Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Raise Your Hands for Geometry!

Raise your hands in the air like you just don't care! Spring fever has hit Room 217 in a big way so there are more brain breaks, reading outside, and using our arms as angles! The mathematicians love to show their proud teacher rays, line segments, acute, obtuse, and right angles. Their favorites are parallel, intersecting and perpendicular. We do them all in a row so there are plenty of excuses to make the HA-Yah Kung Ko fighting sounds. I even let them throw in a karate kick or chop...anything to get the ants out of their pants!

How are keeping the last weeks interesting, fun, and reasonably sane?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Twenty Followers !

I know all of you remember the thrill of 20 followers and the happy teacher dance that goes on all day! Thanks for coming by and seeing what we are up to. Tomorrow is a holiday here in Belgium, Workers Day, so no kids but us lucky teachers get to have a looooong in-service day chatting about Exemplars. Again. No happy dance there.

Check out this cute sign that I made using some of my treasured funky fonts. It hangs outside my room, sometimes on the door, occasionally by my desk, and once from the ceiling. I promise to learn how to insert a freebie and this will be the first one!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

International Diversity Day!

Teaching at any DODEA school is always interesting, but teaching at the NATO headquarters brings so many more opportunities. We have students from over 20 different countries and they love to share their heritage and culture with our community. Today the entire school gathered to watch fellow students present traditional dances from around the world. The dances, dancers, and clothing were absolutely beautiful!

Living away from our friends and family in the US is emotionally difficult at times, but the international and US friends we have met and become close with only add to the excitement of living in Europe.

Talented students from Turkey mesmerized their classmates with a beautiful dance.

We have many students from Spain and love to watch their swirling dresses.

Pilar was a rock star in our class today and she left her dress on all day!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blogging is new to me but I am loving learning how to add links, insert gadgets, stalk follow super hip & happening fellow teacher blogs!  The best advice I received was to list the blogs I love on my page. This way I can become part of a blogging community but, even better for me, is that I can quickly see when a fav blogger has updated their site. Heaven for me is sitting at me desk while my sweetie pie Thirders are terrorizing playing nicely at recess, I have the lights off so no one thinks I am in my room, I have my tuna and crackers, and take a few minutes to read what ya' all are up to!

Well, go on over and check out Leslie at The Groovy Teacher and join up with her fabulous give away. Then come back and let me know what you think....I know you will see she IS a Groovy Teacher!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Shapes and Angles in Geometry!

Not to brag..well, maybe just a little... our class is further ahead in math than the other third grade classes. Actually, we have never made it to Geometry before so it has been fun creating activities and seeing how much my mini-mathematicians can learn now that they are almost fourth graders! Let me tell you, they love Geometry so we are moving full steam ahead.

We do love us some BINGO and I always make it a learning event. Sweet Amber Polk offered up a Freebie of Geometry Bingo that I could not pass up. You can get a copy here Geometry BINGO . Today during the morning ELA rotation, they cut and glued their own bingo cards. I added one more row at the bottom so it is a bit harder to fill the card.

There is nothing fun about playing math bingo if they do not all know all the terms and corresponding pictures. So today, I put the pictures up on the SmartBoard and the students brought their student-made cards to the mat. I called out a shape or angle and they pointed to it on their sheet. I then pointed to the correct shape on the board and we discussed why it was a right triangle, what made it an isosceles triangle, etc. Great review for the big game coming up on Friday....right after the test.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Every Day is Earth Day !

There are so many big holidays and events and activities that are fun and interesting to showcase on our huge hallway bulletin board, it is easy to just let some of them slip by. Earth Day is not one of them. I wanted to do something different than our grade level has done in the past years so I hit one of my many fav bloggers and was not disappointed. Stephanie at 3rd Grade Thoughts has a great package for Earth Day. I promptly stole borrowed the title, fired up the Cricut, and enlisted my Go-To Bulletin Board Mom to put up the Every Day is Earth Day bulletin board.

The Science Penquin at  is a lively blog with endless ideas for science and so much more. There is a free writing package that fit in perfectly with my vision and our curriculum.  Since we are all under a time cruch to get everything (well, most everything) done in the last weeks of school, I wanted a shorter reflection and writing project. Plus some free time of coloring in the afternoon after a long week back from two weeks of Spring Break made everyone (including the teacher!) happy too!

