Tag Archives: adventures in elementary

Books are a Teacher’s Best Friend

I love Tuesdays. Why? At 9:14 I line my kids up to go to my favorite place in the entire school. This place has always been my favorite place-even when I was a student there.  Once you enter there the adventures begin. One day you’re dodging tornadoes with Dan Hatch and the next you’re riding alongside Sybil Ludington. Can you guess where we are?

The library. 

Our library is quite vast. Wall to wall with books. There’s three sections: picture books, chapter books, and non-fiction books. The picture books and chapter books section alone is the size of the two classrooms and the nonfiction section is a classroom and a half in itself. I’ve worked in several schools and none of them compare to NMS. The first time we went there this year I walked in just as excited as the students. As they began looking for books I walked around and found a few of my old favorites. One asked me what I was doing and I just told them I was visiting old friends. At this point they’re use to me walking around checking out the new books. I think we get new books added almost every week. My favorite part is when they come to me and ask if I have any suggestions. I have a pretty good idea of their interests and I’ve been successful this year of getting my students fired up about reading. But then again it helps and I think inspires them when they see me sitting there reading right along with them.


Return of Nerd Mode

This week the focal point of our reading series has really knocked it out of the park with exposing my nerd side. Our third story this week focused on the three branches of government. My kids were taking notes and rather than have them just copy notes from the whiteboard I used the online Kids Discover articles. I’ve always loved these magazines since I was little.

Starting with the Executive Branch they learned a little more about government agencies and the Cabinet. They were a little interested by the various offices within the Cabinet. But the part that made me smile was this quote:

❝At times, senators have held long debates about whether the president has made good choices for these jobs.❞

My kids asked why I was smiling and I just told them about Betsy DeVos & how we as educators don’t have any faith in her at all. The Legislative Branch barely interested them. However when we began reading and discussing the Judicial Branch I came alive.

Law has always interested me. My favorite parts of the older seasons of Law and Order: SVU was the court part when it was Cabot or Novak as the ADA. When I was in high school I took a class titled Street Law. We watched a show titled You Be the Jury and completed mock trials and I LOVED it. We learned the ins and outs of law. It was because of this class I learned the Miranda Warning.

And that came in handy today when we were discussing this branch. I asked them if they had heard about this and none of them had. But as soon as I started, “You have the right to remain silent…” all of their hands shot up. Smiling I explained that in the event that someone is arrested and that they aren’t told this then their 5th and 6th amendment rights have been violated. Scrolling on down on the page sure enough there were significant court cases and one was Miranda v. Arizona. My kids just looked at me amazed. One asked me if there was anything in Social Studies I didn’t know. I assured them that I didn’t know EVERY little thing when it came to Social Studies. It’s just that this week we are talking about the facets of Social Studies that interest me.

My kids already knew I was a music and book nerd. But now they’ve finally learned that I’m a history nerd too.

A Rare Day

Today was one of those rare days that teachers love. Our county had a snow day, but the staff had to report on a 2 hour delay. The agenda for the day? Brief meeting with the head principal during our planning and the rest was up to us. All of us appreciated that so much!

I prepped from 9:30-10:15 doing vocabulary cards for this week and next week. At 10:15 Meg stopped in to tell me Fay (head principal) was ready to meet with us. We walked up to the conference room and the meeting went well. However I was surprised when Shauna spoke up and asked if it would be possible to keep me in my 4th grade position next year. And from there she and Meg chimed in with how well I fit into this grade. That they love that even though I’m a 1st year teacher I’m holding my own. Shauna is super impressed by my classroom organization and classroom expectations. Meg loves that I seem to teach so effortlessly. Fay told them that if she could find a way to keep me in that position she would. And what was I doing? Sitting there red in the face and trying so hard not to tear up. I do not take compliments well. I never have. I just turn bright red and begin hiding my face with my hair.

After our meeting I went back to my room and kept working on some math stuff. Before I knew it Shauna was in my doorway asking when we were going to lunch and where. I really love my grade level team and I swear if I’m not in this position next school year I’m going to miss them. We went to a restaurant nearby and had a nice enjoyable lunch. When we got back I started working on my social studies project.


