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Friday, December 18, 2015

Why would someone give you a squirrel?

When I showed up to work this morning I found this lovely squirrel on my desk.  I have always wanted a squirrel for my Christmas tree, because I love National Lampoons Christmas Vacation a little too much.  So my thought was, "Wow, how did she know."

Later I thanked her for my squirrel, and she said, "Evey time I see a squirrel I think of you."  This is odd ... Even from the squirrel-sweater lady (another story for another day). So, of course I asked why, and she reminded me of a story I haven't thought of in a while.

One year I had a very unruly student (just that one test ... and just one student ... yeah, right ... anyway) and when he was misbehaving one day I was staring at home, and he asked me "why are you staring at me like a squirrel?"

To this day I do not know if I am the squirrel or if he is the squirrel ... 

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

High School Teachers Are Competitive!

As part of our Christmas Cheer Week the teachers had two contests, ugly sweater and door decorating.  I am not posting pics of the sweaters because I didn't ask teachers permission for posting their pictures.  

So here are the lovely doors ...

All of this in hopes of getting a jeans pass.  Mine is the bottom left, and the light aren't on in the picture ...

Here a better pic.  So if you know of any help for my crafting obsession please let me know.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The struggle

This was sent to me by my sister in law.  My family is a family of teachers and I was the only one with students the week of Thanksgiving.  Thanks to First Grade Fun Times for capturing how I felt when they kept "forgetting" I had to work ...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Biology TEKS

This week I have been a part of many discussions that include the question, "why hasn't someone created that?"  And one of the things is a spreadsheet of TEKS (I have not found them in a download/edit-friendly format).  So we need to create what we wish existed, right?  And now I am sharing it with you.

I made a spreadsheet of the Student Expectations for the Texas Biology EOC.  This is what I use to format my year, my lecture topics or agendas are simplified wordings of these TEKS.  I have uploaded the spreadsheet to google drive and made it available to anyone with the link.  If you would like the link click here.  I will be adding it as a pdf soon.  

Let me know if you have other suggestions of what to make.  And let us know if you have something you have created that you are willing to share!

Plant Movement

Check out these plants - apparently I am more attractive than I realized!

I think this is due to static electricity.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Quote on the week

At the end of the summer I posted pictures of my room and my quote board.  I have changed the quotes about once a week.  Unfortunately , I haven't taken a picture of each one, but I do have a fe pics to share.

I hoard quotes I like on a Pinterest board, and I choose the quotes partially based on my students, I consider what I think they need to hear.

I actually say this one a lot in class when student s point out my mistakes (typos and such).

For my AP kiddos who are creating something with the information we learn.


I hope to throw all of these in a flight am at the end of the year - I think it will look super cool. I also think this is something I can keep up with.  Daily quotes would be asking too much of me, but my students like it enough to pay attention and even ask for new quotes.  And the chalk is easy enough that I can write out my quote and I usually decorate it at a later time.

My favorite quote I forgot to take a picture of ... "Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate."

Monday, November 9, 2015

If Teachers Were Rock Stars

I love hearing stories of how rock stars or movie stars have crazy requests like having green M&Ms.  So I was thinking what would teachers requests be?  So, I made list and asked my friends.  Here is what we came up with.  The is a wide range in the craziness of the requests.

Being able to take off when I'm sick.

Having Vin Disel or Dwayne Johnson (The Rock)  as motivational speaker during the first week of inservice ... or any day. Or to read power point slides to us instead of the presenters who will do that anyway :)

Having a room next to my friend.

A Fountain Drink machine with good ice (smaller is better) and Diet Coke.

Personal chef

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

More money for resources (budget money)

Wine about it Wednesdays (after hours, of course) social hour - wine optional

To be able to send documents directly to the copy machine again ...

