Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wordless Wednesday September 17th - Evaluations & Observations

Next week, I have my first formal observation of the school year. This Friday, all of my pre-conference forms are due. In Ohio, this means pages and pages of evidence and explanations of my teaching skills.  I've been working on my forms for the past three nights and will still be working on them tonight and tomorrow. #nooooo

So my question for the week is:

Does your district or state's evaluation system seem time consuming to you? If so, do you believe that the benefits of the evaluation/observation system outweigh the cons?
Share your thoughts with me below -
Let's chat! :)

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Glance Into My Guided Reading Binder!

Happy Friday, Friends!  I hope you all had a fabulous week.  This summer, I led a two day workshop called Success with Small Groups and it was SO much fun! During my workshop, I shared my Guided Reading binder with my class.  I thought I would do a blog post for you with a glimpse into what my Guided Reading binder looks like inside.   Here we go! :)

Welcome to my Guided Reading binder!  I used my sweet friend, Haley O'Connor's Colorful Editable Teacher Planner pack to make my cover. Let's open it up!

When you open it up, my weekly guided reading plans are the first thing you will see.  I keep my plans short and sweet. I'm big on having a FOCUS for each small group but I'm careful not to plan too much on purpose.  I want my reading groups to guide themselves based on my students' reading actions and our discussions.  I write down the new book I will introduce, any vocabulary words I want to preview to set them up for success when they whisper read, and a main focus.  

A FAQ I receive is: "Do you see every group every day?"
Truthfully, I USED to for the past few years that I've had the inclusion room. I was blessed to have an intervention specialist in my room during my Daily 5 time, so between the two of us, we saw every child every day - often more than once a day.  It was the definition of Teacher Heaven.

But this year I am taking a break from having the inclusion room, which means I am now back to this place the rest of you probably call "reality."  I do not see every group every day but I do see my lowest two groups every day.  I see my other top 2 groups three times a week and once a week during our intervention time. (So essentially, they still get four reading groups a week. #iloveinterventiontime)  I also have two little friends this year reading WAY above everyone else. They join my top group but the three of us always meet separately on Fridays and additionally during our intervention time throughout the week in individual conferences.

When I start my guided reading groups, my students reread familiar books from previous days out of our Fluency Basket.  While they are "warming up their brains" as I say, I take a running record on a focus child from the group.  I flip to my Focus Child Checklist page, and choose a child from the group. I check them off and take my running record.  This gives me a simple, easy glance at who I have done a running record on, and who still needs one.  Once my class has all been given one running record, I move on to column #2 and start again. This just keeps me focused and ensures I am reaching every child within the class. (You can see that my list is not very complete yet. I took this picture last week and we have only been in school for 4 weeks.) :)

Above is an example of a running record I took on a child last week. When I study the errors he made, it was clear he was using his visual and syntactic cuing systems when he read. His errors all started with the same letter as the word and they made sense within the structure of the sentences. However, he was not activating his semantic cuing system because his errors did not have any meaning to the text.  After reading with him for just a few minutes, I jotted down a note at the bottom that the strategy "Check for Understanding" and summarizing each page is the direction I want to go with for this little one.  (I often don't take the running record on the whole book - I want enough to get a quick snapshot of his current reading skills.) The rest of his group was making errors in sight words and decodable text.  This little guy was reading too high for this group, so my running record helped me know that I needed to change his small group to a higher leveled group. 

This is my favorite part of my binder!  I laminated a page that coordinates with the colors of my guided reading groups. (If you use animals or shapes for your groups, you could put those on the page.) I stick every child's name on a Post-It Note sticky tab when I arrange my students into their initial reading groups.  This makes it EASY for me to quickly move my students based on their running records and weekly needs.  Groups are flexible and never stay the same for very long. 

Remember my little guy who needed to move to a higher group? You can see that while I was taking his running record, it was easy for me to move his name to the next group because the page was right there with me in my binder.  I don't want to risk forgetting to move his name at the end of the day and the idea that I can just re-stick a tab is perfect for helping me keep the mentality that data and my groups are ever-changing. 

At the end of the day, or often the end of the week, I file all of the running records I took. Each child has a tab in my binder with his or her number on it. This helps me keep a collection of each child's running records throughout the year so I can refer to them and track progress/lack of progress.  By the end of the year, these forms become a "diary" of each child's reading instruction throughout their first grade learning year. 

Does it take me some extra time? Yes. But we have ONE year to make as much reading progress as we can with our students.  It's important to me that I make every small group experience count. 

So there it is - a look into my guided reading binder!  I hope you enjoyed it and perhaps it even gave you a few ideas to take back to your small group binder! :) 

Thank you so much for stopping by my little corner of the teaching world!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wordless Wednesday September 9: Learning Happiness & Giveaway Winners

Happy Wordless Wednesday!
Before I get this party started and share my picture of the week with you, I want to announce the winner of the $50 Kaplan Gift Card!
Congratulations, Sara D! 
My picture this week makes me oh-so-happy! It shows a recent science experiment and some close ups of small groups.

