Sunday, November 2, 2014

I'm baaaacccckkkkk......with November {CURRENTLY}!!!

WOW!!!!  It has been forever and a day since I've blogged!  Now, before you judge me.....take a look at my excuse....
Is he not just THE cutest baby. EVER?  It seems that between baby Jaxon, my 2 year old, Jaci and my 11....soon to be 12 year old, Caitlyn.....I just fell out of the blogosphere.  But, fear not.....I have least for a link up with Farley for some November Currently.  I have missed this :) 

Listening:  It's Sunday. As always, I am listening to the hubs watch the Cowboys. This will never change. 

Loving:  The weather in Texas has been awesome!  We've been in the 60's or 70's for over a month.  It's heavenly!

Thinking:  I've missed blogging!  Me and my kiddos have been up to soooo much.  I can't wait to share it all with you guys :)

Wanting:  STARBUCKS!!!  This is my addiction.  I don't smoke, I don't drink (heavily.....ha!), and I don't do drugs.  Starbucks is my one and only guilty pleasure.  And the red, holiday cups are out...which I {love}!!  It officially begins the holiday season for me! 
Needing:  Every weekend, our eating schedule is a bit off.  We eat breakfast late, which causes us to combine lunch and dinner.....almost always.  I need to get started cooking the enchiladas....yuuuummmmmm!

Reading:  I'm in a leadership training with my district.  As some of you know, I graduated with my Master's in May, and I'm looking to move into administration soon.  The book we are reading is entitled, "Now, Discover Your Strengths".  Not a bad read at all.  

I hope you are all having a fabulous Sunday Funday.  I hope to be back soon, letting you in on all the fabulous things we've been doing in room 14!  

Keep living the dream, 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

They are finally gettin' it, y'all!

Oh....mi.....word!  I have not blogged since November 2, 2013.  You must've thought that I had fallen and become trapped underneath something too heavy to lift......or that I had died.....

FEAR NOT!!!  Nothing of the sort happened......I just found out that we are going to be having a {baby} I've been exhausted.....on top of the normal exhaustion that every teacher experiences!

Now.....the new addition to our little family IS good news, but not quite the good news that I wanted to share with you today.  The good news is........


We have been taking practice STAAR (our state mandated test, State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) tests and they are SOOOO getting it! 

You know that panic that sets in, around January/February, after you've taken a simulation of some sort and your kids didn't do as well as you had hoped and you begin thinking, "They are never going to get this!!!" or "What is wrong with me?  Why aren't my kids learning?"  OR.....the worse self-talk in the book....."I'm the {WORST} teacher......EVER!!!"

Well......that fear/panic/feeling-that-makes-you-want-to-give-up-and-work-at-Dillards came over me in January, after our simulations.  I didn't know what to do.  I felt like I was doing a good job, and overall, the kids were doing a good job in class.  I knew I was providing consistent time and energy into problem solving for math and I knew that I was devoting time to book club AND guided reading.  I was TERRIFIED that I wasn't doing something right. 

THEN.....we took another practice test in February, and ALL my kids passed the math test and 94% passed the reading!!! WHOO HOO!!! 

I was finally feeling like we were making some real gains. 

THEN.....we took another practice test in March... (yes, this seems like a lot of assessing, but we have to build their stamina to be ready for a 46 question, 4-hour assessment that's coming in April). 

In this assessment.....(and they are getting harder each time), 94% passed math and 88% passed the reading.  They are doing SOOOOOO well. 

I say this to you because I know how we all feel this time of year.  It's such a stressful time and we are all incredibly worried that our kids are not going to be ready by the time they need to be ready.

THEY. WILL. BE. READY........I promise!

It's like one day, the light bulb came on.....and now, there's no stopping us.  I keep raising my expectations and they keep meeting them.  My first expectation was a score of 70, then 75, and now 80 and the majority of my class hits that mark on each assessment. 

They are such little brilliant, hard-working geniuses!!!  Love my kiddos!!!

P.S.  I am starting Charlotte's Web for our book club when we come back for spring break and my kids could NOT be more excited about it.  I promise to blog about how that goes.....

Enjoy your Spring Break (and if you're not on Spring Break yet....hang in's just around the corner!)

Keep livin' the dream,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

November {CURRENTLY}

What up, teacher peeps?!?!?!?

I am linkin' up with Farley from Oh' Boy 4th Grade for this month's {CURRENTLY}!  I haven't linked up with Farley in quite a while and I have missed it....oh-so-much :)

1. Listening- as I am typing, my youngest daughter, Jaci, is napping and my oldest daughter, Caitlyn, is giving us a concert in the kitchen.  She's the next American Idol!!