We will start this next Monday and my hope is that my students will enjoy it. Granted I’m not an art teacher but I’m still kind of proud of how this turned out.  Overall today was productive and I was already happy when I left at 3:30. But then I received a very special and so incredibly thoughtful surprise. My day was officially made then.

So how was YOUR Wednesday?

Nerd Mode Achieved

You know when your students are really passionate about something? Like Legos, Star Wars, or Harry Potter? Well guess what? Teachers get that way too. And today my students witnessed their teacher fully geeking out about American history.

Now before you get excited, no it wasn’t about Alexander Hamilton (despite the fact that I do LOVE that musical). Nor was it about the Schuyler Sisters.

Our reading story this week is all about elections, government and why people run for public office. We were looking at a photograph in the book of men walking in protest in 1929 for better health coverage, employment and the state of the economy. Looking at the opening line it mentioned The Great Depression. I asked my students if they had even heard about it or knew anything about it. A few had heard it but had no idea what it was. Grabbing a dry erase marker I got to work. I wrote the word economy on the board and we discussed what we thought that meant and several thought it had to do with the environment. Once I told them it was about money I switched back to the Great Depression. I wrote October 29, 1929 below the heading and started discussing the stock market and how it works. Drawing a small graph we discussed how it’s okay to see a rise and small dip because that’s just how the stock market works and there’s no need for panic. But the next graph I drew I showed a steady incline and then a sharp & sudden decrease. One of my students gasped and said, “Ms. Barrick, I have a feeling that means something bad happened on that date.” I nodded my head and launched into how it became known as Black Thursday.

Transitioning from the Great Depression I moved onto the Dust Bowl and the big dust storms in the Midwest during the 30s. I noted that the Great Depression ended in 1938 but unemployment didn’t begin to be on the decline until 1941.

“Why did unemployment begin declining in 1941,” I asked them. They started thinking and I could see them thinking, ‘Do I know this? Has she told us something about this before?’ I let them discuss it in their groups but no one guessed correctly. This led to me writing December 7, 1941. Cameron jumped out of his seat and yelled, “PEARL HARBOR!” But then he had a look of utter confusion on how the two correlated. I began talking about how up until 1941 we stayed out of WWII. One of them asked, “Wait WWII began before 1941?” Well that got me started…

WWII is one of my two favorite times periods to study and discuss. My 4th graders got a 6th Social Studies lesson today. As they were lining up one of my boys and I had the following exchange:

“Ms. Barrick, were you nerding out today?”
I looked up and just replied, “Yes, I was but were you interested?”
“Good, then that’s all that matters.”
“Ms. Barrick?”
“You made learning dates and facts really fun. How did you do that?”
“Easy, I had an interest in it. If you have a genuine interest in it then you’ll want to keep learning more.”
“Are we going to talk more about it after lunch?”
“Oh yeah…that is if you want to learn more.”

That earned me a big smile and a high five. I love it when I can ignite the love of new knowledge into my kids.


Saturday Shuffle

20180317_1445501138913365.jpgEvery Saturday from noon to 4 or 5 PM this is my view.   There’s classical or jazz music playing and a mix of oils being diffused in the air. On those rare Saturdays where all I have to do is make copies then Paramore or a Latin playlist is playing. This was my view as of 2:25 this afternoon. Today was a rather busier Saturday than most.

Today I:

  • made copies
  • Put my Easter borders up
  • Prepared the work packets for my two students who are going to be in ISS on Monday
  • shuffled the desks around (again)
  • finished my plans for the week
  • put up new lights around my chalkboard.


These ones are two strings of lights that go nearly all the way around my board. I think this looks much better.

I just know when my kids hit the room on Monday they’re going to be so confused (again). But I think by this point they’ve come to expect to walk in on Monday to find their group has been changed. But I like to put them in new groups for literature circles or in this case for the new science kit. Oh and those were moved into their proper place too. I’m going to have complete the inventory on them soon but I probably won’t start those until next week. This Wednesday and Thursday the kids are going to have the time of their life taking the practice test of the big test. I’m hoping they do their best on it. They have to take the Reading one first and for a couple I’m crossing my fingers that they don’t fly through it. They hate it when we take a STAR reading test but they’ve finally learned that if they complete 34 questions in 6 minutes that I will make them re-take it. Hopefully they remember that for this test.

Artwork of Youth

Do you know what one of my favorite reasons to work in elementary is?

