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Friday, February 19, 2016

Book Talk Thursday-ish: Creature Features

Hi everyone! I'm going to just stop apologizing for not posting as frequently and accept that this is just going to be the new norm for me. At least until Caffrey is a little older and I can get a better grasp on time and life and all that stuff. And in my defense, I started this post yesterday, but I didn't have a chance to finish it until this morning.

I did, however, want to share a new book that I discovered. Every year, a committee selects books for the Virginia Readers' Choice list, and they publish the next year's list in February. I happened to get my hands on the latest list last week and IMMEDIATELY started hunting down all of the books. I have 7 of them in my possession now and two others on hold at the library.

Andrea is featuring one of the books on her blog today, and I wanted to link up with one of my favorites here: Creature Features: Twenty-Five Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do.

Click on this image to see other great books!

This book is perfect for questioning, AND it ties right in with science for an animal adaptations lesson. I used it as a model to ask "why" questions, which I feel like my students always struggle with. In my class, we use the Fountas & Pinnell LLI system, which is a kit that includes leveled books to quickly get students reading on grade level. The fourth grade pack has a series called Intriguing Animals. I pulled a few of those books and split my students into groups. Then they looked through the books and found unique characteristics about each animal to come up with two questions and answers. Then they selected their favorite and shared it with the class.

To extend this activity, I would love to give the students a picture of a strange animal and have them generate a list of questions to then research online or in a book later. There are so many possibilities, and I love the fact that the lesson is cross-curricular!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Currently a new year?

I cannot believe it's already 2016! The year ended in a bit of a whirlwird around here, but I'm looking forward to fresh starts and more time watching my sweet little boys grow into handsome young men.

Listening: Keagan and Caffrey did NOT sync their naps today, so I didn't get my usual quiet time. Although fortunately Keagan has become pretty independent, and I managed to sneak in a short nap while Caffrey slept. That is, until Keagan decided to play "Polar Express" with his train whistle. Thankfully he only woke me up!

Loving: I struggled a little with this one to be honest. It's been a bit crazy here lately. My husband and I had to travel back to MS (after just getting back from a trip at the beginning of break) after my grandmother passed away. I know it's better for her and I'm glad that she is no longer suffering, but it's made for a busy and stressful break. Despite all of that, I have an amazing family and have the pleasure of being mommy to the cutest little boys. Ever. See?

Thinking: Since this has been the first day we've been able to be home and have nothing that HAS to be done immediately, I have taken advantage of it. Of course, we do need to get some groceries, so it's probably time I at least brush my teeth and become somewhat presentable.

Wanting: Like I said, this "break" was way too busy, and I need another break to recooperate. At least Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is just around the corner. And I heard whispers of snow?

Needing: My boots literally have a hole in the bottom that I've temporarily covered with duct tape to keep water out (since it's been monsoon season everywhere). Did you know duct tape doesn't stay in one place on the bottom of shoes? I just haven't had time to find ones that are worth spending my money. Maybe I'll do that before going back to school,..

One Little Word: This was an easy one for me. Ever since Caffrey was born and we moved, I just haven't been able to find my "new normal". Everything has been hectic, and I want to find a routine. I need to get some kind of schedule going and just go with it. My hope is that it will become easier as Caffrey gets a little older and doesn't need to be held all the time.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Currently December

It's already December 2?! When did that happen? Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, so I'm thrilled that we're to this point. I mean, our house has been decorated for almost three weeks now, so it's about time!

Listening: Keagan and Steven are wrestling, and Caffrey is sitting with me giggling about it. I love how my husband gets on the floor after a long day and still plays with the kids! They adore their daddy.

Loving: Everything Christmas! I've already got about half of my shopping done (almost all for my immediate family), and I can't wait to start all of the festivities!

Thinking: I've been meaning to schedule a hair appointment for a few weeks. I just haven't gotten around to it. I haven't gotten it cut since before school started, and it needs a little TLC.

Wanting: I went to bed this morning with a bit of a sore throat and woke up in way more pain. I ended up staying home today because it was so bad. Feeling a little better, but I'm hoping it's okay for tomorrow. Maybe I'll eat some ice cream to help! ;-)

Needing: We don't have any light fixtures in our family room. When we moved in, the days were longer, and the huge windows provided plenty of light. Now that it's dark by 5, our one tall lamp isn't quite cutting it. It's a big room. Maybe Santa will install a light for Christmas? (Signs that your officially an adult?)

Real or Faux: We have four trees in our house. Three of them are fake (a really small one in Caffrey's room, 4 ft in Keagan's, and a 6 ft in the living room that is my "fancy" tree). Then we always go get a real tree for our family tree with all of the special ornaments. We just got ours Sunday, and it's SO fat!

What's your favorite thing about December?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Five for Friday the 13th


Week two of being back into the groove of things, and I even had a few posts in between (though not all here)! Am I actually beginning to fall into a sort of routine? Could it really be happening?


First, as an update from last week - the lice is still going WAY too strong in our school. We've had so many outbreaks that I could literally count on my hand how many 5th grade girls didn't have their hair up yesterday, and I wanted to give them a rubber band to do so immediately. I actually bought some lice repellent on eBay yesterday after a coworker brought it in. The Ulta store closest to us is sold out of it. AND they made an instant alert call to remind parents to check their kids' hair. I really wish we could just close and get rid of it once and for all. So gross!!

