Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Information Overload

I only have one more day of school until I can officially say that I survived a half year of teaching!  Hooray!  J  As my wonderful teammate put it (or sang it, rather), “It’s the final countdown…”  Can you tell that I’m ready for break?!? 
I’m sorry that it’s been so long since my last post.  Life has been stress-FULL (and that’s the understatement of the year – ha)!!!!  Here are some statistics for you:  In the past two weeks, I’ve spent 7 days Dibels benchmark testing all the students in our school.  If you take roughly 600 kids and divide that by 4 (how many people that were available to help with testing), you get the number of students that I tested (about 150 or more).  Multiply that number by 3 (because you have to give each test 3 or 4 times) and you get 450.  450+ tests.  That’s reading the standardized test directions 450 times, listening to the same stories being read 30 times each (5 grade levels (1st-5th), 150 students, 3 stories per test), and having to score and input all that data into the computer.  Not only did I memorize the test directions this time around, but the first three sentences on each passage as well.  Can you say brain-fryage?!?   See- I don’t even know what kind of word that is?  Noun?  Verb?  Adjective?  Adverb?  Point made. 
Besides testing, I have been adjusting to my new first grade reading group (and they have been adjusting to me).  I was lucky enough to still get to teach them during my crazy week of testing, but it made for even more of an interesting week.  I have a wide variety of behaviors in this new group and am finding ways to best handle them so that the maximum amount of learning can take place.  After spending a few days with this group, I quickly realized that I was going to need to come up with a new management system – one with instant gratification.  So… here’s what I came up with: 
I spent two hours after school this week making die-cut shapes for this new behavior management system.  What I decided is that students can earn a sticker every time I catch them doing an exceptional job being on-task, engaged, and ready to learn.  Once they earn 10 stickers, they get to trade their die-cut shape for a HOWL ticket (our school’s positive behavior support (PBS) model).  These HOWL tickets are saved and can be spent on cool prize items.  The students in my class were thrilled when they earned their 10 stickers and were proud to flaunt their completed, sticker-filled die-cut shape.  However, what I quickly realized is that I was going to need a lot of stickers!  And this sparked my need for a trip to the Dollar Store!
Let me just say one thing:  I LOVE the Dollar Store!  You can buy so many neat things for the low, low price of $1!  Amazing- I know!  J  The Dollar Store closest to my apartment has a fabulous selection of teacher supplies (all of which I think I need), so I tend to go a little crazy when I walk down that aisle in the store.  Not to mention the super-duper sticker section!  I ended up spending a total of $42 in my wonderful little trip to buy stickers.  How do you even do that?!?  $42!!!  I feel like that might be a little ridiculous, but I guess that I can justify it and say that I got 42 items for $42.  J  I always end up buying way more than I need.  Next time, I know what aisle I’m going to avoid going down.  Haha. 
Lately I’ve been a bit impulsive… buying things that I don’t need, such as blue and silver crackle nail polish (and yes, I painted my toe nails blue and put the silver crackle over them – and even bought some deep magenta for my fingernails! – I almost never paint my nails, so this is a very rare occasion!!!!), 3 bags of candy for the new candy dish that I bought to put inside my desk drawer (another impulse buy from the Dollar Store – I’ll probably regret this later), and an entire large cheese pizza just for myself (I ate it as I drove home from the Dollar Store – Little Caesars was right next door).  I even styled my hair 10 different ways in the past 10 days, which if you know me at all, I style my hair pretty much the same exact way every single day (I just got a haircut and can’t decide what to do with my hair… I’m trying to figure out a style that works best).  I guess I was just trying to spice things up a bit… Maybe it’s all the stress that I’ve been under. 
On the upside of things, I found my grade book that I thought I misplaced, finished report cards, re-organized my room (both at home and at school), created 4 different binders to help organize the paper catastrophe that kept coming home with me in my teacher bag, and got the vast majority of my Christmas shopping done.  Yeah!  And the best news of all… break is only one day away!!!!  I’m going to miss my kiddos, but I think the break will be refreshing for everyone.  J 
So… on that happy note, I’m going to get ready for my last day of school for the year and get some sleep.  I might even try going to bed before midnight tonight!  Good night!!!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

To Infinity and Beyond...

