Friday, January 31, 2014

Loving Literacy Blog Hop Stop #16

Welcome to...
We hope you are enjoying the Loving Literacy Blog Hop! We are so excited to join this wonderful group of reading specialists, coaches, and teacher bloggers to share our love of literacy with you.
Stacy:  I was the type of kid that always had my nose in a book.  Every summer we would travel to the 1000 Islands and stay in a cottage on the river.  All of my cousins swam and played games while I sat in the hot cottage reading the latest Sweet Valley High book or my dog-eared copy of Little House on the Prairie.  Interestingly, thirty years later (yikes) I still remember many of the story-lines.  
I work hard everyday to expose my students to a variety of genre, series, and authors so that they may develop a love of literacy like I did as a young girl.  This is not always an easy task as their feelings towards reading can sometimes be clouded because of their struggles.  I often have parents asking me for help in finding a book that will capture their child's heart.  Luckily, I found a fabulous used bookstore that sells hundreds of children's books for under a dollar.  When one of my little friends revealed that she thought she might like Jigsaw Jones, I literally bought the entire series for her.  Thankfully, the series captured her attention but I am hoping to expand to other books and series with her soon.

Colleen:  My mom was always a reader... I remember long 4 hour car rides to and from our lake house in the Adirondacks of upstate NY or ferry rides to the beaches of Martha's Vineyard where she was always reading. I think her encouragement and model really inspired my love for literacy as well. It wasn't long before I was following right in her footsteps with series of books I just couldn't put down. I distinctly remember love love loving The Boxcar Children mysteries and Misty of Chincoteague as a kid. As I grew older I fell in love with Jodi Picoult and Karen Kingsbury books. There's just something about holding the pages of a captivating story in your hands vs flipping the pages of an ipad or kindle... just sayin'. I also simply love a good children's book rich with vivid words,  colorful illustrations and a central message. 

As a first year, second grade teacher, I have loved teaching literacy to my students. I knew it would be an area of importance for any classroom teacher to have when I decided to get my masters in Reading and Literacy and it has benefited me greatly. It's so encouraging to see my students finding books and series they are so enthralled by that they just can't put down. We spend 10 minutes after lunch each day silently reading our Just Right Books and when that timer goes off, my students really struggle to put the bookmark in and close the book. Despite the fact that it takes me longer to gather their attention, I actually think that's a positive thing! :) My students are currently loving both Harry Potter and Percy Jackson andddd... fun fact: the first Harry Potter came out when I myself was in 2nd grade!
Now that we are getting closer to Valentine's Day, we wanted to share one of our favorite books by mother-daughter team Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton (yes....THE Julie Andrews).  
Let your inner SPARKLE out is Geraldine's mantra in the treasured children's book, The Very Fairy Princess Follows Her Heart.  We love how the authors capture how to celebrate a friend's special qualities in this heartwarming tale.  This book shares how love and imagination can go a long way towards solving problems, even on Valentine's Day.  Our FREEBIE bundle includes two Reading Response letters (boy or girl) and a fun comprehension game that aligns with standards:
RL.1.1 Ask and answer questions about key details in a text. 
RL. 2.1 Ask and answer questions such as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
 The Very Fairy Princess Follows Her Heart
We hope you enjoy celebrating friendship and kindness using the book The Very Fairy Princess Follows Her Heart!  Get ready to fly on over to the next stop on the Loving Literacy Blog Hop!
 Reading is Elementary

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Easy and cute thank you gifts with a {freebie}! :)

Hi everyone! Well, I've been down and out with pneumonia since last Wednesday and it's been just awful! I have some bad asthma and so it was a real bad combination. I've also now missed 3 days of school and I'm really missing being at work! :( BUT, thankfully I feel a lot better today and I have more energy than I've had since last Tuesday and I'm planning on being back at it tomorrow (though the snow coming may have some other plans). 

Anyway, since I've missed so much school there have been a LOT of people that have stepped in and helped out tremendously. I'm so thankful for the school community that I'm a part of. So many of my colleagues have called, texted, or emailed me every day to check in and see how I'm doing and their care and compassion has been so kind and genuine. I'm very grateful. 

