Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gratitude is an Attitude

This morning at church, our pastor gave a sermon about living a life of gratitude.  He said gratitude is unselfishly appreciating what you have, instead of focusing on what you want.  I think it's easy to say that we are "grateful", but living a life of gratitude is really not that easy.  Or maybe it's just not very easy for me.

I know that I am lucky.  I thank God each day for the health and safety of my family, the nice life we have, our home, our friends and my amazing job.  But here's the problem...I am a goal oriented person.  I set goals for everything.  I set goals for how much sleep I will get, how many emails I will answer, how many minutes I will exercise for the day, how many loads of laundry I will do in a week, how many things I can add to and check off my to do list each day and how many people I can help. When you are the kind of person (like me) who constantly looks to the future to figure out how to improve myself and how to make the things I am involved in better it is easy to forget to live a true life of gratitude.

I am grateful for...
My children, who are generally kind to others.
My husband, who knows how to have fun everywhere we go.
My parents, who taught me to work hard and to care for others.
Friends, who listen, advise, trust, share and care for our family.
My home, which is simple and safe.
The leaders in my district, who trusted me to have a new position this year.
The teachers I work with who are curious and passionate about making a difference.
Nature, which is usually a peaceful gift and a sometimes a powerful reminder.
God, who reminds me that he is in control 
and that I should take time to enjoy the things on my "gratitude" list each day.

This week as we talk about the things we are grateful for in our lives, I realize that I need to work harder to show that I am grateful and make time to reflect and pray about the amazing things around me.

After all, gratitude is an attitude...not just a goal on my list.  Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and lots of time to reflect about what you are grateful for in this crazy busy life!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Professional Books for Small Group Reading Instruction

Since I started my new job as an instructional coach, it's been a little tricky for me to figure out how to keep blogging.  I've been super busy, but I love my new job.  We have a fabulous instructional support team and here I am posting about something that I love. So, all is good with my little world.

One of the projects I've been working on this year is facilitating discussions, providing training and leading reflection groups about small group instruction for reading.  During this process, I gathered my favorite resources for small group reading instruction.

As teachers, we often provide small group instruction to meet our students needs in writing, reading and math.  Guided reading is a model of small group instruction, but not the only model.  During traditional guided reading, students participate in a book talk introduction, spend time reading at their instructional reading level (either at or away from the table depending on their level) and participate in a group discussion based on teacher led questions about the book.  It is recommended that students who fall within the levels for grades K - 2 (levels A - M) also participate in word work during this time. In Irene Fountas' model of guided reading, students also write about reading.  The recommendation is that students who are level N and above write about reading daily.  It is also recommended that students below level N write about reading as much as possible.  Many teachers are using post it notes and/or reading notebooks for this purpose.

The pros of this traditional model are that it allows teachers to learn information from student discussions/responses that they can use to plan their instruction for individual students or the group for the next week.  In my opinion, a con is that the students have a limited amount of time to read at their instructional level when the teacher is doing so much teaching/talking during their small group time.

Less traditional models that I've tried and observed working well in classrooms over the years include groups that are more flexible in classrooms that are using the reading workshop model.  With focused mini lessons in a large group setting, independent reading practice time and teachers taking notes on specific things each student needs to work on instructionally, students tend to have more actual reading time during small group instruction.  Flexible groupings are sometimes based on reading level and sometimes based on strategy focus.  Word work is sometimes done at the table for struggling readers in this model.  Students who are on or above grade level tend to do this word work away from the table. Many teachers are using post-it notes and/or reading notebooks for writing about reading in this model as well.

Another option is students visiting the small group instruction table in a staggered way (not necessarily by strategy focus or level), because one student is called at a time to get started.  The seats at the table fill up in this model in a staggered method that allows the teacher to have a quick (1 minute kind of quick) discussion about today's focus with each individual student as he/she calls them to the table. After quickly talking to the student about what he/she noticed the student needs to work on, the student gets started and continues reading while the teacher repeats the process with another student.  Within a few minutes, the table is filled and the teacher can take notes, prompt students as needed, ask questions with individual students while everyone else keeps reading.  Word work is sometimes done at the table for struggling readers in this model. Students who are on or above grade level tend to do word work away from the table. Many teachers are using post it notes and/or reading notebooks for writing about reading in this model as well.

