Monday, March 31, 2014

New Chairs? Yes, Please!


A few weeks ago, I was approached my my assistant principal with the news that there was some money available for some extra materials for the reading program I teach. Was I interested in selecting some things?

SERIOUSLY! When does that ever happen?!  Of course, I immediately screamed, "YES!!!!" smiled and said, "Thank you, I would love to order a few things."  While I ordered some usual items like folders and notebooks, I was really looking for some floor chairs for independent reading time.  I searched high and low until I found these on  They come in a bunch of different colors.  I didn't get to select a color.  I would have loved the lime green, but it's probably for the best as the darker blue will hide more. The price on Amazon varies according to color.  I have seen that a few other times on Amazon with products and can never figure that out.  The prices range, as I'm typing this, from $33.03 to $59.99!!  Crazy expensive!

I also found them sold as "teacher folding floor seats" on the Kaplan School Supply site for $44.95. Crazy expensive again!  I don't' know where my school ordered them from or exactly how much they paid, but I do know that we use specific vendors that give the district a discount so I'm sure we didn't pay anywhere near those prices. If we had, I probably would have gotten just one! :-)

I will say they are worth the money.  I teach 4th and 5th grade students who range in size from fun-kid size to almost looking full grown adult size!  I need floor chairs that were going to be sturdy and withstand some weight.  The kids love them and say they are really comfortable.

The chairs are adjustable, but I haven't really told my friends that yet! The one rule we have is no rocking in the chairs.  They are very light weight and lay flat for easy storage.  Also, there is a strap if you are on the move.  I saw these chairs advertised as beach chairs on one site, perhaps that explains the strap.  They would be great to take outside for reading.  The chairs are covered in a wipe-able fabric that would clean up easily, too.

So, yes these chairs can be a bit on the pricey side.  But so far, they seem sturdy enough for my older friends and have inspired them to read more just so they can sit in them.  Let's hope the shine doesn't wear off too soon! While these may not be in your budget, if you do happen to come across some extra school funds, add these to your wish list.  You won't regret it!

As always, this is not a paid endorsement.  I just like my chairs!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Give a Book! Take a Book! Let's Swap!

Give a Book!  
Take a Book!  
We had a Book Drive! 

I thought I would share a great program that runs each year in my school.  For the past eight years, our Environmental Club has been running a book swap for the kids.  It is a two day event that they run around the same time as Read Across America. This year, over 1,600 books were brought in to be swapped.  In the eight years the program has been running, a little over 18,500 books have been swapped between children.  The Environmental Club calculates they have saved over 6,188 trees!

Here's how it works.  Each homeroom is given a cardboard box.  Students bring in a children's book from home that they have already read and are willing to swap.  They fill out a little slip with their name and homeroom teacher.  They put the slip in the book and the books in the box. The collection runs for about a week.  The club advisers set up two pick-up days after school when the club will meet to pick up all the books and process them.  I've not been a part of the process, but it seems they pull the tickets which are kept sorted in big envelopes by homeroom and student and then sort the books by genre, series, etc.

On the day of the swap, the books are put out in the main hallway for display.

I should mention that these pictures are all from the second day of the book swap when most of the "good" books were already snatched up and the supply was dwindling.  I write "good" in quotes because I think you would agree there were lots of great books still available on day two!

The day of the book swap, the envelopes are delivered to each homeroom and the tickets given back to the children.  During lunch/recess periods, students can come to the table and pick one book for each ticket they have.  An even swap!  There is a check-out table manned by club members.  They count the tickets and books to make sure they match.  Then, they tear up the tickets, bag the books, and send the readers off with a new stack of books to read!

For some reason, every year there are books left over.  The club advisers allow teachers to come after school on the last day and pick through any leftovers.  Even after that, there are still books left.  This year, as I was leaving the building, the advisers had let all the students in our after care program come and take as many books as they wanted.  The kids were so excited!  It was like getting a surprise birthday present!

