Hello Summer!

Well, I’ve got no good excuses.  I’ve been MIA for TOO LONG. So here is the run down of my life lately:

  • I HEART Pure Barre! Get the deal on Living Social if you live in the Clearwater Area.  If not, find a deal in your area and try it.  55 minutes a day will change your life!
  • Summer is here! I am enjoying every minute of it and stepping into my summer groove.
  • Loads of New TpT products posted! I don’t want this to be a product overload site, though:) I like to  write for the pure joy of writing:)
  • Currently reading: If I Stay by Gayle Forman and The Book Thief (STILL!) AND Kristin Hannah’s True Colors
  • My favorite thing about summer in Florida is the afternoon/evening torrential downpours!  It makes the heat and humidity bearable:)
  • Working on ME-externally and internally:)
  • Currently working on several projects which include a Narrative Writing Unit, Back to School Forms, Data Binder, Teacher Binder and too much more.  Brain is on overdrive, yet loving the time to let it go!

I am also currently trying to get my blog switched over to http://www.butterfliesanddaydreams.com.  However, it is all new to me, so takes a while! 🙂  I will keep you posted! I just wanted to drop a few lines to my lovely readers to let you know that yes, butterflies and daydreams DOES exist! And, as always- thank you for reading:)

Happy Summer!

Jessica

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Math Concept Posters + Giveaway!

Happy Friday! What a week! Let me start off by patting myself on the back for TWO blog posts this week!    Today’s post is a link up Blogger Product Swap with Learning to Be Awesome and The Core of Grade 4.  I have had the pleasure of using the The Core of Grade 4’s Math Concept Posters in my classroom. So, let’s get right to it.  I am excited to share this product with you!

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So, Math is not my strength.  Neither is Science.  I am a Reading and Writing girl at heart.  I live in books, notebooks, words, and pencils.  When I first looked at this product by Amy, I thought it would be a great tool to use with my students. We use Math Journals every day and most of our Math Workshop is spent in our notebooks.  I was excited to use this as an anchor chart for my students in their notebooks. I debated about how to use this resource in my classroom because it really lends itself to being used in so many ways!  Amy suggested it could be used in their math journals, as an assessment, or developed as a class.  I work at a Title One school and we have an extremely diverse population. My classroom includes ESE, ESOL, Gifted, and regular ed students. The range of math levels in my classroom is very wide.  So, I chose not to start this with my whole group, but rather two students.  I did this for two reasons:

  1. To better understand how to answer the questions!  The questions are GREAT questions and if students have mastered the standard, they should be able to answer the question! I love it. I should be able to answer the question as well.  Lol 🙂 I am new to 4th grade after being in 3rd grade for a LONG time and 5th for one year.  I have to learn everything I teach this year.  I love 4th grade, but it has been a very overwhelming year. And 4th grade Math is kind of crazy! 🙂
  2. To see how my students responded.  I began this work with two of my higher level students to gauge how my highest level response might look like in my classroom.  This gave me a point of reference when I use these in the future with the other students in the classroom.

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I started using the Math posters with my gifted student.  I pulled two of the concept posters based on what we have already learned about fractions.

She knocked my socks off.

I started by sitting down with her and showing her the first poster.  (I shrunk them down 85% so we could glue them in our math notebooks. Next time, I will probably shrink them a tad more.)  We did the first question together, which was “How can I use efficient strategies to compare fractions?”  I just began this conference with the question, expecting to discuss her thoughts and how she would answer it.

Her eyes began to sparkle and she timidly asked if she could just write  on the paper. She’s always one step ahead. She then proceeded to give two examples and then labeled her strategies.  I encouraged her to explain a little bit more.  She was good to go on this task, so I gave her the two fractions posters of the material we have already learned and told her to just work on the rest of the questions answering them the same way that she did.  She literally ran back to her desk to get started.  It was hilarious.

Later, during our Math Intervention, I had her work with another student to complete the posters together.  It was heartwarming to watch these two girls excitedly try to figure out how to answer the questions while discussing all the things we have been learning about fractions so far.

