Saturday, April 28, 2012

Can You Say... Testing NIGHTMARE?

I was waiting on Thursday during our state testing to be shaken awake from a nightmarish dream,
to be told I was on "Candid Camera,"
ANYTHING but what was happening during our Math test.

My third grade team had tested in Reading the week before and had received back some encouraging results.  This made us so happy that we were looking forward to the rest of the tests.  Maybe our hard work was going to pay off this time.

Boy, was I wrong!

Now, I won't say any specifics. I'm sure you know all about security regulations. So, lets talk about what happened DURING the testing.

Another third grade was in our technology lab with us.  We test on computers. Lucky us. Technology is sooooo fabulous.  This is our first year in doing so.  The monkeys seemed eager to use them and we had trained them well.  Also, we get back results fairly quickly. (Except on this one, math.  Since this is a new test, the state needed results from other schools to set the standard scores.)  This means no agonizing for weeks until we get a phone call in the summer.  Yay, computers!!

Yeah, until you have a THUNDERSTORM on the day of testing.  Yes, that is right, on the MORNING of testing.  What???  I'm sure you are drawing a conclusion already as to what happened.

The kiddos had been testing for about an hour. Most were about halfway through it.  Then a big burst of lightning strikes outside (bright enough to be seen through our closed blinds) followed by an enormous boom of thunder.  Children jumped and looked at us with weary, wild eyes and then...

wait for it...

The lights went out, taking with them the computers.  The lab went dark.  A few intakes of breath was heard (mostly mine) and with great luck the lights came back on. The children (love their hearts) still remembering that we were in testing regulations didn't say a word!  We told them to sit still until we could get our testing coordinator to see what we were to do next. She was making a beeline to us, as this was even more nightmarish for her.

Everything she tried, did not work.

The monkeys were sooooooooo fabulous. They didn't speak.  They sat there for between 30 and 40 minutes without doing ANYTHING!!!  They didn't try to talk. They didn't try to read.  They were perfect.  Many put their heads down.  They were a little drained from the test already.  (This was a great feat for ten year olds!)

The system wouldn't reboot the test for our coordinator so she had to call central office to get our administration there to reboot everything.  Geez...

To our delight, their results had been saved from what they had finished.  I was praying really hard on that one. If they had to have started over, I just can't think about it...


I have a rather energetic monkey.  He is a joy. I love him to pieces and he usually reminds me that children are precious.  He had finished the test not long after we had gotten started again.  The storm had spooked him however.  He raised his hand and asked me what was this sound he was hearing.  I listened and it was low and rumbly.  I had no idea, I couldn't put a finger on it.  I told him it was probably the rain outside.  He wasn't convinced.

It kept happening.  Every few minutes he kept raising his hand and in a whisper asking about it.  I finally  tracked down the sound.  It was a student sleeping.  She had already finished and after putting her head down, she had fallen fast asleep.

Her soft rumblings soon became a snore.  Only loudly enough for a couple of children to hear her.  I tried to gently shake her awake, to no avail.  I shook harder. Still ASLEEP!  I decided to let her sleep and if she got worse I would have to wake her.

At this point, I just had to laugh!

What happened?  She got worse!

I was then forced to wake her.  Poor thing. She had been out cold.  How embarrassing!

Then you say, what's next?

A student in the other class got the hiccups.  Not ones you can contain.  Ones that were loud enough for all to hear.  The little girl that had them had tried desperately to conceal them.  It didn't work.

At this point, Candie (my fellow partner in crime) and I could just silently laugh about what was going on and what would happen next.

Luckily, there was nothing else.  Well, until we get our scores back...

Have you experienced anything similar? I'd love to hear about it.

AND, I'm so lucky! We have two tests to go! History and Science...I'm praying for two very non-eventful days!

See, I keep telling you I have a zoo! Maybe now you will believe me!  ;)
The Zookeeper

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Just Checking In...

Thought I would check-in and let you know that I am nauseated and will be until our testing is over.  We test for three weeks!

Well, not everyday, but it feels like it!  We (third grade) start to test on Thursday with Reading.  Our fourth graders tested in Reading today and seems to have done really well.  Which makes me even more sick.  You know... all those "what-ifs" are running around in my head. Ugh!! Hate them!!

So, if you don't hear from me in awhile... send out a search party. I may have been a victim of cannibalism from my monkeys.  Just saying... ;)

Prayers are appreciated and I will return them in your "hour" of need!! Love and hugs!

