Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Linking Up- 11 in '11

Hadar @ Miss Kindergarten and Kristin @ A Teeny Tiny Teacher are having a linky party! 
Since I don't get to partyin' much these days, I thought I'd join in the fun!  

11.  Favorite Movie You Watched
We don't get out to the movies much anymore, but a last minute tagalong with my friend and her teenage daughter to see Footloose turned out to be the best movie I saw in 2011!  I will say The Help was a VERY close second.  Even the hubby liked that one.  

10.  Favorite TV Series

First, let me say that I have a serious TV addiction.  I love reality shows-Real Housewives, Big Brother, and yes, I still watch The Real World-don't judge.  I love the dramas-Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Harry's Law, Parenthood.  But, I love to laugh.  There are just not enough comedies on TV anymore!  I love The Office.  And yes, it is just as good without Michael Scott.  Actually, James Spader is freakin' hilarious on the show.  I have also just discovered How I Met Your Mother.  I know, I'm about 6 years too late, but I had this thing about CBS shows for a while.  I hated them all, and my prejudice kept me from enjoying one of the funniest shows on TV since Friends and everyone who knows me has heard me say, "There is a Friends reference for every situation in life."  

9.  Favorite Restaurant
I live in Columbus, Ohio-the world of Wendy's and White Castles.  Not many options for eating out on a teacher's salary.  For the special occasions, the hubby and I love going to The Melting Pot.  Cheese & Chocolate Fondue?  Yes, please!  

Since I tend to spend a lot of time in Florida, too, I have to give a shout out to Raglan Road in Orlando at Downtown Disney.  My sis & her husband both work there, and it is such a fun, authentic, Irish restaurant.  Everything in the restaurant is imported from Ireland, including the band and the dancers!  And the Bread Pudding is to die for.  

8.  Favorite New Thing You Tried
Traveling alone with my son.  My sis called me a few weeks before her wedding and asked if I would come help her with the plans.  I happened to have a four day weekend and traveled to Orlando with my two year old.  It was very empowering to know that I could do it by myself!

My son on the plane!

7.  Favorite Gift You Received
In the year 2011-my iPad!  Love, love, love it.  Everyone should own one.  
For Christmas-my Cricut.  I've always kinda wanted one, but never wanted to buy one for myself.  My mom and sister bought me one for Christmas.  I didn't even ask for it!

6.  Favorite Thing You Pinned
Pinned ImageBesides all the yummy recipes?  Probably this post-it note holder.  It's probably the only thing I've pinned that I've actually done.  I made these for some of my co-workers for Christmas.  I wish I had my Cricut at the time!  

5.  Favorite Blog Post
I don't really have a favorite, so I'll go with the one with the most # of page views, which was part of my Daily 5 series, regarding Anchor Charts & Focus Lessons.  I'm not sure why it was so popular, but I'm glad I was able to offer my experience and advice to so many people.  I love the Daily 5! 

4.  Favorite Accomplishment
Probably finally achieving the balance of school & home.  I still take papers home to grade on the weekends, but not nearly the amount that I used to.  I still go into work about 45 minutes early, but I leave only about 15 minutes later than I can.  I learned to say NO and remove myself from committees.  Do I still feel guilty about it?  Yes.  But, I know I would feel much guiltier looking back at these years with my son and feeling like I should've done more with him.  

3.  Favorite Picture
My hubby & I on Siesta Key Beach in November.  I chose this picture because he loved it so much.  He said he was glad to have a recent picture of just the two of us.  Aww..he still loves me :)
2.  Favorite Memory
My sister's wedding in Siesta Key, Florida.  The perfect week, the perfect day (11/11/11), the perfect setting, the perfect couple.  Did I mention it was perfect?  

1.  Goal for 2012
Continue to encourage my students to become readers.  I truly believe that test scores will follow if my students read and love to read.  
Declutter and keep my house neat and organized!  I've already cleaned out 3 closets and working on the bedroom.  I just have WAY too much stuff!  