To show my gratitude, I decided to use my energy today to make some thank you gifts. Ready for the easiest and cutest thank you tutorial ever? Here we go...

You will need:
1 bag of pretzel snaps (the square ones)
1 bag of M&Ms (any type but I chose milk chocolate valentine)
2 bags of rolos

(I honestly used 6 bags of rolos because I made a LOT of gifts as well as some for the retreat I'm going on this weekend so adjust the ingredients based on your needs!)

To prepare: unwrap all your rolos and preheat the oven to 350 degrees!
Then follow these simple directions!
Click the above picture or here to get your freebie gift tags!

I'm sure ready to be back at school... here's hoping the snow doesn't trump my plans to be in tomorrow! Happy Monday, all!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Stacy's Five for Friday FUN!!

Happy Friday, friends!  I don't know about you, but I am sooooooo looking forward to the three-day weekend!  It's been a little bit of a crazy week.  I think the full moon is to blame :)
I can't complain too much because our February vacation week is right around the corner!   However, that means we are at the half-way point of the year!  My goodness time flies!  Today we are linking up with Doodle Bug's Five for Friday weekly linky party!
Poor Colleen can't catch a break!  After dragging herself through the week, she finally broke down, went to the doctor and was diagnosed with pneumonia.  UGH!  Not something a beginning teacher needs this time of year!  I know she would appreciate positive thoughts and 'get-wells' so please send some her way!
As for me, I am PSYCHED that we are almost done with the DIBELS January Benchmark!!  I would love feedback from folks about other assessments you use (i.e. AimsWeb, MAP) for benchmark testing because I am struggling with the notion that my struggling readers are missing out on valuable instruction in order for me to assess close to 200 students in my building.  Please don't get me wrong!  I believe periodic assessments are valuable however I am always apprehensive about lost instruction.  So, I'm curious...those of you who use different monitoring tools (other than DIBELS) long does it take you to administer a typical sized classroom?
Even though I have been in full-swing DIBELS mode, I was able to squeeze in "Game Day Friday" with my second grade group today.  I pulled out Freezing Syllables from our Winter Literacy Center bundle to practice multisyllabic words.  They absolutely loved it!  It was interesting to watch them struggle a bit working through the syllables but eventually they got it!  Writing the words on their recording sheet also helped!
My second grade groups were also working hard at a new comprehension skills this week.  We focused on asking and answering questions using informational text.  I love using A Year of Many Firsts' What Makes a Good Reader? strategy posters to begin my comprehension lessons.  The posters create almost an anchor chart that I can refer back to as I am teaching or reinforcing strategies.  I also am in LOVE with her Common Core Aligned graphic organizers.  Using the organizer for questioning, my struggling readers did an awesome job working together to create questions about the text.  
Finally, I wanted to share another favorite product that both Colleen and I have been using in our classrooms.  I have been using Text Detectives-Find the Text Evidence from Luckeyfrog's Lilypad with my third grade intervention groups and it has made a WORLD of difference helping them find text evidence to support their answers.  I have one little guy that really struggled with this skill at the beginning of the year, but after presenting this activity to him, he has become much more comfortable proving and supporting his responses.  My kiddos also LOVE the coloring!  Hee Hee!  They don't realize that they're learning too!

Colleen (from her bed) and I wish all of you a wonderful weekend!  Rejuvenate, relax, and do something fun!!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

First week back! Five For Friday link up :)

Well friends, the first week back after winter break is OVER! 
Honestly, I was a little worried going back to work this week... I thought it would all drag on and be hard to jump back into routine, but if I'm being honest this week flew by. AND... I think my kids grew up or something over vacation because they all seem a little bit more like 2nd graders. :)

