Friday, December 30, 2011

New Blog

Hi all, I just started my 2nd blog. It is not a teacher blog but I am looking forward to posting on it throughout the year. It is called Avoiding Temptation and it will be a place for me to celebrate my successes and whine about my setbacks as I work towards my personal goals for 2012.
Check it out here

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The BFG and some other Randomness

My class finished reading the BFG today and they absolutely loved it! We will be watching the movie of The BFG tomorrow. So far this year we have read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Fudge-a-Mania, The Watson's Go To Birmingham - 1963, and now the BFG. When we come back from our winter break we will be reading A Land Remembered (which goes along with our social studies Florida History) and then Matilda

My kids absolutely were enthralled with The BFG and it was an awesome tool to use for teaching figurative language. After each chapter we would list on a piece of chart paper all the examples of figurative language from that chapter. They had to tell me what kind of figurative language it was (metaphor, simile, hyperbole, idiom, etc) and what it meant. They LOVED finding the forms of figurative language and I have started to see a lot more figurative language showing up in their writing (I was sick of hearing how someone ran as fast as a cheetah ugghhh). I am so happy I choose to not use the bass series this year and go all out with novels instead. I use to get the audio of the books we read so they can listen to the book read with fluency and inflection and different voices and background music to make it fun. They beg for reading time every day, this never happened with the basal series.

They are so engaged and their reading scores have skyrocketed. We do Edusoft testing in my district and at the beginning of the year 16% of my students tested On Target (which basically means they were on target to pass our state reading exam in April), we just did our 2nd assessment last week and 78% of my students were On Target! With 19 students I basically only had 2 that didn't test as On Target. I was so excited when I saw their scores.

Other Randomness
I am happy to say that my son's ankles are healing well. We go back to the orthopedist next Wednesday so we'll get a better idea of how he's healing and if they still want to do the MRI.

I found out today that my daughter has to have dental surgery next Wednesday. She lives 2 hours south of me and I am dying to drive down to be with her but my son-in-love will be off work that day so I have to let him take care of her. Although I did tell her to have him call me as soon as she is out of surgery and if he needs me to come and help I will be there ASAP

Finally I just want to say that I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas! I feel so blessed that God has done so much for me this year. I decided to pay it forward, my school does an Angel Tree for students whose families are financially disadvantaged. The tree has paper ornaments with numbers on them, along with boy/girl, grade level, and age of the child. We don't know who the child is. I chose an Angel yesterday and I went to the person in charge of the tree and I found out that the number I chose belongs to one of my neediest students. This poor baby girl wears the same 3 or 4 outfits each week, she has mismatched socks, and her shoes are falling apart. I had to find out a way to get her sizes and find out what kinds of things she wanted for Christmas, without being obvious so I went into stealth teacher mode LOL I decided we needed a good writing lesson on details - So I gave every student 3 pieces of paper, I told them the first one was for practice, and the 2nd one was for a game we would play. On the first page they had to write a detailed description of the outfit they were wearing I told them they had to include the sizes colors, etc. LOL That gave me her clothes sizes, then for "the game" we played. They each had to describe their shoe with the same details, including size (of course). They each then took off one shoe and we out them in a pile and then I called up one student at a time and read the description of the shoe and they had to find that shoe and return it to its rightful owner - and I got her shoe size! Last I had them all make a Christmas list and they had to describe each item on the list. So with these writing activities I was able to have her clothes and shoe sizes plus an idea of what she would like for Christmas. When I read her list I almost cried, she asked for a "cute clothes and shoes", a backpack with a matching lunchbox, a soft pink pillow, a white board for her room with a pink expo marker, and at the very bottom of her list she wrote "I would like a new door knob for my house." My husband and I went shopping last night and we got her brand new Danskin tennis shoes, 4 T-shirts, 2 pair of pants, a cute purple backpack with the matching lunchbox attached, a Barbie, a Littlest Pet Shop set, and a bracelet making kit. I couldn't find a whiteboard but I'm going to try again this weekend. Her only toy listed on her entire list was the Littlest PetShop so I made sure we found that. It just made me realize how blessed I was when my kids were little, I always worried about money and it always seemed that we were always struggling but our kids always had what they needed. My kids would have never put a backpack or a pillow on their Christmas list. Anyway, I am hoping that by us getting her these things, maybe we can make her Christmas a little brighter and maybe keep that belief in Santa alive a little longer.

Take a moment and count your blessing, then thank God for those blessings. Think about this... What would you have if you woke up tomorrow and all you had were the things you thanked God for today?

Monday, December 5, 2011


Wow, I have been MIA for quite a while. I have had so many things going on in my personal life that I just haven't had much time to post about my teaching life. 

My 18 year old son has been the center of a lot of what's been going on. My son has decided that he is finished with high school, he wants to quit school, get his GED, and go to the local community college. I can't say that I blame him, he is 18 years old, he will be 19 in a few months and he is a junior in high school, thanks to No Child Left Behind, he was retained TWICE in elementary school. I can't really say anything bad about his idea, I myself quit school and got my GED in the 11th grade, because I hated school (oh the irony), and now I have a Master's degree so having a GED instead of a High School Diploma didn't hold me back at all and I know it won't hold him back either. The fact that he wants to leave high school for college is not something I can disagree with. He is more mature that his classmates, and he has to be careful which girls he dates because of the age differences. So I have been busy helping him prepare for the GED test. 

