Wednesday, January 30, 2013

High and Low Linky

When I logged on to Blogger this morning, I was excited to see a new, creative linky party.  Teacher to the Core is hosting a celebration/commiseration of our highs and lows of January.

Here are mine:

Upon filling out this template, I realized that I had already blogged about most of these moments.  I do not want to be redundant, but hey, it makes sense that I have already documented and shared my highs and lows.  

You can read about my students' great writing and the awesome Author's Celebration here and about my classroom renovation here.

As for hitting 40 followers (actually 41), I could not be more surprised and pleased.  I am so flattered and honored that even 3 people (besides my family) are reading my blog.  I have felt so welcomed by my fellow bloggers and already feel friendships forming.  I have learned so much through these first few months and can't wait to continue this journey.

My last high moment makes tear up.  My little boy who began the year on a DRA level A (beginning kindergarten level) is now...READING ON HIS OWN!!!!!!!!!  

Through the intense help of the reading interventionists (and hopefully me), he has made SO much progress.  He went from not even knowing his letter sounds to being able to actually sound out and read words!  The best part is that he knows it!  He is starting to say, "I can read now!" and is feeling so proud of himself.  It's so great to see!  

He still has lots of struggles, but I am so glad that he is progressing and developing confidence.  It's my favorite part of teaching to see kids light up when they finally get something.

Now, for the lows.  I feel like this year the climate at my school has been a bit tense.  Between the scheduling issues with the reading team, the PD days this month, the lack of communication from administrators, and lots of grading deadlines, this month has just felt very stressful.  All of the teachers just seem to not be able to take a deep breath and chill, including me.  Hopefully, February will be a bit better, but that's probably an unrealistic dream because we have the DRA assessment and about 50 gazillion holidays etc.  

My final low moment is kind of a funny one.  At least, I have to pretend it's funny, so I don't feel sad or threatened.  See how you would feel if a student gave you this picture.

I know that my student was just joking; however, this seemed a bit not funny to me.  So, what are your thoughts?  Should I talk to the anti-bullying specialist?  The police?  The FBI?  The CIA?  :-)

I would love to hear what you think.  Also, don't forget to link up over at Teacher to the Core to share your highs and lows.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Extreme Makeover Classroom Edition!

They really should make that a show.  Imagine how cool it would be for Ty Pennington to show up at your classroom to give it an Extreme Makeover.  

I can just imagine him yelling, "MOVE THAT SCHOOL BUS!!"

Voila!  The classroom of your dreams!

Well, since that probably won't happen anytime soon, or at least not to me, I decided to do a classroom makeover of my own.  I mentioned it in a post awhile ago, but then do to fabric shopping issues, I didn't get to finish the transformation until this week.  You can read about those adventures here.

So, enough delay.  The transformation is complete.  Here are some before and after pictures.

Note the filing cabinet and the tooth poster in the front left corner.
They blocked the bulletin board and clogged up the space.
Also, the word wall was in the middle of the wall, blocked by a reading table.

The filing cabinet is now next to my other supply cabinet,
where it is out of the way and in a more convenient location. 
The computer is now OFF my teacher desk and on a nifty new computer desk in the front
where the filing cabinet used to be. Now the kids can use it for center activities.
My desk is now in the middle of the wall, which frees up the bulletin board to be a Word Wall, and gives me fresh wall space to use for anchor charts where the Word Wall used to be.  Plus, I can access my desk from either side now.  No more hoarding things in the corner.  :-)
The Word Wall is now on a real bulletin board and is much more accessible to the students. They can use the desks near it to do word work activities.  Also, the words are on push pins, so the kids can take them down and use them at their desks.
The back supply area was right next to the library causing major traffic jams
and facilitating plenty of wasted time.
The supply area is now at the front.
Extra space in the back.  This was a travel area, but it seemed to have more potential.

The reading table is now in the back space.  I know it's hard to see, but it works well there. I can monitor the whole room better from the back center than from where the table was before.
The classroom library.  I liked the 3 wall arrangement, but it made it hard
for me to monitor the students during independent reading.
Now, the library is spread along the walls and is much more open.

The carpet and calendar area.  There wasn't too much wrong with this.

The only real thing that changed was the way my ELMO cart faced. Also, I replaced my mailbox!!!! I gushed about that in a previous post.

