Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How To Help Sandy Hook

Our guidance counselor sent us an email with this info.  What great ways to help.

Ways to Help Sandy Hook Elementary

When school resumes for Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT; it will be in a new building. The school district is preparing to reopen an older, empty school building to educate the students of Sandy Hook for the remainder of the year. The building is yet stark and undecorated, and here is where we can help. Ways a classroom, child or grandchild can help:

"We are asking your students to make and decorate a snowflake. We will hang them in the hallways at the stark, new building where the Sandy Hook students will be returning. PLEASE NO WORDS! We want just a cheerful, happy (glitter and sparkle) environment for the students entering the new building. Please pass on to any teachers you think may want to participate.

When you send your snowflakes, please include a note to tell us where they are from (your school, class, town, etc) to display along with your snowflakes. You can send them to me directly, and I will give them to our PTA." Bonny Marsicano, 22 Pine Tree Hill Road, Newtown, CT 06470

Parent-volunteers are working to ensure that the students are welcomed back by a winter wonderland with the entire school decorated with as many unique snowflakes as possible. We encourage senders to be as creative as possible, remembering that no two snowflakes are alike. Here are some tips from Martha Stewart on making paper snowflakes.Please make and send snowflakes by January 12, 2013 to the Connecticut PTSA address below.

Donating and Organizing Fundraisers for Sandy Hook Elementary School

Donations will be accepted indefinitely to the Connecticut PTSA “Sandy Hook Fund” to provide ongoing support to the community. Please send checks to the Connecticut PTSA address listed at the bottom of this page. The PTSA also encourages group fundraising projects, like walk-a-thons, spirits days, pajama days, etc., which may be scheduled at your convenience. Student-run coin drive donations should be submitted by Feb. 14. If your school decides to do a group fundraising project for Sandy Hook, please let us know.

The Newtown community has requested only monetary donations at this time. For service or product donation inquiries, please contact To contact Sandy Hook PTA, please email

Please send all snowflakes and donations to:
Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CT 06514

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Parent Letter About Sandy Hook

Because I can't read or write about Sandy Hook without crying, this may be the only thing I say about it.  As a kindergarten teacher (and former first grade teacher) this tragedy strikes extra close to home. 

I know most parents must wonder what schools are doing to help keep their child safe.  I wrote the following letter and will send it home tomorrow.  (I also emailed it to my principal first, just to make sure everything was kosher.) 

Parent Letter


We Grieve With You


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rainbow Writing Paint Chip Idea

As a child of the 80s, Rainbow Brite was part of my daily existence-I had the doll, the horse Starlight, and all the sprites.  (Not to mention the Color Kids, t-shirts and a nightgown.)  As I am using the Daily 5 structure this year, Word Work is a daily part of my existence. 

I'm (nearly) constantly looking for new ways to make the Word Work time effective, meaningful and fun for the students. 

(I need to also add I'm looking for something inexpensive, easy to introduce and something that will withstand five year olds manipulating it for two hours on end each day.)

Enter paint chips.  The cheap teacher friendly ones.

After making letter tiles and beads part of my day, I was a little put off by the noise.  So now I have a new tool in my Word Work treasure chest:

I went to Wal-Mart and found the paint chips that will allow indelible ink on them (I have some that have the windows in 'em from Lowe's, but Sharpie won't work on them.  Big, sad sigh.)

I made the executive decision that all of my vowels would be from the red color scheme.  Alternating upper and lower case letters on all the strips, I fashioned a multi-colored alphabet.

I will use these in my Word Work Center as an alternative to the letter tiles and the beads.  A much quieter, vibrant kaleidoscope to be used for the same activities. 

Rainbow Writing?  Rainbow Brite would be so proud.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Daily 5 Update

Hi Friends.  Good to see you again.  I hope that you've enjoyed the day off (in Kentucky every district is closed on Election Day due to so many schools being polls).

I thought I'd give you a peek at my classroom with the Daily 5 structure.  And I would love to hear what's happening in your classroom.

I guess because it's my second year implementing it, this year it appears to be more successful than last year.  Last year I strictly adhered to the pacing guide in the back of the CAFE book.  And (as this often happens when I compare myself) I thought I had failed miserably.  For example : if my class still needed practice on Read to Someone procedures, but I was supposed to introduce a new element, I felt really stressed-like I wasn't going to be able to cover all the common core.

Starting the Daily 5/CAFE

This year I decided that my expectations needed to be more realistic.  And because I moved at my own pace, I feel much more comfortable with the routines and I think the kids are receiving instruction based on needs, not on a pre-set guide.

This year I decided instead of incorporating both D5 and CAFE simultaneously, I would get my D5 under control and then move onto CAFE.  (Maybe you already do that and this isn't a big deal to you.  For me, it was a life changer.)

I kept repeating the mantra, "Don't Hurry-Trust is in the Process" or whatever it was.  And now I am reaping the benefits of it.

This is How We Roll

I stick to the structures of the Daily 5 but have made it work for my room. We do the mini-lesson followed by work.  Here's the rundown:

My first mini-lesson either involves phonemic awareness or phonics.  We may spend about 5-15 minutes on that and then they go to their first choice.  Because having too much stuff in a room gives me claustrophobia overstimulates me, I keep a clipboard with the numbers on it (today is day 55 so they all know their number by now) and I ask each kid what they want to do and they tell me.  I simply put a line through that choice instead of marking 1, 2, 3.  The charts where the kids move their name or clip onto their choice is cute, but it's not me.  Plus, my people forget what they've already done so it's nice to be able to look at the blank boxes and say, "You may do Read to Self or Word Work". 

During the indepent time, I keep a large timer counting up on the smartboard.  Because if I'm not careful, it's easy to get wrapped up in my group-even with the timer I'm guilty.  But even if you don't keep a timer going, you will be able to see when your students are ready to stand up, stretch their legs and do something else. 

During the independent time, they do 4 of the 5 centers as described in the books.  I've modified the D5 some by changing Listen to Reading.  My school has purchased Lexia as a supplement to our reading program so instead of doing Listen to Reading they do Lexia instead. 

After about 20 minutes we re-group.  During the 20 minutes of independence is when I meet with small groups or conference-whatever is needed most.  I am incredibly blessed to have an assistant, one who is just plain awesome and she will pull kids or groups as well. 

We continue with the second mini-lesson, usually on a comprehension strategy and then dismiss into our second round of D5.  Same as before-the adults work with kids and the kids work independently. 

