Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wow..where does the time go?

September is flying by and it is hard to believe that we started a new school year a month ago. We have been busy in room 226 getting to know each other. We have already completed a novel and a unit in social studies. We are done with Place Value and moving on to addition and subtraction (yes, the already know how to do this, I am assuming it is a refresher!). We have survived our first two fire drills and fall MAP testing.

And this Monday we will begin FLEX Groups. This is a touch subject in our school..FLEX groups. Mostly because you hear complaints that it is just one more thing we have to fit into the school day. Personally I like them. I feel confident that they are working...we did them all last year and out MAP scores went up in Math...WAY UP! In my all boy class last year, I had several students who had double digit growth in Math. And as much as I would love to take the credit for being a FABULOUS math teacher...I know that most of that growth came from FLEX groups.

So our schedule will change up a bit starting on Monday and I will have to figure out how to get everything done with 40 minuted less time with my boys in the classroom. We'll manage...and it will be worth it.because I know they will ROCK THE HOUSE between now and next Spring n Math on MAP.

Interim reports go home on Monday and I have conferences to plan for, the start of Student Council, and before you know it, it is going to be Thanksgiving break.

Aside form that, I am LOVING my boys. Friday they showed me just what they can accomplish...we had an A+ day...everyone was in attendance (first time in several weeks thanks to the flu bug going around). They brought their A Game to school and we got a lot accomplished. I am going to bake them some treats tomorrow to bring in on Monday. They deserve it. They just do!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

This is why we must never forget....

Many of my boys were born the year of the 9-11 attacks or the year before. But they don't remember what happened. They have seen news clips, heard people talking about, and so on. Today I wanted to share with them my experiences on that September day 8 years ago...the day that changed the country, our sense of security, renewing a spirit of patriotism.

I planned on reading them the book "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers." It is not about the September 11 attacks but because the story is about the twin towers, there is reference made to them and the fact that the towers are no longer there. I planned to read the book, then talk about that day, allowing them to experience it through me.

Here is my story- My day started like any other Tuesday. I had an early meeting at work so I dropped my 11 month old son off at the babysitters, and headed to my office. When my meeting let out, a guy who worked for me dropped by my office and asked it I had heard that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. I had not, so I turned to my computer to Google it, and about that time, a crowd of people in our office began coming down the main hallway, headed towards our multipurpose room where there were several TVs. I stopped someone and asked what was going on and they told me a second plane had hit the World Trade Center. Immediately I knew the first plane, nor the second were an accident. I followed the crowd and watched as the Today show staff talked about what was going on in New York and speculating about the nature of the crashes. A short time later reports began to come in about something happening at the Pentagon, about 25 miles away. A short time later, it was confirmed that a third plane had hit the Pentagon and a fourth plane might be headed to Washington DC. In a matter of an hour or so, 4 planes had been hijacked and crashed, and both the North and South towers of the World Trade Center collapsed.

I watched the boys faces as I re-told the events of that day. It was not my intent to scare them, but to let them know how that day changed my life and our country. We talked about the men who hijacked the planes, and how our country had changes some rules about what you could bring on planes so it was safer for people to fly. We also talked about the police and firemen who rushed into those building to help save lives and how many of them lost theirs. We also talked about the people that got up and went to work that day but never came home. I also talked about leaving my office that day and driving home and how there were very few cars on the street because people were at home, where they felt safest, hugging their loved ones a little tighter that afternoon. I also told them about the surge of patriotism that followed in the days and weeks after the attacks, and how people flew their American flags, and wore ribbons to remember. And how each year on the anniversary the names of the 2,974 people who lost their lives that day are read so that all of America can pause and remember.

I told them about the twin beams of light that would shine this evening in New York city in remembrance of this day, and encouraged them to talk about this with their parents. My hope was that although they were too young to know first-hand what happened, hopefully by me sharing my experiences, they will be able to remember as the years go by, those who paid the ultimate price that day.