This was a lot of fun reflecting on 2011.  Everyone link up!  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Similes & Metaphors with The Grinch

My favorite activity before Christmas is to introduce similes and metaphors using the song, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."  I'm sure this is not an original idea, but the idea for this lesson did come to me as I was driving home from school three years ago and heard the song on the radio.  What I'm sayin' is, I didn't intentionally borrow this lesson plan from anyone!  First, I usually have a quick intro lesson on similes and metaphors.  You know, the basics.  Similes compare two things using like or as, metaphors don't.  We look at some examples and students have some practice creating their own.  The next day, or mini-lesson, whichever I see fit for the group I have, I pass out the words to the Grinch song and we listen to it on You Tube.  

Next, I split students into random groups.  Sometimes I do this by passing out Christmas icon cards and students have to find the matches.  Other times I just use the random sorter in Smart Notebook.  I give the students about 10-15 minutes to find as many similes and metaphors in the song.  They then write their similes and metaphors here to display in the hallway and classroom.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Need Book Recommendations!

I have made it my goal this year to read aloud a different book from each genre category. We read James and the Giant Peach for fantasy-my favorite book for fourth graders, by far.  We just finished reading Shiloh for realistic fiction, and now I would like to read a science fiction book.  Let me preface this by saying I am NOT a science fiction fan.  I recently learned to enjoy Sci-Fi after reading The Hunger Games trilogy and the book Divergent by Veronica Roth.  If you haven't read the latter, it is a must read!  It is the first book in a trilogy, but the other two books have not been released yet.  It is very much along the lines of The Hunger Games-set in future Chicago, where the city is divided into factions based upon their virtues-the honest, the selfless, the brave, the peaceful, and the intelligent.  Of course, there is an unexpected love story involved, which is probably why it drew me in!  Obviously, neither of these books are appropriate for my fourth graders as a read aloud.  This is where I need your help!  I need a good science fiction read aloud.  Preferably, something both genders will enjoy.  A Wrinkle in Time is out because I think it is above my students' heads, and I honestly do not enjoy the book.  

So...what good science fiction books do y'all got for me?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know people have been posting their thankful lists with a linky party this week, but I have been so far behind reading blogs that I don't even know who is hosting.  So here is my independent thankful list on this Thanksgiving holiday.  

I am thankful for...

1.  My awesome 2 year old son.  He is the cutest, sweetest little boy I have ever met.  And I'm not just sayin' that cause I'm his mama!  Every single day he amazes me at how smart and funny he really is.  

2.  My hubby of 6 1/2 years.  Even though he travels a lot and I give him a hard time about it, he is able to provide our family with so many wonderful things.  (Like our FREE flight to Sarasota last week for my sister's wedding!)  In addition, he and I have been together for so long (10 years!) that we are truly a team and he is my best friend.  

3.  My family, who is in Florida this year for Thanksgiving.  My mom & dad help me so much with my son and I am so thankful to them for that.  This is my first Thanksgiving away from my family-EVER!

4.  My truly awesome coworkers.  I seriously work with the best people in the world.  We all have our students in the forefront and will do whatever it takes to help them learn.  I have contemplated moving grade levels/schools many times, but the one thing that keeps me from doing so is knowing that I will never work with a staff like mine again.  

5.  My super smart students.  I have a group like none other this year.  They work hard and excel.  You should see how many books my students are reading this year!  I have a group of the sweetest girls this year that seriously make me every single day.  

My list could go on and on, but that's my top 5.  I hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving with their friends and family.  

On a side note, my Teacher's Notebook shop is running a Thanksgiving Weekend sale.  All shop items are 20% off!  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Bingo!

I spent a lot of the day today working on a Thanksgiving Bingo game to use with my extended family tomorrow.  My husband's family goes all out for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The family is so large in fact that the three car garage is actually transformed into a living room for the months of November & December because nobody's house is big enough to hold so many people!  There are 12 kids in the family (and one more on the way in less than a month!), 9 of which are under the age of 8.  Having so many kids in one place, you all know how important it is to have activities for them to do!  The teacher in me has taken over this year.  Prior to having kids, I didn't really care if the little ones were running all over the place-they weren't my kids after all.  Now that I have a two year old that needs to be entertained, I am taking over the activities!  Because of the time consuming task that it was, I have posted the bingo game on my Teacher's Notebook store, but I'm going to post my blank template as a freebie for all of you!  You can use the blank template by putting Thanksgiving words in random order on the card.  The file that can be purchased through Teacher's Notebook uses picture icons. I know it's too late for all of you to use in your classrooms this year, but there's always next year!  Or, if you have a large family with lots of kids like me, click over to Teacher's Notebook fast!  

