Sunday, December 16, 2012


I just have no words other than to say my heart hurts for those poor babies and the amazing educators who did their best in the most horrifying of situations.  I am praying for you all.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

We Give Books!

I know.  I was back, and then I was gone!  So swamped (in a good way) with work and holiday stuff.  Hopefully you will bear with me and my erratic posting for a bit longer!

Just popping in today to share an amazing web site.  It is AMAZING with all capitals!! :-)  The site is called We Give Books  and is geared for children ages 0-10.  It is a nonprofit site that allows you to read current, popular, and interesting picture books online.  And, for every book read online they donate a book.   That's great and I love that they do that, but I am touting this site for purely selfish reasons!  Let me show you some screen shots of the site before I tell you why I love it so much.

Here is shot of what the bookshelf looks like.  I'm in the "Read" tab you see at the top of the page.  As you can see, they have known books like The Snow Day.  There are a lot of familiar books available on the site.

I also like that there are books for your older readers.  I cropped this picture a bit so you could see the titles a bit better.  They have graphic novels for the 8-10 year old readers that are not boring!  The graphic novels also seem very boy-friendly.  Have to hook those boys into reading!!

Another plus, there are a lot of holiday books available.  Frosty the Snowman, Snowmen at Night, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to name a few.  But, even if you don't do the Christmas books, there are great winter themed books like The Mitten, Three Snow Bears, and of course The Snowy Day!

As I wrote before, the nonprofit, book donating part of this site is amazing.  But, I also love this site because:
  • The books are great!
  • There is a great mix of fiction and nonfiction available.
  •  It's a wonderful resource for shared reading, especially if. . .
  •  If you have a Smart Board or a Promethean Board, you can project them on your screen for all to see.
  • You can bring it up on an iPad or computer screen for guided reading groups or just for a student to read independently.
  • The fact that the book is on a screen rather than a book form will be a sure hook for some reluctant readers.
  •  Reading a book online can be a literacy center.  Easy peasy!
  • When you open the books, with a click the pages turn just as they would in a real book.
  •  The age range of books, the varied levels, makes it friendly for most elementary grade levels.

Just some tips: 
  • When you go to, you will need to register in order to read the books.  However, it is a free site and you won't have to do much more beyond registering. 
  • When you open a book, go to full screen mode.  The book will be easier to read and more engaging.
  • When you finish and want to exit full screen mode. . . well, for some reason I can never find the exit button!  I just hit the "escape" button on my computer and it takes me back to the bookshelf.
By the way, I am not affiliated with this site in any way, but I know a gem when I see one and wanted to share.  Happy Reading!!!  I'm off to do some more Christmas shopping today.  Have a great day!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Finally! I'm Back!

It is so good to be back to blogging! Thanks to everyone who was so patient while I was away. I feel like there is some normalcy back in my life, finally! Today's post is about how I'm doing some math workshop scheduling in one of my classes.  At the end, there is also a link to my PDF which you can print up for your own.

But, before I get back to the school blog stuff, I have two last thoughts (and pictures) to share on Hurricane Sandy here in New Jersey.