I remember growing up hearing my Mom talk about how she can remember where she was what she was wearing and what she was doing the day Presidetn Kennedy was shot. I will always remember where I was that day that changed my life and also our country.

I had forgotten how tenderhearted my boys can of them came up to me this afternoon as we were packing up and said "Mrs. Barker thank you for telling us about the towers and the people that died. I thought you were going to cry when you were telling us, and I almost did too. Have I mentioned how much I love my boys?????

Friday, August 28, 2009

We survived the first full week!!!

I started to type "I" but changed it to "we" because we are all in this together. Just me and fifteen 8 (almost 9 as they constantly remind me) year old boys. This was our first full week of school and boy was it long. I think we got a lot accomplished though.

And as I was glancing at my assessments from today (fancy word for tests for you non-teachers), they looked pretty good. But even without them, I could tell there was some good learning going on this week. We read four chapters of our novel...and we learned all about maps and the planet/continent/country/state and city we live on/in.

I feel like we are finally getting in a groove with the schedule and I am starting to learn their personalities and get to know them better. They are really a funny, sweet, smart group of young men and I really look forward to teaching them this year.

I am also adjusting to the new grade and the new principal. Lots of changes at our school this year. But I am always up for a challenge.

Well it Friday night, and I am out of school mode and ready to enjoy a little down time before I have to get working in finishing lesson plans for this week.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Daniel X- Watch the Skies!!!

As a teacher, I always look forward to the start of a new school year, and a fresh set of young readers to teach. I also look forward to keeping up with my students from previous years and seeing how they are doing as they move up in school.

Last Friday, throughout the day I had visits from 4 of my boys from last year in 4th grade. They did not stop by to tell me about their summer, or ask how my group of 3rd grade boys was doing this year...nope...word had gotten out that I had a copy of the new Daniel X book by James Patterson (okay, I sort of let the cat out of the bag to one of my former students).

You see, last year I had read and reviewed the first Daniel X book (click here to read that review). And it was so good I used it as a read aloud in my 4th grade all boys class. They LOVED it! And when I say LOVED I mean LOOOOVVVEEEDDD! Several of them borrowed it and read it on their own.

So I was very excited when I heard the newest Daniel X book was out, and I was given the opportunity again, to read and review it here on m blog. I read the first 30 pages immediately after the Fed-Ex guy delivered it to my house this summer. And quickly polished off the book within a day or two, and decided to read it again. It is THAT good!!

In this latest book, Daniel, a young Alien Hunter, continues to take on wildly interesting characters from other planets who come to Earth to destroy the human race. Daniel has superpowers which he uses to defeat these unsavory characters, including the ability to conjure up a group of friends who help in in the fight, and his parents (who were killed by the infamous Ergent Seth in the beginning of Patterson's first Daniel X book).

Daniel tries, sometimes unsuccessfully, to fit in among his peers on Earth bu attending school, ad dating, but these attempts often fall short as Daniel's battles with aliens must take precedence.

Patterson uses vivid language and descriptions, along with lots of action to hook his readers. What 9, 10, or 14 year old boy can resist a story packed with a plethora of outlandish aliens, out of this world weaponry and references to the electronics, language, food and places of today's pop culture.

Research shows that around grade 3 o 4 boys began to lag hind girls in reading. When asked why they on;t read as much as they play video games, listen to iPods, text their friends, etc. most boys will s it is because there is nothing interesting for them to read. Daniel X provides a great reading experience for boys from grade 3 on up.

As a teacher, I think one o the greatest benefit to reading these books to my students and getting them hooked on this series, is that the chapters are short(usually 2-3 pages) and boys can get a quick sense of accomplishment after reading less than 20 minutes.

I am already reading the first Daniel X book to my current class of 3rd grade boys, and plan on reading the second book to them as well. That is when I get it back from my 4 students from last year who are already lined up to borrow it!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 1 down....179 to go!!!

Just is going to be a long year if I am already on the countdown (after Spring Break is another story!)

Today actually went pretty well. I keep having to remind myself, my boys are sorta still 2nd graders. I have 17 on my roster but I think I will end up with 15. Two no-shows today. That means the next few new male 3rd graders will go directly to me.

