Thursday, July 30, 2015

TPT Gift Card Giveaway!!

 Looking to stock up on some goodies for the upcoming school year!  Enter to win a $25 TPT gift certificate and take a load off your wallet:)  If your wishlist is as full as mine then you will want every dollar you can scrounge up!!  Enter to win on the rafflecopter below!!  There will be five lucky winners.  The winners will receive an email with their TPT gift card the evening of the 2nd.  Just in time for the TPT sale August 3rd and 4th. Good luck, friends!!

 FF Back to School Giveaway- Get it here FIRST.png

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What is your MOON SHOT?

A couple weekends ago,  I was lucky enough to attend the International Literacy Conference in St. Louis.  I will be the first to admit that I am a "total geek" and to me summers don't just mean time to relax and quality family time but also time to improve my teaching so I can do EVEN better next year.  At the conference, I picked up a ton of great information that I intend on sharing over the next couple of weeks.  It was so inspirational to hear speakers passionate about teaching reading and writing like Stephanie Harvey and Jan Richardson.

I am so thankful for all the tidbits of information that I pick up on a daily basis from teacher blogs and I am pumped that I am finally organized enough to give back and spread some tidbits of my own.  I picked up a great organizational idea before I left for the conference.  I read that drafting blog posts in Evernote helped with managing blogging efficiency.  What is a genius idea!  Why hadn't I thought of it before?  So during the conference, I was able to take notes and enter photos under each session to make it easy to write a blog posts about the great reading ideas/info that I picked up .  Plus it will give me a chance to review and rethink through the material again as well so it really is a total WIN, WIN.

At the opening meeting for the conference, the president of ILA mentioned the term "moon shot" which was a term coined by Google.  This is an big idea or goal that a person or people are trying to accomplish.  For instance, the goal or "moon shot" of the ILA is to wipe out illiteracy worldwide!  I know right??  It is a huge undertaking but it is a goal that teachers play a huge part in everyday in classrooms around the world.  Teachers are knee deep in the trenches fighting illiteracy.  Teachers are faced with figuring out how to help that one reader who doesn't seem to "get" it or the handful of students that believe that reading is BORING.  Instead of GIVING UP when their class is tough or the kids don't appear to be learning a single thing educators fight back and show their students that reading is a portal to another world. 

I believe that as educators, "moon shots" keep us going.  The dreams that may appear unobtainable that we have for our students.  So as you begin you new school year:  What are your "moon shots" for the upcoming year?  I know that many of you have not met your students yet but what things that may seem unobtainable do you want to accomplish with your class this year??

Stay tuned my first conference post will focus on dyslexia.  I learned a couple of pretty interesting nuggets of information that I can't wait to share!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wordless Wednesday...Classroom Overflow

Summer is speeding by......... and I hope that you are enjoying every moment.  I hope you decide to join the fun and link up with Christina DeCarbo too!
Last year, my family and I made a huge move.  We left family and my hometown in small town OHIO to journey to the suburbs of Chicago.  My new classroom was a tad bit smaller than my previous room so I was plagued with an itty bitty problem.  
What should I do with all my books??  
I am a bit of a book-o-holic........friends.  Luckily, IKEA came to the rescue.

Do you have classroom overflow?  If so how do you store it?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate: Improvement VS. Grade Focus

I am a little late on the band wagon but I am joining the fun and linking up with the Primary Gal to talk about Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz.  I will be honest friends!  I. love. this. book. 

So let's get down to business.  Chapter 4 focuses on the "I" in pirate:  Improvement vs. Grade Focus.

I am just going to lay this out there.  As a special education teacher, this chapter spoke to me.  I have never had a grade focus.  My focus has always been for my students to grow as learners.  Reading this chapter was a breath of fresh air.  You mean other people feel this way too??  

I really relate to Paul Solarz message that our goal as educators is to empower our kiddos as learners!

The more students are invested in their learning, the more knowledge will unknowingly creep into their brains!  Great right?  And it will set them on a path to be intrinsically motivated learners.  Imagine kids learning just for the pure joy of it not because they want to get a 100% or  a "good" grade. 

Hopefully, the love of knowledge will stick with students long after they leave your classroom or mine and help mold them into adults with a continued thirst of knowledge.  That's what we all dream of as educators, right?  To make an imprint on the kids we teach.

Paul Solarz brings up several great points in this chapter.  Grades still have to be given. However, the teacher and student can choose to focus on academic growth and even a student's growth as a person.   How much learning has taken place?  How much has the student grown as a learner? Has a student made great strides behaviorally?

Feedback is key because without it improvement would not happen.  Yet, it is essential that we are careful in how we talk, share and respond to kids.  I loved how Paul provided examples on how he provides feedback to his students and emphasized that feedback should be given in the present tense.  Like:  Can you try it this way?  Next time, I would like you to try........

If feedback is given in the past tense then there is no way for students to correct their mistake and/or behavior.  

