Friday, June 29, 2012

Igniting a Passion for Reading

I'm rereading a book titled Igniting a Passion for Reading by Steven Layne. The message is powerful and one that we, as elementary teachers, should know innately: give the kids what they like and they'll be more likely to enjoy reading. Layne's words remind us, with a dry wit and searing honesty, that teaching transforms itself magically into learning when the learner is excited/interested/curious/having FUN.

It shocks me that we even need reminding of this.

It shocks me even more that I have to sigh and nod to myself that yes, we do need reminding of this.

Igniting a Passion for Reading gets my brain-gears spinning. It makes me want to ignite a passion for learning. For making connections. For sparking curiosity. When this happens (like waking from a foggy, sleepy dream) I start to look around me, and I see things in a different light - in a learner's light. I am especially struck with pop culture and how it can be used to hook those kiddos in, line and sinker.

Watch this video. First, watch it for humor...wade in and get your feet wet.

Then watch it again, this time for subtleties in the humor, connections you make, references you might have missed the first time. Then, watch it one last time, this time through the eyes of a 3rd/4th/5th/6th grader. How much better do they know this world than you? How do they see it differently?

Then, think about what learning this could be the jumping off point for. Compare/contrast? Perspective? Persuasion? Could you use it discuss equality in mathematics? Properties in science? Character traits? Conflict?

How about this one?

When learning is relevant (and remember that relevancy is all in your perspective...and it's important to not forget who's perspective are you teaching to) and fun and emotionally memorable, then you'll have buy in.

And when you have buy-in, then you have ignition. And igniting those passions is what it is all about.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Blogger Award x3!

I am humbled beyond words. Thank you to Angie at , Patti at Tales From a 4th (and 5th) Grade Teacher, and Brittany from Stickers and Stamps. Before any further ado, please go check out these three lovely blogs and their talented authors. You won't regret it!

First, a big Peacock THANK YOU  to Angie for the 

As we all know, Awards have stipulations (to make them more prestigious, I am convinced!) Here is the Deal-io for The Versatile Blogger:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Include a link to their site.
3. Include the award image in your post.
4. Give 7 random facts about yourself

5. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.

6. When nominating, include a link to their site.

7. Let other bloggers know they've been nominated.

7 Interesting Facts About Me
1. I am a bass fishing fool
2. I once owned 9 rats (all at once!)
3. I love sushi - ALL of it!
4. I am not allowed to play World of Warcraft
5. I once un-friended my husband on Facebook
6. I have read The Stand 16 times since I was 12
7. I love Pee-Wee Herman
8. I have a peacock feather tattooed on my foot
9. I  <3 garden gnomes
10. I knit

And here is another big Peacock THANK YO to Patti and Brittany for

Once again, the RULES OF ENGAGEMENT:
Once you receive the award, you must follow 3 rules: 

1.  Follow the person that gave you the award.
2.  Link back to the person that gave you the award.
3.  Pass the award on to 15 new bloggers.

Ha!! But I'm going to change the rules for both awards. I really want to acknowledge several bloggers that I just love to read, but I see that they have already received some of these awards. is a *NEW* award. 

Yes, yes, there are RULES. Here they are:

If you are the recipient of the One Clever Education Blog award you must do the following...
1. Thank the presenter and link back to their blog
2. Stick the award on your blog post
3. Award the blog to 5 other bloggers. 
4. Make sure you check out the other recipients! This is an acknowledgement of good blogging, and should be treated as such!

So the very first round of One Clever Education Blog Awards goes to: 
She makes me laugh!! Smart, funny, she got it all!

The Teaching Thief
She is over-flowing with great ideas and good discussion!

Buzzing with Ms. B Button
Funniest class stories EVER. And she's a brilliant teacher.

Thinking of Teaching
She leads an awesome book talk and I love her ideas! 

She gets us all thinking and creating! Her blog is an inspiration!

Go check them out! They are FAB!!

OwLs! Shopping Linky! Guest Blogginess!

Check out all this Owl stuff on my Teacher's Notebook store!!

I don't usually go with a classroom theme, only because I like waayyyyy too many things to focus on one. This year, however, I am doing.... 

There is just something about the little guys that I can't resist this year. Now if I could just incorporate mushrooms and garden gnomes I'd be set!