It was frigid out today… a high of 12 degrees (and I’m not even sure it made it to that!).  Right now, I’m sitting in bed, wrapped in all the blankets I can find.  My hands are still thawing out as I type this.  Can you say BRRRRR?!?!?  Anyways… that’s beside the point.  As some of you know, this past week was the first week with my new first grade reading group.  I spent many, many hours at school (and at home, plus the past two weekends (eek!)) preparing for this group, but let me just tell you, things definitely did not go according to plan!  But first, let me catch you up on the big events up until that day last week…
I wanted the last day with my “old” reading group to be special.  They had worked so hard and I was distraught that I would no longer be their teacher anymore.  L  We had grown so close after spending so much time together!  So, I decided to surprise them with a class “party.”  J  I usually have cafeteria duty during the time my kids are at lunch, but I got it covered and brought my kids to the classroom for lunch.  And they loved it!  But that wasn’t the only surprise I had up my sleeve…
For weeks, my kids had been begging me to bring them Takis (a type of spicy chip, like Hot Cheetos, but “better” – ha).  I couldn’t find Takis the last time that the class earned their party, so I went on a mission to find them.  Sure enough, I found the shiny purple bag staring at me down the chip isle in the Walmart right by school.  I bought two big bags and concealed them in a large canvas bag.  I told the kids I had a little magic trick and VOILA – 2 bags of Takis mysteriously appeared!  The group went wild!  It was like they were seeing snow for the very first time.  J 
Lunch was coming to an end, so I sent everyone back to the cafeteria to dump their trays.  Little did I know what a mess it would leave behind!  There were little red fingerprints everywhere (even after I gave them hand wipes!).  I guess I learned that lesson the hard way.  Lol.  Even with all the mess, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world!  The look on each of my student’s faces was that of pure joy!  It made everything worth it! 
We finished up the day with a class picture (or I guess I should say pictures).  We did a few normal ones and then saved the funny ones for last.  And, let me tell you, the “funny” ones were hysterical!  So many different facial expressions and poses (but so characteristic to each one of my students)!  Love it!  I gave each of my kids a hug goodbye.  One of my first graders put it perfectly...  She gave me a huge hug and said, “I’m going to miss you to infinity and beyond!”  How precious is that?!?  I will miss that group “to infinity and beyond” but I know that they will go on to do amazing things!
After school, it was time to get down to business.  If I were to rate my stress level on a scale of 1 to 10, it would’ve been a 31.  Haha – not really, but it would’ve been right around an 8.7.  I was feeling a wee bit overwhelmed with all that I had to have done before the arrival of my new group.  I spent about 10.5 hours at school that day, plus another 12 hours at school the next day preparing.  I felt like I was repeating the first day of school!  *Rewind!*
Definitely an interesting day!  Let’s see… it started with the kids not knowing where to meet me in the hallway, plus only half the group being there at our meeting time, so we had to go on a little scavenger hunt to find the other kiddos that were going to be in my group – there was definitely no way that they would’ve found my room on their own (you have to go through the office and through the workroom to get to the conference room – A.K.A. my classroom!).  Once we arrived, I had the kids sit on the carpet, while I learned their names, shared a little bit about myself, and started discussing rules/expectations.  In the middle of my class read-aloud, a student raised his hand and said that he had to go to the bathroom.  I dismissed him from the group and reminded him to take the pass before he left.  No more than 10 seconds after leaving the room, he came sprinting back in the room panting, “I don’t know how to get to the bathroom from here!”  Hoping that someone could show him, I asked someone to be his buddy, but, as it turned out, no one knew how to get there!  Class Field Trip!
We finally made it back to the classroom after a class bathroom break.  My students thought it was the coolest thing that they got to use the 2nd and 3rd grade bathrooms (the 1st grade bathrooms are too far of a walk from my room), which meant that students were “needing” to use the bathroom as much as possible.  I can’t tell you how many kiddos wanted to go use the bathroom after our class field trip/bathroom break just because it was down a different hallway!  Haha.  Only in first grade!
That afternoon continued to be filled with fascinating endeavors.  I had a student who kept forgetting my name, so every time he wanted to get my attention, he would yell, “Miss I-don’t-remember-your-name, I have a question!”  So funny!  Then in the middle of one of his questions, he lost his tooth.  It just came right out!  The entire class was astonished by how this could’ve even happened, so they all decided to investigate the situation further.  I can tell who is going to be a future dentist in my class!  J  I sent the student to the office to get a container for his tooth.  You can only imagine the uproar and excitement when he came prancing back into class sporting a brand new tooth necklace! 
After we finally regained our focus, 2 students waved their hands with their fingers crossed (meaning they had to go to the bathroom).  When I told them that only one person could go at a time, they both exclaimed that it was an emergency and if they didn’t go right then, they would have an accident in their pants (and it did look like they really needed to go…)!  Reluctantly, I let them both go use the bathroom, hoping that they could help each other find their way back to class and told them they had to come back within 4 minutes.  What was I thinking?!?  They ended up being gone for over 10 minutes when I finally called someone from the office to go search for them.  And guess where they found them?  Dancing, twirling, and spinning down the 2nd and 3rd grade hallway!  Seriously?!?  I just had to laugh.  It was that kind of day.
Even though we got off to a kinda-sorta chaotic start, I realized what a truly wonderful group I have.  They say and do some of the funniest things and always give me a reason to smile.  I’m so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with this new group and help them become readers!  I have lots of learning to do, but isn’t that what teaching is about?!?  Lifelong learning!?!  I think so!  I’m so glad that I get the opportunity to learn and grow right alongside my students.  It’s going to be a fantastic year! J “To infinity and beyond!!!!” 

