Friday, January 31, 2014

Five for Friday: Bye bye, January!

Time to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for the last day of the month. Thank God!! It was another week of snow and very little teaching (hence very few photos), but here goes!

This weekend was a tough one for my family. My dad has resigned from his church and will be moving back to Mississippi to be closer to my family. It's a little scary because he hasn't got a job out there quite yet, but I know God will provide. I'm also sad because that means they will be even farther from me (not just a "short" 7-8 hour trip down 95), although I will be able to visit all of my family at once now. Just please pray for us all during this time of transition!

Monday felt like coming back from Winter break all over again since we were out for snow basically all of the week before that. I had kids work on some of my literacy centers while pulling them for running records. We were able to get through a few, and so far everyone has been able to move up at least one level!

Tuesday was only a half day for our kids because of exams at the middle and high school, but it was a good thing because the snow was on its way up here! We were able to leave at 3 and had no trouble getting home or anything, BUT I have lots of friends and family in Georgia where there WERE problems. Can you say "Snow Jam"?! 

My real-life best friend and fellow teacher-blogger, Amanda from Teacher at the Wheel was one of those FABULOUS teachers in Atlanta who stayed hours after schools closed loving on kids stuck at school (she blogged all about it this morning, so you should go read about it and FOLLOW her!!)

Meanwhile, school was cancelled for us Wednesday, and we got some more snow time in as a family. It was much more comfortable to play outside this time even with temps in the teens because there wasn't a problem with it being windy this time. Again, Keagan would have stayed outside for HOURS if we let him!

And even though I haven't taught kids since Tuesday (if you can even call Running Records "teaching"), I am proud to say that my little boy is very excited about his ABCs and even has a dance!

In case the video doesn't work above, click here. Have a fantastic weekend!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tried-It Tuesday

I'm linking up with my friend Holly again (it's been a while) for a fun Tried-It Tuesday! For some background information, I spent most of my life in south Mississippi and coastal Georgia, so snow was something I dreamed of. Actually, I could count on one hand how many times I had seen snow (at all) before turning 21. And I may have even had fingers left over.

So even after being married and living in VA for almost 8 years now, there are still some snow "firsts" for me. This year, it was sledding.

It was probably too cold for us to go outside last Wednesday, but we had a 2 year old that wanted to play! He was too young to care last year when it snowed, and this was the first snow that stuck long enough to enjoy. So we bundled up and headed outside! One of our sweet neighbors let us borrow her sled, and we just went down a very tiny "hill" across the street from our house.

Every time Keagan got to the bottom, he would say "Fun!" and get ready to go again. He loved it!
I went down a few times, but I was the one with the camera, so this is the only proof. 

Hopefully the next snow will be accompanied by slightly warmer weather afterward (30s would be fine with me) so we can stay out more than a few minutes before feeling like we're going to die. The forecasts up here are calling for anything from a dusting to 8 inches (depending on which model you believe) tonight through tomorrow, so we may get that chance sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, we'll have to make all of these days up in June...

In on news, I'm thrilled to my helping my BBF Amy from Eclectic Educating with her 300 Follower Giveaway. She's SO sweet, and her blog is an amazing resource. You definitely will want to check it out! 

And finally, don't forget that my Pin It to Win It ends at midnight tonight for my brand new Olympic Literacy Centers. Visit yesterday's post for instructions on how to win!

Monday, January 27, 2014

My first Pin it to Win It!

I've been working on these centers for over two weeks now (my surprise winter break last week didn't help), and I'm SO excited to say that I finished with one week to spare before the Olympics actually begin!

Gold Medal Olympics Literacy Centers - Comprehension and W

These centers are very similar to my others. They include:

  • fact and opinion (with a more in depth graphic organizer to make kids really think)
  • cause and effect
  • main idea and details
  • drawing conclusions (students have to guess the sport)
  • prefixes
  • synonyms
  • antonyms
  • abc order (with flags!)
And two lucky people are going to get them for FREE!! All you have to do is visit my pin: 

Click on the link and repin it to your boards. Then copy the URL of your pin and paste it in my comment section. Be sure to leave your email address so I know where to send the pack if you're a winner. Otherwise I'll have to choose someone else, and I'd HATE for that to happen.

I will choose a winner on Wednesday morning. Good luck!

My two wonderful winners were Monica and Erin. Thank you to EVERYONE for pinning!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Slim Down Saturdays

I've seen this linky around and decided to join in! For those of you who were following along with my Teacher Fitness Thursday that is now cancelled, I would recommend this one.

