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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Sayings

Participating in this Saturday Sayings idea has been so much fun!  I am going to be "blog stalking" Tammy as she continues on this journey!  I wanted to end my last Saturday Sayings with a quote that I think about often as I am planning for my instruction.  I hope that it makes you stop and think, as it has for me!

The fundamental purpose of school is learning, not teaching

Duh! I know this, you know this, we all know this! I find sometimes that I am hung up on teaching, teaching, teaching and I need to stop and see- are the kiddos learning?  How do I know that they are learning? What should I be doing/ who should I ask for help, if they aren't learning?  My goal for myself is to make sure that my students learn- not to put on a one-woman performance Monday - Friday! :)

Well, short and sweet (just like me) but if you are craving more Saturday Sayings reflections- don't forget to check out my buddies!



Conversations in Literacy


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Third Grade Advice

I don't have any fun pictures to share today, I just have some advice.  Advice from my third graders.  They wrote letters to our practicum student whose last day is tomorrow.  Their advice was so genuine and so insightful that I just have to share- enjoy!

“Be happy with yourself and the kids”

“First, give them hope.”

“Be patient”

“You need to learn a little about them”

“you might need to help some kids a little more than others.”

“You need to be aware of what people in the classroom are doing.”

“Have a great imagination.  Go outside a lot and go on adventures with your class.”

“Give the kids a chance to figure things out by themselves.”

“Be nice to all the students. Especially, the needful ones.”

“To be an exceptional teacher you need to show the students how to respect others.”

“You should always have a smile for the kids”

“have a good sense of humor”

“take on challenges”

“You will be amazing when you help them to be amazing”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Onomatopoeia is so much fun to say! It's pretty funny to hear my third graders attempt to pronounce it, but even funnier when some of my bossier (did I say that?) students take it upon themselves to correct everyones pronunciation when they don't quite have it themselves!  Onomatopoeia has been our focus for the last 2 days and we have had FUN! I thought I would share a little lesson that I whipped up yesterday when we all needed a fun break from the test prep/review/reading series.
Onomatopoeia comic hunt!
Cute, huh?! If you like it- you can grab a copy of the worksheet for yourself at my TpT store

This lesson calls for comic books.  If you don't have any in your classroom, you are in luck! This weekend is Free Comic Book Day! Where your local comic book store (if participating) is giving away free comics!  I know teachers love free stuff and I am sure that if you tell them you are a teacher- they will give you extras!

Here is a picture of some of the titles I got last year-

They are kid friendly comics they just say "Free Comic Book Day" on the cover.

I know that not everyone is comfortable using comics in the classroom.  I can say from my own experience, that when I pull out real-live comic books, the engagement level goes up about ten notches!  Kids LOVE comics and they are reading, inferring, synthesizing, summarizing- all those lovely reading strategies they work with every day apply to comics!  And, when you are able to find the comics for free- it doesn't seem so intimidating to pull them out on a fun day and hunt for examples of onomatopoeia.

The kids start by getting with a partner and finding a spot to sit with their recording sheet

With their buddy they read through the comic and record any examples of onomatopoeia on their recording sheet.  Some students found things that they thought were sound examples but weren't sure- so they would record what they thought it meant, or why they thought it was an example as well.
It is a very simple lesson but it was amazing to hear the students conversations about words and language.  Groups were defending their choices and talking through how it was used, what was happening to the character at the time, why the comic decided to spell the sound that way- just great conversations to hear as a teacher!

We ended the lesson by singing a song that I learned a few years ago doing a simple internet search.  I don't know who created this song- so please accept my apologies for not being able to properly site my source!

(To the tune of Old McDonald)
with a (insert onomatopoeia word, _______) here
and a (_______, ________) there
Here a (_________)
There a (________)
Everywhere a (________, _________)

Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I cannot believe how fast these Saturdays are flying by!  I have another great quote lined up for you- but before I dive in- I want to remind you to go check out my friends (can I say that even though I have never met them) and read what they have to say!

