Friday, December 14, 2012


I had my preliminary evaluation today. I passed. Lots of complimentary things written on my eval. I'm halfway through with "teacher residency" at this point. My littles all had great days, too. Even my smallest little, who's been having to push through some things that have been affecting him at school, did amazingly.

I returned home happily, only to open my Reeder app and see the horrible news. So many families who won't see their loved ones tonight. A school devastated by the loss of twenty-six (last I saw) of their own. Such unimaginable violence.

I was disgusted, enraged at the story on CNN. How could someone do this? How could this happen?

When my family was driving back from buying our Christmas tree, my work e-mail dinged on my phone. Scholastic News had sent articles and tips for processing this event with students. Reading the article meant for students, I cried. I imagined my littles, who only on Monday crouched under a table in a dark room during our lock down drill. They were terrified, even with the assurance that we were practicing.

Reading the news and watching the television brings me through the what-if's. I'm sorely tempted not to use the school mandated "safe wall" during the next drill. If there was really an active shooter, I'm not putting my littles under a table in a room with windows on most sides. My minions are small, and there are few of them. Our bathroom is huge.

In January, we will have a new focus on locking the door behind us when we go to the bathroom. So, just in case I ever have to tell my littles to lock themselves in the bathroom, they would know what to do.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

i miss my word wall (and other improbable utterances)

I think that using "slack" as an adjective at this point would be a gross understatement.
I'm here. It's been chill in my neck of the woods, kiddo-wise, until this week. Someone came back from Thanksgiving break with a major issue, but we're . . . adjusting. I have t-minus 6 observable days in my observation cycle and NO ONE has come to observe. No one.
But here's a few updates. . .
One: When I was small, I hated the word wall in my classroom. It was evil. Imagine you are a gifted seven year old who learned to read whole-language style. You read on an eighth grade level, but can't really spell. Your teacher's brilliant solution: use the word wall! The word wall that you cannot see, because you are severely visually impaired. Even if you stood right at the wall, you still can't read most of the words. . . not that it matters, though, since you're not allowed to leave your seat. Because your teacher does not comprehend that you cannot see. You're young, of course you can see! She's "old" and has bifocals, and she can still see the words!
(Just to note, I've worn bifocals/progressives for quite a while and I can't even pass for mid-twenties most days. I have no idea why people persist in the ridiculous idea that young people have "good eyes.")
Our word wall was unceremoniously ripped down this year. Good riddance, I thought. . . but I miss it. Miss, miss, miss it. I want it back, but I really don't have enough wall space now. Hmmmm.
Two: Normally, I pride myself on being stim-friendly. My class is mostly kids with emotional disabilities, but I also have some HFA/Aspergers littles. Which is actually my fave, because I'm usually down with their worldview. They speak my language, where as sometimes I have to decode and translate what my ED littles are trying to tell me. But, yeah. Normally, let's stim away.
I mean, unless it's super inappropriate.
But bring on the flapping.
(One of my ED kids the other day: "miss, why do you do that with your fingers all the time?" Oops. Caught.)
I'm all anti-quiet-hands and let's-just-fake-eye-contact-if-absolutely-needed. But one of my littles is driving me up the wall. He does not stop moving. And if he worked while he did it, I would not care. Spin yourself silly all you want, if you can still get your work done. But it doesn't help him focus. All the interventions I've tried, all the OT's suggestions . . . Nothing.
And as much as I want to continue not fighting the stimming battle, except with the occasional replacement behavior, I am seriously tempted to just- stop. Sit. Do not get up until that next movement break. Stop spinning your erasers. Do not walk like that.
And then I feel conflicted. Because on one hand, I said I'd never do that. My first grade teacher got me to stop walking like that by shaming me in the hallway daily until I stopped. My mom texted me about a billion times before my job interview to remind me to at least look like I was making eye contact. My friend the ex-ABA therapist nearly slapped my hands down in a store a few weeks ago. "Are you waving to someone? Quit!" I won't do that to a kid.
But am I really helping this kid by not insisting on sitting properly to work? At this point, I think no.
My other littles, who happily expound on their special interests and fidget and flap as they diligently work, don't get any redirection from me when they get stimmy. But as much as I'll wave my neurodiversity flag high and promote Austin acceptance, am I doing right by them? By not insisting on complete conformity, am I preparing my littles for the world that I wish existed, rather than the one that is really out there?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

the real teacher

I got observed today.

If you knew me in real life, or if you can imagine how year two as a teacher would be for me based on how teacher licensure goes in your state, you might think I meant by an official evaluator. Or someone from administration. Or from the state department. Or whatever.


Today, I had a student observing. A student. From our friendly local SEC member university. (Have I outed my location yet?) It kind of blew me away, especially considering they asked me in particular.

Being on my own in a classroom last year as the "real teacher" was weird enough, but it was surreal to be the one being watched. (And not as the "what not to do" example!) The girl that observed was very complimentary and said she couldn't believe it was only my second year.

Yes, I'm bragging. Sorry.

Monday, September 3, 2012

best laid plans

I had these great ideas about how my literacy block would go. Different mini-lessons, many times to pull individuals for extra help, a well-oiled machine of daily-5-ness.

I took one look at our master schedule, which lays out what subject each grade is doing when, and threw that idea out the window. I don't have a literacy block. It's more like . . . literacy slivers. It's all broken up. And, if you recall, I have K-3 this year (because the universe hates me.) This is requiring a ton of juggling.

Still, we are trudging on. We've launched Read to Self and Read to Someone. I had planned to introduce Listen to Reading next week, but some supply chain issues (aka the closest branch of our public library has unexpectedly closed) may make Work on Words our next choice.

