August 28, 2013

Wacky Wednesday


            Many people would call it Wacky Wednesday, but in our house, we do the Geico commercial.  We now call it the “family” commercial-Julie, Mike, Mike, Mike…Do you know what day it is???  It’s…….The start of my week!  Yes, that’s why it’s Wacky Wednesday.  Let me tell you why I start my week on Wednesday (or even what I mean by starting my week!) 
            Years ago, when Balance Literacy hit the scene, I actually read Guided Readers and Writers by Fountas and Pinnell.  That is the book that got me started on actually reading professional texts.  It is a shame that many of us don’t read professional texts.  There is just too much out there to know now not to read them.  Anyways, off the soapbox.  When I was reading it, I came across the section on scheduling.  In that section, they suggested “starting” your week on a Wednesday.  New spelling words and new word work (notice I didn’t say story).  Remember, this was, and still is, best practice NOT to use a textbook.  Real literature matters and kids need real literature in their hand-not excerpts and especially NOT in intermediate!  I found this idea of a “new” start on Wednesday particularly appealing due to the fact that it had to do with SPELLING.  By starting a new list on Wednesday, you actually give the kids MORE time to learn the words-a true week!  So I tried it out-and loved it!  I’ve been doing this ever since (even when I did use a textbook.  Then I started my story on Wednesday too!).  Through time I discovered something else-the kids and parents liked it BETTER!  It takes a little while for them to adjust, but it does a lot for families.  I know from doing the Thursday night stress studying that this puts a lot of strain on families.  When the majority of review is done on Monday night, families are fresh, minds are not tired, and they really come in prepared.  To me, that says WIN WIN!  Today was the start of our new week!
            What did this look like?  Here’s how it went. 
All my wacky Words Their Way materials!

Last week, I gave the intermediate Words Their Way spelling inventory.  I know that there are a lot of Words Their Way leveled books running around.  For the inventories, you need the original, full text version of the book.  These inventories are great because you can target the specific needs of students by using the inventory page to assess skill level.  Once I got the groups, I then ran the sorts from the leveled books.  The sorts from the leveled books work better because they are organized in a way that makes for easy use.  I then took these and organized them into expand-a-folders.  This will make it easy to pass out each week. 

Eventually I'll add tabs to these.

The kids then received a copy of their sort.  First, they had to write their words in their agenda and have me check them.  This list will still act as a traditional way for kids to practice their words. Parents need this because it stays with tradition.  Teachers need this because it gives extra practice to build skills.  Our grade book needs it so we can keep track of progress through spelling assessments.  Originally, the writers frowned upon this theory.  I was actually glad when the leveled books came out and they had changed their stance.  The weekly homework assignment that I give them is called a Spelling Rubric. I found this YEARS ago online, so I have NO IDEA who even developed it.  Today we spent a good chunk of time just going over the assignments for that.  I assign it on Wednesday and it is due the day of the test, Tuesday.  The one thing I’ve found when using the rubric is that kids love the choice.  I rarely have to “assign” something to kids.  Some vary the rubric, and some do the same thing every week.  There is nothing wrong with either! 
            Once we completed that, the kids cut out their sort and stored it in a ziplock.  This will be saved in their desk each day for use.  Today we couldn’t get to teacher lead sorts.  There just wasn’t time, since this was our first go around.  Tomorrow, I will meet with each team and go through the sort by using the teacher-modeled sort.  I will say the words and show them where the words belong and why.   How I will fit this in, I currently don’t know.  That’s just plain honesty.  I do, however, have an idea.  If it works, I will share it in a post.  So I’m keeping it under wraps for now!  Then, each day, they will repeat their sort in a variety of ways.  On Thursday they will partner sort.  Fridays will be write their sort and explain what the rule or pattern is they are working on.  On Monday they will resort and then glue it to a paper for turning in.  I will probably have them do random sorts at different times of the day as well. 

            One thing to know about sorting and memory:  During our Quantum Learning training, we learned something called 10/24/7.  Sorting is a perfect example of how this theory works. When the teacher sort is finished, they will copy it on their own.  That’s the 10-within 10 minutes of learning something, they should do it again.  The 24 is in hours.  Within 24 hours, they should learn it again.  And the 7-that’s 7 days of time.  Within seven days they should be doing it again for full transfer to long-term memory to work.  That’s what makes sorts key to learning how the sounds and patterns in language work.  It’s hard work doing a program like Words Their Way, but the benefits for kids, both in written language and reading, pay off!  

So, think about Wacky Wednesday for your classroom.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comment section! 

Julie :O)

August 25, 2013

Classroom Reveal!


