Saturday, September 20, 2014

Empty Cereal Boxes.?...... SAVE THEM!

For the last two years, our firsties have stored their writing in binders.  Last year my desks got a little crammy (is that even a word?) with four binders in there, so this year I decided to change things up.  Fingers crossed this will work. :)  I'm still using binders for each writer, but this year as a portfolio.  I'm storing these.... well somewhere, I guess I should figure this out too.  Thank goodness for this blog hop, maybe I'll find an idea.:)

So, I felt like I needed to be creative with the space inside of our student desks since up to four children could potentially be sharing one.  .....IDEA ALERT......How many of you out there love a good bowl of cereal? Can I get a woot, woot?!?  My family would eat cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday if I let them.  I can't say that I'm against this practice, so we eat cereal at least once, maybe twice, but NEVER three times, per day. Except on the days we do because that's how we roll. :) With so much cereal eating going on, I had the *bright idea* to start using those boxes instead of recycling them. The Family Size cereal boxes seem to work best.  I may or may not have put that size on our grocery list more than one time this summer. Don't judge, I just love me some cereal!  :)

All you need to do is cut off the flaps at the top and voila.... storage solution!  Currently we are fitting two folders and two notebooks in each box. 

Since this idea came to me a little late this summer, I sent out an email to our district begging pleading kindly asking for the Family Size Cereal boxes.  Through this email I found another teacher whose family needs to go with my family to Cereal Eaters Anonymous. This gave me about 12 extra boxes, but still less than the like 46 boxes I needed to put two in each desk. Luckily, our principal also had a few of the magazine boxes (like the book boxes many of you have from Ikea) laying around, so I offered to take those off her hands since I couldn't shove any more cereal down our girls throats.

 Both of these guys work amazingly for storing our "magic".
Happy Organizing!

If you would like more bright ideas, please join me on TPT.

For more than over 100 other Bright Ideas, please check out the links below.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Thanks for this great link up Miss DeCarbo!

 What is one of your favorite things about fall?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Thank You Letters
I have many thanks to give this weekend!

Dear Bengals,
Thank you for winning today!  You made our little home very happy today.
Your loyal fans

Dear  my kindergarten and first grade Reading teachers,
Thank you for working to meet the needs of my little reader. I know she is going to learn so much and benefit from all your teaching.  I am very grateful.
Thank you,
A very grateful Mom

Dear Husband,
Thank you so much for bringing the t.v. outside because I thought it would be nice to sit in the sun and watch the football game, while setting up my Aimsweb goals.  And on top of had a fire going!  What a great way to work today.
Love love love!
Your happy wife

Dear Honey Baked Ham store,
Thank you for your classic ham sandwich. You made our Saturday night very delicious.  And the honey mustard...perfect combination!
A satisfied consumer

Dear Amanda and Chrissy,
Thank you for spending time with me this weekend.  It was so nice to walk, chat, and eat!  Coffee, pizza, cobb salad, and Jenni's ice cream....WOW! What a great way to spend a Saturday.
Your friend

Dear PBS,
You have made such a positive impact on our family.  It has evolved and changed over the years.  Letters and numbers have been learned though you.  Curiosity has been impacted.  Many facts have been discussed over the dinner table from your shows.  Most recently, Peep and The Big Wide World has been a favorite. It encouraged my children to build a dam this weekend with the hose, sticks, twigs, rocks, and mud.  It was such a great learning experience.
So Appreciate,
A Teacher and Mom

Have a great week!!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Failing but Growing

Failing.  It is a scary (kind of frantic) feeling to me.  I want a fix and I want it right...NOW!

I know my kids are missing number sense.  I know it.  I see it.  They just don't have the flexibility and fluency with those numbers.  And it is something that I started to really focus on last year with number bracelets, dot cards, rekenreks (although I didn't know how to use one), and the list goes on.  But I know there is more to learn because the gaps are still there.  The fluency...not there. 

So what do I do?  Read.  I read, discuss, plan, talk, create, ask questions.  I did this all last year, all summer, and I will continue to do it this year.

