Thursday, May 31, 2012

Where I've been...


Life has been a little busy in a really good way. I promise more to come soon!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What do you do in your spare time? I apparently play flag football.

A week ago, I walked into a bar and ordered an absolut on the rocks with olives. The bartender gave me a look that said: “Are you serious?” but he nonetheless made my drink, and I suffered through sipping the entire thing. It wasn't my drink, though. April 21st would have been my mom’s 61st birthday, but in October of this past year, she passed away after battling early-onset Alzheimer’s for 10 years.  By her drink alone, I’m sure you can tell she was pretty awesome (I mean, I had to chase the vodka with a margarita, but my mom was apparently known for doing shots with my dad’s family at weddings…).

My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was 50. A year later, when I was 16, my mom asked me what my name was, and a few years later, she just barely made it to my high school graduation—refusing to get dressed in the clothes my dad had laid out for her, yelling that they were “children’s clothes!” As a family, we look back on memories like this and try to laugh a little—remember how mom wouldn’t let us pick out clothes for her, because she thought we were trying to trick her and get her to wear children’s clothes? The memories are bizarre and crazy…and they highlight how Alzheimer’s is anything but a pretty disease. There is no cure, there are no odds to fight against, because even with the best treatment, there is no remission.

When I was 19, I was diagnosed with cancer, and I knew my odds. I knew the treatment plan—I was told: “This is your best chance; this is what has worked before.” When my mom was diagnosed with early–onset Alzheimer’s, and my dad asked, “What is the course of treatment?” The doctors said: “You just live each day the best you can.” There was no treatment; they tried medicine to slow it down, but in less than 3 years, she went from being an amazing, active mom, wife, and friend to someone who was fully dependent on others for her care. By being here tonight, donating and supporting the Alzheimer’s Association, you are hopefully leading to a change for others' diagnosed with Alzheimer's. There was no history of Alzheimer's in our family--we didn't know it was coming, and we couldn't do anything once it arrived. My brother and I know in the future it's possible we could hear the same diagnosis my mom did. However, we've committed to fighting against the same treatment plan she had by donating and supporting the Alzheimer's Association. Hopefully we'll be knocking back Absolut in 40 years together with all our friends, still able to remember my mom the way we do now.

I said this tonight at a fundraiser and was all fumbly and bumbly, two non-real words, but that aptly describe my fear of public speaking. Please feel free to donate and share this post with anyone and everyone!

You can donate here:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Erin Condren planners and products=an OCD teacher's dream

I adore Erin Condren notebooks...planners...iPhone needless to say I was ecstatic to discover this amazing deal for $25 for $50 for Erin Condren goods from Plum District! I think ANY teacher would love love love this, and if you read this blog, you may enjoy the same type of pretty things I do!

So I wanted to share this deal while you can still take advantage of it! I cannot WAIT for my teacher planner to arrive...or my new notebook to arrive...I wish I could buy endless coupons! It makes the $50 teacher planner that I might have felt guilty purchasing seem so much more reasonable for $25! 

My ridiculous assortment of Erin Condren goodness. My iPhone cannot take a picture of the iPhone case it is in however, so you'll just have to trust it's beautiful.


P.S. New blog design. What do you think?

P.P.S. Please use my link if you do purchase! I could get my order free--and then that would make this crazy day so much better (note that this is solely about planners not about all that happened to me today...can't type much about that so I am loving these beautiful notebooks instead!).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium Field Trip

I can't believe it's April! Our spring break just came and passed the first week of April, and the Wednesday we were back in school we had a field trip to the aquarium! The past two years, since I taught up in the Bay Area, we would go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Talk about an amazing field trip!

This year, now that I'm in LA, we went to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. I admittedly did not do as much field trip prep as I would have liked, but we still had an amazing time! I wish I had more photos, but they were pretty strict on photo taking...

The day before our trip we wrote about what we hoped to see or wished we would could see on the trip. Lots of wishes about penguins (my favorite animal), octopus pups, fish, and jellyfish!

Then, off to the aquarium we went on Wednesday, hoping the rain wouldn't disturb our visit! Students were able to go around to several different stations to learn about jellyfish, grunions, tidal waves, and sea lions vs. seals. They even were able to hatch their own grunions!

After that, we ate lunch and headed back to the aquarium, split up in our groups to go explore:

By far my students' favorite part? Creating their own puppet shows!

A bus full of 50+ kindergarteners=silent after the students have missed their usual after-lunch nap.

Making thank you cards for chaperones is the perfect opportunity to practice teamwork.