2. Loving- the fall! Enough said!  I love the colors, the smells, and THE FOOD :)

3. Thinking- about my graduate school internship hours (principalship).  I need 135 hours this semester. The hours in my classroom do not count, so I must do 135 extra hours above my normally busy schedule. Good times...

4. Wanting- to sit down (with no papers to grade, no lessons to plan, no articles to read) and do NOTHING!! (maybe watch some Big Bang Theory).....but there is too much to be done :(

5. Needing- to figure out what I want to do in my Reading/Language Arts block.  I am trying something new this week. I will post about it later...if it works ;)

Yummy Pin- that small picture doesn't do this cupcake justice.  Here's the big pic!

Delish, right??  It's a pumpkin spice cupcake with salted caramel frosting!!  Once you stop drooling, follow the link by clicking the pic and you can make your very own (and then call me over to taste test!)

Have a good one ya'll!!!

Keep livin' the dream,

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Classroom Pics & Book Club

Hey there!  I know that I've been a bad blogger lately, but I've come to share a few things with you in hopes that you will forgive my absenteeism :)

I realize that it's October now and that this classroom reveal is a bit tardy, but what the heck.....I'll show you the pics anyway!

View from the door, looking left

View from the door, looking straight
Classroom Job chart

Whole Brain Teaching posters

My small group table

Our Writing Corner, mailboxes, and 7 Habits posters

Our Bulletin Board (it's full of anchor charts now....but that's another post)

A little bit of me

My desk
Now, on to more important things! I had a few teacher peeps ask me about how I run book club and I wanted to share what I've done so far. 

Let me preface this by saying that you can totally tweak this to make it work for your kiddos.  It's a lot like literature circles, only I made the changes I needed to make for my students. 

In 3rd grade, we don't so much teach kids to read, but how to understand and manipulate what they have already read.  Having said that, I don't do guided reading (per my principal), so book club was my choice of applying my reading instruction.  I have focus lessons where we work on specific skills, but book club is their chance to apply those skills :)

Here's how I started:

I chose one book at first, Judy Moody, and I met with each group, separately, while the others were in Daily 5 stations.
I did this mostly because I only had 6 copies of the book and this allowed me to have a copy and each member of the group to have a copy. 

This is where I taught them about book club.  What it looks like, what it sounds like, and how it's run.  We read this book, as a class, but in groups, and they got a taste of what I wanted book club to become. 

We did prediction activities, comprehension activities after each chapter, vocabulary activities.....whatever I wanted them to get out of the book, we did!  Some of the activities I found on TpT, some of them I made.  I know that with Judy Moody, I bought three different units on TpT and combined them to make what I wanted for my kiddos.

Now, I have my kiddos divided into groups, by reading ability and each group has a different book.  I have 19 kids, so I have 4 groups (3 groups of 5 and one group of 4). 
This allows my higher readers to read more and read at their pace without becoming frustrated.  And this also allows my struggling readers to feel less pressure, because they are grouped with other readers who read at their pace and their level.

Each group has a different packet......that I put together.  They will use this packet for the entire book.  This packet contains work on the specific skills that we have covered (compare/contrast, sequencing, making predictions, etc.), and it always has comprehension questions.  I keep the books and the packets together in a colored tray/box (different colors for each group) and the kids know that when I say it's time for book club, they need to gather their materials, {cop a squat} and get busy :)

I am lucky enough to have a special education teacher in my room for about an hour and a half each day.  Of course, this is when I schedule book club!!!  She sits with my strugglers and keeps them on task and occasionally reads a page or two to keep them on track and to help with fluency and comprehension.  This frees me up to run around to my other 3 groups and check in on them and read some, too! 

I do book club for about 30-40 minutes each day.  Usually, that's just long enough for them to get their stuff, find a spot, document what they're doing for the day and read a chapter (sometimes they get done with the reading and do the comprehension questions, sometimes they don't). 

Each group is at a different point in their book and in their book work, and that's ok.  I check in with each group and I know where they are, what they did the day before and what they should have done by the end of their book club session.

Unlike literature circles, I don't assign jobs.  Each person is responsible for reading, with the group, and contributing to the discussion and helping to answer the discussion questions.  At the end of the book, the group will have to share with the class what they read (like a book report, but better!).  They will have their choices as to how they want to present, but each member has to participate and they will also get to grade each other on their participation within the book club.

So far, my kiddos love it!  Here's a pic of them working in book club this week.....

