Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Currently January!

Happy New Year!
I can't believe it is 2015! Time is going by so quickly,
TO quickly, but I am enjoying it all!
{for the most part}

New Year, New month means a new Currently!
I'm linking up with Farley's Currently.

Listening: I needed a new netflix show and I love old time mysteries. I have only watched one or two Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, but it seems pretty good. It's a show from Australia and kind of reminds me of Agatha Christie's books.

Loving: Christmas break! Does it need to end? I really needed this extended time at home to be a mom, wife, and have some personal time! I was tired from the first half of the year!

Thinking: I am such a night owl and that doesn't work with the early school hours! I need to get back on track!

Wanting: Now that the Christmas madness is over I want to shop some sales! I just need to find a time when I can go without the boys and actually try stuff on! ;)

Needing: Lesson plans... the dreaded words. I need to figure out what to do next week! Thankfully I have been noticing lots of freebies out there! I am going to have to go in to school in the next couple days and get everything back in order. I missed the last day of school so I have no idea what to expect! 

Yes: No more excuses! I need to take 20-30 minutes a day, by myself, to exercise and get fit! 
Maybe: I am a summer reader, but I would love to be better at reading all throughout the year.
I wish: I need a new adventure! I am praying for some change in 2015! Good change.

Looking forward to all that 2015 has in store for us!

Fourteen in '14

So of course I would wait until the last day of 2014 to link up with Miss Kindergarten for:

Here are 14 of my precious memories from 2014!

Snow, Snow, Snow! Living in South Carolina we aren't used to much snow, but this year we got our fair share of snow days! The boys loved playing in it.

strawberry picking with these two was so. much. fun! We missed apple picking this year so this was our only fruit picking adventure!

Watching these two boys together makes me happy every day. They are the sweetest, most loving boys a mom could ask for!

yep. I survived the 2013-2014 school year. Some years are very interesting, and that year shall go down as being quite memorable! ;)

I had a training in Atlanta and at the end Will and the boys drove over to meet me and we had a blast at the Georgia Aquarium, Coke Factory, Fernbank Museum, and Atlanta Zoo!

Our first family vacation to Hilton Head. I love that place. The beaches, bike rides, and fun in the sand! So many wonderful memories. Alex's attitude sums it up perfectly! ;)

When did he get old enough to start preschool?!?

I started this fun little blog as a way to reflect and keep inquiry going in my classroom! As you can see I've been playing around with the graphics quite a bit! ;) I'm learning as I go! I also started my TPT shop! And I have my store 20% these next two days so be sure to check it out!

my sister and family came down to SC to visit. It was so fun to see the cousins have a ball together.

For a little blogger like me, I was pretty excited about this! :)

the saddest memory of the year was my grandfather passing away in October. Even through the grief we are so thankful for the godly example he was to us all and the legacy he left. I found this quote written in one of his Bibles.

As we gathered for my grandpa's funeral, the silver lining was that I was able to see all my family again! It was the first time in over 2 years that we were all able to be together!

I love it when things keep clicking when you teach. This year has been our best year yet for planning and implementing our IB units. I love to see how the students are internalizing things and making connections too! It brings me so much joy!

Thank goodness for Winter Break. It has been a much needed time to rest and enjoy family.

I'll be honest, I am hoping for some changes to come in 2015. I don't really know what the year holds at this point, so I am so thankful for all the wonderful things we were able to see and do this year. I know that each joy and challenge have made me the teacher and person I am today!

Here's to an amazing 2015!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2015 Focus: Inquiring Our way through Independent Reading

Every year, one area of teaching comes out in the forefront as the area that I want to work on that year. It is usually that time of day that I feel most unsettled, like I am teaching but it is not meshing the way I want it too or I don't feel like I am maximizing my time with the kids to meet their needs most effectively.
Of course the area of reading has come up a lot through my seven years teaching. It started when I was teaching a group of advanced kids in my second year and I didn't feel like the curriculum was meeting their needs. They needed more time to build comprehension and I didn't feel like I had all the tools to meet that challenge. Then I read Debbie Miller's Reading With Meaning. (Click on all of the book pictures if you want to get more info about them!)

That book helped me see the need for independent reading and since then it has been an important part of my day. A coworker and I followed her model pretty closely, but I did feel like there were other parts of the reading process that I didn't cover as well or that my kids didn't get enough practice time.  I wanted my kids to have those thoughtful conversations as she mentioned, but I just couldn't get them that far. But, I was still a fairly new teacher and there were still a lot of missing pieces to the puzzle.

