Five for Friday on a Saturday

Last weekend, I had a bachelorette party. It was no ordinary bachelorette. She requested we dress up like old ladies for a vineyard/winery tour. It was so fun to see and hang out with some old high school friends. We found it crazy to think that our 10 year reunion will be here in 2 years... yikes!! Hopefully we'll still all look this good ;)

Back in the classroom...
Have I told you that I'm IN LOVE with my class?? They seriously are the best. So eager, so caring, so fun... it'll be a good year (I hope I'm not jinxing myself) Here, we learned a new math game that works for basic facts. We are starting with addition and subtraction and will use it again when we do multiplication and division. We've learned 4 card games and 1 dice game so far and they are loving them! They don't even realize they are doing math.

We've also started our first writing unit: personal narratives. This group is fearless! They LOVE writing! Many say it's their favorite part of the day. My little teacher heart even melted when one student said they use to hate writing, but they love doing it now. They are so proud of what they've done so far and I already have seen AMAZING growth from their first on-demand writing sample. Here, they were writing a goal for themselves for this unit. We've studied other 3rd grade exemplars and have read Owl Moon and charted what we noticed to help them set a goal for their own personal narratives this time around. We taped them into our binder as a reminder!

We also started health. I am loving the new features HealthTeacher has added (that is our curriculum- it's all online resources- really, it's pretty awesome). This first unit we are doing is personal care. Here, they were practicing flossing. I gave them a piece of yarn and their partner's hand became the teeth. It worked great for them to practice the motions and how to move the floss down one side of the tooth and up another. And no one tried to use the yarn in their mouth. Win!

In my class, each student has a job. For these first 4 weeks, they had the same job so that they got really good at it. Now, they are applying for their job for this first trimester. They walked around and interviewed the current person in the position they wanted to get some tips on doing the job well. 
 Then, they had to rank their top 3 choices and give me a detailed explanation as to why I should hire them for that job. This friend had quite a lot to say... he had to use the back. We had to make sure we practice our class mantra- "You get what you get, and you appreciate it." I told them they might not get any of their top choices this time, but that we'll do this again for 2nd trimester. 

With my students, it's been a great week. But it's also been a very stressful week. 3 of my preps were taken from me this week for meetings, I was at school from 7 am to 7 pm 3 nights this week for more meetings, family nights, and committees, plus we've been trying to get ready for our intervention block that is starting next week. On top of that, my news of my grandpa's cancer returning and the fact that he doesn't have a whole lot of time left with us has been weighing on my heart a lot. I'm very grateful for this weekend with no major plans so I can just rest. I'm also grateful that I have kiddos this year who are so sweet and make a lot of these harder times worth it. They keep me going.



Reading Salad: Making Sense of Reading

So. I'm going to get real for a minute. We follow Lucy Calkin's Readers and Writers Workshop. And it is a struggle. The language she uses and the strategies she suggests are just a little unattainable for my 3rd graders. This year over half of my class are ELs. Scaffolding is huge and necessary. And although the idea of her work seems great, I just don't find that it translates very well into my room... but I've gotta do it so I'm trying to do it well and modify along the way.

Ok confession over.

Now moving on.

We've started our workshop and I've been trying to balance the Lucy and Me. The plus sides: my students are feeling successful. I'm trying to praise the crap out of everything they do so that they want to keep doing it. And I have to say, it's working. I even had a parent at our first ever parent night say, "I don't know how you did it, but you turned this girl into an avid reader in less than 3 weeks. I couldn't even get her to open a book this summer without a struggle." That is music to my little teacher ears. So I'm doing something right. But- now that we have a start on some positive reading habits (which I do like how Lucy starts with that), now comes the complicated thinking, genre studies, and of course-preparation for the state test (sad face).

So when we were approaching our lesson on jotting and holding onto mean, I felt a little lost. Until this magical post popped up on my bloglovin' feed:

Before you read my post any further, I highly suggest you cruise over to Lori's blog (click either picture above) and read about her lesson. I adapted it to fit my needs but the concept pretty much remained the same.

Here's how I did it.

During our read aloud of Stone Fox, I told students that whenever they were really picturing something, to raise their hand and share. We had been talking a lot about envisioning, so that is why I went with this route. I also said that if they noticed they were thinking at all about the text, to raise their hand and share. At first, I don't think they realized how they naturally think during reading (which is why I like this lesson- it made their thinking "more concrete"). Once I modeled, they started to notice their own thinking more and bam, we came up with this after reading only 2 pages:

Don't judge my chicken scratch. When I'm scribing what the students say on the board during a lesson, I rush. Do as I say, not as I do, right kids??
They didn't know why I had a lettuce leaf and tomato slice yet. But after this, I grabbed my big salad bowl. And I made the connection. It went a little something like this:

Me: "Who likes to eat plain ol' lettuce?"