So, that's my classroom makeover.  

I have been loving it so far and so have the kids and other random teachers who stop in my room.  It's been quite nice to hear how well people like the change.

How many of you like to switch up your classroom arrangement mid-year or at the beginning of a new year?

Have a great Sunday night everyone.  I'm off to rest up before another week of teaching in my rearranged classroom. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Five for Friday, Flashback, and Freebies!

It's a quadruple F linky extravaganza!  I am happy to be joining in with several fun (another F, haha) linky parties.

First, I am joining Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday and Teaching Madness for a Friday Flashback.  Click on the pictures to head on over to link up.

1. Brand New Word Wall- A few weeks ago, I rearranged all of the furniture in my classroom, which including changing the location of my word wall to make it more accessible.  Here's how it turned out.  The kids were already using it a lot today.

2. Math Problem Solving- I have been super impressed with how my students have been doing working with place value and number patterns.  They even did an awesome job with the "Put Your Thinking Cap On" lesson, which is always a very challenging problem-solving activity.  This week, they had to figure out missing numbers in a pattern e.g. 10, 14, 16, 20 is missing 12 and 18.  I had the kids work in heterogeneous groups and gave them cards to arrange on their white boards.  That way they could rearrange the cards and show their work on their boards.  I was impressed with how well everyone talked with each other as they worked to solve the problems and with the fact that most of the groups came up with the correct answers. 

3. The Royal Bee Predictions- We spent several days this week using the book The Royal Bee to practice making predictions.  The book has some difficult vocabulary and concepts; however, the students get into the story and there are several good stopping points where students can make predictions about what is going to happen next.  Yesterday, I read the first part of the book and then students drew and wrote predictions.  Today, we talked about how good readers think about whether or not their predictions come true, so I read a bit more.  The students were excited when their predictions came true.  I was pleased when they were able to discuss why their predictions were not correct.  
Keep reading for a free Making Predictions sheet.

4. Author's Celebration- Today was our class author celebration for the "Learning from Authors" writing unit. The kids' stories turned out awesome!!!  Most of them applied many of the craft techniques they learned and wrote well-composed stories.  Even my sweet little boy who reads on an early kindergarten level and has a hard time with writing wrote a wonderful four sentence story!  I teared up when I read it because he did such a great job!  

Since the students did so well with their stories, I was so happy that tons of parents showed up to hear them read today.  The room was packed full of mommies and daddies holding their iPhones up to record every second of their children's moments in the spotlight.

5. Fancy Smancy Dinner- After a good, but super busy week at school, it was so fun to go out for a super fancy dinner with Josh.  I knew that we were going someplace nice, but the actual restaurant was a surprise to me and so were the flowers he brought me!  We ended up having a wonderful, gourmet meal at Il Cappricio.  I normally try to eat healthily and not over-indulge, but tonight, I went hog wild and enjoyed every bite of it!

Me getting ready to eat my yummy bowl of ravioli gnocchi.
Chocolate mousse cake.
We got a free dessert just for checking in on my Yelp app!
Peanut butter chocolate bar dessert.  So delicious!
Those were my five things and a flashback of my day.  Now, here are my two freebies for Teaching Blog Addict's Friday Freebie linky.  Click the pictures to download them.

Freebie Fridays
Making Predictions Record Sheet

In preparation for the upcoming How-To writing unit, I made graphic organizers to help students brainstorm ideas for what to write about including things they do at home and at school; things they know how to make; and games they know how to play.  Click the picture to get them free.

Please comment to let me know if you download the freebies!  I would love some feedback!

Also, stay tuned for more pictures of the full classroom renovation.

Well, I better be done writing this post now cause Friday is over in 5 minutes!  Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fabulous Finds!

I am linking up with Christy and Tammy from Fluttering Through First Grade for their Fabulous Finds Linky Party.  It's a great way to share new ideas and resources for the new year.  Flutter on over to check out the other finds and to share your own.

I went to a math professional development workshop last week and came out with some awesome new ideas for materials.  The best part is that they are cheap and easy to make.

Hype Highlighters 
I found this huge pack of highlighters on sale at Staples.  I plan to use them and have the kids use them for a variety of reasons e.g. sight words, writing etc.  However, I am most excited about using them to label my math cards!

