Saturday, December 30, 2017


I have realized over the years that we do a lot of things without really understanding or knowing where they came into practice. For several years, there was this meme called "Currently" that everyone was super stoked to participate in on the first day of each month (and honestly it is the only thing that kept some of us blogging regularly!). I remember one year for January, the bottom portion (which always changed based on the month), was to select a OLW (one little word) to guide us for the upcoming year.

I have done that since, even when the Currently trend stopped. I had no idea, however, that this wasn't something Farley had just come up with. There are a couple of pretty big movements surrounding the concept of selecting a word to guide you through the upcoming year. I either haven't paid very good attention or have been too distracted by other things in life to really realize where the origin of this idea may have come from.

Last night, however, on Twitter, I saw a trending hashtag (#oneword2018) that a friend of mine had posted about and I dug a little deeper and realized how big this concept actually is. The site I kept seeing was so I checked it out. (There is another site that does a One Little Word challenge but it involves monthly journals and whatnot and I have never been into that scene. The word is just for me as a guiding tool, nothing more or less.) 

At any rate, I already knew what my word for 2018 was going to be when I saw the posts in my Twitter feed.

Let me back track a moment: when I first discovered this idea of the one word, I didn't really put that much stock into it. I did it because it was part of the meme and sort of left it at that. However, last year, knowing that I had some big decisions I needed to make about the direction my career was going in, I was a lot more thoughtful about the word I chose. I even had a background made so that it was on my iPhone screen and I would see it multiple times per day. That really helped me keep that word at the front and center of my life and I do think it helped me make some tough decisions even when sometimes it is easier to say you'll do something and then conveniently find a reason not to follow through.

My 2017 word was inspire. I had to inspire myself to follow a path I know that I belong on. This continues to be something I take seriously. I have some decisions in front of me right now that I need to find my inspiration to act upon. But I also selected that word because I wanted to find my passion to inspire my students and colleagues again. For me, that meant changing schools and making a tough choice to leave a place that meant so much to me for so much of my life. I honestly can't say if I would have found the courage to take that step if that word hadn't been guiding me.

That leads me to my word for 2018. When I saw that trending hashtag last night, I already knew what my word was going to be. I just needed to boldly proclaim it. While the word is for me and for me alone -- basically meaning I do not owe anyone but myself justification for what word I picked and why -- I find that proclaiming it gives it power. It also holds me a bit more accountable to put it out there in the world, even if that is only on Twitter and here on my oft-neglected blog. 

So there you have it. My word is enough. All of these years later, I still have to remind myself I am enough. That the choices I make and the direction I'm trying to lead my life in is enough. It has to be. I have given 100% to everything I have put my name into and that has to be honored. I feel like I am finally in a place where I can do that.  

2018 will be interesting. I will finish my doctorate. I will turn 40. I will discover if the road I am trying to travel on is the one I should be on. In the spirit of making sure I see this word multiple times per day, I have already set my phone background to show the new word. I also ordered a ring on Etsy that boldly proclaims "I am enough" (you may have seen the ads floating around FaceBook; trust me when I tell you the Etsy ones are way better--and cheaper). I will wear that ring daily as a reminder. Everything I give has to be enough because it will always be as much as I have to offer in that moment.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Happy Holidays

We made it through the craziness that is teaching in December. My intern's last day was December 8 and it was, by far, the worst day we had all of the year so far. The kids were just awful, not listening and being so disrespectful to her and a guest in our room. :| It made me really worried for the last two weeks before break began...but interestingly enough, they were fine. They really mellowed back out once it was just them and me. The last days before break, I was nervous about because they are excited and they aren't interested in learning (and let's be real, most teachers are exhausted and not real interested in teaching either). 

My new school is an elementary on the bottom floor and a middle school on the top floor. Thus we share an auditorium which is super nice to have available. On Thursday, December 21, we had a lot of parent volunteers who watched the kiddos in the auditorium for 90 or so minutes so that the staff could have its annual luncheon. I have never experienced something like this in all of the years I have taught and it was pretty cool. First to know that the kids were all supervised and contained in one area but second to be able to socialize with people I NEVER get to see because we aren't on the same team or schedule. It was really nice. 

Friday went by in a blur (we had a half day). We had art that morning so I really only had my students for about two hours total that day because of lunch and recess too. It was a nice way to end the year with them. 

I have relaxed and relaxed some more since we've been out. Of course with having school right up to the week day before Christmas, things were a little crazy but I finished my wrapping and such on Friday afternoon. The Youngest's birthday is December 20 so we took her out to dinner on Friday and that was the last time I have left my house. The Husband had some errands to run on Saturday so he did all of the holiday food shopping so I didn't have to battle the crowds (I have huge crowd anxiety--I have had panic attacks at hockey games when we have been stuck in a big crowd -- yes, he is a saint). 

We had a beautiful Christmas and I have read several books since we have been on break. It has been absolutely marvelous. Mostly because I know once 2017 goes to bed and we welcome 2018 in, I am going to be insanely busy finishing up my data collection and writing chapters 4 and 5 of my dissertation. Graduation comes in April and I am so ready. 

I do not know where this journey is going to ultimately lead me, but I am hanging on for the ride and grateful to have made it through another year. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Difficulty with December

Why is it necessary to teach during the month of December?

Can I get an "amen" on that??

For real. My district gives us the day before Thanksgiving off as a "conference exchange day" which is basically how they pay us for conference nights. I'm not complaining. I love that extra long weekend. But coming back from that super short week and having multiple five day weeks is basically torturous.

Don't get me wrong. I love my job, I love my students. This is definitely my passion and calling. BUT trying to keep kids engaged between Thanksgiving and the last day before winter break is incredibly difficult. You've seen those memes about December lesson plans: Scrap kids off the ceiling. Repeat.

Unfortunately, it is not too far off the mark! My students are already pushing it because they just can't contain their excitement. (And I mostly forgive them because they are 8/9 and they are adorable.) I can't even imagine being a kinder or first grade teacher and dealing with December. :|

Firstly, the kids are exhausted. The Thanksgiving Break just makes that more obvious. We are all just plumb DONE. We need some time to rest and recharge. The kids need it and so do the adults. [I have decided teaching is the fall is the worst thing because you have so much choppiness with conferences, marking period breaks, and then the holidays. The second half of the year is so much smoother once all that mess is over.] 

Secondly, *I* am exhausted. I remember being a student teacher and right before Spring Break telling my class I understood they were tired because I was too. My CT was super pissed at me about that and yelled at me for it later. She said I needed to be a professional. Well screw about being HUMAN and HONEST? It's not like I said "I understand you are tired so let's just screw off for the next few days!" I don't think admitting that you've reached a limit is bad. I DO think it is bad if you reach a limit and then give up and start slacking off. But honestly, I feel like my class pushes through harder for me when I admit that I'm tired and wanting a break too. They are little people but they aren't idiots. They understand. (Ever hear of empathy??)