Then on top of all that (and the Marzano meltdown earlier this year) my son (Yes the same one) was in a go-cart accident last Tuesday. We thought he broke both of his ankles but thank God, he only sprained them. His right ankle was just sprained but his left ankle is a deep sprain with soft tissue damage and bone bruising. He is in 2 compression boots for about 2 weeks, and then he can stop wearing the right one. He may have to wear the left boot for 4-6 weeks. 

This is what his left ankle looked like the morning after the accident

Cool new kicks!! LOL

My poor baby!

This is how it looks today - getting better but still painful

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Marzano Madness

My state has revamped its entire teacher evaluation system and has moved to Marzano's Teacher Evaluation model. This has been a very difficult transition and today just was the icing on the cake. We had a staff meeting and the things we were told would be OK are now not OK. We were told at the beginning of the year we could use a generic scale to gauge student understanding, now today we are told that the generic scale isn't gonna be good enough, now we have to do individual scales for each and every learning goal/standard. I am so frustrated. My state is SO unorganized and its frustrating. They have decided that instead of rolling it out over a 3 year period they decided in July that the roll out would be in September. So instead of a 3 year roll out, they did a 3 month roll out, so we have administrators who have no idea what they are supposed to do! The administrators will say "well at our training we were told A...B...C..." so we all run around and do A B C and then 2 weeks later they come back and say "Well at my latest training I found out that A...B...C... is not what we are to be looking for, we are to be looking for X...Y...Z" and all I can think is W T F!!!!! I am just SO frustrated and for the first time in 12 years I am seriously considering leaving the profession. I LOVE teaching, but I don't know if I can deal with all this. I don't get paid enough nor do I get enough respect to deal with all this. I keep wondering if I should get out while the getting is good. I don't know what else I would do, but I have a Master's degree so I am sure I could do something. The sad thing is I have a Master's degree but my sister, who only has her GED, gets paid more than I do. I'm just so frustrated with all of this. I don't think the new evaluation system is fair because it seems to be all about paperwork and not about teaching. When did rubrics, scales, and scores become more important than the kids? I'm not sure I can live with those standards, I can't put paperwork ahead of kids. I just don't know what to do.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Math ans Science fun!

The past couple weeks have been so busy but I have had a lot of fun with my kiddos in Math and Science. Thanks to all the bloggers I follow and the Pinterest boards I follow I was able to come up with some really great ideas for our math and science concepts.

We'll start with Math. After seeing this idea on Fourth Grade Frolics I knew I had to try it out with my kiddos. We have been working on fact families and they absolutely LOVED making Fact Family Portraits! The children were each given a different fact family that they were to illustrate. We showed them the pictures from Fourth Grade Frolics to give them some inspiration and I was so pleased with the results! They worked so well on there portraits. Several of them wanted to do a "theme" others just wanted to do an eclectic portrait and we gave them carte blanche to do what they wanted with their Fact Family. Below are some of their masterpieces

8, 9, 72

3, 8, 24

6, 11, 66

6, 8, 48

In science we have been studying the states and properties of matter. So my kids created a tri-fold that shows the positions of the particles in each state of matter. They used cheerios to show the particles (I got this idea from a blog over the summer and can't remember it now so if this was your idea thank you!. Then on the bottom of the foldable they had to write 3 facts and 2 examples of each state of matter. They came out super cute!



My kids loved doing both of these activities. During the time they were working on their Fact Family Portraits I overheard one of my students saying to his group "This IS math, it's just fun math!" LOL

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reading Block Woes

Ugghhh, this has been a very frustrating first 5 weeks of school. Don't get me wrong, I love my class, they are great! It has been frustrating finding a rotation that will work for my reading block. I have 3 reading groups that I meet with 4 days a week for 20 minutes at a time. My lowest group consists of all my students who are pulled first thing for school wide small group reading intervention. That way they get a double dose of reading, once with their intervention group and then again with me. Now, herein lies the problem, my students that are in that group are not all at the same level, there are 4 of them that are low readers, average of about a 2.5 reading level. The other 3 students are really low readers, with an average of about a 1.5 reading level. So I feel like if I go too slowly or provide activities that are on a lower level then I am not challenging the "higher" students in that group, but if I move faster and provide more challenging activities then I am not meeting the needs of the 3 lowest. So I am debating on whether I want to split that group up and create a 4th group. But if I do a 4th group then I have to cut 5 minutes out of each of the other groups to create an equal amount of time for each group. So I am wondering if I will be doing anyone any good if they only have 15 minutes a day of small group time. I have thought about making the 4th group and then alternating days to meet with the two higher groups so I am still meeting with each group for 20 minutes but I know how I am and I would not be happy with that arrangement, I am the type of teacher that MUST meet with my kids every day that I do small groups. Also, considering that my 2nd highest group consists of students who are still reading below grade level, I would not be comfortable meeting with them 2 days a week instead of 4. The good news is I don't have to figure it out right now, because right now I have a senior intern so I can divide up that group and have the 4 "higher" low students work with her while I work with the lowest 3, but I only have my student teacher until December, then I have to figure it out on my own.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Student Teacher, Specialist Degree, and Sickness

It has been a little while since I last posted and I have been super busy. I have my student teacher that has started her semester with me. She is a great intern and has really jumped right in. My class just loves her and since they are a pretty good group of kids they are making her feel very welcome. I have also started my first class in my journey towards my Ed. Specialist degree with a focus in Special Education. I just completed my first assignment tonight, and made the mistake of looking at my next module, I am now officially overwhelmed. I have to read 6 chapters in my textbook, and 5 articles, plus I have to interview a special ed teacher and write 2 papers. Oh yeah I am also one of the new co-advisers for my school's K-Kids program. It is a great community outreach club for 4th and 5th graders. So I have oh about a million things to do Agghhhhhh!!!!!!! Ok, I feel a teeny tiny bit better after screaming LOL Oh yeah and to top it all off I have been sick for the last few days. I am very thankful that I am beginning to feel better at least.