We are usually able to work 15-20 minutes for the second round.  Then we regroup again and do a third mini-lesson followed by independent work.  The third mini-lesson usually involves writing-letter formation mostly.  I also have another 30 minutes built in specifically for writing instruction, but that's another entry.

Snacks and Consequences 

After the first mini-lesson and making a D5 choice, the kids do not pass go, do not collect $200, etc.  They walk straight to their mailboxes and get their snack and take it to the center with them.  They are allowed to eat their snack while working and after finishing snack they are allowed to get a quick drink and visit the restroom if they wish.  I'm incredibly lucky because we have two fountains and the bathrooms right outside my  door so we can watch them go in and come out or hear any monkey business that might be occurring. 

Now that being said, please don't take me for a pigeon.  We are well aware of who is wasting time or on task and how many times they've gotten up to get a new book.  Which is where the consequences begin.  It's like anything else-they get a warning and we talk about why they need to work.  If they keep it up, they move their clip.  They get a second warning if it continues.  We've talked a lot about how we trust them to learn on their own and generally they respect it-we still have kids who just want to walk around or talk to a friend, but that's just a normal classroom to me.  If a kid tries to interrupt I have a pointer I extend.  If they can be touched by the pointer then they lose their D5 and must work with me.  You only get tapped once-it does the trick.  Freedom is a precious, precious commodity.

RTI and the Daily 5

At our school, the teachers perform the Tier 2 interventions in the classroom.  We actually have a 30 minute block in the room where those who need additional support receive it.  As we were contemplating how to make this work the question was, "How can we support those kids who don't need RTI?  What will they be doing?"  These questions posed no threat to me. With that additional time we simply finish our Daily 5.  When we do this in the afternoons, I don't do a mini-lesson because there simply isn't enough time.  But we do get to work with kids who need help on a daily basis and I'm not planning centers for the other students. 


I am really happy with how this year's been.  The kindergarteners seem to really like it too.  Last week we put on our Halloween costumes and walked to the nursing home and sang.  We were too, too cute.  Anyway, by the time we changed into, walked, sang, walked back and changed again, it was time for lunch.  And let me tell you, the natives were restless when they heard we would not be doing Daily 5 until after lunch. 

Last Words and Unsolicited Advice

The nice thing about Daily 5 is that you can really tailor it to your classroom's needs.  You can sit down and ask yourself, "What seriously makes me crazy?" and train them not just to not do it, but other activities they can do instead. 

My advice for anyone who is dissatisfied or unhappy with their reading workshop is this: You can do it.  (Anyone else hear Adam Sandler just now?)  Think about what makes you unhappy and brainstorm ways to solve it.  Ask a colleague.  Read-there are some fabulous blogs that will help you.  There are gobs of resources to help you launch Daily 5 (I printed about three different ones and then pieced together what I liked from each one).  Go to Teachers Pay Teachers (don't even get me started on how much wasteful productive time I spend there).  You like monkeys? There are jungle themed posters to use in your room.  You like frilly?  There are some pink and girly D5/CAFE posters.  You don't like cutesy?  Guess what-there is something for you there. 

And last but not least-give yourself time and room to grow.  Don't get discouraged-model, practice, re-model, re-practice.  Follow your teacher sense.  Don't forget to give yourself plenty of time.  There is beauty in the waiting.

But enough about me-how's Daily 5/CAFE in your room?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fantasy Football

So yesterday I notice Precious walking around the room. (Since Precious is my pseudonym for every kid, I don't know what I'll do if I ever have an actual student named Precious. We'll put that on the To Do list.)

He has a baseball card and upon further examination I see he's on it with all his football stats. I can read height, weight, shoe size and favorite color, but no position.

As I am nothing if not caring, I ask him, "What position do you play?"

He looks straight at me and in a loud and articulate voice, "Diamondback".

And now I'm wondering when he will strike.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why Education Rocks

If this picture doesn't spur you onto continuing education...

nothing will. 

(More posts to follow.  Once I get over the exhaustion ...why didn't y'all give me a heads up about this?)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

You Know It's Been A Good Day At Recess When...

10:45-11:45 is pretty much a blur every single day.

We have recess (thank you God it's been nice and we've only had one rainy day), followed by bathroom break, followed by wellness walk, followed by lunch.

With all this motion, sometimes things fall by the wayside.  Friday is a case in point:

We're walking back into the room after recess (keep in mind it's been 45 minutes since coming indoors). 

Precious looks at me and says, "Ms. Foster?"

"Yes, dumpling?"

"I have mulch in my underwear.  Can I go to the bathroom to get it out?"

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On "Pulling Groups"

For your entertainment, a conversation in my classroom today.


I can't make this up.

"So kids, remember today we will begin pulling kids for math groups.  You will work on your centers but when Mrs. Precious and I need you, we will pull you out to work with us.  Any questions?"

One of my smartest kids raises her hand and I'm immediately wary.  If she doesn't understand what we're doing, I'm in trouble.

"Ms. Foster, when you said you and Mrs. Precious will be pulling groups, will you be pulling us by the arm or by the back of our shirt?"

Truth is funnier than fiction.

*I feel like I should also put out a disclaimer that we don't put our hands on the kids.  We may give them a high five, but that's as touchy as we get.  Which made it even harder for Mrs. Precious and myself to keep from laughing.  You just never know how kids will interpret what you say!*

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Your Thoughts, Please!

Hi Bloggie Friends!

I would like to ask your opinion on a school program. 

My school is looking to implement a model program.  We are looking at four (but I can only remember three).  They are:
  • Kagan
  • Leader in Me
  • IB
We're all on teams and each is expected to read an article and report the pros and cons with their team.  I've seen one Kagan product and I like it, but there's so much Leader in Me things on Pinterest it looks beneficial, too.  So here's my question : does your school use one of those programs?  Do your recommend it?

Many thanks and have a great weekend!


Friday, September 7, 2012

This is a Kentucky Mess

If you have read this blog for more than 60 seconds (and given the fact I only have a few entries, you could read the entire thing in 5 minutes) you've probably caught on to the fact if there is something humorous from my day, I will happily share it with you.

You're welcome.

There are days that I leave my classroom with a sense of purpose, feeling contented in the fact I feel called and blessed to be a school teacher.

Then there's days when I leave feeling seriously unqualified to teach anyone anything.

Today was one of those days.