First thought: I never thought I would routinely see this truck in my community.  We've never had a natural disaster of this magnitude here in NJ.  To have a hurricane come through and cause so much devestation that Red Cross Disaster Relief trucks take residence for a long while is still just astounding to me.
Second Thought:  Not really a thought for this one, but a picture to share.  This is the waterfront by my home.  It was completely underwater for much of the storm.  As you can see from the picture, many of the businesses and homes were just destroyed.  However, look closely at the background of the picture.  See those white buildings all the way in the back?  That's New York City.  When I took this picture, I was amazed at how sparkly white all the building were on this day.  It was a cloudy, overcast day.  You can't tell from the picture, but in the middle of all those clouds there was this big beam of sunshine just sparkling down on the city making it shine.  It was just really pretty and nice to see amidst all the damage.
 Okay, now on to our regular blogging!
In one of the classes I visit for basic skills math instruction, we've begun using a math workshop approach.  We, the classroom teacher and I, quickly realized that we needed to find a way to meet the needs of all the students in a more effective way.  It's a true heterogeneous class.  The span of abilities is tremendous.  Teaching a whole lesson to the whole class just wasn't going to work.  We needed to do more small group direct instruction and practice.  We needed to find a way to let those who needed more guidance get it and enrich and challenge those that were ready to move on.
The answer for us was a math workshop approach.  I researched a lot of different approaches and this is the one that seemed to best meet out needs.  In the interest of giving credit where credit is absolutely due, I really adapted what we are doing from Beth Newingham's post on how she runs math workshop.  Beth was a Scholastic Top Teacher.  Scholastic or not, she's definetly a top teacher!  Her post on math workshop was a tremendous help. So much of what she was doing is what we needed to be doing.  When you have a chance, click on the link and check out what she has to say. She will explain it so much better than I can below!
Here's the schedule we use.  The picture is a little dark, sorry about that!
I should probably explain that due to scheduling, groups A and B run simultaneously.  Unfortunately, I am only in the room for part of the period, so the teacher and I each meet with a group (A & B) during round 1, then I leave.  The classroom teacher then meets with one group during rounds 2 and 3.
Before I go on, here are some other points you may need to know to better understand.
  • Groups A & B are the students most in need of help.  Group C is the middle group and Group D are the high achievers.  Having said that, the groups change depending on the skills being taught.  We do our best to make sure the kids do not have a sense of which is a "high" or "low" group. 
  • "Meet with Teacher" is when students meet with the teacher in a small group to work on skills related to the main lesson.
  • "Seat Work" has students at their seats working on the lesson pages, finishing up work from "Meet with Teacher" and/or differentiated work tasks.  It is essentially the time they apply what they have learned.  In the back of the room, we have four group folders that each contain differentiated work for the week.  My friends just go back and take what they need for the day.
  • "Activity Time" is usually some math game that provides practice with the skills from the day's lesson or the chapter.
So, here' s how we do it. 
The class begins with about 10 minutes of whole group instruction that covers the "meat" of the lesson.  It's is explained and then a couple of practice problems are done.  Then, it's time to break-up into groups for three rounds of work.  The first two rounds are about 20 minutes each with the last round about 15 minutes. 
Round 1:  Meet with Teacher - This is where our two lowest groups (A & B) meet with the teacher for more explicit instruction and do the lesson work.  With two of us in the room, these groups are nice and small.  Group C begins with "Activity Time" so that they may play with the concepts before coming to meet with the teacher and then do the "Seat Work" where they will apply what they know. Group D begins with the seat work. 
At this point, my time in this class is up and the homeroom teacher completes the day's lesson as follows. And, I should mention that she is awesome at it!  I'm lucky to work with a great teacher who really strives to do what is best for her students.
Round 2:  Groups A & B now go on to Seat Work.  Group C now meets with the teacher while Group D goes to Activity Time.
Round 3:  Group C will now go on to do their Seat Work while Group D now meets with the teacher.  This allows her to go over the seat work with them and trouble shoot any problems.  As they are a high ability group, things usually go smoothly.  This allows the teacher to go on to work on higher level problems using the same skills.  Groups A
Have I lost you yet? :-)  Just refer back to the picture of our schedule!
After the three rounds, the class meets again for about 20 minutes to review homework and wrap up the lesson.  We still run into kinks now and then, but over all it's working for us.  I am sure there is a better way to do it out there somewhere, and I don't claim our way is the best way, but as I wrote this is working for us.
If you've read this long, you deserve a little something!  Below, is the link that will take you to a printable version of the Math Workshop Schedule Board.  It is a PDF and has a few extra sections so you can play around with organizing it.  You also don't have to use them for a math workshop.  Those "Meet with Teacher" would be great to put a magnet on and use on the white board.  You could just write under it who you want to meet with for things like conferencing. 
So, that's our math workshop routine.  There are three things I love about it.  First, we are seeing good results with more small group instruction.  Second, the kids love it.  Third, the period really flies by with this type of schedule!
Thanks again to all of you that hung in there while I was out.  While I do this blog mainly for me (to keep track of what I'm doing and ideas I have) it's always nice to have readers.  So, with Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I can say in all honesty I am thankful for you!  And, no!  I never got around to changing my blog over.  Maybe over Christmas! :-)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

I know that prior to October 30 I had been MIA for a while.  I was completely overwhelmed by my new position and needed some time to adjust.  And, adjust I did!  I wrote a few post that I had planned to post.  But then, I became MIA for a very different reason.  Hurricane Sandy. 
 The pictures below are taken of places that are no more than a 5 minute drive from my home.  I am on day 7 and counting with no power.  That means no heat, no electricity, no hot water, and obviously no Internet.  I am writing this at a hot spot I happened to find.  Despite all that, I am one of the very lucky ones.  My family is all ok.  Our homes are still standing.  That is not the case for so many in my community.

School has been cancelled for two weeks.  Even then, we are not sure if we will be going back next Monday or not.  Teachers I work with have lost their homes, most have no power, and those that still have their homes have had trees fall on them, fences down, and more.   I can't even tell you how our students fared.  Most seem to be doing ok, but then today I heard that one families house burned down last night.  The storm is over, but it doesn't seem as if it is for us yet.

Today, I spent the morning volunteering in a community two towns over that has been devastated by the hurricane.  On every corner you have the National Guard posted.  FEMA personnel are everywhere.  Several teachers and I got together to help families empty out water flooded homes and then went to help organize clothes and goods at a donation drop off center.  You can't imagine how overwhelming it is emotionally to see people putting everything they own on the curb.  So many people have lost literally everything except the clothes on their back.

If you can donate to help those so devastated by this hurricane, please do so.  They need your help so desperately.  A good place to donate it to the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund.  Money donated there is to go directly to New Jersey residents effected by the storm.