But our guided math groups were in full force this week (minus some district testing).  I had some ideas on what I wanted to put into place this year.  I had this sense of urgency.  And you know failed.  The kids just did not quite get what I was trying to do with them.

The frantic feelings set in.

Then I sat down tonight.  I took a step back.  And I thought about what I know.  I can see where my short-comings were this week.  I can see that I jumped in with my clothes on!  And I forgot some other important steps.

Then come the negative feelings that I wasted time (insert many other things I was thinking)....but then I came across a post from Mrs. Meacham.  It reminded me of a speech that I heard years ago. The speaker explained that our brains get stronger with effort.  Not correct answers.  But effort.

The silly thing is...I KNOW this.  I didn't forget this speech.  I end each and every group with an "Effort Rubric."  Students rate themselves on how much effort they put forth. We actually talk about how their effort makes their brain stronger.

All of this talk to my students....and I forget to apply this same knowledge to myself.

But life is funny that way.  We get the reminders when we need them most.  Here is the article that Mrs. Meachma posted.  There is a video to accompany it.  One statement that really struck me in the article was this: "....praising someone’s process (“I really like how you struggled with that problem”) versus praising an innate trait or talent (“You’re so clever!”) is one way to reinforce a growth ­mindset with someone."

The article: The Learning Myth

 My brain grew a little stronger tonight.  Tomorrow is a new day and I am ready to put forth that effort.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Let's Get This Party Started!

There's a party in my classroom, ladies!  This party is one I like to call..... Writers Workshop.  We have been setting up rules, routines, and procedures and my firsties are ready to rock and roll!  :)  Practice makes perfect, right?!?  So today, we practiced.  And tomorrow???? We'll practice.  And everyday for the rest of their firstie lives..... we'll practice.  :) 

Here's a little bit of our practice. Our firsties have been given time to "free write" which doesn't happen that often in our writers workshop. 

A giant was attacking the castle.

I went to Kings Island. I rode the Banshee.
Dear Kindergarten Teachers,
Thank YOU!  I can't wait to see what else these guys write!

Our writers workshop has only three rules.  Yep, that's right, three rules.  That's about all I can muster and it's about all our firsties can handle too.  Unlike my colleagues who introduce reading strategies that the kiddos come up with, ( You can read that amazing post HERE. ) I haven't figured out how to let my kiddos come up with the rules probably because I'm a teeny, tiny control freak.  I'm not afraid to admit it because..... well there are certain things I can control and others I can't, so the rules.... I make them.  I'm not ashamed friends. 


We like to write our rule on the white board first before I make my chart because I see four classes of firsties each day. (Don't judge, I know that rule #3 is missing an 's', but as you will read in a sentence or two, I was under the influence of heat exhaustion.) We introduce ONE rule per day.  That's all we can handle.  Especially when it's 1,000 degrees in my classroom and I have to beg, plead, and kindly (in my mommy voice) ask children not to put their heads on the desks because seriously, it's H.O.T. for EVERYONE. Also, our firsties sit in air conditioning 3 out of their 4 classes, but me, no air, so I don't feel sorry for them except for a tiny little bit. :)   After we talk about the rule and what it looks like, sounds, like, etc. we like to put a motion and a picture to it as well,  just in case we forget what the words say, that picture.... it's priceless.  As Em said in one of her other posts, we read Smarter Charts and this book TOTALLY changed they way I think about my charts.  Hence... the colorless pic on the right as well as the simplistic drawings. 

There you have it friends. Now you know our secret to a happy, utopic Writers Workshop.  :)  And for sticking with me I have these rules as a FREEBIE for you! :)  One version has simple pictures, one with no pics and one paper is for cutting them up and putting them into your writer's notebook. :)
Click on the first picture or click right HERE. :)

Happy Writing!!!!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Very Specific Interest Surveys--for--FREE

Interest Surveys....
I have to admit.  I have never found one that I just fell in love with.  I'm, love, love, can't teach without it.  It can be tricky.  They are at different stages in their learning.  Some can write short answers about what they like or don't like.  Some can get a beginning sound down.

I know there are some out there to meet my ever-changing needs.  But I just have not found it, yet.

