Express Yourself

Be who you are and say how you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
--Dr. Seuss

Monday, May 23, 2016

40 Book Challenge Student Reflections

Today I began my 40 Book Challenge Video Reflection Series. During the week, I will interview my students to get their reflections about the 40 Book Challenge. It has been a wonderful journey with my wild readers. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

End of Year Reflections

There are less than 10 days of school left. I don't quite know how I feel about that. This year has gone exceptionally well, but I am not ready for any type of closure yet. During the  next two weeks, I will get back to what I was doing  before testing season reared its ugly head.

My first semester went very well. I laid the foundation of reading and writing with purpose and intention. (Words taken from Alana Morris) My students loved to read, write, and talk about text. We used many Abydos, Gretchen Bernabei, Maureen Ucles, Alana Morris, and Jeff Anderson type research. We wrote, shared with each other while analyzing and enjoying different types of text. Things were going rather smoothly...until testing season. Testing season put a wrench into the flow of my classroom. All of January seemed devoted to testing, testing, testing. I felt robbed of my peace, flow and serenity. Such is life.

 February flew by. We flowed into a writing groove and things were finally feeling kind of normal. Grammar and compositions were flying off the walls, into the notebooks, and being shared aloud. I felt a very positive and confident momentum. I used Gretchen Bernabei's Grammar Keepers and expository kernel essays, along with studying STAAR 8s. We also studied the structure of text and brought back the Analysis Pyramid. We used noticing and naming technique by Jeff Anderson in his work in Mechanically Inclined and Everyday Editing. We studied the structure of different types of sentences (simple, compound, and complex) and studied writer's craft. We noticed different craft  in STAAR 8s including pitchforks, analogies (metaphors and similies,  and info shots), renaming, using examples and illustrations, as well as crafting the belief statement in the introduction. These questions were often heard: What is your promise to the reader? Did you keep your promise? Did the examples and details that you used in the body explain your belief statement? How did you write that? Did you do this with purpose and intention? How can you make your writing clearer to the reader?

In March, we were refining writing. We had a few days of benchmarking and then it was back to the grind. I didn't want to slow down. My class didn't miss a beat while we moved forward. Some days I felt things were going fine and dandy. Other days, I found my plan needed more tweaking. It was a roller coaster ride. I was moving from English to Spanish and Spanish to English as I moved and grooved with the different groups. Each group needed different things. Some days we worked on their compositions. Other days we worked on the genre of the test in the editing and revision portions. The studying of structure, grammar, spelling rules, and revision techniques flowed so well with the multiple choice portion of the test and the composition. Slowly and surely, my students nailed it! I felt extremely proud of their progress. The light bulbs were turning on in droves.Keep movin' Maureen. Keep moving!  I  kept saying to myself.  Then my students took the writing test. Phew! They were the most prepared class that I have ever taught. They knew so much and were showing it daily!  I gave me great pleasure to see this unfold! More than half of my class took the writing test in English and the other Spanish. There was a lot of shuffling going on daily. It was like playing ping pong or pin ball.

April went by like a bleep on a radar. I rag tagged and got the kids ready for the genre of the Reading test. It went very smoothly because of the all the work we had previously done. The reading informed the writing and the writing informed the reading. Structures are structures. I loved how this all worked out. April was a blurr to me. I worked fast and furiously, and students were up to the challenge.

Now May is flying by too. The first part of May, I prepped and prepped and the Reading and Math came and went. Currently we are ending the year, and I do not want to see any more tests. I want to enjoy the rest of the year the way I did the first semester. Everything comes full circle. I am enjoying seeing the maturity and love of reading, writing, and learning in full bloom. Do I want the year to end? To be honest...I really don't want it to! I will miss this class tremendously. Every year it is always difficult to say goodbye to my classes.  I always find it hard to say goodbye because I know that my time with them will have come to and end. I want to cherish the moments and reflect on the year in its entireity. I have had an impact on my students's lives, but they have left an even greater impression on my life. It has been an honor to teach them all year.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Weather Issues and Testing

I have been under the weather as of late. I have been trying to fight this bronchitis for two weeks. Because of that, I haven't had time to post. I have lots of thoughts that I will share very soon. Today is day two of the state testing. My students will be taking the Reading test. I hope all goes well for them. We will see!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Calm Before the Storm

How do I feel just one day before my students will be taking the STAAR Math and Reading test?  Right now, I feel calm in knowing that if they do everything that they have been taught, they will do fine.  I am also calm because I know that I did everything within my power to prepare them. I know that they will give it their best and feel confident. Let's face it, the test is not easy. It requires understanding of genre and structure. It requires understanding a zillion Math concepts. It requires stamina, critical thinking, and perseverance. I have tried to instill these traits in my kids. Many entered the classroom with this grit and determination.

I contemplate the year and wonder, what could I have done differently? I am not sure what I could have done differently. Life is a journey and I learn along the way. If I had know what I know now, I would have changed a few things, but not too much. When I am in the moment, I try my best, put my best food forward, and adjust as I am able. Hindsight is 20/20, so there are some things that I could have spent more time on and some things that could have been tossed to the side. It is hard to juggle all subject areas and three tests in one year. Some things just have to give. All that I can say is that I reflected, tried by best, and adjusted where I saw fit. I do hope that it will be enough for each and every student.

