Follow by Email

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cyber Monday/Tuesday Sale

Although the turkey is still in the oven (dinner is at 4:00) it's time to think about holiday sales. 

We will be participating in the TPT Cyber Monday/Tuesday Sale. Best thing, no need to get up at 5:00AM and wait on long lines. Ahh shopping from the comfort of home. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Being Each Other's Super Heroes

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...Village Avengers!

This week we acknowledged School Anti-Violence Week by becoming each other's Super Heroes.  It was a school-wide theme that cluminated in the wearing of Super Hero capes (decorated in Art class) on Friday.  The goal was to convey to our students that they can be each other's heroes by being upstanders when they see someone being bullied.  We did quite a few things this week to convey the message. 

Don't we look SUPER heroic!

First, we watched a video on bullying and one on cyberbullying. We took the wuizzes together as a class on the SMART Board so that we can discuss and review the inforamtion we learned from Tim and Moby. 

I read One to the class and we participated on a class discussion of what it means to be "the one" for someone else.  This is a phenomenal story with simple pictures but a deep message.  In the story, the number 1 stands up for the colors being bullied by red.  It may sound "young" but I promise I read this to my fifth graders for years and they enjoyed it as well. 

We also spent some time discussing the qualities of a hero.  To introduce this idea I showed a clip from The Avengers that was posted on Youtube and had the kids start documenting the traits they see in the Super Heroes.  They discussed their ideas together and then we shared them as a group.  As I charted their suggestions we discussed how those Super Hero traits could translate to being a hero to someone being bullied.  

As our culminating activity we made Super Hero comic strips where the students played the role of the hero swooping in to help "save" someone who was being bullied.  They really did a GREAT job! Here are a few samples below....

Well that's it for now.  

Up!       Up!  and     AWAY!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Halloween Candy Math- "Sweet" fun for all Learners

With Halloween over there is tons of candy laying around.  Although this is bad for my diet, it is great for my Halloween Candy Math activity. 

This is a place value, addition, comparing numbers, and rounding activity that I did with my class this week.  It was perfect for the few days before and the few days after Halloween.  In my class it started with me giving the kids a large pillowcase of candy.  Later I though this could be done by giving the kids fictious amounts of candy on a class table used by the whole class.
A pile of delicious Math Manipulatives

Dumping the candy out of the pillowcase

My kids needed to find out the total number of pieces they had of each type of candy.  They immediately began sorting their candy into piles, estimating the number of pieces, and eventually tallying up the total.  

Let the sorting begin!!!
Over the next few days we spent time comparing our candy totals, rounding to the nearest tens and hundreds, solving addition problems using two methods, and-most importantly- thinking and writing about our thinking!

I always like to add a reflective piece to each activity we do.  So in this activity, besides asking about their enjoyment, I asked them what skills they felt they had a strong grasp on and what skills they feel they need to revisit and how they want to revisit them.  I am very interested to see what they say about what they need to revisit and how they want to revisit it.  

I'll keep ya posted!

If you are intierested in my activity it can be found here: Halloween Candy Math

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Working on Writing

Want to know a secret?   Well, do you? 

Here it is:  I'm not the greatest writing teacher.  

There, I said it. phew! Thanks for listening blogging buddies. 

Well, this year I have decided to do something about it.  This year I am teaching a looping class.  That means I will ahve the same kids in fourth grade that I do when I return to fifth grade. That means I will be the last teacher they have in elementary school and I have two years to kick their writing into high gear.  

My entry in my Writing Notebook about a
time I rode Splash Mountain.

One of the things I did was to seek out a thrid grade colleague of mine who is a phenomenal writing teacher.  She just gets it and thankfully is willing to help me out.  
A LONG entry (along with sketches) in a students notebook. 

A student sketching out his ideas to help
create a picture to write about. 

Our first unit of study is a narrative writing.  We started in mid-September and are getting pretty close to publishing our pieces of writing. 

Our curriculum is built on Writing Workshop and I would love any writing tips our blogging friends have to offer.  
What do you do about writing?

Have a Fantastic Day!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pumpkin Math-Seriously everyone should do this!

Let's go back....way my first year of teaching!  

My classroom is directly across the hall from a first grade classroom and I watched them celebrate and learn through thematic teaching.  You know what I mean apples on Johnny Appleseed Day, pumpkins around Halloween, you get the idea. 

