Monday, May 1, 2017

Fishbowl Discussions

Fishbowl discussions have really energized my classroom this year. The kids BEG to do them! We have used them with poetry, fables, short stories, and novels. We have even used them to discuss hot topics like the presidential election!
When I set up the fishbowl:
· Half the class sits on the floor in a circle and the other half sits in a chair on the outside of the circle.
· Sometimes I pick the kids randomly, but usually I choose a mix of outgoing and reserved students.
· I ask an open-ended question with room for interpretation to the students in the inner circle.
To ensure successful discussions, there are guidelines we follow. The inside circle must:
· State supported ideas
· Agree or disagree with a speaker and provide supporting or refuting information. PROVE IT!
· Make connections to the conversation.
· Do not interrupt a speaker.
· Do not speak a second time until everyone has had a chance.
The outside circle listens quietly while jotting notes or thoughts they may want to contribute later.
The students may be a little self-conscious at the beginning of the discussion, but usually warm up once the conversation gets going. I tell the kids they are talking to the group, not me. My job is to sit and listen to the discussion and not intervene for about 8-10 minutes. Although, I do sometimes need to redirect the conversation when they get off topic or start repeating the same thing, in different ways.
This page helps me stay organized. I just write the kids’ names in the boxes according to where they sit in the circle. During the discussion, I make a check mark for people who have spoken and keep notes so I can follow up after time expires.


If you would like to organize your discussions, just check it out by clicking the pic!


Thanks for stopping by!





Saturday, April 22, 2017

In Memory of My Angel, Jamison Mackenzie Bell

I don't know how to start this post. It's been almost 7 months since I've even written anything, but now I feel like I need to speak up about a tragedy I never thought I would have to endure.

Almost 7 months ago, on September 28, 2016, my life came to a screeching halt. My middle son, Jamison Mackenzie Bell, took his own life. He was just 25 years old. He apparently had had mental health issues for quite a long time, but he was very good at masking his true feelings and emotions.

In January 2016, he traveled to Virginia to help build a monastery. By the middle of February, he called me and asked me to come pick him up. We made arrangements for the next day, but the next morning I received a call from a safety officer telling me they had my son at the hospital. Apparently, he walked up to a police officer and asked for a ride home to Indiana. I guess he hadn't been eating but had been drinking lots of coffee and seemed to be in a manic state. Daniel and I rushed 10 hours in the snow to Virginia. We were only able to visit him an hour a day, so we spent 23 hours wasting time in a hotel until we could go. 

The hospital in Virginia was wonderful! It was obvious they cared about my son and actually worked so hard to help him get better. He was there 10 days but he wanted to come home desperately. The hospital wasn't completely comfortable letting him leave, but we made arrangements in Indiana and assumed they would have the quality of care we received in Virginia. Nothing could be further from the truth. In Indiana, they have some places you can go for a few hours a day for group counseling. They do have some inpatient facilities however, you have to have a plan on how you are going to harm yourself or someone else in order to be admitted. Consequently, Jamison didn't have a plan at that time, so there was no place for him. 

The psychiatrist he had was shocked by the amount of information sent from the Virginia Hospital. He said that most times 10 days would be on about 10 pieces of paper. Jamison had about 100 pages in his report and it was very thorough. We then asked for genetic testing to make sure Jamison was on the drug that was best for his genetic make up. This doctor refused and said that the one he was on was a good one and it should work. (Should being the operative word.)

The medicine did control manic episodes, but Jamison's depression was unbearable. We finally convinced this doctor to give him something for the depression. Well, of course, we didn't know what the best medicine for Jamison was, so he decided to just take a stab in the dark. He started taking this new drug and was gone a few weeks later. 

I'm not blaming the medicine necessarily, but I am irritated that doctors and insurance companies and lawmakers don't see the value in something as simple as a cheek swab to determine the best medicine for a person based on their genetic make up. It seems like it would save insurance companies a ton of money in the long run. Plus, maybe I would be sitting here laughing with my wonderful, beautiful, intelligent, generous, sweet, and loving son instead. 
If you or someone you know has issues with mental illness, NAMI is a good place to get more information.



