Wednesday, January 30, 2013

High and Low Linky!

I'm starting to really enjoy all the fabulous linky parties that are out there in the teacher blogging world.  Such fun ways to share and reflect on classroom happenings.  I'm going to jump on the linky train for Katie at Teacher to the Core's High and Low linky

I'm going to start this off with my positive foot forward.  Let's look at my high for the month of January.  This month is a whirlwind of assessments in my district.  It literally felt like I wasn't teaching for days on end because there was some sort of assessment that needed to be finished and scored.  Well after all of that, my crazy high stress levels from assessing, and the little owls anxiety, we made it through and all of them made progress in one way or another.  I can know breathe a little easier and we can get back into the "fun" learning that needs to happen before the next waves of assessments come up. 
I feel like I also need to share a blogging high as well.  (Going to bend the rules a bit here.  Shhhhh!  Don't tell.)  I started this little blog in November and wasn't sure where I wanted to go with it or where it would take me.  I have posted here and there but it wasn't until my winter break did I really grab ahold and go for it.  I have loved experiencing the joy of typing what is happening in my classroom, sharing things that are working for my little owls, and getting wonderful comments from all of you.  It is a great feeling to know that others enjoyed reading what you took time to type and are even wanting to use those ideas that you shared. 
Here is where I veer off the tracks and head down a path of darkness.  My low actually just happened yesterday.  Now I have had my fair share of bad days this month but for some odd reason yesterday just put me in a whole other place.  I came home just questioning everything.  I wasn't sure I was an effective teacher anymore.  We have been working skills to "death" if you will and I still have a good handful that are not grabbing onto them.  I know that little owls learn at different rates and that their light bulbs will eventually burn bright but I had hit that point where I didn't know what else to do.  I have taught some of these skills since September!!!  However, even after I tossed and turned all night, I woke up this morning and stepped back into my classroom because no matter how much I feel like they are not getting things, I can't just give up on them.  I will continue to push forward and they are just going to need to rise to the occassion.
Thanks for reading!  Head over to Teacher to the Core's blog and look at what others are saying. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

V is for Vocabulary!

I had posted about our vocabulary work in my last post (here,) but I wanted to give a little more detail to it.   

I really struggle with getting the vocabulary to stick with my little owls.  In the past, I would read the words, display the words on the word wall, and define the words but that just wasn't enough for the little owls to really get into it.  So I have been "beefing" up my vocabulary because of recent pd I attended.  I now start each week with an introduction to all 6 vocabulary words from our reading series.  I post the words with pictures on my whiteboard.  I point to each word, read it, little owls repeat, I define it, and sometimes we put a movement to it.  (The motions are a favorite!)  The cards I display look like this.  A wonderful literacy coach in our district made them and was kind enough to share them with us.
We review the words all week (read the word, define the word/move.)  The next week the words go into a vocabulary work station.  Here the little owls pick a word they know, write the word on the paper provided, and draw a picture of what the word means.  I have them come to me and read the word and tell about their pictures.  This is what is in their vocabulary work station basket.
This will be our fourth week of doing this vocabulary routine, so I wanted to spice it up a bit.  We are going to play a little game with our words this week.  How we will play is every time a little owl uses one of the vocabulary words correctly in a sentence a star sticker will be added to a paper with the word on it.  At the end of the day or week, we will see which word we used the most.  Since this will be our first time playing this game, I am only use 3 words from this week and 1 from last week.  I'm thinking we will look at the words at the end of the day to see which had the most stickers.  I will also start this Tuesday to allow them Monday to get familiar with the new vocabulary.  The game will look like this and will go on a bulletin board near our carpet area.
If you have any questions or would like a copy of the vocabulary station paper, feel free to leave a comment or your e-mail.
Enjoy your week,

Friday, January 25, 2013

Can I Get a "Five for Friday!"

Yup, it's Friday!  (Begin excited dance session now!)  All of this excitement means that it is time for Doodle Bug's Five for Friday linky.

5 random things from this week....HMMMMMMM???  Where do I begin????
1. This week was only a three day week for us.  We had off for MLK Jr on Monday and today was Records day so no kiddos!!!!  I finished up entering our PALS test results, putting together their interim reports, organizing some classroom stuff, and attempted to get a good start on my lesson plans.  Let me tell you, it was wonderful not having a room full of little owls today.  The quiet was so relaxing.  I needed that!
2. I finished up a cohort about Rigor in the classroom.  I got a lot out of this professional development/cohort.  The faciliator was Wonderful (yes with a capital W.)  Bonus was we got the book that the pd was developed around for FREE!

