Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Erica's Elementary Excitement!!: Beginning Blog Giveaway!!

Erica is a new blogger and is having a really fantastic giveaway!

Erica's Elementary Excitement!!: Beginning Blog Giveaway!!:

Chapter 1-The Book Whisperer

Can I just say, I L-O-V-E this book!  Of course, I couldn't just read chapter 1.  I kept reading and reading, until I realized I wasn't reading this book like I would for a book club.  I was so lost in the book and couldn't get over how much I could relate to it!  I got all the way to chapter 6 before I forced myself to stop, get out the pen, and start writing down my reactions.  

In the first sentence of chapter 1, Donalyn Miller describes her first memory of learning to read.  She describes her mother teaching her to read the highway signs as they traveled on road trips.  I connected with Ms. Miller immediately.  When I was young, we took a lot of road trips with my parents and grandparents.  This was how I first learned to read too.  My grandmother would let me sit up front and be the "navigator" on the trip for my grandfather.  What great memories...

I like on page 10 how Miller describes herself as a reader.  Although I've always had a love of reading, I don't know that I've ever used it as an adjective to describe myself.  

On page 11, the quote "No matter what else I had to offer them [her students], I could offer my enthusiasm for books."  I have always felt this way...but have I done it?  

Miller's wake-up call was when she had spent an entire summer creating a unit for the book The View from Saturday and it turned out to be a disaster.  I too have spent countless hours, weekends, and summers creating novel units.  Most have also turned out to be disasters.  Though, at the time, I didn't recognize it.  Only looking back now did I realize my students were also robots--just doing the work that was assigned, and not truly loving the book.  I will say, though, that my novel units were for literature circles, and not the whole class.  I knew that there was no way I could teach using one novel with the varying ability levels of my class.  Still, I was removing student choice.  

Another quote that stuck out to me was "teachers teach how they were taught."  Interestingly, I have very little recollection of being taught reading.  My reading memories are at home, reading with my mom.  I do recall reading a whole-class novel about the Australian Aborigines in high school, and I remember thinking at the time, why are we learning this?  It did not connect to our lives at all.  

The rest of the chapter focuses on how Miller got on the right path for teaching reading.  She noticed how students' interests sparked when they were given the choice in their book selections.  We practice Daily 5 and CAFE in my class, and both are centered around student choice in books.  Miller says, "As long as my teaching was about my activities and my goals, students would be dependent on me to make decisions and define their learning for them." (p. 16).  This reminds me of one of the CAFE premises, where students set their goals.  

Miller also talks about spending time with her principal and a veteran teacher, Susie Kelley.  Does everyone have a "Susie Kelley"?  I know I do.  She is our fabulous literacy consultant, and her office is right next door to me, so I constantly pop in to pick her brain!  

In the last section of the chapter, where Miller discusses setting up a reader's notebook and taking on a workshop approach.  She knew she was on the right path, but that it still wasn't working for her, and she was frustrated.  I definitely know this feeling.  All teachers must find out what works for them and their students.  One person's tried-and-true may not work for you.  Although I absolutely love the Daily 5, I certainly don't do it just as "the sisters" do it.  Or, as my teacher-friend across the hall.  We all have to modify to meet our needs and our students' needs.  

The last quote I want to discuss is on page 18, "reading shows you how to be a better human being."  This is my ultimate goal for my students.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Getting to Know...Mrs. Owens

Mrs. Lyons at Thinking of Teaching has posted questions that she asked Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer.  Which, by the way, I must add is my new favorite book.  I haven't been able to put it down since Friday.  Mrs. Lyons has asked us bloggers to join in the fun and is having a linky party!  Here is a little bit more about me...

1) What is your favourite book (or series) from childhood?
I always remember reading the Little House series in bed every night with my Mom.  Most of my reading experiences from childhood involve my Mom.  I also loved the American Girl series, especially the Molly books-WWII era.  It helped me relate to my grandmother and grandfather.  I even had (actually still have) a Molly doll!  (Do you notice a historical fiction-theme here?  Maybe why I teach Reading & Social Studies!)