What I like about the book swap it that it build excitement for reading in the entire building.  Even those reluctant readers are excited about the book swap!  Invariably, there are those kids in your class that don't have books at home or don't have a book to swap.  I find a lot of teachers try to get a book in their hands to swap.  I have a pretty big class library, so if I have a student I know doesn't have a book to swap, I will give them one from my class library.  A loss for my library, but since I seem to have an addiction to buying children's books, not really!  Plus, the whole point is to get books in kids' hands.  This book swap does the job quite nicely!  I have even seen many kids selecting books not just for themselves, but also picking books they think a sibling or friend would like.

Finally, if this looks like a lot of work. . . IT IS!  No getting around it!  I would have to give a great big BRAVA!! to the advisers of the Environmental Club.  I hope they really know how appreciated and important this book swap is. And while I'm pretty sure they don't read my little blog, on behalf of all those kids reading "new" books out there because of you, I say THANK YOU!!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Helping a School in Need

On March 22nd, an elementary school just a few towns over from my school district suffered a devastating fire.  Thankfully, the fire started at night and no children or any adults were harmed. However, the school is a total loss.  Here is a news report of the fire if you would like to know more.

As it turns out, the fire was started by a custodian who was smoking in the building and threw away his cigarette which wasn't completely extinguished.  It was an older building and did not have sprinklers.  As I wrote, the building was a total loss.

But, we educators and children are a resilient lot!  The school has been moved to space in a local community college until a semi-permanent place is found until they can rebuild, and the community has kicked in to help.  So has my school and many of our surrounding schools.

Our student council has started a supply drive. When you walk into our main lobby, there is a donation table with a basket for pretty much everything!

Everyone has been amazing about bringing in supplies.  One of the other schools in our district has been collecting books to help with rebuilding their school library.  Overall, it is wonderful that we are able to provide some necessary school supplies, but I have noticed that the message to those children affected and those children giving is what is most significant.  They see that in times of trouble, people reach out and help each other.  That it is going to be okay.  It reminds me of this quote from Fred Rogers, which I just love:

                                    “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”  ― Fred Rogers. via FB  #Fred_Rogers

This was a very comforting quote for me during 9-11 when our community was so profoundly devastated.  And now, in this time of need for those experiencing loss from this fire, I'm proud of our students who are learning to be those helpers, those caring people.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

8 Random Thoughts

Long time, no blogging!  I seem to hit these hiccups where life gets in the way of blogging as evidenced this past month.  So, in a random segue, here are some random thoughts on random things.

1.  Convention Anyone? I've been toying with the idea of going to the International Reading Convention in New Orleans.  First of all, New Orleans?  Yes!  I've never been but have always wanted to visit.  Second, I've also always wanted to go to an IRA convention.  There are some amazing workshops that I would love to attend.  Even better, there is a long list of AMAZING speakers such as;  Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Debbie Diller, Richard Allington, Gail Bushey, Joan Moser, Jeff Kinney, Dav Pilky, and more.  I also want to be around professionals that know literacy.  I want to learn more and bring it all back to my classroom.

So, what's the hesitation?  Well, the expense makes for a definite pause.  I figure it will cost me about 3 grand in all to do this between registration, air fare, hotel, meals, and more.  It is a lot of money for a working vacation.  And, it certainly isn't something my district will pay for.  While I can afford to do it, there is a big part of me that is a cheapskate and hesitates.  The other thing that makes me hesitate is that I would be going alone.  I don't have any colleagues that would take this trip and I would feel bad dragging a friend or family member when I would be leaving them alone all day long. I don't mind traveling alone, but I'm not sure what I would do with myself each night when I don't know anyone there. I guess I have until April 14, when the early bird registration ends, to decide what to do.  What would you do?  Any advice?

