Monday, March 31, 2014

Please please please take a minute to help my wonderful friends!!!

One of my dearest friends Stefanie and her husband Ryan are trying to adopt.  I cannot wait for the day when they finally get their own little buddle of joy.  That child will be one of the luckiest kids.  

I work with Stefanie and within a month of meeting her-  we instantly became great friends.  That is just who Stefanie and Ryan are-  very social and easy to love people.  Not only do they instantly become friends with everyone that they meet-  but they also have such a loving relationship as a couple.  They are the couple that you just want to "hate" with envy but you can't because they are just genuinely loving and hilarious people.  

So I ask this of you-  please take the 1 minute to like or better yet share their adoption Facebook page with others.  Not only will it fullfill your "good deed of the day". But you will help in connecting these amazing people with their future son or daughter.  

Thank you so much!!!!!

Hugs for your help,


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Independent Comprehension

This is probably one of my student's favorite times.  When that transition "Move it, Move it" song comes on and on the projector it says, "Come to the carpet.", My kids seriously start cheering.  They know that it is time for our whole group comprehension.

At the beginning of the year we learned many of the fantastic comprehension songs from Reading Power.  So often one of my students during our transition will start singing one of the songs:
*"When I read a story and my brain says, "woah" this part reminds me of my friend Joe.  It's called connect- da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da,da..."

It is just way too cute- I can't stop it and typically start singing along.   :)  I just love how they become pumped for comprehension time.  I will "hook" them anyway that I can!

Even though whole group is just 20 minutes I feel that so much goes into it.  I am going to start by highlighting what my kiddos do independently during "comprehension rotation" as I am teaching a guided reading group.

We use the Journey's reading series.  Each week there is a new mentor text.  I actually like these stories.  Each week there is also a comprehension assessment based off of the text.  The assessment is multiple choice and covers comprehension skills that we have already learned.  I made a little answer key to break down each question type for each test.

This took awhile but it is worth it.  No longer is this JUST a test for the sake of giving it but it is a tool to drive my instruction.  As students miss a question, I mark off the number so that I and my students can clearly see what skill they need to work on.  I involve my students in making a goal each Friday to work on during independent comprehension (formally my read to self rotation.)

Students place a sticky note on the goal sign that they want to have for next week. 
I plan to:
 1.  clean my board (gross!)
and 2.  update these to make them more cutesy this summer. 
*If students don't miss a question, they get to choose any skill to review.

During independent comprehension time- students use materials in their specific goal tub:

I have a drawer for each of the comprehension skills that we cover.  The drawer has matching pictures to the poster.  On the outside is also a QR code to a blendspace lesson.  If you haven't checked out blendspace- please do!  I am OBSESSED with it. 
I have always tried to incorporate videos/ photos in my lessons.  However it would take a long time because I would have 17 tabs opened on my computer.  I would go back and forth between, google images, youtube, google docs etc.  Blendspace has one search bar, you type in what you want to search for and down the right hand side are simple clicks to search all of those different places for that same information.  You drag what you want to almost a Pinterest looking "board" and everything that you want to teach a lesson is right there.  You can even make and embed assessments.  As long as your students sign in- it will send the results of the test and analyze them.  I ADORE this FREE program.  It is super fast and easy to use.
Here is a picture of what is inside the drawers:
There are Lakeshore games (These are taught in advance), some awesome task cards that I bought on TPT and also a paper graphic organizer.  Students can use the graphic organizer with any book.  If they choose this option- I have them bring the book to our "proud" meeting before lunch for me to look at it quickly.  On 2 computers we also have the choice of playing the electronic Lakeshore Comprehension games (there are only 4).
I am trying out a BYOT program the last half of the year.  So if my students have a technology device they can also choose to scan the QR code to go to a blendspace lesson.
Students are expected to finish their guided reading group "classwork" first before working on their goal.  If they finish all goal work.  I also have other materials like inferencing pictures available.
I'm not going to lie- this took a LOT of planning and preparation.  However this is one of the things that once you do it- it is finished and you shouldn't have to do it again. 
However I teach first grade and in reality I MIGHT have to replace some of the materials every few years.  Until now- just wiping clean with Clorax wipes should work well enough!  :)
I think that I need a "break" week once a month.  I have had so many things that I have wanted to share but it takes me about 2 hours or so to write a blog post and I am usually grading items or creating items until bedtime each night.  That is why I am super excited for Twitter.  Now I plan to take about 30 seconds every couple of days to take a picture of something and write a sentence.  During "break" weeks I plan on typing out these HUGE blog posts.  :)
@LaSotadanielle <-------- Twitter :) 
I finally feel hip.  :)