Before I get to what will make you smile, it's important you know a couple of things:
  1. I am one of those hated "morning people".  I awake and skip to my car, shun coffee and may go a little heavy on the accelerator not because I am late to work,  because I can't wait to get to work.  (Okay, one of those is a lie-I'm on a first name basis with the Starbucks baristas on Boston Road.)  Morning is when I am my most productive (it's also when there are rarely people at school-you don't have to wait for a copier at 6:15 a.m.).  After noon or 1:00 p.m., my neural pathways cease to function.
  2. Afternoons are not good for me.  After school I can't function-except to straighten up my desk and talk to colleagues.

Our book fair starts next week, so the cases arrived today.  Because my school has awesome parents, they had the thing set up in an hour.  So of course I had to stop and browse.  My school allows teacher to fill up a bag with books incase families want to purchase a book for the classroom library.  After spending about 30 minutes weighing mine down, I found a good spot and put it away for Monday. 

While walking back to my classroom, the YMCA after school program had kids in the hallway.  While navigating the sea of children, I notice a UK blue shirt.  Naturally, I read it out of the corner of my eye.  It read:  This is what a Kentucky mess looks like.

I don't know where you're from, but around here we use to the term "hot mess" to describe any and everybody, from the people who jaywalk to those who go to Kroger in pajamas. 

Knowing this is not a term of endearment, I could not figure out why some family had sent their child (who is in the 3rd grade, so they can read) to school in a shirt proclaiming they need help.

So I gave the little girl one more glance, just to make sure it wasn't a child I had previously taught.  And saw the text on the shirt again: This is what a Kentucky princess looks like.


I believe I have solved the mystery of why I'm teaching kindgarten this year.  I need to review the alphabet. 

And then I will be a hot mess no more. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012


I don't know about your class, but mine knows just enough to be dangerous.

Case in point:

Today I had a child who wasn't with us at recess because he was with another teacher.  As I am a good (benevolent, caring, whatever sweet adjective you'd like to use) teacher,  when we got back from specials I let the child have some play time after we returned from specials.

This little boy loves all things with wheels and had been wanting to play with the new tractors I'd bought.  Again, for best practice (because I'm awesome, inspiring, genius- thank you for all these kind words.  I'm not worthy) I picked three friends to play with him.

Because when we hear the magic words (among them are "snack", "lunch", "bathroom") I have taken to spelling certain words.  Today, I looked at my assistant and said, "Don't let me forget, I owe Precious some R-E-C-E-S-S".

One priceless little girl's face lit up and she said brightly, "I know what that spells!"

I just know I'm busted-it's the 15th day of school and they've figured out one of my code words.  Shoot.

That sweet child looked at me and said, "It spells tractors!"

Is it no wonder why I worry about what they tell their parents?


Sunday, September 2, 2012

You Might Be a Teacher If...

When you email your choice for Students of the Month to the office, you cc yourself.

Because you know in a month, you'll never remember whom you picked.

Note: Please hang with me...I've got two Foodie posts I'm dying to share with you.  This beginning of the year has kicked me. Hard.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Foodie Friday: Pattern Jewelry

So I'm trying to be a little bit more on time with my food posts. 

Now that I can talk, breathe without coughing, and sleep through the night, it just might get done.

So this past Friday we learned about patterns via edible jewelry.

You will need:
  1. The large, pull apart Twizzlers.
  2. Small food that can be strung: I chose Lifesaver Gummies and Fruit Loops.
  3. Napkins
  4. Patience
  5. An extra pair of hands (or two).

When we did our kindergarten screenings, one area that showed growth needed was patterns.  The kids could identify the pattern (an AB pattern) but couldn't extend it.

Hence the object of our lesson.

We started by identifying AB patterns on the Smartboard.  Then they used unifix cubes to show AB patterns. 

After observing we could make and extend the AB patterns, each child was given a napkin and the food was placed in the center of the table.  They had to create at least an AB pattern using whatever they pleased.  But they had to create it on the napkin before they could string it on the Twizzlers.  They received two strands so they make two different patterns if they chose.

Please note the following: don't knot the end of the Twizzler before handing it to the kids. Let them string it and then tie it together.

So my goal for next post is to include pictures.  Because that would make it all snazzy and stuff.

See ya Friday!

How To Make A Teacher Smile

Am I the only one finding it hard to believe today is Wednesday?

Case in point.  When I got up this morning this is what my calendar read:

So technically it's been Tuesday all day according to one source.

However, my body preferred to disagree as it is so exhausted it must be Thursday.

Then you have the big calendar at work the children and I learn from every day.  That one said today was Wednesday, but as you can see, I had two conflicting opinions.

The good thing about the district for whom I work is they understand the whole "gradual release of responsibility" model.  For instance, we started the school year with children on a Wednesday (the 15th to be precise).  Then last week we spent four days in our classrooms and Friday was a professional day.  (We got to go hear this man speak and it was incredible.  If you ever get the chance to hear him read so much as a breakfast menu, go.  It is so worth it.)  So this is the first five day week we've had with children.

And so the internal struggle of "What Day Is It?" has begun within my intellect. 

Since I was in a genial mood this afternoon, I decided to give one of these to each of my team mates:

One member had helped interpret for me, one helped me with dismissal and the third continues to work hard every day, even though she is aware this is her final year.
I got them from Knock Knock Stuff and everyone got a big kick out of 'em. 
However, because I am who I am, I also have another note pad with me to share:
I'll let you know how those notes turn out. ;)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Foodie Friday: Wheels on the Bus

So I dropped the ball with my post last week about what the edible treat we made last week.  It just didn't get done.
(In my defense, I had two days of district meetings, Back to School night, three days of teaching-in a new grade nonetheless-and laryngitis from an allergy to something in my school building.  Cut a girl some slack, please!)

I've made it a goal this year to try and let them make something to eat every Friday.  Because 1) it's a great real life example of non-fiction reading, how to follow directions, etc. 2) by Friday we're spent and need something to anticipate and 3) it's fun. 

Our K team at my school adopted a "Wheels on the Bus" theme to kick off the year. 