We haven't finished our first book yet, but when we do, I'll be sure to share how they presented/shared their book with the class.

I hope you're enjoying your weekend and I hope this was helpful :)

Livin' the dream,

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I {LOVE} Fall, Y'all !!!

Hello, sweet friends......I hope you have found some time during your weekend to relax and enjoy some calm.  I have not.....yet.....but calm is on the horizon!  After this blog post, I'm gonna grab some papers and watch the Cowboys game with the hubs.  (Yes, I count grading as relaxing {kind of} because at least I get to sit still!!)

First, let me just say.....that I {LoVe} fall!!!  I love the colors, I love the smells, I love the food, and I love pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks!!!  It's an all-around-good-time!!!!

BUUUUTTTTT.....more than I love all of that.....I love fall d├ęcor!  I went to Hobby Lobby this weekend (without my husband.....deliberately) and bought Halloween decorations.  His first question to me was, "How much money did you spend?".....he he :) creativity....but, oh well!

Here is a little peek at my ~awesomely spooky~ finds :)
And then, I found this *perfect* Halloween garland at was destiny.....I had to buy it!
Now, on to more teacher-related craziness......
The day after I made my post about how I do ELA (with Daily 5 and Journeys), my team members and I (it was a group decision) decided that we would rather teach in units or themes.  We all thought that with a theme or unit, we could extend the learning into all subjects.  Example: We did Johnny Appleseed last week, so not only did we read about Johnny Appleseed and write about Johnny Appleseed, but we also learned about the life cycle of an apple tree and it's seasons.  We also did some work with maps and timelines that involved Johnny Appleseed's life and where he moved and planted trees along the northeast. 
Needless to say, we were drenched in Johnny Appleseed all week long, in all of our subjects and it seemed like the days just flowed better, ya know?  We weren't jumping around from one subject to another (at least it didn't feel that way), but rather simply connecting our knowledge across the curriculum.  I truly enjoyed it and the kids did too!  They were Johnny Appleseed experts by the time we were through. 
With our math, it was simple.  We added apples to whatever it was were learning.  If I gave them a word problem, it was still 3rd grade math, but it involved orchards and apples instead of whatever other boring nouns we normally find in word problems (books, pencils, etc)!
There is one downside to doing themes/units, though......not all of my kiddos have the same book.  What I mean is, with Journeys.....we were all reading the same book.  The kids got to see and hear the same book, day after day.....and my struggling readers really needed that help with their fluency.  When I taught Johnny Appleseed last week, I didn't have a class set of books.  I read from a fiction and non-fiction book and we discussed a lot.....but my low babies that needed to hear and see that same story over and over....didn't get that. 
Sooooo......I've decided to do both.  No. I'm not crazy.  Hear me out.....
We are going to read our Journeys story each morning, like we have been (I talked about this in an earlier post).  But I'm only devoting 20 minutes a day to it.  The kids will still get that extra fluency practice and we will test our comprehension on Friday, but that's all I'm doing with it.  After we read the story and spend a few minutes discussing key points, we will move on to our unit/theme and really dig into that. 
My hope is that this will help my kiddos who struggle with fluency and still test all of my kiddos on their comprehension.  Any thoughts??  I know I have some expert teachers out there who know more than I do :) 
I'm off to go "relax" and grade some papers!  Have a fabulous week and enjoy this awesome autumn that we're having :)

Keep livin' the dream,

Monday, September 16, 2013

How I do Reading and Daily 5

Well, look at me......bloggin' 2 days in a row.  Woot Woot!!!!

As I was getting ready for the day yesterday, it occurred to me (as I know it has already occurred to many of you) that if I post what I'm doing BEFORE I do it (instead of after- like I usually do), then you may be able to use/do some of the same things........DUH!!  Why haven't I done this before.  

So, in light of this new is a peak at my week in reading and Daily 5.....

As mentioned yesterday, we use Journey's as our basal.  We read a story a week (this week, we are on Lesson 3, Destiny's Gift) and do different activities with it throughout the week.  Here is how I break it down:

Mondays- we listen to it on CD (because sometimes it's just fun to hear someone else's voice) while the kids follow along in their student books.  Then we discuss/I teach the vocabulary and target skills.  This coming week, the target skills happen to be character traits and antonyms.  With Journey's, there are 100 different things they want you to teach in a week.  I focus on a target skill in reading (character traits) and one in grammer/writing/language arts (antonyms).  We will eventually hit them all, so only doing 2 a week gives me time to really focus on the 2 main target skills.

