Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I'm Not an Interior Designer

Okay, I have a major confession. I'm not an interior designer.  I think I might just be the opposite of that. Sometimes I feel a little inferior for that, but most of the time I don't.  It usually hits me around back to school time when I'm bombarded {I say that with love in my heart} with classroom setup pictures on Instagram, Pinterest, Blogs, Facebook.  Of course, I could look the other way, but I don't.  I stare.  Sometimes I drool. Most of the time I just smile.

So, I'm pretty good at a lot of things.  I'm really good at others.  Some things I just stink at. Classroom decor I could use a little help with.  Setting up my classroom is just that; setting up a functional space.  I like to make it cute...but I mostly like to make it functional.  You can do both, you say?  No, really I can't...I'm just not capable of that kind of creativity and level of multitasking.

I think I have Decorator ADD.  Sometimes I think I might want to get all fancy, all "School Girl Style" but then I get overwhelmed by the whole thought of coordinating things.  I'm just too random and too practical when it comes to choosing what goes into my room.  Sometimes it all comes together and it looks like I coordinated...but when that happens, it's really just a happy accident. I'd like to say it's more than that but that would be a lie.

What I don't understand is how a classroom teacher changes their "theme" each year.  Do you have a money tree in the backyard?  Do you have endless amounts of creative energy?  Is there a pill for that?  I did finally succumb to this whole theme business a few years back and went with "colorful".  That's a theme, right?  So that bright blue bin I picked up ten years ago goes nicely with the bright red bin I picked up last year.  I think I might check out the Target dollar spot and pick up a green bin for this year's theme guessed it...COLORFUL!

I'm still in full on summer mode.  Teachers go back at the end of August and school starts after Labor Day. I will be that friend that makes you feel REAL good about yourself.  I'll post pictures of my colorful classroom just as soon as it's all put together...promise!

I'm gonna guess it'll look a little something like this...

Happy Times!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Personal/Professional Goals

Hey There!!!!

My has been a while.  I'll be totally honest with you.  I'd hop on my blog and feel like Cindy Brady....

Just at a loss.  Didn't know what to say, where to go with it so I'd close her up...hoping for the mood to strike.  So here I am!  Finally.  Three months later.

I tried turning off my teacher brain for the summer - but really, why do I even try?  I'm constantly checking teacher blogs, Facebook, Instagram, school email, Target dollar spot, Pinterest and now the back to school ads are starting.  If you can't beat 'em you might as well join 'em.  This is the fun stuff, right? 

I've been thinking, lately, about the changes I'm going to make this coming school year.  {Thanking my lucky stars that each year I get to start fresh!!!}Some are a little riskier {livin' on the edge in Teacherville} than others, but changes nonetheless.  

As I look through my list, I may need to dial it down, but I'm excited to try at least some of the ideas.

First up:

I've definitely given the whole idea of alternative seating a thought or two, but I'm just not there.  Maybe one day.  For now, tables are about as risky as I'll go.  I've always been a desk girl.  One of my teacher partners has tables in her room and for some reason it makes things look and feel so SPACIOUS.  I've got a lot of kinks to work out, like where will I put all of their supplies?  Do I do table caddies, table bins, chair pockets?  So much to think about and it makes me pretty darn giddy.


My teaching pal, Barb {the elusive Barb} and I have been talking about what we can do to supplement our district's math resource - Bridges Math.  We love so much of it but as we've spent some time using it have found some definite ways we'd like to supplement.  One part of Bridges that I love is called Workplaces.{Math centers}  As we've been talking we came to the conclusion that during these math centers would be a great time to pull some guided math groups.  I've purchased this book:

And have really learned a lot from reading Reagan's blog posts about it.  Click {here}, {here} and {here} for just a few.  I'm really excited about this because my biggest qualm about how I'm teaching math right now, using our current resource, is that I don't always feel like I know my kids as mathematicians like I would like to, and I feel as though I'm not differentiating as much as I used to, as well as there are some basic foundational skills that I feel need to be hit a little harder.  Guided math seems like the answer. We shall see...

Still more...

