Friday, January 4, 2013

If I knew then what I know now.... The year that was 2012

So I'm making a tentative return to blogging!

2012 was not what one would call "my year".... everything that was on the plan, professionally, socially, personally fell through...and fell through in big, disappointing, cry your heart out ways....However, after all the plans fell through, everything that I was left with "off plan" was way better than I could have imagined.

So for the blog, I felt overwhelmed with what to write, but after reading lots and lots about blogs I realized I need to narrow my focus. I am a certified reading teacher, I love reading, I went to Columbia University to Teachers College to study readers workshop under Lucy Caulkins. So that's what I'm going to do..and make it easy for you to replicate in your classroom.

What you will not find..... cutesty worksheets, cutting activities, things that I could probably make money on- on Teachers Pay Teachers.

If you came into my classroom as an observer you may in some sense be bored because most of the time my kids are just sitting and reading. Not doing stations, or centers, art projects, fine motor skills...just sitting with books, pencils, stickies and having a blast!!!

So that brings me to my post "If I knew then what I know now..." If I could tell first year teacher Sarah Kate one thing I would have told her, set up reading partners!


Let me tell you something...... you are NOT the only teacher in the room. Little Johnny has 20+ other teachers in your classroom.

When you constantly answer all your students questions and come swooping into help them, you are subconsciously setting them up to think "Gee I need Ms. Teacher to do this with me, I CANNOT do this on my own...." and any good teacher does NOT want that!

Partnerships are not done willy-nilly and are semi-permanent (yes months and months!).

Partnerships are based on reading level, needs and personality.  In my case we use the DRA, so my students are grouped by level (or in some cases with a child who is a level above/below them). Partnerships can be two or three students.

I set up my partnerships the first week of school and by week 3 they were locked in. We just changed them today, so they had the same partner for 70 days!!!! 70 days and not once did they complain about their partners!!

Why keep them together so long? Why base them on levels?

Would you want to have a book club on home entertainment with Martha Stewart? Would you want to read a Physics Magazine with Sheldon Cooper? Probably not, we have the best conversations and discussions with people who are operating in our zone of proximal development (not too far ahead, not too low). This way no one is forging the path dragging the other partner along through the mud.

Think about some of the best relationships in your life. How long have you known that person? How deeply do you know that person? In order for kids to have in depth conversations about books, they have to be comfortable and they have to have some similarities. By getting to know their partner they develop similarities, they know Sarah has a dog and two sisters just like the character in their book and they develop a bond...which helps promote deep conversation.

If I could get all teachers to do one thing in their room it would be reading partners, by level, for about 10 minutes EVERYDAY! More on my partner love later, but for now...

Peace, Love and Reading!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Instead of a marble jar....

My friend, Ammie over at Giggles and Squeals, suggested that for my Up themed classroom I might want to have my class earn badges.

My first thought was 7 year old me earning my girl scout badges and all I could think was up keep (18 kids x 35 badges x coloring x pasting on to something= me going crazy)..... then I remembered that I had bought these new snazzy markers (that I'd been looking for-for the last 6 years, literally- 6 years).

They are Crayola magic writers which I found at Target and were marked--made especially for Target (I should have bought 2 packages, I digress....) So I made my badge sheet and then "colored" some of the badges with the "magic" marker, that is white and colors clear.

(You could use the "Overwriter Markers" by Crayola just make sure they always use the color end and not the "white end".)

Now when the whole class is on task, make it to the carpet, sign up for lunch etc. I choose a name from our cup of sticks and that person gets to color any badge of their choice. IF they color a badge and changes color the class earns an instant prize (class game, free time, extra computer lab, homework pass). Although not always instant, can't just go barging into the computer lab unannounced but we write the reward on the board until it's done. When the whole badge board is filled, we earn a reward day (game day, pajamas, a movie etc.)

I have to say, my students are loving it. I'm loving it and not having to be emptying and filling the marble jar all the time is nice. This is total self sufficient on the kids :)

Class Badges

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Got freebies?

Classroom freebies
Love teaching? Like freebies?

If you're into blogging I think this is the NEW place to be. Go over and check it out. It's a lot of great bloggers, making posts and dropping freebies off.

Isn't that a drag when you find something great and you click on it and it takes you to TPT. Really people if we worked in your building you know you'd hand that over for free :)

Go over and check it out!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Welcome back me! And a lesson about friendship!

Sorry for the departure from the blog world....but having a student teacher is a lot of work! I love working with her and she is great! I have a lot more "free time at work" with her teaching, but imagine that something always pops up and my time is filled.... Pretty much when she is teaching I work like a para, as my kiddos this year can benefit from the extra pair of hands. So I'm going to try and blog once a week about something from the classroom here is my first post back---

As part of Responsive Classroom, we work a lot on community and friendship at the beginning of the year.

