Friday, August 29, 2014

My Room is (almost) Done, and I have some cute freebies!!

I feel like every year I say this, but I think this is the best my room has ever looked! There are still some additions I would like to make and eye-sores that I'm working to phase out and/or cover, but overall I'm very proud of how it's turning out for this year!

This is how I came back to it last Thursday. For once, I didn't come in ahead of time. But I always cover my shelves and keep all of my big furniture in place. The only thing I had to move was my desk/table which is pretty light. I also kept my "boards" up from last year.

Since I don't actually have bulletin boards, I bought one cheap plastic table cover (like the $1 ones in the party section at Walmart) and cut it to the sizes I wanted. Then I found this adorable chevron duct tape on Amazon to use as my border.

It's perfect! No fading, and the cloth is thin enough that my magnetic posters can go over and stay up.

Click links to find CAFE, Daily 5 Posters, Decoding Strategies, and Comprehension Strategies posters!
Yes. I have magnetic walls, which is a HUGE time saver. All the posters you see in this picture have been laminated and have those little magnet circles on the back. It makes set-up and tear-down SUPER easy, which is one of the main reasons I could wait until the day I had to report back to work on my room!

Under my CAFE board, I want to find two or three little black bookshelves. Then I can also display some great books on the top for students to have recommendations, etc. I've been checking Craigslist and may go to Salvation Army, Goodwill, and the Habitat Restore this weekend to see what I can find!

Click links to find VOICES and Pencil posters!
This picture shows more of my "eye-sores" - the rug and filing cabinet being at the top of the list. I need to get some scissors and just cut off some of those fly-aways, but I honestly don't even want to waste my cute tap on bordering that rug. It's not so bad with everything else, so I'm just dealing with it now. The cabinet just is what it is. I also want to get up to IKEA sometime to buy black stools for my table. Then I can get rid of those chairs!

I think my word wall is going to go above my desk area this year. It's not ideal, but it's really the only place big enough to put anything. Plus it desperately needs something. I may go buy another tablecloth to frame out another "board" for it! Then I may add a cute border (like a real one) to my Promethean board. I think I have a few from when I actually had bulletin boards...

I am SO proud of my new signs!! I actually made these on my own. And there *might* be a fourth sign on my desk with a certain Paramore song quoted...let's just say it kind of goes with my favorite "Life's tough. Get a helmet!" quote from Boy Meets World!

I had a cute pencil sign with this same quote that I got from Farley about 3 years ago, but I wanted a bigger one to put in these frames (Btw, thanks for the frames, Mrs. O!!)

If you want to download the signs I made, I'm attaching the links to my google drive. They're already in GIF, but I would recommend printing with a black border if you can because it was hard to cut them out to the right size.

And finallly, I have a tiny bulletin board outside my classroom. It used to have a little "Where are we" sign for my aide and I, but we always forgot to change it. This year I decided to try something new.

Did you scan it? Just in case you don't have your phone nearby or can't scan it, the QR code takes you to Reading Rocket's Parent Page. Farley posted a picture of hers on Instagram, and I instantly knew I wanted to do this! Mine definitely pales in comparison. I may change the letters to look a little better before Back-to-School Night!

I can't believe that we'll have students here on Tuesday! Good thing there's a long weekend to get some more summer in before hitting the ground running. I'm excited to start!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Using Morning Meetings to Enhance Vocabulary AND Last Week to Help Raise the Parr!

Hi friends! We are halfway through work week, and I have a LOT to do! My room is still not complete (although it helps that I don't have students until a few weeks in), and I need to finalize my schedule. Hopefully I'll be able to share some pictures soon!

Anyway, today I'm sharing a great way to introduce robust vocabulary through morning meetings over on Adventures in Literacy Land. I hope you'll head over there to check it out!

I also wanted to remind you about the Raise the Parr fundraiser. It will remain open until September 7, so go check out the packets available if you haven't already. There's some great stuff available, plus you're helping out!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Blasting Off the Year with High Flying Ideas

Welcome to our back to school blog hop! I hope you have gotten some great tips for back to school. If you're just starting out, make sure to head over to Andrea's blog (Reading Toward the Stars) where the hop begins! 

