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Monday, July 29, 2013

Pathways to the Common Core - Chapters 1 & 2

Things have been pretty crazy here!  I am trying to squeeze every ounce out of summer that I can get.  So, last Thursday, my daughters and I drove down to the little hometown I grew up in.  It is about a 2 hour drive.

We did it so we could surprise my mom for her 70th birthday.  We called her from the car and sang her Happy Birthday and then showed up in my parents' driveway 5 minutes later.  She was SOOOOO surprised.  I love it!  She is always doing nice things for me so it was wonderful to pay her back!

We drove back on Friday because my oldest daughter had a softball tournament with a game on Friday night.  Got rained out, so we relaxed at home.  Doubleheader on Saturday and Sunday left the weekend pretty much scheduled!  The unfortunate thing was that my daughter woke up on Sunday with a stiff neck and could barely move her head to the right.  It also hurt when she tried to throw.  We were able to get her limbered up enough to play for the second game.

Okay, week one of my (I would say our instead of my, but I don't know yet if anyone is reading it with me) professional book study.  Did ya read, did ya read?  I did!  My goal this week was to read Chapter 1 and 2.

An Introduction to the Common Core State Standards
Chapter 1 was a great beginning I thought.  It talked about our approach to looking at The Standards.  We can look at the standards through the eyes of a curmudgeon.  We can complain about the standards and argue the points where the standards might be weak or areas where we disagree.

Or we can look at the standards as if they are gold.  We can notice and highlight what the standards are doing right.  It has a very clear design, and setting the bar high is not always a bad thing.
I think that this is true for the standards as well as for the way you look at the world.  You have a choice to sit and complain about how this influential educational reform is affecting you and your classroom.  Or, you can look at it as a way to make some effective and lasting changes about the way we look at teaching and education.  The standards have made it very clear that we as educators decide how we implement the standards.  This is our chance to stand up and be a leader in our school/district/state as to how the standards will be implemented.  We can be at the forefront of change!  (Is it too obvious which way I choose to look at the standards)?

Overview of the Reading Standards
Chapter 2 just talked about what the reading standards look like.  Number one is that the standards unify both the reading of fiction and non-fiction texts.  Many of the standards for fiction and non-fiction are even worded the same.  Number 2 is that the standards definitely value deep comprehension and higher-order thinking skills.  Gone are the days of hearing your students say, "Oh, I have a personal connection."  The standards clearly spell out time and again that the text is at the forefront for interpretation.  The last part of the chapter listed some things to keep in mind as schools and districts start implementing the standards.

There were some additional resources that were mentioned that I would like to spend some time looking into:  Webb's Depth of Knowledge work and Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.

Next week:  Chapter 3

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Win, Loss, & Cost

Today I am linking up with my two former colleagues and friends over at Third Grade Galore and Digital: Divide and Conquer.  They have a great link up over there!  All right, here it is!
Win:  I finally got my Facebook Fan Page  up and running!  It is going to take me a while to get the hang of it, but am really excited that it is done.  My first posts were under my name and not my badge name.  Oops!  Oh well, moving on!

Lose:  Both of my girls have summer colds.  They are miserable!  Stuffy noses, coughs, and everything.  I say it all the time, but I really do hate it when my kids are sick!

A Thing of Cost:  I found these great dry erase boards at the Dollar Spot at Target.  I love that they have the lines on them for younger students.  Not all things there are a dollar, but these were.  They also had dry erase strips that looked the same, just smaller. 

 I love these new magnets.  They match my theme!  All the colors I am using this year (except brown).  I also decided to make the switch to mechanical pencils this year in my room.  I always provide the pencils so the kids don't have to walk them back and forth from my room.  I didn't splurge on expensive ones, I just got the Target brand.  My oldest daughter has called "dibs" on the orange ones.  That is her new favorite color!  I'll try the mechanical pencils for a while and see how it goes!

As the camel on that commercial I love says, "It's Hump Day!"  Have a good one y'all!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Manic Monday

Today it hit me!  I finally started to realize exactly how much of the summer was left, and how much I still hope to get done.  I know that I am not alone when it comes to summer plans.  I know that there are others of you out there who plan many more "to do" summer projects than you will ever have time for.  (Please say I'm not the only one)!  I love this book for organizing your life.  It is written with love and humor for all of us perfectionist control freaks!  (Again, please say I am not the only one)!

