Jan 12, 2019


 Every since I learned about "one little word," I have actually found more success with my goals for a new year.  Resolutions never stuck for me and the guilt set in that I was failing #perfectionistproblems.
Over the past few years I have chosen one word to help me shape or guide my year.  Last year, I chose create.  It ended up being a great word for me and meant more than I had even intended.  In the end, I felt like I had created more space for me enjoy hands on activities for me and my family.

This year my word is connect.

Although, my blog has not received as much love as it did a few years ago...and although, my TPT store could (for sure) be worked on more...what is actually bringing more joy to my life are the connections with people in my life.

Yes, family.  Our routines seem to keep changing as we all grow.  Connecting to these growing girls through books, playing games, or crafting is proving to be necessary and so important to our relationship.

Yes, friends.  To nourish my soul with adult conversation is just as important as time being a mom or time spent on my career.  I need to connect with people.  Talk through things, laugh, play games, hike, etc.  Allowing myself this time has brought me so much joy.

Yes, myself.  I am a master at avoiding this.  A 30 day yoga challenge has been one way that I have worked on connecting to myself.  It takes everything in me to allow myself this small amount of time to just breathe, connect, and open up to this flow.  It was something I didn't realize I needed to do more of.

So, although, I am doing some of the things listed above, I want to make it a point to continue.  I don't want the relationships that I have built with friends afar to slip.  I don't want to forget to connect with my girls in more ways than homework or chores.   Joy is what I am looking for this year and I know I can accomplish that through connections with others.

 What do you hope work towards this year?

Jan 2, 2019

Game Changer... GIVEAWAY!

 Are you ready to up your game?  Not just in your classroom, but as a school? Are you in need of a change?  Then the book, Game Changer! Book Access for ALL Kids is the book for you!

This book is jam packed with LOTS of ideas to challenge you to think outside the box in order to get books into the hands of children. There are very simple ideas for changes that can be made in the walls of your classroom. But, Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp also include ideas that are big.  These are ideas that show you are willing to make a statement that reading is a priority in your school community.

After attending Nerd Camp in Michigan, which is hosted by Donalyn and Colby, I (Em) implemented some of these ideas into our school.  As they state in this book, "this gap in book access perpetuates inequities between low-income students and their middle-income peers."  To act on this, 15 books are given away each week, students take home about 10 books each for the summer, and have a daily opportunity to borrow books from the "readbox" each day.  But even with these things occurring, this book opened my eyes to ways that I could make these rituals even stronger.

From the beginning of this book you will be challenged to take a look at your reading.  You will be challenged to take a look at your classroom library.  You will be challenged to take a look at your school library.  You will also be challenged to put books in the hands of children. While reading, I (Maria) found myself reflecting on my classroom.  There are things I need to change. There are things I need to add.  I need to be a "Game Changer".

In this book you will also find many, many suggestions to get started, solutions to book deserts, how to build the power of ownership, increasing volume and the power of cultural representation.  There are also little snippets for "Change in Action".  These ideas come from teachers, literacy coaches, etc. My favorite, favorite suggestion in this book, comes in Chapter 8.  Kristen Ziemke shares how and why to teach sneaky reading.  I LOVE this idea!  I have a few readers in my family who were sneaky readers and in the classroom, I didn't think about ever teaching this to children.  You'll have to check out her suggestions!

We want you to ring in your New Year with some New Ideas!!  You can win a copy of this book and begin your journey to "up your game!"

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Dec 6, 2018

Putting It All Together: A Winter Giveaway

Can you believe winter is almost here and 2018 is wrapping up.  It amazes me each year how quickly it goes.  I love the end of the year because it is a time to reflect and grow. 
One reflection you may make at this time of year, is the gaps that are closing or growing between some of your students. Where do you need to push forward and where do you need to back up a bit?

Currently, I have students that are well on their way to becoming more fluent readers, while others are continuing to struggle with letters and sounds.  It is time to push forward for some and pause for more explicit teaching for others.

Some students do not quite know the difference between a letter, word, and sentence (this is true for many of our kindergartners).  This Powerpoint visually shows students a letter.  How the letters make up words and the words make up sentences.   I made is a short video to show you a small part of the powerpoint. Click on the slide image to purchase (Free on 12/8/18-12/9/18 only).

My first graders know the difference between letters, words, and sentences, but may still have trouble seeing how they are interconnected. I wanted needed my students to really SEE the connections.  Out of that need...this was created.  It helps students to "put it all together."

This particular version is a review sheet of short vowels.  Students have the opportunity to read words with short vowel sounds, while also engaging in a short winter story.

When looking at this sheet.  You can see that it begins with letter sounds.  Students read each letter sound. 

The second part illustrates that the letters from the first part make up words.  Blend the words with students.

