Sunday, August 2, 2015

August 2015 Currently

AUGUST?! When did August sneak up on us!? The countdown for school has begun! T-16 days for teacher workdays and T-23 days for students to start. Minor panic attack happening now!

Instead of preparing, I'm going to participate in Farley's August Currently!

Listening: Is there any show better than Gilmore Girls? I love watching this show over and over again.

Loving: Back to School Sale! On August 3rd and 4th use the code BTS15 and save up to 28%! My cart has 4 items in it right now waiting for tomorrow to be purchased! 

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Thinking: I got back from my trip to Maryland/Delaware yesterday and made my list of things to do before school starts. I only had 20 things on it. TWENTY! I'm ready to get to school this week in order to cross some things off of the list.
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Does this list make sense to anyone else?

Wanting: COFFEE. I need coffee! Someone bring me coffee!

Needing: Someone send me some motivation please! I might be heading to the beach instead :)Image result for workout meme

B2SRAK: Sometimes all others need is a smile. I can't wait to be back with my teacher friends!

Coming soon to the blog: A peek in my classroom. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Pins

I spent the past week waking up to drinking coffee on a porch with this view:
We had PERFECT weather on Fenwick Island, DE and spent every day in the sand and sun. I love being with my family and escaping from the everyday routine. I'm not quite ready to be back in Carolina yet, so I'm spending another week in Maryland with my family. Summer vacation is a BEAUTIFUL thing.
How to completely waste your time in PD sessions--blog post. Hilarious!
I fully believe in the statement above. I love, love, love Pinterest and all of you teachers who share your innovative ideas with others. This week, I thought that I would share some of my favorite pins with you!
The Classroom Key: Taking the Rocket Science out of Close Reading
I am amazed with how simple and easy to us this Close Reading Planning Sheet is. I can't wait to use it to streamline my small group lessons and goals for when we practice close reading. Best Part? Hannah at The Classroom Key has it listed as a Freebie!
Have a bucket of "Reading Buddies" for silent reading time. :)
Reading Buckets from Teacher by the Beach: 5th graders like to pretend like they're too cool for things they loved when they were smaller. They can't fool me though, I know that sometimes they just want to regress and become little kids again. Because of this, I'm thinking that they might love a stuffed animal to sit with when doing their independent reading. Also, this bucket is perfect for it. My only question/concern - lice?! I'm terrified of those little critters and don't want any part of them. Does anyone have any tricks/tips to prevent lice from jumping from random heads to these animals?
strengthen, build, change/fix schema
Schema File Interactive Anchor Chart: We talk about activating our schema a lot with both fiction and non-fiction, especially when making inferences. I tend to have students make many KWL charts, because they easily allow me to see their prior knowledge and get them thinking about the topic of a passage. I like this chart as an alternative. We know our students a filled with minor and major misconceptions. By including this category, we challenge our readers to analyze their prior knowledge.
What a great activity to add to during a Science or Social Studies unit!
Google "Keyboard Template" and print on colored paper, laminate and you've got Word Work for a day!
Keyboards for word work! At my school, we have very limited access to technology. So, our fifth graders are VERY slow when they type. I'm willing to bet that they would buy into spelling and vocabulary practice if they get to "type" out their words. We also love to use Quizlet so this can be an easy alternative once computers run out.
When my high school students ask a question no one in the class knows (including myself), they can put it up on the Google Board. Students can bring back a written answer to one of the questions of their choice each week for extra credit, or whatever incentive you choose. They get really excited when a question comes up that they can put on the board and find out the answer to later...
Google Board: My students tend to ask the craziest questions that I never have the answer to. My typical response is, "find out the answer tonight, share with us tomorrow, and you will get________________." Only rarely do the students and I remember the next day what our question was the day before. I like that this board can serve as an anchor to our challenging questions.
I'm super excited to implement these next year! What have you been pinning on Pinterest?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Beach Teach Goes to the Beach