So now, I have a 'new normal' in my life. So, just what is Normal after your child dies? 

Normal is having tears waiting behind every smile when you realize someone important is missing from all the important holidays and events in your family's life. 

Normal is feeling like you can't sit another minute without getting up and screaming, because you just don't like to sit through anything anymore. 

Normal is not sleeping very well because a thousand 'what ifs' & 'why didn't I's' go through your head constantly. 

Normal is reliving the event continuously through your eyes and mind, holding your head to make it go away. 

Normal is staring at every boy who looks like he is Jamison's age and then thinking of the age he would be now. Then wondering why should I even imagine it because it will never happen. 

Normal is every happy event in your life always being backed up with sadness lurking close behind, because of the hole in your heart. 

Normal is telling the story of your child's death as if it were an everyday, commonplace activity, and then seeing the horror in someone's eyes at how awful it sounds. And yet realizing it has become a part of your "normal." 

Normal is each year coming up with the difficult task of how to honor your childs's memory and their birthdays and survive these days. And trying to find the balloon or flag that fit's the occasion. Happy Birthday? Not really. 

Normal is my heart warming and yet sinking at the sight of something special Jamison loved. Thinking how he would love it, but how he is not here to enjoy it. 

Normal is having some people afraid to mention my son, Jamison. Normal is making sure that others remember him. 

Normal is when the funeral is over and everyone else goes on with their lives, but we continue to grieve our loss forever. 

Normal is weeks, months, and years after the initial shock, the grieving gets worse, not better. 

Normal is not listening to people compare anything in their life to this loss, unless they too have lost a child. Nothing compares. NOTHING. Even if your child is in the remotest part of the earth away from you - it doesn't compare. Losing a parent is horrible, but having to bury your own child is unnatural. 

Normal is taking pills, and trying not to cry all day, because you know your mental health depends on it. 

Normal is realizing you do cry everyday. 

Normal is being impatient with everything and everyone but someone stricken with grief over the loss of their child. 

Normal is not listening to people say things like "G-d may have done this because…" 
I know Jamison is in Heaven, but hearing people trying to think up excuses as to why a fantastic young man was taken from this earth is not appreciated and makes absolutely no sense to this grieving mother. 

Normal is being too tired to care if you paid the bills, cleaned the house, did the laundry or if there is any food. 

Normal is wondering whether you are going to say you have three children or two because you will never see this person again and it is not worth explaining that Jamison is dead. Yet, when you say you have two children to avoid that problem, you feel horrible as if you have betrayed the dead child. 

Normal is asking G-d why he took your child's life instead of yours and asking if there even is a G-d. 

Normal is knowing you will never get over this loss, not in a day nor a million years. 

Normal is having therapists agree with you that you will never "really" get over the pain and that there is nothing they can do to help you because they know only bringing back your child back from the dead could possibly make it "better." 

Normal is learning to lie to everyone you meet and telling them you are fine. You lie because it makes others uncomfortable if you cry. You've learned  it's easier to lie to them then to tell them the truth that you still feel empty and it's probably never going to get any better -- ever. 

And last of all... Normal is hiding all the things that have become "normal" for you to feel, so that everyone around you will think that you are "normal."


I am trying to take care of myself and I am seeing a therapist, drawing as a sort of meditation, and writing in a journal. My journal is mostly made up of letters to Jamison. I tell him what happened during the day or what's going on with the family. I even tell him about the little signs that remind me of him.




 I feel him around me all the time and I am so thankful for the the dreams and signs and I am constantly looking out for them. People might think I'm a little silly because I always seem to be talking to birds. But that's OK, people can think what they want, it makes me feel better.














