Sunday, June 30, 2013

June is almost over!

And so that means it's time to link up with Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade.  And even though it's not July until tomorrow, there are already 240 bloggers who have linked up!  Way to go!
I am totally loving summer this summer!  I know I say that every summer, but I have a tendency to start to relax, then think of ten things I should be doing, and go run off and do those.  With the idea that when I'm finished, THEN I'll relax.  Except that that time never comes.  But I'm doing better this year.

So I'm letting myself chill a little more than usual and that's been good for my soul. Right now, the house is quiet (my husband's at work and that's because the state legislature hasn't settled on their budget yet - after all, it is only June 30th - the deadline! - and he fights on behalf of libraries and because he's a good guy and he needs to stay on top of what they're doing to make sure they don't take any more of the little pittance they give to libraries away, he's at work.  But I'm over it! :)  )

We're heading to see our daughters mid-week and I can't wait.  They're two terrific young women who just happen to live together.  Yeah, that makes it easy.  And no, I'm not biased.

Trying to figure out what I can do to maintain this more relaxed attitude when I get into the school year.  Say around....March.  We don't get any spring breaks or any other large ones except for a long week at Christmastime.  IF I WERE THE QUEEN, I'd create a spring break when we're all sick of being indoors and we're I'm stretching my patience and compassion about as far as it will go.  SO, the real question is, if I can't add a break in March, what can I do?  That's the answer I'd like to come up with this summer.  Suggestions are welcome!

And finally, I don't get caught up in the numbers game.  I know there are lots of people who have hundreds of followers to their blogs, and I hope that will happen to me some day too, but I'm not stressing over it.  I do this mostly to share what I'm doing, and to help me reflect and learn from all of you.  If lots of people like what I have to say, that's wonderful.  Won't make me blog less.  Or more.  Cause this one's for me.  Does that make sense?

Have a great Sunday!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Five for Friday linky: books, books, and shoes

I've been spending A LOT of time reading and just lazing around.  Nothing wrong with that, right?  
So, for starters, I've been taking advantage of my local library.  I'm amazed at how many retired teachers volunteer there - almost everyone I talk to there who isn't an employee was a teacher!
      Now, my problem with the library is that every time I go in there, I see more stuff I want to read.  Some of it for school and some of it just for fun.  Here's what's on my coffee table for me to read this summer to stay ahead of my kiddos.
     The pile's not going down because the book at the bottom of the pile is from the library.  I've already returned one to them that I read and now this one, Amelia Lost - about Amelia Earhart.  We read about her in our anthology and I'm always looking to see what else is out there on her.

 But the other problem with the library is this.     See, they have this really cool cafe/bookstore.  And they always have a great selection of books.  Ones that I know my students love to read.  So I always spend money.  Although it's never very much, so I shouldn't complain.

 A good friend of mine is leaving fifth grade to go to third.  At the end of the year, she always gave out these pencils to her students.  She had 27 of them left, so I got them.  They're perfect to put into my kiddos lockers on the first day of school, along with some treats!
   I'm going to miss having her in my building, but when I see these pencils, they'll remind me of her!

 I'd been looking for a pair of black sandals to wear to school that weren't too high and were VERY, VERY comfortable.  Just found these last week.  They're Crocs!  And they meet the comfy requirement, so life is good!

I wasn't fast enough to jump on the bloglovin bandwagon a couple of days ago.  So, if you're reading this, please continue to follow me there!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Getting to know their reading interests freebie

Every year for the past five or six years, I've given students reading inventories at the beginning of the year.  It's important for me to know what they like to read (and if they do) and get some sense of how to direct their interests.  They're fun to read, too, and sometimes a little scary.  As in "Boy, do I have my work cut out for me!"

Now, some background information.  Several years ago, our sixth grade went to teams of three.  Which is really cool on a lot of levels.  But it means that I teach 75-80 kids.  I know, I know, middle and high school teachers who teach over 100 students are finding it hard to muster up any empathy.  But for me, that's a lot.  If I were queen of the world, I'd teach between 25 and 40 (yeah, you do the math).

So my reading inventories, which were chock full of information, are just TOO long and hard to keep track of, for three classes of kiddos.  So, I created a new survey today.  I owe a lot of thanks to Nancy Atwell, Laura Robb, Donalynn Miller, and a bunch of other people who's books I've read and been touched by.  Here's the finished product.  It's available at TpT and TN, and best of all, it's FREE!

If you decide you can use it, please feel free to follow me and/or post a comment!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Made It

You know I've been just a little impressed with partly because she reinforces some of the things I've been doing, and partly because she explains and clarifies some things I've wondered about.  So today, I'm linking up with 4th grade Frolics and her
I tweaked a couple of things that I had been using with my Reading students to create this.
Inside, you'll find a way to keep track of books that students start - and either quit or finish - and a way to track them by genre.  I posted a blog a couple of weeks ago about my 78 students reading a total of 2, 016 books!  This will making tallying that at the end of the year just a little easier.