Overall, I am proud of all of my students and their progress. I certainly am proud to be their teacher. I know that they are well prepared for 5th grade and beyond. I have done my best and it is good enough. Now, let the chips fall where they may. I say this with confidence and have prayed much. We will see what happens this Monday and Tuesday.

I found this video that Alana Morris had shown me at an inservice at Edgewood Elementary. I will show it my students today. It will be a great video to watch that is about a Thailand boy's soccer team, but more importantly, it is about determination and finding a way. Onward and upward!

(They loved watching it!)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Teacher Appreciation Day

For my lunch time post, I would like to appreciate two teachers who had an great influence on my life.  Ms. Folden, my 9-11 grade Spanish teacher, and Ms. West (my 8th grade English teacher) were the best.

Ms. Folden gave me a love of languages. I studied Spanish with her for three years. I did well in her class. I wish I could tell her what a great impact she had on my life. I would love to seriously converse with her in Spanish. I think she would be amazed that I am bilingual/biliterate. I could share stories of being a bilingual teacher and my time in the Peace Corps in Honduras.

Ms. West (Ms Malone) was the best English teacher that I ever had. We learned so much in her class. You really had to work hard to get a good grade. My last semester I got an A in her class, and boy did I have to work!  I wish I could tell her how great an impact. Rest in peace Ms. Malone!

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Eyes of May Are Upon Us

The Eyes of May Are Upon Us

The detective eyes of a reader are upon us. They help us search for textual evidence and analyze text. I bought these little eyes from Amazon. I thought they would be bigger. I also bought some humunga-chunga eyes for me. I plan on giving them to the students as an artifact. Everytime that they can use textual evidence in their work, they will get more eyes.  We'll see where this goes. They seem to like them already.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Low Carb Request

As I posted earlier this week, I made a few people agitated. I guess no one probably had ever requested what I did. I didn't ask for extra food. I didn't cut in line. I didn't take one too many ketchups. (I even stopped asking for mustard.)So what could I have done to cause such consternation? What exactly caused the earth to stop spinning on its axis?  I asked for cheese sauce by itself and then proceeded to ask for the ground beef without including, wait for it, the round tortilla chips. Apparently, that is no no. The lunch lady peered at me. Her look can be described as being partially put off by the request and partially in a state of shock. She said, "We cannot sell it to you this way?" I put my hands up and said, "I can't have the carbs." I don't think she understood. I could have said that I was allergic to the chips, but the wouldn't be true. It could be debatable though. I mean, I have gained some excess pounds because I have consumed too many chips. My body seems be swollen because of it. I am trying to eat low carb now. She kept insisting that she couldn't sell me this. Her manager intervened. I then said, "I can't have the carbs. I will pay full price." I hoped that comment would alleviate some of the pain and confusion that I had caused by my cheese and ground beef request. A manager intervened and said, "She can't have the carbs." The manager suggested that I would have the cheese and ground beef with two servings of corn. I only really wanted cheese sauce, ground beef, corn, and pinto beans. I was going to put them together and eat it that way. I didn't think I needed to share every detail. I was stopped cold at cheese sauce. I accepted their peace offering of double corn because by then I was a little afraid to ask for the beans. There you have it!  I ended up with a little serving of cheese sauce, meat, and two servings of corn.

The next day, I saw that the cafeteria was serving cucumbers. I thought I would like two servings of cucumber to go with the lunch that I had brought. I was hesitant to go and ask for that because the lunch lady that served me yesterday was serving today. I didn't want to confuse her and make her go off the deep end. I decided to ask anyhow because the cucumbers looked so delicious. When I walked up to her station, she was writing something down and moved across the room to talk with some staff in the back. I don't know if that was intentional because she didn't want to have to deal with the crazy teacher who orders cheese sauce without chips or if she had some other work to do. I stayed there and waited for thirty and then decided that the cucumbers would have to wait until another day. I was down to 23 minutes of my lunch time by this time.

In honor of that day, I have created a meme with Kevin Hart. It represents how I perceived the lady as she looked at me. I wonder if she was thinking these thoughts. I am using some hyperbole in this depiction. The whole event was rather comical to me. I had no idea that leaving out the carbs was so offensive. I just think she wasn't ready for my healthy or somewhat healthy request. I guess I can't ask for mustard anymore either. Oh, well!

20,000 Page Views!

Today is a grand day!  I reached a mini milestone of sorts. Since I started this blog a few years back, I wanted it to be better than my first blog called  I stopped using that blog. (It is still in existence, but I don't post there anymore.)  I wanted the autonomy to post what I wanted without any organization to have ownership of my blog. It was hard to stop posting from my first blog, but I tried to move all the posts from my justwritebaby1 over my current blog. I wish that I could have brought over the members and the page views with me. I had around 54,000 page views when I moved to this blog full time. Now, as of today, I have 20,000 pages views. Not bad!  I feel proud of this number of pages views.  My ultimate goal is to get to 100,000 pages views in the next few years and see where my blogging can go. To you, the audience, thanks for checking in from time to time to read my blog posts. I also want to thank the people who comment as well. Lastly, I want to thank my class. They are my inspiration, support, and a source of ideas for posts. There are others who continue to encourage me to blog. Thanks for your support. I will try to post more often. I made a meme in honor of twenty thousand pages views. Mil gracias!