I was determined to add some of that fun to my fifth grade classroom.  My first activity, Pumpkin Math was born! It has undergone quite a few changes in the last seven years, and now it is ready to share with you. 

On day #1 of the activity my students use a variety of materials to discover the circumference, radius, and diameter of a pumpkin that a parent volunteer has supplied.  We work in small groups and estimate and find the weight.  Students also write a physical description about their pumpkin so that everyone can identify which pumpkin belongs to each group.  
Using pop cubes to find the radius
Collecting our data

On day #2 we get REALLY MESSY.  We take a guess on the number of seeds inside the pumpkin and then start scooping out all of the seeds and pumpkin guts.  Here I am able to see a great deal about my students and their problem solving techniques.  For example who is counting one seed at a time and who is making small groups of seeds.  This gets messy and makes for some awesome photo-ops. I take the seeds home that day and season and cook theme to be shared as a treat as we analyze our data the next day.  
Guessing the number of seeds in our pumpkin 
Emptying out the pumpkin in our to count the seeds
 Creating piles of 20 to count the seeds

On day #3 we analyze all the data that we have collected in order to find the mean of the pumpkins we have in the room.  We also pull out the pumpkin carving kits and create jack o'lanterns out of our emptied out pumpkins.  

This is an activity that my kids have LOVED year after year.  When they come back to visit after leaving my class Pumpkin Math is one of the things we did together that always want to reminisce about.

You can grab this activity at my TPT Store: The Reading Buddies Pumpkin Math 

Can you smell the pumpkin in the air?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Reading Buddies Birth Story

It all began on a humid August afternoon when a then fifth-grade teacher went up to a then first-grade teacher and asked her if she wanted to join him for Reading Buddies.  

Before being hired in my new school my former school had set up Reading Buddies with upper and lower grades to help build fluency, comprehension, a love of reading, a mentorship, and a friend.  When I came to my new school there were no Reading Buddies.  Actually a grade level colleague let me know that she was concerned about my ability to cover the curriculum if I was spending time reading with first graders.  (I assured her I would be fine.)

Kelly said yes, not knowing what Reading Buddies was, and we began working.  

-We switched classes so Kelly could teach my fifth graders reading strategies to help her kids and I would read stories to her first graders. 
-We learned about our kids and lamented over year long partnerships.
-Kelly brought her class to visit so they weren't afraid of being in the fifth grade room.
-We made a plan and worked out a system that worked for us. 

There were getting to know you games, and quiet reading, and of course the time the fire alarm went off with all 48 kids in my room.  We began celebrating together

Thanksgiving feast-  sure!

                  Holiday stories and games- DEFINITELY!

                                    Read Across America Day PJ Camp-Out- 


Kelly and I love working together and have alot of fun doing so.  (Click HERE to see a time when we unexpectedly wound up on a class trip together.) 

Reading Buddies has often been the best part of the day and our kids create lasting memories and friendships that last!

You can head over to our TPT store to check out our Reading Buddies How to Guide if you are interested in starting a Reading Buddies partnership with another teacher buddy. 

You can check out some other Reading Buddy blog posts here:
Grinch Day Technology Glitch
Merry Thanksgiving
Reading Buddies How to Guide
End of Year
Earth Day-Lorax
Dr. Seuss Day

See ya Buddies!
-Damien and Kelly

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Hello buddies-

We are participating in TPTs Back to School sale. #B2S13. you can get as much as 28% off of our greatest TPT products.

We'd say more, but we are too busy shopping!
The Reading Buddies
Kelly and Damien

Friday, August 16, 2013

Teacher Week 2013 Management & Tips

Hello buddies-

Well, Kelly and I were both a bit busy yesterday and weren't able to complete Thursday's post so we are teaming up to complete both tasks today.  

First: Kelly and Management...How to get your class to walk quietly in the hall?  The answer is simple, TATTLE!  That's right I encourage my students to tattle on each other in the hall only and it works.  Each student is in charge of 2 people, the person in front of them and in back of them only.  If either of those two people are talking the person in charge raises their hand.  I immediately know who is talking and that signal usually stops the person from talking.  Once the person stops talking the child must put their hand down.  It works like a charm I always get compliments on how quiet my class in the hall.  Don't forget to compliment the children who are tattling and making good choices.  This gets the tattling out of their system in a nonverbal way and the class manages themselves.  Genius and I have no idea where I got this idea from.  Anyone else use tattling in the hallway as a management system?

Ok friends, it's time for my tips for teaching.  I going to go fast and free here so let's dive in!