Snakes In The Classroom!

              My students know alot about me...sometimes too much!

Of course, they know the names of my daughters, dog, my favorite color of the day, etc. They also know that I never take naps, am obsessed interest with funky fonts and clip art, that I will speak with a British accent on Tuesdays, and - most importantly -that I am deathly afraid of snakes!

One of my sweetie scholars has been working so hard and doing such a great job, I wanted to reward him in a way that would be super special to him. I knew he had obtained a snake while on a family vacation to the Canary Islands last week. I reminded him mom that he knew to not bring it to class if he did not want to see his teacher pass out. We all joked about it for a few days and then it struck me -- the best reward of all time -- let Zeke bring his snake to class!

When I told him the great news, he lit up. Sure enough he strolled into class the next day with the snake. The kids had a great time teasing me about it and one fellow classmate said "I don't know what you did but it must have been really good for Mrs. Mitchell to let you bring a snake to school"!

Zeke kept the snake on his desk all day and then wore it to recess and to our library visit. He was the envy of all the school, the pride of his teacher, and the maker of another memorable teaching moment.

                    What unexpected moments did you have this week?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Place for Peace

Fundraiser for Ruby's Headstone

Abby, at  Third Grade Bookworm, wrote a post about her student, Ruby, who passed away a year ago after a five year battle with Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  She recently discovered that Ruby's parents can't afford a headstone for her as they are struggling to pay Ruby's medical bill debt.  

Abby to the rescue!  She organized a fundraiser for the parents to put money towards the headstone.  

To read more about this, please follow this link.  If you are able to donate $20, Abby will send you $130 worth of TPT products that have been generously donated by TPT Sellers (too many to list!)  You can find the list by following the link above. 

Only teachers would understand the special bond we have with our students.  Please consider helping this family create a place for peace.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Glassblowing and Mexico!

We use many of the stories in our Reading Street curriculum to learn about the world and as a springboard to discuss wide range of topics. This week we started our What Does It Mean To Be Free? theme so the story Elena's Serenade fit in perfectly. Usually I have the story projected on the smartboard and then I read, they read or I model reading or they all take turns reading aloud and that last one takes fooorrreeever. Well, now that they are only 8 weeks away from being big 4th graders, it is time to do more independent partner reading.

First things first, I handed out the Partners Cards created by Making It Teacher on TPT. I love them and so do the students. In the past I was forever just saying "you two", "you two, no not  you - you", "you two" or worse.....they would all stretch out their hand trying to reach across the room to their dearest bestie and then they would mess around. But that was all back when they were brand new third graders. Now they are great at reading together, alone, in a group, in a box, with a fox, anywhere - anytime- with anyone!

Amazingly enough, BFF's still end up together, girls are with boys without the screaming of "cooties", two boys who should never be together end up together and I just let it ride (while keeping a careful eye on them).

We got started with the story on the smartboard with the kids on the mat. This allowed us time to discuss the art work, genre, predictions, and background knowledge. Then partner cards were handed out and off they went to read and reflect. I made a scavenger hunt for them to complete from the book after reading and they are usually able to answer all the questions without needing to look back at the story too much.

Take a peek at the package I create for each story in Reading Street and then my one brag pic of kids working cooperatively together just like we read about in our teaching books!

Monday, April 15, 2013

School Daze in Room 217

It was great to go back to school after our two week Spring break. I can say that because I had the whole week planned before we left, copies were made, anchor charts created and my desk was even somewhat cleared off. What could go wrong....nothing other than I fell in love with a bunch of new TPT items that I read about on the rocking teacher blogs that I stalk.  So I spent lunch buying, printing and planning with the Earth Day Every Day unit creatively designed by Stephanie at So there go my carefully planned out least I wrote in my planner in pencil.

Imagine the tingles up my spine when I saw our book bucket overflowing with books being returned to our school library this morning. The students were reading ninja's over the break and earned loads of Reading Counts points.
 Knowing that my scholars would have a major case of ants in their pants, I made sure to have plenty of shorter, snappier lessons and bribed them with a Scavenger Hunt. Anything can be turned in to a Scavenger Hunt in Room 217 and I am always sure to have at least half of the clues in the hallway so the kids really get up amd move around. Today's was simply a variety of questions that we have learned all year (perimeter, measuring, multiplication, elapsed time, etc) and I added in a few that would prove how well they all truly know their teacher. I am a bit embarrassed that they all know that I bring tuna and crackers for lunch everyday, that I hate snakes, and that my favorite vegetable is corn.