I had a pseudo-focus wall in my room a few years back.  It was nothing to look at but it served its purpose. For some reason it took a back seat...okay, let's be honest, it was given the all-out boot.  Then, last year I sort of happened upon it again.  I had an empty bulletin board mid-year {how the heck did that happen} and decided to slap up some sentence strips describing what we were focusing on at the time.  Just today I was playing around on Facebook and The First Grade Parade was highlighting this product:

What I like about this {aside from it's cute} is that it keeps everyone focused on the Learning Targets.  It can be referred to often and helps designate a space in my classroom for doing that.  Along with guided math being something I'd like to try was having a space for a math wall where I could introduce different math vocabulary.  This product has that vocabulary to use on your focus wall. Perfect!

This is an easy one!

When I first started teaching I had class helpers.  I was SO bad at keeping up with that whole shizzle. Kristen was so in my head when she wrote this.  For the last two years I reinstated class helpers.  I'm quite certain there were more than a few that never got a shot at trash collector.  Why this was the most coveted of class jobs, I'll never know - but I'm sure there's somebody out there who didn't get their stab at it and will forever be marred.  One class helper?  Sign me up!!!!!!


I'm thinking about having just one rule in my classroom.  This blog post struck such a chord with me that I haven't stopped thinking about it since I read it. I can see myself saying "Be brave enough to make the right choice" "Be brave enough to be safe".  "Be brave enough to be kind". "Be brave enough to apologize so that you can be kind".  I really, really think I like the idea that it sometimes takes bravery to try hard to do the right thing and it can definitely take bravery to try hard at something that you feel you can't do {i.e. subtract, do fractions, read a story}.  It's so all encompassing but can be dialed down to the smallest of thinking. I really like it.  

And probably the riskiest of the risky ones...

I'm flopping this one around in my mind.  I'm pretty old school when it comes to choices and consequences.  I'm concerned that we've become complacent as a society and that we let too much slide. With that, I also think the heart of discipline is teaching children how to learn from their mistakes and how to self regulate.  I definitely think the clip chart does a good job of creating a visual and I've always talked to my students about their behavior when the need to "clip down".  I really don't think the heart of why my students do the right thing is so they don't "clip down"...but...well, let's say I'm still brewing this one.

So, what do you think?  I've bitten off more than I can chew?  Maybe I should choose a couple of them?What would you do if you were me?  What are some changes you plan to implement this new school year?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Guided Reading Favorites *Freebie*

Hey Folks,

Guided reading is one of my favorite times of the day.  Working with small groups really gives me a chance to get to know my kiddos and their reading behaviors more intimately.  

One thing I couldn't live without is my table...

This table allows for a group of 5 or 6 to fit comfortably around the teacher.  Every now and then I have a group of 7 - which isn't ideal but it's do-able.

Another favorite of mine are my whisper phones. A dad made a class set for me years ago and I don't know how I'd live without them - especially when I have my kiddos read at their own pace - no more round robin! Another trick that I talked about here is to have them alternate how they are sitting at the table...face in, face out, face in...

I dig my reading logs...even though I'm still struggling with whether or not to use them.  I like that I can show parents that when we work together their child GROWS.  

If you remember - I didn't know what I was doing with Reading Logs.
Due to accountability factors - I opted to stick with them.  

Something else I love is my conversion chart on my lanyard.  I mostly have this committed to memory - but when a parent or teacher {I've even had my first graders ask me}comes up to me and asks me where a fourth grader should be reading I can flip my card over and tell them.  It's not a must - but it's handy dandy. I got mine at The Booksource.

Who doesn't love a good flash card?  I use these for so many different things. I have kids jot down notes, I use them as bookmarks, we write down new vocabulary, and use them for incremental rehearsal...

They are pretty cheap too...

Not sure what incremental rehearsal is?  Here's a video explaining how this intervention strategy works. I've been using it with my kiddos who continue to struggle with their sight words. 

Our strategy bookmarks...couldn't live without those!!!!

My literacy parapro - who I ALSO couldn't live without...made these for me and said I could share!
Thanks, Tammy!

I talk about how I introduce each strategy at the beginning of the year *here*.

My newest possible favorite is the Record of Reading app for my iPad.  I don't know about you, but the amount of paper I go through in my classroom bugs me.  I'm in the market for a nice stylus to use with my iPad so that I can use this free app to do running records.  In this app you can keep track of your students' reading, record their reading, email it to yourself {or your interventionists, parents, etc.} and print it out {which I wouldn't do much of}.  I haven't played around with it much yet...but I think it has potential of being a favorite.