As a second year teacher, I was apparently oblivious to this fabulous idea, until I came across highlighted tens frames cards at the math workshop.  I studied the edges of the cards and quizzically asked my colleague, "Those are cute, but what's the point?"  She just looked at me and laughed.  

She then let me in on the greatest idea since personal can highlight the edges of cards, so that the decks stay together!  

No more homeless cards laying forlornly on the floor until they get shoved into another box that probably isn't the right one.  Now, all the cards are color coded, so the students can keep them together (in theory).  If you can't already tell, I am very excited about this idea!

Here's how my first sets turned out.

Huge Foam Dice

I found these at Dollar Tree and thought they were too cute not to buy.  My thoughts were that cool, colorful dice might jazz up old dice games, and that they should not go flying across the room into dark corners where I can never find them.

Last, but certainly not least.

Base 10 Binder Rings

 This was another FANTASTIC idea that I got from the math workshop.  Our district math specialist explained that she was trying to make number bracelets with pipe cleaners, but ran out of pipe cleaners and had to use binder rings instead.  Voila!  A great new manipulative was born.  All you have to do is get pony beads (cheap at Walmart or craft stores) and binder rings (Staples or another office store).  Put ten beads on each ring to serve as tens and leave the others loose to serve as ones.  I suppose you could even link 10 rings together to make 100!

I love these because they are small and fit more easily on a place value chart.  Plus, they allow kids to see tens and ones in a different way, so that they apply the concept more broadly.  I also use straws, popsicle sticks, base 10 blocks, and unifix cubes.

The only warning I have for these is that the beads are small and might get lost easily, so I have only been using them in small groups.  That way I can yell calmly ask students to pick up the beads that spill.  Plus, I can be sure that the kids are not opening up the rings to take apart the tens.  I might end up using tape or hot glue to seal the rings shut.

Well, those are my Fabulous Finds!

Let me know what you think and share your own ideas in a comment!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Looking Forward and a Giveaway!

On the eve of this four day week, I thought I would share some things I am looking forward to doing with my students this week.

Martin Luther King Class Book:  I got this free resources from Rebecca at Teaching First. I am excited to see what my students write.

Writer's Eyes: In order to help the students revise and edit their writing workshop stories for publication, we will be using these awesome FREE posters from Debbie at Sailing Through First.

Author's Celebration: On Friday, the parents will come to see their children read their published stories aloud to the class.  It's always exciting for the kids to share their stories, especially when the parents come.  Here are some free author's celebration announcements.  They are in an editable Word document in both color and black and white.  
Editable color and black and white notices.

I would also like to share about Corinna's giveaway over at O "FISH" ally a First Grader.  Her blog is so adorable and she has such great ideas, it's no wonder she has over 200 followers.

Click the picture to find out more and to enter the giveaway.

Hope everyone has a great week!

The Ultimate Treasure

No, it is not that cold here, thankfully.  That's just the name of the retreat I was at all weekend and the reason I was MIA from the blog world for awhile.

Let me just say that the break was so nice.  Even though I haven't been blogging for that long, I already feel like it's a whirlpool that is sucking me deeper and deeper.  Don't get me wrong, it's a fun and exciting whirlpool (most of the time), but it's a whirlpool nonetheless.  I have to give props to the mega-bloggers out there who have tons of followers and successful TpT stores.  I don't know how they do it.

All that being said, this weekend was a great time of rejuvenation for me.  I didn't get much sleep, but I got spiritual and social refreshment.

The conference was up at Camp of the Woods in beautiful upstate New York.  Josh and I drove up  Friday afternoon along with another car full of friends from my church.  We arrived around 9:00 p.m. and got right into the activity.

The first night there were ice breakers, which were actually quite tedious and time-consuming.  All of us were tired and didn't feel like telling a bunch of strangers what we would do with a million dollars.  In answer to the question, "which one of the Seven Dwarfs are you?" I definitely answered Sleepy!

Once all of that was out of the way, we got to hear an introductory message from the speaker Nate Bramsen.  He is a missionary in Niger, which apparently is pronounced nee-ZHAIR or something like that.  They speak French there.  Who knew?  I should have, but didn't.

