Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Little Dash of Prudy and a Whole Lot of Sales!

Hello, hello!  Oh my goodness, long lost friends. Pregnancy brain, as it turns out, is a real thing, not a myth.  Life has been a complete adventure lately, but we are getting to the fun part-- finding out the sweet baby's gender in a few short weeks.  I also am in the process starting our registry which has been equal parts exciting and stressful.  :)   Aside from all of the fun baby preparations and lingering second trimester morning all day sickness, I have been holding down the fort in my classroom and getting ready for the upcoming SDE Ohio Literacy Conference for K-3 Teachers. I also wrapped up my last class and last assignment for my gifted endorsement.  Check!  As much as I love learning and as much as I want to get my doctorate someday, I am so glad I am done with school for a while, and I am so glad I will have a little more free time before our little person arrives this spring! 

So, what have we been up to lately?  I actually have a really ridiculous amount of photos and activities to share, but I am going to just highlight a few tonight.  I will have to pop soon for the other updates.  I have been working non-stop since 7 AM, and my sweet hubs just got back from a football game in Buffalo.  I want to spend some quality time with him before bed, and let's face it, my bed time is pretty much 8:30.  It's 9:30 now, so I am already burning the "midnight oil" right now.  Ha!  Sad, but true. 

We just finished Prudy's Problem last week, and I always love how the Prudy's turn out for this craftivity.  I love having my students draw their own pictures because they are always so cute and so unique.  I love combining problem and solution with a little characterization piece too. #simple

While we were working on Prudy's Problem, the kids chose a problem from a menu on the board, and they came up with a "creative solution" to the problem... just like Prudy did with  "Prudy's Museum of Indescribable Wonderment"! I always enjoy seeing what they come up with.  Here are a few examples:

Just in case you are still in the shopping spirit after a weekend of deals, TpT is hosting a site-wide Cyber-Monday & Tuesday sale.  I know I am going to be using this as an opportunity to snag a few items on my wishlist to make my life just a tad easier.  I will also be putting my entire store on sale for 20% off. Don't forget to use code TPTCYBER at the checkout for additional savings!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again and Brushing Up on Sentences!

Hey, strangers!  It's been a while since I have written here.  You've probably wondered if I've fallen off of the face of the earth...or you may have forgotten that this blog (and blogger) even still existed.  I have been neglectful... and very absent...for a very long time.  The first nine-weeks has come and gone.  I managed to blog, what?  Maybe twice?  Three times?  Wowza.

Well, I am back! I'm back to share where I have been.  No, I have not been hiding under a rock.  No, I did not hibernate...although it felt like it at times.  Mr. Wonderful and I are expecting!  It's super exciting and super exhausting at the same time.  Let me just say this...the first trimester was not kind to me.  At all.  I am one of the "lucky ones" that has dealt with extreme morning sickness and exhaustion every single stinkin' day... except about 9 weeks...but who's even counting?!  Ha!  I'm still waiting for that magic moment in this second trimester when I will feel like a normally functioning human being again, but in the meantime, I have been trying to hold down the fort in my classroom and give my 59 students the very best of me.  Then I go home, and I crash on the couch by about 7:00...or 8:00 if I am feeling particularly energetic.  Moms of the world, I already have so much more respect for you.  Truly.  You are superheroes. :)

So, with all of that said, not surprisingly, I had to take a deliberate break from social media for a bit.  I just couldn't keep up with my own classroom demands, keep up with this blog and TpT, keep up with my other responsibilities, and still function.  I basically power-off after school, and I've had to be content with that.  Even though I got restless at times, and even though I felt frustrated every now and then, I realized that this is the time to take care of myself... and my little growing bean.  I reminded myself that everything else would still be there after I woke up from my 100 year slumber like Rip Van Winkle.  Luckily, I didn't sleep QUITE that long (although I have been known to sleep for 11-12 hours a night these days which I think is an equally remarkable feat). Luckily, I was right.  This blog is still here...right where I left it.  So, consider this my first attempt to get back into a blogging groove.  It feels good to be back! 

It also feels good to say that I finished a new product that I started in September!  I needed resources to review sentences with my kiddos, and this is SURE to make them SMILE a big TOOTHY grin while they review sentence skills with friends! Brushing Up on Sentences is posted... and it's one of my favorite creations to date!  I can't wait to (hopefully) snap a few action shots this week to share with all of my long-lost blog friends! 