Complete with adorable school bus displays to welcome our kids:

Big shout out to DJ who made the bus for me.  And got the cardstock buses.  She's retiring this year.  Can you see why I'm going to miss her-greatly?!
So in the interest of keeping with the theme here's how you make mini-school buses (be prepared, this may be one of the most complicated recipes you'll try to follow):
  1. Procure the assistance (i.e. donation) of parents when they ask if you need them to send anything.  Ask for Twinkies-one for each child in the class.  (On a side note, when did they start serving Twinkies solo?  I don't consider myself super old, but I distinctly remember Twinkies being two to a wrapper as a child.  Thanks a lot, Hostess, for ruining a great way to practice skip counting by 2s.)
  2. When you're walking out the door and you remember it's Friday and you still haven't got the rest of the food items, proceed to your nearest Kroger/Walmart/convenience store.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200-just get to the store.  While there, purchase Rolos (I got the minis that are always by the mini-Reese Cups, which, if we're being perfectly honest, are just small bites of heaven on earth) and some red hard candy.  Because I couldn't find the Red Hots candy, I went with Hot Tamales
  3. While at school, give every child a Twinkie.  (Be prepared for half to turn away in disgust, because even they in their tender primary years know it's wrong to serve Twinkies one per wrapper.  I'm certain it was that and not because they'd never tried a Twinkie before.) 
  4. Give them 2 or 4 Rolos for "wheels" and allow them to press delicately on the Twinkie.  (Be prepared to help.)
  5. Give the the red candy for the stop sign-the Hot Tamales were goo because they could make it extend as though the stop sign were actually sticking out.
  6. Enjoy with a small glass of water, milk, or beverage of your choice.
This space left intentionally blank because I don't have a pic of the finished product. YET

Monday, August 20, 2012


School started for us last week.

So each day I do a multitude of routine tasks.  One of which is a 40 mile commute to my job and 40 miles home.

Like most of the country, thanks to the high temperatures and lack of rain over the past three months, we're in a moderate drought state. 

Even though we're still in the drought, over the last few days something miraculous happened: it rained.  Good, steady rain that soaks into the ground. 

But today I noticed something.  The fields no longer looked like this:

Instead, they looked like this:

And I couldn't help but think about how like the rainfall, our words have power.  Our words can deplete others, making our homes, classrooms and families dry up.  Like the thirsty land, they have a hard time making any growth.  And we stand to the side, shake our heads and wonder when it will change.

But what a difference words can make.  Like the rain that replenishes, our words can help nourish and make those around us not only live, but thrive. 

If you're like me, you get a little overwhelmed sometimes-lots of tasks, committees, assessments and meetings.  And sometimes many of those can hinder my best intentions of making sure every child feels safe, needed and cared for in my classroom.

So this year, in addition to trying to making sure I don't let the trivial things become huge, I want to be intentional about making my words cultivate my classroom (and the meetings, the PLCs, the ARCs, the end of the day, and get the picture).

May I not forget that like those little ones, I too seek out words that affirm.  And may they be used every single day in my room.

I want to make my words count.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Foodie Friday: Riddle

What do you get when you cross:




Come back tomorrow and find out!

(Okay, so I planned posting the entire thing today but school started Wednesday and tired is just the beginning of how I feel.  But I assure you it's cute.  And fun.  You'll see.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I don't know about the rest of y'all, but the beginning of school may be most stressful few days of my year.  Every year.

And I've spent the last few days seriously stressed because of that.

I want everyone to feel welcome, to feel appreciated, and (most importantly) arrive home safely.

A few days ago, I saw this on Pinterest:


In everything give thanks (Taken with Instagram)

and I cannot help but hearken back to it in the moments of anxiety.

You see, it reminds me of my grandmother and my aunt.

My granny, who will turn 91 this November, is not in the best of health.  She fell and broke her hip a few years ago which left her unable to walk.

Given that she was already experiencing dementia, this was just another blow.  So after this fall, she was/is bedridden.  It wasn't long before she was unable to talk.  My aunt (who also has a bit of age on her) now cares for her.  This includes feeding her via a feeding tube several times daily, changing her diapers, and turning her often so she doesn't acquire bed sores.  And she often does this alone.

As I've spent the last couple of days in the mandatory meetings, the thought of how I really needed to be in my room working has crossed my mind.  I think about the delays they're causing me-the borders that need to encompass the bulletin boards, the parent calls I need to make, the organization of supplies, and many other things.  And then I realize my problems are microscopic.

My grandmother would trade places with me in a hearbeat.  (Okay, truthfully, she probably wouldn't because she always put my needs ahead of hers.)  To be able to identify people, to carry on conversations, to care for yourself without the complete dependence on others are things I take for granted. 

And then I remember that quote.

So, in the midst of my rambling, I ask you to embrace everything this year.  The good, the bad, the painful.  And please know I understand what I'm asking-Sunday I got a head cold right before the most important week.  Yesterday I was gone 14 hours from my home.  Today I had a migraine from the stress of everything.  And even though those things were time consuming, I can't help but think of how inconsequential the majority of things I get upset about.  And just taking the time to be aware that most of us are blessed beyond belief helps center my heart.  (Well, that and some effective migraine medicine.)

A while back one of my favorite authors (Jill Conner Browne) included a portion of one woman's reflections in her book.  Thanks to Kay the entirety is on her blog.  I would like to share it with you:

Let Me Hold You While I May
By Mary Jean Irion
The day is over; now I will sleep. It has been a normal sort of day, common like a rock along the path. Nothing about it would make one exclaim over it, as one might do with a shell or a glistening piece of quartz. It was just a rock, lying there along my way. But now, knowing that it is about to go from me forever, I hold it in my hand curiously, turning it this way and that, marking its shape and texture, weighing it on my palm. What was it really, this normal day?

It was routine, mostly....washing, ironing, a trip to the store, meals, dishes--the common denominators of women;s days.

It was pleasant here and there...a letter from an old friend, my husband's telephone call for no reason, a back fence chat with my neighbor, half an hour with a good book, some loud laughs with the children at dinner time.

It was irritating now and then....a sticky ocean of spilled maple syrup, mealtime with one greedy child and one finicky one, the arrival of a bill unexpectedly high, a persistent salesman's theft of fifteen beautiful minutes.

It was deeply joyous at times... the whole house glorified with the strains of the new "Greensleeves" record; our unliterary twelve-year-old's first book (begun today, to be finished tomorrow) with its dedication--to wonderof wonders--his parents; our eight-year-old and her friend playing dress-up, painted and perfumed, scarved and veiled, clattering through the kitchen in spike heels and courtesaned innocense.

It was sobering and frightening in some ways...Mom's waning health and increasing discouragement; the big blow up after dinner about homework and learning to accept responsibility, and the guilt that followed my hasty words; The vague, huge uncertainties that draped themselves over us, cobweb-like, with the ten o'clock news from a tense and shadowed world.

It was blessed with love a pig-shaped breadboard made and presented to me by my son; in the wave of feeling as I watched our little daughter sleeping in soft moonlight, her long lashes shadowing her cheek; in an hour alone with my husband at the end of day.