I'm on the road again! I'm heading from my beautiful North Carolina beaches to the slightly further north beaches of Delaware with the family.
In celebration of my escape, I'm throwing a sale on TeachersPayTeachers!
From July 20-July23, my entire store will be on sale. Be sure to check out some of my newest products:
Root Words and Affixes Word Wall
5th Grade ELA Common Core Vocabulary Word Wall
5th Grade Common Core Exit Slips Assessment Bundle - ALL S
5th Grade Common Core Exit Slips Assessment 5.NF
5th Grade Common Core Exit Slips Assessment 5.MD
5th Grade Common Core Exit Slips Assessment 5.G
5th Grade Common Core Exit Slips Assessment 5.OA
Is anyone else traveling this week? Where are you heading?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Summer Reading: Jan Richardson's "The Next Step in Guided Reading"

I am loving this summer! On top of my traveling, I've had the chance to catch up on many of the books that have been on my list for the past year. One of those books is Jan Richardson's "The Next Step in Guided Reading." It was recommended to me by our curriculum coach early this year, but I just never found the time to read it during the school year.

First, a little background:
- Last year was my first year teaching Reading. Our school departmentalizes, so for my first two years I taught Math and Science. Last year, I took on Reading (one of my classes being AIG) and kept Science. I LOVE teaching Reading.
- Because we departmentalize, we have a 90 minute literacy block. 90 minutes for reading, writing, and grammar. In order to try to fit everything in, I ran literacy stations last year. Each student went through 4 stations each day - Writing, Vocabulary/Grammar, Reading/Reading Response, and Teacher Time. I was able to meet with each group every day. However, I think that my students felt overwhelmed.
- I didn't do nearly enough modeling, because with literacy stations, I had a strict schedule to keep to and often set students free before they were ready.

So, I made time to read what was suggested to me. It really was an easy, practical read.

Realization #1: I didn't do nearly enough assessment/progress monitoring. 

5th grade in NC only mClass tests our bottom 20% of students. For me, that was 8 students. Those students were progress monitored consistently and I really kept up with their data (because I had to). For the other 32 students, I relied on iReady (online program) and district benchmarks. I knew that I should be doing more - but WHEN!?

Jan Richardson suggests different assessments depending on your students' general levels. She gives instructions on how to administer and score the assessments. Next year, I WILL be doing running records with retell/comprehension check for all of my students. I also will do a word study inventory - reading aloud a list of words to determine phonics skills that students need.

Realization #2: Some of my kiddos still need phonics and other basic decoding strategies.

When a 5th grader is reading on a 1st grade level, I need to dig into the 1st grade toolkit to help those students. 

Richardson's book has 4 different models for guided reading lessons - Emergent (pre-A -C), Early Guided Reading (D-I), Transitional Guided Reading (J-P), and Fluent Guided Reading. Next year, I'll write each groups' plans following the models.

Realization #3: I don't have to meet with every group every day.
This took me a minute to wrap my head around. I still had literacy stations in my mind. If I don't meet with every student every day, then students will not get to each station and that's just not fair if I'm giving grades. So, I'm throwing my literacy stations out the window next year. Instead I'm going to steal those creative teachers' ideas of Must do/May do assignments. My plan for now is to have students in partners as they work through activities.

Blog: A Day in the Life of a Classroom Teacher
Realization #4: While I need students to write in response to their reading, I also need to have as much of a separate writing workshop as possible.
Right now here is my thinking for scheduling:

So, there it is. My plan for mastering the 90 minute literacy block. Anyone else out there who has a 90 minute literacy block? Anyone read Jan Richardson's book before? Any suggestions? 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

July Currently

Summer! Where did you go?! I can not believe that summer is halfway over. I kept promising myself that this summer I would really get back on my blogging schedule. What better way to start than with Farley's Currently Linkup?!

If you haven't been sucked into PLL yet, login to your Netflix account and watch it NOW. Murder, love, ridiculous teenagers - what could be better? 

Though I am loving all of my traveling, I am so glad to be sleeping in my own bed again for the next couple of weeks before I hit the road again!

Who is going to help me with my want and need this month!? I need to get some laundry done, but it's still just sitting there. I'm WANTING to stay on top of this blog - someone help me do that! I love the escape that writing gives me, but I also am an expert at coming up with excuses.

