Monday, April 13, 2015

Reptile World

Just before break, we had my favorite assembly ever! Now don't get me wrong, snakes make me nervous usually, but Reptile Man has been coming to my school every other year since before I was even born. That means this is the fifth time that I've seen him, and I still can't get enough of it!

He has this rare ability to hypnotize a room full of children without ever changing his tone. Actually, I think he's very similar to a reptile himself - monotone, but fascinating. And to make it even better, you would almost swear his partner was mute. He just nods and calmy holds all of these crazy animals most people wouldn't dare touch. Like that huge alligator snapping turtle above.

Or this beautiful 4 year old American Alligator

Or, you know, a crocodile...No biggie...

I tried to catch a few videos for an example. The kids all go crazy when he first brings out a new animal, but you will notice that he never raises his voice, and eventually they calm down. This one took a little longer because Alexander was acting unusual. Pretty funny, though! Also note Reptile Man's dry sense of humor. I love it!

Reptile world
Posted by Melissa Rogers Dalton on Sunday, April 12, 2015

But one of my favorite parts is at the end (AFTER he brings out a few venomous snakes and I conveniently disappear for a few minutes) when he brings out this HUGE Albino Burmese Python. The snake has obviously been around people forever because it is the most docile snake ever. I really want to be one of the ones to help pick it up, but I had a feeling they wouldn't let me this year. Something about being pregnant?

Anyway, they lay the snake out on a table and let the entire school walk by and touch it if they want. Of course, I had to get a quick picture! (And yes, the head is all the way at the other end. I just noticed after 5 years that the guy actually stands right by the head, probably to keep the kids from getting too close to it.)

What kind of assemblies do you have at your school? Any favorites?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Five for Friday: Spring Break Style

I haven't linked up in a while, but I figured this would be a great way to quickly document my Spring Break before I head back to work Monday (insert sad face).



First, did you notice my new look? Megan from A Bird in Hand Designs did my first design a few years ago, but I was ready for a little bit of a facelift. I also had her do my personal blog, and I'm in love with both designs! If you're in the market for a blog design, I highly recommend her. She's amazing!


It's rained most of the week, but we did have a beautiful weekend. Keagan decided he wanted to go fishing, so we headed out. He didn't catch a thing, but he had fun!


We had a busy, but fun Easter Sunday! Keagan really enjoyed his Easter Egg Hunt this year with the family, but we laughed because he was the first kid to just decide he was finished. We actually had to encourage him to keep looking by telling him there was candy in the eggs.


I made a mid-week trip to the gym for BodyPump. I love that class and am excited to be able to up my weights some and really shape back up after this baby gets here. I did snap a little gym selfie and was very proud to see that I really don't have all this extra "fat". It truly is just a big bump! This pregnancy has been a world of difference from my first, and I'm praying recovery is much easier because of it!


Of course, I haven't behaved all break. Some friends from work have been talking about going to this amazing dessert restaurant in Richmond for MONTHS, and we finally made a date of it Wednesday night. If you live anywhere near Richmond, go to Shyndigz. It's delicious! I was only able to finish half, so the rest is waiting patiently for me in the fridge. I wonder how long it will last, though...

We also met Steven's mom downtown for lunch yesterday at River City Diner. They always have great classics. Keagan was able to get pancakes while I enjoyed a huge beef hot dog. I love Richmond's restaurant scene, so it's probably a good thing I don't work downtown.

I'm bummed that break is almost over, especially since it was rainy and kind of yucky, but it's crazy to think that we're this close to the end of the year. And to think that in about eight weeks, I'll have my newest little bundle of joy with me! Time really is flying by!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Book Talk Thursday: Arnie the Doughnut

My friend, Andrea, is hosting her weekly Book Talk Thursday linky, and I wanted to share my most recent find!

As I've said before, I went to the Virginia State Reading Conference a few weeks ago, which was amazing! One of the things I came back with was the list of next year's Virginia Reader's Choice books. I decided that I wanted to do more with it, so I needed to start reading the books ahead of time. So far, I've purchased two of the books and will slowly share them here.

Arnie the Doughnut started as a picture book, and I'm working on getting my hands on a copy now. Anyway, it has evolved into a series of graphic novels, and this is the first. My eye was immediately drawn to the cover, as were my students! The minute my fourth graders saw it, they were asking if they could read it. And this was before I'd even had a chance!

