Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Remember Sandy Hook

A year ago this Saturday.  One of the most painful days for teachers across the country.  Even more painful for the families, teachers, students, and town of Newtown, Connecticut.  Why would anyone take the life of an innocent child?  It makes no sense.  It's horribly gut-wrenching.  

I remember briefly hearing something about it at school that day.  I only knew because I checked the news websites during my planning period.  Then when I got home and watched TV, I saw the horrible images of what happened while I was at school teaching my students.

I don't know about all of you, but my mind shifted towards the safety of my own school.  I realized we were just as vulnerable as high schools (where up until this point, most school shootings took place).  My room is the first one outside of the office.  The one with windows that face the front doors of the school.  I would lay awake at night thinking of how I would handle things, should someone open fire in my building.  As a newer mommy, my heart ached even more as I thought about my own child at the time.  Now I have 2 children and the thought hurts even more.  If someone ever hurt my babies, I don't know what I would do.

Have you seen this video?  Get tissues ready.

There's something sweeping across teacher blogs at the moment.  The mayor of Newtown, Connecticut encouraged people to commit Random Acts of Kindness on the anniversary of the school shooting - this coming Saturday.  As educators who's heart strings have been pulled, we are stepping up to promote the mayor's amazing idea.  In the words of the mom in the video above, evil did not win.

Will you join people across the nation to take part in Random Acts of Kindness?  Maybe it's paying for the car behind you in the drive thru.  Maybe it's taking a plate of cookies to your neighbor.  Maybe it's shoveling snow for an elderly couple.  Maybe it's leaving a $5 in a stocking at a store for someone's surprise when they buy it and take it home.  My family and I are going to leave a special treat in the mailbox for our mail carrier. :)  It doesn't have to be anything huge.  Just overcome evil with good.  :)

As educators, we remember and honor our fallen colleagues and their students from Sandy Hook School.  We honor them each day in our classrooms in which we continue their dream of teaching our children.  We honor their memory with our service.  Join with teachers everywhere in committing random acts of kindness to show our love for Sandy Hook.

Let's join together as a community of teachers, bloggers and FRIENDS to spread the word about this movement to honor Sandy Hook.  Let's not only commit to committing acts of kindness on December 14th, but let's commit to committing acts of kindness on December 15th and in the spring and the summer.  Let's commit do kindness for Sandy Hook.

Here are some ways to spread the word:

Feel free to use the image above and share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and wherever you can.  Email it to all of your co-workers, friends and family.  Spread the word.  December 14th is a day to remember and honor Sandy Hook with simple acts of kindness.  

As you share on social media, please use the hashtag #love4SH to spread the word and fuel a movement.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I'm Back!!!!

Hey everyone!  I'm officially back!  It has been FOREVER since I have blogged!  My goodness!  There is SO much I want to share with you all, so let's get started with a little "Currently" from Oh Boy 4th Grade!  :)

For tonight there are three exciting things I want to share with you:

1.  Part of the reason I've been absent for a couple months is this guy!


He was born on Monday, November 4th.  Everything went so smoothly and I'm already back to myself!  I had a repeat c-section and this one was SO much easier and quicker to recover from!  Now our little family is complete.  :)

2.  A couple weeks before I had Sawyer, I found out I was selected to present at the I Teach 1st Conference in Las Vegas this summer!!!!!  I was totally thrilled and blown away!  I will be presenting on Wednesday, July 9th from 1:15-2:30.  My session is titled, "Tracking and Utilizing Data in the Elementary Classroom" and I hope you'll join me if you happen to go this summer!  I'm so pumped to meet lots of new people and attend different session of my friends!  Here's the link for the conference if you're interested:

3.  The last little bit I want to share with you is that I have recently started updating my 2nd grade Reading Street files to cover the 2013 edition!  A sweet buyer gave me some guidance and I've slowly started updating them.  Unit 3 is entirely done!  If you've already purchased the file you'll just need to download it again from your purchases.  I'm going to start working on Unit 4 after I finish this blog post in hopes of getting that unit almost done (if not entirely done) before the sale tomorrow!  I'll upload the stories individually as I go along and then update the Complete Pack.  If I DON'T get them all done tonight, you can always purchase the Complete Packs during the sale and just download the revised file once I get it done.  :)  I hope that makes sense!