-Damien's Tips for Teachers:

  • Love what you do.  Teaching is an isolated profession and one that doesn't get much positive attention lately so make sure you love getting up each morning and walking into that classroom to meet those faces who are waiting for you. 
  • Speaking of classrooms.  You will spend more time there than at home so make sure you like the way it looks.  Some might say the Pinterest-ing or theme-ing of classrooms is too much; all I know is on a crappy day when I sit down in my desk I can always say "wow, it looks nice in here".
  • Authentic Literature is the only way.  Students will not enjoy the "stories" in a basal series, you will not enjoy the basal series, and most importantly-they will not learn the skills
    necessary to grow as readers.  Find stories you love, with rich characters, great language, thick themes, and are great stories to read.  Whether Harry or Frindle; Frog and Toad or Junie B. teaching reading requires authentic literature. 
  • Remember what it is like to be the age you teach.  Have sympathy, compassion, love, and understanding for your students.  Sometimes homework won't get done.  Sometimes students won't be able to focus.  Sometimes they will try your patience. They are kids and they aren't doing it on purpose.  They will need you to be understanding, to help them make it right, and to show them that even when they mess up you still care for them. 
  • MODEL! MODEL! MODEL!  Tell students what to do is ok.  If you want them to do it, show them what a connection, or word problem, or response looks like. 
  • Have FUN! Remember  It's not measured on standardized assessments or part of the curriculum but it is important.  Be silly, tell corny jokes, and just laugh with you students.  Don't let "the man" get you down. 
  • Speaking of laughing- LAUGH at your mistakes as there will be many of them.  
  • A wise teacher once told me, "If you have engagement, you don't need management". That being said classroom management/engagement can totally derail your entire school year. 
  • Whether it comes to students, parents, colleagues, etc. "Mean what you say and say what you mean". 
  • And lastly, remember you worked hard to get where you are today, but the hardest work has just begun.  
 Thanks so much for "listening"!
-Damien and Kelly

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Teacher Week '13 Now Teach

ORGANIZATION, the thing I keep trying to accomplish every year.  As I walk through the halls of my school I peek in my colleagues rooms and I am amazed at the neatness of some.  After speaking with them and getting to know their teaching style I realize I will never be that organized, but still I keep trying to improve my own system. Here is what I learned from the OCD teachers with the rooms that have no papers out of place, I mean never!
  •  they never save extra papers or notices.  I always think what if I lose the original so I keep 5 extra copies.

  • they read everything in their mailbox as soon as possible and throw it out!  I always think maybe I will need that notice to remember what time and date the important meeting is at.

  • they never do crafts so they don't need half the supplies that I have.  I always think I will never be the teacher that doesn't do crafts.
My original system of keeping a file folder for each month that had everything from multiple copies of worksheets, to patterns, to sample art projects,  was my system for the last 16 years.  Well finally after Damien laughing at my over flowing files in my over stuffed filing cabinet, I changed.  I now have a binder for each topic or theme that I teach plus a monthly binder and subject binders.  One copy of each worksheet is now in a page protector in my binder.  When I need a copy I just pop it out of the binder and take it to the copy machine and make a copy.  If it's in the page protector I know it's an original.  How long did it take to organize 16 years worth of file folders into neat binders? You guessed it one whole year!  I took one file folder home each month and organized my worksheets into page protectors and binders.  For example my February  file folder used to hold groundhog's day, Valentine's day, President's Day and Chinese New Year.  Now each is housed in it's own binder.  I also keep all patterns in Ziploc bags labeled by month in a container.  Best system ever!

I wish I had pictures but I just got back from vacation and haven't been back to school yet.  We don't start school until September 3rd.

Since I know everyone loves pictures here's one from my vacation to Canada.

Niagara Falls

Happy teaching,


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Teacher Week 2013- Classroom Digs

It's the second day of Teacher Week and I am trying hard to stay on top of things while attending Columbia University Teacher's College Reading Institute in NYC.  It's keeping a guy busy.  

Tuesday with Blog Hoppin' = Classroom Digs

Soooooooo, It's August in NJ and we don't go back to school until September and with both Kelly and I being away there hasn't been a great deal of classroom set-up time. Something I know we will regret later.  I suppose that my classroom currently looks like this...

-boxes everywhere

-paper covering every nook and cranny from 3 months of dust

-curtain rods without curtains


However, once I return the NJ on Sunday you can guarantee I will be storming the castle on Monday to get started.  

