Thursday, January 30, 2014

Student Toolkits for GR

Oh, guided reading!  I love teaching during guided reading, but it is also an intense time for teaching and learning!  I have been teaching guided reading for 13 years, but seem to find new ways of doing things that make it a little bit easier every year.  For the last two years, I have been playing with making “student toolkits.” I bought little stackable containers at the Dollar Spot at Target (Oh, how we love thee…). 


Inside I have a bunch of little goodies to make our GR time productive. I included a pencil (usually a sparkly glittery one), a mini-beanie baby (bought in a huge lot on EBay for just a few dollars), wikki sticks, post-it notes, a mini wipe off board (a card that I laminated), and a dry erase marker (sold in packs of 6 with attached erasers at the Dollar Spot).  I want to put a little card with reading and comprehension strategies as well.P1300858P1300859

I am a big fan of limiting the amount of time I spend on prep and making materials accessible to students so they are in charge of their materials.  With this little toolkit, everything the readers need is right in front of them – no teacher time needed for prep! Plus, I love that these little baskets stack into a neat little tower for storage!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Better Beginnings

Today we worked on lead sentences in our writing.  I always find the starting of a new writing piece to be a challenge for students who feel like their writing voice does not sound like the author voice in books they read.

We have been working on an animal research project inspired by Jan Brett’s “The Mitten”.  The students chose one of the animals in the book to research on PebbleGo (one of my favorite sites for young learners). Now that they have collected their facts, they are going to start an informational writing piece.

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I pulled several non-fiction texts on animals from our classroom library to investigate how published authors start their writing pieces.  We found they used:

  • Questions
  • Description
  • A Story

Then we pretended I was researching frogs (I have a decent collection of frog items in the room). And we thought about how I could begin my writing to capture my readers’ attention. We brainstormed ideas from each of the categories.

Then I had students think about their own animals and share how they thought they would begin their pieces.  This inspire a bunch of thinking about writing!  Students went back to their seats with their writing paper and could ONLY write a beginning sentence. Wow!  Was that tricky! 

Students who wanted to share their beginnings got the *microphone* to share their best beginnings!

I loved this lesson – it was a simple one that didn’t require a bunch of prep work, but it was so effective!  Plus, pulling books from our very own class library show students they can learn something from everything they read – all author’s are mentors!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Oh, Pinterest!

I have taken a long hiatus from reading blogs (other than a few standbys), writing blog posts, and {gasp!} looking on Pinterest.  Today was the first time I have gotten on Pinterest in a couple months and you know what I realized? Pinterest STRESSES ME OUT! 

I scrolled through hundreds of pins and felt my anxiety rise as I thought about all the things I am not doing, or am not doing well enough…or cute enough. Gack! (Isn’t that what Cathy from the comic strip used to say?)

Don’t get me wrong, I have dropped a bundle on awesome stuff on TPT that I have seen on a blog post or on Pinterest, but I also scroll through pages of purchases that I have never even opened. 

The stuffed filing cabinet and teacher resource bookshelf has been replaced by Pinterest boards and digital files.  It’s all too much!  I remember reading a quote recently by a teacher who was working on decluttering and she basically said that you don’t need a lot of things to teach well. I totally agree with that and need to remember it as I continue teaching in the coming weeks and months.

So, I guess I am saying that it is good to take a break every once and a while and not feel the pressure to keep up with everyone else.  I love making things cute and finding the most fun ideas that I can, but in reality, when I think back on my job in 20 years I probably won’t remember finding the perfect way to teach verbs or the perfect clip art to use on a project. 

I want to refocus on doing the best I can with what I have and doing what’s best for my students. Most of all, I want to not spend more time searching for ideas to make the good things I am doing even better – they were good to begin with and I need to remember that.