And some student responses to their favorite part of the trip (they weren't done yet--but I wanted photos before they left so I took them anyway!)...
Can you believe this student has an IEP for being developmentally delayed? Me neither. Her work is amazing.

Love the details in this one--you can tell exactly what is going on here without having to ask questions!

We like labels. :)
I love best work.

Super cool: At the aquarium, you can press a button that turns on the light and makes the jellyfish turn purple. This student drew her finger pushing the button, and her finished product had the jellyfish turning purple!

I know there's nothing fancy in this post--but I wanted to get a post written so I can get back in the habit of it! We've been busy getting semi-ready for the end of the year (we finish mid-June so we still have quite some time to go), and our students will be taking the SAT-10 in a couple weeks so we are getting ready to give the confidence and excitement to beat the test!

P.S. Keep an eye out for a blog design change! :) Woohoo!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

In need of a new blog design...

...oh man what is going on with the disappearing pictures on my blog design??

Lo siento, friends. I'll try to fix it soon.

A Day Off From Work... not as exciting as it seems. Today I spent my day in bed until 1p.m., at which point I ate a bowl of soup and an ice cream bar. Four hours later I treated myself to some chicken broth. Yum. While perhaps I would be even more inclined to listen to my advice in the future if I could see how terrible I looked I'd prefer that remain a horrible memory, so I'll just let you imagine what I look like if I sound like this:

In other news, tonight the Hunger Games happens to be opening. I bought a midnight ticket to go see it with a couple people...and lo and behold my voice sounds terrible, and I'm feeling miserable. Yes, I feel better after resting all day, and yes, I could possibly convince myself that I could go to the movie...but I am pretty sure that would be one of the stupidest things I've done in my life. 

I believe this level of stupidity falls along the lines of not going to the doctor until I was shaking while driving a friend to the airport (pneumonia) or not going to the doctor until I looked like I was about to have a baby (tumor). You know, typical Alex "I'm not sick" moments.

So here's to spending the rest of my day (and possibly the rest of my week) in bed, looking crappy, and sounding even crappier. Thank goodness I have a TV and puppy to keep me company.

Here's hoping you are healthier than I am and perhaps even enjoying the Hunger Games yourself!!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Read Across America Day...

I don't have time to write (sadly), because I have lesson plans to finish in the meantime, two awesome photos from Read Across America Day. (Here's hoping Yvonne isn't shy and doesn't mind her amazing photo being posted!!)

In case you're wondering, yes I love Mo Willems. I dressed up as Pigeon for Halloween too.

Ridiculously amazing costume, right?! Yvonne is brilliant!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Clip Art...

So I'm obsessed with clip art. It's a problem. I love it so much--I think cute clip art makes things more fun to teach and more fun to learn!

That said, I am still learning and understanding all the terms of use with clipart that I've purchased so a few quick things:
1. I won't be posting any types of documents, only images, until I know how to make sure if I do post a document I'm not violating any terms of use with purchased clip art.
2. I am going to make an effort on all future documents to put from where I purchased the clip art so you can go buy it if you want!
3. Thus far, I've only purchased clip art from Scrappin Doodles and Lettering Delights so if you see something you like it's from one of these two!
4. Last but not least, if you see that something I've done is not what I should be doing in terms of giving credit/proper use of clip art, please let me know! I actually have held back on posting lots of things, because I get nervous about any type of misuse of clipart and/or fonts since that's not my intention at all!

Thanks for reading my laundry list of comments about clip art! I'm going to try to post more here (and use more clip art in my work!) to share what I'm creating for our classroom.


P.S. FYI the clip art used in the non-fiction writing checklist=from Lettering Delights. The clip art in the "When I feel done, I can..." and the octopus in the writing checlist=from google.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Non-fiction writing checklist

With inspiration from an amazing kinder teacher at our school, I revamped our writing checklist, combining my old one with her new-to-me one...and here is the result:
(I have them ready to print on quarter sheets of paper so students can use them to check their writing themselves.)

I also made this to put on students' new writing folders as a nice reminder to KEEP working! :)

Let me know what you think!


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ryan Gosling thinks teachers are doing a great job...

Hey teacher friends,

Have you seen this tumblr website? A friend sent it to me tonight, and I think it's amazing. My current favorite...

...only because I hand in weekly data reflections, and so as soon as I'm done with this post, I'll be reflecting on how/if I need to reteach.

In other news, last week Tanya at Ms. Solano's Kindergarten Class tagged me! This game of tag=time for me to answer some questions!