Monday, November 28, 2011

The 3 Rs

If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you would notice that life has been a little bit on the crazy side of things for me (but when is it ever not?!? Ha!).  Lately, there have been oodles and oodles of changes and new things for me to learn and all of this, at times, can be overwhelming.  However, with Thanksgiving break happening this past week, it’s given me a chance to rest, relax, and reflect.  With all of this “extra” time, I’ve made quite a few realizations.  I’m thankful for… EVERYTHING!!!!  Life is simply wonderful!
Life is loaded with challenges, but I’m so glad to have encountered each and every one of those challenges.  I would not be as fortunate and grateful for the life I lead today if these challenges never presented themselves.  Each and every experience I have had in my life has shaped who I am today and has made me proud to be here on this earth doing exactly what I’m doing.  I can’t help but feel blessed every single day for my family, friends, students, career, and good health to be able to enjoy all of these things.  I am inspired each and every day by these blessings! 
I am truly blessed!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Roller Coaster Week

If you take a look at my previous post, you would see that life seemed to be headed towards the upward mend.  However, it quickly took an unusual turn!  Needless to say – it was an interesting week!  Haha.  I won’t go into detail but I’ll give you a hint: bathroom stalls, all-out brawls, and poor choices galore…  I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination.  You can tell it’s about time for break! 
On a positive note- I have some funny stories to share! 
1.  I had a student ask to borrow some scissors and a glue stick for a project he was doing.  I reluctantly gave them to him, making him promise to bring both items back the next day.  When I went to pick up my first grade group in the hallway, I see this student standing with a stack full of papers up to his nose, along with the glue stick and scissors in his hands.  He greeted me by placing his “project” in my hands and eagerly awaited my response.  He showed me each of the different creations that he had been working so hard on… some snowflakes, some drawings, some “presents” (glued pieces of paper that I had to open to see what was inside), and a picture frame, all complete with a bag of shapes (a ziplock bag crammed full with scraps from each of his creations).  I had a total of 30 “presents” made for me. I could tell that he had spent the majority of his evening on this.  How thoughtful!  J 

2. When teaching the after-school program this week, a student exclaimed, “I have to go to the bathroom really bad!”  So I told him that he could go use the restroom.  His response, “I’m just going to hold it until I get home.  The toilets at school scare me – they are so loud and make me feel like they are going to suck me in!”  Poor guy!  I told him there was nothing to be afraid of and that all schools have powerful toilets because so many people use them.  I also told him that I had never heard of anyone getting sucked into a toilet.  I hope that he can get over his fear!  It would be awfully uncomfortable (and unhealthy) to have to hold it all day every day!