If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 
1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.

https://afsp.org/



Sunday, September 25, 2016

SWAG Tags - Whole Brain Style!

I just can't get enough of these SWAG tags! Since I've moved to 3rd grade, I love them even more. When the kids earn a tag, I put their name on the back, and they put it on the chain. I guess a little maturity helps the fine motor skills! And, since I love using whole brain teaching, I just had to have some tags to go along with that! I even made some male teachers to my tags as well.  I love the ball chains I got too. Here are the ones I bought:




I store my tags in a divider box and use Post-it Flags (680-EG-ALT) to divide them by topic. I also put them in ABC order so they are easy to find. (I put everything in ABC order!)
Before I hang a tag on a child's necklace, I put their name on it with Sharpie Retractable Ultra Fine Point Permanent Markers, 3 Colored Markers(1735794)
I also put a bead in between the tags so people can admire the accomplishments of my little rock stars.  


I have a spot where the kids hang their swag tags. That way, they have a place to store them at the end of the day, or when they don't want to wear them. Some kids like to leave them hanging and just stop to look at them once in awhile. Others, wear them for awhile, then take them off for lunch, P.E., etc. It's interesting to watch!



My munchkins are absolutely loving these tags. They earn them for working their way up our 'Super Improver' Chart and for all sorts of other accomplishments as well. 
Just click to check out the freebie to check out the SWAG tags. If you like them, there are a bunch more to get rolling in your classroom! 















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Saturday, August 20, 2016

How to Make the Move to a New Grade and Live to Tell About It

Hi guys!
     Yep, it's me, Hilary and I'm happy to report that I survived my move from 2nd grade to 3rd grade GT! And as much as I hate to admit it, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! Here are a few things I noticed on the first day of school:

  • The kids intuitively know what to do when they come in!
  • They can actually sit down and wait for more than 2 minutes!
  • They don't ask you 40 questions in the first 5 minutes of the day!
  • They don't constantly have a boo-boo that needs a band-aid!
Bottom line . . . they aren't little kids anymore, they are just kids who know what school is about. 
     So, on that first day I decided I didn't want to rattle off a bunch of rules and expectations or do a bunch of 'getting to know you' activities right off the bat. I wanted the kids to 'do school' and have fun. The rules and expectations don't have to be preached and will most definitely be addressed, but not in our first hours together. Here's what we did after everyone arrived:
  • The kids sat in a circle and told me their names. Then, I went around the circle to say their names back to them. I got them all right on the first time around . . . as usual! LOL
  • We stayed in our circle and did a Drama Circle. We had so much fun being dramatic. Drama circles require the kids to actively listen, wait their turn, cooperate with classmates, and follow directions. It is a fun activity that helps them learn to be comfortable in front of their classmates in a non-threatening way. (Read more about Drama Circles by Jen Runde.) It also told me a lot about the different personalities in our class. We did a different drama circle 3 days in a row. They kids are BEGGING to do more! We will, too!
  • After breaking the ice,  the rest of the day went as smooth as silk. We did do a few 'getting to know you' activities, but after our drama, we were all friends.
My advice to you if you are moving grades, just remember why you became a teacher in the first place:
  • You have a heart for kids.
  • You want to make a difference in the lives of kids.
  • You enjoy watching light bulbs go on for kids.
  • You actually like kids.
  • Kids make you smile and even laugh.
  • And the list goes on and on. . . No matter what admin throws at you, just remember, it's just about the kids!
  • Oh, and one more thing . . . you just need to stay one day ahead of the kids! LOL
I know some of you are just gearing up for 
school so it's time to do some shopping! If you'd like to win a Teachers Pay Teachers $10 gift card, just in time for the ONE DAY sale at TpT. Just enter for a chance to win!




You might want to check out drama circles....They ROCK! Stop by my store for a back to school stardust poem freebie as well. 


Have a great year!


