Monday, April 30, 2012

Kentucky Derby Learning Centers, Part 1

The week leading up to Derby is my favorite week.  (And that includes the last week of school.  Well, except for tournament time.)  I love the excitement in Kentucky as we prepare to show off our state, welcome the celebs, and embrace the guests from all over.

I make a big deal out of this in my classroom, especially on Oaks Day, since we will not be in school on the day of the actual Derby.

Here are some things I do in my classroom to help make the Kentucky Derby a fun, memorable, and educational experience for all.

In order to have a really successful day, I need help.  I send home a sheet asking parents for an hour of their time a week beforehand.  The responses I get help determine the size of the centers.  I basically have two options:

The Bare Bones: this setup requires five centers-four the children rotate through and one where you pull kids.  You will need an adult for three of them.  I plan on about 15 minutes per center. 

Math: This requires an adult.  There are measurement opportunities galore here!  A thoroughbred's stride is between 20-25 feet.  I have them estimate how far they think this distance is, then measure it. 

Since it usually takes around two minutes for the horses to run the race, I have them choose two of the following exercises: jumps, jumping jacks, toe touches, or writing their name.  First they make an estimate of how many times they think they can do this in two minutes.  Then they have a timer and time themselves for two minutes and record the actual amount.

And last, we discuss how a horse is measured in hands.  They are also only measured from their hooves to the top of their backs.  They can estimate how many hands tall they are, then help each other measure themselves.  A hand is the equivalent of 4", so I have 4" strips already cut and laminated. 

Literacy: Kentucky's state song is, "My Old Kentucky Home".  Our music teacher does a really great job of teaching it during music but I like to make sure we cover it in the room as well.  I have cut the words out and the kids put it together on a pocket chart.  If the last group has a completed song, then they are to go through and find nouns, verbs, and rhyming words.  And we have to sing it as a class.  It would be a travesty if we didn't!

Art:  I've got two jockey silks I use, and here's one if you need it.  There are two methods of thought on this:  you can either challenge them to show symmetry on their silks, or just let them be creative.  I do copy mine on 12x18 construction paper to let them have plenty of space to be creative.  I also check out books from the library on how to draw horses, just for the fun on it.  To help get the kids started, I have printed out some pictures of silk designs.  You can google images but here is one of my favs.  And here is another.  If your class needs a template, this  will give them plenty of ideas.   (If they don't finish them during that center, it's nice to have a few minutes later in the day to do so.)

Food:  Another one that requires an adult.  I buy my Derby pies from Kroger because I'm too lazy to make them.  And they usually have a sale on them the days prior to Derby.  I just serve Derby pies and lemonade.  Many have never tried it before.  You can keep a tally and then turn it into a graph or pictograph to be read, analyzed, and interpreted. 

Hats:  Requires an adult with much patience, preferably two.  I get about three arm's lengths of colored butcher paper from the work room and masking tape.  While all the other centers are going on, you pull kids and plop them into a chair.  Stick their head in the middle of the butcher paper and secure it with masking tape.  Then gently roll up the ends until you have a Scarlett O'Hara style hat for the girls and a bowler for the boys.

Transitions: Because I live in the mindset of "Go Big or Go Home", I have a few horse cutouts hanging up.  And when it's time to switch centers, I've got the call to the post to signal when it's time to switch centers. 

My next post will add some more ideas to this basic setup, plus some books and resources that will be useful to you.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Paying My Debts

So I've  been perusing a lot of teacher blogs lately.  (Many thanks, Pinterest.)

And I've been using a lot of things for my classroom.  It's time to repay my debts.  I feel like I need to give a thank you speech worthy of an Oscar, but there's too many people and not enough time.

So instead, I'm offering the following: my homemade, all you need to do is print, cut, and laminate Kentucky Derby puzzles.

You need to understand the Derby is what I LIVE for in my classroom.  It signifies spring, fun, state pride and my favorite, Derby pie. 

Every year my classroom celebrates with a couple of centers-if I get more time, I might do a post on what I'm doing this year.  But for now I'm in a time crunch and still having some effects from bronchitis so this will have to do.

Happy Derby!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

In Defense of Anthony Davis

Okay Big Blue Nation, we gotta talk.

So last week, our beloved Wildcats marched their way to the 8th national title.  It didn't matter what obstacles were thrown in their way-ridiculous charging calls by the refs, Louisville's ugly-as-sin uniforms, or even Thomas Robinson's whining about how he should have gotten Player of the Year.

We enjoyed it for all of Monday night, either down on Bourbon Street in NOLA or setting fires and shooting people in Lexington (don't even get me started), but Tuesday awoke with that dreadful feeling.

What now?  Will they or won't they?