Just a normal day. A normal day! It is a jewel! In time of war, in peril of death, people have dug their hands and faces into the earth and remembered this. In time of sickness and pain, people have buried their faces in pillows and wept for this. In time of loneliness and separation, people have stretched themselves taut and waited for this. In time of hunger, homelessness, want, people have raised bony hands to the skies and stayed alive for this....

Normal Day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it will not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want more than all the world your return.

As we begin this new school year, please join me in simply being aware of the minute moments that help make up our lives.

And let us see them as the blessings they are.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

You Know Summer's ALMOST Over When...

  • You've begun thinking about it.
  • You've had a nightmare about: uncontrollable kids.  Being late to work.  Not being prepared.  Dreadful scenarios (most of which you wouldn't cross your mind when you're awake)  play out in your slumber.
  • You ask your friends to address you as "Mr./Ms." instead of your first name. 
  • You've visited your beautifully clean and waxed classroom.  You admire the way it sparkles for 90 seconds then realize you've got to do something with all those boxes.
  • You forget your PIN required to let yourself in your school.  After three unsuccessful tries, you admit defeat and call the custodian.  (Is it any wonder I like to be on good terms with our custodians?)
  • When shopping you snatch every cute/pretty/somewhat functional basket at Walmart, Dollar Tree and Target.  Because you just know if you don't purchase it then, when you come back for it, it'll be gone.  It doesn't matter if it's a matter of days, hours, or minute-someone will see your good taste and get "your" stuff. 
  • It's too hot to do anything.  (True story: when on vacation a couple of weeks ago, it was 115.  Degrees.  Needless to say we didn't go out much.)  It's so hot you've decided you're not taking the kids outside for fear of heatstroke. 
  • When shopping you see school supplies at Walmart and feel a compulsion to purchase a few things, just in case. 
  • You get aggravated when you realize the rest of the county bought the cheap crayons.  The ones you were going to buy and give to kids who need 'em.  You go so far as to post a pic on Facebook to show the world of this unjust act.  Because everyone needs to know there are a fair amount of hoarders in town. 

And finally...
  • You ask yourself (at least once a day), "Where did the summer go?"

Monday, August 6, 2012

I'm Back!

After an excrutiating 12 days (yes, you read that correctly) I am happy to report the phone and internet are working.

I can't wait to share my thoughts.  See ya soon! :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Update: Why I Haven't Blogged

Okay bloggie peeps, since Thursday I:
  • contracted sun poisoning
  • lost landline phone service (it will be a week before they can get a serviceman here)
  • lost internet service (again, a week before help arrives)
  • went out of town
  • spent a total of 20 hours in a car
  • drove through several severe storms
  • drove through tornado warnings
Once things get back to normal I can't wait to see what you have to say about the ending of D5.  Happy trails 'til then!

-Robin (written while the neighbor's internet was working)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Can You Relate?

While cleaning out a desk this weekend I found this...

And realized I'm a dinosaur. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Teacher's Reflection on the Movie Massacre

I had another post in mind-one that was lighthearted and would hopefully make you smile.

But then James Holmes committed the unspeakable act of ambushing a theatre and these are the words my heart needs to express...

As I learn more and more about the Colorado shootings, one life keeps tugging on my heart.

It's that of the sweet six year old girl who was murdered in the midst of what was supposed to be entertainment.  This fall, a first grade classroom will have an empty seat due to those actions.  Maybe in eleven years her classmates will remember her at the graduation ceremony and leave a chair vacant in memory of her.

Veronica Sullivan's life ended in the early black hours Friday.  I'm assuming she'd completed kindergarten a month or two earlier.  And as a teacher, I can't help but wonder what her teacher must be thinking right now.  Amidst the depravity of the act and how grossly unfair it was, I'm sure she's questioning: Did I make the year count?

I know we always say, "We only get one year with them" but as this innocent girl's death provides truth to that sentence, it makes me reflect on my own classroom.  And the following questions come to mind:

  • Did I praise them enough?  When kids walk into my room, will they know this bit of bricks where we learn is a place where they will hear words of encouragement?  Do they know that even if it's a rough day, correction will be gentle?  Do they want to come in my room? 
  • When kids walk in my room will they know they are valued?  Will they understand their thoughts and feelings are essential to making our classroom?  Did I tell their parents that their child is a treasure? 
  • Did I help them understand there are people to whom you can turn if you find yourself in trouble?  Do they know that in 20 years, if they need guidance they can still seek out me?  Do they understand there are better ways to express yourself-killing innocent people and stock loading guns are not effective and that there are people who will walk through the valley with you?
  • Did I make every day count?  Not only will there be an empty desk in two months, but an empty chair at supper.  Forever.  Did I make each day worthwhile?  So the families won't think I'm wasting precious time with their children-they will be grateful for the bond their children have with their classmates and every adult at the school-parents, custodians, lunch ladies.  I want families to say, "My child loves school."

I know these are lofty reflections-written in the "lazy" days of summer, not in the middle of the year.  I know some days will wear flat wear you out.  I know some years a class may be more challenging than others.  I know what it's like to be swamped with paperwork, conferences, mandates and testing while having a sinus infection, bronchitis and an ear infection-all at the same time.. 

But when you get right to the heart of it, all of those things are secondary.

If I can help each child feel loved, appreciated and valued-those are the most important "core" lessons they will learn. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Back to School Freebie

Hi Friends,
Here's something I made for my parents at Back to School night.  It's called "The ABCs of Kindergarten".  I thought you might be interested~and left it in Word form so you can add and delete.  Unfortunately, once I did that my cute font was gone.  If you would like to see its cuter, more elementary form, download the Cool Dots and Toy Train fonts and re-open it.  Please let me know if you think I need to change anything! Happy Friday-we've made it to the weekend!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Daily 5 Book Study: Chapter 6 Word Work

Confession: Now that "The Closer" is down to the last few episodes, I'm not sure if I can focus on much else.  I have my suspicions about the leak and how the show will end and am awaiting to see if they're correct. 

But since the show's on once a week, I need something to occupy my thoughts.  And what's better than ironing out how to use D5 in a classroom?  And reading how your fellow bloggers implement D5?