3. Friday was a rough day behavior-wise!  After reminding my kiddos of our classroom rules and having a brief discussion about respect, one of my students raised her hand wanting to contribute to the discussion.  This is what she shared, “You have to do a lot of work because you’re a teacher.  That’s why kids shouldn’t be disrespectful because you work so hard!”    And these are the words of a first grader!  Love it!  J       
Even after a rough day, my students never cease to put a smile on my face!  They really do remind me of the exact reasons why I teach and always keep me looking at the bright side of things! 
Have you smiled today?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Just Breathe

If I were to describe my week in one word, I would choose “AHHHHH!!!!!” Ok – I guess that’s not the best word choice, but my week was definitely CAH-RAY-ZEE!   Last week was probably one of the toughest weeks I’ve experienced thus far in my teaching career.  So many changes, challenges, and emotions… I can officially say that I had reached the disillusionment stage on my first-year teacher stages graph.  Lol.  Thankfully, with all these new changes and challenges also come new opportunities.  I’m still trying to get a good handle on things and make a plan to move forward, but I know one thing is for sure… I will be the best teacher I can be!  Nothing can stop me! 
In my previous post, I spoke about change.  Change is everywhere… it is constant.  We must embrace change if we are to reach our fullest potential.  Our school has been undergoing a lot of change lately.  One of the key changes has to do with how we group our students for reading.  Currently, I have a group of 16 above-level first graders that I spend the majority of the school day with (approximately 3 hours).  Because our grouping model is changing, I was told that I would no longer be getting to work with this group, but instead an entirely new first grade reading group.   From what I’ve been told, my new group will be made up of well-below grade level readers.  The majority of these students are non-readers that are still working on learning their letter sounds and learning how to decode and blend CVC words.  This is going to be a complete 180 degree turnaround from what I am teaching now… I have lots of learning to do, but am excited for the challenge!  J
The thing that I’m worried about most is that I’ll be letting down my current reading group kiddos.  We have formed such a close-knit bond and have learned so much together!  My kiddos keep me smiling every single day and remind me of the exact reasons why I teach.  I love each and every one of them and appreciate all the things they have taught me and continue to teach me.  I’m going to miss the group I have now, but am so fortunate that I get the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many kids and in the lives of those that need it most!  As one of my BFFs said, “Even though those kids who won’t have you as a teacher are at a loss, the new ones just received a huge blessing!”  Thank you SB!  And for that, I can only hope!  J
Thankfully, this week has already begun on the upward mend.  First and foremost, I taught a successful lesson on summarizing (a skill that my 2nd grade group has been struggling with – and they got it!  Woohoo!) and I made it home before 6pm today (I know – a new record!)!  I tell ya… it’s in the littlest things where you can find the most joy!  J   
Yesterday, we had an all staff meeting where we competed in the Network Olympics.  This is an annual event designed to boost staff morale and build new relationships with co-workers that you normally don’t see or get to work with during the day.  The staff was mixed up and divided into 6 different teams where we competed in games such as Name that Tune, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?, and Minute to Win It.  Everyone on the team got to compete in at least one challenge to try to earn the team points.  My challenge, you ask?  Face the Cookie.  Each player was given a cookie that they were to place on their forehead.  Without the use of hands, the players had to use their facial muscles to slide the cookie down their face and into their mouth.  And guess what!?!?!  I did it!!!!!  J 
Even though this took time out of everyone’s extremely busy schedules… there wasn’t a person I saw without a smile on their face as we left the meeting.  My principal put it best (this is paraphrased, but quoted from the best of my memory), “We are a family.  Having fun and laughing together is something families do best.”  He went on to say (paraphrased, of course), “It’s in the little moments we find joy.  As I look back on my week, I’ve found at least 10 moments where I can say, “This is why I’m here and I’m proud to be here.”  I hope that each of you can find these moments every day.”  I left that meeting feeling so inspired and ready to take on the world!  So, I leave you with this… a small moment where I found joy and could say, “This is why I’m here and I’m proud to be here.” 
Yesterday I was given the opportunity to observe another teacher during my first grade literacy block.  I gained a lot of new insight; however, I was only able to be with my first graders for a total of 45 minutes out of the day.  One of my sweeties came up to me and excitedly exclaimed, “I can’t wait for tomorrow!”  My response: “Why is that?”  Student: “Because tomorrow we get to spend more time with you!”  Me: *all smiles* ...And that right there is one of those moments where I could say, “This is why I’m here and I’m proud to be here!”  I am a teacher and am happy to know that I am making a difference.  J 
Happy day, sweet friends! 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Season of Change

I absolutely love, love, LOVE getting an extra hour in my day today - I just feel like I can be so much more productive with that extra hour!  I’m getting observed tomorrow – my first formal observation (eeek)!  I’ve been preparing all day, along with planning for the week ahead, so in order to avoid too much brain fry-age, I’m taking a little break to write you this post (this is how I’m choosing to spend my extra hour – lol).  J  If only we had an extra hour added onto everyday…  Haha. 
Life is full of change!  Change is an absolutely normal and essential part of life.  If everything stayed the same, life would be boring - Hence the phrase, “Variety is the spice of life!”  Lately, things have been spicin’ up in my classroom!

