Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Changing Up My Read Alouds

You know those kids who walk into your Reading classroom and announce, "I don't like to read.  Last year I only read 1 book."  Or the ones who look at me goggle-eyed when I tell them they'll read, on average, 30 books in my classroom this year?

It's for them that I read aloud.  Get them hooked in a book, and next thing you know, they want to read something else by that author, or the next book in the series, or something that's "good like the one you're reading to us."  Yes!
I follow the Nerdy Book Club (if you don't, you should!) where they talk about books.  Bright, shiny
 new books that I buy and read over the summer and fall in love with!Here are three that will definitely be on my list to read aloud next year.

This one was actually given to me by the ESL teacher who pushed into my room last year.  It is so well written!  Alice Ann moves from Chicago to Jackson, Mississippi in 1963 because her father is an FBI agent, investigating the murder of three young adults who were in the South helping African-Americans register to vote.  Alice Ann is completely bewildered by the way she must behave around other students and around African Americans.  It's a powerful book that shows how far we've come, and yet, given the news, how far we still have to go.  Sure to generate lots of good discussions!

Lots of people are talking about this book, and rightly so.  This is the story of Ally, a sixth grade girl who's moved around a lot.  She's moved so much she's never learned to read, and no one has figured that out yet.  Why?  Because she's too proud to tell anyone and she'd rather get sent to the principal's office than show what she doesn't know.  A very thoughtfully written book, with lots of room for discussion about learning styles and about compassion.
This book starts off a bit rough (Ada's mom doesn't win any Mother of the Year awards.)  Ada is ten years old at the beginning of World War II, living in London with her mom and younger brother.  She has a clubfoot, which her mother is terribly ashamed of, so she isn't allowed to leave the little flat where they live. Until Jamie, her brother, is sent to the country to avoid the bombing in London, and she sneaks out to join him.  They are taken in by a woman named Susan, who doesn't really want them at first.  She's grieving the loss of a good friend. The way these three characters heal and emerge from themselves is worth the read!
All three of these books have female protagonists.  No problem!  Some of my tried and true read-alouds (Michael Vey, Hatchet, My Side of the Mountain, Magyk, Gregor the Overlander) have great boys as main characters!

What are you planning to read to your students this year? 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Blog Hop: Preparing for Open House as a rookie teacher

I'm linking up with Lizzie again from The Big Kids' Hall to talk about how to prepare for Open House.  As a parent of three children, I remember being amazed at how nervous some teachers were at Open Houses.  I heard a teacher say "I'd much rather stand in front of a room full of third graders than a room full of parents."  That had never occurred to me.

There's no question that it can be hard to talk on an equal level with adults who are older than you.  But you will be getting to know their child well this year!  And they need to know that you're in their camp.  Here's what I would suggest if you find yourself worrying about your first Open House.
Make the event interactive.  Have your students write their parents a letter or draw them a picture.  Then, have parents write them back.

One year, I had students bring in a favorite shirt and pants.  Then they drew a picture of themselves on a paper plate.  We attached the head, stuffed the clothing with newspapers, and let parents find their child's desk that way.  Fun! 

Don't bore your parents with a long PowerPoint!  Most of them are coming from a full day's work, have rushed home to feed their kids, and now are sitting in tiny desks in a crowded room!  When I became a teacher, I had one slide that included my educational background, and 2-3 more with relevant information.  Now, I just highlight a couple of things I want parents to know. 

If you are nervous, it helps to have something to work from, instead of just standing in front of the room, talking.

I've mentored a number of younger teachers over the years.  Some of them are pretty casual, which kids like (for a while) but that isn't the way to go for Open House.  Make the evening relaxing, but dress professionally.  Maybe even step it up a bit for this evening.  I never wear a suit to work - honestly, I'm almost always in pants because I'm on the floor with my students every day.  Yes, even sixth graders.

But for Open House?  Yeah, I don't want to give anyone a silly reason to wonder about me.  So I step it up a notch - nothing crazy, just professional.  I suggest you do the same.

Most of all, smile!  Remember that parents - even if they don't always seem that way - really want to have their child succeed.  So you do.  You're in this together!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Healthy Lunches for Teachers Linky!

Hi everyone!

Join Kim, from Stuck in the Middle and me to link up this week with a look at healthy lunches!  Does what you pack for lunch need an update?  Link up with your go-to lunch to bring to school and see if you find a recipe or two to try!

Here's my lunch choice - which was longer than the card but is SO worth it!  This is a variation from the Oh She Glows cookbook.For the noodle salad, I use:
1/2 - 1 lb. of noodles, cooked, and tossed with a little olive oil
1 lb. frozen edamame, thawed (or fresh snow peas or green beans, or anything else, cut into chunks)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 carrot, julienned
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 c. fresh cilantro or 1 tsp. dried

Make the sauce in a blender or food processor. (I use a Magic Bullet.)  Mix the noodles with the veggies and toss all together with the sauce.  This is a very flexible recipe; you can pretty much add what you want to this.  I often add chunks of chicken or other meat that is left over from a previous night's dinner.  Yum!