Of all of the choices, Word Work is the most challenging to me.  Which is why I'm super psyched about seeing how the K crew is implementing it.  But here are my thoughts:
Experimenting with words for learning and looking for a spelling pattern.  Since I'm new to kindergarten, I'm assuming there will probably be the widest range of abilities in this grade than any other.  (I should probably point out I've taught 1st-5th, so I've earned the right to make that assumption.)  I am expecting some to arrive with no letter-sound knowledge, some with only letter identification skills, some who know letters and sounds, and some who are already reading basic sight words.  And their needs will be met accordingly. 
  • For the ones who need to practice letter formation, they can use Play-doh, sand in a pie plate, or even plastic mesh to help create their letters.  (I like to take the small plastic mesh-there's a real term for it and it will come to me after this has been poster.  Or if you know what I'm talking about, please tell me.)  With the mesh, kids can trace a letter and then "feel" the letter-so they can understand which direction a b points or that a g has more on the bottom than the top. 
  • For those who are reading, I have made paint chip word families.  They can write down as many onsets as they can think of.  (It will be interesting to see if any of them list blends or digraphs.)  Then they can sort their words into real and nonsense words.   Another idea is to have them read poems that include sight words.  Have them record sight words and underline the rimes that create the rhyme. 

  • I also made some letter tiles this summer.  (Thanks, Classroom DIY).  So that way if a child needs to practice short vowel or long vowel words I can hand them to rime and let them work.  Also, after they've made a list of words, they can circle (or star or underline-whatever your preference is) the words they already know the meaning of.  For instance, a child might not understand the word "vat" even though they can decode it.  These words can be used for vocab instruction.

Memorizing high frequency words.  My school has an assessment binder which lists the various high frequency words.  I need to check and see what lists need to be read so I can have the greatest understanding of which child is below, on, or above level.  I have sight words in a ring of various colors.  This helps the kids know which words to use.  As far as helping the kids learn them, I'm going back to ideas that I've used before:

  • Whiteboards and dry erase markers.  I've already got the various word lists on rings, so they can practice writing them.  For a nice variation of strategies (instead of "Write your words five times" like I heard growing up) here are some ideas for writing words.
  • Shaving cream.  Those who chose word work in my 1-2 split had the option of writing their words in shaving cream.  I have five or six cookie pans I bought from Dollar Tree that were used for this alone.  We went over how much cream to put in the pan and how to clean up.  There was also a strict "use only one hand" rule-if they get both hands they tend to play among other things. 
  • Reading rods.  Have them make words on the reading rods.  Although this summer I saw something where sight words were written on the side of Legos and I thought that would be fun to try.
  • Desks.  While this sounds like being a glutten for punishment, this was actually one of the quietest groups.  They were to get their ring (I told them which color) and then take a washable maker and one paper towel.  They dampened only half of the towel, returned to their desk and practiced writing words in the marker on their desks. 
Generalizing spelling patterns.  Please see my answers from the first question.

Vocab:  This is the one that stumped me.  With kids reading different levels of books, how do you make unknown words interesting to kids?  I've pinned Marzano's 6 Steps of Vocabulary Instruction, but I also think kids need to be taught the various ways you can determine the meaning of a new word: context clues, diagrams, looking it up.  I think this part of the Daily 5 lends itself well to helping children find prefixes, suffixes and root words in the words they encounter.  Depending on the child and what skill needs to be developed, they may draw a pic (and/or explain) of how the prefix changes a word's meaning.

Materials I already have: pencils, crayons, paper, shaving cream, whiteboards, dry erase markers and cookie tins.  I also have the homemade letter tiles.  And the marvelous Marsha McGuire posted some resources that are too darling for words.

Materials I need:  Veteran K teachers, I will gladly take suggestions!

Storage: I would like to put the corresponding resources in one of the mondo resealable bags.  (They're my second fav school supply right after Sharpies.)  This way it's contained in a central location and when it's time to put everything away, I will have a cabinet or bookcase where they will fit. 

Workspace:  Since I know that children will be all over the room, this is the only one where I'm kinda strict.  I have told them if they use shaving cream or markers they need to use them at their seat.  This way, if they make a big mess they won't be infringing on another child's space. 

I am so excited to see what you have to say.  You've got great ideas!  Keep up the good work!  In the words of Brenda Leigh Johnson (main character on :"The Closer"):  Thank yew.  Thank yew so much!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dollar Deals

Of the multitude of sins I commit every week, probably the most consequental is living 40 miles away from the nearest Target.

I work in a county with not one, but two, Target stores.  And (sadly) I never seem to be able to make it to them. 

So when I see the fabulous posts singing the praises of my favorite bull's eye, there is a fair amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth because I can't remember to ever stop there.  (True story: a student of mine gave me a gift card to Target in 2010.  Now, in the summer of '12, more than half the balance remains.)

So for those of you who may live closer to a Walmart than a Target, this post is for you.

Looky what I found for less than $1:

Glue sticks for ten cents apiece?  Why, yes, I'll buy an entire class set!

Welcome postcards?  For 88 cents?  You better believe I'm getting these instead of the $5 ones at the parent-teacher store.

More 88 cent finds: bookmarks and stickers.  You show me a teacher who says they have enough stickers and I'll show you a teacher two days from retirement.

Dual sided whiteboards with lines on 'em?  For 88 cents?  I do believe I'll purchase a small group set.  (Though to be fair, they're not nearly as sturdy as the ones you order.)

Cute clipboards for ninety seven cents?  I need two more for a class set.  (Again, in the interest of fair packaging, these aren't nearly as sturdy as the more costly ones.)

And what's a shopping trip without the occasional impulse buy?  3 cute folders (for eight eight cents) end this shopping trip.

And, truth be told, I found some more fun and useful items at my local Dollar Tree.  I found first day of school books among other items.  (When I can remember where I put them, they will happily be on display.)

Happy school shopping, bloggie friends!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer "School"

As an educator, I strive to continue to be a life long learner.

I have half of my master's degree completed and am spending the majority of my summer reading reading professional books, participating in a book study online and going to three days of professional development. (I mean, who does that? Of their own volition? It all adds up to NERD-but, hey, I'm owning it.)

I thought the most beneficial lesson I'd learned was how to successfully teach guided reading. Until today.

Today I learned that if you're meeting your friend Jennifer for lunch there are a couple of do's and don't s. For example:

  • Do take the time to make sure you put some kind of cosmetics on your face. Because it will be the day that you get interviewed for KET (Kentucky Educational Television).
  • Don't leave the house with wet hair. Because it will be the day that you get interviewed for KET. And God and the Commonwealth will get to see you looking like that.
  • Do make sure you have on clothes that are not wrinkled. Not only will you be interviewed, you will meet your next door neighbor. This proves that you do have clothes other than your pajamas.
  • Do be prepared to face anything, including questions about how you utilize KET in both your personal viewing and professional viewing.
  • Don't be insulted when the KET people ask you adapt your answer. Because your answer was too long. (This same thing happened to me at the Houston Final Four last year-what are the odds?)
  • Don't sing "The More You Know" jingle. (Okay, so I really didn't do that, but had to fight myself to keep quiet.)
  • Do enjoy every second of adult conversation, even if it's punctuated by diesel trucks, motor scooters and a weird California Raisin guy with Darius Miller's jersey. (Seriously there was a man walking around in the Raisin get up, striped pants, and Big D's jersey. I can't make up this foolishness.)
I know "they" say education is a mix of experiences in the classroom and outside of it. And sometimes, like today, the outside experiences prove to be way more beneficial. Life skills were definitely learned today.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Re-using Plastic Divider Tabs

So can you spot the difference between my Math Assessment Binder tabs and my Essentials Binder tabs? (Hint: it's not the numbers or whether the letters are bold or fine print.)