Furthermore, I am happy to share that I am putting this resource on sale for 50% for the first 24 hours!  It will be on sale until Monday, November 3rd at 7:00 PM EST.  I hope that, if you feel this resource would benefit your students, you can also benefit from pennies saved.  :)   If you want to see a better preview of this resource, be sure to check out the preview file in my shop! Have a happy evening!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Foundation Has Been Laid!

Hi, strangers!  I certainly didn't anticipate finally updating about my classroom happenings in October, but I have had QUITE the start to my ninth year of teaching.  It has been interesting, to say the least.  My personal life has seen a lot of ups and downs--the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  I haven't had the extra time to sit down and blog like I have in the past, so I am going to attempt to play catch-up today.  Hopefully, moving forward, I will be able to share a little more frequently.  Because let's face it---if I just blogged once in a month---it can only go up from here.  Right?!  I say all of this because bloggers are just like non-blogging teachers.  We have the same time-constraints and life events that everyone else has.  And sometimes my blogging life ebbs and flows as a result.  As much as I love sharing my classroom with other teachers, the fact is, my family and my classroom are bigger priorities, and I know that my blog will always be here when I find the time. I'm just hoping I can carve out more time this year now that the foundation has been laid.  (Fingers crossed!)   Let me tell you, I am excited to see what I can accomplish with my 59 scholars this year!  It's going to be epic.

So, where to we begin?!  In my opinion, it all begins with a magic word--- metacognition!  It lays the foundation for so much thinking and reflecting, and I want to create that culture right away.  I always start out the year talking about metacognition, and I always launch the discussion with the "Real Reading Salad" lesson by Tanny MacGregor.  I have blogged about it the past several years HERE and HERE, and this year was no exception.  I LOVE this lesson so much! This year, I used tomato and lettuce templates from my friend Yolanda Arnold from Oceans of First Grade Fun.  (Although she is no longer with us and is greatly missed, her legacy is still living on through her family, friends, students, and my own kiddos too!)  Yolanda shared my love of metacognition, and she knew how much I loved teaching it, so she emailed a file to me with these cute lettuce and tomato templates.  I used them with the lesson for the past two years, and this year, I decided to tape the templates to an anchor chart after the lesson for a long-lasting concrete visual of the reading process.

So far, we have been working on personal narratives in writing.   I like to focus on one genre at a time to really focus on teaching strategies to improve their writing, and fortunately,  many of the strategies do carry over to other genres in one capacity or another.  This year, we have more freedom regarding our instruction, so I am excited to get back into infusing my ELA block with more writing instruction. I am a big Lucy Calkins fan, so I mix some of her mini-lessons in with my own and our Reading Street curriculum to give my kiddos a fuller, more craft-focused, more collaborative approach to writing lessons.  I want them to CARE DEEPLY about what they are writing and how they are presenting the content.  I want them to be artful, thoughtful, and creative, and I want to teach them how to constantly rework and revise and finesse their pieces.  And I want them to persist and build stamina.  Writing is SO important, and too often, it is neglected due to time constraints.  It's such an integral part of literacy instruction though, and really reading and writing are two sides of the same coin.  I want my kids reading and writing responses (both writing to sources and using mentor texts to improve their own writing), and I want my kids writing with an audience or reader in mind.  If they read like a writer, and write like a reader, their skills improve on both sides of the literacy continuum, and that's a win-win situation for sure.  So, I launched our writing instruction with my We Are Authors: Launching Writing Workshop pack, and we took off running.  Already, my students are more passionate about writing, and they are more focused on showing, not telling.  I cannot wait to see how much they grow once it's springtime!

I like to read "Author: A True Story" with my students to help them understand that some of the challenges they encounter as student authors are the same challenges encountered by published authors.  After reading, I have them create a booklet full of their own reflections on their literate lives.  It's always eye-opening, and it serves as a nice survey-esque starting point for me to begin learning about my students' interests, experiences, and feelings about writing.  As you can see below, my students are always on a continuum.  Some kids come to me with a great love of writing, and others want to crumple the paper and throw it across the room.  Fair enough.  I believe that teaching students to write has to be an engaging and organic process, and once my students tap into their own interests as authors, and once I teach them how to approach some of the processes that can trip them up, even the paper crumpling kiddos start to enjoy the self-expression that comes from writing!  I am so pumped to see what my new batch of kiddos (and my old batch of kiddos) are able to do this year!

