How Strong Is Your Box?

Last week was rough disappointing just plain sucky!
Bad unannounced observation, classroom AC went out, not enough time to plan anything, finding out my module supplies were delivered a month ago and a teacher has just claimed them for themselves. Oh and the best part, we are just now approving some schedules changes so I am getting new students and losing students every period!
On top of a rough week both teaching wise and classroom management wise I ended up sick. It's an inevitable joy of teaching in a classroom with 170+ students who have tons of germs, you end up sick occasionally.
On the positive side I battled through the head cold and enjoyed Citizen Cope on Friday night with Mr. B and friends. And then spent two days bumming about the house and cooking. My favorite concoction so far is Coconut Thai Shrimp Soup, Coconut Chicken Tenders and Baked Orzo Eggplant with Mozzarella.
One project that has been a home run with my career tech kiddo's is something I made up based on a build idea I stumbled across. I called the project, How Strong Is Your Box?
Students had 5 index cards, 1 piece of paper and 4 feet of tape to create a box that will hold at least 50 pounds before crushing. The teacher who I borrowed the idea from had boxes that withheld 325 pounds but they had a nice machine that was crushing the boxes and all I had was my arm strength.
We did two builds. One with no planning and only 20 minutes to build. Over the next 2-3 days we learned the Technology Problem Solving Method and then the students worked through and typed up the planning process on their computer before they built again.
The kiddo's had so much fun building and even more fun crushing the boxes. It seemed like they also really connected the steps to each part of the thinking/building process.
I plan to use the Technology Problem Solving Method to do more build projects to break up our module rotations.
And the bonus of all bonuses, 6th graders HEART build projects! They look at you with such admiration that you let them create and design with a partner and I HEART finding build projects that don't require me to purchase supplies.
I can't believe we are already approaching week 5 of the school year, here's to a better week and wrapping up projects in Robotics and Web Design and moving forward to something more exciting! And to figuring out what happened to those darn module supplies before we get through the orientation module.

The Babbling Box!


This week I am struggling.
I say this after I just returned home from attending our 7th/8th grade boys football games. An attempt in making some head way with some particularly tough kiddos. So I feel like I am going above and beyond in some aspects.
Think-pair-share is completely failing. Half the time students have no clue what they are supposed to even be sharing and the rest of the couples take the time to chit chat. I have tried providing examples, teaching procedures to teach-pair-share, stopping and reexplaining. Still nothing!  I feel like I am talking to the walls more than students. What are some of your tips for implementing think-pair-share in a way that will help students better understand what we are doing and actually be on task.
Class discussions are just painful. A warm up that brought 30 minute discussions last year, so much longer than planned but they were so invested in debating 2 year vs 4 year college who was I to stop them, was simply ignored today. I tried to stir the pot, add some bits of info to the conversation, call on them using my Popsicle stick method and still nothing. Radio silence might of been less awkward.
Yesterday in 3 Robotics classes I wanted the class to tell me what they are supposed to be doing with the research project we started over a week ago. I have reviewed the project everyday, they have worked on it for more than 5 days, the rubric was on the board and in their worksheet in front of them. One class took 15 students to finally completely explain the assignment and another took 20 solid minutes to answer. I feel like I am wasting class time but if I give in then I am accepting them opting out or settling with I don't knows.
I have a few super tough kiddos that are dragging a few classes down. I am at the point where I am reconsidering even doing the lego robotics with one particular class and it really isn't fair to the rest of the students. Those particular tough kiddos have run the gamut of my in class consequences, redirection (100 times a class period as per their ARD), reflections sheets out the wazoo, time off computers and sitting out of preferred activity time. My patience and classroom management of the entire class is suffering.
Last school year was hard due to disrespectful students, I was cursed at so many times and called plenty of names, but this year has been amazing as fair as my relationship with my students. I am just feeling a bit stumped about how to make some positive changes. It's not that the students are doing poorly grade wise, but I feel like they are just going through the motions and completely spacing out. Our school is focusing on the role of the learner and evaluating us based on what the learner is doing so I feel like once again I am struggling with the idea of having an administrator evaluate my classroom.
This post sort of took on a life of its own and was much longer than intended! Any tips or tricks would be greatly appreciated!
The Babbling Box!