Thirdly, there is so much craziness that goes on in December that can mess with schedules that everyone is off kilter and it just adds to the craziness that is December by nature. Field trips, class parties, music programs, etc. just totally throw everything off schedule and it can be super hard for the kids to come back from that. (Especially with a teacher like me who likes a schedule that is almost 100% the same from day to day. The structure is good for the kids AND me.) 

So I think we should just cut our losses and forget about school for the month of December....or at least past the first week. Give me a four week winter break and I would GLADLY teach until the middle of June in exchange for it! 

Somehow, I do not think this idea would be popular with most people, but I would love it! Time to relax and really enjoy my family and prepare for the holidays without scraping kids off the ceiling at school sounds perfect to me.

Thursday, November 9, 2017


November is always a time when we turn our minds to our blessings and things we are thankful for. It has been nearly a month since I last wrote. I am very busy, very overwhelmed and blogging has taken a back seat (as it always has).

But I had to take a moment and post. Last school year, I was so unhappy. I had finally reached the finish line at Former School. In September, 2016, The Husband told me, very sincerely, that he was waiting for me to figure out I had outgrown Former School. Truth be told, at that time, I kind of scoffed. I was still so convinced it was where I was needed. As the year went on, however, I realized he was right. It was time. I was not appreciated and I was not valued. At all. I did so many things for everyone and never received that same courtesy in return.

It was time. In March the internal postings came out and I had a decision to make. I had to put my money where my mouth was. It was scary. I really had no idea what I was going to find out there. Someone actually told me that I couldn't guarantee that I would find what I was looking for if I left. I told her that she was correct, but I could also guarantee that I wouldn't find it if I stayed. I had given my time. I had done enough. It was time to go.

I had two amazing interviews. I left the second one (for my first choice school) with such a good feeling, but I didn't want to bet on anything until I saw it in writing. I felt such a strong and good connection to the principal and I was not willing to believe that I had imagined that connection.

I hadn't. Fast forward several months. We have finished our first quarter of the year. I have a great group of students and I love the staff that I work with. For the most part, they share my passion; they see outside of themselves and want what is best for kids. That is all I want too! I have always said it isn't about me, it is about these young people.

I was told something today that just warmed my heart so much. One of my new colleagues told me I was a breath of fresh air because I see the bigger picture and I will push my kids toward that bigger picture. I have friends there and people that I already feel so close to. These are my people. I DID find what I was looking for and I am so, so glad that I took that leap of faith and sought out what I have been longing for. 

Has it always been easy? No. But I would not change it. I am so much more fulfilled than I can ever remember being. It has been a true blessing and the recharge for my career that I needed. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Reading Improvement Plans

For quite some time, the state of Michigan has been debating how to handle third grade reading proficiency. Any quick internet search would yield a wide array of research about how vastly important it is that students are reading proficiently by the end of third grade. There are studies that show that prisons are built based upon the reading achievement scores of 3rd and 4th graders. Anyone who teaches in a grade higher than third also knows how much more intensive reading becomes in the upper grades; students are asked to read and digest more complex and rigorous texts the older they are and if they aren't reading on grade level, this task becomes not only frustrating but can feel impossible for the student.

This is my 12th year in the classroom. I have had 4th grade six of those twelve years. I know how incredibly frustrating and disheartening I found it to be when these fourth grade students came to me reading at a kindergarten or first grade level. The text is so much more dense in 4th grade and students are asked to DO MORE with the text in 4th and 5th grade. It is really unfair to the students to be allowed to push on to the higher grades when they can't read and haven't had any intervention whatsoever. 

I don't know if this is true or not (I honestly haven't bothered to look into it to find out), but I was told that a year or so ago, one of the high schools in my district added a 9th grade reading class because so many of students were entering ninth grade scoring at a BR level on MAP. That means their lexile is so low that it couldn't give them a numerical score. BR stands for "beginning reader." In ninth grade! Personally, I find that to be criminal. No student should just be passed along through the years when it is so very obvious that they are not a proficient reader (we have been using MAP since 2009-2010 at least so no excuse to continue to let these kids move forward with no intervention and just passing them on).

That said, before I continue, let me just reiterate something I have said for many years. I am not like other people. I do not look at things the same way other people do. I think this has always been true, but it is especially true since earning National Board Certification and traveling around the country (and a little bit of the world) to see educational systems in other areas besides West Michigan. Now that I am almost finished with my doctorate in education, I definitely see myself on a different level than most of my colleagues. I do not mean this to sound like I think I am better than anyone else. Believe me, I am not. I have flaws, I am definitely not perfect and I still screw up. Sometimes I screw up pretty big. I am still working to improve every day and be the best teacher I can be for my students. The reason I consider myself on a different level is because put all of my experience together along with my vastly different perspective and you get a very different outlook than most of my colleagues have. (Again, let me be very clear, this is not a slight against anyone I have ever worked with. I have had the absolute joy and pleasure to work with some absolutely amazing educators who give the best of themselves to support students. Our perspectives are just very, very different and that is all I am saying.)

With all of this said, a final version of the third grade reading law was passed in October 2016 and that spells big changes for us this year. Here is a short overview article of the new law. Over the past two weeks, we have had Dibels Deep training, have administered the test with our students and have prepared to write our IRIPs (Individual Reading Improvement Plans). I have 26 students. 19 of them have to have an IRIP because they are below the 60th percentile on the MAP. I have colleagues who will be writing IRIPs for their entire class, which is pretty overwhelming to consider.

I have many friends across my district that I have met over the years, whether or not we have ever worked together. I have heard a lot of grumblings about the requirements and that they are stupid or how they will be gone in a year or two. I don't necessarily like having to do this extra paperwork, but I don't think this process is stupid. I think it should have been in place long ago. If you're worth your salt as a teacher, you are already doing this sort of documentation anyway because you need to be able to show where the student is performing in order to know how to instruct them in a way that will fill in those gaps.

I am blessed right now that I have a student teacher. She is almost in full control (one more week and she will be), so I have been assisting her but also quite honestly spending time working on analyzing my data and determining our next steps. I know not everyone has this luxury, but I would find the time to do it anyway after my teaching day if she wasn't there...but I can't teach my students well if I don't know what their deficits are. It is as simple as that.

I spent a lot of time looking at where each student who needs a plan is by comparing their Dibels Deep data with their MAP data with classroom assessment data to determine the group to put them in for intervention. I came out with 5 groups. Now I needed to rearrange my schedule to fit each group into my intervention rotation. This was going to be impossible because they are supposed to be seen 3 times per week for at least 15 minutes. With 5 groups, there was no way I would be able to do that with only 4 thirty minute intervention blocks during the week (my 5th day is taken up by a 2nd step intervention -- how our brains work, learning about empathy, etc-- with our social worker).