Don't forget about the big sale tomorrow and Tuesday at TPT!  My cart is STOCKED!  :)  I'll be back more often now!  I'm so excited to get back to blogging!  I hope you'll join me on this journey.  :)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Positive Points Monday

Hey friends!

I'm trucking through my last college course for my reading endorsement and I'm so close to being finished.  Don't you love how good it feels to check something off your list?  What an amazing feeling...I can't wait!  :)

Last week was actually somewhat decent...besides a slight mental breakdown on Friday with being overwhelmed.  ;)  So here are my positive points from school last week:

1.  My kids did really well on their weekly assessments!  If you teach 1st grade, you might experience the same thing.  The first week or two is really rough because the kids aren't used to having to study and take tests.  Boy does it show!  The parents freak out because they think their kid is behind.  The students freak out because they just didn't know what to expect.  The teachers freak out because they think their class is really low.  But after everyone settles in after a couple of weeks you start to see a more accurate picture.  Parents calm down.  Kids get the hang of it.

2.  I got all of my lesson plan templates pretty much set up and ready to roll.  Now that I have a good idea of my schedule and all my pull-outs, I was finally able to settle on what each week would look like and how much time I have (or rather DON'T have, but that's another story) to teach everything.

3.  I have to tutor a student in my class for 40 hours as part of my last course for my reading endorsement.  We got 5 more hours knocked out last week at school!  AND, the best part is that he is doing SO well.  It's AMAZING to see how far he has come!  I couldn't be any prouder of his accomplishments.  I have proved to myself that narrowing down the individual struggles of a student and attacking them is far more influential than tossing the kids a couple new strategies here and there without really focusing on the lacking skill.  At the same time, it has made me slightly more frustrated because I wish I could do that with ALL of my students.  Alas, time is not on our side.  ;)

It really helps me to focus on the good things that happen throughout the week at my job.  This year is SO different and SO stressful and I have to keep looking for these things daily, otherwise I think I'd completely lose it.  I've come close a few times, but remembering the good helps offset the bad a little bit.

Let me ask you a question, compared to other years, how does this year compare?  Is it one of your best years?  Just like normal?  Definitely not the best year, but could be worse?  Or the worst of your career?  I'm trying to keep this post positive, but I really want to know if it's just me that's going through one of those slumps in her career or if this is something that's facing all of us.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  :)

Praying you all have a great week!  :)


Monday, September 16, 2013

Positive Points!

I feel like a total slacker.  I know I don't have to explain, but I will.  Last Sunday I had every intention on getting this linky up for Monday.  We decided to do a freezer meal swap at our school.  It was a great idea!  Well, in the midst of making my enchiladas, I passed out.  Literally.  I fell over and hit the floor.  My husband wanted to take me to the ER, but I insisted that I was fine.  He ended up calling the on-call doctor, which happened to be my doctor.  He talked to me and said I sounded ok and wanted to see me the next day.  So off I went to the doctor the next day and something about my blood pressure fluctuating a lot from one extreme to the next, hence my passing out.  He pulled me from work Tuesday and Wednesday.  Thursday I felt great and was happy to be back at school.  That night I had one of the worst migraines I've ever had and my son had a fever of 103.  This was all in the middle of the night.  I woke up Friday and the migraine wasn't gone (it was better, but not gone) and poor baby still had his fever.  So I ended up staying home Friday, too.  :(  What a week.

Even in the midst of totally unexpected and chaotic circumstances, I still managed to find some good in the two days that I was at work. :)

1.  All of my beginning of the year assessments were FINALLY finished!  I feel like I can really start thinking about TEACHING!  :)  That's one huge task that's finally done!

