Sunday, August 31, 2014

Long time no talk... 2014-2015 Classroom Reveal

Well friends, it's been just about forever since Stacy and I have written a blog post for this little corner of the internet we call blogland. 

We have been more busy than ever and can't make any promises about consistent updates here but you can sure bet that when we write, you will know! :) In fact, if you hit that little button to the right that says "Click here to follow my blog on bloglovin", you'll never miss an update! Stacy is pregnant with TWINS! Though she is straight out exhausted a LOT, she is the world's best blogging buddy and she came to visit my classroom last week! I took some pictures of it before Stacy got there. You'll see a lot of familiar things from my 2013-2014 classroom but I also changed it up quite a bit!

Come on in...
 .... and then for the hallway! eeeekkkk I have to say, I'm in LOVE. I was inspired by A Year of Many Firsts and bought a class set of clipboards, painted them bright blue, put a name plate on each one and hung them up in the hallway so that my little second graders can proudly display their work all throughout the year! Get it? We're never "board" in second grade!.... oh well, my students won't understand my pun. But I think it's funny.
  Stacy has been teaching {cue everyone telling Stacy she's a crazy pregnant ladayyy for going to work} for almost a week now and I start this week! Kids come on Wednesday! 

Best wishes for a wonderful school year, friends!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sunshine and Springtime :)

Well, it's supposedly getting real close to springtime here in chilly New England. It's freezing still but things are seeming to look up in the sunshine category. I'm tellin' ya, the extra hours of daylight in the evening really are changing a lot for me. It's so much easier to come home from work and get a work out in and organize my life. I feel so much more accomplished recently... probably because I'm actually getting more done because I don't feel like it's bed time the moment I walk in the door from work at 5:00pm. 

Anyway.... speaking of sunshine, we have been nominated for the Sunshine Award by Terry Stoufer who we actually met through the SLANT box project as well as Carla Fedeler from the Comprehension Connection who we met through a collaborative group of Literacy Specialists. We blog together with Carla and many other amazing educators at Adventures In Literacy Land. Both women are phenomenal at what they do in the classroom and in the blogging world! :)
The Sunshine Award is a nod given to blogs that inspire or bring sunshine to one's day. It's an opportunity for those bloggers to then share a little personal information with readers. We feel grateful to be nominated. Today, Colleen will be sharing a little bit about herself. :) 
Thank you again, Terry and Carla! 
1. I'm a morning person. I'm in the parking lot of my school by 6:20am doing my morning devotions. 

2. This is my first year teaching. 

3. I'm obsessed with all things Africa....and I'd give anything to go back to Kenya as soon as possible. 

4. My favorite animals are pigs and orca whales. 

5. I don't eat pork, bacon, ham etc. solely because I want a pet pig. 

6. I snort when I laugh really hard or when I am poked in the side or taken by surprise. 

7. I love missions trips and serving as a youth leader at my church.

8. I sing really loud by myself all the way down the mass Pike at 5:40am. (Let It Go from Frozen is my current specialty). 

9. I love Disney World. like a little too much. 

10. I prefer lakes over oceans. And mountains over the beach.

11. I feel best about myself when I am doing something for someone else to make them smile.

1. What do you love about teaching?

  I love when students reach that uncomfortable feeling where growth and learning happen and they push through it.... I love hearing "ohhhhh I GET IT!" :)

2. What is your favorite strategy you use in the classroom?

  My class and I are loving Daily 5. Does that count as a strategy?

3. What advice would you give a new teacher?

  Keep going... and if you go home crying sometimes, it means you're doing a good job! This is advice I've gotten and it's so true! If I went home thinking I was doing everything right, I wouldn't be growing and learning and that's what teaching is all about.

4. What is one thing you would like to change in education, and why?

  Class sizes. They're SO big now.

5. What can you not live without in your classroom?

  My smartboard!!

6. What is your favorite children's book?

  The Giving Tree :)

7. What is the best advice you were ever given? (doesn't have to relate to education)

  Be present in whatever you are currently doing. 

8 What is your proudest moment in life?

  Accomplishing my goal of going to Africa... so I think it was when I was on the back of a motorbike up to my house in Njabini!!

