Friday, December 26, 2014

New Year, New Goals!

Here I am again, a month later, well-rested, and excited about the new year! I'm linking up with Mrs. D's Corner to share my New Year, New Goals:

My family and I recently re-joined my former church, the one from before I married, before I moved halfway across the country, before I moved back and joined my husband's childhood church. As new members, we went to a new member class for several weeks, and I had so many Aha! moments, it was ridiculous. If you've been reading my blog for a while, and hung in there with me through the drama of moving, marriage counseling, and disappointments, you may remember that last Valentine's Day was {romantically} spent moving into a little townhouse, from a huge home. A couple of weeks ago in church, the minister was talking about what makes people feel secure, and what we get caught up, kids, voluntarism, and "stuff". BAM! It hit me. Stuff makes me feel safe. Stupid stuff. Stuff I don't need. Stuff I don't have room for. Just stuff. Teary-eyed, I started praying right there that God would speak to me every. single. day. and help me let go. So many times, I've prayed that I'm giving this situation, or that, to Him, but you know what? I never did. I always let worry consume me, and I always had to keep my "stuff" to feel secure. I get it. I HAVE to Let It GO! I know there is a reason and a plan for all that we experience (including the black mold in our current rental townhouse, forcing us to move again!), and that God is using all of these events for His purpose.

Same church class, different Aha! Work-a-holic? Right here! Everything I do has to be perfect. I haven't created a new product for TPT in over a year, because I can't think of the perfect unit or set of station work. My lesson plans take hours. My classroom has to be the cutest, my stations, the best, my ideas, the most creative, blah, blah, blah. You know what? The kids I teach are seven. SEVEN! They couldn't care less what my room looks like, how cute my lesson plans are, how perfect the stations are, or how creative my latest bulletin board is. They just want to be loved on and noticed. They don't care, their parents don't care, my co-workers don't care, my boss doesn't care about any of that other junk, so my goal is to get the job done at school, get the stations put together, do my best, most effective and efficient planning and teaching, and then leave school at school...stop bringing it all home to fuss over, fidget with, and perfect! Is professional imperfection a real goal???

Ironically, I want to keep up the creativity in my planning, but pick up the pace. My plan is to actually reuse things I've used in the past. Why in the world I think I have to have all new plans every year, in order to teach the same standards in the same grade, is a brainteaser! Of course, I need to tweak my plans to fit my current kiddos, but really, if good practice was good practice last year, it probably will be this year, too!

To get better organized, both at work and home, I need to, once again, LET IT GO! I really need to go through one file drawer or notebook at a time and get rid of the millions of papers I've had for fourteen years of teaching. Hey, that could be cathartic! Then, one box at a time, as we prepare to move, I need to get rid of lots of that stuff I've held onto.

My students are awe-inspiring. They qualify for my class by being in the lower-performing quartiles on standardized testing in first grade, or are identified as at-risk for one reason, or many. When they get to me, they know they are behind. They already don't like to read or do math, because they know they're not necessarily as good at either as their peers. This year, I told my class that there was a reason they were in my little bitty class of 12 kids. I told them that they were the very best second graders, the smartest, the fastest, the best behaved, and that they were there to show all the other second graders "how to do it". I also told them I was the best second grade teacher, the smartest, the one with the most experience, and that that's why we were together. Yes, I got it from this awesome video, but you know what? It WORKS! I remind my kiddos, at least once a week, that they are the best. And they are. They are the best behaved the halls, at related arts, in the cafeteria, on the playground, and in class. They are the fastest learners...every single one began the year at least half-a-year behind in reading, and every single one is on, or above grade level now! So, lots of times, they tell me, "It's hard!" They mean the reading, or the math, or spelling, or writing, or just about anything they've not done before, but by reminding them that they are the best second graders, I've been able to keep them motivated to learn. I can't wait to see where they go in 2015!

Isn't it obvious?

Happy New Year, Friends!


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Five for Friday

I know, I know. I drop off the planet for months at a time. I'm probably the worst ever blogger at keeping in touch with my friends. I have no idea how those big blog bloggers do it...write a post every night, or even every week, when it's about all I can do to keep my home and class running smoothly. I suppose my "smarter balance" is to let things slide, so that the see-saw stays balanced and I'm not the one sliding off of it!

Anyway, it's been so long, and I've done so much, so I wanted to share a few things with you, and link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday.

"I Have the Best Handwriting!" Paper:

I made my own handwriting paper this week to help my little fella with a probable L. D. in written expression. Our district has decided that RTI will take the place of our former Student Intervention Team system of referring students with potential special needs. This was all in response to our state's quick decision to change the way we refer students because too many kids are being tested and found to have learning difficulties. Unfortunately, because of the super-sonic speed with which we had to react, we only put reading RTI into place this year. So, if we think a student needs help with math, written expression, emotional, oral language processing, central auditory processing, or any of the other endless possibilities, we teachers are just doing the best we can. That said, we have some fabulous school psychologists, who have been super-supportive and who have excellent ideas and resources to help us "wing it"! But necessity breeds ingenuity, and I looked everywhere for O.T. highlighted handwriting paper only to find that NONE on the market has a line for the letters that hang below the base-line. So, I made it. In fact, I made four kinds...a landscape big one for beginning writers, a portrait one a bit smaller for maybe first graders, another portrait, even smaller, for those who need assistance with spacing, and my final one, which has no dotted mid-line, but still has a top, highlighted middle, and bottom line for each line of handwriting. That one is shown here. This precious boy has struggled for years, and according to his mom "hated school" until now. WOWZIE! That's the best compliment a teacher can ever hear...he's not frustrated or anxious about his ability to succeed anymore! Because of paper??? Maybe.
To get a look at this little miracle, head to my TPT shop, where I've decided to add this sanity-saver to my product list. You can click HERE to go directly to the paper.