We will ease into instruction between now and next Monday. Today we did a little writing, some reading and lots of ice breaker/getting to know you activities.

Today we played "Big Fat Liar"....I bill this as they only time I will let you lie to me and get away with it. I start out by telling them 4 things about me (I also write them on the board). I intentionally select one thing of the four that is un-true. For instance I told them:
1. I have a dog named Ella
2. I was born in Greenville
3. I have lived in Alaska
4. Before I became a teacher, I had my own bakery

So, can you guess which one is the lie? It is #2- I am not a Greenville native..I was actually born in Virginia. Two of the 15 boys actually guessed correctly. Most of them thought that #3 was the lie.

Next I had them come up with 4 things about themselves (and one had to be a lie). They came up with some great ones...I will be reading them to the class over the next few days and see if they can guess which one is untrue. I also did a "getting to know you" scavenger hunt. They had to go around and find a class mate who matched the description/statement, such a A person who visited Mexico this summer or A person whose favorite ice cream is vanilla. It forced them to get up and move around. talk to their class mates , and find out new and interesting things about them. I think it was very successful.

Dismissal was a bit crazy, but all in all we had a good first day. Tomorrow we have school-wide procedures day. We'll also give some math, reading and social studies assessments. It is going to be a busy one.....

Signing off...will check in later!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back to School.....with 17 Boys!!

The first day of school is only 2 days away...YIKES!! I would love to say I am ready for my boys, but that would make my nose grow! I am excited about a new year, and new classroom, and working with my new 3rd grade team....and yes, my 17 little 3rd grade friends, all of the male gender!! I love the first days of school, new books, pencils, clothes, is going to be a great year! I can feel it!

I saw my roster Friday. And while it is still subject to change, I saw lots of familiar names. Many of the boys I will have in class this year were in the single-gender program last year. And they were in class with my son Noah. Noah will be going back to our neighborhood school this year. But I feel like I already have a bond with many of these boys because I know them through him. I am also excited to have the brother of one of the boys I taught last year in 4th grade in my 3rd grade class this year. I already have an established relationship with his family and while I know both boys are different, I know this one already from having his brother last year. They have a younder brother in 2nd grade and hopefully I will get him next year as well.

So ready or not...the school year is started. It is ging to be a wild ride, so bookmark my blog and follow us on our adventure....

Monday, July 27, 2009

The One Where I Get To Read More Daniel X....

I am so excited!! Why?, you ask. Hang on..I am getting to that part...

Today I checked my school email account and found out I was picked to read and review James Patterson's next Daniel X book. I read and reviewed The Dangerous Days of Daniel X last summer and it was fabulous (click here to read the review I wrote on my other blog). I read it for the review then decided to read it to my then 7 year old son. When school started that fall I read it to my all boy 4th grade class and they were on the edge of their seats waiting for each chapter. I also suggested to several of the teachers I work with and they read it their class..and the kids were hooked.

The new book is called Daniel X- Watch the Skies. I am excited to read it and share it on here with other teachers and parents who are looking for new ways to get their boys hooked on reading. Check back next month to read my review!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The One Where I Get A Do Over....

Okay, I had great intentions last fall when I started this blog...little did I know how much of my time would be consumed by trying to adjust to having an all boy class of 4th graders.

Well, I survived year one. Learned a lot, cried a lot, screamed a bit, hair got grayer. And still I decided to go for year 2. The only change will be that I will have 3rd graders (again all boys)...and I know a lot of them.

I am exited, nervous (all new curriculm), and ready to get this show on the road in a few weeks. I am about to start working on my Social Studies and Reading integration plans....

Trying to come up with a classroom them (last year I did Pirates)...and goign to try out a classroom econmy plan I read up on. Also busy finding, borrowing, reading and borrowing boy-friendly books.

Again my goal for the upcoming school year is to post once a week. Maybe more.So, we'll see if I do a better job this year with the blogging.

See ya....