Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy Christmas to All!

Hi teacher friends!  One more day to go for us here in Washington!  Yay!

Today we readaloud "The Night Before Christmas" in our groups during our reading celebrations.  We LOVE to ask the kiddos questions about the book before, during and after.  This takes on new meaning during this celebration because the sweetum's answers keep the teachers laughing most of the morning!  So just in case you didn't know.......

*The reindeer's names are Hasher, Trasher, Marshall, Glancer, Basher, Bob...and the ever popular Cuba!

*Santa gets back UP the chimney by putting his finger INSIDE of his nose, and giving a nod! (This one even came with a demonstration by this little sweetie...oh yeah! Cue teachers in stitches!)

*And....Mrs. Claus' jobs are never ending!  She watches t.v., cooks cupcakes, hot dogs and gingerbread, goes shopping for Santa's presents, sweeps, and is busy writing a song, but we don't know what the song is about yet.

So there you go!  Consider yourself informed from the mouths of babes!  And here's our own little version of the poem for you.

'Twas the week before Christmas break, and all through the school,
Children are running with glitter and glue.
Teachers are frazzled with Starbucks in hand,
Trying to control this wild band!

A world of holidays is up for display,
and the teachers are hoping for a two-hour delay!
Presents for parents are ready to send and....
Teachers are dreaming of not having children to tend!

Merry Christmas teacher friends!  Lindsey and I wish you all the best this holiday season and good health and prosperity in the coming New Year!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gingerbread, Gingerbread!

Hey everyone! Lindsey here...

A couple weeks ago I posted about our gingerbread weeks {click here to see that post}. WELL....we just wrapped up our whole unit and I wanted to share with you our results:)

Our main goal was writing our own gingerbread version. Boy, oh boy! They LOVED it! This unit always gets their creative juices going because we read so many different versions that they realize they can choose anything they want to be their character. We had the traditional boy and girl but we also had some that were a little different...

Not everyone has finished their stories yet...even though we have been working on them for TWO WEEKS! Who am I to rush their creativity I guess...We also have a football player who is being chased by Russell Wilson...I can't wait for that one to be finished:)

We were also working on comparing and contrasting and problem and solution while reviewing beginning, middle and end.


If you are looking for some good versions, I have two new faves that I just discovered this year. 

These are great versions that really help the kiddos to start thinking outside of the normal gingerbread box:)

We used our gingerbread passages as an assessment this time so that the kiddos could compare and contrast two versions of the same story. Click HERE to see those passages.

Finally, to wrap it up we made gingerbread houses. CRAZY!!!! 22 kiddos, I know I'm lucky to only have 22, hopped up on adrenaline fed by sugar and Christmas all rolled into one. Let me tell you...every year we finish gingerbread houses I think to myself "This is ridiculous. Why do we do this???" But every year we do it again. They just LOVE it!


Now that we are over the gingerbread excitement we can move on to the excitement of ONLY 5 DAYS LEFT!!!! This week will fly by and we are going to be studying the holidays around the world. We rotate classes and each teacher takes on a different county or holiday to teach about. The kiddos love it. For the last couple of years we have used Holidays Around the World with Globe Trot Scott by a Year of Many Firsts. It is an AWESOME unit! If you are looking for a unit, I recommend this one. Click HERE to get it:)

This year I am also excited for our holiday passages. Many of the books about different holidays are really hard and the kiddos can't access the text on their own. Now that we have created our holiday passages they can access the information on their own which I am VERY excited about:) Click on the pictures to check them out.

You can get all the passages in one neat bundle...

Or you can choose certain passages that would work best for your unit...



I hope that you all have a calm {one can hope right?} week:) Or at bare minimum, let's hope we all survive!! FIVE MORE DAYS!!! FIVE MORE DAYS!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Conversation

Hey everyone! Lindsey here...

We are linking up with Abby from The Inspired Apple to join the Christmas Conversation! Click the picture below to check out the conversation and link up:)

Here are a few of our traditions...

