Thursday, February 26, 2015

Parent Teacher Conferences

Parent Teacher Conferences today - and I've been up since roughly 2:30 this morning. That makes for a lovely combination, doesn't it? More like a toxic one! 

So what's a gal to do when she can't sleep? How about a little personal Professional Development? 

This first one, I have no idea what I was looking at that gave me this idea. I think it was turning over of my mind from yesterday's Grade Level PLC where we talked about how to step up the rigor. My students have Reading Journals. I've tried, at the end of the week, to have them do some writing about our story from our anthology, or to complete a graphic organizer. Last night, I got to thinking, why don't I have them write every day - or at least more often? I was thinking that on Mondays, I could have them write a prediction on our story. Maybe on Wednesday, I could have them write a short bit about their favorite part, or something that would tie into our comprehension strategy for the week. I don't know for sure, it's a work in progress, but I like this idea. 

Second, I ended up at Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits and she had a nice post about teaching phonics, which led me to different places on her blog, and in the midst of that, I saw some little books she had made. Each one of the little books focuses on one set of phonics skills - like Y says i {we just did this recently}. And I was thinking that this might be something that I could make into class books. My thought was I could do the first page, and student could do their own page. I might even make this a bit competitive - I have some little 8x8 photo albums. I don't know how many pages are in each one, but I could say that the best - say, 10 get in the book! I'd love to have my kids practice reading sentences that have phonics that we just learned. {OK, that's a terrible sentence!}

Now I've got to run so I won't be late for conferences! Happy Thursday. Hoping I can stay awake and alert all dang day!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Use Your Words

Does anybody else do AIMSWeb testing? Our school does - we have a reading assessment - it's basically words per minute, but it has some fancy-pants name I can't remember right at the moment, and we have two math assessments - a computation one and a concept one. 

Well, after we give the kids the assessments and enter their results, we can get these beautiful reports that are called Rainbow reports - well, at least that's what they are called at my school. And white is way above average, blue is above average, green is in the average range, yellow is below average and red is way below. {I'm pretty sure that "way below" is not the technical term, but you get the idea, don't you?}

The other day, our team was looking at all our reports so we could give some data to our literacy coach, and one team member was pretty down about how her class was looking on the rainbow report. 

And then a few days later, I was reading Shauna Niequiest's blog and she had a post called "Use Your Words." {I'm thinking that maybe this should be my phrase of the year - and who cares if it's February when I'm figuring that out!}

Anyway, in her blog, Shauna says she ran into an old friend and at the end of the conversation, he says "I'm proud of you." She talks about how wonderful it was to hear him say that. And his surprise that she wasn't hearing that all the time. 

So I was thinking about my colleague - I think she's a great teacher. She's energetic, she really does give her all for her kids, she's creative and thinks of all sorts of wonderful ideas. 

And - - - I meant to write her a note Monday and tell her, but forgot. Today! Today is the day I'll do that. What about you? Who can you encourage - a student that needs it, a colleague who needs to hear how you respect her/him? Maybe today is the day they need you to use your words! 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Teaching Essentials, Ch 2

Trying to slowly move through this book so I can actually learn and apply some of the ideas! {What a thought!}

Image result for teaching essentials

At the very first of this chapter, Regie Routman says, "once students believe 'I can do it!' anything is possible." Oh, I so want to create that kind of environment/ belief system in my classroom - but it is not there...yet. This is so frustrating to write this morning, after one of my little friends had a serious meltdown yesterday, basically over his belief that he can't do it - and in his mind, I almost feel like "it" involves everything. 

The last part of this chapter, Routman really focuses on celebrating. She reminds us to have "celebrations of specific strength - not idle praise." And her list of celebration includes "affirming, congratulating, showcasing, noticing, and making public ... actions and work learners have done or are attempting to do." I like that last little bit - attempting to do. I have a group of three very low readers, and a second group of low readers. I need to notice - to them! - not only the progress, but the attempts they are making. This is something I feel I need to do a better job at, especially during Guided Reading. And just as I was typing this, I thought, maybe I need to have them think about what they've done - what hard work have they done during our 15 minutes together. 

One small thing that Routman said in this chapter is "I try hard not to repeat what students say." Hmmm, that comment got me to thinking. I almost always repeat what students say. And I think I do it so much, they look at me and wait for me to do that. That also got me thinking about my frustration with some of my students who don't seem to be listening during the short 20-25 minutes of whole group reading. Why should they, when I kindly repeat anything that's worth them hearing? Ack! So I'm going to try today, to tell the kids of this new idea I've read about - that they need to listen to each other talk. And I'm already thinking of a few ways to hold them accountable for this. We'll see how it goes. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Teaching Essentials, Chapter 1

Today was a strange kind of day. I felt like I was getting sick yesterday, and the sub situation here is so bad, that if you don't call in early, well, your teammates have to split your class up. And nobody likes having 6 or 7 extra little friends around, no matter how nice they are. 