There's also a wishlist - books that students hear about that they might want to read, and some sheets for mini-lessons on genres that we'll do at the beginning of the year.  All of this is available at either my TpT or TN stores.  But as always, if you take a look and would like a copy, in exchange for following me at either store, just let me know and I'll send it to you.

P.S.  Just saw that Jamie at Sixth Grade Tales is hosting a live discussion about The Book Whisperer this Thursday evening at 8:00 EST.  Join up if you want to share ideas or learn more!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What are you reading? linky

Many of my good ideas start here.  Yup.  In the shower.

I was thinking about all things Donalynn Miller, having just finished The Book Whisperer the other day.  It's a worthwhile read, if you haven't read it. 
I've tweaked a couple of things that I use regularly in my classroom after finishing her book, and I want to write about them, but that will come later.

But while I was in the shower, I was thinking about having finished this book yesterday (I love summer when I can catch up on reading!)
I had brought this book home to read over the summer because a couple of my students had read some books by Peg Kehret.  I started yesterday afternoon.  And finished this morning.  What a book!  I had tears in my eyes a couple of times as I thought about how scared she must have been.  To go from running around one moment to paralyzed from the neck down?  And to know that, at the time, there were no cures, and minimal understanding of how to help those who contracted the virus?

This is a book I will tell my students about.  I'm even thinking I may do a "Peg Kehret" display, with this book and a number of her fiction books.  Because of course I had to buy these books!

So, all of that got me thinking.  What books are other bloggers reading that are good reads?  It can be something that you're reading for your class, or something that you're reading for fun.  Like this one that I'm going to start for my book club reading-it's time to move to some "grownup" books:

Here's where you come in.  What are you reading right now?  Link up and share!  There are lots of good books out there that we can help each other learn about - for ourselves and for our students.  So, with apologies to all graphic designer, and with thanks to Tracee Orman and, here's your chance to link up!

Remember the rule of three and comment on those around you.

And now, let me actually add the linky button, since I forgot the first time around!  

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Goodbye Google Reader

Google has announced that it's no longer going to host Google Reader starting on July 1st.  Which is a bummer because that's how I stay in touch with all of my blog friends, and where I get so many of my good ideas from.

As a perfect example, this morning, while I was reading up on some blogs, I came across this great How-to from Melissa at Common Core and So Much More.  She recommended switching to bloglovin' and gave very clear directions for how to do it.  Presto!  Chango!  Your favorites have been imported, and you can continue reading.

Someone is much happier now :)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Keeping it Positive

Kristin, at Teach n'Tex has an ambitious goal of linkys all week long.  I don't know if I can be a part of all of them, but I've been thinking about this one since she posted it.
All of us struggle from time to time (and some years more than others) with keeping it positive.  I struggled with a couple of students this year, especially at the end, and I have to admit, it colored the way the year ended for me.  That's my own fault - allowing some small negatives get in the way or a lot of positives, and I've been spending the last few days wondering about that.

And then today, it was like I was smacked in the head.  Here's the quote that reoriented me:

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
                                                               Howard Thurman

What quote helps you stay positive when the going gets tough?  Link up and share!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Today I'm linking up with Mr. Hughes from An Educator's Life to talk about one of my favorite things to do with my students:  Read Aloud!

Before I tell you my favorite books, you need to know that I teach three Reading classes.  And I never read the same book to each class.  What's the point of that?  Reading different books means that: 1) I always remember where we stopped because there's only one sticky note.  2) I don't forget what we talked about because I didn't have three conversations about the same point.  If students are SOOOO into a book that they don't want me to stop reading, they tell other students about it.  And then those kids want to read the book, or have me read it to them.  Can you say WIN-WIN?

Here are some of the books I've enjoyed reading this year.
This is an amazing book to read aloud.  It tells the story of a young boy growing up in a big family in rural Alabama in 1917.  He learns that a new postmaster is coming to town with a boy his age, and he can't wait.  When the family arrives, they are African-American, and the boy he expected turns out a be a girl.  A rather prissy girl.  And he has to be nice to her.  Over the course of the book, these two unlikely kids discover strengths in each other that they needed themselves, and they not only become best friends, but co-conspirators in helping someone else out.  The backdrop for the story is a segregated South, and this book will generate lots and lots of good discussion.   Students always tell me that this is one of their favorite books.  You should know that the word "nigger" is used several times.  I don't sugarcoat it, and we talk about language that's used hatefully. Good, thoughtful discussions around the prejudice in this book and in the world around us are a wonderful by-product of this book.