9. What is your favorite restaurant and dish at that restaurant?

  Pepperocinis! Steak Tip Salad with Fanny's Light Dressing :)

10. What is one thing you'd like to change/redecorate in your home?

  I need to get rid of a lot of things in my room. It's too cluttered and I have too much stuff I don't need.

11. What is one thing you learned this school year?
 I can't change everything at once but faithfulness in what I am doing right now will be the greatest preparation for where God is taking me in my future. 
Jenny Garwood at Luckeyfrog's Lilypad
Andrea Crawford at Reading Toward the Stars
Tracy Tegeler at Creekside Teacher Tales
1. How long have you been blogging? Why did you start and what do you love most about it?
2. If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
3. Describe yourself in 5 words. :)
4. After school guilty pleasure?
5. What is something that can always always always make you smile?
6. What is one lesson you're learning right now?
7. Who has been your greatest role model?
8. Favorite type of music?
9. When do you feel best about yourself?
10. What is the one 'thing' you couldn't live without?
11. If you weren't a teacher, what job would you do?

Well, we're sure praying for more and more and more sunshine to come to New England. My kids are certainly in need of some quality outdoor recess time! Today we took laps around the playground in the middle of the day.... just one of those days, I guess! 

Have a wonderful remainder of your week, friends! We love learning from you and alongside you!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Stacy's Five for Friday and FREEBIE Fun!

I don't know about you, but I am OVER the polar vortex!  It has been such a crazy winter in the Northeast!  The poor kids are crawling out of their skin because they haven't been outside for recess in weeks due to subzero temperatures.  If I run 2 minutes late in the morning, I can't park in the lot because of the gigantic snow/ice mounds that block all of the parking spaces.  It's crazy!  I am in desperate need of a little sunshine and Vitamin D.  It's pretty sad that we were super excited at lunch today because it's going to reach 40 degrees this weekend.  It's been a LOOONNNGGGG winter!
BUT, I knew I could cheer myself up a little bit by linking up with Doodlebug's weekly linky party!  It's always nice to quickly capture and reflect on what I was up to during the week.  
Right now, the teachers in my building are in the midst of report card season which means assessment, assessment, ASSESSMENT!  Last year we moved to a standards-based report card which was a huge improvement from our outdated report card from 1982.  The positive of this reporting form is that it completely aligns to the CCSS however we struggle as a school to complete the needed assessments without taking away from instruction.  We are very fortunate at the primary level that the district provides one-day substitutes every quarter to help teachers administer these tests however, it is a struggle to complete every child in a day.  I would love to hear how other districts and schools tackle the assessment dilemma when using standards-based report cards.  Have you found a system that works?
Colleen and I have been incredibly fortunate to be part of the fabulous collaborative blog Adventures in Literacy Land.  If you haven't stumbled across this blog or facebook page, we encourage you to stop by!  We have teamed-up with some dynamic teacher-authors who are sharing best practices in the field of literacy every week.  In January, Colleen and I were able to share one of our favorite strategies to use with informational text called "Reading and Analyzing Nonfiction Text" or RAN for short.  RAN has proven to be an effective strategy to use with informational text as it encompasses both before, during, and after reading activities.  In addition, it requires students to use a variety of comprehension strategies including activating schema, confirming thinking, and asking questions.  This strategy can be done as a whole-class lesson, small group intervention, or independently using a graphic organizer.  To learn more about the RAN strategy, check out our blog post in Adventures in Literacy Land!  Grab a little freebie too!
If you are looking for additional ways to support informational text comprehension, you may also want to check out our post on the 3-2-1 strategy.  This "after reading" strategy can be used in both primary and intermediate grades in whole-class, small group, or one-on-one settings.  This strategy can be especially successful with struggling readers as it helps them comprehend, summarize, and retain information they've read.  To learn more about the 3-2-1 strategy and grab the supporting FREEBIE, check out last month's blog post!
This month Colleen and I had a chance to describe why answering and generating improves memory, integration and identification of main ideas, and overall comprehension.  Generating questions, however, does not always come naturally to students.  Some students can generate simple who, what, where, when types of questions, but have difficulty generating the more complex "how and why" questions that require more critical thinking.  A Question Creation Chart or Q-chart is a perfect tool to help students recognize and self-generate a continuum of questions ranging from simple "remember" questions through "understanding" and "evaluative" questions.  This chart is especially useful as it can be used with both literature and informational text.  To read more about how to use a Question Creation chart with your students and to download our FREEBIE, take a look at our blog post on Adventures in Literacy Land