GAME.ON. Here are the rules:
1. You must post the rules.
2. Post 12 fun facts about yourself on the blog post.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post, and then create 12 new questions for the people you tagged.
4. Tag 12 people and link them on your post.
5. Let them know you've tagged them!

12 Fun Facts About Me:
1. I just celebrated 5 years cancer-free on January 29th! Woohoo!

2. Related to #1, my hair has gotten pretty long now, and sometimes it drives me crazy, because I feel like I'm shedding everywhere! This whole having long hair thing=quite a novelty.

3. I just (as in 30 seconds ago) killed a fly on my computer--okay, not necessarily a fun fact, but I have a huge fear of bugs so this is quite impressive!

4. I have a tendency to overeat fruits and vegetables. As in, I shop at Costco and buy the giant thing of peaches...but eat them all myself. I also may or may not overeat other types of foods ;) but fruits and veggies=my weakness.

5. Related to #4, tomorrow I reembark on my P90X challenge. I started at the end of September, but then some not so great things happened (as in my mom passed away so I flew home), and I ended up eating lots of cheesecake and ice cream instead of working out... :P

6. I drive a MINI Cooper Convertible. I think it's the best thing ever, and I sometimes fear I'll keep my car beyond when I should reasonably keep it, because I love it so much. Sometimes, when I'm feeling inspired by The Italian Job, my commute to work is very short!

7. I signed off Facebook a month ago...and I have a feeling I may have missed several people getting engaged (because apparently that's what everyone I know is doing), but I don't miss it! However, I realized this week I need to email all my friends for their birthdays, otherwise I'll miss them!

8. I just purchased some awesome clip art and fonts, and I hope I can start making things for TPT soon!

9. I am an awful cook (though I'm trying), but I love baking. I like how precise and specific baking is--if I follow the recipe to a T, it works out.

10. I live in LA, and for the first time this morning I felt like I semi-fit in in my neighborhood (which is uber-hipster). I was in Trader Joe's and noticed I was one of 10 people wearing TOMS and an American Apparel hoodie. I won't be busting out the skinny jeans anytime soon, but it's about time I started to look a little more LA-ish. I'm trying to show restraint by not buying a new pair of TOMS ballet flats as much as I want them!

11. I watched 50/50 a week ago, and I have to tell you, weirdest glimpse into my life ever. Did I mention my mom had Alzheimer's? Yeah, that was a bizarre movie to watch--I highly recommend it though!! Loved it.

12. I discovered that if I go to the ampm by my house I can refill any cup of mine with diet coke for 99 cents. Yikes. Still no diet coke in my house, but I do love a good sip of fountain dc on my way to school!

Now to answer Tanya's questions...
1. Hands down, the best song ever is....?
Bah. Too tricky. In honor of my love for the Cubs, Go Cubs Go!

2. When is your birthday?
December 27, 1986!

3. What's the biggest need you have in your classroom?
Right now, we have a lot of work to do with concepts of print in some of my small groups. My students' writing and reading is being dramatically impacted by what they see when they look at words--I can't figure out what it is they see, but they are pointing to letters, "reading" left to right, just not attending to the actual words and the sounds the letters make.

4. Do you have a night out each week, or month?
I try for each week...weekends=much easier than weekdays, but weekday nights out make me so happy!

5. What do you do on your night out?
Sushi. Margaritas. Friends. :)

6. The perfect vacation would be...?
Australia. Beach. Calmness. Let's go.

7. Your favorite cartoon growing up was....?
Animalympics and The Great American Rabbit. Anyone know what I'm talking about? :)

8. Single? Married?  Kids?
Single. No babies. Not really eager to get married either. I like my life as is!

9. If you could have any super human power, what would it be?  And, why?
Disease curer--cause there are lots of diseases that we really need to cure. Ahem, Alzheimer's and cancer, I would kick your butts if I had a disease curer super human power.

10. Your favorite recipe?  {please share}
Pasta salad...not a real recipe per se...but super easy to make and super yummy: 1 box tricolor pasta+red peppers+orange peppers+cherry tomatoes+celery+(red onion if you like--I don't)+broccoli+Italian dressing. Yum.

11. Do you have restrooms and a sink in your classroom?
Nope! My classroom wasn't built as a no sink or restrooms.

12. What is your biggest pet peeve?
I don't know what is my biggest pet peeve...but a recent one: reply all emails that don't need to be replied all. I'm awful with replying to my email, and when I have emails popping up that aren't even for me, I am even worse about replying!

