Monday, January 28, 2013

Zombie's Mid-Winter Crack-Ups to fight the blues

Fun fact of the day: Zombies DO get sick! I am on Day 7 of my bout with the flu. The first couple days weren't so bad, so I went to work... then the flu SLAMMED me into the wall at Conference night and I called in the next day :o(  And laid on the couch all weekend and today before finally going into the doctor this afternoon.  Doc says, "Congrats! You have a flu virus. Antibiotics won't help. If you're not feeling better IN A WEEK, come back and see me again".  Thanks Doc.

If you're as down in the dumps as I am, I figured you could use some cheering up. So here are some pointless teacher memes to make you feel better. All of the pictures are linked, so click away to pin all the originals or make your own meme. I'll warn you, it's addicting :o)  Fun to insert into lessons and Smart files just to make the kids laugh.

To Teacher: From, Students
(We are covering ratios/proportions/percents/protractors for the third year in a row, not just learned it three years ago, but still true!)

To Dumbledore: From, Ministry of Magic 

To Sci-Fi / Fantasy Cross-Over Fans Everywhere: From, LEEEEELUUUU
(For no reason whatsoever except an LOL. Corbin Dallas Multipass!!!)

To Snarky Students: From, Snarky Teacher
(Yup, I'm just that quick-whitted. And like any student nowadays says "May I")

To Test Anxiety: From, Math Students everywhere
(Just about everyone has seen this, but it still makes me LOL)

To my 2nd grade teacher: From, Ryan Gosling
(Everything's better laminated)

To Bad Student: From, Wise Parent
(Not so much an LOL, but a SO TRUE!!)

To Every Teacher Everywhere: From, Every Other Teacher
(LOL Yup, it's happened to all of us)

To Teacher Teams: From, annoyed Students & Parents
(Yup, this happens unintentionally more than it should... but welcome to life kids!)

To Math Teachers: One last "haha" for the road
(Yay! One I can finally use in my classroom!)

Cheers and Happy Tuesday everyone! Think HAPPY and HEALTHY thoughts :D


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Zombie Finance Education 101: Career Project

Happy almost MLK Day everyone! We are in the midst of a cold weather smack-down in Minnesota, so severe that we *might* have a late start tomorrow. It's a bummer too, because we have our annual Martin Luther King Day of Service (I blogged about it last year, check it out!). What a conundrum it must be to have to make the decision in such a situation... risk angering parents over hypothermia at the bus stop, or risk angering the community for shortening and/or canceling one of the most meaningful days of the year. Glad it's not my call!

One of my classroom MLK Day activities is showing the Minimum Wage episode of Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days (info on the Day of Service link). This seems most appropriate this year as tax hikes just took a nice dent out of my pay check. I keep telling myself it's okay as long as everyone got the same hike... but did they? Click here to see how it affected your family. It's not quite so depressing as I was fearing. The vast majority of Americans, even the wealthy, saw increases of between .8% and 1.5% due to the expiration of one of the Social Security tax cuts. Still hurts though.

I like to torture myself even further this time of year (as if life and winter isn't depressing enough) by updating my monthly budget. Between the reduction in my salary, the impending full-day kindergarten and 3-day a week preschool costs for my two boys, and payments to various loans/bills/insurance, there is virtually NO WAY to break even each month in the foreseeable future. Unless we give up eating. Then there might be a chance. Which made me laugh in that crazy cat Joker way when a student blurted out last week that "teachers are rich". HA!! 

Enough about my own money woes. Time to give the students a reality check! As promised, I have FINALLY downloaded and then re-uploaded the Career Project resources I blogged about last spring. It turned out quite a bit differently than I had planned, mostly due to time constraints. My goal is still the same... for students to get a good idea of what jobs they would be good at, and for them to see the type and cost of education they will need to get there. Then of course what it will pay, and what lifestyle they might expect to have. As opposed to just sitting around and bashing "those rich teachers" all day. 

Day 1: Who am I?
-Print off enough copies of the Career Cluster Interest Inventory .pdf for all students. It's a four-page document that should be run back-to-front and probably stapled. You will want to hand-write on a "Name" spot on pages 1 and 3 before running the copies. Pass out to students at the beginning of the hour, explaining the goal of the assignment. I usually tell students, it's one thing to say "I want to be a doctor" or "I'm going to be a professional basketball player", but do you really know what professionals in each career do all day? What particular tasks? Because that might change your mind. Knowing what skills and tasks you like to do can better help narrow down prospective career fields.