 Belgium has many seasons in one day and today was no different. It started out cloudy and cold, then turned warm and sunny, then somewhere along the day it rained, but by the afternoon we were back to a beautiful Spring day. I surprised the gang with "Let's read outside today". We have a secret area right outside of my room. I am surprised that no one uses it mush so I have claimed it as my own! I am so proud of how they are all lost in their book and are in so many comfortable reading spots. Being ever the good model, I even took my latest book - Dreams of Joy by Lisa See (I just finished Shanghai Girls also by Lisa See and beyond loved it!) - to read too. What books are you reading?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Swing In To Spring!

Two glorious weeks of Spring Break are slowly coming to an end. Our family plans to take a driving trip thru northern England and thru Ireland were dashed at the last minute when the temps here in Belgium were still near 0 Celsius (32 degrees F) and it was even colder where we were heading. So our Springtime in Ireland was going to be Freezing Cold in Ireland.

After some fast plotting and planning over a glass of wine, my sweetest hubby surprised our oldest daughter, 15 year old Sophmore Kate, and me with tickets to South Carolina. We were so happy and excited to see our friends, shop, eat, shop, eat, repeat! We quickly decided to add in some college visits as well. We go " home" every summer but this was a bonus visit to do extra visiting, hanging out, and getting a huge dose of USA that we miss so much. In addition to visiting and hanging with long time friends- Kathy, Bailey,Kim and Mary, we popped in on Kate's kindergarten and first grade teacher who was thrilled to see Kate as a teen, we made a quick run to Flagler College ( Kate's first choice as of now) in St.Augustine, Florida and used that as an excuse to visit with our dear friends in Palm Coast. true friends really can squeeze in a meaningful visit in one day!

It is great to be back with our family but our mother - daughter trip was 20 times better than I ever imagined. I know Kate and I will always remember all the fun we had together. I prepped everything for the first week back so we are all rushing outside to enjoy a glimpse of Spring that has suddenly appeared. Here in Belgium we can have sun, rain, snow and then rain again in the same day so we get slightly hysterical when the sun comes out.

Kate on the left with her BFF visiting Appalachian State in North Carolina.

Mrs. Wolff was thrilled to have Kate pop by for a visit.
I brought along some pictures of them together from when she was Kate's kindergarten and first grade teacher. I can't wait to see my students when they are in high school!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Reading Counts in Room 217!

My thirders love a good book! Our school uses the Reading Counts program to assess the students comprehension of their books. Each year we set a goal of number of words and the number of words we will read. The gang this year was not about to be outdone by last years readers - no way, no how. Last year we boasted reading 3,897,542 words and 800 books. As of yesterday, our class has read 942 books and over 4,330,000 words. They have big plans of hitting their goal of 1000 books by the time they return from our two week Spring Break...and I have no doubts that they will do it! Here is a peek at what pops up on their screen after passing a Reading Counts quiz.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dodecahedron Book Report Projects

First let me share with everyone my extreme dislike of messy projects that turn into chat-fests and are an embarrassment to display. As if any teachers like those, right? That said....I was on the hunt for a new, exciting, interesting, challenging, whiz-bang way to allow my scholars to demonstrate their understanding of their latest book.

Happiness flowed over me when I found this Dodecahedron project on complete with loads of pics and advice. I pulled up the site and went over all the steps with my crew and we all agreed that we could take on the challenge. I was fine with a longer than usual project since we were knee deep into two weeks ( yes, two weeks- what's with that?) of Terra Nova testing. As you all know, it is hard to start up a new unit in the middle of all that testing madness so a big project fit our schedule just fine.

Writing, designing, coloring, and cutting all went along swimmingly. Today was THE day....time to start putting them together. Holding my breath, a few students started gluing one by one. I was hovering over them whispering instructions and helpful hints. Once a few were done, they went over and helped their classmates. Before long, we had everyone cutting, gluing, helping, holding, handing them to me to hang in the hallway for all to see.