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

PBL Skype Project

I am very grateful to work with many terrific teachers that inspire me each day.

One of them is a fellow first grade teacher across the district.  She is technology guru and is always excited to try new things.  I am hoping that she starts a blog someday so I can "borrow" all of her ideas!

She wanted to try a PBL project together.  This was all her idea and I am grateful to join the ride!  Of course I have started "geeking" out and have offered tidbits along the way.  :)  This is true collaboration and thank goodness for the use of Google docs to make this all work well!  I will show you some of the items but unfortunately the items that we worked on together I cannot share since it was both of our brains put together.  :)

I have always wanted to try PBL.  I search and search and none of the ideas online really work well for first grade.  I was so thankful to my peer to reach out and ask me to join in hers.

First things first we both had to setup a Skype Account. 

Then we received this URGENT message a few Fridays ago:

Then we called each other with only an audio call.  (I have a video of this but I can't black out all of their little faces or my super "woke up late" hairdo.)  We quickly brainstormed some questions we could ask.  We asked them and made a messy note of it on the board.  After we organized our thoughts on these posters:

lol.  I had my projector on and the kids could see her last name was Simmons.  One of my kids said, "My parents watch Gene Simmons Family Jewels.  So maybe they are related to them."  So one of our questions was, "Are you related to Gene Simmons."  lol.  Talk about trying to keep a straight face!  Oh I LOVE my job!  :)
We heard the mystery caller say this word so we thought that it deserved a separate poster.
These are our predictions.  We discussed later what inference/ fact led to this prediction.  I should have written them down.
We discussed what they were inferring.  Boys and girls because they heard voices that sounded like them .  Then they knew that a group of boys and girls is usually a class.  Then they thought that they head a deeper voice and a girl voice.  They were assuming that they were adults therefore must be teachers that they heard.
The next week I had students work in partners and think about a good question to ask.  I had students debate between their questions and which would give more information.  Partners places their post-it-note question on this poster.  Then we voted on the top 5 questions to ask the following Friday.

The following Friday we asked our questions and then at the end were able to turn on the camera and see who was Skyping us.  We waved and said "hi" as a class. 

Then behind the scenes the teacher and I assigned pen pal partners for our class.  The next week we wrote letters to each other telling them about ourselves.  She has 28 kiddos so some of my kiddos had to have 2 pen pals. 

Here is a picture of one of my kiddos with his letters.  They made me laugh so much!  He dictated his thoughts for me to write.  Most of my other students wrote their own.

I made cut and glue fill in the name address labels.  I taught students where to place each one and we discussed what each item meant and the purpose for it on each letter.  Students glued them on the outside of the envelope and put their letter inside.  We also received letters from our buddies.  My students loved reading these.  After they read them they had to think of a question to ask their buddy based upon what information they learned by reading the letters. 

Then the students sat down and had a one-on-one google hangout chat with their buddy.  They just said, "hi" and asked their question.  Our pen pals each have their own computer as a part of a grant that their teacher wrote last year.  Unfortunately we don't so we just shared one computer.