Anyway, the book was a really quick and easy read (it came up as a level R, but that's probably so students understand the humor). Arnie is a "doughnut-dog" for Mr. Bing, and he has to figure out why Mr. Bing is suddenly rolling all gutter balls. Right now, there are two books released, and Scholastic has BOTH in the 3rd grade April catalog for $4 each! If you have reluctant readers, this is probably a great choice for them!

What new books have you discovered?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Currently April!

I felt like March would never end but it's finally April, which also means there are currently TWO months before I meet this adorable little boy and can finally see my feet again! I'm excited to link up with Farley (as always) to share a little about what's been going on around here.

Listening: It feels great outside, but I feel like it always takes a few weeks for them to adjust the temperatures in the building after the weather changes. Our little fan has been running a LOT in our room lately. And, no, I actually don't think it has to do with the fact that I'm 7 months preggo...

Loving: Today is our Reptile World assembly, and I'm SO excited!! This guy has been coming to our school every other year for a really long time (like over 30 years), and it honestly is my favorite assembly ever. You just have to experience him! I'm going to try and take pictures/get a video to share. I'm not a snake person by any means, but he's just so fascinating!

Thinking: It's a good thing Reptile Man is here today because I'm so ready to be on break. Tomorrow is our last day, and I can't wait.

Wanting: My belly has really popped in the past few weeks (I'm now in the third trimester - 30 weeks), and I feel like I have a bowling ball on my stomach. It's hard to get up, and I feel more exhausted standing. BUT I'm still keeping up with the gym and haven't started swelling yet! Fingers crossed I can make it all the way to the end without any of it!

Needing: I'm always beyond ready for break when it gets here, but even more so now that I'm so pregnant. I sleep okay once I fall asleep, but that can take a while to get comfortable. I just want time to relax and sleep in a little.

EGGS-plain your name: I actually was talking to Carla (Comprehension Connection) recently and realized I haven't done that in a while (or maybe ever). Guess I just assumed I had or that people knew. It's a well known fact at my school that I have a slight Mo Willems/pigeon obsession. This goes way back to college when I first discovered Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Even teaching the upper grades, I found ways to incorporate his books. Now that I have a son, we've gone a little overboard on reading his books. To the point that one of my 3 year old's favorite phrases right now is "Okay, fine! If it means SOOOO much to you..." from The Pigeon Needs a Bath, which I highly recommend along with all of Mo's other books.

Anyway, when I was looking for a teacher-y title that fit my personality, I knew it had to relate to Mo (yes, I imagine we're on a first name basis) somehow. I decided on my title based off the book, Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late. My BFF in real life - college roomie and all that amazing joined-at-the-hip-for-a-while stuff - has an adorable little kindergarten blog, Teacher at the Wheel, also a nod to our beloved author. Go check her out, too!

Okay, now to survive until tomorrow at 2. Then I get to leave early for a doctor's appointment!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

VSRA Conference: Richard Allington

I first learned about Richard Allington in grad school when we had to read What Really Matters for Struggling Readers (the link takes you to the newer version, but the picture is the one I have). The man is a genius, and I was so excited to see that he would be one of the featured speakers at the Virginia State Reading Conference a few weeks agoHe also earned bonus points because Mr. Allington himself showed up for pajamas and PD later that night IN HIS PJS! How cute is that!! 

 Anyway, I took a few notes and wanted to share them with you. The big idea, if you read nothing else from this post, is that students do not spend enough time READING, and what they do spend reading is mostly chosen for them. We need to provide students with more opportunities to read and select their own books!

Some stats that I thought were interesting (WARNING: They may slap you in the face):
  • Disabilities are more frequently related to opportunities provided to the students. Meaning WE the teachers create many of the "issues" that our students have because we aren't meeting their needs in the best way possible.
  • Many of the deficits students experience are already well in place by the time they get to upper elementary, and then they just compound. We have to catch them early on and build that strong foundation for our students to become more successful.
  • The average student may read about 18 minutes during the school day. That's WAY lower than it should be! And it also means we are talking too much. We need to shut up and let them learn!
This goes along with an article I shared on my facebook page that was written by Irene Fountas (another reading GURU!) about how we need to analyze our teaching and make sure we're actually teaching and not "testing comprehension". Students aren't going to become better readers by just answering a set of teacher-created questions. We need to be very purposeful in our teaching and make sure that it facilitates their reading instead of constricting it.

