Monday, October 29, 2012

Guided Reading and a Little Red Ribbon Week

I hope everyone is surviving Sandy!  It's crazy...what a massive storm!  I'm in central Ohio and it's been raining since yesterday.  The winds just picked up like crazy about half an hour ago.  Looks like they're currently gusting to around 40 mph.  They're supposed to be over 70, so I'm trying to hurry and get in a blog post before the power goes out!

I am warning you now:  LOTS OF PICS!

Last week we had Red Ribbon Week.  The theme was "Say Boo to Drugs" and we had a door decorating contest.  The high school students came over and judged them and our door won!  Woohoo!  We get a pizza party with the high school Teen Institute on Friday.  The kids are SUPER excited.  Here's a peek at our snazzy door...

The kiddos made pumpkin fold-overs and decorated the outside.

Then they wrote a sentence inside about why drugs are scary.  I took their picture using PhotoBooth and used one of the funky distortion options, which they picked.

Next topic of conversation (sorry I don't have a good segue into this portion)...guided reading!  It was something I struggled to get off the ground my first couple of years teaching.  I tried to follow how  the book wanted me to do it.  Bad idea.  It was horrible.  Can we say cookie-cutter machine?!?!  I felt like a robot with what they wanted me to do.  Yuck.

After attending a couple SDE conferences and doing some research, I came up with the best option for the moment.  And I say moment because I'm always changing things, so next year it'll probably look a little different.  :P

So how do I start?  Well, I collect a lot of data at the beginning of the year to decide what groups to put them in.  A lot.  I mean, TONS.  Then I come up with a list.  I typically have one below-level group, 2 on-level groups (split into a lower end and higher end), and an advanced group.  I work with one group for 30 minutes a day.  If you have to meet with every group everyday, God bless you.  I don't know how you do it.  I can barely squeeze in 30 minutes for one group!  But yet I WISH I had time to meet with each group each day.  But let's face reality, it's not realistic.  I do the best I can...

I put the names up on the board in a flip chart I made.  All I have to do is open it up and flip to the page with the group I need for the day.

All they bring is a pencil and I provide the rest.  Here's a look at what my plans look like.  I have a plan for below-level, on-level, and advanced for each story each week.  I keep them all in a binder with Unit tabs.  I just grab my binder, caddy, and books and I'm ready to go!  Part of the plans go with the leveled readers we have for Reading Street, but I added in a bit of my own stuff.

To get started, we review our high-frequency words.  I put them on my iPad with an app called "Flashcards +."  I put the words on a card and then a sentence on the back.  We practice reading, spelling, and recognizing the sight words for the week.  I also have an old wipes container with all the words in it.  I'm using these right now since I haven't had time to add some of the words to the app yet...

Then we move on to our "hunks and chunks" for the week.  It's just whatever phonics skill we're learning...short a, long o, sh, -ing, whatever...I created a huge, long project that drove me crazy last year.  I printed all sorts of words that follow the phonics skill onto a label and then put the label onto an index card.  Front and back.  Hundreds.  I think I bought around 15 packs of index cards.  Uggg.  What a nightmare.  THEN...I laminated all of them!  Eeek!  BUT, it was worth it.  Because now I have them ready for the YEAR.  We practice recognizing the hunks and chunks and reading them.  Sometimes we figure them out together, other times we raise our hand to read one when we know it, sometimes I call on random students, and sometimes we have little contests.  The kids love reading through them.  It's the little things!  ;)

Next, we move onto our story!  We talk about our reading skills and strategies.  Then I pass out the books and have them do a picture walk.  I let them predict what the story will be about and what will happen based on the pictures that they see.

Then we read!  Sometimes we read it chorally, other times we whisper read, and sometimes we read it with a partner.  Some days we even read it silently to ourselves!  I picked up these cute swizzle sticks from Hobby Lobby to use as pointers.  The kids LOVE. THEM.  They are MAGICAL to them!  I have simple ones with glitter and ones that are a little more chunky.  They pick out a stick and use it to track the print as we read.

After we read, I pass out our fiction dice or they draw a non-fiction stick.  They roll the fiction dice and answer the question.

All I did for the non-fiction sticks was take oversized popsicle sticks and write some questions on them.

We wrap up everything by working on a little worksheet that comes with our leveled readers.

And that's it!  Simple, huh?  ;)

The wind is I go!

Ok, I can't's my little guy dressed up for Halloween!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Writing Workshop and some exciting stuff!

