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,

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I'm alive!!!!!

Did you think I had died? Or that I had fallen and could not get up? Or that I was trapped underneath something heavy? 

I am here.....and have been crazy busy with summer and kids and more recently.......professional development and back to school craziness! I promise to blog soon and share my classroom reveal :) My first day of school is tomorrow, so I'm sure I'll have lots to share! 

Thanks for stickin' means the world ;) 

Keep livin' the dream, 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Literacy Conference, Anchor Charts & Whole Brain Teaching has been FOR-EH-VER since I've blogged.  So sorry about that :(

It has been crazy busy around here lately.  You wouldn't think summer would get that hectic.....but WOW!  The hubs and I celebrated our anniversary 11 days ago and decided to take a little trip to Santa Fe with some friends of ours.  It was fabulous!
My dinner date :)

Laying poolside while my love played golf!
Then, when I return, my dreaded grad class is waiting with an assignment due (2 days ago) that I didn't bother looking at until 3 days ago.  It was madness! 

I also attended a 2-day literacy conference on July 16-17.  I love this conference.  I go every year and I am never disappointed.  They bring in a keynote speaker to keep us busy in the morning, and then teachers from all around the region come and teach break-out sessions in the afternoons.  It is always such a blast and I learn so much!!!

This year, the keynote speaker was Tanny McGregor-
author of Comprehension Connections and, more recently, Genre Connections.

I bought both of her books at the conference and I know I won't be disappointed!  She taught a bit from both books, showing classroom examples from around the country.  She is fabulous! 
She really focuses on making connections to help make meaning.  She suggests using objects and concrete materials as much as we possibly can to make abstract ideas easier for our kiddos to understand (inferencing, for example).  In "Comprehension Connections", she talks about many different lessons (easy and cheap) to help your kids make those connections and truly understand what they're reading. In "Genre Connections", it's more about introducing different genres and understanding their structure and what they're all about.  I cannot wait to start reading them!
One of the comprehension strategies she talks about is synthesizing, which can be really difficult for some kiddos.  She has her students make "synthesis spirals".  How cute is that?  Isn't that 10x better than a worksheet?!?!
She also has her students do "6 Picture" or "6 Word" book reports or summaries.  It really takes quite a bit of effort to summarize a story in 6 words or images.  Think about have to figure out the main idea, what is important in the story and what can be left out, and then you have to put it all together to choose 6 objects or words to convey what you think the story is about.  WOW!  That can work with kinder kids up to 5th graders!  I love the differentiation that is available here.  Again, so much better than a worksheet!

In "Genre Connections", she talks about a lesson using a huge anchor chart about genre, using metaphors and concrete objects.  She compares the genre to an object to make the idea more real for her kiddos.  For example, when she introduces adventure/fantasy, she compares that genre to a prism.  There seems to be something magical about the prism and how the spectrum of light makes so many beautiful colors.  The kids now have a very real image for an abstract concept.  Perfect!
Then, in one of the break-out sessions about anchor charts.....I walk in to see this...... 

It was teacher heaven!!  Here are a few of the cute examples that she had displayed:

 These last 4 were more for us teachers, as her students that day.

I have saved the very best for last.........
I attended a Whole Brain Teaching break-out session and have fallen madly and deeply in love with this idea!!!  First of all, the two women teaching the class were fantastic and full of energy and that made the whole experience that much better!!  One of the presenters has a 3rd grade class, so I really felt like this could work for my kiddos. 
Did you know that everything {and I do mean.....EVERYTHING} on Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) is free?!?!?!?!  I'm not lying to's free.......on the world wide web.  Now, I probably spent $80 in ink printing it all off......but it's still wayyyyyy cheaper than buying it.  I printed off several (and I do mean several) e-books and cannot stop reading about it.  Simply go to this address and create an account {'s free} and get started!! 
There are a bazillion YouTube videos out there, just for your grade level where you can see WBT in action.  I'm not going to go into all the science of it, but in WBT the students guessed it......their WHOLE BRAIN!  Therefore, the engagement and retention is 10x what you get when the kiddos are NOT using their WHOLE BRAIN! 
I have found the cutest and best little blog, Whole Brain Teaching with Style, and it is AWESOME! I realize that I may be the very last person in the world to learn about WBT and everyone else is probably already doing this......but just in case you aren't......I urge you to check it out.   I was amazed at what I learned!!! 
One last blog has reached 100 followers!!!!! YAY!!!!!  Thank you sooooo much to everyone who has followed my blog and even helped promote it.  I have loved every minute of this experience!!  I am in the midst of putting together a giveaway......but it is my very first one and it may take me some time to organize it all and get everything ready.  I look forward to sharing all of that soon :)

Keep livin' the dream,