Since today is the day I introduce character traits, I will use the wonderfully amazing and perfect product from Nicole Shelby over at Teaching with Blonde Ambition.  If you haven't started using her interactive journals yet, I highly suggest you jump on that bandwagon and ride it 'til the cows come home.  I have the one for 3rd grade reading and language arts.  She has made them for both subjects for 3rd, 4th, and 5th.  They. rock. my. WORLD!!!!
She has a section in this notebook dedicated to characters and we did this today.  Amazing.

Tuesdays- I read the story to the kiddos as they follow along in their student books.  I stop along the way and model my thinking as I read.  They just listen.  After we read, we discuss the vocabulary again.  We use them in a sentence.  We practice.  We also review what an antonym is.  I will give them a word, they give me the antonym.  This is a quick review (they will have work in their word work stations on Monday and Tuesday that dive a little deeper into antonyms).  Then, I ask them the discussion questions and we talk about the story.  The very nature of these questions are a review of character traits, so this fits right in.  I ask the question, give them 30 seconds to talk it over, then each table shares with the class.  There is always a sense of urgency in room 14.  We've got lots to do, and not enough time to do it :)  

Wednesdays- They read the book themselves, with their tables.  The team captain starts them off by reading a page, then they go in a circle, each person reading a page.  I like this arrangement because it promotes fluency.  By this time in the week, they have heard the story twice, from fluent readers and have an idea on how the flow of the story goes.  I give them 10-12 minutes to read the story.  If they get done before all the groups are finished, then they review the vocabulary as a group.  We then have a small review over antonyms.  What are they?  They give me examples.....this is short.  Then, as a whole group, we do a "go-chart" together.

A "go-chart" is something that many of you have seen before and probably use.  It's the "triangle, square, circle" chart.  Our 4th graders used it last year, consistently, and their scores were OUTSTANDING on our state assessments, so we really wanted to create a consistency between the STAAR (our state test) grades in using this "go-chart".  Here is what it looks like. 
The one we use in class is much prettier.....I made this one in 5 seconds so you could get the idea.
In the triangle, we put the characters on the left, the setting on the right, and the problem on the bottom line of the triangle. 
*this week, we will take a little more time on characters to discuss, again, more about character traits

In the square, we put the summary, the Beginning, Middle, and End.

In the circle, we put the solution to the problem.

We do this whole group, every Wednesday, for every story we read.  For the first 6 weeks, I will do this with them.  After that, I will expect them to do this on their own during this time. 

Thursdays- They read in pairs.  I pair them up very purposefully.  I never put two struggling readers together.  This is a good time for my struggling readers to hear, yet again, a fluent reader.  Then, after they finish, we all come together to discuss the story for a final time before we test tomorrow.  We will review the target skills (character traits and antonyms) and discuss the vocabulary one more time.  By this time in the week, they should know the story backwards and forwards.

Fridays- They read the text one last time, independently.  I give them about 10 minutes.  Then, they have a test over comprehension, vocabulary and antonyms.......20 question total.

**Daily 5**

The rotations that I have for Daily 5 are: Read to Self, Work on Writing, Read to Teacher (book club), Word Work and Listen to Reading.
This was a {freebie} from Second Grade Discoveries.  Click on the pic and it'll take ya right to her store!
Read to Self- My kiddos have a book box with their number on it and "good fit" books just for them.  
I got the book box labels for $1 on TpT.  Just click on the pic!
They have 2 chapter books, a picture book, and one book from our school library.  Our reading curriculum, Journey's, has vocabulary readers that come with each lesson.  I have the kiddos keep a vocabulary reader in their book box so that they can see the vocabulary, in context, in another story.   

Work on Writing- Right now, this station is for "reading response" type of writing.  We work on writing summaries, problem/solution, cause/effect, etc.  I am using my Writer's Workshop time right now to go over the basics of writing (periods, capitals, spacing, etc.) so we aren't writing stories just yet.  When I do finally get my Writer's Workshop up and going, my "Work on Writing" station will be an extension of Writer's Workshop.  Did that make any sense?!?!?!?

Read with Teacher- This is where my kiddos come to me and we do book club .  I posted about that yesterday. 

Word Work- Here is where my kiddos work on spelling/vocabulary/and whatever else I need them working on :)  This week.....they will work on antonyms over at this station.  On Monday and Tuesday, we will work on antonyms.  I have a few recording sheets where they have to look at a picture and give me the antonym to the picture.  They will have to write sentences using the antonyms of the images that I give them.  Any practice with that skill will be in this station. 