In the past, I've really struggled to teach writing.  What is suggested in our Reading Series...well...I just don't like it.  There's no logic to it really.  It's like someone throws feathers up in the air and you just catch what you catch.  I've tossed around different things.  Tried a few things here and there.  And I'm all about logic.  Systematic.  RELEVANT.  Nothing drives me more crazy than randomly teaching my firsties something that has no rhyme or reason or sense to it.  They don't get it and neither do I.

So this year I've combined a few things and come up with something that is actually working for once.  Hey, that's what teaching is all about, right?  Try something and if it doesn't work, try something else.  Tweak.  Adjust.  Experiment.

So here's how I have my schedule arranged.  Every morning after announcements and lunch count and the daily "chores", we do our "writing workshop" for 30 minutes (I wish I could do longer, but alas, the schedule does not allow it).  I am telling you, Deanna Jump and Deedee Wills have been a GODSEND.  I am not kidding you.  It has been such a great thing in my classroom and the best part is that the kids LOVE IT.  They get SO excited about writing workshop.

If you haven't checked it out, here's the link:

Then I've kind of/sort of incorporated the Daily 5.  Unfortunately, I do not have a big enough block to do The Daily 5 five times in one day.  So it's kind of a modified version.  Anyways, those of you familiar with The Daily 5 know that one of the components is Work on Writing.  For this, the students have several options of what to do.  They can:

-Write in their journal (their choice OR a pre-written topic).
-Make a card.
-Write a report.
-Write a book report.
-Write a letter.
-Write a list.
-Write a story.

They choose.  I have drawers on our writing table with everything already copied.

Inside each drawer is an idea list and a template sheet.  I laminated them and put them in the drawers for reference.  The letter list actually has an example on the back of how to format the letter so they can see the proper way to date it, address it, write it, close it, and sign it.

These are the journals I have for my students.  I found these binders at Odd Lots for somewhere in the neighborhood of $0.80 a piece.  I put a cover page and several blank journal pages inside.  The journal pages are from Journals Through the Year by Rachelle Smith.

Blank pages are already in their binders.  They can add pre-written prompts if they have a hard time thinking of something to write.

Here are some of my firsties during Work on Writing!

Making a card...

Writing a report on weather...

If you're interested in the drawers full of writing goodies, you can pick it up at my TPT shop!

A couple more notes before I head to bed...

1.  I now have a Facebook page!  If you look to the right, you will find a link to "like" my page.  I'm a Facebook junkie, so don't be surprised if you see an update pretty often on there...and I LOVE to chat, so you might see lots of opportunities to chime and converse in some teacher talk!  ;)

2.  I have to give a shout-out to my school.  We are "officially" rated an EXCELLENT SCHOOL DISTRICT!  The only one in our county!  Woo-hoo!  :D  Hard work, dedicated teachers, community/parental involvement, and a love for our schools has brought us success!  Congrats to all those in the Pleasant Local School District in Marion, OH!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Assessments and My Donor's Choose Project

So is this yucky sickness invading your school, too?  Man...I've had this crud for over a week now.  Fortunately I was able to schedule a doctor's appointment for tomorrow.  I was out last Tuesday, as were 9 other teachers!  You should've seen us walking around today.  It's only gotten worse.  Boo.  :(  Z Pack, here I come!

This is a 3-day week for us (can I get an amen?!?!), so we're using this week to assess, assess, assess in 1st grade.  My mind is fried after today.  And I still have to do fluency checks and finish up about 8 Houghton-Mifflin assessments tomorrow.  Whew.  Tonight will be an early bedtime, for sure!  Here's a view of a desk outside my room today as I was in the midst of Houghton-Mifflin checks (yes, the caffeine was a necessity!):

With the millions of assessments we do in 1st grade, I simply compiled mine into one chart showing what each child scored on each assessment.  I color-coded each assessment to show if they were high (green), in the middle (yellow), or low (red).  Then I color-coded which reading group I would put them in (Advanced = green, On-Level High = yellow, On-Level Low = orange, and Low = red).  This helps me plan my guided reading groups, as well as see an overall picture of my class.  I update it as the year goes and I gather more data.  I'm a very visual person, so the colors help!

One last thing for the night:  I have a Donor's Choose project in need of some funding!  There are only a few hours left of a special promotion they are having.  For every donation made, Donor's Choose will match the donation!  So let's say you donate $20.  Donor's Choose will match that, therefore it's like you donated $40!!!  Crazy and so amazing!  What a blessing!  I'm trying to get a new carpet for our classroom.  We have to purchase our own and mine is not meant for classrooms at all.  :(  If you would like to help, please visit this link:

BE SURE TO ENTER THE CODE "pumpkin" when you checkout so that they will match your donation!  :)  Thanks are totally worth little things like this that seem so insignificant.  