As for posting on this blog.  I have some fun things to post, but am not sure when I will be able to.  As I wrote, I have no power and no Internet service.  I'm not sure when I will have power.  However, as soon as I do I plan to get back to blogging.

Thanks for sticking around.  I promise to be back as soon as I can.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Day of Remembrance

I have to apologize for the lack of posts recently.  I feel as thought I've been swallowed by a new school year and a new position.  It has certainly brought its challenges in just a few short days!  I promise to be back soon with new posts.  However, I had to stop in to acknowledge the day.

It is September 11th.  It is a September 11th filled with all the emotions and memories it brings.  Rather than blog about it again, I will simply leave you with THIS LINK to my post last year regarding the day.  Living so close to New York, it was a day that greatly changed the lives of many in my community.  I think we have all been touched by the tragedy in some way, regardless of where we live.  Let us always keep those loved ones and heroes lost to us in our prayers.

See you soon with some new posts, 
but until then take a minute to hold those you love close and be thankful that you can.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hello September!

Hello September!  
When did that happen?!!!!  I know many of you have started school, but here in NJ the festivities don't begin until later this week.  I start on the 4th and my friends report for their first day of school on the 6th.  

Posting has been light as I've been juicing every bit of fun I can out of these last two weeks.  In fact, today I did the .NJ Color Run.  Did anyone else from Jersey do this today?  It was soooooo much fun!  I was a mess at the end. If you ever do it, be prepared to be messy!  I don't ever post pics of myself as I do this blog somewhat anonymously, but here is a picture of the back of my head after the run.
Thank goodness it all washed out.  You can't begin to imagine what the rest of me looked like.  I can't wait to do it again next year!  In the spirit of fun, this Labor Day weekend before school starts is going to be filled with fun things.  That includes The Color Run, the beach, friends, family, barbecues, and lots of frozen watermelon margaritas!  But, not a lot of posting on the blog.  I plan to get back in full swing once I'm back to school.  There's always plenty to post about then.

In the meantime, I will leave you with this little nugget.  Remember the post I did a while back about one of my favorite books by Patty Lovell, Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon?  

It is a great book for the beginning of the school year.  It's great to read as an example of how everyone is special in their own way.  If you click on the link, it will take you to the post I wrote and explain more about the book and how I use it.  The good news is that there is finally a new Molly Lou Melon book coming out!  It's called Have Fun Molly Lou Melon!

The book is due out on October 25, 2012, so I haven't read it yet.  Here is the blurb from the Amazon site:
  • The long-awaited return of an irresistible bookseller favorite!   Molly Lou Melon's new neighbor, Gertie, has all the latest toys, a cell phone and the biggest TV ever. But even after playing with all of them, she's still "bored, bored, BORED!" Luckily for Gertie, Molly Lou Melon has something even better: her grandma taught her how to make her own fun! With her elaborate homemade toys and imaginative backyard games, Molly Lou shows Gertie a whole new way to play.  This award-winning author-illustrator pair celebrates a trend that readers of all ages can get behind--good ol' fashioned imagination!

Just from the blurb, I'm thinking this book would be good for kicking off a creative writing piece.  "What homemade toy or backyard game can you invent?"  It could be used to kick off an expository piece for a how-to or description.  Your friends could explain their invented game or toy.  I especially like the theme of this book.  The idea that you don't need to have all the latest and greatest things out there to have fun is something all kids need to learn!  Even if you don't do a blessed thing other than use it as a fun read aloud, you will love it.  The illustrations are fantastic and you get to revisit Molly and her teeny, tiny grandmother.

As I wrote, I will be back to regular posting once the school year starts.  Until then. . . 
Enjoy Labor Day Weekend!
If you want to know a bit about the history of Labor Day, CLICK HERE
 It's not just about beach and barbecue!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Room For One

My room is ready for . . . me.  

I don't have a homeroom class this year, so I don't have to set-up my room for students.  However, I did.  Sort of.   Last year, I began to think my room was a bit too bright.  I had a lot of different bulletin board colors and borders going on, multi-colored baskets galore, and a bunch of big and bright polka dots on my window.  This year, my plan was to tone it all down a bit.  I wanted to have one color bulletin boards with the same border and some color unity throughout the room.  I was even going to break the bank and buy all new baskets in one color for my class library.  Then, I found out that I was going to be a push-in basic skills teachers.  Since there wouldn't be a class of students living in my room this year, I toned down the plans a bit a lot.  Take a look!

This is the view of the front of my room.  I moved my meeting table up to the front because I think I will probably be pulling some friends to the room for small group instruction sometimes.  Notice all my bulletin boards are sky blue and have the same cute triangle border.  I love it!  It might look a bit boring, but if I had a class in here they would be filled with student work which would provide plenty of interest.