I'm not referring to the 9th championship (we know that's just a matter of time), but to that sensation of hand wringing over the super talented freshmen.  What're they gonna do?  Stay or go?  (To be honest, I'm still rubbing my eyes that we had that much talent...on one team...and they played cohesively.  Wall & Co. from '10 were talented, but...I digress.)

Don't they love us?  Didn't we nurture them, cheer them on in the meanest confines- Memorial Gym (thanks a lot, Digger Phelps)- or even the ever exalted (but mind you, it's smaller than Rupp Arena) Madison Square Garden?  Could they really come to leave us after just one year?  Don't they value education?   Don't they care about US?  Could they seriously consider wearing something other than the hallowed "Kentucky" across their chests?

I've come to weigh in on this philosophical conundrum.  And as much as I'm going to choke on the words about to be written: Go!  Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Lamb, Teague,  and Jones.  Go and seek your fortunes else where.

But what about their education? Newsflash, y'all.  As an elementary teacher, I've taught in both wealthy schools and Title I schools.  It doesn't matter which environment you're in.  Whether you're dealing with a five year old or a fifth grader, if you ask them why they come to school you will get the same response, "So I can learn so I can get a good job and make a lot of money."  Even at the tender age of five, these babies are focused on bringing in the dollars.  Um, and let's be honest.  That's why most people go to college-they want to earn a bigger paycheck.  When's the last time you heard, "I just want a so-so job with mediocre pay, benefits, and retirement?" 

They've played by the NBA rules.  After the Kobes and LeBrons the NBA had to atleast look respectable in terms of asking its members to seek higher education.  Enter the "19 and 1 Year 'o'Schooling" rule.  Although the older I get the more I'm trying to figure out how much more mature and ready a 19 year old is, but that's not my business.  If you could do what you loved- getting a  hefty paycheck for it- you know you'd be doing the same.  And you'd start as early as you could.  So these kids have done what was asked of them (including going to class, interacting with fans, winning a championship) and they did it well.  Pick a fight with the NBA-it's not these guys' fault.

What a Camelot year.  I went to Coach Cal's women's clinic in the fall.  Even then we all knew this was THE team.  Despite that heartbreaking loss to Vandy and that, "Did that seriously just happen?" loss to IU, we are all well are aware this was our Camelot year.  We knew two years ago there was too much vanity to win a championship, and last year we knew Knight was practically in graduate school before he set foot on UK's campus (and I can't comment on the Kanter deal-trust me), but this was the year that had both talent and work ethic to do what it would take.  Plus, I don't want Davis and Teague in a sophomore slump. 

All that being said (if you're still reading this far into the post, thanks) I would be thrilled if AD and MKG and the rest of the crew said they were staying.  But I cannot imagine telling an adult (especially ones who have good people advising them-such as their FAMILIES) to turn down the opportunity of a lifetime. 

So when they announce it, let's wish them the best and be sincere.  They're members of our family and though we hate to see them go, we want the best for them.  They have good things ahead.   

Plus, we know what's just around the corner.  Championship divine!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spring Break Snapshots-Using Words

Here's what I learned over Spring Break 2012 in no particular order:

  • If you get to Bluegrass Airport you automatically qualify for the "unluckiest flyer of the day" award.  The man who got there 15 minutes after me didn't have to pay to park (big GRR!) and I just missed the shuttle that came through the parking lot.  This meant that I got to lug my 28 lb. suitcase all the way up an incline.  Fun.
  • When push comes to shove, the best motto when preparing for a trip comes down to these two adages: "Pack half the clothes and twice the money" and "Buy in haste; repent in leisure."  (To avoid plagiarizing, this came from the late, great Erma Bombeck.)  
  • The above bullet means that you will embark on your trip with a suitcase that weighs half of the maximum amount.  It also means when returning (after shopping for approximately 3.5 days) you are seriously concerned about making weight on the return flight.  So concerned that a) you have your best friend and her family lug all 11 picture books (hardcover, no less) back home in the cargo area of their SUV and b) when you're in the middle of the Louis Armstrong International airport and your carryon is stuffed to the gills you will get scrutinized.  And all you can do is smile at the woman and say, "I did leave a few things for you in New Orleans."  And pray she doesn't count the sample pack of Chips Ahoy as outside food.
  • I could go to the most remote corner of the globe and still run into people I know.  Because it doesn't matter if you're walking down Canal Street, buying souvenirs, or walking home from the championship game, you WILL see someone you know.
  • Don't ever walk down Bourbon Street feeling less than 100%.  The shop owners decide that since you look bad they need to put a smile on your face.  And you don't want to know WHAT they will do to try and make you smile.
  • I will officially do anything for my team.  Even if it means walking six blocks in a severe thunderstorm to watch the title game.  Even if it means sitting WAY up in the Superdome in a severe thunderstorm with tornado warnings going off.
  • Tom Cruise was incredibly nice.  If you're in his way, he will smile patiently and wait.  And he also gets the door for his wife.  (I know he's four plus crazy about somethings, but I thought that was sweet-with him being the big star he is.)
  • Tom Cruise's family are just like any other rednecks.  The older kids will come barreling out of the car, pillows in hand and ready to go.  They also wait for Dad's lead.
  • If you happen to see Tom Cruise, be extremely cautious about with whom you share this information.  You want the members of your party to see him, but you don't want them to yell, "OMG!! It really IS Tom Cruise!", then run up behind them and start taking pictures like paparazzi.  So embarrasing.
  • The UK-UL rivalry begins at birth.  Literally.  When Kentucky beat Louisville Saturday night, and the UK fans started slinging their seat cushions toward the court in jubilation.  The two kid UL fans behind me picked up every available cushion and started throwing them at UK fans.  So kind.
  • The only difference between a charter flight and a regular one is on the charter they give you an entire Sprite and not just what will fit into those 8 oz. glasses minus ice.
  • Upon returning to the Bluegrass State, you will get the flu.  Because you can't enjoy any kind of vacation without getting sick.
  • Go on head and err on the side of caution and have your picture taken with the cheap replica of the tournament trophy in Brackettown.  Once you realize that gaudy looking thing Cal's got in his hands was by your side yesterday, you'll be glad you did. 
  • After standing in the 86 degree heat at 10:00 a.m (and we will not even discuss the humidity) I will never, ever complain about Kentucky being hot again.  Promise.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Reverse Bucket List

