Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Note to Self...

Dear Me,

When dressing your seven year old son for spring pictures-with a forest background- and you want them to turn out well, do not (I repeat, DO NOT) allow him to talk you into wearing his favorite color "camouflage."  All I see is a white face and smile...

On the other hand, when your daughter decides to wear bright pink, she is clearly visible. :)

Kinda glad I haven't paid for them yet...

The Zookeeper

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I LOVE Technology!

As I scour the Internet for really cool things to have on my blog, I find the BEST stuff!

I found the "Scroll to the Top" button here.  Get over to Andrea's site at Cheers to School!  Thanks for sharing!!  :)

The Zookeeper

Biography or Autobiography

Hello, hello, hello...

I'm getting together things for us to review for our BIG SOL tests that are coming up in April.  (Yes, go ahead and laugh. SOL is really what they are called. They mean Standards of Learning to the public, but an entirely different meaning to us teachers. Lol. I bet you can guess!)

Anywhoooo... I found this worksheet that I had created for biography and autobiography.  It's FREE! Click on the picture and head on over and download it.

Let me know what you think! :)

Now back to herding cats...

The Zookeeper

Friday, March 23, 2012



Enough said.

{On a side note... Have you ever ran a foot/paw race with a cheetah???  I wouldn't recommend it!}

The Zookeeper

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thank You...Thank You...

Thank you very much! That's how I pretend to accept the most prestigious awards in Hollywood!!

But, this is even BETTER!!
I have been awarded the One Lovely Blog Award...
No applause necessary! (You in the front...sit down.) ;)  Thank you to Jillian of Just Tinkerin` Around and Becky of Teaching, Learning, & Loving. I really appreciate your time and I hope you come back often! (And bring a friend, or two, or twelve...that'd be nice. Wink, wink...)

So, now I must set out on a grand adventure. An adventure so monumental that it may take me a couple of days.  I must find 15 blogs and pass on this award.  (See, I'm putting on my safari hat and heading out of this zoo.)

I'm. On. The. Hunt!

If you have a new blog and want to expand your members, let me know!!! I want to see some new stuff.

I have stalked... I mean... followed some of the BEST blogs over the past couple of years.  Give me all the new stuff!!!  Just comment below! Let's get to it! (HUGS)

The Zookeeper

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Yes, that is it. The sounds of my face going under as I try to keep up with all that is going on!

This morning as I was trying to figure out what it was that I was forgetting to do...my fan-tab-u-lous cohort, Lisa, used the phrase, "I think I'm drowning..."  (You should know that we use this phrase ALL the time.  We say things like, "Nose is barely above water..." and "I'm going under!"  I'm sure you have felt our pain.)

But, THIS morning, Lisa added, "Glub...glub..." and I thought I'd pee my pants! Soooo funny! I told her that my blog today would be about how we feel like drowning with all of the weight in our "boat".

So, Lisa and Candie...thank you for being my life preserver! I think it's safe to say that we all have someone who reaches in and throws us a rope right when we feel like going under... Who is yours????

Oh, and I never did figure out what it was that I'm forgetting... I'm sure I'll know soon when it is due and I haven't done it yet!!! Yikes!
The Zookeeper

Tuesday, March 20, 2012



I don't know about you, but there is something taking over my zoo (aka classroom) and I think it is referred to as "Spring Fever".  How about you?

Well, the temperature here in VA has been close to 80 degrees yesterday and today.  So, I can't blame them one little bit.

But, we have lots of work to be completed before our tests start in April.
Yes, that's right...APRIL!! (Can you hear the panic in my voice?????)  The 19th, to be exact.
(Prayers are appropriate and welcome here...)

Anyhow... have your little monkeys been trying to escape? What fabulous ideas do you have for spring? I'd love to hear some!  I'm planning...I'll post later. :)

The Zookeeper

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Test Prep Vocabulary...

(You all are going to get tired of me talking about vocabulary! Sorry!  But it is soooo necessary! I'll try to get off the bandwagon soon!)

We are getting closer to those Oh, SOOOOO DREADED standardized tests!  Yikes!!

I thought I'd post some of my vocabulary power points that I use to help students learn the harder words in isolation.  You can get them at my Teachers Pay Teachers store or my Teachers Notebook store.

Here are a few words from my Test Prep Writing Vocabulary Power Points.

Here are a few from my Test Prep Math Vocabulary Power Points 1...

Computation and Estimation examples...
Geometry example...
Measurement example...

Just thought I'd share. Hope you like.

Back to the zoo!
The Zookeeper

Monday, March 12, 2012


I'm always on the look out for new ways to work with vocabulary. I've tried a lot of things over the span of my career.  Some things have worked...some...well, not so much!

I just know that the more a student SEES the word and HEARS the word the more likely it is to "stick".  So, I've been doing a few things differently.  I've been having the words flash on a power point and having the kids say the words together. So far so good.

(I gather them on the carpet to help them focus. Then we try to read the words quickly. We try to do it quicker each day.  Some days I pick random words and ask if anyone can make a sentence using the word.  I also post the power points on my school website for them to be able to practice at home.)

Here is a word from my Reading Essential Vocabulary Power Point 1...

Other words included on this power point are reading, read, homophone, vowel pattern, diphthong, root, root word, affixes, homonym, homophone, context clue, tense, syllable, poetry, line, stanza, headings, bold face, italic, predict, and prediction.

Or this one from my Weather Power Point...