The mastermind of this month-long adventure: Tammy

The ever delightful:Lori

Conversations in Literacy 
The  oft replicated (by me): Sandy

Literacy Minute

Seriously though, go check them out- they are amazing! :)

My quote today actually was inspired by this whole operation and what we are doing by reflecting and growing as educators together- enjoy! :)

I read this in the book Learning by Doing written by the DuFours, Eaker and Many.  I have- slowly but surely- been leading a book study on this with some colleagues.  I am a believer in collaborating with other teachers.  I thrive on that kind of communication and the ability to bounce ideas around, improve on others' suggestions or grow from their experience.  I struggle however, to find time within my school day to fit in ALL the conversations that I want to have.  I have found myself reaching out to fellow bloggers and my instruction has grown- because of each of you!  I continue to talk with my colleagues and I don't want to diminish or detract from the power of those conversations in any way but as I look at that quote and reflect again on the power of collaboration it is my fellow bloggers that come to my mind.  When I hopped on the Professional Learning Community train I though of a team as only my grade level and occasionally others from my building.  Now, the team possibilities seem limitless.  I have had the opportunity this week to travel to another building within my district and support grade levels other than what I have taught, I have been inspired and informed by numerous blogs and I have gained valuable teaching materials and resources from places like pinterest.  I could never have created everything that I used this week in my lessons alone- there wouldn't have been enough time in the day!  It is amazing to me to think of all of the different ways teachers are able to collaborate and learn from each other.  What are some ways that you collaborate?  Where do you go to find resources or expertise to improve student learning? 
Now don't forget to go check out my friends and see what they have to say (feel free to leave a comment first!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Using your data

I had the honor yesterday of visiting a neighboring school in my district and helping their third and fourth grade teams interpret some data and develop a plan of action.  I was flattered when they asked to visit and observe my team and it was fun to take a "field trip" to their school and help them put their own data to use!

**Disclaimer: This post will be talking about NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) assessment.  This is an assessment that my district has purchased to measure growth in reading and math three times per year.  I am in no way associated with NWEA other than the fact that I enjoy using the data from this assessment to inform my instruction and interventions**

I know that many schools use the MAP assessment to measure growth and so I thought that I might share the BASICS of what goes into our interpretation of the results in case it would be useful to you!

When your students take this assessment, they get a variety of scores- an overall RIT score and then each subject is broken down into smaller categories.  The overall RIT is a great snapshot into where they are performing and you can see where your students fall in relation to other students who take this assessment.  For example, the average third graders in the winter would score a 194 on the reading assessment so you would know if they are at, below or above the average.  You can also look at typical progress and see if they are exceeding growth expectations (always a plus :) ).  What I look at closely is the breakdown of the overall score which breaks reading into five strands: Comprehension, Word Skills, Variety of Purpose, Text Features, and Think Critically & Analyze.  I look at my kiddos and see where their strengths and weaknesses are according to those strands.  I can look even further into what score range they fall.  These numbers help me get an idea of what skills/learning expectations they are struggling with or which they have already mastered.  I use a handy dandy organizer to pencil the kiddos in based on what they are struggling with/need to move forward.  Now I am ready to group students and my instruction for those groups is much more focused.  Of course, this assessment doesn't give me the materials to teach those skills- so I am still creating, begging, borrowing, stealing, pinteresting, blogging, teacherspayteachersing, asking neighbors- in short- whatever it takes! :)
This is the organizer that we use- feel free to grab a copy!

My team has decided to take things a bit further this year.  We are a small school and have three third grade teachers with 60 students total.  So, we share our kiddos A LOT! For us, it is easy to keep up to date with the communication and the kids love that they get to have all of us as their teachers.  We have a 90 minute core reading block which we group based on those overall RIT scores I mentioned earlier (and our teacher judgment of course).  Then we have a 75 minute math block that we group the same way.  AND THEN, we have a 30 minute intervention time that we group based on those strands I talked about earlier.  I am teaching an algebra strand right now for math intervention.

