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!). 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Blog Poll

What should I do a blog series about?

Guided Reading
Guided Math
Whole Group Reading
Reading Workshop (whole & small combined)
Math Workshop (whole & small combined)
Poll Maker


Today I moved into my new space! It is seriously the best room I have ever had, hands down, not even a contest. 

I was having a blast putting things together when the custodian popped in...and said "this room hasn't been cleaned yet...all this stuff has to come out still." :| 

See, I could have panicked. I could have died. I could have thrown a hissy fit. (You'll be glad to know that since I am almost *gasp* 39, that I refrained from doing any of those things.)

I TOTALLY FORGOT that my new school houses summer school. And summer school didn't end until last Thursday. So of COURSE my room hadn't been cleaned. I didn't even think about it. The good news is, the custodian is WICKED nice. Seriously, her and I will be BFFs. Not even a lie. She was fabulous. We compromised. She felt bad that there was miscommunication (she said they were told teachers weren't coming until the 21st...hahaha, not this crazy teacher! No way I could wait that long!), so she said if I put stuff on the counters and into my four window sills (which are deep and will hold boxes), they would let me leave my books on the bookcases and just wheel everything out, clean the carpets and put it back.

Okay...that I can handle. Whew!

It was seriously just a bummer because I was having WAY.TOO.MUCH.FUN. setting up that fabulous new space of mine. My teacher table/small group area is going to be EPIC this year. For real. It is going to be awesome. I was so bummed to have to stop working in that space and put things in the cabinets and drawers since I knew they had to pull it all back out. 

I was planning to not go back until next Tuesday but I think I'll pop in on Monday and see if its all done and then can get some work done in there before meeting with my team on Tuesday.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

School Projects {Picture Post}

I passed my dissertation proposal defense on Wednesday night. It was the scariest thing ever, but it went very smoothly (probably because I practiced like a crazy woman!) and I did very well. Woo hoo! That means that I have three glorious weeks to think about back-to-school with no interruptions for grad work. And believe me, I am already taking full advantage!

Here's a showcase of some of my projects thus far:

Swag Stickers
When I moved to third grade, I ditched my prize box and jumped on the Brag Tags bandwagon. I LOVE the brag tags. They are super cute and there is one for pretty much everything you can possibly think of. But they are pricey to print and laminate and time consuming to cut, sort and organize each week. So while I wanted to keep the same concept, I wanted to find something a bit different. Enter Swag Stickers. I don't even know where I first saw them, perhaps someone else had mentioned them in a FaceBook group or something.

They are generally just like brag tags except they are stickers. I was instantly intrigued and looked them up. There are a ton of choices in the product I purchased and they print 63 to a sheet. That means, in a perfect world, one sheet could last two years if I only gave out one of each type of sticker all year. That's not a bad deal!

I found round circle sticker paper on Amazon for super cheap too and all in all, it's much cheaper than printing the Brag Tags (it was $80 last year to print them in color---then I have to laminate and cut which takes more money and time). They are super adorable and I'm excited to try them out.

Light Box
You may recall me mentioning before that I was showing self-control this year and wasn't going to be jumping on the Light Box bandwagon. Well, I have officially eaten those words! While were we supply shopping yesterday, they had them out and they were only $10 at Walmart. How could I resist that price? Not to mention, my teenagers were like "you HAVE to have this in your room" so I got it (and still stayed under budget...yay!). 
I've heard a lot of people say that you can't use the inserts that are available on TpT in the Walmart box because they don't fit. I bought some growth mindset inserts (one of which is shown in the picture), some Pun inserts and some general ones that say things like "Happy Fry-Day" and has a graphic of french fries and is super cute. They are all designed for the name brand box that everyone else owns....but I printed one out (for the picture) to test it and only had to cut a tiny bit extra off to get it to fit into my box, so still worth it if you have a paper cutter and can make sure you cut a straight line. And the TpT ones are SO CUTE. For real. There are so many to pick from. 

As much as I said I wasn't going to get on the bandwagon, I totally realize why these are so addictive. They are just fun! And even if the kids never notice the sign--which everyone assures me that they will, *I* will be cheered by it every day so I guess that is what counts, right? :)

Crayon Cases
 The one crazy I did join in on was buying the little snack containers from Dollar Tree to use as a crayon case. Some people in the groups I'm part of wondered why anyone would do this. Well, I don't know about your students, but mine are often not gentle when they put away their crayons. Those cardboard boxes don't hold up worth anything and by November some are already in shreds. When I heard about this idea, I knew I had to do it. 

