Sunday, July 31, 2011

Reading Street and Technology

Thanks so much for all of your comments and thoughts with Reading Street and Daily 5. Your thoughts and posts are super helpful and appreciated. I spent my weekend with my girls up at our cabin and like a huge nerd, I brought my reading materials with me. I am the kind of person who, when "stuck" on something, I have to bring my things with me, even if I don't end up touching them. This is because I have kind of perfected the art of putting things in the back of my head until I find a solution. If said solution comes (and it usually does when I least expect it -- like in the shower or some other weird place!), I have my materials handy to make notes or whatnot.

I actually had a good couple of hours there when the kids were occupied with other things and think I may have found a way to mesh both that will make me feel like I'm being true to the program but also doing what is best for my students. I will share more about that in an upcoming post. [Just waaaaayyyy too tired from my weekend to do it now!] thing that I love about Reading Street is the tech component. I love technology! However, my school only has one computer lab and with 500+ students, plus the lab closed down for weeks at a time when we have MAP testing, I am struggling to figure out how I can successfully utilize the online components of Reading Street. 

I am thinking about trying to write a grant...I remember reading about someone who got 1:1 grants for iPads in their classroom which is awesome. I am not sure where to get started but even if I could get a few it would be so helpful. Any tips or tricks out there?


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hello Nerd!

So recently, one of my real life colleagues found my blog. At first I was worried until I realized which colleague it is and then I knew my secret was safe! The fabulous Mrs. A, over at Wild World of Teaching, is new to blogging but she is amazing. We have recently discovered that we are like peas in a pod in terms of our teaching philosophy. What's sad about that is, she will most likely end up teaching 1st grade instead of the 2/3 split she is currently assigned (we just don't have the numbers to justify a split in those grades). I'm really sad about that, especially now that I realize our philosophies are so similar. Again, she's new to the blogging world, but check her out. It'll be worth it, I promise!

After our reading training yesterday I was all fired up about Reading Street. They piloted two programs and I prayed this was the one they would pick. I am NOT a fan of scripted curriculum AT ALL but this one is really, really good. I can't believe I am about to admit my massive nerdiness here but I couldn't sleep last night despite being beyond exhausted so I spread out my Reading Street manuals on my bed and armed myself with a notepad and pencil and started thinking about how I could work this program.

I have wanted to do Daily 5 for a long time and have never had the guts to just DO IT ALREADY. And I want to...but now that same ole anxiety creeps in and I feel overwhelmed. There is SO MUCH to Reading Street that I don't know how I would break it down to use Daily 5. I thought about having Monday be a whole group day since much of the RS stuff is teacher-led the first day and then doing groups Tuesday-Friday with 3 rounds. BUT then I thought "how would I teach the story twice if I can't see all of my groups every day?!" and "some of the station activities are REALLY useful -- how will I ever use them?!"

So yeah. That panicky part of myself that makes me anxious and tells me that I just can't do it....has reared it's ugly head. It honestly seems like it would be SO.MUCH.EASIER. to just follow the program as aligned....but then another part of me says that even if I follow the suggested outline, there is still no way to get with every group every day because you need at least 20 minutes per group and I am just not going to have that kind of time.

It's irritating. I am a HUGE planner and I like feeling like I know what I am doing. I just don't know how to incorporate Reading Street with Daily 5. I know a lot of people do it and do it successfully. But I am feeling kind of lost since these are both new programs for me. I do have a Daily 5 training I am going to in August and I plan to ask them how to incorporate both because I do love the idea.