3. From the above mentioned cohort/pd, I have been putting more of an emphasis on my vocabulary station.  I have been making it a point to introduce and give meaning to each lesson's vocabulary in our literacy curriculum.  The kids have been doing beyond amazing with it.  Some words we give a verbal meaning to and others we give a movement to.  After we have worked with and reviewed the words for an entire week, I put them into a literacy station.  The little owls then pick one of words, write it on a vocabulary page, and draw a picture to show what it means.  I have them tell me all of these things orally later.

These are some of the vocabulary mats that go into the workstation and the vocabulary cards I display.  A teacher in the district made them and was kind enough to share them with those of us taking the cohort.
4. I have also been "beefing" up my calendar time by incoporating some much needed math skills review.  This week I used the below activity to work on the concepts of more/less and long/short.  I had the page enlarged and laminated so we can do this whole group right now.  We are using our names at this time.  I'm going to jump into sight words next to hit our other area of weakness.
If you would like a copy to try this with your group, just leave your e-mail in a comment.  I can send it right to you.
5. Last thing and not school related, I am getting the house to myself tomorrow.  I cannot express just how excited I am to be able to clean and do school stuff without my little man running around asking, "What's this, Momma?"  Love him to death but sometimes I just need a bit of space.  :)
Thanks for reading.  If you would like to check out some more randomness, head over to Doodle Bug's blog and see what others are posting.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Juggling My LIFE linky!

When I saw this linky pop up, I knew I needed to become a part of it.  Follow the link over to Katie's Little Warriors blog and see what others have written about the art of juggling teaching, blogging, and (as Katie called it) mommying.

Now this fits in perfect because this week is going to be full of juggling mommy duties and school duties.  My poor little guy is going to need to get picked up late two days this week from daycare so this mommy can attend a staff meeting and some additional professional development on rigor in the classroom.  To be honest with everyone, I do not feel as guilty as originally did when I first had my son.  I hated the thought of staying after school when I first had him.  It tore me up inside.  I felt like I was a bad mommy because he wasn't getting every once of my attention.  However, that has changed now that he is older.  He turned 2 in October and is now your typical tantruming boy.  Most days he doesn't want much to do with me.  I guess I use his toys the wrong way because I get lots of "NO MAMA!" and then he takes the toy from me.  Since he is in this independent yet imaginative phase, I use those moments as my windows of opportunity to do some planning and blogging.  Don't get me wrong, there are those days when he is literally attached to my side and we play and play.  There are also those days where he is interested in copying what I'm doing so he will color while I prep activities or point to pictures and tell me what they are.  As of right now and with one little one at home, I am finding a manageable mix between family and work/blogging.  (I'm sure I just jinxed that because I typed it for all to see! :))  Do keep in mind, that it has taken 2 years to feel like I'm not always stressing and there are still the days where I look like and feel like a hot mess!  I wouldn't trade this juggling act for anything else in the world.  I LOVE IT!   

As a thank you for reading through my long post, here is a semi recent picture of my little man. His name is Asher! This is just a normal day of hanging out in a box and hoarding all of his toys with him in there.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fabulous Finds! Come Take a Peek!

I'm linking up with Fluttering Through First Grade to share some of my fabulous finds.  Please head on over to their blog and take a peek at all of the other finds so far in 2013.  While you are there, link up and keep the sharing going!

Since we have Monday off here in Milwaukee, I decided to put my planning and house cleaning off for a day and decided to get my shop on instead.  Good trade off I think!  :)

1. My first and by far my most favorite find is all my Scentos materials.  Now I know Scentos have been everywhere lately, but did you know they have expanded to bingo dabbers and dry erase markers too!  I'm in LOVE!  (The Valentine's Day ones were a bonus find and were on sale!!!)  The last marker is just one I didn't have in my collection at school yet, so of course I had to pick it up.  Found all of these at Michael's and got a teacher discount as well!  BONUS!

2. Next on my list of finds are these two great books.  They are adorable reads and the illustrations are beyond amazing!  Found these at Barnes & Noble.

3. I also know that funky duct tape is nothing new but I love using these crazy patterns to liven up baggies, to divide felt pieces, and to add as colorful boarders.  Mustache tape came from Hobby Lobby and Rainbow waves tape came from Wal-Mart.

So there are just a few of my fabulous finds thus far in 2013!  I have a couple other things that made there way to the check out with me, but I'm going to keep them a secret for a little longer!  ;)


Friday, January 18, 2013

It's Finally Friday!