Click link for freebie

P.S. Did you know you can customize your links?  How cool is that?!  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Yes, I'm Still Alive!

What a crazy couple of months I have had!  It seems my last several posts have been me apologizing for not keeping up with the blogging, and yet here it is again.  I'm soooo sorry, and I hope many of my followers will pick right back up with me.  I haven't even had time to read blogs lately.  My google readers shows 685 unread posts!  The month of November has been crazy in and of itself.  I took some personal days a week ago because I was the maid of honor in my sister's wedding in Siesta Key, Florida.  I came back Tuesday, was out for Reading Committee Wednesday, at school Thursday, and again at Reading Committee Friday.  I have seen my students a total of 3 days in 2 weeks.  Even though December brings the hectic holiday season, I have to say I just can't wait for it because that means I will be with my students in my classroom for three full weeks!  

My followers might recall that the district reading committee that I am on is taking part in the process of adopting a new reading curriculum.  When we signed up last Spring, I don't think any of us knew the undertaking it would be.  We have heard from nine companies.  After each company makes it's presentation, we have a four page rubric to score in grade level, grade band (3-5), then finally in K-5.  While I am very grateful that they are taking our input before just pushing a reading series or basal on us, it has been extremely time consuming and worrisome.  Our final selection day is next Tuesday.  It seems most of us at the elementary level are on the same page, so I'm hopeful it will not be a difficult process.  

This weekend I've been putting together a unit on persuasive letter writing.  Our writing project for December will be to write a letter to persuade someone to buy you what you want for Christmas.  I will be happy to share my Smart Notebook file when I have it finished to anyone who wants it.  I don't know of any way to share Smart files, so you will have to e-mail me.  

I also have a Donor's Choose project out right now asking for 75 nonfiction books to add to my classroom library.  My students love reading nonfiction, and it is something that my classroom library and our school library really lacks.  I have not had any interest in it at all, so I'm starting to get discouraged.  I would really appreciate it if you would share my project on Twitter or Facebook to try to get some interest in my project.  Here is the link: 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Making Connections (& A Freebie!)

Next week we are going to do a lesson on making connections.  We briefly talked about it at the beginning of the year when we started our Reader Response Journals, but I think we need a more in-depth lesson because I'm still not seeing the connections to text that I would like to see in their journals.  I found a great printable at Scholastic called "Read, Relate, Respond."  I thought to myself how great would that be if these were on sticky notes and I remembered one of my favorite bloggers, Kristen, at Ladybug's Teacher Files posted some time ago about printing on sticky notes.  I used her awesome template to create my own making connection sticky notes.  

(click image to download)

It will definitely not be fun to arrange and print 60 copies for each one of my students, but I think they turned out so well that I will!  Once they use the pre-printed sticky notes, hopefully that will get them in the habit of using them for making connections and they will create their own from now on.  Of course, they don't have to write on the sticky notes and just use them to mark the page where they made the specific connection.  (I'm thinking out loud right now....)

I also created a Making Connections thinking stems notes page for students to keep in their literacy binders.  I hope these stems will improve their journal writing.  
(click image to download)

Enjoy the freebies!  How do you teach students to make connections?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Word Work Activities

When I launched Word Work a few weeks ago, my wonderful coteacher encouraged me to only launch a few word work activities, so the students wouldn't feel so overwhelmed with the possibilities.  This was a great idea, especially since I have some inclusion students.  Right now all of my word work activities revolve around the students' spelling patterns.  As the year goes on, I will introduce some vocabulary activities as well.  Here is a word work poster that I created. This hangs above my word work materials.  