Soooo - I put in for a sub last night. And I don't feel terrible, just not a lot of energy... and a lot of chills or warmth. Might be a fever. 

But I Am Going tomorrow! It's the Valentine's Party for pete's sake!

So I'm reading this:

Image result for teaching essentials

Chapter 1: Look Beyond What You See
And if anybody wants to chime in, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Right at the start of the chapter, Routman says, "We need to suspend our preconceived beliefs and judgment each time we meet a student, to assume that every child is capable." 

Sometimes I think I don't necessarily have preconceived ideas, but as I'm around my class, I get set in stone notions. This child is never going to learn double digit subtraction; or that one will never move up in Reading. 

She says two more things that go along with this:
1 - "assume all students are smart and treat them that way."
2 - "Students immediately pick up on whether or not we view them as capable."
{I am so battling with one little friend on that right now - I think, no, I know! he is capable, but he doesn't believe it. This is a hard battle to win.}

Routman also writes that she has "never been in a classroom or school where the expectations are too high." Yikes! I definitely want to find that balance between high expectations and realistic expectations. I'm not sure how to do that, or where that line is. 

Happy Valentine's Parties tomorrow - hope they aren't too crazy and you get just enough chocolate!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Kansas Day

The fun times just keep on comin' in 2nd grade. 

Last Thursday was Kansas Day - and since we had an in-service on Friday, it was the last day of the school week. Perfect day for some fun. 

So the four 2nd grade teachers divided our classes into three groups and we did rotations. One teacher showed some videos of some cool Kansas things - like we have a salt mine in Hutchinson that I guess is huge! {I don't know what else he showed videos of - it might have been Sponge Bob for all I know!}

I did a Bingo game with the kids - but with a little twist. They had Bingo boards with the answers. On the SmartBoard, I used the Random Word Chooser, and wrote out clues. For example, "Number of Counties" - and the answer is... 105. So the kids would have that on their board. Or "State Mammal," which all the kids know is the Bison! I think if we do this next year, I need to shorten the list of answers because it took a while for anyone to get a Bingo. I do like using the clues, however, to get those little friends thinking!!

The other two teachers took the kids outside for some old fashioned games. I don't remember at all what they played - but it sounded like they had loads of fun. And the newbie teacher got to show all the groups how to do the games, so she got her exercise in for the day! 

Tomorrow we are having pajama day! What fun!!

Monday, February 2, 2015

102 Days of School

So don't you hate when this happens?
Last week, the kindergarten teacher next door to the newbie teacher decorated her door for the 100th Day of School. Newbie teacher asks, "Is this a big deal? Do I need to do something?" No, no, I reassure her. 


My kids came in and asked, "What are we doing for the 100th day?"

"Well," I said as I was thinking as quick as I could, "We are 2nd graders. We don't celebrate the 100th day of school. We celebrate the 102nd day of school!" {Just bought myself 2 days, if you didn't notice!}

Only one of my smart little friends told me they didn't celebrate the 101st day of school last year. To which I replied that they didn't have a cool teacher last year. Haha!

Plus, you can not make this fun rhyme with 100, now can you???

So what'd we do? Well, we have this little bit, 5-10 minutes, of time in the morning where I usually have them read. But on 102 day, I asked them what they would do with 102 pieces of candy, and if it was 102 degrees outside, or if it was 102 degrees below zero. 

Then in math, we counted out 102 blocks - there were different kinds, like Legos, linking cubes, and shape blocks. Each student counted out 102 and put them in a baggie. {For later!!!}

Most of the rest of our day was normal, but I have this little half hour after reading and before writing {because of when the SpEd people can get in my room}, so everybody got a bag of blocks and they could build whatever they wanted with their 102 blocks.

It was really a pretty simple celebration - made a little special by it being 102 days. But it was fun!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Teaching Essentials

I'm finally getting a chance to read this book:

As I said in a previous post, it's scary/exciting.
{And does anyone know why my pictures from previous posts are disappearing. It's like my computer doesn't like me or something!}

I'm going to read it slowly and see if I can't put some ideas into practice as I go. I took a little time on Saturday to read her introduction -- and I already highlighted something!
    "when I explicitly taught reading and its component skills using the best of children's literature, my students not only learned to read, they learned to enjoy reading and to choose to read."

My district requires that I use a basal reader, so I'm going to have to do some thinking about the first part of that sentence. 

But it's the second part - they enjoy reading and choose to read -- that gets me really excited. I enjoy reading and I choose to read - a lot, every day, all kinds of things. And I so want to pass that on to my little friends.

If anyone is interested, you are more than welcome to join me as I go on this reading journey - slowly reading through Teaching Essentials by Regie Routman.