Thank you Spring Break:)
Posted by newbie-tchr at 1:25 pm in 1

This past week was Spring Break, and I could not think of two better sounding words in the English language. A week off was awesome, and was just long enough that I was excited to come back, versus the dread you sometimes feel after a short three day weekend.

Besides mooning over spring break, I did want to share an activity that I did right before the break, reviewing some history figures that my great state has determined children need to know about.My dilemna during my “postWWII culture” unit was that the state required my students to know about Ray kroc, the original franchiser of McDonalds, and not topics that I thought were more valuable, like say – Watergate, Iranian Hostage Crisis, Women’s Liberation Movement, etc.

My solution was to shove Mr. Kroc and some other less than stellar historical characters picked by the State standards to exist in a homework assignment/game, so that I could spend more time on topics I thought were more important. I’m attaching two different versions of the assignment, differentiated for different levels, and the review game we used on the due date. (I gave the kids 4 or 5 days to do this)The review game is a history-fied version of my all-time favorite board game – Taboo. Simply divide the class into boys v. girls, and have them play “taboo” projecting the names on to a white board that only the groups can see. Flipping back and forth between boys and girls, give each team 30 seconds to get their representative (who is turned so they can’t see the projector) to say the name. The catch is that in each level, it gets harder, with an increase in words they can’t say – just like the real taboo! My template is incredibly simple, but the idea can be recreated to span any unit in history. It gets a bit loud – but the kids definitely loved it!

My Supplies:

1.  The “harder” version I used for the Gifted and Talented classes…this one requires access to a computer at home, so I gave enough time for the assignment so they could work at school if

2. The “easier” version I gave to my gen-ed kids, less challenging BUT it focuses on the more difficult information…academic-guess-who.doc

3. The PowerPoint game we played during class on the day it was due…VERY simple outline, but easily edited!taboo.ppt

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Behavior Management Refresher
Posted by newbie-tchr at 1:05 pm in 1

Every week, the Principal sends out an article to the staff about some method or finding in education to keep us up to date, which I think is a really nice way to 1) remind me to look at new ideas and 2) give me something to do while the kids are taking exams. The other week he sent us one that encouraged teachers to simply talk more with students, in the hopes of developing a more open relationship.

The article was good, and with some extra time to kill (I know, a rarity) I figured I’d give it a try. WELL, I will definitely say I have a more “open” relationship with some of my students…but I’m wondering if these kind of strategies were developed with 7th graders in mind.

Things I now know about my students…some hilariously bad, some very cute and good:

1. A few enjoy lighting things on fire in mall parking lots…oh joy

2. A girl who seems to be failing all her classes may be doing so because she hangs out in parking lots checking out “skater boys” all weekend

3. One child is a tennis pro who just got featured in the local newspaper. (he ended up bringing the article in and it’s now hanging up in the classroom!)

4. One student runs a babysitting business…major flashbacks to reading babysitters club books on that one

5. Another kid literally plays 20 hours of video games a weekend. 20 HOURS!

6. A few now watch the History Channel because they think it’s more interesting…this warmed my little nerd heart.

7. I was apparently the only middle schooler not allowed to watch rated R movies…because it seems like ALL of them do it now, and quite frequently.

Although it does take time, all in all, I’d say the experiment was a success. The best part about it was that after I asked once, the kids have continued to talk more openly to me, and I can definitely notice a greater sense of community. Excluding a new fear of parking my car in mall parking lots where they hang out – success.

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Projector Questions
Posted by newbie-tchr at 9:47 pm in 1

In my classroom I’ve got two options for displaying things for kids…old school overhead projector OR a digital projector from the computer. The issue? For reasons unbeknownst to me, my computer projector is ever so precariously balanced on…crates.

And while I love writing on things with markers, the old school projector just isn’t cutting it for me. The question is: does anyone know of a way to place the computer projector in a safer, more effective manner that makes the images large and out of the way of my students? I’ve asked the techies if it would be possible to hang it from the ceiling, and apparently that’s a no-go. I know it’s a long shot, but if anyone has creative ideas for projector “placeage” I’d be eternally grateful!

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Woes of a Teacher Work Room
Posted by newbie-tchr at 8:00 pm in 1

(I think it’s safe to say there’s a generation gap there)

At the last school I was at, there was a really  young faculty. I mean really young – the average teacher at that High school was around 27 years old. Even though I really like everyone I’m working with, the first thing I noticed was the huge change in age differences. Teaching in a suburban area with not many colleges around means that theirs definitely less rotation of teachers, and the average age of the faculty is probably closer to 41.

