Saturday, September 29, 2007


Vocabulary: Plethora
Everyday I spend about 10 minutes with my second graders working on a new vocabulary word of the day. The kids have a vocabulary journal. For each new word they write the definition, a synonym and antonym for the word, draw a picture and then use the word in a sentence. The words we have learned so far are commotion, elated, exuberant, lovely, fiction and plethora. I take the words from any of the core texts, from our read aloud stories or I will just open the dictionary to a random page and find a word. In the process, students learn new vocabulary but they also learn 3 other 2nd grade standards, synonyms, antonyms and dictionary skills.

I have been encouraging the students to use their new words right away so that they can incorporate them into their everyday vocabulary. I have also put out a little incentive for the kids. I told them that if they used the words in their journals and also when speaking to us at school, I might give them little tickets. (Tickets are placed in a jar and then at the end of the day I pull several and the kids pulled gets small treats)

The kids were of course very motivated to get treats. This week I have heard and seen LOTS of very simple sentences using our new words. That was rewarding to see. The most impressive use of newly learned vocabulary came yesterday from one of my students. Ramon is a tiny little boy who is still at the very beginning stage of English Development. He is limited in his abilities in English. We were in a kind of chaotic part of the day, during a transition, and he turned to me and said : "Ms. V., there is a plethora of commotion in our classroom!" It was so sweet, cute and wonderful that I just wanted to bend over and kiss him! I opted to congratulate him on his good use of vocabulary and of course, give him several tickets!

Monday, September 17, 2007

One of the Reasons I Love Teaching...

Today something wonderfully sweet happened that reminded me of one of the reasons that I love being a teacher.

I teach ELD (English Language Development) in a rotation with the rest of my second grade colleagues. Our students are divided up by proficiency level in English. My group is the beginners. Many times these kids are the newcomers. This year's class however was not comprised of newcomers though. The kids all speak basic enough playground English to get by but really struggle. Today, I got my first newcomer of the year.

"Karina" came to class somewhat nervous. She was confused because she didn't understand the whole rotation thing. I usually only speak in English during ELD time but today, I made an exception since I didn't want to stress Karina out even more. I conducted the lesson in English first and then in Spanish. That was quite a task for me since the lesson was on condensation. I didn't know the academic language in Spanish for condensation but I could explain the process. While Karina was nervous, she really jumped right on in repeated many phrases and got some English content vocabulary correct as well. Throughout the lesson I kept walking past her desk dropping off lots of positive praise or setting her up with kids seated next to her to play with her at recess and lunch. She smiled at me but didn't say much. Even though we didn't have much reciprocal communication I just had a good feeling about this girl. I was a bit sad that my homeroom class was full because I would love to have her in my room. When the rotation was over I told her how happy I was to meet her and that I would see her tomorrow.

I got to see her sooner than that. Karina came by a couple hours later during math time for a Spanish version of our math text. She came with a classmate again. The classmate handed me the note from her teacher asking for the book. I then turned to Karina, smiled and asked how her day was going. Karina then walked over to me and gave me the BIGGEST hug and just smiled at me and said she was fine. That just melted me.

As a child, I went to 6 different elementary schools and 3 different junior high schools. I know what it is like to be the new kid. I really do everything I can to make kids feel safe and comfortable when they are new. That enormous hug from Karina told me that she was thankful for my help and that I did my job well. I couldn't help but get teary eyed.

I love my job!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Techology Meets Room 38!

I found out on Friday morning that I "won" an Elmo (digital document camera) and a projector for my classroom. I was so excited. I spent the morning trying to set it up and by math time I was rolling. It is so, so awesome. Gone are the days of overheads...I don't need them. I simply place whatever I want to show the students under the camera and it shows up...amazing!

On Friday I also signed up for a Technology in the Classroom course. The class is about podcasting with your students. My big project for the course will be designing two lessons based around podcasting. It sounds like a lot of fun.

Teachers: Have you podcasted with your class before? If so...what did you podcast about?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Al Otro Lado

Today while browsing through movies at Hollywood Video I cam across the movie Al Otro Lado. I have seen this movie advertised for what seems like more than a year on Univision, Telemundo and Telefutura. I broke down and decided to watch it to see what all of the hype was. I am so glad that I did.

This movie is such a touching story of immigration and the story of the people who are left behind, mostyly through the eyes of children. Al Otro Lado follows 3 different children, one in Mexico, one in Cuba and the last in Morocco. I don't want to give more of the movie away but just want to recommend it to all. I really enjoyed it and am glad that I finally broke down and watched it.