We have also focused a lot of energy on accountable talk while discussing/implementing what strong speaking and listening skills look and sound like.  I was able to launch a few different activities from my Stop, Collaborate, and Listen pack with my students, and it has been so much fun hearing them debating and discussing ideas.  It was kind of comical listening to their opinions on whether everyone should get a trophy or not.  The responses ranged from, "Yes, because everyone tried their personal best..." to "No, because if you aren't good, then maybe you should keep trying to get better to earn a trophy..." and everything in between.  It was amazing to hear them supporting their claims with evidence in an engaging and thought-provoking format.  They also really enjoyed interviewing one another for a Wonder Workshop too! It was a great way to help them formulate questions on their own and to create a more inquiry-centric classroom!

We also launched our interactive notebooks with my Interactive Notebook 101 resources, and I think it did really help my students to understand the HOW and the WHY.  We are keeping our interactive notebook resources in binders this year and using tabs to divide it into sections.  The introductory piece is at the beginning of the binders in front of the first (comprehension) tab for easy access. I am so happy I added this layer to my instruction this year because I think my students understand why we are doing what we are doing, and they see note-booking as an instructional tool instead of as a quasi-craft, so they approach it with a more serious attitude.  Of course, they enjoy the process too, so that's just the icing on top of the cake!

So, there you have it!  That is my long-overdue recap of just a few activities we've been working on since school started.  It's just a snippet... and we've gone far beyond this by now... but I would be remiss if I didn't share the photos I snapped (even if I am late to the party).  I hope you are enjoying life and finally getting into the groove with your own students!  Hopefully, I will be back soon with more updates.  It's definitely been an interesting season of my life, but I am going to do my best to keep up with my little slice of cyberspace from this point forward.  I feel a rant about the disintegration of authentic close reading brewing... so stay tuned!  It's burbling to the surface, and I am pretty sure I won't be able to contain it for too much longer! Ha!  In the meantime, take care, friends!

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Little Vintage Classroom Flair!

This post is way overdue, but I am finally ready to share my classroom space with you after a few weeks back in business! As I mentioned a while ago, this summer, I walked into my classroom, and I crinkled up my nose at my theme.  Although I have never been an over-the-top theme aficionado, I realized that I was totally OVER my subtle jungle theme... and the copious amount of zebra print that went along with it.  So, I decided to mix things up and do something that was long overdue: be true to myself and my decorating style.  I LOVE all things vintage... so I felt it was time to bring some goodies from home...mix some things up... and surround myself with some colorful vintage classroom style.  Plus, I thought it would be fun to play around with words throughout the design to open the door to future discussions about the weight of our words.  Here's what I came up with!
Welcome to my classroom, teacher friends!

I have a thing for globes, and nothing says vintage classroom like globes right?!  I displayed a globe collection on my window sill, and I placed a chalkboard globe on top of a bookshelf.  It might be my absolute favorite classroom accessory.  (Shout-out to Rachelle Smith for the cute chalkboard prints!)

This is a view of my bookshelves on the far side of my room.  I love how simple yet colorful they are.

I added a few other decorative touches to the windowsill and the bookshelves to make the room pop!

 This is our gathering area.  I do read alouds from this spot, and I also gather kids together with clipboards for discussions and sharing opportunities.

I snagged this large basket from Michael's and added a fun leopard print burlap bow for a dash of whimsy.  It holds our basals to streamline the read-alouds of our main selections.

This is just another shot showing the bookshelves and the read aloud area. My kiddos usually sit in an L shape because I have so many kiddos that they don't all fit on the rug itself.  :)  (This year, I have 29 third graders, and 30 fourth graders.  It is a full house!)

I haven't utilized my "teacher's desk" as a teacher's desk for years now (aside from the storage of materials in the drawers).  So, I kept my desk against the wall, and I moved my mentor texts display to the desk to create a cozy reading nook. I LOVE this space so much now!

I hung a few clipboards to the sides of metal cabinets to display a few classroom posters with a dash of colorful masking tape.  I used masking tape as an accent on everything this year!  Swoon!

Here's another shot of the reading area (as it was set up for Meet the Teacher Night).  This just shows where it is in relation to my file cabinets...which as you can see... are also sporting a little masking tape and chalkboard number labels. 