My students did a really great trifold activity for States of Matter that I will post next week. I forgot to take pictures of them so I'll wait until I have the pictures to write about them. Right now I am going to go and do a little reading for enjoyment before I am swamped in academic reading this whole weekend - with the exception of a few hours I will take off tomorrow to watch my UCF Knights play another great game of football!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/01 - I will never forget

There is a song that asks "Where were you when the world stopped turning, on that September Day?" and I can say that I will never forget that day. Even 10 years later I can picture exactly where I was and what was going on. 

When I was younger I could remember my mom telling me that she could remember exactly where she was and what she was doing when she heard that JFK had been shot. I had no concept of a memory that vivid. I thought there was no way she could really remember every detail of something that happened so long ago, before I was even born. Well I have to say that after the events of September 11, 2001 I can say that I know exactly what she meant. 

I can remember every detail of the day. I was in my 2nd year of teaching, and I was teaching kindergarten at Mollie Ray Elementary School. I had just dropped my kinder babies off at specials and was walking towards the office, one of the 4th grade teachers came out of her room and said "Did you hear? The World Trade Center has been bombed" I remember blowing it off and saying "Oh geez, again?" because I remembered the earlier, much smaller, attack on the WTC that didn't warrant too much media attention. She said to me "no this time they did it with planes" This got my attention and I quickly made my way to office to see what was going on. When I walked in the office, it was silent as everyone stared at the television and the site of both towers burning. I asked again what had happened and the receptionist said that 2 planes had flows right into the towers. I ran back to my classroom where a few of my teammates were hanging out, I turned on the television in my room and told them what little I knew. The pre-K teacher was standing at my backdoor (which lead to the playground where her class was playing) and we all watched as the buildings burned. We just watched almost mesmerized and we kept talking about the people on the plane and on the floors where they had hit and how terrible it must have been for them and we all hoped that it had been quick and painless. As we stood their watching and discussing how the firefighters and rescuers would get to the people above the burning floors, we all cried out in horror as we watched the side of the south tower begin to give away and then the entire building collapse. My classroom was filled with gasps, cries, and "oh dear God all those people!" We were all crying and staring at the television. It was almost surreal. My best friend looked at me and said "our entire life and world as we know it will never be the same." How prophetic and right she was. We had to tear ourselves away from the television to pick our our innocent babies who had no idea the world had just stopped and started spinning in a whole new way. We were afraid because as it was time to get our kids we were hearing about the pentagon being hit and other possible targets, I wanted to go get my own children at their schools and go home but I couldn't. There was no way I could teach the lessons I had planned for that day but I had to carry on for my little ones. We had our snack, and I put in a CD to let them sing and dance - while I made phone calls to my dad to see what all was going on. Parents started showing up to take their children home. By lunch time I only had 6 kids left in my classroom. My best friend and I put our classes together so that we could comfort each other and take turns keeping up on what was happening in the "outside" world. When we heard about the plane that had crashed in Pennsylvania we were saying "Dear God, what else is going to happen today?" it seemed like it was just getting worse and worse. This was before the time of mass cell phone use so no one in my family had one. I was relying on my dad, who was at home, to keep me updated. I had no way of contacting my husband, who worked out in the field, I wanted nothing more than to get to my own children and get them home where we would all be safe. 
At the end of the day when I got home my older son came running up to me crying and saying "Mommy one of those planes was going to come to Florida" it broke my heart that he already knew what was going on and was terrified that something bad was going to happen here in Florida (he had gotten confused by a news report he heard talking the white house being a possible target and President Bush was here in Florida). I reassured him that he was safe. My youngest son was in 2nd grade and all he knew was what his brother had told him, and seeing his big brother so scared, obviously scared him too. There was no escape for the children, even Nickelodeon, the children's network, was airing footage of the 2nd plane crashing into the South Tower. So I put in a DVD for my boys and let them have one more night of a world that wasn't filled with terrorists who hated Americans and took their hate out on innocent victims. 

It is a day I will never forget, and even now 10 years later the memories come back and the tears flow again. It was a terrible day in our nation's history. It changed our world as we knew it. Now tomorrow I have to teach 4th graders about this terrible attack, most of whom were not even born when it happened. There whole life has been in this world where terrorists exist and attack without warning and without cause. They don't even know that there was a time when we weren't afraid of what might happen tomorrow. 

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Imagine It! Help needed!!!

