Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Please respect my decisions...

I have thought long and hard about some things, and I have realized some things aren't for me. I want to decrease my Internet presence a bit-- tone things down, take deep breaths, be calm and relax...

I don't want anyone to be upset with me; I just really want what is best in this time. Though I am not closing down my website, I don't want my stuff to be... everywhere.

I made my other weblog Love4thGrade private tonight for a few reasons. Please respect my privacy, and I appreciate your friendship.

Friday, July 26, 2013

An Amazing Contest from The Science Penguin and Teaching with a Mountain View!

Would you like to win items (as in TWO $50.00 TPT gift cards) from The Science Penguin and Teaching with a Mountain View? Here is their "promotional poster" below...

I am ecstatic because Ariane (Science Penguin) and Mary (Teaching with a Mountain View) are upper elementary teachers with sensational resources! I am grateful because this contest exposed me to a new weblog (which is Mary's). Ariane's resources are divine. Additionally, Mary has experience teaching gifted/talented students, which strikes perfection for me! Check their contest out here!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Hopes and Dreams for the 2013-2014 School Year

Usually around this time, I begin reflecting on my hopes and dreams for the following year, inserting bursts of enthusiasm about how much I love teaching. I am entering my tenth year of teaching and my first year in fifth grade, so I am... naturally... a bit nervous. However, that nervousness is manifesting itself as excitement as well because as a gifted adult, I love thinking about how students' minds and imaginations evolve. The possibilities of collaboration are endless, and whenever I reveal a new science experiment, my eyes still glisten with childlike glee. Writing math word problems generates grand excitement as well because I love to throw in vigorous twists that get my students to deepen their thinking. Sharing literature I am most passionate about is best when my students understand how the book lures me in for more every time I read it. Most importantly, writing is my abacus, and I love how it can be integrated across the curriculum. Gifted education is a fervent passion of mine-- one that has been a part of my fiber since I was probably my students' age.

I was always a divergent philosopher of sorts, sometimes too much for my own good. My mind also thought of ideas beyond the curriculum at times, and I had a very strange and involved way of studying for tests that would probably not work for many others. The way I learned was quite different, and some complex, droves of insanely creative ideas have crossed my mind for as long as I can remember.

So what am I excited for this year? I usually do not embrace change well, but first comes embracing the change of doing something different, breaking away from the monotony of doing the same thing for almost a decade. Now I have to acquaint myself with the ever-pressing Common Core standards... at a new grade level. Here is the list of the rest of the things that are strangely exciting me right now:

1. Encouraging my students to learn together in interesting ways:

A few years ago, a fellow teacher (Brad) helped me to make something I always wanted to have a reality-- a prize wheel. I am ecstatic about introducing this fabulous motivator to my class. For some reason, regular activities seem even better when something like this wheel is involved.

It was simple to make-- of course, he did the complex portion, getting it all attached, but I purchased a big wooden circle and long rectangular piece at Hobby Lobby. Of course, I painted the wheel portion and applied a bit of glitter. It took about fifteen minutes to get together once the circular portion was completed.

Beyond this wheel, I love finding music that I can play to energize my students, sometimes during transitions and other times, during games. There are numerous ways of randomizing partnerships in the room as well. I have downloaded iPad apps that also add to the fun-- one is even a randomized prize wheel, and another really good one is a countdown timer. Of course, I have much beyond that to invigorate the class, but that's for a whole other part of this post!

2. Manifesting creativity:

This is my Winter/Spring/Summer/Fall creation from last year (December 2012), where I wrote a vivid description of each season after completing the painting. The activity encouraged students to focus on vivid, precise word choice. I like how I will be able to incorporate this activity with my students probably sometime around the holiday season again, how it addresses many fifth-grade standards and incorporates something I don't do often in the classroom-- artistic expression.

Beyond that, the Minded crate comes to mind-- and how it encourages students to embrace the multiple intelligences. Two of the areas are Music-Minded and Art-Minded!

3. The games and activities I have created:

I love how over the years I have had the opportunity to create tons of games and activities for my students, as you have seen some on this website and several others on my other weblog. To the left is a simple symmetry game I made using wooden circles, permanent markers, and poster board where the students drag the circles around the perimeter of the circle to see what the figures look like when rotated in different directions. Here are a few others I am particularly looking forward to using this year:

The Spiral Twirl-- A fun review game where you can use any questions in any subject! 
Suffix Switch!
Team Climb Competition-- Looks like something you would see at camp...