I looked around my room today and realized we had officially arrived to first grade. Kids were scattered all over the room reading, writing, stamping their words, and listening to books on the computer and tablets.  They were sooooo quiet and I could hear little whispers of pictures being read and words being sounded out. 

Learning happiness at it's finest. 

My Wordless Wednesday question of the week:
How often do you do science experiments in your classroom?
(because I'm nosy and curious)

Share your answer with me below and/or link up your picture for Wordless Wednesday!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Writing Wheels for Work on Writing! {Fall Edition}

Happy Monday teacher friends! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. We spent the weekend painting and shopping for a new kitchen light fixture.  My life is oh-so-exciting, isn't it?! ;)  I did find this adorable little treasure while we were light-fixture-shopping that I had to invite home to live on my front porch. :)

Now let's talk "school." We are officially in our FOURTH week for first grade!  I can't believe it!  My 25 little friends are doing so well and have really started to settle in and embrace our classroom routine.  With routines, comes Daily 5 of course!  Do you use Daily 5 in your classroom?  If you do, you know how exciting it is when you start to launch Work on Writing.  I launch Work on Writing LAST because I want to make sure my kiddos can write a complete sentence before I set them loose. 

The last couple weeks, we've been celebrating because...they CAN write a complete sentence! :) In fact, since we've been using my Think, Talk, Teach pack and working on the conjunction "and," they can write a compound sentence right now - yay! 
I created this really FUN writing pack for my beginning writers and they l-o-v-e it!  Work on Writing time is a time in my classroom that students can write about whatever they want.  However, sometimes I have little ones who have a really difficult time figuring out WHAT to write about when left on their own.  These Writing Wheels solve that problem! 

Students will have a blast using a paperclip to spin the spinner and write about the picture they land on! There are 12 different themed printables, but since each printable has 4 writing choices, there are SO many options and opportunities for writing fun with this pack!

Each fall "theme" comes with three different differentiated templates that you can use in your classroom, according to your students' needs.  Choose the printable and writing template that works best for your kiddos!

You can also choose to simply cut and laminate the spinners without the writing template.  These would be great to place in a writing center and let students choose, spin, and write! The "I don't know what to write about" syndrome is officially over! :)
 The following TWO writing templates and spinners are available for FREE by downloading the Preview Download for this pack in my TpT shop! 

 Click HERE to head over to download and try it out in your classroom! :)

Before you go, have you entered my giveaway for a $50 Kaplan Early Learning Gift Card?! Click HERE to enter - it ends tomorrow night!  :)

Thanks for stopping by -
Happy Writing!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Kaplan Carpet Square Love and Giveaway!!

Do you have a carpet in your classroom?  I l-o-v-e meeting with my kids at our carpet.  It's the central meeting place of our classroom.  I tell my students that there are two places in our classroom where all of our IMPORTANT learning will take place:  the carpet and our small group table.  So it's important to me that my kids have a cozy spot to grow their brains. :)  I'd love to share two carpet products with you today that have made my classroom a comfy and fun place to learn this year!

This summer I splurged on a new carpet for my classroom and I am SO happy I did! (Really...I am so happy. My red one was old and YUCK. It was time to let it go. #sorrynotsorry) I love the new purple color! I was ready for a change from the primary colors I had in my room during my beginning years.  My kids love how large it is and I love that they have a comfy, soft place to learn during our mini lessons!

My carpet is a KIDply Soft Solid carpet and can be found at Kaplan Early Learning Company!  I adore their site - There are so many amazing things to choose from! 

I have 25 students in my classroom this year and as you know, we spend 80% of our day involved in small groups!  If my kids are not at the small group table with me, they are involved in various activities around the room.  I try not to let too many kids work on our large carpet at once due to keeping noise levels down and encouraging them to find "just right spots" in the room so that they will not be distracted.  However, they are bummed when they are not able to sit at the carpet and have to find a spot on the floor somewhere.

Are they not beautiful?!?!  
I'm in love. 
They are bright, colorful, and SUPER soft and durable! 
My kids are so excited that they can grab a carpet square and sit around our classroom during Read to Self and even when they play a math game on their own. 
Here's a close up picture for you.  The quality of these carpet squares let me know that they will last a long time in our classroom.  
We also used the carpet squares during our mini lessons this week. 
Some of my little friends have some spatial issues this year.  They do not realize that they are sitting so close they are nearly on top of their friends. I found myself asking them to scoot over thankyouverymuch one too many times. We fixed our problem by using our carpet squares! Having a designated area really helped my kids to be aware of their bodies and where they were at the carpet.  