As your students work through the survey, read-aloud may be beneficial for understanding of some of the vocab words. Also, when you get to page 3, students should rip off the top page so they don't have to keep flipping back and forth in their packet to tally their preferences. There are 16 career clusters that they will tally. For most students, their top three or four choices will emerge as clear favorites. Then they will flip over the back page and read about their top career clusters. Just off the descriptions, they may be able to decide on one or two favorites.

Day 1 Homework: Post the Career One-Stop site on your school page or pass out in some sort of assignment rubric. They can type their career cluster, or one of its key words, into a variety of search boxes to find more information about particular fields. Leave the assignment fairly open-ended, as each student may have different quantities and depths of interest that they want to pursue. They should, however, be able to find pay information, job skills and training needed, typical work environments, as well as state-specific statistics of job availability in their field. 

Day 2: What do I already know?
-Take some time to have groups share what they learned in their research. They could meet in career clusters, or share with friends/neighbors. What surprised them? What looks daunting? Did their research change or reinforce their vision of their future? Had they never thought about it before?

-Introduce Resumes. What is a Resume? What is it used for? Here are a few of my Smart file screen shots. I also have a wonderful .docx Resume template that I can't upload here. Shoot me a message on my Zombie Math Teacher Facebook page if you would like a copy.

-Describe how resumes are used to apply for jobs and get into colleges. It's important that they start thinking about how the skills and jobs and volunteering they do now (even in middle school!) are an important stepping stone to bigger things. They should know that the material that is stored in their resume will change, depending on who their target audience is. So it's good to keep a working document in a safe place, that they can edit frequently.

-Show them an example, such as this Lisa Simpson resume that I made. Ask them who they think the target audience is. (could be a college, or a high school job) 

-Talk about the content that is in each category. Is it important? What is special/unique about each bullet point? 

-Discuss the layout of a resume and HOW IMPORTANT correct spelling and grammar are, if they are going to be taken seriously. Also talk about the importance of developing and maintaining good references. 

Day 2 Homework: Create a rough draft of a resume that highlights necessary skills for the college and/or career field you researched the day before. You can include things you plan on doing that you haven't done yet. Like a high school job you might want, or an award you hope to get, or a volunteer opportunity/activity that they have done or likely will do. You may want to post the Lisa Simpson example on your school site so they have an example to work from. 

Here is a good template you could copy or attempt to print, if you don't want my original:

Day 3: Time to Shine
-Book a computer lab or laptop cart so each student has access to their own internet and/or word processing. Show them either on a Smart board or if you can control their monitors, where to find the Microsoft Word resume templates. Click here if you need a refresher or want to learn. Click here to see a demo that you can show your students. It's not particularly exciting, but it's informative. 

-Students could also be working on the Career One-Stop site listed under Day 1 during this time, either before, after or concurrently as they work on their resumes. Their rough draft homework should be the foundation of their typed resume, so I would just check them in as complete or not complete, rather than collecting them at the beginning of the hour. 

-Be sure to save time at the end of class to show students how to save their documents either to a flash drive, or upload to googledocs, or how to email it to themselves.

Day 3 Homework: Finish your working document / have a parent edit and/or add to it?

Day 4: Final Project Day
-You may want computers for today as well. A final peer edit of the resume with peer sharing and idea generating is advisable, with some time to polish and then print their final draft. They should of course email/save the final working document somewhere that they can access it later in life to update it. 

-Final reflection activity: Write a summary of the career clusters and specific careers they found in their internet research, and staple to any documents they printed from the career site. Describe how their resume will help them achieve their goals and stepping stones to achieve the career they want. Write about what they are already doing now (or should be doing now) to help them get started on the path to success. 

Possible further activities: present their career and/or resume to the class, interview someone in the field they want to work in, further research days to look at colleges, expense calculations for college/interest/loans, lifestyle and budgeting

And that's all she wrote! Have fun! If you have questions, I'd advise posting them on my Facebook page listed above. It's more interactive and then everyone can see if we post/share documents and ideas.

-Zombie out.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Zombie Box-o-Shame + Bungee Barbie 3.0

Happy mid-winter to everyone. We have reached that lonely stretch of January in which it becomes exceedingly difficult to get out of bed in the morning. The highlight of my day lately has been choosing which new pair of boots and/or colorful scarf to wear. So to spice things up, as promised, I brought in the Box of Shame. Somehow we got off on a tangent during one of my lectures about silly fake punishments and the kids insisted that we should have our very own box (or three different sized boxes) for the classroom. This box was just the right size!

Everyone wanted a picture in it during first hour... then second hour whined "how do we get into the box of shame? should we be good?? or bad???" so I settled on "good". One of my talkative boys was actually quiet for 15+ minutes straight, so I let him sit in the box of shame to do his homework at the end of the hour.  