2) What is your favourite book (or series) now?
I read all the Nicholas Sparks books.  They are sappy love stories that I lose myself in and read so fast I usually finish them within a weekend.  
The books even inspired a trip to the Outer Banks a few years ago!  
My hubby buys each new Nicholas Sparks book for me whenever it comes out.  

Right now, I am currently reading The Spellman Files series.  I've read the first two books and the third is on hold at the library for me as we speak!  These are hilarious mystery books and perfect summer reads! 

3) What is your opinion of e-readers?
I did not like them when they first came out...there is just something to be said about actually holding a book and turning the pages.  I think I will feel very differently when my iPad is delivered in the next two weeks!  Although there will still be books I will buy in print (i.e., Nicholas Sparks!), I have a feeling I will be reading on the iPad quite often!

4) Finish this sentence: "On Sundays I like to..."
Well, I don't know if I like to, but on Sundays I grade papers and plan for the week.  I give myself Saturday to spend with my family, but everyone knows Sundays are planning days.  

5) Describe yourself in 5 words!
Loving mommy, wife, teacher, friend.  

6) Hardcover or paperback? Why?
Depends.  Of course, I prefer hardcover because they last longer, but paperback usually because it's cheaper.  

7) Coffee or Tea?
Tea-Iced, unsweetened.  I have a large, pink "Bubba Keg" mug that I carry to school every day with my iced tea-it keeps it cold all day long!  It's hilarious at the beginning of the year when the kids think I'm drinking coffee from it-I don't think I could see straight if it was full of coffee! 

A Random Thought...

I've learned recently about myself that if there is a book in the house that I am interested in, I would much rather read that book than watch TV. You would have to know me personally to know how big of a deal that is: watching TV is my biggest vice.
The question arises then, how do we get our students to that point? I'm hoping The Book Whisperer has some answers!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Barnes and Noble Awesomeness!

I visited my local Barnes & Noble last night to pick up a copy of The Book Whisperer.  I had it on reserve at the library forever and someone must really be enjoying the book because it has not come available yet.  

Did you know B&N has a "Pick up In Store" option?  If you check their website, you can see if your local store has the book that you want, and if they have it in stock, they will have the book waiting for you at the register within 60 minutes.  Hello, timesaver!  

Of course, I chose this option, thinking I would run in and run out, but I had to take the toddler exploring.  No problems here, though, I love the children's section!  I loved seeing him looking at the books and recognizing the ones we read at night "Choo Choo" (The Little Engine that Could) and "Night Night Dino" (How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?)  He then picked out a dinosaur pop up book that we had to take home with us...how could I resist his little "Iwantit"  Yes, that's how he says it.  All one word.  So cute.  

With the Dino pop-up book in hand, we headed to the registers.  Sure enough, they had my book up there waiting for me.  The cashier then asks me if my son is part of the Kid's Club.  Um...what Kid's Club?  Why didn't I know about a Kid's Club?!  Her first words:  "It's free."  Always nice.  You also get a $5 reward for every $100 you spend.  That's not difficult.  A free cupcake on the kid's birthday.  Maybe he will share with Mama.  And, more coupons in the monthly newsletter.  Who doesn't love coupons?  Especially those for books?!  Of course, we signed up.  The Kid's Club goes up to age 12, so you can encourage your students to join as well!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

An Update...

Sorry I've been a little MIA lately.  I have been waist-deep in yard sale items since Sunday.  They are so. much. work.!  My sanity is at stake right now, having a yard sale this weekend, our annual July 4th party next weekend, and my son's birthday party the weekend after.  Luckily, the weather in these parts have been kinda sucky lately, or else I would be trying to fit in pool time as well!  Actually, I did that yesterday.  Our first non-stormy, sunny, 90 degree day in a long time.  I had to hit the pool.  I really could hear it calling my name!  

