December 3, 2011

Check this out...

Clutterfree Classroom has an awesome set of Dinner Conversation Starters! What a great way to reconnect with your kids! Check it out here

November 30, 2011


days like today! We had a field trip to see a magic show. It wasn't just any magic show--we learned about atoms, molecules, solutions, and compounds! The kids loved it too :o)

Did you know if you stare at a moving object for 30 seconds then look at something stationary--it'll magically get bigger! (You have to stay still and focused on the center in order for this to work!) I'm not kidding--I tried it! Good ole Aristotle discovered this after staring at a waterfall for awhile and looking away at the trees. He saw the trees magically got larger! Why does this happen? Well, when you look at a focal point of a moving object for an extended period of time, your eye muscles move inward. So when you look away, they 'stretch' back out. The opposite can happen too, where the object can shrink. It all depends on the movement of the swirl! Who knew?!

You can look at something like this:

Now look at someone's head--it's really cool!

Good luck and let me know if it works!! And just's almost Friday!

November 10, 2011

Life is...

busy and hectic amid the report card comments, assessments, common core standards, and new curriculum maps (that we're writing and teaching at.the.same.time!!)

However, life is never to busy to stop and think about all the things we have and why we have them. I'm fortunate enough to have my own house, make my own choices,to live in a country that believes in its citizens, and have the freedom to share my thoughts and ideas.

To this we owe our service men and women--without their valor and selflessness, we may not have freedoms to live, speak, and believe what we want. My passion about this subject runs deep because it hits close to home. My dad and grandfather were in the Air Force, my sister--the Navy; as well as some that are active duty like my brother in law, who's in the Navy and is currently stationed in Italy and my brother who is a Green Beret..Special Forces, who's served two tours in Afghanistan and is now state-side teaching Special Forces.

not only to the members of my family, but to every family with service men and women. This country is what it is today because of the sacrifice and bravery these men and women have shown.

September 10, 2011

The first two days...

have been great! I love my students...and, so far, there are only 20 of! (Yes, I know...enjoy it while it lasts!) I'm dreading sending down that beautiful, little number when the secretary asks how many students are in seat!! (Hopefully that won't be for another week!!!)

One of my main focuses for the first few days was to create a class mission statement. Miss Bongers does a great job eliciting student responses using these probing questions. Using the student responses she created the class mission statement. Thank you Miss Bongers for the inspiration!

Using Miss Bongers' questions, my students found common themes and ideas (like the students in 4b). However, instead of me writing the mission statement, I modeled how to combine similar ideas/themes and write laser statements using the first question. (I explained laser statements as quick sentences that include the key ideas to answer the question. Short, sweet, and to the point!)

Being up to the challenge, the groups separated with their chart papers and started discussing how the themes linked together and what to write. Some groups didn't have a problem--one group was stuck, so the class helped write that laser statement when everyone was back in the reading nook.

We read all the laser statements together, which then became our class mission statement. (I still need to rewrite all the statements onto one chart paper and have all the students sign it...I'll post a pic when it's finished!)

The last task was creating the rules. As a class, we looked over the answers to the questions and from that the students created their own class rules! (The rules are as if I wrote them myself!) Of course I had to add in the last rule...Keep your dear teacher happy (a whole brain thinking rule!), which encompasses everything else!

I'm excited...I love starting fresh in September :o)

How have your first days or weeks been? I'd love to hear about it!

September 1, 2011

Check out this giveaway!!

Erin at Kleinspiration is having giveaway! This giveaway is hosted by Class Connect--check out the information on Erin's blog! I am super excited to try this out! The possibilities for this site are endless and, best of all, it's free!

August 18, 2011

A reason why I love teaching

Lately I've been in a blogging slump--nothing new is happening. I'm not in my classroom yet and I really haven't had wonderful ideas--my brain is still in vacation mode!

So today, I opened my inbox and this is the email I received:

Hi Ms.Ormsbee I have amazing news and it's all thanks to you!!! I just got back from my open house in my new school in Florida!!! When I got my classes guess what...... All my classes are advanced honors!!! And it's all thanks to you. They thought my report card was AMAZING!!!! Thank you so much!!! I really do miss you!!! Oh and how's the babies? ;)

WoW! I definitely didn't expect that! I read it and SMILE! This is why I love teaching :o)


August 14, 2011

Let the countdown begin!

There's 16 days before I can get into my classroom and 23 days before I have to report for PD. Yikes!
That led me to start thinking about what needs to be done before the first day... let the list begin!

*redo schedule and time cards
*print out name plates 
*plan work stations for reading and math
*find a way to integrate grammar and vocab into word study while still giving an assessment every Friday
*order new plan book (I know...I've seen so many awesome lesson plan formats, but I absolutely fell in love with this site erin condren --she has teacher planners that you can personalize! I saw a recent post from The First Grade Parade and she blogged about an awesome deal--you should definitely check it out!!)
*fill in said plan book!
*revisit the common core standards for reading 
*become more familiar with the ccss for writing and math
*read "Rethinking Homework" and make my homework more effective and meaningful
*make Homeworkopoly board and figure out where to put it
*start making some of the awesome ideas I found on Pinterest (you can check my pins out here )
*place another vistaprint order around my sports theme

Wow! That's a lot! I better get started... tomorrow haha! :o)
Enjoy your Sunday!