The Zookeeper

Saturday, April 14, 2012

More Vocabulary...

Greetings Fellow Zookeepers,

I hope this day finds you as happy as a bird with a french fry!

I have added a couple of vocabulary power points to my TpT store and my TN store on Greece, Rome, and Mali and Economics.  (There are some other topics there too, just browse around for awhile. I won't stop you.)

You may have missed my posts on using power points in the past so let me explain them briefly.

I open lessons with them.  We sometimes read them slowly, sometimes quickly, sometimes in a Spongebob voice, sometimes in a whisper... (you get the picture).

It has really helped my students with content area words!  If you use them consistently with the unit that you are teaching, they are a great resource!

They are also good for transitioning students from one activity to the next. We come to the carpet to read them.  It offers my monkeys a way to get up and move some!  Then, as we read, we can be a little silly (did I say that?) and then get down to business.  It usually takes us less than 10 minutes of the lesson AND they aren't forgetting the words!  It is actually SAVING time!!

PLUS, I don't get frustrated over their lack of enthusiasm when we go to read the text because they are able to read it SOOOOO much easier than before and they seem SOOOOO much more interested!

ALSO,they are helping EVERYONE in my class- ESL kids, special ed kids, gifted kids, and regular ed kids.  I wish I'd thought of this sooner!

I'm feverishly working on more so that I can have them for review.  It will help to re-familiarize them with the words from units that we did at the beginning of the year.  (Check my store often for updates.)

So, check them out.  Try them in your room.  See how you like them and then let me know what you think!

The Zookeeper

Thursday, April 12, 2012


One week from today my third graders will have finished their first standardized test.  Well, half finished really.  Our reading test is broken into two parts.  I'm fretting over all that we have studied and accomplished and  (I can't help but wonder) how did we ever come to judging our children- and their teachers- by how they do on ONE test?

I ponder at the thoughts of being told (repeatedly and often) that children do not all learn at the same pace or on the same day... to differentiate their learning... some are auditory, others visual... Yet, we assess them all in the same way, on the same day...

Madness really...

Hang in there. It's almost over.  (At least that's what I keep telling myself!)

The Zookeeper

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I've Been Tagged!

Wow, playground games even on the Internet! COOL!  Thanks, Jillian over at Just Tinkerin' Around for tagging me.  (If you haven't visited her blog, get over there! It's super cute!)

So, I've been tagged and here are the game rules:
1.  You must post the rules. (check)
2.  Answer the 10 questions that the tagger posted for you. (check)
3.  Create 10 questions of your own to ask the people you are going to tag. (I'm working on those.)
4.  Tag 10 people and link them with your post.  Let them know they've been tagged! (Working on this too.)

Here are her questions and my answers...

1.  Where/What do you teach?

I teach third grade in Virginia.  I have a self-contained classroom so I teach all subjects.

2.  What is your favorite font?

Jokerman is my favorite.  The title says it all. ;)

3.  Do you have a favorite grading pen? Or stamp? Or stickers?

I use a Paper Mate Flair M in Black...(If you didn't read that with a James Bond sexy voice, go back and try it.)  I don't have a favorite stamp or sticker, but I want a stamp that says... "This grade is OK. It will make your child work harder next time!"

4.  When does your school get out for Summer?

We get out for the summer on May 15.  I think it's too early to really be summer.  We go back on August 8.  I think it's much hotter in August than in May!

5.  What is your all time favorite lesson/unit to teach? Why?

I'm a science person.  My favorite time of the day and lesson is calendar time. I have tried to incorporate as much into that 30 minutes as possible!  It revolves mostly around science and math. The kids say that this is their favorite time of day, too.

6.  Any guilty pleasures on the weekend?

Not really, I'm a boring mom who tries her best to recover on the weekends.  I do like a couple of shows, but they aren't really weekend shows.  They are Deadly Women, Hot in Cleveland, and any crime show. So, my favorite channel is Investigation Discovery!

