Friday, March 30, 2012

Levels of Word Knowledge and a Small Victory!

Usually, on Fridays, I am totally thinking TGIF just like any other working adult.  This time around, I kinda-sorta don't want the day to end.  I can feel my Spring Break ticking away, and as much as I love my kiddos and my job, I also like a little break every now and then.  {If you can even call this week a break.  I know that you know what I'm talking about!} I was pretty productive over the past few days, and I am hoping that I can slow it down this weekend for a real, legitimate break before heading back to my little peanuts.  :)


Have you ever had an idea hit you like a bolt of lightning?!  I totally did today.  It was something I already did, and I came across my prehistoric poster about the 5 levels of word knowledge.  I made it sometime in my life B.C.A.  (If you missed my last post, this is the time of my life I refer to as Before Clip Art.) Needless to say, I couldn't resist the urge to revamp it.  Then, I couldn't stop.  I thought of ways to expand on it and ways to make it more active without using hand signals like I had been doing.  Of course the idea hit me when I was cleaning up to go do a little "Brazil Butt Lift" workout, which by the way still hasn't happened.  I suppose I should get around to that, huh?  Eeeeek...

Any-who...this lesson (which is part my 193 page Expanding Vocabulary pack)  can be used to help students become cognizant of how familiar they are with a vocabulary word. It is a great formative assessment tool for teachers once the levels are taught and understood by the kiddos. I like to use the five levels when I introduce new vocabulary words to see how well students know them out of the gates!  Of course, I used to have them hold up their fingers, and now we have a fun new prop! I fervently believe that the more strategic students are about their learning and the more aware they are of their own current state of knowledge, the better equipped they are to extend their learning or search for answers. :) This lesson  includes a poster (BW and color), printable Scrabble Tiles to make word level response sticks, printables for a word study book to use with any story or content area reading, and printables to explicitly teach students about the different levels. If you're interested, you can check it out HERE.

By now you're probably wondering what my "small victory" is.   Well, it's totally small, but HUGE to me right now.  I am DONE with one of my grad classes for the semester, and now I only have to focus on ONE until the end of April.  Oh, and it gets better!  I signed up for two summer classes, and it looks like I might actually get in.  I am definitely crossing my fingers and maybe my toes, because I have had so many classes cancelled, and I have had the worst trouble actually getting into classes I need.  I am so ready to wrap this up.  So, as it stands, I have two summer classes, and then I have to take ONE MORE CLASS next fall!  Then it's cap and gown time for me!!! YAY!  {As a side-note, I used to think that I wanted to go straight into getting my doctorate, but let's just say that I'll save that for later.  Someday.  Just not right now.  This little lady needs a nice little sabbatical before I take that on!}

So... yeah. Some of you may be spending time at the beach or NYC or somewhere totally amazing over your break... but this is the life of a grad school student.  So happy to be done with one of my classes early.  I'll spare you the screen shots of my enormous qualitative research paper, because I like you.  I don't even like to look at it.  It's too lengthy.  It kind of makes me cringe.  ;)

Lastly, I want to thank everyone for their kind words regarding my sweet grandma.  :)  It's nice to know that I can open up to all of you and be a real person with a real life outside of teaching.  I usually try to keep this blog strictly classroom-oriented, but you know, we're all human.  It means a lot to me that so many of you left such thoughtful comments.  I appreciate it more than you know.  It was so wonderful to go visit her and to see determined she is to enjoy the time she has left, and I am so inspired.  I could easily wallow around in self-pity when I feel like things are a little on the crummy side (or when I get the urge to remove my adult braces myself), but you know what?  We only get one life, and we only get one shot at it.  Enjoy every. single. moment.  Laugh.  Love.  Dream.  Reach.  Dance in the rain. 

 Hope you have a blessed weekend, teacher friends! :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring Break, Poetry Centers, & Poetry!

I was so jealous of everyone on Spring Break last week, but my time has finally come.  :)  I had some extra time to go visit my grandma in Indiana over the weekend, and it was really nice to see her.  She looked bright-eyed and seems pretty positive despite her prognosis.  I also had fun hanging out with my uncles two kiddos!  They are 8 and 9... and 100 shades of crazy & cute.  My hubs and I spent time putting together a 500 piece puzzle while there, and I am fairly certain that I haven't completed a puzzle since my childhood.  There's usually NO time for anything like that, but it was a good experience to have together, when we both slowed down enough to enjoy the small stuff.  Now that we're back, it's all about planting trees and cleaning the house.  I also have a presentation to give tonight in my grad class.  I guess my point is... are we ever really on a break? Ever?  I've somehow managed to fill my time just as easily as I do while school is in session.  I'm trying to "get ahead" of school projects for the last nine-weeks.  I'm also hoping to add on to some of my older files per request while I have "free time".  We'll see how that goes... :)