Here are the 12 blogs I've tagged:
(even though she just got tagged I couldn't resist--I love this blog!)

...and last but not least my questions for all of you:
1. What is your favorite TV show?
2. What is your must have food/drink to keep you going during the day?
3. Tell us your most recent student story that made you laugh out loud.
4. Favorite store...
5. Fill-in-the-blank: I can't live without _____.
6. What kind of school do you teach at? Public, charter, private, independent?
7. How many students are in your class?
8. Website you visit every day without fail.
9. One thing that's on your bucket list.
10. What's one thing you are focused on becoming better at as teacher?
11. How many teachers are at your school, and how many are male vs. female?
12. What's one thing that made you feel lucky/blessed/happy today?

Now off to bed before I fall asleep while typing!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Centers Management...and Next Steps (of course!)!

Welp, my goal of a weekly blog post=so far not working out for me! I don't even have much time to get this post written, because it's already 11:18 p.m., and when your day starts at 7:15 (and by "when your day starts" I mean instructional staff hours are 7:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), well sleeping by midnight is usually a goal! :)

One goal I have been keeping up with though is taking more pictures of my classroom. I never realized what a visual person I am until I noticed that:
1. When I do classroom observations, all I really want to do is look around at what is on the walls of each teacher's room.
2. I cringe at anchor charts I make that are messy and feel tempted to make them again (I've been known to "prettify" my anchor charts overnight!).
3. I scroll through blog posts and stop and read the ones with pictures I like.

So, here in fewer words and more pictures is how I manage centers in my class:

This chart shows what center students will be going to each day.

Writing Center--
Filled with anchor charts galore (and trust me, I know some of these anchor charts need to be re-done!)

Poetry Center

I recently starting adding the vocabulary charts we make each week for reading comprehension as a challenge for my higher students.

Sight Word poems from the best book ever! Thank you, Scholastic!

Listening Center--
I just had an amazing volunteer come organize all my books on tape! I'll have to take a photo soon--it's beautiful! We are now venturing into non-fiction stories to support our non-fiction writing.

ABC Center

Library--Featuring new pillows from the Target Dollar section. :)

The Seldom Used Computer Center...

We have an awesome program called Dreambox for math, but I don't know the best program for phonics/reading to help students and to keep them from playing too much! Any suggestions? I really do want to get my students back on computers!

My next centers steps (a.k.a. please tell me how you do these things!):
1. Differentiating work for students
2. Increasing student responsibility and accountability for work (Right now we use folders, and I check their work...I'm learning toward a "centers rubric" to help students evaluate themselves!)
3. Library: How do I increase accountability at this center without lessening the idea that we can sometimes just read for fun?

I've been loving reading all the blogs popping up in my reader--I promise to follow up on some of the comments that recently popped up on my blog too! For now, I'm off to bed...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Take a Step Inside My Classroom

On Friday, we had 25 teachers visiting our school (which is quite a few teachers for a school with 8 classrooms) as a part of the early childhood and elementary teacher retreat for our school's network. The last time I had so many teachers in my room, it was the day I had returned from being home for my mom's funeral, so that must have been an interesting observation for those teachers, because I really wasn't 100% sure what I was teaching!

However, this time, I was actually far more prepared and ready to go. The night before though, I couldn't help but wonder what the teachers would actually be looking at when they came to visit. Whenever I go visit other classrooms, I spend maybe 1-2 minutes watching the teacher and instruction, and then I spend time walking around looking at what is up on the walls, trying to learn about the class from its set up and what I see. Obviously if I am looking to observe something specific, like writer's workshop, I will carefully watch the instruction taking place, but on a general school visit where I can observe classrooms at my leisure, I love checking out how teachers organize themselves and their classrooms. I think you can learn a lot about the teacher and the learning that takes place just by looking around!

So, if you're like me (and some of the teachers I noticed taking photos in my class), here's a peek into my classroom.

As you walk to our classroom you will see:
Our bulletin board currently has work students created in art class; art is one of our core subjects, along with reading, math, and Spanish. I love the quote below the bulletin board too--we are preparing our students to go to and through college, and I love having this quote reminding all of us daily why we are in school! Our school leader made sure quotes like these were painted on the walls throughout our building.
Our message board--it often has messages for parents. This week I had our newsletter taped up for parents to see.
And of course, our door. Welcome, Cal Bears! Every classroom in our school is named after a college.

