Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Daily 4 Day 1

Yesterday was our first day actually putting our hard work to the test and having our full rotation schedule and small groups meet.

Considering I had just settled my first group in and we had a fire drill (!!) AND my projector actually blew up (so loud I thought someone had popped a balloon in class!), it went pretty well. The projector breaking means it'll be a little harder for me to do part of the mini lessons (as I rely on technology for some of them) but the kids rolled with it. Yay for them and for solid procedures.

I only had to remind one student during rotations of the stamina building we had done. The other friends did an awesome job. :) I did discover, however, that there is just no way we can take the time during group to do the first part of the notebook. It just takes up too much valuable time. So I am going to find 10 minutes somewhere on Friday for us to do them all at the same time like we did before. That way it's done and kiddos and I can get right to work when we are at the table together.

I'm very pleased that I stuck with this routine because it went well better than I could have hoped for on our first day of rotations. (Especially refreshing since it's a full moon and my kids WEREN'T insane. Hopefully I did not just jinx myself!)

With a couple tweaks to my plan, this is going to work out very well, I think.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Daily 5 + Reading Street 3 weeks in

I realized I haven't updated on our Daily 5 progress. It's really the Daily 4 in our room and we call it "Daily 4 Literacy". We have spent the first three weeks of school building our stamina and practicing some behaviors I want to see when they are working independently. For the most part, the kids do a pretty good job. They are a competitive group so they really wanted to outdo themselves on their stamina building each day. I do have a few kiddos who are more squirrel-ish than the others...but honestly if they aren't bothering anyone and go back to their book in less than 30 seconds, I don't make a fuss. We talked about that when we built up our stamina...sometimes we need to yawn or stretch or scratch our head. As long as we go right back to reading, it's good.

Our neighbor class is kind of loud (not obnoxiously but since our "bump out" area doesn't have a door, if one class is silent, the other class sounds louder than it probably is) but they did an awesome job maintaining their stamina even with those distractions :) 

We made it up to our 20 minutes on Wednesday. I didn't think that was too bad since we don't have a formal Daily 4 time on Friday (due to art and computer lab time wherein they are required to take the weekly reading street test) so I didn't think that was too awful since we built that stamina up in 9 school days! 

The CRAFT menu has several strategies on it (we've reinforced a couple of them as well since they are important so I haven't put up a ton yet) and we've worked in our interactive notebooks. Monday will be the real test....we finally finished all of our baseline testing so I can make my groups and begin the real rotations on Monday. I doubt I'll ever fully let go and let them pick rounds themselves because of how I need to balance the time I have, but they have choice within each round so that helps me feel a bit less guilty :)

I have four groups that my student teacher and I will be working with. One group is pretty big as it has all of my really low kiddos in it (8 kids) and the others are smaller with 5 or 6 kids. My bubble groups have six each. Those are the friends that I know if I push them, they will benchmark by the end of the year, or be very close to that benchmark. Then I have my high group. Each group will see the teacher three times per week in group. My low and bubble groups will see me three days in a row, my high group will see me three times still but are moved about to fill in the gaps from the other groups. 

I have made this work for me of course...in ways I didn't even think about when I was planning to integrate D5 with reading street. I created my own category of "Notebook" as one of our choices. This is a time when the kids will be working in their interactive notebooks on the weekly vocabulary and strategy skills. For me, it is a great way to help them dig into our texts in a meaningful way that is also structured. They have enjoyed using the notebooks so far and I think that will continue as I gradually release them to doing more of that part on their own.

Each group will have Read to Self four times per week, Teacher Time three times per week, Word Work twice per week, Notebook twice per week and Read with Someone once per week. We shall see if it actually works out as nicely in real life as I have envisioned it will in my head as I've been building toward this for the last three weeks :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Words you can't say in 3rd grade

Oh my gosh....if my class would stop socializing so much, I'd love that. Then again, I wouldn't have so many fun stories about them if they weren't so social! :)

My student teacher has been out the past two days for PD at her university and then her big teacher test today. She has been reading aloud a book to the kids and I wanted to save that for her so I read two picture books while she has been out.