From this view, you can see I went with blue shelf curtains.  Last year, it was lime green!  I went with blue this year for some unity.  It also hides the ugly copy boxes filled with my teacher books that are sitting on the shelves.  In the picture below, you can see that I did keep my colorful dots on the windows.  I think because the rest of the room is toned down a bit, they pop more.  And yes, those are the desks that will sit empty this year. :-(   

But, it's not all pretty blues.  Here's the back of the room with all the empty boxes I didn't need to unpack this year.  I'm not even going to show you the other side of my room with the four empty bookshelves.  It makes me sad to think about all my books packed away in boxes.  :-(

As I'm writing this post, I was asked, "Why would anyone want to see your empty classroom?"  Well, I don't know!  But, I do know I love seeing other teachers' classrooms.  It's kind of like sneaking a peak in someone's house when you walk by at night and the shades are up and the lights are on!  I admit, I totally do that!  Looking at the pictures above, it does seem like a very plain and boring room but I don't really have a need to put up anything right now.

If you click over, you can see my room set-up from last year. Holy cow, the crazy colors!  I loved it at the time, but I'm ready for my calming blues this year.  If you click over and look at the pictures, take note of the book baskets.  When I have my own homeroom again (hopefully next year!) I am definitely going to invest in new baskets in a single color.

On a happy note, remember when I telling you about the rolling cart I ordered for my travels from room to room this year?  Well, it came and I love it.  So many compartments to fill for my organizational OCD!  Or, as the saying goes, my CDO where the letters are in order AS THEY SHOULD BE!!   :-D

Loving those compartments.  This cart will be perfect for holding the papers, books, and supplies I need as I visit my friends throughout the day.  By the way, check out that close-up of the border.  Isn't it cute?  Gets all my crazy colors in without being overwhelming.

So, there you have it.  My room for one! 

A Question For You:  Have you ever looked around your room and decided something needed a major do-over for the next year?  This year for me it was toning down all the bright colors.  What was it for you? 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hallway Decorating and Great Printables

Two posts in one day!  
I know!  
Don't fall over!  
I'm just happy with how my last little 
school project came out and wanted to share.

I spent the last two mornings getting my classroom organized for the coming school year.  Since I don't have a homeroom, there wasn't much to do. . . if you are a normal person.  Which it seems I'm not.  Yes, I changed my bulletin boards and totally arranged the classroom for my nonexistent students!  Even thought I really only use the room on my prep periods, I still wanted it to look nice.  Also, it seems likely that I will be pulling some friends to the room for small group instruction.   I'll show you my new classroom set-up in another post.

Today, I want to share with a great web site that inspired me to use her printables to decorate the outside of my classroom.  Are you familiar with the web site technology rocks. seriously.?  I found the site through Pinterest.  This blog, written by a teacher, has AMAZING printable posters that are perfect for the classroom.   The link above will take you to her printable page of school themed signs.

Using her amazing posters and some sparkly border, this is now the outside of my classroom.

You know I have the gnarly orange lockers outside my room.  They always challenge me to find vertical displays.  I knew I wanted the posters up, but I wanted to connect them in some way.

I got some sparkly border paper and taped two pieces together from the back.  It gave me a nice wide design with cute wavy edges.  I put those on the lockers and wall.  I then printed out color copies of her posters on white copy paper.  Using a glue stick, I attached them to some bright yellow construction paper and laminated them all.

The last step was to stick the posters on top of the border to the wall and lockers.  Easy peasy!  I put two on each locker and three on the wall.  Here's are some up close.

As I noted, all the posters (except for one) are from the blog technology rocks. seriously. I used a couple of them in my room last year, but this year I used a bunch more. And, I didn't even print out all she has.  THIS LINK will take you to her printable page where you will find links for school signs, holiday signs, faith signs, and sonic signs.  Seems she has a thing for Sonic!  All her signs are wonderful!  And, they helped make the space outside my classroom a spot people stop, read, and think!

Don't forget to scroll down and read the professional goals and a winner post I published earlier today.  It really gives you some food for thought as to what is a priority to work on this year.  
And, if you are the big winner Silvia, don't forget to email me your mailing info!

YOUR Professional Goals and a Winner!

Thanks so much for your great response to my blogiversary give-away.  There were 81 entries/comments.  If you just can't wait to see who won, scroll down to the bottom of this post.  
But, if you can be patient for a minute. . . 

In entering my give-away, I asked you to comment on what your goal was for the upcoming school year.  I mentioned that mine was to do more professional reading on teaching reluctant readers.  However, I could name a million more!  But, I didn't have to.  You all came up with an amazing list of goals.  Many of you gave more than one goal.  I enjoyed reading them and was able to identify with so many. I could have added most of them to my personal goal list!

I thought you might enjoy reading them.  I categorized your goals as best I could and listed them below. Some could be in more than one category and others were tough to put in a specific category.  The ones that are in italics were mentioned by more than one person.  Other than that, they are listed in no particular order.  Overwhelmingly, it seems one of the biggest goals across the board was to implement the Daily 5 and CAFE.  Behind that, the next biggest goal was staying organized.  Isn't that one battle we all fight? :-)

So, from your comments, here are the goals you all have for this school year.  

