Monday, October 1, 2012

Inference, Silent reading, and Reader's Notebooks

Today was a "revamping" day in my class's reading world. This week we're talking ALL ABOUT INFERENCE. 

One of my FAVORITE, FAVORITE, FAVORITE books for teaching reading strategies is the book Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor. You cannot go wrong. So practical. So concrete. 

Well, one of the strategies for teaching about inference is to use a bag of garbage and make inferences about the people who live in the house. I like that idea. But then I saw the blog post over at The Inspired Apple where instead of a bag of garbage, the teacher uses her own bag! So smart!

This is what I did today. I wish I would have snapped a picture, but I forgot. The kids were cracking me up with their inferences. They did a very good job. For example, they opened my wallet, saw my Macy's and Kohl's credit cards and said, "You must like to shop." They grabbed my library card and noted:
"You must like to read." 
"You've been to a library before."
"You like to spend time in quiet places."

Then one of them grabbed my phone. Keep in mind, THIS is my phone:
Yes, I do still live in the dark ages. 
And one of them said, "I infer that you wish you had an iPhone."

Oh, kid. How your inference is spot-on! One day....

But I digress.... So we finished up our mini-lesson on inference, and I sent them hither and yon to practice making inferences in their books. Meanwhile, I was going to make my rounds and continue to assess their Guided Reading (I'll post my forms soon). But, as I got ready to walk around and listen to them read, there was such chaos that I found myself staring at the class and thinking, "This is NOT working." This thought was immediately followed by gathering my kids together and declaring that ZYLAR (zip your lips and read) time was over (groaning...which is amazing, since very little reading was happening).

And so I began to revamp. We discussed some of our problems during independent reading. The kids know. They were able to point them out. Yes, one problem was that fourteen kids are looking for books... and it's the same offenders each day. Lots of talking, not much reading. 

So I raffled off my 11 book boxes, and bribed the other kids to bring cereal boxes to make some. I need to make a book "shopping" schedule so that kids are only at the class library once a week. (I've seriously never had this problem before with my kids, but now I do, so I have to change my system.) 

And then I grabbed the stack of composition notebooks that I stole from the resource room at our school. I gave each kid one and had them write their name on it. Then they turned to the first page and recorded their independent reading level for the quarter. In other words, they wrote the levels of books they're looking for to be independent reading books. Then I had them number the page to 3. 

See...This class is terrible about picking out a book and committing to it. I mean awful. They stare at the books, grab one, read four pages, and then quit. So I grabbed a bunch from the shelves today and started talking about each one... told them what the reading level was, and read the back of the book. I had them listen for at least three that interested them enough to want to read it. It's crazy to me. These are the same books that have been staring them in the face for a month, but only after I presented them did pencils start furiously scribbling the titles of these books. Nuts, I tell you. But, whatever. If it gets them reading, so be it. 

So, whew. That was our day in reading today. From now on the kids will have at least three books in their book box that they intend to read. Tomorrow we'll work on finding a reading spot and staying there. I've seen several independent reading self-assessments, and I think we'll use one of those.

I've always always always wanted to start reader's notebooks with my kids. I've just always been intimidated that I'd do it wrong. But you know what? I'm risking it. I'm jumping in. I had to rethink our reading today, and, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. I'll post more pictures and things in days to come as I steal more ideas from fabulous teachers and revamp my own system to get it to work. We'll get there! 


Friday, September 28, 2012


I'm there. Overwhelmed. I wasn't there yesterday. I wasn't there this morning. I just arrived in the land of the overwhelmed this afternoon. Suddenly I looked around my classroom and saw the chaos. The ungraded papers, the science materials stacked on the back counter, the unfed crayfish next to the sink (I have since fed them, so don't worry :), the desks all askew (I moved them into rows, but I hate that at the end of every day the desks are a mess!), and my desk PILED with stuff. Just piled.

And, it's the end of the month. You know what that means. Bulletin boards need to be changed, the calendar needs to be changed, and since it's the end of the week, the newsletter needs to be created and emailed out, too. Sigh. I raced around the room for about forty minutes after my kids left today, but it's still chaotic.

Don't get me wrong.... it's a good chaos. We had a really good week of learning. Thinking back to some of the conversations I heard my "friends" having this week, here's some of what I overheard:

"This is grammar? I love grammar!"
"What do crayfish eat? Do they poop? Can they live outside of water? When will we get to learn about the crayfish??"
"Can we work on our skits in our groups now?"
"Aw, man! I got chloroplast on my pants at recess!" (Learning about plants is paying off! Yay for the smarter vocabulary!)
"Do we have to stop reading now?  Can we have ten more minutes?"
"I can't choose from my writing prompts. Can I write both of them if I have time?"

Yes, it's been a VERY good learning week. And, in preparation of another such week, I'll be going into school tomorrow for awhile. We have a waffle breakfast fund-raiser anyhow, so I'll just stay and work on some things for a bit and be ready for another week of learning. And you know what? I don't love the chaos, or leaving my room in shambles in the evening, but if the chaos is a side-effect of my kids' learning, then so be it! Bring on the chaos!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What a way to start a year! [Leaving sub plans and more!]