2.  I have a CRAZY teaching schedule.  We have 8 period days making a 40 period week.  Five periods are lunch, six periods are prep, and the other twenty-nine are teaching period.  Here is the breakdown of my twenty-nine teaching periods:

  • 6 periods are teaching Scholastic's Read 180 intervention reading program.  
  • 2 periods of small group, pull out remedial literacy
  • 17 periods of push-in basic skills guided reading groups in five different classrooms
  • 4 periods of small group, pull out enrichment literacy
In all, I have to keep track of sixteen different groups of children.  And, my schedule is not consistent across the week.  Every day follows a different schedule, often with days between seeing the same group again. As you may imagine, planning is everything!  You should see the hard copy of my lesson plans.  There are notes all over it!  If I don't annotate what we completed each period I would be lost.  I'm used to it now, but it took a while.  I do like seeing so many different children at different grade levels.  Still, CRAZY teaching schedule! :-)

3.  I'm reading some great books with my friends!  Between some of my classes, we are currently reading Stone Fox, The Sign of the Beaver, No Talking, and  Heroes for All Times.  All really great books!  I was very happily surprised by Heroes for All Times.  My friends reading it are loving it.  What got them hooked is that the first chapter is all about Florence Nightingale and talks all about her work in hospitals during the Crimean War of 1854.  Some of them immediately connected it to what is currently happening in Crimea, and I heard from a couple of parents that they were impressed with how the book connected to current events.  Totally not planned!  The book was in the plans for a while, but I have not control over when and where countries invade! My friends were also blown away at the lack of knowledge at the time regarding germs, hospitals, and sanitary procedures.  Easy way to hook a nine year old into a nonfiction book?  Start out with something a bit gross!

4.  Loving Read 180!  I posted a while back that mid-year my district implemented this new intervention program.  Three months in the kids love it, and I am seeing some real progress!  I actually hope my district will expand the program and offer it to more kids next year.  

5.  Looking forward to the new blog design!  I am next on the list to be done by A Bird in the Hand Designs.  I'm excited to see what Megan comes up with.  I love what I see her doing with other blogs.  Part of getting the new blog design involved some homework.  I had to complete a survey of likes, wants, and more.  It was much harder than I thought it would be.  I had to really put some thought into what I wanted.  Overall, I'm looking for a more modern-ish design. I think I might throw up a picture of myself, too.  I know I always like when I can see the blogger that writes the blog I'm reading.  I'm sorry to report I was really late in turning in my homework to Megan.  Sorry, Megan!!! If you need to push me back a bit because of that, I totally understand! Honestly, here I am a teacher turning in homework late!  Sheesh!

6.  I just completed my second observation.  We get three twenty minute observations each year, two unannounced and one announced.  This second one was my announced.  It went well, but I have to say this new observation model we use (the Danielson Framework) is soooo involved!  There is a ton of pre-observation questioning and uploading of documents to be done and then more of the same after the observation.  Not sure I agree with all components of the evaluation as in some areas it seem to be impossible to achieve their highest rating when you work with particular populations.  However, my observation went well so no complaints! But seriously, if you don't know anything about the Danielson Framework, click on the link and take a look.  You will see just how involved it is, for better or worse.

7.  Common Core Gaps?  I have noticed lately that in doing my lesson plans, I see some gaps in the common core standards.  There are things I need to teach that are not addressed in the CCS for the particular grade level.  I then look across grade levels but don't see it anywhere else.  It then becomes a stretch to say, "Well, this could fit this standard. . . "  Nothing terrible, just wondering if anyone else has noticed some gaps in the CCS as you have been teaching.

8. Enough with Winter!  Spring starts tomorrow!  I could happy dance all over the place!!  I am so tired of winter.  We used five snow days this year, had a few delayed openings, and one early dismissal.  Thankfully, we had four snow days built into our schedule, so there was only one day to make up.  They took back the Monday after Easter.  I'm good with that as Easter is an early day holiday in my family.  Plenty of time to regroup and get ready for the work week.  I saw that some schools are having their staff come in on Saturdays to make up the missed days.  I would so not be happy with that!  At this point, I'm just really looking forward to Spring Break. We will have the whole week before Easter off.  Yipeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Were these thoughts random enough for you? :-)

Any thoughts or suggestions on the convention?  
Because, this indecision bugging me!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Test Post

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Sorry, this is just a test post.  I am claiming my blog on Bloglovin and working on updates to the blog.  I know it has been a bit since I last posted, but more is coming soon!