Anyways, he got us all pumped for a great week of hearing from God and reflecting on our lives.  The topic for the weekend was going to be "The Ultimate Treasure."

The next morning, we got up, had breakfast, had some awesome worship time, and got right into session 1: "Diagnosing Your Treasure."  The focus passage was Matthew 6:19-24, in which Jesus talks about not "laying up treasure on earth...but laying up treasure in Heaven."

Here are some of the notes I wrote.  I was very convicted by a lot of the questions.

  • The world distracts us from the ultimate purpose of knowing why we are here.
  • Five Ways to Diagnose Your Treasure:
    • Where is your attention?  What do you focus on?  What consumes your thoughts?  
    • Where is your affection?  What do you love?
    • What guides your attitude?
    • Where is your anticipation?  What do you spend your time planning?
    • Where are my assets?  What do I spend my money and resources on?

As a teacher, I feel like the answer to most of the questions involved lesson planning, grading, blogging, buying supplies etc.  Those are all good things, but they are not what should drive my life.  I need to remember that teaching is my calling from God, but that in order for me to be successful at it, I need to rely on God because He is the source of that calling.  I feel like my "To Do List" has been taking too much of my attention lately.  I am going to burn out if I don't take the time to refresh myself and find balance like I resolved to do this year.

After that intense session, I was ready for a break to think things over and to go SKIING!!!

I LOVE skiing.  I have only gone just over a handful of times, but I always enjoy it.  Even though I am not a pro, I can get around the Beginner and Intermediate hills successfully, and have a blast racing down the snowy hills.  Well, maybe not racing, but going at a decent pace.  :-)

The only thing I was nervous about for this skiing trip was that it was Josh's first time skiing.  Ever.  

To make things more interesting, when we got to Oak Mountain  and discovered that the Bunny Hill was CLOSED!!!  That meant, not getting acclimated for me and no practice for Josh.

We ended up going up the lift and going down a beginner hill quite slowly, so that he could practice and fall and practice some more.  After a few tries, he got the hang of things, and we had a great rest of the day enjoying the slopes!

That night, we had another intense session with Nate.  He spoke about "Discovering the Treasure" of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and how when we discover it, we must make a decision to believe it or not, and then to abandon all to take up our cross to follow Jesus.  The message made me think of one of my all time favorite songs, "Come to the Well" by Casting Crowns.

I love that song so much, that I even made a mug with the lyrics on it.

Nate's final message, on Sunday morning, was about "Declaring Our Treasure."  We as Christians need to embrace the fact that life as a Christ follower is a life of brokenness, and that as we become more broken, we learn to rely on Christ more and more.  Our brokenness and humility does not come from our own efforts, but from pursuing Christ and allowing Him to give us His heart, eyes, hands, and feet.  We are merely "jars of clay" (2. Cor. 4:7-11) that are broken to allow Christ's light to shine forth from our lives.

Needless to say, I was very convicted and challenged again.  I am beginning to realize how prideful I am in trying to be in control and self-reliant, rather than submitting to God and walking with Him day by day.  I think that I am doing so many good things, but I am giving myself the credit for them, rather than turning my blessings back into praise.  

Moving forward, I am hoping to spend more time pursuing Christ and His will, rather than stressing over every thing I "need/have" to do.  Yes, I want to do my best at my work, but that should be in order to honor God and shine His light to the world, not to earn recognition from man.

Wow, thanks for sticking with me through a long post.  Please comment if you have the time.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Freebie- Questioning Record Sheet

I am linking up with Teaching Blog Addict's Friday Freebie Linky Party.

Freebie Fridays

Earlier in the week, I shared about how I teach students to ask questions while reading.  Read about it here: Rolling, Sliding, and Questioning.

Here are some free differentiated questioning record sheets for students to use to record their questions before, during, and after reading.  Click any picture below for the freebie.

Please comment if you download the freebie.  I would love to know what you think of it.

Thanks!  Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I have a button!  I have a button!  I have a button, hey, hey, hey, hey!  

Little Rascals anyone?  

I love that movie.

Anyways, here's the exciting news!  I now have a blogger button!  It's simple and not perfect, and I plan to change it up when I fully re-design my blog someday, but for now, I like it.  

If you would like to grab it, copy the code below or from the right panel.
Hope you like it!