Fun Freebies!!

You can get the CAFE posters and Skills Cards that go along with this cutie classroom set here for FREE (Thank you Joan and Gail for your never-ending inspiration and ideas!)...

The skill cards are blank so you can either write out or print your own skills on them. I like the flexibility myself, and plan to use wet-erase markers on them. 

And here are the matching D5 cards as well....

Now for the Big Kahuna....

Check out what this monster kit includes:

Month cards (12) 4 x 10.5 in.
number cards (4 sets of 31, plus blanks) 2 x 2 in.

Desk Plates:
4 sets, 3.5 X 10.5 IN.

Letter bubbles:
26 letters, uppercase, 5.5 x 5.5 in

Exit Slip Poster:
Whooooooo’s Learning lettering
Owls with student numbers, 1-24 (blanks included)
instructions for assembly
(thank you Amanda at The Teaching Thief  for the awesome idea!)

Clock labels:
:00 - :55, 5 minute increments, 4 x 3 in.

Yes and No stick toppers:
3.3 x. 3.3 in.

Birthday Pencil Toppers:
4 designs
bucket label
instructions for assembly

I can't wait to print and lam it all and get it set up!

So what else is happening? 
Tomorrow, TOMORROW I get to be the guest blogger for Chrissy at
Could I be more excited? I think NOT. Come and check it out, and stay for the other guest bloggers this coming week while Chrissy sails away on a floating vacation! 

Also, in linking up with Kristen at LadyBug's Teaching Files....

I have made only ONE purchase for my classroom so far. It makes me infinitely happy when I look at it, though! (In case you didn't know, I l-u-r-r-r-r-r-v-e this man, in his imperfectness, humility and willingness to make mistakes).

Because, really, if you have curiosity then you have it made in the shade. Seriously. Fo' Realz. If I can give that message to my Fab 4ths then I have done my job. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Monday Made It

It's time to link us with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for.....

I have the ultimate Monday Made it. I don't think I can ever top this one.

I made a whole bedroom

That's right. I Monday-Made a room

It's like the teacher-bloggy edition of Extreme Makeover. 

Backstory: when we moved into our house I chose  the colors for my girlie's bedroom. Olivia told me she wanted a space theme, so that's what I gave her. All the colors of saturn with vintage moon maps and a solar system on the ceiling. She grew out of it very quickly. The colors really aren't her. To make it worse, she chose the littlest bedroom, and by little I mean teeny tiny. Her bed took up most of her room, she hated the vintage desk I found for her, and she had no where to store all her little treasures. This is what it looked like:

See? It's so tiny I can't even get a full photo. Tah-heeeeen-nee!! Itty Bitty! And messy...oops!

Last Thursday, I was struck with a brilliant idea. Looloo's birthday (Olivia/Liv/Livvy/Livvy-loo/Looloo) is June 24th (yesterday). What if I sent her away with my parents for the weekend (for a "birthday weekend extravaganza with Nana and Papa), and we totally redid her room? 

I called on all the powers that be and made it so. We dropped her off at my mom's and got to work immediately. One trip to Ikea, a trip to Menards and two trips to Home Depot later....

But first, before the unveiling, you must see the card Bails picked out for Liv. It is Mustache happiness!!

And Olivia as she see her room for the first time....

and here is her new room:

The color is one she chose before when we were at Home Depot looking at paint for another project. It matches her new comforter perfectly. See the curtain over her closet? She has been begging for a door on her closet for-evah. There are all these little pieces of fabulous like chalk-board clings on the walls, cool storage containers and boxes, new wall sconces, and the wonderfulness goes on and on and on. I want to live in her bedroom now!

And wanna see the best Made it Monday part? Her old bookcase was black, and looked like this:

I took the paint sample to Archivers and picked out paper to Mod Podge it. Here's how:

1. First I painted the inside and top white. The sides and back didn't matter, so we left them alone. 

2. Next, I measured and trimmed the paper so that it would fit perfectly. 

3. I started at the top and spread Mod Podge over the space one piece of paper would take up. I used a wide brush to spread the MP. I was careful to not use too much. 

4. Here is the critical step: I used a ruler to smooth the paper over and over and over. This is what kept bubbles, creases and wrinkles to a minimum. 