Anyway, I'm happy to unroll a new 75 page Common-Core correlated product today!  It's a poetry resource that you can use as centers or with your whole class for more guidance.  If you use them as centers, make sure that you teach a mini-lesson on the skill prior to sending them out for independent practice.  They can be done independently, but you definitely want to support your little learners.  Otherwise, it might be overwhelming.  In other words, I love this resource, but I don't recommend laminating everything and putting all of the centers out right away.  It needs to be a gradual process to get the most bang for your buck!  If anyone thinks they can use this with your younger kiddos, I would suggest putting them in partners or doing it whole group.  Here's a little preview...but if you're interested... you can check it out HERE!  I've listed the contents and page numbers for your convenience.  If you have any questions, please let me know!

In other news, I am happy to announce the Eric Carle bundle winner!  Congratulations, Natalie from Teachery Tidbits!  {Cute blog, by the way!} Check out that prize pack from Carson Dellosa!  Thanks for playing along, friends!  Hope you enjoy your Very Hungry Caterpillar goodies, Natalie! :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day Giveaway!

Yes!  It's true!  The Very Hungry Caterpillar has his own special day!  March 20th! If you would like to enter to win a beautiful prize pack from Carson Dellosa, here's the scoop!

1.  Like Carson Dellosa on facebook
2.  Leave a comment letting me know that you follow them!  If you don't have a facebook account, don't fret!  Leave a message about how you would use this set in your classroom!  Don't forget to leave your email address!  {Easy!}
3.  For a bonus entry, you may blog about the giveaway!  

A winner will be drawn next Tuesday, March 27th.  Good luck, friends!  Here's a sneak peek at all of the goodies that one lucky reader will win!  I am so jealous!  :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Life is so hard sometimes, and I admit, I am not always the best at slowing down enough to be grateful for what I have.  This week, I've watched people I care about cope with terrible illness and the loss of a baby.  I've also been trying to plan a trip to Indiana to see my grandmother...  my last surviving grandparent.  She was diagnosed with melanoma about a year and a half ago.  {My other grandmother passed away from melanoma in the '70s.}

Since her diagnosis, my grandmother had several surgeries and procedures.  When I saw her at my family reunion last summer, it looked like someone took an ice cream scoop to her leg.  It's terrible to see someone you love like that, but we were hopeful.  A few months ago, the cancer metastasized and spread to several organs and her lymph nodes.  Hospice has been involved, and my uncle and his wife have taken great care of her, but this week, we found out that she is having trouble walking and breathing, and they found another mass on one of her legs.  I am worried about her, but you know what?  I realize that worrying is like a rocking chair.  I realize that I need to let go, and let God.  I realize that the best thing I can do right now is love my grandmother... my coworkers... my husband... my students... my co-workers... all of you... my friends... my enemies... love everyone... like crazy.  Lift them up in prayer.  Be patient.  Find joy in the darkness. Realize that every challenge, every loss, every struggle makes me stronger, more humble, and more responsive.  It makes me slow down and listen.  It makes me more responsive to others.  It makes me so thankful for what I have... even when clouds hang overhead.

At any rate, I'm in the process of working on report cards, working on grad school stuff, and planning a trip to Indiana.  I am hoping to have more goodies to share with you soon, but I am pretty preoccupied with tying up loose ends around here.  This is one of those times where I could easily lose sight of all of my blessings and allow myself to dwell on all of the negativity around me.  Honestly though, God has blessed me beyond measure, and for that, I am thankful.  May you also be blessed, and may you be a blessing to others today and always!  Happy Sunday!


Friday, March 16, 2012


Happy Friday!  It's beautiful in Ohio, and I am LOVING it.  Of course, I am also counting down the days until my spring break.  One more week.