The buddies will actually have a classroom buddy as well and they will form a team.  After Spring Break they will work in their teams on some projects.  They received a hint by watching these videos:

Then we discussed and looked at google images for what an architect uses to store all of their work.  Then I set out Pringles Cans, paper, a label that I had made, string, glue and tape out.  I told students that they were going to work in their class partners to make their own blueprint carrying cases.
They first had collaborate and decide on a color and design.  We have been working on group work all year so their compromises were awesome.  "Well you can pick the color and I get to pick what we draw."

OOPS.  I forgot to take a photo of the finished product before I left school.  I am going in tomorrow to help rearrange the classroom and set up our very own architect corner.  :)  I love this font- they are little graph paper lettering.  :)  I found it on TPT.  The background is a chevron corkboard.  Super cute too!  :) 


I also am going to buy a mailbox this weekend to setup for our pen pal mail delivery.  I wanted to buy a child sized drafting table sooooo bad but they are expensive!  So I'll just have to save up my money to maybe buy one next year.  :(  However I found some compasses and protractors at the dollar store to help set up the architect corner.  :)  I need a super crafty person to help me make my "vision."  :)

After break we will start our projects and keep our "plans" in our blueprint carrying cases. 

I am super excited to see how it all works out.  I'm crossing my fingers that it does!  :)

I am hilariously trying the Twitter thing-  I can see myself updating it more than the blog but for now it is just double dipping! 
I love the idea of just writing a sentence and quickly posting a pic.  Super easy!  :-)  please write yours in the comments so I can have more friends to follow and to inspire me.  :-)



A MUST read- you will NOT regret it!

I have been starting a lot of posts for about 2 months but am waiting for the finished products to post it. 

However I thought that many of you might be on spring break right now and might need a spring break read.  This book is utterly teacher life changing.  I think that when I learned about Power Teaching (now Whole Brain Teaching) that it completely changed my classroom management and how I teach.  This book is just like that. 

The book is:  Teach Like a Pirate. by Dave Burgess

It was recommended to me by one of my favorite people- my little tech friend. 

The first half of the book is a narrative when the author describes that YOU can be creative but you just have to change your questioning.  As I was reading it- I seriously was laughing out loud on the couch.  My husband gave me the strangest looks and I knew that he probably wouldn't understand.  The first half Mr. Burgess gives specific examples of what he does in his classroom to engage students.  I was instantly "hooked" while reading his book.  If I was a student in his classroom I probably would have actually understood history!  (By the way- he is a high school teacher and uses these techniques.)

Reading the first half would have been enough to inspire me.  However this book took it a second step which also happens to be the step missing from most of the PD sessions that I have attended; he gives MANY (I mean half a book worth) of specific examples of things that you can try in your classroom. 

Once I started reading the second half of the book, I went to my bag and grabbed my notepad (Is it just me that always has a notepad and 3-4 different colors/ sizes of post-it-notes in every purse/ bag?) and instantly started taking notes- college style.  (I bought the Kindle edition) 

I have been working hard on guided reading, word study and comprehension this year (which I am waiting on pictures to share with all of you!)  This book took my okay lessons -to my students favorite time of day.  They BEG for literacy time.  Do I feel silly like I did with Whole Brain Teaching?  Yes.  However the learning and the enthusiasm that occurs is well worth it. 

I now am walking through my house, store or classroom thinking:  How could I use this to engage my students?  What music can I play to set the mood?  I am learning to ask the RIGHT questions.

No matter if you teach elementary, middle or high school- I HIGHLY recommend this book!  I have already pestered half of my staff to buy it and read it. 

I feel that I am fairly good at using data to drive instruction, differentiation, classroom management (Okay not the neat and tidy part of it) but I feel that this is the next step in my teaching career.  Adding the hooks and engagement part to lessons and making my lessons memorable. 

For those of you on Spring Break- yay for you and those almost there- you will probably have nicer weather than I am now!  :)

I am back to working on literacy hooks and also making tons of QR codes!  :)