Lookie, Lookie What I Got!
Man, oh man, what a deal! I ordered stability balls for my littles to try out. They arrived in just THREE days, and we are lovin' some bouncin'! I researched using stability balls in the classroom for weeks before deciding to get some. I mean, I only have 12 little people, so at $11.64 each, they were very affordable. Then, when I got the approval to order them, the site was having 20% off! Woop, Woop! We've had these gems for about a week, and have gone from about ten minutes of use at a time, to about 25 minutes. My kiddos are more focused and able to pretty much stay in one spot and do their work (!) on their stability balls than lying in the floor, sitting in their chairs, or on the stools you see in the background. They are a little too short for our desks, so when/if we transition to using them full-time, I'll have the desktops lowered. For now, we use them during whole group instruction on the rug and during stations. If you've been thinking about getting a set for your class, I highly recommend ProMedXpress. The ones I chose are the smallest ones, but they come in three sizes. I am NOT being paid for telling you about these, nor am I being compensated in any, no bias!

Voluntarism in Full Swing!
Y'all might remember "Miss Patty" from last year. She is one of my student's (from last year) grandmother, and she is fabuloso! The kids love her, and so do I. Patty's a certified, retired music teacher, who loves kids and wants to still help out in my room. I swoon! She shows up every Wednesday morning and works with one sweetie at a time. She'll review sight words, listen to them read for fluency, teach them learning games to reinforce skills practice, and, best of all, she brings her i pad, which everyone wants to get a turn using! Patty even keeps a tracking folder for each of my students, what words they've mastered, what she's doing with them, and how they're progressing.

Readers' Theater
My whole reading program is based on small group, individualized instruction. We use Fountas and Pinnell's Leveled Literacy Intervention. I'd say, though, that this program is the absolute best reading instruction I've ever used, and could be for any students, not just used as an intervention. It has overlapping sets of leveled readers, in sets of ten lessons before moving up to the next level. The great thing is, if a group's not ready to move up, you can get ten more readers out of an overlapping kit and keep on teachin'! I've never had to do that...everybody succeeds. Yep, I used a period there. As in, everybody, PERIOD! I have never seen anything like it. It's a little "scripty", but you know, I can use my personality to add to that mess, and the script is actually helpful for pre-reading, making sure you've covered every single thing in a guided reading lesson, and I learn more about teaching every day. 
Anyway, these babies are doing a readers' theater production of Jack and the Beanstalk, right from their leveled readers. That's another great thing about LLI. It has a fabulous mix of fiction and non-fiction, in every genre imaginable, on every topic imaginable, and appeals to all sorts of readers because of the variety. And, no, they're not paying me, either.

Our sad, HAPPY Friday:
This is Larz. She's my student teacher. She was...until Friday. We were all so sad to see her finish up, and I kept thinking, "What are we going to do without her?" Well, what started out as a sad morning, ended up as a ecstatic afternoon! She got a job, two doors down - at least for now. She's going to be doing a long-term sub job for a maternity leave in second grade! I was excited. She was excited. My class was excited. Her class was excited. My pregnant co-worker was excited. What a great turn-out for everyone! We had a party to celebrate, complete with cupcakes, cards, and even dancing!

Happy Weekend, Y'all!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Finally a Classroom Reveal!

Remember that list I made for summer? The one that said I'd try my best to just enjoy my time away from school, spend my summer with my girls at the pool, and not work? I did it!
             This was the day we arrived at the beach for our summer vacation. We stopped in Calabash (you've heard of the shrimp, right?) for lunch before we even got to the house, but then it was straight to the surf!

The awesome thing about living where we do is, we can be at the mountains in an hour or so and at the beach in about three. We went to both several times this summer! We also love spending time at my parents' lake house, just 30 minutes from home! The girls climbed up Caesar's Head Mountain one afternoon and sat on this huge boulder, surrounded by rhododendrons and azaleas.

Life just wouldn't be southern if ya didn't have some tractor shots from summer! Honestly, we took these at the Biltmore Estate on Callie's birthday. We really don't have a tractor, or enough land to need one, but they looked so cute up on that big ole thing I couldn't resist!
My mom found these belly tats, and everyone had
one on Labor Day weekend...aren't they hilarious?
I promised a classroom reveal, so here it is...I just wanted you to know that I really did take the summer off, not just from school, but from blogging, Teacher Pay Teacher-ing, and anything having to do with work, at all. It was a first!