Today we read "Houdini was...." which was written by a 2nd grade class after their class hamster Houdini died. The kids loved the pictures and we spent a little time talking about the difference between a hamster and a guinea pig.

I told the kids, who were sitting at my feet at our carpet, that I thought guinea pigs were gross and smelled like butts. That was a bad idea because they roared with laughter for at least five minutes and I thought one of the girls was going to choke she was laughing so hard. So I said, what haven't you ever heard a teacher say butts? And they died laughing again.

Later we were talking about what to do go fire or code red drills. Each class, of course, has a different evacuation spot. When we have the code red drills, we lock the door and huddle by the counter. We were discussing how important it is to be super quiet. I asked them what they should do if someone farts  (because really that happens invariably when we have those drills and the kids just giggle--we don't want you to giggle during a drill!). Of course the second I said "farts", they all died again.

Goodness. You can't say farts OR butts in 3rd grade because you'll have a class of corpses because the children all died laughing because the teacher said those words!

Oh they amuse me so.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Five for Friday {September 18}

 Happy Friday! We made it through our first full week of school! For once, I am not entirely exhausted either :)

We have dived into Daily 5 procedures this year and are building and building our stamina. I've noticed my kiddos are pretty competitive against themselves so at the end of each reading time, we set a stamina goal for the next day. Yesterday's goal was 12 minutes...and they made it to 13! :) I'm SO incredibly proud of how seriously they are taking it. We don't have time on Friday for D5 because we have a special and then computer lab to take the weekly reading test I am required to give....at the end of the day one of my girls said "Oh no! We forgot to practice our stamina" <3 p="">

 I found this super fun interactive notebook set for Reading Street on Teachers Pay Teachers over the summer. I wasn't sure how it would work out using it in conjunction with the Daily 5 format but we used it this week and it's been great! My kids are going to have the best fine motor skills in the school! They drew pictures to match the vocabulary and these two just had me giggling when I was grading notebooks today. (The top one is supposed to be a bat...the bottom one is her picture to represent "blew"....I swear I giggled like a 5 year old when I saw these because they are so darn cute!)

I have relearned how much I love mentoring new teachers. I have only ever had a student teacher once before and never in the fall....but I am enjoying it immensely. I am finding that I am really a better mentor now because I have to be explicit in explaining my rationale to her as we set things up. It's been a lot of fun to have someone to work with all day again. She has two days out this coming week for PD at her school and her state licensing test....I'm not sure what I'm going to do without her!

I forgot to take a picture of this and I'm super sad....we have a huge amount of wall space in our hallways. There is also a wooden piece that makes a nice separator. Over the years I have taken to using two sheet protectors per student and hanging one above and one below that wood divider. The kiddos' names go on the wood piece to identify their spot. This year we are using Currently in the Classroom and that is in the top protector....my student teacher hung up letters so it reads "Currently....in 3rd grade" and I LOVE it. I will try to remember to take a picture because its so fun!

After spending 12.5 hours at school last Friday, my student teacher and I left at 3:55 today with NOTHING IN OUR HANDS. :) I'm discovering that I spend way less time grading in 3rd grade (partly because the assessments are shorter) and because of how I am setting things up for my kids. What a relief! Goodness knows that I have so little time at home to be fussing with grading between doctor school and my own family obligations. It's awesome to know I have the entire weekend to focus on my own school priorities and my family :)

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Power of Positive Words

I'm sad I forgot to take pictures of this...but after something that happened on Friday, I wanted to share this story, both as a reminder for me and inspiration (and/or a reminder) for my readers.

You remember that saying from childhood, "Sticks and Stones may break my bones but names/words will never hurt me"? What a lie that is! I actually have not shared this with my current friends yet but plan to do so. I have, in the past, talked about that with my other students and how it isn't true. Words can and do hurt sometimes.

Words can also uplift though. And that is what we really want to focus on. Using positive words to uplift each other and make our classroom and school a happier place to be.

It is not a secret that last year was super hard for me. I had several students who were really challenging--often downright mean to each other and to me--and two partners who did not collaborate with me. It was hard. I wanted all of the kids to have a great education and it is difficult to do that without grade level support and collaboration. I was determined that no matter what curve balls came my way this year, that I was not going to have a repeat of last year.