A throne as a chair

Printer for printing posters & good laminator

No morning duty

Personal masseuse

A slushy machine full of my favorite caffeinated beverage (spark)

Mid-day Yoga Class

More money (only one out of 10 teachers I asked mentioned money)

Panda express ... with all the veggies picked out

Support from administation

Ice water

No teenagers :)

Gourmet coffee or hot herbal tea delivered during my conference period

Front row parking

Margarita Mondays or Fridays

The room be disinfected between every class

Be escorted to the restroom in the busy halls

Calming oils rubbed on my temples at 10,2 and 4 o'clock

Unlimited copies

Chick-fil-a nugget tray

71 degree room

Vanilla Coke from Sonic

Wifi and Cable TV

Personal hair stylist

Hour long lunch once a week or even once a month

I want to be able to bring my cat with me and expect someone to take care of her


Tables cleaned with bleach daily

Cap classes at 20 students

My coffee prepared precisely the way I like it

Two conference periods

Faster internet

Private bathrooms in every class (I can think of a downfall here)

Starbucks delivered every morning and Blue Bell delivered every afternoon

An ice machine with really fine ice in my room

Quiet time

A work room that is separate from the teacher lunch room and separate from the conference room

And the most popular by far:  Having a personal assistant was a very popular request.  Several different reasons were listed:

To talk to the people I don't want to talk to

To help me find my keys and phone

To finish all the projects I begin but never finish 

And  the best thought out plan:

A personal assistant prepared at the door to hand me my coffee.  A personal massage before the students arrive.  The personal assistant will be prepared to watch the students for minutes of reflection, lemon water or bathroom breaks.  By 10:15  the mimosas will be ready.  I would have an hour and a half for lunch and   At 2:30, I have my masseuse ready for a foot massage and chiropractic adjustment before having my personal assistant grade my papers.  I would also have two conferences and a PLC assistant.  I don't need to attend that stuff, I'm too busy using my genious brain to create lessons

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Student-Created Photosynthesis Lab Video

A student taught me about a new app called Tempo, have you tried it?  It allows you to record a video and then slow it down or speed it up within the app.  Obviously he did even more editing the video, adding text and music.   Check out the video.  What could you do with this app?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Boosting Teacher Morale

At work teachers were discussing how to boost morale in the workplace.  So a quick Google search and 6 articles later, I realized that there was a huge discrepancy in what types of morale boosters were targeted at teachers versus the booster for non-teachers.  And some of the ideas on both sides are so unrealistic.  So I decided to go to the source, and I asked several teachers I know who teach in different parts of the country and who teach different grade levels, "What does your school/principal do to boost or maintain morale?"

And teachers tell you how it is (teacher to teacher anyway).  Some responded with simply, "nothing," while others sent lengthy descriptions of the extravagant ways they are shown they are appreciated, and how much they appreciated their leaders.

Would you like to see the list?

(Not yet ... almost)

I want to forewarn you that a large majority of responses included food and jeans passes.  At one point I told a teacher-friend that I never realized how much teachers are like wild animals/toddlers/teens  .... It seems like people just throw food at us to try to keep us happy.

So really here is the list:

