Thursday, August 20, 2015

Blogging for Books: Avenue of Spies

Have I mentioned how much I love summer break?

One of the best things about summer vacation is that I have SO much more time to read.

Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied ParisAvenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris by Alex Kershaw

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book for free from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.

As I began reading, I immediately enjoyed that while this book is nonfiction, it reads like a novel.

After getting further into the book I found that it was confusing at time with many names and how they were connected to each other in order to be influential. There were times that I had to reread paragraphs or pages in order to piece things together. The sentence structure awkward at times, and I needer to reread to figure out what the author was stating. I think this occurred because Kershaw felt the need to explain people, places, or clarify French or German phrases. Sometimes, it was slow going because of the numerous French and German names of people and places. While important to tell the story, it took time to work out the pronunciation!

Nearing the end of the story, things began to really move me. It's easy to forget that Jewish people were not the only ones targeted during WWII. People who resisted the Nazis and many others were put to death in the most cruel ways. While I do wish the story would have focused more on the Jacksons and less on other details, in the end, I think it all came together to tell a remarkable story of one family's remarkable bravery in terrible times.

If you enjoy history or WWII stories, I would recommend this book.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

It's a New Year!

There's a back to school commercial (that I can't seem to find on YouTube and don't remember what company it's for) that plays the famous New Year's tune, "Auld Lang Syne."  Kristin  mentioned this in a post recently, and I can't help but agree.  The "New Year" for me starts in August!

I love the beginning of a new school year.  It's exciting!  Fresh school supplies, setting up my classroom, anticipation of all of the *wonderful* things that are going to's all just so exciting.

Though I will admit, by the end of the first week, this happens:
from my "The Life of a Teacher" board on Pinterest

Maybe not the first week.  But at least by October.

In case you don't remember, I teach 6th grade at a small school district.  We have one elementary school and a Jr/Sr High School.  This means that our elementary is a K-6 building.  This year, the 5th and 6th grades will be trying a new schedule.  It's not exactly block scheduling, but the purpose it to provide more time for Math Instruction and for ELA (English Language Arts- which includes Reading and Writing) Instruction.

 I have been the 6th grade Reading teacher for 2 years, and last year I taught all of the reading classes and language arts (writing) to my homeroom.  This year, I will be teaching 3 ELA classes for 80 minutes each.  I'm looking forward to this new schedule and adventure.  But if any of you have taught Language Arts, it can be really difficult and time consuming to grade writing assignments.  I will also see about 60 students (I know, I know, some teachers in this subject area see A LOT more), so I wanted to keep things organized and make things easier for myself and my students.

I came up with a couple of things to try!

1) Writing Process System
Last year, I ordered a filing system for folders.  This was originally for something entirely different (math related, and thank goodness I'm done teaching math!), but I was able to find a good use for them.  First, I color coded the tabs of manila folders for each class I will be seeing (My homeroom is blue, another is red, and the third is yellow).  I placed all of their folders on this filing system.  Next, I have some colorful storage baskets.  On each one, I taped an index card.  One basket reads, "Rough Draft" in green.  The other is "Editing/Revising" in yellow, and the last is "Final Copy" in red.  (Do you get the green, yellow, red?  Like a stop light??)  Students will write their names on their own folders.  As they enter each step of the writing process, they will put their manila folder in the appropriate basket.  In other words, if a student is working on his rough draft, he will place his folder in the rough draft basket when class is over.

When dealing with writing assignments in the past (in both Language Arts and Reading), I was very set on students NOT handing in their assignments until the due date.  With 60 students, I've decided I might lose my mind trying to grade that much work at once!  (Truthfully, you should see how awful some of their writing is.....)  With this system, as soon as a student's folder is in the Final Copy basket, I can correct the paper, and return it.  After I've graded a paper, it will go back into their manila folder and back to the filing system.  I plan to have students keep all of their writing in their folders to serve as a portfolio of sorts.

2) Use of Google Docs
I have already gotten some very good feedback on this from parents.  I am sending home an introductory letter about what students will be needing for ELA class.  On this letter, I explain to parents that students will great a Gmail account for the use of Google docs.  I do include a permission slip, and parents do not have to allow their student to create an account.

Why am I doing this?  For a few reasons:

  • My classroom computers (I have 2) are not connected to printers in our school.  Therefore, I have to give students a flash drive to save their work.  Then I have to put the flash drive into my computer, open their file, and print it myself.  This isn't a huge deal for one or two students, but when almost all of your students need you, it can get time consuming and overwhelming.
  • Of our 4 computer labs, one is a technology classroom that is being used for classes all day, and one has no printer.  That means if I can't get my students into 1 of the 2 labs that have printers connected, students cannot print their work from there.
  • This will also allow easier peer editing because students can share their work with other students.
  • This also makes it easier for ME to edit student work should they ask me to.
  • While students can access their saved work from any computer in the school, they can't access their work from home.  While not all of our students have computers or internet access at home, those who do can take advantage of being able to access their work from home if they choose.
Things I did before running with this idea:
  1. I asked permission from my principal.  Before I got too excited, I wanted to make sure that I was even allowed to offer this option to my students.  (P.S.  She LOVED the idea.)
  2. As I already stated, I created an informational letter to send home.  I will be sending this letter home with my students the first day of school.  The sooner it gets home, the better.
  3. I included a permission slip at the bottom of the letter. Again, as I already stated, I am not going to force the students to use this.  Even if there are students whose parents will not allow it, that's a lot less students I have to do things with the harder way. 
  4. My principal reviewed my letter and initialed it.  She requested that I provide her with a copy of the letter to read and initial.  Her initials will be on this communication going out to parents so that they know that the idea has been approved.
I'm really excited to see how these new ideas will work!