4. Curriculum: My fifth grade students will be using the same curriculum as other fifth graders across the district, though they also are exposed to Singapore Math, Sadler-Oxford vocabulary studies, William and Mary literature units (and other units in other subjects, from what I have gathered), and Renzulli Learning, which is a phenomenal supplement. When I interviewed for my position, I did not know as much as I could have, though now, I have read up on each and certainly feel more comfortable. Additionally, I love bringing in resources from Stephanie Harvey, Linda Dorn (Thoughtful Logs), Scholastic, and Math/Science Exemplars to supplement the standards.

5. Amazing Support: I love the fact I am blessed to share my resources with many sensational people through Scholastic as well as the weblogs and domain. I have met many exquisite individuals whom I would love to thank individually for being monumentally inspiring in my teaching career. It amazes me when someone notes me as being inspiring to them because usually, that person inspired me to become who I am today as well as many others. Additionally, I will love communicating with our pen pal classes via the Internet-- we have a class in St. Augustine as well as one in Canada, hopefully. I may strive for one in our nation as well.

6. Technology: That brings me to technology! Of course, I cannot go on enough about the benefits of having an iPad to use with my students. I love exposing my students to literature via Scholastic Storia, using the Barefoot World Atlas, and using podcasts to enhance the curriculum. I also cannot wait to see what we are doing with our St. Augustine pen pals; my pen pal teacher Kristin is looking into using Skype for the classroom, and I want to see if it is a possibility, by any means. Besides that, I am ecstatic to try green screen technology, which my friend Megan is masterful at. Additionally, our school's library has a beautiful green screen wall and phenomenal editing software to make the transition a bit easier and more exciting for me. 

7. A Magazine Subscription: There is so much I love about Scholastic Scope, which is intended for the middle school classroom but will be a superior resource in my fifth grade room. The paired texts impress me as well as the responses to literature and overall text complexity. You Write It is also a wonderful feature. Here is the September 2013 sneak peek. 

8. A Classroom Family: Though I don't know whom my "unfortunate victims" will be yet (LOL... you don't know how insane I am, but it's okay... nine years of students have survived my wrath!), I love introducing myself to my students and getting to know them as well. The first week is a monumental time, and this year, learning about my students will be adventurous and invigorating because I have never been exposed to their awesome and unique personalities. Nor have they been exposed to mine, but that's all besides the case. When the classroom is completed, it will have a warm, friendly, and inviting atmosphere-- and show my students that their creative approaches are encouraged as well. Within the first week, they will be exposed to my "humor" (if you call it that!), writing, some of my creative collaborative ideas, and stories. I cannot wait to hear theirs as well and see how each student will enrich the classroom environment.

I am certain there is more to say, but...I am certain it will all come in the near future!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Phenomenal Games With Minimal Materials

In the midst of looking through materials I am organizing before the new school year, I located some neat games I created last year with minimal materials. I remember posting some like them on my other weblog, but I don't know if I posted these specific ones. Anyway, I am very much looking forward to sharing them with my gifted fifth graders this year. Almost all the games used simple materials-- wooden clips and poster board. A few used wooden circles as well, and one used wooden squares. The best part is that you don't even have to spend $5.00 to create tons of games that are professional-looking and eye-catching! 

I hope you feel inspired to create some of your own games! You can create them for any subject, which is the most awesome of all. 
Area and Perimeter is a simple and quick game. In each section is a problem, and then you place each answer clip where it belongs!
Smallest Terms has clips that are in smallest terms-- and then the spaces have the fractions that are not reduced.
Fraction to Decimal has clips with equivalent decimals to the fractions on the game board.
Shades of Meaning has wooden rectangles as game boards. The four clips are labeled 1, 2, 3, and 4. The purpose of the game is to put a 1 by the word that has the mildest shade of meaning, a 2 by the second-mildest, a 3 by the second most intense, and a 4 by the most intense word. 
Here is the whole Shades of Meaning game!
Advanced Vocabulary has 24 clips. Three synonyms are clipped to each spot on the game board. 
Mixed Numbers is a neat game because it provides two levels of play!