I couldn't find any in my local store so I ordered them online. The only issue with that is you have to buy a case. But its 72 of the containers so I already have some for next year :) [This assumes that I don't reuse them...not sure if I will or not. We will see how they hold up with little hands on them for 180 days!]  Plus it leaves me about 12 extra (I always set up for 30, just in case) for other things like holding small manipulatives for centers or whatnot. 

I found these cute labels for them on TpT. Look how cute these are!

I'm pretty sure I am driving everyone on my FB feed insane because it's all been back-to-school projects or pictures of my grandson the last few days :) I LOVE how these turned out. I will write my students' names with a silver sharpie on the first day of school. [I never label beforehand because you never know who will show and who won't.] 

Math Centers
I purchased a math centers bundle from Not So Wimpy Teacher and am in absolute LOVE with it. It's so good because the format is essentially the same for every unit and there are 10 centers for each unit. So in buying this bundle, I got 90 centers! (And there are some geometry ones for third grade that are a freebie so you get 93 if you download that.)

We have a little variety shop where I live that has basic office supplies for pretty cheap. I bought a pack of these Bazic brand file holders with the string clasp. I am pretty sure they were 2 in a pack for $1.29 each. Then I got the smaller envelope style ones to hold the actual centers. Pretty sure I got those 3 in a pack for $1.29 also. Something like that. All in all, it wasn't super expensive and they are poly plastic so they will last long.

Not counting the freebie Geometry one (because I haven't made that was yet), there are 9 units. There is also a "Back to School" one which I really appreciate because it's all second grade review and you can teach the kiddos the routine for the centers with things they *should* already know. Each unit has 10 centers (except Geometry as mentioned before) and each center goes into its own envelope as seen below.

These are filled with the Back-to-School unit. I expect that it will take us about a month to get through them all. Then the centers will come out of these envelopes and be either paper-clipped together by center or put into small baggies and labeled so they can go back into their "home" envelope as seen above. Then they are all set and ready for the next year! I so wish I had these last year!

The idea is that you use the BTS one as you teach your first unit. Then whatever that unit is (place value or whatever), is the next one you put into the centers. So the kids aren't ever working on centers with material that they haven't already learned. It's all reinforcement and review. Brilliant!

Positive Affirmations
 The Teenagers (they are way too big for me to get away with calling them "The Littles" anymore!) went to summer camp this year. They were part of the service crew so they got to help out around camp. They made a new wooden trash can, helped replace wood at a volleyball net and more. They loved it. The last day they have a closing ceremony with parents and everyone. Then you can get your stuff, sign out and head to the camp store or home or whatever.

They had this window cling that had this very positive message on it and I absolutely loved it. So I adapted it for my classroom (see below). It wasn't laminated yet but I absolutely love how this turned out!
This is going to hang outside of my new classroom. There is a small entryway before the door that this will be perfect for. I am going to arrange it so "enough" is the last word. I think it's super important that kids hear positive messages, especially kids who are always told they won't be anything because of where they go to school or because their parents didn't go to college or finish high school or whatever other mean reason people have to say stuff like that.

I'm also a big advocate of not just having things be "wallpaper" so this will also be a topic of conversation at our morning meetings. I want the kids to know they ARE valuable and loved and all of those other adjectives. Maybe we will even come up with a few more to add.

New Furniture
 One of the things I always hated about Former School was the layout of the rooms. You've likely heard me complain about that  stupid bump out space. My rooms there were basically square and didn't leave a lot of space for extra furniture (especially not the times I had 30 kids!). But my new space is fabulous and has a very big, dedicated space for a meeting area. I wanted a rocking chair before but never had the room.

I have been hunting for one and came across this one on FaceBook marketplace.
 It's a little dusty and has a scratch on the seat, but otherwise it is in pristine shape. The seller was only asking $20! I couldn't believe it. Turns out, she is moving home to England and can't take it with her. It's old and heavy but with a little elbow grease it will clean up just fine. I just need to get a cushion for the seat. I'm super excited to bring this to my room!

And that's that for now. I've packed a lot into the last few days (this has all occurred since Thursday!). I can't wait to at least get my stuff into my new room on Tuesday. Then the real joy of unpacking and figuring out where to put everything begins.