I think it was also in my second year that I took a class through my district that really opened my eyes to teaching reading too. My teacher introduced us to the bag of books concept, which is also a staple in my room now. My kids always got some free choice but I made them choose some books that were on their reading level as well. I believe it was through this teacher that I was introduced to Debbie Diller. We had to read Making the Most of Small Groups for the class.

WOW! What a book. My understanding of effectively using that small group time grew leaps and bounds while reading that book. {all those things they don't really teach you in college!}

Over the summer I got her book on workstations:

I LOVED it! It put together so many missing pieces for me and it was a system that was authentic and worked with my teaching style. I used this model for quite a few years and it allowed me to pull groups and watch all the rest of my kids work with their partners independently.

Then. I had one of those years. That kind of year where basic is better and, although I love giving kids choice, sometimes they just can't handle it, and I knew it was time to change up the system a bit. I was a little late in reading Daily 5 and the CAFE book, but they are such excellent books I definitely recommend them!

I have to admit though, my reading workshop never completely followed one model exactly. And I don't think any of us should follow a model so exactly that we lose sight of the things that are important to us. Mostly the needs of my kids.

Okay, So back to now. I know that was a terribly long background, but I'm realizing how all of these pieces have shaped me to be the reading teacher I am today. And so as I progress with my focus for the year, those all need to come into play again! :)

Then there is this year. Small groups are just not working. I have some needs in my classroom that prevent me from being able to really go deep with the kids at my table, so I feel like I have been doing "fluffy" things that allow me to keep eyes on what is going on. I don't think it is that workshop is working, because most of the kids do a great job at it, but I just need a method of instruction that is going to allow my presence to be felt all over the classroom.

In the last couple months I have noticed that my most productive differentiation and teaching comes from my short reading and writing conferences with my kids. We don't spend as much time in workshop has we have in the past, but my independent reading time is a solid, 20 minute, productive time each day. So I need to use that time to make the most out of reaching the needs of my kids. Thankfully, that is the focus our Reading Coach has developed for us too, so I am excited to use her to help me develop this time to be as productive as possible!

So if you made it through this incredibly long post, I hope that you will join me on this inquiry of Independent reading! In the coming weeks and months til the end of school I hope to share what is working, what needs to change/be added, and how this time has benefited my students!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Checking in...

Hello Winter Break!
This past week was full of craziness. By Tuesday I was pretty sure I had been at school for a whole week, but it was JUST TUESDAY!

We spent the mornings doing Holiday's Around the World. Doing the same activity SIX times gets a little old, but the kids enjoyed it. It is fun to get to know all the other classes better.
I started most groups by going to google maps and checking out our school (they love seeing the picture of of school when you switch to the earth view!) then adding our destination: Tokyo Japan!
We read one of my favorite books:

Tree of Cranes is one of 3 books that Allen Say wrote that chronicle a cross-cultural family. They are near and dear to my TCK heart.

Christmas in Japan has become a lot more popular than in years past, but it is not a day off for the kids. New Years is their main holiday so we talked about that more and then we played a popular new year's game called Fuku Warai. Then they each make their own and play it! 

In the afternoons we did some winter stations. We didn't even make it through all that I had made, so I am happy to have some stuff ready for when we come back from break!

{Click on the Picture to check them out!}

But then on Wednesday FLU struck our house! I had to leave early on Wednesday and Thursday to visit the pediatrician...
I know, I win mom of the year for taking a selfie with my sick boys, but it was to send to my husband to show them how pitiful they looked! And the good thing is it meant lots of cuddle time for me since they usually don't sit still! But the whole family was down, and Will was too sick to take care of the boys so I missed out on the Polar Express and our winter celebration to stay home and tend to the sick! Thanks to tamiflu and lots of mommy's TLC, Alex was full of energy again by Friday evening, and Liam still has a runny nose, but he is feeling much better too. Of course, Will and I are at about zero energy... I don't have the flu, but I am definitely run down from it all! 

The last couple of years, Alex and I will make snowman pancakes the first Saturday of break. They are not pretty, but we put snow on them (powdered sugar) and that makes them much more beautiful! :) This year he wanted a hat, so I tried to oblige! ;) I added in a couple of extra chocolate chips because the others sunk into the pancake when I flipped it over!