Today I became one of only 2 teachers at my school who will be piloting the Imagine It! reading program. In my district elementary schools have 2 choices for core reading programs; Houghton Mifflin or Imagine It! My school has used Houghton Mifflin since we opened in 2006. My principal is considering switching the entire school to the Imagine It! program next year and he wanted a couple teachers to try it out to sort of see how their students compare to the others who are using Houghton Mifflin. I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and I get to do it. I received a set of teacher's guides for the program today, we are still trying to scrounge up enough textbooks and hopefully workbooks for 2 classes so that we don't have to purchase anything until we know for sure we want to use it. I have to say I already like what I am seeing in the TE's it seems to really be a much better program that Houghton Mifflin. The only concern I have is time. We have a 90 minute reading block and to fully implement Imagine It! you really need about 2 hours. The good thing is the program seems to do a really good job of integrating science and social studies into the reading block so I could find the extra 30 minutes there if I needed to. I would really love to hear from other 4th grade teachers who use this program and could answer the following questions.

- How do you structure your reading block?
- How much time do you need for each whole group section?
- Do you break up the whole group and do workshop in between or do you do all the whole group stuff together and then do a workshop time?
- Since we are trying piece-mill together two classroom sets what do you consider to be the most important pieces of the program that you just can't do without (other than textbooks because we are already on the hunt for those LOL)

Any other information you can give me about how you use this program would be really beneficial.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Week 2 Done

Today ended our 2nd full week of school and things are going smoothly. Daily 5 is up and running (so much easier to launch when the majority of the class had it the year before), I actually have a schedule that feels good and I feel like I am getting everything done, plus I am able to squeeze in a short recess for my kiddos at least 4 days a week. My class is a sweet group of kids who are really eager to learn. My student teacher began on Monday and she is wonderful! I have been blessed with awesome interns every time I have taken one. My intern this year is a great asset.

My class started the novel Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing which they are LOVING. I told them that our next shared reading would be Fudge-a-mania and about 4 of my kids have come to me and asked if they could get a copy of the book because they have already finished Tales... and they want to get a head start on it! Before we started reading Tales... I had suggested it to them and they had turned their noses up at it, now they are devouring it LOL! Each day we read a chapter together and then we complete a box in our flow map. The kids are doing great, during read to self they can choose to read any book they want, including our class novel. I have had a couple of my kids come to me and say "I really want to read the class novel but I don't want to spoil it" I am so glad that I decided to leave the basal behind this year. My kids were never this excited about those basal stories, they never cheered when I said "Take out your reading book" but I get cheers, and a chorus of "yes!" when I say "Ok everyone take out your class novel" They can't wait to hear what book we will do next. I think after the 2 Judy Blume books we will delve into Roald Dahl's The BFG.

Math is a different story - We have been working on numeration, mostly rounding numbers and they are just not getting it. I have tried so many different things to help them understand but they still just don't get it. Any ideas or strategies you all can think of to help them understand this concept?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What to do about spelling homework?

Hello all my bloggy friends! I am stuck in a little conundrum about what I should do with spelling homework for this year. OK, first off let me just say that I HATE homework. As a parent and as a teacher. I guess it is probably because, when you have two sons with pretty tough learning disabilities homework was like torture. Anyway, I want to make it as easy as possible but still effective as a form of practice. I do not grade homework because I do not think it is fair to grade them when they don't all have the same support at home. I actually had a parent last year whose child was not doing well in class at all, she just didn't get the concepts, and at the end of the year the parent was very angry with me because I was recommending the child for retention and he said to me "If you would grade her homework she would be an A B student" well of course she would because he was helping her with every single step and telling her exactly what to write. It wouldn't be fair to grade it, so I just save myself the headache and I don't grade it, I check it for completion.
Anyway, wow, did I digress, last year I used a spelling choice board for homework. I had like 9 -12 squares and each square had a different spelling activity and the students had to choose one activity to complete each night. They seemed to do well with this. But then over the summer I read how someone else did homework by assigning a different activity every night but each week it was the same activity, so like every Monday the kids would write the spelling words in ABC order, on Tuesday they would write them 5 times each etc. SO I thought that would be simple for my kiddos to remember what to do. Now I am wondering if they are going to get bored and not get anything out of it after a while. So I thought I would throw it out here to all you great teachers and see what you all do for your spelling homework! Please share

Friday, August 26, 2011

Total turn around since yesterday!

Well, if you read my post yesterday you saw that I was having a mini melt down LOL I was doubting myself as a teacher and really worried about if I was actually making a difference. I realized that my problem last year was that I was trying to do too many things differently which totally threw me out my comfort zone. SO as I said yesterday I was making some changes. I had to go back to what works for me, I LOVE Daily 5 but last year I let me students have free choice for each round. I can't do that, I need the structure so I totally changed the way I will conduct my reading block. Well I stayed up until like midnight last night working on a new plan for my classroom and then I got up early and I went in early to set it all up. Then, today I introduced the more structured rotation to my students, still using the Daily 5 components. I had them practice the rotations today, instead of coming to the teacher table they went to the computer, so I could monitor the rest of the class. It went SO well!!! Oh my gosh, I could almost hear the birds chirping and the sun shining down on my classroom, and the angels singing the hallelujah chorus LOL
So the lesson that I learned this week was that I have to be me. No matter what else I implement into my classroom I have to make it fit MY comfort zone and not the other way around. I can implement new ideas and new strategies in my classroom without stressing myself out. I have to do what works for me and I have to use the structure that works for me. I can't be any other teacher except me. All in all I just gotta be me. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A LOT of stress and self doubt going on (sad face) - I need to make some changes