Any other writing teachers out there have ideas to share??

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Backing Away from Technology....

This title may be slightly misleading.

As I type this from the comfort of my couch, I am currently surrounded by not only the laptop on which I am working but also my iPad, iPhone, another lap top with a broken screen which is connected to my television transferring pictures to my Google drive.  (And it's taking half of my life to do so....)

Despite how that may seem, I have recently felt the urge to stop using technology in certain areas of my life.

The first thing to go: the calendar app on my iPhone.

Sure.  It's useful when I forget what the date/day of the week is.  (This happens to me a lot in the summer.)  But in July, I had a lot of things going on.  The stupid little dots on my iPhone calendar were NOT helpful.  Maybe I'm lazy, but I started to lose my mind over the fact that I had to click on the dotted date to see if I actually had something planned or if it was just iPhone reminding me that the day was a holiday.   (P.S.  I don't know if this happened to anyone else in July, but iPhone was telling me Independence Day was on July 3rd AND the 4th......)

It was then that I decided that I needed a planner.

Of course, I would make this decision in July when Back to School stuff isn't *quite* out yet.  I did check a few places first in the hopes that I could score one immediately.  No such luck.  I checked out some places online.  So many bloggers I love are always raving about Erin Condren.  I looked there, and friends, I love you all, but I just think it's INSANE to pay that much money for a planner.

So I did what all people do in times of crisis.

I turned to Amazon.

I posted this on my Instagram.  I happened to have a $10 credit I didn't know about, so I splurged for the 2 Day shipping, and this baby was in my hands.  I also ordered pens to go with it, which I didn't realize were coming from China....SO I bought some Sharpie Pens to tide me over.  Now, I carry a small Thirty-One pouch in my purse with about a thousand pens in it.......

I love that I can open this planner for a monthly view.  Since I have hundreds so many colored pens, I have assigned major things in my life a color (which I wrote in the notes section) to keep things interesting.

This planner also has a weekly view with more space to write.  Just yesterday, I wrote a grocery list in this section.  I've been using a "To Buy" list in my reminders app to go grocery shopping.  I like this for when I think of things we need to buy because I always have my phone on me.  But it was nice to have an actual paper list for going to the store.

Last night, I pulled out a real Bible.  I've been doing my Bible reading on a Bible app on my phone.  I really do love the app, and I like to use it at church so I don't have to carry my Bible back and forth.  But I have just been feeling the urge lately to hold the actual book.  This particular Bible is a study Bible.  I've been wanting more from my daily Bible reading, and this has notes on specific scriptures and sometimes articles that go more in depth on a specific topic.  While I enjoy the reading plans offered on the app (I have liked going through the Bible in a year), I've decided that I want to read what I want to read.  If I do it in a year, great.  If I only do 1 chapter a day, great!

Who knows what technology I may cast off next?

Is there any technology that you've decided to give up?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Influenster Sunshine VoxBox Review

I really do love Influenster!  What's more fun than getting a box of free products to try?  Not only do I get to try great products, but by performing easy tasks like snapping pictures and writing reviews, I can get a chance to win more products!  The magic word here is FREE, my friends.  (Therefore, also keep in mind that I will provide my honest reviews for each product.)

Needless to say, I was thrilled to qualify for another VoxBox.  This one is the #sunshinevoxbox, and it was packed with great stuff!  So here's what's in it:

1. Vaseline Intensive Care: Aloe Soothe Spray Moisturizer
I'll be honest, when I first saw the commercial for the spray moisturizer, I was a little skeptical.

It still doesn't work that fast, but it does save some time.  It's easy to spray on, and rub in.  The lotion absorbs quickly, and the aloe is helpful for those pesky summer sunburns.  I had a mild sunburn, and it was nice.  You don't have to rub it in as intensely as other moisturizers which means you spend less time torturing yourself, and you still get to moisturize like you need to!  I do recommend that if you are using this on a tile floor, that you put a towel down and stand on it because it can get a little slippery.  This is a great summer product, but for me, I don't think it would cut it in the winter.

2. Infusium 23 Moisture Replenisher Leave-in Smoothing Creme (Enhanced with Avocado and Olive Oil)
This leave-in conditioner has a nice scent to it.  As of yet, I have not seen a major difference in my hair.  I have used it after combing my hair out from my shower, and when my hair is dry.  I still notice frizz and flyways.  I have long, thick hair, and to be truthful, maybe I just haven't used enough of it yet.  I almost never dry my hair with a hair dryer (especially in summer), and I rarely even style it with heated products (curling iron, straightener) in the summer.  I'm going to say my final opinion on this one is TBD.

3. Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel Refreshingly Clean Cleansing Cloths
I am lazy.  I wash my face in the morning with a skin care regimen, but at night, I use cleansing cloths to remove make up and clean my face.  Since I started using cleansing cloths, I have just used Equate ones (WalMart brand), and I like them a lot.  I really do like these, too.  They leave my face feeling clean and fresh, and while I don't use make up a lot during the summer, I have gotten to test them to take off make up, and they work great.  I've used them to remove make up after getting a shower, and without a shower.  They do not dry out my face.  They have a scent that I'm not thrilled with, but I've actually been getting used to it since I've been using them, and it really doesn't bother me any more.  Dickinson's products are available at WalMart and Walgreens, and since there were coupons for those included in the box, as well, I think I will pick up some more!

Sans make up, post shower, post cleaning

4. Blue Diamond Sriracha Almonds
As far as snacks go, nuts are supposed to be a big deal.  I've heard of the Blue Diamond company before, but I've never tried their products.  These almonds were actually pretty good.  I only tried a few bites, and they have just a bit of a kick, but it was nothing overwhelming.  While I can't say I would pick them up again, they were worth a try.  If you're into almonds and/or snacks with a little spice, I'd say these are for you.

5. SinfulColors Nail Polish- Ocean Side
There were a few colors going out in this VoxBox, and I'm thrilled with this one.  It is such a gorgeous shade of blue!  The color goes on smooth and thick.  I used a base coat, 1 coat of SinfulColors, and a top coat.  The first try, I did a mani with only Ocean Side.  (It had been awhile since I hadn't done an accent nail.)  After 5 days, my nails still looked decent:
     Before                                     After 5 Days
I just did this new mani today with an accent nail.  I'm pretty much obsessed with this color.  A friend suggested it would be great with a white anchor as an accent.  If I had that kind of talent, I would totally try that.  I'm lucky I can do that heart thing...

6. Coupon for barkTHINS

Oh my goodness.  These were SO good.  There were a couple of flavors that I could choose from.  I went with the Dark Chocolate Pretzel with Sea Salt.  It took all of my will power to not eat the entire bag at once.  AHHH!  Just thinking about them makes my mouth water.  I have to say, I would definitely be interested in trying other flavors.  Do yourself a favor.  Go buy some of these.  I got mine at Target.

Did anyone else get this VoxBox?  What did you think?  What SinfulColors did you get?  Which barkTHINS did you try?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Back to School Nightmares (aka #teacherproblems)

Those of you who follow me on social media may have seen me mention having back to school nightmares.

In the latest news, I had my first back to school nightmare last night.....‪#‎teacherproblems‬

Recently, I was asked what exactly these nightmares are about.  I don't know what nightmares other teachers have, but I can certainly tell you about mine.  Here are some things that typically happen in my back to school nightmares.

1) No one is listening or paying any attention to what I'm teaching.

2) We'll call them....challenging....students from the past show back up in my classroom

3) Nothing I try to do goes right!

4) Parents come in and yell at me.

I would say those are some of the main things.  They may not sound that bad, but in nightmares, it's all terrifying!  Some of these things DO actually happen in real life, but fortunately, they're not usually as bad as they are in the nightmares!  

Fellow teachers, what are your back to school nightmares about?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

July Books

So, my first book is actually from June.  I published my May & June books post before the end of June, and managed to squeak this one out just before the end of June.  But I'm sure you're all ok with my slight inaccuracy, right! ;)

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

This is the second book in the Maze Runner trilogy.  I started reading this immediately after the first book.  Scott and I were both reading them.  He took the book to work and lost it.  I got another copy with my class' Scholastic book order.  Then he found the other copy.  Either way, life got busy, and I didn't get to finish it until June.  

Having become familiar with the characters in the first book, it was easier to read this one, and there was more at stake.  I wanted to know what was going to happen with the characters, and I enjoyed the second phase of their journey.

The Death Cure by James Dashner

My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Clearly, this is the third book in the Maze Runner trilogy.  By this time in a series, you are looking forward to seeing how the story is resolved.  Dashner provides a satisfying conclusion to the entire story.  While I wasn't in love with these books, they were good reads.  I can at least recommend them to my students now!

The Kill Order by James Dashner

My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Annnnnddd...because the prequel is a big thing these days, I used my Barnes & Nobel gift card (that I got as an end of the year gift from a student) to pick up a copy of The Kill Order.  

This one took me some time to get into.  The story takes place 13 years before The Maze Runner, so the reader is dealing with a new set of characters.  Much of the book details how the world got to the state it is in during The Maze Runner.  Very slowly, things started to come together to make the other three books make even more sense.  Without giving anything away, the ending of The Kill Order definitely sets things up for the trilogy to follow!

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

This was my Blogging for Books review book, and I loved it!  You can read my full review here.

That's all for July!  

Coming in August....
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Spelled by Betsy Schow

Content Rebeckann's Random Thoughts | Design Poppiness Designs