So I looked closely at my schedule and decided I needed 45 minutes for intervention rather than only 30 so I could rotate through my groups. I am planning these groups as if my student teacher won't be there (because let's be real, she won't be around forever). I do have an interventionist who comes in for two of my 30 minute blocks so I can also utilize her to ensure that all of the groups are seen three times per week. Because my student teacher was side-by-side with me as I planned this and walked her through my thinking process, she will sit side-by-side with the interventionist to teach her how to do the new intervention blocks next week when we begin.

I'm actually pretty excited about it, even though I know most of my peers probably aren't. This goes back to that differing perspective piece. I teach in small groups for most things because I know the kids need the 1 on 1 face to face time....and I adamantly disagree with having an intervention group have 8 kids in it, especially when those students all do not have the same need (for example, the reason I have five groups is because I have a group with only two students in it because they have a similar need, I also have a group of 5 because they share similar needs). While it all probably feels like it's a ton of extra work....we should be doing this work and documenting it anyway. This reading law just forces us ALL to be accountable and show that we are doing everything we can to help our students gain reading proficiency that they collectively haven't been gaining (less than half of the third graders in the state showed proficiency on our state testing in 2015-2016).

So while I'm not necessarily excited to spend hours of my own time writing up these plans...I will do it because I know once I have a path to guide every single one of my students on, we will all be better for it. I don't have to write IRIPs for my higher readers but I am still going to document and provide intervention for them so that they aren't just flying in the wind with no support either.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Field Trips

Sometimes it is necessary to take students away from the school building for other educational experiences. Sometimes I hate these experiences because they are so nerve wrecking--I'm always afraid someone will get hurt or lost.

Today the third graders went to Art Prize. This is an annual art exhibit in our town where some of the businesses in the downtown area host pieces of art. It is wicked cool but I have NEVER been down there in all nine years it has occurred. I have huge crowd anxiety and thus I avoid it because I panic around too many strangers. I agreed to go on this trip however, because it was going to be a Thursday morning and hopefully not too awful.

We also had a program at the Public Library first which was really cool. Kevin Kammeraad was there and did a presentation. Super fun and my students realized there is someone even weirder than ME out there haha

After that presentation, we had lunch on the lawn of the library which was really fun. (You definitely learn something new about your students interacting with them away from school!) Then each class split up to walk around and view art. One of my students got sick so we didn't do as much exploring as we may have liked and we definitely avoided one of the main streets because it was SO crowded. But we had a great time. 

I had my students pair up so they each had a buddy and my student teacher was at the end of the line so we could keep everyone together. Two of my girls decided I was like the mama duck and they were like my babies because they were just following me around. 

It reminded me why third graders are so fun. :) 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Literacy Coaches Network (LCN) - Meeting 1

Last year, at Former School, we had a literacy coach from the intermediate school district working one day per week in our school. Her and I got connected and worked together a little bit. She told me about this group called the Literacy Coaches Network which meets throughout the school year to support literacy instruction in our classrooms. Fortunately you do not have to be a coach to be part of it (I would say at least half of the people in the elementary division of it are classroom teachers). I only attended one meeting last year but I made it a point to join again this year when the notices came out and if the first meeting was the only one I went to this year, I would definitely have gotten my money's worth!

It's structured so that you begin with a short general session (less than one hour) where we discuss the overall concept guiding our work for the current year. This year that is moving from looking at data to looking at the impact of using that data to guide instruction. 

Then you break out into various sessions. You sign up for your sessions when you register. I chose to attend a session called K-3 and 4-5 Essentials. Michigan has a new reading law that focuses upon K-3 and being proficient in reading by the end of third grade so this was a session I knew I wanted to be part of (and this was the very part where I feel like I got my money's worth from just the one session!). 

After that breakout we had a spotlight session with a district sharing what they are doing that has been working. It was actually really informative to hear this particular district talk about their challenges and what they are doing to overcome them.

There is a lunch break after that followed by the second breakout session. I chose to attend a session called Academically Productive Talk, which was also super informative.

After that final session there is a short networking time and then time for teams to meet to plan and whatnot. Since I am the only one from my school who attends, I am able to leave at that time if I choose to do so.

I'd like to share a bit about each of my breakout sessions because they were so informative and helpful and I left feeling like I could really go out and use what I had learned to impact my kids (which directly correlates to the opening session on impact, so bonus!).

Academically Productive Talk
I'm going to start with the second session first, on Academically Productive Talk. I selected this session because my students are not active talkers about academics. They are social beings, to be sure, but they do not know how to speak to each other in an academic context. I know how absolutely important it is that they are able to do this so I selected this session to get some tips and tricks. 

We did some brainstorming about the types of talk we think we see in our classrooms now and how our classrooms might be set up to support those types of conversations. Ideas ranged from partner sharing to circle discussions to sitting on a rug with everyone facing each other to having desks arranged in a big circle. We also talked about why talk is important. The facilitator is a science person so we looked at it through the  lens of a science teacher but you could apply it to any disciplinary area. 

We looked through the Talk Science Primer and how there are appropriate talk formats depending upon the situation (whole group, small group and partner talk). The primer is a really good resource. It is geared for science obviously but it would apply to any academic talk situation.  I am super excited to learn more in this session the next time because I want my students to know that they SHOULD be talking in class about academic content and that they will learn so much more if they are engaged aloud with what we are learning because it will allow them to process the information better.

She also told us about the book Academic Conversations by Jeff Zwiers and Marie Crawford which I ordered and am excited to dig into. 

K-3 and 4-5 Essentials
I can't say enough how much I enjoyed this session and how deeply it spoke to me. Our work is really guided by this document that lists the essential practices that should occur in every early literacy classroom. (There is also this companion document which discusses the essential practices in literacy for fourth and fifth grade.) 

For this session we really focused on standard 3 which is about small group instruction. We talked about grouping strategies such as leveled groups, need based groups (from diagnostic data), interest based groups and paired or partner reading groups. At one point they said if you always use leveled groups, your students will never be exposed to grade level content. This is not true for me and I was kind of bothered by the idea. When we had time to work with our table group to discuss this, I mentioned my concern about it and one of the other ladies said she felt since my groups are leveled BUT I also insist upon teaching grade level text, it isn't the same as what the facilitators of the group were suggesting. That made me feel a bit better because of course I level my kids, but it also got me thinking about how I could change things up a bit to make a bigger impact while having kids work with peers outside of their group.