(Click to download)

One of the favorite activities is "Value Words."  I like this activity because it encourages some math work as well.  Students are to spell a word that fits their spelling pattern, then add up the value of the word.  To make it a game, it is directed to find the highest value word that fits their spelling pattern. You can download your own Value Words copy here.  

Words in the Read World is an activity where students find words or pictures that fit their spelling pattern in magazines. The stamps include letter stamps and bingo daubers.  Each week, students must also complete a given word sort that will fit their spelling pattern.  

I hope you can find some use for these activities!  Sorry again for the long absence.  I'm going to make it a priority to post at least once a week from now on!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Teaching Context Clues

Context clues are always so tough for me to teach!  Anyone else?  I have always been a reader and I think learning vocabulary has always been automatic for me, that sometimes I have a hard time slowing it down and teaching how to learn new vocabulary through context.  I also think using context clues are very tough for students to learn, which oftentimes make it difficult to teach as well.  Context clues are a HUGE part on the OAA.  I can't remember the exact number, but it is the second most frequently tested indicator in the fourth grade.  For all of these reasons, I'm getting a jump start on context clues this year!  

This year, I have decided to slow-it-down.  I'm going to break it down into at least four mini-lessons.  Each mini-lesson will focus on the different context clues strategies.  As each strategy is introduced, students will record notes on this sheet.  

Students will keep these notes in the "Notes" section of their Literacy Binders.  Each lesson will be taught on the Smart Board.  About three example sentences will be given, and students will first be shown, then guided on how to use each type of context clue.  Each mini-lesson is followed up with a quick assessment.  My co-teacher and I will use the assessments to determine who needs additional instruction and form strategy groups if needed.  My absolutely wonderful literacy coach (who I talk about often on here!) has also volunteered to help plan additional instruction/enrichment if needed.  I'm really hopeful that teaching context clues in this manner will help my students understand it better.  

What strategies or fool-proof lesson plans do you use to teach context clues?  

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Apologies and an Update!

My apologies to all my faithful readers and followers.  I know I have let you all down with my lack of posting.  I've really have missed blogging (and reading...I'm behind 200 posts on my google reader) and a little bit of me hopes you've missed me too!  I never imagined how busy I would be now that school is back in session.  My faithful followers know that I am my building's new technology coordinator.  When I applied for this position back in May, I honestly had no idea what I was in for.  If I was just dealing with computer, printer, and Smart Board problems I would be ok.  No, I had to take the position right before a major district-wide launch of ProgressBook.  So on top of the computer, printer, and Smart Board problems, I'm working with teachers on ProgressBook and the ridiculous roster issues we're having!  All of this on my free time.  Um...what is that anyways?!  And, did I mention I'm on the district Reading committee?  This committee is making the selection for our district wide reading curriculum, and I feel VERY strongly about this so I'm not going to complain about the 8 days I will be out of the classroom over the next two months while this committee meets.  Did I mention 8 days?  And two days in a row next week?  Nope, you hear no complaining here.  

By the way, did I mention I'm also a teacher?  Wait.  No, my first priority is being a teacher.   I'm so happy that I have such a wonderful class this year!  We are going into our fourth week of school already.  I cannot believe it!  Our Daily 5 & CAFE is well under way and we are launching our new Word Study program and Word Work this week.  The fifth grade teachers are joining us in the Word Study program and we decided to take some time to really get everything together before launching.  Plus, it takes quite a bit of time to get the students assessed.  Our FAB-U-LOUS Literacy Coach is also helping, and we are all so excited to see the progress the students will make this year in spelling.  

I hope you accept my long-winded apology and will stick with me throughout this madness I call the 2011-2012 school year!  I promise there will be many more classroom ideas and freebies to come!

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Letter From A Student

Because we had some scheduling issues during this first week of school, I ended up with a lot more time in my afternoon class than my morning.  Not wanting to get one class ahead of the other, I decided to have my afternoon class write me letters about the first three days of school.  I wanted them to tell me what they liked and didn't like, and what they would change, if anything.  I got the usual letters:  "I love everything!" and "I would ask for more recess!" and "I would have no homework."  (Which, by the way, they haven't had any!)  But I also got this letter.  I thought all you Daily 5/CAFE and Book Whisperer believers would appreciate it.  