  • drink cart delivers drinks to teachers with sodas and additives to make flavored drinks
  • brought in a food truck to cater lunch (without telling us ahead of time)
  • once a month candy with catchy notes in mailboxes
  • starbucks coffee with all the fixings in the office - or hot chocolate on cold mornings
  • our favorite sonic drinks sitting on tables for us at staff meetings
  • occasionally principals take a teacher's duty
  • ice cream floats delivered to teachers
  • family appreciation picnic at local park (catered bbq, games for the kids, music, etc)
  • something small monthly
  • boo grams
  • hid baby pumpkins around the school - if you found a pumpkin you got a prize
  • jean days
  • nothing bundt cakes
  • chik-fil-a
  • donuts
  • split into teams and have games to compete against one another - team that wins at the end of the semester goes to the movies together and lunch out
  • encourages to take 1-2 minute brain breaks and play games with the kids
  • potlucks every 6 weeks
  • they really try to honor our time
  • treats for teachers every month
  • always giving jeans passes
  • have scavenger hunts
  • we really feel supported and if there is a problem they are very opened to helping
  • really encourage family first
  • encourage us not to work late
  • honor out planning time and have committed to not holding meetings Tuesdays or Thrusdays so we can plan as a team
  • ARDs are held only on certain days unless it can't be avoided
  • birthdays are a big deal - (half birthdays for summer birthdays)
  • give a full hour lunch by having someone cover their extra 30 minutes
  • random emails genuinely saying thank you
  • weekly newsletter with staff shout outs
  • encouraging teachers to take off when they are sick
  • team ran a marathon together and socialized afterwards
  • principals bought space heaters for everyone when heat went out
  • jeans for yor birthday
  • different themed lunches or snacks one or twice a month in the lounge
  • presents begiiinnng, middle and end of each year
  • root beer floats
  • parents bring entire staff meals
  • entire week of jeans
  • recognizes any accomplishments from the previous week
  • we all eat lunch together
  • principals come by to see the cool stuff we are doing in the classroom - but not to grade us- just to be aware of what is going on
  • assistant principal had scheduled meeting with individual teacher to see how out year is going
  • Christmas bonus!
  • once when it was pouring rain the principals walked us in with giant umbrellas
  • they treat us like we are human
  • they surprise us
  • they understand when we are stressed
  • they bring in a massage therapist
  • they cater breakfast or lunch
  • we get t shirts
  • teacher of the month eats at the steak house
  • pats on the back
  • we are a family - we do not require a morale boost (** this should be everyone's goal)
  • each week the principal passes a statue of our school mascot and praises a teacher in his weekly newsletter
  • random jeans days
  • assistant principal does walk throughs and leaves us nice notes
  • our principals don't talk down to us.

What I think it boils down to is we want to feel appreciated, truly appreciated.  

We want leaders not bosses.

And I think teachers should take these matters into their own hands.  Make open-ended questions and have teachers tell you what they would like for a pick me up when they are stressed or overwhelmed or have helped a fellow teacher out.  Make the answers available to everyone, so anyone can take the opportunity to brighten someone else's day.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pumpkin Decorating Contest

This week we had a contest for the teachers to bring in a pumpkin they decorated and the students voted.  Everyone did amazing pumpkins but one was worth a blog post.  This pumpkin did not win, but if the teachers were voting it would have ...and nope, it's not my pumpkin, but I love it so much I told the creator I was blogging about it.

So this pumpkins theme "Things you'll never hear a teacher say". 

I took a closer-up pic in hopes of being able to read them more easily.  A few of my favorites:

"Turn up the volume people."

"Don't you just love standardized testing."

"Just watch the movie. It is the same as the book."

"Observations are a very realistic reflection of the day-to-day reality of this class."

""I hope this day never ends."

"I tell you what, it just gets easier every year."

"Keep your cell phones on. I wouldn't want you to miss a call."

"Just keep your head on the desk. I'm sure you need the rest."

"I just love the way we define students by their performance in a narrow set of disciplines."

All of the quotes are good.  And if the teachers had judged Valena definitely would have won. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Do you have these kids?

"Oh yeah? I had a fever of 116 one day ..." 

Morning Announcements

It has been a rough week.  DEVOLSON is strong.  If you haven't seen this video, you have been missing out.  I need a student named Mitch :)

Friday, October 16, 2015

I Need a Dead Body

Sometimes I have a slight case of absent-minded professor-itis ... and one of my most recent episodes was on the day my students were supposed to be doing a rough sketch of a simulated crime scene.  I realized 20 minutes before class was supposed to start that I didn't include a dead body.  So I went to the cafeteria, and thankfully the first student I saw (who was in forensics) didn't look at me like I was crazy when I said, "I need a dead body."  She even brought a friend to outline her!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Post it Activity - Student Interests

In a previous post I shared my Student Interest Inventory (a first day handout).  Once I give the kiddos a chance to fill out the form (or when we have extra time), I give each kid four post-its.  And I ask them to DRAW four of the things they said they liked on the form.  (I know, I am an evil-mutant-science-teacher.) They usually complain because most high school kids do not like to draw, so I tell them they can look at their page and find the four things they feel best about drawing.  