It's not readily apparent, so let me just tell you: it's $4.32.

As I prepare for my kiddos in the fall, I went on ahead and made four binders: an ELA Assessment binder, a Math Assessment binder, a Small Groups binder, and an Essentials binder.

I wanted them to look cute as well as be functional, so I sprung for the prettiest tabs I could find at Walmart.  And labeled them accordingly.

For my assessment binders, I took a beloved Sharpie and labeled them without thinking of anything.

But then I remembered how cheap money efficient I am.  And when you multiply that number by four...ouch.  I mean, hello, $4 alone is cup of coffee at Starbucks, one of McDonald's chocolate chip frappuncino wannabes-with change left over-or 2 pints of strawberries.    (But now I'm off task, so let's get back to the topic.)

After realizing how much money I'd spent on tabs, I knew I had to think of a way to make them re-usable. 

Enter our friend Mr. Scotch-the tape, not the drink.

I realized by putting tape over the labels and then writing on them, I am free to re-use the tabs as often as I need. 

I am now kicking myself for not thinking up this earlier.

Feel free to make the most of your tabs as well!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Daily 5 Chapter 3

Hi friends!

I can hardly believe July is just around the corner...where is this summer going? 

Reflections on Chapter 3:
  1. A place for body and brain breaksMy rooms have always featured an open area large enough to seat kids.  I just need to make sure I leave enough room for a chair for myself and a place for the anchor charts.  I really try and situate this place in the room so the kids aren't playing with books or near any other distractions.
  2. Developing the concept of good fit books: because I knew this mini would arise, I've been keeping track of the books I've read over the summer-I've got some really easy reads (ads I receive in the mail), just right (books I've been reading), and then difficult (a computer website I ventured onto when I thought my computer had a virus).  Being as I'm not a big shoe person (I'd rather spend the money on a cute purse), I plan on doing this lesson using clothes-finding my regular clothes for just right, doll clothes for too easy, and a man's shirt for too hard.  I think you can still discuss the purpose (bring in dress up clothes, yard clothes, etc) and the kids will get the idea.  I did this last year using shoes and realized I needed something more tailored to my personality. 
  3. Anchor charts: I like the idea of creating those with kids-they will created be whole group.  However, there are some super cute anchor charts you can print out.  I think I will leave the large ones up and then after we have familiarity with the routines, introduce the smaller, cute ones so they can refer to them.  I'm pretty big on having a room that has only the necessary info-I've been in classrooms that are beautiful, but I walk in them and I can't concentrate for all the "stuff" around me.  I want the anchor charts to serve their purpose but not overwhelm the room or the kids.
  4. Stamina, Book Boxes, and Book Appetizers:  To keep track of stamina, I will keep a class graph.  As we add to it, we will color in the tick marks.  I adore the ones Nicole made.  I know teachers who use the book boxes-and use them well-but I get bogged down in the amount of room needed to store them.  Hence, my students will have these pouches from Really Good Stuff.  I ordered the extra large ones, so the large picture books can fit inside.  I also prefer these to book boxes because a) they have a handle so they can be moved easily b) they have velcro on them so you turn them every which way c) size wise they can fit into a desk instead of taking up valuable desk and/or floor space and d)  they're washable-I just put mine in the machine and put them on the delicate cycle.  They come out looking as good as new.  The first day I plan to put books that will be easy to read.  I don't have a ton of pre-K and A level books, so I will have to print some.  If you're like me and you need books to print, I found some good ones at Making Learning Fun, Free Kids BooksDLTK, Reading A-Z, Professor Garfield, Scholastic and Very Emergent ReadersI think I'll also ask parents to send in a favorite book to keep in their bags (hopefully this will help us increase our stamina).
  5. Signals & Check Ins: Here's where I need some help.  I have a regular bell (like the "Order UP!" kind) but am cognizant it is not fit to use during this time.  I have some chimes I will use specifically for D5 time.  However, the Check Ins are where I need to adapt my strategy.  It took forever last year!  I think this year before I allow them to go to their spot, I will ask them to partner talk about what book they will read once they are seated.  If they can tell me, "The one about school", I'll be fine.  But I know there are some who will take I need some help with this one, girls!  Any ideas would be gratefully received.
  6. Behavior:  I would like to think I will keep anecdotal records on behavior.  If a child is crying out for attention, they will be our next model...they can act out infront of everyone, then show them how to act correctly (and if they need to do it twice to get it out of their system, we can do that).  As far as showing them attention at appropriate times, there are lots of things you can do-leave them a welcome note on their desk, pat them on the back and say, "I'm so glad you're here!"  when they arrive, when they are acting appropriately at other times call attention to that, and allow them to model incorrect/correct procedures for other routines (going to the bathroom, walking down the hall, arriving in the room).  I also have postcards and when they do something good (make a good choice, line up, whatever the child needs) I let them choose to whom it will be sent.  I've sent them to cousins, grandparents, parents.  Once a parent learns the purpose of the card, they will happily supply the address.  And once that first card goes out, everyone wants one. 

I can't wait to see what everyone else has in mind...y'all are some creative people with super ideas.  Happy Wednesday!

Transportation Change Freebie

I don't know about you, but transporation stresses me out-majorly just a smidgen.

If I receive a transportation note, I either a) email or b) call the parent to let them know I received it.  (I've sent many an email with "Transporation Change Confirmation" in the regarding line.)

I also clip a reminder to myself on the classroom door with a magnet and randomly ask the child throughout the day, "Precious-how are you getting home today?"  (I'm praying with the combo of the note and me asking them about it until they're borderline neurotic answering it automatically will ensure they get to the right line.

I saw a different version of this on my favorite time waster and realized I needed to tweak it.  At my school if a child is a bus rider we have to list their bus stop on notes.  So I fooled around until I had one I could that would work for me.  Click here for the document. 