5. After the paper had dried, I added a top coat. 

6. After letting it dry, I flipped it over and did the other side. The I turned it on its back and did the inside. Then I sprayed the entire piece with an acrylic fixative spray.

It turned out so fabulous that I am absolutely freaking out

Guiding Readers Ch. 2

Do you like how I just posted my ch. 1 response this morning. Like, 30 minutes ago? Now you get a picture of how I survived my graduate degree.

So onto ch. 2, The Guided Reading Lesson Sequence. Initial thoughts:

Right off the bat I am struck by the author's insistence that GR be used as a tool to differentiate instruction for your students. The anti-establishment part of my ego r-e-e-e-a-a-l-l-y loves this. Always looking for an opportunity to buck the system.

Just kidding.

Well, not really.

I'll tell you why: Very often teachers are given these prescribed curriculum that we teach to our whole class. Somewhere in the lesson there is a little paragraph about "differentiating for learners" or "enhancing the lesson" or (my personal favorite) "for extra practice". I do realize that teaching is a lot less work on the skeletal base if we are given something to guide the lesson, but I do love to take lessons apart and fix them up to what I think my kiddos really need.

When it comes to interventions, especially, we (in my district) are given prescribed lessons or frameworks to work with. It's all good and fine if your students need those particular skill sets, but why on earth should I bother with Sound Boxes if what my kiddos really need is learning how to read for understanding and meaning?

This chapter starts out with saying that GR is one the best tools we have for differentiating. Hooray!!

Backwards Designing GR lessons:
I appreciate how the author plans a GR lesson by looking at the goal first. Find your destination before starting on your journey, and then map out how your are going to get there.

Use of Texts:
It's hard to break out of the "leveled GR book" mold. I love how the author suggests using brochures, excerpts, even recipes! What about seed packets, instruction sheets for games, Magic or Pokemon cards? I like the idea of just using the first chapter or two in a book for GR lessons, and then letting the kids take off on their own for the rest of the book. Talk about an opportunity for setting a purpose for reading!

I have always struggled with using longer books for GR. Now I see understand why this has been difficult.

Front-loading (or pre-teaching):
I love teaching vocab, and front-loading kids with new words and meanings before starting a book is a great way to do it. My preferred method of teaching new words is to give the word a motion, and then practice saying it in several silly voices while doing the motion. We also add the new words to an interesting word journal.

Follow-through Activities:
I really like having the students dig into the text a little deeper by making activities specific to the text for independent work. A smart teacher could create activities for D5 that are frameworks for using with many different texts. This eliminates "busy work" in one swipe. Oh, the possibilities! I am imagining drawing, writing, role playing, extended thinking!

I talk too much. And I know some of you do, too. This is a great section on only really saying what needs to be said to guide and instruct, and then putting those listening ears on.

I was really hoping this book would come with magic words to eliminate the interruptions from other kiddos during a GR lessons. But let's be completely honest here: there are groups of kids that no matter how well you teach, practice, teach and practice what they are to do while you are working with a small group they will continue to come and seek you out. You can spend weeks (months) teaching and practicing expectations  and they will still ask to go potty ("It's an EMERGENCY"), ask for a band-aid ("I'm BLEEDING"), wonder what's next ("I;m DONE), and on and on and on. I have had years where my students never interrupted GR, and instead problem solved on their own or with a peer. But I have also had years where we literally spent months practicing independent work and learning expectations only to have continual interruptions still happening in April. This year we even made a chart together of "Emergencies" and "Non-emergencies", which they had to consult before coming up to me. The only reasons they could some and interrupt is if they a) were bleeding more than a band-aid could help b) throwing up or c) about to have a bathroom accident.

If you think the chart worked completely, you would be wrong. If you think it kept the kiddos from interrupting my GR lessons, you would be really wrong. If you think you can count on kids always coming to you with the ability to self-regulate, work independently and problem solve, you would be so wrong you might never be right about anything ever again. Because how can you teach kids to work independently if they aren't equipped to do it yet? 

This year I finally made a stop sign that I would hold up when I saw a little one heading towards me. It was an act of desperation, and constructed only after "Tell it to the hand" stopped working.