How do you all meet the learning needs of all your kiddos? Do you "share" kids with other teachers? Or do you have small groups in your classroom? Or both/all of the above :) ?  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Furry Friends Linky

I have noticed some other bloggers linking up with Sandy at Soaring Through Second Grade and showing off their furry friends.  I just knew I had to join in on the fun!

Meet Emmett!
This is the first day we brought him home.  I found an ad without a picture on craigslist for a dog that needed to be picked up right away.  My husband was not interested in getting a dog- but I really wanted one.  We met with his previous owner at the park and it was love at first sight.  His previous owner wasn't the kindest person to him and Emmett was still able to come into our house full of energy and unafraid *for the most part*.  This taught me forgiveness.

This is how Emmett spends most of his time at home- asleep! He will curl up anywhere to sleep but his favorite spot is between your legs!
This is my husband Mark with Emmett.  Mark was not only unsure if he wanted a dog, he thought he didn't like dogs!  Now the two of them are best buds (those are Mark's legs in the previous picture).  Emmett has shown me that with kindness and tenacity- you can win anyone over!

I am proud to say that I am one of those dog owners! I love my puppy! He still struggles with some problems left over from his previous owner- but we accept him, flaws and all and will continue working!

If you have a furry friend that you want to show off, head on over to Soaring Through Second Grade  and link up!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday Sayings!

I am back with another edition of Saturday Sayings! If you are just joining me, then allow me to introduce my Saturday Sayings club!  Tammy at Forever in First, Lori from Conversations in Literacy, and  Sandra at Literacy Minute are also posting their own Saturday Sayings today.  Tammy came up with this delightful idea and we thought it would be fun to link up and reflect on Saturdays. Be sure to stop at their sites and see what they are thinking about this morning!

"Teachers who use timed tests believe that the tests help children learn basic facts.  This perspective makes no instructional sense.  Children who perform well under time pressure display their skills.  Children who have difficulty with skills or who work more slowly run the risk of reinforcing wrong practices under negative pressure.  Also, they can become fearful about, and negative toward, their mathematical learning." (Burns, 1995, 408)

I have been thinking about timed tests a lot lately.  I will admit that I have used timed tests to gauge which students have mastered their multiplication facts and which haven't.  I want my students to be fluent in their multiplication skills and have mastery of those basic facts that are so essential.  I also want them to understand what it means to multiply, what equal groups are, how to work with the numbers and use them to solve real world problems.  Yet every year, without fail, the feedback I get from fourth grade teachers is that my previous class of kiddos start fourth grade and can't multiply.  That is telling me that what I am doing isn't working-- and I think it's timed testing.  Now, I have gotten into many discussion with the fourth and fifth grade teachers about the increased expectations and the pressure they feel to move forward when the kids may not be solid in the basics.  We have talked instructional strategies until we are blue in the face- but how do we get kids to master multiplication without the timed tests?  We have been reading Elementary and Middle School Mathematics: Teaching Developmentally and we have a few ideas:

  • Go back to the basics first to ensure that students know the role of numbers and operations concepts.  For example, in 6 x 7 we often teach the students to think of 5 x 7 and then 7 more.  This works if students can count on from 35 to 42 but often, they resort to using their fingers or the number line.  It would be more effective if they could think 35 and 5 more is 40 and 2 more is 42.
  • Develop strategies for fact retrieval.  Strategies that can be done mentally, and, the quicker the better!  When it comes to multiplying by 2, if the students aren't solid in their doubles facts- or understand what doubling means- they will resort to counting on their fingers (or toes) to solve this basic problem.  These strategies should be explicitly taught.
  • Provide practice in the strategies that have been developed.  
It seems fairly straightforward. I think that it will help the students with an awareness of numbers and how to retain the basic fact knowledge.  What do you do to help your kiddos master those basic facts? Any suggestions would be helpful!

