March 31, 2014

Spring Break in Pictures

Another spring break come and gone...I was blessed with the opportunity to spend a beautiful week in Florida visiting my brother, sister in law, and sweet little niece.  My parents let me freeload along with them for the week--youngest child perks. ;)  At the end of vacation I always have mixed feelings--part of me is always so ready to get back into my routine, but it is always so hard to leave.  Especially when I have to say goodbye to this little sweetie:
Anyways, the week was filled with beach runs, good food, tea parties with my niece, trips to the zoo, long periods of uninterrupted reading, and so much wonderful time with family.
Feeding the birds at the zoo...
Bedtime stories... 
Reading time...finished 4 books during the week!
Plenty of tea parties...
Love being steps from the ocean!
Three beautiful beach runs, one at sunrise...

The highlight of the week was probably the morning my brother, mom, dad, and I spent doing a ropes/zip line course at the Brevard Zoo.  It was sooo much fun and a great workout too!  
Dad and I high in the treetops...  
LOVE zip lining!

Mom's not afraid!
Some of the zip lines were really long, and one went over the zoo alligator habitat--eep!
Super hero dad! 
We did it!

Today it's back to real life... :(  Oh, and stay tuned for some AWESOME product reviews and giveaways coming up in the next few weeks!

March 20, 2014

Three Things Thursday

My new discovery this week is a great one...Chia Seeds!  Have you tried these little guys?  I have seen them on healthy living blogs before, but ever since reading Born to Run last summer I've been super intrigued.  They are filled with Omega 3s, fiber, and some protein. Saturday afternoon I happened to spot them at Trader Joe's, so I picked up a bag.  I have to say I am sold!  I tried using them to make this Chia Seed Pudding which I loved--just like a healthy version of tapioca.  I also have made Overnight Oats twice--greek yogurt, raw oats, almond milk, fruit, and chia seeds.  After a night soaking in the fridge, the chia seeds are all "puffed up" and the consistency is awesome.  Loved this for breakfast this week!  While I am *slightly  disappointed* that I am not magically capable of running 100s of miles thorugh the Mexican desert barefoot ala Born to Run after eating them, they taste good and helped make my breakfast a little more filling, so I'll take it. ;)
Overnight Oats = On the Go Breakfast!
Tuesday I swam my FURTHEST DISTANCE EVER!  I made it 2,000 yards in the pool and swam all of it freestyle!  If you're a long time reader, you may remember that I battled my freestyle fear for years--I have no idea what it was, but I'd panic when I swam freestyle for longer than a lap or two.  In fact, I swam breaststroke for all three of my tris.  This year, among other goals, I decided I was going to conquer freestyle.  While my form is far from pretty, I am getting stronger, can swim further, and feel much more comfortable.  And hey, that's the goal, right??  I was pretty pumped about my long swim--don't worry, I rewarded myself with a shamrock shake after.  No picture because it was pretty much gone by the time I got home!!  ;)
Between that long swim and the ten mile run I banged out Sunday, I am pumped for tri season to start!  

I leave for Florida tomorrow!!!  So far my packing has consisted of "make a big pile of everything on my suitcase, organize later," but at least I've got my books packed!  Three YA sequels and a tri training book.  Hoping it has some new tips for me!  (My Dad loves the title of this book bc he says only an idiot would do a triathlon... ;)
Anyways, I am more than ready to get out of here and spend some time with my brother, sister in law, and sweet little niece.  Can't wait for some amazing beach running too!!  

Did you make any new discoveries this week?
Have you had an awesome workout lately?
Spring break plans?

March 19, 2014

How a Work Party Turned Me into a Pretend Yoga Teacher

A few weeks ago, my principal hosted a party at his house as a "pump the teachers up for state testing" kinda thing. At one point in the party, a few other teachers and I were talking about our "dream careers."  It's no secret that these days teaching is more demanding than ever before, especially with the new intensity that came with the adoption of Common Core and the looming threat of the challenging PARCC tests that may or may not be adopted next year...I love teaching and love my students, but I know I'm not alone in that on particularly stressful days I find myself sometimes thinking, "Maybe I could be a _____(fill in the blank with less stressful job)..."