I hope you are all having a fantastic, non-hectic because it's so close to Christmas, week!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tuesday's Tip

Hello Everyone and a Holly Jolly Tuesday to you!  Here are some quick Tuesday's Tips!  This's all about vocabulary!  Recently, we had a support teacher's meeting at which they shared vocabulary that is likely to be on our state test!  Whoa baby!  Those are some big words!  And when I say big, I mean ginormous! (As Lindsey always says!)  Every teacher in that room just about fell out of their chairs and was ready to quit teaching when they saw them! I mean what in the goodness?  Are we teaching college all of a sudden???  After recovering from the shock,  they all did what our fabulous teachers always do and got straight to work on figuring out how this mountain can be conquered!  (Our state test is the SBAC, by the way.)  So out comes the vocabulary strategies.  Here are a few of the tried and true goodies.

1.  Mystery Word
Each day or two, we have a Mystery Word.  It comes in an envelope that is fancy and contains the word for the day.  It is a HUGE honor and privilege to be the one who opens the Mystery Word.  You have to earn that privilege.... yessiree!  (Of course everybody earns a chance eventually...but don't tell the kiddos that, okay?)   So how do I teach it after it has been opened and presented?  Well...that's where you need tip number two!  The G.L.A.D. Signal Word!

2.  G.L.A.D. Signal Word
 G.L.A.D. stands for Guided Language Acquisition Design.  It is a wonderful collection of teaching strategies that help all children learn the ELAs well.    The signal word works like this.  You choose an important vocabulary word and teach it and a kid-friendly definition to the children.  Include with it a hand motion to help it to stick in their brains.  Then, you say the word at random times throughout the day.  When you do, the children respond with the kid-friendly definition and hand motions.  You can change it up by giving them the definition and having them tell you the word.  It works like MAGIC!!!! Quick, easy and works like magic?  Why yes please! Here's an example word - "Schema" - "Everything you already know about something!"  (You'll have to imagine the hand motions.)    Anywho....the Signal Word is my favorite G.L.A.D. strategy of all time!  Now if you are like me and need it to be cutesy too, just post the word on your Word Buddy.  Oh yeah, we have a Word Buddy.

3. Vocabulary Pages
So a few years ago our school did lots of professional development around Marzano's vocabulary strategies.  For some reason, it just didn't take off in our school.  But a few things stuck with some of us.  Like using Vocabulary Pages.  I don't use them the way Marzano recommends....sorry Mr. Marzano....but we do keep track of our newly learned vocabulary words. Here, my third graders are working on vocabulary as they get ready to read about Las Posadas.
4. Games
Who doesn't like a game, right?  That's why we include them in our Leveled Passages sets. (You can get them here.)  Here, those amazing third graders are playing the vocabulary game that comes with our Las Posadas leveled passages.  They love it and it really helps the vocabulary to "stick."

There are sooooo many wonderful ways to teach vocabulary, but these are a few that worked for me in the classroom and now work just as well in my short little reading intervention groups.  Hope you find them useful or that they spark another great idea for you!  And if you have other great ideas, please share them in a comment so we can all steal  use your wonderful ideas too.   Wink, wink!

Have a great week everyone!  (Count down is on.....8 more days for us until break!)


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Five For Friday

A Happy Friday to you, teacher friends!  Hope it is going great!  We are starting off with an interesting Friday!  It is a half-day.  But this morning...the school is doing an evacuation drill.  Yep....all 800+ students and all staff are marching down the street three blocks to a church.  Whew!  I'm pooped just thinking about it!  So let's move on and think of something a little more fun, shall we?  Howzabout a Five For Friday with our friend at Doodlebugs Teaching!  Oh yeah!

So...we have a new evaluation system this year.  That's probably 'nuff said right there, but I'll explain.  It seems that NO ONE knows exactly how things are supposed to look.  Which means the teachers are just a teeny tiny bit anxious....and when I say teeny tiny I really mean A LOT anxious.  It is also observation time.  So one day last week all the teacher talk was about how they could show that they were being successful on all the criteria on the new evaluation system.  Eek!  So a little  later in the of my sweet third graders said to me......"I like your scarf.  Do you HAVE to wear a scarf when you're a teacher?" all know how whackadoodle my sense of humor is.  That got me to thinking about what REALLY makes you a successful teacher.  Is it all the criteria on the new eval system written by experts.....or is it maybe something else?!  Well you and I know it is something else!  So let's see how successful you are as a teacher.  Here is the TRUE criteria for being a successful teacher.