Friday, April 13, 2012


Sorry I haven't been around that much this week.  It was the first week back after break, spring has finally SPRUNG in the pacific northwest (squirrelly kiddos anyone?)  and there was (I hope not anymore) some drama with my practicum student.  Unfortunately because of all this- it wasn't my best week of teaching, but I was INSPIRED by Sandra over at Literacy Minute and her meaningful graphic organizer to use while teaching simile and reading Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe.  I like to think that great minds think alike and her organizer couldn't have been more timely for my "great mind"! I started Monday with Sandra's organizer and a read aloud of Fireflies.  My kiddos really enjoyed the story because many of them had never seen fireflies before.  That inspired a search on fireflies and looking for firefly videos.  By the time Wednesday rolled around, they were confident in both firefly knowledge and similes!  The week was already proving to be *a little rough* so I quickly decided to whip up a little craftivity for my kiddos to publish the firefly similes they had created.  Voila! A fun craft and delightful highlight to what Sandra posted on her blog!  Check out the pictures below and if you like it, head on over to my TpT "store" (if everything is free do you call it that?) to download your own template!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Check me out!

Hi All,

If you came to this site through pinterest- or you are looking to download my Test Hero printable, I have a favor to ask you.  I moved my printables to Teacher Pay Teachers- not because I am starting to charge for them, but because I am looking for some feedback.  So, if you previously downloaded any of my printables or you have stopped by looking to download- would you please click over to myTpT page and leave feedback for me?  Pretty please with a cherry on top!

Okay thanks! :)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saturday Sayings

Welcome to my first edition of Saturday Sayings!  I am joining three other lovely bloggers for the whole month of April to bring you a saying every Saturday that might just make you pause, reflect and ponder!  Please check out my Saturday Sayings "possee" at their blogs for the full Saturday Sayings experience! :)



Conversations in Literacy 
Literacy Minute 
And now without further ado- my first!


"He made a lot of mistakes but he made mistakes in a good direction.  I tried to emulate him but I realized it is very difficult to make good mistakes." - Goro Shimura

You might not be familiar with Goro Shimura and actually I wasn't either- until last night.  I had a completely different quote planned for today but I felt like this one was speaking to me and so I changed it!   Goro Shimura is a mathematician and he is speaking about his friend and colleague Yutaka Taniyama.  The story goes that Taniyama, a mathematician, had a conjecture about a mathematical theorem but despite his best efforts could not prove that it was true.  Eventually he was so haunted by this conjecture that he killed himself.  The quote above is his friend reflecting on Taniyama's life.  I heard this while listening to a TED talk and it really struck me.  I began thinking about our students and the little thinkers that we help shape everyday.  How do we encourage risk taking and problem solving.  How do we let them know that it is a noble and righteous thing to make "good mistakes."  I have a group of third graders that REFUSE to make a mistake.  The panic and fear on their faces when I want them to "try and see" is both sad and disheartening to me.  I am a natural risk taker and a firm believer in learning from mistakes but how do I get nine year-olds to take that risk?  I don't have the answer- yet but I am committed to making sure my kiddos feel comfortable in our classroom that the consequences of a mistake don't seem as scary.

If you have some ideas about how to encourage "mistakes in the right direction" please leave me a comment!  If this quote speaks to you- please leave a comment!  Don't forget to check out the other Saturday Sayings!


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Test Hero!

I know many of you have state testing, end of the year testing approaching and so I wanted to share something that I have done with my students for a few years now.  We create Test Super Heroes!  Our super heroes help us remember those test taking skills that little friends need to learn in order to be successful.  The kiddos learn about different test taking skills: reading all directions carefully, having positive thoughts, skipping questions they aren't sure about and returning to them later, using all the new things they have learned throughout the year, and many more!  Once they have learned about these, each kiddo picks a skill/strategy that they create a superhero around.  They develop a name, an outfit, and a motto and then we make "real-size" super heroes to hang around the school and encourage everyone.  This is a fun project and it is worth the time to get the kiddos excited- the rest of the staff loves it too! I have already had co-workers stopping in and asking when the super heroes are arriving! :)

Here are some of my kiddos working on their heroes- we have Mind Check (activating her schema), Flag Man (flagging questions we aren't sure about and going back later) and Miss Multiplication (remembering those multiplication facts)!

I also wanted to share the graphic organizer and lessons that I use in case you want your kiddos to be  Test Heroes too!
Click here to download it for free!