I am STOKED to give this idea a shot during this next literacy cycle (which conveniently begins this week!). Here's what I am going to do:
  • Continue my leveled reading groups but switch the days I am working with each group. Previously I had Group A and B on the same days. These are my lowest readers. Starting this week, I will see Group A and Group C  on the same day (lowest readers and the bubble kids) and Group B and Group D on the same day (almost bubble kids and highest readers). 
  • The groups will be run separately but on the days they do not meet with me, they will work with a new partner from the other group to complete their vocabulary and their word work. Basically I am pairing kids in a way that will allow the lower readers to have a support person who is a bit of a better reader while they navigate the grade level material together. This should allow the higher of the two readers to gain skill as they may need to explain to their partner what is going on, but it will also hopefully allow the lower of the two readers a boost up because they are able to process their thinking through talk and will hopefully get more out of each activity. 
First of all, I can't believe I have NEVER thought to do this before. As I was brainstorming it, I had a moment where I literally wanted to smack myself in the forehead like "really?! How have you NEVER come up with this before?!" I will give myself a little grace on this because with the way our learning blocks have been structured in years past, I would have never had the time to do it anyway!

In addition, since we have a dedicated intervention time four days per week, I can use the Dibels Deep data we will get next week along with my MAP baseline data AND data from our bi-weekly story tests to make strategy groups that I can pull during intervention time. This means I don't have to disrupt my usual reading group time but can get some bang for my buck with pulling the groups for 5-10 minutes during the intervention block too. 

I got all of that from a 2 hour session! WELL worth the measly amount of money it cost me to join this year. I am so excited and cannot wait to try these strategies out along with my small group reading practices and see how it helps boost my students' achievement in reading.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Reading Stations (Guided Reading part 2.5)

This post serves as a follow-up to my last post in my Guided Reading series. After I wrote it, I realized I had so much more to say about it, so here it is. (It would be helpful to read this post first if you haven't already and then come back to read this current one.) 

In my last post, I wrote about how I use Reading Rotations to help teach my literacy block. Sometimes I say Reading Stations instead, but they are the same thing. I usually say rotations with my students but honestly, it doesn't matter as long as you are consistent in what you call them. 

Once upon a time, I tried Daily 5 infused with CAFE but the way that my literacy time is structured, I couldn't make it work for me. I struggled for a year or so to find something that did work. Some of my colleagues at the time use an 8 station rotation and I could not wrap my head around what kind of planning that would require so I didn't even want to attempt it. Last year, I modified it and it did work very well for me. I modified it a bit more this year and so far, it is working well for us. 

I wanted to go a bit more in-depth with each of my stations because I don't feel like I did justice to the process as I tried to describe it in my last post, hence why this one really continues that post.

I mentioned that I have several rotations my students work through: teacher, word work, vocabulary, SSR and partner reading. I gave a short description of them previously but truthfully I wasn't really satisfied that it tells enough of the literacy story in my classroom. So I shall try to dig a little deeper this time :)

(Note: I have mentioned previously that I work with an 8 day rotation for reading so keep that in mind as you read. Day 1 and Day 8 are all whole group and testing, respectively, so the information shared below occurs on Days 2-7.)

Teacher Group: We use Journeys at my new building. I have always had a basal reading series to use that includes leveled readers. While I am not necessarily a fan of a basal series, I think they can serve as a great spring board for instruction. Since I have always used one, I don't know what it is like to teach without one. Even when I haven't loved the stories in my grade has used, I have always used the series to guide me and supplemented as necessary. That being said, so far in 3rd grade with Journeys, I have really enjoyed how everything is laid out and the two week window in which to actually teach the whole story. I feel like we get more in-depth than I could when I really only had four days to teach the weekly scope and sequence to my classes. Let me give you an overview of how I utilize my teacher group time.
  • Since Day 1 is all whole group, we take this time to introduce the skill and strategy for the next two weeks as well as focus on vocabulary and the phonics skill that we will use throughout the next two weeks. We spend the entire 60 minute reading block on Day 1 working directly with the story's key vocabulary and the teacher reads the anchor text aloud to allow students to just hear it all the way through, read fluently by an adult so that the next time they interact with the the text, they will already have some familiarity with the story and we aren't wasting any trying to navigate an unfamiliar text.
  • Day 2 and 3 are used to teach the same content to all four of my small groups (2 groups per day for about 25 minutes each). I am absolutely adamant that even leveled groups where students are grouped with other children reading at a similar level must be exposed to grade level text. The state test requires they interact with grade level text so I insist that they also interact with it while at the teacher table, even if the text is very complex and difficult. The way I see it, that is why a teacher is there--to really help them comprehend and break down the text so they can understand it. These two days we re-read the anchor text for the week and focus on the comprehension skill (for example, the first story focused on drawing conclusions and the second story focused on character development). Because they have already heard the text read aloud to them, we are able to focus more on digging into the text during these small groups. The lower groups get much more support from me while the higher groups tend to lead the discussion more and I serve more as a facilitator (with the goal of course to get my lower groups to get to that point too). 
  • Day 4 and 5 are very similar to day 2 and 3 except we are now working with our paired text. Journeys has a separate consumable volume that is called a close reader. This volume has all of the paired texts in it along with notes in the margins to help kids learn how to be close readers (for example it asks them to find and circle the title or the heading so they learn the text features too). Similarly to the previous lesson during small groups, I support  my lower two groups much more than I do my higher groups. I still push for rigor no matter what group I am working with, but I also realize my lower level students (may of whom are performing at a K or 1st grade level) can't navigate this text on their own so we read it together while the other groups may read it to themselves and then we discuss it. 
  • Day 6 and 7 are reserved for the leveled readers that come with the program. There are 5 levels for the leveled readers: vocabulary readers, ELL readers, below, on and above level readers. This past cycle we used the leveled readers for the first time. I chose to use the ELL reader with my lower two groups, the below level with my bubble kids and the on level with my highest group. It worked very well. As the year goes on, we will begin to shift them up to the higher book (so the higher group would eventually get into the above level readers). This allows me to really provide instruction at their level without sacrificing grade level instruction. 
As you can see, two of the three days they are in the teacher group, they are working with grade level text. I feel it is my job as the teacher to provide scaffolding to allow the kids to navigate these more complex texts because, again, they will be expected to on the state test. If we only let them read texts on their own level, they will never catch up and they will never be able to navigate those complex texts that are often seen on the standardized tests. 

Word Work: In the word work station, students are working with the grammar strategy that supports the current story in our basal series. This past cycle, we focused on the four types of sentences. I made a flipped video of myself teaching the lesson and uploaded them to Google Classroom. This allowed me to teach my class without being in front of them. It was fabulous and the kids really enjoyed having me up close and personal without being right there. We just got our Moby Max licenses as well so they will also have an opportunity to work with their spelling words during this time (they will complete the grammar task first and then move into the spelling work).  This is a great way to balance the type of things they are doing in this station but also automatically provides them with a "what do I do now?" activity (the spelling list) if they finish the grammar activity early.

