Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Letting Them Choose

'Tis the end of the school year is upon us in 5th grade. I'm not usually a countdowner (unless we are referring to the wedding.. in THAT case, we have 44 days!) but I can sense the end is near....

We just wrapped our How Does Exericse Affect Learning PBL project (details to come!) and I wanted to hold onto that student engagement and choice-driven environment that had flourished during the week of our PBL project. 

A fellow 5th grade teacher and I collaborated and created a (in my opinion) totally awesome choice menu for the rest of the year. The menu items feature some writing, some reading, some social studies, fluency, poetry, and even opportunities to be creative.

Monkeyin' Around Visual Aid
As a requirement for class, students must complete seven out of the nine choices. Some of the choices require students to publish through their blog or in their writer's notebook. I have a checklist to manage as students complete various tasks. Students who go above and beyond and complete all nine will be rewarded with ice cream sundaes. 
I mean, c'mon? Who doesn't love an ice cream sundae?

Here are a few of the options:

A few more choices available to students:

Another one of the options involves making a visual aid to represent their favorite book from this year. I had a young man do this project at home the night I introduced the choice menu! 

Fine by me!

How is the rest of your year shaping up? Share with me your "end of the year" activities!

You can access an editable version of the choice menu through Google Docs ------------> HERE.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Paint > Wallpaper

I'm participating in a Starter Stories series by Compass. We all know I've got plenty of stories to share about this home-buying business! Compass is a real estate company that focuses on making renting, buying, and selling a home (in the New York and D.C. area) as easy as pie.

The big question: What did our house need after a good 'ol fashioned wallpaper removal? A fresh coat of paint. See what I a mean? We needed to liven up the place!

While we spent entirely too much of our lives taking down wallpaper, we knew (from the start) we would leave the interior painting to the experts. Now, even though you leave it to the experts... they still expect you to make all the decisions. These decisions are not made for the weak or indecisive. It takes a person with brute strength and quick judgement.  That's why I have Scott. However, I volunteered to go to the paint store and pick out samples. 

This, my friends, was a very complicated day in my life. Let's start from the beginning:

There I was just minding my own business at the paint store. I casually walked in expecting to pick up a yellow here, blue there, toss in a gray for good measure, and then skip off on my merry way. 

As I'm walking around the store, I briefly stopped and checked out the books of wallpaper (because I hear it's back in style...) and then laughed as I threw the book down on the ground and reminded myself, "NEVER AGAIN."

^ Also reminded me of one of my favorite SNL Digital Shorts. 

With my casual attitude in tow, I strolled over to the paint chips and stared in amazement at the rainbow before my eyes. I started to sweat a little bit thinking of the paint possibilities. I pulled a few chips of colors I thought I wanted. I requested a few paint samples and sprinted to my car in the pouring rain. Fact: it was actually pouring down rain that day, I felt like it was reflective of my mood after leaving the paint store for the first time.

I took the jugs of paint back to the house and painted a few blocks on the wall. I took a step back and thought, "Ew. What was I thinking?" I asked Scott what he thought and he didn't say much... but his expression said it all. 

It was back to the paint store I went. 

This time, I did some research. We went with a few suggested colors from our contractor and I turned to Pinterest. Anyone who was following me on Pinterest could tell what my focus was that afternoon. Paint colors, Fixer Upper, and more paint. 

I was growing fond of the color "Sea Salt" (possibly influenced by JoAnna) and became so anxious to throw it on the wall. I rushed back to Sherwin Williams and bought samples of Dover White (for our trim), Front Porch (for our upstairs walls), Sea Salt (master bedroom), and Quietude (for our spare room). By this point, I felt pretty confident in my color selection. I even boasted to the Assistant Manager of the store that I had found a great article online informing me that Sea Salt was the new "chameleon" paint color. She looked at my blankly and said, "All colors are chameleon honey." Then she flipped on a switch and cast light on the paint chips. It was like a million chameleons right before my eyes. I didn't say much after that.

Finally, we made decisions and crossed our fingers the colors would look as great as they did in our heads (and on the little tiny parts of the walls we painted). 

Despite all of the back-and-forth with paint colors, it's been quite the treat to pop in the house each evening and watch the house change and become our home. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Livin' Life Half Full

Good morning! Have we met? I'm Jordon, formally known as "The Messy One". Before I continue, I must confess that just because my blog name is changing does not mean my "messy ways" have gone by the wayside. You can still find me happily living a messy life only with more emphasis on a positive attitude.

