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Monday, August 15, 2016

Back in the Classroom!

I am officially back to work.  Friday was the "official" campus work day and I am happy to say that my classroom has been ready to go since Thursday! Of course I just added a piece of furniture so I am going to have to make some changes, but I am so happy with the way it is looking.

Here are a few before pictures I took two weeks ago when I first started heading up to campus.

This is looking from the door to the classroom.  Desks stacked up.  Everything packed and stored on top of cabinets and counter space.  Do you see how ugly this classroom is?  It is so...BEIGE!!! I hate it.  We are allowed to paint one wall with an approved color and a promise to paint over it if we leave the classroom, but with two little ones "helping me" in my classroom--you can even see baby toys in several of the pictures--painting was just too big of a job for me this year.  Carpets are also a bad idea in a science classroom--just ew.

From the back of the room looking towards the teacher corner.  We were allowed to leave the fabric and border on our bulletin boards which was super helpful. 

So this is what I started with on August 1st.  I will be doing a classroom tour once everything is exactly how I want it.  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ham it Up in Science is Having a Sale!

I try very hard to never pay full price for anything, so I love a good sale!  Nothing makes this teacher happier than a sale on awesome products I can use in my classroom.  Teachers Pay Teachers is having their Best Year Ever Sale for two days only, products in my store are on sale! Save money and get awesome items for your classroom.  Ham it Up in Science is here for you, :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Thank you Donors Choose!

Fidgeting Funded! Alternative seating with alternative funds.
I am so excited to share with you that my Donors Choose project was fully funded—and just in the nick of time too!

If you are not familiar with this remarkable organization, is an amazing resource for classroom teachers.  A teacher develops an idea or project, writes a short description of what they need, why they need it, what their students are like, what their campus is like and it is posted on the website.  People are then able to search through all the projects and make a donation towards helping the teacher acquire the things they need for their classroom.
I created my first Donors Choose project my second year in the classroom.  I have been blessed to have 6 projects fully funded in my 9 years of teaching.  The most recent project is the one I am most excited about.
This project is going to allow me to start introducing alternative seating into my classroom.  I will be receiving 15 bouncy bands that will fit on student desks, 4 exercise balls that can be used in the place of chairs, and 5 seat rockers that go in a student’s seat and let them sort of wobble to and fro.

In addition to my Donorschoose project, I also received a $600 grant from my district’s Education Foundation to purchase an additional 40 bouncy bands for desks in my classroom and the classrooms of my partner teachers.

My goal is to continue to expand alternative seating every year.

I can’t wait to share with you guys how these additions to my classroom change things!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Starting Class in the First Five Minutes

As a fifth grade teacher on a campus that is departmentalized, I see four science classes each day.  I struggled the first few years with transitioning smoothly from one class to the next.  Kids would be rushed out the door so they made it to their next class on time, papers would be left in messy piles all over the room, and lab equipment would be hastily shoved into containers for the next class.  I would quickly work to get things ready while students surrounded me with questions, requests, late work, etc.  It was enough to make me want to pull my hair out!

In my attempt to alleviate the stress of transitioning from one class to the next, I created one of my most successful classroom management techniques, simply called “The First 5 Minutes”

The most important goal I wanted to accomplish was to have the students come in to my classroom and get to work independently so that I could have 5 minutes to prepare everything they would need for that day’s activity. 
I start “The First Five Minutes” on the first day of school.  When students enter the classroom, I ask them to read the screen.  I project a list of things they need to accomplish. This list always reminds them to sharpen their pencils, use the restroom, get water, and to set themselves up for success.  I might also include directions to get their homework out, turn in their conduct card and take home folder, or copy the agenda from the board.  By the end of the first week, my students know that as soon as they walk in to my classroom they need to read the screen and get started on accomplishing the tasks I have listed.

I also explain to students that during this 5 minutes they are not to ask me questions or hand me anything.  I let them know that I need the first five minutes of class to get everything ready for them.  Once the five minutes has passed, I always turn to the class and ask them if they need to tell me anything and then we get started.