Students: Only one raised his hand. Many groaned.

Me: "But if we are making a salad, would you say lettuce is an important ingredient?"

Students: "Ya!!!"

Me: "I agree. But on my salad, I enjoy other toppings to really make it juicy and to make it taste good. Reading is the same way. We need the author's words (the text aka the lettuce) to tell the story. But our thoughts are what makes the reading so exciting... it makes the story juicy. Let's take a look at your thinking during our read aloud."

Me: "What type of thought was this first thought?" (note- the red words weren't on the board yet).

Students: New tricky word.

Me: I grabbed some ripped up brown paper and called them croutons and mixed them into our salad bowl with our lettuce.

We repeated this with each of their thoughts... I was so impressed that they naturally came up with different types of thinking while reading and we continued to add "cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, and ranch" to our salad.

They got it. They got the connection. We need the text to help create our juicy ideas. So we started with this chart

And they helped me build it to really hit it home.

Instead of saying lettuce is the text, we said it was what we envisioned. The text helps you envision, and it's important that you are able to picture what your book is about.

We came up with some other words that meant about the same thing. Those are supposed to be lettuce leaves. Did I tell you I kinda whipped this altogether over my lunch that day?

Then for our tomatoes, we wrote down the different types of thoughts we might have while reading the text.

Here's the best part. That day, I put out lettuce leaves and tomato slices on their desks at reading time and had students write what they were picturing on the lettuce leaves and any thoughts they had on a tomato slice. The last two years, whenever we started jotting on post-its all I got was retell moments. And it seemed to take forever for students to see the difference between the authors words and their thoughts. This helped nip that problem right in the butt. I looked over the lettuce and tomato jottings and sure enough, students used them in the correct way! And those that didn't, my amazing coteacher pulled right away and worked with them in a strategy group to clarify. I can't wait for out next lesson on merging the two... we're going to call them "letatoes"...onto a post-it (text evidence plus idea). I can't wait to see how it transfers over.

And the cherry on top- students were so proud when we "mixed" up their lettuce and tomatoes into the salad bowl after their reading that day and saw their awesome reading salad. They were so proud and asked if we could do it everyday. Lucky for them...

Thanks Lori for the perfect post at the perfect time to help make this concept more attainable for my kiddos (not to mention more fun)!



Keeping 'Em Engaged... Keeping Me Accountable

Today, I have a quick post on some things I have right up in my teaching space to not only keep students engaged during whole group lessons, but also to keep me accountable that I am being purposeful and thoughtful in my classroom management.

My Control Center
I'm breaking this space down a bit to show you each of the roles these lil' tools play in keeping our lessons cruising and my students engaged. Some things to note in this above pictures:
My Partner Sticks, Dice, and Pick-a-Sticks
My Partner Sticks allow me to put kids into random groups easily. My dice have animal stickers on on them. Each student has an animal sticker on their name tag. These are great for when I'm dismissing students or having students collect materials by just rolling the dice and calling out the animal group. My Pick-a-Stick jar just has student names on them that I pull to answer questions or as a 'fair' way to choose someone for a task. 
This is one of my attention signals. I just play a little pattern and it instantly quiets them. I don't have a mallet, but my markers do the trick. It's the perfect size and hangs on the wall using a command hook.
Marker Holder
I'll never loose my markers again, as this perfect magnetic caddy holds different sized whiteboard markers, eraser and other response protocols we have introduced yet.

Response Protocols
One thing I am AWFUL at is letting my students know how I want them to respond to my questions. A lot of these strategies are from the CLR book we read last year as a building; others are things I've seen on Pinterest, through RC trainings or from other teachers in my building. It helps to have them all posted in one spot for me as a reminder for all the ways I could have students respond. Some are meant just for one or two to respond to a question while others are for whole group sharing (typically when there is only one right answer). I now point to the one I want them to respond with which keeps them on their toes. Kate (my teammate) used paint chips and that did the trick also!

Attention Signals
 The key to a good attention signal is to use it enough where kids are familiar with it, but not too often that it looses its effectiveness. To combat overusing signals, I record them onto this little chart I made so that I can easily glance throughout the day and be like, "Oh ya, I forgot about that one!" When we learn a new one, we add it to the chart. This is great also for other teachers who are in my room as they know what signals will get my students attention.

Morning Meeting Greetings and Activities
Ugh. I have a love-hate relationships with morning meetings. It's getting better, but I always dread deciding what activity and greeting to do. I have started to pass the responsibility to my Morning Meeting Leader on some days but these little charts have really helped me to keep track of things we've learned to make it a little less painful. I got this idea from my awesome teammate, Kate. It is also nice to walk into her room and see which ones she's taught her class because then it reminds me!

