Friday, March 30, 2012

Classroom Library Linky Party!

I love peeking inside other classroom libraries!  I pin them constantly on Pinterest and check out rooms every time I'm in another building.  One of my new favorite blogs is having a linky party about classroom libraries.  Come check it out!

Every teacher I talk with has different resources available and varying amount of books.  I try not to get discouraged or too envious about HUGE libraries :)  When I moved to first grade, I did inherit a lot of books and many were purchased by me.  Books are ALWAYS on my wish list!  I have also had help from

Here are my photos.... I do not have a "set library", but rather they are spread out around the room.  I have a small room, so I keep the front half of the room open for large group instruction on the floor and if students want to do their work there.

My "Look Books" (picture books- not leveled).

Portion of leveled readers.

Leveled books, organized by character series.

Non-fiction, not leveled.


Social Studies
I want to see your library, too!  Link up and let me know that you stopped by!  Only a few more hours until Spring Break... hurray!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Readers Workshop Lab Update & Ideas

On Monday, we had our last Readers Workshop Teacher Lab of the Year.  During this lab, we get together with teachers from the same grade and observe another teacher in our district.  We discuss ways to make RW more effective and bump up our teaching techniques for workshop.  You can read about other lab days by searching under the Readers Workshop tag.  Jamie at What's the Buzz in First? and Andrea at Stepping into First Grade have also posted about these lab days.  Check them out too because we were in different groups!

Most of our morning was a discussion on partnerships and what it looks like when they are effective in the classroom.  We thought about what a rubric might look like if we were to grade ourselves.  Here are some of our thoughts....

Stage 1: Getting Started
  • Struggling with scheduling/conflicts with pull-out programs
  • Experimenting with ways to pair partners
  • Planning mini-lessons to build routine
  • Fitting it in when it's planned (sometimes gets skipped when running behind)
  • Experimenting with book clubs
Stage 2: Implimenting
  • Ability-based partners (winthin a level of eachother)
  • Teacher is goal-setting
  • Meets 4 times per week together
  • Teacher confers with groups 2-3 times per week
  • Students know the expectations and are on task (intentinal about work)
  • Reading together
  • Teachers regulates behavior
  • Assesses partnership skills only
  • Promotes talk
Stage 3: Embedded
  • Students are goal-setting
  • Teacher is maximizing conferring opportunities
  • Ability-based with flexibility (may divert into interest groups)
  • Meaningful conversations
  • Students montitor behavior, self-regulated
  • Assess skills of the conversation and the quality of thinking & speaking
  • Partners push eachothers' thinking
  • Meets 5 times per week together
In the afternoon, we discussed how we can used anchor texts to enhance our conferring with students (same ideas as mentor texts for writing).  We looked at some of the things we often teach during conferring (mostly the mini-lessons that the child hasn't applied yet or a tip to help "grow them up" to the next level).  We used tabs to mark some books that we can easily carry with us to refer to while conferring.  Here's what they look like (I'm just getting started, more books/concepts will be added for other units):

By using the anchor texts, we can model for our students using our own book or even have them practice the skill with a different book than their own ("Notice how you will need this tip for other books, too?")

I also shared what my school has begun using to help support readers in the moment (without advance warning of what the student is working on as a read).  My co-workers compiles some skills that need to be taught at each level in order to move up in difficulty.  The teaching points were all based on one of my go-to books:

Product Details

Another edition comes in a K-8 format.  The PreK-2 book above goes up to a F&P readinging level N (I think... the book is at school!).  The team created labels for word work and reading skills.  I put the labels in a 4X6 binder on index cards.  Some teachers put them on a page in their reading notes or assessment binder.

I will also add some of my own notes as I work with it more.  I've been using this during conferring for a few months and it is a LIFE SAVER when you draw a blank for a teaching point (not that YOU ever do!).  Unfortunately, I can't share because it was created by my school (really F&P) and I don't want a law suit on my hands.  I've got other things to do right now : )

In addition to my anchor books and my cheater support tool for teaching points, I always carry my clipboard that has my notes for readers and writers workshop.  I write down every conference.  I have a TERRIBLE memory, so I want to keep myself accountable and make sure I am effective for my students.

Sure, this is awesome and everything but..... I ordered a cute new bag to carry it in, along with pens, sticky notes, and other "readerly" things.  I love me some bags!

This product is not available in the Fall 2012 Catalog, but you can check out other cute bag options HERE.

Happy conferring, friends!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Math Station Meyhem!

Yowza!  My math station organization was in some serious need of help!  Sure, I like to project the image of matching bins and decor, all neatly organized- however, under all the matching light blue and green, I had a dark secret my friends.  Not only do I have a "Monica's Closet" (obscure reference to an episode of Friend's which I may discuss at another time- like when I get around to cleaning it!), my growing Math Station games and activities were taking over and perhaps breeding little math games.