-Get to know my students more personally 
-Make more positive contacts with students’ parents
-Find balance; less work and more family time
-Prepare for a new job
-Get a new job
-Stay positive in a year of big change 
-Provide a great year for my students 
-Work hard to be a good teacher
-“Teach my daughter the alphabet!”

-Stay organized! 
-Better manage paperwork   
-Use my time better
-Bring less work home 
-Keep planning fresh and motivating 
-Clean out the filing cabinets
-Be more intentional in implementing the wonderful things learned from other teachers
-Stay on top of grading and filing
-Keep each nine weeks of materials in one binder for use the following year
-Take advantage of my binder system for keeping all usable plans for individual topics
-Rework one unit each trimester to be a mini inquiry project

Professional Development
-Renew National Certification
-Begin coursework for admin. Certificate  
-Finish my Master’s program in Classroom Technology
-Read at least one professional journal, text, or article each week
-Present at the Massachusetts Computer Using Educators conference
-Become more of a leader in my school
-Finish reading the Lucy Calkin’s Guide to Reading five book collection
-As the school librarian, support more teachers

-Keep up with/update my blog  
-Start a blog
-Write more about my teaching experiences

Special Education
-Read up more on autism

-Utilize more technology in my classroom in general  
-Introduce Edmoto in my classroom
-Use less paper in the classroom
-Implement the Smartboard in math lessons
-Teach more district wide technology classes
-Become more comfortable with social media to support my teaching

-Implement Daily 5 and/or CAFÉ ideas  
-Keep up with the reading VOICES board
-Use the common core in the library
-“Step up” my writing instruction
-Integrate more group work in reading & writing workshops
-Implement more strategy grouping
-Use a binder for guided reading to help me stay focused
-Do away with book logs and make reading more enjoyable for my students
-Put a greater emphasis on poetry
-Work more on guided reading and strategy grouping within Reader’s Workshop
-Find my way through reading workshop and guided reading
-Improve word study instruction
-Use reading notebooks to keep track of skills and strategies taught & to record thinking
-Focus more on Greek & Latin roots in vocabulary instruction
-Give my students more opportunities to discover that reading is awesome!
-Introduce book clubs
-Manage time better during student conferencing

-Implement guided math workshop
-Utilize the common core in math instruction
-Get state math test (scores) up
-“Amp up” math lessons in preparation for common core using more manipulatives, group work, and student instruction

General Ed.
-Implement “The Leader in Me” program in the classroom 
-Survive the common core!
-Implement the all new curriculum that is now aligned with common core
-Focus on more flexible grouping
-Improve my small group instruction
-Better classroom management to help the day run smoothly with the help of procedures
-Do more whole brain teaching
-Differentiate instruction as much as possible
-Figure out what my state test is actually looking for!
-Use journals in a more effective way
-Improve partner talk
-Encourage more true collaboration in small group settings
-Implement morning meetings

-Get to work on time! 
-Not go insane! 
-Keep calm and carry on. . . no matter what happens!
-Relax. . . I know it will all work out!

Well, don't you think that is a pretty amazing list?  If that doesn't show how dedicated teachers are to their job, I don't know what does.  I especially like "not go insane!"  It made me laugh out loud because, oh, have I been there!

No matter what, let us all remember this. . .

Now, on to the blogiversary give-away winner!
There were 81 entries in all.  Using the True Random Generator, the winner was  number 23.  Comment number 23 was from Silvia.

* * * * * * * * * * 

Blogger Silvia said...
I have been following your blog for only a short time, but love all of the ideas and resources you offer! Thank you for your great blog!
August 15, 2012 11:18 PM
                                                                  * * * * * * * * * * 

Silvia, email me  your mailing address and I will get your goodies out ASAP!  I went to your profile and blog, but there wasn't any way for me to contact you.  So, I hope you come back and read this! :-)
Again, thanks to everyone who commented with their goals for this year.  It was fun to see what was on your mind.  And, thanks to all who come by and visited my blog.  It was a very good blogiversary!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It's a Blogiversary Giveaway!

8/22/12:  Comments closed!  
Thanks for the entries.  
Come back tomorrow for the winner!

Seriously, who forgets their blogiversary?
If that's even a word.  Well, it seems I missed my blog's first year anniversary. By more than a month!  On July 13, 2011, with this post, I began Teaching My Friends!  There were a handful of posts prior to then, but that is the date I consider the start of my blog.  I can't believe I missed it!

I have much to be happy about with this little blog.

  • It has allowed me a place to keep track of some of what I've done over the past year.
  • It has made me a more reflective teacher.
  • It has led me to many other amazing blogs and fantastic teacher bloggers.  I've learned so much from all of you!
  • It has allowed me to share ideas that have, hopefully, been helpful to others.  