Since it's Friday and a 3 day weekend on top of that, I am going to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for her Five for Friday.

Here are five random things that happened in my classroom this week...

1. We wrapped up the Math portion of the MAP assessment this week.  In WI, K5 only takes the math portion.  Most of my little owls met their goal score and a few are going to need some serious tough love because they knew just about all of those skills inside and out and still didn't meet those scores.  :(

2. I won two different blog giveaways this week.  I never win these things so you can only imagine how excited I was. 

3. We tried out the snowball fight activity that I was reading about everywhere this week.  My kiddos LOVED it!  We practiced our sight words using this activity.

4. In Science we are focusing on objects.  Today's lesson was on how objects move.  I busted out the paint and we showed how we move string, cars, and marbles and painted with them.  Kids were messy afterwards, the tables were messy afterwards, but they sure could tell my how those objects were moving.

5. I have been playing around with some of my own station activity creations lately.  I decided since we were being tested on beginning sounds with our PALS assessment this week (YES, another test this week!  This one is not even all done yet!) I would bring out my owl themed beginning sounds activity.  The kids loved it.  If you would like a copy of the beginning sounds owl, leave your name and e-mail and I will send it your way.  I haven't played around with google docs yet so I have to do it the slow, old-fashion way.  :)
There you have it-my 5 random things.  Now head on over to Doodle Bugs Teaching and link up to share your Five for Friday!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tell Me Something Good LInky!

Before I get to the something good, let me get a little bit of weight off of my shoulders.  My kids were beyond exhausted today, which in turn meant that I spent most of the day feeling like I was pulling my hair out.  We have definitely hit our winter blahs!

Now on to my something good...

I am linking up with Rowdy In First Grade and will be sharing a few good things that have happened.

Good School Things- We have been doing our PALS assessments this week and overall all my little owls have made some great progress.  We also are using more "math talk" during our math stations which is wonderful.  I love this!

Good At Home Thing- My two year old son is the picture of tantrums and terrible twos these days.  When I would pick up from daycare, he would throw himself on the floor and scream/cry as hard as possible.  Since I have gone back to school after winter break, this has stopped.  He meets me at the door with smiles, hugs, and kisses.  Makes the not so good days wash away!

So now that you have read some of my good things, hop over to Rowdy In First Grade's blog and link up.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Little Snowball Fight Never Hurt Anyone!

Let me begin by saying that yesterday was terrible quite the day.  It was as if my little owls had forgotten what they come to school to do.  When I said that frightening question, "What are we learning?" they looked less like little owls and more like deer in headlights.  Beyond frustrating!

Okay....rant/rambling over and on to what my post is really about.  I wanted to share one of the great things that happened today.  (YES, today was much better! insert singing and dancing)  We started the day off with a little "snowball fight."  I have been reading about this amazing activity everywhere in the blog world and knew I needed to try it out.  Since we are currently struggling with our sight words, I used those words for the activity.  This is how I went about it- I printed up one sight word to one sheet of paper, crumbled the paper, and scattered the papers around the carpet area.  I only did 8 words today because it was our first time doing this.  I wanted to make sure we were playing safely and following directions before I put out enough words for every owl.  Now I must tell you that I share a room with another K5 teacher and her class.  We do not co-teach, we just share a room.  So I was doing all of this in only half of a classroom.  Space is limited!  The kids were put on the far side of the room and told to carefully but quickly try to find a "snowball."  The owls who grabbed one sat on the carpet and the other who did not lined up.  They were our "snowball victims."  I did this so I could include everyone.  Each owl had to read the sight word correctly and then got to throw it at someone.  After that the sight words were written on a small poster.  This poster will be hung up in the classroom for yet another place to find sight words.  Tomorrow I will take some pictures and I will get them posted next time.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

What a week...

This week was our first full week back after break and boy was it full of lots of daily "hiccups" as I call them.  You know those hour long meetings right in the middle of the morning, the morning assembly that should only take 30 minutes but takes an hour +, the district mandated assessment that has to be done on a computer and the computers are not working properly the day your kids need to be tested, and those half day field trips that are in the middle of the week.  I refer to them as "hiccups" because they throw off the rhythm of the routine driven day.  Overall, my little owls handled it well and for that I wanted to give them extra big hugs.

In the following pictures you will see some of the things that I filled in just to make sure some academics were being done while all of these "hiccups" were happening.