Anyways, I decided my "pretend dream career" is a yoga instructor.  Come on--they are so calm, they wear comfy clothes, and they get to do yoga all day long.  Oh, and they also get to teach something without worrying about learning standards, testing, AYP, RTI, you name it.  Of course, I doubt they get health benefits, but this is my fictitious dream world we're talking about here!
 After sharing that, someone said that if I led a yoga class at my school, they would totally come.  I decided this was the way to realize my yoga instructor dreams!  I invited some other teachers and a few days later we unrolled mats, towels, etc. on my floor, dimmed the lights, and I led some coworkers in a half hour of vinyasa yoga.  It was wonderful!  The next week we did it again, and a few other teachers showed up too.  Yesterday was our 4th "class," and I am LOVING IT.  It is the perfect relaxation break during a busy week.

It's been a wonderful change of pace for me to create the playlist, plan out the class, and practice yoga with coworkers. More than ever, I am reminded the importance of having an outlet during the workweek that is unrelated to teaching.  Sure I have my running and tri training, but I love that this is just a different change of pace.  And it gets me doing yoga an extra day of week.  Motivation FTW!  I don't know why I didn't think of doing this sooner!

Do teachers at your school ever exercise together?  

March 18, 2014

Unpacking "Grown Up" Poems in the Classroom

Does your district use the MAP test?  We take this computer-based test three times a year in math and reading.  The test gets easier or more difficult based on student responses, and students are expected to make growth throughout the school year.  Once kids start scoring in the top 10 or 15 percentiles, the questions can be suuuper difficult.  My kids' have been asked to read Shakespeare, Poe, and any number of difficult poems.  Because our literacy series is definitely on the light side (and that's an understatement) when it comes to poetry, my team tries to supplement it in as a shared reading activity every other Friday or so.  This year, I made it a goal to use as much classic poetry as I can--"grown up poems" I call them--because the kinds of poems the kids see on MAP tests and the kinds they need to be able to read to meet Common Core Standards are definitely not the cutesy ones about leprechans or school buses I may have used with students in the past.  Don't worry, we are still reading plenty of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutzky, but this year my students have been exposed to Poe, Wordsworth, Dickenson, and other classic poets.  

The goal of sharing these heavy poems with my third and fourth graders is not that they can demonstrate complete comprehension--some of the poems we've read I first read in my high school or college literature classes!  Instead, I hope to show my students that they don't need to be intimidated by tricky poems.  We read with the goals of visualizing what the poet is describing and identifying the types of figurative language used by the poet.  When given a smaller purpose, my students have found that they can attack the poems and begin to understand pieces of them which, for an 8 or 9 year old, is definitely a great step into the world of poetry.  

When we were working on personification, I shared the poem "I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud."  We did a class close read, reading the poem a few times together for different purposes.  First, I had the kids listen for the rhyme scheme.  Then, they listened to one stanza at a time with the purpose of visualizing.  We did Turn and Talks to share which parts we were able to visualize.  The kids realized when they broke it into bite-sized pieces, they were able to better understand the poem.  (This was definitely all guided, btw!!)  
After reading the poem together a few times, I reviewed personification and modeled identifying an example in the poem.  I then gave the kids copies of the poem, highlighters, and had them work in pairs to reread the poem a few more times, looking for more examples of personification.  They also hunted for similes and imagery, two other literary devices we'd learned earlier in the year.  The kids marked the figurative language and coded the text.  We then came back together as a class, and the kids shared the examples they'd found, underlining and circling them on the board.
This lesson had a few goals--to give my students practice at identifying examples of figurative language in a quality text, and to help my students become comfortable with unpacking a high-level poem.  My hope is that not only will they be less intimidated when they encounter poems on standardized tests, but that they will see the beauty in poetry from a young age and be less intimidated by poetry their whole lives!

March 14, 2014

A Child's Pose Kind of Day

(Pssst!  My new Facebook Page for Juice Boxes + Crayolas is already at 53 likes!  Help me make it to 100!  Thanks guys!)

You ever have a day when you're just totally off your game?  I have felt like that this whole week.  I don't know if it's the time change or a busy week or most likely the two things combined, but I have been capital-E-Exhausted all week.
Evidence of my exhaustion--yoga bag from Wednesday has yet to be unpacked...
Wednesday night at my hot yoga class, I think I was in child's pose at least a quarter of the time.  Seriously, the yoga teacher was all about planks and core and I just wasn't feeling it.  I tried to keep up with the class at first, but eventually I surrendered and found myself a nice rest in child's pose.  

Between a morning meeting, no specials for my kids during the day (which means no breaks for me), a lunch club, staff development after school, and racing to the pool to get in a swim, by the time I got to yoga class I was done.  As the rest of the class planked and chatarunga-ed around me, I caught my breath for maybe the first time all day.  And you know what? I am 100% okay with that.  There are days when you need to really push yourself to run that extra mile, swim that extra lap, or hold that pose that extra minute, but there are also days that the kindest thing you can do for yourself is listen to your body and what it needs.  Some days you just need a child's pose.
When do you know it's time to give yourself a break?
What "I need a child's pose" moments have you had lately?