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For higher level students, the questions offer a nice challenge for students to answer and make their own chart for their Math Journal.  This could also be used for an assessment after learning the unit.  I will probably use these as a wrap up activity when we end our unit on fractions.  I might have my students complete with a partner and then have a gallery walk around our classroom.  As I experimented with these two students, I learned so much about what they could do and where I could go next to extend their thinking.  These concept posters turned into such a natural yet higher level assessment.  The best part?  My students loved it!

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I am ecstatic with how this worked out with my students! 🙂 I am nowhere near finished using this product.  I am only on the tip of the iceberg.   It is often very difficult to meet all the needs of all of your students.  The past few years, I have worked to find ways to continually challenge my higher level students.  This resource is another way to do that.

You might also want to check out her store The Core of Grade 4 because she has these Concept Posters for grades 3-5 on a variety of concepts in Math and Science!  I had a very difficult time making a choice because I could use them ALL!! 🙂  I already have the rest of my Fractions, Place Value and Measurement Posters ready to go!

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Next week, we are getting into Fractions and Decimals.  These concept posters are going to help keep me focused!

Now that you have heard all about this resource and seen the magic in action, enter our giveaway for a chance to get this product for FREE!!!

Amy is also reviewing a product of mine over at her blog The Core of Grade 4.  You can check out my product Bookagram and enter our giveaway for my product.  We’ve got your Math and Reading fix on a  Friday!

I hope you have a great weekend and thank you so much for stopping by!  🙂

Who Was…? A Biography Project

Happy Monday!! It has been a productive one around here Smile  As I write these words, I also realize some of the events of today.  I was very excited to be off today and have the morning to myself to complete at least ONE new product.  The way I work tends to be 20 things going at the same time.  (Anybody with me?)  However, I really needed the feeling of accomplishing SOMETHING! As teachers, I think we have high ambitions for our breaks from school.  I know I do!  So, I woke up early, started the coffee, and got my Netflix going for some background noise while I worked.  It never really feels like work when you’re “watching TV.”

Well, Titan wasn’t having it.  After about an hour of working, Titan knocked over a water bottle and it landed on my laptop.  It’s hard to be mad at him when I did leave the cap off…

So, that computer is being drained for the next few days after I did some high quality research on you tube and google.  (If you have any other suggestions, please let me know!)  I then began working on my personal laptop to finish the following project.  Then, I did some yoga in our living room.  I wish I had a video camera set up to record how that went with Titan in the house! He thought it was playtime! Smile

Without further ado, I am going to tell you about my latest project.  This is my very first blog post about a product I have on Teachers Pay Teachers, so here goes!!! Smile

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This product came as a result of my 3rd grade students last year (2013).  In our district, we have an additional 30 minutes for Reading Intervention outside of the regular 90-120 minute block.  During this time, students are either pulled out if they are ESE/ESOL or they work in a small group with me.  What to do about those other students?  We have computers and I rotate students through those as well as rotations through a group with me.  However, I wanted something more engaging than simply reading independently.  I love to read and they do too (it is a requirement in my class that you love to read Winking smile

I had a handful of higher level boys who seemed to really enjoy the Who Was.. ? series.  It was adorable how excited they got to learn about different people! Seriously, I had to special order Who Were the Beatles?

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After seeking out multiple copies from my beloved teacher friends, I partnered students up with the books and gave them this sheet to keep track of what they learned. I started a small Biography Unit (which is another incomplete project)  and after reading a couple of these books. (2 hours each-easy reads for adults) I noticed a pattern with these books.  I used the pattern of the books to create questions which would keep my kids focused on events, the characters/subjects, and why this person was important-what they learned.  This was the end result.  I have tweaked it since I used it, but the questions are still the same.