I knew my blog was in need of a facelift after chatting with my students about blogging. I was sharing with them my personal blog and felt that the name of my blog should do a better job of reflecting who I really am. 

So, allow myself to introduce... myself. 

My name is Richie Cunningham and this is my wife... Oprah.

I'm Jordon. 
I like to enjoy the positive things in life. 
I like to see each opportunity from a "glass is half full" perspective. 
My blog will (continue to) be a journey through life's adventures in the classroom, home, and kitchen. 

Nice to meet you, dear readers.

Have a wonderful Monday!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Advice From a Wannabe-Professional Wallpaper Removal Expert

Before we get into my very passionate post about wallpaper and my plea to rid it from my vocabulary... I must update you on a few things.

We got engaged!

I said YES on October 18, 2014!

We bought a house!

Closing Day! March 4, 2015
 Seriously. We are the happiest two little lovebirds this side of the Mississippi!

Which brings me to wallpaper.

When we bought our house last month, we knew it would need some TLC after sitting on the market for a few years. Walking in the front door was like a blast from the past with wallpaper covering the kitchen, bathroom, and master bedroom. I chuckled when I flipped on the light to the bathroom and saw pheasant-wrapped wallpaper. I giggled some more when I noticed the border lining the master bedroom had gentleman playing cricket.

Cute, huh?
Now, because I feel like a professional-wallpaper-removal expert I think it's only fair to share some tips we have learned along the way. This is no way means I want you to ask me to remove the wallpaper in your house. I'm (again) removing the word "wallpaper" from my vocabulary once this little project is finished.

Tip #1: Convince friends to help. Especially when friends bring popcorn and 90's Pandora stations to the table. Seriously. Nothin' better than munching on some popcorn, belting out your favorite Selena ballad, and chatting it up with great friends... oh, and.... pulling wallpaper down.

Friends in high and low places.

Tip #2: Borrow, invest, or scrounge up some tools. Thanks to some great friends, we were able to borrow a scorer and blades to help peel. We also used a big 'ol bucket of water and sponges to soak the wall after scoring. I also need a manicure after this whole process because my fingers are taking a beating. 

I spy with  my little eye.... a bucket! a scraper! a scorer! a finished wall!

Tip #3: Take dance breaks. Kick the volume up to 11 when "Shake it Off" or "Uptown Funk" come on the radio and get your groove on. Trust me, it helps ease the pain. 


Tip #4: Don't be offended when your dog looks at you with shameful eyes because of the mess you've made. Just remind him that he's not the one climbing on that ladder and he'll be benefiting from this mess as well.

Tip #5: Take before and after pics! It's kind of a no-brainer, but it's really neat to see where you started and the progression of the project. Helps to justify those pats on the back I've been giving myself and Scott.

Before.. Cricket anyone?

Tip #6: Channel your inner Ric Flair and really celebrate those "big ones". You know what I'm talking about. When the strips your pulling off the wall aren't the size of a curly fry... instead they are the size of North America (maybe I'm exaggerating??). 

Tip #7 (this is the mushy one): Find someone really handsome and patient to complete the project with. Tearing down wallpaper in multiple rooms has been a complete team effort.Plus, we are ripping out the wallpaper in our home! What could be more special than that? Sure, it totally stinks while you're doing it... but the end result will be fantastic. 


Enjoy every minute.
Don't call me for help... please.

Wannabe-Professional Wallpaper Removal Expert

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mentor Text: Voices in the Park

Buy it on Amazon
The book "Voices in the Park" by Anthony Browne has been sitting on my shelf for several years. Until this week, I haven't found a real reason to use it for instruction. I was pacing around my room thinking about perspective and point of view and had that AH-HA moment. I'm almost positive I said, "I'VE GOT IT!" out loud and completely startled my students. By now... they've become used to my outbursts. I knew I had the perfect book to illustrate the difference between point of view and perspective (something we are stuck on in 5th grade). 

I closed my mini lesson on the difference between point of view and perspective by reading aloud and dissecting Voices in the Park. It was a great discussion! However, it wasn't until later that day when the magic happened...