Because I switched grades this year, I gifted a kinder teacher many of my math games.  The stack of 1st grade games and activities were limited at the start of the year.  As I taught the new standards, I began purchasing (thanks to the creative teachers from TPT) and making the new activities.  Without tons of direction or thought involved, I've been tossing them in a small drawer that gives the illusion of organization.

 As you can see, I've out grown the drawers and something needed to be done.  Just about the time I was ready to tackle this project, I was in my my teaching partner (Health Nut)'s room.  We have been making games and talking a lot about the practice aspect of math and interventions.  Right there, on her counter, was my answer/ inspiration!  She has been slowly purchasing these awesome, plastic folders as she created games.  They hold 9X12 items and have a snap closure.  I got mine from Target (5 for around $3.75).  They kind of look like this:

I used my label maker to label them.  It seems to work better than making labels on the computer.  I didn't need them too fancy, since I'm the only one who will see them. 

Once I had these done, I needed the PERFECT container to keep them all in and divide them out by curriculum strand.  I keep these in my tall cupboards.

On a side note, I don't keep all of the activities out at once.  I find that they get to involved in the choosing and will either waste time or pick the least challenging one available!  As I change the stations, I keep the child-accessible ones in these bins (clear ones inside the cabinet):

They pick their assigned activity up at the back of the room and get started.  You can read more about my Math Stations in previous posts and get the labels HERE.

Happy organizing!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I've been Professionally Developed...

It was a strange sort of day.... most of the building was a various meetings in the morning, but the first grade team randomly had no where we needed to go (this NEVER happens).  So we decided to set our own goal, sort of- Mrs. Principal was on board with it.  I'll try not to ramble, but I used up A LOT of brain power today.

As we've been traveling through the RTi maze and figuring out what will work for our school, we seem to add one thing and five more issues/challenges are presented.  I really think we are on the right track.  One portion that we are working on is the grade-level piece.  My old team in kindergarten used to trade students and had an elaborate system for targeting instruction for those who were struggling or came in at a deficit.  Other grades who have been together a while were similar.

As a newly formed first grade team, we are still finding our way.  I'm on our Student Support Team (helps teachers decide what interventions will help students as they move through the tiers or help decide if a special education referral is needed).  Nature Girl (teaching partner's alias- see old posts) is on our Navigation Team (researches ways to boost student learning and reviews whole-school data, looking for areas to improve upon).   Health Nut (my new pet name for my other teaching partner)  is on the School Improvement Team, which is in charge of a bunch of things that I cannot be trusted with- like the budget!  Between all three of us, we found ourselves with a large group of students who needed interventions (many of them multiple!).  We found that our students were "intervention hopping" because the adults in charge were panicking and switching them too fast (not waiting 10-12 weeks for the data to show growth or not).  We learned our lesson and worked even harder for them. 

Anyway, Nature Girl had the idea of making a flow chart for our first grade interventions.  I did some checking on blogs, cruised Pinterest, Googled it, checked Pinterest some more..... more Pinterest because I saw some cute things for the house....  I did eventually focus and find a model that we could start from and make our own.  We tend to take things and make them better (and usually more complicated and fancy).  Here is what we ended up with:

We started on the white board, but I like to fix and fancy.

I'm a visual learner, so the chart really helps me and I tend to put things in that form.  Here is what it ended up like when we were done (about 2 1/2 hours of discussion).

I don't have time to stitch photos together... maybe someday I'll fix it :)

Anyway, it's been a long day.... but I wanted to share.  Let me know if you have any questions! 

Have a pleasant evening, friends,

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring has have the kids!

Whoa.  Seriously.  Whoa.  It's 75 degrees in Michigan today- not that I'm complaining, but we will probably get snow in a few weeks.  That's just how we roll around here.  My kiddos all seem to think that school is almost over.  Dude- I must have missed that memo!  It's been building over the last week, along with the temperatures.  They are getting slow and dare I say- lazy in our crisp little routine.  We actually practiced walking down the hall and lining up multiple times because they were so loud, I was embarressed.  One teacher even shut her door, smiling of course.  You know that it is as good as a slap in the face in a school.
I had to leave work at lunch on Friday (sick little guy had to be picked up from school).  They totally took advantage of the guest teacher and trashed the room on the way out the door.  She must have missed that part completely because I started out my early Monday cleaning for almost 45 minutes.  Grrrr......

Up until now, the students would read when they first came in in the morning, after making lunch choices and putting away their things.  Last week, they started milling around the room, not even pretending to read.  Like the books never left the bag!  Hey- who are these kids?  My class knows what to do in the morning and is responsible learners.  Not so much lately.  I did give them several reminders throughout the week about our morning routine and the expectations.  Apparently, the spring weather made their brains sprout a "whatever plant" (read with attitude).