It’s not bad at all, but it is a little bit of a culture shock. At the last school, all of the teachers would get together and talk about our weekends, swap dating stories – and nothing off limits. At my new school – lunch room conversation has been relegated to potty training, gardening techniques, and the more than occasional gripe about students. I’ve been trying to keep it to myself all month, but I won’t lie – I hate hearing about potty training, diapers, dr’s appointments for kids, etc. Not to mention the negativity I hear vented in there about students/parents, etc. I miss the days where I went in to the teacher work room and felt like I was escaping the stresses of a bad day, and walked out feeling ten times better.

What’s funny is that I’ve slowly migrated through the teacher work room to sitting towards the younger teachers, or the male teachers. Simply because they’re the only ones who have conversations that don’t involve adolescents or things that I won’t experience in another 20 years. Today, I had a 20 minute conversation about Jon Stewart with some older male teachers, and it was the first time in two weeks that I didn’t walk out of the work room thinking “I’m so glad I don’t have kids.”  I won’t lie – it felt amazing.

I don’t mean to complain about the age gap, it’s really not bad normally. It’s actually been awesome hearing some of the stories that the more experienced teachers have the share, not to mention that without their help the past few weeks my classroom would have exploded. But sometimes, I do wish there was a rule in the lunchroom limiting how much time gets spent on conversations either being really negative or about things so unthrilling as “potty presents.”

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Long term subbing is long term exhausting
Posted by newbie-tchr at 4:39 pm in 1

 As apparent by my absence the past 2-3 weeks, I’ve been CRAZY busy with teaching 7th grade US hist. It’s awesome, but I won’t lie – coming in at the end of the year leaves a lot of things to learn and quickly catch up on. In the past few weeks I’ve had to go through training on all kinds of tech/daily routine stuff, learn 135 names in 2 days, lesson plan, grade, lesson plan – and did I say grade?

I’m hoping that in the next few weeks I get into a groove, and get used to the schedule and learn to work quicker on things that need to be done. Fantastic help though – this school has “copy moms” who come in and make all your copies you need, twice a week, and it saves SO much time. Definitely an incentive to plan ahead…which I still don’t do often enough.

The biggest transition so far is getting used to how much more involved these parents are, and the bigger load of busy work middle schoolers are given. And by busy work, I mean worksheets that I would normally never grade with 12th graders- but are expected to be graded at this age group. I get their value to some extent, they just take up soooo much time!

Besides the busy work issues – the kids are great. I have 3 G/T classes, and 2 lower level classes, one of which has an instructional assistant because of IEP requirements. The kids are great – per usual, the lower level kids are my favorite, they’re just so much more fun in my opinion. The IA is nice in regards to having someone there to help with little tasks like passing out papers, or helping my more unfocused kids stay on task, but it is a bit weird having another adult in there while you teach. Still getting used to the idea of being observed by a peer I guess. But it is fantastic, and I’m hopeful that in the coming days I’ll have more to share about technology & other issues I come to face in the classroom!

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“I can’t believe I just got pwned”
Posted by newbie-tchr at 2:50 pm in 1

One week down & I still love it. The first day I spent getting to know the kids, and the rest have been spent combining that AND trying to teach our new unit on WWII. The teacher and then long-term sub before me weren’t big on technology & while I haven’t used much, (in my book) the kids are in shock at the difference between me and them. I thought I’d share some of my favorite tools from this week in case anyone was looking for new ideas!

1. Online Stopwatch – my savior. One of my many problems is that I’m constantly running out of time & am horrible at reminding the kids to pace them selves. Enter this site – all I have to do is project a running stopwatch that counts down the minutes the kids have left on an assignment. This week I used  it to pace kids during a jigsaw activity and it worked perfectly!

2. Pandora – I know this isn’t a new site at all, but I think I use just as much at work as I do in my personal life. I’ll avoid the commercial for what I think is one of the best music sites EVER & just explain how I use this in my classroom. As a rule, music is one of my favorite behavior management techniques. Anytime there’s small group work, or an activity that’s more hands on, I play (calmish) music in the background. The kids all know my rule – as long as I can hear my music, you may talk. But the instant I can’t hear my Jack Johnson station – talking privileges are gone. It’s hilarious if you ever want to hear kids shush each other and say the words “I can’t hear Rob Thomas guys, we should really be quieter.”