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Sunday, July 31, 2016

32 Years of Teaching Decor Needed a Makeover!

Last May, near the end of the school year, my principal came to my 2nd grade team and said she would need to cut one of our sections. I, of course, just KNEW it wouldn't be me who got cut. I've been teaching for 32 years...I've taught all the grades from K-3...I'm 2 years from retirement! 
But guess what?! That's right! I'm the 2nd grade teacher who was cut! What?! Now don't worry, they didn't fire me but it sure seemed like that to me! And boy did I pout around for quite a while! I was the one who would be teaching 3rd grade...Gifted and Talented.

Needless to say, I got over my pouting fit and started getting excited about the new challenge I would be facing. I started packing up things to take to my garage sale, things to give away, and things to take to my new classroom. (Yes, I had to move rooms too! I guess that will be good in a couple of years when I retire, right?!)
So now I'm in my new classroom and I realized I needed to buy some stuff to teach another grade! WooHoo! I think I might have a problem when it comes to school supplies. My family may or may not be planning an intervention. They will just have to wait until after school starts for that intervention because I've got too much on my plate right now!

Not only was I going to need school supplies, I was going to need new name tags, signs, labels, etc. for my new room. That's where my sister Sabrina, from A Space to Create, comes into the picture. 
Sabrina lives in Hayden Lake, Idaho and she drives to the mid-west every summer to visit with family. That is a 3-day drive with 2 kids and 2 dogs in tow. Ugh. Sabrina is a high school art teacher in Washington state and was previously an art director in advertising. (She was a true big-wig but really wanted to teach instead.)
On with my story...I went to my mom's in Michigan to hang out with Sabrina and the gang. Sabrina was ready to chill out since she'd just gotten out of school and had driven across country with a car full. I, of course, couldn't get my new classroom assignment off my mind. The first thing I asked Sabrina was: "Will you make me some clip art that I can use on things for my new classroom?" Needless to say, Sabrina was a little perturbed with me. But, after a couple of days she agreed to help me out. 
We decided to start a new line of items on TpT as a collaborative venture. She was the art talent and I was the elementary classroom talent. (Well, I also had a little more art talent from Steve at Pixel Puzzles on TpT. He does special requests and is AWESOME to work with.)


That is how the BLOCKCRAFT Kids and Pets were born. 
So far, I've got book basket labels ready to go.
I've got name tags for my chair pouches, seat sack book bags, and my tables. I've even got inspirational posters to put up in the room.
Check these examples out! 



I almost forgot to show you one of my favorite items! The birthday cards! They turned out so cute!


If you would like to check out some BlockCraft Kids and Pets for your own room, just click the pics. All the name tags and cards are even editable and come in lots of colors. We are planning on adding more items, so check back often.
On another note, Everything in my store is 20% off today until Wednesday, August 2. On top of that, Teachers Pay Teachers is having its Back to School sale Monday and Tuesday. Just use the code: BESTYEAR, and you will get an extra 10% off the sale price.



Thanks so much for stopping by. With my new teaching assignment I should have a lot of things to talk about! I will really work hard to share my journey with you along the way.

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Friday, April 29, 2016

What Memories Were Made in Your Class This Year?

Can you believe it's almost the end of the school year again? I sure can't! Time flies when you're having fun really is true! I have had a wonderful year with my little cuties and I hope you have had one too. 

At the end of the year, I always like to let the kids reflect on their year in 2nd grade. It helps them remember how much fun we all had together and also answers the question of: What did you do in school today? (this year) 

To help organize these memories, I created these memory books to use with my students. (in color and black and white) I hope it might help you wrap up your year with fond memories as well. 

Have a Wonderful End of the School Year and gear up for SUMMER!

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Earth Day Hats by Monica~Link up Your Earth Day Products

Monica is a wonderful friend of mine and always has such awesome ideas. Check out her Earth Day hats!  She makes these super simple hats with recycled materials! If you would like to see how and see a video to boot, just click here!



You can check out more Earth Day fun over on her blog by clicking HERE!




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