August 13, 2011

Back to school giveaway!

Really Roper and Frogs in First have joined together for a great giveaway! Both are giving away 3 items from their stores!  Check it out!

August 10, 2011

Star Students

I've always loved the idea of star students and student of the week, but I never really had the time to fit it all in.

As I was preparing for my observation (which was in the middle of June with 5th graders days away from graduating), I needed a quick, simple bulletin board that could manage itself.

Here's what I came up with:
I took one of our math writing assignments that received a 4 (which is considered above grade level)--the student went above and beyond with this work. I was so amazed--she clearly explained her thought process, wrote a rule, created her own problem, used appropriate math vocabulary, and explained the problem solving strategy she used. It was one of those papers where you saw exactly what you taught- a true 'I love my job' moment!

The student work had the assignment, rubric, and my thoughtful comments with positives and next steps. Under the work, I posted an invitation for other students to view the work and make their positive comments. (Those are the other post-its under the work.)

During the morning meeting, I talked about the work on the board and I made the child 'famous' (I made a really BIG deal out of this!) During morning routines I gave the other students an opportunity to check out the work and make comments. (We also discussed how to write comments to others about their work in the beginning of the year.)

The board was a delightful way to add to our classroom community--the students loved giving the compliments  (in the process they saw exactly what I was looking for when I graded their work) and the star student, well, she felt like a star!


August 7, 2011

Did somebody say bananas?

 haha I've been watching way too much Nick Jr!

I've decided to take a little break and not think about school! I've been busy emptying and organizing my office! I can't get into my classroom yet, so my home office is the next best thing right?

And here's where the bananas come in...
      a beautiful bunch of spotted bananas! (It was quite hot today--90 degrees and super humid!) The kitchen smelled of bananas and, yes, you guessed it--these bananas were ready to be turned into bread! (Oh--sidebar--if you leave ripe bananas next to regular bread, your regular bread smells and tastes like banana! Which is pretty gross when you're trying to eat a hotdog and all you taste is banana! Lesson learned--all bread stays in the bread box or anywhere else far away from bananas!)

As we speak the real banana bread is in the oven baking away--I thought it would be fun if I posted the recipe. It's super easy and the bread tastes delicious!

Here's a pic of my recipe:

I retyped it...
                    banana bread

                                          for anyone who'd like to try it!

August 5, 2011

Another Giveaway!

Fern at Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas reached 200 followers! She's giving away a $25 gift card to Walgreen's! Check out her site--she has a lot of great ideas!


Erin at Kleinspiration is giving away a $25 gift card to Target! Please stop by and visit her blog--she has excellent ideas on how to incorporate technology into the classroom!


August 3, 2011

A peek into my classroom--Part 3

Here's the rest of my room (from last year)! Luckily, I still have a lot of summer left!

Classroom 2010-2011

Once I got back to work from maternity leave, much of my thinking changed.

Before I had children, all my charts were perfect and I usually did most of the upkeep in the room often staying there until 5 or 6 at night. 

However, after my maternity leave ended, my outlook changed. I didn't have time to write every chart perfectly or put up these elaborate bulletin boards. (I had to leave with the students--no after school for me!) This is where I handed these jobs over to my monitors. (I had a bunch of students who would join me for lunch and do an assortment of jobs for me--they wrote out vocabulary, created my job board, wrote the names for the 100% homework club, they kept track of incomplete homework, they marked in-class assignments, just to name a few.

The rest of the class had other jobs that they did either in the morning, throughout the day, or at the end. That left me to plan, gather necessary materials, and teach!

Ultimately, the classroom ran itself--a truly student-centered place. I hope I can recreate that with my new class!


August 1, 2011

A peek into my classroom--Part 2

Everyday Math is the program my school currently uses and has used since I started working there--about 9 years ago! Needless to say the students are very familiar with the program and find ways to excel despite the program's difficulty.

There are mixed feelings about the program; I, myself, do like it! As a struggling math student, I like that the program offers many different ways to solve a problem.

I've learned over the years that supplements are needed, especially when comparing the program to the state standards and previous years' tests. One area I've worked hard on is helping my students write about their math thinking. (I had read a Marilyn Burns article many years ago from an Instructor magazine, which helped me.) To start, I'd look at the EDM lessons and write questions to go with each one. Not only was that part time consuming, so was the grading!

After talking with my math coach, she came up with the 'writing in math' paper and the Instructional Team created the rubrics. I took it a step further and linked my bulletin board to NCTM's Guiding Principles
At the top of the board are the content strands and the yellow cards show problem solving strategies. Both are important because the students read the question and identify the content strand, then as they begin to try out the problem, they choose the problem solving strand they're using.

