Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Since my life has become absorbed with teaching, I'm not bothering with any New Year's resolutions that pertain to my personal life (I wouldn't even know where to begin there anyway—ugh)... but I WILL put my energy into bettering my teaching since it directly affects not just me but 20 (oops, 21 starting Monday) little people. Look at me, thinking of others! :)

So here are my teaching resolutions for 2012:

1. Differentiate my math groups a little more. Using math groups is a really great method but I think I need to take things a step further.
2. Really focusing on improving my guided reading.
3. Putting less time into making my lesson plans look beautiful and more time into actually preparing the materials (oops).
4. ORGANIZE and rearrange my classroom!

I can't wait to find out what my kiddos' resolutions are! :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ready for "Break" to End?

I was stressing out about the new student I'm getting before I went to bed last night and ended up having a bad dream because of it. Not only did I get one new student, but four on the same day and they were all huge behavior problems, their (disruptive) families stayed the whole day, and I got observed by my assistant principal during all the chaos. The worst part about it was that my class size didn't go up or anything—these students all replaced some of the students that I already have and part of my stress was that I didn't want them taking over their desks because I really wanted my kids to come back. Separation anxiety? I am officially emotionally attached.

Anyway, I wanted to share two things that I created the other day in case anyone would like to use them. One is the reading response project that I am doing with the kids when we go back and the other is the new spelling menu the kids will get for homework once we get back. I've been using another spelling menu for most of the year, but I wanted to change the activities because they were getting a little stale. :)

Click here to download Scrapbook.

Click here to download Spelling Menu.

Friday, December 23, 2011


It sure is amazing how much work I can get done when I am trying to avoid studying for the GRE! I didn't get too much done today because of how sick I am and because I was crazy enough to go shopping earlier.

Last night I managed to get a day of sub plans done and all the materials that go with it. My goal when I get back from break is to create a “Sub Tub,” full of all the materials a sub would need for multiple days. I had to miss a day last week and it really stunk to have to spend an hour at 6:00 in the morning trying to get plans together for the sub.... so I want to be more prepared next time!

I also wanted to share some of the things that I made for the weather unit that we are getting ready to finish up when we get back from break, in case anyone wants to steal them!

Weather Study Guide
Weather Test

My goal for tomorrow (other than to actually spend some time studying) is to cut out stuff for our New Year's resolution activity that the kids will be doing when we get back. Here's a picture from Pinterest of something similar to what we'll be making.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Break Work.....

I really need to get back into using this thing! I've just been having trouble finding the time or the inspiration lately. Thanks to Pintrest (could there be a better website? I think not), I haven't had to think for myself much lately so I haven't had anything to write about really!

Something that I do want to tell you is how much work I plan on getting done over break. I don't really do relaxation—I lay around for an hour or two and then I'm over it. I can relax better thinking about how efficient I'm being. :) Unfortunately, I accidentally left A LOT of the stuff I was going to try to get done at school so I can't actually work on it until after break. I'll just have to find other things to do to get ready for the next few weeks. My goal is to get as much done as I can over break so that I can revamp my classroom when I get back... it is driving me bonkers. The feng shui or whatever. Or however you spell it.

Another thing I am doing over break is studying (eek) for the GRE. I hope to take it within a week or two of the new year and I want to get a fabulous score. I thought I had finally decided what I wanted to go back to school for—(masters of ed in...) Elementary Education with a concentration in gifted education. However, my newfound student loan bill from undergrad has me a little freaked out about the possibility of going back so soon. But, alas, my GRE score will be good for five years so I am taking it now regardless.

What I really wanted to share with you is something I made last week for the next nine weeks....

During the past two nine weeks I have been getting a little frustrated trying to figure out what to teach from week to week and finding myself in a panic at the end of the nine weeks because I haven't managed to fit everything in. I also have been disappointed in the lack of creative things I have been doing with the kids. In order to combat this, I have made my own pacing guide for the next nine weeks! If it seems to work better for me this way, I will make one for the fourth nine weeks as well. I didn't do much with the science section yet because, honestly, I need to study up on the objectives a little bit more before I commit to a plan. Here's the guide if you would like to take a look at it, click here.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reading Tips for Parents

My first parent-teacher conference night was a success! I did have a no-show and two that showed up an hour late wanting to meet while I was meeting with other parents, but other than that, everything went smoothly! The more I see the parents and know how much they are actually willing to help, the more I appreciate them.

One thing I did notice was that many of my parents are eager to learn ways that they can help their child at home in areas that they are struggling in (mainly reading for my students). I was asked for a sort of “cheat sheet” by a couple of parents and decided to look and see if there were any online before I actually sat down to make one from scratch.

I managed to find two that I liked enough to use—one for comprehension for both my higher and lower readers and one on phonemic awareness for my lower readers. They both have great tips to help children read better and I wanted to share them with anyone else that needs something similar!