Hot Tamale Words
I try to encourage my students to notice and use vocabulary words in their daily language.  In order to increase their motivation in doing this, I made the decision to give students who can correctly use these vocabulary words Hot Tamales.  An idea similar to this was shared in a classroom management class that I took, but here’s how I decided to adapt it for my class:  If students can incorporate the vocabulary word in their writing, answer questions verbally with the vocabulary word in a complete sentence, and/or identify the vocabulary word in their reading and tell me what it means, they will receive a Hot Tamale.  I implemented this system this week and my students absolutely love it (not to mention that they are developing a deeper understanding of all of our vocabulary words)!    

Can you believe that Halloween was this past Monday!?!?!  How time has flown!  Our school decided to celebrate and have our parties at the end of the day last Friday.  Since I don’t have a homeroom, I decided that my time would be best spent by visiting the classroom parties that all my students were a part of.  I am proud to share that I successfully made it into every one of my students’ classrooms… a total of 12 parties!  I gathered all sorts of party ideas and have never seen so much candy and sweets in my entire life!  It was weird not having a homeroom class to celebrate with, but I could tell that each and every one of my students were enjoying the festivities (and all the treats, of course)!  What a fun-filled day! 

Stellaluna Bat Folders
Since it was Halloween on Monday, I figured it would be the perfect time to read my second graders the book Stellaluna.  They LOVED it!  We are currently completing a multiple-day unit on this book and creating bat folders!  Check it out…

This is what we’ve done so far, but our completed bat folders are going to include facts and opinions, a venn-diagram comparing/contrasting all the different animals mentioned in the text, a sequence-of-events booklet, a written summary, and a few other things.  My goal was to get my students to analyze this text and practice using and responding to different levels of questioning (Bloom’s Taxonomy), which my students seem to be doing a wonderful job with!  J 

Wild Weather Wednesday
Exactly one week later and another SNOW DAY… or so I thought!  I woke up to about 6 inches or more of snow, unplowed roads, power outages, and frigid temperatures… the perfect combination in the making for a snow day.  Naturally, I jumped out of bed, turned on the tv, and watched the weather closures scroll across the bottom of the screen.  Practically every district in the state of Colorado was closed.  I kept waiting for our district to appear, but I didn’t see it – I must’ve missed it!  At that point, I couldn’t bear to watch any longer… it would be much more efficient to pull up the district webpage, so that’s exactly what I did.  I typed in the web address and this is what appeared at the top of the screen, “All schools will be operating on a normal schedule today.”    What?!?  I re-read it.  Twice.  Not even a delayed start!  I guess the odds weren’t really in our favor either – to think we could have two snow days, exactly one week apart.  Now that’s some wishful thinking!  A girl can dream!  Haha.
Honestly, I really didn’t mind going into school.  I had a lot to get done – especially with falling so far behind from being out from school for three days last week.  It has taken a lot to get caught up (and I’m still not completely caught up!), but I’m getting closer and closer each day.  The most important and most enjoyable part of my Wednesday… I got to see the kiddos!  They can always put a smile on my face! J

Hair-do (or should I say hair-don’t)
I had a ton of stuff to prepare Friday morning, so I decided to set my alarm for 5:15am so I could go into school early to finish all the things I needed to get done. Well… being extremely exhausted from the busy week, I turned off my alarm and fell back asleep.  I didn’t wake up until almost 7am (around the time that I usually leave for school!!!!)!  I took a super speedy shower and then decided that it would be easiest and most time-efficient to pull my hair back into a pony-tail.  Little did I know what a huge distraction that this would cause… haha. 
When I went to pick up my first graders, they were in pure shock.  Some of them started laughing and others shouted, “Whoa!  You look different!” or “You changed your hair!!!!” or “Did you get a haircut?”  Too funny!  I then walked them into the classroom, where they were still curious about my new look!  I was flooded with compliments about how beautiful I looked and how much my new hairstyle was appreciated.  Lol.  One little girl raised her hand and proceeded to tell me, “Can I be honest?  I really like your hair like that, but it’s soooo different!  You look kinda creepy to me!”  Hahaha!!!!  I thought it was hilarious!  One thing that I’ve learned so far… kids are always very literal!  J 