Dear Mrs. Owens, 

You really have changed my mind a lot about reading.  I used to not like to read but now I love to read and I hope that does not change ever.  Thank you for being my reading teacher.  I love when we get to read to self and I do thank you.  You are a good 4th grade teacher!!

How absolutely sweet is that?  The first three days of school!  This student, by the way, has already read two chapter books this week.  I am just so thrilled with how this school year has started.  I am LOVING teaching reading this year.  Without the interruptions of AR and Study Island, I have never had so much time before!  And my students are reading-A LOT!  If you didn't do The Book Whisperer read along this summer, I highly suggest you check it out!  It really will revitalize the way you think about teaching reading!  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Book Talk Thursday!

This is another new-to-me book, but I'm sure not new to some of you.  My friend/co-worker brought And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss into me this morning when she saw that I was going to be launching Work on Writing today for Daily 5.  Always looking for a new read aloud, I peeked at it and used it immediately!  This is a book about a boy whose father always asks him what he saw on his way to and from school.  The boy is quite the storyteller, who comes up with some outlandish tales.  The boy was determined to find something true to tell his father about, but just couldn't help letting his imagination run away from him.  What he really saw on Mulberry Street was a horse pulling a wagon, which he thought was too boring.  He changed it to a zebra pulling a wagon.  Then the wagon becomes a chariot.  Throughout the story, the boy changes the story of what he saw in order to make his story more interesting.  This is a great book for introducing Work on Writing, or when discussing the ideas trait.  It can also be used when you're teaching how to add more descriptive details to stories.  I hope that some of you are able to use this book in your classrooms as well!

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Day Success!

As I walked down the hall after lunch duty today, I overheard a first grade teacher saying, "I hate the first day of school!"  No doubt, first grade is definitely harder than fourth.  By the time I get them, they already know the rules and how to walk in the hall (they just forget after the second week...)  But, I honestly had the best first day of school that I can recall!  I have one of the brightest (if not THE brightest) class I've ever had.  If you're a frequent reader, then you know that I am teaching reading & writing all day this year to two classes. By the end of the day, I had seen both classes, gone over procedures, did our getting-to-know-you activities, and -I kid you not- my students were asking, "Can we read now?"  


Some facts about this group of kids, and you can make a judgment about whether or not things are correlated:  
1.  This class was our district's first group of all-day kindergarteners.  
2.  Last year, our entire building taught Daily 5/CAFE.  
3.  All but one of my students attended our school last year.  

I am just so excited about where things are going to head this year!  My hubby reminded me tonight when we were talking that I say this every year, but I am not only saying it, I am feeling it this year!  

And in case you are wondering, I did allow my students to pick out books and read, even though we ran out of time to talk about good-fit books and the 5-finger rule.  That will come tomorrow, along with the official launch of Daily 5.  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Getting Ready...

I have been very busy this weekend preparing for my brand new fourth graders to arrive on Monday.  My co-teacher and I went to lunch Friday to start planning.  She is an intervention specialist and we have been waiting for at least three years to be able to have a true co-teaching classroom.  We are so excited to be able to work together this year in a full inclusion classroom.  

This weekend I'm working on some preparations for our Daily 5 launch, deciding on some picture book read-alouds, and working on literacy notebook contents.  I have "borrowed" many of my ideas from Beth Newingham, at least for reading section.  My students will have the 40 book requirement, as discussed in The Book Whisperer.  They will also have a genre requirement.  My students will log the books they have read, keep a tally of the genres, and keep a log of books they would like to read.  

The literacy notebooks will also have a response section, notes section, writing section, and word study section.  These are all still in progress, but I will definitely be posting more as it is developed.  For those of you who don't know, I had a Donor's Choose project funded to create these literacy binders.  Since it was funded so close to the end of the school year last year, Donor's Choose did not ship the materials.  I have learned they will not ship the materials until next week.  This was disappointing to me, because I would've like to have started the year off developing these binders from day one.  Please do not mistake that disappointment for ungratefulness.  I am so grateful that so many complete strangers donated money to my classroom!  