When the complaining ends, I have them turn in the post-its either by sticking the post-its to the Student Interest Inventory (especially if they need extra time after their safety test, or any other time that they finish faster than expected), or by placing their post-its on the paper for their class period.  Sometimes I prefer to place the post-its on the paper.  Sometimes the papers are color coded for each class period.  Sometimes the papers for each period are exactly the same size ... sometimes things just don't go according to plan.  I leave these up until after Meet the Teacher Night (3 weeks in).  It allows me to see interests in a quick glance and I think it looks super cool.  

Obviously, if you have nothing better to do with your time the first week of school, and you have an excess of clear tape, you should totally tape down the bottoms of all the post-its so they aren't flapping around.  I have never had enough time to even seriously consider this as an option.  

I started this many years ago after seeing a work of art created by many artists on post-its.  I tried to find a link for it, and have not found it yet.  These obviously aren't works of art, but it does show common themes, and given a visual representation of all my kiddos without any kid being singled out too much.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Carbohydrate Summary Sheet

Finally!  I have had this Carbohydrate Summary Sheet completed since mid summer, and I finally scanned it in.

If you would like a digital copy check it out on out on our We Teach High School store on Teachers Pay Teachers.

FYI I am working on a Summary Sheet for Photosynthesis ... keep in touch

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The beginning of DEVOLSON

If you are familiar with the term DEVOLSON (Dark Evil Vortex of Late September, October & November) you have homework tonight: go to Love, Teach and read.

My DEVOLSON officially began with a bad cold, and as most of you would do I went to school anyway.  I regretted the decision all day, but didn't want to put off our first AP lab or my freshmen test that had already been rescheduled due to the homecoming pep rally.  And at the end of the day I graded the tests and found this

And it wasn't alone ...

It never occurred to me to teach the kids how to fill in an answer sheet, so I guess that is another teacher-fail for me.

I did have a couple of kids ask, which I don't remember ever happening before ...  last year Was the year of children using pen on the grade forms ...

So, apparently I am going to have to teach how to fill out an answer form next year.  

Unlike you I did give up and get a sub for today, but not because of DEVOLSON. Now, go do your homework and read about DEVOLSON.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

History of ... iMovie Project

Wow, what a start to the year.  Is anyone else a little tired?  Yep, me neither.  I know I have shared my Forensics iMovies before.  This year I gave the students less time than I think I ever have before, and not only did they still do a pretty good job, but almost everyone turned in a complete project.

So if you teach a subject where students have to research contributions for a field, or you just have an excess of names to learn this iMovie idea may help you and your students out.  I use this with Forensics and Biology.  The kids each sign up for a scientist (only one kid per class can sign up for each scientist).  This year I gave the students one day to research their scientist.  They needed to find their main contribution to forensic scientist (why they are on the list), and then 9 more facts.  The students needed at least three sources, the book and two websites or three websites.  Almost everyone got all ten facts in the first day.  I told the kids to save pictures and links to the sites they used on the ipads.

And about half of the kids were able to finish their videos done in one day, so I extended the deadline and gave the kiddos another day.  As they finished the videos they emailed the project to me.  I saved them all in a folder and then once I had them all I uploaded them to my YouTube channel which allows the students to show their work off.  I uploaded the videos in a playlist by project and period and left the videos as unlisted at first at least.  I also like to use the YouTube playlist to present because to prevents all the discussions of who goes first, and it just keeps the presentations moving along as quickly as you can.

I have the kids write down the scientist name and what they think the major contribution down, and I supplement this with a list I generated that I expect the students to learn.

Here are a few examples from this year.



These examples will show you how concise the information needs to be.  It shows you a few of the templates available.  I hope this gives you lots of ideas as well as tips for your kiddos.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Some days ...

Everyone has rough days.  For teachers there are several days that we share, the day of Meet the Teacher and the day after ... It's like a work hangover.  You spend over 12 hours at school, go home for less than 12 and head back to school.  I have one task on my to-do list tomorrow: survive.  

Some days the odds are stacked against you and if you are going to survive in this field (or any other) you have to see stress as a challenge or as a way to energize yourself for the task at hand.

Some days you have to eat gelato ... out of the container ... with a fork.