So this has become one of my favorite spaces in my room because it really helps keep my teaching fresh which helps my students be engaged. It's a win-win!



Reading Accountability through Book Logs

I'm really trying to instill a love for reading this year. Well, I obviously always try to do this, but I'm really trying to be extra enthusiastic and really put an immense sense of urgency when it's reading time to help students really buy into the importance of building healthy reading habits. Because of this, I did some thinking about my book log and I'm excited to see how it goes.

Now, I can't take credit for all the ideas in this post. My awesome team members came up with some great ideas to try this year, so I'll make sure I give them credit where credit's due.

Instilling a Sense of Urgency and Importance
#1Class Read Aloud Book Log
My teammate had the idea to record our class read alouds on a book log for a few reasons. 1) As a daily reminder on how to fill out the book log so that when students do it independently, it becomes very natural and clear. 2) It allows me to "practice what I preach" 3) It's fun to look at how we get through books and to reflect on our reading life as a class. So I created my own book log where we will record our reading of read alouds.

Our class log has the same features that they need to fill out on their individual one and in the same order to minimize confusion.

#2 Individual Book Logs
Not only did I change my layout of my book log for students this year, but also my attitude towards it. In the past, students had to turn in their book log every week on Fridays with parent initials. I found a lot of times that students either didn't turn it in or families just 'fudged' the minutes read because they didn't want their child to get in trouble. This goes against one of our ways to make reading the "best" it can be: be honest about your reading. So I took off parent initials and no longer require students to turn in their log on a weekly basis. I'm hoping that by doing this, students really decide to take their reading lives into their own hands and want to fill it out because they see value in it. Now, I'll still take notes on those who don't bring it to and from school (that's new too- I'm only having one log for both school and home as opposed to one for school and one for home) and those who don't do it, well then I need to find out why and help support them. But I'm hoping that this new approach will instill urgency within themselves as opposed to pressure from me or their families.

Here's my log for this first unit of study. They just got these last week so we'll see how the first week goes with them.

#3 Rubric
To really drive home the urgency and importance of this log, I created a visual rubric that I'm going to reference all the time.

When I showcased and explained this last week, they were so excited to become apple trees (you'll get it a little later). One of our PDs at the beginning of the school year was to create rubrics for different things introduced and assessed in this first unit and (for once) I remembered to pull that out and put it to use and am SO glad I did. I'm banking on this tool and my class book log to motivate students to fill theirs out. Since we are going with the "thriving and growing" theme this year, and the fact we study seeds in science, I used the seed analogy as a scale as opposed to numbers.

It's funny how after just one day logged, students thought they were a tree or apple tree already. So we talked a lot about what a "tree" log would look like vs. a "seedling" log or an "apple" log. We'll revisit it often and I hope to use our class log as an exemplar.

Call me hopeful (or maybe just plain crazy) but fingers crossed that this new approach to my book log will only help strengthen my students in their reading and begin to foster a love of it.



Anchors Away: Kicking Off Reader's Workshop

I've been absent all summer from Deb's awesome anchor chart linky. Now that school is back in session, I am hopeful that I'll be able to participate more. I'm sharing a few charts that we've created over the last 2 weeks to launch our Reader's Workshop and begin to rebuild our reading lives.

On day one of our RW lessons, we talked about stamina as all we did that day was sit and read. A lot of my students did not read on a daily basis over summer, so we just focused on dedicating time to reading. I snagged the idea of this chart from {here} but the kiddos came up with responses (hence my messy handwriting as I scribed).

Here's where we are at with our stamina. We had a major drop on Friday because we had other events that cut into our reading time that day, but we are slowly get towards our 40 minute goal.

We graph it on our SMARTboard at the end of each RW day.
We then thought about times when reading was THE BEST and when reading was the pits. We charted out what makes reading THE BEST it can be and we've already started working towards many of these with other lessons.

We then discussed what our reading time was going to look like and we focused a good chunk of what independent reading time would look like, sound like and feel like. I had to refer to this chart quite a bit for a few friends, but for the most part, they're getting it.

We also had the important talk about just right books and we made this chart. I modeled reading a book that was too hard and had them share what they heard and saw. We then recorded that. I repeated it with a book that was just right. We then spent a large part of our independent reading time testing out our current books and making the decision if the books we had were just right or not. I hate squashing some of their dreams when they have to put the book they started working on back in the bin because it is too hard, so we phrase it as a "goal" book, meaning, it is a book we are going to work towards and try again later in the year to see how far we've come. This usually makes it a little less painful.

So there we are- off and running. Oh and I have told you that I absolutely LOVE my class??? They are the sweetest bunch yet, full of personality and oh so willing to comply with any of my demands requests. They really make my heart happy and I can tell it's going to be a great year.



