Friday, January 31, 2014


It's a Friday. What more can I say? 

I'm working on getting my ESOL endorsement - and the class I'm taking is called "Linguistics." Oh My Goodness! I mean, when I started teaching phonics - well, that's when I really learned and understood phonics. And now - wowsie! There's this whole chapter on English Phonology - which can just weigh a person down as they wade through it - where the tongue goes to make all these different sounds, and all this new vocabulary that I'm never going to use, and me trying to say all these words to see if what I'm reading is really true - LOL.

But this quote caught my eye: "Knowing where sounds are produced can be helpful in understanding students' spelling." 

Which made me think about this:
The zoo came to our school to visit us and so we wrote thank you notes today. This is actually from one of my higher kids {I'm disappointed in the amount he wrote - does anybody else have those high kids that do the least they can??} But the zoo gal's name is Misty. But what he heard is Mis D. OK, the quote might not be perfect - but what I got to thinking was that so often, what the kids are hearing isn't really what's being said. I see this a lot with the word "saw." Many of my kids say "sall" instead, and that's the way they spell it too. Don't know what to do about this - but just interesting to me.

And I just have to add this {with this background: Thursday was our state's birthday and I asked the kids to write about something they liked in Kansas.}

 Yes, Yes, what's more special than Wal-Mart? {And yes, I do shop there, but I'm just saying....} And what else says Kansas like Wal-Mart? Really, I don't even want to think about that!

Happy Friday to you! Have a great weekend!!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Catching Readers

I was told by a knowledgeable student that I was supposed to wear my pjs inside out, flush two ice cubes down the toilet and sleep with spoons under my pillow to make a snow day happen. I did not do any of that - and I guess that's the reason we didn't have a snow day on Thursday. We have another chance on Monday - so maybe I need to get on the ball Sunday night. 

I mentioned in another post that I was leading a book study loosely based on this book:

{It's really just an excuse for me to make the time to read this book!} 

I was looking at Chapter 7 - I Thought I Knew How to Teach Reading, but Whoa! Whoa is right! Much of the discussion is for students that are in earlier grades, but it seems every year I have one or two {or, yikes! more!!} that are still struggling to read. Well, let me clarify - I always have students that are lower than we'd like on their DRA - but those 1 or 2 students are considerably below where they should be. 

"The best thing is to catch it (dependency on the teacher) and encourage self-monitoring from the very start" (page 123). Do you have students that don't even realize that they've made a mistake, particularly when it's one that doesn't make sense?? When the authors talked about self-monitoring, I realized this is something that many of my students don't do. So, here's something to work on for me {and my kiddos - even though they don't know it yet!}

When I got done with Chapter 7, I just couldn't stop - so I kept reading - Chapter 8 - Comprehension. 

"Comprehension strategies are not an end in themselves, but rather a means to understanding. Our classroom instruction must reflect this." - the authors are quoting Harvey and Goudvis. The authors also discuss the difference between spotlighting a strategy and heavy-handed teaching. 

Ack - I think I'm guilty of heavy-handed teaching. Our basal reader has a strategy for the week - and that's what I focus on. At one point in the chapter, the authors ask if the strategy is something you as a teacher use when you are reading. Well, this week our comprehension strategy was story structure. For me personally, I do sometimes make lists of characters and their relationships to each other if I'm getting confused. But what about beginning, middle, end? I guess, yes, I think about these things. I guess what was a light bulb moment for me was when the authors said, "The teacher treats the strategy as the end goal" {heavy handed} versus "Teacher gives time for students to talk about how the strategy helps them understand the story." {spotlighting}

Anyway, this has given me lots of food for thought. If you've read Catching Readers - what are your thoughts??

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Crazy Days

This is my week -
Monday - leave during plan time to say "good-bye" to my College Girl as she is getting ready to head back to school. Basically get nothing done school-wise. Realize I don't have my book for the college class that starts tomorrow. My district provides that, so I run to get it after school - but they've run out {did they not know I was coming - how could they not know!!!} They've ordered it - hoping it gets here quickly because my class is only an 8 week one!

Tuesday - Before I leave, try to log on to my college class website - no go. I try to print something on my printer for school - no go. {boo, hiss - great way to start the day.} Before school meeting to plan math/literacy night - where nothing gets decided because Big New Idea is floated. Do get lots done during plan time. After school, run to our central teacher resource place to cut out die cuts.

Wednesday - Wait - it's only Tuesday! Yikes!!

This is driving me crazy - I'm a planner - I LOVE to plan ahead. I don't do well if I don't. But it feel like I'm just treading water. I know part of it was having my girl home and not spending that little bit of extra time at school to get caught up a bit. I know it will get better.