Their artwork. It’s not perfect by any means but there’s such an innocence to it. Even if they are fourth graders.

One of our skills this week was Latin & Greek roots. I found this awesome and new favorite pack of worksheets on TpT. My kids LOVE them. Yesterday the root was hydr & the three words we picked to define and illustrate were hydroplane, hydrophobia, & hydrotherapy. Now I’m no artist by any means and I told my kids that stick figures were perfectly acceptable. As they finished they turned them in and began SSR.

Well this afternoon I finally got around to checking all of their worksheets and I came across this:

29249463_10214000092188300_7793110419337379840_n29257736_10214000093148324_6098218214397837312_n29313143_10214000094188350_4691496260362829824_n Now let’s start with the first one. Can we just take a moment to appreciate the fact that she wrote Noah’s Super Fast Ark on the side. Apparently the ark was a hydroplane. This was brand new information to me. And then you have the giraffe. That’s just downright cute. The hydrophobia one had me laughing because all I could hear was someone saying, “Nope, not today.” The third one…where do I start? I have no words.

But these pieces of artwork are some of my favorites. I can’t wait to see what else she draws for the remaining root words.

Peaks & Valleys

Last night I came across a fellow Slicer’s lovely piece about Peaks and Valleys. It gave me a great idea of how to teach writing a small moment to my fourth graders.

I drew a line straight across the whiteboard and then wrote Peaks & Valleys at the top. My kids watched in confusion and fascination. I posed the question, “What are peaks and valleys?” I let them think on it for a moment and slowly their hands went up. Both students I called on answered correctly. Above the line I wrote learning to read, graduating high school, a butterfly landing on my shoulder, getting the 4th grade position. Below the line fell 3x and sprained my ankle, losing Brandy & Precious, falling off my cousin’s trampoline & busting my lip, losing my grandparents was written in maroon. I let them study it for a moment and then I began telling them the stories behind my peaks & valleys. By the end I could tell they knew what I was about to ask of them.  I told them to sit there and think about 5 peaks in their life and it didn’t have to be in chronological order or order of importance. Ten minutes later they were ready to write their lows. As soon as the last student finished writing their low I told them that I wanted to pick either a high or low. Their assignment was to figure out the event that they would be able to write 4 paragraphs about in detail. I pointed out how I included two highs and two lows that I could only describe with 3 or 4 sentences. I asked them if they believed those were good options and I heard several no’s. One student told me, “Ms. Barrick, you didn’t tell it like a story. Those other 4 you did and my favorite was the fell 3x story.” That comment left me confused. I wasn’t sure if I should take it as a compliment or an insult.

A few minutes later all of them had their moment chosen and they eagerly began to write down their stories. I sat back and watched each of them jotting down their thoughts. I love how I’m turning them into writers and it makes me excited to see them excited when I tell them it’s time for writing. Some of them are still struggling with just telling me and not showing me, but they’re slowly getting the hang of it. Tomorrow we will continue this assignment & I’m hoping this will help them find their voice with writing too.

Welcome Back

7:55 I heard their voices floating down the hallway. One 3rd grader walked by, smiling from ear to ear, and then another and another. “I wonder if she missed us,” I hear R’s voice. I nod my head. ‘Of course I did. I missed all 23 of you,’ I thought. He comes bursting in the door followed by 2 more of my boys. Over the course of five minutes my kids came walking in. Some still looked bleary eyed while others were excited. I barely finished writing the date on the board when I’m tackled by one of them in a big hug.  I ruffled his hair and told him I missed him too. After everyone was settled in I stood up front and said,

“Good morning! Welcome to 4th grade! My name is Ms. Barrick!”

Some just looked at me confused while others were grinning. The one who gave me a big hug smiled, shook his head and introduced himself. Slowly they caught on and everyone introduced themselves.

We settled back into our routine very easily and I think they were happy to be back working. I made up for missing Dr. Seuss day by reading the classic Oh the Places You’ll Go. And what I really loved about this read aloud was even though they are 4th graders and almost 5th graders (sad about that fact) nearly every single one of them surrounded me today. That small moment nearly made me cry because I had missed every single one of them.