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Students completed this sheet as they read.  I explained to them what they were to do.  1) Read the book 2) As they read, look for the answers to these questions 3)  Write an essay telling all about this person, using the graphic organizer as a guide to their writing  4)  Create a poster about their person

This was really all the guidance I gave my students last year.  I wanted to learn from them and see what they would do.  Students are OUR greatest teachers.  They did amazing.  When we did these projects toward the end of the year, we had already worked on Informational Essays.  So, it was nice to see them use some of these strategies.  As for the posters-some were better than others, but they all put forth tremendous effortSmile  What amazed me the most was the enthusiasm and engagement.  If you look at the first student’s poster with his essay attached, this was a child that had already been retained twice,  had MANY home issues, and way too many absences.  He took this project to heart and worked harder on this than anything I had seen all year.  Melted. My. Heart.

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I wanted to use these again this year, so I updated the format and added a template because my students needed a little more guidance.  Also, it would be nice to have a smaller version of these so they could do these more often with different people.  This is the poster template included in the product.

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And because it is a Writing Project I included some publishing paper.  Two versions because I couldn’t decide!!!

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If you like this writing paper, you should check out my Planned, Polished, & Published Writing Paper Pack here.

So there it is, folks!  My first attempt at a Product Post! Lol! Smile I hope you are having a fabulous Monday night.  If you are a teacher, I am sure you are because you do not have to teach in the morning! Cheers to vacation!

Thanks for stopping by!

Jessica

 

The Power of a Writer

So, I’ve been slacking on the writing part of my life.  And every time I do, I just want to kick myself.  I am currently working on several Writing Units for my TPT store.  They just take so long because I am meticulous, yet scatterbrained.  A deathly combination.  I am too darn passionate about too many things.  I care about EVERYTHING.  I have tried to calmy  explain this to Ryan.  Alas, it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people.  Anyhoo- as I am working tonight on one of my 478 projects, I came across something I wrote 4 years ago at the Poynter Institute Writers Camp.  This was a camp run for 4th-8th grade students and teachers at the Poynter Institute for Journalism and Media Studies in St. Petersburg by Roy Peter Clark.  AMAZING.  That is a whole other blog post!

One of the benefits of this 3 week camp was the visitors or presenters.  One day, the author and journalist Tom French spoke to us- the teachers and students.  At the time, I was enthralled and obsessed with Harry Potter.  I would like to say I got over that, but it’s not true.  Well, he told us how his newborn had some issues when she was born and he read Harry Potter to her at the hospital.  Before I say more, I am including below what I wrote after this presentation.  If it makes you tear up, please know this is how I felt as his story touched my heart and reminded me why I read, more importantly, why I write.

The Power of a Writer

By Jessica Bullock

Mildred Helms Elementary, 5th Grade Teacher

“The power of a writer.  Stories matter.”  When Tom French tells a story, people listen.  He creates a sound that grabs you and captivates your attention.  The stories are detailed and heartwarming.  They leave you hanging on to every word, wondering what will happen next, and hungry (actually starving) for more.  Writers have an eye for a good story.  They can elicit a story wherever they go. In their home, in a school, or even in a zoo finding a way to develop characters.

Tom wanted to be a writer since he was 10.  Slapping his notebook in his hands, he was inspired daily by Mrs. Bell as she read to him each and every day.   One day that teacher, who he would forever remember, announced they would be writing a story.  In Tom’s words, this was when a lightning storm came over his head because he was ready.  He was ready to write his own story after years of listening to other writers tell their story.  That storm is never-ending because he continues to constantly tell stories today.  Stories that matter.

In his book, Zoo Story, he tells stories of Lowry Park Zoo, bringing the animals to life and helping us to understand their individual personalities.  On that hot, summer day in July at Writers Camp, every child (and adult) hung onto his words as he told us these stories. Enshalla, a ferocious tiger. 11 elephants on 1 airplane.  Herman, the chimp, who thought he was human.  And the one story that stuck out to us all was Junebug- his daughter.