This morning, they arrived to a smiling teacher (who was annoyed beyond belief on the inside) and an addition and subtraction review page.  You would have though I had stolen Christmas!  They were dejected (and completely silent) for 15 minutes.  Weird.  Creepy even.  They passed them in as they completed them, sheepishly.

They got the point, but still got multiple reminders about paying attention and being respectful while someone is speaking.  One kid got up to get a drink in the middle of my writer's workshop mini-lesson.  Wa-wa-what?  Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.

Here's wishing you all a longer winter! :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I've got Schoolgirl Style?

In the midst of my crazy over the past few weeks, I met a new bloggy friend- Miss Melanie Ralbuski at Schoolgirl Style (and a Michigan girl!).

She is A-MA-ZING!  I've been stalking her blog and TPT store since the summer, marveling at her beautiful work and classroom decor ideas.  Little did I know that she would.... wait for it..... feature my classroom!  Seriously!  She emailed me back and said some very sweet things that just made my day.  If you haven't "met her" yet, you must- without stopping to get coffee- get to her site for some inspiration.

Here is a link to the super-cool stuff she said about our classroom:

Have a Happy Tuesday!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Linky Party and Big "Thank you!"

I've had a busy, busy week... I've neglected my posting this week.  My children took priority :)  Not much has changed in our schedule, but I can finally breathe a bit and think.

Want to see what every one in lower el is up to?  Join up with the Kinder-2nd Linky Party with Jeanie over at Kindergarten Lifestyle.  I know I teach 1st now, but I still love stalking those kinder blogs for old time's sake :)

While I was away (not posting-still reading and stalking!), I was awarded two very sweet awards.  It may sound silly, but these really make my day.  Sometimes, I feel down, worn-out and just plain over all of the extra effort that I put into my class.  These tokens of appreciation get me through.

A super-thanks to at Beth Ann at Taming My Flock of Firsties and Stacy from Mrs. Johnson's First Grade for their bloggy love:

Here is my task in acceptance:
1. Link back to the blogger who gave it to you. (check & check)
2. Pass the award on to 10 other lovely bloggers.

Here are some of my favorites for you all to check out:

Beg, Borrow, Steal

Cricut Your Classroom



First Grade Frosting
3. Follow the person who sent it to you. (check & check!)
I'm following both of my award nominators (Is that a word?)- and so should you!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mood lighting... for learning!

I'm not a fan of florescent lighting.  Period.  In fact, I would turn off half off my lights on most days and use assorted floor lamps.  I get that they are more cost-effective (yadda, yadda), but they give me a headache.  I swear the blinking when a bulb is on it's last leg will give me a seizure some day!  Anyway, I could just complain for the rest of my life, but I took the high road and decided to honor the learning environment that we were blessed with (a whole wall of windows with a great view).  Why let some light ruin our mood (and eyes!).

I did some shopping research on line and found the COOLEST product.  A company makes nylon light covers that are attached to the lighting fixtures with magnets.  They come in blue or cream.  The special ed room down the hall has blue.  It looks like this:

It's hard to tell the blue tint that it gives the room, but it was too much for me.  I didn't want to feel like I was under water! :)  Here is my room with the cream. 

It's much softer.  Teachers noticed the difference right away and have even been trying to get funds for their room.  I was able to get mine through, but they are available at Amazon .  I've had them for over a month an LOVE them.  I actually have to squint when I walk into another room.  Well, maybe not really- I do have a flare for the dramatic at times :)

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tracking challenging behaviors without pulling out my nuetral dark brown hair:

Since the beginning of my career in education, the universe has sent me some children with quirky, and at times- very challenging behaviors.  I don't know what it is, but there seems to be a theme.  I've been in 5 classrooms in the last 4 years, so I know it's not the room- just me.  I've fallen in love with each of these little sweeties and am amazed at how they have grown over the years. 

However, one of the biggerst challenges in K-1 is that there are many cases where you are the "first-responder" when a child has learning challenges (outside of the normal range) or social issues that they need addressed more directly.  This requires an enormous amount of compassion and grace toward the child and the parents.  Our goal MUST be to support them through this journey and find the resources that the child needs.  As we know, you can't get anywhere without DATA, DATA, and more DATA.  Dtarting the first day of school, I start making anectdotal notes on my students (all of them) in order to get to know them and target any needs that emerge in the first few weeks.  One that I started the year with and can be used with multiple children.  I wish I knew who's blog I found it on.... I'll come back and edit if I figure it out :)

I've also been collecting MANY diffeent kinds of data for different reasons on many students over the years.  When I can't find exactly what I need, I end up making one to fit the child and the situation or modifying an existing one.  Here are some that I use often:

It may seem over the top, but in order to isolate specific challenge and make grow goals for the child, it's necessary.  Also, as I've learned by being part of a RTi school, it's just good teaching.  We need to know this much about our students :)