2.  One of my quiet kids is finally coming out of his shell.  He has really blown me away by how much he can do.  He would barely speak a word to me the first few weeks of school.  That's how shy this kid was!  But he has really started speaking up, making friends, and getting involved.

3.  Have you heard of or tried Whole Brain Teaching?  This is my biggest positive.  It was recommended to me because I just didn't know what to do with my class this year.  They are very antsy and have a hard time listening, paying attention, and staying on task.  I was in tears a couple of times because I just didn't know what to do.  I pulled out every trick in the bag that I knew of and it just wasn't sparking anything with them.  I went to the Whole Brain Teaching website and signed up.  Then I went to YouTube and found several videos.  I immediately ordered the book on Amazon and had it in my hands 2 days later.  Y'all.  This has completely transformed my class in a matter of two days.  I've never seen anything like it and I've never had anything work so well!  I told my student teacher that she must think I'm crazy for trying a completely new system 2 weeks into the new year.  But I told her that's the life of a teacher!  Some groups just need something different.  Good teachers are willing to do something different to meet their needs.  So check it out - especially if you have a squirmy class!

Have a great week, friends!  I'm just trying to stay caught up on life right now, especially in my last 7 weeks of being pregnant and trying to finish my reading endorsement class.  I will check in every Monday, Lord willing, and every other chance I get!  :)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Positive Points! A Brand New Linky...

Well, are you settled into the groove yet?  I am not.  Ha!  But I'm muddling through and taking it day by day.

I KNOW I am not the only one being bombarded by a to-do list a million miles long this year.  I KNOW I am not the only one being thrown tons of new things to implement all of a sudden.  I have heard from many people via Facebook, blogs, coworkers, etc...we are ALL facing so many negative things.  I can't even tell you the number of times I've cried and considered a career change.

I had this wild idea (I'm livin' on the edge, ya know?) to start a weekly linky party on Mondays called Positive Points.  I could gripe and complain all day long, but I decided I need to be intentional about looking for the positive things in each day.  Right now the negative are much stronger than the positive, but the positives are there.  Like the saying goes, "Every day may not be good.  But there is good in every day."

The only rule is that your positive points must be from SCHOOL!  My family or my dog or the weather or a vacation are definitely positives, but sometimes we need to find the positives in the negative environment.  Make sense?

Today was a STRESSFUL day.  Actually, it was stressful emotionally.  But for a few minutes, I'm going to forget about all that and remind myself of the positives.  I'd like to share them with you, if that's ok.  :)

1.  My kids are finally getting into a groove.  I'm not gonna lie, I was worried until the end of last week.  But they are settling in, getting to know the routine, and finally settling down.

2.  My hubby and son brought me 2 boxes of Tylenol and a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino mid-morning!  I've been getting bad headaches/migraines every day for the past week or so, and he was trying to help me avoid one at school.  ;)

3.  My student teacher is AMAZING and SUCH a blessing!  She is so willing and ready to jump right in.  At times I feel guilty for turning over so much, but I know that it's also the best way to learn.  I'm so glad she wants to learn!

4.  At the end of the day last week, the tears just came.  I couldn't hold in my frustration and emotions any longer.  I was in a stressful meeting and when I left, I just let it all out.  I was a hot mess!  But thank goodness for amazing coworkers who let me cry it out and just hugged and loved on me in my moment of total breakdown.  I realized how truly blessed I am to have that "family" in my life.  Those hugs and reassurances were just the comfort I needed.  :)

Ok, so want to link up or read other people's positive points?  Let's face it...sometimes we just need to read or hear encouraging words in order to spark our own.