This one also includes the words tornado, hurricane, blizzard, thunderstorm, lightning, flood, drought, weather vane, rain gauge, and rainfall.

I have ones for each subject/unit that I teach.  The kids are really building a bigger vocabulary.  If they are unsure of what a word means, we go back to that word and discuss it.  Then review it the next day.

I then thought about how on the test certain phrases trip them up. For each test, I highlighted the words that are often found together. Then I created the power points with the phrases.

For instance...

Boy, have they become better readers because of it! I'm so tickled with their progress.  I have added some of the power points to my store at Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook. Check them out! Give it a try! What could it hurt?  Let me know how it goes!

Enjoy!  Now, back to the zoo...

The Zookeeper

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Explorers Pack: Building Vocabulary

As seen on...

Vocabulary is essential!! I think we all know that by now. Teaching it, well...that is another thing entirely!  I'm always on the look out for new things. Earlier this school year I attended a conference on teaching vocabulary to ELL (English Language Learners) students. I have been blessed to have had many ELL students over the years. I love these students! I know that they have a very difficult time, but they are always the students that want to truly learn!  Sometimes they are the interpreters/translators for their parents and they carry a great responsibility for their family. The amazing thing to me is that they are excited and eager to learn all they can.  Wow, to be bilingual as a child. What a fabulous thing!


I learned (again, I had forgotten) from the conference that sometimes you must teach backwards.

What?? Does?? That?? Mean???

I know you have heard of unpacking the lesson, right?  Well, that's just it.  Don't start off with the book or a long text.  Start with exposure to vocabulary.  They need to be able to recognize and pronounce the words that they will come in contact with daily for each unit.  It not only helps the ELL students, it helps the WHOLE class!

Warning...A Freebie is coming!!!

I took our explorers unit and decided to change things up. I made a power point with essential words.

I added a couple of other words too that I knew they would see in almost all of our lessons.  (Words like contribution and characteristics)

I then took the post test and highlighted words that I knew they would see together on the test and made a vocabulary phrases power point.

(At the beginning of our lesson each day, I would pull up the vocabulary and the phrases for them to practice.  Each day they were improving! They even made a game of how fast they could say the words and phrases.  It was fun!)

I also made a study sheet with the words and phrases that we were practicing in class for them to use to practice at home.

I also made them a study guide for the basics of explorers. I have been using these for awhile now. It really is easy to use.  It has the basics that students need to know before understanding the higher level things.

Parents LOVE it. They have a great resource that enables them to help their child! (The more you make things easier for parents, the more you will get out of them!)

The study guide is also fabulous for using in class to partner students up to make sure they are studying the correct basic content.


I decided to extend that learning into workshop. (Daily 3 is what I call it...I'm working up to 5.)
I thought we could do some sorting to practice syllables and parts of speech.  So, I created these...

Words to sort...

Syllable sheet to record their work...
Parts of speech sheet to record their work...

They work on this during "Word Work".  Students work in partners to say, sort, and record the words.  They turn in their papers after working.

I then made an explorers "I Have...Who Has..." game.

We played this later in the unit.  They loved it. We went two go-rounds with it.  (They wanted to play more, but time ran out! Like always...)

After all the vocabulary building, I introduced the text.  They did a wonderful job of reading and understanding the text.  Their test scores were higher.  I didn't have to help hardly anyone with a word on the test.  I have started to do all my lessons this way.  I think it will pay off.

I have put these items in a zip file for you to use.  I have left some things in word so that you may edit for personal use.  The graphics are from www.scrappindoodles.com.  (I put the things with graphics in an .xp file for license reasons.) If you have any trouble, please let me know.

Let me know what you think!  Enjoy! :)
The Zookeeper

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Contribution: My Nemesis!

There are certain things that students just don't get. (I see you shaking your head yes.)  Most of the time (in my classroom) it deals with vocabulary. I have for years tried to get the word contribution to stick in those sweet little minds.  It has become my nemesis!!

So, this year I got creative.

This is my door...

This is what it says...

Before this one, I had a snowman and a poster saying, "Come in and make a CONTRIBUTION."

I also have one on the floor at the door that says, "You CONTRIBUTE so much to our class everyday!"  Of course it is covered with contact paper for durability.  We seem to be (slowly) getting it. I shall CONQUER this nemesis this year!  :)

Any suggestions for what to put up next????  OR do you have a way of teaching contribution that I can "steal"?

 Do you have a nemesis? I want to know what it is!  Comments, please!
The Zookeeper

Trial and Error...

Greetings from the Zoo... (Well, the one at home being that it is Saturday.)

It's Saturday and yes, I'm working. Big surprise, huh? Most teachers spend lots of time (outside of school) doing things to make their students better learners, including working on the weekends.  Sigh... (We lie to ourselves and say we will rest in summer...HA!)

Anywhooo... I've been posting things on Teachers Pay Teachers and The Teachers Notebook. It's so thrilling to see how many people have taken a peek at my items. It's even more thrilling when they download something!  And EVEN MORE so when something is purchased. Chaa-ching!

Wow, such excitement. I L-O-V-E it!!

I can't wait to figure out how to insert power points, add videos, and just learn as much as I can about this whole process.  Yes, trial and error are my best teachers at this moment.

If you have any tips, I'd sure love to hear them!
The Zookeeper

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Blog Design

I am soooo happy with my new design! Thank you, Pamela at The Posh Box!  If you haven't been to her site to see what fabulous designs she has, you MUST check them out! They are tooooo cute!

Blog designed by The Posh Box.
The Zookeeper