Here they are:
Comprehension Parent

Phonemic Awareness Parent

Friday, November 4, 2011

Parent Teacher Conferences--Oh My!

Whew! It has been a busy couple of weeks! I like to try to do this on the weekends but my weekends have been almost as busy as my weekdays lately that I couldn't even think about writing.

Our first nine weeks ended last week and I can't believe it went by so fast! Report cards are already due on Monday. This ending has me reflecting on how I've been doing as well as how the kids have been doing. I could list all the things I feel I could improve on (I had to drive 2 hours last night on the interstate and I ended up having a long “discussion” with myself on needing to do a better job at work—but that's a whole separate entry) but I won't do that today.

Since Parent-Teacher Conferences are just around the corner, I wanted to share what I am going to do. I am going to send home a form this week that the parent should fill out and return to me. This form will have them list what they believe their student's strengths and needs are as well as some things that they would like to discuss. This will help me to plan ahead of time how I want the discussion to go. Our conferences are only 15 minutes long so I am trying to maximize time with each parent.

I will also have a form that will be filled out by myself ahead of time that will have the student's scores on important assessments, their strengths and needs, and what I would like to mention to the parents (such as behavior problems that the parent may not be aware of).

I have searched online for some cute forms (I could always make my own... but there are much more creative people than I am out there) and have found a couple that I am going to tweak slightly. Side note—I found some great ones on Pintrest... I just became a member last night (thanks Maggie!) and I am officially obsessed. If you would like an invitation to Pintrest, let me know!

My hope is that these conferences will go smoothly and that there will be no yelling involved. Most of my parents are coming out and I haven't decided yet if that is a good or a bad thing!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Study Island

Two posts in one weekend? I must be going crazy with free time! Actually I have zero free time this weekend, but I'm trying to keep up with my own head.

Right now we are struggling with a program called Study Island at school. I don't know how the other grades are dealing with it as they are used to having it in the upper grades at my school but I know that second grade is having a hard time. My students used the program often during my student teaching so I am used to the program. However, the students I had during my internship were reading and writing on a much higher level than the students I have now so they could handle the types of questions the program asks.

If you are unfamiliar with Study Island, it is an online program that allows teachers to set certain reading and/or math topics for students to complete. It is supposed to help with EOGs. The questions are in a multiple choice format.

I was just going through my students' scores from last week and some of the scores were not where I wanted them to be. I have a few ESL students who I don't think can really handle the wording of the questions at this point and then some that are reading below grade level so it is hard for them to comprehend as well. My solution for next week is to differentiate (yay) the assignments. I was originally going to set Place Value for math and Complete and Correct Sentences for reading, but I have changed things a little bit. The place value topic that Study Island offers is really hard--there are hundreds blocks in it and it asks to replace ones with tens within problems and my students haven't done well during our practice. I was going to set a place value 1st grade topic but one is not offered so we are going to be doing 1st grade Story Problems this week. This is set for the whole class to take. With reading, I am giving most of the class the 2nd grade Complete and Correct Sentences topic and some of my struggling students the Complete Sentences topic from 1st grade (common core). I am hoping that this will allow those few students to do better at the same time as learning the same content!

Friday, September 30, 2011


If I had to sum up my frustrations from the past week into one word, it would be, "computers."

I haven't had a chance to post anything in a while because I don't have much time to type something up during the week and I had fully planned on blogging last weekend--and then my computer decided it didn't want to turn on any more. Turns out the hard drive is kaput and my options were to spend money getting a new hard drive on a computer I had been wanting to replace for a while or just bite the bullet and get the Mac I've been wanting. So I got a Mac (yay!) but I had to wait a few days for it to come in the mail and all that jazz so I am now up and running again.

Another computer-related frustration--right now, my school is working to introduce an online program called Study Island more into second grade and most of the teachers don't know anything about it. Thankfully, the school I student-taught at pushed it a lot so I have a general understanding of it. I won't go into the gory details about my frustrations behind all of the Study Island related things but I wanted to add another thing to my computer list.

Also, my printer at school has no ink and our grade level printer is also out of ink.

Don't you just love everything technology?

Anyway, the point of this entry is that I am searching for ideas. My students' writing portfolios have to have a "digital copy of a piece" in them by the end of the year and they have zero computer skills. Meaning my students don't know to click the "X" to get out of a screen, much less how to type up a document.  My plan is to practice creating things on the computer throughout the year so that, by the end of the year, they will be able to produce something really great to go into their portfolio. I have signed up to have the class set of laptops for two days the week after next and I need something simple for them to create. I want it to involve a little bit of typing but not so much that they get frustrated. They will be working on imaginative narratives and will already have the product completely written and edited and they will need to create a digital copy of it. Any ideas on what they could create? My only idea is to maybe type up a sentence or two for their beginning, middle, and end and then illustrate it in paint. I need help! :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Figuring Out My Reading Groups

I have finally finished my Read 3D assessments on all of my kids but one who has been absent. Since I now have their reading levels, I am able to group them according to ability. We are required to have four reading groups and, luckily, my kids all fit into four very even groups... all but two. My top group is all at a level K, while I have a student at an M and another at an N. Now what do I do?