This simple technique has really helped me deal with the transition between each class and has really helped me keep my sanity during the day.  

Monday, July 11, 2016

Summer Bucket List.jpg

This is part 2 of a 2 part series on my Summer Bucket List--last post I shared some of the things I hope to accomplish on my professional list of things to do--and several have been completed with 5 weeks to spare!  This post is a look at the 5 things I want to do personally this summer.

Finish the first Game of Thrones Novel--and maybe another book or 2

So GoT--I admit I was a little late to the game--pun intended--and managed to binge watch 6 seasons of Game of Thrones in 6 weeks (maybe less).  After the first few episodes, thanks to HBO GO, I was hooked and had to read the novel series.  Admittedly, this is the first “grown up” novel I have read in a long time--but it has just the right amount of fantasy, romance, and destruction that I like!  I am about halfway through the first novel and can not wait to finish it.

Take my kids outside everyday

Now this one is HARD--cause TEXAS IS HOT--LIKE HOT HOT--but kids need to go outside everyday.  We have been doing very well with this one actually--we go to the zoo once a week, the splash pad and the park.  I spent the weekend actually working to make the backyard a place to hang out and play.  I am so excited to get my girls in the sun and fresh air and away from the iPad screen.

Organize, Organize, Organize

So I love to be organized--I really do--but organizing overwhelms me sometimes to the point where I let things just get out of control and then the job becomes so BIG I just give up before I start.  BUT this summer I am going to really try.  The big job is the kids toys--they have so many! Have you seen the Trofast storage systems from Ikea? They are like an organization dream come true.  Ideally I would have a wall full of these to organize my kids room with gorgeous labels and the toys would always be returned to the right bin.

Get creative with Hand Lettering

I love hand lettering.  I want to learn how to draw gorgeous letters using all kinds of fun techniques.  So I have been scouring the net and Pinterest looking for lettering tutorials and ideas.  I was inspired by some of the awesome Bible journaling I have seen like this here

Isn’t this just gorgeous?  I am not artistic--but I really want to try this.

Alone time

I am an introvert.  I need to re-energize by being alone.  One of my goals for the summer is to take alone time, even if it is only for 5 or 10 minutes--but everyday I need to sit by myself to regroup so that I can be the best version of me I can.

Are you working on some personal goals this summer? What are your focusing on?  I would love to hear what you are doing personally to make yourself feel good and refreshed before school starts again in August.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Summer Bucket List

Summer Bucket List.jpg

Every summer I come up with a bucket list of things I want to do-both personally and professionally. This summer is no different and I am well on my way to doing a lot of what I wanted to get done, well, done. This is a two part series, broken down into 5 professional and 5 personal.  I wanted to share with you guys some of the things I have been able to do, and some of the things that I am still looking forward to doing and accomplishing.  My professional goals are focused on products I want to create in my classroom.  I have really started to enjoy creating products--using fun backgrounds, cute fonts, and adorable clip art to get the decor just the way I want it. Plus, it has become my “adult coloring book”--a complete stress reliever.  The second post will focus on my personal summer bucket list--the book I hope to finish, the shows I want to binge watch on Netflix--you get the idea.

Professional Bucket List

#1 Create an “I Can” Pennant for my classroom

I teach 5th grade science in a suburban school district that is growing every year.  In the last 5 years, the district as grown greatly in diversity--especially economic diversity.  In response to that, the district required “I WIll” statements to be posted every day.  There was not a whole lot of other information provided and very little direction.  I just took the TEKS (learning standards in Texas)  I was teaching for that week, through an I will in front and scribbled it on the whiteboard.  Honestly, half the time I forgot about it--so I knew I needed something permanent that I could use year after year, and also added to the decor of my classroom.  

I created pennant posters for each of the TEKS and my plan is to hang a clothesline on my focus wall and hang each pennant as we work on that unit.  I am excited to see the knowledge of the students grow on the pennant throughout the year.  This is also available on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

#2 Create a One Minute Dismissal Checklist

I love all those ideas on Pinterest for the one minute dismissal checklist.  I wanted to create one that works for my own classroom.  My biggest issue is not giving my students enough time to clean their area, gather supplies, put homework away and get out in a quiet orderly fashion every time we switch classes.  Next year, I will see 4 different science classes.  I am hoping that designating the last minute to class and having the visual of the checklist will streamline dismissal time.  