I like the Bakery Math algebraic expressions game a lot because it ties in a tic-tac-toe element as well that I have never
done with any other game.
-Ths Island is neat. You clip your game clips to one of three places-- tenths, hundredths, or thousandths. The place value is underlined on each clip. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Minded Crate Activities, Updated 2013-- On Teachers Pay Teachers

Hello, everyone! I just updated my other post about my Minded crate at my other weblog this evening. The following file is featured on Teachers Pay Teachers (CLICK HERE) and can make a significant difference in how you run your intermediate/upper elementary classroom! If you have ever heard students bemoan, "I'm bored" or "There's nothing for me to do", this crate offers 71 activities students can work on after completing work. Or it may serve as pure enrichment time on a Friday afternoon, whichever you feel works with your students the best. Many of the activities include printable components, which include foldables, fill-in components, and games. Your students will have the opportunity to delve into their areas of talent and make wonderful, memorable products that may inspire them to delve even farther into something they truly want to do. Some of the activities can be completed in one sitting; others may take over a week, but they tap into independent learning styles.

The crate focuses on multiple intelligences and has eight sections-- Math-Minded, Science-Minded, History-Minded, Literary-Minded, Travel-Minded, Art-Minded, Music-Minded, and World-Minded. You need a typical crate from the store, eight durable hanging folders, and plastic bags/sheet protectors/etc. for storage. You will need to cut out some of the activities, but many come ready to go. Make about five copies of each activity provided to start the year, and then work from there. Check-off lists where students indicate the dates they completed activities are included with each section, too, so you know how your students make choices with the crate over the course of the year.

I didn't mention if you should count the completion of the lessons for incentives or not-- it's up to you and depends on your classroom environment. I am likely going to encourage my students to complete at least two activities a month, though-- because of the variant times it takes to complete each. Some take perhaps 15 minutes while a few may take as long as a week or two. If your students have maybe 10-15 minutes a day to dedicate to their choice activity, perhaps during morning work, everything may work out well.

Or you can not use the crate at all and use the 71 activities as enrichment for the whole class. The math section was one I had a tremendous time developing. There are puzzles and mind-benders that may very well motivate your students to think in divergent ways about geometry, fractions/decimals/percents, algebra, and number sense concepts.

I included an optional activity-- a United States state and capital game. Also, the beauty of most of the activities is that they can be completed a countless amount of times.

The activities came straight from my mind-- and if any of these activities have been shared before in any other capacity (and likely some have), I did not use anyone's specific ideas as direct inspiration. I did include spelling/vocabulary word math that I have seen used many times before, but there are activities I included in the file I have never seen before. I also included ideas I used at other times with my students-- a mineral identification activity and a microscopic investigation, which I'm sure you've seen typed out in different capacities online, too.

Overall, I had so much fun compiling this file. The graphics inside are all original (triangle sketches, rectangle/square sketches, etc.).

I know I have promised a video in the past, too. I may be able to finally make it this year! I am sorry about my long delay from blogging and online-- but we all go through changes and take breaks. Thank you for your support!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jasztal's Resource Spotlight #1

I am spotlighting a few phenomenal websites and weblogs I have discovered in the past few days. Hopefully you will find them as valuable and interesting as I have. 
  • I'm Lovin' Lit Weblog: My teammate Stacey actually found her resources on Teachers Pay Teachers. I decided to see if the creator of the resources had a weblog today, and I was immensely impressed with what she had to offer! I love when teachers reflect on literature-- and it impressed me even more she uploaded a variety of resources for multiple grades. 
  • Mrs. White's Fifth Grade Class Weblog: I always get excited about teachers who post photographs of their students in action-- and implement creative ideas. I am very impressed with this teacher's weblog! Plus-- she has a QR code on her weblog for her classroom website-- how could I deny that? 
  • Mr. Smith's Fifth Grade Gifted Website: Finding gifted websites, let alone fifth grade gifted websites, is definitely HIGH on my list right now! I like that he includes some wonderful gifted resources in his description of gifted on his website-- and will have students upload the class weblog next year as well. 
  • Mrs. Hughes' Gifted Website: This teacher includes a plethora of neat ideas and elements as well-- a Wallwisher (which I had only seen a few times before), a Portaportal site, and a showcase of her students' Glogster projects. 
  • Mrs. Renner's Fifth Grade Website: Last, I discovered this teacher links to my website... after searching for fifth grade teachers. I was captivated by the graphic at the top of her page with photographs of her students doing all kinds of neat things! 
Hopefully, I exposed you to some new and fantastic websites today! I will try to do this resource spotlight as often as I have the chance. Also, if YOU want to be a part of the spotlight, please comment below! I will share sites I have loved dearly for quite some time as well as new excitement! Thank you! 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tips for Starting/Maintaining Classroom Websites and Weblogs

Recently, a friend asked me about starting either a classroom website, weblog, or both. That morning, I gave her some tips and suggested she start a weblog with Blogspot. I didn't tell her as much as I could have beyond that, though, so I am have pondered some good advice since then.