Another powerful read is Out of My Mind.  Told in first person, Melody is a young girl with cerebral palsy.  She can't talk, she can't walk, and she can only use her thumbs to hold onto things.  So everyone assumes that she doesn't know much.  Except she does.  She has a photographic memory.  The story of this young girl's coming into her own is one that will have your students cheering her on.  The really cool thing Sharon Draper does is make Melody and her classmates completely real.  Her classmates are awkward around her and not always nice.  As Melody finds her voice, she becomes someone your students will fall in love with.  And you'll find them making all kinds of connections to the way they treat physically disabled kids in school.  They become kinder and more understanding.  Students don't want this book to end and neither will you!

Gary Paulsen has a great way with words, and in  his language is colorful and rich.  I had a group of weaker readers try this book because I thought the adventure would reel them in.  They found it hard and that had a huge impact on their comprehension.  When I would read a section aloud to them, their eyes would light up with new-found understanding.  So I'm thinking I may use it next year as a read-aloud.  This is the story of Brian, on his way from New York where he lives with his mother to Alaska, where he'll spend the summer with his dad.  On board a small plane, in the middle of the flight over the forests of Canada, his pilot has a heart attack.  Brian crash lands the plane, and then has to figure out how to survive.  In the wilderness with nothing but the hatchet his mother gave him.  Rich descriptions!  Bring some sticks to class.  You'll have students tell you how to make a fire by rubbing two sticks together.  Let them try (they'll be amazed that you're letting them do this in school!)

I'll stop here, although there are many more great books out there.  What books do you read with your students?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Editing symbols

Many years ago, someone gave me a set of editing symbols printed on brightly colored paper that I laminated and posted in front of my room.  Then, for a number of years, I didn't teach writing in a way that needed those symbols (we all teach writing in some form though, don't we?)  Anyway, I gave them away.

A couple of weeks ago, I learned that I'd be teaching writing again.  So, here's what I created today.


There are ten posters in all like this.  Want them?  They're free for 24 hours at my TpT store.  While you're there, follow me so you can learn about other freebies I'll be putting up this summer.

Have a great Wednesday!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Over 2000 books read this year in sixth grade!

Don't look at how I've taken my borders down or that the paper is ripped.  Yes, I'm moving and this was posted on the second-to-last day of school.

Instead, look at how many books 78 students read this year!  That's an average of almost 26 books per student!  Students keep track all year of the books they've read and the ones they've tried and quit - book title, author, genre, and rating if they finish it.  It helps me know how to guide them when they want help picking a new book.  Periodically, I check their reading logs to make sure they're keeping them up-to-date.  Every time I do that, I end up handing out another log or two to a disorganized kiddo whose lost his (in sixth grade, it's usually boys who lose them.)

And then, at the end of the year, we count books in each genre and tally the results.  A student made the poster and we counted class by class.  I was very pleased with how many books they read, and pretty pleased with the distribution among genres.  I'm going to have to encourage more poetry reading next year, but that won't be hard to do with some good collections.

I'm thinking that I want to require reading in each of the genres next year, with a minimum that they have to read (maybe one or two per genre) and then some free choices.  Still playing around with that.  

Do you have any requirements like that?  Share, please!

Have a good Friday!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

It's June already?!

It didn't feel like school was almost over until Memorial Day.  Three days to sleep in!  Does anyone besides a teacher understand that sleeping in means anything past 7:00 a.m.?  I love teaching, I really do.  But getting up at 5:00 (or trying to, anyway) gets harder and harder as the year goes on.

But it's a new month, and a new month means linking up with FarleyOh' Boy 4th Grade
Listening....I wrote this last night when my youngest, now a sophomore in college, was hanging out with a group of friends down in the basement.  Good to hear them all laughing!

Loving....yeah.  I'm naturally an 11-7 kind of sleeper.  Teaching tries to change that in me, and after 12 years (12 years!) you'd think I'd have the hang of something more like 10-5.  I'm looking forward to waking up without an alarm for a while.

Thinking....I really do enjoy teaching.  And my mind's always going about what I can do differently or better, or how I can reach this kid or that one.  

Wanting...I'm moving to a new room.  And it's fine, really.  I just want someone who's more organized than me to come in and take over the packing part.  Any volunteers? trust that moving will get done.  It will.  Really.  

Vacation...nothing makes me happier than a good book, a good beach chair, and some sun.  Oh yeah, and my feet in the ocean.  What is it about the ocean that it just totally calms me down?  Does it do that for you too?

For those of us who are still in school - hang in there!  It's a little wilder right now with schedule changes all over the place, but it's all good stuff.

Have a good week!  3 1/2 days left for me!