Since they're on week four and I'm just jumping in, I'll explain some of my past. After having Keagan, I had a LOT of weight to lose. I've lost just shy of 30 pounds and am hanging right around the weight I need to be. Now I'm trying to find ways to keep the weight but lose some of the belly. I've really been struggling with motivation since school started because I'm tired of getting up early and not seeing the results I want to see. This week, I was determined to get back on the horse. It was also a lot easier because I only went to school on Tuesday. Monday will be the real challenge when I have to wake up at 5. If it doesn't seem to work, I'm going to try moving my workout time to the evening, though.

In teacher-related news, I'm blogging about activating prior knowledge today at:

Adventures in Literacy Land

Friday, January 24, 2014

Five for Friday: Winter Break?

I almost feel like this wasn't a work week because I only went to school for a half day this week.

ALL of the weather forecasts in the area were calling for about 3-6 inches of snow Tuesday. I was a little bummed because my school was one of the few that didn't close, but they did plan for us to have an early dismissal. Since some forecasts were calling for it to start around noon, I was a little nervous about getting home safely. However, the first part of the storm turned out to be exactly what they thought - not much.

I don't actually know who this kid is, but someone posted it to FB, and I cracked up! All the haters were coming out saying how stupid the meteorologists were and how we should have all gone to school. You know...
Well, the earlier snow had done its job of washing away any pre-treatment that VDOT had put on the roads the night before. And at 4:00, like clockwork for when the meteorologists actually said it would get back, it started coming down. Keagan and I both got really excited and started watching it cover the ground! After a few hours, we decided to be bad parents and took Keagan outside to play. Last year, he was too young to be interested, but that's not the case anymore. He was SO excited and kept saying "Snowing, snowing!"

Naturally, school was closed the next morning. And the next. AND the next. Why, you ask? Well, snow in Virginia creates a HUGE mess! It usually comes down as an icy mix that compacts and turns the roads into huge blocks of ice. Plows came through to clear the roads, but it really didn't do much of anything.
The only roads that were truly clear were the main ones that are traveled constantly. The county I work for is VERY rural, so that means almost no bus route would have been safe enough to run.  You're welcome for that little science lesson!

Instead, we had fun as a family. Granted, we only stayed outside four about 20 minutes because it was FRIGID!! One of our sweet neighbors let us borrow a sled, and we had a great time going down a very small hill across the street. Every time Keagan got to the bottom, he would say, "Fun!" I actually had to drag him back into the house kicking and screaming when it was time to go. Hopefully it will snow again later and not be quite so cold afterwards for us to really have fun playing in it!

Today my county made a very wise decision to have teachers either work from home OR come to school. We were supposed to have exams Thursday and Friday (for middle/high school) and then teacher workdays on Monday and Tuesday. Today gets to count as a workday, so we shouldn't have to make it up. Steven and I decided to stay home (especially since we had worked on some school stuff earlier in the week) and send Keagan to the sitter. I was able to finish my lesson plans and get some cleaning done around the house. Double perks!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Free News Articles for Kids and Grading Debate

I'm out for a SNOW day and taking advantage of this time to actually share some things I've been doing at school. Well, when I've actually been there.

First, I have to tell you about this amazing website I discovered through Catherine from The Brown Bag Teacher. By the way, she's AMAZING and I've been stealing so many of her ideas this year. Or at least pinning them and planning on doing them later. Seriously. Over Christmas break, I had about 4 of her posts that I wanted to look into more when I got back to school and kept saving on my bloglovin page.

Anyway, the website is called News ELA, and it's FREE!!

Free? Really? Yes. This broke teacher is very happy. And the best part is that they resources are not cheap. They take articles from different major newspapers across the country and reword them so they are more "kid friendly". Each article comes in about four different Lexile levels. Now, we don't use Lexile levels at school, but you can find TONS of cheat sheets online to sort-of correlate with whatever system you use and at least get close to your student's reading level. 

Instead of going on and on about the website, I'm going to link directly to Catherine's post about it so you can check it out for more information. I just want to share about one particular article I pulled last week for my 5th grade kids: Schools Change the Way Students Get Graded

I printed out the 700L (which is more of a 4th grade level), but I could have pulled the 530L and used it with my 3rd grade. I don't think they would have understood the content quite as well, though.

We read this together over the course of two days to make sure the students really understood what it was about. That meant we had a LOT of discussion. I think it was important for us to talk about it, though, because they rarely think about what they are reading. And they definitely don't think about how it relates to them. I was so impressed with their discussions! We even talked about how it may be nice to make honor roll, but it's better to be prepared for real life and make C's. I talked to them about my experience in Puerto Rico this summer. Steven definitely had a better education when it came to Spanish even though I got higher grades. I was doing good to understand the signs, but it was a lost cause to try and talk to ANYONE for me.