Besides getting over the total exhaustion the last couple weeks of school have brought (it's been really rough), I am hoping to work on a couple of projects over break, getting sucked in to a netflix show, and enjoy lots of time with the boys! I also need to start walking, running or something. I need to get in a routine to build in some me/stress relief time! My brain is already going into reflection mode about things I need want to do better once we get back from break, but I am going to try to hold off on that for a bit. :) 
Hope you all have a well deserved and very restful break! :)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Twas the Week before Christmas Break

Twas the week before Christmas Break
and what a week it was!
Every child was squirming...

and my poet ability ends there... ;)
I don't know about you all, but its been a week!
{and it is not over yet}

To celebrate that there are only 6 school days before break,
{or maybe less for you!}
All of my Winter/Christmas Stations will be 20% off through Sunday night
to make life easier for you!

Keep your kids engaged while practicing their reading and math skills:

The Winter Long Vowel Sort and Fix the Sentence Stations are available exclusively in the 
Is It Christmas Break Yet? set!
{which includes all of the centers shown above}

{click on the picture to check it out!}
This weekend you can get 7 stations for just $4!

Make planning easy next week! 
Your kids can have fun while still practicing lots of reading and math skills!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Winter Warm-ups: A FREEBIE!

We spend a lot of time planning for the summer slide...
Why not do some winter warm-ups?

The kiddos are off for two weeks 
and then we have 3 weeks left to finish up the quarter, 
plus mid year testing starts.
{can you say assessment overload!!} 

I do not want my kids getting too comfortable over break.
 They need to keep their brains warmed up so that they don't start forgetting all the hard work we have done over the last several months!

I made this sheet to share with parents some specific things they can work on 
with their child over break.
Plus, when report cards go home in January, and I start calling them about mid-year testing, they will already be aware of some skills they need to work on with their child. 
Click on the picture to go to the freebie!

One of the most common things parents say is that they want to know how their child is doing in school so they can work with them at home. I thought this would be a great little progress report based on some things I am noticing when we conference together!
I also have been sending home sight work checks (find out more info about that here) and send those home once or twice a month has made a huge difference too!

8 days until break... but whose counting? ;)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Building Fluency with Sight Words

Nothing is quite so painful as watching a child struggle over the words: and, the or said. 
Or trying to sound out words that don't follow the rules. 
And then you wonder why the English language has to have so many exceptions to the rules and so many varient vowels, dipthongs, short vowels, long vowels, hard sounds, soft sounds. 

At yet, we are graced with the beautiful privilege of teaching kids to read, 
and some where in the middle of the year, it clicks and they get it. 
{isn't it such a relief when it does!}

It's always interesting to me how some years kids just remember sight words
{like last year}
but other years, I have to put a lot more effort and time into getting kids to remember their words.
{that would be this year}

Is it kind of the same for you?
Here are some tips I have found to help:

Over the last couple of years, I have finally found a system of sight word instruction and assessment that works for me. It revolves around a lot of games, quick checks, and home practice. 
The easier it is for me, the more likely I am to keep up with it. 
I'm not a fan of making a ton of copies. If I am going to give them a paper to use with their practice they are going to be covering multiple words on their paper, not just one.

At the beginning of each quarter, I make 2-3 sets of flash cards for that quarter's sight words. I print off each quarters words in a different color card stock . One set goes on the word wall. The other sets I use as flash cards and for games.

Favorite Games

Around the World:

Fortunately our carpet has the world on it anyways, but you can do this anywhere. The kids need to be in a big circle. Two people stand up. Whoever says the word first moves on to the next person and the other person sits back done. That person keeps moving around the world until someone else says the word faster. The person sits down where ever they stopped. The goal is to get around the circle back to their spot. I use this game for math facts and other things. It gets a little tricky when you have a couple kids who already know all the words, so I will sometimes let them be the leader who holds the cards. That way the others feel successful in actually getting to move occasionally! :) Its also important to set up some rules, such as staying seated when its not your turn and not whispering/shouting out answer if it is not your turn.