I began this year with the intent to be positive. With myself, my students, my colleagues, the other staff members at my school, my husband, my own kids and my friends. When your mindset is positive, everything around you seems much more positive too.

This past week, I gave all of my students a pink heart made on an Ellison machine. They were smooth and beautiful. We put our names on them and then crumpled them up (and I can't tell you how many of the kiddos did NOT want to crumple their heart). Then I asked them to try to smooth them out so they looked the way they did when I first handed them out. Several students pointed out that this was impossible. I then came in with the point of the activity--when we say mean things to each other, even if we apologize, we can't really take them back either. It's like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube: no matter how hard you try, you can never put it back. I could see the light bulb coming on for many of my students by making the discussion concrete with the visual of the heart. Most of the 3rd graders choose to keep their heart in their pencil pouch as a reminder (I love that!).

Later in the week, we had a specials class and one of the ASD classes is pushing in with us for all of the specials. Two of my friends were very mean to the students from that class. We had a big talk about it. One of the girls in my class said, "they wrinkled those kids' hearts!" so I know this was a powerful reminder. We then had a chat about how some people are different; their brains don't work the same way that other people's brains do. Sometimes those friends might do things that seem scary or weird, but they just don't know any different because that is how their brains work. It seemed to stick as the rest of the week, the kiddos were great with them.

Positive words go a long way. One of my students was a real challenging little guy last year. His teacher did not say anything positive--not one thing!--about him on the information card that gets sent to the next teacher. How sad is that? My student teacher and I have found something positive to say to all of our students every day so far...and what a difference that makes in our classroom! It amazes me how just a few positive words can really change your whole mindset.

Which brings me to my final story. On Friday, my new teaching partner came in. She gets a couple of days to really settle in, get her room set and be ready to go. So she came in to observe me for a little while to see how I do things with my students (she's had middle school for a long while so has to get back to "elementary"). We were chatting at one point and she told me how much another colleague had praised me and the work that I did last year for my grade since I was the only one really invested in the kids. The new partner went on for several minutes about the nice things Ms. Kindergarten said about me. I saw Ms. Kindergarten at the end of the day and gave her a hug and thanked her for her positive words. Let me just tell you....all weekend long those positive words have kept me going. When I think about them, I smile. If I, as an adult, can feel so uplifted by someone's positive words, how do they make my students feel? If we, as adults, can be hurt by other people's words so much, how do they make our students feel, who take everything to heart because they are so little still?

It's a powerful reminder that a positive mindset and outlook can make a huge difference. It also reminds me that focusing upon the positive behaviors I see is much more effective than focusing on the annoying behaviors that all students have. We have a box at our school with positive notes inside and I am going to vow to write two positive notes each week to give to my colleagues. Because we all need to be praised, recognized and rewarded for the work that we do. And if I can be the person to set the tone for that, so be it.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I love 3rd grade!

I am seriously so, so happy I made the switch to 3rd grade! It's only been a few days but I am loving this year so far. Considering that things were so rough last year due to minimal collaboration, I so needed a good group and a good partner.

I have a couple of students who were challenging last year. However, I have set my classroom up very positively and I think that is making a huge difference. I don't focus on the little off task behaviors (and there are few fortunately), but instead really praise the kids who are listening and following along. It's been so great so far.

One of my little guys did so awesome yesterday that he clipped up so many times I had to wear his clip because there was no where else for it to go :) He also got a positive office referral and I found out it was the first one of the year for any students :) :)

Plus, I have a partner teacher now. She was in middle school and actually used to teach at my school when it first opened. It's been a few years since she had elementary and she admitted she's a little out of practice with teaching all subjects but that's fine! She's willing to collaborate which was music to my ears. We stayed late yesterday (on a FRIDAY!) and I helped her get some things in order. It was so worth it! We get along well and it should be a match made in Heaven :)

The big bummer is I didn't take a single picture all week! Ack! Usually I just use my phone but I'm going to try to remember to bring my actual camera and get some shots this week.