I'm loving all the possibilities for letter and sound recognition games we can play this month with these carpet squares!

The squares fit perfectly in this milk crate! I tied a glittery pink ribbon to the front and voila! We had a cute little storage area for our carpet squares.  
Do you have carpet squares in your classroom or a rug you just LOVE? I'd love to hear about where you teach your mini lessons! 

I also have EXCITING news!! 

Kaplan Early Learning Company has graciously offered to let me give away a $50 Kaplan Gift Card to one of my lucky followers!! There are SOO many awesome learning tools and resources on this site. You will have so much fun shopping!

For your chance to win, enter the Rafflecopter below!!
I'll announce the winner in my Wordless Wednesday post this week!! :)
Good luck!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: September 2nd - Your New Best Friends

Yes, I know I already shared this picture in my Classroom Reveal for 2014, but I don't think I did it enough justice.  These little pen pal holders have changed my "after school life." I have not picked a single pencil off the floor in three weeks.  I have not heard a single child mutter the words, "I can't find my pencil."  In fact, I haven't even sharpened a pencil yet because they love taking care of their pencils and clipping them back in their "pencil homes."

Can you say AMAZING?!

Pen Pal people...if you are out there somewhere in internet world....thank you!
Bloggy Followers - Meet your new best friend, Pen Pal. 


Link up with us below!! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

September Currently!

It has been a long time since I've linked up to Farley's Currently linky, so here goes!

Listening- This picture is in real-time. I just snapped it with my phone. My little puppy has been SO tired this weekend. He's also been very happy that both his mommy and his daddy have been home with him all weekend! :) 
Loving- My laundry room! I picked up an old iron yesterday at a thrift shop and I loved adding it to my laundry room shelf.  I still need to fix up the other side of the room but it is slowly coming along!

Thinking-  I was so, so happy that all of my tablets turned on and are ready to go for tomorrow!  We will be learning how to use them and playing our first math game on them.

Wanting- I l-o-v-e fall weather! I can't wait to be able to throw on a comfy sweater and jeans and yet still not need to wear a jacket (I do not like winter - at.all.).  I'm also happy to see all of the pumpkin coffees coming back! Yum!

Needing- I don't know if it's just getting back into an "after school routine" or whether I am being lazy but I have not been doing a good job at utilizing my time after school.  I've been REALLY good at taking naps after school though...  #nomoreprocrastinating 

3 Trips-  I would love to go to Italy because my family is Italian! (DeCarbo...not hard to figure out haha!)  My husband and I are tossing around the idea of making a trip to Hawaii this summer before we start to think about having kids - I hope we are able to but right now it is an 'up in the air' idea!!  I would also love to go to London one day! :)

Thanks for letting me share my Currently with you! Head over to Farley's blog to check out other bloggers' Currently pictures and link up, as well! :)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Five for Friday on Saturday! Pics, videos, and more!

It's Saturday morning and I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for her five for Friday linky party! Better late than never, right? I'm linking up and sharing pictures of my week with you.  Here we go!

Back in May, I did a YouTube interview with the adorable Sheila from Sheila Jane Teaching on her Sprinkle Teaching Magic YouTube channel.  Sheila is so sweet and so positive - I feel honored to be a part of her series!  Sheila released the full interview yesterday.  I had never done an online interview before but it was SO much fun! 
Here's a quote from my video:
 The interview was for her "Teachers We Love" series.  In the interview, I share how I balance school and home, some special things happening in my school district, my top 5 tips for TpT, a favorite teaching story, and much more! 
You can watch the whole interview by clicking on one of the pics below OR clicking HERE.

Week 2 was all about routine again! We built our stamina up for Daily 5 and math workshop. My kiddos got to 22 minutes on Thursday, so I know we are ready to roll this coming week with small groups! We did a couple practice sessions on Friday and I even got to pull a little group of kiddos for a blending session!

 We also started my Think, Talk, Teach routine this week!  We have been working hard at speaking in complete sentences and learning how to expand our thinking by using conjunctions.  First, we are focusing on the conjunction, "and."

 I wait to launch Work on Writing last in my classroom.  Until my students have a solid grasp of what it means to actually write, we practice with our daily journals. You can see how the oral language activity each day is already transferring into my first graders' writing skills - and this was only Day 7 of first grade! I'm so excited for the rest of the year!

Before we can move into our math workshop and small groups, we practiced what we look and sound like when we play games with a partner and games by ourselves. In the picture below, we are practicing our September independent math games using my Write On/Wipe Off Back to School pack.  They had so much fun and can't wait to get started by making their own choices for math workshop on Tuesday!

Thanks for stopping by and getting a peek at our week! I hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day Weekend with their families and friends. My husband and I are off to buy some paint for our upstairs. It's about time we got the guest room and hallway painted! Fun, fun!
Until next time -