I could keep going...I just love guided reading.  Do you have any favorites that you'd like to share?  I'm always in the market for new ideas!!!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Editing in First Grade

I wonder how many of your hearts started to palpitate with the thought of having your firsties edit their own writing or, better yet, with a peer?

I keep the process pretty simple.  I also keep my expectations simple and age appropriate.  It wasn't so long ago when I would get all in a tither over my students missing OBVIOUS errors.  How can you not see that "of" is NOT spelled "uv"?  

Maybe because they are 6.

So, I keep it really age appropriate which keeps us all REAL happy and accomplished feeling.

I want to take a little bend in the road here and talk teaching philosophy for a second.  I'm not of the thinking that a published piece needs to be "perfect".  I don't expect a published piece to have every period and comma in its place. I don't think every word should be standard spelling.  I don't think that only "perfect" pieces are worthy of hallway hanging.

I do, however, expect for a published piece to be a little better than what it was after it was first written.  For some students - that's finding one mistake and fixing it.  For others, that's finding multiple areas that can be tweaked.

I break the editing process down into digestible chunks.  I've blogged about editing here and here but thought I'd break it down a little more today.

I've been using the concept of a "writer's eye" for a few years now and love it.  It works for my students.  

{plastic sunglasses with the lenses poked out}

Or you can make your own...

...and let's begin...

Day 1 - I see lowercase letters throughout my sentence - Using my story that I've pre-written {with lots of mistakes}, I model what this should look like.  I don't tell them what I'm doing, instead I like to just do it and tell them to use their eagle eyes and thinking caps to NOTICE what I'm doing {this keeps them more engaged}.  I move my finger through the sentence, very slowly - looking for those pesky uppercase letters where they don't belong.  After eliciting their noticings - I make sure they note that I didn't even have to read my story to do this part of the editing process.  I have them do this part alone, although you could have them work with a partner.  Completely up to you.  I don't teach the standard editing symbols, but I'm sure you could and I know many do.  I simply have them use their GREEN editing pens to change it to a lowercase letter, right on top of the uppercase one.  

These are my favorite!

Day 2 - I see finger spaces between all the words I wrote - Depending on the year, I sometimes combine this with Day 1.  Again, I model how this should look with my own story and ask them what they notice. I take my finger and slide it under the words - stopping {dramatically} if I see two words squished together. If a fingers pace was needed, I draw a vertical line {using my handy dandy green felt pen} between the words.  I have them do this by themselves as well but you could have them work with a learning partner too.

Day 3 - I see punctuation at the end of my sentences {Robot Day}- I find this to be the most difficult for my students.  They are still learning what a sentence really is.  There are still a few in my class who think punctuation belongs at the end of each line or those who put it at the very end of their story.  That's okay - that's where they are as writers - if they can find ONE spot where it DOES belong...I consider that a success.  I find that working with a partner on this one is especially helpful.  Earlier in the year I assign learning partners.  They sit next to this person on the carpet. I've made a very conscious effort to assign learning partners of mixed ability levels.  Learning partners "think and share" together during carpet learning and they also act as writing partners.  

Again, model how this process should work using a student as your learning partner.  It's so important to model and re-model, and model again how to take care of your partners feelings when you help one another. I think this is a life skill!  Like Day 1 and Day 2 before I model how this should look {and sound}, I challenge them to notice what they can and then share after.  In order to find missing punctuation you have to read it aloud. For me,  it helps to read the piece like a robot, word-by-word-real-robotic.  If you read with expression, you tend to overlook errors because you read it the way it SHOULD be, not necessarily the way it IS.  The kids love to hear me reading like a robot and notice it right away.  They also notice just how slow I am reading and how I'm using my pointer finger along the way.  I think reading slowly and carefully also emphasizes exactly where you are STOPPING naturally {which sounds counter intuitive because there's nothing natural about the way you are reading right now - you just gotta trust me on this}.  

I have the kids "whisper yell" STOP when they notice my pause - chances are {but not necessarily always} this is where punctuation belongs.  With my green pen I add the appropriate punctuation.  I also model stopping dramatically wherever I see punctuation and think "did that make sense?"  I put an "X" on any that is in the wrong place.  

Partnerships of mixed ability levels also helps because your more advanced writers can be really helpful to your writers who might be struggling a bit.  They have that natural ability of knowing where punctuation belongs. I consider one added period, question mark or exclamation point a success!!!!