I hope you have plenty of clean dishes and clothes, extra money before payday, rewarding days and relaxing nights!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

New Calendar - Thanks Silhouette

I have made a few improvements to my three-week calendar.  

You can see my calendar in action here (ignore my to do list & pretend it's complete).  This was taken during the week of staff development.

I started out by trying to give myself a guide line so the days were not too slanted.

Then I folded the vinyl back with the letters sticking up.  And I gently trying to stick the tops to the board then slowly roll the letters on to the board and remove the backing.

I also made a place for reminders.  This allows me to write due dates and reminders and then at the end of the day I send out text reminders using

So I am very happy with my silhouette, and they vinyl letters that make my board so much nicer.  And I can still spray the board with wonder and the letters do not move! Very important detail for my sanity.  

And the toughest part of the project was picking a font and size.  I highly recommend printing the text you want on paper and putting it on the board to try it out!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Organization is Essential!

I have quickly learned that good organizational skills can make a world of difference! Here are a few forms I've created to keep my students and myself organized this year!

The picture below is my absent work station. I have a folder for each day of the week. At the end of each day, I place the work from that day in the folder. This makes it easy for the student to come grab their work without me having to find what they missed and remind them. My students know they are responsible for getting their missed work. This makes it an easy system for all of us!

The following filing tub has been a life-saver this year! I have an individual folder for each of my students. This is where they keep important information that is kept in the folder, inside my room at all times. These folders are wonderful when it comes time to attend a parent meeting! I have all the information I need to know about the student in their folder, so it is the perfect thing to assist me in parent meetings. 

The first form inside the student folder is a table of contents. This helps the students keep their papers in order so they are easy to find.

The student profile form is a page the students fill out on the first day of school.  This is kept in their folder. 

I also make the students keep track of their own absences and tardies on the following form. This helps to hold them accountable, as well as keep them aware of how much they are missing class. They take tardies a little more seriously when they see how many they have had to log in their folder. 

The following form is a motivation form that the students fill out on the second day of school. I always get a good insight into who they are and what their priorities and interests are from this form. 

The following form is an AR book approval form. The students are required to show me their books before they check them out from the library. I check to make sure the book is in their reading level and contains the required page count before they are allowed to read the book. 

The following form is where the students and I log their AR test information so we can easily keep track of it. This also allows the students to view their test grades at any time. 

I have also down-sized my syllabus this year. I place every AR deadline for the entire year on the syllabus so the parents and students are aware of the deadlines.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Paper Flower

In the search for more up-cycled classroom decor, I began thinking back to my cousin's wedding.  He had a beautiful backdrop made of paper flowers all in white.  My room is already overwhelmingly white, so purple seemed like an obvious choice.  So I pinterest-ed dahlia flower, and after following multiple links I finally found a tutorial at Love, Pomegranate House.  

Thanks to craft night and some very generous friends, I got all these tube-y parts made.  Big thanks to Erin rolling the paper, letting me glue it, then Chonte' holding it long enough for the hot glue to cool ... with their help it only took a couple of hours to get these tube-y pieces done ... (disclaimer: I have a tendency to exaggerate).

Once home I began gluing the individual pieces to a cardboard circle I cut from a cereal box.  I started with darker colors and worked my way in.  I used each piece of the darkest paper, and very few pieces of the lightest color.

Pretty, right?  I used the flower along with some re-purposed, reclaimed fence pickets (free from my Dad), and a minnow can my husband picked up at a garage sale for one dollar.  I have had the drawings for years.  The artist is a friend of my family, and though this picture is tough to see, one is a bass and one is a duck.  I removed the red mat I originally had around the drawings, but never really liked, and just put my cheap IKEA paper in the frame and put the drawings on top.   I also have a raccoon drawing from the same artist.  I hung it in the back of the room.  

I am going to have to get a better picture later - the glare is killing me, but I love that this is visible from my desk.  I love my new room.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

10X10 Review Activity

I tried a new activity this week called 10X10.  I read about this in an Edutopia article by Warren Berger called 5 Ways to Help Your Students Become Better Questioners.  In the article he attributed the activity to a second-grade teacher named Julie Grimm.  So I have a big thanks for Warren and Julie -- Thanks!!