My original plan was to hang them in our room but they turned out so darn cute that we wanted to show them off a bit. We are nothing if not proud in Room 217!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mushing Along with the Iditarod!

I have wanted to have an Iditarod unit for the past three years but always remembered about it only a few days before the start of the race, the first Saturday in March. Well.Not.This.Year!  I was all over it in early February. Of course, my first stops were to TPT and Pinterest. Loads of info and great ideas but I wanted it to be just right. I bought a package on TPT and then proceded to change most of it but borrowed a few of the ideas- mainly the Reading Our Way to Nome as the header for the bulletin board.

Reading Our Way to Nome. Our class looooves to read and we loooove to brag about it to anyone who will listen! The class broke into teams and all met their goal of reading 1049 pages before the end of the race. FYI - the race is 1049 miles of snow sledding thru 23 checkpoints with a team of dogs.

This teacher knew the class would like the unit but they were overwhelmed with excitement! We read about Iditarod, tracked our mushers (each student pulled 3 mushers to track and root for), I made loads of math activities using Iditarod facts and figures, we watched endless video clips of the teams while they were on the trail, and they wrote about what it takes to be a champion, how to overcome challenges, and why we strive to be the best we can be.

If you are anything like me, a big unit like this requires a big bulletin board to set the tone of the coming weeks. There is concern within my family about my need to have a new bulletin board a bit too often. Luckily, my teen daughters are well trained to put up new paper in a matter of minutes and they can weld a straight-edge paper cutter like a pro.  Take a peek at a snap of the hallway bulletin board that told the world (well, the school) that Room 217 was Iditarod bound!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

We Survived!

The scholars of Room 217 slapped a big ol' We Survived! sign on top of the Terra Nova Boot Camp poster to let the world know that "ain't no test gonna kick our butts" as one well spoken young man said. Whew, so glad to have that all behind us. I did have to break the news to the gang that next week we will be back to "normal"...whatever that is! No more taking off our shoes (they loved taking them off for the test), no more snacks at 9 am, no more teacher bringing in cookies for all of us to binge on for our post test sugar high.

I did promise to keep the Dance Party songs around so we could continue to perfect our moves to Kung Ko Fighting, Gummy Bears, Crocodile Rock and Hamster Dance. Please, someone give me some links to some other classroom appropriate songs. I have had the Gummy Bear song in my head for days now!

Meanwhile, I stumbled on to Doodle Art Alley and love it. I need to figure out how to download the doodle posters but they look like so much fun. Now if I can just find a third grade standard to fit ... we can do them as a project!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Test Prep Boot Camp

 Day Three of Terra Nova. The Math Wizards of Room 217 felt like they did a good job and I am sure that they did. Who ever designed the test has obviously never watched a class of 8 and 9 year olds trying to sit and work quietly for 50 minutes straight. The Math was divided into 10 mins, 30 mins, then a whopping 50 minutes.

As much as none of us like doing test prep, I do like to show my students, other teachers, and my admin that I take it seriously. Plus, I love any excuse to make a cute poster! I am uber lucky to have access to a rocking poster printer and I am every luckier to be gal pals with the one and only person authorized to actually print out the posters. I hung this on our classroom door all last week and received lots of compliments. This is a keeper for years to come.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Here I Am !

Finally, the day has come. My.First.Blog.Post!

Like most new bloggers, my site has been up and ready and waiting...and waiting...and waiting for me to get up the nerve to finally start.  I figured that the second week of Terra Nova testing, the tail end of a cold that will not seem to ever end, and a somewhat big project looming over my head was as good of a time as ever to start!

I love fonts, TPT, Etsy, Pinterest, Somee cards, making bulletin boards, creating task card activities, my family, our dog, my Dansko teaching clogs, and those orange crackers with the peanut butter in the middle. NOT necessarily in that order!

We are a Department of Defense school in Belgium at the NATO headquarters - SHAPE: Supreme Headquarter Allied Powers Europe. 12 of my darlings are international students from Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Greece, Turkey and Montenegro. They do not take the TN test so in the morning I have my 11 USA students here. The ESL 1,2&3 students come around lunch time. The time changes, students coming later, the total silence in the room - it all messes with my Teaching MoJo so I will be happy when it is all over and we can get back to the madness that is Room 217!