Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Learn Something New Every Day...

Today started out like most...hubby out of town, girls and I rushing like mad-women to get to school on time.  I knew I had a parent conference first thing, but I'd been at school the night before until 7 p.m. for an awards program (my sweet 10-year-old won FOUR art awards!!), then ran out the door to have dinner with my in-laws, leaving my room in a shambled mess, because of an impromptu parent conference yesterday afternoon, leading right up to the awards program.  Good Grief, Charlie Brown...long story short, I knew I needed to get to school early today to clean up, get prepared for my kiddos and my conference, and not have a chance to make copies, blah, blah.

Well, the sweetest mom came to talk (LOVE her daughter, and her!) and check on her little one.  We had a great conference, and she shared this little bit of love with me that made me actually cry, but I promised not to tell.  Let's just say that I've never felt more valued at work before, and it really got me.  We both left with that bucket-filled feeling - she'd filled mine, and of course her own, by filling mine, and I was kinda giddy!

The day went along pretty normally...good kids were good, busy kids were busy, hard workers worked hard, goofballs goofed off a little (myself included!), and then I noticed a new post from Miss Tori over at in my inbox.  I L.O.V.E. Tori and her amazing tips, so I opened the e-mail during detention.  She had a great Presidents' Day freebie, which I've saved for next year, and then I remembered something about her posting about some color personality test thing her principal was "making" her faculty do.  I read on.  I downloaded the test.  I took the test.  I am a "blue".  No one else who responded or linked up is a blue.  I'm not sure what that means about my being a teacher.  They're all "gold".  What's up with that?  I'm okay with it, though, because I really am a blue.  Here's what it means:

Value HARMONY above all else.
Good at reading people, understanding human dynamics.
Sensitive to others.
Appreciate and know how others feel.
Emotionally based decision making.
Time is circular.
Perceptive, “people pleaser”, a real team player (not so sure about that one)
Use poetry, music, quotations to express affection in romance and friendships.
Sympathetic, empathetic, compassionate.
Think about the possibilities in people.
Centered on people, relationships, interaction.
I need to feel unique and authentic.
I look for meaning and significance in life.
I need to contribute, to encourage, and to care.
I value integrity and unity in relationships.
I am a natural romantic, a poet, a nurturer.

Yes, well, if you're reading this, and you actually know me, you might not have ever guessed these things to be true about me, but they are!  Through the sarcasm and smart-mouth, there is a girl in here who really cares about how other people feel and what they think of her, a girl who truly wants other people to reach their fullest potential, who really wants and needs to feel appreciated, a girl who, believe it or not, constantly worries about pleasing others, wishes with all her heart to be a team player, and totally and completely is filled with compassion, sympathy, and caring for others.

So my day was filled with learning and validation, from a wonderful mother, a beautiful daughter, a great blogger, a (maybe) hokey test, and a whole lot of self-reflection.  Thanks, Donna.  Thanks, Callie.  Thanks, Tori.  Thanks, test-making people.  You are all awesome!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Five for Friday, February 8th

Just for fun, I'm linking up with Kacey at Doodle Bugs First Grade Rocks for Five for Friday.  I'm supposed to tell you five random things about my week and myself, so here goes...

I adapted this lantern from
as a reading activity, in which we read Gung Hay Fat Choy
and compared the Chinese New Year with the U.S. New Year.
A few activities we worked on this week
1.  Instead of being in full Valentine mode, my class in in full Chinese New Year mode.  It's tomorrow, ya'll, and you know with a Chinese daughter, we do it up right at my house.  Well, one of our second grade standards in social studies is recognizing cultural contributions from around the world in the U. S. regions and the local community.  There's certainly no Chinatown in a city as small as ours, but I think the easiest way to teach this standard is by celebrating world holidays, talking about their cultures and ours, the parts of our culture adapted from others, and learning other versions of folktales, than the ones we know in the U.S.