I don't have my own group of kids anymore (Title I Reading), but I have been lucky that some of my co-workers let me come into their classrooms to start CAFE lessons and help prepare the students for Daily 5 (or 3 in some of our upper grades classrooms). We are now entering our third year of full implementation for Daily 5 and CAFE, and I just have a few quick tips for starting it in your own class!
  • I recommend starting with read to self. Use the T charts they discuss in the book, then have EVERYONE practice it together, then come back and discuss what worked/didn't work. 
  • Don't get discouraged when your kids only have a stamina of 1 minute. Chart it and celebrate growth! They have to start somewhere, and they will get there!
  • Get the kids into "Good Fit Books" as quickly as possible! I know at the beginning, you're just trying to get them to read quietly while you work on running records and other beginning of the year assessments, but the faster you can do this, the easier it will be for them to build their stamina. 
  • Once they have the hang of "Read to Self", go ahead and introduce the other stations the same way. I would have everyone do the same thing until they are all used to each station.
  • Use your own judgement for whether you will give student choice or assign stations. Some classes are ready for it from the beginning. Others need a lot more guidance. Trust your gut, and remember you can always change it if it's not working for you!
  • Have some kind of "assessment" for the stations to make sure they are on task. Since I work with struggling readers, I have MANY students who "read to self" without actually understanding a single word. Have them do a quick reading reflection or a sticky note summary...something to help hold them accountable. It doesn't have to be a grade, but it's important for them to know that this isn't just a time for them to sit quietly and pretend to be a good student.
There are SO many facets of Daily 5/CAFE! This is only scraping the top. Fortunately there are a ton of resources out there (and btw, they should all be free on TPT, so don't worry about paying for them). If you haven't already read the book, that's the best place to start. The sisters really break everything down into a very manageable and easy-to-follow format. I keep my book close-by to refer to even after 3 years!

Keep on moving to Jennie's blog for more tips to start the year off right!


I'm Back!!

Oh my! I'm finally back from vacation, but today was also the first day back from work and I am WIPED!! Good thing that tomorrow is already Friday and then I have another work week because I need some time to get myself together.

Anyway, I just wanted to share a quick giveaway that ends tonight before I go tutor and then "try" to get some cleaning done. There is sand everywhere!

Kristy has some adorable blog designs, so if you're in the market for one (or just want some amazing prizes), you'll want to check this out!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bringing Words to Life: Energizing the Verbal Environment

Hi everyone! It's the last week of this book study (and the last day of my summer), so this is a bittersweet ending. As I said last week, I plan on sharing ideas and activities that we do in class once the school year starts, so it's definitely not the end of "robust vocabulary" discussions here. Just the end of the book.

If you're a new reader or missed a post, you can always go to the previous posts by clicking on the "Robust Vocabulary Instruction" tab at the top of my blog!

This week, we are talking about ways to energize the verbal environment. When I read through, this almost sounded like a summary chapter, but I'll go through it quickly pulling out a few great ideas and thoughts.

Use Mature Language. You don't have to teach every "big" word you use, but be intentional about your own oral vocabulary. Maybe if you do a weather report for the day, call your weather person the meteorologist. Tell students you're proud of how diligent they are working. Use famished to describe a hungry student. Be creative! Your students may pick up on a few of these words without even having specific instruction!

Students can either learn the meaning of these words through looking it up (if you think the dictionary will have a reasonable definition for it), teacher telling them, OR you could let them talk about it and figure it out on their own. You don't have to worry as much about them guessing way off base because these words won't be assessed. If they show particular interest in a word, maybe add it to your word wall so they can see it and be reminded to use it.

Explore Within and Across Words. There are some words that students may recognize in one context but unfamiliar with other ways it can be used. Discuss these terms and introduce them in a new way so that students can better understand them.


Can you think of other examples of how you can use mature language in your classroom to help expand your students' vocabularies?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Meet the Teacher

Okay, I keep seeing this cute little link-up, so I decided today was my time to join in!

I'm a Title I Reading Specialist for grades 3-5 just outside of Richmond, VA. I'm about to start my ninth year of teaching, and I've always been in the same school, just in different positions. I spent one year in 1st grade before the school transitioned from primary to preK-5, then I jumped ship as fast as I could to get into 4th. After teaching 4th for five years and finishing my master's degree, my principal asked me to switch to my current position. This will be my third year, and I love it!

My husband and I got married right after I graduated, and then I moved from GA to VA. It's taken a lot of time for me to adjust, but I really have started to love the city of Richmond! It's so unique, and we have AMAZING food! If you ever come to the area, I can give you a list a mile long of places to try.

We have one sweet little boy, Keagan, who is 2 1/2 and full of energy! He's learning so much right now (I think he's very smart), and he amazes me how much he has picked up on. We would love to have a second soon, but our family of 3 (plus two dogs) is enough for now!


