Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back to School Goals 2013 (Linky!)

I'm linking up with Jess from I {heart} Recess for a Back to School Goals linky party. 

Personal: In January 2013, I went to a medical weight loss clinic and began a journey toward finally losing the weight I needed to stop carrying around. By mid-May I had lost 35 lbs and felt amazing. However, with the upheaval with our school displacements, the surprising interview of early July and being at my cabin most of the summer, I have reverted back to my old habits. I've gained a bit of weight back (nothing drastic but enough that I don't like it!) and honestly, I feel like crud! So it's time to get back on track. We're home from our July at the cabin on Sunday night and I'm gearing up to make August a happy and healthy month (not an easy feat since my birthday is in there).

Organization: I tend to be very organized but this fall will be my fourth one in row of a grade level and room change. This time, I'm also changing buildings so it's a fresh start. Therefore when I unpack in my new school, I am going to have labels, tubs and bins for every possible thing I can imagine and I am going to do my best to keep things IN their proper place. It's so easy to just stick things in the cupboard to "get to later" but later never comes, does it?

Planning: I have been wanting to get back to a Math Workshop for a couple of years. I am determined to plan my math workshop skeletally out at least two weeks at at time and then fine tune on a daily basis (for remediation, etc). I also plan to finally find a way to best incorporate the Daily 5 into my reading block because I want my kids engaged in authentic literacy learning--not the contrived activities that often come with our reading series. So it will be essential for me to stay on top of my planning so that I'm not tempted to push things aside for the sake of time.

Professional: There has been a ton of talk in my district about using Performance Based Assessments (PBAs) in math. I know this will be coming up with the new Smarter Balanced testing as part of the Common Core and I want to learn how to better create my own so that I can truly see where my students are performing with their math.

Students: I simply say "Enjoy them" because over the past two years I think things have been piled on us so much that I often just don't get to enjoy my students for who they are. They are smart, funny and caring little souls that I want to be able to enjoy on more than just a teacher-student level. I don't want to go to their birthday parties or eat dinner with their families but I do want to be able to celebrate their successes and have fun with them on an appropriate level that is still in line with the work we need to do in school.

Motto: "He who angers you, controls you" is a saying I saw on a church sign years ago (I was still an undergrad so it was at least 10 years ago). It rings so true to me after all of these years. The reason this will be my personal motto is because I often let the things that happen in my district just kill me--drive me insane, make me want to rip my hair out kill me--and it isn't worth the agony. I can't control or change their thinking so I'm wasting my happy time being mad at them. So no more. It's going to roll off my back and that's that.

The Caffeinated Teacher

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back to School SCORE!

I have been on vacation at my cabin for most of July. Aside from staying home to interview via Skype (as my internet is much more reliable at home than out here in the sticks), I've been "up north" in Michigan for as much of the month as possible. It's peaceful and so quiet here (well except for my two little whipper snappers--they are not quiet at all haha!). I love it.

Saturday The Husband and The Oldest joined us at the cabin. Yesterday The Oldest and I headed into Houghton Lake to do a little shopping. We stopped into Walmart to pick up a few things for The Oldest and I couldn't resist peeking at the back-to-school section. Boy am I glad I did! 

27 Pocket Classroom Organizer -- $13!

When I saw the price, I had to buy it. It was the only thing that I purchased for back-to-school yesterday. I'm so glad I did! Once we got back to the cabin I opened it and it is VERY sturdy. I would argue that it is way more sturdy than the ones you buy through the teacher catalogs that are about $30. Now I'm sad I didn't buy two of them!

I have been mulling over what to do about mailboxes this coming year. I have no idea what materials/supplies are going to be given to me in my new school so I am planning as if I won't have anything (we were quite spoiled at my last school). I had to leave my super awesome mailboxes from Really Good Stuff behind because I didn't buy them, the school did. And I wanted something that wouldn't take up as much room. This is PERFECT. It actually holds file folders so in theory, each day my students could turn their homework into the basket and then put their homework folder into their space so its ready for homework that afternoon. 

Hopefully I won't have more than 27 kids but I know it is possible since I had 30 all last year (with two grades....ugh!). If I see another one of these at home, I am totally snagging it! You can't beat them for the price!
The Caffeinated Teacher

Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Made It - July 29

 I have been busy this past week making things for my new 3rd graders! I still have a month before we officially report back to school but hope to get some time in my room in a couple of weeks. It will be so fun to see all of these in motion in my class! I found a super cute Monster theme on TpT and couldn't resist prepare for Monster Mania!