Ok, off to do some more work on Reading Street stuff, as well as some stuff for my Reading Intervention class.  :)  Happy Mid-October!  :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What a Sweet Day!

I've had an Ohio State student the past 6 weeks.  It's her first education placement.  Let me tell you what...I can just TELL this girl is going to be a fantastic teacher one day!  She is the sweetest!  Whitney has been SO helpful in the last few weeks.  She's helped me with assessments, helped with some of my challenging students, helped cut out loads of laminated stuff, and just been a delight to have in our room.  The kiddos absolutely loved her.  And I instantly knew that we would get along when she informed me that the season premier of Criminal Minds was a few weeks ago.  Had she not said something, I might've never known.  Thanks to her, I stayed up until 10 last night watching the latest episode.  Special friendship right there, I tell you what!  ;)

She made the most darling little goodie bags for the kids for her last day today.  She took the time to write each kid a PERSONAL note.  I mean, really!?!?!  Once again, I can just tell she'll be amazing.  Not to mention the absolutely heart-warming note she wrote me.  Thank goodness I'm not in that crying "time of the month", otherwise my desk would've been flooded with tears.  Seriously.

Here are the cute Halloween bags she made for the kids.

Time for a group hug!

After she left, one of the kids spotted her walking in the parking lot to her car...this is what happened next:

Now for the sweet gift I got...check it out!  She was telling me all about this book one day and showed it to me.  I wrote it down because it looked awesome and I REALLY wanted to read it.

So to my surprise...

I am so. pumped.  Oh yeah, and there were 2 Cheryl's cookies...I definitely already ate one.

Anyone else ever read this book?  I'm excited to dive in!  I think I need it right now with all the stress of school.  I need to be reminded of why I'm doing what I'm doing.  Some days are so hard, and I've been really struggling this year.  I feel like I'm not good enough and that I will never be good enough.  Now, with that being said, I constantly try to improve myself.  Every year I change things up and try new things.  That will never stop.  It's just not in me to settle and do the same thing day after day.  But to feel like the state or country will never tell me that I'm as good as they can get...that bothers me.  I know that probably sounds really egotistical and selfish.  I don't mean it that way at all.  If there are any other Type-A people out there, you probably understand what I'm trying to say.  You just need to be told you're doing a fantastic job.  For no other reason than to know that what we're doing is making a difference and is appreciated.  I don't want fancy lights and billboards with my name all over it.  At all.  I just want to know that I'm succeeding at what I'm doing and that the kids are getting a quality education when they're with me.  It's not about me.  It's about leaving a mark.  Make sense?

Found this on Pinterest awhile back.  It explains a lot.  :P

Eh, anyways...I just love college students.  :)  They remind you of when you first stepped in the classroom and the journey it took to get to where you are today.  Lord, may we all be reminded...

What do you love about college students and student teachers?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Good News and a Winner!

I went ahead and picked a winner tonight since tonight is the last chance you'll have to get the October Math Centers for $4.  :)  The winner is...

That means that Suzy Q is the winner!  Congrats!  I will be e-mailing the file to you as soon as I'm done with this update.  :)

In case you didn't know, my principal follows my blog.  :P  She's totally into the blogging world, which makes me happy!  What a trendy principal!  ;)  She read my blog post last night and we had a nice chat this morning when I got to work.  She suggested, in order to give us more teaching time, that we should do our intervention during 2nd recess.  Then those teachers don't have to add in my kiddos to their class AND they don't have to plan for supplemental lessons AND we get an extra half hour with our homeroom firsties to keep on teachin'!  Isn't that wonderful!?!?!  I was insanely giddy when she suggested that as a fix for our problem.  It was like a huge weight lifted off our shoulders!  And of course, my team totally went for the idea.   I mean, hello...who doesn't get excited about having ONE LESS thing to plan for and try to fit in when there's so much else to do?!?!  I truly am blessed to have a great principal that is willing to help her teachers (I'm not trying to suck up to you, Shelly...promise!  I totally mean what I say!).  :)  I feel a MILLION times better tonight.  It was so nice to have an HOUR to teach math/calendar instead of cramming it into 30 minutes.  You teachers know how it is, you can do so much more with your students and really make sure they understand something when you have more time with them!  Just amazing.


Have a blessed week everyone!  It's beginning to look like the middle of autumn around here and it is BEAUTIFUL!!!!  Soak it in and enjoy it!  :)