Project #5262  is to paint my younger daughter's bedroom.  She want green with pink polka dots.  I finally picked up a sample of the color I think I will use, but I want to try it on the wall first before I commit to a whole gallon. ( A little glimpse for those of you that don't know me well into my OCD side).  I'll try to take some before and after pictures.

Also in a hopeless end of summer do all I can now because time is going to fast kind of way, I started to think about meal planning for the fall.  I seriously have mini anxiety attacks when I hear "What's for dinner?"  My oldest will have softball at least twice a week with games on Saturday.  My youngest will have cheerleading twice a week, religious ed once a week, and games to cheer for on Saturday.  I can almost already smell the french fries from McDonald's that we will have to get every other night running here and there if I don't do something now.  (Not to mention the impact the fries will have on my thighs)! So, I put together a little calendar for the month of August:

Monday:  Italian
Tuesday:  Chicken
Wednesday:  Soup/Salad
Thursday:  Pasta (my husband's night to cook while I work on blogging business and such)
Friday:  Beef/Pork
Saturday:  Fish
Sunday:  leftovers

I then made a weekly menu with a shopping list to help me prepare for the upcoming week.  I could have found one and downloaded it, but I just made one myself with the colors and style I like.  (Again hello, OCD)!  Here it is.  Click it to download and have your own copy (Google Docs).

My other "to do" projects were to read about every professional book out there on reading and the Common Core Standards.  I am confessing that I started one, but did not finish it.  I need and very much want to finish it.  Here is the book:

I am going to post on this (and other professional books in the future) every Monday.  If you would like to, please read the book along with me and post your own thoughts about it!  I would love to eventually turn this into a linky party, but since I don't have that many followers yet, it might be worth it to wait a bit.  (Please tell me if I should go ahead, bite the bullet and do it)!  The chapters are short and easy to follow.  Here is the reading schedule that I will be attempting to follow (notice the word attempt).

July 29 - Chapters 1 & 2
August 5 - Chapter 3
August 12 - Chapter 4
August 19 - Chapter 5
August 26 - Chapters 6 & 7
September 2 - Chapters 8 & 9
September 9 - Chapters 10 & 11

I have some ideas for books after this one, but if there is one that you have been dying to read, let me know and we can add that to the list!

Happy Manic Monday everyone!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Theme Freebie #2

It is soooo hot here in the Midwest.  I feel like one big puddle!  My daughters and I went to the local bowling alley where they had a special for two hours of bowling, a pizza, drink and shoe rental for $9.99.  We met some of her friends and had a blast!  Then we came home and read for about an hour.  My kind of day!

I was thinking what else I could spruce up my classroom with, now that I know my theme.  Here are some guided reading text level signs that I made for my room.  If you haven't guessed it already, I am a huge Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell fan.  The work that they have put into their guided reading levels is amazing!

Here you go!  Click the picture to get your free signs!

Happy Thursday everyone!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sight Word Incentives

I am attempting today to link up with two other blogs today.  The first is from Fourth Grade Flipper.

This Tuesday, I am linking up for the very first time!!!  I consider that something new that I have tried!

The second is a link that I just found.  It is from Head Over Heels For Teaching.  It is a Saturday link (but it is still open)!  

This linky party focuses on student motivation.  So, I thought I would share what I do with motivating students to learn their sight words!

Last week, I posted about how I assess sight words.  This idea of growing the amount of sight words that a child knows is enough for most students.  Just being able to see their numbers go up and up and up is all they need.  However, there are those few students that just need a little extra push to practice what you already know is important.

Therefore, I have created a Sight Word Incentive program called SIGHT WORD CELEBRITIES for students to be even further motivated to learn their sight words.

I called it Sight Word Celebrities so it fits along with my whole "Popcorn" assessment theme.  Sight words should pop like popcorn into your head.  And, I figure when you are a celebrity, you go to movies and have popcorn!  Personally, I put my Milk Duds in my popcorn as soon as the movie starts.  Then I have warm, salty, chocolaty goodness with my popcorn.  (Got that trick from my mom, thanks mom)!