2.  That said, this week is overly full!  It's Chinese New Year, the beginning of Mardi Gras, when I always teach about the French influence on the New Orleans area, and Valentine's Day.  Also, right around the corner is St. Patrick's Day, when I teach about Ireland and the Irish influence on our country.  That sounds like the same random thing, but here's the difference:  St. Patrick's Day is my birthday, and my family really is Irish!
small picture...huge box
3.  I'm obsessed with nail polish.  I've just lost count of how many bottles I have, but here's a picture of most, so you can see what I mean.  I know we have over 100 bottles.  I also L.O.V.E. trying new nail art and nail polish techniques.  I gotta tell ya' that marble-looking manicure I have pinned here is NOT easy.  Out of ten fingers, I got ONE I thought was perfect, one acceptable, and the rest a nightmare!  Also, I realized that the tape all around is a total waste of tape, so if you perfect the technique, let me know, but just save your tape and use some remover around the finished job!  Yes, I realize this amount of nail polish is not normal, and yes, I bought five more bottles today.  Yes, I might have a nail polish problem...LOL...I do have two daughters, though!

4.  I hosted the first (ever) dance at our school Friday night.  A co-teacher and I are the student council advisers; and the kids came up with the idea of a fourth and fifth grade dance as a fundraiser.  After getting it approved by our principal, I found out it was the first time our school had ever had a dance.  We had a BLAST planning, decorating, and boogieing down!  Even the clean-up was kinda fun, and, ya'll, I don't even clean my own house!  My fifth grader, I have to say, was the prettiest girl there, but I might be biased!

5.  I'm on a diet, for the second year in a row, and finally bought my first size XL pair of pants, shirt, sweater, and skirts this week!  I'm not sure how many people would be excited to be wearing an extra large, but I am ecstatic...I can shop in "regular" stores and buy "regular person" clothes.  This is big, because designers don't want their clothes on overweight women, I guess, and my mom and I have joked for years that if you're fat, you must be supposed to be six feet tall and have horrible taste, too.  Things have changed, and society has become more forgiving, with better clothing available for the average woman (whose size is 16, by the way), but I was still pretty dang excited to buy some really pretty things in a really nice boutique, without just having to walk by wishing!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Monday Made It

Whew!  What a Monday it was!  After observing Sheila Friday, I could. not. wait. until I could get back in my room and try out some of her strategies!!!  First things first, though, I needed to move a bunch of stuff around to accommodate new work stations, with more space for the kiddos, a better storage system for all my materials, a clearer way to show how students should rotate through their work stations, and (hopefully) less clutter!

I realized that I was taking up way too much space, leaving the students with too little.  Also, since I NEVER sit at my desk, and usually can't even get to it, I moved it and turned it into a writing station, complete with special pens, papers, writing tools, and more - all right there in a writing desk!  That nice, clean kidney table you see above has never, since the photo, been visible again, because I lie every single thing on it all day long, but I need it to do my small group lessons, so I made a tablecloth to store a few things under, moved the long bookshelf to use behind it, kind of like a credenza for my materials, and scooted the file cabinet into the corner.  I also switched two tables, giving the kiddos more width in the room, and making a much more functional math station at the same time.  Then I got started moving kids around, re-doing leveled reading baskets, based on new winter scores, making new math groups, with differentiated work at the station, and adding a science station.

Cute, before...
Functional, after!

Leveled baskets and fewer
options make choices easier
for young readers, after!

Too overwhelming for students before...

Cozy, but little content before...
Manipulative storage under
work-space with directions
for use, after!

Repurposed "teacher desk"
as writing station with room
for special pens, scissors,
and paper, plus the chalkboard
for specific assignments, after!
There's even room for more leveled
reader storage at the back of the
new writing station/old teacher desk!

Of course, I needed new tags for all my baskets, a new display for group rotations, and a few extras thrown in:

New Table Rotation Cards
New Station Cards from
Amanda Nickerson
New Reading Basket
Labels for New
Reading Groups

  A few new anchor charts made the Monday Made It list, too!  Busy, busy, busy...