What last minute plans do you have to prepare for your students to start the school year?  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Classroom Pictures Before & After!

O-M-G!  Let me just tell you that this week has been long and tiring!!!  I apologize to all my loyal followers who haven't forgotten about me!  I actually wrote my BTT post from yesterday a couple of weeks ago, knowing that I was going to be super busy this week.  This was my first week back, and my students start on Monday.  Yes, we work four full days before our students start.  One of those days is considered a work-day in our classrooms.  That means three remaining days for meetings.  Long, sitting-all-day meetings.  

Here is what my classroom looked like before:  

Since I was able to stay in my room, I was able to leave my bulletin board fabric up.  That did save some time getting set up. 

I decided to work on my library first. 

Now for the after photos: 

The view of my classroom from the door 
The view of my classroom from the front corner
My desk & my co-teacher's desk (against the board)

Here are some close-ups of my bulletin boards:  
My Jobs Board.  Paper is recycled newspaper.  I created the bulletin board set, and it can be purchased in my Teacher's Notebook shop!  (Everything 20% off until Monday!) 
One of my reading recommendation boards.  Student's names are on the different sports balls.  The other recommendation board for my other class is titled "Reading is a Hit With Us" and each student has a baseball cap they will place their recommendations under.  

My CAFE Board.  I just realized I didn't get a picture of the whole thing.  You can see the sports-theme CAFE posters and the Daily 5 posters above the board.  Both available in my Teacher's Notebook  shop!

And to celebrate the first day of school (and to thank you for sticking around to the end of this extremely long blog post), I am giving away a freebie!  I am going to give my students gifts on the first day of school.  They will get an eraser, pencil, a penny, and a pack of smarties.  I will put them in a lunch sack and attach this to it.  

All I ask is that you please rate my shop!  I have had a lot of sales and not one is leaving feedback!  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Talk Thursday-The Witches

For this week's Book Talk Thursday, I have decided to spotlight a book that is new to me.  The Witches by Roald Dahl is another entertaining fantasy in true Roald Dahl-fashion.  A young boy is sent to live with his grandmother, who tells him the story of witches.  They are not ordinary witches-they look human and they hate children.  Away on holiday, the boy finds himself stuck in a room full of witches at their annual meeting.  While the witches, led by the Grand High Witch, plot to rid England of all the children, the boy and his grandmother have decided to turn the tables on them and plot to rid England of all the witches.  

While the characters are likeable, and the story is entertaining, the fact remains that the story revolves around witches.  You would definitely want to know your students before reading or recommending this book.  It was #22 on ALA's Most Challenged list of the '90s.  I enjoyed this book very much, and it will remain in my classroom library.  

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

PD & ProgressBook

Sorry I've been MIA lately.  Like most of us, I've been very busy preparing to go back to school.  The teacher's official first day back is Tuesday. We have four days of PD before school starts on Monday.  As the new Technology Coordinator in our building, I am in charge of the PD for our staff regarding our new ProgressBook program.  Yes, prior to this school year, we have all been handwriting our interims and report cards!  A few of my colleagues and I have been using digital grade books on our own, but we have done nothing school-wide.  Our entire district has moved to ProgressBook starting this year.  I've been very busy creating an agenda and watching tutorial videos.  Since I am new to the Tech position, I never actually received ProgressBook training.  I am learning just a few days ahead of everyone else!  I am pretty tech-saavy, and I feel comfortable using and teaching about the system, but if anyone uses ProgressBook and would like to offer me any tips, tricks, or hints, I would gladly welcome them!  


Also, attaching a freebie for anyone else who might have use for a "Tech" binder.  
(Click here for the freebie!)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Talk Thursday-Noah Barleywater Runs Away

Noah Barleywater Runs Away by John Boyne is the story of an eight year old boy who has decided to run away from home.  On his journey, he meets some interesting people, including the owner of an extraordinary toy shop.  He becomes friends with this man, who tells Noah the story of his life.  Noah has learned from this old man's experiences and ultimately returns home.  A surprising twist at the end makes this story even more enjoyable.  
Boyne has channeled Roald Dahl through his writing.  This story is both light-hearted and dark.  The lessons learned by Noah Barleywater are lessons many children can take with them as well.  