The incentive program is a year long with the end of the year culminating in a MOVIE PREMIERE!  We are talking the whole shebang, red carpet (or fabric) and everything!  The sight words that I use are the sight words from the Dolch grade level lists, and they are organized within the grade level according to frequency of use.

Let me show you how the incentive program works.  Let's take the pre-primer list for example.  Here is how I divided the words from that level.  I divided the words into 10 lists.  This way, you can introduce the new words to the students in small chunks so the whole list does not seem that overwhelming.

Each child gets a Progress Chart.  This is where they (or you) can keep track of their progress toward mastering all 10 lists. 
As you can see from the chart above, every child gets invited to the Movie Premiere after they have mastered List 2.  I made the decision to have every child earn the ticket to the premiere early on in the program.  Remember, this is supposed to be motivating for students so I wanted to ensure success for all at this early stage.  After they have mastered list 4, then they will get to have popcorn at the Movie Premiere; after list 6, a drink; after list 8, candy; and after all lists, movie star sunglasses!  When the students have reached each milestone, they glue the proper icon onto their charts.  The icons I use are shown below.

The treats all vary depending on what the children can eat and allergies and such.  And the movie changes depending on what is current.  But the fun stays the same!  I like this program, because it is structured, but loose enough for me to make changes if needed.

I have made incentive programs for each of the Dolch lists:  pre-primerprimerfirst gradesecond grade, and third grade.  Each incentive pack comes with:

Table of Contents
Explanation of Program
Sight Word Certificates

Student Progress Sheet
Student Icons
Corresponding Assessment Pack
Parent Letters
Class Progress Forms

I am so looking forward to using it with the kids this year!

What do you do to motivate your students?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Theme Freebie!

I don't know if y'all knew this or not, but it is not easy coming back from a paradise vacation.  Especially one that is a 5 hour time difference from what you are used to!  I know, I know, I am complaining about my wonderful vacation.  However, I have to say me sleep schedule has not been the same since I returned.  I seriously like a good 8 - 9 hours a night in the summer.  Last night, I went to bed at midnight and tossed and turned until 3 AM.  I then went downstairs to watch the last hour and a half of Forrest Gump. (Great movie, and I hadn't seen it in awhile).  I came back to bed around 5 AM and slept until about 8:30.  This is sooooo not the way I operate; it is killing me!!

I took my girls to the pool today and tired them (and hopefully myself) out!  I had a little glass of vino and feel now that I can read myself to sleep at a decent time tonight.

Okay, now to the freebie part.  I was so excited that I found my theme for my classroom, that I started making some materials for it already.  Since I don't have a regular classroom, I only need literacy type of materials.  I started with an alphabet strip.  I love making my own and find them to be much more engaging for the students.  Here is a sample of a few pages.

So here you go!  Click the cover page below and that will take you to my freebie!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Reading Theme This Year

In my younger years, I decorated my third grade classroom in very bright colors.  I always tried to keep it different from year to year (more for me not getting worn out on the same thing year after year), but always stuck to bright colors and making the room attractive.  It never occurred to me to find plan out my classroom according to a theme.

Flash forward some 16 years later, and I have finally gotten on board with a themed idea.  When I first changed jobs two years ago to be a reading specialist, I knew that I would be working children pretty hard in their reading skills.  My philosophy has always been to work and have fun in the process.  So, I wanted to make the room and student incentives as fun as possible.  I went to my local teacher store and saw some RAD (totally 80's word) girl and boy electric guitar players.  The words "Read Like a Rock Star" instantly came to me.  I had so much fun thinking about and finding items that fit my theme.

Last year, my theme was "Wild About Reading."  Monkeys were everywhere in the room!

So this year, I have been thinking and thinking about what I would like my theme to be.  I have decided to use . . . . . . . . . . .  (do you hear a drum roll in the background?)  "Reading is So Delicious!"  When I talk about being delicious, I am not talking about healthy food delicious, I am talking Willy Wonka delicious!  I have yet to decide on a color scheme for this.  However, I love this new line by creative teaching press!

I do really like this color scheme.  I don't admit this to many people because my good friends make fun of me when I do, but my favorite color is BROWN!  I just think it is a very soothing color.  I think I a winner!