Ways to provide feedback to students
 1.  Leave comments on Google Docs
 2.  Whisper comments in a student's ear 
 3.  Meet and discuss with a small group 
 4.  Work through a problem with a team

This chapter emphasized that an environment where students feel safe taking risks is crucial.  Without it, students won't feel comfortable taking the lead with their learning.  If kids feel like they will be criticized by their teacher or peers then risk taking won't happen.  
Risk Taking+Investment+Engagement=LEARNING
Students should feel like mistakes are learning experiences not something to be embarrassed about.  


Not just the teacher can provide feedback but peers can as well.  Students give feedback to peers to aid in the improvement process.  Paul Solarz teaches his students to use quality boosters with one another.  He even instructs students to sandwich quality boosters  between positive comments.  A quality booster is a suggestion on how a peer might improve their work.  Even the best work can be improved upon!! 

I could seriously write a book about this chapter because there is so much meat to it but this post is getting too long already so I will stop.  However, if you are interested in more thoughts on this chapter check out Learn Like a Pirate's Twitter book study archive for chapter 4

Until next time friends, 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Firstie Friends Giveaway!!

Hello friends! My Firstie Friends and I decided to pull together our best Spring products just for you! Please click on the image below to go to a Google Doc with clickable links for each product.

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Here are the blogs of all the fabulous ladies that have contributed. Click away to visit their pages! :)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

How Did You Teach......Civil Rights

Civil rights is such a powerful topic to talk about with students.  However it can be abstract for them to understand how the world once functioned and even that there is not 100% equality today.   Since I teach elementary kids I focus on getting the kids to understand the WHAT piece of the movement so they can better understand the heroes and how they were key in forcing the world to change how it treat minorities.
One way that I create a visual image of the time is through BOOKS.  The teachers at my new school introduced me to the book ROSA by Nikki Giovanni which is a beautifully illustrated book that tells the tale of Rosa Parks and the bus boycott.  It has great vocabulary as well.  After reading and discussing the theme of the book, my students then did a written response in their writing journals about the topic.

Click the picture below if you are interested in getting your own copy.
Another useful tool I use to get the kids to see what the time period we are discussing was like is by using video clips.  I use videos from YouTube, the Biography Channel, the history channel, etc.  I also use Brain Pop and Brain Pop Jr.  Here is a peek at what a Brain Pop Jr. video.  Click the link to see the video in action.

I like to show my students clips of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech as well.  It is a great way to show how many people were involved in the movement and that it was people of all races supporting the end of segregation.  Besides the fact that it is just downright powerful and gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.

In my new position, I am not solely working with primary kiddos like K, 1, 2 like I have in the past.  This year I am working with a group of 5th graders which allows me to get a little more indepth than I would normally be able to.  I have found some great history close reading passages created by the Sweetest Thing.  The thing I love is not only are they covering core standard but they are also leveled as well so I can use the easiest version with my kiddos in the resource room.  This allows us to dig a little deeper into the topic while working on comprehension skills.  Let me tell you.  A highlighter is my students best friend.  

Click on the picture to check out this Black History Bundle.

To wrap up our study of civil rights I had the students reflect on quotes from major civil rights activists.  I wanted to see if they could put the meaning of the quote in their own words and also illustrate its meaning.

Overall, my kiddos did great understanding the importance of civil rights and the role that key activist such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. played in the movement.

If you are interested in completing this activity with your kiddos 
click on the picture below to snag it!

Enjoy!  I would love to hear how you teach and assess student understanding of civil rights.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Inferences

So it appears that the only blog posts that I can finish are the Wordless Wednesday ones:)  I do have my civil rights post in the works.  I am just polishing up my freebie.  Now on to the important stuff.  

I like to teach my kids to infer using pictures.  I have them make observations and then use the observations to create inferences.

How do you teach your students to look beyond what is stated in the text or picture and infer what is happening or going to happen?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Civil Rights

My students and I wrapped up a brief investigation about civil rights last week.  Below is one of the of the activities that my kiddos completed.
Did you talk about civil rights with your students?  If so what creative ways did you use to get your students to grasp a concept of equality?

Stay tuned for more about our civil rights research.  A freebie might be heading your way:)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Little Acts

So I am going to come clean with everyone.  I have a little budding Picasso at my house.  This is what my little guy brought home from preschool today.  He was very excited to show to pull it out of his folder and WOW me with it.  He is promising another one tomorrow.
Has anyone surprised you with any 
little gifts or little acts of kindness today?

Bonus Question:  Can you tell what my little guys favorite color is?

Join the fun and link up with Miss DeCarbo for Wordless Wednesday!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Displaying Student Work

I am fortunate this year to have many talented artists in my resource class.  I like to showcase their work by using IKEA frames and arrange it as I would art at home. 

How do you display student work?

Join the fun and link up with Miss DeCarbo for Wordless Wednesday!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Word Walls

I am linking up with the amazing Christina DeCarbo from 
Miss DeCarbo at Sugar and Spice for her Wordless Wednesday linky.  Feel free to join the fun.  It is super easy.  All you have to do is upload a picture from your classroom, home, or any other aspect of you life.  Then ask your readers a question related to the picture.

The question is my friends:  What does your word wall look like?