7.  What one thing could you not live without in your classroom?

I am a techno-ADDICT! I have been known to panic if the Internet is down for just a few seconds! (It happened last week for THREE days.  Yes, THREE WHOLE DAYS! I was about to throw fits when I got the call that some switch had been replaced and I could put down the knives use it again.)
BUT, I would be COMPLETELY LOST if I didn't have my SmartBoard!!  One day this past winter, my computer, George, had an issue with his monitor.  I went into full blown- call me a substitute- panic when I realized that JohnBoy (my SmartBoard) wasn't going to work!  I sat down, put my head between my legs so that I wouldn't faint and thought.  (Ask my children, they were silent witnesses!)  Solution?  I just needed a laptop.  Any laptop.  Who had laptops?????  I went straight to the principal.  (I rarely go to the principal for anything!)  I explained in my shaky-half-sob like voice that I needed one.  (She knows me so well and immediately found me one.)  I had to use it for almost a week before the monitor was fixed/replaced.  I was almost ready to email the techno-Gods at central office when a man carrying a monitor entered my room.  I greeted him with the same enthusiasm that a dog greets his master after being gone on vacation!  He did not return my enthusiasm. But, I didn't care! It was working!!   So, long story short long...  JohnBoy- my SmartBoard.  (I really cannot think back to how I taught before getting a SmartBoard! My poor students!)

8.  Favorite piece of technology?

Hands down... the SMARTBOARD!! Yes, you read this right above...he has a name... JohnBoy.  Don't you laugh, I grew up watching the Waltons!

9.  Body wash or soap?

I use body wash.  A subtle coconut is what I prefer.  But if necessary, I have been known to steal the cute little bars of soap that my son uses.

10.  What does your classroom smell like?  Candles? Diffusers?  Plug-Ins?  (You were getting desperate for questions, weren't you?? LOL!)

My room is actually pretty scent-free. (Is that a real word?)  I am allergic to most smells.  I get headaches and then turn into a raging monster, so, for the safety of the children, I ask for a scent-free zone.  So, nine/ten-year old body funk is probably the only smell that is pronounced in my room.  (I'm sorry, you asked!)

I thought I'd post these and come back tomorrow with my questions for my tag-ees...

Gotta go stalk some blogs and trip tag some people. Wish me luck!

The Zookeeper

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Famous Americans Vocabulary

I wanted to throw this out, too.  (Boy, I'm ON IT today! Ha!)

We finished up a unit of "Famous Americans" this week.  I used the zip file that is found at my TpT store to help with vocabulary.

My lesson goes like this...

I pass out the study guide and vocabulary study sheet the first day of our unit.

Each day we read the words from the power points as fast as we can.  If needed,  I use the words in sentences to help with meanings.  It's a great way to build reading skills with context clues!

I do these things before we ever read anything in text together.  This way my students have a better idea of how to pronounce the more challenging words and build understanding of their meanings.  I have found that this builds student confidence! My reluctant readers and English as a second language learners feel more at ease with the unit vocabulary!

As a review before testing, we play the “Password” game.  To make sure that everyone is involved, we play with partners and they switch after each word.  They get so excited!  

Vocabulary can be such a hard thing for kids to grasp!  I hope this helps! If you have any great ideas on vocabulary, please share! Thanks!

The Zookeeper

Book Order Idea...

Greetings from the (home) zoo...

I wanted to share an idea that I had for our last book order in March.  I gathered four of the book orders  and stapled them together.  (I use Scholastic.)

I then copied and attached the letter below to the front.

(I was trying to get this embedded using Scribd and there must be a secret way to do that!... Ugh... Sorry. Your patience is requested.)


I handed  them out and allowed my students some time to browse through the order. We talked about reading the titles and the summary of the books.  We talked about the power of persuasion and a job around the house that they might do to work for their books.

I then had them to write down their "Top 3" books that they'd like for their parents to get.  (I made sure to tell them to capitalize and underline the titles.)

I then had them fill in the prices and total their order.  They were very excited to give them to parents. I got back more orders than I normally get and the students were tickled to work for them.  I kept getting asked when the order would be in.  The excitement was almost tangible!

I also covered several standards while doing this and they didn't even realize!  Hehe...It's fun to trick the monkeys now and then.  :)

The bunny should be here soon. Watch out for those jellybeans!
The Zookeeper

Friday, April 6, 2012

We Survived!

Ahh...Spring Break... Oh, how I've missed you!

Our break began for us on Wednesday at 1:00.  Don't you just LOVE early dismissals?

I wanted to post yesterday and even on Wednesday, but had to get batteries for my camera before I could put up our pictures of our spring math review!  I went to the store twice and forgot batteries both times.  Lucky for me, I remembered today! :)

Our math review was a success!

They absolutely LOVED the egg hunt!  We learned that we had too many centers inside for them to rotate through.  (We were all exhausted by the end.)  So, we will tweak those parts for next year.