Vocabulary: I mentioned before we are using a vocabulary foldable to help the students work with their vocabulary words. This group is collectively low so we are starting simple with this list. As the year goes on, we will amp it up and will use a modified Frayer model where they will need to provide examples as well as non-examples of the word and use it in a sentence of their own making to make sure they are really understanding the word and can use it in context. This last cycle (that ended on September 29) was the first time they did the vocabulary foldable and as you can imagine, since it was the first time, they were pretty awful and some of my lowest kiddos didn't get them done even though they had three 25 minute sessions to work on them. I absolutely expected this because it was a new experience for them. My hope is, with some changes to how we are going to be working with groups (there will be a post about that tomorrow!), it will allow the kiddos to get the vocabulary foldable done in one session so that they have two sessions in partner reading which is the next station. 

Partner Reading: This station is still a work in progress at this point. This is the station students will utilize once they have finished their vocabulary foldables so until the kiddos get used to how those work, this station will definitely be under utilized. As such, however, we will be using our Scholastic News in this station to work with a partner to read current events and support our understanding and learning of text features. Aside from that the students will use this station to work with the text sets that I got from Donor's Choose. There are four types of media in each set (such as a pamphlet, newspaper article, magazine article and a blog post) that are on the same topic. What I like about these text sets is they all include a packet that the students can use to help them read through and analyze the media types. Utilizing the text sets in this way may mean they take a month or so to complete a text set but that is just fine with me. I want to start slow because there are so many low readers in my classroom. And the text sets are super interesting (*I* would like to just sit and read them all!). 

SSR: Self-selected reading, read to self, whatever you would like to call it, the kiddos spend some time every other day in this station. I would love to have time for them to read to themselves for fun every single day but there is no way to work it into my schedule (which is why I am also using partner reading!). Of course, I know how absolutely vital time to read for fun is, but at the same time, we read all the time and my kiddos are allowed to go into the Epic app on their iPads when they finish a task and have no other work to finish so they are getting more time in books than just during this block which is a bonus. This next cycle (starting tomorrow), students will also be asked to complete a short reflection on the books they have been reading to help keep them accountable to actually READ their books rather than just flipping through the pictures. 

I hope this follow-up post provides a better overview of what small group time looks like in my classroom and what the other kiddos are doing while I am teaching those small groups. My student teacher is taking over this block now and I have taught her how to teach each of the components in the teacher group time so I will be free to sit with groups to complete vocabulary and/or to listen to kids read during SSR which is going to be great too since it is something a teacher normally does not have time to do since they are the one teaching the small groups.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Classroom Management with Class DoJo

When I transferred to Former School in the fall of 2010, we began the process of implementing Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS). Prior to that, Michigan had a program called MiBLiSi (please do not ask me what that acronym actually stands for because I have no clue! haha). MiBLiSi essentially morphed into PBIS. 

It was pretty neat to be part of the planning and unfolding of the whole process, mostly because I think there is a ton more buy-in from staff when they are part of putting things together. The principal we had at that time didn't always see eye-to-eye with me (I have since realized it's probably because we are much more alike than we realized), but one of her biggest strengths was her ability to create teams and really build a culture where everyone came together to work together for bettering our students. (I can say without hesitation that we lost that when she retired.) 

At that time, however, we had a school wide system where we used Levels to help us track student behaviors. Level 4 was the highest and Level 1 was the lowest. Students moved down levels for various infractions (basically any time they earned a referral they were supposed to move down a level), but could also move back up a level when they turned around their behavior. It wasn't a perfect system but it wasn't horrible either. My biggest issue with it was that the students who were ALWAYS on task and doing the right thing just sat at Level 4 with no real recognition. It was then that I began using my clip chart. It has 7 levels and everyone starts in the middle. They can move up or down accordingly. I know if you scour social media you'll see all kinds of posts about how horrible clip charts are, but I disagree. It is how they are USED that can be horrible. Should you use them to shame children? Of course not! And that is what some people do with it, which is why others hate it. I found it to be a great tool, especially for guest teachers and/or student teachers to learn how to help support the class toward managing their own behavior.

Add in my Restorative Circles that I began in the spring of 2015 and my classroom management as never stronger. My clip chart was just another part of our class and I never once had a parent question or complain about my chart. They appreciated the documentation to know how their child was behaving in class. (I have noticed over the years that at parent-teacher conferences, after I present what I need to about the kiddos, the first question 99% of parents ask me is "how does my child behave for you?" so being able to share their child's progress with a color-coded behavior sheet was very helpful.) 

This year, moving to New School, I had to let go of my beloved clip chart because they use Class DoJo. Some teachers were using it before but this year, as part of PBIS, it was decided it would be used school-wide for consistency and because it is all electronic based. A bonus is that parents can connect and it provides an easy way to communicate if they have a question or concern. 

I wasn't sure if I would like DoJo to be honest. My clip chart was always visible so I could utilize it well. Now, I have to remember to award and take away points but this isn't a terrible thing because it also forces me to be much more intentional in the points I give or take away. 

My team used DoJo last year too so I just copied what they had for their positive behaviors and their needs work behaviors. After a week or so with kiddos, I adjusted to meet the needs of my class and myself (you best believe one of my awardable behaviors is "Being Fabulous" haha). We do have the ability to project it up on the screen but I do not do that. Never have and I don't plan to start. I actually like that it's more private than my clip chart. The kids don't necessarily know who is losing a point but they all sit up a bit straighter when they hear the sound that lets them know a point was taken away from someone. 

My student teacher is just starting to take over more and more of the subjects so she is also getting on board with DoJo. We have an iPad mini that is for the teacher(s) to use so I keep DoJo open on that and she can use it when she is teaching too. So far, she tends to award only positives by pointing out students who are on task or following directions and it is helping her without having to take points away. 

One of my favorite things about it now that I've used it for several weeks is that it helps me monitor my positive to negative feedback ratio. I reset points every two weeks when we have our Swag Stickers celebrations. I am able to customize the reports for that two week period and print out a report to send home to parents to show them how their child has been doing. As a bonus, it automatically saves as a .pdf on my Mac (no idea if it automatically downloads on a PC as I haven't tried it) so I have instant documentation that is saved on my computer so I can always go back in case a parent says they didn't get the report. 

I have students for the last two weeks who have a 100% positive feedback rating, which tells me these friends are the shining stars and role models in my classroom. These reports will show me what students are up for nomination for student of the month for behavior and then I can check that against academic requirements (homework and classwork completed on time, etc). It's really helpful and valuable. 

It also allows me to see which students are having trouble and in what areas. This is perfect when needing to bring a child up for Student Success Team (child study) because it's all documented and I can show what areas are concern areas and we can make a plan to address those. I didn't necessarily get that level of information from my clip chart unless I took time to write down why they clipped up or down (and really, who has that kind of time?).  This is so much easier in terms of documentation.

