Monday, October 27, 2014

Witches' Brew

Okay, so I guess the dry spell is over.  My nail appointment for tonight was postponed, so I have a little time to blog about our second annual Witches' Brew.  Oh, and the nails are going patriotic in honor of the hubby coming home...  Can't wait!!!!!

Because I'm in love with Wicked (the musical)  - and also Halloween in general - and because I love tea, last year I decided to mix the 2 for a wickedly great time!  Well, we had such a great time, we decided to make it a Halloween tradition!  Now every year, we dress as witches, sip our tea, and enjoy some freaky good food and companionship.  The menu this year included:

Savory Course:
Zombie Stew with Coffin Toast Point 
(Lentil soup with a Dollar Store eyeballs)
Devil's Eye Eggs
(Hard-boiled eggs cracked and put in food coloring, and then deviled) 
Monster Snot in a Cup
(Herbed Brie cheese in phyllo cup)
Cucumber Coffin Sandwiches
(Just cucumber sandwiches and a coffin cookie cutter) and 
Mystery Meat Sandwich
(Thin cut ham and broccoli salad on white bread)

Followed by Hand Loaf - straight off the Zombie.
(Just a meatloaf shaped like a hand with onion for the nails and wrist bone)

The Sweet Course was a little less frightening:
Ogre Eyes
(Almond panna cotta with kiwi and pureed strawberries)

Almond Poppy Seed Skull Scones with brains (coconut curd) and cream on the side, 

and homemade Kidney (and any other leftover organs) Pie
(Pumpkin pie with freshly made pumpkin squash)

It was all served with my mom's homemade Masala Chai tea which had been simmering for a couple of hours and made the house smell fantastic!  Between courses we enjoyed Eye of Newt (pearl tapioca in homemade apple pie moonshine!) in small cordial glasses to cleanse the pallet and everyone took home a Witches' Brew Bottle of homemade wine (courtesy of my wonderful daddy) and a packet of my mother's Masala Chai to enjoy at home.

It was so much fun decorating the dining room and planning the menu for this event.  The only hard part is trying to come up with new ideas each year!  Thank you Pinterest!

Here's the link for the panna cotta recipe.  It's so delicious, decadent, and easy to make, but looks impressive on the table!  FYI:  I use silicone muffin molds to get the panna cotta out of the cups easily.  If you want any of the other recipes, just let me know.  I'd be happy to share.

I'm thinking of planning a Dicken's of a Tea Party for Christmas...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Chromebook Apps We Love

So it has been WAY too long since I've posted!  I've discovered, that with a husband deployed (less than 2 weeks left!  Woo Hoo!) and a child in his first local theater production, there's not much time to cook, clean, or check papers, let alone Blog!  But today I decided I'd make time - between grocery shopping, the final production of Sleepy Hollow, and cleaning out the attic before the hubby gets home...

So...  What has been going on in my Chromebook Classroom?  Well, I am pleased to report, that on October 1st, a neighboring school district visited our room to see how we incorporated technology in an elementary class room, and by that visit, my students were emailing me every day, bookmarking sites, changing font, size, color, highlighting, etc., and had even created their first document in Google Drive - in which they even inserted a picture!  They were also very comfortable using my Glogs for each weekly story, as well as various apps we had added from the Chrome store to use during our Daily 5 time.  Don't have Chromebooks?  Don't worry.  All of these apps are web-based and can be accessed by any computer.  I've included links to each one.

Well, that was almost a month ago, and the kids are still impressing me with how much they can do!  We've discovered which apps we like and which ones we don't.  Some favorites for Daily 5 include Storybird and iStorybooks.

The Storybird app gives students the option of allowing pictures to drive their creativity.  For reluctant writers, this app has been wonderful.  Teachers can create an assignment, or students can just create their own stories.  Students can search a word and the app generates tons of pictures tied to the search criteria.  The kids can then choose to use a picture or group of pictures they like to generate a poem or book.  The app is very user friendly for even the youngest of kids.  Once the student publishes a story, it is ready for the class to read and comment on or for the teacher to leave feedback.  The only drawback we've discovered, is that my students can't see my feedback while they are trying to edit.  It would be helpful if they could.  The kids LOVE this app during our Daily 5 Work on Writing or free app time.

iStorybooks is an app that works well during Listen to Reading time in the Daily 5.  It has many free books that the kids can follow along with as it's being read to them in a fluent manner. The nonfiction-rich app contains many different selections for the students to choose from.  It works best with ages 5-8.
Both apps have a free version or a paid version, but I haven't seen the need to upgrade to the paid version of either app yet.

Another app that I have recently discovered that has made checking my students' Google Drive stories MUCH easier and quicker, is Kaizena.  This app is a voice app that allows you to highlight and critique areas of student writing.  It is aligned to rubrics you can create and it will even save your comments in an archive.  Students then open their document and click the comment tab at the top where they can listen to your suggestions.  So quick - and if you read the beginning of this post, you know I need time savers!

With math apps we have not been as lucky.  We've tried some of the free apps from the Chrome store, but haven't found any we like better than Reflex Math for fluency, and for other concepts we haven't found a good fit yet.  We'll keep looking and keep you updated.