I'm really glad Mr. Principal asked me to switch to 3rd because it's perfect. They want me to be happy with them and they aren't all snotty yet ;) Yesterday several kiddos were sad when I told them I wouldn't see them the next day because it was Saturday. Is that a teacher's dream come true or what?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Day 2!

I am terrible....I totally have forgotten to take pictures of my new kiddos this week. Oops! Oh well. We have had a great start to 3rd grade and I'm so excited about this year. Things have been a little bumpy with some uncertainties with staffing/subs and such but I've really put forth effort into focusing upon my own kids and it has been a huge relief!

We have really jumped in and I think the kiddos and I are going to have a great year together. We are slowly getting those brains back into learning mode ;) We had so much going on yesterday that we didn't get to start our Daily 5 routines at all, which I was bummed about. But I was adamant that we would begin them today.

As you may recall me talking about before, I have wanted to do Daily 5 for a long time but for so many different reasons I have always backed out on it. This year, I am determined to make it work for us! We did our i-chart for Read to Self today and I posted a stamina graph for the kiddos to help us monitor our progress. They are so cute, we talked about how our ultimate goal is 20 minutes and after we had done all of our practices, I asked the kids what a goal for tomorrow should be and several said "20 minutes!" LOL :) 

They impressed me though. Usually I go by the previous spring's MAP lexile scores when I fill kiddos' book boxes at the start of the year. They switched our data site though so I don't have any access to those scores :( So my student teacher just filled each box with a high, a medium and a low book for each friend, mostly picture books. Some of the kids were a little restless because their books were too short or too easy (or both). But we practiced anyway (our good fit book lesson is tomorrow and they will have some time to shop). They did really well on the first try (2.5 minutes) and had a little trouble on the next try. So we talked about how we could help make it easier for us to not break our stamina. Then we tried again and they made it to 3 minutes. I'm quite impressed with that actually. I didn't think we'd get that far on our first try. They begged me to let them have another practice round later in the day so that they could try to beat their minutes :) Music to my ears, I tell ya!

Fortunately we had some time left after math and I let them practice again. They were very impressed with themselves to get up to 4 minutes and that was our final mark on the graph for today. I am hopeful that with all of the variety of books we have available in our room that the kiddos will find some books they enjoy and really get down to business with reading. :) 

I am so glad I made the switch to 3rd. I know its only been a couple of days but I'm telling you....this group is so different than last year's! For the most part, they really want to please me and my student teacher and that is a refreshing change. I do have a couple kids I'm going to have to keep my eye on, but I think we will be okay. They are learning quickly that Mrs. Wood don't play when it comes to doing what we need to do. 

I'm really excited to see where this year takes us :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

First Day!

Whew! My feet hurt :)

We made it through the first day of school. I had 25 hot bodies. My temporary partner, who had 27 on her roster as of last Thursday ended up with 30 actual bodies! Yikes! I have at least one whom I know will be coming tomorrow, not sure on the other three. One just enrolled so I'm not sure why he was a no show.

It'll be an interesting year for sure. If any more kids come we are gonna have some space issues. We will see what tomorrow brings on that front because we have some grades that are pushing 30 and some classes with only 18. That's crazy.

I'm a little scared to look at the pile from today....we did our baseline writing and wow. We have our work cut out for us, that is for sure! Of course it was the first day and they haven't used their thinking in awhile....but it was kinda scary to see where some of them are. The good news is, for the most part, they are sweet and eager to be back in school so that's good. I can definitely work with that :)

Hoping tomorrow doesn't bring a ton of new kids and no space for them all :)

Monday, September 7, 2015

T'was the night before back to school....

Okay so it's 3:30 in the afternoon which is hardly "night" but close enough.

How is it already time for the first day of school? This summer was a week longer than we usually have because of Labor Day being so late....and I still wonder where those three months disappeared to.

We didn't do anything fun this weekend at all. Bummer! We have a cabin and a pontoon and we haven't been to or used either since early August. *sigh* I have been so busy with finishing grad classes, meetings, prepping my room and my little vacation to be at the happy place which makes me sad. I honestly have no idea why we have a pontoon since The Husband is lazy on weekends and never wants to take it out. Lame.