Additionally, since most of my students speak Spanish at home, it can be difficult to communicate effectively with their parents because I am not anywhere near fluent in Spanish. I can say a few random phrases in Spanish but I can't understand what anyone says to me in anything but English. Class DoJo's messaging feature allows parents to communicate with me and I can instantly translate it and vice versa. I had a parent ask me a question last week and we were able to communicate through the Google Translate feature. It wasn't a perfect translation of course, but it is enough to help us know what the other person is saying and to me, that is gold. 

This past week I sent a message to a mom to ask her to meet with me about her son and we were able to instantly set up a meeting for the next day. It is absolutely amazing to have this level of communication because email isn't always an effective way to get in touch (I have found that my emails tend to go to parents' spam folder which is so weird!). This way, there is no worry about that because it is all in the app. 

Not all of my parents are connected right now but at conferences, I do plan to get the rest of them signed up and show them how easy it is to keep track of their child's behavior and also keep in touch with me. 

While I still have some love for my faithful clip chart, I am sold on using Class DoJo to manage my class. It's about as private as I can make it since I don't ever display it for kids, but still allows me to reward the behaviors I want to instill in my students and provide reminders for behaviors I do not want them to do. The ability to track my positive to negative feedback ratio and communicate effectively with all of my students' parents is a huge bonus. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Reading Rotations {Guided Reading Series 2}

I have to be honest and tell you that I think guided reading is one of the hardest things to do as a teacher. Every degree and certification area I have involves literacy of some kind. Even my doctoral dissertation is focused upon literacy. I think it is safe to say that literacy is pretty important to me.

That being said, even with an undergraduate degree in language arts, I don't feel like I really got a handle on teaching guided reading until last year. It was my eleventh year in the classroom. Yes, I will fully admit I fumbled through teaching reading in small groups for TEN YEARS before I feel like I finally got it right. And just because what I am not doing works for me doesn't mean it is the end all, be all way to do it. 

Part of the issue is that during my student teaching, my cooperating teachers didn't use small groups, so I never had it modeled for me at all. I was expected to use small groups when I taught 2nd grade but I look back on those years and cringe because I had no idea what I was doing! When I moved down to third grade, I had a huge class (30 kids) with a ton of behavior problems. Trying to teach in small groups was almost impossible (even though I knew it was necessary since 13 of those students came to me at a kindergarten level). 

Last year I had a much smaller class (9 less bodies than the year before!) and not nearly as many behavior problems. I was determined to make small groups work better for me. And interestingly enough, I have a big class now (26) and we were in groups the second week of school! I had so much more confidence in my own ability to teach these way that we just rolled it out and the kids have never looked back. 

Last year I had 5 rotations (teacher, vocabulary, spelling, Lexia and listening). I had three groups and they rotated throughout the stations every day. Each group had listening once and vocabulary once, everything else they had twice a week. 

This year we have a separate time built into our day for interventions and that is when we use Lexia. My reading rotations now are teacher, word work, vocabulary, SSR and partner reading. The students work in partner reading once they have finished their weekly vocabulary foldable. 

Teacher Group: I meet with each group 3 times over the course of our 8 day reading schedule. We reread our anchor text (basal story), work with a paired text for close reading, review vocabulary and phonics skills and work with leveled readers during this group. The groups meet for about 25 minutes.

Word Work: The students work with their weekly grammar skill during this time. With our first story, my student teacher ran this group. Knowing however, that I won't always have an extra pair of hands, for the currently weekly story, we made short videos using the Clips app on iPad to "flip" these lessons so the students still get me teaching it but I don't have to be sitting in front of them (thank you 1:1 iPads!). 

Vocabulary: We select 5 key vocabulary words from the weekly story and put them onto a vocabulary foldable. The students practice their dictionary skills by looking up the words, discussing the words with a partner and then completing the vocabulary foldable including a picture. 

Partner Reading: Generally it takes 2 sessions to finish the vocabulary foldable when kiddos first start using them. My highest group may get done with it in one session. Having the Partner Reading station allows them to share books and have a discussion about reading with a partner. I just got a wicked bundle of Text Sets from a Donor's Choose project that will be utilized in this station too.

SSR: Pretty self-explanatory :) 

I have never had the luxury of having two full weeks to teach a story before so I am loving our 8-day rotation. Day 1 and 8 are whole group and testing days. Day 2-7 are all small group. I see the same groups on odd days or even days. We have two rotations each of those days. One day the kids see me and then read independently and the other day they are doing vocabulary or partner reading and word work. 

The time I have at the small group table is so incredibly precious to me. I look back at years when I didn't have a firm handle on small group teaching and I cringe a little. There are many variations of stations you could use, as long as they aren't busy work and are helping your students grow, do what works for you and them! 

I can't imagine not teaching with these rotations now that I have perfected them. They have really been a game changer in terms of helping me be a better teacher and providing my students with the individualized attention they need. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Third Week Tech Fun

We are already into our third week of school. How is this possible?! Time is flying! (I feel like I say that every year, but it's so true!)

We have been cruising right along. I am so impressed with how well the students have fallen into our routines. The hardest time is transitioning from activity to activity and the end of the day. They are super social and just want to chat. So my student teacher and I keep reviewing and practicing the expectations and I know they will get it.

We have been working in our reading and math groups and I love teaching like this! Next week my student teacher is taking over our reading groups. Currently she is working with the word work group. So we had to figure out a way to have a "teacher" in that group and have her in the main group. We have to act like we won't always be there together because sometimes it will just be me or just her.

I used the app "Clips" on my iPad to create three short videos (seriously they are 3 minutes or less) on our grammar strategy for next week. The students will be learning about the four types of sentences. With this app, I can use pictures, videos, audio and the cute little extra pieces in the app to create a video that reviews the work with them. It is basically like me being right in front of them to review the work...except I'm not. It's super cool and I can't wait to use them next week!

We are well into our reading and math rotations too. Look for a post coming up soon to discuss the rotations I'm using and how we are making it work (this will be part 2 of my guided reading series!).

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Guided Reading Groupings {Guided Reading Series 1}

One of the best parts about teaching is that every year is so vastly different. Different students means different dynamics and different needs. This year, we also have a different reading program so it means learning a new curriculum to best meet the needs of my students.

Since we have this new program and I am short a day of teaching reading due to how my specials worked out, my team agreed to teach one story over two weeks instead of trying to rush it all into one week. I am very grateful for this for two reasons: the students need to be able to really dig into a text to close read, analyze and really put the strategy to use; secondly this schedule will allow me to utilize the resources I need to in order to help boost my students' reading abilities.