A long while back, I saw a blogger who wrote she didn't have a bucket list, but a reverse bucket list.   She kept track of all the things that were really special to her that had already happened.  She celebrated things that were wonderful suprises, things she would have crossed off her Bucket List if she'd thought about them.  Here, in no particular order, is my Reverse Bucket List:

  1. Having my name read over the loud speakers at Rupp Arena.  Every Wildcat fan dreams of this moment.  (Sadly, it was not because I was in the starting line up, but on the upside I was not lost either.  I'd won "Cat's Eye" view seats as as co-ed.)
  2. Second row seats to Dolly Parton (my idol since the age of 2).  We were seated in the orchestra pit and once walking out on stage and seeing us in Cracker Barrel rockers there all she could do was laugh. 
  3. Dolly Parton speaking to me.  TWICE.  The first time was at the aforementioned concert.  She ordered me to get her some corn.  I was so dumbstruck I couldn't reply.  The second time was at her parade in Pigeon Forge.  She was ten feet from me on a float.  Knowing full well I would never be that close again (and it had only been a few months since the concert) I yelled, "We saw your show in Kentucky and loved it!!" She looked back at me, waved, and yelled, "Thank you!"
  4. UK basketball seats that were so good they'd make you slap yo' mama.  When I was in college, I sat at two games behind the UK bench.  The game got close and I couldn't see for this idiot in front of me.  Because I never get good seats, I stood up during the time out to ask him to sit down.  It was then the man turned around and I realized it was THE COACH. 
  5. UK basketball seats four rows off the floor behind the basket.  During warm ups, I use it to psych the opposing team out, even if they are two feet taller than me.  As they walk back to the locker room, I give my meanest evil eye and slowly shake my head no.  At least one player will make eye contact.  Trust me, it scares them.
  6. Having one of my former students run by the house four years after I was her teacher to give me a note for teacher appreciation week.  I keep it in my Bible and it still makes me cry.
  7. Being at a restaurant in Indiana and telling some ridiculous story and realizing that the people at the next table over (you know how at Outback everyone is practically sitting in everyone elses' lap) is listening and want to hear what you're saying.  The fellas listening?  Olympic gold medalist Ian Crocker and Brendan Hansen.
  8. Staying late after the ball games to sing "My Old Kentucky Home" and having a total stranger compliment you on your voice.
  9. Being the first one in my immediate family to graduate from college.
  10. Knowing that I helped lead a child to Christ.
  11. A week long vacation by myself to Sanibel. 
  12. Being in a national commercial.
  13. Being the poster adult for a school district.
  14. Having Michael Kidd-Gilchrist give me basketball pointers.  And when he saw I was about to completely freak out, he was so patient and helpful.  Love him. 
  15. Witnessing Kentucky capture their 8th national basketball title.  In the process of this, I got to be present at the greatest Kentucky-Louisville game of ALL TIME.  Being there and watching the post-game celebration and festivities in New Orleans was just incredible.
  16. Walking back to my hotel at the Final Four and seeing a large black SUV pull up in front of me at the hotel across the street for me.  Watching a shortish, handsome man get out and flashing me a million dollar smile while waiting to get his wife's door.  Realizing the man who is waiting so patiently for me to get by him is Tom Cruise.