Please excuse my lack of posting, as my brain is just not in school-mode right now.  But don't count me out yet!  I've got books on reserve at the library and I will be creating some units using the 6 Traits.  I'm also super excited to read The Book Whisperer, as part of the TBA Book Club!  Thanks for being patient with this super busy blogger!!

Are you joining?

Are you joining in the Book Club fun?  
The Book Whisperer will begin on Monday, June 27!

I can teach my child!: Giveaway: Personalized Melamine Plate

I can teach my child!: Giveaway: Personalized Melamine Plate

Hop on over to this blog and check out the super cute giveaway!


Lutton 519

Is having a giveaway!  Check out her blog and you have a chance to win a $25 gift card to Target!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Exploring Our National Parks

This past week my family and I went to Philadelphia for a mini-vacation.  Much to the dismay of my toddler, we did take some time out to explore the historical sites.  My hubby and I are total history nerds, so we couldn't visit Philadelphia without seeing Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  

While at the Liberty Bell, I couldn't help but notice a family with children about the age of my students that were carrying around a packet and taking notes.  I was intrigued.  The National Parks Service has a Junior Ranger program on their website.  I had to check it out!  Here is a list of National Parks that offer the Junior Ranger Program: http://www.nps.gov/learn/juniorranger.cfm.  

The Independence National Historical Park's Junior Ranger packet has activities for ages 5-7 and 8 and above.  They even have activities marked as "easy" and "hard."  (Nice job at differentiating, NPS!).  Some of the activities include drawing the Liberty Bell, answering questions about the tour of Independence Hall, labeling important documents such as the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, exploring timelines, etc.  I was thoroughly impressed!  If the Junior Ranger completes a certain number of activities, they take their packet to the ranger station for a prize.  

My husband and I want to pass along our love for history to our son.  This is the reason we take him to historical sites at such a young age.  These Junior Ranger packets are an awesome way to focus learning and keep your kids from being bored while exploring our National Parks.  They would also be great to take on field trips as well!  Happy Exploring!

Giveaway Winner!!!

And the winner is....

Congratulations, Tracy, on winning the Target gift card!  
E-mail me with your information so I can get it sent to you!

Thanks, everyone, for participating in my first giveaway!  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Giveaway ends TONIGHT!!!

If you haven't checked out my 50 followers giveaway yet, make sure you do by midnight tonight!  

I will announce the winner of the Target gift card tomorrow! 

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Summer Reading List (Edited)

I've added my summer reading list.  The books I've added are books I've already read this summer, or those I am currently reading.  As I read more books, I will add them as well.  I'm making a point to read both children and young adult books and books for my pleasure as well.  I will also be reading The Book Whisperer, but my library must only have a few copies because I've been on the waiting list FOR-EVER!  I'm always looking for new books to read, so feel free to leave me comments about books I should add to my list!  

Since writing this post, I've played around a little with the design of my blog, and decided to add my summer reading list as a separate page on my blog.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I made a button!!!

I am so stinkin' excited, it's ridiculous.  The bloggy nerd in me has been wanting a button for a long time now, but I wanted to make it myself.  I finally decided to sit down and figure it out tonight, and I finally got it!  

Since I have a giveaway going on right now...
You can get a BONUS ENTRY if you grab my button and put it on your blog!  Just leave me a comment HERE telling me you did so!  

And the results are in...

June 15 is the magical day for OAA results.  

My principal e-mailed the results this afternoon, and though we didn't meet as many indicators as we had hoped, I am still pleased with the results.  My building struggles with meeting the OAA indicators.  We have increased our performance greatly over the past few years.  It's no secret that my students face a lot of challenges in their lives, and school is not always high on their priority list.  We have a supportive building principal and a highly motivated staff and we are all working together to get our students where they should be.  