Made It #1 - Monster Vocabulary Journals

 I'm super, super in love with my new Vocabulary journals! Each student will have a journal and the modified Frayer will be inside. These are two-pocket prong folders so we can add pages as we go throughout the year. In mine, I have the pages for the vocabulary cycle planning in the inside front cover so I can keep myself organized throughout each cycle.
Made It #2 - Monster Name Plates
 I love these little name plates! I printed them and laminated them. I will write on them with Sharpie because with a little Expo cleaner, the Sharpie will come right off and they can then be reused.
Made It #3 - Monster Pencils
I could not resist these! I have pencil cups for sharpened and unsharpened already but these are too adorable. I can't wait to fasten them to my old canisters to give them a little kick!
Made It #4 - Monster Table Signs
Table Signs. There are 6, each with a different monster. I LOVE Table 2's monster! So cute. I will add ribbon and hang these from the ceiling above my table groups.
Made It #5 - Monster How We Get Home Banner
Adorable, right?? I will attach these on my door with ribbon connecting them and then add the students' names to clothespins. This way if their transportation needs change, I can quickly make the change on the sign without having to rewrite anything.
Made It #6 - Chair Pocket Numbers

 I've been working on these chair pockets FOREVER. (I put them aside when I didn't know what school I would end up in because the chair sizes vary so much in our district.) My new school has the same style of furniture as my old school so I can keep working on them. I decided to velcro the name circles from my Monster theme pack onto them so they are easily identifiable by child. Kind of small but they will work for our purposes.

Made It #7 - Math Workshop Board
 This is my only non-monster themed made it! I got this from Clutter-Free Classroom. It's been on my wishlist forever. Now that I will only have ONE grade again this year and our district is requiring a 90 minute math block, I am going to be able to put this to good use!
The Caffeinated Teacher

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Word Nerds Book Study: Chapter 7

 Once again I am linking up with Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang for our summer book study of Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary. Don't forget you can preview the entire book online at Stenhouse and there is this handy little study guide you can use as well. 

I will offer some summary and overview of each chapter and put my thoughts and reflections in blue italics so you will know what is coming directly from me. To find all of my posts for the book study, click here

Chapter 7: Spreading Vocabulary Wings

Every chapter of this book makes me fall farther and farther in love with it! I really want to meet these authors and tell them how amazingly fabulous they are! This chapter begins with a look at Morphology in Vocabulary instruction wherein students are learning prefixes, suffixes and the roots of words. This is really an important skill anyway but if you are someone like me who teaches language learners, it's importance triples as these children are learning English and have to be able to break words down in order to really understand them and make meaning.

One activity that the authors do is called Crystal Ball Words. You begin with one word, break it down into its root, suffix and prefix, define each peace (thereby giving the students the opportunity to really show that they know what un- means for example) and then create other words that use each part. In their example, the word is Transportation. So you've got three affixes 1. trans, 2. port, 3. ation and the students define each of them and then come up with other words that use that same affix. Genius!
This is great! I will be adding this one to our vocabulary work each week because I think it really helps students when they can make connections between words. Last year with my split, I had such a hard time trying to balance word work (that included morphology study) into our day because of teaching the dual curriculum. I am determined not to ever let that one go again...because after seeing this particular strategy, I am in love with it. It's easy to implement and I can see it becoming somewhat of a game for the students to try to have the most words, etc.

Another activity they introduce uses inference skills (which is HUGE in Common Core) along with the vocabulary. The students have a chart and pull clues from the text they are reading, talk about what they already know about the information in the clues and then infer using the vocabulary they have been learning. 
The examples of the dialogue this students share with each other is amazing. It's so easy to go "yeah, right, MY kids would never be able to do that" but then I remind myself that these classes are kiddos just like the students I serve. So yeah, it's possible once they are truly immersed in this type of learning environment. I'm going to have to be careful because I may want to just work on vocabulary all day!