Use this image in your post and link back here.  Write your post and link up!  :)  I can't wait to hear all the good things about your days in the classroom.  :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Teacher Tips - Blog Hoppin' Linky

Here we are for the last day of Teacher Week '13!  Today is my first day back to school.  Well, it's our first teacher inservice.  The students come on Tuesday.  I do NOT feel ready this year!  :P  I don't know why.  I have everything organized and in place, but for some reason I am not nearly as stressed as I normally am.  Maybe I've been doing this too long.  ;)

So here are some Teacher Tips I must share with you.  I don't have a lot, but maybe these are new to you and you can use them in your own classroom!  :)

There are SO many cute little bins and tubs out there and as teachers, we could buy every one and put it to good use!  This is my Reading Toolbox.  I keep it right behind my guided reading table for easy and quick access.  I keep sight word cards, comprehension dice, nonfiction popsicle sticks, reading strategies (those cute little flower-looking things from Hope King!), reading highlight strips, and swizzle sticks to use as pointers when reading.  I just turn around, grab it, and plop it right in front of me for use with the kiddos when they come to the table.

My Teacher Binder is placed directly underneath my computer.  I keep EVERYTHING in it!  Lesson plans, student info, standards, notes, etc.  It's right within reach so I can easily grab it at any point.

I found these pink plastic boxes at Walmart a few years ago on clearance.  They stay on my writing table.  In one of them, I keep blank writing paper.

This next one is my favorite pink box.  I keep all sorts of photos in it to spark ideas for student writing.  If they're stuck on what to write about, they can thumb through the different pictures and choose one to base their writing off of.  Actually, I take all of my old calendars and tear them apart and put them in this box.  They love them!  And they're big and colorful enough to snag their attention and get them to notice little details that make their writing great.

Another tip is to have word cards stored somewhere, especially primary teachers.  I'm the type that would rather have everything at my finger tips than taking time each day, month, or year to do the same thing over and over.  I used index cards and put words on them with different spelling patterns.  For example, if we are studying r-controlled words with "ar", I have a stack of cards with "ar" in them.  I whip them out and we can practice reading them, play games with them, or quiz each other with them.  I actually typed the words on Avery labels.  Then I just peeled, stuck, and laminated all the cards!

I don't know about your kiddos, but mine go through erasers like candy!  I keep pencil top erasers in a jar behind my desk.  When they truly need one, they come up and ask.  Then I can monitor if they really need one or how often they're coming to get them.  I used to let them keep their erasers, but they would disappear within a week (just like everything else).  It's nice to be able to help teach them to be more responsible with their materials.

Another little thing I love is having our group meeting area so open and ready.  If you notice in the picture, I have my rocking chair and a little green stool.  Depending on what we're doing, I might sit in either one, or I may have a student join me for some joint teaching!  They love being able to sit up there with the teacher.  :)

Alright friends, I plan to check back in sometime next week to show you how our first week goes!  I also plan to take some pics from Open House and share them.  To all who are back, I hope your school year is off to an amazing start!  To those starting within the next week, GOOD LUCK!!!!  You'll be fabulous!  To those who still have 2 weeks or more...I'm jealous.  ;)

Classroom Management - Blog Hoppin' Linky

Classroom Management is always so tricky.  Here are a couple of things I help do to help TAME THE WILD!  ;)

In our school, we are becoming HUGE fans of the clip charts!  I just love how students can move up, not just down.  For me, here are the rewards/consequences of each portion of the chart:

Pink - 2 Spartan Bucks (see below) + Extra Classroom Coupon
Purple - Spartan Buck
Blue - Verbal Praise
Green - Nothing...this is where everyone starts out each day
Yellow - Verbal Warning
Orange - Miss 1/2 of recess
Red - Miss entire recess, plus phone call home, and visit with the principal

I got this idea last year from Amy Lemons.  I painted a canvas and have 3 "hallpasses" clipped to it.  When students want to use the restroom or if they run an errand, they simply clip one of these on their shirt.

Seriously, this solves all no-name papers!  I allow them to highlight their name before turning in their paper.  It's so fun for them that they NEVER forget it!  I haven't had a no-name paper since implementing this.