**When partner editing I make sure the writer reads their own story aloud to their writing partner because reading "children spelling" can be tricky and some students aren't yet ready to read even the standard spelling of some stories. Remember to sit elbow-to-elbow and knee-to-knee**

Day 4 - I see a capital letter at the beginning of my sentence - I save this one for last because you have to fix your punctuation before you can do it.  Again, model how this looks. This is another one that you don't have to read your story for.  Just slide your finger slowly under each word.  Like every other day, have them notice what you're doing as you do it.  I dramatically stop at each punctuation mark, and think aloud "Did I use an uppercase letter to start this sentence?.  If I didn't, I use my green pen to change the lowercase letter to an uppercase letter - write on top of it.  Again, I don't bother with the standard editing symbols, because I don't want my students to get bogged down with remembering what they are, as opposed to looking for what they need to look for. Just my own teacher-opinion.  

Day 5 - I see word wall words spelled correctly - I added this one to the mix {although it's not in the anchor charts that Cara made.}  This is another one that you read each word like a robot while slowly sliding your pointer finger under each word.  I have them work with a partner on this one too because students tend to skip over incorrectly spelled word wall words because they ...well...they do and I don't know why! HA!  If my students find one or two word wall words that are spelled incorrectly and fix them...I'm doing the happy dance!

On any given day of editing, the process itself can take a while, or not long at all.  Once my students are done I ask that they put the writing piece that they are editing away and get started on a new story.  This allows time for me to confer with students who maybe whizzed through the process and missed some "obvious" errors. I can help them see a few more areas that they can fix.  I can also work with those who are more advanced and talk about adding commas, apostrophes or quotation marks.  I can chat with them about varying their punctuation {could we use an exclamation mark here instead of a period?}. Differentiation at its finest!

If you're more inclined to teach your students the standard conventions of editing - Reagan Tunstall has an amazing pack, Edit with Eddie,  that I use with my students who are ready!!!  I love it!

Up next?

Revising and publishing!  I'll save that fun for another day!!!

Happy writing!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Faves *Pictures Galore*

Happy Friday!

Where have I been?  Good grief - I don't know.  Busy!  How's that for an answer?  I bet you can relate.  I don't quite know how I could possibly feel busy.  With all the snow days we've been having...I definitely have had my fair share of couch time.  Sometimes when given the opportunity to be lazy, I find it hard to motivate and be productive.  It's when I'm crazy, crazy busy that I seem to get more done.  Strange how that works.  Let's ponder that.  HA!

I thought maybe my first graders would come back after their snow days snoozy.  That wasn't the case.  They were wide awake and hungry for wild crazy times learning.  So learn we did {along with a whole slew of brain breaks}.  Our newest favorite...

Speaking of favorites...I thought I'd share a few of my current ones!

Have you ever had one of those projects that you wanted to undertake, but the thought of actually bringing it to fruition, because of the work involved, was just too daunting?  That's how I felt about organizing my files/binders.  I'm not done - by a long shot - but these two made me smile every single time I looked at them this week.  Organization is almost better than chocolate...

One of my sweeties gave me this little worm.  We call him "Booky the Bookworm".  When somebody is working exceptionally hard during Reader's Workshop, Booky rests comfortably on their desk for the rest of the day.  They love him!

Did I say organization is almost better than chocolate?   I lied.  These were taped to my door the other day.  I tried SO. VERY. HARD. not to eat every last one. But I lost the battle. #sorrynotsorry  Holy goodness.  You might just want to try them!  Organization doesn't hold a candle to these babies.

We've got some green thumbs in our class!  If you follow me on Instagram you'd know how proud we were {WERE} of our burgeoning brassica plants.  They died people!  Goners.  Seriously.  Why does that ALWAYS happen to me?!?  But our that's a work of art!

No words.  I just love starting every single day with our sweet Morning Meeting.  I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel like I'm always brushing my kiddos off.  We've got learnin' we gots to do!!!! During morning meeting they are guaranteed an opportunity to share with the group or with a neighbor anything that's on their mind; and we all know they have LOTS on their mind! During our class chit chat we problem solve, chat about any changes that might need to be made, address concerns, or just celebrate our learning.  Great team building!