This is only the beginning of my second year teaching 4th grade. I have taught most of my career in Kindergarten, and I know this sounds like bragging but, I was good at it. Well I needed a change last year and I made the move to 4th grade and I loved it and I still love it and I thought I was doing a pretty good job especially for someone who had never taught this grade level before last year. Well, today in my mailbox at school I find a peculiar looking paper that has the names of my kids from last year and these "bubbles" on it. I stuffed in the pile of papers not knowing what it was. I got back to my classroom and took a closer look at this paper. This paper was a data sheet showing me the kids in my class last year who made learning gains in reading and in math. Well, I was devastated because very few of my kids made large enough gains to be considered as actual learning gains and some of them actually fell back a few points. I sat at my desk for a long time just looking at it and wondering what I did wrong. I was able to come up with a lot of things I would have done different but none of them were really wrong. I began to really sit there and wonder if I had made a mistake moving to 4th grade. Again this is going to sound bad but when I taught kindergarten I was used to being the top of the heap, I was the teacher who had the highest number of kids making gains, I was the teacher other teachers came to for advice, now I'm sitting here staring at this paper that tells me I basically made little to no impact on my kids last year. What am I doing in 4th grade?? I have been thinking all day long that maybe I should have stayed put, even though I was not happy in kinder anymore. For the first time in my career, since my very first year teaching, I felt like I was not a good teacher and I don't like that feeling at all.

 I did feel a little better after a few of my team mates were talking about their papers and how they were not happy with their results either so I had a little glimmer of hope that maybe it wasn't all me LOL - grasping at straws there because I am the type of person who believes it is all me. Anyway I really started to reflect on the way I taught last year. I know that we have a new math series and I had the ESE cluster so I did take a minute to celebrate the small victories that were showing up on that page, hidden between all the defeats.

So, me being the type of person I am, I have spent almost all day long reflecting on this information and trying to figure out what I can do better this year. This is what I came up with:

In Reading: Last year I used our basal series for whole group instruction (which was awful - all we did was read the story basically) and I used Daily 5 and CAFE for small group time. I did not pull small groups as often as I should have because I was trying so hard to conference with students individually and I couldn't get to them all and there was just not enough time. So this year I am going to do Daily 5 ONLY not CAFE, I am going to do Daily 5 as my "centers" and I will pull reading groups to my table daily. The only thing I'm not 100% sure about is exactly what I will do with them once I get them to my table. In Kindergarten we played ABC games and phonics games and ready phonetic books, I don't think that will cut the mustard in 4th grade though LOL. So I was thinking that in whole group we will be doing shared reading of a class novel and doing activities that go along with that, like flow maps, character analysis etc so in small groups I will focus on one benchmark strand at a time and find and pull activities to use to work on that strand in small groups. I have been looking on The Florida Center for Reading Research website (great website for lots and lots of reading of activities) and I have found a lot of great activities to use in both my whole group and my small group time. My only problem is, in a 90 minute reading block I have 30 minutes for whole group and 60 minutes for small group which means only 15 minutes per group. Now I have been really looking at my schedule and first thing in the morning we have a 30 minute intervention block, then followed by an 80 minute instructional block before lunch time which is where I was doing my writing and my science/social studies (because it wasn't enough time for my reading block). Well, the students that are being pulled out of my classroom for intervention are my lowest students so I was thinking about taking that 30 minute block and 80 minute block and combining them to make myself a 110 minute reading block. I would start with small group instruction and start with my highest kids, the ones not being pulled for intervention, and go from highest group to lowest group and then end with my whole group shared reading time. I mean who says whole group has to come before small group? So I was thinking about changing my schedule to look like this

8:55 – 9:15 Blue Group (while red group and some of yellow group are out of the room in intervention)
9:15 – 9:35 Green Group
9:35 – 9:55 Yellow Group
9:55 – 10:15 Red Group
10:15 – 10:45 Whole Group Shared reading
then I go to lunch at 10:50 (or as I like to call it BREAKFAST!!)

I'm thinking that it just might work out. Instead of doing two 30 minute rounds of Daily 5 my kids could do 3 20 minute rounds, and one "round' at the my table. Then I would just switch the Writing and Science/Social Studies to after lunch. 

Ok after hashing it all out in my little bloggy world I am feeling a little more confident. I just need to set up a few management tools in my room and I know just how I'm going to set them up too. I'm feeling better already! Now, I just need some more ideas on what to do in my small groups so if you know of any great websites please let me know!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pods and Reading Notebooks

First off let me say that Day 2 of the 2011-2012 school year was a really good day! My class is full of great kids and they are all eager readers which I LOVE!
After getting some advice from some fellow bloggers and thinking a lot about it I abandoned the U shape for pods. I have 20 students so I made 5 groups of 4 students and I love it!! The kids did so good with it today. I was leery because last year's group of kids would argue and fuss and chatter all day long if  I put them in pods (or table groups) so I was worried this group would do the same but they didn't, they did a good job of working together. I was also worried about space but the way I was able to set them up I don't feel like I have lost any space, and the room doesn't feel cramped or crowded.