The beauty of this bulletin board is that I'm not only featuring students with the highest grades. There are 3 categories: Communication (showcases students who did an excellent job explaining their mathematical thinking), Representation (students who showed their work completely or ones who solved the problem using different methods), and Problem Solving (students who chose and used appropriate problem solving strategies to figure out the problem.)

I give one, possible two, of these per unit. As the year progresses, the quality of writing improves and the students become more aware of their thinking as mathematicians.

Here are the headings:
Problem Solving

I'd love to hear how others adapt their math programs to meet their students' needs!


July 31, 2011

A peek into my classroom--Part 1

Sorry for the lapse--it's been a rough couple of days! With the twins going through their nine month growth spurts, I've been busy! One is teething (her bottom teeth are slowly coming through) and the other one is trying to master sitting up! Both have forgotten their bed times and stay up very, very late!

Luckily, they're busy playing, so I have a few moments to share this:

it's one of my favorite bulletin boards (I can't remember where I read about this, but I've been using it for years with great success!)

As part of my word study program, I designate a day on the schedule for vocabulary. I find a short text with 8-10 vocab words--I read aloud the text and when I get to one of the words, I stop. With the students, we use the context clues to figure out the meaning and identify synonyms and antonyms. (In the picture, the word is written on the top card, which you lift up to reveal the definition.) For homework, the students write sentences using each of the new words and draw a picture. (The format is an adaptation of the Frayer Model.)

This is the graphic organizer I use: Word-Study Boxes. (This year, I'm going to try something new. I want to add another section to the box--evidence from the text. This is where the students can list the specific context clues they used to figure out the definition.)

For the bulletin board, the word and definition are first. Then there are 3 columns--read, heard, used. If the students read the word in their book, they put a tally next to the word in the first column. (At times, I would have them share the words during share time by having the student read the sentence without the vocab word and the other students would guess the word.) If the students heard someone using the word, then they put a tally in the second column. If the students used the word in their writing, they draw a tally in the third column.

When a word has a lot of tallies (like the word: delete), then that word would be retired. I take the retired words down and keep them in a basket in the word study area for students to use as reference.

The students get so excited to be word detectives! Even the 5th graders :o)

I'd love to hear how others integrate vocabulary instruction into their classrooms!


July 27, 2011

Getting to know parents and students

I know how valuable parent communication is, yet, every year, the first time I meet or speak to some parents or guardians is at parent-teacher conferences. gasp!

I read a post from Caitlin at Learning Ahoy about this very topic!

To try to increase parent communication, I create a binder. I use a 1 1/2 inch, so I can keep the important documents from the school (you know the ones!) and ones that I send home. (I use another binder for my lesson plans, schedules, calendars, curriculum maps, and school memos. I have a parent email list that I keep in my lesson plan binder--that way, I don't have to carry my communication binder home.)

Back to the communication binder--one form I send home is the parent survey (or the 'Let me get to know your child' form). I modeled this one after one I found on Mrs. Walker's site. (She's frog-tastic!)
Let me get to know your child

The next two forms are ones with contact information (a colleague of mine gave me the template and I made it pretty. I'm a bit obsessed with fonts and clip art!)

The dismissal (aka the scariest part of the day) form gives me an idea of where everyone is going and with whom.
 Dismissal Form

 This last form is an Emergency Contact Form, which lets me know of any allergies or health issues, as well as contact information. This form is very helpful when I have to mail letters to parents and guardians, as well as plan for parties. (Peanut allergies are on the rise!)
Emergency Contact Information

I also send home 'The ABC's of 5th Grade' to outline important ideas/beliefs/rules in my classroom. (I found a bunch of examples on Proteacher!) The parents/guardians go over the information (I hope!) with their child and sign and return the tear-off. I staple the tear-off to one of the forms in that child's section. More on the ABC's later!

Time to put the kiddies to bed!


July 25, 2011

Here it goes!

So...I've wanted to start a blog for a long time! I think getting started is the hardest part--it's like the first page of a brand new notebook. You want to make an impression because it's the first page and you don't want to mess up!

Here it goes--a brief intro...

 This is my ninth year teaching in public school. I've taught a variety of grade levels spending the majority of my time in fourth and fifth grade. This year I'm teaching fifth grade from scratch! The other two times were with looped classes (I highly recommend if you have a great class!)

A huge accomplishment last year was achieving National Board Certification in Early/Middle Childhood Literacy. This was a huge undertaking! Why did I choose to do this? Well, the professional development I was receiving didn't meet my needs. I felt like I was hearing the same material over and over again. I felt stagnant--I was able to help others in the field, but not myself! Yes, I read professional lit and I applied new strategies based on my readings, but I wanted to push myself even more. One snippet of what I learned from the whole process is that with whatever you do in the classroom, with parents, or with your colleagues, always ask yourself, "How does this impact student learning?" We all want students to learn, but sometimes we lose focus of the "how" and "why". (I'm guilty myself!)

On a personal note...
I recently bought a new house, which my hubby and I are still unpacking! And I'm the proud mommy of twins--Lucas and Amelia! They entered the world 11 weeks prematurely last October and spent 8 weeks in the NICU. Now, they are happy, healthy, and striving! You'd hardly think they were preemies!