Our school does a building-wide positive behavior plan.  Students can earn Spartan Bucks from any teacher or staff member in the building.  They can earn them for pretty much anything positive.  Maybe they finally achieved a great score on an assessment after working so hard.  Maybe they helped a friend and were caught.  Maybe they used their manners.  Maybe they turned in some important paperwork on time.  Spartan Bucks are handed out to the students and they have the chance to redeem them at the Spartan Buck Store once every quarter.  The principal has bins of little goodies and toys.  After lunch, they are able to go and spend their Spartan Bucks.  If they happen to get 40 Spartan Bucks, they get a special Pizza with the Principal party!

Keeping those Spartan Bucks organized is another story.  I found these cute card pockets at Lakeshore Learning this year.  I tape/glue them to the inside top of their school supply boxes.  They simply stick them in there and have an easily accessible place to keep them.  When the Spartan Buck Store comes around, they transfer them to a baggie and haul them down.  :)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Organizing for Instruction - Blog Hoppin' Linky

Here are some snapshots of how I organize things in my classroom to access them quickly.  It makes instruction a lot smoother when I can find the things I need!  :)

I promise this is organized, even though it might not look like it.  I spent an entire day going through my files and pitching what I don't need/use and trying to make sense of what I wanted to keep.

The drawer right below it has all of my Reading Street files, organized by story.  I keep everything in there that I would need for the week.  Word Work, fluency checks, Decodable Readers, etc.

I place all of my materials in these drawers for each day during the week.  I made the labels my very first year of teaching, so I really need to go back through and relabel them!

The never-ending pencil battle starts here.  When students break a pencil it goes in the blue bucket.  They grab one from the purple bucket.  At the end of the day, my pencil sharpener sharpens all the "Not Sharp" pencils and places them all into the "Sharpened" bucket!

Each child has their own homework folder.  I check it every day when they put it in the "Folder" bucket.  Then my "Mailbox Helper" puts them in mailboxes.

Each child has their own mailbox.  This year I'm trying the binder clip idea!  I'm a huge fan so far!  I used my label maker to put their names on stickers and attach them to the clips.

During Daily 5, I have all sorts of options for the students to choose from.  I have copies of different types of writing paper in each drawer, a new journal entry each week in the flat, blue bin, and wordless picture books in the blue bin on the right for them to write their own words to the stories.

On the left side are all my Word Work activities for the week.  On the right are my Monthly Math Centers.  It's so helpful to keep them organized!

I have these huge drawers for organizing my math materials.  Each unit has a drawer and I keep homework, test copies, game templates, and other supplemental resources needed for each unit.  It makes it so easy to find what I need!

These three drawers house all of my little math materials, such as playing cards, rulers, clocks, tape measures, dice, and playing chips.

I have these bins that I got from Oriental Trading a few years ago.  I keep books that I use for specific lessons that are mine only.  I like to keep these separate from the student books so they're easier to find and stay in better condition.

I keep my anchor charts clipped together on the back of my easel for easy access.

For "Listen to Reading," I keep books in the red bin, iPads in the green bin, and their headphones in baggies in the blue basket.  It's all right there for them to be able to find and get started!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Classroom Digs - Blog Hoppin' Linky

Day 2 here for Teacher Week '13!  I'm so excited to reveal my classroom to you!  I'm so sorry I'm just now posting this.  I had mega problems getting my pictures onto my computer.  Ugh!  Somehow it magically decided to start working again...  Basically, this is going to be a huge photo dump.  A couple of the pictures are from my preview last week, but many of them are new.  It's very late and a friend and I are redoing our teacher's lounge!  Paint, lamps, fabric, Scentsy warmers, new tables and I'm off bright and early to help finish it up!  I'll be sure to post some pictures.  ;)

This year I went with a Chevron theme...surprise, surprise!  I mean, let's face it.  It's THE fad this year!  You might be sick of it already, or you might be totally pumped.  I like it because of the bright colors and because it's not a specific theme, per say.  You may have read a previous blog post of mine about some of the chevron touches that I've incorporated into my room this year.  So here it is...all finished and ready to go!

Could I POSSIBLY have any more supplies?

Aren't these knobs the cutest???  Hobby Lobby!  50% off!