I'd love to hear how you successfully use Reading Street with Daily 5 if you have both (or other similar basal programs that emphasize small groups). I know I CAN do it (and tell that stupid little voice in my head to take a hike) but it feels like a daunting task and I'm not sure how to start.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Training and Planning

Yesterday I was a lazy slug all day long until about 6 p.m. Today I have been much more productive! I had a reading training this morning at 8 (boo!) and got to see a lot of teacher friends I haven't seen all summer so far (yay!). I'm really excited about using Reading Street. I was a fan before but even moreso now after some of what they showed us. I can see how it would be really easy to get overwhelmed but I am of the mindset of taking it a day at a time and doing what is best for MY class. Fortunately, the trainers and our literacy specialist in the district said multiple times that this was a resource -- use the components that best fit OUR students and OUR classroom. It was refreshing to hear since it often feels like you get something new and they want you to kill yourself implementing every single component of it.

Really the best part was that they let us take home the First Stop and Volume 1.1 of the Teacher Edition. I am a HUGE planner and while I have access to all of this stuff online, it's so much nicer having a hard copy that I can flip through without spending hours in front of my computer. They went through a whole checklist of items that we'll be getting and my colleagues and I were laughing about how we'd better just clear out the desks so we have room for the materials! 

I have the task of cleaning out everything left by the former teacher in my room also in addition to putting all of the materials from Reading Street into appropriate places. It will be a big, overwhelming job I'm sure. Plus, I'm 99% sure that I have to move my stuff from my former room myself. Our day custodian told me that she would do it but she was moved about between schools at the end of the year and I have no idea if she has even been there to be able to do it. Our other custodian is pregnant and I forbid her to move anything! I have a lot going on the week before we're officially back but I'm hopeful I can spend 2-3 days there moving, unpacking and getting things set up. (Again, totally jealous of people who have year-round access to their schools!!)

Yesterday I purchased a fun game from Teachers Pay Teachers. Usually I just go for the free stuff because I'm a cheapskate. (At least I'm honest!) BUT when I saw this, I had to get it. I'm glad I did because it is soooo cute and the kids will love it. 

These are cover sheets for the activities. I just printed them on cardstock in black and white and then laminated them with my Scotch Laminator (which is the best because for 8.5x11 sheets, it fits perfect and you really don't have to cut off the excess unless you really want to). I plan to hole punch them in one corner and put them on a ring along with a set of the tiles and keep them organized in my word study area.

A sample of the math activities. I like these as early finisher activities or Academic Free Choice (Fun Friday) activities.

A sample of the tiles. Are they cute or what?? You get 58 PAGES of these tiles! (Capitals, lowercase and symbols.) I printed only the lowercase for now and will put four of each letter with each kit above.

I am excited to put these into my word study area. Reading Street comes with "instant centers" which is okay but since I'm pretty sure I will use Daily 5, I may not have need for all of that stuff. Word Study is definitely something the kiddos need to do on a daily basis. I am a huge advocate of Words Their Way because I think that children NEED to be working at their own level. However, I am also a big advocate for using vocabulary and spelling patterns that fit the reading program. The year I did WTW with fidelity, I had the kiddos do phonics and grammar activities from our reading program using the reading series spelling lists, in addition to the sorts they had that week. The kids liked it because the sorts are fun but they also got to manipulate other words and really transfer their skills. 

So this activity fits that bill nicely. They can practice with their word sort, their spelling list OR their vocabulary words and it is still a meaningful activity about words. I'd say that was worth the price and time I took to print and laminate them.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Finished Crates!

I am not a big TV person. I never have been. I'd much rather while away my hours online than sit in front of a TV. Unless there is something fabulous on like Hell's Kitchen (call me crazy but I just ♥ when Ramsay yells -- he's SO dreamy) or Ghost Adventures (Zac...yum!). 

The new HK season just started so The Oldest, The Littles and myself plopped ourselves down in front of the TV last night to watch. Since my fabulous hunny cut all my seat boards for me before he left, I cut out fabric and batting during the commercials! (Teachers are nothing if not multi-taskers!) I finished one crate last night and worked on the others this morning. It didn't take as long as I thought it would. I'm really glad I decided to do them....they're so cute!

This is the crate I finished last night!