A final activity provided in this book is predominantly designed to be oral vocabulary development. The teachers created sentences on index cards in "pirate speak" and the students' job was to change the pirate speak into "Rascal Talk" using their vocabulary words to make a 7-Up Sentence.
I think this activity would be hilarious to do in class. What kids don't want to speak like a pirate? Even if its only reading the information off a card?? I could actually see myself using this as a Fab Friday activity because *I* would know it was really educational but I think the kids would see it as more fun than work. 
Overall, this book is the best educational reference purchase I have made all year, hands down. The trouble will be figuring out just how to fit these fun activities into my classroom! I am working hard on a plan of sorts to ensure that I can fit in all of the activities throughout each month because the sheer number of words that students end up learning, simply through the use of all of these words in the activities is amazing. I can imagine how well the students would do on a test if they had all of this word knowledge because they could more easily decode words they didn't know and likely figure out the meaning.

The Caffeinated Teacher

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Total Participation Task Cards Sale & Giveaway

Hi bloggers! I am so excited to share this with you today. Earlier this summer, I created some task cards to go along with the book Total Participation Techniques. I'm quite in love with this product actually. I have been busy making these folders for my new class and wanted to share the product more in depth with all of my readers.

  An overview of the set that I am using (there are several other tasks in the file, I'm just focusing upon the ones I know I will use).

Let's take a closer peek at the items included in this sample:

1) Number Cards -- this sample only includes one set but I will actually but 2 or 3 sets (probably 3) in each folder. You use these cards to help the students build basic numeracy skills. The cards are simply used as a manipulative to allow the students something to count on or move around to help them process the math problem they are working on. This is especially helpful for story problems. Print on cardstock, laminate, cut and paperclip together.

2) Bounce Cards -- I cut mine out but you could feasibly leave the sheet in tact for the students to simply use as a reference. These cards each have a conversation starter on them. They are a way to help the students keep a conversation going (and on task!) when the teacher can't be right there next to them. We have used something similar in my district in the past several years (Accountable Talk). Print on cardstock and cut out the cards if you prefer. Paperclip together and tuck into the folder. 

3) Multiple Choice Hold Ups -- These cards are great for test review or test prep. Students can simply hold up the card to show the answer they have selected. Print on cardstock, laminate, cut out and paperclip together.

4) Appointment Agenda -- very similar to Clock Partners, students have an appointment for each of the slots so when you want them to work with a partner, you simply say "Please find your 4 o'clock partner" and they are ready to go. Print on cardstock, laminate and cut out the edges so you only have the agenda, not the excess white space. (If you laminate them, they will, of course, last longer. You can write on them with Sharpie and at the end of the year, spray a little Expo White Board Cleaner on and the Sharpie will come right off! *Note: you MUST use Expo cleaner, the imitation stuff doesn't work.)

5) True/False Hold Ups -- this one might just be my favorite of them all! For younger grades, you can simply use the True/Not True cards and leave the other two out. For upper grades, you can add in the other two cards to help gauge student comprehension of the lesson or problem. I would recommend using these as part of a review and/or test prep if you are teaching students about deciphering multiple choice answers. The students will actually be able to apply what they know to make an incorrect statement be correct by modifying part of it or being able to say there isn't enough information to determine if that particular answer would be viable. Print on cardstock, laminate, cut out and paperclip together.

 6) Processing Card Tent -- This one is designed to be printed on cardstock, cut around the edges and then folded in the middle so you have a table tent. This one really serves as a visual aid for the teacher. When you are engaged in direct instruction and then want to provide the students time to try the activity, this card is useful because a quick scan of the room will let you know who is ready to move on and who may still be working and need a bit more time. It's an easy way to gauge the wait time for each individual child and help you see who processes slowly on a regular basis so you can provide accommodations for that student.

When the materials aren't being used, the sets are paper clipped together and housed in their envelope so the students will always know where their materials are.

How I will use this in my room: Every student will have one of these envelopes with all of the above mentioned items inside. (There is also a 100s chart, an alphabet and quick write/quick draw forms in the file.) Each of my students will have a book box at their seat and this folder will fit right into that book box. Therefore, anytime I want to toss in one of these activities, the students can quickly grab their envelope, pull out the necessary task cards and we're ready to go.

Because I love this product so so much, I am having a Flash Sale TODAY only! You can purchase the file for 20% off at my TpT Store or at Teacher's Notebook. Not good enough? How about a Flash GIVEAWAY too?? Simply enter via the Rafflecopter below and on Thursday I will pick two winners.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Caffeinated Teacher

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Planning and Organizing

Like most teachers, I absolutely love being organized. Sometimes it might not look like it from the piles and piles I end up having on my desk at home and sometimes even at school (yikes!) but I try my best to keep everything clean and neat. It makes for a happier teacher and ultimately, a happier classroom. Kiddos can learn SO MUCH BETTER in a clean, well organized environment that they know how to navigate without a lot of teacher direction.