I have a special smack in the middle of my reading block on Wednesday so my schedule will be split in half over the course of the week. Since I will have 8 total days for reading instruction over the two week period (sometimes only 7 due to days off or whatnot), I will have more face to face time with each group and none of my groups get slighted. (I have always hated that usually my highest group gets slighted from having face time with me due to time constraints.)

I put together a rotation schedule to keep myself on track with this new 8 day rotation. It looks like this:

Day 1 is pretty much all whole group. We will do our spelling pre-test and complete the anchor activities that will help build background and prepare students for independently reading through the story. Day 1 (which 99% of the time will fall on a Monday) will be the only day in the rotation that we will teach any reading whole group. The rest of it will all be done in small groups so I have time to scaffold and support my kiddos right there at the small group table. 

Day 2-7 allows me to rotate students so that each child sees me three times over the course of the story. The blocks will be about 28 minutes long (with two minutes for transition) so we can really get into the heart and soul of the text and strategy we are working on. I love this because it will give me a day to get them back into the actual anchor text, use the leveled reader AND complete the close reading activity. No rushing to try to get everything in!

Day 8 is reserved for the spelling test and the test that accompanies the story. The Journeys weekly tests are LONG (like 50 questions!). The good news is, we can go in and take out parts we don't feel fit our students' needs. Let's say I have a group who really needs to focus on vocabulary. I could create my lesson plans in such a way that those kiddos are getting more targeted vocabulary instruction and then choose to make sure they get the vocabulary questions on their test. Another group may really be struggling with phonics and I could provide more targeted instruction with phonics for them and then choose to give them those questions on their test. So really every group could have different tests based upon their needs. And it would take me less than 15 minutes to set up all of those different tests in Think Central to meet the needs of my class! Bonus!

So there you have it. We are going to give this schedule a try starting Tuesday. (For the record, I grouped my kiddos by their spring MAP data since we won't MAP until the week of September 11.) 

The next post will provide information about the rotation stations the students are in. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 1, 2017

First Week Done!

We just finished up our first week of school yesterday! (In Michigan we are not allowed to have school the Friday before Labor Day so as to not impede tourism.) 

What a fabulous first week of school! This was definitely the change that I needed in my professional life. I could not ask for a better staff to work with, a better principal to push my thinking and a better group of students. Seriously. I am so glad that I took the risk and made the decision to bid out and try something else. If this first week was any indication, this is going to be a great year!

Here's a peek at our first week :)

The Power of Yet

I am a big proponent for teaching students about Growth Mindset. Last year, I read "Teaching Students to Drive their Brains" which has these brain car pictures for kids. I have turned them into a poster with the kids with the words The Power of Yet on it. The students color/decorate their car and we add them to the poster. Every time a student says "I can't", we all chant back "yet!" This poster hangs in the back of our class where you can very easily see it. 

Peek Face Portraits

I don't even remember where I found this activity. I know it was on a blog somewhere about 5 years ago. They always turn out so adorably! We read "The Important Book" by Margaret Wise Brown and then the students mimic the writing style from the book to write what is important about them. Then they add their faces peeking over the top of the paper. So cute! 

Teaching Kindness, Respect and Love

I love the book "Mr. Peabody's Apples" by Madonna. I read it every year to my students but this year was searching for ways to incorporate and activity with it. I came across this blog from Tenacious Teacher and knew I had to do this activity. We read the book together and talked about how spreading rumors, especially if you don't know the whole situation, can be really hurtful to the person you're talking about and how once the words leave your mouth, you can't really ever get them back. You can apologize but it doesn't take the words back, ever. 

Then we went outside and did the glitter activity. The kids were so excited because they wanted to be the winning team, but of course, they got frustrated very quickly because it was impossible to get the glitter off their hands to pass to the next person. After the activity, we talked about how the gossip and mean things we sometimes say stick to us like glitter. We can't get rid of all of it, even if we say sorry. It was a powerful lesson and I'm glad we did it. 

Digital Citizenship

Can I point out how awesome it is to have 1:1 iPads? I'm not a fan of putting a child on a device all day, but we have used the iPads a bit each day (except the very first day of school) to get the kiddos immersed into some of the activities we will do this year. 

The first activity we did was on Digital Citizenship. I updated my class in Google Classroom and invited each of my students to join. Once everyone was in, they attacked their first assignment. We watched a Brain Pop video and took a short quiz on digital citizenship so students understand how we should behave when we are using digital technology and/or social media. 

Growth Mindset Sort

We also did a growth mindset sort with Keynote app on our iPads. I am using "The Growth Mindset Coach" this year and there are activities for each month to help reinforce growth mindset for kids. I took the first activity and put it into Keynote during lunch yesterday (which was much easier than I thought it would be to make it). I do like Keynote in that the kids can manipulate the shapes and move them around, it makes word sorting or categorizing very easy. 

I read the tiles to them and they moved them to show if they thought they fit under the fixed or growth mindset. Some kiddos have a few misconceptions about the statements so we will review and revisit this on Tuesday so the kiddos know they have positive affirmation statements they can make to help themselves stay positive and keep pushing through. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Blog Series

Surprisingly, I only had 8 votes on my blog poll (according to the blogger stats, over 140 people read the post so I'm not sure why there were so few votes). At any rate, of those folks who did vote, the vast majority want a blog series on Reading Workshop. Let's be real, I'm still going to do one on Math Workshop too but I'l focus on the reading stuff first.

I've been thinking about how to do this since we are getting a new reading program this year. We have used Reading Street since 2011-2012 school year and that's the program I have used to shape and begin to perfect my reading workshop methodology (keeping in mind, obviously, that what is perfect for me may be a total disaster for anyone else). My new school is switching to Journeys and we don't have our curriculum training on it until next Thursday. 

We also have a new third grade reading law in Michigan that has some big changes that will absolutely affect how I run my reading workshop. (In a nutshell, any student who is below a certain percentage on whatever screener the district chooses--my district is using NWEA/MAP--has to have an IRP or individualized reading plan. It's basically like an IEP but for reading only and every child below the benchmark has to have one. We have to document the interventions that we are doing to try to fill the gaps. I know that probably sounds hellacious but there are so many things we already do for interventions and this just gives us a tidy way to document them and ensure we are doing everything we can to help boost the kiddos up to benchmark.) 

That all being said, I'm not sure how long the blog series will end up being, but I am going to focus upon the screening process (using MAP), how I put students into groups, how I manage and run my reading groups, the activities the other kids are doing and as I learn more about it, I will share how those IRPs will work. The blog series for this will definitely be slanted toward having at least some help (a paraprofessional or a student intern) but I'll do my best to show what can be done if you are 100% by yourself too.

I am not an expert. Not even close. But I do know I benefit, even all of these years later, even with all of the credentials I have, from seeing what others do and having the chance to learn from them. To this day I still take ideas from multiple places, modify them and make them work for me. That is what I hope to be able to share with this blog series too. 

