February 25, 2015

The Leprechaun Is NOT Visiting My Classroom. Here's What We'll Do Instead.

Today, as my school let out early for a Snow Day, I reminisced about growing up outside of Savannah, Georgia. We never got out for snow, but we did get out for a hurricane once or twice. And, you may or may not believe this (depending on your St. Patty's parade and celebration knowledge), but by the time I was in Middle School, we also got a day off of school for St. Patrick's Day! This has nothing to do with any sort of seriousness about the holiday and everything to do with the fact that, inevitably, no one showed up for school because they headed downtown to the big parade instead.

Unless you were in my family. If the doors were open, my sister and I were at school. Even if there was a hurricane a comin' and you and maybe three other people got sent home on a bus a few hours later. 

Now, since I teach in a different part of the state, St. Patty's is just a regular old school day. But I can't help making a big deal about it. I know it is still the end of February, but I should remind you that St. Patrick's Day is just a few weeks away! I have Spring Break between now and then, too, so I have to be on my planning "game" to get all of our activities in.

Do you have a very naughty leprechaun that visits your room, makes a mess, and leaves behind some gold coin candy? I don't. Despite my love for celebrating St. Patrick's Day, I just cannot bring myself to willingly make a mess in my beautifully organized room and cause general chaos. I just can't. Besides, my newest student wrote me a love note recently where he stated he loves me in spite of the fact that I'm picky and strict. Actually, I think he said he loves me because I'm picky and strict. So that is working for me right now. And furthermore, I can use those gold coins as leverage for getting my kids to do what I want for reinforcing my kids for their great efforts and accomplishments.

But I do love fun and silliness, I PROMISE! So I've created a few products to help celebrate St. Patrick's Day in an Instructional way. Today and tomorrow (wait, I think the tomorrow part was supposed to be a secret for now), TPT is throwing a big sale, and this includes my store! So check out these products and consider adding them to your cart today. If you visit my store, you will also see one March item for FREE! It is appropriate for 2-4 grade.

 March Friends Writing
My students will be creating these stories next week so we can post them in the hall during St. Patty's Week! Some of them spied my sample today, and got very excited to have some fun with this project.

I'll be using these in my ELT centers for March! I think they are cute and will give the kids good practice on some review standards so that I can give my attention to my intervention groups during that time. I've differentiated these for 1 & 2 grades.

I hope you find a great TPT deal today! Happy Snow Day! Have fun teaching!

February 24, 2015

TPT Sale Promo

The Teachers are Heroes sale starts tomorrow on Teachers Pay Teachers! Enter the promo code HEROES to receive 20% off all items in my store! Click on the My TPT tab to get to my store. Shop around and find other great products! Many sellers are participating. In fact, I have a Literature Circles bundle in my cart ready for purchase tomorrow! I can't wait to start some 2nd grade friendly circles in my class.

February 20, 2015

Wordle for Teacher Feedback

After graduating from UGA, I just couldn't bear to leave the great city of Athens. So, I stuck around and got a job teaching 2nd grade at what turned out to be my dream school. As a result of sharing a home with the largest University in the state, I have been fortunate enough to host several interns and student teachers in the past few years and have learned so much along the way. I'll admit, I feel for my first ever student teacher the same way I feel about my first ever 2nd grade class: sorry that they had to suffer from my inexperience!

However, I can now say that I really enjoy having student teachers! Do you? Of course, it's nice to have an extra person in the room to share in the care and instruction of my kids, but I get really excited about helping these student teachers learn and grow. Although it is not required of mentor teachers, I spend a lot of time doing different types of observations and providing feedback to them. I feel that it is my responsibility to kick start their "in service" learning in a deep way. 

At some point in the last few years, I read The Power of Our Words by Paula Denton for the first time. I won't go into the book at this time, but I was inspired to share what I was learning with my student teachers. So, I began to do "scripted" observations. A former instructional coach had done this once for me before, and I really enjoyed the insight I gained from it. Basically, as the observer, I just sit in the classroom and try to write down (or type) everything that is said by either the teacher or the students. Simple, right? With that said, unless you have the aid of a recorder, I wouldn't try to script both sides of the conversation at once! 

Then, this year, I decided to copy and paste my "scripts" into Wordle! Wordle takes a text and creates a word cloud which gives prominence to words occurring more frequently. AND it does it in a really beautifully graphic way. So, I would do an observation, paste it into Wordle, and print out both the Script and the Word cloud for my student teacher (and this year a first year teacher I am mentoring). 

Here is a Wordle of this blog post:

Neat, huh?

Often, the script and Wordle are feedback for the teacher in and of themselves. We HOPE that the biggest words will be the main idea of our lessons, whether teacher or student language is the focus. So for the most part, I just print it out as is and hand it over to them to explore and reflect upon at their leisure. However, I sometimes go back and make comments alongside the script. Mainly because it wasn't that long ago that I was a new teacher, so I know that it takes time to "see" what you've done well and what needs work in simple notes from a lesson. At other times, I give the student teachers the script and ask them to make comments on it to share with me at a later time.  

I encourage you to read/skim The Power of Our Words  and explore Wordle.net if you find the time. Have fun!

February 18, 2015

Teacher Ballerina

My third year of teaching was a tough year. By the time May arrived, I was simply exhausted both professionally and personally. So, one of my teaching buddies, Lisa, suggested I take the summer and become "someone else". She told me to be a runner, a dancer, a reader, a sunbather...anything to refresh and get my mind off of teaching. She told me not to open my laptop and not to do any work until preplanning. Did I think she was crazy? Sure. Did I know she was right? Definitely. Yes, teaching was my calling and an important part of who I was, but I needed a complete break to recharge.