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, we always do our spelling sentences.  I am a HUGE believer in the power of handwriting.  I won't get on my soapbox, but I will just tell you that there is TONS and TONS of research about what handwriting does to the brain.  Our kids need to be writing, using their spelling words, if we have any hope of them remembering them, and using them later.  I realize it sounds old school, and not so "cutesy", but it's proven to work.  And my kids are rockin' those spelling tests!!!

On Fridays, I don't do Daily 5, because we are assessing and doing our "Poem of the Week".

Listen to Reading-  I am such a fan of this station (and not just because it takes no prep time from me.....although that does sweeten the deal a bit). 

Kids need to hear fluent readers.  They need to hear the structure of the English language and what good reading sounds like.  I always have 2-3, sometimes more, ESL kiddos in my classroom and this station moves mountains!!  Just hearing the language does so much for their vocabulary and their acquisition of the English language.

My kids listen to Scholastic BookFlix or TumbleBooks during this station.  It's simply books on the computer.  They follow along on the screen, seeing the words as the narrator reads and they listen with headphones.  Easy peasy!

Whew.....that was a long one, but I hope it helps :)

Keep livin' the dream,

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Book club & TpT love!!

Hello all!!!!!  I finally feel like I have my head a little bit above water, so I thought I'd catch my breath and blog about it :)

I can't believe the first 3 weeks of school have already come and gone!! We have been crazy busy in room 14......we are being pushed to teach "bell to bell" and let me tell ya.....I'm doing just that.  We are late dismissing every day, but we are soaking up every bit of instructional time that we have.  I. am. POOPED!!!!!
On a more lively note......let me just say.....I {love} TpT!!!  What would I do without it????  I have never taught 3rd grade ELA & Reading before......only math and science.  And this is still my first time teaching the first semester of math and science (I moved midyear, last year.....remember???), so this is ALL new to me.  BUT.....thank goodness, I am surrounded by teaching geniuses......both at school and in the blogosphere :)

Not that I'm one to follow or imitate, because I have NO idea what I'm doing.....but I will give you a little glimpse of what we've been up to in room 14.......and all the great resources I found on TpT that {LITERALLY} saved my life :)

First of all, in ELA, we use Journey's as our basal.  Of course, we add to it......make it better and differentiate for our kiddos.  I also use Daily 5, so......after we read our story (whole group), the writing station and word work station in Daily 5 always link back to the story that we have read in Journey's.  In my "Work on Writing" station, we are using this **fabulous** creation from Nicole Shelby over at Teaching with Blonde Ambition.  It's perfect....especially when we are really trying to build a foundation of "responding to our reading".  I want my kiddos writing about what we are reading (for now)......and this baby does just that!!!!

Then, in our "Word Work" station, we work on our spelling words from our story for the week.  Luckily, I found the entire 3rd grade Journey's spelling lists on TpT!!!! Perfection!!!
When my kiddos are at their Daily 5 stations, I am doing "book club" at my table.  This is my first year to do this and I am loving it so far!!  We are reading Judy Moody and my kids love it!!
I was searching for some sort of "novel study" or "literature circle" activity that I could do with this book, and of course, TpT delivered.  Since I had never done book clubs before, I wasn't sure what to do......but, Praise the Lord, several other teaches have done this before and were kind enough to share their wisdom!!! I found 3 different products on TpT over this very book.....and I mixed and matched different activities from all 3 products to make it work for my kiddos.  Here are the 3 products I am using right now....

I'm sorry the pics are so blurry, but follow the links in the images and you'll get a better idea!  These products are awesome!  They have vocabulary activities, comprehension checks, discussion questions......the WORKS!  There's even a book review for the kids to complete after we finish the book.  It's so much cooler than a boring ol' book report! 
In math, we just took our Unit 1 test over place value/comparing & ordering numbers.  Thanks to Stephanie over at 3rd Grade Thoughts, we got to do some awesome *Monster Math* as a review before we took our tests.  The kids loved it!! 
This got my kiddos up and moving......which they needed.  Fridays we take our weekly reading assessment and our spelling tests.  It just so happened that our unit test landed on a Friday, too (which I hate).....but this activity got my kiddos moving around the room for a nice change in our day 'o testing!  Plus, it was a nice way to review before our test.  The kids rocked it :)
As you can see, we've been busy.....and the year is just gettin' started!  I hope to finally get back into my blogging routine and make a post at least once a week, but with my grad school internship (135 hours in one semester), that may not always happen!! 
I hope your year has started off with a *BANG* (the good kind) and that you are enjoying your weekend!  Be good :)

Keep livin' the dream,