So what is a teacher to do?

Make one...or...two.

Since we are departmentalized and I am a floating teacher that goes where the need is, I work with the same and different kids in math and reading.  And I want to know different things about their interests in math and reading.

The reading one was easy for me.  I knew what I wanted to know.  Basically, I want to know if they like reading, if they read at home, and some preferences.  But I work with struggling readers.  I need the survey to be short, sweet, and easy.  No frustration, please!!!  Here is what I came up with:

 After putting it to the test, I liked it.  Karen read "Wild About Books" before she gave the survey and highly recommended this.  She said it tied in nicely.  I wanted to pass that little tip along :)

Then there was math....

This was not as easy for me to wrap my brain around.  What I really wanted to know was how they interact with math in their everyday lives.  But I just did not know what kinds of questions would lead me to this answer.  So what did I do?

Texted Natalie (my teammate that now lives in Indiana.)

I knew she would have the answer.  Her brain just works that way.  And...yep...I was right.  She sent me a LONG text of possible questions.  This helped me get started.  I was happy with the result.

I was able to find out who plays board games at home, which students have piggy banks, if they help to cook, if they have siblings that they share with, and many other little facts.  Each question gave me some insight or glimpse into their math lives.

It was fun.  They got to know me a little and I got to know them.

I may just have some interest surveys that I love, love, love now :)  Do you have one that you really like?

If not, you can grab either of these for free by clicking on the pictures above or the links below:
Guided Math Interest Survey
Guided Reading Interest Survey

You can also see these surveys here:

Friday, September 5, 2014

And We're Off

Testing is done...well except for those Aimsweb tests that will be completed by a team of retired teachers.  CHAMPs expectations and procedures have been taught and practiced.  Switching classes has been implemented.  And this was the first week of a normal schedule (minus fire drills, Labor Day, and a Puppy Den vertical meeting.)  Okay...we will call it a normal-ish schedule.  Our firsties did a great job switching classes for the first time and we had a lot of fun setting up some of the concepts that we want to hit hard this year.

Last year I mentioned that we had read "Smarter Charts" by Martinelli and Mraz.  It played a role in how we presented our reading strategies, math strategies, rules, and other charts throughout the year.  Reflecting back now, I can see the impact that it really did make on our students last year.  They did not just refer to the reading strategy posters hanging up...they really took ownership over them.  The math strategies...they knew them!  I could really see the big difference that some of our small changes made.

So we did it again.

First of all, you must know, I have used the same reading strategy posters for many, many, many years. (This was before my discovery of TPT and all things pretty.)  They looked like this:

 They got the job done.  The strategy was listed and there was a picture clue to help the kids out.  I had these as small posters hanging up, sheets for them to keep in their desks, bookmarks were made for them to take home, and parent sheets were printed and sent home.  They got the job done.

But (as I mentioned) Karen and I decided to change.  We wanted the kids to own these strategies more.  We wanted them to feel like THEY came up with them.  So that is what we did.

I stood in front of those little firsties and told them that they WILL get stuck on words this year.  I reassured them that our room is a safe place and that as learners, we have to get stuck.  Because when we get stuck, we learn how to get unstuck.  I explained that Karen and I get stuck on words all the time and our brains have strategies to solve the problem.  But we needed their help to write these strategies down so that we can all use them.

And we're off...they are hooked and ready to help.

Karen sat at the document camera with her very loved Curious George book.

She read and we watched.  We listened.  When she got stuck, we were quiet and examined what she did to solve the problem.  Once the problem was solved, our firsties helped to name that strategy.  It took some encouraging but they got it.  After the strategy had a name, we needed a picture.  They came up with this too.  Here is what the first one looked like:

 We continued with this same routine for each strategy that we wanted to hit.  It took about 2 1/2 sessions for all the strategies to be complete.  But it was worth it!  The kids were making connections between the strategies and talking about how some can be used at the same time.

Now what? Well...I have to make them look a tad bit prettier.  That is my weekend job.  I've started...

I hope we see the same type of results that we did last year.
How do you teach your reading strategies?