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!