Well, friends.... I really do have some great intentions to get on this blog someday soon and begin to show you some of the AMAZING things I've been learning from my 4th grade friends. They really are incredible!

This year just hasn't started as planned! I've had my kids for all of nine school days...  (which is crazy when I think of all we have accomplished in JUST nine days!). I really have been meaning to blog, but starting at a new school, in a new grade, with new curriculum... it's all I can do some days to keep my head above water!

Then, this weekend my grandfather passed away, which sent me into a tizzy to get sub plans ready. I am usually pretty good at getting sub plans ready. However, I have never had to leave four consecutive days of sub plans during which time I couldn't come back to the classroom to grab papers to grade, check on things, etc.

I began my hunt on pinterest and elsewhere to find some help!

I started with THIS cute Sub Tub Label from TPT. It's free and adorable. (I love free and adorable).
I applied it to my version of a Sub Tub, and viola!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Done {enough}: Classroom Tour

Well, folks, it's done. Enough. For this year.

I'm never *quite* satisfied with my classroom, but I think it'll get there. Part of it is because I'm at a new school this year. I'm in a new classroom. I haven't had 20 kids in there yet to figure out how the flow will go and what areas need to be accessible... you get the idea. But, it's done enough for the start of school this year. It's functional. And I think it's pretty enough and homey enough for Open House on Monday night.

Okay, okay...enough talk... pictures. I was going to put some in the post, but then I realized I had 42. Um...yeah. I really only took pictures for a couple of minutes, but I guess I take them fast. Soo.... I made a slideshow for your enjoyment! :) Let me know what you think!

I'm linking up here and here with other amazing teachers who are ready to reveal their rooms, too!



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back to School Jitters!

Back to school jitters, anyone? I sure have them!

Does everyone else get the really weird Back to School dreams, too? You know, like dreaming that you show up for school on the first day only to find you're at the wrong school, or that you can't find your classroom, or that only the parents show up and you're not wearing any shoes! I'm telling you what, friends. A psychologist would have a hey day with all of my Back to School dreams! What's the weirdest one you've had?

Got some Back to School Jitters? Click below to link up at A Turn to Learn

Back to School Jitters Linky Party

Monday, August 13, 2012

Make it Monday

I'm Al.Most.Done. But not really... Reality Check. Are we ever DONE? Nope. Never. At some point (probably on Sunday night...since Monday we have Open House) I will call it "Done enough." But I'm not there yet.

I am so ADD in my classroom! Are you that way, too? I work a little bit over here, then get distracted by a project over there, then get distracted back to what I was doing, etc. It happens all the time. It's why sometimes I feel like my to-do list is only growing, not shrinking. BUT... today, I crossed several things off!


One of those things that I crossed off was "Table Group Signs." I had in my head the kind of thing I wanted, which is sometimes dangerous. I knew I wanted "pom" like things to hang from the ceiling, but I didn't want "floofy" ones. So, I stopped at the dollar store. Nada. I stopped at Hob Lob. I almost paid $10 for poms that I didn't even like because I was afraid I wouldn't find what I had in my head. But no. Nope. Didn't buy them. Finally I decided to try the party store. I walked in and....ta-da! 

I figured I could just cover up the flower part since my room is NOT luau/beachy theme. Much to my pleasant surprise, these lovelies came in a package of six and the best part is that they were ON CLEARANCE... $4 for these! WOOHOO!

 So I grabbed 'em and took 'em to my classroom. I immediately pulled them out of the package and assembled them. I was glad to find that the hibiscus flowers were on cardboard that you could attach when you assembled them (or not, as in my case. I just recycled them.)
 I got out my trusty glue gun and placed a dab in the middle of the circle and then added my number. My numbers are just from one of those punch-out teacher letter/number sets. Then I flipped it over and did the same thing to the back, so that both sides would display the number.
 Ta-da! Easy, and cute!
 So then I hung one up from the ceiling. I stepped back to look and..... um. No. Way too close to the ceiling up there. The kids would need chiropractic care if they had to crane their necks to check their table number like that.
 And so I got out some string and made myself a longer loop for my sign.
MUCH better. Here they are! 

I was even so overzealous while making these, that I made #s 1-5... and then I realized I only have 4 table groups. So this lovely is resting in the cabinet until I decide to rearrange my room and have more than 4 groups. :)
Just what I had in mind. They look so good, I think! I'm proud of them! So simple, but they add so much, and they are a little nicer than just making laminated signs (not knocking those, I've made them in the past... just wanted to do something a little fancier this year!)

 Well, that's all for my first Make it Monday! :) I'm linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Home Sweet Classroom: Curtains!

Let's face it. We, as teachers, practically LIVE in our classrooms. And so, if you're anything like me, your classroom has to be a little bit COZY. Right?