Today, we're linking up a little late with Doodle Bugs for their oh so popular Five For Friday posts. We just love these!
Awhile back, I wrote about making some changes to my literacy block because my students just aren't a group that are able to be put in groups based on ability and have a timer set to move around in rotations. I was inspired by Teaching With Love and Laughter and completely re-worked my literacy time and it has worked really well so far for my class! With any new routines/procedures, it took my class and I a bit of transitional time to get used to the way it would all work but now that we've gotten used to it, the kids are working through meaningful literacy activities and are given the opportunity to make choices about their learning.
I set my materials up as you see in the picture above. In the word work drawers I keep activities that are working with the skill aligned with our Fundations unit for that week. In the spelling drawers I keep task cards (Thanks, Amy Lemons), poems containing our spelling words and extra menu choices. The work on writing bin contains the students' writing folders and an assignment for the week. What I love most about this system is that the students have the time to work through their activities and don't have to leave a center if they haven't finished by the time a 15:00 timer goes off. It also gives me the ability to work with more of my guided reading groups each day because I am spending less time managing different groups of students who are at the same ability level but behaviorally shouldn't be working together. Win, win situation if you ask me! :)
Apparently, most of the 1st grade teachers in my school have class pets. Imagine my students' disappointment when they walked into the classroom and saw no pet! How devastating! (ha) I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when we voted on marble jar prizes and ended up at "class pet"... I told them it would take a couple of times filling the jar and then tried to use just about every other positive reinforcement strategy I had up my sleeve rather than fill that marble jar... because honestly being a first year teacher is no easy job and I just wasn't sure I was up for the responsibility of a class pet yet.

Fast forward to December vacation when I received many generous holiday gifts from students and parents in my classroom. One of my little munchkins even purchased me a FISH TANK! .... Okay, okay kiddies... I'll take the hint. I gave in and purchased us a cute little goldfish and so, this week after quite the vote on what to name the fish, among options such as Lady Gaga, Old Man Jenkles, Geometry, and Goldy, we landed on Mr. Bubbles.
Now the man at the fish store told me the #1 reason fish die in classrooms is because they are overfed. I told my students the #1 reason Mr. Bubbles would get very sick is because it's too loud. Well that was a magical on-the-spot statement because now when I ring the bell, someone will say "guys it's too loud for Mr. Bubbles" and suddenly there is silence. Whatever works right?
"Dear Mom and Dad, This week in school we got a class pet goldfish named Bubbles. He blows bubbles when he's happy. I love him because of his tail and he also kisses me."
My favorite thing was watching all the students write about Mr. Bubbles in their Friday letters. This one just brought the worlds' biggest smile to my face... and then I actually laughed out loud when I took Mr. Bubbles' portraits before leaving work on Friday and he gave me some kisses, too!! :)
Last year I had the amazing opportunity to do missions work in the Dominican Republic not only once but twice! One of my very favorite things about the missions trips is the ability to make connections and relationships with people from different countries and places in the world. I met Daniela during the first of my trips, was so excited to be reunited during the second and we maintained a friendship via facebook/messenger since I have left the Dominican. Recently, Daniela came to America and during her time here spent a weekend with my family.

This was her first time seeing SNOW!!! How stinkin cool is that!? I mean I think I would prefer the beach, but seeing someone experience snow for the first time was amazing! I've also had this song from Frozen stuck in my head since I saw the movie the first time 3 weeks ago. (You should click and listen while reading the rest of this post). I was continually singing it around the house, in the car etc and really wanted to build a snowman. No Americans would build snowmen and play in the snow with me.....
.... but Daniela would! I would just like to point out that Daniela and I built this snowman, went sledding, made snow angels and had a snowball fight dressed in the outfits we wore to church (pictured above). My sister and my mentor from church joined in the fun after some begging, too.
It was magical.
Speaking of magical... Stacy and I are loving being a part of twenty royal bloggers with a specific interest in literacy (reading specialists, reading coaches, classroom teachers, etc.) that have come together for a collaborative effort to share information on best practices in literacy, keep you abreast of current trends, and provide you with excellent teaching resources at Adventures in Literacy Land!
Last but not least, we can't wait to participate in the Loving Literacy Blog Hop hosted by Carla at The Comprehension Connection. The hop will take place the weekend of January 31-February 2nd and you'll be able to connect with tons of literacy loving bloggers and read all about why we love literacy, about our favorite books, and some teaching instructions while gathering with TONS of freebies! We're so excited to be a part of such a fun blogging community! 

