Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Give 'em something to talk about!

Teaching ideas just go round and round and round again, don't they?  Just wait a bit and that idea or strategy will return!  You can pretty much count on it.  Sometimes we roll our eyes and say "Here we go again!"  Sometimes, we are excited to see something come back on the radar.  That's the case for me with the CCSS Speaking and Listening standards, because who doesn't like to talk?  It's so important in today's world to collaborate and communicate well and we certainly know the kiddos L.O.V.E. to talk, right?  So let's use their enthusiasm for some great learning about how to collaborate and communicate well!

When I was teaching in the classroom, I used The Conversation Club to help the kiddos become excellent communicators and collaborators...and bonus points that it helps to develop vocabulary too!  Now that I am teaching reading intervention groups all day, it works great for my readers in groups, as well.  With as little as a few minutes each week, your students can learn all about the fine points of communicating well!  So wouldn't it be great if all the things you need were organized into one easy to use packet??  Well tada!  They are!!

Here's our Back To School Conversation Club!  We say.....get 'em talking right from the get go!
In it you will find all the resources you need to teach your students collaboration and communication skills.  Included in the packet are colored and black and white copies for all resources, too.  Yay!

The resources include:
*Conversation Rules and Norms mini-posters.  Our school is all about "norms" but choose which you like better.  There are blank templates too, if you prefer to generate your own rules or norms with your sweeties.


*10 "get 'em talking" questions which are on mini-posters AND small group cards.

*Student "job" cards which are also used for forming groups.

*Conversation Starters - to teach and prompt students to use collaborative language.  These are on mini-posters AND individual student bookmarks.


*Student Awards for being great communicators!

So how did I use it in my classroom and how do I use it with my intervention groups now?   In the classroom, we talked about one "get 'em talking" question every week, usually on Friday. It only takes about 15 minutes, so we often squeezed in another question when one of those surprise pockets of time showed up....you know....."surprise...the assembly will start 15 minutes later than planned" or  "surprise...your guest reader just canceled for today."   In my intervention groups, we talk about one question every other week.  Most of our talk in groups comes from the "Amazing Readers" Conversation Club.  (Coming soon......wink, wink!)  And that's it really.  Your students will be great speakers and listeners in no time!  It's sooooo easy, motivating and FUN!  My kiddos were always begging to do it, and I'll bet yours will too!  So go ahead and let them talk!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Let's get them ALL reading!

Every year we have high hopes... that every student will come in reading on grade level and we can just dive right in. Unfortunately, at our school this doesn't happen. Let us give you a little background. Our school is K - 5 and has around 820 kids. We have about 87% of our kiddos on free and reduced lunch, an average of 63% of our students are ELL and we have about 50% turnover rate each year. Sooo... each of our classrooms has students reading at a wide range of levels. Talk about overwhelming! We don't know about you, but for us it is really hard to find text all on the same topic that ALL our students can read and interact with. So we have been racking our brains and working hard to come up with something that we can use.

Here is what we came up with! We are so excited to share it with all of you!

This is our fall themed reading passages bundle. This has SIX different passage sets. Each set has FOUR different text leveled passages! Seriously people! LIFE SAVER! Click HERE to see this set in our store. Below we put some pictures of our Back To School Passages.  We have broken up the fall bundle into individual passages sets. These are: Bats!, Pumpkin Pie!, Spiders!, How Do Apples Grow?, Back to School and It's Fall! You can get the whole bundle or you can get the themes that best work for your classroom. Just click on the titles to find them in our store.

Each passages has the same content, it's the difficulty that increases. The lowest passage is level C and the highest is H/I. AMAZING!!!!! All our kiddos can think about and discuss the same topic and pull out the same information. Let me tell you, for our below level kiddos this is AWESOME! Not only are there passages but there are also activities that can be done to support the content in the passages. 

These are vocabulary cards where students can match the word to the definition.

This is a mini card game. Students not only practice the vocabulary words in the passages but also the sight words. WATCH OUT for the broken pencil card! You will lose a turn:(

Each passage can use the text dependent questions page! EACH PASSAGE! That means you don't have to find/create different response pages for the students! You can use this with kindergarteners all the way to 2nd grade! Talk about close reading! WHHAAAAT?!?!? Awesome!

There is also a vocabulary dictionary, practice page and exit slip to see how well the students learned the vocabulary words. 

We are beyond excited to use this with our kids this year. We did a test run with some ocean passages last year and the kids L.O.V.E.D. it! Anytime that we can create something that saves time and helps students, we are all about it! We have used this both in whole group and small group. Depending on the needs of our kiddos or our purpose. 

If you want to check out or try out one of these passages, download our FREEBIE! It's called Apples, Apples, Apples.  If you download, please let us know what you think about it or how you plan to use it. We hope that this is as helpful to all of you as it is to us! 

Now, back to working on our classroom set ups....

Monday, July 21, 2014


So I have been teaching at my school for the past 6 years, all of which have been in the same classroom, which was a portable. Now, portables aren't that bad. Ours are pretty new and a pretty good size. However, ours are really far from our building. It goes building, then playground, then portables. Not only are they far away they are in the middle of a sand field. Dust, dust and more dust! Have I mentioned that we live in Washington state? Do you know what Washington has a lot of??????? RAIN. You know what you get when you mix rain and a sand field? A big muddy mess! Let's just say I have gone through many shoes walking back and forth these last 6 years. FINALLY this year we get to move in the building!!!! (Insert happy dance here) This means I get to set up a new classroom! YAY! Here are some "Before" pictures to give you an idea.

So now I have to start the process of setting up my room. Normally I hate coming to school in the summer. I try to enjoy the time away and I don't come back until August. BUT this is hanging over my head. So I have to finish. Up until now I haven't had much time to spend here but now I am ready.

This is how far I have gotten. Also, notice that there is no T.V. in this picture!! They came and took it out! I HATE hanging T.V's! I am 6 feet tall and I can't tell you how many times I have hit my head on a hanging T.V! That is also the reason there is a huge patch on my wall. 

I plan to go back in this week and get most of my room set up, fingers crossed! I have come to notice that now that I am in the building, and close to everyone, it's hard to get work done. Too busy chatting it up!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Let's Get Things Started!

Hey Everyone! We are so excited to start this blogging journey!! This has been in the works for a long time but life happens...things get in the way...but now we are READY!!!

Let's start with our recent trip to VEGAS!! If you were there I am sure you were just as excited as we were to meet new people and learn more about the TPT world. We had such a wonderful time!

Have you ever gone on a gondola ride???? So fun! I think this is the closest we will ever get to the real thing!

Now I don't know about you but my daughter LOVES, LOVES, LOVES the movie Despicable Me (and so does her Grammy Kristin). Now what better way to make her jealous then to take this picture.

She made her daddy show her this picture a million times. I guess HE didn't appreciate the picture as much as I did:)

Then we got to the serious business of the conference. We felt so fortunate to be in a room with over 700 TPT sellers including some of the greats. What great motivation it was! Oh boy, did we learn a lot of information and meet some great people.  We can't wait until next year!

We were introduced to this whole conference by Joya Crawford from Live, Love, Serve, Teach. We had such a fantastic time and hopefully we will meet some of you there next year.

We hope to share with you some great resources, funny stories and maybe some inspiration along our journey. We have been inspired by so many and we hope to share the love.