Nontraditional models of small group instruction take some time to get used to, but they tend to increase the actual reading minutes in a big way.  I found this extremely helpful to build reading stamina.  It doesn't work for everyone, but I find that I learn more when my students spend more time reading and I can spend more time listening, noticing and noting how to plan instruction to meet the needs of each individual student and the class. As a teacher, my goal was to aim for each student in my class to be reading (actually practicing reading at their level) for 90 minutes a day. My goal was based on the recommendation of the work that Richard Allington did with the International Reading Association.  When I first heard that recommendation, it caused me to reflect on how many minutes my own students were spending actually practicing reading (not me instructing them for reading) in my classroom.  I was shocked to discover that I was no where near that goal and worked for the next several years to include more actual reading practice time for my students. Adjusting my small group reading instruction time was one of the things that really helped me reach that goal.

Here are my favorite professional resources for small group reading instruction.

This book is a great resource for getting organized for small group reading instruction.

If you use Fountas and Pinnell leveling (A - Z), 
this is a fabulous resource for ideas of things to work on at each level.  
This is my old copy of the K - 2 version, 
but the new version has a white cover 
and has several different grade level combinations including a K - 8 version.

This is my favorite reader's workshop resource, 
but it includes lots of information about small group instruction as well.  

I purchased this book after participating in a webinar by the author, Jennifer Serravallo.  
Her webinar was about conferring and she also has a book about conferring.  Two friends who participate attend the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in NY each year recommended this book as well.  The focus of this book is using assessment data to drive instruction.  
My copy is grades 3 - 6, but she has a K - 2 version as well.

This book has sample planning templates, ideas for working with students at different levels and ideas for scaffolding instruction at each level.

I'd love to hear about your favorite models of small group instruction and/or favorite resources for small group reading instruction.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Currently November

I am currently wondering why it doesn't feel like I had an extra hour of sleep last night.


It's time for Farley's Currently.  Farley, from Oh Boy 4th Grade, hosts this linky party monthly.

Listening - I love that my son and my husband have recap conversations about games from the previous day every morning.  Then I don't have to watch ESPN 5 times in a row like they do.

Loving - My parents are coming to visit today.  I feel grateful that even though they live in another state it is only an hour and a half drive to visit.  So, I'm thinking about getting up to clean.  I just cleaned yesterday, but with two dogs and 2 kids it doesn't really look like I did anything now.

Wanting - Taking the new job that I have now means that I needed to bring 32 giant rubbermaid containers and tons of classroom furniture home to my house.  I feel like I am suffocating when things are too cluttered.  I'll keep some of my things (just in case I go back into the classroom in the future) but in the spring I am going to have a GIANT teacher garage sale and get rid of most of this stuff so I can reclaim my house.

Needing - fresh appointment is next weekend thank goodness

Reading - Reading and Writing Genre With Purpose by  Duke, Caughlan, Juzwik and Martin
We've been talking a lot of content area reading and writing.  The book give examples of how focusing on content area reading and writing helps teachers focus their planning.  Traditionally, many elementary teachers relied on themes to guide their planning.  This book highlights how teaching strategies for reading or writing specific genres are different from each other.  For example, the strategies for writing an informative text are different from the strategies needed for research writing.

I need to finish a video presentation for my writer's workshop group.  Everyone loves pajama PD, right?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October Daily Messages

At the end of September, I posted a set of October Daily Messages for Kindergarten.  Would you believe that I'm just now gettin' around to blogging about them?  Oy...  You can find them in my Tpt store and I'm working on a November set as well.

The messages included look about like the image below, but each one is a little different.