She Lives! Sunday Scoop

The beginning of the school year never fails me... I just don't have the energy to share what we've been up to! I'm just pooped. Waking up at 5:30, getting to school at 7:00, attempting to get work done before kids come at 9:10 (I often get too chatty with people...I'm that person at school), teach my precious cherubs non-stop until 3:45, stay at work until 5:00 or 6:00, come home and make/eat dinner, around 6:30 and BOOM I'm on the couch trying to get a few things ready to repeat it all the next day before my head hits my pillow at 8:30 and I'm out.

Sound familiar?

So, I'm trying to slowly ease back into my beloved blogging (especially because I'm up next on Megan's custom blog design list!!) with Teaching Trio's new and PERFECT Sunday linky

Why is it perfect for me? Because unlike most teachers, I don't have a super solid "plan" for the week to share. My plans are relatively loose because I really go day by day depending on my students. Yes I have a pacing guide to follow and general teaching points, but exactly how I tackle a lesson can change pretty quickly due to how the previous day went. So this let's me feel like I'm sharing my all my looseness.

RW is off and rolling (I'll share some things we've been up to later... hopefully...) and now I want to get partnerships established for read alouds now that we've started our first chapter book of the year. Also, I'm trying to control my control freak nature and allow students to sit around the room during independent reading. I've got enough sit spots/pillows/rugs/bean bags for about half my class at a time to sit on the floor if they wish, so I need to set up a system and intro that this week. Lastly, I've only got 5 hands-free whisper phones and they are a hot commodity right now. I want to get a rotation with that (along with get some more from my EL coteacher) so that I don't have to deal with that anymore.

I hate grocery shopping. That is all.

I like to write my morning messages for the whole week ahead of time and then just tweak them each day if something changes. It really lifts the crazy out of me come 9:00 am. It also allows me to be more purposeful with my morning message, as we've started to learn about the parts of speech through it (again, more on that later... hopefully...)

I love to take pictures of students to post in our room to remind them of expectations. I've got to make our new take a break signs and turn and talk signs. I also started the Best Part of Me project with them this past week and need to get their photos developed so we can finish those puppies and get them up in our hallway!

I don't know what it is about me, but I suck at meal planning. And unfortunately, my husband isn't any better. This would lift such a burden off of me to have meals laid out for the week- especially lunches. Ugh.

It's been a very long and hard past week. I've been battling a nasty cold all week and I found out some very heartbreaking news on Thursday about my grandfather and his cancer. When I'm at work, I can often put those things behind me because the kids really do demand all my attention (as they should), but when I get home after a long day and have a pile of things to accomplish, I just don't have the motivation or energy to do it. And this upcoming week won't be any better. I literally have meetings everyday this week either before or after school (sometimes both) including our first ever Parent Night presentation on Thursday. I'm grateful to be able to come home, put on my comfy clothes, and just curl up in this lovely fall weather while I try to calm myself. I'm trying really hard to try to take better care of me so I can be the best for my students, my husband, my family, and my friends... I'm not always the best at that.

I should have put on there that I hope to blog more this month- but if I'm honest, it might not be until later in the month... depends if that thing called time decides to stick around a little longer. :)



Currently September

It's returned. And Farely's designs are just getting better and better... I love them. September is here- back to school for another year! 

Ugh, I wanted to sleep in, but maybe it's a good thing that my body is revving up to the idea of waking up during the hour of 5 am... I just hope I don't nap later too.

I love the excitement of a new school year. It allows for fresh starts, new ideas, and of course, at the beginning of the year, lots of optimism. I'm just hoping all that lasts for a while.

I'm eerily feeling pretty well prepared, which doesn't feel right. It makes me feel nervous. I don't like being a crazy lady running around the building on the first day of school- but it has happened before... twice... in my two years of teaching. Maybe year 3 will be the game changer.

I really want to be better about my eating habits. I just get into a rut of eating the same things for lunch at school and dinner that I get sick of it and then eat out (which isn't good). I really want an easy to prepare meal list both for school and at home so I can save $$ and take care of myself. If you have any good easy meals, send them my way!

I really don't have a sense of need right now. I'm just grateful the paychecks are back. We're fine right now, but we've had an expensive summer with our trip to Italy, weddings up the wazoo, moving, and buying a new car... It'll be nice to have money coming in  and not just going out. We made it.

Since we did just vacation to Italy this summer, I now want to focus more on visiting places here in the U.S. (I don't want a long plane ride for a while). I wrote New York City, but I meant NYC and DC... just lots of history and iconic things I want to see. I also want to take a road trip out west and one stop on my list is Grand Teton National Park. Lastly, I've always wanted to go to Maine, particular Cape Cod- it just looks so peaceful.


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