One of the biggest ways that I stay organized is with my planning system. I like to plan ahead when it is possible. At least with somewhat of a general outline. I rarely ever stick to the outline I make but it gives me somewhat of a starting point over the summer as I begin to prepare for the big units that I need to teach that year. Here are the components I tend to use to help me stay organized:

1) A Year-Long Plan

Here's a peek at this coming year's Year-Plan.

Since I've never had 3rd grade and I will also be in a new building, I simply went onto my district's curriculum server and pulled the major units that we have during the year in writing, science and social studies. I also mapped out a plan for our reading stories--those I suspect will change once I learn how my new school does them (some take two weeks per story and some, like my old school, do a story per week). Math is basically a lesson per day but they are also making some changes to that for this upcoming year so I didn't go too far ahead. I just know I should be planning to do our first big assessment by the end of September. (Language Arts isn't filled in yet because I have to go back and look at the skills for each week and decide what to focus on since Reading Street has SO MUCH.)

I never, EVER print that plan. It just stays on my computer for me to refer to as necessary. Often I don't even look at it again after the first couple of weeks of school (which is why I don't bother to print it). Maybe that seems like it's a big waste of time then but it truly just helps me to mentally know where I need to get to and I plan like this before school begins so I can tweak as needed to ensure I can spread out the essential units. If I notice I'm short on space on this plan, I can move things around a bit.

2) Lesson Plan Book
Like many teacher bloggers this past spring, I jumped on the Erin Condren bandwagon and splurged on one of her planners. It helped that several people had posted about them, shared videos of the features of the planner and pointed out the video Erin herself has on her website. Its a steep price for a lesson planner but once I watched those videos, I knew I had to have one.
 Mine is only personalized with my name and school year because when I ordered it,
I had no idea what school I would be at. I had to order it in May to take advantage
of the teacher appreciation sale! 

 You had me at hello tabs.

 LOVE the two page spread for the monthly notes. We tend to have sooooo many things going on month-to-month that it is nice to be able to jot them all down here and always have them. I keep a paper planner as well but that is mostly for notes for home life. I love that I can keep a calendar right in my plan book and have everything literally at my fingertips.

 This isn't a ton of space....but it will serve it's purpose for what I will use it for. I LOVE the design, the different colors and the horizontal style by day. Plus that handy little bookmark is moveable so I can always flip to the correct week. 

Now, I KNOW that this planner style will not be big enough for the detailed plans I like to keep for my small groups in reading (and sometimes math). That's totally fine, however, because I could NEVER give up on my super favorite!! Before school started last year, I gave a super detailed tutorial of how I use this website (find it here). I ♥ PlanbookEDU. So much that I even blog for them monthly. I super ♥ them!

 This is what I see when I log in. The coolest part about this website is that it saves my planbooks until *I* delete them. So the top is last year's and the bottom is this coming year's. LOVE. Last year, because I had a split, I actually started with more than one planner (which you'll see in my tutorial above) but I combined them into one big ole planbook in October and deleted the spares. I absolutely love that I can go back and find an activity that I did last year if I want to do it again. (Best of all, because I have a premium account -- worth the $!!!, just sayin'! -- I can add attachments and therefore, from year to year I can actually just move the lesson over if I am going to replicate the exact lesson. It's sooo awesome.)

This is this year's planbook (so far). I know this will change because I don't know how things are set up at my new school....but my plan is to keep most of my lessons in my super fun Erin planner and keep my detailed workshop plans on the site and then print them if I need to do so. 

Why would I do this? Because I tend to be someone who keeps IN-SANELY detailed plans for my reading and math workshops and this way I can keep them in a binder for ease of use for myself during my small groups if I want, or simply keep them on the server and share them with my principal via email if she asks to see them. Shorthand notes about the lesson (such as the skill or strategy) will go into the spiral planner but  my detailed notes will be housed online so that I have them if I want/need to print them.

3) Checklists!

