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A New Beginning.... after a tough school year.....

Hello Friends,

Well.... It's summer break and I am FINALLY back to myself; both emotionally and physically. It's been a long journey this school year. Last summer, my Dad was diagnosed with leukemia. He has finished his chemo/treatment, but it was a big hit to our family. We have not experienced something this serious before and we are so grateful that now he is on the road to good health.


 Then in  October, I broke my ankle and was in a boot/crutches until December. THEN as a family, we took a trip to Lake Geneva Wisconsin where my youngest son broke his sternum and knee while downhill skiing. He and his 18 month old German Shepherd moved in with us for 5 weeks while my son healed and recuperated.


And finally, in April, I thought I was experiencing severe reactions to my spring allergies. But come to find out, I had a bad virus (one that they could not give me a name) which caused me to get an ear infection which led to me contracting Bells Palsy. Bells Palsy is a temporary paralysis of one side of the face which is caused by a virus. They have no idea what causes one person to get Bells Palsy and another not to get it BUT as the unlucky person who got it, it is AWFUL! Lucky for me, I had a mild case and other than slurring some of my words and having to tape my eye closed at night because the nerve that controls my eye was paralyzed and I could not blink, no one really noticed. I now have all feeling back in my face - hurray! Whew..... I was never happier to see school close and summer to come! I am LOVING being outside in the sun. I felt like a bear in a cave all winter; hardly able to get outside. It's almost as if my body is craving the Vitamin D because I have found myself finding a sunny spot in the lawn and simply standing there.

I share all this because I have been terrible at blogging this year and I hope to get back to it on a more timely basis than once every 6 weeks or so!

I love my kinders and will miss them terribly... but I need this break and am smiling in anticipation of a relaxing and HEALTHY summer break!

Here are a few random things happening in my life presently....

1.  My oldest son graduated in May! I am so proud of him. He took the long way to graduation... starting, quitting, getting married, working, starting, quitting, and then finally finishing! Not everyone finishes their college journey in 4 years; sometimes it takes a little longer. We are all different and I am proud of his perseverance.




2.  Last year, I planted 3 milkweed plants in our school garden. This year, those 3 plants reproduced to ten! I am working on transforming our garden into a Monarch butterfly way station. My hope is to get it to the point where we can be listed on our local Farm Bureau stats for Monarch butterflies. I have already seen Monarch butterflies visiting, but have not seen any caterpillars yet.



3.  Every summer, I review the products in my TPT store making revisions and adding new ones. Last year, my goal was to create an ABC Science/STEM resource which took me most of the summer to complete. THIS summer, I am revising and adding to my religion resources. Keep watching for new product notices from TPT if you are interested in these resources. I will also post them on my blog when I get them all uploaded.

Here is a screen shot of the "Miracles of Jesus" resource that I ALMOST have finished....


4.  One fun purchase that we made this year was a new table for our kitchen. I wish that I could get have gotten the chairs, but.... oh well....... maybe next year!



5.   One of our teachers retired this year after THIRTY FOUR years! I made this fun retirement basket for her. We collected money from our staff and then used it to purchase gift cards. It was fun to put together! The words say" RELAX, EAT, TRAVEL, INDULGE, READ, ENJOY.



 6.  Finally..... we had SO MUCH rain in early spring. So much that we had a Mallard duck sitting in our front yard! Now, though, weather has taken a turn for the dry and we are praying for rain..... sigh.....

 So that's it for now. Take care and enjoy your summer break!



Blessings,

End of Year Memory Book letter to Students and Parents

Hello Friends,

Just a quick note to share a letter that I send home to my students and their parents at the end of the year. I do not claim ownership of it. I got it from a website long ago called "Green Gables."


Click  HERE to take you to the download. If you are downloading at your school, you may be blocked because of your school network. Download it away from school and you should be fine!
 Please note: The spelling error on the student letter has been fixed on the download!

Until next time... now that summer is almost here, I will be back here again sharing ideas!