3. Sporcle – Again, not a new site, but that doesn’t mean we should forget how awesome it is. What I like about Sporcle are all the quizzes they have on school appropriate, content-related, topics.  I’m making my kids take a map quiz of Europe during the WWII unit, and Sporcle is a great way to have them practice in and out of class. All I do is project it, or have students work on it in pairs and see who can answer the quiz the quickest. The kids love it, and during chill days I’ll sometimes reward them with quizzes on non-school subjects, like NFL teams, or Harry Potter. And the title of this blog post does come from a sporcle match. A child challenged me to a Harry Potter quiz-off, and after being dominated I heard him tell his friend “I can’t believe I just got pwned by Ms. B.” Haha, sorry kids.

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And we’re off!
Posted by newbie-tchr at 11:16 pm in Firsts, GREAT day!, subbing

Very excited – longterm subbing has officially begun! Today was day two – I was going to update this yesterday, but here’s a shocker: I was EXHAUSTED. Immediate thoughts from only 2 days in the field:

1. Why am I so hungry all the time now?

2. I would not be opposed to going to bed at 8pm for the next few days.

3. I love middle schoolers…they’re both funny to work with and sometimes surprisingly sweet.

4. Someone should seriously consider putting an IV drip of caffeine in my classroom so I have constant access.

5. Huge gaps between sone of my classes…this might be the year I dominate differentiation. As though student teaching wasn’t practice enough.

I’m planning on fleshing my thoughts out more as the week goes on, but I can honestly say that I am so excited to be teaching (finally) and really do love it so far.  Right now I’m in the beginning of a unit on WWII, so in addition to my rantings/questions, I’ll try to share any cool resources I come across!

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Highs and Lows of Subbing Art, Day 2
Posted by newbie-tchr at 11:43 pm in 1


1. Had a teacher ask if I could sub just her class, since she liked how they interacted with me.
2. I got paid to color – could not be more ok with this.
3. Kindergarteners. Could they be more adorable?


1. First Graders. Whatever happens in that year between first and kindergarten produces a lot of tattling and snot.
2.  Oil pastels, meet my khaki pants.
3.  Oil pastels, meet the classroom carpet.

Only 3 more school days until I officially take over in my new longterm sub position…SO excited to be the newest 7th grade US history teacher:)

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…..5th graders
Posted by newbie-tchr at 10:43 am in students, subbing

Since the recent snow in my area meant that the schools were no longer taking President’s Day off, I subbed for an Art teacher at an elementary school nearby. Immediate thoughts: So glad I brought a book, Kindergarteners are adorable, Art can get really messy, really quick; and 5th graders are an abomination.

I called my mom afterwards and told her my new found opinion of 5th graders – which she thought were hilarious considering some of the stories I told her about my 12th graders, and how they didn’t bother me nearly as much. And honestly, I could have gotten a rotter of a class – but, here’s what kills me: 12th graders, I expect an attitude. I remember being 17 – you’re tired of high school and you think you’re the top dog. 5th graders are still so young, but the attitudes – maybe because they were unexpected were just exhausting. I don’t know how elementary school teachers do it. The blessing was that I just had them for a period versus the entire day.

Kindergarteners though – ohhh they’re so little and precious I could have had them all day.  There was just a wee bit of tattling and the occasional tears but they’re so cute I could have forgiven anything.

I will say I enjoyed it – especially since the teacher included really detailed art lesson plans. I have noooo idea what I would have done with all those kids without them! I’m subbing for another art teacher today, and fingers crossed she leaves some too. If not, I’m planning on remembering everything from yesterday and just redoing it today. And hopefully I get better 5th graders this time around…

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First day back subbing!
Posted by newbie-tchr at 9:52 am in 1


First day back subbing and I was exhausted. So exhausted I’m writing this the day after first subbing. I 100% felt like that that baby in the picture. The kids were great – I subbed for 8th grade civics at the same middle school I’ll soon be long term subbing at! The exhausting part was 1) getting used to waking up that early again, and 2) Standing allllll day in shoes that I once thought were comfortable. It’s funny, I think all my tolerance of standing for long periods of time from student teaching just got thrown to the wayside these past few months. I totally forgot how much that sucks the first week until you get used to it.

But back to the kids – they really were great. In comparison to some of the catastrophes I dealt with in high school, I actually was in shock a few times at how well-behaved they were. One period in particular – I didn’t even know it was possible for students to be that quiet. But towards the end of the class when they loosened up and started to get more comfortable, I could definitely tell Middle school will be fun. The kids were working on a President’s Cabinet research sheet, and my favorite suggestion for Department of Defense was Jackie Chan, because “his mad kong fu skills are an asset.” How can you not laugh at that?

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