I store most of the resources that I want just a few steps away on the shortest  file cabinet.  This green basket houses my clipboards, my notebooks, the office folders, and other important resources.

This is a little peek at the back of the room.  Confession: I haven't changed the black paper in a few years, so it has seen better days.  I wanted to change it out this summer, but since I did a deep clean and did major purging, time was short, and something had to give.  Please excuse the wrinkles. I think I may need to repaper it after all.  I am sort of cringing right now---not gonna lie! {shudder}

This year, I decided to use fun alphabet flash cards as an alphabet line.  I love the cool colors.

The READ display used to be at the front of the room, but I moved it to the back for an AR display.

This area houses my sub tub, some of my most used resource binders, and a set of drawers containing materials for my focus board.  The numbered baskets are for tiered lesson resources.  The bottom baskets are early finisher activities (Brain Bubbles). The two student desks house student resources.

So, I really should have snapped a photo of this next area BEFORE the kiddos arrived because the clipboards are in a state of disarray, BUT this is a snapshot of our  real classroom life.  This is what it looks like on a day-to-day basis.  I have the clipboards, whiteboards, dry-erase sleeves, dry-erase markers, socks (for erasers, and Post-Its in a central location to help streamline classroom happenings. 

Our first Word of the Week was scholar... because I want my students to see themselves that way from the very first day.  :)

This year, my pencils are organized in cups in a little caddy from Targets.  I store pencil sharpeners in the back.  (My classroom sharpener makes the most horrendous noise, so I like having them available for student use...especially during class discussions.  It's a major sanity saver!)

I wrote a little inspirational message on the window to a classroom door using a chalk marker.   This is our classroom mantra.  We can do hard things!  (I decided to let the old "Art Office" stencil remain in plain sight because with the whimsical vintage vibe, I felt like it had a little something to offer--- real vintage schoolhouse authenticity!  Love it! 

On the other side of the door, you can see our cabinets and counter top.  The student mailboxes are stored here along with our homework and morning work trays. This is basically the classroom command center, and I love how much more simplified it is this year.  It is working like a charm!

This is a close-up of our collection bins.  I picked them up at Staples last fall.  They are perfect!

I attached a few magnets to the back of a cookie sheet for another small display and a place for my notepad. I love that it adds a little bit more visual interest that way!

Ahhh, yes.  This is another one of my favorite back-to-schools finds.  I picked this up at Marshall's, and I just LOVE it.  I almost brought it home to decorate my house, but I love how it looks in my classroom.  It's another great way to add a few vintage touches to my classroom.

Nothing says "teacher" like apples right?!  I love how simple and classy they look!

Of course,  I am a sucker for details, and I wanted to make my classroom feel as much like a home as possible, so I also put together the following displays on the windowsills, cabinets, etc.

My room is feeling just like I wanted it too! I honestly could not be any happier!!! It's the perfect environment for learning and growth!  I am so optimistic about this school-year!

This is a view as you walk into my classroom with a peek at the front of the room! 

I display my objectives at the front of the room.  I used to display them on my focus wall, but I really like having them in a place of even more prominence right up front!

This map is a happy-looking addition to my classroom, but really, it's broken.  It doesn't go up all of the way, so I made it part of the decor for now, until I can get a new map.  I use the SMARTboard for almost everything, so I am not really concerned about space on the whiteboard at the moment.  Plus, we are studying Westward Expansion in 4th and looking at the Gold Rush in 3rd, so it's coming in handy at the moment.  When life gives you lemons...make lemonade...right?!

To the left of this area, I store some of my literature circle goodies in separate baskets.

I also have two boards for anchor chart displays and formative assessments.  I decided to embrace the old green chalkboard since I've decided to work in a little vintage flair, and I kind of love it.  The black paper (regrettably) looks sad, but if you only knew how much duct tape I rolled on top of the other half of the chalkboard to hang the black paper, you would fully understand.  :) It was obscene.  If I ever get permission, I would love to go to town with black chalkboard paint to avoid taping up bulletin board paper every year only to have it fall down from humidity in May.  (It's a sad state of affairs. Trust me.)

This small group area is right in front of our anchor chart displays.  It's in the perfect location to reference our existing charts or make new ones!

 I hope you've enjoyed taking a peek into my classroom.  Have a happy "new year"!