Thursday, May 30, 2013

2 Minutes: The Third Chapter

Before I dive into the third chapter of My Future Book That Doesn't Have a Title, I must remind my readers that someday I plan to write a book. I'm obviously making great progress because I don't have a title and I'm only on the third chapter. I can imagine that publishers are just waiting around the block for me! (insert extreme sarcasm here). Oh well, writing is fun and sharing my downfalls and learning experiences is fun for me. Maybe this is why I love teaching writing so much? It doesn't have to be some elaborate process. Instead, writing can be relaxed and enjoyable all the time. Okay, hopping off my soapbox.

Chapter 3: 2 Minutes

"What color is your desk, Ms. Furnell?" -student
Before I started teaching, I had this fantastic book of teacher checklists. One of the checklists included what to do if you had 10 minutes of spare time, 5 minutes of spare time, 2 minutes of spare time, etc. I thourougly read the chapter and thought, "Wow! I can really accomplish a lot in just a few minutes." I made a mental note to save that for my future when I had my own classroom. 

Fast forward to the present. I currently have my own classroom and I have yet to open that book or reference that checklist again. I preface this next part by saying, I sincerely hope that I am not the only one who is guilty of this. Every day, I have a 45 minute plan time and somehow, on some days that end in "y", (okay, I'm exaggerating) those 45 minutes slip away from me oh-so-easily. Perhaps during that said plan time, I could be grading papers? planning for the next week? researching new teaching practices? making copies? planning lessons to engage all of my learners? There are literally thousands of productive things I could be doing. 

As I'm watching the clock, I think... oh! I've got plenty of time to do this and that. But then, you realize that there are 2 minutes left of plan time and you have yet to accomplish anything productive. So what do you do? Well, folks - you get everything done on your to do list in 2 minutes. Here's a real life scenario that probably would never be published in an actual book because it's a terrible example. Recently, I tried go to the bathroom, make copies on a slow copy machine, dig materials out of a storage closet, oh, AND pick my kids up from specials. Is this the best way to use your plan time? No. Because you would have seen me running down the hallway at (not) lightning pace. I'm sure several of my coworkers have seen me running and considered sending me to the office. 

I wouldn't necessarily say this is good advice to follow, instead we'll catalog this chapter under the "What Not to Do" file. Let's face it folks, we can get lured away from that stack of papers easily - are there snacks in the teacher's lounge? Yes. See? You're already distracted!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday

It's been a few months since I've updated you on my current read! Sheesh, once again I've neglected to inform you about my book club. For the month of May, we decided to pick a book that didn't involve family drama or murder (our last few picks...) so we went the nonfiction route. A friend of mine recommended "Spoken From the Heart" by Laura Bush

I just finished reading about Laura and President Bush's wedding and the birth of their twin girls Barbara and Jenna. If you're weary about reading a book regarding politics, I'll leave you with the Las Vegas Review Journal's recommendation on the back, "It doesn't matter if you are Republican or Democrat, the history and legacy this admirable woman leaves behind will forever be part of our country's tapestry."

Monday, May 27, 2013

Grilling Season is Here!

It's officially grilling season! Guess who is a wizard with the grill? Not me. Look elsewhere! Lucky for me, my boyfriend is quite the grill master. On Sunday, while I sat back and enjoyed the beautiful weather, my boyfriend tackled the grilling. 

One of my favorite summer dishes is grilled corn. We covered the corn in butter, salt, and pepper. To add a little extra flavor, we added chili powder and lime juice to each cob. We wrapped the corn in foil and grilled them to perfection. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013


The past week was filled with many emotions and oodles of hugs. On Thursday, I wished all of my students a happy summer and made them promise to come back and visit. For the time being, my alarm has been shut off and I'm going to take full advantage of what summer brings. :)

Enjoy the end of your school year teacher friends! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Moment (Again)

About a month ago, I shared a moment that occurred in my classroom while reading the book Wonder. I had another moment with my students, but this one wasn't so... umm, well, I don't want to give away the whole story. 