During my student teaching, the students in my top group weren't all on the same level but their levels were definitely a little more similar than this group. A K to an M may not seem like much of a difference but there really is a huge jump between those levels. So how do I teach these two students on their levels without having five reading groups? I owe it to my students to teach them on their level--I don't think that they would make much growth by reading way below their levels.

The only idea I have at the moment is to put them in their own partly-independent group. Since they are reading on such a high level , they can read the text independently (for the most part) and then we will meet for about 10-15 minutes in the morning while other students are completing their morning work, and then they will spend the time that they would normally be meeting with a reading group doing an independent assignment on their text. These assignments will use higher-order thinking skills and will show their comprehension and their understanding of key vocabulary.

I am going to do more research to see if there is a better way to do this, but this is what I am currently planning to do! If you have any advice, let me know!

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I love reading groups. I think that guided instruction is really the only completely effective way to differentiate. However, during my student teaching I always wanted to do author studies and other themed reading units that you can't necessarily do using the leveled readers and guided reading format. In order to get around that, I have created a 30 minute read aloud time slot to fill the time that we normally would go to recess but do not use on the two days a week we have PE.

My first unit is PIRATES. My classroom theme is pirates so I figured it would be fun to start out the year with it since the kids love my decor so much! We are reading any and every (appropriate) book about pirates. So far we have read "If I Were a Pirate" (a short story that is part of a SMART Board unit), Roger the Jolly Pirate, and Tough Boris. Tomorrow we will be reading How I Became a Pirate, which I am very excited about! We will also be reading Night Pirates and Pirates Past Noon (oooh a chapter book).

With our read alouds, I am having the students practice some reading response activities that they would normally do at a center during reading group time. Each month the students will get a menu of different activities that will show their comprehension on a more creative way than answering lower-level questions. Some activities that they are currently choosing from include making a comic strip of the important events in the story, making a Venn diagram comparing the main character of two different stories, creating an advertisement for the book, and writing a letter to the author to tell him or her what they liked or did not like about the book.

So far my students have really enjoyed all of the stories and they are excited about being able to choose the assignment that they do on each story. I haven't told them yet that I will be reading a chapter book but I am willing to bet that they are going to think it is the coolest thing in the world that they have "read" a chapter book!

I am currently laying out the whole year's worth of read aloud units--there will be about 1-2 per month. If I finish the pirate unit early, I may start an apple unit (idea stolen from my classroom neighbor, Kristina :) and then, of course, a pumpkin/Halloween unit in October.

I am definitely looking for cute themes that would work for other times in the year as well as more reading response activities to add to my menu!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Planning Math Groups

I've been looking at some different options for my math groups. I haven't done them before but I saw them done by a first grade teacher during my student teaching and was intrigued. With my own students last year I struggled to find a way to differentiate and to intervene with struggling students while teaching the whole class. I am excited about using math groups as a way to help with this!

I found a great blog that is all about doing math groups and gives a tons of ideas and it really helped me out. It's called Guided Math: After looking at the blog and using observations I've done as a resource, I think I have decided how I'm going to set up my math block!

For the first 10-15 minutes, we will go over the previous night's homework and do a minilesson on the topic we are covering that day. Our textbook program, Envisions, has a great little video that goes with each topic--we'll probably start with a discussion about these videos each day.

Students will be set up in 3 different groups (high, medium, and low) and rotate through stations--teacher, seat work, and center. When groups come to the "teacher" station, I will review the topic we are going over and see how much help each group needs. I will do a little reteaching and practice with the students. When groups are at their "seat work" station, they will have an assignment to do-typically an assignment provided by Envisions. For centers, each student will go to a different center each day (so there will usually only be 1-2 students at each center). Centers include file folder/shoe box games, activity sheets (color by numbers, etc.), math task cards, and computer games. Each rotation will last about 10-15 minutes.

Now that I've got the rotation planned, I'm going to spend this week planning the actual activities that will go at all of the centers and the topics I will be going over with the students. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Organizing Chaos!

The school year has started! Although we have only had five school days so far because of the hurricane, my classroom has already started to look like an unorganized disaster zone. There are papers everywhere and I haven't even tried to do any work at my desk--instead I've been using the guided reading table since it's so big and clear. I had better clean it up soon since I will be starting math groups next week (which I am a little nervous about since I didn't ever do them during my student teaching).

Some things I am struggling with are:
Where do I put materials that are topic-specific but won't fit in a file folder?
What is the best way to organize my classroom library?
How do I maximize my wall space so that I can have up decorative items, educational posters, and student work?

My goal this week is to make sure that EVERYTHING has a place. Every day I will close my classroom door, set a timer for 10 minutes, and organize. Once the timer goes off, I have to move on to planning and such.