At 3 months old, Juniper August weighs 3 pounds, which is tripling her birth weight.  She fights to make it through one more day.  One more night.  This is where her father comes in to help wage her war.  Each day, Junebug listens as her father tells the story of Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived.  She listens as his story unfolds.  She listens to his losses, his tragedies, and his battle for the good vs. evil.

She listens as he continues to lose people that matter most to him, yet he never gives up.   Junebug may not be able to understand every word J.K. Rowling has written, but her father’s voice, calm, tells her a story. Makes her happy.  Soothes her.  Tom French knows this makes her happy because her monitors go up to show that more oxygen is saturating her blood as he reads the story.

He knows which characters are her favorite. Dobby, who doesn’t love Dobby? He know which characters scare her (so many…).    He knows that he had to change Hagrid’s rough voice. Not because he is a villain, but because she needs to hear the sweet soothing sound of her father’s voice that reassures her everything will be okay.

Scientific proof is in front of him, revealing that his storytelling is making a difference and that the writer of those books, J.K.Rowling has power.  She has power as a writer.  Tom knows this because he is a writer.  His beliefs are confirmed by his daughter.  Junebug receives her strength from the sweet calm of her father’s voice telling a story.  And she continues the fight.  Fighting hard because she wants to know what her father is going to say next in his stories.

With three books published and the luxury of hearing him tell a story- we know the power of Tom French, the Writer.  But now…after hearing the beginning of Junebug’s story, The Girl Who Lived, we know also that one more thing is for certain.

Stories matter.

Motivation

Motivation

Oh, how I love Pinterest! Sometimes it’s like picking up a favorite book off of your bookshelf to hear exactly what you need hear.  Or should I say read.  Today was one of those days when you question your career choice.  I truly LOVE teaching.  I love sharing my passion for reading and writing, then seeing how my students catch that bug like it’s contagious.  For example, today we finished The Tiger Rising.  Let me pause and just reminisce on that for a moment.  I think this may be my favorite children’s book.  Somehow, Kate DiCamillo topped my love for Harry Potter.  Congratulations, Kate!  You win! I don’t know why or how this book hasn’t been turned into a movie.

As we were reading the book, I kept telling my students I was going to tear up.  They didn’t believe me. Today, they saw it.  Those last few chapters are a doozy! She is a powerful writer.  So powerful.  I’ve come to realize this is how a book makes it to my favorites list- makes me cry.  (i.e. Mockingjay, Because of Winn-Dixie, Harry Potter)Isn’t that what we want?  To read a book that tugs at our hearts?  Keeps us on the edge of our seats? Makes us feel the emotions our characters are feeling?  It sure doesn’t feel like fiction to me-we’ve come to know these characters and journeyed alongside them as they face obstacles and turmoil.

Back to the point of today’s post. Motivation.  Clearly as you can see above, my motivation every day is watching my students experience what it means to be a reader and a writer.  Dare I say, these things matter more to me than Math or Science. Because I know how Reading and Writing have helped me to deal with life.  Not just my job or my career, but life.  I know that when I have a day like today, I can come home and find a wonderful quote or insight. Or I can pick up the book I’ve been reading and hope something finally happens even though I am halfway through! Or I can go back to one of my favorites on the bookshelf.  Either way, I am escaping into a world that enthralls me and embraces me.  I feel a sense of calm in a world chaotic, crazy, and sometimes crippling.

Motivation.  What motivates us at work?  I found the above photo on Pinterest and of course it is from TEDBlog and is linked to the full blog post which analyzes, “What motivates us at work?” If you would like to see the full blog, you can find it here.

The one that speaks to me the most is:

“Positive reinforcement about our abilities may increase our performance.”

Isn’t this true? Especially for teachers.  Just as our students need to hear that they are doing something (ANYTHING)  well-so do teachers.  Not just from our kids, who probably love us the most and matter the most, but from our colleagues, parents, and administrators.