Here is a before picture:

and here is the after picture:

Now I am a little bit frustrated with a couple of my little darlings. Yesterday I introduced the 40 Book Requirement, and this morning I gave them all their reading notebooks. In their reading notebooks the first page is a tally page where they can keep a tally of the books they have completed based on the genre requirements (to see the tally sheet check out THIS previous post). Well, around noon today one of my little girls comes up to me to ask me where she should put the tally mark for a book she had finished (my 40 book requirement contains 5 picture books to help build their confidence and let them get 5 books under their belt rather quickly) I told her that it would be considered a picture book, I went to point to her tally sheet to show her where to put the check mark and I noticed that she had already checked off a realistic fiction chapter book, all 5 picture books, and all TEN (yes 10) free choice chapter books!!! I asked her why she had check off all those boxes and she said "Because I read those" I asked her if she knew that 11 of the ones she had checked off were supposed to be chapter books and she said "yeah I know" so I said "OK let me get this straight, you are trying to tell me that since 9:00 this morning when I gave you this notebook, you have read 11 chapter books and 5 picture books?" and she says "Yep!" when I told her that this was not possible she then says "Well I read one of the chapter books last night" when I again told her that it still was not possible she added in that she had read a chapter book over the summer. GRRRRRR!!! So I explained to her again that it still was not possible for her to have read 9 chapter books and 5 picture books in just 3 hours. Then I found another one of my students who had done the same thing. I am planning on having a talk with them tomorrow and make it a requirement that before they can add a book to their tally sheet they have to take and pass an AR test for that book, and if it is not an AR book then they have to come and tell me about the book. I was so worried that all of them were doing this and just checking them off for the same of checking them off, so after school today I pulled all of their reading notebooks and I am glad to say that those were the only 2 who did it. But I am wondering if I should make the AR tests a requirement for them all before they can add the book. I don't want to set too many "rules" because then that defeats the whole purpose behind the independent reading but for those 2 I have to or else they will show up next week (or tomorrow LOL) saying they have read all 40 books and they don't have to read anymore. Any advice for these two darlings??

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Day of School 2011!

Another first day under my belt, this makes # 12 for me. All in all today went pretty well. My new class is very excited about being in 4th grade and they are going to be a fun group. I launched Daily 5 today and did a mini book frenzy which went really well. I had kids snatching up Wayside School  Gets a Little Stranger, and a few of them asked me for recommendations. As soon as they had chosen their books they filed back to their seats and read silently until lunch time. I also introduced the 40 book challenge/requirement today and it was met with some groans but once they started reading they were eager to get started. I plan to give them their reading notebooks tomorrow, they kept asking for them today. We did 3 short rounds of Read to Self to practice and will continue to practice that tomorrow. They LOVED their book luggage too. They couldn't wait to fill them up. I had them do a reading survey and told them I would use those to make book recommendations for them. It looked like they were pretty honest on the survey. 

The best quote of the day came from one of my little men at the end of the day today, he came up to me and said "Mrs. Foreman, guess what! I read from the beginning of this book all the way to page 169 in only one day! I have never done that before! I am gonna read MORE than the 40 books if I keep finding good books like this!" The best part was earlier in the day I asked them to be honest with me and raise their hands if they liked to read, this young man was not one of the ones who raised his hand, so this just made my day.

I took a couple pictures of my new munchkins doing read to self. I didn't know whose model release forms I had so I tried to take pictures of the ones whose faces were buried in their books (excuse the mess on the table in the background that is where they piled their supplies when they came in) LOL

Tomorrow we will continue with read to self and I will introduce them to their reading notebooks. Since the majority of my kids came from a class that did Daily 5 last year as well they already sort of have the hang of it so this roll out has started really easy. One of the parts of my day that made me really want to laugh was when we were doing the Read To Self I-Chart my kids did a great job on the section of what students should be doing but when we got to the part about what the teacher will be doing some of them had some quite interesting ideas from "doing paperwork" to "building your own stamina" they were quite funny. They listed; copying files, reading on my Kindle, doing paperwork, keeping an eye on the kids to make sure they don't act up, and (my favorite) checking my email LOL

All in all it was a good day and I am looking forward to a good year. 

OK on another subject I am thinking about rearranging my desks. Right now they are in a U shape but I am thinking about putting them into groups of 5 or 6 instead. I used a U shape most of the year last year. Before that I taught Kindergarten and we had tables so this was a nonissue. Any suggestions or comments on the U vs the "pods"??

Friday, August 19, 2011

Meet The Teacher

First off let me say 

I now have 70 followers!!!!