Long view of half of the crates

Side view of half of the crates -- yay storage!!

So easy to make and I love them. I had more fun picking out the fabric than anything I've done teacher-related for awhile! I am not a big crafter so I just don't go to JoAnn's that much. I probably hadn't been there in about 5 years. I think I spent about 45 minutes just looking through all of the fun fabric they had.

Finally, I wanted to share a fun activity one of my former colleagues shared on FaceBook. She teaches kindergarten. She had a bunch of friends ask for spare fry containers at McDonald's and then cut up sponges to look like french fries. Each container is labeled with a number and the "fries" go in the basket. At one of her centers, the kindergartners will add fries to each container based on the number of fries on the label. I thought it was quite ingenious and the fries are adorable!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Crate Seats and Fabulous People

I found the cutest fabric to use with my crate seats at JoAnn's. Bonus it was $2 off per yard and the batting was 50% off! Yay!

Cuuuute!! And my new class website is called "Leaping into Learning" and my crates are blue so it works!

When I got home from putting myself in the poor house spending all of The Husband's money shopping, I found I had a package in my doorway. One of my fabulous readers, Tracy, offered to send me some of those stand up pocket charts everyone was raving about from Target that I couldn't find. Well, this lovely gem of a lady did better than that.

Two pocket chart stands, dry erase lapboards and word strips, plus two fun dry erase learning mats!

It is not simply her kindness that is so fabulous. She told me not to pay her for these things but rather to pay it forward instead. I.LOVE.THAT. First of all because I am all about paying it forward. I love helping other people who really need something and just can't get it. But also because what a fabulous story to share with my young friends this year. You do things for other people because it makes you feel good. My dear Tracy is a major bucket filler. You rock girl. Thank you SO much!


Student Accountability

I know that I don't have to tell anyone reading this that teachers have had the word "accountability" thrown in our faces so often, we'd like to scream whenever we hear it. Personally, I am a huge advocate for student accountability. 

Earlier this year, my 5th grade team and I went to a training about lexiling books. The gal who presented put the notion in my head about the kiddos having data binders to keep track of their own progress. I thought it was an amazing idea. She even showed us examples of KINDERGARTNERS who had amazing binders where they kept track of their learning (popcorn words, etc). I love it.

I belong to a couple of yahoo groups and I get the digests because I don't want a ton of emails every day. In my digest this morning, there was a link to this book:

Additionally, the gal who posted about it said that there is a free study guide for the book at the publisher's website. It's a 44 page guide! Wow. I checked it out at Amazon and because it seems to go right along with what I'd like to do with helping my 2nd graders be accountable, I had to buy it (and download the study guide which you can find here).

And while I was there....I just couldn't resist this:

Don't you just love Scaredy Squirrel??


Sunday, July 24, 2011

National Board

I just officially became a National Board candidate!! Eek! You have to pay an "application processing fee" when you apply and once you pay your initial fee, you get your materials so you can start as soon as the school year begins. They prefer you have them ship to your school address but since we don't get access to our schools over the summer, I wasn't about to allow that. I should get my materials by the time The Husband returns from his road trip since they say you should get your materials within three weeks. I only paid my initial fee and the app fee for now. The balance is due by the end of January 2012 which shouldn't be an issue since The Husband is going to be working all that overtime out of state.

I posted before about making the crate seats everyone has been talking about. The Husband was cleaning out the shed at our cabin and there was some board left in there by the previous owner. Major score for me because the board is PERFECT to cut up and use for my crate seats! Now I just have to buy some batting and the fabric and it shouldn't take too long at all to get that project finished up. 

I will be making myself little to do lists to keep me busy and occupied while my guy is away. 3 weeks is SUCH a long time!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Walmart Score!

Today has been insane. It's SUPER hot here with heat indices in the 100s-110 range. Gross. I like heat but this is too hot for me!

