Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nope, not going to happen....

We all know education is ever changing and NEVER will one year look like the previous year.  I know and accept it.  Really I wouldn't want it any other way.  I am an educator that likes to grow with the times.  I like researching the best way to do things, I like talking to kids about current happenings, and I like tweaking and seeing the growth.

This year has brought many changes (like usual) but they have left me reeling.  When I was reflecting why this was after 9 years of teaching, I realized it's because they are messing with my non-negotiables!  (How rude!)  There are certain things that I hold in my heart dearly and will NEVER let go. 

Here are my non-negotiables:
1. The first being that I ALWAYS want to do what is best for kids.  If you get in the way of that I become all kinds of crazy (see below)!
That's how I feel when my own blood talks nasty about my child. She's 1 what kind of normal human being talks crap about a baby? One I really wish had an active roll in her life NOT lol
2. I will never, ever give up teaching students to be authentic learners because my goal is to help them become even more of themselves.  I want them to realize that there may be something (or lots of somethings) contained in them that they never even thought about and now suddenly they excel at it and they are interested in it.  I want to show passion and grow passion and unless you are allowed to explore and discover in a natural way that might not happen.

3.  I want my students to know what they are working with...always.  Information is power.  Each and every student has the power to drive their own learning.  For instance, my students keep asking, "Is this a test?"  I keep answering, "No, not a test.  It's a check-in point for you and I.  I'm going to see what I can help you with and where we need to head next with our learning.  You are going to try it out, see how it felt, and receive feedback so you can make a goal for where you want to head next."  I like to know in advance what's expected of me, why wouldn't kids?  *This non-negotiable is why I do so much of what I do on a daily basis:  create rubrics, teach students to self-assess, give immediate feedback, confer, etc.*

4.  I will not be dictated on what to say and when because one size DOES NOT fit all!  I'm referring to teaching the basal reading series as curriculum.  When every child is told to read the weekly story there is a message of 'we all need to be doing the same thing, we all need to be at the same point in our learning.'  That is not realistic and it's not thinking about what's best for kids (see #1).  I believe in reactive teaching, meaning that when I notice a trend within the classroom I have the ability to react.  For example, when I notice that many students are not understanding the difference between details and key details I can scratch my plan and teach a mini-lesson then and there.  I also believe in true differentiation...not just what someone/series calls differentiation.  (Can you tell this is one of the big changes??) * I am willing to use reading series programs as a resource as I see fit.*  (If you want more information check out: Every Child, Every Day and What At-Risk Readers Need by Richard Allington.)

5.  I will not blindly follow.  This one is more about my personality and less about teaching.  I question constantly, not out of disrespect, but out of curiosity.  When it comes to major changes I like to know what led to the change.  I appreciate change but I also appreciate the process.  Tell me, help me understand, give me a chance to learn it.

6.  I respect research and will try it out if there is scientifically based growth attached to it.  Let me tell you something, I don't know a whole lot but I'm willing to find out.  When I read an article with a new (to me) strategy that is showing positive results, I will research it that night and come back in the morning to try it.  Now this isn't every day or every week but I like trying what's working for other kids around the nation and world.  Lately, I am being directed to follow a series that hasn't show that scientifically based growth and it worries me.  I don't want to ever set my kids behind and know that if I followed my heart we could have done better or learned more.

7.  I believe in learning not teaching to a test.  Fine, we need tests...I get it, you get it.  It doesn't mean that I am willing to mainly teach how to take a test.  If I'm teaching authentically then I believe that my students have been empowered enough to use the strategies and excel.  Read Teaching to the Test? or All About Accountability by W. James Popham to find out more.

What are your non-negotiables that have seen you through the years?  Have they been hard to achieve?  Please share!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back for round 9!

I can hardly believe that this is my ninth year teaching!  Welcome back to school teachers.  I saw somewhere on the internet, There's no tired like a teacher during the first week of school tired.  SO TRUE!!

Moving from first grade to second grade this year has been a nice transition.  I know what these students learned last year and it feels like a lot less gaps to fill than in other years.  I know what they know.  It's also been really interesting to see how the Common Core standards grow with the students.  I had been a part of vertical planning before but it is just so different to do it rather than hear about it.

We jumped right in to reading and writing workshop the first day of school and it has been wonderful!

Our first unit is rooted in literature and focuses on characters and story elements.  Here are anchor charts and resources that we used to start our year.

This is copied (seriously word for word) from my amazing coworker's chart (L. Gilman).  The story has really helped us to break down the steps to the writing process.  *It's still a work in progress*

If you haven't heard about admiration frames before it is the best thing that ever happened to my writing instruction!!!  You can read more about in this past post: Writing realistic fiction stories.  We started admiring the author Maribeth Boelts and her book Those Shoes.  It is AH-Maz-Ing!

Then we moved on to admiring the author's sitting in our very own classroom!

When writing stories my students wrote a little and said I'm done.  I knew Knuffle Bunny was a mentor text that they had read numerous times in first grade so I pulled it out to show students how to stretch a small moment.  I created a chart like this in the past but this is a new school so I thought I could re-use it...don't tell the kids ;)

As we've been revising, I found the need to expand their writing horizons with mentor texts that we have read over the first week of school.  This was our lesson today and their new powerful endings made my heart beam!

