Monday, September 6, 2010

Weekend of Too Much Fun

I didn't post yesterday, but it was probably for the best, as I was - for the first time in a long time - three sheets to the wind.  It was an incredibly fun day (that I'll tell you about shortly), but I could've gone without feeling like I got hit by an 18-wheeler when I woke up this morning.

Yesterday started off wonderfully lazy; and I deserved it after my busy Saturday!  I began my morning with a Green Monster.  Despite hearing rave reviews from other bloggers, most notably Kristin and the creator herself, Angela, I was a little apprehensive.  I mean, who blends up spinach for a morning smoothie?!  Weird!

OMG.  They weren't kidding.  This smoothie was so delicious that I made it again today, too.  The beauty of it is that you can throw whatever the heck you want in there, and it still tastes good.  Over the last two days, I have tossed in spinach (obv), blueberries, honey, ground flax seeds, vanilla protein powder, UVAB, peanut butter, frozen bananas, frozen raspberries, etc.  Wow.

After the lazy start to the day, things got crazy.  BFF and I first hit up the Latino Heritage Festival:

After touring the grounds, we showed our appreciation for other cultures by inhaling all of the food that was offered:

I opted for the chorizo burrito, and I think I made the right choice.  First, it was huge; there was no possible way I could come close to finishing it.  It was amazing.  Second, it was just the perfect level of spice - nothing a swig of a cold one couldn't cure!

BFF went for the El Salvadoran pupusa - if you've never tried one of these, do it.  Now.  I didn't take a picture, but take my word for it.  Although my personal favorite is the spinach, she went for the pork - and loved every bite of it.  (But apparently they weren't kidding when they told her it was a little spicy!)

After lunch, we both decided we needed the classic Latino dessert: mini donuts.  I'm pretty sure there is little in this world that tastes better than fried dough tossed in cinnamon and sugar.  Holy moly.

Basically, we were super healthy all afternoon.  :)

And it only got worse.  After the Latino Heritage Festival, we thought it was too beautiful a day to spend inside, so we moseyed over to our favorite patio in Des Moines where we were first accosted by some rowdy and obnoxious gentlemen and then joined by some friends.  It was a wonderful evening, but...yeah...should've probably drunk way more water than I did!

Needless to say, this morning started off a little rough.  But, my second green monster sure helped a lot!

It didn't turn out so green this morning, but that's probably because I loaded the spinach with a bunch of red and blue berries.  It turned more of a puke-y color, but I promise it tasted divine.

While working on school stuff non-stop, I chowed down on a 100-calorie bag of popcorn, a Flatout wrap, an Activia yogurt, and a Weight Watchers ice cream bar.  Again, not the healthiest of days, but cut me some slack: I was busy, and I was not feeling so hot.  :)

I went grocery shopping after way too many hours at the kitchen table doing "homework," and came home and prepared dinner with BFF:

She was in charge of the flank steak with chermoula (a Cooking Light recipe), and I made the vegetables: sauteed butternut squash, yellow squash, zucchini, onions, and garlic; roasted red potatoes.  (Okay, okay: the potatoes were actually a microwaveable Steamfresh concoction - not my doing.)

We watched The Real Housewives of New Jersey Reunion, Part Two, and it was everything we hoped it would be and more!  We then blogged for the first time in nearly a month.  Oops.

And that brings us to now!  But I'm not quite done just yet.  In honor of Labor Day, I wanted to take a few minutes to show you some things around my classroom.  I have spent countless hours prepping my room and my lessons this year, and I am pretty proud of and excited for the different things we've done so far.  Let me enlighten you.  :)

This summer I attended one of the best trainings I've ever been to - John Strebe gave a two-day workshop about how to effectively teach on the block schedule, and I absolutely loved it.  I can't take credit for this idea: it's all his.  Basically, I have my students sitting in pods of four.  In the middle of the table group, I have a book cover, as you can see from the wall above; that is the group's team.  For various activities, I give the teams points.  On Thursday and Friday, teams earned points based on how well they did on the syllabus quiz.  Students seemed so engaged and really talked about the various answers, discussed what they were doing, stayed on task, etc. because they were so concerned about their team winning.  It's such a silly thing to do, but they loved it, and I can really see it working well in other regards.

It's cool, too, because I have students sitting in teams, but then I also have table arrangements for their "secret seats," where they take tests and quizzes.  So when I quizzed students over the syllabus, I told them the scores would count for team points.  I then put them into their "secret seats" with kids from different teams and told them to be sure to hide their answers so that other teams didn't steal points.  (Obviously, this prevented cheating.  I was surprised by how seriously kids took this.)  So each student took his/her own individual quiz.  Then I had them move back to their teams.  I surprised them by having them complete one quiz per team - so first they did it on their own, and then they were able to talk about it.  Awesome.

I stole this next idea from a teacher in my building - I am such a thief!  On the back of every desk, I taped a playing card.  There's a table of each number, two through eight.  Since there are four desks in a group, each desk has a different suit.  When I need to disperse things to the students, I call for a suit to help.  For example, tomorrow I will be passing out short stories, and I will have the "hearts" student from each group come and get the short stories.  This is a strategy to keep students up and moving around throughout the 20-minute block.  Plus, it prevents me from doing all the work.  :)

The final thing I am showing you is an activity called Concept Attainment.  Essentially, I printed off various pictures relating to a certain topic.  I then made two columns on a wall in my classroom: yes and no.  I placed pictures in each category, one by one, and had students guess what the each category was.  Students got SO into this activity, just like they did last year.  It drives them crazy because they think they know the category (i.e. "good guys"), and then I put up a picture like Hitler.  This takes about 20 or 30 minutes to get through all the pictures and explain who the people are (Cesar Chavez, Matthew Shepard, etc.), but I don't tell students if they are right or wrong until the following day.  This concept is "everyone has a voice," as indicated by the above picture.  We spent at least 15 minutes of each class discussing why certain pictures are in certain columns, and one of my classes even spent 45 minutes - they got so into it.

Tomorrow I will be placing all of the unit's objectives underneath the big idea - everyone has a voice.  That way students know what they are supposed to be learning with every lesson and activity that we do.

Needless to say, I'm pretty pumped for this school year to get even more underway.  It's a lot of work, but I love my job!

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