1. Starting a site is simple with the right tools. My best friend, a kindergarten teacher, has been building her team's website through Yola.com. Even when you have a free membership, ample storage is provided, and ads are not posted on the pages. Her website includes numerous pages-- she has uploaded photos, videos, and information for the parents of kindergartners at her school.

2. Include suggestions for home and summer reading. Convey your expectations for how much you expect your students to read nightly. Review the books you enjoy the most. Include suggestions for reading apps as well like Scholastic Storia. Just like you promote books in your class, make it an even more interactive adventure on your classroom website. You may even want to put a Shelfari widget on your page.

3. Of course, put photographs of your students completing projects in your class-- but only after acquiring the parents' permission. Link to or upload .pdf files of the resources you use with your class, which are particularly powerful when you accompany them with photographs and explanations.

4. Provide a plethora of links your students can visit. I cannot imagine not telling my students about phenomenal websites like Arcademic Skill Builders they can utilize at home to review pertinent skills!

5. Remember, you can promote resources you create on your website, but don't make that the only thing you do. Websites are more than holding contests and gaining followers. Of course, it is exciting to hold contests and promote your products (because they can help so many people), but balance it out with anecdotes about your daily classroom adventures. Also, remember to be patient in gaining followers-- it does not happen immediately.

6. If you have vocabulary lists you want your students to review, upload them to your website. Also, upload your classroom newsletters, test prep recommendations, and explanations of concepts. Even if only a few of your students access the files, at least the resources reached someone. It may serve as inspiration for other teachers as well.

7. After explaining the purpose of your website and the direction you plan on taking with your students and parents, I suggest you show student samples of work and classroom displays you create. You can scan samples of student writing, though I think it's a wise suggestion to seek their approval first. Surprisingly, not every student may feel comfortable with his or her writing online.

8. Also, add personal touches. I have stories I wrote on my classroom website, ranging from little memoirs to a full children's novel-- Second Chances. I have excepts from two stories I have written, too-- Kathleen's Story and Etola's Keeper, as you can see.

9. If you choose, your students can contribute to your weblog. You can start a weblog for your students to update as well as one for you to update. On Blogspot/Blogger, I have three weblogs-- this one, the one I had while teaching fourth grade, and then the one that serves for inspiration for eventually starting my own school.

10. Last, make sure you update often and remember that you are reaching out to an audience of other teachers around the world, your school community, your students, and your students' parents. Make sure you type in a font that is a decent size and use colors that are pleasing to the eyes. Also, don't make your pages too busy.

When people ask me about how I started my website, I became skilled in using HTML when I was in high school. In 1998, I opened my first website, and then in college, I learned about using absolute positioning with graphics, which I create with Adobe Photoshop. It's complicated to explain, but it's also become a passion and talent of mine after 15 years.

Last, here is a post I wrote for Scholastic a few years back-- Classroom Website 101-- that offers even more suggestions.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Suggestions for Phenomenal Math Resources in the Classroom

After a year of teaching Language Arts to two classes, I am going back to teaching all subjects as a gifted teacher. For some reason, I am ecstatic about the subject that gave me the most grief growing up (and my first B in fourth grade!)-- Math. (No offense, Mrs. Runde and Mrs. Sloane-- two math teachers I admire and adore.) However, I have learned over time that math can be the most exciting, hands-on hour of the day in my classroom!

During the 2011-2012 school year (I believe around the time of state testing), the class completed an activity that was kind of modeled after games where they sketched a plot and "purchased" items. You see the illustration above included her "inventory" on the right and how much she "purchased" of each item. The students then had to write out an algebraic expression for how much "money" they spent in all to set up their gardens. 

Students also developed menus for their fictitious restaurants where they assigned prices to their foods and drinks. They then had to write and show the solutions for at least five algebraic word problems that had to do with people eating in their restaurant. For example: The family ordered two plates of fried shrimp, one triple cheeseburger, and three double caramel sundaes along with free waters. Write out the algebraic expression-- and SOLVE-- for how much the family spent. So the student would show ($3.92 x 2) + ($7.59 x 1) + ($3.64 x 3) along with the solution. Students could also apply taxes and have the families give the waiters or waitresses "tips" in their problems. 

