Thursday, March 27, 2014

Back to Life


It's been a long week, but with everything that's been going on, it has been a good week.  Life is good.    The kiddos in my classroom have been really buckled down and focused, and that's a tough feat this time of year.  Something about the spring coming makes them get squerly and restless.  But, apparently, the fact that the weather can't decide that it IS indeed spring, yet, has helped me keep them a little more grounded than usual.

Yesterday was a cold and rainy day.  I had to leave school early to take Butter to an appointment, so Hubby had to pick Jelly up.  After Butter's appointment, I drove back to pick up Peanut from track practice.  And on our car ride home, we all three shared the stories about our day, and had a good laugh about all that's good in the world.

It's really nice to get that time with them every day.  The car rides.  It seems like when we're all in the car together, we can have a daily share session.  We discuss school, funny stories about our day, upcoming events and plans, and if there's nothing else to talk about we just sing along to the radio and have a good laugh with each other.

For that 45 minutes in the afternoon, there's hardly any fighting or arguing.  Peanut and Butter are getting along.  Peanut and Jelly are getting along.  Butter and Jelly are getting along.  Everyone takes it in turns to say what they want to say about their day, and then we move on to the next.  Sometimes I just sit and listen, sometimes I get to offer some advice, sometimes I'm the one sharing, sometimes Peanut and Butter are advising each other, sometimes they're giving Jelly advice, sometimes they are giving me advice.  We all just enjoy that time together.  Make it count.

And despite the fact that I've put over 32,000 miles on my car in about a year and a half, I know that those miles are meaningful.  

It's the little things, like car ride conversations, that make my life happier.  This time of year is a stressful time.  Our testing is fast approaching, and the one thing there just doesn't ever seem to be enough of is time.  We're down to there being only a little over 5 weeks until our state test, and only 8 weeks of school left.  That's just CRAZY!  

So much to do, and so little time.

And one thing I haven't stopped doing is looking for new ideas and projects to use in my classroom to keep the kiddos focused, while still making sure we're getting in all of the objectives we need to cover before the test.  

I've discovered that the Minecraft project is EXTREMELY time consuming.  In order for us to really have a chance to get the most out of it, we need a few hours in the computer lab each week AND a couple of hours in the classroom so that planning and ideas can take place for implementation in to the game.  While the kids are SO excited about getting this opportunity, and will have fun and learn regardless of how much time they put in, I can't help but feel like we got started a little too late for it to really show the possible potential that the game can offer.

So, what I've realized is that the time my class will spend on the Minecraft project will be a tiny glimpse at what next year holds for implementing Minecraft in to my classroom.  If nothing else, the kids will use the game for the remaining 8 weeks to review skills, and I will use it as an incentive to stay focused and buckle down in our preparations for the state test.  

What I've discovered is that just the opportunity to play for an hour or so a week can be enough motivation to do everything I ask them to do throughout the week.  And, if all the kids get out of it is some time to destress, collaborate, and have a little fun... I'm OK with that.  We won't be able to build the great empires I thought we'd get to, but that doesn't mean that there won't be some major benefits coming out of the time we do get.

But, I'll spend my summer building the curriculum plans for implementing the game in to my classroom as soon as the year starts next year, and by this time next year....there will be AMAZING things that would have taken place over the school year.

Another amazing tool that I discovered yesterday, a little too late in the game.. is  It's a website that gives the kids a beginning placement test, and then focuses on the skills they are struggling with.  AND it covers math, reading, language arts, and test prep skills.  Oh, and did I mention that it's COMPLETELY FREE???

Mrs. P actually told me about the site several weeks ago, but it just happened to be yesterday when I finally got around to checking it out.  I can enter all of my students in to the program, and each student's skill selection will be different and focused on what they need rather than me putting in what I think they need.

I had a couple of my kiddos try it out, yesterday, and they seemed to like it.  I even added Butter to my roster and he took a placement test last night.  He's going to start using it to help him study and focus on some of the math concepts he's struggling with.  I decided to have a go at taking the math placement test and came out with a grade level of 8.4.  I guess that's not too bad for a 4th grade teacher.  I, apparently, still remembered how to do some of the stuff I learned in school.

Each week, my kids get an hour of computer lab time (not related to our Minecraft time).  That's the time I'm going to have the kids working on Mobymax.  They will take the placement test today, and then each week they can work on test prep skills that the program designs for them.  

What I like about it is the fact that the system is Common Core aligned, and is similar to the new tests that the students will start taking next year that will ALL be on computer.  Why not give them a few weeks at building their math skills while learning how to operate some of the functions they need to know to do on computer?

Next year, I plan on asking for a paid subscription.  That gives me access to printables, IEP goal plans, and more reward and game options for the students when they complete their designated tasks.  

With all these new technology resources, I have a feeling that next year is going to be a whole different ball game for me.  I've been CRAVING more technology usage for my class, I'm just kicking myself that it's March when I start using all these fantastic resources.

But, oh well.  At least I'm building a nice, big tool box to use in the future.

One thing I'm going to do, though, is try and stay focused myself.  Not pile too much on to my plate, and remember what's important this time of year. 

I think I can do that.  

But, right now, I think I should be getting ready for work.


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