Here's a little peek at some of our classroom happenings.  The 3rd nine-weeks comes to an end next Friday, and we are delving into Terra Nova testing next week, which means that we had two pre-tests to administer this week.  Crazy town!  :)  At any rate, we scaled back on Gertrude Ederle in Reading Street this week, and I was able to SQUEEZE in one St. Patty's Day activity.  I am fairly certain that I am an Irish disgrace.  :)  For someone with fair skin, a sprinkling of freckles, strawberry blonde hair, green eyes, and a maiden name like McVay, it's simply inexcusable.  There's always next year...   I was really sad that we didn't create  leprechaun traps or roll any spuds this year, but it's been kind of nice focusing on Language Arts and Social Studies, especially when it comes to lesson plans.  :) 

Speaking of lesson plans, I adapted the Lesson Plan S.O.S. ladies' Leprechaun Lingo lesson to work with the art supplies I had on hand.  I didn't have any paper plates, so instead of running out to buy more, we made hand-print leprechauns.  I think they turned out pretty cute!  I also love how there are 51 very unique looking leprechauns all over my classroom right now.  Plus, let's face it, hand-print art is just plain precious!

Since Gertrude Ederle's biography focused on what it means to be "the first", we created an anchor chart together.  Then, I had the kiddos create their own charts about their personal "firsts".  These will be used to generate topics for writing just like their heart maps.  :)

In other news, there's an intermediate blog linky party happening over at Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies.  I'm super excited to find new blogs to learn from!  :)  If you're a third, fourth, or fifth grade blogger, hop on over, and link up! Have a great weekend, friends!

Sunday, March 11, 2012


To each his own. Buddy the Elf likes smiling.  Smiling's HIS favorite.

Well, I like to smile too, but I also like teaching about memoirs.  Memoirs are my favorite!  I love how they build on personal narrative writing, and how they are so artful and jam-packed full of visual craft and audible craft elements.  I am slowly building a resource to help teach memoirs, but I can't make any promises on when it will be completed.  I am just plain swamped this semester.  :)  At any rate, it's in the oven.  Hopefully it will be done soon-ish.  :)

In the meantime, here's a tiny little sneak peek at how I beefed up Reading Street's bare bones approach to memoirs with some Lucy Calkins inspired lessons... with a little bit of an Amanda Nickerson spin to it all.  :)  I swear, I think I blend everything together more often than not.  Don't we all!?

This was one of my very condensed lessons.  I decided to teach writing all in one day this week to really get into it, as opposed to a little each day like RS suggests.  We were totally immersed for an hour and a half.  Well, more like an hour and fifteen minutes, because we reviewed generalizations a little bit first out of necessity.  :)  ANYWAY!  Long story short... this approach worked better for me.

Essentially, I had the kiddos take out their heart maps and add any new experiences or "things that matter" to it.  We spend some time throughout the year adapting and building our heart maps, because I want them to realize that human beings are constantly changing and growing.  We constantly meet new people that matter, travel to new places, and become fascinated by new things.  We also encounter sadness, deal with anger, and jump out of our skin with excitement!  I try to key them into these moments in their lives, and I try to support the idea that our lives are full of writing topics just waiting to transfer over to paper.  After all, we are the main characters in our own life story, right?  I also introduce the concept with this poster.  You can snag a freebie copy at my TpT store, if you think you can use it with your kiddos!

After that, I talked about how we were going to be reading, "Saturdays and Teacakes" by Lester Laminack.  I explained, again, how sometimes we use books as mentor texts, and we try to learn from authors.  We pause to notice what makes their writing stick with us, and then great writers spend time playing with language and trying out the author's craft for themselves.  So, I explained that we were going to take a moment to listen to Lester Laminack explain the author's craft himself.  They were over-the-moon-excited about this.  {You can watch the video HERE.  If you don't have a copy of the book, you can listen to Lester read the book HERE too.  I personally like to read it myself to pause and linger and discuss, but I have used the video to revisit the text as time has permitted me to do so.}  Seriously, I know this is not the first time you've heard me rave about this book, but it is AMAZING!  It has great repetition!  It's so descriptive and poetic!  He uses onomatopoeia so masterfully, and I love how he visually cues the reader so that the book is read exactly like he intends it to be.  This is, HANDS DOWN, my favorite read aloud! It's the perfect example of how intentional and purposeful authors are...and how every word... every white space...every punctuation mark... is there for a reason.

After we spent some time admiring the beautiful paintings and discussing the poetic language, we looked at two examples of memoirs.  One was from Reading Street, and another was pulled from Units of Study.  I also shared a few quick student examples, because this always tends to drive home the idea that they can write like that too!  Then, we started talking about what made each piece wonderful.  We started to discuss what we could try out in our own writing!