You MUST wear scarves.  See?......All the successful teachers do!  Aren't they the sweetest? These are some of the teachers I am blessed to work with.  They are super successful and they ALL wear scarves!  So there you go!  Scarves are a necessity!

You MUST carry at least one of these babies 'cause we all know that teachers are powered by Starbucks!!  No Starbucks - No  Teacher Power!


You are obessed with much so that you organize them just-so in cute little containers to match your style or personality.  See?   These collections belong to the most HIGHLY successful teachers I know!

You go home and find these stuck in random places all over your body!  All successful teachers use and "wear" stickers!  Oh know you do!

Your stockpile of sticky notes is legendary! have the cutest varieties, too!  Yep!  That's a for sure!

So there you go!  Forget those fancy schmancy expert-written evaluations!  Just go by this checklist and you will be the most successful teacher around! I guarantee it!
Have a great weekend everyone!  Ten more school days for us until break!  We can do this!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Tuesday's Tip

Well hello teacher friends!  It's been a few weeks since we have had a Tuesday Tips post. So let's get back on track, shall we?

Today's tip is all about volume of reading.  You all know that the school we work at has the majority of students coming to us reading below or far below grade level.  We work really hard at our school then, to learn everything we can do to help these sweetums catch up fast!  But we also want our students that are on or above grade level, to zoom forward too!  One of the best tips for helping all of our students has come from this plain, unobtrusive little book here:

Annual Growth For All Students, Catch Up Growth For Those Who Are Behind by Lynn Fielding, Nancy Kerr, and Paul Rosier.                     

This book comes out of a district in Eastern Washington, and was written because they were highly successful in sending their student achievement soaring at all of their schools!  So naturally some of us at our school devoured it.  What was the great thing it said you ask? said kids have to read a lot.  Simple as that.  But of course it isn't that simple  They determined that for each year of reading growth a student makes, they read an average of 80 minutes per day.  This includes direct instruction reading and practice reading.  They also determined that if a student is one year behind, they need to read an additional 80 minutes per day, so 160 minutes total!  Impossible you say?  Well....not really.  In the book What Works for Struggling Readers by Richard Allington, he also advocates for more volume in reading.  He goes further to explain that EVERYTHING a child reads counts towards the minutes.  Math problems?  Yep.  Charts on your wall?   Yep.  Scholastic Readers?  Yep.  Guided Reading Books?  Yep.  Poems in the poetry notebook?  Yep.  Everything counts!  So how do we do it?  Well....take a minute to think about the things that your kiddos read every day.  What about the charts on your wall?  Can ALL of your students read them?  Often times teachers make wonderful anchor charts, but not ALL of the students can read them. What about poems or songs that you hand out?  Do you give your students "lifted text" or excerpts from books?  Can they ALL read them?   If not, then the kids that can read them get more minutes of practice and the kids that can't read these things get less, when it should really be the other way around.  So think about what's used in your class.  Can all students read all things independently?  If not, can you change things up a bit so they can?  Make your charts readable by using simpler words.  Then you can add little clouds with more detail for higher readers. One of my sweet teacher friends is super careful with making her charts readable. (See the picture below.) Her kiddos can and do read her charts all the time.


Consider passing out two or three levels of poems.  It's okay if they are different.  The kids can perform their poems for each other!  If you are in intermediate grades and hand out articles or excerpts from texts...consider typing up the regular version, plus two simpler versions.  You'd be surprised how even simple little tweaks like this can make the materials readable by all, and increase those minutes of high-success reading for everyone.  So get 'em all reading, everything and all the time, and their achievement will grow!

This tip from the experts about increasing minutes of high-success reading, has made THE biggest difference in increasing student achievement in both our classrooms.  We are passionate about making sure that EVERY student can read EVERYTHING we use.  That's why we make and use our leveled passage sets. They help us meet the needs of all students in an easy-to-use format.  Check 'em out here if that sounds like something you could use.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you have an awesome week!  And may you have twice as much energy as your students!  (Yeah, I know.  They are already bouncing off the walls with excitement about the holidays!  :-)  But their joy makes life great, no?)