I figured out from using many resources and developing some on my own that math can be an invigorating adventure! Here are some other resources I have enjoyed using and/or recommend: 
There are also teachers online who have developed phenomenal resources I'd love to share, starting with the top download on Teachers Pay Teachers right now from Jennifer Runde. 
  • Mrs. Runde's Interactive Math Journals: Chances are, you've seen this file or heard of it. Yet if you haven't, it is a phenomenal resource. This 165-page file includes 38 different math journal activities with descriptions, recommendations, and templates. Download the 18-page preview to see her Table of Contents and the first activity, which is the Operations Review. 
  • Mrs. Runde's Math Reflection Fans: Another really good, very well presented resource! 
  • Math Concept Posters: This is the last Mrs. Runde-related resource I am featuring for now. These pages are VERY, very well-made. The borders and decor are impressive. 
  • Math Stations for Middle Grades: This resource from Laura Candler (for grades 3-8) ALWAYS impressed me. So do many of her other resources. 
  • Laura Candler's Resources and Freebies: Laura has tons of freebies that are very impressive. My students have done her data activity for Valentine's Day and played some of her games, one of them being "Place Value Partners". 
  • The Math Penguin: I am also a fan of The Math Penguin, a.k.a. The Science Penguin. Her blogs are print-rich and interesting. I love how she shares her ideas. You can find a link to her Teachers Pay Teachers resources through her weblog. 
  • 4Mula Fun's Resources: Just like Arianne above, I'm come to know this awesome teacher in just a few days, too. This is a direct link to Jennifer's Teachers Pay Teachers store. 
Well, hopefully I've provided you with something with this first content post. 

Hello... I'm Victoria.

Welcome! My name is Victoria, and I am in my tenth year of teaching. This year, though, I am doing something different than I have before-- I transferred schools and now I am teaching fifth grade Gifted. Since I was young, I knew I wanted to teach Gifted, though I didn't know the time in which it would exactly happen.

There are a lot of things that fascinate me... I could go on and on. Traveling and writing are probably at the top of my list. Traveling to England is a pretty substantial dream of mine, and I also want to be able to visit all fifty states. (So far, I have been to half, and New York, Wisconsin, Georgia, Virginia, and obviously Florida are my favorites.) Obviously, Hawaii, Alaska, and California are high on my list for states I want to visit, and city-wise, I would love to be able to visit Boston, Massachusetts. As for writing, I enjoy writing children's books-- two of them being Second Chances and Etola's Keeper. Eventually, I would love to publish my works, particularly Etola's Keeper

Photography and art are also high on my list. Photography has been one of my most treasured hobbies since high school, and I began delving into the wonders of graphic design when I was a freshman in college. I maintained a website and forums through my college years-- forever-inspired.net, and then in my second year of teaching, I started teachingvision.org. Now, I maintain jasztalville.com. I believe it's even more exciting than uploading content to work on the layouts, which I hand-sketch. I honestly cannot tell you how I do it, but I taught myself when I worked on a HyperStudio project about Thomas Alva Edison in my junior year of college. 

I also love performing arts-- singing and acting, though I am not the most phenomenal at either. However, both bring me joy, and I love a GOOD show. Eventually, I want to see Phantom of the Opera and possibly The Lion King on Broadway. 

My favorite places to travel to are St. Augustine, Florida, Washington D.C., and Savannah, Georgia. In St. Augustine, I love getting a gourmet ice pop at Hyppo or shopping at Christmastime at one of the stores that sells beautiful, intricate, handcrafted items as much as visiting the historical sites. The serenity that comes with a captivating sunset on St. Augustine Beach (or preferably, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park) is alluring. In Washington, D.C., nothing beats taking one of the monument tours by moonlight-- and having the opportunity to see Abraham Lincoln's memorial illuminated in the pitch black of night. Of course, the Smithsonian museums are unbelievable, and I will never forget when one of my dearest friends was in tears when she saw our nation's flag that had been raised at Fort McHenry at the Museum of History. In Savannah, a few of my favorite places are Kitchens on the Square and Leopold's Ice Cream, though visiting the lighthouse and fort are very high on my list as well. I cannot go to cities like those three without bringing at least a few historical souvenirs home each time. 

I have always loved learning as well-- and I am grateful I am able to be a teacher because I can tie all my passions together to inspire a new generation of learners. 

Nice to meet you!