These words can then be found in phrases.  (This is a great time to talk about why we read in phrases and how it can help us to sound like fluent readers).

Finally, these phrases (which include words,  that are made from sounds) form sentences, paragraphs, and stories.

Every letter, word, and phrase connects to the winter story.

There are many different ways to use this sheet.   One way to use this sheet may be to take one colored marker and highlight all the letters for one particular word (for example: "hats").  Then highlight the word "hats" in the second part.  Highlight the phrase that "hats" is found in.  Finally, find the sentence with the word "hats" and highlight it.  This illustrates to the students the connection of the letters all the way down to the story.

This particular student illustrates another way to "put it all together."  She was working on short vowel sounds in words.  She highlighted the short vowels and looked at how the short vowel phrases could be found in the story.

While each student has their own individual needs, this sheet may be used differently in your classroom; however, the ultimate goal is for them to see how sounds, words, phrases, and sentences all build off of each other.

I hope that you can use these with your students.  You can grab a free copy by clicking on the winter edition image below.  If you are looking for more "focused" sheets, you can click on the second image.  This pack has a different phonics skill per sheet.  It is a great way to explicitly teach specific skills.

FREEBIE Putting it Together: letters, words, and sentencesPutting it all together: letters, words, and sentences

Not ready to use this?  Just pin it for later!

 Thanks for checking out these products.  Although this is just a stepping stone, our ultimate goal is to always get books into the hands of our students.  I love to support any local bookstores that I can, whether it be in my hometown or a city I'm visiting.  Please enter the giveaway below for your chance to win $25 to Half Price Books (www.hpb.com).

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For a chance at more $25 giftcards and free resources, check out the sites below!

Nov 25, 2018

Striving to Thriving Writers... GIVEAWAY!

Do you have writers?  Do you have writers who are thriving?  Do you have writers who are striving?  Do you have writers everywhere in between?  We do.

Our writers have come to us in all different shapes, sizes, and most importantly abilities.  In a dreamy world, all our writers would come in confident and writing pages upon pages, BUT.... writing is H.A.R.D.!!!  Our firstie writers have to do a LOT of work to get their words down on the page.  We need them to become authors. We strive for them to become authors. The odds for them to become a professional author is .04%.  Not good. But we're not looking for them to do this as a profession, we're looking for them to view themselves as authors for their lives.

In our never ending crusade to get better at our craft, we were asked to read and blog about From Striving to Thriving Writers by Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger.

We dug right in.  The authors begin with a quick introduction that dives into the importance of writing purpose, audience, and interest, which can be achieved many times through content area writing.  They go on to explain what their writing frameworks are and the process to implement them.

There are 27 different writing frameworks that are ready to be implemented. These frameworks help every writer in your classroom.  Each framework includes the time, materials (can be found online), focus skills, the grade band (this is an important feature, to us), and the lesson to be used in the classroom.  Even the mentor texts are included and ready for use.  Samples of student writing are also found throughout the frameworks, which really helped us to visualize the student expectations.

As we read through the frameworks, it became clear that we could not just write about this teaching resource, we had to put it into action.  So that is just what we did.

November means change.  Summer has turned to fall and fall is slowly (or quickly) turning into winter.  We use this time to examine the changes that have taken place between our lives now and the lives of people long ago.  Framework 12 is titled "Then and Now: Charting Change" and it seemed like a perfect fit for us.

Starting with the mentor text from Holbrook and Salinger, the students examine the back and forth nature of then and now.

Then we took a look at how people lived long ago: how they looked, what they ate, where they lived, and how they moved.

Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger include (what they call) GO sheets to help the students organize their thinking.  Since we were marrying this framework with our current work, we added to the GO sheet.  This helped our firsties look at the specific parts of the informative piece they were writing.  We even differentiated it for some of our writers that needed to focus on fewer facts about long ago.

From Striving to Thriving Writers helped us to have some good, hard conversations about what we are currently doing, what we could be doing, and how to integrate those.  We will share with you the frameworks that we continue to try out and implement.

This book is a great resource to help you take a closer look at your writing instruction.  Grab your own FREE copy of this book by entering in the giveaway below (U.S. residents only, please).

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Nov 12, 2018

Stepping Outside Your Box

Teaching is about growth.  For the students (of course) but for ourselves, as well.  Each year, I challenge myself.  This year I had decided to really work on maintaining relationships and building new ones with students.  I'll get back to you on how that is going.  Because while this was the goal I had my eyes set on, a new one came into focus.

Third Grade.

I have only taught K-2 intervention.  Not third.  But here it is.  And it is outside my comfort zone.

One positive...the third graders know me and I know them.  The content is what frightens me and "the test."  So I step back and remember that I believe in my philosophy and my ultimate goal is build up children that want and love to read.

I take a breath.