I plan on printing two copies per kid (hopefully I can find some bright/neon paper somewhere in my school) and including them in my welcome packet at Back to School Night. 

The only thing you need to do is insert your name. 


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Paint Chip Idea #40,248,788

To be honest, there are a couple of things I don't do really well (being tall, being a Louisville fan, and loving the color orange-sorry Rachael Ray).

Boredom is one of those things I just can't do. 

So I present to you my discoveries of June 23, 2012:

If you're like me and you've got some paint chips because the crafts on Pinterest have all but dared you to leave them at Lowe's, I discovered:

 A $1 recipe card box from the Dollar Tree makes a perfect container for the paint chips with a window.

Here's a way to practice K CC 2: Count forward beginning from a given number within a known sequence. I took paint chips, a Sharpie (my favorite thing in the world, next to chocolate and Post-its) and went to work. I plan to laminate them the next time I pop in to school.

I love all the creative things you can do with paint chips.  Do you have a favorite?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Daily 5 Chapter 2

So I'm a day late, but we'll call it "fashionably late".  :)

1. Do you trust your students? How do you build this trust? Are you able to trust them and allow them to be independent throughout all aspects of your day? Are you going to be able to stay out of their way?

I trust my students to an extent.  Whenever I leave my sub plans, I always include a "Reliable Students" bullet.  But kids are kids-some can handle independence and some just need those gentle reminders. 

I think it will be difficult to stay out of their way initially-I would want to go and remind the kids who not looking at their books to help us stay on task.  But I need to remember our goal that first few weeks will be progress, not perfection.

2. How much choice do you give your students throughout the day? Do you go over your daily schedule with your students or is it just 'posted' in the room?

I did Daily 5 last year with a 1-2 split so they had choices during our literacy block.  I'm nervous interested in seeing what will happen with this year's class.  Every class has differences and so I will have to design what's best for the kids.  But we always go over the schedule-and they're good about reminding me if we're running short on time--especially to lunch or recess!

3. How are you going to create that sense of community where students will hold each other accountable?

I am looking forward to seeing what everyone else wrote, because this one is kinda hard for me.  I think first and foremost it begins with the modeling-while you're having one child model incorrect behaviors, have another one nearby modeling correct behaviors.  Have the class talk about how distracting it was when the kid couldn't read for someone being up, flipping through books without even trying, and being noisy.  Talk about how our behavior affects others...if I don't teach them all their letters and sounds, when they go to first grade that affects the first grade teacher.  Let them know that in the room we all have jobs-just like a real community. 

4. Student ownership in learning? How do you instill this in every child?

I think this piggybacks onto #3.  If children are able to see, hear, and articulate how they must be diligent, it helps them understand why they are at school.  I would also like for them to bring in a favorite book from home (or maybe two).  I think if they have items in their book boxes that are theirs, they (might) be more inclined to care for it properly.  I also think if they can read a favorite book from home during Read to Someone, it will help keep them focused.  (Hopefully.)

5. Stamina! How are you going to build stamina with reading? independent work? Will you use a timer? Will you set goals?

I like the idea of introducing the term stamina to the kids.  If most of them have never heard it before, and they learn it together, I think this will help build community (a common experience together).  I would like to set the initial goal of three minutes, and use a timer-but I plan to keep the timer to myself.  I want them engrossed in books, not looking at a timer. 

I can't wait to hear what everyone else says...there is so much creativity in this group!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Reading (the Professional Version)

This fall (0kay, it's actually technically still summer since we start so early) I'm teaching kindergarten. 

Which I am super excited about but also a little nervous. I've taught kindergarten before, but it was a long term sub at the end of the school year...when they were practically first graders.

To combat the anxiety I'm feeling, I've spent the last two weeks reading as much I can.  (And, of course, pinning galore on Pinterest.  I seriously wonder how people managed before electricity, cell phones, and Pinterest.)

In case you need something to do, here's my bookshelf:
  Reading With Meaning by Debbie Miller.  Having it referenced in both Strategies that Work (Goudvis & Harvey) and The Daily 5 (Boushey & Moser), I decided to see what the buzz was about.  I found it full of strategies to implement and an easy read. 

  The Next Step in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson.  I didn't read all of this (she devotes chapters to how to teach groups in upper elementary and middle school) but the chapters on emergent readers and pre-K were great.  I loved how she broke the guided reading groups down into specifics (teach new words for 1 minute, preview for 5, work on writing for 5, etc).  There are lots of rubrics you can use to help assess both the progress of your students and your teaching.  And the appendixes can help you target what skills a child needs to be taught if they are not making progress. 

  The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades by Boushey & Moser.  I read this last summer but am re-reading it.  Tammy at Live, Love, Laugh Everyday is hosting a Kindergarten D5 book study and I'm all about it.  I like how the Daily 5 instills independence in children and I can't wait to see how other K teachers have implemented it!

  The Daily Cafe by Boushey & Moser.  If you're going to implement the Daily 5 structure, this is a must read.  It's the companion book to Daily 5 and I felt much more prepared to begin Daily 5 with this tool as a reference.  It goes into what to look for in student conferences and lays out a plan for Daily 5 utilization the first weeks of school better than Daily 5. 

So Each May Learn: Integrating Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences by Silver, Strong, and Perini.  I haven't read this one yet, but now that I've finished Daily 5, I'm looking forward to it.  I am a fan of Silver & Strong, but am afraid I don't use their strategies as often as I'd like.  I read the reviews on Amazon, and when I saw I could purchase the book for a song, I knew I had to have it.
Making the Most of Small Groups  Making the Most of Small Groups: Differentiation for All by Debbie Diller.  This will be the last one for this summer.  I've never read anything by Ms. Diller, but all the reviews were positive.  I want this book to help give me ideas for small group instruction, and everyone says it does just that.

I really want to go in and have a wealth of strategies (more than what I have). 

Do you have any good pro books or websites you like?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Barefoot and Proud

As the tag to this blog says, wearing shoes are optional in my room. 

Let me tell you how I arrived at that...

I spent one year teaching a 1-2 split  (and loved it!).  My class worked really hard for good behavior parties and after the bajillionth one ideas for parties (especially ones that don't cost a lot and interfere with instruction) were starting to wane.  One day, the idea came to me:  a shoe free day! 

We all had a great day walking around in socks or bare feet (doesn't that make you feel like you're at home when you're barefoot?). 

It was such a success that we repeated it-with similar results. 

I hope you'll sit a spell (with or without your shoes) and enjoy hearing about our room.

Y'all come back now, you hear? ;)