Monday, April 21, 2014

The Book Whisperer and Me!

So here's my take...

Most teachers are familiar with Donalyn Miller as the "Book Whisperer" 
and probably devoured her book like a piece of chocolate cake.

Well, I was one of those teachers who after reading the book
 was ready to implement everything Donalyn was prescribing! 

So, can you imagine my reaction when I found out that 
Donalyn was presenting a seminar in my area this month!!! 

She just came out with a new addicting book called, Reading in the Wild.
I immediately ordered the book and read the whole thing in time for her seminar.

Her new book is a complement to the Book Whisperer and much more. She gives you five habits of life long readers with ideas and suggestions on how to cultivate these habits. 

The book will leave you eager to inspire all your students to become wild readers! 

I know it did for me!

Donalyn's presentation that I attended went beyond my expectations. She is humble, humorous, and above all a REAL person who loves reading!

What I enjoyed the most out of her seminar and her new book 
were the numerous statistics she would quote to support wild reading habits. 

Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen (2013) assert, "...We reduce the effectiveness of reading interventions when we don't provide our lowest-performing students reading time and encouragement. Developing readers need more reading, not less."

Quoting research helps me to feel confident that 
my philosophy and instructional practices are sound. That feeling is priceless!

My inner dork is beaming!

I highly suggest you put this book on your summer reading list...
or just binge one night on it because it is worth it! 

Donalyn also loves to share her work. She has a slideshare account where she puts her seminars, conferences, workshops, and book recommendations for everyone to see. 

Check them out!

Here is the link to the seminar I attended

I will leave you with my favorite quote from Donalyn's seminar:

Reading and writing floats on a sea of talk!

Happy Learning!!!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Universal Bump Board

So here's my take...

I, like many of you, have a healthy addiction to reading my fellow teacher blogs and consistently buying awesome stuff from Teachers pay Teachers! One item that I read about, pinned several times, and of course bought this year were Bump Boards.

This is an awesome Bump Board I bought and used from Teachers Pay Teachers!

Most of you I am sure have heard of the game and have seen some cute boards made out there. However, I didn't like having to buy and prep different boards all the time. So...I created my own version, one that could be used for any concept and at anytime of the year. May I introduce my Universal Bump Board!

Click Here for a Copy!
Click Here for a Copy!

I must say it came in handy this past Spring when I used it for test prep, station work, partner time, etc. 

Now my caveat to other bump boards out there is that mine relies on a 20 sided die. If you are a teacher like me who loves to own your own math manipulatives, well then you probably have some lying around.

Lastly, I have to tell you all about a great 
new product that I found out about this year! 

It is a sturdy pocket folder with a clear envelope attached by Avery. I use it to store and organize my materials for station work. 

I love that it can hold manipulatives and that it easily stores inside a legal size file drawer! They are awesome!

If you have any creative universal game boards you would like to share, 
I would love to hear about them!

Happy Learning!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Word Study, Organization, & Walmart!

So here's my take...

Don't you just love when you are shopping and something you didn't intend to buy jumps out at you? Your teacher brain says, "Score! I can totally use that in my classroom". Well, I was shopping at Walmart today and I scored two things to use in my classroom! 

My 1st find were these super cute flyswatters! I love how they say SPLAT! on them. 
I immediately thought about using them for Word Study. I decided I could use them to spice up a speed sort game. 

 I created this recording sheet for the game... I am aptly calling it Splat!

Click Here for a Copy!

Partners will spread out each others words. When the words are set up then students will race each other to see who can swat their words and record them first.  If any words are illegible or misspelled then 2 seconds will be taken off. The quickest time is the winner and is crowned Bug Buster!

My 2nd awesome find at Walmart...

I have seen the "grading bag" idea floating around Pinterest/Blogs for awhile but I hadn't found the right bag for me until today!!!

I also found the open portable 
file holders at Walmart. 
I bought two... the first is for papers that need grading and the second is for papers that need to be filed.

Now all I have to do is start grading those papers that are inside!

What a great shopping trip! If you have any flyswatter activities...
I would love if you would share below!

Happy Learning!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Comfy Classroom Library Organization!

So here's my take...

Can you find what is comfy but organized in my library?

Look closely at the bottom of the bookshelves. 
The cute zebra pattern is really standard sized pillow cases!!!

Click here to go to the Target website

I bought these 3 tiered bookshelves from Target when they went on sale for $16.99. I love how easy (no tools) they are to put together and how sturdy they are! 

They have just enough space at the bottom to fit standard sized pillows!


Over the summer I saw this pin of how students used chairs as great reading nooks and thought, I have to do that

Unfortunately my pin does not go through to a blog or website so I don't have a particular person to thank and give credit to for this fantastic idea! 

If you happen to know, please let me know!

My class has loved the pillows and "chair nooks" this year! I am really proud of how well they share them...of course quietest students get first pick!

Students like to spread out all over the classroom to read and jot their thoughts!

I love using pillow cases instead of store bought pillows. 