However you can check out my classroom and Kelly's from our reveals last September.  

Check it out: 

We will definitely post our new classroom photos once we are ready to go!

Damien and Kelly

Monday, August 12, 2013

Teacher Week 2013-It's all About Me!

Hello Buddies-

I love a good linky and am joining Blog Hoppin' for Teacher Week 2013.  I'll do my best to keep up!

Here's the top 10 things you never knew you needed to know about Damien!

10. I am a HUGE Disney fan.  I think it runs in my blood.  I can recite almost every word from any film and can bust out a Disney song with a moments notice (sometime no one even asks me to, it just happens).  We visit Disney often as a family. Most recently the family, cousins, and uncles went to Disney for Christmas. 

Here's my family-with cousins and an uncle in our matching Mickey t-shirts.
They were my idea and, though grumbling at first, they all played along.
9. I do nothing low key!  My parents have pretty much set the standard for over the top and I tend to follow in their footsteps.  Some examples:
-Why only have one REAL Christmas tree when you can have five (plus 1artificial one in my classroom)?
-I LOVE Halloween and bring pumpkins into my classroom for a two week Math and Science study that ends with Jack O'Lanterns. 
-I host family/friend movie nights in may backyard complete with themed food and decorations.
...And there are more. 

My classroom "over the top" nature includes hand painted Hogwarts curtains. 

8. I LOVE the snow.  I know people don't usually love the winter, but I enjoy heading out in the snow each time it snows.  Sledding-check!  Snowman building-check!  

Me, the doggies, and my brother outside in the snow!
7. If you have read this blog before this isn't something new, but I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan! I LOVE the books! I LOVE the movies! I LOVE the theme park! and even went to London over Easter Break to tour the Harry Potter Studios Tour.  I literally went to Hogwarts-how cool is that!

6. Speaking of London! I LOVE (most of) the people I work with.  My co-teacher and gym teacher were part of my London adventure.  Kelly my blog buddy lives around the corner and I love hanging out with her, grabbing blackberry sangria or chocolate fondue at our fave spots.  They make work fun and are a great group to be around. 

Kelly and I serving Ices at a school fundraiser 
My co-teacher and I as Patch and Nanny when our school did
101 Dalmatians as our Halloween theme.
5.  I can't function without noise in the background.  I need music or TV noise while I read.  I put the TV on to go to bed. I have my I-pod in my classroom for when I am working and the kids have left.  Without noise my mind wanders and I can't get anything done.  I am sure a therapist could track down my issues to something that happened when I was two, but I just prefer to have the noise around me.

4. I am a true dog person.  Until recently I had three dogs: a black German Shephard (who passed away), a tan Sheephearding Retriever mix, and a black and gold Hound.  I love my dogs!

3. I love going to the movies.  There is something about that big screen, the popcorn, the soda, and that moment before the movie starts that I love.  I will see almost anything.  I've sat through Twilight 2 with Kelly when we were unofficially supervising her daughter and most recently took my little cousin to Smurfs 2.  I love going to the movies and will usually do see anything!

2. I hate teaching Science.  I know many people love it, and it's hands on, and blah blah blah!  I hate it. My theory is, if I can teach you to read and problem solve in math then you are able to do any science experiment that you'd like.  It's my least favorite subject to teach no matter how I try to embrace it.  Social Studies is a close second.  If you can read, then you are able to read about any historic event your heart desires.  My heart doesn't desire to read about any of them.  

1. I was always told to leave your audience wanting more. So...


The End of Summer School

Well friends-

Summer School is OVER!  

Although I enjoy teaching, Summer School is tough even for the best of us.  I had 9 fifth grade remedial students and 13 fourth grade remedial students for two 1 hour Reading Classes.  It was hard to get them to "buy into what I was selling" and even harder to get them to show up each day.  That being said, we tried our best to work on our summer reading, sharpen our literacy skills, and enjoy reading.  

Below I have some pictures from my First Grade Enrichment Class on Math Games.  God I love those first graders, makes me think some time in the younger grades may be in my future-just not the near future.

Here we are in one center playing Hungry Fish. A great (and FREE) app.

Students were at the choice game station

Here we used a SMART Board file a first grade friend shared with me.

This week I am in NYC at Columbia University for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.  I can't wait to share all I am learning with you. So, check back soon for posts about that.  

For instant buddy gratification check out our Instagram-
username: TheReadingBuddies

B-Bye Buddies,