Step into our classroom and this is what you will most likely look at first:
Half of our room--set up for nap (I thought to take pictures in the middle of the day!) You can see we have circle tables, which I love, that are color-coded. :)
Our classroom library (yes that's a fireplace--it no longer works, but it's one perk of having a classroom in a building that is not a school!). Around the fireplace you can see our poster from the Winter Festival, and I just put up the students' family trees that the they had to make for Spanish. You can also see three values characters above the fireplace--a fourth I believe is in the making!

Our values on the door: Courage, Ganas, Honor, and Reflection. We don't have class rules, but as a schol we have values that guide students' choices and behavior.
An anchor chart to help remind students how they can show our values and be rising leaders. We'll revisit this soon and add more ideas to the chart.
Take a peek at where the learning takes place:
Our math wall: calendar, shape anchor charts, 100s chart, number line,  number "name" boxes.

Close up of the shapes anchor charts
Number "Names" Boxes--A K Teacher at our school introduced us to this strategy for helping build number sense. She had previously used them in 2nd grade so students had more "formulas" for each number. Soon we'll add actual addition problems to the box.

Top Poppin' Work! The best work of each day from our class gets put up on the bulletin board.

So there you have it, a sneak peek into our room. Now, out of curiosity, what do you look at when you observe in a class?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My First Blog Award! :)

How fun! My first blog award—thanks to Marie from It’s a Jungle Out There for awarding my blog with The Versatile Blogger Award! 

Here are the “rules” for the award:
1. Thank the person that nominated you with a link back to them. 
2. Tell 7 things about yourself. 
3. Pass this award on to 15 newly discovered blogs and let them know that they’ve received an award!  

Thanks, again, Marie, and now here are 7 things about me:
1. I recently gave up my diet coke addiction after many many years loving it a little too much. :P Crazy, but true! I go back to work tomorrow, so we’ll see if I can get back in the swing of things without my lovely d.c…and if I really can make it 2 months with no diet coke in the house!
Side note: When I was younger, I won a diet pepsi drinking contest while on vacation in Mexico. Should it be any surprise I later discovered that diet coke was better and as a result drank it like it was water?

A photo of two of many diet cokes I've had in my life...

2. I am a huge Chicago Cubs fan. If I were to take a picture of myself right now, you would see that I’m sporting a Cubs shirt. My first year teaching I had friends make videos to my kinders about going to college and the jobs they had…and one friend of course encouraged my students to be Cubs fans.
Okay this is a picture of my brother, not me, 
but c'mon, clearly we were trained young to be Cubs fans! :)

3. I went trapezing in college. Talk about fun—I have debated taking a trapeze class, because I had so much fun when I went!

4. I love reading children’s books and reading with children. This of course comes in really handy as a kindergarten teacher, but I seriously may have an addiction. This is my third year teaching, and if you saw all the books I have, you’d probably think I’ve been teaching for much much longer. Right now I’m resisting (not very well) the temptation to buy lots of George and Martha books.
In case you’re wondering, that’s one of my students reading a big book at indoor recess. Thank goodness my students love reading too!

5. I love to go to the beach with my dog. Way too fun. My dog is 5 pounds, and she races around the beach like crazy. She might be the friendliest dog in the world. Bonus: after racing around at the beach, she is super calm, which for her is a rare moment.

6. My brother is an opera singer. No joke. I think it’s pretty cool. Here’s a semi-old photo of him. He’s the awesomely dressed guy in the green standing on the table.

7. I firmly believe everything in life can relate to the TV show FRIENDS. I even wrote one of my final papers in college on the show and how it shows several sociological theories about love and relationships. This is one small downside of teaching 5-year olds: They likely will not understand Friends references, and thus I have to use them at other times in the day. 
A mug I received as a present from my roommate who, incidentally, hates the show.

15 Blogs to Check Out (I'm not 100% sure what the award means by "newly discovered"--so I went with blogs I recently discovered, so they are newly discovered for me!, and absolutely wonderful!):
1. Pencils, Crayons, and Books, Oh My!
2. Coloring Outside the Lines
3. Empowering Little Learners
4. Teaching and Learning Make the World Go Round
5. Kindergarten Lifestyle
6. Heather's Heart
7. Pencils, Glue, and Tying Shoes
8. Curls and a Smile
9. F is for First Grade
10. Teaching Happily Ever After
11. Thirst for First
12. Lessons Learned
13. Peace, Love, and Learning
14. Super in Second
15. Sweet Times in First

Now I'm off to get ready to go back to school tomorrow! So happy that Monday and Tuesday will be PD and prep--which means I don't have to be at school until 8 tomorrow! Woohoo!!