They are easy to keep clean and so versatile. 

They easily can be brought home to wash and best of all...when I get tired of the zebra print (I don't foresee that happening anytime soon) I can easily find something else!!!

Well, as always, if you have a comfy library idea I do wish you would share! 

Happy Learning!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Before a Close Read...Use THIEVES!

So here's my take...

I have a great group of students this year. However, one of my challenges is that more than 75% of my classroom reads below grade level. Beginning this year I knew that I would need to incorporate more reading instruction in my content areas.

My research
up 2 great resources!

I am in Va and we don't follow the Common Core (yet!) but I have noticed that this standard (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.10) has caused confusion & concern for many of you. These two books explain and show you how to address this standard.

I highly recommend reading both these books! I especially found Sunday Cummins book, Close Reading of Informational Texts especially helpful in how to explicitly teach students to read complex informational texts.

In Ch. 5 of her book, Cummins takes you step by step through teaching students to strategically preview text prior to a close read. Using the mnemonic THIEVES helps students to activate their background knowledge and prepares
 them to make in-depth predictions.

Cummins recommends having groups work together to preview the text, which helps support readers at every level! I found that my students were more focused, confident, & ready to do a close read with the text because they had used THIEVES beforehand. 

Click Here for a Copy
Click Here for a Copy

THIEVES is a great way to set the purpose for reading!

While doing my research, I also came across an EXCELLENT video that modeled a close read. Not only did it model close reading but how to seamlessly incorporate & use Learning Targets (which I love too!). 


Lastly, I started a Pin Board to collect resources & more ideas 
on Close Reading & Text Complexity. 

Click Here to Visit the Pin Board

If you happen to have ideas or resources on the subject, I would love to hear from you!

Happy Learning!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Primary Sources & Anchor Charts

So here's my take...

This year I have been making great efforts to get my Va. Studies students to use their 
Historical Thinking Skills 
(Sourcing, Contextualizing, Close Reading, & Cross Checking). 

Below is our Historical Thinking Skills board that we refer to many times throughout the year when we take a look at a primary source.

I have really seen how the use of primary sources have helped my students learn how to think critically and to engage with the content in more meaningful ways.

Recently my class began its investigation into how Virginian ideas contributed to the formation of our new government. Students need to know about the ideas of James Madison, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, & George Washington.

To understand these men's ideas students must investigate the Constitution 
& work with this primary source!

A picture book is always a great place to start. The text is arranged to break down the components of the constitution in easy to understand parts.

As we read the text we are pausing to use our historical thinking skills, have partner discussions, and then create an anchor chart of our learning. 

As you can see, the primary source document is right there for students to interact and get familiar with (I also have copies for students to get their hands on too...with a magnify glass!)

Click here for a Copy
Click here for a Copy
As we go along creating our anchor chart, students are recording the information in a graphic organizer that will go into their notebooks.

Here is another primary source image I love to use when investigating the Constitution. The painting by Howard Christy in 1940 can be found at

At the site you can scroll over the delegates and it displays their name. It is another excellent way for students to dive deeper into a primary source.

At the site there is a synopsis of the painting that you can use for great discussions.

I posed the question, 
Do you think all 55 delegates are represented? Explain your reasoning.

If you have any primary source documents you use for the Constitution, I would LOVE to hear from you!!!

Happy Learning!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Learning Targets

So here's my take...

I have been wanting to implement Learning Targets in my classroom for sometime now and this past week I finally got rolling with them! 

I was a little nervous about implementing them but the positive feedback from my principal helped to build my confidence!

I started my learning journey about Learning Targets by reading the book by Connie Moss. It made sense to me that if students knew what they were trying to understand in a lesson that then they would be more engaged and take more ownership in their own learning. From there I watched a FREE Webinar on the book provided by ASCD. It helped to hear the author describe how to use Learning Targets with your students.

Click here to go to the FREE Webinar from ASCD!

I want to give some credit to the teachers whose signs I used to make my board! I got the Superhero Target sign from Stephanie at Primary Possiblities blog as a FREEBIE! I got the Learning Target sign as a FREEBIE from Stephanie @ 3rdGradeThoughts.

Next, I wanted to have more tangible evidence of using Learning Targets with my students and how they were using them too. I was going to create an 
exit ticket type assessment but luckily I found something from The Creative Classroom on Teachers Pay Teachers! 

I recently used these with my Math class. After our Math Huddle and mini-lesson I checked in with students by using these "I Can Exit Tickets". I was pretty please with how the students took to them and how they seemed to reflect on their Learning Target. I am still thinking of other ways to use them maybe a pre/post reflection of their learning!

I am an avid Pinner and have started a great board on Learning Targets. 
Check it out for more info! 
Click here to visit my Pin Board
My next steps are to make more visible the "Look Fors" students should be able to use during a lesson to see if they are on track for hitting a target in a given lesson!

If you have had success with using Learning Targets and have great tips on implementation, 
I would love for you to share!


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