Now on to my day. Have you ever had one of those days that started off just terrible and you could not get back on track no matter how hard you try? Well that pretty much describes my day today. 
It all started when my phone made a little noise this morning, a very quiet noise that normally wouldn't have bothered me but, thank you Lord, this time it woke me up. My first thought was "ugghhh I hate when I wake up before my alarm" which was immediately followed by "why is it so light out at 6:30am??" Then my eyes focused and I saw the time on the clock by my bed - it read 8:04!!!!! My alarm had not went off!!!! I couldn't believe it! I had 11 minutes to get up, get dressed, do my hair and make up and get to school before our 8:15 meeting which would be followed by our very first session of Meet The Teacher. I began to panic and scramble. I was brushing my teeth and putting my make up on at the same time! I literally ran out of the house at 8:20 thanking God that I only live 5 minutes from my school. I got to school at 8:25 and was relieved that the meeting had run late and hadn't started yet. Being SO stressed out first thing in the morning is NOT a good way to start your day because the stress just doesn't go away. 
I was relieved when they gave us out updated class lists and mine hadn't changed - that would have been all I needed was changes in my list after I had just finished writing names on everything. Then began our first session of Meet The Teacher. I had 7 of my 20 little darlings show up for our first session and all seemed to go well. Then later on our second session begins (at 4pm mind you) and the second student through the door is a student who is not on my list. Mom says she registered him that morning and that he was on the list they posted downstairs. So now MORE STRESS I am scrambling to get this child everything he needed, I was SO thankful that I had taken the advice of a fellow blogger and I had made New Student Bags which had one of everything in it so I was able to pull one of those out and have everything I needed for this new child. I had a short lull in the action so I ran downstairs to see the posted lists to make sure this student was in the right place and lo and behold there is his name handwritten on the bottom of my list AND there was ANOTHER name written under his. So not only had I had this student added to my list but another student as well. I was so glad that I had went down to check, I would have been scrambling again on Monday morning to have everything for her. Now when she comes in on Monday her name will be on everything just like everyone else's. I was so frustrated and I know that it was mostly because of the stress that had built up throughout the day. So anyway, I am now at 20 students, as are most of my team mates. Our state has a class size law that caps our classes at 22 students so if we keep adding students we are going to have to add another teacher to our grade level - and that's a whole lot more stress LOL All in all today started off terrible but turned out to be a pretty good day. 

I learned two things today. 
1. My class seems to a group of sweethearts, there are some really great kids, several that were really excited about the 40 Book Challenge/Requirement. I am looking forward to a great year with some really great kids!

2. If you want your alarm clock to go off in the morning and wake you up, you must remember to turn it ON before you go to bed LOL 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Feeling MUCH Better!

Tomorrow is Meet the Teacher so the craziness that is pre-planning is almost over. Then begins the craziness that is the first week of school LOL I look forward to September for 3 reasons #1 my son's birthday, #2 football season starts, and #3 school becomes routine and the kids are settled in.

Well after my last post full of me whining I am happy to say that I am feeling much better. Come to find out I wasn't the only person on my team who had concerns and felt the same way as me. Our problem was we didn't have an alternative. Well today one of my team mates came to me with a great idea for our intervention time. So now we are not going to be switching classes - Yay!!

I have been working on my lesson plans for the first week of school and they are all finished. The 2nd week (and beyond) has had me stumped though. Last year I felt like I was always rushed through my whole group reading lesson and barely had time to really teach anything. I didn't have time to really introduce the weekly vocabulary words or spelling patterns. SO after talking to a couple of my team mates I have decided that I am not going to do Daily 5 on Mondays. Mondays will be my whole group day where I will introduce the weekly vocab, spelling, story, and benchmark strand. Then on Tuesday - Friday my students will have Daily 5 rounds. I FINALLY feel good about my reading block. I finally feel like I know what to do in reading this year.

I am thankful that I have team mates that are so eager to share ideas with me and each other.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Preplanning Stress Out!

Today was the first day of preplanning for my district. We began at 8:30 this morning and I have had a stress headache since about 9:30 this morning. I am just feeling so overwhelmed and stressed out by all the new mandates that are coming down the pipe. I just feel like it is all assess, progress monitor, assess, progress monitor, throw in some intervention, lather, rinse, repeat. Well if I am spending all my time assessing, progress monitoring, and intervening, when do I have time to actually teach them what I am assessing them on??

I feel this way at the beginning of every year, and this focus on assessment, progress monitoring, and intervention isn't anything new I just find myself wanting to scream "I HAVE TO TEACH THEM BEFORE I CAN TEST THEM!!!!"

Then on top of all that I am worried I am going to end up being the "bad guy" on my team because several of my team members want us to switch kids around during our school wide intervention/enrichment time. Sort of like ability group them for intervention/enrichment. I am not a fan of this idea. I have never liked sending my students to other teachers. I feel like my name is on their learning and therefore it needs to come from me. Now that my state has instituted a Merit Pay system that mandates that 50% of my evaluation rests on my students' test scores, I really don't agree with sending my kids to other teachers and them sending theirs to me. I am accountable for the students on my roster, not them. I know that we have awesome teachers on my team, I'm not saying they aren't great, I am saying that it is not their responsibility to teach my students, and it is not my responsibility to teach theirs. That may sound harsh or selfish but when it comes down to it I don't want my evaluation to be based on someone else's teaching and I certainly don't want someone else's evaluation based on MY teaching. It is a big enough responsibility making sure my students do well, but now I have to worry about other teachers' students doing well too? I don't want to do this but I also don't want my team to think of me as the outsider or the "trouble maker" I have no problem speaking my mind and saying no I'm not going to participate but I don't want to look bad :-( I feel stuck. Do I do what don't believe in and what I am not comfortable with just to make other people happy? OR Do I stand up for what I believe in and stand my ground no matter what other people may think? Ughhh why does this school year have to start out so stressful...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Daughter's Classroom

I spent all day yesterday and most of the day today helping my daughter set up her 1st grade classroom. Her classroom is really tiny so it was a challenge to find a way to make it all fit and make it all work! She has only had 3 days to work in her classroom and she has Meet The Teacher on Tuesday! So she was in a bit of a panic after she spent most of the day on Monday just getting everything into her room. So of course mom had to make the 2 hour drive to go help her and calm her nerves. Below are some picture of her bright and colorful classroom!