I took the kids out marketing and it was not a pleasant experience. I dunno if the heat is frying their little brains or what. I opted to go on the second half of my shopping spree solo!

I did get over to Walmart today and got 6 new crates. I'm TOTALLY hopping on the bandwagon with the crate seats. I think they are so cute. Plus, the extra storage is always welcome. 

I just found out today that starting Monday, as in 4 days from now, The Husband is going out of town for three weeks. Three weeks! I might not make it. Seriously. I'm not happy about him going but the extra money will be nice (hello National Board fee!). I figure that while he is gone, I need SOMETHING to keep myself busy aside from keeping the children from torturing each other *wink*. So this is one of my projects. Additionally I will be printing and making some learning center games since I just bought one of those cute little laminators at Target. 

I think I'm just nervous because the last time he had to go out of town, my grandma died and a lot of crappy stuff happened and he wasn't here. It was hard. So I am trying to think of lots of things I can do to get ready for school in that time he's gone so I don't feel like I'm just staring at the walls waiting for him to get back home!

He was able to snag tomorrow off so we're heading to our cabin tonight instead of tomorrow and I am looking forward to a nice weekend. It's his big 4-0 Saturday and we're having friends come up and camp with us and go swimming. And I made sure to pack myself a couple extra adult beverages. It's summer and therefore I gotta indulge a little.

Have a blessed weekend!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011


One of my favorite things about being a blogger is the relationships you make. It's kind of interesting how "close" you can feel with people you've never met, never talked to on the phone or even seen a picture of. I think this is especially true when your passion for teaching is what brought you together.

I had two different people tell me that they could help me solve my Target dilemma -- one even picked up the charts when she saw them at the store, thinking how much I covet them (Hi Jodi! You totally rule!). Now, that is pretty amazing. 

On top of that goodness (I love reading email and having people be so awesome to you!), today I was able to successfully convert my classroom website over to a blogger format. Shut.The.Front.Door. Soooo awesome! I have used regular HTML (not *that* hard because you can find tutorials but it's massively time consuming!), I've used WordPress (not impressed!) and was really excited to discover I could still use my own domain and my own server but use the blogger format. I was like a kid in a candy store!

Then I marched myself right over to LadyBug Teaching Resources and bought the Leaping Learners premade blog template. I am too stingy to pay for a blog template for THIS blog...but for my class website? Oh yeah. Of course, we'll just keep that our little secret (shhhhh, don't tell The Husband!). 

AND The Husband is going to see if he can play hooky on Friday and we'll head up to the cabin Thursday evening instead of Friday evening. Saturday is his big 4-0 so kind of a big deal. His dad is even going to make the 2 hour trip to see him for his birthday. Very cool. 

Life is good.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Target Disappointment

I am so disappointed in the dollar spot at my Target. Why? Because while they have all kinds of cuteness....they did not have those cute little stand-up pocket charts everyone is posting about. The dollar spot at my local Target is always a huge mess and you better believe I was DIGGING through those bins in the hopes of finding those stand up charts. dice. I'm so sad!! They would be PERFECT for my Words Their Way work this year.

They had TONS of the scheduler pocket charts for $1 which is awesome...but I bought about 8 of them last year so I don't need anymore. I want the stand up kind. I guess I will have to keep looking.

Seriously, if any of you out there find some spares, I would GLADLY pay you to ship them to me (plus their cost obviously). I only want 3-4.


Books for Boys

I finished reading Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys  last night. I marked all of the different genres with my sticky note flags so when I'm looking for specific books that I can recommend to my boys, I can easily find what they're interested in.

It's really just an excuse to use my post-it flags! 

Most of this book is the annotated book list. Pam doesn't go on and on and on with useless filler. She provides research (in a concise manner), does a nice FAQ section and then provides the annotated list. This is definitely on my "Favorite Reads of 2011" list.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

I ♥ Summer!