March 13, 2014

Three Things Thursday

So I made a huge discovery last night--I have been making smoothies wrong my WHOLE LIFE.  Seriously folks, gather round.  This is huge.  So every time I make a smoothie, it always drives me crazy that I have to stop the blender several times and stir the ingredients up.  But then this week, I read somewhere (and I literally have no clue where) that you should put your liquid in the bottom of the blender, then your greens, and finally chunks of fruit and ice on top.  I have always done exactly the opposite--layer the fruit and greens, then pour almond milk over it all.  I tried the liquid first method and oh em gee, it was perfect!  
 So tell me--am I the only one who didn't know that this was the correct way to make smoothies?  Am I smoothie-inept?  Is this common sense to anyone else?  It honestly never occured to me--I've been blaming my blender for years!

Today was our LAST DAY of ISAT testing!!  Woohoo!!  More than anything, I am relieved to be back to our normal schedule--for everyone's sake!!!  My pre-testing "pep talks" have gotten shorter every day, and yesterday morning I had to swap my heels for a pair of crocs midway through our test.  I am so over testing!!

My grade level team has been saying this year that we needed a "team building" activity to socialize together outside of school.  Back in December, we bought Groupons for one of those step-by-step painting classes.  None of us are artists, but there was the promise of conversation and wine.  We ended up having a great time!

(That wine has been refilled by this point...)

The finished product!  I'm not going to be changing careers anytime soon, let's just say!

Tell me about your week!

March 12, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

And then, in mid-March, it snowed AGAIN...
Why??? :(

(PS--don't forget to check out my new facebook page!)

March 11, 2014

The Mother of All Brain Breaks Sites--GoNoodle!!

Anybody else knee-deep in standardized testing right about now?  My third and fourth graders have been giving it all they've got on our state tests for the past week +.  The only thing keeping us ALL sane has been GoNoodle!  Let me back up a little bit...In my classroom, we LOVE brain breaks.  Some of them are super quick like a few jumping jacks or chair push-ups, but other time we will take a few minutes for a dance break, quick game, or youtube video.  Spending a few minutes getting the wiggles out and getting our brains relaxed in between lessons during the day definitely pays off when I don't need to waste instructional time DURING lessons redirecting and managing behavior.
Anyways, one of my colleagues introduced me to GoNoodle at exactly the right time--just days before we busted out our state testing booklets.  GoNoodle is a site chock full of awesome brain break videos--everything from Zumba to meditation to track and field simulations.  The site is unique in that you register (for free!) and set up your class complete with mascot.  Then, for every minute your class does on the site, you earn points. 15 minutes gets you to the next level, which basically means your class mascot character grows muscles. The kids LOVE IT.
For the past week, my class has been using GoNoodle like crazy as we waded our way through standardized testing.  As soon as the test booklets have been collected, my kids hurry to move their desks back into place and race to our gathering area for a GoNoodle break.  An hour is a LONG TIME for third and fourth grade brains and bodies to stay still and focused on a test!
Also, because our testing and our specials are in the morning, we have been trying to cram every other subject into the afternoon!  Not an easy task, especially when everyone's brains are drained from testing.  My class works to "earn" GoNoodle breaks for doing great work and focusing during the afternoon subjects.  We will take a quick Go Noodle break after something cognitively demanding like guided reading.  So far the Zumba and Track brain breaks have been our favorites.
I am the FIRST person to stress the importance of not wasting instructional time, but these brain breaks are 100% NOT a waste of time--taking a few minutes to participate not only resets brains and refocuses my class, but my kids also rally together as a team and community to earn their brain break points.  Not to mention the quick bit of exercise!  I definitely plan to make GoNoodle a part of our regular classroom routine even after state testing is over!  Seriously, check it out!

Do you use brain breaks in your classroom?  When do you use them?  What are some of your kids' favorites?