I rearranged this year, because, for the first time EVER, I got a classroom rug! It is so stinkin' cute I can hardly stand it! I found it at for less than $300, and it's 12x8 and beautiful! My friend Jen made me the adorable pencil, and I painted my name on it with a paint pen. It might be my new favorite thing. But, maybe it's my classroom library, because, for the first time ever, it's all leveled! Woot! Woot! Student teacher to the rescue! She worked for one afternoon straight and found every single book I have on or Scholastic and leveled every single one. Next, she's going to type all the titles in Accelerated Reader to see which ones have tests available. LOVE!

 My small group area is better than ever this year - same table, same stools, same teacher chair, but I moved it to a weird corner in the room, and I love it there! I can see everybody everywhere, and keep and eye on them during their station work. I know they should be accountable for themselves, but, let's face it, seven-year-olds still need a little extrinsic motivation (read: the raised eyebrow) once in a while.
I'm loving my chalkboard themed alphabet, CAFE board, and number line! You can find them here. They are a great reference for the kiddos to use. I never realized how confused my kiddos were by my word wall, until one of my princesses was saying the alphabet wrong, because she was looking at the word wall. There's no room in my little class for a straight-across-a-wall kind of word wall, so it's on cabinet doors. Wherever a letter's words happen to end, a new letter begins, and sometimes that looks like the alphabet's all out of order, so I love the pennant banner alphabet I made this year! The number line has been a lifesaver, as well, because my littles can't quite read all those number words, and my number line includes the words, tens frames, and numerals - it's great!
Here's that fabulous rug, y'all! Isn't it cute? My kiddos have all kinds of room, it's all clean and bright, and it totally keeps my pink and orange thing going, but brings in the blue for the boys.

I do have to say that the very best thing about my room this year is my class! They are the best I've had in years! So sweet, so good, and trying so hard! I'm still teaching that little group of twelve, but they're in a special program, sort of like a transition class between first and second grades. They're behind in reading and math, so that's all I teach, but, y'all, they are working so hard I know they'll be all caught up by the end of the year, and ready for third grade!

Now that I'm back in the swing, I'll keep you up-to-date on all our learning...promise!


Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Made It

I know, I know! I've been MIA...again! This summer has been so weird...the girls and I have been, surprisingly, bored! I know, right? We should be enjoying the time off from school, hangin' at the pool, going to the lake, drawing or painting or crafting something together. Instead, we've been driving each other crazy with "What are we going to do today?"

Well, I finally have something to show for it, so I'm linking up with Tara for Monday Made It!

 I finally got around to my first chalk paint project, but, y'all, I have to tell you, chalk paint ain't all that! You HAVE to look for this newer, way, way better product: Paint Couture and Glaze Couture.
There's NO waxing. Ever. It's easier to use than chalk paint, yet gives the same look, only better. There are about a million combinations between all the paint and glaze colors. A-Maz-Ing! So, this is similar to the cabinet I redid:
My mom gave it to me about ten years ago, but the top piece was broken in several places, so I tossed it when we moved across-country. We've been using the bottom half as an entertainment center ever since, but it was just too dated and too formal for me, so I bit the bullet and painted it peacock and glazed it copper. Easy Peasy and I LOVE it now!
Before, my lamps were pretty outdated, and they really didn't match our new bedroom decor at all. I ripped out the beading - very easily by snipping one bead off and then un-threading the rest. Then I copied the pattern from an embroidered pillow from my bed and used a paint pen to lay it out on the newly plain lampshades. Finally, I repainted with acrylic silver metallic paint (it's not shiny, I promise!) until it looked solid and even. I'm fairly happy with the new look:
And one for school, which starts in less time than I'd like to think about! I was inspired by the Bright Ideas Blog Hop to get a wireless doorbell from Lowe's. While there, I picked up some paint samples (always, always get paint samples) with little windows in them and thought of two ideas immediately:
Okay, I cheated and wrote on tape, which you can see in my picture, but I want to create these with my kiddos, so I removed the tape after the pictures! Anyway, the idea above is to laminate these for each student. Then we can generate digits with dice, cards, dominoes, etc. and write them in the windows. Then, I thought we could draw the base ten blocks in the space above the windows, and finally, write the number in expanded form at the very top. Of course, we'll use dry erase, so we can use these little babies all year!

Next, I thought of how hard it was for my last class to identify word parts, so I made this vocabulary paint chip. I'm thinking we'll write each word part in the windows, the meaning above that, and the whole word, including any spelling changes, at the very top, or maybe on the back, which is blank, so I can have the kids flip their cards over to check their spelling.

I'm feeling pretty productive today, like maybe my TOTAL creative block is finally broken! Y'all can pray for that, 'cause we're getting a new roof at my school and no one can get in to to any prep work all. summer. long! Holy Moly, Guacamole! I always, always go in super early to get things ready, because our Meet the Teacher Night is the very first day after teachers report for our first day of professional development, and there's NO time to work in our rooms before kids and parents are there expecting to see it all pretty and put together. Yikes!

Hope your summer is going great, lasting long enough, is full of creativity and relaxation and is NOT boring!!!