So c'mon and link up!  Share what keeps you going (and by keeps you going I mean what you can eat in 22 minutes before your students return for the afternoon!)

Have a great rest of the week!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Blog Hop: classroom management advice for newer teachers
I met Lizzie just this week and decided to join her blog hop for newer teachers.  This week's topic is "If you could give your one, best piece of advice on classroom management to a newbie, what would it be?"

That's an easy one for me, because it's taken years for me to learn it.  Good grief!  Don't ask....

The Number One Rule to Always do:

Teach your students your routines and then practice.  And practice.  And practice.  Don't stop practicing until they do it EXACTLY the way you want them to.  

Here's why.  If you teach them and have them practice it once or twice right then and there, you will spend the rest of the year correcting them.  Or frustrating them.  Or getting frustrated with them.  Very few of us know how to do things well after the first or second try.  Our students don't either.  

So trust me on this one.  Practice it as much as you need to, even though you might think it's redundant.  It's not, until they all get it.  You will be SO glad you did this!

Simple rule. 
Took me ages to learn.

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Happy and Healthy Teachers Link-up

Hi everyone,

Start thinking about your favorite healthy lunch to bring to school. Grab the link and go!  It goes live on Wednesday.
Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Getting your students to read and a freebie!

Have you ever had a conversation with a colleague where they complained about something, but wouldn't change it?  I probably am guilty of that too, but weekly or monthly reading logs are one battle I hear about but refuse to join.

Maybe it's because I remember signing a week's worth of logs all on one night, knowing that my kids had read.  Maybe not for 20 minutes a night, or whatever the goal was, but knowing that my kids were readers.  Those logs were a pain for me to fill out, and I'm a teacher who loves to get kids to read!  Imagine getting a parent to sign those who doesn't care about whether their child reads at night, or is working, or too busy to do it.  We all have those kids in our classrooms.

I find that meeting with each of my students every week or two teaches me what they're reading, how much they're reading, what their strengths and weaknesses are - we take it from there.  And besides, the kids LOOOOVE meeting one-on-one with me!  They remind me about their appointments every day!

Now that doesn't mean that I don't hold them accountable for reading.  I do.  I just like to find ways that don't feel like such a chore for them.

With this challenge (which can be done in any month) you determine how long you want your students to read to earn a leaf.  My students read for half an hour.  Once they complete the activity on the leaf, they can cut it out, color it, and then glue or tape it to their tree.  There are 18 different activities each child can complete.
When children turn in these logs, usually at the end of the month in my room, we usually celebrate.  Sometimes it's a food treat, sometimes we go outside.

For today and tomorrow only, this product will be offered free on my TpT store!  The only thing I ask if you download it, is that you leave me some love!

Oh, and if you haven't yet joined our linky about healthy breakfasts, go to this post  and join us!

Have a great Friday!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Healthy Breakfasts for Teachers Linky!

I'm linking up with my new blog friend Kim, from Stuck in the Middle  to look at food!
Now that's something a little different than how we're preparing our classrooms for the Fall (which is coming WAAAY too fast!)

Reading everyone's blogs so far this summer, I've noticed a bunch of teachers commenting on how they want to get into/stay in good shape, which included exercise and healthy eating.  Let's keep it going even when the school year starts and things start to get a little busy!  Link up with us today and share your Go-To breakfast.  Include pictures! For those of you who like to plan ahead, we'll look at: lunches, dinner, during-school snacks, after-school snacks, and desserts.

I don't know about you, but I struggle to find breakfasts that have any staying power.
This Chocolate Breakfast Smoothie is a go-to for me when I'm running around like crazy.  It's thick, full of protein, low in sugar and tastes great!  It's also wonderfully forgiving, so if you like something and want to add more of it, go for it!

Now it's your turn!  Give us a good breakfast recipe and link up!  (For those who like to plan ahead, next week will be lunches, then dinner, different snacks - in school and after school, and last but not least, desserts!)

As always, please share the love with some people in front and behind you!  Let's plan a  happy and healthy school year!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Linking up with Five for Friday

It's been a while since I linked up with Kacey from Doodlebugs Teaching and her Five for Friday linky party, but I've been pretty busy this past week and wanted to share some things with you.
I created this new product for our Reading series, McGraw-Hill's Wonders series, and I'm wondering why this didn't occur to me SOOO much sooner.  When we have Reading meetings, we're constantly going back into our Teacher Guides to look at Essential Questions, skills, strategies, etc.  So I created labels, which I've shared with my colleagues, to put right on file folders.  Everything you need is there, in one quick glance.  Plus, I just print out a paper copy and that's my "cheat sheet" for our meetings,
They're a little hard to see, but they have everything you need, all in one spot: Essential Question, Vocabulary, Reading Strategies and Reading Skills.  I'm still patting myself on the back for this one:) - a simple, but really helpful solution for someone who's often putting papers in piles to be filed away.  At a later time!