You know, I really love teaching. I do. The Oldest asked me the other day what I would have wanted to do if I wasn't a teacher and I honestly said it was all I had ever wanted to do since I was 8. I didn't pursue teaching right after HS for many reasons but it's all I ever really wanted to do.

That said....I am LOVING this summer vacation! While I have done a few little things to make the change to 2nd grade, I have let myself just relax and have some time off. This past week we've had a fair in town and the girls and I had a lot of fun there Friday with Middle Child's friend tagging along. Yesterday we had the parade which is always fun (The Oldest has been in the parade the last 3 years with the HS band -- she plays the baritone). After the parade, we loaded up our truck and headed out camping with some friends.

It was VERY hot and probably not the best day to camp but thankfully it did cool down enough at night to be able to sleep comfortably. The best part about camping there is it is only about 20 minutes from our house and we always pack it in early and come home to enjoy the rest of our day (because none of us are really "camping" type of people -- I have to have access to a bathroom and shower!). 

We were home this morning by 9:30! Unloaded, put in some laundry, took a long shower and took a super long nap. Perfect! And we're supposed to have SUPER hot temps here this week so I will be happy to settle myself into my little air conditioned home and just chill (I don't do humidity very well).

The forecast:


Friday, July 15, 2011

Vista Print Linky Party

Mrs. S at Spotlight on Kindergarten is hosting a Linky Party about Vista Print creations. Oh boy!

I ♥ Vista Print! Like most teachers, at first I thought it was way too good to be true. Alas, it is legit and I love it. I am not as addicted as some but I enjoy it just the same.

Here are some of my creations from the 2010-2011 school year:

Stole this idea from someone else. I LOVE this stamp! Toward the end of the year the kids would hear the telltale clicking of the stamper and sigh!

Business Cards to send home. Of course I am no longer teaching 5th grade but I will reuse them anyway and change 5th to 2nd! These came in super handy throughout the year.

I also stole this idea from someone else. I use these as conference reminder cards. They were AWESOME. I even told the kiddos if they brought the card to the conference I would stamp it and every stamped card earned an ice cream. I had 100% conferences!!

When I taught 2nd grade before, my principal shared "Ready Position" with my class and I. I have used it since and this handy magnet on the whiteboard is great for subs!

Small magnets for student names (I ended up with 2 sets so 50 total). I used them for our behavior ladder to start the year last year. This coming year I want to use them for groups.

Personalized Post-its!

Post-Cards that I used as "Rock Star" awards (our theme was Hollywood). Kiddos who went above and beyond would earn a Rock Star award. The back was blank and I wrote personal messages on them for whatever the good deed was that I noticed. Sometimes it was simply completing 100% HW for the month or as huge as being a mentor to a younger student.

Creations I have purchased (so far!) for the 2011-2012 school year:

Business Cards to be used a Debit/Credit longs for classroom economy. I actually ordered these when I thought I was still teaching 5th grade next year. I'm not 100% positive if I'm going to use them this year or not.

Post cards to send home to capture personal information on. We only get info cards that go to the office and I figured this would be an easy way for parents to fill this out and get it back to me and they're small and easier to store. I am thinking of stapling them inside each student's personal folder with their communication log.

Clip Chart banner -- I made my own last year and wanted something a little more durable for next year. I will NEVER use another behavior system ever again!

Business Cards to send home with kiddos when they reach "Outstanding". I realized AFTER I ordered that it says "move" instead of "moved" anal-retentiveness will just have to hope none of the parents notice! I added that list of things so I can easily circle the thing(s) that contributed to them being able to clip up.

Stole this idea from someone else too. I LOVED the idea since I HATE IT when kids forget to put their names on papers (especially toward the end of the year!). I wanted a better place to put no-name papers and this fabulously large magnet will be a big help so I can keep them in a small spot on the whiteboard.

Personalized Pen

Personalized Mug -- I just liked the sun because it looks so happy and I'm on a quest to be positive! I don't drink coffee but this will still be perfect for my mid-morning Diet Coke fix!