Noteworthy News
Last, but not least, I received some news that things would be changing at our school starting in a few weeks.  I don’t have many details other than knowing that there will be lots of changes!  So many possibilities… things will be very different (I’ll share more details at a later time when I know more)!

Good or bad, change will always find us.  Change is the only constant in our world.  It allows us to see things in a different way and provides us with new opportunities for growth.  I guess what I’m trying to say is… don’t be afraid of change, embrace it!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What a Difference a Day Makes!

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I was lucky enough to be selected as one of two people from my school to go to a state reading conference.   It was a wonderful experience, allowing me to learn ways to better improve my reading instruction through the use of explicit instruction and active engagement strategies.  I’m excited to try out some of the tips and tricks that I learned during those two days in my own classroom!
After having a four day weekend plus an extra two days away from school due to the conference, I was ready to get back to see the kiddos.  Having a sub tends to throw me off – it’s always a surprise to see what was accomplished, how well the students understood the things that were taught, etc.  For those two reasons, I was anxious to get back!  This morning I got up extra early so I could go into school, see how the past two days went, and prepare for the day ahead of me.  Hearing the wind and the snow tapping against my window, I opened my blinds and was in utter disbelief at what I saw – it had snowed a foot overnight (it was only supposed to snow 4 inches)!!!!    I quickly turned on the news and pulled up our district webpage – in bold red letters, across the top of the screen, flashed “Schools will be closed due to severe weather conditions and power outages in the area.”  And you know what that meant… SNOW DAY!!!!!!!  Only in Colorado!  J 
Here are a few pictures for you…
I took these on Friday – it was a beautiful weekend.  Between 70-80 degrees everyday!

I took these today – quite a change from the previous week.  A chilly 32 degrees!


I didn’t take this one (I wish I knew who did to give him/her proper credit), but it illustrates the weather conditions perfectly…  What a difference a day makes!!!!

Happy snowy day, everyone!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ready, Break!

After what seemed to be a really long week (even though it was only 3 days long), I’m happy to say it’s break time!  J  I have a nice four day weekend filled with lots of rest and relaxation – and let me tell you, it is much needed!  Life has been a little crazy lately (all testing had to be completed and entered, report cards were due, lots of professional development/trainings, students anxious for the long weekend, technology issues, and two days worth of sub plans to be written from scratch (more details on that later)).  Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time at school recently.  I’ve even set new records for the earliest I’ve arrived and the latest I’ve stayed so far this year (and even went in on one of my days off)!  I was asked by a student if I lived at the school – I can’t help but feel that way at times!  Haha. 

Even with all the extra stress and added chaos this week, I’m still in love with my job!  Every day is a new day that brings new challenges and opportunities for growth.  On my way to work this week, there was a sign posted on a church building that read, “Is there a difficulty in every opportunity or an opportunity in every difficulty?”  I couldn’t help but think about this statement…  There is always an opportunity in every difficulty you face – you just have to look at the bright side of things!  As a first year teacher, I’ve faced many challenges, but in every single one of them, I’ve found an opportunity to improve and overcome those difficulties.  I am always learning and growing, trying to become the best teacher that I can be.  If I keep discovering those opportunities, I can’t help but improve my practices.  It’s all about reflection and moving forward (all while keeping a positive attitude, of course)!  J