My group started off with the egg hunt.  I was so busy watching them running around for eggs that I forgot to get pictures of that part!  So, here is a team after getting the eggs and sitting down to answer the questions.

There was one person from each of our third grade classrooms on a team.  Along with regular eggs, we hid a "golden egg," too.  It was worth 20 bug tickets.  (That is what we use for our rewards program.)  They LOVED the golden egg!  It took us about 45 minutes to find the eggs and answer the questions.  There were three questions each from the four core subjects. We didn't make them super easy. They were a good challenge!  The winning team's prize was a chocolate bunny! They were awarded this after lunch.

After we got inside, they rotated through multiple centers in two different classrooms.  They stayed on the same teams.  They worked really well together.  I think the change of faces was good for them!

Now for the pics!! Here we have the "bunny hop".  They donned the cute bunny or mouse ears and were asked a multiplication problem.  They then had to hop out the answer on the number line.  I thought the boys would not wear the ears, but they did and never complained! Yay!!

Here students had to sort out commutative and identity properties.  They also sorted some true or false problems. Next time we will need to have an answer key for them to check.  This one is a hard one for most students!

We used the SmartBoard for our combinations center.  They could drag the characters and see how many combinations they could make. They always love the SmartBoard!

Here students counted and developed fractions using Smarties candies.  They loved eating the Smarties when they finished.

Here students find the area of the bunny flag using flats from our place value kits.

This one was a favorite!

Here we used Twizzlers for measurement and making geometric figures.  Then they ate the Twizzlers. Yum!

We were soooooo tired when we finished, but it was sooooo worth it!

These were just a few of the centers that we used.  The others worked well, but my camera battery died on me. (Boo!!)

What are you doing to review for testing?  We are thinking of making a "living museum" for our history review.  We just need to get our ducks in a row... quack, quack! ;)
The Zookeeper

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Spring Fun and Testing Review

Greetings from the Zoo!

We are counting down to testing and we are surprised at how very little time we have!  We will begin testing on April 19th.  Sounds far away, right?  WRONG!! We have only 8 full days left to teach. E-I-G-H-T!!!
Our spring break falls in there and steals our time. Don't get me wrong, we need the break. I'm just feeling a little panicked... Join me, won't you???

My partners-in-crime, Lisa and Candie, and I decided to do some fun spring/Easter things for the monkeys to change things up a bit.  Some review for our tests! Yes, that's the ticket!

After some discussing, we decided to make a morning of it! We decided to mix up our children for some added fun.  (Our children are so tired of each other right now, it is for their safety and our sanity.) ;)  We are going to let them pick a letter out of a basket (A, B, or C) and that will be the group that they are with for the activities.

Lisa had the idea of an egg hunt with review questions inside the eggs. They will "hunt" an egg of each of the colors.  They will then sit down and work out the review questions.  They will race to see who finishes first.  The team that finishes first gets a big chocolate bunny!

We decided we would focus on math and create centers to rotate through while one group is doing the egg hunt review outside. Each teacher will be in charge of a group and we will rotate through two classrooms set up with centers and then the egg hunt will be right outside in the grass and shade of our classrooms. preparation we took each strand of standards and came up with some activities.  We then divided to conquer. (Which is most definitely our motto.)

I've been working on combinations, volume, and estimation.

First, combinations...

I've used some springy clipart from Graphics From the Pond over at TpT to create the combinations SmartBoard center.  They are turning out cuter than I expected!  I made several slides to keep them busy. Here is a look at two.

Next, volume...

I'm going to use the idea below for volume.  I snatched it from Pinterest.  It's originally from the Corkboard Connections Blog.  I've super glued the marshmallows together so that they stay that way. I built an example and one with a question.  Then the children are going to get to build their own.  When they are finished they get a handful of marshmallows to eat!

Lastly, estimation...

The other center I'm responsible for is jelly bean estimation.  I have a mason jar filled with different layers of jelly beans.  Students are going to estimate the number and then use clues to figure out how many there really are in the jar.  I left the jar at school or I'd have a pic for you!  (Says dirty words under her breath!)

I can't wait until Tuesday. I will most definitely take LOTS of photos to share!

So, are you doing anything fun for your class to review for tests?  Let me know! I could use some terrific ideas!

Until next time... try and catch that rabbit, will you???  He may have chocolate!
The Zookeeper