Dirt and Worms

Dirt and Worms
Every year, in my ELD class I teach a farming/plant unit. It is a lot of fun. The academic focus of the unit is food vocabulary and basic sentence formation, both written and oral. It is a fun unit packed with lots of songs and chants as well as good fiction and non fiction paired readings in the texts. My favorite (and the kids' favorite) song is Dirt Made My Lunch by the Banana Slug String Band. On the last day of the unit I make Dirt and Worms with the kids. It is so much fun.

I bring in a bag of ground up Oreo's and tell the kids that I brought a sample of dirt from my house for an experiment. (I don't let them in on the fact that the "dirt" is really Oreo's) I pass the bag around for them to feel. Then we discuss all of the foods we eat and how they one way or the other come from the ground. Then I ask them that if food comes from the ground, then we should be able to eat dirt, right? They of course all say "no!" I then go on to say how I think they are right but my dirt is very clean. I then open up the bag and use a spoon to scoop up some "dirt" and eat a spoonful. They all groan and say "ewww!!!" I tell them that it is really quite tasty and ask for volunteers to taste my dirt. After about the 3rd volunteer it comes out that it is really cookies.

At this point, I pass out a recipe for Dirt and Worms. (I have to get to the standards somehow, right?) We read it, and plan out how we will prepare our snack. Then I pass out the ingredients and the kids "cook!" It is great fun and always fun to watch the kids. They always end up with chocolate pudding faces. How cute!

Dirt and Worms:
1 cup of chocolate pudding
2 teaspoons of ground Oreo's
2 Gummi Worms

1. Take cover off of pudding.
2. Mix in Oreo's.
3. Add worms.


Viva Mexico

el 16 de septiembre

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Monday, September 10, 2007

Parent Support

For the most part, my class is pretty good. Academically, this class is higher than most. Behaviorally, they are pretty decent. I have some squirrelly and talkative kids but nothing too serious. I do have one special needs kid who does take some time and special intervention, but for the most part, he is easy to deal with as well.

That being said, I do have the need to talk to parents from time to time regarding behavioral issues. I like to tell parents right away when there is a problem so that it can be dealt with and eliminated. (as mush as possible!) I try to catch parents as they pick up their kids or call as soon as school is over. The parents are usually very receptive, a bit embarrassed and very supportive.

This year I have two incidents with parents that have bothered me. Last week I had to talk to a parent about very rude behavior by her son towards my student teacher and to me. After several defiant comments and behaviors I told the boy that he would need to apologize or he would have to lose his recess and discuss his behavior with me. The boy refused and then went on to cry for a good 20 minutes and tantrum for an hour after that. I was able to miraculously get him back on track and his afternoon was fabulous. When I talked to his mom about it and asked for her help in this matter she said that he never behaves like this at home and that it must be me!!! I agreed that it must be me. I went on to tell her that I must be the only one making him accountable for his behavior and that I would continue to do just that with her son. (I know that is bold of me but come on, someone had to tell this lady that!) Once I told her that she went on to say well, he didn't sleep well the night before and that was why he acted like that. We went several rounds like this and I just told her that no matter what, her son will not be allowed to be rude and disrespectful to anyone at school, period. She said nothing. She wasn't upset with me at all but she just didn't understand that she needed to take this serious and work with her son on this.

Today, I had to talk with a different parent about her son's extreme disruptiveness in class. This boy talks out too much and often blurts out answers to show off what he knows and not let others answer. I had to stop class several times today and take the boy outside to have a talk with him. When I explained this to mom she said that it was because he had a fever on Friday. What??? I told her that his behavior had nothing to do with a fever and he is expected to follow all of the rules. Mom then turned to me and asked if I had seen a bracelet that belonged to her son. I was lost. She then went on to say that he lost it in my class. This lady could care less that her son was misbehaving in class!!! To make matters worse, she did all of this in front of her son sending him the message that it wasn't important to behave.

How frustrating!!!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Staff Development

Yesterday we had a district wide Buy Back Day. It was not so good. It was the first time in my 13 years with the district that we had a district wide day, Prek-12 including all support staff. The idea to have everyone together was a good idea. The idea to present a one size fits all professional development day didn't work out so well.