I hope that you have had a wonderful beginning to your week!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

New Year, New Products

Yikes!  The New Year has been kicking my butt so far! I have had a couple new products on the back burner for weeks (or months) and  finally put the final touches on them – still two more coming up this week (hopefully)!  The funny thing is, I have soooo much to do right now – both for school and for real life. It just felt good to finish something! Both products, along with my store are on sale 20% off right now!  Here are the new items:

1. Home Reading Log

Daily Reading Log

I created this log because I was frustrated with handing out single pages when students finished a log page.  It seemed to take up so much time because students finished their pages on different days.  I also found that this little reference book was so helpful fro parents.  The first year I used it, I referred parents to it when they had questions and the resource itself cut questions down by about 90%. Hurray for easy home-school communication! I know this is a weird time of year, but pick this cute little kit up now while it is on sale!

This little book provides parents with all the tips they need to successfully support their children when reading at home. It also provides one place for the teacher to maintain a book list for each student and facilitates home-school communication. Each student book includes:

-Tips for reading at home
-Reading comprehension tips for parents.
-Reading strategy tips for parents
-220 dolch word list
-Weekly log pages


2. Roll-and-Respond Reader Response Boards

Roll-and-Respond Reading Response Activity

This set includes 10 Roll-and-Respond boards for fiction and non-fiction reader response writing! They are perfect for independent reading, literacy centers, and guided reading groups. They also provide a quick way to differentiate in a busy classroom. Skills included:

-Thinking Stems
-Determining Importance
-Non-Fiction Text
-Text Features


Check out my store for additional items to add to your classroom and remember, they are all 20% off until Wednesday! (Some products have my old logo on them, but since the great computer crash of 2013, I do not have the originals to update the logo.)

Click on each item for a direct link!

Writing Topic Cards image Instant Writing Centers - Fun Thematic WritingAddition Facts Sticker BookimageSummer Journal Jar

imagePoetry Task CardsSummary Cards

Instant Magazine CenterSequence CardsMystery Egg image

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Blog Hoppin’ Crafting and Creating Linky!

I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin' to share my resolutions for the new year. 

My goals for crafting and creating are to:

1. Get in more crafting time!  I have several quilts to complete for babies that are due in the next few months.  Plus, I have always have a dream to sell items at a craft show or on Etsy.  I am determined to not get sucked into scrapbooking and jewelry again!  I also would love to take an art class.  I took one a few years ago and realized that I can paint – I just never find the time to take a breath and relax to do it!

2.  I would like to get back into the swing of producing items for TPT.  I have not created much this year and miss the accomplishment of finishing a product that others may find useful.  In truth, I have not created much at all this year.  I’ve been in a metal slump lately! 

I guess my crafting and creating goals are pretty simple – make and create more things for school and for the sake of creating!

What are your goals for the New Year? Head on over to Blog Hoppin' to share!


Monday, January 6, 2014

Your New Year Linky - Family and Fun!


I know it has been for-ev-er since I have written on this little ole blog! I figured the New Year and a linky are a good way to get back in o the swing of things!

I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin' to share my resolutions for the new year. 

My goals for fun and family are to have more fun and more family time!  2013 was a really draining year for me and I am determined to have more fun in my life and spend more time with my loved ones. 

My brother and SIL welcomed their second child the day after Christmas and my mom retired from public service as of January 1st. My dear hubby is having multiple shoulder/arm surgeries some time in the next couple weeks.  After 11 years of marriage, we need to spend some more quality time together! And I just love talking with my dad. Lots of reasons to spend more time with my favorite people!

In terms of fun…I really love my hobbies, but they are pretty solitary ones.  I would like to spend more time with friends and find ways to not be so exhausted between work and taking one class per semester.  It just wears me out and I can’t figure out how to fit other things in, but I sorely need to!
Maybe I need to finally take that art class I have been looking at for a couple years! 

I guess my fun and family goals are pretty simple – have more fun and find my time for my loved ones!

What are your goals for the New Year? Head on over to Blog Hoppin' to share!