Deep breath. I had a rough year. Sometimes even Gail and Joan can't help you.

Praise and Prompt:
The one thing I make sure to add at the end of every GR session (or conferring session) is the P & P, the Praise and Prompt. What did they do well? Where are you working on next with him/her?

That's it for Ch. 2. If you are still reading this, kudos to you!!

Guiding Readers Book Study Ch. 1

While doing my daily Blog "Research" (my fancy word for stalking) this morning I read Beth at Thinking About Teaching 's post about the book study she is doing with Misty at Think, Wonder, Teach

Check out this super cute button they have!
(Yes, I am distracted by pretty things. And shiny things...ooh look, Glitter! Ha ha, just kidding. No, seriously, is there glitter somewhere?)

Here is a quickie background on my reading deal-io. We have a mandated 90 minute reading block. During that time we teach everything LA related. We also have a 30 minute writing block for more formal writing instruction. We do a lot of writing in our literacy, though.

Now, things will be a little different for me this coming year than in years past, because I am bumping from 1st up to 4th. I assume, though, that the intensity will be the same in our instruction.

In first, I met with 2-3 GR groups a day. We did progress monitoring on all students 4 times a year, and on our struggling readers every 4-6 weeks. We use DRA for K and 1, but F&P for 2-5. 

We also have a mandated intervention block that makes up part of our 90 minutes called Target Time. We plan with our grade levels teams to see who needs the extra instruction time. Depending on the need, we use one of three different intervention processes/programs. 

My thoughts about GR:
  • I have never known teaching without it, but the format has changed some for me over the years.
  • Flexibility has always been a key component to my GR groups, so that I am giving the students what they need instead to take them to the next level.
  • I am terribly conflicted about GR and conferring, which I prefer. There is not enough time to do both, and conferring has usually taken the hit. I find it much more meaningful to work with a kiddo 1-on-1 for 5 minutes for goal setting.

What I liked about what I read:
  • GR can be flexible, not following a specific formula or guide depending on the childrens' needs. 
  • "Students still have the opportunity to make sweet music with books through the other components of the literacy block."
  • "Maybe the independent learning component of the reading program should be student directed, not teacher directed. 
On to Chapter 2!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fiction Friday

Amanda over at The Teaching Thief is hosting this very cool linky called Fiction Fridays. I love Fiction Fridays because not only am I new to 4th grade, I also have daughters who are 10 and 12 and am always having conversations with them about books, too.

Here are some good reads I found this week:

Esperanza Rising

This is a story of a 13 year old girl who lives on a ranch in Mexico with her mother and father. Her father is murdered on the night of her birthday, leaving Esperanza and her mother and grandmother to support themselves. Eventually, they must go to California to work in the fields.

This is a story of changing perspectives. It features strong women who are vulnerable yet grit it out. It is about values and what is truly important in life - family, love and happiness.

Esperanza Rising is a historical fiction aimed at giving a perspective on Mexico and California on the 1930's. It provides a context for learning about immigrant workers and the onset of the depression.

Grandfather's Journey

This beautifully illustrated book by Allen Say is the story of a man who travels between two countries, Japan and the U.S., only to find that one can have two homes of the heart oceans apart. Eventually his grandson travels from Japan to California and discovers why his grandfather had such a deep love of both places.

If you are unfamiliar with Allen Say, his illustrations alone are worth a trip to the library.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What I'm Loving Wednesday

I'm taking cue from Jill at Marvelous Multiagers and sharing some things I'm loving this morning.

I'm loving decoupage! Julie from Mrs. Lee's Kindergarten posted pics of her classroom, and CHECK OUT THIS AWESOMENESS SHE MADE!!! (Yes, I'm shouting!). Not contact paper, but Mod Podge she says. I'm hoping for directions from her because I am so doing this! (((((((squeal!)))))))

I am LOVING (yes, shouting again, so sorry...but I'm so excited!) Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. I am so glad I ditched 50 Shades of Grey and picked this one up. Christian/Edward has nothing on Abe.

I'm loving glitter. I mean, of course I love glitter; I always love glitter. But Chrissy at Buzzing with Ms. B is letting me write a guest blog post while she is sailing on the ocean on a giant floating resort. What does guest blogging have to do with glitter? My post is all about....wait for it.....GLITTER! Come and read me on June 29th.