What are your thoughts?  What motivates you at work?  Is it different for you every day?  I think it is for me.  Tomorrow, I might be motivated by “positive images.”  Or maybe they all matter every day?  Points to Ponder 🙂

Happy Tuesday! I hope you are having a merry week!

christmas_baking_elfkin4-Jessica

Book Clubs

Hello December! The holidays are flying by! Thanksgiving came and went.  Now, I am feeling the pressure to get my holiday shopping completed. Dare I say, I have not even started.  (Shocking, I know!)

Moving right along to a fascinating topic-Book Clubs!

Using Book Clubs in the classroom can be one of the most fascinating projects, but also an overwhelming force to be reckoned with.  We started Book Clubs in my 4th grade classroom before Thanksgiving Break.  I am working on a Book Club bundle right now, but I wanted to keep a record and ongoing chronicle of how it’s going in my classroom.  This is the beginning of that journey.  So far, we have done the following:

Day 1:  Organized our Book Clubs, I assigned the books and groups.  Students unpacked their Book Club folders and gave themselves a name.  They set goals for finishing  the book, how long it would take them, how many pages per day.

Day 2:  We had a fishbowl Book Club conversation so students could see what the Book Club conversation should look like & sound like.

Day 3-4:  Book Clubs met and I circulated the room and helped guide the conversations.

Day 5:  We are here:)

So, my next post will provide more details & pictures about what I have found works and doesn’t work:)  Stay tuned!

-Jessica

November

Hey, guys!  Well, it’s been some time.  The last time I posted was Labor Day weekend.  Egads! Much has happened since Labor Day.  Here is a rundown:

  • I’ve posted at least 5 almost posts
  • we’ve moved into a new house in Clearwater (LOVIN IT!!)
  • Halloween came and went- BOO:(:(:(
  • my students and I have read Indian in the Cupboard-  I don’t know how I never read this book as a child, but it didn’t happen.
  • we have moved on to my favorite Read-Aloud:  The Tiger Rising

First Two Weeks of School + Happy Labor Day Weekend

Well, I have officially made it through the first two weeks of school. Our Open House was on Thursday. I was not too keen on having Open House the second week of school. However, it makes sense to not have it too much later so that parents aren’t expecting an individual conference 🙂 My Open House went well. I don’t know how other teachers feel, but it always feels like I have to cram so much information into a very small amount of time. And then do it all over again. (Our school has two sessions in case parents have students in other grades.) I hope they think my jokes are as funny as I do!! 🙂 I think I am a riot! But, sometimes I have to check to see if Ryan heard me or not when I make a joke. He forgets to laugh sometimes, so I have to remind him to be a good audience.

ANYWHOO…

It is Labor Day weekend and time to relax after a hectic couple of weeks. We have minimal plans this weekend so we can truly enjoy the extra day off. Today, we went to our current usual spot—Firehouse Subs.  They have the BEST hot subs.  I am not even a little ashamed that I inhale a whole large sub.  Every time.  And yes, that is the same amount as my boyfriend.  It is so good.   Now, I am getting the look that it is time to shut down the computer and watch the Gator Game!!

GO GATORS!!!!!!:):)

 

 

My routine has been altered. My Mondays no longer are spent catching up on Netflix and taking Titan out to play.

Summer, Don’t Go!

I can’t lie.  I get VERY excited for the beginning of the school year!!!! At the same time, I have had a much needed and very relaxing summer.  It is so typically human of me to feel nostalgia for the summer which hasn’t completely left yet, but anxious to get back into the school year groove.  I get a little stir crazy towards the end of July, but I’ve worked on many personal projects this summer, including: this blog,  my personal writing, my TPT store, and Netflix. 😳

Nonetheless, yesterday began my transition back to the school year (math training😳).  My friend and I laugh about how a new school year for us is really like the official “New Year” rather than January 1st.  I think I might wear my Happy New Year party hat for the first day of school 🙂  Seriously.  I was joking about that, but I think my kids would get a kick out of it AND one of Lucy Calkins’ first lessons in her new Common Core 3rd grade writing units of study is setting goals for the New Year.  I think this really might happen in my classroom.   I will be sure to write a post…with pictures:)

Although many people think teachers have the dream job of having summers off, -okay so I was going to point out how we work so hard, etc.  But I need to say  YES! It is fantastic having the summers off.  Sometimes when I wonder what else I could be doing in my life, what other career…I then remember I would probably have to work during the summer.  Then, I forget about the new career entirely (unless it involved writing full time😀).  However, the past 2 summers have been the first real summers I have actually had off and not been teaching, working at a summer camp, working a second job, or in school myself.

