Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Can't remember if I've mentioned this before, too lazy to search.

I. Love. ifaketext.com

The possibilities are endless! 

Here is a video demonstration of how to use this service!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Giving Tree - Awesome Idea!

Just found a truly awesome idea over at Tales of Teaching in Heels:

She put this up on a day when parents were visiting - each card has something written on it that a parent could donate to the classroom. FABULOUS! Now I REALLY wish we had some kind of Open House so that I could restock on dishtowels and the like!

Thanks for the inspiration, Ms. W!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Quizzes and "I'm Done!"

Kids are usually good about staying quiet they are finished with a quiz/test until the rest of the students finish as well... actually, until the last two or three are finished. Then they start to get squirmy, then someone whispers, then... well, you know. So over the years I've tried a few different techniques:

-Being very specific about my expectations of their behavior .
-Having a short assignment for them to work on after. Usually this assignment would either be related to what we would learn next or a current news article about what we had just learned. 
-Allowing them to read or work on other classwork. 

These all worked fairly well, but there were some kinks. The slower test takers would become anxious about not having time to work on the assignment if one was given. Not everyone brought reading material. Allowing them to work on items from other classes inevitably led them to ask each other questions about the assignment. And so on.

A few years ago a guidance counselor mentioned that she knew of a teacher who always ran all of her tests/quizzes like a standardized test: when students were finished, they simply turned their quizzes over, kept them at their desks, and had to wait quietly until time was up. Just for the heck of it I gave it a try one day with a particularly short quiz. It worked like a charm. Apparently still having their quiz right in front of them made them more mindful of not talking or even whispering, because they didn't want to look like they were cheating. There was no shuffle of books or papers as they got out something else to work on, no questions or requests for help... just respectful silence. And a few nappers. I began trying it with longer quizzes and tests, and still consistently received good results. An unexpected result was that they spent more time double-checking their answers, as there was no benefit to rushing and finishing early. Also, as they were sitting there waiting for others to finish, a few students would suddenly think of an answer they were stumped on, and since they hadn't handed their test in yet they could go back and fix it.

The con for me was that since I didn't collect their work as soon as it was completed, I had less in-class grading time (always trying to reduce that take-home load!), but the benefits to the kids obviously outweighed my inconvenience.

The con for the kids was that some of the early finishers had quite a bit of time to stare into space. Although, since I always require some kind of drawing of a dinosaur on my quizzes/tests, I started getting some pretty darn elaborate sketches.

As I was writing my first quiz of this school year, I had a brilliant-why-didn't-I-think-of-that-years-ago moment, and I put a puzzle on the back. I made sure the kids knew that it wasn't part of the quiz and that it was optional, and the results were amazing! After finishing almost everyone worked on the puzzle intently, keeping them occupied past the time when the last student finished. Success! So I will definitely be doing this with all future items.

The puzzles I've included so far have had a wide-range of purposes.

One included vocab words that had been introduced but we were still learning:

One was simply a word challenge:

One was a review of past information we've covered:

All of these were created either in MS Word or by using a free online puzzle generator - there are dozens of good ones to choose from.

This may be my favorite "new thing I've thought of" for this year so far. If you think this would work for your kids, give it a try and let me know how it turns out!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Little Bit o' Awesomesauce

There really is soooooo much I have to share and write about, but it's just gotta wait until I can sit down and do it justice! Columbus Day, maybe? Until then, a couple of thoughts...

First, I'd like to again thank Mrs. S over at The Crafty Raider for donating this AWESOME Snoopy flag to me!!!

Seriously, could this BE any more perfect???

And next, check out the improved artwork that one of my students has added to my doorway:

That chef's head has been there since the last time I worked here, and my name was painted on just before school started this year. She added the "Be Awesome!" - I LOVE IT!

Tomorrow is a half-day with kids and then SIP time, so the weekend is almost here. I hope you have all had a fabulous week! Happy Friday!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mild-Mannered Antioxidants

This is how I explain antioxidants and free radicals in class:

And yes, this does go in their notes:

By now they've pretty much all figured out this is no normal class.......

Monday, September 9, 2013

Good Criminals Have to Follow the Rules

I just read a news article about a guy who was busted with over $22K of heroin in his car when he was pulled over for speeding. My question is: if you know you have a small fortune worth of heroin in your vehicle, WHY WOULD YOU SPEED? That's like transporting a dead body in your trunk and rolling through a stop sign. It seems to me that if you're going to be a good criminal, you've gotta follow traffic laws, don't you think?

Watch me connect this to teaching.

I've taught in two different districts with substantial gang populations. One was a high school, and the gang members really didn't cause issues in school - in fact, some of the most respectful kids I have EVER taught were Latin Kings. The other was a junior high, and those kids were always in trouble.

And here's the difference: the high schoolers knew it was about conducting business, while the junior high schoolers thought it was about acting like a punk. The high schoolers understand that you can't sell the drugs when you're constantly being sent to the office and being watched because you're a repeat offender; the junior high schoolers don't quite grasp this. So again, to be a good criminal you've gotta follow the basic rules.