How was your first week back at school?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Please join us on our new collaborative blogging adventure.....introducing Adventures in Literacy Land!

It's here.  It's here.  It's finally here!  It's been over two months in the making, but today Colleen and I are able to announce the exciting launch of a new collaborative blog, Adventures in Literacy Land! 
Twenty bloggers with a specific interest in literacy (reading specialists, reading coaches, classroom teachers, etc.) have joined together in this effort.  This group represents more than 250 years of teaching experience in the field of literacy.  We plan to share information on best practices in literacy, keep you abreast of current trends, and provide you with excellent teaching resources.
Stop by Adventures in Literacy Land each day this week to meet the authors of this blog and read their introductory posts.  Be sure to enter the Blog Launch Giveaway for a chance to win one of four $25 Teachers Pay Teachers gift certificates.   In addition, EVERYONE who enters will win an exclusive prize pack which includes 20 FREEBIES!  Please join us on this new and exciting journey, friends!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Stacy's January Currently

Happy New Year 2014, Friends!  I am so excited to be linking up with Farley from Oh' Boy 4th Grade for her monthly Currently linky.  This month is especially special as I get to reflect on last year's events and aspire for the year ahead.
Aahhhhhh, I just discovered Pandora's relaxation radio station.  Although I kind-of wish that I was getting a full body massage while listening to this beautiful music, I am perfectly content snuggled up in my bed, my dog at my feet, and a cup of tea beside me.  The bonus is that my little guy is outside playing with his friends so it is perfectly tranquil in my house (at least for the next ten minutes or so).  I'm loving it!!
What a treat when my phone rang last night and our superintendent announced a snow day for today AND Friday!  WHOO HOOO!  We're expecting over a foot of snow over the next couple of days so lots of hot chocolate, snow angels, sledding, and snuggling by the fire with be happening at my house!  Thank you for the extra break, Mother Nature!
Colleen and I are thrilled to be starting a new adventure with other Reading Specialists, classroom teachers, and interventionists across the world.  We have joined a new collaborative blog that will concentrate on bringing our readers best practices in the field of literacy.  Please stop by the Adventures in Literacy Land's Facebook page or blog page for an exciting giveaway beginning January 6th.  You won't want to miss out on the awesome freebies we will be offering for our new followers!
Many people on Facebook have been sharing a word that exemplifies what their wishes are for the new year.  While thinking about this, I decided that the word "HOPE" best signifies what I am going to be striving towards in the new year for both personal and professional reasons.  It was pretty cool when I read my husband's Christmas card this year and found that without knowing it at the time, he had purchased the perfect card for me.  I love the way he put asterisks around my special word.
I part of my aspiration this year that complements my word HOPE, is finding better ways to deal with stress and feelings of unbalance in my life.  After doing a little research online, I discovered a really interesting form of yoga called Restorative Yoga that I had the opportunity to try out yesterday.  Without too much thinking (because I would have talked myself out of if), I signed myself up for a two hour Restorative yoga class yesterday.  I figured it was January 1st so it was the perfect day to start!  Wow!  I absolutely loved it!  Besides feeling tranquil, balance, and peace, I also felt like I had just received a two hour massage!  It was incredible!  Boy!  Did I sleep like a ROCK last night!  If you've never tried it, I highly recommend it!
Does anyone recognize this book from childhood?  My mother read it every Christmas Eve to my sister, brother, and I then we got to open up one present.  I don't know how we convinced her to do that!  Probably a lot of begging!  Well, I was PSYCHED when I found a tattered copy at a garage sale a few years ago.  Now my little guy has the pleasure of listening to the same story his mama did when she was a little girl.  Pretty cool!
Best wishes in the new year, friends!  May all your dreams and aspirations come true!!