Tomorrow will be better - no before school meetings, nothing going on during my plan time. It will be better. 

Ooh, ooh - and I just thought of an idea I want to share with you. Cross your fingers I'll remember to take a picture! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Compound Words

I'm not heading in to school this morning - I've got a doctor's appointment that coincides nicely with one of the last days College Girl is home before she heads back up to school. So before my appointment and before spending the day with my girl...  I've got this:

I honored some sweet teacher by copying this idea but that teacher's name is at school and I'm at home {boo, hiss}. Let me start by saying - my afternoons are soooooo looooooong. We come in from lunch recess at 12:10 and we have reading centers, reading whole group, phonics, writing and by then it is More than time to go back outside for afternoon recess. I think it would help if I could switch whole group with centers - and I was just about ready to ask permission for that - when the interventionist {after like a 2 month absence} came back in my room. Our interventionist is a friend, and she works Hard testing kids - and for at least half of the year, that's all she does. But when it's hit and miss... it's difficult. 

So that all leads up to this - I usually do powerpoints with my phonics lessons {to keep me on track!}. But by the time we get to phonics - I can see them - wilting, minds wandering off, etc. So I was thinking, I need to spice things up a bit. This week is compound words. And this is what we did:

I gave students a little card with a compound word written on it. Then we folded our paper {fold in half, open fold, fold each side to the half}. On the outside, they wrote and illustrated the two smaller words of the compound word. On the inside, they wrote and illustrated the compound word. If I'd gotten all excited, I could have had them write a sentence using the compound word. 

All in all, a nice little break from the usual. And the happy camper thing for me is - these pics are from two of my lower students. Yeah, it gives them a chance to shine. I hung all these outside my door. 

And this:

is what I had for breakfast - because today is surely about stuffing myself silly. Anyway, one of my students gave me this for Christmas - a nice little jar of cashew nuts, chocolate dusted almonds and M&Ms. Yum!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Catching Readers

This year our district has given us a release day in April - I think it's the day after Easter. The catch is we have to get 7 in-service hours before then. I sorta missed the boat by not taking advantage of any of the few in-services the district offered this summer. {And boo, hiss - the district doesn't allow me to use the 6 college hours I'll have by then.}

Anyway, I've done a slap-dash bunch of in-services and I'm still an hour and a half short. Some of the other teachers in my school are also short. So I volunteered to do a book study, very loosely based on "Catching Readers Before They Fall." 

I was just re-reading chapter 5, "A Comprehensive Literacy Framework." I find myself reading professional books with two pulls - one is excited to see what else I can do; the other is reluctance to see where I am missing the boat. 

One quote I noticed this morning was this:

“If we want to support children as they build an effective reading process system, then we must show them what it looks like when a proficient reader is using his or her system.”

I would like to figure out how to do a better job of showing my students the thinking that is going on in my mind as I'm reading, so that they can {hopefully} transfer this information to their own reading. The authors advocate sticky notes - and I think that might be a good strategy for me to get started. 

Any hints from you?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Ok, let me start by saying - I'm not getting paid for this. But this has to be just about the best thing since the pencil was invented.

 Because it does this:

If you read my previous post {this one right HERE}, you know that I had a little situation with a pencil sharpener at school. 

So because of the little situation with the pencil sharpener, I just decided to cough up the $$ and buy the quietest pencil sharpener. It's been great. I Do Not Let Kids Touch It! But it doesn't take me very long to sharpen about half the class' pencils, and I can talk to the kid while I sharpen their pencil. It's a win-win. 

This is not a commercial - I'm just so happy about something that works so nice. {However, if you want to look into this for yourself, just google Quietest Pencil Sharpener.}

What's working in your world? Want to share?? 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

January Back to School

Happy Back to School Day - at least I went back to school today, and I suspect most of you did, too. 

I walked in the teacher's door and was about half way to the lounge, when the secretary caught me and said, "I'm sorry for the late notice, but you're getting a new student today." Boo Hiss. The most dreaded words. Or maybe I'm just a stinker. New kids mean brain work. I've got to remember all the places where I've got to plug this kiddo in - centers, mail box, computer access, etc. etc. 

A huge aside here - I have, in the past, made new student baggies - so all the labels, cards, sticks, etc. that I need are right there. Helps the brain a little. I must have forgotten to do that this year. 

The good news is - it's a girl! And she helps even out {just a tad bit} my very uneven boy to girl ratio. She also seems like a sweetie and was already fitting in with most of the girls. 

And my sweet bubby sent this:

What a great way to start the week! 

Hope you had some happy surprise today -
PS - I decided to leave my penguin on for a while - he's still appropriately seasonal!