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!  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Another great blogger's giveaway!


Is having a super cute giveaway.  Hurry!  It ends tonight.  Rush over there and find out how you can enter!

Daily 5: Anchor Charts & Focus Lessons

I'm going to put off my Book Talk Thursday this week to continue my Daily 5 & CAFE series.  I was having a really hard time with the motivation to write about the Daily 5 & CAFE not being in school, but try and stop me now that I've started!  Yesterday, I blogged about Launching Daily 5 & CAFE.  Today I want to talk a little about anchor charts (or as the Sisters call them "I-Charts") and focus lessons for the first few weeks of school.  

Anchor Charts/I-Charts-I feel very strongly that these charts need to be made with your students.  I have seen a lot of really cute posters floating around on Pinterest and the blogs, but these charts must be meaningful to your students.  Just as the Sisters suggest in their books, your students need to be the ones coming up with the ideas for these charts.  Students are very easily guided in the right direction.  Are my charts a little messy?  Yes.  Do I write things down, then cross them out?  Yes.  This is especially true when we write down what the teacher is doing during Daily 5.  I love it when the students say the teacher is grading papers and I always write it down.  After talking about the purpose of Daily 5, we cross it out, then write 'working with students'.  After the second anchor chart, students catch on that everything is pretty much the same, no matter what Daily choice it is.  Please, try to avoid the cutesy Daily 5 posters and make these charts with your students!  

Focus Lessons-I posted yesterday about waiting to start your CAFE lessons until students have the Daily 5 under their belts for a few weeks.  This is to not overwhelm your students.  I reiterate, this is not to say you're not demonstrating these strategies, you are just not giving the students one more thing to remember while they are learning how to be independent during the Daily 5.  I start Daily 5 on the first day of school.  Why not?  This will set the tone for the whole year and teach your students that reading and becoming independent readers is important.  The first focus lesson I teach is "Three Ways to Read a Book."  Yes, I even teach my fourth graders how to read the pictures.  Reading the pictures to fourth graders is a little bit different than first graders, but it is still very important because it aides in comprehension.  In addition to the lessons involved with launching each daily round, you will want to teach focus lessons on where to sit in the room, choosing good fit books, what to write about, word work materials and how to use them, modeling & practice choosing partners for Read to Someone, the different ways to Read to Someone, coaching, etc.  Do you see why I don't start launching the CAFE menu right away?  You will know when the time is right to launch the CAFE menu in your classroom.  

Please, let me know if there are any specific Daily 5/CAFE topics you would like me to discuss in this series!  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Launching Daily 5 & CAFE

If you've been reading my blog for a while, then you know that I am a HUGE advocate for the Daily 5 & CAFE.  I have done Daily 5 in my classroom for two years and CAFE for 1 1/2.  I had planned on posting a lot about both throughout the summer, but I have to admit, I was having some difficulty finding the inspiration without being in school.  As summer is winding down and I am beginning to get things in order for the new school year, I am starting to revisit my lesson plans for launching Daily 5.  

To me, it only makes sense to launch Daily 5 and CAFE at the same time.  At our school retreat last week it was discussed whether we should start on day one or wait a couple of weeks.  For me and most of my co-workers, it is better to wait a couple of weeks before we actually start launching the CAFE menu.  Actually, the only people that were in somewhat of a disagreement (that's really not even the word for it-more of a questioning) were non-classroom teachers (reading specialists familiar with Daily 5 & CAFE, but not practicing it in a classroom full of 30 students).  The reason why I wait is because it takes A LOT of work to get the Daily 5 up and running.  There is a lot of background that needs to go into Daily 5, more than just modeling and practicing the different dailies.  Does this mean you are not reading aloud and demonstrating the CAFE strategies?  Of course not.  I'm sure all of us subconsciously model CAFE strategies every single time we read, because that is what good readers and good teachers do.  I just don't introduce the CAFE menu until students have Daily 5 under their belts.  We don't want to overwhelm the students.  Can you imagine everything students need to remember?  We don't want them to be so nervous trying to remember to stay in one spot, get started right away, read quietly & the whole time AND on top of that checking for understanding.  In my opinion, it's just too much at once.  Let them get started practicing the different dailies, then work in the CAFE strategies in a few weeks.  