I am a checklist queen. (At least I should be.) I have used all kinds of systems in the past. I've made my own checklists with the kiddos' names, with the students' numbers, etc. I use them for EVERYTHING. Checking homework, reading logs, behavior sheets being returned, field trip slips, etc. The problem is, I am always LOSING my checklists! That's not cool. (As organized as I am, I tend to lose paper right in front of my face, which is a story for another post!) Do you know what really sold me on this planner? THE CHECKLISTS! I ordered the 28 extra pages for $10 more. Worth every penny. I have checklists to last me all year now and they will stay right in my planner so I don't have to worry about losing them because they are housed right with everything else that I may need at my fingertips.

Erin is my hero simply for these checklist pages! ♥

So that is how I keep myself organized during the year (or at least try to! haha). It's all about the proper techniques that work for you. I have used binders, online only plans and more. I am really excited about this system, however, because the Erin planner has so much important stuff (seating plans, etc) that I normally don't have enough space for in my binder planners and it's neat, not super huge and let's face it, is pretty to look at!

How do you organize your plans?
The Caffeinated Teacher

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Made It - July 22

Woo hoo, I FINALLY have something to share for Monday Made It now that I have a set position for the fall. I will be printing, laminating and cutting like a mad woman all week (just waiting for my toner to come in) since I have SO MUCH TO DO now :)

Made It #1 - Word Wall Booklets

 This is a file I found on TpT and knew I had to have! 3rd grade specific Word Wall journals. Each child will have their own journal to record their word wall words and any other words that they may need help spelling throughout the year. This will be perfect as I'm working with groups and they are in the Work on Writing station because I won't have to worry about them asking me how to spell words we use often. 

Made It #2 - White Board Edges

I've had these white boards for about 5 years now. They are made from shower board from Lowe's. I haven't used them in a couple of years because Former School got some extra Title monies and bought white boards for each classroom. So these have been tucked up in the storage loft in our barn. When I saw that Tara herself had covered the edges with Duck Tape, I knew that this was a very easy way for me to revamp mine. The color above does not do them justice at all. it is really a teal-ish color. Half of them will be in that color and the other half will be purple. Love it!

Also wanted to share a cleaning tip for them. Regular white board cleaner and/or wipes don't work super well on these boards because they are made from shower tiles. I had some really, really gross looking boards when I started.
See? Gross, right? Keep in mind that these boards sat in my barn loft for two years, alternately baking in the summer and freezing in the winter. I never cleaned them off when I took them home that last time so some of them were in really bad shape.

 Here is the "after" product! :) They look like new, don't they? The secret? Well after wasting some time trying to clean them with white board cleaner, I realized that I probably had something in the house that would clean them better since they are shower tile after all. I pulled some Soap Scrub cleaner out of the cupboard, dabbed a little in the center, rubbed in in a bit and then rinsed it off. Viola! Came off like a charm, even those really nasty two from above! So if yours get gross and you're trying to clean them, use a little bit of Soap Scrub and they'll be good as new! :)
The Caffeinated Teacher

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Word Nerds Book Study: Chapter 6 {+ College Job Update}

 Once again I am linking up with Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang for our summer book study of Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary. Don't forget you can preview the entire book online at Stenhouse and there is this handy little study guide you can use as well. 

I will offer some summary and overview of each chapter and put my thoughts and reflections in blue italics so you will know what is coming directly from me. To find all of my posts for the book study, click here.
 Chapter 6: Celebrating to Validate