We began with reading workshop, what it is and what it looks like.  At the bottom you will seem my very quickly created Stop! Think! and Jot! chart.

Then we moved on to wise and effective readers.

Which led us straight into our post-it thinking beautifully.  *Side note:  It is amazing starting the year with students that already know how to share their thinking on a post-it!*

And now we have moved into character responses using language stems and a good ol' rubric.  At the bottom of the chart we did an additional lesson on supporting your thinking with key details.  When looking for these key details we decided it is helpful to look at actions, dialogue, illustrations and thoughts.

Here is this sheet for you: Character Response Stem and Rubric

Here is the half-sheet that supported the students with character responses: 

Our first unit focuses on adding and subtracting within 20.  This was a standard from first grade but now the push is to do it mentally.  Here are the resources I've created to align with the standards.

Busch Gardens pre-assessment:  Before the unit, I like to pre-assess the students.  This Busch Gardens problem is from a wise co-worker from the school I worked at last year (K. Rorem).  You'll note that this pre-assessment does not have a rubric.  It is not intended for a grade, rather a way for me to gain insight into what they are already doing as a mathematician.

Add to 20:  This is an assessment to show understanding of adding and subtracting within 20.  At the bottom is a rubric we use to guide our learning throughout the progression of the standard and eventually assess our understanding.  The students assess themselves first and then afterwards I discuss and circle in pen where there understanding lies.

Odd and Even Assessment:  Next we are moving into Odd and Even.  Again this is a real-life scenario because I want math to be something the students see as useful in their day to day life.  

We are starting our first lab next week and here it is for you!  The materials are easy ones, just plastic bags from stores like Publix or Target :)


This is how I display the charts we are currently working on.  Afterward they move onto a subject bulletin board.

I'm just going to end this post with a good night.  I'm too tired for more!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Big changes ahead (and Monday Made It)

My life is changing in a big way.  I decided to move schools and grade levels...AND I'm buying my first house.  As I was deciding, I let blogging get too far away but I am feeling inspired and renewed so I'm back at it.
Famous saying by George Bernard Shaw.
Change can be scary. I'm leaving my friends and the students I have loved for the past four years.  But I'm ready for a new adventure!  And the best part is that I will be teaching second grade next door to my close friend. 
" Making a big life change is scary. But know what's even scarier? REGRET." #Chitrchatr #EarlySubscribersPromo
Today was the first day I spent in my new room.  This room is much smaller than my old room and I was nervous but it was all for nothing because everything fits!  (I still have a ton of work to do but I would say today was a great start.)

I got a moving van to haul all my stuff to the new school. I thought a 10 foot truck would be perfect but they only had a 17 foot truck.  Thank goodness that happened because we only JUST got it all in.
This is the inside of the truck :-/
So my first task, after dumping it all in the new room and walking away from it for a week and a half, was to organize my books.  I lost a lot of shelf space.
Here are my old shelves from the old room:
On top were my leveled books and below were fiction books.
Here were all my non-fiction texts.


My leveled books stayed the same.  I had to reduce and reorganize my fiction and non-fiction libraries in a MAJOR way.  The fiction texts are in the colored baskets.
More fiction texts.  The black baskets are now filled with my non-fiction texts.
 The empty baskets are the students' book bins.

Then I moved on to the large bulletin boards on either side of the board.  They are a major improvement to my one dinky bulletin board before.

Here are views of the full classroom as it is now.

 I had to bring over my favorite area from my old room!  I love displaying the students' writing in these frames from Lakeshore.

Here is our meeting area (it still needs a rug).

For my Monday Made-It I created a dry erase word wall.  You need peel and stick transparent covering and letters.  My letters are from Wal-Mart in the back to school section.

I decided to center the covering.  I started at the top and stuck three inches on.  Then I slowly uncovered more of the covering and rolled it down the door so it stuck without bubbles.

Then I stuck the letters on with duct tape.

Finally, I was able to write words on the covering with a dry erase marker.  I look forward to the ease of writing it on rather than printing, laminating and taping each word on.

I'm in love with it!

With all these changes, I am feeling excited about the future and all there is to come! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


To introduce our living/nonliving/plants/animals unit we started with the four questions a scientist would ask.  I combined charts that I saw by Krazy in Kindergarten and Mini Muffin Mondays.  

Then we explored living and non living with gummy worms and meal worms.

The students recorded their evidence in their journals along with a drawing. 

Here are the lessons my team used for the first four days of the unit.

Then we moved into plants...
...and grew grass!

 In the third week we moved on to the needs of animals and humans.

Freebie for Science Journals ----> Animal Needs Exploration
Click on the link or picture.  It will take you to Google Drive.  Select File, then Download and it will be all yours!
Together we explored nonfiction texts to see how different species have slightly different needs.  Then I gave a book to each table (each different) animals and they had to do the same thing in a foldable.

Next up is a habitat a week!