Good news: I just finish Jan Richardson's The Next Step in Guided Reading. It was filled with practical suggestions that I can't wait to use next year. Tune in next week for a post sharing my excitement about the book!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Preparing for a Substitute

Teachers are the worst about calling out sick. You will see a teacher at school half-dead before he/she forces him/herself to write out sub plans to stay in bed all day. Unfortunately, we can't be in the classroom everyday. Teachers are sent to (or volunteer to go to) professional development, conferences, and meetings. This year, I've been out of the classroom a total of 5 days (2 days at a conference, 1 day at a district PD, and 1 day taking 6 of my lovelies to the county science fair).

Tomorrow, I am forced to add a half day to that list to attend a PD (on what, I'm honestly not sure). Luckily, tomorrow I have a substitute that my students love, that I love, and that is around our school constantly so she knows the routines. However, like most teachers, I'm a bit crazy when it comes to sub-plans. I leave way too much work and the most specific details you can imagine!

It has taken me a while to perfect my sub-plan format. I tried the cute binders (but I'm not organized enough for that) and I tried just listing our schedule and activities (and quickly realized that I had a sub who had no clue about our routines).

Then I created the format I have now. One day, we were short a substitute and our Parent Facilitator had to take over for a little bit. Her response to my plans? "I was so worried! But then I saw your lesson plans for dummies and I felt okay!" Almost every time I have a sub now, I get a note about how detailed my plans are.

The great thing is, they're nothing fancy! At the beginning of the year, I type in our schedule and just fill in the blanks as I go.


Remember when I said they are NOTHING fancy?

Save yourself the stress and hassle and make the rough outline now, so that when you need it, you don't have to think as hard!

Hopefully this will make your life and your substitute's life a little bit easier. :)

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Over the last couple of weeks, I've heard my students use a word that I personally hate...the r-word. I have to admit, I was an avid user of the r-word as a synonym for "stupid" for quite a bit of time until a friend of mine (Shout out to Rachel - Undercover Diva) made me realize how ludicrous the r-word is. I can remember times of her getting into SCREAMING matches with strangers because they used it incorrectly.

Anyways, after hearing students say the r-word multiple times and responding constantly with "do not use that word!" I realized that I say the same thing when students say "stupid" or "shut-up" and it is essentially ineffective. So, I did better.

Spread the Word to End the Word is a national campaign sponsored by the Special Olympics. I started with their website when looking for resources.

I left about 20 minutes at the end of class for our discussion about the r-word. I wish that we had spent the WHOLE time because it evolved into something more powerful than I could have ever imagined. 

I gave each student a sticky note and told them to write down what the it means when they say "That's so (r-word)." They stared at me. I assumed they thought it was a trap, so I had to add the qualifier: "You will not get in trouble for what you write." The pencils scribbled down their answers: 

I made my class clown look up the definition in the dictionary. Still, no reaction from the students. Then I made it personal. You see, we have a student in fifth grade with severe special needs. 

"What would you do if someone called [Bobby] stupid, or dumb, or idiot, or ridiculous?" 
Class clown's response? "They'd never walk again!"

Here we go! Now we've got some sort of emotion. "Wait Ms. S! Are you trying to say that we're calling [Bobby] stupid? Because you know we'd never say that!"

I never was able to respond to that question because they began to talk it out themselves. 

"I guess we are kind of calling him stupid if we're saying the r-word means the same as stupid."
"What if [Bobby's] mom heard us saying that? I would feel terrible!"
"Who started to use that word as a bad word?"

When there was a lull in the conversation, mainly out of confusion because I had just blown their precious minds, I told them I had a couple of videos I wanted them to watch. The two below are the ones that we watched, but has TONS of videos including some by celebrities. 


Before we left, I wanted to really clarify what I meant by "don't use that word." I told the students that there are words that you should never use and there are words like shut-up and stupid that may be acceptable at their houses, but aren't school words. "The r-word is a word that you should NEVER use! It is now your responsibility to spread the word. If you hear someone say it on the bus, you have to tell them to stop and why they should stop. Remember, you didn't listen to me until we talked about why!" 

We ripped up, stomped on, and threw away those sticky notes from the beginning of our discussion. 

I can't remind the students of our conversation every day. I can't always be with them to help them make the right decision. However, I hope that if they say it or are thinking about it, I'll be that annoying angel on their shoulder making them think twice.