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Busy Close to the Summer

 This is my last week of freedom summer vacation.  I know I should really be at school working on my classroom, but I have the cutest toddler that just doesn't want his momma to leave.  I went in last week and worked on my mess room.  This is what it looked like:  

You can't even see the other pile of junk from this view.
I started working on my classroom library.  I organized my books by genre at the end of the year and placed them in plastic bags.  The big problem was that I did not have enough bins.  See that pile of fantasy books on the shelf?  Double that and that's how many books I had without bins.  And Dollar Tree doesn't sell my beloved black dish pan bins anymore.  *tear*  I did find some bins at Ollies over the weekend. Smaller, not black, but I'll deal.  

On top of everything else, the laminator was out of laminating film, so I couldn't even get my bulletin boards done.  SCREAM!  Discouraged, and loving my cutie pie, I haven't been back in.  This is what I've been up to:  

Sidewalk chalk paint!  
I originally saw this on pinterest, but it was first posted on  If you haven't visited this blog yet, you really should! The author is a former art teacher, now stay-at-home-mom, and she has some really great art ideas and activities for kids!  

We also visited a local park today that has a spray ground. It's fairly new, and never crowded!  It's always a nice change from the pool.  

It hasn't been all fun and games around here, though.  During naptime today, I created my classroom jobs bulletin board.  It's posted in my Teacher's Notebook store.  Here is a preview:  

I plan to laminate each card and write the names of the job holder with dry erase marker.  There are 21 job cards, but it is designed for 30 students to have a job.  
I will be posting my job descriptions and applications as a freebie as soon as I get them finished.  

Back to reality tomorrow.  My Principal called and wants me to attend a technology meeting.  Our district is finally changing over to Progress Book this year.  This has been in the works for a long time, and I couldn't be happier.  Since I have to go in for the meeting, I'm going to work in my classroom.  I'm hoping I'll get enough done that I can enjoy the rest of the week before starting back on Monday.  

What else are you doing besides working in your classrooms?  

Monday, August 8, 2011

Internet Permission Form-Freebie!

I am always concerned with the Internet permission forms my district sends out because I worry that the parents don't look at them and just sign them.  It is very important to me that my students' privacy is protected and that parents understand that their child will be pictured on my class website with their permission.  Visit my brand new Teacher's Notebook store to download this freebie!  

Teacher's Notebook-Now Open!

I decided to try out Teacher's Notebook.  I will definitely still share a lot of my creations for free, but there are some things I put a lot of time and effort into and I'm sure you all understand!  The CAFE signs that I had as a freebie last week are now posted for a bargain at 25 cents each.  I also just posted a sports themed bulletin board/book recommendation set that I created today.  Click the link above or the link on my sidebar to visit my shop!  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Launching Daily 5: Model & Incorrect Model

Something that probably gets overlooked (and really shouldn't) when launching Daily 5 is the model and incorrect model.  Not only is this the most entertaining part of the day, it is also very important to the success of your Daily 5 classroom.  

After creating your Anchor Charts with your students, you will want to choose a student or two to model what the daily would look like.  For instance, if you are launching Read to Self, you would want to choose a student to model how to pick a spot, open their book and get started right away, staying in one spot, reading quietly, and working on their stamina.  Signal for the student to finish, then chat with your class about all the things they saw the student doing right.  Next, comes the fun part.  Tell the class you need a volunteer to show the class the wrong way to Read to Self (or whatever daily you are practicing).  The hands will shoot up.  I recommend choosing a student that you think might have some trouble during Daily 5.  Not only will it give this student a little bit of much-needed attention, they will also do a pretty good job of incorrect modeling.  I will say it is usually pretty funny when these students act out.  The class will get a good laugh in.  But, when you signal for the student to return to the meeting area, recognize that while the incorrect model was funny, it was incorrect.  Talk about all the things they saw the student doing wrong and talk about what should have been done instead.  I recommend doing another correct model before sending the students out to practice.  You want them to leave with the correct way to do things in their heads, rather than the incorrect way.  I also recommend you doing the correct & incorrect models during the first few days of the launch, and anytime throughout the year that you notice students are getting off track (particularly after long holiday breaks).  