I know this post doesn't include a lot of practical ideas, but it just goes to show that really the best thing we can do is put books in the hands of our kids and make sure that they are books that the student can read! I honestly don't mind if my level O student is reading a level M book IF IT GETS HER TO READ. She's still learning and can improve her comprehension on a lower level, but what's more important is that I'm allowing her to read for HER and not to test comprehension.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Raz-Kids and Headsprout

Have you ever used Raz-Kids? I've known about it for a while and have used Reading A-Z before, but right now I have a trial subscription for Raz-Kids and their newest program, Headsprout. I'm LOVING it!

Raz-Kids, if you aren't familiar with it, has a collection of leveled books (basically the same as the ones you can download on Reading A-Z) that students can read online. We use Fountas and Pinnell at our school, and the letters are different, but it shows what level the student will be on for their program. Anyway, what I really like about the program is that they can answer questions about the stories they read, and then it lets them go back and find the correct answers for the ones they miss. Students are rewarded extra points for getting all of the answers right, even if they had to go back and fix them!

Headsprout is a really neat new program that really helps the students with their reading comprehension. There are lower levels for younger students that work on phonics, but I just began all of my students on the first reading comprehension episode. These episodes break down a small passage and explain what the question is asking. The very first one was all about focusing on the beginning of the question: who, what, when, where, why, and how. I don't know about you, but many of my students, especially the third graders, still don't pay attention to this part and completely miss questions because of it. Below is a sample of how they reviewed this skill.

The episodes are about 20 minutes long (depending on how well the student does and how quickly they work), and after completing it, they are rewarded extra coins, 100 points to "spend", and are shown a quick little "movie". My kids would get so excited about completing levels and really enjoy the cartoon!

Then then can either move on to the next episode, read some more books through the Raz-Kids section, or redeem points. I've been playing around with a "dummy" account and have had fun spending my points and showing the kids what they can get. Looks like I need to do more to really show it off!

Oh, I haven't even mentioned the best part about the whole program, along with the fact that the kids really are having a blast with it and get excited when we go to the lab. Each student has a login and can do this at home! I can see how many times they've logged in, look at where they are struggling (from the Raz-Kid quizzes they take), and also send this information to parents so they can check their child's status. I've already told my principal that I want both programs for my 3rd and 4th grade students next year (my 5th graders saw a little and thought it was too babyish, plus they kind of max out around end of 4th grade reading level). Headsprout is $189.95 per class, and Raz-Kids is $99.95, but they are both worth it to me!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Scoop

I haven't done this linky in a while, but I really like how it helps you lay out your plans for the week. Of course, when I started it, I realized that I'm actually ahead this week (for once) and didn't have a ton to say. Still, I wanted to participate!

Have to: Our house is on the market, so I feel like we're constantly cleaning. This weekend was the first in a few weeks that we didn't have any showings, so we slacked a little. With two dogs and a toddler, though, we are in MAJOR need of some vacuuming! And this book, I've had it on my list for about a month now and just haven't gotten around to reading it. Oops!

Hope to: Like I said, I'm a little ahead right now. Everything is already copied and ready to go for this week. BUT I want to go ahead and finish everything up to Spring Break before this week's over so I can focus on plans for after break before I leave April 3. I actually only have about 4 weeks of teaching after break before I start being pulled to help with testing, and then I go out on maternity leave! Crazy, huh?
As far as the home life goes, I just started Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl author). So far it's pretty good, but I need some time to sit and enjoy it.

Happy to: Like I said, maternity leave is just around the corner (10 weeks away actually), but I haven't done ANYTHING to really prepare. I mean, we have all the necessities from Keagan (except diapers), so it's not that big of a deal. Still, I can't wait to start putting his room together. Since our house is on the market, we're not really doing that yet, but I do want to go ahead and get the bedding. Pottery Barn Kids has some cute bedding that I'm looking at. Just need to make a decision...

What are your plans for the week?