When I did a daily message in my classroom, I put it under the document camera each day. We solved the words with missing letters together.  That gave us an opportunity to talk about specific phonemic awareness skills, phonics skills, word wall words, spelling words, decoding strategies and comprehension strategies together.  Then I gave each student their own copy of the message and they filled in the blanks, read it to themselves and read it to a partner.  Finally, they took their copy home to read it to their parents (or their dog, or a stuffed animal).

When we worked on blends, if we discovered a word that had a consonant blend at the beginning we added it to our Book of Blends.  You can also find My Book of Blends in my Tpt store.

I am lucky enough to visit lots of classrooms for my new job, which I love! I've shared my Super Spelling Forms and Autograph Bookmarks with several of my teacher friends for word work and accountability for independent reading time.

I'm off to a Painting with a Twist event with a friend!  Have a great week!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

5 for Friday!

Linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for 5 for Friday!

Winner! Winner!
A few months ago, I won a custom Erin Condren spiral notebook!
I won it by simply leaving a comment on their facebook page.  Yippee!

I'm a loyal fan of the Erin Condren Life Planners for 3 million reasons.
So, having a chance to try the spiral notebook this year was an exciting surprise!
I love it!  It's larger than the Life Planner, but perfect for taking notes at the 3 million meetings I'm attending for my new job.

fancy cover

custom dividers (with super heavy duty laminate just like the cover)

I'm super excited to have the opportunity to conduct a research study about writer's workshop this year.  I'll be working with a professor from a local university to help guide me through the research process.  I'll be sharing some freebies from my presentations soon.

I'm grateful for author,  Maria Dismondy!  I've known Maria for a few years now and her books are empowering children (and teachers) across the country.  
You can visit her site to check out her books and read more about her work. 

Life is good when your kids go to a school that allows teachers 
to provide alternative seating to motivate students to learn.  
I'm proud to share that this is my husband's middle school classroom.
Most of the furniture is made by his students!

When you are person who sets goals for everything and loves a good competition, 
change is exciting!
That's me.
And this is the my motto for my new job.
Change makes great things even better!

Happy Friday Saturday!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Currently October

It's time for Currently!  Thank you, Farley (Oh' Boy 4th Grade), for hosting each month!  If teacher bloggers were eligible for Emmy's Farley would certainly be nominated, win and rock out the speech.

What is currently happening in my life is very different 
than what has happened to me in October for the past 16 years.

Listening - We have two goldendoodles.  Kalli likes me better. Daisy likes my husband better.  I don't know why.  They should both like me better because I am the one who takes them on walks, lets them on the bed, buys them treats and throws the tennis ball for them in the backyard. It's a mystery.  

Loving - I started a new job as an Instructional Coach this year.  In my new role, I work as a member of the Instructional Support Team in our district.  We each have different roles and our leader (boss) is fabulous! I know I'm going to learn a lot from her.  It was really hard for me to leave my elementary building to take this position, but as I get to know my team it is clear that I made the right decision. 

Thinking -  When I packed up my classroom, I brought 32 of those giant rubbermaid bins home.  In addition to that I brought home 12 big pieces of furniture that belonged to me (book shelves, tables, chairs).  I need to keep lots of it, in case I return to the classroom anytime soon.  But, let's face it...the chances of me ending up in the same grade level if I return are slim.  Time to start digging through the bins, sorting into save/sell piles and posting some of the things that I really don't need.

Wanting - Two weeks ago, I sprained my ankle.  I fell down the basement stairs backwards while trying to carry groceries in from our garage.  The door to our garage is right at the top of the basement stairs and when I stepped to the side to open the door...I accidentally stepped backwards off the top step.  The result - I skinned my knee, sprained my ankle, bruised my elbow and sprouted a giant bump on my head.  For real.  The doctor called it a bad sprain and said it would take about 6 weeks to heal.  She was about 104 and seemed to be barely hearing what I said, so I was hoping she was wrong.  It's the beginning of week 3 and I am probably going to get struck by lightening for judging/doubting her soon.  It still hurts.  It's still swollen at the end of each day.  I spend a lot of energy each day trying to pretend like I am not hobbling. No wonder she laughed when I asked if I would be able to continue my running routine by the next weekend.  