 After that, we started talking more specifically about leads.  We discussed attention-grabbing leads, and we looked at these wonderful posters by, my third grade role-model, Beth Newingham for inspiration.  {Her copies are colored.  I printed them in black and white instead and mounted them on colorful paper to get the look I wanted.  You can find them HERE.}

Friends, let me just say, when you explicitly point out all of these elements, and you really talk it up, it's amazing what your little peanuts can do.  I let them write for the remainder of the class period, and I conferenced with them!  We also discussed how sound effects, for example, can also be sprinkled throughout a story, and how they aren't just for strong leads.  Sometimes, being really explicit about where and when helps, because I have found that they are looking for permission, and they just want the green light.  If you give them the tools and the freedom, they will totally exceed your expectations!

I am beyond impressed by their writing, and I am looking forward to sharing more of my memoir goodies with you as soon as I find the time to finish it up!  :)  Actually, without sounding like a commercial, you could easily adapt this lesson to use with my Writer's Workshop: Writing on Target bundle by zeroing in on leads.  I usually blend the two approaches together with lessons like this.  If you  have the time to do it, the little stickers really motivate students and help them focus on the task.   I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend.  It's such a beautiful day in NE Ohio, so I know all of you southerners have to be living it up!  Have a great day!

P.S.  If you're feeling particularly lucky, head over to Darlin in First for a  fun giveaway!  Rebecca is an adorable, sweet & talented first grade teacher!  Plus, her blog is really fabulous too!   :) Sooo.... head over to Darlin' in First to find out what you can win, and how you can get lucky!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Goodness gracious! Work has been super busy lately, and on top of that, I have been researching out the whazoo for my capstone project.  I can think of at least eight million things I would rather do than research after a full day at work, but hakuna matata.  I will {hopefully} finish up classes next fall, if nothing else gets cancelled or rescheduled.  Fingers crossed!  I swear, I am totally on autopilot.  It's amazing how much we can get accomplished in a crunch, but I really need SLEEP!  :)  Stat.

Tonight, I spent FOREVER making buffalo chicken mac & cheese, {Thanks Cara!}, and while it was delish, I just hit the wall.  Hard.  Like 95 mph . I have decided that since I have worked non-stop for about  a week, I deserve to sit down and watch American Idol while catching up on my blogging & blog-stalking.  Oh, and my Hunger Games obsession.  I seriously started thinking about it while making the roux for dinner... get it?  Rue?!  Anyway, I am totally obsessed, and I can't wait for the movie to come out.  Mostly because it looks so much like I visualized it, and also because I am obsessed with "Safe and Sound" by Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars.  Um, obsessed!

In other, more scholarly news, we have continued to work on our Pirate Maps unit, slowly but surely.  We have been definitely emphasizing reading lately. I'm not going to lie!  It's almost OAA time, so sometimes Social Studies time dwindles away a little bit to make sure I am supporting my kiddos as much as I can before they have to show what they know.  Our thirty minute blocks have been a little more like 20 minute blocks.  {I rotate between two groups every other day, so if you're wondering why this is progressing slowly, that would be why!}

We completed our silly bands lesson... and we made edible maps.  They are not nearly as cute as Hope's, but I could not find edible markers ANYWHERE, and I was not about to spend $3.00 per baby tube of icing to write with.  Especially since I have over fifty students total.  I love those kiddos, but that's just craziness.  :)  So, we improvised, and I let them get creative.  It may not be perfectly laid out, but they got the concept of each landform, they loved the activity, and they ate them like burritos afterwards.  I was also called "Little Miss School Time" after that by a student that exclaimed that it was the most delicious lesson he's ever completed!  I'll take it!

We have also been reading "Rocks in His Head" in Reading.  This is a totally cute story!  Hopefully I will have more to share this week, but I really haven't taken too many photos.  Again, when you're running an endless race, you have to let go of something!  :)  This was our take on a graffiti wall of their rock facts.  Not the prettiest chart, but they loved the mohawk!  Check out what my little geologists came up with for our prior knowledge chart!  They amaze me sometimes!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Essential Question Posters for Reading Street

I just uploaded posters for Reading Street's Concept Questions and Essential Questions for each story.  I did not include the daily questions, because quite honestly, I only focus on the unit question and the question of the week.  :)  I hope someone else can use them and that I can save you time!  They are FREE at my store, and you can grab your set HERE!  Have a great week, friends!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Flash Sale: 3/3 for 3 hours!

I just want to take a moment... three hours to be exact... to thank all of you for following my blog.  I really enjoy learning from all of you... and I really appreciate your support!  So, as a BIG thank you, I am knocking down prices in my store for THREE HOURS at my little TpT shop!  Starting NOW!  Some of my best sellers and newest files are 50% off!  :)  You can preview the sale items below!  Have a great weekend, friends! Happy shopping in honor of bloggy friends, a fun date 3/3, and my parents 30th anniversary!  Yay for true love!