So I signed up for ballet classes. I took some ballet growing up. I could remember feet positions, how to plie, how to point my foot, and that I shouldn't hang upside down on the barre. But that was about it. So, I threw myself into a few hours of beginning ballet work a week and I loved it. I haven't stopped since then. Now, for the last four years, on every Monday and Thursday night, I put on some tights, pin my hair into a bun, and head downtown to my dance studio. 

On Mondays, I often pack some papers to grade during a break in classes!

The truth is, I love being a ballerina, even if it's only for four hours a week. For me, ballet is just the right mental and physical challenge. I can work hard to improve, without the pressure of becoming a professional. I get to be an artist. I even study the art on my own time so that I can learn and be better. It's so exhilarating to be the student rather than the teacher. And for a few blissful hours a week, my usually racing mind is completely consumed by my body: the motions, the steps, and the art. 

Since you've become a teacher, have you been able to be a student? 

Although I know that most teachers do not have the precious hours in their week to become a student of something, I urge you to consider it. It's easier for me because I don't have a husband and children to care for yet, but even in the midst of working a part time job on top of teaching last year, this was one part of my life that I just knew I could not give up. 

So how has being a student in the studio impacted me as a teacher in the classroom?
  • I've reminded myself of what it feels like to be a struggling student. I have never been very gifted in athletics, so ballet is something I have to work extremely hard at. It's given me more compassion with kids who feel frustrated that they can't get something "right". 
  • I've reminded myself of what it feels like to have triumphs. This reminds me to make sure my students are triumphing in the classroom.
  • I've learned more about giving effective feedback and I've learned about how it feels to receive feedback. 
  • I am able to share an important part of my story, that has nothing to do with our classroom, with my students. Ballet gives me a starting point for simple relationship building moments. "You tripped and fell and now you feel embarrassed? Would you believe that I fell in ballet class last night? I feel ya, man! You alright?" "I know you don't want to do that again, but it's going to make you stronger and better. My ballet teacher often makes me repeat things over and over until I get it right. And it feels SO GOOD when I do!" (Now, I don't talk about ballet every day, but you can see how easy it is to connect with students through your own student experiences.)
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed reading my post. I'd love to hear if you have a similar experience! 

February 17, 2015

Product Spotlight: Book BINGO

Teaching Blog Addict Freebie Downloads
The Book BINGO idea was born when I needed a way to provide direction and inspiration to students during their free choice reading at the end of the year. It was May, and pretty much all of my soon to be 3rd graders had lost their focus, stamina, and ability to choose "Good Fit" books.

Enter book BINGO. I created a book BINGO board for them to use during their free choice reading during our ELA block and challenged them to fill in at least 15 squares. It worked! It breathed life back into their work as readers and it was just FUN.

Although it is not the size of a regular BINGO board (this was on purpose as I felt that 25 was not a realistic number of tasks now that I've designed them as monthly reading homework), the idea is the same. Students can choose different reading tasks and challenge themselves to fill up a whole row or column or even the whole board! Here is my example for March:

Many 2nd graders get very attached to specific series or genres, which is wonderful! As an elementary student, I was very devoted to Baby Sitters Club, Sweet Valley Twins, and the American Girl series. Similarly, I had one student a few years ago who would only check out presidential biographies. This isn't a bad thing. This student knew what he wanted to read and how to find it. He gained familiarity with the structure and vocabulary used in these books. However, as teachers, I know we all want to expose our students to a variety of texts. Book BINGO was a simple way for me to do this.

I now use this Book BINGO as monthly reading homework. It replaces the traditional reading log that I used to assign my class. The kids do not have to fill in a square every night, because as 2nd graders I want them to read longer books and I also want them to have the freedom to choose something not listed on the BINGO board at times. At the end of the month, if students get 15 or more squares filled in, they earn a trip to the prize box.

My 2nd Grade Book BINGO for March is up on my TPT for free. See the TPT product here

My Book BINGOs for the whole year for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades are also up on my TPT site for a small price. The 1st and 3rd grade boards are new additions for me and I cannot wait to use them to differentiate for my 2nd graders! See the 2nd grade product here

I hope you'll try Book BINGO out and let me know what you think!

February 16, 2015

Welcome and All About Me

Welcome to my teaching blog! I have been teaching 2nd grade in Georgia and secretly binge reading teaching blogs (among many other types of blogs, I'll admit) for seven years. I've almost started a blog too many times to count and I'm excited to finally take the plunge! After learning from and being inspired by teacher bloggers, I think it's time to become a part of this fabulous community myself!

I'm a teacher who believes in having fun, making real life connections, and challenging those around me. I'm also a teacher who believes that it is important for all of us teachers to take care of our physical, spiritual, and emotional well beings.

When I'm not teaching, I am taking ballet classes (more on that later), spending time with my church family, snuggling with my cat, traveling from one corner of Georgia to another to see family, and hanging out with my wonderful architect husband (who, by the way, has designed the light bulb logo for me-isn't he talented?).

I also have a super amazing twin sister, toddler nephew, and baby niece. My nephew and niece will make lots of special appearances in many of my posts because I am obsessed with them.

I can't wait to share my unfolding story with you.

Happy Teaching!