So I alternately worked and rested this weekend. We do not have 24/7 access to our schools (which I am vastly grateful for) so I did some final projects at home and should now be all set for tomorrow. I made locker tags, desk tags, word wall words (since my set is for 4th and 5th), finished my brag tag necklaces complete with name tag for each kiddo and laminated, cut out and sorted all of my brag tags. I have 55 different tags and 30 of each one....yes that took up quite a bit of time! But now it's done and I don't have to do anything harder than think about who earned which one each week :) Time consuming and a bit pricey on the front end but I won't have to fill a prize box every month so it's actually way cheaper.

Tomorrow is supposed to rain :( Mother Nature should be nicer on the first day of school! I have a backup recess plan ready....and it won't hurt to teach indoor recess procedures literally from day one, right? I like to do a mixture of actual teaching with my procedures as I think it solidifies things for the students when they get to practice the procedures in context.

It will be very interesting if all 29 of my kiddos show since we have some classes with only 18! As long as they don't expect me to try to work a miracle with more than 30 in my class, I'm good. The issue with having only 2 classes at the grade and starting with high numbers is that it can get over crowded if new families come in. In my experience they don't balance classes out until count day a month into the year and that just throws everything off because you lose and/or gain new students and it's like starting over a month into the year (it has happened to me in some way all 5 years I have been at this school). It's difficult for everyone and I'm crossing my fingers I avoid it this year.

Thankfully this week is slim on my after school obligations....last week was crazy and next week will be also. But after a few days back into a routine, I should be fine with that craziness.

It may take me 2000 trips from my car to my classroom tomorrow as I bring all of my projects in plus Apollo the gecko is coming back to school tomorrow too. I just need 8 extra pairs of hands to make it all in one trip (hopefully not in rain!) :)

Happy First Day for those going back this week (seems like most people are back already).

Friday, September 4, 2015

Currently {September}

Happy September! You can TOTALLY tell people are starting back to work since it's the 4th of September and I'm still in the first 100 to post this month's currently :)


Listening: The Littles are watching Phineas & Ferb in the next room

Loving: After lots of moving things around due to a growing class size, I'm quite tickled with how my classroom setup turned out. I didn't take new pictures of it but may do that this week.

Thinking: After spending hours and hours (and hours!) in my classroom setting things up, with help from a student teacher, how can I possibly still have a To-Do list a mile long??

Wanting: Definitely need more hours in my day. Every day this week, except today, I was up by 5, at school by 7 and then either running to appointments after work or staying late and then coming home to do graduate work. I feel like I haven't seen my husband, let alone my kids.

Needing: My teaching partner took an unexpected leave at the last minute and we've had some drama trying to find a fill in. It would be super nice to have a teaching partner to collaborate with this year....but I've flown solo before (*all last year*) and will again if need be.

3 Goals: Boundaries--see "needing". Last year I had two partners who were not collaborative. I did much of their work. This year, I refuse to carry the entire grade. So boundaries it is. Patience--I can't control what happens with the long-term job so I just need to practice my patience and take care of my own class and pray things work out. Finally, Love--my goal is to love every child that comes through my door, regardless of what makes them tick. As an urban teacher, I totally know our kids come to us with a lot of baggage that kids in the 'burbs often can't even fathom....I'm going to love them all, no matter what. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Just call me Mrs. Exhausted

Whew! I am so darn tired....and I haven't even spent a day with kids yet!! 

This week has been absolutely insane. In-Sane. I have spent my days in meetings and then run all over the world (a slight exaggeration) taking Middle Child to therapy (which is now an HOUR away in one direction!) and youth group and then doing our Open House and rushing over to theirs.

Plus I spent all day at school today trying to finish up last minute things to be ready for the first day. Oh yeah and let's not forget the doctoral homework.

If I didn't have homework due all weekend, I might just sleep through the weekend! I hope I can stay caught up on all of this once I have kiddos and papers to grade and such! I'm a little scared of how full my plate is going to feel with all of the basic work obligations I have, plus the extra mom duties and my grad work. 

It's going to be one heck of a busy year!