March 10, 2014

Gems from Student Work

Lately my coworker and I have been texting pictures to each other while grading papers of the hilarious things our kids write for answers.  They have started to accumulate on my phone, and I decided some of these are too silly and wonderful not to share... (Note: No disrespect towards the students intended...I love each and every one so, so much--but I also love how they are kids and silly and make me laugh every day!!)
King Midas apparently "couldn't keep his hands off" his daughter...yikes!!!
Students read a folk tale about a mouse who gets stuck in a cage and tricks a cat to let him out.  The theme was that being clever can get you out of a difficult situation.  I guess it's true that if you are not clever you can get trapped in a cage and eaten, but I can't say it happens very often...
Our Common Core High Cognitive Demand task--change 1 event in The Princess and the Pea and rewrite the story from that point on to show how this change would affect the plot.  Somehow Mario and Princess Peach made it into this student's revision...don't remember them from the original plot!
I always tell my students to write "words of encouragement" for themselves at the top of tests--our usual is, "Bring it on!"  This student took it in a different direction...
Luckily for this student, I have watched my fair share of Dance Moms, so I caught that reference right away... ;)

Dear Miss Teacher, you are like a sweet tree...
That is a new one, but I will take it.

Miss Teacher, it was so easy, my brain is turned to 1000 percent, my brain is like a fire ball
Especially special because this one was from my Syrian student who did not speak one word of English when he came to my classroom last fall! 
And oh this one...I have one student who is responsible for changing our schedule magnets every afternoon and writing the next day's date on the board...this is confusing on so many levels...

To remember on stressful days: I love my job because it makes me laugh every day. :)

March 8, 2014

Life Lately--5 Random Recent Happenings

Hi friends!  Haven't been in the blogging mood lately--seems like I go two weeks with blogging, then need two weeks off.  Oh well!  Part of this lack of motivation to do much has to do with the fact that winter is STILL continuing to beat us down in snowed AGAIN this morning!  #sooverit
First off, after blogging for 6 years (6 years???), I finally bit the bullet and created a facebook page for Juice Boxes + Crayolas!  Check it out (and maybe hit like?? ;) here!
Since I haven't blogged for awhile, prepare yourself for a completely random post and photo dump of my life lately...

Lucky me got to escape the cold for a few days in Texas last weekend!  Between standardized test prep, stir crazy kids at school, and my own winter blues, a weekend somewhere warm was just what I needed.  My friend and I spent three days stuffing our faces, drinking beer, and running in beautiful places.  

We got in a 7 mile run through downtown Austin and the surrounding areas and a 9 mile run on an amazingly beautiful trail while I was there.  God I have missed running in shorts and tank tops!  Perfect weekend.

Another bestie and I spent the weekend together a couple weeks ago, and I was able to cross something off my 30 before 30 list--we got tattoos!  I'd been thinking about a tattoo for a loooong time and so had my friend, so we finally bit the bullet and did it together.  Mine was super simple and only took about 20 minutes, but my friend's took 4+ hours!  Yikes.

I have wanted a tattoo of birds to symbolize freedom and peace.  Picked this spot and these words so I can have a reminder throughout the day to relax, keep calm, and be at peace.

We are in the thick of ISAT testing here in Illinois...4 tests down, 4 more to go for my kids...I'm already so over the whole thing.  Our already crazy town schedule is even more insane these weeks.  Basically we test and have specials in the morning, and then after lunch we cram in EVERY OTHER SUBJECT!  Ahhh!  It's a big whirlwind.  Counting the days until it's all over!

I shared this video of Let it Go from Frozen in ASL awhile back.  My students have been OBSESSED with this song for the last few months, and I have to admit so have I!  I convinced my two fabulous interpreter friends to spend a few hours after school with me Friday working on breaking the song down sign by sign so that we can use it as our morning song.  
I have loved being able to sign our current morning song, Best Day of My Life since I learned it back in December!  I know my kids will be even more excited about this one.  Now I just have to practice it a thousand times!  
Practicing this morning with the video and my cheat sheet!

I cannot stop eating Girl Scout cookies.  One of my students brought me a box of Tagalongs the other day, and by lunch time I'd already eaten 3...  Then today, I stopped at the library on my way home from my run at a nearby Arobretum, and some girl scouts were freezing out in the cold selling cookies.  I happened to have EXACTLY $4 in my wallet, the cost of 1 box, so I HAD to buy one.  Then I proceeded to eat 5 on the drive home...I'm out of control!  
I did make myself a healthy green smoothie to refuel from the run when I got home to add some nutrients into my day.
Goal: More green things, less cookies :)

After a busy last couple of weekends, I'm looking forward to taking it easy this weekend.  Starting with some reading under a blanket. ;)

What do you have planned this weekend?

What is your favorite kind of Girl Scout cookies?  My all-time favorites are Peanut Butter Sandwiches (I think they might be called Do Si Dos in some places?) and Tagalongs, but I am currently loving the Savannah Smiles that came out a couple of years ago.  YUM!

Do you have or want any tattoos?
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