Books, Chick-fil-A, Shopping, Target, College football, My church (Remnant), Singing


Probably something related to chocolate. I would gladly take over Willy Wonka's if it existed! But more realistically, I'd love to be a children's author! I used to write stories in elementary school and would LOVE to publish a children's book one day.


Laid-back, quiet (at first), friendly


"Oh yeah, I have time for that," said no teacher ever!


Probably Jennifer Lawrence. Once I saw her trip on her gown and make fun of herself, I knew she was my kind of person! I would also probably want some of my blogging buddies around!


Just a Plain Jane


To be able to freeze time. I never feel like I have enough time to do everything I want.


"Life's tough. Get a helmet!" - Boy Meets World


That's a tough choice! I love so many songs...maybe something by Of Monsters and Men or The Civil Wars? I like that type of music a lot!


Definite night owl! In college, I used to stay up until AT LEAST midnight. It was a difficult transition once I became a "real" adult! I usually am in bed by 10 now, but if I was able to sleep in longer, I would probably go back to staying up late.


I've been creating little mysteries for drawing conclusions for a little over a year, and I FINALLY decided to bundle them together a few weeks ago! My students and I always have so much fun solving the mysteries, and I love that they have to use their critical thinking skills. I plan to create even more, but so far I have nine of them. They can be purchased separately or altogether in my store!


I actually sing pretty well! I'm in one of our church's bands and LOVE to do it, but I'm usually pretty quiet about my ability.

Now it's your turn!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bringing Words to Life: Differentiating Vocabulary Instruction

Did you notice something at the top of my blog? I created a new page that grouped all of my posts in this book study together! If you joined halfway through or just want to refer back to them, now you can go straight to the page and find them a lot faster. I will also be adding activities that I do in my class to show real-life examples once the school year starts. We have 3 more weeks before kids come...eek! I'm so not ready. I haven't even been to my classroom yet (although I really just have to pull paper off of my bookshelves and throw up a few posters. No biggie.)!

But back to the reason you're here (I hope): Chapter 9 of Bringing Words to Life, which is all about differentiation. One of those other buzz words. I know.

The chapter focuses on two specific groups: struggling readers and LEP (or ELL) students. I guess there isn't as much need for focus on your advanced students because this type of robust instruction will hopefully be challenging for them as well as your average students.

The authors give a great little format for helping these students close the gap between them and their peers.
  1. Whole group instruction on the target words the way it has been discussed in previous chapters (please go back and check them out if you haven't already)
  2. Identify students who did not show mastery over these words in the end-of-the-unit assessment, and provide additional instruction in smaller groups. The book recommends 15-minute sessions for three more days.
  3. Any students who still have not mastered the understanding of these words will receive 3 more days of instruction. Be sure to use different instructional activities so they have more chances of understanding.

During these additional sessions described in steps 2 and 3, students should be given opportunities to talk about word meanings in different contexts and also to use the words appropriately in discussion. As you continue with this format, fewer and fewer students should need the additional instruction.

Another way to help these struggling readers (and LEP students) is to provide more explicit questioning and scaffolding in the initial instruction for the word. These students will need more guidance and explanations as they learn new words, so we need to be ready to provide it until they are ready for us to cut back.

One quote that really stood out to me from the book was this one about how we should teach:

The two main concerns with English learners are which words should be taught and what kinds of activities are most effective.

Which Words to Teach:
Just like with traditional students, we want to focus on those Tier Two words that appear frequently in literature but are not as common in oral language. The key is to begin this instruction AS SOON AS the student can manage everyday conversation. Don't wait until they know all of the basics. They will pick it up naturally!
The big thing to consider here is that ALL students need to be able to understand the concept of the words being introduced.

What Instructional Activities are Best:
Once again, remember that different is not necessary. What works fir LEP students will also work for the rest if the class. All students need frequent interaction with the target words. There are some adaptations that will make things a lot easier, though.

  • Provide text previews in student's first language, if possible, before reading text in English
  • Use high-interest texts for your students
  • Provide visuals or multimedia texts for extra support
Another major strategy to consider is to use cognates (words such as dictionary and diccionario which have the same meaning AND are very similar). Focus in on the roots of these words, which are often Latin or Greek and have to be taught in the upper grades anyway (at least in Virginia), then students will be able to recognize the relationships between those words and also identify other words.