Yet, I don't think I'll go over this in class.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Google Fail & Vitamin Poem

So we're all familiar with this internal dialogue/scenario:

"Hmmm, you know what would be great in this lesson? ____________! Let's Google that..."
6 seconds pass...
"There we go! Modify this a wee bit, combine with that... boom! I'm done! Now for Boardwalk Empire!"

And we're also familiar with this one:

"Hmmm, you know what would be great in this lesson? ____________! Let's Google that..."
16 minutes pass...
"What the heck??!! I CANNOT be the first person who has thought of this! What is the deal with these scurvy pirate teacher hoarders??!! Don't people know how to share??!! Dagnabbit!"


Yeah, so I fell prey to Scenario #2 tonight, and I had to {gasp!} create my own wheel.

All non-teachers are now completely lost. Too bad.

In Foods 1 I'm working my way through a very basic introduction to the major nutrients. First, I will digress and discuss my Foods curriculum philosophy. I do not cook first quarter. For one, IT'S TOO DARN HOT! No air conditioning does not lend itself to a pleasant lab experience. Two, I find that it's absolutely crucial to spend a substantial chunk of time right out of the gate on nutrition; once we start in the kitchens the only thing the kids care about is "When're we gonna cook again? What're we gonna cook? Why do we have to learn this? This is stupid, why aren't we cooking?" and so on and so forth. So I start out with a big nutrition push, then go deeper as we cook our way through the different units.

And I begin with a basic overview of the six major nutrients, and drill them until they've got the real basic info and then we can begin to have intelligent discussions and really dig into the issues.

All this to say that this afternoon I was revamping the notes we take on vitamins, and I thought I'd really like them to be able to recall what each vitamin does, which is actually quite a bit of information and I don't want to spend days upon days just on vitamins. So, I'd need to boil it down to just the key information and give them some tricks to help them memorize them. At which point I thought, "There must be some kind of little poem or song out there about the vitamins!" Wrong. Could not find anything. Well, anything at all useful. Some weird stuff and some incomplete stuff, nothing helpful.

So I wrote my own. And since I am not a scurvy pirate teacher hoarder, I am going to share. Let me forewarn you that this is no work of genius; also, you really have to want it to make some of the syncopation work. Here it is:

And as I am big on both skeleton notes and graphic organizers, here is the form of the poem that my students will actually receive:

 And here's the filled in version:
We'll see how it works out!

And in case you're wondering, once we get into the more complicated stuff, I make them come up with their own stupid poems and memory devices, but first you gotta model, model, model.

Happy Sunday night!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ah, Adolescent Absurdity

Consider this a post in honor of a blogger I much admire and have mentioned before, M from Teenagers Are Ridiculous.

Boy: If we bring in music can we listen to it during work time?

Me: Um, I dunno. I'd have to hear it first.

Boy: And could we sing along with it? No singing isn't one of the class rules.

Me: No, but keeping me happy is one, and that might not make me happy.

Other Boy: What if our singing is so beautiful it's a mixture of Fergie and Jesus?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

Currently September

A new month, a new Currently with Farley!

Listening - If you have cats, you know they love plastic. This guy goes nuts for duvet clips - especially now that he's lost another tooth and is teething again. The shape is perfect for him, he carries it around like a little binky. It also glides well across floor & carpet, so he loves to bat it around and chase it.

Loving - Ahhh, a break from the 90s! I was roasting on the third floor of my non-air conditioned school this week. I have to say the kids did very well given the circumstances. It'll be great to be in a cooler room tomorrow, though the forecast says it won't last!

Thinking - I've probably written about this before, but I would definitely work longer days four days a week in order to get a three day weekend every week. Three days gives you one day for recovery, one day for work, and one day for play. On a regular weekend, by the time you've recovered, completed your work from the past week, prepped for the coming week, cleaned house/finished laundry/grocery shopped/gone to church, Sunday night bedtime is already here!

Wanting - These first two weeks have been wonderful! I hope the year continues to be this great!

Needing - I am pretty behind on my grad school work - the business of the beginning of the school year has absolutely pushed it to the back burner. Must get butt in gear! Luckily the end is near - we're finished in January!!!

For Me - #1: I need to find a running schedule that works with school being in session. Even though I ran at 5am most of the summer (to beat the heat), that time has become more challenging now. I think it's because it's now pretty dark out at 5. Because of that, I have to pay extra attention to everything, which slows me down, which means running the same distance takes longer, and I begin to lose steam farther from the finish line. Much as I love working out first thing in the morning, I think I'm going to have to try moving it to the afternoon when it's light out. We'll see!

#2: I'm working hard at not staying late, but I also don't want to leave until everything's ready to go for the next day. Now that my commute is longer I'm striving for more efficiency in that regard. This means staying ahead of the game and utilizing every minute of time during the day effectively, especially since I'm trying to minimize my "working at home" time as well. Last year I was a slave to the job which really ran me down; must avoid this year!

#3: Girlfriend time! One of the best decisions I made for myself last year was committing to seeing my best gal in Chicago at least once a month. My husband is my best friend and my favorite person to spend time with, but he can't replace female companionship (nor would I want him to). There's nothing like hanging out with the girls!

So what's "currently" going on with you? Link up!