Fairy Tales Repel Conditioning Spray, Rosemary, 8 Fluid Ounce


I shared about how to find the readability of any text over the weekend. It's actually very simple, and I was so excited to find it! Click on the picture (or just check out my last post) to read more about it.


I also had a little fun over at Virginia is for Teachers with a top ten list. I don't know about you, but I feel like I'm CONSTANTLY running on fumes these days!


We tried to go apple picking over the weekend, but it was rainy AGAIN. On top of that, almost all of the apples had already been picked. They were taking people up the mountain in a little bus to pick what few apples were left, so I didn't even go since Caffrey was in his stroller. My friend, Taylor, was able to snap a few pictures for me, though. We ended up leaving empty handed, but I did get my apple doughnut. That was all I really wanted.


I'm looking forward to hopefully decorating for Christmas a little this weekend (we pulled stuff down the day after Halloween, but that's as far as we've gotten). Tonight I'm hosting a LulaRoe pop-up boutique, and then we're going to a local Christmasy thing (Lakeside's Holly Jolly) highlighting businesses in our new neighborhood tomorrow. It should be fun!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

How to Determine the Readability of Any Text

I'm sure you've seen it before. A child just laboring away trying to work through a passage. Maybe they just circle answers and move on. Or maybe they completely shut down and quit. It may mean the text is just too hard. Now I know that students reading below level will have to work through text on grade level, especially for tests. But that text needs to be within reason (no more than 2 grade levels above their current grade).

So, maybe I'm way behind on this, but I just learned that you can actually check the readability of any document on Microsoft Word! That was so awesome to me because now I feel like I can look at a passage online and decide if it's appropriate for my students or not. Or if I ever decided down the road to create my own passages (not any time soon with a baby in the house), I can make sure it's appropriate. I figured surely some of you were also in the dark on this, so I decided to share a quick tutorial.

First, you have to make sure your program is already set up to find the readability of a passage. Mine was not. It's very easy, and you should only have to do it once.

Once you've done that, you can just put in any passage and test it out! It only takes a few seconds to do. I will say that I tried a list of sentences, but it didn't really work for that. This is geared toward paragraphs of information.

If you don't have Word or just want something easier, I also found a free website that runs text through FIVE different readability formulas and gives an average score:
You can either copy and paste text OR you can check a website's readability. I circled that data it gives.

I'm so excited to have these tools available and can't wait to be able to use them when choosing text to use with my students! It also will be helpful when sending home letters to parents so I will avoid being too wordy. Apparently I don't have much trouble with that since my blog came out as a fourth grade reading level. I guess I'm used to talking to fourth graders! ;-)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Five for Friday


I'm slowly getting back into the groove of teaching, blogging, and being a mom to TWO adorable little boys. My goal for this month is to blog at least once a week, but hopefully a little more frequently than that. I figure striving to do Five for Friday each week is a nice place to start!


The weather here has been awesome (well, for me at least)! It's not too hot, but it's cool enough that I can wear a lightweight sweater and jeans. We couldn't have done better for Halloween night and had a blast taking the kids around our new neighborhood. Keagan has gotten so much braver and didn't back down from any houses...

...although he did want mommy AND daddy to walk up with him on this one. He told me later that the witches on the porch were "super scary". They talked.


Caffrey has become a little chatterbox and is all smiles (well, most of the time at least). I miss being able to be home with him, but I love my evening snuggles. He's almost big enough to sit up on his own, and we're going to start giving him baby food once we go to the grocery store again.


Of course, I have been working as well and even had some time to finish a few products this week! I made two more mysteries and a new set of literacy centers for grades 3-5. You can read more about them and find them in my store by clicking on the picture below!


Most of my groups are finishing up their first level of the year and getting ready to do a novel study before Thanksgiving break, so I spent today unwrapping them all and getting ready to begin. I'm so proud of the progress they've made!


When I'm not teaching at school, I've been keeping my distance from kids. We've had a BAD lice outbreak here, and I feel like my head is constantly itching. I even had to have the school nurse check my head yesterday because I was so paranoid. I'm just praying they can deep clean the school over the weekend and get rid of ALL of it. It's so gross...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Pirates Ahoy! (and some Thanksgiving, too)

I feel like it's been forever since I made my last product, but I finally had some time to do a little creating! I bought some awesome pirate clip art last year and had yet to use it, so that is where I began:

First, I HAD to have a new mystery, and stolen treasure was just an obvious choice. This mystery is also great for talking about character traits because I used higher level vocabulary to describe each suspect. (Doesn't Jinxy Jack just have a nice ring to it?)

I'm also working hard to create more literacy centers for "Big Kids" that aren't holiday specific. As with all of my other sets, I did a lot of research to include fun pirate-related information to practice difficult language art skills.

Then I wanted to finish a Thanksgiving mystery that I actually started last year and was too exhausted to ever finish. This one is more predictive. They have to decide who is most likely to win the "wishbone contest" (the person who ends up with the largest part of the wishbone). Bonus: I include strategies to win! :-)

If you have already purchased my Mega Mysteries bundle, both mysteries are now already included, so make sure you download it again. And the Thanksgiving mystery has also been added to the Fall Mysteries Bundle. You don't want to miss these new, fun mysteries!