Thursday, July 31, 2008

Home from Vacation :)

Do you ever have a whorlwind week that just exhausts you? :) If so, then you've been on vacation with my parents!!! I had to take naps and they were still going strong! (Mom is 71 and stepdad is 77)

Hubby and I went up on Friday night when he got off work and had a lovely dinner with my Dad/Stepmom before heading over to my Mom's house. Mom lives about an hour away from us and she wanted to leave Saturday morning at 4am to head to Wisconsin. My stepdad's sister lives there and is not in the best of health, so we wanted to make sure to see her while we still had the chance. As with all vacations, we had a couple of false starts before finally setting out about 4:45am. We drove for 11 hours total (plus pit stops and breakfast), arriving in Madison about 5:30pm. We went to see my aunt for a few minutes before checking into our hotel.

Sunday morning, we had breakfast, then it was off to the House on the Rock. I love this place! For $26, you can tour the entire grounds, including the world's largest carousel, the circus room, the streets of yesterday, the infinity room, etc. It is an amazing experience, but you are soon overwhelmed by all of the *stuff* that this guy collected. On the way home, I was worn out - we had spent about 5 hours touring through all of the grounds, so we stopped for dinner then did a bit of shopping. Madison has a 2-story Walmart, which was fascinating to me :) The first floor is a parking garage and you ride up an escalator to the store upstairs. When you come down to your car, there is even a escalator for your shopping cart... hubby wanted to keep riding that just for the cart fun :)

On Monday, we started our day with breakfast at Perkins, which is a neat diner-like chain with excellent food :) Then we were off to the aboretum (sp?) before going to Henry Vilas Zoo. The Zoo is in the middle of Madison, not too far from our hotel and is totally free. We did leave a donation of course! It was one of the best zoos I've ever been to! We spent about 3 hours there, then off to lunch at Culvers, which is a burger chain up there. Then we were off to Cave of the Mounds, just west of Madison for a tour. I have always been fascinated by caves - they are such geological marvels!

Tuesday, we started our day at Perkins once again, then off to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens and the Butterfly hatchery. Oh my goodness - what a GORGEOUS place! I could have spent all day in the gardens with a book and the waterfall beside me! Then off for a bit more shopping. On Sunday, when we had headed to the House on the Rock, we had noticed a cheese factory on the way, so we went to the Arena cheese factory to purchase some gifts. Since we were so close, we went to Talieson, which is Frank Lloyd Wright's homestead and took pictures of his home, the Midway farm, the Hillside school, and Unity Chapel, where he was orignally buried. His remains are no longer there, as his last wife's dying wish was for him to be buried in Arizona with her at Talieson West. Since the Talieson tour was $80/person, we stayed on county roads and took pictures from public access areas :)

Wednesday started the long trek back home. We left Madison at 5:30am and got back to Mom's about 6:00pm. Hubby and I pulled into our driveway about 7:30pm and totally exhausted. This weekend is a time for rest and school work :)

I will get pics uploaded as soon as I can! Between us and Mom, we took over 800 pictures this week!!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I think I'm getting old because if I don't write it down....

This week, I've been reading various teacher forums and message boards ( and One of the posts that commonly appears is about organization, lesson plan books, etc, so I decided to share my lesson plan book.

I have tried all sorts of commerical lesson plan books but they never worked for me. I needed an "agenda" of sorts to keep me organized - complete with lots of to-do list space, however I could never find one that fit my needs. (See Dan Meyer's blog dy/dan for more on to-do lists)

Thankfully, with the power of the internet, I was able to do some searching for agenda formats and piece together one of my own. I print out a year's worth (52 weeks) of these sheets, hole punch them and put them into a presentation folder - one of those that looks like a regular 3 prong folder w/ an acetate cover. Each week, the current sheet is on top, with older ones cycling to the back. I love this format because I have room for all of my to-do lists, appointment reminders, things that have to be done on a specific day, etc.

Two other must-haves for me organization-wise:
Printfree's yearly calendar - This is vital for me when dealing with pacing of my courses.
Monthly calendars for my students - I love these Word calendars because I can type my plans into them, print them out and hand them to my students for reference.

What do you use for organization?

P.S. - I had some more rambling thoughts last night but didn't want to make a new post :) So here they are...
I'm always on the lookout for new posters :) Here are some free printable ones if you have a color printer or you can save them off and take them to Kinko's to be enlarged...

Also, I really want to foster positive thinking in my classroom, so yesterday I found a you-tube video that I think I may show at the beginning of the year as kids are filling in their info sheets. I also thought about showing similar videos right before tests (during the passing period) to help the kids think positively. Any ideas??

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Lack of Motivation....

I have 3 weeks until I report to school... however, due to changes at my school, I'm not quite positive of my schedule yet. I know I will have 1 hour of AP Stat at the HS, the uni class of Intro Stats, but I don't know yet how many Geometry classes I will have at the HS because I may have to take on an AVID elective class. With 3 weeks left in summer and lots of uncertainity, I have not been as productive as I should be :( I know I need to get things to the copy shop ASAP, but until I know how many sections of Geometry I will be teaching, it's difficult to send things to the copy shop because I don't know how many copies to make. Thankfully I redid all of Geometry last year, so I don't need a lot of prep time this summer to whip it into shape.

That all said, I am struggling with getting things done. The ideas in my head keep swarming and I can't make them stop. I spent some time last week brainstorming with a friend, but that just made the confusion in my head worse :) I hate having to pin down to an idea because a better one might come along soon.

To make matters worse, I have had a very disjointed summer - this past week and this next week are the first time all summer that I have been home for two weeks in a row. Today (Sunday) is the first weekend all summer that I haven't just returned from a trip or prepping to take a new one.

What I'm suffering from is due to lack of motivation.... not even the school supply aisle has cheered me up :) So, instead, I'm turning to you! Help me out - what new things are you doing in your classrooms this year? What ideas do you have to share with others?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nose to the Grindstone...

It hit me yesterday... the kiddos come back in one (yes one!!!) month!! EEKKK!!!!! All together this summer, I have been gone for 3.5 weeks for staff development (and another week for meetings at my school), so it has been a very busy summer and I've not had a lot of down time overall. Starting this week, I am "home" for the rest of the summer (other than 5 days vacation w/ my family), so I'm trying to get things off my to-do list and sent to the copy shop.

One of my previous posts dealt with some changes I wanted to make. Since I value your opinions, I decided to post some of the changes as I get them finished....

First up is my previous notebook idea...
I knew I needed to come up with a rubric/grading sheet to help make life easier. I decided to modify my old assignment sheet and expand on it to list out the materials I wanted in their notebook and in the order I wanted it to appear. Here is a copy of the newly revised Unit 3 assignment sheet. I should also note that I decided to collect notebooks each unit rather than quarterly. This may end up being a hassle, but I'm willing to try it.

Since one of my goals this year is to work on study skills, I am requesting evidence of student note-taking as well as a summary sheet for each chapter that forces them to reflect on that chapter's material. The summary sheet is an adaptation/compilation of Power Notes from AVID plus I-can statements from a blog I read last week plus a bit of self-assessment and peer tutoring. I hope it works as well as it does in my head. heheh

I would love to hear your thoughts!! I look forward to your comments :)