I am so, so glad that I decided to read this book this summer! Now that I have my grade level for next year, the wheels are spinning in my mind as to how I can best implement these strategies. The good news is that our reading series has a lot of vocabulary type of stuff in it and the words are actually pretty decent in terms of vocabulary words. They are words that fit the criteria that authors have suggested in this book so I'm excited to at least have a launching point for this coming year.
This chapter is all about helping the children celebrate their vocabulary learning and progress. I am in total love with this. Too often, I think that the "fun stuff" has to be pushed back because of Test Prep or other "more worthy" learning opportunities. However, this process as described by the authors validates for the students that  their work with the vocabulary words is important, meaningful and not just "one more thing we do". I think that is powerful in and of itself. Validating the students' hard work with a celebration is time well spent in my mind.
These celebrations happen before any formal summative assessments for vocabulary. This provides not only a celebration and validation event but also provides the students one more chance to use the vocabulary they have been studying before putting it to use in context. Fabulous!
Block Party
I have to say this one is my super most favoritest ever (yes I am an English teacher and I just wrote that terrible sentence with the worst grammar ever *wink*). It's SO cool how the students practice the words.
In the Block Party the students are wearing their lanyards with their words on them. The teacher has two students come up and model how this party works. The students introduce themselves as their word and provide a definition, meaning or other use of the word on their card. LOVE! For example a student might say, "Hi! My name is [vocabulary word] and I am an antonym for [word]."  After modeling how it works, the teacher has a student come up and begin to "invite" other students up, by inviting their synonyms or antonyms. Once the whole class has been invited, the students begin to mingle and use their vocabulary knowledge to chat with their friends because they are pretending to be their word.
I love this on SO MANY LEVELS!! It is great practice for the students to use their vocabulary IN CONTEXT as well as reinforce the correct usage of the words. This one is definitely going to happen in my room this year.
 There are several other ideas for parties to validate the learning process throughout each vocabulary cycle. The party activity changes but the basic premise stays exactly the same. The students are practicing their words in context for review and reinforcement before a vocabulary assessment. It is a genius way to help the students to really put to use what they have learned throughout the cycle.
* * * * *
I didn't want to make a separate post to update about this but I wanted to include it since several people have commented asking me about it. I ultimately was not selected for the college professorship. I think that a lot of my coworkers and friends here at home thought I would be really upset about it. I'm actually 100% fine with it. There were cons to the position of course (namely moving 9 hours away from The Husband and The Littles for most of the school year) and as the days slipped by without a phone call offering me the position, I came to realize something. I got all of the validation that I needed that I am doing what God wants me to do simply by going through the process of the interviews. It's kind of funny that these interviews were less intimidating than interviewing for my own district where I have worked for 7 years. 
I was up at my cabin from last Friday after my interview until yesterday morning (had to come home because The Youngest had her expander put in at the dentist). I just bought a car from my sister-in-law and had to meet my hubby at his work to get the title signed and such. Seeing him after 5 days apart, everything clicked for me. I knew then that I was meant to stay home and continue my work here...because I would miss his handsome face if I was in West Virginia without him.
So yeah, the job would have been wicked sweet....but I am just as happy to stay here at home. I have a classroom to look forward to decorating this fall and that is all I can really ask for.
I do very much appreciate everyone's positive thoughts and those who peeked in to see what was happening with it. It's awesome to have such nice people (even if we've never met!) to share things like this with so thank you for that. :) 
The Caffeinated Teacher

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Good thing I enjoyed all of that free time when I didn't know what I would be doing this fall....because with only 5 weeks until I report back (4 until I can get in my room)...I have so much to do!!! haha!

I am lucky in that a friend of mine had 3rd last year and is letting me borrow her login for Reading Street so I can get the spelling lists and story sections ready for the first month of school. It feels good to be doing something! :)

Now I have to decide on a classroom theme, how I want to integrate Whole Brain teaching and get my total participation folders ready! So much to do!

I am finally going to have some things to share on Monday Made-it! :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, July 15, 2013

Job News (FINALLY)

What an insane spring/summer this has been! As most of my readers know, I was displaced on May 3, along with many other people, and have been waiting and waiting to find out where and what I would be teaching this fall.

In the meantime, I had an amazing job opportunity land in my lap that I applied for on a whim and made it through the 3rd interview for. I have been relatively secretive about that position because I didn't want to jinx anything. However, now that the interviews are over and the writing is likely on the wall (the position will be offered to the selected candidate by tomorrow so I am sure that they already know who they will be offering it to), I figured it would be okay to share about it after all of my secretive posts.

On June 28 we visited The Oldest's new college (now a university) in West Virginia. We had never been there because its 9 hours away. We all fell in L-O-V-E with the campus. It is gorgeous, everyone is very friendly and it is a very, very nice little private school. I joked that I was going to let The Oldest stay home and teach for me and I was going to go to school for her. (Sadly, she said "I don't think so, mom".) 

Turns out, however, they had an interim position open in the Department of Teacher Education that was basically a dream job. So I applied on a whim, thinking that it was a long shot. The very night I applied, I got a call for an interview! They were very impressed with my National Board work in the area of literacy because West Virginia has changed their teacher preparation laws in that they want all of their newly licensed teachers to also have reading endorsements. I was actually quite flattered to even get invited to interview because I've never taught college and I don't have a PhD.

I had an interview on July 3 over the phone since it's so far away and neither they nor I could afford to travel there for an initial interview. Within a half hour after the interview ended, I was called and invited to the 2nd round, via Skype. Holy crow! Scary and exciting all at once! 

