Deciding between schools was the toughest married-life decision we've had to make, and we are so confident we made the right choice.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Building reading fluency

The other day a parent said to me, "You know, I'm really trying to help him read more like a person, more normal." I told him that I'd actually heard a lot of fluency improvement specifically in his child's reading, so a good job was being done! I added that fluency and expression are difficult things to "teach" - it seems to me to be more about modeling. Of course, teaching a largely ESL class, many of my kids are like little robot-readers because they don't have the natural language flow yet. So I thought on it. And thought it. Then thought some more. Finally I remembered a blog post I'd read - a looooong time ago! Funny the things our brains hang on to...

Starting this quarter I'm going to be implementing a program called "Awesome Reader" into our daily learning! Students will basically be practicing at home {with the help of their families} to read a book {A-Z readers I give based on their level or a parent/teacher-approved/familiar-to-the-student book} to read aloud in front of their classmates. Special cheering and lots of encouragement will make this work, and I know it will be a  big hit with the right enthusiasm and modeling. It's a great way to get some oral communication assessment in, too.
Big thanks to Second Grade Sparkle for this great idea. You can find her "starter pack" here if you think this idea might be great in your class, too.

Happy reading!
- Amanda

Monday, January 14, 2013

Toad, Frog, Pollywog {it's stuck in my head...}

Hi all,
Just stopping in to share this hilarious video my teaching bud found for our Growth and Changes in Animals unit. It's a super catchy way to help students learn types of amphibians and I'm pretty sure my class is going to FREAK OUT when we watch it!
It's fantastic and makes me laugh {a lot...} - I hope you enjoy. And for the record, I didn't know what a water dog is either {this is me assuming I'm not the only one}, so thanks Wiki for this info. Is "Mudpuppy" a great name, or what?!
- Amanda

Saturday, January 12, 2013

All Kinds of Nouns

I have a class of keeners. {Mostly... This one still gives me trouble but we're - I'm? - really working on it.} On Thursdays I have conversations like this:
Young'un: "I'm so sad, Miss. I can tell you why?" 
Me: "Yes, please! Why are you sad?" 
Young'un: "Because it is a weekend now."

How sweet, right? Love it. Even better are my Sundays, when I have conversations like this:
Young'un: "I'm so happy, Miss! I can tell you why?"
Me: "Yes, please! Why are you happy?"
Young'un: "Because now it is school! I missed the school so-so-so-so much!"

And I'm not exaggerating. Maybe it's because I had one of those classes last year, or maybe because I've changed a lot of my teaching style this year, or maybe it's all the Whole Brain fun we're having - whatever it is, it's working! This year I feel more calm, more organized and I'm getting much better results academically with my students. Hamdullah!

This week we did some review on nouns. When I raised a blank flippy book to show the class the activity for it, I basically had to fight down the cheers - they were SO excited! In the end, they look like this: 
Why exactly that is exciting I'll never know, but I'm glad it's a lesson that works! One to keep in the plans.

The next day, we talked more about proper nouns. We started by looking at these "caps" on the Language board and discussing types of words that are proper nouns {with lots of example-giving}. 
Caps for capital letters - ha! Not an original idea but I do love a good pun. After giving each student 4 colour-coded Post-Its, they wrote their own examples and we posted them for display.
I know, I know, no blue Post-Its. It's a problem for me, too. The most annoying thing about those pink ones is that I KNOW I have blue notes somewhere in my room. Could I find them for this lesson? Not for the life of me. Was that super frustrating for me? You bet. I have a little classroom Type A in me at times... I'm learning to let go :) If you're interested in making the hats {which we also used for sentence writing - a cap for the capital letter and a ball for the period/full stop}, you can find the file here on TpT and here on TN. Or simply click the pictures to find it in Google Docs.

And now to continue my report-comment-writing, best-cookie-ever-baking, American-Horror-Story-watching, anchor-chart-making weekend! {My co-workers will be pleased I have added in two, yes TWO!, activities that involve relaxing and not thinking of my class.}
Happy weekend to you!
- Amanda

Monday, January 7, 2013

Mapping Skills

First week back and running! Considering the 30-hour journey back from Canada I'd say jet lag has been nice to me this time around AND my class is amazing as always :) We've picked up right where we left off: measurement in Math - capacity; animal groups in Science - amphibians and reptiles; nouns/camouflage integration/sentence structure/word choice/main idea/editing {among others as usual!} in Language; and mapping in Social Studies. Speaking of Social Studies...

{How was that for a smooth segue?!}

I have a new product in my store and, like most, it's classroom tested! To introduce some of those tough mapping terms, I made an interactive reader with a matching student booklet so students were able to follow along and fill in the blanks with important words. This worked well with my ESL kids and serves as a great study guide. I've included possible assessment pieces and other activities to use with a mapping unit. There's an American, Canadian, and a non-specific "worl"d version and they've been great sellers so far! Here are some sample pages if you're interested:

You can find out more about each one by clicking below:

I hope you're having a great first week back!
- Amanda