Tell Me Something GoOd!

Since leaving work I have been running over my current school rants in my head on some sort of automatic repeat, I should admit early on here I have a bit of an obsessive personality,  Mr. B already got to here my 20 minute babbling right when I walked in the door and I was all set for a blog post titled MY FRUSTRATIONS!
But then I saw the link for the Tell Me Something Good linky that Rowdy in First Grade is hosting and I knew this was the more positive way to go.
Most likely my frustrations will be here tomorrow, so no need to dwell. Goodness that sounds so centered and grown up of me.

My Something Good From School

My Web Design Blog project is taking off! Like cah-razy taking off!
Last year it took my web design kiddo's close to a month to get invested in their blog accounts and this year only about a week. I have three pages worth of blog posts on our board already!
And over 14 students posted today's warm up on their blog, it was a chance for them to journal about what they think it means to protect their right to read, with Banned Book Week coming up it was a perfect segway into our copyright lesson.
My proudest moment was when students started changing their avatars, adding widgets and games without me even showing them how. Now that's what I call problem solving skills!

My Something Good From Home

Now that I think I am down to only three after school meetings a week I figured it was time to start cooking again and I think I hit two meals out of the park these past two days. Or Mr. B is gagging them down quietly, I at least know I haven't killed him yet!
I love recipes from Jerry Seinfeld's wife created some pretty easy recipes with video instructions and every recipe has a been a success for me. Yesterday I made the crock pot lasagna and it was an amazing lunch today. It made SO much food, lunch for me for the week, two or three dinners for Mr. B and some frozen away for October. And the best part I think the prep time was less than 30 minutes.  I did tweak mine a little, I added Italian Sausage and some extra tomato sauce.
Tonight I made Steak with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Syrup and it was scrumptious! Recipe can be found here, I pretty much stuck to it, but added a bunch more spices. I have a horrible time actually following the directions, odd since I teach.
Hope everyone has a great week!
The Babbling Box!


I know that today is Saturday, but I wanted to do a quick post on how much a HEART Fridays. And not just because its the last work day of the week.
I will be honest when I first started at the school Fridays completely through me off, we do a modified block schedule so on Wed/Thur we have 90 minute periods and then Friday we go back to 48 minutes. And boy does that 48 minutes fly by, the students are antsy for the weekend and I felt like a crazy person trying to get the lesson done before the bell rang.
And then it hit me, why not write into my lesson some reward time. A lot of jobs have a casual dress day on Friday and since my class is a career based class we could end our week with some casual time.
There are three reward systems that go into this, I know some teachers that do less and others that do more but it seems like a manageable amount for me to keep up with.
1.  Individual Rewards
Every day my students are given raffle tickets for doing something right or great. For example, you do you warm up, you get a raffle ticket. You participate in class discussion, raffle ticket. Help a neighbor, raffle ticket. Etc.
Then on Friday's we draw out 5-7 winners for each class period. Rewards are not things that cost me money, because frankly I don't have any I teach. I use grade incentives: 100 for a warm up, 5 points on a project, 100 for a daily grade. As well as 5 minutes of PAT, listen to music why you work, first out of class.
90% of my students love getting these, a new student was bragging that he wouldn't have to do a warm up one day since he won. That equals a winning combination in my book.
2. Whole Class Reward
What is PAT you ask? PAT stands for preferred activity time, I actually take the time to write it into our lesson plan each week so a administrator can never question why we play computer games.
Each class is so graciously given 10 minutes each week by me and they can earn or lose time throughout the week. A class is up out of seats or talking when I am talking, I start my kitchen timer and hold it high, peers will start yelling at each other to sit down or be quiet and I never have to raise my voice. A particularly difficult class has 100% participation on warm ups I give them an extra minute.
When Friday comes around I designate a student a time manager and they tell me what time to stop my teaching to begin their PAT.
And suddenly you have 30 students able to play computer games and visit with peers. They eat it up! I introduced a very neat racing game to my students yesterday, TM Nation, and WOW did they love it.  It will be a great reminder all next week of what they are working for.
3. Grade Rewards
My newest reward system is giving my three-four highest grade ranked students in each period a little recognition and an extra reward card. I upped the anti a bit and did 10 minutes of PAT, listen to music why you work ( a class favorite, treated like gold) and use class ipad for the day. The class all cheered for them and it seemed to add to our class positivity.
Our school also does a school wide drawing with yellow tickets and I try really hard to give them out but most of our students are so indifferent to that drawing that the tickets end up on my floor so I try and stick to classroom incentives.
I am linking up with The First Grade Derby linky party What's Your Favorite Reward or Incentive. I absolutely love being able to add to my toolbox ways to motivate my students to keep class running smoothly and grades up! I would love to hear your tricks!
The Babbling Box