What themes or ideas do you use to decorate your classrooms?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sight Word Assessments

My experience before I became a Reading Specialist was primarily with upper elementary.  Not too long into the practice of actually becoming a Reading Specialist, I realized how important sight words are to beginning readers.

Beginning readers are so all over the board with their sight word vocabulary.  It is easiest to move students along with the number of words they can read quickly if you know how many words they already know.  I found that assessing my students as the beginning of the year is the best way to give them the most growth when compared to the end of the year.

Our district does not use either the Dolch sight word list or the Fry sight word list.  We have used in the past (changing now through committee work to align it with Common Core) a list that was mentioned in Regie Routman's book Transitions.  Many of the words overlap with the Dolch list seen below.

So therefore, I have some ready-made assessments for the Dolch sight words.  This helps the children that I see immensely, because I am always looking for growth in their number of sight words read.

I based the assessments on a popcorn theme.  I love telling students that these words sometimes don't follow all of the sounds that you have learned.  When you see them, the words just have to POP into your head like popcorn.

For each assessment pack, I made popcorn flashcards.  This picture shows have of the pre-primer words.

I also made bookmarks for each pack.  I did this so I could introduce just a few words at a time for the students.  I can make sure that they master that list and then move on to the next lists.  Each bookmark has no more than 7 words on a list (with the pre-primer, primer, and first grades have no more than 6 most of the time).  Here are the first 6 lists of the pre-primer pack.

The most important part of the assessment pack (I think, but what do I know), is the assessment forms.  For most students, checking their progress once a quarter (or trimester) would be fine.  However, there are some students that you are going to have to gently nudge along their sight word journey.  For these students, I use my progress monitoring sheets.  I check their progress more frequently than other students.  Here are the assessment forms for the pre-primer pack.

So there you have it!  A quick and easy way to keep track and help guide the learning of those all important sight words.

Other blogs do some fun things like give away items free to the first three people who respond back with their email attached.  Let's face it, look at the side of my blog and you will see that I have no followers yet.  According to Bloglovin, I have 1 person following me (and I have a feeling it is a colleague who is being nice)!  So, here's the deal.  I will give away an assessment pack to the first person who comments on this post AND leaves me their email.  You can have the assessment pack of your choice!  Keep in mind that this will be my first comment EVER since I started this whole process.  No pressure!  Seriously, I am just daring you to do it!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Have you ever heard of the website Goodreads?  It is a great website that combines the elements of your home bookshelf and Facebook.  I have been a member for about a year and a half.  The organizational control freak in me loves keeping track of all of the books that I have read.  Every member creates their own shelves and names for their shelves.  I have one shelf that I have called "Embarrassed by."  (This mostly includes my listening to Danielle Steel books on the way to and from work).

The other nice thing that the website offers is groups.  There are thousands of different groups you can join to talk about books.  Or you can just look at the group and see what books they have read.  If you have a certain reading appetite, they have a group for you!

You can connect with others that you know who are also members of the site.  I have mine set up so it automatically connects me with my Facebook friends.  You can see each others bookshelves and recommend books to each other.  I love it!

One of the things I did in January was to sign up for their 2013 Reading Challenge.  I pledged that I would read 52 books this year.  I figured I could handle a book a week.  As you can see, I am a little behind schedule, but I have every faith that I can do it!!

Look at the widgets on the sidebar of my blog.  The site also makes an app that works with your Apple or Android products.  Check it out and let me know what you think!  (I like it better than Shelfari - tons)!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Goodbye Google Reader

Okay, so I am back from Maui (sigh).  The flight back always kicks my tushie.  It is an overnight flight.  My husband and I left Maui at 9:00 and arrived at O'Hare at 12:00.  We had an exit row seat which is great for leg room, but the chairs won't recline.  I think I have whiplash from my head falling to the side every 5 minutes!  But, I am glad I am home, because this is what I came home to!

My girls let me sleep in until 10:30 this morning!  They did not wake me up every 5 minutes to see when I was going to get up!

So, if you didn't know it, Google Reader is no longer with us.  This was a great tool to follow all of the blogs that you love.  Don't fret!  There is a wonderful website that will help you!  It is called Bloglovin.  You can follow all of your blogs just like you did before!  I actually like it even better than Google Reader.

You can follow me on Bloglovin as well!

Have a great Monday!