Tonight I’m exhausted but it’s a good kind of exhausted. Tomorrow we dive back into fractions, plurals, the Declaration of Independence, and focusing on a moment when doing narrative writing. I have the best job….ever.

A Small Ray of Sunshine

Support is something everyone needs whether the reason is positive or negative.  Certain situations require a lot of emotional, physical and mental stress. And that’s when you need your friends and family even more.  Support can come in the form of someone calling just to say ‘I’m here for you’ or ‘Is there anything I can do?’

In my experience I have come to find out that I have an incredible amount of support from my family and my church family. But right now a situation that I’m going through doesn’t involve just me. It involves the teachers at my school, in my county, in my state. West Virginia teachers have been feeling the strain of rising insurance premiums but no raise in pay. It hit its breaking point in February. After a rally in Charleston our union told us to walk out on Thursday 2/22 and Friday 2/23. That way all of the Board of Educations had time to prepare for this and so would the parents. It’s March 2nd…and we’re still out. Everyday we either have a group in Charleston at the Capitol or we are standing out in the rain, wind, and on those rare days sunshine, picketing. We’ve had a large amount of support since we walked out. Parents have stopped by dropping off food, hand warmers, or coffee. Retired teachers have come to stand with us like they did in 1990. Drivers have honked their horns, waved, and one even held up a sign that said YOU ROCK!

But that was a week ago. Everyday we grow a little more tired and a little more worried of when the public support is going to fade. Yesterday in the middle of a downpour a small ray of sunshine came glistening through in the form of an elderly gentleman. He pulled up in his van, opened the trunk and brought out homemade brownies, coffee, and napkins. We thanked him many times and he smiled, replied that it was nothing, and left. We started passing the coffees out, grabbing a brownie or two, and reached for a napkin. And that’s when a 1st grade teacher noticed that there was something written on it. It said you are special. We smiled and we told her to set it aside because that little note was sweet. The next napkin had writing on it too and the next one and the next one.

28577725_10213857162735153_5417362509529088_nThis brought on the tears. The morale was boosted immensely and several of us wished we had thanked that man more. We added his name to the notebook to the list of people we will be sending a handwritten thank you note. With our backs a little straighter, our heads held a little higher, and our hearts overflowing with gratitude we grabbed our umbrellas and walked back out into the rain to continue our shift.


55 Strong

❝Listen…now just listen to me.❞

❝You need to be back in the classroom.❞

❝I can be the town redneck too…❞

As you read these comments you’re probably thinking that a parent or group of parents have said these comments, correct? WRONG! The governor, THE GOVERNOR of West Virginia told an amphitheater of teachers yesterday. It was advertised as a Town Hall meeting. But had teachers not started shouting out questions he would’ve continued to demoralize us and call us everything under the sun. He had the audacity to sit there and tell us we were mediocre and partly that’s because we’re from West Virginia. This is what we’re up against in West Virginia.  Between Ferns, Carmichael, and several other senators you would think the outlook is bleak.


These senators and our governor forgets that we’re West Virginians. We are tenacious and we will fight for what’s right. The governor calling us rednecks yesterday he honestly thought he was insulting us. Apparently he needs to take a course in his own state’s history. The term redneck was coined and made famous in relation to the coal miner strikes of the early 20th century. The reaction from the crowd let it be known that we were angry at that comment.

But enough about the negative. The community my school is in has really shown its support for all of the public workers. There’s been a long string of honking cars driving by from 8AM-5PM the past four days. They’ve brought us food, coffee, hot chocolate, water, etc. They thank us and tell us to keep fighting for what’s right. They understand that we’re fighting for other public employees since many of them cannot walk out.

It’s a feeling of pride that surrounds my heart when a car or truck drives by and honks. It expands more when someone stops and drops us off food or even words of encouragement.  Retired teachers are even coming to stand alongside of us. Last Friday a very familiar face came and stood with us for a couple of hours.


This was MY fourth grade teacher and she was a wonderful educator. It felt like something had come full circle standing next to her.

28467632_10213800658882592_256251471470157653_nGroup photo of the 10-1 shift.

We are now on our 4th day and the amazing thing is all 55 counties have closed school for another day. However, I do miss my students. I miss being the classroom. But until there’s an actual resolution to all of this you can bet we will be standing out along our schools, holding our signs and waving back at you like the dumb redneck bunnies that we are.