Lastly I ordered these magnets to give to my students in their welcome kits. They can stick them on their fridge at home so they have a special place to hold wonderful work they bring home. 

I hope you enjoyed looking at my creations! I had SO MUCH FUN making them!!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

What a Day!

Today was crazy but good. It makes me giddy every time I check my dashboard and see more and more followers. Who'da thought anyone would really be interested in listening to my drivel?? *wink*

  • I got my copy of Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys in the mail today. I'm really looking forward to digging into it. I started reading the research part and it's just mind-boggling how long this problem has been on-going. I am determined to make EVERY 2nd grade boy in my class LOVE reading this year!
  • I also got this book I bought for Middle Child called It's Called Dyslexia. I thought it might be too young for her since she's 9 1/2 but it is exactly at a level that she will understand. She never says so but I know her and she is very embarrassed that she doesn't read well. I am hopeful that this book will really help her understand what dyslexia really is and what it means for her.
  • I found my Dolch list checklist that another teacher gave me three summers ago when I was doing a summer internship for my master's. I'm really excited to use it as part of my start-of-year assessments (as I honestly have no idea if my school uses them or not since we don't do that stuff in the upper grades). Even better, on the back I found the Dolch phrases that we used that summer to make a word game for the kidlets. I just have to find my craft sticks and I will make a few sets.
  • I found the above Dolch stuff when I was digging through my loft for something else. As part of National Board portfolio 4, you have to show evidence of being a teacher leader. Being a demonstration teacher two school years ago is right up that alley and I was hoping to find my feedback sheets from the last demo I did. I found them AND the Dolch lists. Score!
  • Tomorrow I don't plan to do a SINGLE thing school/teaching related. I am taking The Littles and Middle Child's friend, V, to the fair that is in town (it's close enough that we can walk from our house -- love it!). We're going to do lunch, visit the Scholastic Fair the library is having, go to the petting zoo, the kidlets will go on some rides, we'll eat cotton candy and caramel apples (and I promise not to complain about how much it adds to my already more-than-ample figure!) and just have FUN. I'm almost more excited about it than the children are!

Have a Fabulous Friday bloggy-friends!


Words Their Way

The year that I taught 2nd grade before, my school was a Reading First school. I had to go to a ton of workshops about literacy to comply with the grant. The best thing I learned about was Words Their Way. I remember initially thinking how overwhelming it would be to fill out those huge assessment sheets for all of the students in my class....but I tried it the following year when I was teaching 4th grade. I literally gave them the spelling test the first day of school (along with a math screener and a writing screener -- those poor children probably thought I was the meanest person in the world!).

It did take a LOT of time to grade them...but I put my students into groups and we fumbled our way through the process. I say fumbled because like anything new it does have its bumps. But by January, you would never know that these children hadn't been doing these sorts forever. They were amazing at them. They got so good that most of them could practice the sort for only 3-5 minutes a day Monday - Thursday and still pass the skill set that week! I also had students do so well that they actually SKIPPED a pattern style. 

As always, I am super ultra organized when it comes to keeping up with systems like this. YES, it is overwhelming and YES it will take you time. But it is worth it. I will shout to the rooftops that buying this set is the best $125 I have ever spent in my teaching career. 

First you start with the Words Their Way book itself (which is essential for the background and to get you started -- plus the included CD has a lot of great stuff!). I also have a binder to house my word sort books.

I found this great spelling test tracker at Laura Candler's website and had the students use it to track their progress with their sorts. We pulled these out at Parent Conference and it was really nice to be able to really show the parents how their children were doing. I can tell you that children who did NOT use their word sorts at home did not score as well as those who did and it was really evident on these sheets!