        I figured I better get on this, since tomorrow starts week 2!  After that, it wouldn’t be new any more!  So, here’s what my place and space looks like!  Let’s start with my student area! 


The baby changing table has been transformed into my student supply center.  Here, students can access paper, their headphones, and other basic supplies found in the bottom two shelves.  The top shelf holds three baskets-two for homework and one for classwork.  I have made small tags for each basket for easy identification.  I also lined the table with a great wrapping paper of green and blue circles that matches the theme of my room-which is also the colors of our school!  The board on the wall is an “Out of the Room Board”.  When the kids leave the room , they move their number magnet to the appropriate spot on the board.  This allows me to do a quick check for where kids are at all times!  There is also our monthly calendar, the iHelp Job chart, and a place for the lunch menu.  I also keep the Homework Checker clip board there for easy access to record homework turn in!  This is important to the kids as well as myself since after 30 successful homework turn-ins, I give a free homework pass out!  On the wall is Marzano’s effort rubric.  I turned it into kid friendly terms.  I will take it down soon to explicitly teach effort.  I’ll share about this when I get to it.  It is really a key component to my expectation system!

            Next, on the white board, you will find a number of wonderful things.  First, let’s talk about the right hand side of the board.  There, you will discover two things. 


The first one are the frames I made to write the daily essential questions we are covering in all subjects.  They were really simple to make.  I found 81/2 “ x 11” scrapbook paper that matched my room. I bought the frames at the Dollar Tree.  Once I got the paper inside, I flipped them over and glued magnets on the back.  They are currently moved over from where they are here.  I made room for our Classroom Guidelines.


These are the rules we worked on together.  They were inspired by a post I saw on Pintrest.  In fact, my room looks like Pintrest threw up in it!  Can I say, I LOVE Pintrest?  (Here’s the Out of the Room Board)  I still need to print off the last page, have the kids sign it, and then get it up there too.  We all agreed on these guidelines and the signatures help to lock in the choices we made as a team.  I stress often-This is OUR room, not my room. Ownership is one of the 8 Keys of Excellence that we practice as a school.  They are located above my board and on the wall with the “Where Do I Live”  line. 


This is a lesson we do as a class about where you live, above or below the line.  It is part of our Quantum Learning training we received as a staff.  If you have never heard of Quantum Learning, you should check it out!  It was a really wonderful training where they tie brain research and best practices into one.  I can honestly say, it was one of the best trainings I’ve had in my career.  It wasn’t that it was chop full of new stuff-it just tied it together in a way that made you realize the “why” of things you do as an educator! 

Back to the board-You will also find this there.


Again, Pintrest!  I did recreate this so that the colors matched my room.  I’m not happy about the E in noise, so I might work on this a little.  I really like this system and have used it all week.  Here is the post that tells you how the teacher uses it.

Located in the back of my room is one, LOOOOOOONNNNNG wall with high windows.  These windows are there because my room meets the roof of our cafeteria.  In other classes, there are great views of our lake and the front areas of our school.  I do like this wall though, because it can house a lot of information.
In the corner you will find my library. 

Years ago I wrote a grant for the Water District. They provided me with a kit that had all those great puppets you see there.  I arranged them in food chain systems!  I also ordered those great posters from them! They were free!  If you are interested and live in my area, they are from SWFWMD.  You will also find my teaching area, which looks blah right now without the posters I add as I teach. 

Also in the back is my desk area and table area. I use this for remediation and for Book Club meetings.  



I have to show a close up of my lollipop tree!



I just love this and it adds fun to my desk!  I found this as a party item on Pintrest with no directions attached.  It was easy! I spray painted a candlestick, added a large foam ball (hot glue this), a tag, and started filling!  The key is NOT to add them on one side.  It will pull the ball off. You have to work around it to keep the balance of weight equal! 
Along the wall by my desk are my cabinets.  I will be adding numbers to them.  That is another Pintrest idea.  Instead of sending kids to the drawers with directions that get them lost (I know you are laughing right now because it is true), you put numbers on them!  Glue sticks are in drawer #5!  So much better!  I also have the Character Traits activity from Rachel Lynette on my cabinets.  I will be doing this again, and soon!  This made Book Club character descriptions so much easier! 

And, finally, one big look across all those desks!  

I have some bulletin boards I didn’t discuss, as they will come together when we start working on more things!  So, you have it-my room.  If you see anything you are wondering about, leave me a comment and I’d be glad to get back with you about it!  It’s going to be a great year!