That last one is a biggie.  I have said before in a few posts that I really believe we are stronger educators when we communicate and share ideas.  It is very easy to step in to your classroom, close the door, and just do your own thing.  Being a connected professional community makes us better at what we do.  So, thank you blog readers for making it happen.  I could easily blog without any followers or reader comments, but those are the things that keep me going!  I appreciate each and every one of you that takes the time to come by and read Teaching My Friends.

In honor of my first year blogiversary (Okay, I'm making it a word!) and in honor of YOU, I decided to do something to make it all the more special.  It's a Blogiversary Giveaway!  I've put together some goodies that I thought you might like.

What's in this fun little prize package?

  1. A ten dollar gift card to Barnes & Noble - Get yourself a good read or buy a book for your friends.
  2. An 8 GB bracelet flash drive - I love this!  I even got one for myself.  No worries about not having the flash drive with you.  It snaps on like a bracelet.
  3. I'm a Star Reader bookmarks - I go through bookmarks like crazy with my friends, so I thought this is something we could all use.
  4. Smiley face stickers - Stickers.  Enough said.
  5. A big bar of Ghiradelli Chocolate - Milk chocolate with sea salt and roasted almonds.  Yeah, I got one of these for myself, too!  Treats for the teachers!  Let's just hope the winner doesn't get this delivery during a heatwave! :-D
  6. A new copy of Swindle - After my post on the book, I thought it would be nice to give one away.

So, what do you have to do to win this little pile of goodies?

  1. Leave a comment! Say anything! Or, let's keep it interesting and answer this one question:  What is one professional goal you have for yourself  this year?  One comment per a person, please.
  2. Be in the United States.  I love, love, love that I have blog friends visiting from other countries, but my little teacher salary just can't support international shipping!    
  3. If you are feeling it, please follow my blog.  While that would be appreciated, you don't have to follow to win the loot. :-)  Everyone is welcome to enter.

The give-away closes on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 8:00 P.M. Eastern Time.  You have a week to enter.  I will randomly pick a winner from the comments and post that winner on Thursday, August 23, 2012.

By the way, my professional goal for this year is to do more professional reading on teaching reluctant readers.  I've been looking at some of the professional resources on the International Reading Association site, and there is a lot out there just waiting for me.  But, for now, I'm going to enjoy my last two weeks of summer.  September 4th will be here before I know it!

Thank you, thank you, thank you 
blog readers for making it all happen!
Happy Blogiversary to Us!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Swindle by Gordon Korman

During summer school this year, my friends and I read the first two books in the Swindle series by Gordon Korman.  I thought I would tell you a bit more about this series because my friends LOVED THIS BOOK!  We are talking VERY reluctant readers who loved a book so much THEY BEGGED TO READ THE SECOND BOOK IN THE SERIES!  Reluctant readers who would BEG ME FOR INDEPENDENT READING TIME SO THEY COULD READ!  Reluctant readers who didn't really become cranky when they had to give a written response to the lit. questions.  Okay, maybe they were a little cranky about the writing, but not nearly as much as I anticipated simply because they loved the book.

Swindle was actually published in 2009 and has been floating around in my class library for a while.   I used it for shared reading with my summer school friends.  It was also their required summer reading novel and I knew if we didn't do it together, they just wouldn't have done it.

Swindle is the story of a group of eleven year olds led by Griffin Bing, the man with the plan.  In this book, Griffin finds a rare collectible Babe Ruth card that will be the answer to his family's money problems.  However, he is swindled out of the card by a con man named S. Wendell Palamino.  Griffin and his friends embark on a plan to steal his card back from Palamino.  Perhaps the best book description I've come across is from Amazon's site where they call the book "Ocean's 11. . .  with 11-year-olds, in a super stand-alone heist caper."  It really is an Ocean's 11 for kids!  It has the heist, the humor, and great characters.

Swindle is authored by Gordon Korman.  If you don't know Gordon Korman, I promise you are probably familiar with his work as he wrote two of the ten books in the 39 Clues book series.  That book series could be another post on its own! If you want to know more about the 39 Clues books, click on this link for all you need to know.  Suffice to say, Gordon Korman is an excellent author who really knows how to hook your young friends.

Swindle is a great book for teaching character traits.  The characters are all very different and each brings a special skill to the heist.  The are also easily relatable for your friends.  They will be sure to see themselves in one or another of the characters.  It also has a lot of material for problem/solution lessons.  In a deeper lesson, there is a great question over what is legally right vs. what is morally right, and character motivation.
According to Scholastic Book Wizard, Swindle has a grade level equivalent is 4.4, and a Lexile level of 710L.  Another site also notes it to be a DRA level 40 and a Guided Reading level S.