My general rule for the students is this; We are a family in room 12. You do not have to be best friends with everyone in the room. You may not enjoy everyone in this room. You do not have to love them, but you MUST be respectful and kind to them.

I happen to see this video clip on CBS Sunday morning...which is one of my favorite programs. Anyways we start out by talking how a dog and elephant are alike and different we make a list on the Smartboard. We actual use the Venn digram to do it. The kids look at me like I'm a nut elephants and dogs....but once they see the video they get it really quickly (and they love it). I print out the Venn diagram and post in the room all year, so we can refer back to it as needed.

Then I ask students do you think a dog and elephant can be friends in real life? and most students say no. Then we watch this video clip...

It is a great lesson in looking past our differences to become friends, and of course a good animal story and what kid (and sappy teacher) doesn't love that? What do techniques/stories do you use to promote friendship in your classroom!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

When you're not managing the kids...manage the adults (and the schedules!)

A question to blog land... how do you manage adults and schedules?

Last year I had a class of 18, while I did have kids in RTI, I did not have any children that qualified for services. So it was all 18 of us, 5 days a week pull out, no picks up, no schedules to combine, no and the kids.

This year the pendulum has swung. Without getting into too much detail, I have 18 kids this year and have the following adults in and out of my room on a daily/weekly/hourly basis...
Special Ed teacher
Speech/Language teacher
OT/PT teacher
ELL teacher
Remedial Reading teacher student teacher (and me too!) At one point today there were 5 adults in my room. A total of 23 people, it was starting to feel crowded!

Obviously children need their services. Obviously we all work hard to cut down on overlaps in the schedule. But how do you manage the adults?

I know that by the 100th the door has opened this week, my student will stop turning around to see who it is. We did make a chart of who is who in our room and why they are here because it really is a steady stream of adults in and out.

However, call me crazy, I feel like I need to have some adult rules. Like if you're going to discuss schedule conflicts about another room- go outside. If you can't find a piece of equipment, can you whisper when you come in to find it?

I suppose as the year goes on the kids will get to know who's leaving when and just go with it, but it still feels like we are jump starting the mower some days.

So my question to you is--how do you manage the adults/schedules that come through your classroom everyday?

(Side note: I have dealt with the schedule circus 7 years ago during my student teaching. I had 27 5th grade student. 5 of them special ed. with 2 full time paras plus other services. That seemed easier to deal with than the parade now. Also, I'm SUPER happy I have so much help in my room. SO THANKFUL....just looking for a better and more efficient way get from 9:00 to 3:25 from my students and myself)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


What is cuter than an old men, a talking dog, a crazy bird and a boy scout?
Answer: Nothing! And that's why Up is the best movie ever!
I think I have a special connection with the movie Up, because of Carl's loss. I lost my Mom in 2006 after a very courageous battle with breast cancer. My Mom was my best friend. The theme in Up, that Carl and Ellie had a great life go have an adventure of your own is the true essence of life. We will all have heart aches but we will move forward, remembering those people as we have new adventures and create new important friendships and bonds. I feel that way especially this time of year as my Mom's birthday is this week, she would have been 51. It makes me want to have adventures that she won't be able to have.
However, Dug the talking dog is probably the cutest thing ever...reminds me of someone one I know...
If Halle could talk, I'm 1000% sure she'd sound like Dug. "Oh Mommy, I love you feed me more biscuits!" (And Lord look at all that SNOW....remember that mess!!!)
So while I was in Disney this summer I managed to find a talking Dug stuffed animal for my classroom and some Up pins.
I also ordered some craft sticks from Amazon (dogs and cats, luckily my teaching neighbor Gail said she'd buy the cats off of me because I'm not using them). So now we all have Dug name sticks. I plan on letting the kiddos decorate these during the first couple days of school with Cayola markers (I may regret that idea).
My amazing sisters help me tweak my Up bulletin board idea. I made the banner in Swift Publisher (Mac Publisher) and I Google imaged the house and blew it up with the copier..that took a bit of work. I made balloon tracers, cut out the balloons and Viola! what a cute bulletin board if I do say so myself!
I also downloaded the Up Soundtrack from iTunes and will play it during writers workshop and silent reading time. I also have steel drum music that I play during these times too.
One of our class jobs this year will be to take home our stuffed animal Dug. I used to use a bear, but one of my teacher friend's daughters suggested sending him home! So Take Home Dug is my newest Job.
Finally I list my students alphabetically by first name, and next to each persons name I put a balloon, to continue with our balloon theme.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A blog to check out...

To my faithful followers.... please head on over to Giggles and Squeals to check out my buddy Ammie's teacher blog.

Ammie has been blogging for a while, but this blog is dedicated to teachers and the trade. She is a great teacher and has lots of great ideas! Go check her out, become a follower, grab her button... you know the drill!

Enjoy your Labor Day!!