I'm not going to promise a specific start date for the series because you know how overwhelming back to school is (and my school is getting three new curricular programs all at once so it's even more overwhelming than usual). I hope to at least provide an overview of my new reading program next weekend (August 26/27) before we begin with kiddos on the 28th. 

Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

2017-2018 Classroom Tour

Yesterday, I posted a short video of my classroom setup. You can view that here if you missed it. 

This post will provide a picture tour of my 2017-2018 3rd grade classroom. I had so much fun setting up this room. It is, hands down, the best classroom I have ever had. It's big and spacious and we won't be feeling crowded in here, that's for sure!

Let's take the grand tour, shall we? We will start at the entryway and go counterclockwise. 

This is my entryway. It's really hard to read but the words are positive affirmations to let the students (and anyone who drops by my room) know that they are loved and important for being who they are.

Inside the door. I hung my anti-bullying sign on the door. That's my storage closet (which is very deep and is full of STEM kits and centers for reading and math along with some actual storage items). On the closet door is my sign out system. When students leave my room for anything (bathroom, resource, speech, mentor, etc), where we aren't all together as a class, they move their magnet so we always know where they are. It's great for during emergency drills!  

This cart holds the students' book boxes. They are obviously empty at the moment. Usually I select some books for the students at the beginning of the year, but this year will allow them to book shop on the first day. 

This is my "No Excuse Words" board...otherwise known as the word wall. I made this out of foam boards I bought at Home Depot last year and covered with a fabric shower curtain. It hangs there with command strips. Underneath will be the rotation schedule for Words Their Way which we will use for spelling this year. 

The meeting area. That green chair was my desk chair last year. There were so many chairs left in this room that it will be going back home. The pocket charts are for the teaching that will happen in the meeting area (I like to do mini-lessons together at the carpet area). This rug is super large and awesome. I will also have kiddos sit back here for group work sometimes.

You can see the library there too. The smaller cart has book baskets on both sides and the pink baskets you see on the left are only on one side of that cart. Genre posters are on the small cart and above it on the wall. 

This is a long view of the student desk arrangement. I have two double rows with seats for 14 in each row. I don't have that many on my roster, but I always plan for extra students, just in case. 

This is to the immediate left of the library area. These windows are opaque on the bottom because they face the library. There are extra book boxes and binders resting in this spot for now because I have two teacher tables that have to be removed and replaced with student tables instead. If you look closely at the second window, you can see my gecko's tank (obviously empty right now). Where those binders are sitting will be where I put my new light box because there is an outlet right there. 

The small table in front of the window (where the CD player is) will be a small listening station. I have some picture books on CD that the students will be able to browse and listen to with a partner during our reading stations. Eventually the picture books will be replaced with chapter books on CD. 

The drawer cart with the bins on it will have copies and materials for the week. We are 1:1 technology so much of my stuff will be digital but there will be some things that are paper and I needed a place to keep them sorted out. 

You can see the tech area better in this picture. The board above will have our daily schedule and the calendar (which says August but I put my numbers for the dates down somewhere and don't know where haha). The small group table will double as my student teacher's desk. Just behind it is a small filing cabinet and on top of it are supplies for her to use. She will also be able to use the filing cabinet for whatever she needs it for. 

This shows the rest of the white board with our Fist to Five sign to show understanding. It's hard to see in this picture but above that small bulletin board is our hand signals for bathroom, tissue or a drink. I've used this system for years and it's awesome because kiddos can ask for what they need without needing to interrupt me for anything.

This is my favorite spot in this room. This is my teacher desk/small group teaching area. This table was donated to me at my last school and I wasn't about to leave it behind. You can just see the stools underneath the bulletin board that the kiddos use when they meet with me at my table. 

It's hard to see but behind my chair is an organizer that has 6 slots which will hold materials for my small groups. I absolutely LOVE this space. I have my Thinking Maps there and the pocket charts can hold focus wall information or whatever else I need to support my teaching. 

This is what I'll use for student mailboxes.  They will take papers home each week from the week before. I will put a sign above it that says "You've Got Mail" :)

This is the rest of my storage area. I had that fabric hanging up at my old school to cover the shelves and such. It just looks so much better with it covered! All of that stuff on the top of the cabinets is old curriculum materials that were supposed to be removed, so I'm not sure what they are going to do with it. I will just leave it there for now since it's out of my way. 

Underneath the counter are some crates I haven't figured out what to do with yet and some lapdesks the kiddos can use to sit around the room with their iPads (or their notebooks for that matter). The two door cabinet holds board games and puzzles for indoor recess. On top of the counter in the crate are our SMILE folders (goal setting), the pink baskets hold scissors and rulers. The green basket in the middle (which I bought my first year teaching and it's still going strong!) is currently holding folders which will be the students' take home folders. Next to that are the glue bottles. Those yellow boxes hold spiral notebooks that have to be labeled and passed out to kiddos.  

And that is a tour of Room 124 :) 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017

This is Not Okay

My heart hurts.

It sickens me that in 2017, we have white supremacy marches happening and it hasn't been condemned by the White House. Instead, it's brushed off as coming from "many sides." 

Well, I'm calling B.S. on that. It isn't coming from "many sides" at all. It is coming from the normalization of hatred and bigotry from our nation's leaders. If you refuse to call out these marches for what they actually are, you're complicit in them. You may not have marched yourself, but you're condoning what they stand for. 

People lost their lives and were gravely injured so a bunch of white folks could whine about their oppression. Seriously? Did any of these people actually pay attention in history class? The ability for these idiots to demonstrate the way they did is really the poster for white privilege. 

As educators, we can't stand in silence. We have to speak out, we have to tell our students, our families, our colleagues, the world that this is wrong, this is NOT okay and we are not going to stand by and allow it to happen. Hatred and bigotry have zero place in our country, but they are here, alive and well and festering like an angry boil.

Stop being silent. Stop looking the other way. Stand up and tell people, this is not okay. This is not the America I want to live in. This is not the America I want to leave to my children, grandchildren and future great-grandchildren.

We deserve better and should BE better. Don't be complicit or complacent. Stand up against hatred and bigotry and by all means, teach your students to do it too. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Intentional Educator Planner Overview (& Giveaway Details!)

I am super excited to share an overview video of the 2017-2018 iteration of the Intentional Educator Planner. This planner was designed by an educator--by a teacher for teachers. The theme of this planner is mindset, mindfulness and reflection.

Check it out!

You can order your own copy of this planner at 

Additionally August 14-18 Nicolette, the creator this planner, will be hosting a giveaway for the planner. You can find all of those details and participate at her website :)

There is another giveaway being hosted by Two Writing Teachers for the planner as well. Check out this post to see the details (act fast, this one ends August 16!).