After reading Swindle, we read the next book in the series Zoobreak. In this book, we find the same group of friends planning another heist.  This time, they are breaking a monkey out of a run-down floating zoo.  However, they end up breaking out ALL the animals to save them from the money hungry zoo owner.  The problem is, what do you do with all these animals once you've broken them out of the zoo?  The next two books in the series are Framed and Showoff, both involving our same group of eleven-year-olds.

I would recommend Swindle as a great book for all your friends, but I think it is especially a good "go to" if you have some boys who aren't that interested in reading.  I've listed some links below for Swindle just in case you decide to use it..  A couple are linked in the post, but here they are in all.

  • Official site for Gordon Korman - There is a lot to explore on this site.  You can also find more about the many other books he has written.
  • Chapter 1 of Swindle - Scholastic provides this link which gives you a download of chapter 1 of Swindle. 
  • Scholastic's Swindle - This Scholastic page has a preview of the book, games, more about this author and some general information.
  • Teachers Pay Teachers - This is the search results for Swindle on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Our colleagues have been very busy creating a lot of material for this book!
  • Chapter Guide - I found this PDF by Janelle McInerney that is a gem.  It gives you some prereading activities and for each chapter it lists vocabulary, questions, and a journal topic.  It ends with interdisciplinary activities, a list of Gordon Korman's other books, and some additional web sites.  A gem!
  • Right There! - Schoolwires offers this three page PDF of story questions.  I called it "Right There!" because they seem to be all "right there" questions where the answer can be found in the text.   They are not inferential or higher-level thinking questions per say.  However, they would be great for a quick review game in class.
So, there you have it.  A good book and some resources to go along with it.  If nothing else, this book would be a fun read aloud for your friends.  I hope you like it as much as I did.

Friday, August 10, 2012

An English Language Arts Common Core Resource

Just dropping in to share a great web find regarding the Common Core, specifically those for English Language Arts.

I was browsing around a new-to-me blog named  Read, Write, and Reflect.  It's authored by Katherine Sokolowski, a fifth grade teacher.  She mentioned that in getting ready for back-to-school she had printed some handouts for the common core including a bookmark.

Hmmmm, bookmark?  That piqued my interest, so I followed her link to Tulare County Office of Education English Language Arts Resource page.  There's a mouthful!  The link will take you directly to that page.

There are several links on the page, but there are two that specifically caught my interest.  The first was the links under the heading "ELA CCCSS by grade level."  You just click on your grade level and it gives you a succinct print out of the standards for that grade level.  Here's a direct link to the 4th grade PDF as an example:  Fourth Grade CCCSS

The second link the caught my eye, and is perhaps the most helpful, is the bookmark Katherine also loved in her post.  It's really way more than a bookmark.  In fact, it's several pages long.  However, here is what it does.  It takes each standard, states the standard at the top, then the essential skills and concepts the standard covers, followed by the academic vocabulary you would use. Just scroll down the page, and you will find all the grade level links for them under the heading "ELA CCCSS bookmarks."  Here is a direct link to the 4th grade PDF bookmark as an example: Fourth Grade Bookmarks  As with the other page, all grade levels are available.

I should note a few things.
1.  The standards are listed as "California Common Core" but, unless I missed something, it really is just the common core.  Take a look for yourself.  I don't think you need to teach in California for these documents to be helpful.
2.  There are many more links on the page with other resources.  I've just listed the two I found most helpful.
3.  All the way to the left on the main page is a link for the math common core page.  I didn't find it as helpful, but it did have some good information regarding fractions.  Fractions seems to be the big change in math.  Mastery of fraction skills have been redistributed around grade levels.  Their math resource page has a good link for a document that shows you exactly what fraction work is being done at each grade level between grades 2-5.  Those seem to be the grade levels where most of the fraction changes were made.

Browse around and see if this site would be helpful to you.
And, don't forget to visit Katherine's blog and say hi: Read, Write, and Reflect.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

TPT & Blogging Questions

Just a couple of quick questions for my blogging friends.

  1. I'm working on a couple of projects right now that I might want to put on TPT.  I'm not sure if I will, but if I do I want to make sure I use clip art correctly. Since I would be selling the documents, I know I have to be careful of what clip art I use.  Where do you get the clip art that you can legally use on TPT documents?  
  2. One of my goals this month is to redesign my blog for a more customized look.  Despite having a blog, I really know nothing about creating a blog design.  That would be NOTHING in all caps!  :-)  I'm pretty good at typing up my blog posts and throwing in some pictures, but that's about it!  So, I'm looking to pay for someone to do it or help me do it.  Do you have any suggestions on who to use?
Thanks for your help!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Interactive Small Group Anchor Charts

It may not be a very exciting title, but I am very excited with what I've created and even more excited to share with you!  In September, I will be working with small groups in other teachers' classrooms.  It got me thinking about how different each room will be.  Will they have up the anchor charts I might need?  What if I want to refer to a specific anchor chart that may not be up in the classroom, but is needed for my small group?  I needed some way to have anchor charts available to me at any time that were geared specifically to the needs of my basic skills students.  They needed to be portable as I am in different classes throughout the day, yet they needed to be large enough to display for my friends.  On top of all that, I wanted them to be interactive in some way.  Not asking much, huh?!