I started back at my coursework this month in pursuit of my CAGS in Literacy degree.  TWO MORE CLASSES TO GO!!! I will be so excited at the end of June when I am finally done!  Although the courses have been great and I feel like my knowledge has grown, juggling work, home, and my coursework has been a balancing act!  This course will focus on new assessment research, the impact of the Common Core Standards on assessment, and how RTI instruction and assessment should work together.  I am looking forward to sharing new ideas and best practices based on what I've learned.
Have a wonderful weekend, friends! 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Colleen's March Currently

Hi friends!
Are you happy it's Friday? I sure am. It was a fun, but long week in the classroom! 
Today I'm linking up (about a week late) with Farley from Oh' Boy 4th Grade for her infamous Currently series.
Listening: I missed Grey's last night because I was asleep by 8:50... whoops! Except truthfully, this teacher was so thankful for that because I've been sick all week and super tired. I woke up this morning quite refreshed!

Loving: I get up at 5 each morning and leave my house by 5:40, get to school at 6:20 and wait in my car until 7:00 when the building opens! I'm absolutely loving that it's not pitch black with stars still in the sky when I leave my house now! The sun coming up earlier really helps me not only get up easier but I literally smile the entire way to work because I'm head over heels in love/obsessed with the sky and it's beautiful. 

Thinking: I'm still sleepy. And so I think a Friday afternoon nap would be the world's greatest. 

Needing: This one is pretty self explanatory... but like heyyyyy winter? we're done. I and everyone else here in New England is ready for you to leave us and we are ready for spring to come. I'm also getting sick of wearing pants and boots and much prefer dresses and flats. So... there's that. 

?????: This one was tough for me to think of a question and I highly doubt anyone will even guess this but the secret question I had was: What is the name of the Siberian Husky that came to visit my second graders today?!.... welp, he was 3 years old, absolutely adorable and named Teddy Bear Roosevelt. He's a sled dog and my kids and I were in loveeeeee. They asked if we could get a Siberian Husky for a class pet. First of all, how stinkin cool would that be? Secondly, no. 

How's your March going, teacher friends?

Monday, February 24, 2014

a february vacation update and a daily 5 freebie :)

Well everyone, its been just about forever since we've last posted. As you're all very much aware, life in the classroom around this time of year is just plain crazy. There's just so much to do and so little time. Plusssss this past week was February Vacation. Stacy spent some time with family in New York and had a wonderful time! :)

Friday after work I [Colleen] came home and was so motivated to get so much done over vacation... however... funny story: that motivation just continued to decrease throughout the week. I think the below picture is a pretty accurate depiction of why....
Can I get an amen?

Here's 10 things I did/made over break. Stick with me till the end, I promise I did some  2nd grade stuff in the process of sleeping and enjoying some time off!

1. Hired some youth groupers to correct papers for me. YUPPP. they're awesome.
they were paid in love, hugs and deep appreciation. <3
2. Drank some coffee with some beautiful friends....
3. Made these sweet potato creations [basically on repeat all week].... they're perfection. Here's where I found it.
Nailed it, pinterest!
4. Started this amazing book called Crash The Chatterbox by Steven Furtick. If the idea of hearing God's voice above all others resonates with you, go get this book ASAP. It's incredible.
5. Went to young adult small group on Wednesday night and made deli-flat individual pizzas. That was a strike of pure brilliance if ya ask me. (This post so far looks like all I do is read and eat..)
6. Went on a super long walk and soaked in all the stinkin vitamin D I could. Dear Punxsutawney Phil.... really? come on man... I'm way over this winter.
7. Listened to this awesome sermon while I walked and scraped ice off my driveway.
8. Baked some oatmeal breakfast muffins with my friend Emily. Found here...
....another strike of pure genius. These are great to take to work if you need something quick and healthy to grab (far too early) in the morning :) ps- add coconut..... sooo yummy!
9. Went ice skating.... Did some triple axle double toe loop twistys... ya know... :) I mean it's kinda casual but you can just call me Michelle Kwan....
Slash I may or may not have had to hold onto these guys. But only at first because I got the hang of it pretty quick. Champion status. 
10. Woke up every morning and told myself I should go to work and get things done....
.... and then didn't go. No picture to document that one, sorry....