Teach Like A Champion: Strategy 1

In my rain traffic drive home this evening I was drafting a blog post in my head about my new improved group project strategies this week because frankly paying attention to traffic is boring and talking to yourself in the car is completely sane.
During my daily blog stalking reading I recalled that I wanted to participate in the Teach Like A Champion book study that Life In Middle School is hosting. This week's focus is strategy #1: no opt out. In a nut shell finding strategies to ensure no students can hide behind the infamous "I don't know."
And while I might be stretching the strategy a bit I think my original blog topic will fit in nicely with the book review. Well, in my sleep deprived state it seems like they connect, though I could be reaching a bit. Seriously though, what is with so many meetings! PBS, Robotics After school, CAC, Back to School Night, Robotics After School, Staff meeting and repeat. I would just love a day after school of no meetings where I can catch up on lesson plans, IT issues and grades, that is not a Friday, because by Friday at 4 my brain is mush.
Oh right, a book study!
Since the beginning of school I have been a bit stressed with the levels of my students. At first I thought I was moving too fast for their summer brains but then I was beginning to think I was teaching to space cadets. Do not get me wrong, I HEART my students this year! But I would give directions orally, they are on my projector, written in my worksheets on their computers and then have them repeat them back to me, wait 5 minutes and go around to check progress and get 30 "what are we supposed to do" "oh wait I shouldn't be playing games?"
So then I did what I despise, used their mouse to get them to the right site and basically spoon feed them information. In a 48 minute period I would maybe get half of the room working and the other half just left with their hands in the air.
On Sunday I said, NO MORE!
In Robotics I put students in groups of 2-3 to create a STEM career research presentation, the project was already written I just adjusted it to become a group project.
I reviewed how to work in groups with the class and gave them a group log and two question passes. Each day they must write down their progress and assign group members roles. They can only ask me two questions per class period so the group has to decide the question that gets asked together.
Daily grades are given in two ways; one from me observing group work and the other from group members grading each other's progress. And the most genius part, they can fire a member who is not contributing and that person will have to create a presentation alone.
And guess what it worked! (Cue the happy dance!)
For the last three days I have had students working together to create presentations over a STEM career. Even better when I move around the room I see all three students huddled around the computer with powerpoint or prezi open entering information.
When I do stumble upon an unsure group I walk them through the project in a different way and have the time to give them more attention.
And when I come across the group with one person goofing off, I ask the group members if they want to fire the student, they sort of shrug and agree and the student persuades the team that he will shape up. Fifteen minutes later I check back in and the group is working together in unison.
I believe that by turning the tables on students and holding them accountable with each other it requires all students to step up their work. No over achiever is left doing all the work and no under achiever is allowed to skate by without actually contributing.
In middle school image is so important and no student wants to be rejected by their friends so they suddenly work harder to understand the project, take the time to discuss the content of the project with the group members and teach each other what they know about creating visual appealing presentations. This would never happen if they just had to create it on their own.
I think this ties in perfectly with the no opt out strategy, no student is able to hide behind the "I don't know" or "I don't get it" and survive in the group.
In a bonus our school started Social and Emotional Learning with the Step Up Program this year and for the past two weeks we have been focusing on the social aspects of group work so I am able to tie all of those skills into our class routine.
While I do try to use other "no opt" techniques in my classroom, I wanted to stick with something that I was trying out this week and that was working. Also I really didn't want to babble too much, you can go ahead and say yea right!
One more day until the weekend! I am already feeling a big day focused on rewarding students and our PAT rather than too much content, a post for another day.
The Babbling Box!