Brace yourself. This was one of those brain farts (for lack of better terms). 

We are studying the states and capitals in social studies for the remainder of the year. I was all jazzed up talking about the Northeastern region and calling on kids left and right. We came to the state of New York and I said, "Bob (pseudonym for obvious reasons), what's the capital of New Yorrrrrrk?". Yes, you can imagine that I was singing it like Alicia Keys. I like to add my (non-existent) musical talents to my teaching.  

He confidently shouted back, "New York City!!!"
I replied, confidently, "YEP! You GOT IT!"


No more than 5 seconds after I shouted the wrong capital, 98% of my class shouted, "it's ALBANY."

Let's hope that my face was calm, cool, and collected as I cheerfully responded, "Oh good! You're all paying attention! I was just testing you."

I mean, really! All you can do is laugh. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Hall of Fame

As a little end of the year activity, my class voted on a Book Hall of Fame!
Students were given the chance to nominate ANY book they read this year or in previous years. We compiled a huge list of titles on the computer. Once I had everything copied and ready, students voted on their top five choices. 

Our classroom TOP 3 winners were:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio 
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Drizzle by Kathleen Van Cleve

Now, I have a bulletin board ready with book suggestions for next year's students! Hopefully, my students next year will use the billboard when selecting books to start the year. 

What bulletin boards do you have planned? Do share! I'm a planner. :)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Civil War

Happy May! I cannot believe that school is winding down. Someone will have to grab me a box of tissues if I keep thinking about it. Since state testing is over for the year (wahoo!), we're able to go back to having fun in the classroom again. On Monday, we kicked off our Civil War unit. Instead of using our social studies time for this unit, I'm using my Communication Arts block because we're tying in so many reading strategies and skills.  I decided early on that I wanted my students to participate in the Civil War simulation by Scholastic. Side bar: it's currently $5.00 as an e-book!!! 

Have you done a simulation before? This will be my first attempt, but I'm really excited to get the students talking and writing about Civil War experiences. Before diving into the simulation, I wanted my kids to have a little background on what caused the war, important people, and common vocabulary. 

To begin, I divided my classroom into the North and the South. The simulation has students assume a roll of a Union or Confederate solider - I decided to tie in a little geography as well. 

I assigned each table a region of the United States. I know what you're thinking! Yes, we used a modern map to assemble our regions. Considering many states nowadays were not states in the 1860's, this led to a great conversation! 

As a small group, students had to cut out the states in their region and assemble them like a puzzle. I put three regions on the northern side and two on the south. I needed the Union to have more students, so the west was flexible. :)

Region... Assemble!
After small groups assembled their region, I laminated and hung them above their tables. If you've been a follower of my blog, you know about my pods. You can read about those here.  In short, I like to name my pods, or groups, terms that I want the students to remember for-ev-er. 

Now, we have 5 regions of the United States hanging in our classroom and we made a HUGE red, white, and blue paper chain that cuts the classroom right down the middle. The picture below was taken during M.A.P. testing and prior to the regions hanging. Trust me, the classroom is a more cheerful place now. 

Pre-Regions Hanging - During MAP testing, yuck!
Whew! Are you still with me? 

The paper chain thoroughly intrigued my students and they were DYING to know if they were in the North or South. I was mean and made them wait through Spring Break before I told them. 

This week, we have been A Classroom Divided Against Itself. Well, for an hour and half every day then things go back to normal. :) Our week, prior to the simulation, has consisted of these activities:
  • Jigsaw of important and influential people from the Civil War: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Frederick Douglas, etc. 
  • Video of the causes of the Civil War, afterwards we completed an Cause & Effect diagram
  • Mapping out the union and confederate states on a map
I've also read aloud a few picture books about the Civil War. I LOVE reading aloud to my students and now I feel like we have the time available. Some of the titles we've read and plan to read are:

On Monday, we are going to put together our Civil War journals for the simulation. Look for an update next week complete with fun pictures and feedback from my students. 

What have you done in your classroom to study the Civil War? Do share! 

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