Here is a run down of the day:

8-10: Motivational Speaker on Universal Achievement:
We had to sit on bleachers in the gym. ( butt still hurts!) The acoustics were bad. The parts that I could hear addressed self esteem and how to make kids feel good about themselves. (Gee...I never would have known how to do that!) To make matters worse, the man never smiled and he kind of screamed/barked when he spoke. That wasn't so good for my self esteem!

10:00 - 11:30: Direct Instruction:
The presenters were fabulous BUT 4 of the schools in our district have had intensive training in this so it was a complete waste of our time.

11:30 - 12:00:Lunch
Lunch was provided so that they could keep us hostage. The food was free but it was horrible.

12:00 - 1:30 : English Learners
Hmm...the majority of the population at my school and 4 other school in town is comprised of English Learners. This is all we do. We have had intensive training in this are as well. We could have taught this class!

1:30 - 2:30: Meet with school sites to go over the day.
This was actually the best part of the day. For as much as some of my staff members can get on my nerves, after being around other teachers in the district I found a new appreciation in the teachers I work with.

One of the breakout sessions that I didn't go to was also a flop. A technology workshop that was held in the computer lab failed because the teachers couldn't use the computers in the lab!!! They had to watch the presenter's screen and write down all of the instructions on how to access and use the different websites shown. Ha!

Here is my biggest complaint of the day.
Why would the district want to invest so much money on a day for us teachers that was not educational for many of us? I realize that it is difficult to find something that is just right for all of us with the needs that we have at our respective campuses. However, isn't that what we teachers do in our classrooms? We differentiate our instruction to meet the needs of our learners. The district could have done so much more with their money for us. They could have taken us to a new educational plane by introducing something new to us or deepening our knowledge of something that is already familiar to us. What a wasted day.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

2 Lessons I didn't plan on teaching

I work hard at lesson planning for my class. I don't use them so much throughout the week but the actual act of planning for the week helps guide my instruction.

Here are two items that I didn't pack into my weekly lesson plans but I had to run with because the need came up.

1) Fingers do not belong in noses. If your nose itches grab a kleenex and handle that situation. If necessary, wash with soap and water afterwards.

2) If you find that you need to go to the bathroom or that you have a funny gassy feeling in your tummy, go to the bathroom or ask to step outside for a few moments, don't let it go in class.

I know...EWWW...gross! Let me tell you, it has been a stinky funky place in my room these last few days.

Unlike the items in my daily lesson plans, these two necessary lessons were not based on the California Teaching Standards for second grade. They are however crucial to the cleanliness and sanity of my well being and that of the rest of the kids in my class. Let's hope that I get
100 % proficiency in these areas and I don't have to go back and re-teach. (crossing my fingers!)

Green With Envy!

Alejandro Fernandez 091
Today I went to see a friend of mine at school and brag about my AMAZING seat at the Alejandro Fernandez concert. After I told her about my experience at the Sacramento concert I asked her how the Fresno performance was that she went to. She just smiled and then told me that when they arrived at the concert she saw an old friend of hers driving up. It turns out that he works for Corona and was promoting the concert. She got to go backstage, meet A.F., take pictures with him, talk with him, hug him and get kissed by him, twice! Oh yeah...A.F.'s photographer was there and he took pictures of them to add to his website.

That is what I get for bragging!

It Has Been So Hot

It's been so hot around here that when I checked today's forecast and saw that it is for 90 degrees, I giggled with glee. Yeah, it is still hot but 90 is a whole different thing than 100-103.


Monday, September 03, 2007

I think it is pretty close...

I found this link over at Hydrangea's are Pretty. Thanks Shelli!

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Peace Patroller, also known as an anti-war liberal or neo-hippie. You believe in putting an end to American imperial conquest, stopping wars that have already been lost, and supporting our troops by bringing them home.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Alejandro Fernandez Concert

Last night I went to the AF concert. It was incredible. I liked it so much more than the last one. He sang well, was funny and of course, he looked great! Next time I want to take my mom and Sabina. The whole time I was there I was thinking about how much they would have enjoyed it.

One of the highlights of the concert was that I got to meet Susana from The Journey Continues. I was so excited that I forgot to take a picture!!! Oh time!

Here are some concert pics:
The new look:
Alejandro Fernandez 030
Another shot:
Alejandro Fernandez 017

Best of all: Vestido de Charro
Alejandro Fernandez - Viento a Favor Tour September 31, 2007 ARCO ARENA