All we did in the way of "instruction" other than read the article was to write a quick explanation for each headline. There were only four in the entire article. They're used to writing headlines for every paragraph, so this was easy for them. We talked about how I just wanted them to make note of what each headline really meant so they had a quick summary of the whole article.

This article also comes with a quiz, and we were going to do it another day along with a short writing activity, but I was out last Wednesday for a committee meeting and then we had assemblies that interfered. We'll just leave it as is at this point because it's been over a week, and there's no telling when we'll be back in school from all of this snow/ice. The roads are terribly slippery, and it won't get above freezing for a few days. Plus my county happens to be VERY rural. Oh well, I'll just enjoy time with my little boy!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Day Our Way: The Life of a Reading Specialist

Eek!! It's almost been a full week without another post. Sorry about all the gaps between posts. I feel like we've done so many things that I need to share about, but I've got to get myself back into a routine!

Today would technically be the day when I would have my Teacher Fitness linky, but I've decided to put that on the back-burner, at least for now. I have seen other more successful link-ups for it that I would encourage you to join (if I remembered exactly who had them and when). There are a few reasons - I haven't actually worked out in months and need to get myself back on track, participation has been low, my time management is all out of whack right now - and I am sorry to those of you who were participating. I really appreciate all of your support!

But on a completely different topic, I decided to join in on a scheduling linky to share what my typical day at school looks like. Click on the button to join in!

Since I'm now the Title I Reading Specialist for school, I am all over the building and pulling around 30 kids throughout the week. I also push in to seven different classrooms and have to keep up with curriculum for three grade levels. It can get a little hectic keeping up with everything!

I try to plan ahead (days in advance, although sometimes it's the morning of) with the teachers on what exactly we will be working on when I come in; sometimes it's a whole group lesson, but I often pull small groups in their room to work on the skill or book they are focusing on in class. When they come in to my room for pull-out, we use a variety of resources. Usually I make Friday "Game Day", and we pull out my reading comprehension games to practice skills that they have been focusing on in class. The rest of the week, we use books and short articles/passages to work on skills. Sometimes I will use centers and pull students individually for reading conferences. The nice thing is that I can change it up and keep them guessing a little as to what we'll be doing.

Most of the kids enjoy coming to me and are even sad when I "release" them from services. I have a few that still come and ask if I will pull them again. I guess that's proof that even on the days where I feel discouraged, I must be doing something right!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Five for Friday: January 10 and a FLASH FREEBIE

Just a quick funny before Facebook that you can probably relate to, especially this week:

Right? I died laughing!

This week started out a little rough. I woke up Sunday morning throwing up, which caused my husband to jump out of bed quicker than I've ever seen him move! He grabbed all of his things, sprayed everything he could with Lysol, and banned me to our room until I was over whatever I had. Fortunately we have Amazon Prime, so I was able to watch a few things on our Kindle while in the room. I finally saw the first episode of Downton Abbey, and now I want to watch all the rest. If only another break was coming up soon so I would have time...

While I was out sick Monday, the temps did this:

...and we closed for a "cold" day. I guess when your buses and buildings are really old and not built to handle those kinds of temps, that's what happens. Anyway, it worked out perfectly for me because my husband and I were able to clean the house and get all of the "sick" out while Keagan went on to the sitter.

Wednesday was my first day back, but we had a 2 hr delay so it could warm up a little (21 degrees when we left our house). I was glad to start back on a partial day, and it turned out to be really easy for me. I only ended up having two groups. We did some practice with this set of story cards I have.

They only go up to 4.0, but it's great for a quick practice with my struggling readers. Most of the cards are pretty interesting (we read one today about Blackbeard). Plus they VERY short and only have 5 questions to go with it. The only problem was that students couldn't highlight to prove their answers, so today I made copies of them. This was nice because they had extra space to write the main idea of the section. Then they could highlight and answer the questions on the same page.

I think these are more appropriate for third grade, but my students right now are not quite ready for a lot of them. We have a LONG way to go with that group...

While I wasn't in school, I've been excited to follow the launch of our new collaborative blog!

Every day this week, four ladies from our group have shared resources and ideas for different sections of literacy. Today is the last day, and it's all about writing and grammar. It's also MY day of sharing, and I have a great activity for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

If you fill out the rafflecopter, you not only get a prize pack of some amazing resources we donated just for following, but you also get a chance to win one of FOUR $25 TPT gift certificates! What teacher doesn't want that? Don't miss out!

I also finished my newest mystery! My students were so excited to have a new one to solve after doing my Cookie Thief mystery before the break. This one will be free until around 5 EST, so be sure to download it quick!!