Your focus lessons the first week or two should involve how to complete the dailies successfully.  You will spend A LOT of time practicing and building stamina.  DO NOT overlook this part!  Your students' success & your success the rest of the year depends on this step.  You cannot ignore one student's misgivings.  As annoying as it may be, you must signal for all students to stop the minute you see a student off task.  Call them back to your meeting area and talk about the types of behaviors you were seeing.  Some students may have been off task and didn't even realize it.  Do you need to single students out?  Absolutely not, generalize the behaviors.  But, if you notice it is continually the same student, you might want to call them off to the side and talk to them privately.  You may need to set Daily 5 behavior goals with this student right away.  

I think I've talked long enough for today.  Tomorrow-Anchor Charts & Focus Lessons!  

Let's Try This Again...CAFE Posters!

Sorry about the confusion with the posters!  I'm not sure what the problem is, so I'm going to try it again.  My PrintMaster program will only export files in jpeg, and individually.  I can't group them together, which is a big pain in the you know what!  Since you all couldn't download my posters, I transferred them all to PDF.  Of course, they are still all individual files, which drives me crazy!  I wish I could package them together.  I welcome any suggestions on how to do this.  So..since I'm a bit more computer illiterate than I thought, here are the links to the posters through google docs.  You have to click on each individual link for each poster.  I'm so sorry!  

Expand Vocabulary

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Don't Miss Out On This Awesome Giveaway!

Lutton 519

Click above to find out how you can win this awesome 400 follower giveaway!  There's not much time left, so get over there quick!

Sports Theme CAFE posters-FREEBIE!!!

Some of you may know that I am doing a sports theme in my classroom this year.  Of course, I need sports theme CAFE posters to go along with my theme!  Because I love all of you so much, I'm going to share them with you today for FREE! 

Here is a sample:  

Thanks for continuing to read my itty bitty blog!

Monday, August 1, 2011

My New Word Study Program

When I found out I was teaching Reading, Language Arts, and Spelling next year, I knew I wanted to revamp my word study program.  Last year I taught spelling for two periods, then my co-teacher taught it the rest of the year (to even out our course load).  The whole fourth grade used the Word Journeys program, which we all really loved.  This year, we really want to take it a step forward, and make it more word study, rather than spelling.  Below is what I have typed up to distribute to parents explaining our word study program.  

4th Grade Spelling/Word Study program
  •   Students will be divided into spelling groups based on their needs.  They will be given an assessment during the first week of school to determine these groups.  
  •   Each spelling group will meet with Mrs. Owens once a week.  If individual students need more instruction, they may meet more than once a week.  
  •   Each spelling group will be given a feature or spelling rule to study throughout the week.  Words that fit this feature will be brainstormed during the group meeting.  Students will record the feature and words onto their Word Study recording sheet. 
  •   Throughout the week, students are to practice their feature/spelling rule at school and at home.  Students are to record new words that fit this feature whenever they come across them in print and language.  
  •   Seven days after their group meeting, students will take a written test on 10 feature words.  Students will be given one point for getting the feature correct and one point for spelling the entire word correctly.  
  For instance:  Are dogs permited on airplanes? 
The underlined word is the feature word, spelled incorrectly.  The feature is to double the consonant when adding -ed.  The student would get one point for doubling the consonant “t” and one point for correctly spelling the word “permitted.”  
**Note:  Some words on the test are already spelled correctly.  If a student recognizes that the word is correctly spelled, they would automatically get the two points.  
  •   In addition to the feature list, all students will also have five high frequency words to study each week.  All students will be given the entire high frequency word list to study at home.  The high frequency test will be given verbally to students.  Students are expected to spell these words correctly each week.  If a student does not spell their high frequency words correctly, they will be retested until they do.

I would love to hear all my bloggy friends' input and comments regarding this!  Thanks!