I fretted and prepared and fretted some more. I was SO nervous. Thursday, July 11 I had my Skype interview with the two professors who had interviewed me via phone the week before and a few other staff members. I think it went well. I did mess up one answer but was honest about it and I think that leds credence to me that I am willing to say I don't know everything! The following day, last Friday, I had my 3rd and final interview with the President and Provost of the college! (Previously referred to as two Very Important People!) I should have been scared out of my wits for that interview...but I wasn't. I kind of figured I'd made it that far, there wasn't anymore reason to be scared.

It was an amazing interview--more like a chat between friends. I would be so flattered to be offered this position simply because it would be awesome to help change their school (they want to create some blended classes and asked how I felt about helping with that--I even said I'd do it for free, then laughed and said "well not really" but they exchanged a glance (a good one) when I said that.  I am the only candidate without a PhD or previous college teaching experience. So honestly, even if they don't select me, I will be okay with it because its flattering to have gotten as far as I did! I was told that the candidate they select will be notified by Tuesday at the latest so if I don't hear something by 5 p.m. tomorrow, I should assume that they offered the position to another candidate. 

The good things about the job would be that I would be in charge of the K-6 teacher program, working with preservice teachers which would be so awesome and fun. I know I would LOVE it. Plus with the changes they'd like to make in their programming, it would put me in line to possibly continue to teach for them remotely down the road.

The bad things about the job is I would have to move to West Virginia for a school year. I wouldn't be able to bring my Littles because I can't uproot them for a year since the position is temporary. It would also mean a pay cut for the year because higher ed positions (especially at small schools) tend to pay less than being in a public school (which is backwards in my mind). It would be doable but it would be tough. If they call me and offer the job to me, I will absolutely accept it.

One thing The Husband said to me about it was that the thought the fact that I am currently a practicing elementary teacher probably put me up near the top of their list because the candidates with PhDs likely haven't been in an elementary classroom in years. Plus, no matter what, I have a job. I am not desperate for this job because if I don't get it, I will still have a job here at home. So I could really just be myself in the interview and let my passion and personality shine through because I don't need to really impress anyone by saying what they want to hear. I did tell the Provost that I won't be sad if they don't select me because I want them to choose the best person for the job, even if that isn't me. 

Lastly, no matter what, I will be okay because today I FINALLY got placed for this fall. I will be teaching 3rd grade at a school my very good friend teaches at. It is, ironically enough, a position I had applied for but didn't end up getting an interview for. Weird, right? I know their whole staff is changing much like it did at my last school (which I now have to refer to as Former School *sigh*). But the school is a good one so I can't complain and my friend who works there said that the incoming 3rd graders are awesome. So that is very cool. 

So regardless of whether or not I end up a college professor for a year, I know that I will be just as happy to stay here in Michigan and teach 3rd grade. Its the ONLY grade I haven't had from 2-5th so I have no materials or Common Core anything for 3rd graders! Alas, it will be high time to get my behind in gear now that I finally know what I will be teaching and start making what I am going to need!

The Caffeinated Teacher

Friday, July 12, 2013

Word Nerds Book Study: Chapter 5

 Once again I am linking up with Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang for our summer book study of Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary. Don't forget you can preview the entire book online at Stenhouse and there is this handy little study guide you can use as well. 

I will offer some summary and overview of each chapter and put my thoughts and reflections in blue italics so you will know what is coming directly from me. To find all of my posts for the book study, click here

Chapter Five: Active Vocabulary Practice
This chapter is all about  ways to put vocabulary practice to practical use in the classroom! This is definitely a chapter that one must read in order to get anything out of it. A summary/synopsis just isn't going to cut it if you really want to get something out of it. Alas, I'll do my best to provide some helpful info.

Whole Group Practice Opportunities
By working together as a whole class to practice vocabulary, it creates a sense of community and team building amongst the students. Specifically, students become excited about the words they are learning and they want to share them with the other children who are learning them as well.

There are many activities listed for whole group practice:
1) Scramble - the teacher says scramble and students gather in a huddle based upon their word and its synonyms/antonyms.
2) Counting Dude, Bragging Dude - In a pair, students recite a 7-up sentence using their word. The counter counts to make sure they have at least 7 words and that the sentence sounds right. If it does, the Bragger can do a short victory cheer.
3) Word Charades - Students act out the words trying to get their classmates to guess what their word is
4) Vocabulary Rap - Rap with synonyms and antonyms using the starter, "When I say _____, you say _____"
5) Chain Link - A student explains the meaning of their word and other students try to make a connection to it. If they do, the students hook elbows and then another student tries to make a connection to one of the words in the chain until everyone is linked.