Julie :O)

August 22, 2013

101 Best Ways to Motivate Kids to Read


           Phew!  It’s Thursday, it’s the first week, I’m tired!  Yes, I am tired!  It has, however, been a very nice week.  The kids are really gathering information about how our class works and then applying it nicely.  It isn’t without its bumps, but what first week isn’t.  One of the best things about this week-the kids want to read!  They are interesting in what books I have and really reading them!  One young man said, “This is the best classroom library I’ve ever had!” as he sat reading a Michael Jordan biography!  It’s such a great feeling!  One of the biggest draws in my room is the 101 Best Children’s Novels Challenge.

            Here’s how it works!  I found a list from Children’s Books Guide.com that listed the 100 best children’s novels ever.  I really liked the list.  I have read or know of most of the books on the list.  I know I had a lot of them in my classroom library as well.  So that was a big bonus for me-I wouldn’t have to work too hard to gather them together for the kids.  But there was ONE problem-one glaring problem-my favorite children’s novel WASN'T on the list!  It’s even mentioned time and again in the comments on the bottom of the blog.  How could this book NOT make the list?  It’s one of the books that every kid just LOVES!  Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing wasn’t there!  That’s where the +1 comes into play.  I added it, one more book!  That just made it a little more fun! 

            Now, the kids don’t get to just “say” they have read them.  They will be taking a piece of construction paper that has been cut into a ¼ piece section.  This section will be folded like a card.  On the outside, they need to take their time to draw and color in a scene from the book. It cannot be the cover-it needs to be a scene that they were able to visualize from the text.  On the inside, they will need to write a thorough summary of the text, with a beginning, middle, and end as well as key events.  These will be displayed in the hall next to the sign I made of the list!  

            I will also be keeping track of how much reading they do of these books.  Each child will receive a key chain with a piece of black elastic string for jewelry making attached to it.  Once they have read a book, completed the project, and have it approved by me, they will earn one bead.  Each book read will equal one bead.  Then I set goals for various levels with various prizes.  Below is  a picture of the goals and prizes I would like to see them work toward.   

This will be a quick visual for me of who is challenging themselves and who needs some motivation.  The other thing I will be doing is allowing the kids to add a bead if their Book Club or whole group book is one of the 101 Book Challenge.  This way I know all kids will have an opportunity to earn beads throughout the year. 



            If you are interested in this list, I’ve added the list, with the goals, to me TPT store.  It is uploaded as a Power Point Document so that you can change both the 101st book and the goals to meet your needs!  I’m looking forward to seeing how this works and watching my kids grow as readers!


Happy tomorrow’s Friday, but I still have so much to do! 

Have a great one,
Julie:O)

August 16, 2013

Great Data Day!


Here it is, the Friday night before school starts, and what am I doing-writing!   I can’t help myself!  I feel totally motivated because something amazing happened today!  At my school we are beginning to dive into data!  Real data-data we can use and how to use it!  We are new to this, and it will take a little while, but it will have real impact.  So let me tell you about today!
Our presenter was the Director of Middle Schools, Mrs. Saunders.  During the summer, when she was hired, I read over her credentials and was very impressed.  Today, I am even more impressed!  She gave us an incredible presentation about what is really going on within the state and how our district will, finally, begin to remedy itself of the neglect that has gone on in our curriculum knowledge.  For many, this might have been overload.  A month ago, this would be overload for me! Today, it was CONFIRMATION! 
Our first activity was……put kids into the correct level of FCAT success!  Wait, I think that sounds familiar.  Next, determine what it takes for the students to gain points/levels that will cause even more success!  Exciting!  Use your new knowledge to determine remediation-BINGO!  I was secretly dancing in my seat!  Even more fun-I got to use my handy-dandy chart I made this summer!  And so did my whole team!  We were data recording like crazy!  And in a way that made sense and was usable!  We can target kids and KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THOSE CRAZY NUMBERS!  The greatest part-new knowledge coming-we know what it takes to raise the lowest quartile students-the ones and twos-to get them to make a years worth of growth!  AWESOME!!!!  Can I say, it felt really good to be there mentally, and I really think I need to thank Jody O’Meara’s book RTI with Differentiated Instruction for that!  She really got me thinking and diving into what needed to be done!  A successful day for sure!  
Our district may be in a tough spot right now, but, for the first time I can see how putting a person who is strong in data, strong in character, and strong in her convictions can make a true difference.  I still know it will hurt a little, or a lot, but I think I’m ready!  I’m glad I have five great team members to go with me on this journey!  Thanks Lisa, Emily, Teri, and Keli for going with me! 

Julie :O)


P.S.  Today I made a Math Data Chart to record the FCAT scores on.  You can find that here.