The Virus Ate My Computer

I have the absolute worst luck with computer viruses! At the law firm I at least had an outside IT consultant to handle those sorts of tasks but for my personal computer its just me, and I seem to be failing. After a week of fighting with my laptop I finally was able to set it back to factory settings and it works wonderfully but also means I lost all of my music and bookmarks, super annoying!
Blogging/blog stalking has been horrible difficult on my work laptop so I have been a bit of a slacker. I am pretty sure I haven't been on pinterest once this week, not sure how I ever survived.
Here is my second week hits and misses!
1.  I found the perfect way to use my projector! I don't give up easily and on Friday I spent my entire 1st period conference time messing with my projector and its settings. And then I had the most brilliant idea, turn the lights off and use the cement wall instead of the projector screen. And it worked! Every period all of my classes whole heartily agreed they liked the room with the lights off, its odd teaching in the dark but if it works it works.
2.  On Friday 5 out of my 6 classes took notes, quietly and thoroughly. Seeing so much student participation so early on is always a good sign for work to come.
3. On Friday 7th period won. I spent a great deal of the weekend analyzing where I can improve my classroom management with them and hope to see some improvements this week. My odds aren't great we only averaged one good day all week.
4.  I still have 7 broken computers! Super impossible to take fair grades if some students don't have a working computer.
5. I hate grading papers. I spent over 5 hours this afternoon entering an unreal amount of grades. I have close to 180 students. 8 grades per student for the first two weeks. What an exciting Sunday I had.
6.  I made it to the gym one day after work! I consider this an accomplishment considering I made it zero days the first week.
7.  In an effort to become more involved I started a Robotics after school club this week and joined the PBS committee.
8.  The Longhorns won their second game! And I got to spend the game out watching with friends, which is truly the best way to spend a game day!

I am bracing myself for a full third week with tons of late meetings, with hopes that after this week things will start evening out and perhaps I might even get all of my computers working.
The Babbling Box!

Currently September

Oh boy it's already September a month centered on school, football and hopefully cooler weather. Considering we survived me starting teaching, finding a rental and moving last year, this September should be a breeze.

I am linking up with Oh' Boy Fourth Grade for this months currently.


On Tuesday we will have our school's open house night, it will be my first open house so I am a bit nervous. I teach 3 electives and we will only have 10 minutes with each classes parents so I don't really know what I will do for those 10 minutes. On another note about a 1/2 of my students returned the syllabus signed on the Spanish side and my Spanish is rough. 

Sometimes I think teaching an elective is a double edge sword, while I lucky that I don't have a true curriculum to stick to it can cause me to be a bit indecisive when planning lessons. For example leaving school today I decided I wanted to switch around Career Tech's plans for next week, which means reprinting and resubmitting the lessons and worksheets. Not sure why I insist on adding to my work load.


We check out projectors each year from the library so you don't necessarily get the same projector each year, and my new projector STINKS! No one can see anything and I practically have my rolling cart on top of student to get it close enough to the screen. Grrr.

Favorite Things:

1. I created a free website on for my class and I HEART it! The website has all of my worksheets uploaded it to them so they have easy access and they can always pull down rubric and work on projects from anywhere. Also my website has links we regularly use with log in instructions so I never have to type in url's for the students. Yippie!