Blessings,

Four easy STEM activities for Kindergarten

Hello Friends,

 Well, we are now in the 4th quarter. As always, it hardly seems possible that we are in the home stretch! The fun thing about the 4th quarter is how independent and competent my students have become. They know our classroom routines/schedules and are pretty capable of accomplishing most everything that I ask them to do. That makes for a smooth running day which of course, causes a spike in learning - woo hoo!



I thought that I would share four STEM activities that we did this past week. I took a class this past summer on the Next Generation Science Standards. An area that fascinated me was the turn that teaching is taking from teacher directed to student generated learning. I have always been a hands-on teacher, but I often would give my students the whole picture before giving them the opportunity to try it out. In my class, I was told that students should be given the opportunity to explore FIRST; then the discussion of what they experienced is turned into the lesson. It is a learning tweak that has challenged me as a teacher. I have had to let go and allow my students to find a path to the outcome without much direction from me. It's been fun watching them start with a hypothesis, test it out, and eventually come to a conclusion. Each of these activities took about 10 minutes. I set a timer and my kiddos rotated through each one.



ACTIVITY 1: 

 Your teddy bear is stuck at the bottom of a well. You have a rope. How can you get your animal out of the well?

As you can see from the photo above, Teddy was in a bucket in the "well". The chair was the well. My students were told that they could not climb into the well to get Teddy. They had to get both Teddy and the bucket out of the well at the same time. It was interesting to watch them try to figure out what to do. Finally, they realized that if they looped the rope over the handle, they could PULL Teddy AND the bucket out of the well. After rescuing Teddy, they asked if they could put other animal friends in the well. Of course! This allowed them to understand that you need more strength to pull something that is heavy compared to something that is light.



 ACTIVITY 2: 


How does a parachute work? Follow the steps to make a parachute. Tie your parachute to a small toy. Have a race between a toy NOT tied to a parachute and a toy that IS tied to a parachute. Which toy hits the floor first? If you were on the top of the mountain and needed to get down, would you jump or use a parachute? Why?

This activity was hard for my kinders; mainly because it involved tying knots! If you have a parent volunteer, I would suggest stationing them at this activity to help with the tying. I also suggest that you use lightweight paper and as well as a lightweight toy. We used regular copy paper and it was really too heavy. We also tied a clothespin to the bottom of the yarn which seemed too heavy. We did this activity as a follow-up to our gravity explorations. Their task was to understand how a parachute creates AIR RESISTANCE that slows down the effect of gravity. The fun part in this activity was that that they were able to stand up on a "mountain" (ladder) and drop their parachute!





ACTIVITY 3:  

Set up the empty bottles.
Try to knock the bottles down without using your hands.
How can you knock the most bottles down at the same time?


This was a simple activity to explore PUSH. The hardest part of the activity was collecting the empty bottles! We used empty water bottles. My husband suggested that I weight them somehow with rice or sand. BUT, I did not and the kids still had a good time and learned something about push and strength.


ACTIVITY 4: 

How can you get the pom-pom from one end to the other without using your hands? 

I wanted my kids to experiment with wind power and to come to the conclusion that wind is a force that PUSHES. I applied blue tape on two sides of a table. I laid out various sizes of pom-poms in which to experiment. They used their wind power to PUSH the pom-poms from one side of the table to another.

 The next day, we discussed our conclusions. They then did a recording sheet showing their results.





 If you would like the recording sheets and the station signs, click HERE.
    
This is a Google doc.  If your school blocks sites that are outside the network, you will be unable to access this download at school. You will have to download it at home.

Until next time, my friends!

Blessings,

Spring Break.... A Way for Teachers to Feel Energized for the Sprint to the End!

Hello Friends,

I am starting my spring break today.... We are not going anywhere. Of course, I WISH that we were on a plane flying to some exotic place where I could put my toes in the water and see amazing sights. But, at this particular point in my life, that possibility does not exist and I am okay with that. I happen to live in a university town, so getting around town and exploring is much easier when there are less people around. I have absolutely NOTHING on my "to do" list..... and I okay with that, too!