Inside my binder, I have 4 levels of Word Sorts. This is the newest one that I just bought, for Letter Name-Alphabetic Spellers. This one was essential for teaching 2nd grade because many kiddos in 1st-3rd are in this stage. The nicest part about these individual books is that they are already 3-hole punched and perforated. It makes it very easy to put them together into the same binder.

This is the final book that I have, intended for 5th - 12th graders and has pretty challenging sorts in it. When I was teaching 4th, I actually had to buy this one because I had some students who from fall to winter jumped from Within Word to this level and I wanted to have the sorts on hand. Unlikely that I'll have any 2nd graders at this level but you never know! And now I have a whole range so regardless of what grades I teach in the future, I'll be set.

So how do you get started using Words Their Way?

There are 3 different spelling inventories included in the initial Words Their Way book: primary (for K-3), elementary (for 1st-5th -- lower end of the grades if they get a lot correct on the primary test) and upper-level  (for 4th-high school). When I used this before, I used the elementary test and it worked out fine. This year for 2nd grade, I will use the primary test.

You give the test whenever you are ready to start this type of program. I liked giving it the first day even though it might seem overwhelming because then I had the rest of that week (as we were doing other beginning of the year assessments per the district and getting to know each other) to get them graded so we'd be ready to go by the 2nd week. 

You need to read Words Their Way and follow the directions therein but basically you analyze each child's answers and learn what kind of speller they are. Which ever area has the most mistakes is what group that child ends up in. There are forms in the book that guide you through how to group the students. It's really easy once you read through and look at the examples.

Working with Groups

When I did this before, I had 4 different levels at the same time (5 actual groups because one level had so many students). I just gave them group numbers 1-5 and at the start of each week, we would meet together for up to 10 minutes to model the new sort and answer any questions the students might have. I ONLY met with my groups the first day -- the other days they did partner sorts or speed sorts. After awhile we literally never spent more than 10 minutes a day on the sorts (after Monday when each group met with me to get their new list).

I have also read about teachers who stagger their groups so that group 1 gets a new sort on Monday, group 2 on Tuesday, etc so that it's a bit easier to manage within the time constraints of the particular classroom. I am a big advocate of finding what works in YOUR class.


I didn't really use the games very much but it is something I want to do with my 2nd graders (which is one of the reasons I have pulled this out so early this summer -- I can make some of them!). I did use a couple of the games for a project for a reading class that I was taking to finish my masters and students LOVED them. You could have game day Thursday to practice the patterns or better yet, make them an Academic Friday choice activity.


People would never believe me when I told them that I gave 4 spelling tests at the same time. They thought I was crazy. I'm sure many subs that year thought that as well if I was out on test day! I really did give 4 tests at the same time. I doubt I would do that with 2nd graders but my 4th graders did well with it. Most of the sorts have about 20 words and I would choose about 8 to test them on each week. It was enough for me to really see if they were getting the pattern that we were studying (because the point isn't to memorize the word, it's to learn the pattern).  

I bought these fun half sheets of paper online somewhere that were perfect for spelling tests. I would choose my words for each group and write them out on MY half slip and then we'd take our test. I would give the test like this: "Group 1, your first word is [word]" then I'd use it in a sentence and repeat and then go on "Group 2, your first word is [word]" and continue in that fashion. Again, it sounds bizarre and it was the first few times but I noticed two things.

a) very RARELY did the children ever get "lost" 
b) it forced them to pay attention so they wrote down the words for their group and not someone else's!
c) they heard a TON of other words as we were testing which can only be a good thing!


I REALLY liked using WTW as my main spelling program. I am not a big fan of giving children the same list and letting them basically memorize it. Using the patterns really helped a lot of my students that year grow as readers as well because they were able to find words in their books in the same patterns they were working on or had worked on previously. There is a lot of connection made and the children internalize the patterns because they use them over and over (and the sorts are fun!).