View from the front door

View from her teacher table

the removable wall to the left of her door

Her calendar, job chart, birthday poster, and morning check-in

Another view from the door. 

her word wall and reading area

her reading area

Listening center

Her class rules

Bookshelf and Easel

There's my baby girl working at her desk

The view from the back of the room - That's my "baby" boy sitting at her desk
He came along to do the heavy lifting for us

an "aerial" view ( I was standing on a counter)

Another shot from the top of the counter - That's my girl sitting at her desk!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Clickers are here!!!

At the end of last year I received a grant from Beyond Question for a student response set. It is basically a set of remote control looking things that the kids can use to answer questions I post using my teacher presentation station! It records their answers they give with their "clicker" and then it creates a grade report for me! Well the secretary told me today that they had come in!! I am SO excited!! The funny this is she was too, she wanted me to open it in the office so she could see what they look like LOL There is a receiver I have to attach to my computer, and some software I have to install and that's it, they will be ready for use. Hopefully there is a users manual on the CD because I have no idea how to set up the questions but I am sure I will figure it out! I can't wait to use it! I had to take my son to the doctor today so I didn't have time to do anything with it except to open the box and look at it. I am SO excited!!

Here are a couple pictures I snapped before I ran out the door - they are blurry iPhone pictures

~~~~~~ Cindy ~~~~~~

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I have seen the book luggage tubs on several blogs and was totally kicking myself because I bought several of those type of tubs 2 years ago to store books in but I only bought like 10 of them. After using the corrugated cardboard magazine boxes from IKEA last year I knew I had to find a better way to have book boxes. I actually looked at those sitting on my shelf and thought they would be great but I knew I didn't have enough. THEN I started stalking, pinning, and blogging and saw how right I was about how handy they would be as book boxes! I went back to Wal-Mart, where I had found my original 10... No luck. So I started stalking more and came to find out that these were being found at the dollar store, so hubby and I ran out to the local Dollar Tree, they only had 2 left, I was so disappointed. Well today I decided that come hell or high water I was going to find those cute tubs and find enough to have a class set. I went to a total of 5 stores, I went to Dollar General (where they had tie on seat cushions on sale for 75% off so I bought a cute set - for $1.78- as a back up for when the ones on my new seat crates get icky), Family Dollar, and THREE different Dollar Trees. I finally found them at the very last Dollar Tree, I was out of ideas and was getting frustrated but I walked into the 5th store and there they were, I could almost hear the Hallelujah chorus when I saw them. I ALMOST bought ALL of them but decided against and just bought the 13 I needed. I bought some yellow ribbon and then came home and used my new found computer crafty skills and made luggage tags for each of them tied them on and now they are ready to go to my room on Monday and be filled up in my very first Book Frenzy the following Monday. I'm getting super excited about this year, and all the new "stuff" I have found on all these great blogs!! I can't wait to see what else I will learn as the year progresses!!
Here are a couple pictures of my completed Book Luggage (they didn't have enough in all the same color so I had to get a couple different colors.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Another day in my room...

OK so it was really only about 2 hours in my room, not another whole day. I started off the morning stalking some of my favorite blogs and I knew it was not a good idea. I ended up running to Wal-Mart before school to pick up crates and seat cushions. I saw on several blog pages this summer about making the seats out of crates but I have to admit I am NOT a crafty person when it comes to stuff like that. I want to be crafty when I grow up but I just haven't gotten there yet. Anyway, I figured the crate/seats were just out of my league until I saw what Becky over at Fourth Grade Fanatic had done! She just took the crates, turned them upside down, and tied a seat cushion to them!! How stinkin' easy and cute!!!! I knew I could do THAT!!! Sooooo off to Wal-Mart I ran. and here's what I ended up with!

After I threw together 4 of these I adjusted my writing table height so that they would be a perfect fit and I added some writing related posters and viola my writing area was complete!

After I finished that all I had left to do was hang up my motivational posters, my genre posters, and the heading on my AR Incentive chart bulletin board
 Here are the motivational posters - I put them around the clock because they are always looking up at the clock to see if it's time for lunch or specials LOL

This is my job chart and my Comprehension Strategies posters

My genre posters above the white board

My Incentive Chart bulletin board

While I was there I kept looking at my Daily 5 bulletin board and it just wasn't speaking to me soooo I had to revamp it.



Finally at the end of my time in my room, I went to the rooms of 2 of my kindergarten friends. Since I had taught Kindergarten for 8 years before moving to 4th grade last year I had a TON of primary teaching resources. These two wonderful friends stored all my primary resources in their classrooms (and of course they were permitted to use them as much as they wanted) so that I would not have to store it all at home. I didn't want to get rid of it becuase I wasn't sure how much I would like 4th grade AND my daughter had just graduated from college with her degree in Elementary Education and I didn't know what grade level she may get a job teaching. Soooo these wonderful friends gave up space in their classrooms for my stuff Well today, they got to get back quite a bit of that space. Since my daughter got a job teaching 1st grade I am taking her quite a bit of my primary stuff for her to use in her own classroom. The entire back of my SUV is FULL of stuff and it will have to stay there until Friday when my youngest son and I head to Port St. Lucie to help her get her classroom all ready for her little munchkins.  This is what the cart looked like that I took to my car

Well that's all I have for now. I am going to spend the rest of the day today, all today tomorrow, and all day Thursday doing NOTHING school related (we'll see how that goes LOL)

~~~~~~ Have a great day!! ~~~~~~