Teachers really do need this little break... (kids do, too!) I sometimes wish that I could show people what my school day (week) is like.... Despite the fact that it LOOKS like my day starts at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m., that is not the case. My sister-in-law is a nurse who works 12 hour days. I have a fire fighter friend who works a shift that involves staying at the station for 24 hours; always being prepared for an emergency. Although, my days do not involve staying at school for that length of time, my day DOES involve long hours; much more than my "paid time" shows.....

My day starts at 5:30 a.m. I get up, shower, get dressed, grab breakfast, and check email. After replying to parent emails, I am off to school by 6:45 a.m. When I arrive at school, I make sure that I am organized, know my plans for the day, and have materials ready for the day ahead. An unprepared teacher is the kiss of death. Kids have a unique radar... they can tell when a teacher is "winging it" and that is not a place in which I want to be!


 When the kids arrive at 7:50 a.m., I put on my game face; even if I am tired, stressed, or have the sniffles. I am the captain of the ship and my students need my strength and positive attitude.  I encourage, coax reluctant learners to try, mend broken school supplies, help kids negotiate problems, while at the same time, differentiating curriculum to reach all learning styles and skills. Don't get me wrong..... I LOVE what I do! When a child reaches a goal and is proud of what he/she has accomplished, I feel their joy. When the bell rings at 2:30 p.m., I tell my students good-bye and look forward to when I will see them again.

My school day does not end at 2:30 p.m., though..... When my kiddos are gone, there is a classroom to tidy up, papers/projects to go through, faculty meetings to attend, after school tutoring, parent-teacher conferences, emails to answer...... I usually leave school around 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. I KNOW that still sounds like an easy day.... but...... preparing for school does not end there. When I get home, I try to get in some kind of exercise. I think about dinner. I might throw in a load of laundry or empty the dishwasher. I make time for my family..... and then.... I check lesson plans. Most days, I revise my plans in some way. I usually work on school plans for at least an hour... then when I am satisfied, put them away.

As with many teachers, we are sponsors or leaders for after school (or evening) activities. This year, I am helping with the junior high play. That involves evening time; back at school. I certainly am not complaining, but this is not a paid position AND I am not the director of the play; only the helper. Our director is our Art teacher and he does so much more than direct the play. He also teaches K-8 Art everyday. In his spare time, he works on script revisions, meets with the costume committee, works on the scenery..... his job goes from sunrise to sunset...



It is difficult for teachers to take off a day of work during the school week. Preparing for a sub takes more time than teaching the lesson yourself. When I leave for a 2 day conference, it takes me 4 days to prepare. I cannot imagine what it must be like to impulsively take a day off of work. And then when we DO leave, we remember in the middle of the workshop that we forgot to tell the sub where the sharpened pencils are kept or what to do when Billy says his tummy hurts.... And if we get sick and HAVE to take a day off.... we must have a tub full of a day's activities ready to go. No... taking a day off during the school year is not an easy task for us.

So... my friends, when teachers are told that they have an "easy" job, this just is not true. Teachers serve; just as firefighters, police officers, and nurses do. Having a week to step back, relax, and rejuvenate both our bodies and minds makes it possible for us to return to our students filled with the energy we need to aid them to get to the finish line filled with the tools they need to end the year strong!

To all my teacher friends.... enjoy your break! Use it to prepare for the ending stretch.... and don't feel the need to accomplish more than the time you have to do it! Sometimes having an empty "to do" list is just what the doctor ordered!

Until next time,

Blessings,


Lucky / Unlucky ELA Card Game - for Little Kids - Editable!

Hello Friends,

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Lucky-Unlucky-ELA-Card-Game-Editable-3025342

My kiddos love to play this simple card game. It can played in a small group led by a teacher or put into a learning center. Because the game is editable, you can make the game match the skills of your students. It can be used for many concepts....  sight words, CVC words, CVCe words, or concept words. 




 To add a challenge to the game, create “Einstein cards.  These are cards with a more difficult word or concept.

 Presently, this resource is free in my TPT store.... Enjoy!

Blessings,


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