I am loving sleeping in. I swore I wasn't going to do it this summer. I promised that I would get up by 8:00. But I'll admit that 8:00 has turned into 9:00...9:30....9:45. Sleeping in = lack of anywhere I have to be. I'm loving that.

I am loving seared tuna. I mean, I am always loving seared tuna (or sushi in any shape or form for that matter), but this week I made it for dinner. YUM! (Yes, shouting...sorry!)

I am loving those funny ecard things that everyone is posting all over facebook right now. They make me giggle.

I am loving my 31 Tote. I need about 5 more of these. I have never met a tote so lovely and accommodating. 
What are you loving on this wonderful Wednesday? Make sure you head back to Jill to see what she is loving today, too!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fun Friday! Monday. No Wait, Friday. Err....

I drafted this last Friday, but you know how weekends go and so now I am finishing and posting today, Monday, three days late. If I was trying to get pregnant I would be excited, but since this is blogginess business I just feel a little behind. 

The advantage is that I get to link up for 

Let the fun commence. 

Fun Friday is here! You know what that means? Shenangins! This week's Fun Friday is brought to you by Modge Podge and Kaluha Liquere.

 The girls finally finally finished their decoupage piggy banks. They turned out, er, cute. Yeah, that's right. Cute. Let's see the process:

Last summer (do you see a lateness trend here today?) we blew up balloons, taped on egg carton cups and covered them with paper mache. It wasn't my original plan to Modge Podge it, we were going to paint instead.

Fast forward a year later. I decided that decoupage would be WAY more  fun than painting, so we picked out scrapping papers and cut them into smallish pieces. Everyone is still excited as this point!

Then we used Modge Podge to adhere the pretty paper pieces all over the pigs. Because the pigs were already a year old, the balloon had deflated inside. When the paper mache got wet from the glue, it lost of all of its rigidity and caved in. We had to make a hole in the butt and blow up a new balloon inside. Problem solved.

After about a half hour of Modge Podging there is much whining, complaining, and general unhappiness, all of it aimed at Auntie TT/Mom for suggesting this project. We took a two day break, then under duress I made them finish. Now all that is left is to spray with a fixative and cut a hole in the top. 

I would recommend nixing the paper mache, and using a small balloon. It was a big project for the kids.

Then....I did a project of my own! I wanted a place to write a word of the week (a little extra vocab) and a place for kids to turn in a definition, with a sentence using the word. This is what I did. 

I bought a plain wooden plaque and covered it with chalkboard paint. I also picked out a wooden box.

You know my love for peacocks and all things peacock-related, so I chose papers with colors that (somewhat) matched that theme. 

Almost finished! I just need to paint the edge, prepare the chalk board surface for writing and then hang it with a ribbon. 

Modge Podge is fun!

In other Fun Friday news....

My sister Jen (on the left) and my mom (behind) and I played Bingo at the Eagles. We also bought some pull tabs. GUESS WHAT? I won BACK TO BACK BINGOS!!! And then, 5 minutes later, opened a $200 pull tab. 
Who does that ever happen to? 
*disclaimer: I am not lucky, have never been lucky, and will most likely never be lucky again. Except for that time in the airport at Vegas. 

My most awesome and fun mom drank 2 bulldogs and got hammered. This produced a conversation between Jen and me about "Destroyer Mode"...this theory states that whatever good quality you possess will  grow to 100 times its normal size and TAKE YOU OVER when you have had one too many delicious beverages.

(if you don't get the picture, you might need to up your geek status and spend some time watching The Lord of the Rings. If you need a reason, check out Chrissy's post at Buzzing with Ms. B)

Destroyer Mode will take a fun loving mother and turn her into a person who yells out "You GO girl! And by girl, I'm referring to myself" during the cover all. 

And THEN, when we got back to the cabin, I watched a turtle crawl into the yard, dig a hole and lay its eggs, cover it back up and go back to the lake! Random and amazing!

Yes, Fun Friday indeed. 

My Looloo just ran in and notified me that a centipede crawled out of her bowl of raspberries and went under her laptop keyboard. CREEPY. Obviously it is not Fun Monday.