2. I purchased these amazing Rocket Dog shoes from DSW added an insert and they are amazingly comfortable! So much so I went back and bought them in black too! Pretty sure the soles will be gone by October I am wearing them so much.

3. Having tons of energy and getting to bed early are both musts for me during the school year and I would be no where without Spark from Advocare for energy and Melatonin at night to help me relax and fall asleep. Probably sounds like a bit of an oxymoron mix but they are both herbal so I feel okay taking them.

The Babbling Box!


The Highs and Lows, Week 1

Week 1 down! Oh yea, go me!!!
I truly forgot how much teaching puts my life on hold, this is only my second blog post of the week, I never made it to the gym a single day despite bringing my gym bag each day and I am pretty sure I only ate salads for dinner not for health reasons but from complete laziness. I keep repeating to myself, it evens out, it evens out! Although considering my schedule of after school meetings for the next two weeks it might be a while.
In an attempt to capture both the highs and lows of each week I plan to try and post a top 5 or 10 every weekend, also I have a large tendency to babble, shocking I know, so hopefully it makes the posts to the point.

1.  No matter how much you decorate, organize and plan for your room and first week lessons, having 23 out of your 30 computers actually working means your manning a sinking ship. All of my activities and projects are computer based, I am a paper free classroom, so 7 students not being able to work means the inevitable classroom management issues.
2.  The janitors complemented my classroom as being one of the cleanest in the school at the end of the day! My paperless plan and focus on tidying our areas every day is really making a difference.
3.  All sixth graders and even some seventh and eighth graders don't know how to log onto a computer. This was news to me! So most of my 30 minute periods were spent just making sure the students could actually log in and knew where to pick up the weekly worksheets. My poor seven students who couldn't log in will get to go through those trials next week.
4.  My students are already telling our AP that they love my class, which has truly blown me away considering all we have done was procedures, safety activities and practicing logging in.
5.  My new attention signal is working out wonderfully! Last year I tried a call and response saying, Hook Em and the class saying Horns. Oddly I was too embarrassed to follow through with the signal, odd I know. This year I am doing the countdown, 5,4,3,2,1 with the hand signal and by 1 all talking should stop and attention is on me. And it works! I rarely need to get past 3 and all talking stops, and I have perfected the concept of stopping all directions mid sentence if talking starts back up. It's really amazing how much more respect the class is showing with just a few reminders of procedures.
6.  Middle schoolers HEART taking pictures of themselves. We have been using and my collection of fake mustaches and they have been having so much fun putting together their about me project. Even students who last year were the frequent hall way runners have gotten into the project.
7.  I have about four students who don't speak a bit of English. This is really scaring me, I have no real means to communicate with them and they have no clue what is going on. I have tried using the ipad translator and it has helped about 5%. Any teachers have some suggestions with communicating with non English speakers?
8.  This year I have been able to go with the flow so much better, I have some classes that due to limited class times just won't get through all of my safety activities and I am just learning to be flexible.
9.  I am two weeks ahead with all 3 of my lesson plan writing! Big happy dance here! Considering last year I was staying up til 1:00 in the morning writing lesson plans, this is such a big accomplishment.
10.  I am enjoying this Labor Day weekend spoiling myself and relaxing. Last Labor Day I was beyond stressed as I would be teaching that following Tuesday for the first time and spent much of the weekend in my classroom trying to get it semi ready and not cry.
In a complete off topic rant, I am a Longhorn football fan, I spent much of my four years going to games and cheering on their wins. I can even tell you exactly where I was and who I was with when the Horns one the Rose Bowl. Over the last four years me and Erica spent most of our weekends either working at a sports bar or watching the games.
Yesterday was the first Longhorn game of the season and while they won I am completely ticked. The game was only shown on the Longhorn Network which is not available on most cable networks. Mr. B couldn't even show it at his sports bar! So in the city of Austin where I am an alumni I couldn't even watch the game. Greedy organizations completely drive me insane. End Rant!
Hopefully everyone has a wonderful upcoming week!
The Babbling Box!