An avid writer in my classroom (such an avid writer that she had to get a NEW writer's notebook this year because her other one was full!) approached me and asked if she could write a "Voices in the Park" story. We brainstormed what her location could be in the story and we settled on the school cafeteria. Then, she was off! Writing a fictional story about the cafeteria from four very unique perspectives.

Last night as I was thinking about my plans for reading time - it hit me! Why aren't we ALL doing what my little writer is doing? What a great lesson!

From there... the lesson was born. We discussed how to brainstorm a location, time of day, or time period in our life. Then, we picked logical "voices" to play the roles in our short stories. 

The lesson lent itself to great extra mini lessons on voice, dialogue, and character development. We pulled Wonder off the shelf as an additional mentor text. One student piped up, "my character is like Justin from Wonder, he NEVER writes capital letters." 

Our finished products will be published on our blogs next week. I'm equally excited for my kids to publish their stories and be able to read and comment on one another's. 

Have a great week!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Why Do I Tweet?

I've been a member of the Twitter community since the summer of 2009. I was in college and my roommates and I jumped on the Twitter bandwagon and spent waaay too long one afternoon thinking of clever usernames. Luckily for me, a sweet friend had nicknamed me "Furnelly" and I felt like it would be the perfect Twitter handle for my new social media adventure. 

Speaking of which... hey Lauren, I'll need a new handle soon! Get to thinkin', sister!

Now, if you were to back channel through my tweets and read what I was up to from 2009-2011... you would be unimpressed. We'll just jump ahead to when I found the true value of Twitter as an educator. 

Before I continue I must confess: my Twitter feed is a random collection of all things related to my life. I choose to have my Twitter be a reflection of my personality and my thoughts - even if they are strange and rather goofy at times. 

Exhibit A:

I tweet about my favorite TV shows, what's happening in room 52, what my dog's internal thoughts are, and I share anything and everything I feel someone else can find to be relevant to their life. That's the great thing about Twitter - you control who you follow. You control what information is flooding your timeline. If you're a big fan of March Madness... then your timeline probably looks much different than mine right now. Mine is flooding with Scandal tweets and Edchats.  

Back to my question - Why do I Tweet?

For me, I tweet to be connected. I tweet to find out what other great teachers are doing so I can do those things too. I tweet to share great ideas with MY teacher friends. I tweet to learn new teaching strategies and new trends in education. I tweet to find out answers to things I just can't figure out. I tweet for the professional development in my sweatpants.  I tweet to catch up on my favorite celebrities and live vicariously through the lives of my favorite Housewives. I tweet to find out how I can be a better teacher, better person, and more encouraging educator. I tweet to learn how other teachers are enriching their curriculum with technology. I tweet to share what incredible things people in my world at Osage are doing. I tweet to share what we are experimenting with in room 52.  I tweet to show people that kids really do say the dardnest things.

I've found there is always someone willing to share their expertise on Twitter. Whether it's about removing wallpaper in the house we just bought, where to eat in New Orleans, a new recipe I must try, or how to navigate through the app Explain Everything for the first time. Strangers - fellow Tweeters - are willing and ready to offer their assistance in 140 characters or less. 

I tweet to bring the world outside of Osage into my classroom. Last year, my classroom connected with five different classrooms around the country through Skype. All of this happened through a simple hashtag #MysterySkype. From there, my kids were video chatting with students in New Jersey, Texas, and California to name a few. I tweet to bring authors and writers into my classroom without making a formal field trip. I tweet to show my students how it's possible to communicate with astronauts living on the International Space Station.

Welp, those are my two cents on the Twitter bandwagon. If you've been thinking about jumping on board, maybe this is the little inspiration to get started. Good luck!

You can find me @furnelly (you've been warned about my Twitter feed....)!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

You know you've found a great book when you can't wait to start reading it again from the day before. It's the kind of connection with a book I want my kids to find and I'm equally ecstatic when I find it as well. 

Since reading Gone Girl, I haven't found a thriller to capture my attention and put me at the edge of my seat. After months of waiting.... I've finally found the one. I secretly never want the book to end (okay, I'm lying... I have to know what happens) because I love the pace and unexpected nature of the storyline. I literally tell everyone I know, yes literally, they have to stop what they're doing and read the book.
Buy it on Amazon!

If you can't take my word for it.... listen to Chip, he loves it just as much as me. 

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