I have a sweet girl in my class this year who brings me a piece of fruit every couple of weeks.  She's brought some very interesting "exotic fruits" and some old favorites.  When she hands me the fruit, she shares all of its health benefits.  It's the coolest thing ever!  A couple of weeks ago she brought me a prickly pear.  Let's just say they aren't called that for nothin'...OUCH!

One of my "new school year resolutions" was to stay organized.  Planners, in the past, didn't work for me.  I tried putting things in my phone - fail.  This planner was all over Instagram at the end of the summer and I thought, if nothing else - it was cute.  I'm proud to say, I've stuck with it!  Do you see all those snow days?  Yikes!

Meet Sammy Snowman.  He works just like Mr. Mummy. If Sammy sees a Super Sammy Line he sings "Ice, Ice, Baby" {Kickin' it old school} and does a little jig. 

I just added these today - my kiddos are going to love reading the room during Daily 5 - on Monday!

On my way out, at the end of the day today, I just looked at this and smirked.  

Happy weekend! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

13 in '13 Linky Party

I'm linking up with three of my favorites - Miss Kindergarten , A Teeny Tiny Teacher  and Dragonflies in First to share 13 of my favorites in 2013.

{Favorite Article of Clothing}

I was never a shopper.  Hated it, actually.  Since losing 50 lbs this year - I have taken to online shopping at Zulily, GroopDealz, Sassy Steals and Jane.  I might admit to a slight addiction!  

{Favorite Movie}

Without blinking - this is my favorite.  I just love this whole series.  What makes it more fun, is that my son is starting to read them so we can talk about them and will get to see the next movie together.  

{Favorite TV Series}

Seriously?  There is no possible way I can narrow this down to one, not even two.  Have you ever heard of NetFlix? HA!

I hardly even read {I sure hope my first graders don't read my blog!!!!} anymore, I'm so addicted to watching old shows on NetFlix!  Some of my faves:

Downton Abbey
Vampire Diaries
The Originals

And my current favorite...

{Favorite Restaurant}

You gotta remember I have kids. I don't do anything without them.  We don't do date nights.  We eat, breathe, and live our children...HA!  So, my restaurants consist of ones that serve mac & cheese or corn dogs!  Our current fave:

It's a local establishment.  Funny thing, it's right down the road from our house and we drive by it every day.  We've lived here for 11 years and this year was our first time going. Why? I don't know because it's the best Mexican food around!  

{Favorite New Thing You Tried}

This is easy - eating a little more organically, eating a little "cleaner", using glass containers rather than plastic, trying not to cook out of the box, etc.  It's been a fun challenge and we definitely are not perfect, but we're getting there!  Some of my favorites in this area...

WearEver Pure Living Cookware

{Favorite Gift}
I got this last week for my birthday. I've been wanting a Keurig for like, FOREVER!  Being the frugal teachers that we are, we just couldn't justify spending so much on coffee.  I decided to "kick" my Starbucks habit - I was going once a week {I still go once a month - no worries #nonfatnofoamchaitealatte} and go this route instead.  I am in awe and in love with this wonderful piece of mechanics.  Holy moly!

{Favorite Pin}

I'm not a big Pinner - but I do like the start of my clothes cuteness board...

...and food boards!

I actually make and LOVE this one!!!!!

Cold Overnight Steel Cut Oats

{Favorite Blog Post}

Is actually one of your favorites too!  
I think it encompasses who I am!!!!

{Best Accomplishment}

I have accomplished so many things that I'm really proud of 2013. The first one that comes to mind is how much I've worked out since May.  I am a walker/jogger = wogger.  I've been consistently eating right and exercising since May.  I have never felt better...and I mean that!!!!  I use my Instagram to share about it - so if you don't follow me over there...come on over!!! {crisscrossapplesaucein1stgrade}

{Favorite Picture}

This is everybody that matters to me the very most in the world.  My main men, and my doggy girl in one of our favorite places on earth {Northern Michigan}...

Mullett Lake

{Favorite Memory}

Too many to mention - of course, but our time Up North always gives us many, many memories.  Our trek around Mackinac Island was awesome!!!!

Arch Rock

{2014 Goal}

To be healthy, happy & balanced...

{One Little Word}


It's easy to get "caught up" in everything.  The craziness of our profession.  Running the kids from one event to the next.  Sometimes the 'ol ticker is beating at a frantic pace and I forget to breathe and enjoy these days God has given me.  So, I am going to work on being in the moment and finding my...


Merry, Merry & Happy, Happy!

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