Saturday, December 13, 2014

#mtboschallenge Week 18: My Plans for Winter Break


This is Week 18 of the #mtboschallenge on twitter.  The challenge is to blog once a week for the remainder of 2014.  Each Saturday there will be a different prompt shared to blog about.  The prompt will be shared prior to Saturday on twitter using #mtboschallenge  You can link up on my blog (or any other blog that shares the link up). Also share your blog post on twitter with #mtboschallenge .  You can copy the following graphic into your blog post.  Each Sunday @druinok from Teaching Statistics will host a 3-2-1 Summary prompt where you can blog about anything you choose.   Feel free to join the blogging challenge on either Saturday, Sunday, or both days.  Today's Sat prompt is to share your plans either personal or professional for Christmas/Winter Break.  Thanks for joining the Challenge!


Festive tray on my kitchen table.

This year we have a half day on December 23rd which I am as thrilled about as my sons are.  ;)  My oldest was having an absolute fit about it as we ate lunch today.  His insistence that the 1.5 would be a complete waste was not lost on me.  Not sure who decided we should go to school on December 23.  I think this might be the 2nd time this has happened in my 25 years of teaching.

This year we will return from break on January 5th which means we start back with five full days.  I prefer years when we are able to ease back in with a 2 or 3 day week to start, but I will take whatever break I can get.  Trust me I'm ready for it at this point.

I'm looking forward to spending time with family and friends over break.  We spend the holiday with my family as my husband's family is scattered from coast to coast all over the US.  My family all lives within a 2ish hour radius.  I'm looking forward to seeing my niece and nephews.  We don't see them as often as I would like due to our busy life with three boys playing four different sports among them.  I don't like to make too many plans in advance for break, because it's really time I need to decompress and gear up for the second half of the school year.  As a teacher I've only had three and a half days off since school started in August.  Christmas break is all about taking a deep breath, metaphorically, and regrouping.

We will typically celebrate with our family of five on December 23rd.  We either make a nice fancy dinner at home, or go to a restaurant like Carraba's for dinner and then open our family of five gifts to each other that night.  The morning of the 24th the boys and I will often run out to Target for any last minute things we need to get, of course making sure to get ourselves a treat from Starbucks.  The rest of the day is spent in a state of organizedish chaos of last minute gift wrapping and getting ready for church.  It's usually more frantic and stressful than I would like.  We then alternate spending Christmas Eve or Christmas Day opening presents with my side of the family.  The boys love spending time with their cousins and they all get along famously.  Once Christmas rolls around all the stress of preparations is gone and then I'm able to just sit back and enjoy the time off with my family.  

I love going after Christmas shopping for Christmas wrap/decorations that are on sale.  Last year Greg and I hit the motherlode at Target and I did such a great job of organizing everything it's been so nice to pull out things for decorating/wrapping/baking.  Wrapping will be a breeze this year thanks to my shopping/organizing of everything gift wrap related last year.

I absolutely LOVE Winter break.  I love that we usually don't travel anywhere so it's just a fun chill time where I can spend all day in my jammies if I want reading whatever books I got for Christmas gifts as the boys play with all their friends and trade off having sleepovers at each other's houses.  Last year one night we ended up going to a Packer party at our next door neighbor's house and found out school was canceled the next day due to severe cold (it was supposed to be our first day back after break) so we ended up playing Cards Against Humanity and had our youngest two boys sleeping over at two different neighbor's houses.  It was soooo much fun.  Sadly our next door neighbors will be moving the day after Christmas.  I think I'm still in denial about it because their three boys and ours have grown up together.  No idea yet who will be moving in.

I plan on spending the time off getting some organizing done around the house and getting myself back to the gym to start working out again.  We started off very strong in January of this year, but life quickly took over and the gym has been long forgotten.

As far as plans for working on anything school related over break, I do plan on looking through some professional books,  I've accumulated quite a collection of professional books and some I have read cover to cover, some I have merely perused, and some I have not even read a word yet.  One of the books I'm going to start reading over break is  Five Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions.  I  keep hearing about it on Twitter and the other day I went to the following conference Math Proficiency for Every Student: Fostering Discourse Structures in the Classroom where the book was referenced several times.  I may see if there is interest for some sort of professional book study starting in January.  I feel when I'm part of an online book study I'm held more accountable to follow through on reading the book and reflecting on how it can improve my classroom instruction.

I may spend part of a day in my classroom doing some organizing that I just NEVER have time to get to otherwise.  I'm much more productive with that on a day I'm not teaching.  After teaching all day the last thing I want to do it stay and get everything organized. 

I'm also excited that I will finally be able to use my new Emily Ley Simplified Planner once we ring in 2015.  As I reflect on my goals for 2015 I will spend some time over break checking out my pretty new planner. 
Isn't she pretty?  Hope I love her.

I plan on spending lots of time with my boys over break just chilling and having fun.  Not sure how much snow there will be, it's been warmer in WI lately and where we live there is no snow at this time and none in the forecast.  I hate when we don't have a white winter.  I don't know how you southerners celebrate Christmas without snow, I don't like it.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care for St Nick.

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

#mtboschallenge Week 17: Tips for Keeping Students Engaged & Learning before Christmas/Winter Break

This is Week 17 of the #mtboschallenge on twitter.  The challenge is to blog once a week for the remainder of 2014.  Each Saturday there will be a different prompt shared to blog about.  The prompt will be shared prior to Saturday on twitter using #mtboschallenge  You can link up on my blog (or any other blog that shares the link up). Also share your blog post on twitter with #mtboschallenge .  You can copy the following graphic into your blog post.  Each Sunday @druinok from Teaching Statistics will host a 3-2-1 Summary prompt where you can blog about anything you choose.   Feel free to join the blogging challenge on either Saturday, Sunday, or both days.  Today's Sat prompt is to share your best tips on how you keep your students motivated and learning with all the excitement in the air leading up to Christmas/Winter Break.  Thanks for joining the Challenge!

The next couple weeks leading up to Christmas/Winter Break is one of the most challenging times of the school year to keep students focused and learning.  While visions of sugarplums may not be dancing in their heads, they are definitely starting to get restless and there is an excitement in the air that has nothing to do with what they are learning in our classrooms.  I can hear Andy Williams singing in my head, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...to try and keep students focused & learning."

Here are some tips to keep students engaged and learning:

1)  Have a plan and stick to it.  Try to plan backwards of what you want to accomplish before your break starts.  The more planned and organized you are as a teacher, the more likely it is that you will accomplish what you need to before you go on break.



My plans for this week.
2) Have some fun with decorating your classroom.  The students will enjoy the your festive decorations.  I stick to mostly putting up winter/snow decorations so I can keep them up all of January, but I do have a few fun Christmas touches.  I will have to take some photos this week to update my decorations for this year.  Easy Christmas Decorations

3) Try to plan in some fun activities to keep the students engaged.  

4)  Remember whether break is coming or not, every day in your classroom is precious and you don't want to waste a second of it.  By planning in advance for some fun and still educational activities, you will make sure to get through whatever curriculum you have planned and also have some fun with your students.  These next few weeks are some of my favorite of the school year.  I'm as excited as my students 
are for Christmas break and I want to enjoy our time together.


Please link up below and share your best ideas/tips how you plan on handing the next few weeks to optimize the learning of your students.


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