I made this ppt slide for my kiddos when we do this activity.  So that they and I can remember the guidelines.

Since my AP Biology class is approaching their first test (over Biochemistry), I decided to use the 10X10 activity as a bell-ringer.  Then I let my kiddos work on the Legacy of Learning Project for 15ish minutes while I looked over their questions (in between answering tech questions, helping them on their projects and putting out "fires").  And as I read their questions I was so impressed by them that I started typing them so that when the 15 minute time period was up we could go over some of the questions.

This is definitely going to be a well used tool in my classroom particularly when we are approaching review or when we are covering more difficult material.

If you try this, let me know how your kiddos do?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Classroom Decor!!

Let's face it, we've all heard the research based classroom decorating tips. Unfortunately, the research on lighting and colors that are best for a conducive learning environment tend to differ with each new school year. I've come to realize that every teacher is different, therefore, what works for the classroom is not uniform for everyone.

For my decorations, I did decide to go with multiple colors. In the past I have kept my room in school colors, red and white, but I got bored with that after five years of the same thing. So this year I decided to make it more colorful.

I bought this colorful chevron material from Hobby Lobby to cover my bulletin boards. I always trim my bulletin boards in ribbon. I feel that the teacher boarders are a little elementary, and ribbon is more plain. Plus, at Hobby Lobby you can find any ribbon imaginable to go with your theme!

My bulletin board outside the room is typically used for some encouragement, as well as an introduction to what my class is. I used this We Are theme that I found from Pinterest a few years ago. I did this same theme last year, but with a different color scheme. Since I am an English teacher, it has things like "we are...authors, readers...," then at the bottom it has our school mascot, REBELS.

My inside bulletin board is used for rules, schedules, and classroom routines.

I wrapped two of my stools in ribbon.I only did this for two of them because it was too expensive to continue. I found it was MUCH cheaper to spray paint, so with my two remaining stools that is what I did. I used left over material from the bulletin boards to make seat covers for my stools. (I cannot take full credit for this because my grandmother did the work- I don't sew!) The material was cut in a circle- we did the size of the stool, plus a couple inches. The extra inches allowed us to fold the material under and place an elastic strip under the fold.

I also down-sized my podium because my wooden one was taking up too much space. I have a simple metal podium now and I spray painted it to make it match.

For lighting this year, I plan to use the typical fluorescent ceiling lights for most days. I did accessorize the room with lamps that I can use one days that we will be using the projector a lot, or for the Edgar Allan Poe reading days! I also accessorized my board with rope lights that I plan to plug in each day to make it a little brighter in my room!

Smell- I plan to keep an Airwick plug-in the entire year! Students love when my room smells good, and so do I! However, in the past I have failed to replace them when they run out. This year will be different!! 

These student folders have been a life-saver!! Each student of mine has their own individual folder that will stay in class. They pick up their folder each day upon entering the classroom. Inside the folder is a calendar of events and lesson plans, this also includes upcoming projects, tests, and deadlines. I store learning and personality styles in the folder, as well as tests. Since I am an English teacher who uses the A.R. program, I also keep their A.R. testing record, reading level, and book logs in the folder. The best part about these folders is that they are perfect for parent-teacher meetings!! It is so easy to keep up with student information if they each have a folder.

Student table- This table is for the students. On this table they will find their personal folders that I spoke of earlier. They will also find the work they missed while they were absent. I keep a folder for each day of the week and place work in the folders daily. The students know to go to that folder to pick up what they missed. The table also includes supplies they may need including scissors, markers, crayons, tape, and staplers. The student table keeps them away from my desk and away from my personal supplies. 

I have arranged my desks so they are in small groups, but they are all facing the front of the room. I have used Duct tape to attach zip lock bags on each desk that include a pen and a highlighter. I'm hoping this will alleviate them coming to class without supplies problem. 
I have a ziplock bag taped to each desk that includes a pen and a highlighter.