Thank you all for your kind words regarding my Daily 5 & CAFE series.  Please continue to comment and e-mail me your questions!  

Friday, August 5, 2011

I won!

Nicole at Colorful Teaching is a new blogger and hosted a great giveaway for this badge holder that she made.  I made one that I used for five years and it broke last year when we went to a minor league baseball game with school.  I was so bummed! Needless to say, I'm super excited to have won this giveaway!  Thanks Nicole.  Make sure you go check out her blog!  


Daily 5 Q&A

Some of my great followers and fellow bloggers have been asking me some questions about Daily 5 & CAFE and I wanted to dedicate today's post to answering them.  I am so happy to see that so many people are trying out Daily 5 & CAFE in their classrooms this year.  I truly believe literacy education should be heading in this direction and away from pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all basal series.  As a member of my district's reading committee, I know I will fight tooth and nail to keep this workshop approach to reading.  

Ok.  I'm off my soapbox now.  On to the questions...

1. Do you follow a set implementation schedule with your kids or do you follow the one laid out by the sisters? 

After two years of doing Daily 5 and one full year of CAFE, I have modified the implementation schedule given by the Sisters to fit my students and my needs.  I anticipate this changing this year as well, because all students in my building did Daily 5 last year.  I would like to think their stamina is higher than 5 minutes.  I always start Daily 5 on the first day of school.  I always teach the anchor lessons, such as I-PICK good fit books, three ways to read a book, coaching or time, ways to read to someone, etc.  These are all very important lessons that will increase your students' success in Daily 5.  

2. How do you teach your 4th graders to read the pictures, and how is this differerent from teaching the younger kids? 
I don't think actually teaching the fourth graders to read the pictures is different from teaching the younger kids, but the outcome is different.  Typically for younger students (Kindergarten & 1st grade especially) reading the pictures is reading the book.  I'm even teaching my two year old to read the pictures in his books.  To the older students, reading the pictures should aide in accuracy and comprehension.  Students should use the pictures to make sure the words they are reading and what they are understanding make sense.  

3.  I am wondering what kind of writing activities do you have your 4th graders do?
At the beginning of the year, when launching Work on Writing my students brainstorm topics they can write about during their writing choice.  This anchor chart is kept up in my classroom all year for them to refer back to if they are ever stuck.  I am also going to try to implement some Six Traits writing this year.  Our building bought each grade level one of the Six Traits kits from Scholastic and I have been looking over it this summer.  We also have building wide writing activities for each month.  I may also have students write their readers responses during this time as well.  Work on Writing is the only writing workshop time my students have built into the day.  I will admit that with writing not being a tested subject, it has fallen to the wayside quite a bit.  

4.  How many rotations of Daily 5 do you do?  
First, I don't think I have mentioned that I do not launch Listen to Reading.  We do not have enough time, and I feel my students get what they need from listening to me read aloud and Read to Someone.  During the last two years, I was only able to have two daily rotations.  This worked out fine, the only rules I had were you could not do the same choice twice in a row, and you could only read to someone twice in a week.  With my new schedule, it looks like we will have time to do three rotations a day (YAY!!)  

5.  I had a question about the beginning assessment that you give the students before starting CAFE. Is there a certain assessment that you use to help you encompass comprehension, accuracy, fluency and vocabulary?  
In the past, we have used the STAR test for our reading assessments.  This did not offer me any information other than the students' reading levels (which, in my opinion, were not very accurate).  This year, we are using the Gates McGinitie assessment.  From what I have been told, this assessment does offer insightful information about comprehension and vocabulary.  We are receiving training on this at our PD in two weeks.  What I have done in the past, and what I will continue to do, is gauge this during my individual conferences with students.  I usually have them read a page or two, check for comprehension and their ability to use context clues on unknown words and take it from there.  While I do have students that have goals in all four areas, I will say most of my students end up with comprehension and vocabulary goals.  

I hope that this helped answer some of your questions!  Please feel free to comment or e-mail me if you have more!