Well, as you can see, my classroom this year started out as anything BUT cozy.

A whole wall of windows? Yikes! Curtains, now! Plus, there's a large air conditioning unit in the corner of my classroom and it is LOUD when it's running. Some fabric might help absorb some of the sound from the A/C. Maybe. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.

So... SEW... I began the search for some curtains. Knowing that I couldn't possibly afford to hang curtains over all of the windows, I focused on the five small windows at the bottom. First stop was a fabric store, but I left empty-handed and discouraged that it would cost me my firstborn child a fortune to buy quality fabric to make curtains.

Next stop: the WMart. I looked at curtains and sheets. Nothing I liked. Ventured back to the fabric section to grab some Velcro (for an entirely different project) and as I rounded the corner, I came face-to-face with this:

YES! That's it! Cute, but not "girly." Polka dots. Whimsical. Gender-neutral. Very colorful. Sign me up. So I waited. (And waited, waited, waited) for someone to come cut 4 yards of this lovely fabric for me. And then I paid $28 for it (more than I wanted to spend, but a bargain for perfection!).

And then I brought it home and dragged the sewing machine out of the storage room and gathered my mother and my grandmother (I'm still a sewing novice, so I need them!) and we went to work. 3 hours later we piled in the car, our new creations in the trunk, and headed to my classroom to hang them up!

I LOVE them! There's still so much work to do in my room before school starts TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY (AHHHHHH!!!), but these curtains make my heart happy, and warm up the room so much already! Lucky for me, the teacher store has tons of stuff that matches my new curtains... it's all called Dots on Chocolate, and you'll be seeing much more of that in the coming days. Hooray!


Friday, August 3, 2012

Birthday Bags

Been working a bit in my classroom today... I met with the other 4th grade teachers to pace out our lessons for the first week of school. I still need to actually write out my plans and figure out which procedures to teach and practice on which days, but it feels pretty good to have the first week mapped out!

The next order of business for today was to get some of the stuff for birthday bags. I stole this idea from Jo Anne, my cooperating teacher the first 3 years of my teaching career. Needless to say, she's genius. :) At the beginning of the year, I put together birthday bags for each of my students. I buy cellophane bags, like the ones below that are available online. I always get mine at the Dollar Tree. 

The kids are generally just excited that you have something for them, they're not typically critical of what's IN the bag, so I try to keep the cost down. This year I put in the following:
One Airhead

One Ring Pop

One smiley face bouncy ball

A party whistle

A spinning top

And... the  Pièce de résistance .... 

Let's be honest, they really only want the homework pass. But I think they like the candy, too! :) And this way, the birthday bags are finished and in the cabinet in my classroom. On the morning of a student's birthday, I just place one on their desk, along with the button they get to wear for the day. 

To me, it's an easy, yet significant way to honor my young friends on their special days. It doesn't take a lot of time, or a lot of money, but I acknowledge their day and give them a night without homework to celebrate with their family. 

What do you do to celebrate your students' birthdays? 


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Grub Work

And so it has begun.... today was the third day I spent in my classroom. I'm so thankful that the school kitchen had these HUGE carts that I could use. I unloaded a van load of stuff in about 20 minutes... hooray!
I began by stacking it against the cabinets so that I could arrange the desks before all of my stuff inevitably explodes around the room. (I told myself it wouldn't, but let's be realistic...) So then I arranged the furniture...
This is the first year that I'm not starting the year in rows... I'll let you know if I like it this way or not! I've also decided I'm going to let the kids pick their seats for the first day...they can claim their spot at Open House the day before. After all, I'm just making random guesses by placing them somewhere, so I'd rather let them choose and then fix it later if it turns out to be an error in their judgment.

I started arranging the shelves for my class library. I clearly do NOT have enough bookshelves in this classroom...and I even brought two of my own! I will have to remedy this somehow very soon....

 By the end of day one, I had at least the bulletin board behind my desk almost finished (notice the border jetting out the top and bottom of my board...I couldn't find my scissors!)

 And, as promised, by the start of day 2, I had stuff everywhere....

Day 3...I solicited some help from my very sweet and willing friend, Sharon. Thanks to her, all the bulletin boards now have at least paper and a border!

(Yes, I teach in a Christian school, so this bulletin board is A-Ok! :)

My desk is STARTING to resemble a space I'd like to hang out in. I'm hanging scanned copies of my college diploma, and my teaching license. The frame on the bottom is a sweet certificate my 5th graders from a couple of years ago made for me. 

And, finally, another finished product thanks to Sharon's hard work... my cabinets are all labeled! I stole this idea from my friend Julie, who teaches 5th grade at a local public school. I walked into her classroom one day and noticed her genius! Now when a kid asks for, say, construction paper, I say, "It's in cabinet O." Brilliant! I used die cut letters I had gotten in a big pack at Target once upon a time, and then put clear contact paper of them to attach. Love!