#3 Early Finishers Choice Board

This was another idea I saw on Pinterest.  I am still not entirely sure I want this in the classroom. Obviously I know kids finish assignments at different times, and unless I want chaos I should have things to keep the kiddos occupied--BUT--I also have an issue with kids who think school work is a race and they have to be the first to cross the finish line.

#4 Bring this to class icons

For the last 8 years I have posted a dry erase board outside the door to my classroom and every day I would write what the kiddos needed for class that day.  After the first 6 weeks, they figure out what they need from their lockers daily and I stop updating the board.  It has worked great, until this past school year--the kids just didn’t pay attention to when the board was updated.  I want to create “Icons”--app like pictures with colorful backgrounds that will capture the kids attention quickly and effectively.

# 5 First 2 Weeks Lesson Plans mapped out and copies made BEFORE I officially report back to campus

The biggest goal on my summer bucket list is to have the first 2 weeks completely mapped out in my planner before reporting back to campus.  This includes making the copies I will need.  When school starts--I want to focus on establishing my expectations and procedures--this is a huge professional goal for me and I know that I will be able to focus on it more if my curriculum for those first two weeks is well planned out and ready to go.

Do you create a summer bucket list? What professional or personal things have you been able to cross off your list so far? I'd love to hear from you and share ideas.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Keeping the Ham in Ham it Up in Science!

What does it mean to "Ham it Up?" In today's day in age--it is all about the entertainment, the laughs, the cries and the drama.

Ham It Up In Science is my style of teaching and now it is my interwebs identity!

I do everything I can to engage my students--I sing, I dance, sometimes I even raise my hands and testify--whatever it takes to reach every single kiddo in my class.  I want to reach out to other teachers with similar teaching philosophies, be inspired by the amazing things they do in their classrooms, and hopefully inspire someone else with my own experiences and mistakes.

I am Leslie Ham, a 5th grade science teacher in Texas.  I have a B.S. in Political Science from Texas A&M University, Whoop and Gig'em.  I earned my Masters in Public Administration from the University of Houston and because I needed a reason to keep collecting fancy pencils and pens I decided to become a teacher!  I am excited to be starting my 10th year of teaching in the fall and my 7th year of teaching science.

Summer is off and running...

Is the summer already flying by or what?
I was lucky to spend a week in beautiful Avon, Colorado.  It was a relaxing week--well as relaxing as a trip with my 5 year old and 1 year old can be, lol.  I took a ton of pictures, and being a science teacher couldn't help but notice the science all around me.  Then BOOM--an idea--what if I created something that could be used to get students thinking about the science around them.  I wanted it to be open-ended, no right or wrong answers, and I wanted it to be something that could be done as a warm up or enrichment type activity. 

So I got the idea for "The Science in the Picture"

It's simple really--and it can work with any picture.  Just project a picture for the whole class to see.  And ask the students to analyze the picture and then write a couple of sentences on the science they see in the picture.

Here's a picture I took of some chairs next to our Cabana at the Glenwood Hot Springs--which if you ever get the chance to check out you should.  Anyway--students would look at the picture and identify the science.  One of our learning standards in 5th grade is the behavior of light--light travels in straight lines until it hits and object--the shadows show that light hit an object and couldn't pass through it.  We also talk about how the sun moves through the sky--shadows are changed when the sun moves through the sky.  These are all ideas that the students might come up with. 

I took tons of pictures in Colorado once I had the inspiration.  I can't wait to try this in my classroom as soon as school starts.  I really want to get pictures of scientists doing science to use during the first few days. 

I am so excited to share with you my first set of "The Science in the Picture" product.  It includes 15 pictures that I took over the last year, both in my classroom and out in the real world.  I have also included a student recording sheet.  

What do you think of this idea in the classroom?  Is it another way we can get kids making connections between the real world and what they are learning?