Though overall as a grade level we did not meet the indicator, I had so many students increase in their scores that I can't be upset.  I had so many students who worked so hard throughout the year that seeing their passing score literally just made me want to cry!  It took all I had to not run up the street to the grocery store where one of my students' grandmother works to tell her the good news!  Our OAA incentive this year is a summer pool party for all the students who either passed the OAA or increased their score by 15 points from last year.  I am so excited to see all my students and tell them great job!  

In other good news, our third grade met both indicators in Reading & Math!  I'm so thrilled for those teachers, and it gives me a lot of hope for next year!  

50 Followers Giveaway!

We returned last night from our trip to Philadelphia, and it took all I had not to jump on the computer immediately and start posting away!  I tried to keep up with all the blogs on my iPhone, but it's just not the same.  Hopefully, the iPad will be my birthday present this year!  I'm going to have another post about our Philly vacation, because there we had so much fun and there were so many learning opportunities!

While on vacation, my blog reached 50 followers!  Everyone knows what that means....

A Giveaway!  

Since my absolute favorite store is Target (whose isn't?, I'd like to know!), I will be giving away a Target gift card!  

Here's how you enter:  (3 chances!)  
1.)  Follow my blog and leave a comment.  
2.)  Post about my giveaway on your blog & leave a comment.  
3.)  Add my blog to your blogroll.  Leave a comment telling me you did so.  

The winner will be chosen by random.org.  The giveaway will end Saturday at midnight, and the winner will be announced Sunday. 
Thanks for following & good luck!  

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Trying out mobile blogging today so forgive me if this doesn't work! This blog post is coming to you from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We drove 9 hours today to spend a long weekend in the City of Brotherly Love. We are taking the crazy toddler to Sesame Place for two days. We are also going to check out the Please Touch Museum and hopefully some historical sites for this history buff!

I am so excited that I hit 50 followers today! Be on the lookout for a giveaway very soon- when I return from our mini-vacay!!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Door Decorations-Linky Party!

I've always wanted to be creative.  I try to be creative.  I am just not creative!  For these reasons, I hate bulletin boards and craft projects.  They just never turn out as cute as I want them to be.  That is the Virgo perfectionist in me.  Although I do love scrapbooking, it has gotten even better that I can do them on the computer (less room for human error!).  

That being said, I am going to join the door decoration linky party at  

The reason for this being, I am so proud of the door decoration we did for Right to Read week last year.  We had local illustrators, Jeannette and Christopher Canyon visit our school.  Jeannette Canyon has illustrated beautiful books such as Over in the Jungle 
   61QjCZTgC1L.jpg   Overfinalcover-330.jpg 
and Over in the Ocean In a Coral Reef.  Her husband, Christopher Canyon, has adapted illustrated books to many John Denver song lyrics, such as Take Me Home Country Roads and Sunshine on my Shoulders
 PAAAIADHEGABDOCP.jpg  sunshine-on-my-shoulders.jpg

It was actually a door decorating contest.  The winning classroom received a $25 gift certificate to Half Price Books.  That was enough for me to get involved!  We had to decorate a door inspired by any one of the books of our illustrators.  My class chose Over in the Jungle.  I covered the door, did the letters and made the tree, but my students did everything else.  I think that is why I loved it so much.  They really took the time to study the illustrations and the rainforest animals in the book and tried to replicate them.  I especially loved the sloths hanging on the vine reading a book.  We didn't win the contest, but I personally felt we had one of the best doors!  

Great Giveaway!