Small Group or Independent Practice Opportunities
Just as with the whole group, students working in small groups (or even on their own) to practice vocabulary learn from each other and reinforce the sense of community by working as a team. 

Here are some independent or small group practice ideas:
1) Vocabulary Board Games - Using board game templates, students land on a word and give the definition, a 7-up sentence, a synonym or an antonym for the word
2) Vocabulary Rings - Using index cards, students include word, illustration and definition on the card. These can be practiced anytime independently, in pairs or used for lining up (ie. if you have a word that means ______ line up"
3) Word Colors - Using index cards, students write the word on their card and then color around the word with one color. They must justify their color choice on the back of the card
4) Word Illustrations - Combine the word and a picture into a drawing to help retain meaning
5) PowerPoint Portrayals  - Using PowerPoint (or other media software), students create visuals for their word. They carefully select text, objects and sounds to help portray their word.

I really, really enjoyed this chapter! I love all of the specific examples of ways to get the students to practice, use and learn vocabulary. Better yet, many of them are really fun and I know my students this year would have enjoyed them immensely. I am going to make a rotation for my class so that we are using all of these strategies throughout the year to keep it interesting, engaging and fun for the kids so they don't get bored doing the same activity all of the time. I think the Vocabulary Rings is something I will use weekly because I love the idea of the kids having their own bank of vocabulary words (makes me think of the Ring of Knowledge that I'm so fond of with DDI). I can also see Counting Dude, Bragging Dude and the Vocabulary Rap being a weekly part of my vocabulary instruction.  
Stay tuned for Chapter 6 next week! 
The Caffeinated Teacher

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Interview Update

My Word Nerds post for Chapter 5 will be posted tomorrow. I'm a bit behind on it due to the preparation for my interviews this week! :)

My Skype interview was today at noon. I answered a bunch of questions and presented a short lesson sample. I feel really, really good about the interview. It doesn't mean I am going to be offered this position, but even if I am not, I am very proud of myself. I did the best I could, shared the knowledge I have and kept my cool while answering. A couple of the people on the panel were very stoic. They just might be amazing poker players! :) The two people I interviewed with before nodded several times with some of the answers I gave. I'd love to read into that and think that means I did really well, but I honestly just don't know and that's fine.

If there is anything I've learned this summer, it is to just live in the moment and take it as it comes. No matter what, it was an amazing opportunity to even interview for this position so I won't feel bad if they select someone with more experience. 

I have the last interview, with two Very Important People (arguably THE most important people at this school!) tomorrow at noon, also via Skype. I'm not sure of the timeline after that and how long it will take to find out if I made it. It would be wicked to know by tomorrow but I'm not going to bet on it. It will be very interesting to see where this goes!

And still no word from my own district despite their promises (multiple times). I just laugh and roll my eyes. Maybe I'll know what I'm teaching this fall by the first day of school. :p
The Caffeinated Teacher

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A bundle of nerves

Tonight, I am a huge bundle of nerves. Even that is an understatement. 

Tomorrow at noon is the biggest interview of my life. Before a panel of 5 people. I've never interviewed with that many people before so that intimidates me a bit. Interestingly, I received a call today from my student teacher who told me that they already called her for a reference yesterday even though my interview is tomorrow. I'm going to take that as a good sign! Of course she said amazingly wonderful things about me to them and she told me that the person who called for the reference said she just solidified everything they were already thinking about me. {Envision me jumping up and down and squealing like I'm 12 years old. Its possible I might have actually done just that when she told me.}

I'd love to read into this. I'd love to think that means this is going to happen. Alas, I don't want to get my hopes up too much. I want to be realistic and acknowledge that I am not the only person in line for this position. However, I do want to take a moment and pat myself on that back that I even made it this far for this particular position. (Believe me, when I finally reveal what the position is, you'll understand that last sentence.) No matter what happens, I will be proud of myself that I made it as far as I have.
 I know I am going to be a bundle of nervous energy in the morning. I'm hoping I can put it to good use and get some things accomplished before the interview happens. I tend to be one of those people that will clean or complete some huge project when I'm nervous about something. My house could very well be sparklingly clean by noon tomorrow. :)

The Caffeinated Teacher