Then I decided to take another step outside my box.  Sketchnoting.  There are a couple students that could really benefit from this as a way to support comprehension while reading fiction and nonfiction books.  I am no expert on this matter because my brain is still learning how to take notes this way.  But, through Tanny McGregor, I was able to get us started.  Her new book just came out and I am excited to dig in and help these students dig deeper into the books that they read.

Once I feel a bit more confident in my sketchnoting, I will post some tips for your readers.  If you have used anything like this with your readers, please share any tips you may have!

Oct 22, 2018

Notes for Students

This summer when Em and I were presenting in Vegas, an attendee gave us an idea for celebrating students and building a relationship.  What she does is label envelopes with each child's name at the beginning of the quarter. Then, she pulls a few a week and writes a personal letter to each one of them.  After that, I believe she mailed them to the students. 

So I decided to give this a try during our first quarter. I wrote each name of our firsties on an envelope and each week I would pull out a few envelopes and write to those kiddos.  This year has been a very trying year on me emotionally, so to find the good in each student was a great exercise for me, an important one.  But as I was handing out the envelopes, I started to realize, it wasn't just for me.  I overheard students telling each other what "could be" in their letter because they had already received one and how their parents really enjoyed reading them too. (although... if it's not addressed to them, can they legally look at it?!?!?! hahaha)  This is just a note to one of our firsties.  I hope this will inspire you to maybe start addressing some envelopes.

I'm already looking forward to addressing my envelopes for the 2nd quarter.  What about you? 

Oct 11, 2018

Using Diverse Books as Educators

Using diverse texts in the classroom is not a new concept, by any means.  I remember having an entire class on the use of multicultural books back in college (ummmm...20 years ago); however, as we grow and change, as educators, the way we utilize books in the classroom and in our lives may have evolved.

Diverse Books for Educators

Last year I joined a Diverse Book Club with some teachers from my school district.  There were eight of us and we were on a mission to read books that would help us to be a bit more empathetic, a bit more sensitive, a bit smarter, a bit more aware to the lives of others, especially the students and families we work to support.

What happened is...it changed me.

Before Reading

It starts with the construction of a book list.  The diverse stories chosen need to be...well...diverse.  Not just about skin color or race.  But also socio-economic status, gender, mental illness, incarceration, immigration, etc, etc, etc...  Each one of our students has a unique story.  As educators, we want to understand their background (or possibly their future) the best that we can.  I have included two pages of diverse book choices.  The book, topic, and supportive texts have been listed.

Diverse book list for Educators

Once the books are selected, a bookmark can be made to ensure everyone in the club knows what to read.  Here is the bookmark from our first year.

Diverse Book Club for Educators

You can create your own bookmark with this editable bookmark.  Just insert your images, print, and laminate.

Editable book mark for a Diverse Book Club

During Reading

Everyone reads in their own way.  E-Books, purchased book, library book, or audio book are all options, but you have to find what works for you.  Some people like to Post-it note their books, write inside them, take notes, or just mentally soak up the story.  None of these choices are wrong.  But here is a sheet that may help you to formulate your thoughts as you read these diverse texts.  It can also prepare you for your club meeting.

Diverse Book Club form and book ideas

K-Sometimes we think we may know a lot about a particular topic.  Jot these ideas down because you may soon learn through reading that there was still so much to learn.

H-Many times you will grow through the feelings that these diverse books generate.  Writing down these feelings may help you to sort through what you've learned.

L-The language used by the author or some of the content mentioned may be new or significant to you.  That can lead to a great discussion in book club.

Q-Write down any questions that come to mind.  This will greatly help support a strong conversation when meeting with your book club friends.

And finally, at the bottom there is room to write down any books that come to mind that may follow up on the diverse topic.

After Reading

Now it is time to meet!  It is helpful to choose a fun (but quiet) place.  You can even change it up each month.  Try coffee shops, outdoor patios, wine bars, or take turns going to each others' houses.  It really helps to choose one person to bring a list of book club questions or ideas for discussion.  This keeps the conversation going.

A few other things that we have done as a book club:
  • Watched the adaptation together
  • Attended an author's talk
  • Exchanged diverse books (Christmas in July)

One Final Note

I was really excited to join the book club that my teammate decided to start.  Meeting once a month to talk about books and our students sounded like so much fun to me.  But I would have never guessed that it would have actually CHANGED me.  It is nothing visual that you can notice on the outside of me.  But it is certainly something that I can feel on the inside. I smile a tad bit more at strangers.  I am a bit more patient with my students.  And I, for sure, have more empathy for fellow humans.

If you have any books that you would like to recommend to my book club, we are always looking for suggestions.  But I hope these freebies can help you get started.  Click on any of the images to utilize the freebie, or pin for later.

Diverse Book Club for Educators freebiesDiverse Book Club for Educators

Head on over to the next stop on these diverse book blog tour!

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