Here’s a little re-cap of my week:
4th grade
My 4th grade group has been working with a program called Read Naturally to help improve their fluency and comprehension.  I’ve gone to the ends of the earth and back to try to organize and implement this program so that every student is being challenged at their level and meeting with success (this has made up many of my late nights at school - I’ll tell you more about this in a later post).  We’ve been working with this program for a couple weeks now and I’m seeing some great improvement in my students’ accuracy and rate.  However, I’m noticing that quite a few of my students are too heavily focused on trying to increase their words read per minute and completely forget how they sound when they read.  So, this week, I decided to take a break from Read Naturally and take things on a different route.  We were going to be doing Reader’s Theatre! 
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Reader’s Theatre, you find a script that is at your students’ independent reading level, read through it and discuss it as a class, assign parts, practice, and perform.  The main focus is on reading with expression (or “making your words lively” as one of my students put it – love it!).  I came across this wonderful script titled “The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch (the words were taken from his book and made into a play).  I wasn’t sure what my kids would think of it, but they absolutely positively LOVED it!  J 

This week I introduced the script, we then read it as a class discussing unknown vocabulary words, figured out the meaning, and formed groups and picked parts (just a warning – the dragon and the narrator were the most sought after parts, as anyone who chose the prince or princess were thought to be “in love” – haha.  Only in 4th grade!  Lol).   I went over the rules and expectations with them on what it should look like and sound like to practice and work together in a group (they will be doing this when the sub is there on Monday and Tuesday – I get to go to a reading conference for those two days!!!).  They will be performing their plays on Wednesday when I get back.  I will be sure to let you know how they turn out!

1st grade
My 1st graders have been working so hard to earn their class goal of 20 points (part of my behavior management system).  They earn points by coming into the classroom quietly, being on-task and engaged in the lesson, working hard, transitioning quickly, lining up quickly and quietly, etc.  Once they reach their goal of 20 points, they get to have some sort of celebration (I give them choices and they vote and pick the best choice).  The class was really struggling to earn their last and final point (the last point is always the hardest!!!!).  Mr. Fly decided to come in and leave a note for some much needed inspiration.  Here’s what he wrote:

The kids were so excited that Mr. Fly had decided to drop by.  They pulled it together and worked really hard, earning their final point.  Once I picked up the marker to give them their last point, all you could hear were screams and cheers – I bet the whole school could hear us at that moment!  I’m so proud of my kids for working together as a team!  Voting time came… and it was decided that we were going to have an ice cream party!  Hooray (and it went perfectly with the story we were reading in our anthology – how cool is that?!?)!  What a fun-filled day!

2nd grade
In my 2nd grade group, we’ve been working on a small poetry unit.  We’ve been reading a variety of poems, analyzing the author’s word choice, and trying to figure out their meanings.  Many of these poems contain similes, which has been our main focus.  One of the first poems we read was titled “Delilah.” 

We read this poem, focusing on the author’s use of similes.  Even though the author never stated what she was describing, we were able to figure out that Delilah was some sort of animal like a cat or dog (or a cow – which is what one of my students thought, but supported his claim really well!  Proud teacher moment!  J).  We then worked on drawing conclusions and supporting our conclusions with details/evidence from the text.  Using Bloom’s Taxonomy, we answered other questions about the text, then applied what we learned by writing our own poems about an animal that we love (focusing on the use of similes). 
My class knows me all too well… they predicted that I would write a poem about my childhood dog, Brandy.  Since my class all knew about Brandy from the stories I’ve shared and the pictures they’ve seen of her, I decided that this would be a great opportunity for some guided practice.  I started by brainstorming a list of Brandy’s traits that I wanted to describe (much like in the poem “Delilah” that we had read).  I wrote adjectives to describe each of her listed traits (eg. nose = cold and wet, eyes = beautiful and brown, tail = white-tip, ears = floppy, bark = happy, etc.).  Then, we re-visited “Delilah” to look at the author’s use of similes.  At this moment, I could see the light bulbs turning on! 
We went through the list of Brandy’s traits and adjectives that I had brainstormed and turned them into similes.  I had the students think/pair/share with others at their table group to come up with similes.  The class did an amazing job with this task!  This was our final product:

I wanted the students to have a chance to apply this skill to their own writing, which is exactly what they did.  I was so proud of the poems that they had written!  Here are a few examples:

We are going to turn our poems into a class book for everyone to read!  Hooray!

Reflecting back on my “rough” week, I’ve found so many things to be proud of and thankful for!  Each of these scenarios illustrates the exact reasons why I teach and keeps my inspiration flowing!  Teaching is the most rewarding profession there is!  Seeing that spark ignite and what that spark turns into is amazing beyond belief!  Even though there are many challenges that we face, there is always an opportunity in every difficulty and a way to make a difference!