If you haven't visited the Clutter Free Classroom blog, go.  Now.  She has awesome classroom management tips, and has recently been showcasing different classroom themes.  With her latest giveaway, you have a chance to win one of her classroom theme kits!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Classroom Library

We have the Accelerated Reader program at my school and for the last four years I have organized my books by AR level.  I don't love AR.  In fact, I loathe it.  Students choose books for the wrong reasons, as much as I try to teach them the I PICK strategy. Also, the quizzes are on the knowledge level of Bloom's Taxonomy, and many ask students to recall very small unimportant details, while I'm trying to teach them the bigger picture:  theme, making connections, etc.  I feel there are more important ways to get kids reading than to have them take a computerized quiz after every book.  I have decided that next year, although I am still required to use AR, I am going to make it as minimal as possible in my classroom, starting with my classroom library.  

While packing up my room last week, I took the time to take a good, hard look at the books I'm keeping in my classroom.  I have over 500 books, and I would say at least 50% were purchased by me.  I have an affinity for books.  Every year I always say I'm going to scale back on what I buy for my classroom.  This never includes books.  I was just at Ollie's on Friday and purchased about 15 books again.  I don't know if Ollie's is regional, but if you have one in your area, check it out!  Hardcover books for $3.99!  

Anyways, this week I had my class help me sort my books by genre.  Of course, the majority of my books are realistic fiction and fantasy.  I also sorted picture books, fiction animal books, fiction sports, science fiction, historical fiction (which, as a Social Studies teacher I had a ton of), biographies, non-fiction Earth & Science, non-fiction history, and non-fiction general.  I was pleasantly surprised at the broad selection my students have to choose from.  I didn't feel as though my classroom library was utilized this year as much as it should be, and I blame my AR leveled-sorting.  Next year, my classroom library will be sorted by genre.  I teach genre, why not sort the books that way?  

Organizational tip:  While packing up my books, I placed them in gallon sized ziplock bags and marked the genre on the bag.  When returning in the fall, I just have to put the pre-sorted books in their bins.  I also kept a list of the # of books I have in each genre, so if I'm out at half-priced books, Ollie's, or yard sales, I know what I should be on the lookout for. I know I'm definitely going to add some poetry books and folktales to my collection. 

What tips do you have for organizing your classroom library?  Do you organize by genre or level, or both?  Do you put color-coded stickers on your books to make sure they get returned to the appropriate bins?  How do you ensure your books get returned?  I would love to hear your input!  

Mrs. Randall's Learning Library: A Giveaway!

If you haven't checked out Mrs. Randall's blog yet, you need to.  Now.  Since she has 300 followers, I'm sure most of you already have.  Go to her blog and find out how you can enter her giveaway for a fantastic prize!! 

Mrs. Randall's Learning Library: A Giveaway!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Third Grade Meanderings: Celebrating 100 Followers!

There aren't many intermediate blogs out there! Head over to Third Grade Meanderings, check out her blog, and enter the giveaway!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Giveaways Galore!

My fellow bloggers have been very busy! 1st Grade with Miss Snowden has reached 300 followers and is having an AWESOME giveaway! Please visit her blog to find out how YOU can win!

Another giveaway!

1st Grade with Miss Snowden: 300 Followers= A Give Away!!!: "I am completely amazed that there are 300 wonderful teachers who have chosen to stop by my little spot in Blogland! I am so grateful for yo..."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Nice Surprise

We had our Student of the Month assembly today to honor our April & May students of the month.  This is a school wide assembly we do every month.  The kids get trophies and it's always a fun celebration.  It's also our chance to recognize those students who don't necessarily have the best grades, but display positive behaviors.  My April student of the month is a young lady whom I absolutely adore.  I had her older sister the last two years (in 4th & 5th grade) and I begged to have her in my classroom this year.  She's one of those kids who you know is going places.  She is the most bright, bubbly, girl and exudes confidence.  She doesn't care about what anyone else says or does.  It's very refreshing.  After reading my little message about her and why she was chosen for student of the month, she tells me, "Mrs. Owens, no I have something to say to you."  She proceeds to pull out a notebook paper and reads me the sweetest letter about how I helped her so much this year, and she will always remember how I helped her succeed.  It was the nicest surprise, and brought tears to my eyes.  What a sweet, sweet girl.