I have still done a lot of school work the past few months, which I would NEVER get done during the school year.  So, yes-teachers need summers off.  I left out the part of the mental regrouping which is essential for this job.

What I have enjoyed MOST about my summer would be spending time with Titan.  Speaking of Titan, he was selected by our vet as the Boarder of the Month for July & we received a gift certificate for 2 nights of free boarding!! WOOHOO! Time to plan a vacation!😄 We are so proud of him! Of course, Ryan and I act like it is our child bringing home the Student of the Month award.  It kind of felt like it.

Nice Work, Titan🎓

Nice Work, Titan🎓

To celebrate our star student and the last few days of summer I have left…we enjoyed some Chinese food, plus Ryan brought home Divergent (movie) fresh out of Redbox! I’ve been waiting to see this!!

I hope this Tuesday has treated you kindly!

 

Habits & Routines

Yesterday, Ryan & I went to Barnes & Noble in search of a book I accidentally left at school, but wanted to do some work with over the summer.  We didn’t find the book, but I sure did enjoy my trip to the bookstore!  There is something so magical about walking through a bookstore, especially Barnes & Noble.  I know we have an endless amount of knowledge at our fingertips via the internet, but there is a big difference between an article about a topic and a book about a topic!  Plus, I had a gift card from my birthday 🙂  Barnes & Noble  had a lot of books on clearance & I came home with some well-priced quality reads.

My Bookshelf:)

My Bookshelf:)

Ryan also surprised me with the book on the bottom (Night Road by Kristin Hannah) later when we were at home.  I was looking at it earlier and decided not to get it because I already had a few books in my hand and more at home waiting to be read.  While I had my nose in any and every book, he bought it and ran it out to the car.  He is so thoughtful 🙂  One of the many reasons I love him so much!

I bought the book 90 Days to Your Novel in hope for a little inspiration.   I’ve already read 35 pages and come across some key points which are impertinent to succeeding in this project.

  • The secret to success , after all, is not your inspiration, remember, but your habits.  (pg. 15)
  • Writers do not wait around for inspiration to give them an idea.  “Instead they rely upon routine, upon self-determination.” (p. 16)

And I just wanted to add on something Roy Peter Clark said, which has stuck with me.  We may not be able to write a whole book in a day (or at all) simply because the enormity of the task paralyzes us, but we can write a page a day.  Breaking projects down into small parts will help us feel more successful because we can actually  accomplish small chunks.  These chunks will later lead to the bigger projects, but you may be more likely to complete the big project.  This is a huge realization for me.  And it’s not even that I didn’t know it-it’s just I don’t PRACTICE it.

The book really got me thinking about  my habits and routines.  Sure, I know I have them, but what are they?  Truth be told, it is currently difficult for me to label my habits and routines because I have been on Summer Break for the last couple of months and my “routine” is typically more of a question of: What am I in the mood to do?  This has been extremely nice, but I am a girl who LOVES routines and NEEDS them.  However, having  a dog requires some form of routine & I have a typical exercise routine, as well as a daily routine during the week when Ryan is at work.

Carving out real time for writing will require me to make some decisions  & sacrifices in other areas.  ESPECIALLY, when the school year starts.  Being a teacher, I do not think it is realistic for me to expect to have a novel written in 3 months.  But, if I’ve got a good chunk written and have a direction -I will be ecstatic!  I love to write and this has been a dream of mine since I can remember.  As I get older, I realize that soon other parts of my life will require more attention and I may not be able to focus on this dream goal as much as now.  So…NOW is the time.