But I did think a whole lot about Daily 5 centers in my classroom. As you may have read before here or here, this year has been a struggle with finding a way to do centers that works for my kiddos. I think I'm finally getting somewhere good. I've taken lots of ideas from lots of amazing bloggers and combined it with great advice I've gotten from those within my building. Here's what I started with...
But I realized that though it was working for many of my students it wasn't working well for all of my students. It's a little too sophisticated for some of my friends with all the choice involved. But it was a good effort. I used what I learned and made some changes... Here's what I've got now.
Now we move in 3 rotations each day. The center cards don't change but the name cards do each day. The kids are grouped together but not by reading groups. With this way of doing things I just call a different group each 15 minutes (and pray that I don't call people during their computer time because that's pretty much instantaneous water works). That way if their group is called they just leave the center they are currently at and come up to the table to meet me. We're on a 2 day rotation and I think it's working a lot better already.

Now getting onto the freebie! Thanks for sticking with me :)
I've also really enjoyed adding in some reflection to our Daily 5 time. At the end, all the students return to their seats and we fill out our station checklist (inspired by this amazing educator- who also just got a new blog design which is beautiful). On the front the students color in the stations that they went to that day and on the back we write sentences about 1 thing we are proud of and a goal for tomorrow. I love hearing the students share out about this at the end and support one another in both their proud moments AND "still working on" goals. It is something really special to see them clap for and congratulate each other with genuine hearts. 

Click on the pictures to be directed to the google drive doc. Or just click here
I copy them back to back.

Last thing...
(You're a CHAMP for hangin in there all the way to this point)
 There's a sale going on at TpT this week! Check out our store and be sure to stock up your carts!

Ps- any teachers out there have any requests for new Fundations sets for Stacy and I to create? We'd love to know what you're looking for and hear from those of you who have been using our sets in your classrooms! Leave some comments below! 

Happy week back from vacation, all.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A FABULOUS Five for Friday!

Hi Friends!  We hope that you all enjoyed your week!  We are breathing a little easier now that it's Friday!  Today we are linking up with Doodle Bugs to share what we were up to this week!
 Five for Friday
 So, we really can't complain TOO much about our week because we had an exciting SNOW DAY on Wednesday!  I'm pretty sure the entire state of Massachusetts shut down once again.  My son and I spent a very lazy day watching movies and making Snow Ice Cream for the very first time!  It was so much fun!  I only wish that we had a jar of hot fudge and a can of whipped cream to top off our creation!  Unfortunately, I was too lazy chicken to brave the elements to pick some up at the grocery store.
 Speaking of snow, here is a cute picture of Colleen's class braving the elements at recess this week!  Nothing stops us New Englanders from giving our kids some much-needed exercise during the week!  Kids, throw on your snow pants!  We're going outside!!
 On the other hand, we stayed nice and warm in the Reading Room practicing 'y' as a vowel and 'y' as a suffix this week in our phonics program.  I was so excited to finally take the "Mirror Mirror on the Wall" card game off the shelf to play!  Thank goodness my mother is a habitual coffee drinker as she donated a trash bag of coffee cans to house some of our games.  All the cans neatly line a shelf which make it easy to grab and for teachers to borrow.  If you haven't downloaded this FREEBIE yet, grab it today!
If you are looking for a really fun read aloud next week to celebrate friendship and Valentine's Day,  Colleen and I highly recommend one of our favorite books by mother-daughter team Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton (yes....THE Julie Andrews).  The Very Fairy Princess shares how love and imagination can go a long way towards solving problems, even on Valentine's Day.  This 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.
Finally, if you are looking for some fabulous ways to promote literacy and increase parent involvement in your classroom or school, our collaborative blog buddies at Adventures in Literacy Land  are sharing some dynamic ideas to improve the home-school-community connection!  

Enjoy your weekend, friends!