I actually had students who ended up with dozens of the little word cards because they never wanted to recycle them after we finished that sort. I just copied them normal size from the book and the kids cut them out but you could easily enlarge them a little and print on cardstock and then laminate and cut so they could be reused from year to year. I am still debating if I want to do that. It'll take a LOT of organizing and prep to start with but they'd be more durable and would last a long time.

Have you used Words Their Way? Do you plan to? What are your thoughts?

**If you have questions that aren't fully answered in this post, please leave it in the comments. I will try my best to answer them all. If I get quite a few I'll do a follow up post about this to answer the questions.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Organizing my Chaotic Brain

I know I can't be alone in sometimes feeling my brain is just full of chaos. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this on this blog or not (as I have a LiveJournal that I write in under my real name and 99% of my personal life junk goes there so this blog can be focused predominantly on teaching). Anyway in late February 2010 I was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression and put on meds.

But in the last 4 or 5 months, since Middle Child has been seeing a therapist and we've discovered she has ADHD for auditory processing, her therapist very strongly believes that *I* may have ADHD as well. I have read some books, looked at some checklists and am convinced that ADHD is a huge explanation for the way I am. It doesn't bother me. My anti-depressant actually helps me feel about a million times better so I am going to ask my doctor if I can stay on it rather than try to get a formal diagnosis for ADHD.

That all said, I kind of take comfort now in understanding why I am who and what I am. I have always been the go-getter (although there is a whole OTHER less-than-happy reason for that -- seriously my parental units invented the word "dysfunctional"), I have always taken on well more than I could chew, etc. And now I get it. 

One of the things that I have learned about is something called "hyper focus". I think most teachers experience this to some degree. We tend to get so excited about something that we can't think of anything else until it is done or accomplished. The ONLY aspect of ADHD that I don't think fits me is the trait of not finishing what you start -- I usually can't leave a project undone because it would drive me insane. I definitely experience hyper focus quite a lot.

I get mini obsessions. Currently my obsession is with National Board. As I have mentioned before, I can't even apply yet, but you'd think I already have because of what I have ready:

This is my secretary desk (oh how I ♥ this thing!). Yes, that is a fountain diet coke sitting there too (did you really expect any less? I mean, c'mon!). While it isn't messy, there are a lot of things spread out that I am currently working on. I can spend HOURS a day at this desk...seemingly doing nothing. I really just like having all of this space (the drawers!).

This is my National Board organizer. I got this idea from Angela at the Cornerstone. I know when I wrote my Master's how much paper I went through. It was crazy. Thankfully, however, the printers at my university print double sided by default so that cut it down a LOT. And I try to be very cognizant of printing on both sides if possible. I bought this organizer a few years ago and only used it once. I figured this would be perfect to house my entries and all of the related stuff for NB. There are 12 sections (3 per entry) and it actually holds a lot more than it looks like it will.

This is my National Board notebook. (See what I mean?? I haven't even applied and I have a dedicated notebook AND an organizer! Crazy!) In the front pocket are some fabulous post it flags I found at the dollar store -- 250 pack for $1! I also have my calendar that I created to help me stay on top of deadlines. Eventually, once I have applied and things are good to go, I will transfer those calendar dates to my BlackBerry and Google Calendars so I always have them on hand.

I drive The Husband nuts with this stuff. Fortunately, after 11 years together, he gets it. He just leaves me to my obsession until it isn't an obsession anymore. Gotta love that! It's like once I get something in my brain, I have to do something with it or I'll lose it. Then it's gone. I am convinced this is the reason I have never been able to write the novels I know are buried in my brain somewhere. If I don't write down my seed idea immediately (and usually I don't), I lose it and there goes another opportunity. 

Since teaching is my passion at this stage of my life, I don't want to lose the ideas I get and thus I do something about them right away. Otherwise off they go. Funny how it only took me 32 1/2 years to realize that the reason I was so fidgety as a child, why I talk SO fast, why I am constantly having to do something (either mentally or physically), is all explained by 4 little letters.