If you teach the McGraw-Hill Wonders series and would like these for sixth grade, they're available from my TpT store.
I blogged earlier this week in the Make Your Masterpiece linky (TpT seller week #3)
about how I'd worked on the Making Observations, Inferences, and Predictions bundle for a long time, changing things that students didn't understand until I felt like I had a good product.  My product is for 5th - 8th graders.  A couple of teachers asked me to make a similar product for younger grades, so that's what I was busy doing yesterday.  This one is for 2nd - 4th grades. It's not up on my store yet, but I hope to have it there in the next few days if you're interested.
I got to visit with my lovely sister and her family this past weekend, and stayed over Sunday night so that I could head into Washington, D.C. on Monday.   I've been offered the opportunity to have dual citizenship with Austria, the country of both of my parents' birth, and I'm chugging along getting all of the documentation in order.  I've learned more about government offices this summer than I ever dreamed I'd know.  And almost all of the people I've met have been terrifically helpful!
I've always been a healthy eater, I think because for the most part, I really enjoy cooking and playing around in the kitchen.  For the past year, I've been focusing on (mostly) eliminating wheat from my diet.  Lots of reasons, but my main one is to keep Type 2 Diabetes, which runs in my family, away.  My goal this summer is to come up with a bunch of good "Teacher Breakfasts"!  Those go-to meals that don't take a ton of time to prepare.  This one doesn't look pretty, but boy oh boy, is it good and filling!
This will definitely be in the lineup for Fall!

No pictures yet, but today I get to visit with some friends I've known for a long, long time.  We all worked together when we were in our early 20's and have stayed in touch, getting together a couple of times a year.  Can't wait to see my buds who've stayed together through all of life's challenges!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Make Your Masterpiece linky (TpT seller week #3)

Hi there,

I'm late to the game as usual :) but I'm linking up with a bunch of teachers - Teach, Create, Motivate; Sparkling in Second; PeppyZestyTeacherista; and Third in Hollywood for the TpT seller week #3 Challenge!

I have been working on this for almost two years.  Part of my excuse is that life got in the way and part of it is that I just need time to reflect on what worked and what didn't.  And why.  And what to do about it.

But what I've put together now feels really solid, for some skills that are hard for upper elementary kiddos to grasp.  I start with pictures like this one.
Norman Rockwell is a great artist to work with because his pictures have so many fun details.  So, first we observe, using some sentence stems to focus our thinking.  Then, we infer, and finally we predict.  
We work our way to text with a read-aloud, The Sweetest Fig by Chris Van Allsburg.  Now kids listen to the words and look at pictures.  Again, we observe, infer, and predict, some of it as a whole class, and some with a partner or small group.

From that book, we move to scaffolded text.  This is a story I found in the public domain and edited to make more readable for 5th-6th graders.  It's called Briar Rose which is really the story we know as Sleeping Beauty.  Students read the story and infer and predict the underlined text.  
And then finally, they get to turn to their independent reading book.  By then, with all of this support, they know what they're looking for.  And those sentence stems that started it all with the pictures?  Yeah, they're still using them to focus their reading.

Observations, Inferences, and Predictions, bundled with PowerPoint.  A labor of time and love, but well worth it!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Pick 3 Pinterest Linky for July

I'm linking up with Inspired Owl's Corner for a fun one!  I spend WAAAY too much time on Pinterest, looking up stuff for school, good recipes, good sayings.... You know!

I couldn't decide which of two bulletin boards to put up for the beginning of school, so I posted the question on Facebook.  It was overwhelmingly this one.  

I'm going to change it to "A 'Minion' Reasons to Read!  Then I'll have kids cut out and make minions. On their overalls, they'll write the name of their favorite book from last year.  Or maybe the book they're reading right now, since they'll all have to pick a book that first week of school.  Yeah.  I like that idea better!

I love this poster!  'Nuff said.  And she even made them into bookmarks!

I'm always searching for healthier ways to eat, and this recipe from Tasteful Pantry looks delicious.  It takes an old cold-weather favorite and makes it even better.  Although I have tried tons of recipes from Pinterest, this is one I haven't tried yet.  It'll have to wait for Fall.  But I love that the work of making the spaghetti squash is right "in the bowl" with you.

Check out the other pins in this linky!  There are tons of great ideas, a couple of which I've already pinned to my board.

Have a great day!