Pretty good for a Monday, although I'm still "Makin' it" on Wednesday...still working on implementation, Sheila, but you are inspirational!

Here's a Wednesday Re-Made It (an oops I found and corrected), too!
Valentine Candy Bag Toppers

Happy Hump Day,

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Currently...You Have to See It to Believe It!

Wow!  I was given a true gift on Friday - a wonderful teacher from my district allowed me to visit her classroom and observe her during her guided reading.  I should tell you that I've read no less than 12 books, downloaded no less than 50 guided reading resources, taught second grade (and tried to do reading groups) for three years, watched every youtube, teachingchannel, and other video I could find online, and taken classes, to understand what to do during guided reading.  Before teaching second grade, I taught third-fifth during the "Four Block Years".  Now, I'm no dummy.  I was Teacher of the Year, Reading Teacher of the Year, Exemplary Writing Teacher of the Year, and won other awards, as well, but I had never once seen anyone teach a small reading group, or manage "the rest of the class"...until Friday.  I promise, y'all, in one hour, I learned more than in all the years, books, videos, and classes combined.  I have to thank Sheila and Tammy (her principal), my principal, and my students for allowing me to go watch her.  I think I've got it, by George!

I could write forever about what Sheila did (in fact my notes are 9 typed pages, plus an audio recording), but I'll highlight for y'all, because I'm sure you already know this stuff!  When I arrived, she was about to give a spelling test, so I just set up my computer, got out a notebook, and settled in. After the tests were turned in, she said, “Transition time, no talking,” to signal that students should get their station folders, as she called a group to work with her.  All of her station work is differentiated, but is on the same skill, which she calls a goal.  A volunteer prepares any written work/recording sheets for every station, including writing names on the correct leveled assignments, so that students know which activity to do.  Sheila begins new weekly stations on Tuesdays, after teaching a (longer, more in-depth, whole group) foundation lesson for the week in both reading and math on Mondays.  On some Mondays, work stations from the previous week are then completed.  On Fridays, the class meets on the rug to go over all their station work from folders, share writing, and discuss and review the goals of each work station. 

Tuesdays – Thursdays, Sheila teaches her small groups (2 20-minute lessons per day) while other students are in work stations.  Students are in teams of four, with 2 high and 2 low students per team (ideally).  The teams are for scheduling purposes, only, not to work together.  In fact, all station work is independent, and there is no talking allowed, except to ask the three permanent station monitors a question, if needed.  If the monitor cannot help, students leave the teacher a message on a post-it note on a message board.  As individual students complete the work at their first assigned station, they automatically and independently move to the next, without waiting for their whole group, or any other signal.  The order of stations is posted on the board, with the “starting point” indicated by the team color’s being under the station name.  The students move to the next station posted on the board.
Small groups are based on RIT bands, as well as teacher judgment, and identified needs.  They are called, by name, from the teams working at stations, and come to her with a pencil only.  Teams sit together in the room and are changed monthly.  The first table is the first team, no matter who sits there.  If there is a rug at a station, meaning the children work on the floor, they sit on the four corners of the rug, facing away from each other.  If the station is at a table, there are “privacy tents” at every other seat, forming a pattern of covered, uncovered, covered, uncovered, so that students cannot copy each other, or work together.  She explains that this is dishonest.Routines were clearly in place, and had been well-rehearsed.  Schedules for the day were posted on the board, as was her calendar math, content vocabulary, the date, lunch choices, and reward points.  Students were reminded, once, that there was to be no talking during station time.  They were told that they were talking far too much for someone to just be asking a monitor for help.  Sheila went on to say that they were either working together, which was cheating, or were socializing, which was wasting time.  They were told that they had interrupted her group lesson for the last time, and that if it happened again, they would all go to their seats to work.
Independent reading books were sorted into baskets, by levels, topics, series, and genres. Comprehension cubes were located nearby, possibly for review time, after station time.

 A big, huge shout out to Sheila for being so caring, sharing, and for her excellence in teaching!
Excited to Begin Anew,