 The two owl pictures are my fill in activity for when I was out of the room for an IEP meeting.  Since we are never sure of who we will be getting to cover our room during these meetings, I wanted to make sure I left something the little owls could do independently (or with very little help) and that would take a good chunk of time.  I came up with the idea the night before and all it is mosaic styled owls and a sight word they could read.  I wanted to make sure there was some common core going on in case some one from our central office came in to check up on our teaching.
The two above pictures are of our "Lilly" from Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse.  We also added some adjectives around her.  We went to see this as a play at a local university.  The kids were in LOVE!  I found this craftivity on Learning with Susie Q.  She has a fantastic little packet of activities to go with the book.

This last picture was from the short week before.  We talked about the new year and resolutions.  We made learning resolutions of our own and created the fun craftivity.

Sorry for the super LONG post today!  If you read your way through it, I thank you immensely!  This just shows that I need to blog more than once a week.  :)


Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Little Reflection!

So last Thursday was the dreaded highly anticipated first day back after winter break.  Overall, the day went smoothly!  We did a little rule review, focused on the book The Mitten, and did plenty of skill review.  We have some major district mandated assessments coming up so I want my little owls to be beyond prepared.  Test anxiety and my kids are best of friends.  For some unknown reason, they all freeze up when the words "test" or "assessment" are uttered.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that all of this review will wash away their worries. 

Ok!  So remember how I mentioned above that Thursday went well, not so much for Friday!  My little owls just didn't have the motivation or energy to make it through the entire day.  I felt like a dentist by the afternoon, pulling out teeth, to get them working.  I had to water down and even eliminate work in our literacy stations.  I'm hoping that this isn't the new trend of 2013 but instead just winter break still working its way out of their systems.  After I sent the little owls home, I sat down and looked at what exactly was the problem with the day.  Was the work too hard for after a big break?  Was there too much work for them to complete in 20 minute rotations?  Was it not engaging enough?  So after some long thinking and some work done on other areas in the classroom, I decided to take a couple steps back this week.  We will continue to review but one day will be completing the activity together in small group to build confidence and then the next time, a recording sheet will be completed to hold each accountable.

I will keep you all posted on how this works or if it is sent to the curb after a few days!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend and have a great week!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Return of the Daily Routine, Take Home Books, and Curly Straws!

Tomorrow is the big day!  I return to school and the daily routine/daily juggle begin again.  I'm not certain how smooth it will go, both for me and for the kiddos!  My little man was sick over the break so our normal sleep schedule is way (I mean WAAAAAAY off!)  That 5:30 am alarm could be the end of me! 

Since it is now the second part of the year, I am changing up our take home book routine.  This is the first year that I have really stuck to take home books.  Don't get me wrong here, I sent home books in the past but I just wasn't as intentional about all of the pieces as I am this year.  I started the whole thing off with just picture books being sent home so the families could establish some kind of reading routine at home.  There was a book log included with this as well.  Now for the second half of the year, the kids will take more of the reading responsibilities on.  I will send home a leveled reader at each child's current reading level.  He/she will read the book to someone at home, complete the book log included, and make sure to use the fancy and fun curly straw that I am sending home as well. 

The two pictures are what the curly straw pointesr look like and the little note I attached to them!  My biggest concern with switching over the reading responsibilities was that parents were not going to be as picky as I am about tracking print.  I'm hoping and keeping my fingers tripled crossed that the kids get beyond excited about these pointers and tracking print just happens because they want to use the pointers!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Currently! (January Edition)

I'm linking up with Farely at Oh' Boy Fourth Grade for the January Currently! 

So as you can see, I could not for the life of me figure out how to get text onto my image and then to add it.  I was able to do everything I needed in word, but it saved it as a word document.  If someone could point me in the right direction, it would be much appreciated.  I'm new to this whole blogging world and I'm learning through trial and error.

Anyways....Here is what I had typed in

Listening- To a two year old throw a tantrum because he isn't getting his way.  (Terrible twos are in full swing at our house these days!  )

Loving- That my sister came and spent NYE with us and we are going shopping in a little while.

Thinking- Who thought of sending us back on a Thursday?  I mean, really, who does this?

Wanting- To get some more planning done before I go back on Thursday.  (Keep your fingers crossed for me!)

Needing- More hours in the day!

OLW- Patience both at home and at school.  If I can find this, maybe some of my stress will melt away.

There you have it my January Currently.  Head on over to Oh' Boy Fourth Grade and see what other bloggers are up to and link up while you are there.