Wanting - I actually already bought the rolling thing.  Once upon a time, I worked as a speech-language pathologist who traveled to 8 different buildings in a week.  After experiencing my cart of speech and language tricks dumping over the in the snow for 2 years, I decided I would NEVER own a rolling cart again.  My new job will require me to travel from building to building to work with teachers.  I broke down on Friday and bought a rolling bag (like the giant briefcase really).  The extra bonus is that it kind of works as a crutch too. :)

I have an appointment to get my nails done today and I'm sure I'll need to grab the ice pack for my dumb ankle by the end of the day.

Earlier this week, I posted a set of October Daily Messages for Kindergarten. If you'd like to try the daily messages, they are on sale from 10/5 (today) to 10/8 in my Tpt store!

In addition to the October Daily Messages for Kindergarten, the following fall themed products are also on sale from today 10/5 to 10/8 in my Tpt store

Be sure to visit Farley to find out what is currently going on with teacher bloggers around the world. 

Off to get ready for my son's soccer game.  It's 41 degrees in Michigan this morning, so I'll be breakin' out my lava seat for sure.  Happy Sunday!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Building Stamina (+ Free Graph)

As many of you know, this was my last week in the classroom.  On Monday, I'm off to my new position as an instructional coach.  I spent the last two weeks transitioning my class (since I was supposed to loop with them this year).  The new teacher is all settled in and I miss the kids like crazy already.  I'll still be posting on a regular basis, so I hope you'll follow along to see what my new adventure brings.

I absolutely love reader's workshop and writer's workshop time! Over the years, I've searched and searched for a resource for reader's workshop.  I've found lots, but last year I fell in love with this fabulous book.  The best thing about it is that it includes a full year of reader's workshop and writer's workshop units. The reader's workshop and writer's workshop lessons are separate in the book (in case you have a required curriculum).  I used the 1st grade version last year and started using the 2nd grade version this year.  The same authors wrote kindergarten through 5th grade editions as well.  It is very user friendly and the mini lessons are clearly laid out.  There are recommended mentor texts and anchor chart suggestions in each unit.

We spent the week working on reading and writing stamina. We talked about reading stamina first (only because reader's workshop comes first in my schedule).  I made this anchor chart with my students.  I added the smiley/sad faces when we created it together this year to help one of my special needs students.  Each day I asked my students to choose something on either side of the chart as a goal to work on improving during our reader's workshop time. We did a "think/pair/share" at the end with partners to discuss whether or not they reached their goals for the day.

We did the same during writer's workshop as we discussed building writing stamina.

Beatrice Doesn't Want To by Laura Numeroff  is my favorite mentor text to use for stamina building mini lessons. The story is an excellent way to kick off a discussion about both reading and writing stamina. I read it toward the end of the week, because by then the students are able to identify the characteristics of reading and writing stamina (rather than having me point them out early in the week).

Throughout the week, we also refered back to our "Things Writer's Write" chart to discuss how we could build writing stamina by working on different types of writing.  We made a similar chart together at the beginning of 1st grade and they quickly ran out of ideas.  This year, my students were so full of ideas that they begged me to make another list to add to this one.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the second one.

I did not ask my students to fill out an individual stamina graph  for reading this year.  I wanted my students to be able to spend their reader's workshop time getting lost in their chosen texts, not watching the clock.  I kept track of the time each day on an iPad timer and we celebrated our stamina building efforts at the end of reader's workshop time each day.

We did use individual stamina graphs for writer's workshop.  I made the graph below.  
You can click on it to download a copy for yourself.  I included 5 days on the graph, so you can use it for one week or make extra copies if you need to continue focusing on stamina for additional weeks.

I'm off to enjoy this beautiful day!