Can you believe that there's only one more chapter to cover? I feel like I've learned SO much, and I hope this has been helpful to you, as well! Next week is about energizing the verbal environment!

Oh, and before I go, I wanted to mention a fantastic giveaway for you to check out. My friend and fellow VA Blogger, Rachel from Mrs. O Knows is celebrating her 2nd blogiversarry this week with a different giveaway every day. Today's winner can score one of my mystery packs along with some other great stuff!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Two for Tuesday You Don't Want to Miss

It's that time of the week again, and I think you'll be really excited with my choices today!

For those who are new to this linky, every Tuesday bloggers choose two items in their store to put up for 50% off regular price FOR THAT DAY ONLY! This is a great chance to score some amazing products, so I would recommend clicking on the picture above to see who else is participating. Of course, that is, after you finish seeing what I have to offer. :-)

Mega Mysteries Bundle - 9 activities for drawing conclusions
This is my newest product and includes all 9 of my popular "Case of" mysteries for drawing conclusions. I have also created a preview for this file so you can see the exact format for each mystery. Two of my most popular mysteries that are included are:
The Case of the Secret Admirer - an activity for drawing c    The Case of the Missing Backpack - an activity for drawing
This file is regularly priced at $30, so it's a STEAL today for $15! I almost can't believe I'm doing it.

Character Analysis Posters and Graphic Organizers
My other choice for this week is much smaller but still great for those planning for specific skills. I know our 5th grade students begin the year with a lot of character analysis. I created this file to really help them dig deeper into character. It's only $1 today!
Go check out what else is on sale, and be sure to come back tomorrow for my second to last book talk!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Made It

My summer is drawing to a close with only 1 1/2 weeks left, so I'm starting to think about school a little more. Specifically, I've been trying to clean up and advertise my store a little better to help promote my products (without driving you all crazy). This week I have two things to share, and both of them are technology related. I'm so proud!

I made a banner for my TPT store! Now when you click on it, it immediately takes you to all of my literacy center packs (which I am slowly upgrading just a little to have more coherence and to have a cleaner look). 

Hover over this image:

Did you notice something cool? I used Megan's tutorial (I Teach. What's Your Superpower?) from her Blog Baby Blog tips to create a pin it button, and here it is! I've been wanting to add one for a while, but I just had no idea how to do it. Megan made it pretty simple. She's amazing!

What have you made recently?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Five for Friday: August 8


It's August! Eek! I'm still not quite ready to get back into the routine of school, although I'm slowly making some adjustments to be a little more prepared in 2 weeks...

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I skipped out on this linky last week because I spent the entire week working on an SOL (VA state tests) Committee for 5th Grade Reading. I know that probably sounds pretty boring, but I actually love it! We spend the week looking at test items and deciding if they are fair or if changes should be made to them. Plus they host it at this really nice hotel that I don't get to stay in because I live too close that has yummy snacks all the time, they pay us (as long as we aren't contracted to work over the summer), AND I get to meet other teachers from around the state! This was actually my second year serving on the committee, and it really gives you an appreciation and understanding for how these tests are created. A LOT goes into it!

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Another reason I didn't post last Friday is because my little brother and his girlfriend came to visit! Wade is finishing his last year at Georgia Tech, and this was my first time to meet Devan. She was so sweet, and Keagan is in love with her, I think! We had a lot of fun exploring Richmond with them and just hanging out.

Of course I was terrible and didn't take a single picture, so I'm stealing one my dad took since he's visiting the rest of our family right now. This is Wade and Devan with my sister, Lauren, and my adorable little niece!

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This week, we've been interviewing babysitters. Can I just say I HATE that process? I'll be so excited to send him to preschool so we don't have to do this anymore. Good news is that we found one we really like, so hopefully it will work for the rest of this year. He turns 3 in December, so he can go to preschool after that!

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Tuesday was National Night Out, which focuses on getting to know your neighbors and being safe. Target sponsors the event, and they had all of the Emergency Response teams (Police, Fire, Ambulance) in the parking lot for families to enjoy. Keagan loved the fire truck, but his favorite part was watching the LifEvac helicopter land! He got to sit in it, too, but I think that made him a little nervous...

Divider 5

Today we made a tent just because, and then Keagan and I had lunch under the tent. He had a blast! I'm going to be sad to leave him with the sitter in a few weeks. We've had a lot of fun this summer, but there's still so much that we didn't get a chance to do!

To those of you who have started school already or are almost there, I hope it is going well for you! We go back August 21, and then students begin September 2. I've got a lot of work to do before then!