Here is where I came up with interactive small group anchor charts.  I created this with the idea that I would be taking them from class to class, but I think they are perfect to have for homeroom teachers to use with small groups as well.   So, here they are.  Not too exciting at first glance, but just wait.  The magic lies within!

You don't get more portable than a file, so that's were I began.  I started by making one of the anchor charts I use at the beginning of the year.  Open it up, and there it is!  This was totally inspired by The First Grade Parade blog.  She does a much better job with the pencil that I do!
 On the left side of each folder, I put a smaller version of the anchor chart I would normally use on large chart paper in class.  Normally, I like to create anchor charts with my students but I have limited time in each class this year.  So, I'm pre-making (is that even a word?) anchor charts for reading and writing that hit the key points I want to reinforce.

On the right side, I wanted something that would be interactive.  For this chart, I can have my small group brainstorm some ideas about writing topics on sticky notes and put them on the right side.

After making the "What do writer's write?" small group anchor chart, I began to make one for schema.
As I was working with my Crayolas and markers, I realized there was an easier way.  In my anchor chart binder, I had pictures of many of the anchor charts I used last year.  I just printed out the picture of the anchor chart on schema that was in the binder and glued it in the file folder.  HUGE time saver!
I still wanted the interactive aspect, so on the right side I printed out a page that I will use to brainstorm our schema on whatever topic we are working with.  My friends can put their sticky notes right on the page.  Since I'm printing out the pages and gluing them in, I would have preferred to use colored file folders.  I think it would look better, but I have a million manila folders to use up.

So, what if you don't have an anchor chart binder to fall back on?  I don't have anchor charts pictures saved for everything I need, but the web is a wonderful thing!  There are a million charts out there to use.  I found this anchor chart about visualizing on Pinterest and loved it.  It is from the blog Second Grade with Mrs. Wade.
Again, wanting the interactive aspect, I made the picture on the right.  For practice, I'm planning to read my friends a short passage and have them do a quick sketch on a sticky of what they visualized.

All the pictures show the file folders lying flat on the table, but in using them I will STAND THEM UP!  Standing up, it's large enough for everyone seated at a small group table to see and refer to.  It's like having a mini chart stand on the table.  At the end of the lesson, I can just close the folder, stick it back in my bag, and move on to the next class.

What I like about the file folder aspect is that I can still use it as a folder.  If I have any type of hand out or teaching materials I want to use with the lesson, they are easily paper clipped and stored in the folder.  Not only do I have an anchor chart at my fingertips, I have the papers I need as well.  Also, I'm planning to put a piece of card stock in a clear page protector and keep it in the folder.  It's possible I may need to use the same anchor chart with different groups on the same day.  When I am done working with one group, I can just take their sticky notes and put them on the plastic page protector. Then, it's ready to use for the second group. The next day, if I need to use it again, I can just quickly stick them back on.

UPDATE:  (8/8/11) - As I have been working on these, I've debated if I was going to laminate them or not.  Then, I realized it was a no-brainer.  Of course, laminate them!  Up until now, the interactive sections I created have been based on using sticky notes that I could remove.  If the charts are laminated, the interactive part can now be written on with dry or wet erase markers.  Now, the interactive part could have activities that have the kids draw a line from one thing to another, circle the word that . . . , or anything else you wanted to do.  The only drawback using them that way is that if you need to use the chart with another group on the same day, you will lose the work of the original group.  But, that would just be the day you use sticky notes instead.   And, thanks so much for all the positive feedback on this idea!  I love hearing from you!

I should note, that I don't think it is a problem to borrow anchor charts made by others as long as it is for  your classroom use.  I do note on the back of the folder the web site I borrowed the chart from in case I need to share it with another teacher.  I am a believer that we don't need to reinvent the wheel if it's not necessary.  I have no problem with people using the charts I post on my blog.  Feel free to take and tweak or not tweak!  If I do post the work of someone else, I am sure to give credit and link to the amazing authors.
So, what do you think?  
Could this idea work for you?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Life Events Inspire Your Teaching!

I just registered for The Color Run here in New Jersey! 
 I am really just so excited to do this!
One of my goals this year was to make fitness fun.  
If this doesn't do that, I don't know what will!

So, why am I posting about a 5K on my ed blog?  
Because as I was registering I kept thinking,

 "This will be a GREAT writing topic 
to share with my friends!"  

Just the pictures alone are great prompts for creative writing tasks, grammar lessons on adjectives, and so much more.  The pictures above are from The Color Run's website.  I can't wait for this event. Tell me I won't be able to write an awesome personal narrative on this!!  I suggest visiting their site and seeing if there is one near you!

What life events have 
inspired you in the classroom?