I asked kids to make sad faces before I took their picture but most cracked up laughing instead and couldn't hold it together to look properly sad and shamed. Oh well. It was fun. We'll see how long it lasts! At least it's something new to look forward to for the week. Maybe we can turn it into a math problem by calculating the surface area to cover the outer walls and around the face opening with the blue paper ;D

We also finished our Bungee Barbie 3.0 reflection today. My 1st and 2nd hours are doing the project as an introduction to a unit on slope/proportions and scaling instead of as the culminating activity. It will be interesting how the students' perspective on y=mx+b form deepens, having this background knowledge in place that the drop distance per rubber band is an example of "slope", and the dolls' heights were an type of "y-intercept". This latest lab was the first time that students really grasped that y=mx+b form is more accurate than just solving a proportion using "criss cross multiply, divide by the lonely guy". 

It was a good time to revisit independent versus dependent variables, discrete versus continuous data, the parts to a graph (like labels, scale, title) and how to solve two-step equations. Plus having no homework the week back from break was a nice breather for both students and ME! And it's so darn fun to chuck a doll off the school balcony. 

In conclusion, I'd like to thank my giant new 20-ounce Bubba coffee mugs for getting me through the first dark and cold days of January. We are barely over two weeks away from the mid-point of the year! Yet another four months of school that has gone really slowly and really quickly at the same time. Never a dull moment. Except when grading papers. 

Zombie out.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy 2013 to Zombies everywhere

Santa came!!! And brought us new tech toys!!! 2013 is already looking to be another technology-o-rama in schools and homes everywhere. I am itching to get my hands on the iPad my school district is providing to any and all willing teachers who want to learn. Two neighboring districts already have one-to-one technology integration initiatives. And nearly ALL of my children's grandparents are now on Facebook! Hallelujah!!

There was a really cool pin worth reading that shows current usage stats on the top social networking media sites. It didn't list many programs that you could use in a classroom, but there were really interesting comparisons like how much Instagram is outpacing Twitter. And 625,000 people join Google + EVERY DAY!?!?  My favorite statistic was that 80% of pins on Pinterest are actually re-pins from other people's boards, which just goes to show the power of visual media in our daily lives, and how a PICTURE of a good idea can go viral in a matter of minutes. 

Like Grumpy Cat! I am seriously obsessed. If you haven't visited their website, click the kitty to check it out. They just hit 300,000 likes on Facebook. You can even make your own memes at and insert them into your lessons for a laugh! I showed my students how to make their own grumpy cat memes for a brain break. You'd be surprised how difficult it is to think of a funny catch-phrase that is ironic, or mocking, or witty or just LOL.

In the midst of all this typing, I've been pushing my desk chair back and forth to the kitchen counter where my 5-year old preschooler is finally finishing his HOUR of homework from break. Good thing we checked his backpack tonight before he goes back to school tomorrow! Funny and a little hypocritical, how angry I get at my own students for procrastinating until the night before a due date... and here I am doing the same thing with my son's homework. Every time. Maybe counting and coloring just doesn't float my boat. Maybe I think it's a little absurd that he needs to know how to write ALL of his upper AND lowercase letters before he even starts kindergarten. Fortunately he enjoys it. For now anyway.

As a seventh grade teacher, I rarely assign homework for the weekend and never over a break. I leave that as a punishment for students who have missing/late work, that they are the only ones who have to think about school, while everyone else shuts their brain down for a while. We also have a three-day week this week, so I'm doing more learning labs and explorations with my math kids, and not assigning new homework until Monday.

Frankly, they can't sit still and aren't awake enough to do anything too strenuous, so I try to plan in something artistic and something kinesthetic to wake their brains up. For example, my 1st and 2nd hour are finally starting their Bungee Barbie lab, and my 3rd hour of accelerated math is working on my Star Transformations packet, which reinforces the concepts in Chapter 5 of our Holt/McDougal Course 3 math book. (Course 3 more closely mirrors the MN seventh grade standards than the actual "7th grade" book does)

My last piece of news is that, courtesy of the giant kitchen my boys got for Christmas, I now have a teenage-sized container to make a classroom BOX OF SHAME!!! Middle schoolers get so excited over pop-culture references. This one just takes the cake. The big question is, can I get my car door open wide enough to transport it to school??

If you don't know what the "box of shame" is, you must be one of maybe eight people on the planet who haven't seen Despicable Me yet. And by golly, you are TOTALLY missing out. Steve Carrell at his best, hilarious for parents and kids alike. And lots of quotable bits. And did I mention that the sequel is coming out next summer???

P.S. I already have a three-student-long waiting line to try it out. Photo ops soon to follow :)