Kwoosh Ball:

If you are lucky enough to have a smart board this is a great game to play! And what is more fun then throwing a kwoosh ball at the board! ;) I have a pretty basic one, and I am sure you can find other templates on TPT. Basically the kids hit a circle on the smart board which links them to another page with a sight word on it. I have their classroom numbers on a stick and so I pull them out randomly. I have a helper who passes the kwoosh ball to the next person and another one who touches the circle to get back to the main page. They have a designated spot to stand too. I sometimes play boys against girls, but my numbers are really different and the boys don't always understand why some girls get to go twice so I usually do Students against the Teacher. I get the points if they don't know the word!


This game is great for independent centers, but we start out playing it at the beginning of my small groups until they get the hang of it. Whenever I make my flash cards, I go ahead and add in a couple of blast cards. (See the photo)

The cards are all faced down on the table and when a student picks a card they have to read it to keep it. If they turn over a blast card then all of their cards go back in the pile. You can also put the cards in a container/bag and they pull one out. 

Slap it:

We don't really have a name for this game, it is a variation of the game Karuta, that I grew up playing in Japan. The cards are face up on the table. I say a word and the person who slaps it first gets to keep it. If they keep hitting random cards I make them lose a turn. Towards the end I make them put their hands behind their back. 

Musical Sight Words:

I have foam shapes for most seasons of the year. I write the sight words on them and spread them around the room. The kids walk around on the shapes until the music stops and then they say the word or they are out. We play until there are 3-4 people left who keep getting the words right. If you wait to long the ones who are out will get antsy. We don't play this game too much, so when we do they really enjoy it, and it is perfect for those days when the kids are really wiggly because it really keeps them moving!

Roll, Read, and Write and 6 in a Row:

These two games are from my Dice Games pack and are perfect for independent work! I usually have one of these two in my work study stations. At the end of the station I will choose a couple words for the kids to read to me to make sure they were playing the game correctly! I have editable versions available in the pack. Click on the picture to check it out!

Quick Checks and Parent Involvement

Every couple of weeks, before or after school I usually try to take care of most of my quick checks with the kids. I go through the flash cards with them and make a pile of ones they know and then a pile of the words they don't know. After we run through them I circle the ones they didn't know.
I can usually get through all of my kids checked in an afternoon or two, without using up my morning workshop time.

Then, I highlight them on a paper that I send home so they can practice them at home.

I do this 3-4 times a quarter, depending on the student and how quickly they are catching on to these words. I feel like sight words are an easy thing for families to practice at home, and I tell them about some of the games we play using flash cards so they can do the same at home. Feedback throughout the quarter is important to make sure there are no surprises at the end of the quarter.

You can find my templates of those forms in the picture HERE. Hopefully you can format them to fit your words!

Once I got into the routines of quick checks and playing games weekly, I have noticed my kids do a lot better when their sight words come up in their stories. Even without a lot of writing practice, I have also noticed that this group is doing a fairly good job writing them too. That is where having a word wall comes in handy too!

Anything else you do to help your kids learn sight words in a fun and {hopefully} painless way?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas and Winter Stations!

Did you make a list and check it twice?
Buy your choices and something else nice?

Now leave some feedback and use your TPT credits for one last purchase! :)

It can be so hard to keep kids engaged before break! 
This pack will help you stay on track with learning goals while allowing the 
kids to enjoy the holiday season!

I've already started using some of the math games with my kids and they LOVE them!

There are 6 games plus a bonus freebie!
It's 20% off tonight and don't forget to add the promo code: TPTCYBER
for extra savings!

Less than three weeks! 
We can do it!

Monday, December 1, 2014

December Currently!

It's December!!

Listening: So happy to get the new Chris Tomlin CD on a great black friday deal!

Loving: We got our tree on Saturday and had fun decorating it! Last year we switched to a real tree and it is the most wonderful thing in the world! Why did we not do it sooner?

Thinking: I had a huge to do list over Thanksgiving break and didn't even make a dent in it! There is not enough time in the day to get it all done!

Wanting: My house needs some serious TLC after thanksgiving! We had a full house and it needs a good clean up, but that will probably mostly wait until the weekend.

Needing: Half the reason my house is a mess is because not all the Christmas decorations have been put in their rightful spot yet! And none of the decorations are staying in their spots thanks to Alex and Liam!

Giving: For the next two days you can get my Measuring Snowman Center free! I put it out today and my kids really enjoyed it and it kept them busy at their station! Click on the picture to grab a copy!

I'm linking up with Farley's Currently!