We're up to fifteen minutes of Read to Self with my first and second graders, and ten with my third graders. My first and second graders can also do Read to Someone for fifteen minutes. My third graders won't try it, because they refuse to work with each other. (This may be for the best, so I haven't pushed it.)

While we introduced/reviewed Read to Self, I showed off my new library labels. They aren't very fancy, and are kind of in version 1.0 state, but so far they have kept our books organized. Yay!!!

I can't share them with you, because they're from boardmaker, but all I did was use the 1 inch and 2 inch templates. And, yes, I have a whole basket in my room dedicated to following the rules. Welcome to ED resource.

If you look behind my chair in our group area, you can see some of the anchor charts we've done so far. My huge question to you is this: how do you write so neatly on your charts while still keeping up the pace of instruction? I feel like my handwriting is pretty nice, but it goes to crap as I try to keep moving and keep my kids engaged when making charts or doing interactive writing. It's kind of embarrassing. I ended up printing out parts of one chart, which worked alright, but isn't always going to be feasible. I might re-write them later, after we're done introducing Daily 5, but for now I want the originals up.

We're also off and running on CAFE, too. I feel like some of my kids are totally space out during small group, while others are completely on it. We've reviewed listening skills, amd my spaced out kids can look like they're listening, but they are so not with us. I need to keep working on that. Here's our CAFE board, although we've added more strategies now.


For my kids who are "with it" during group, they are so much more with it since I've incorporated some Whole Brain teaching tricks into our lessons. So far, we're mostly just using class/yes, gestures, and the occasional scoreboard. I've also tried to be more conscious about giving more frequent opportunities to respond.

One thing I haven't done yet is the WBT rules. I think I am most nervous about those, because we are a PBIS school. While the WBT rules jive with our expectations matrix, I don't want to be a hypocrite because I'm one of those ones who gets annoyed with people who aren't supportive of our transition to PBIS. Even if you don't like it (which I have research on why you should, but anyway,) it's kind of like the Common Core: our district is adopting it, like it or not. So, I have my expectations matrix posted. I may wait on class rules. Maybe.

As far as posting expectations, I've also decided to post our learning objectives in our room where everyone can see. I'm not sure how much this will help my younger/lower students, since I haven't put any pictures with it, but it will help remind me what we're doing (especially once we get farther into the year and I have three sets of group lessons per subject) without referencing my lesson plans and will also let observers (this year is my evaluation year) know what we're doing. Here's how I've done it so far:

Finally, look at this cool piece of construction that's sprung up in our yard:


Friday, August 24, 2012

the big reveal

Oh my word, we are off and running. Although mostly not literally. The stench of chlorine offends one of my littles with autism. Some of my small people are . . . not so small anymore. My schedule is erratic, at best; people are constantly in and out. I had a phone thrown at my head. One little came back to school a different child (in a good way.) The lids to Nalgene bottles will shatter. I now need to add birds to the many esoteric subjects I'm supposed to be an expert on. I'm exhausted, but it's been pretty good so far.

Here's my classroom. It's mostly done now, considering we're already in session. Sorry about the quality, I haven't taken my good camera to school in a while.

The view from the door.

Our counter with writing supplies, word wall, clip chart, cabinets, and CAFE board. I'm putting seasonal boxes on top of our cabinets, but I'm still working on it.

A close-up of our CAFE signs.

One of our group areas. This area is mostly for reading/writing "whole group," as we do math "whole group" on the SMARTboard. (I feel a little weird that my whole group is usually 4 or less, hence the quotation marks.)


Magnet center, post office, and clip boards.

View of one of the work spaces. The kidney table will also be used for individual or pair reading instruction. You can also see our listening center, cubbies, and my wingman's desk.

My awesome new document camera!

My lovely schedule. . .

I'm pretty happy with the way my room turned out, and I think it's very functional and not just cutesy. I know there are some other changes I would like to make, but that aren't practical with my particular class.

I hope everyone is having a great start to their year!


Monday, August 20, 2012

must have . . . sleep?

Kicking off Teacher Week today is Must Have Monday. I've been kind of busy and slack with the blog lately, but I'd figured I'd pop in. Mostly because tomorrow is day 1 and I am terrified. Only not as much as last year. And I'm more prepared this year, but not as well as I'd like. Ho hum.

So, a quick list of my must-haves.

(a very quick list, because I was awake for masters swimming at 4:45 this morning and I'm about to crash.)

1. Starbucks. Or maybe a iced vanilla coffee K Cup, if I'm feeling broke. But, I need coffee. I am absolutely positive I wouldn't have graduated without it. And I probably wouldn't have a job without it. Cofffffffeeeeee. A coworker called me Friday morning before school to ask me what she should order at Starbucks. Yes.


2. Books. Lots of books for the littles and for me. I need more informational texts in my classroom library. For reals. I got my supply allotment money, and I'm considering getting the D-I leveled math/social studies/science readers. Also, my nook needs more books, but that has nothing to do with my supply allotment.


3. Paper. Oh goodness, they finally started limiting copies at my school. I'm not usually prone to such hyperbole, but I actually remarked to a coworker today that I felt like I was in hell. The temperature didn't help, though, so it might not have just been the paper limits. I made 45 copies total of behavior sheets for 3/4's of my babies before I ran out. Sheesh.

4. My blackbook. It is lovely. It is greatly superior to my work computer, too. Sorry, windows.

5. A wingman to back me up. This is not essential, as I've proven this can be done sans assistant, but it's a must-have for my sanity. For reals.

Yeah, so the littles arrive tomorrow and my room looks like a wreck. It's a little better/worse than the pictures I'm going to show below, but I'm coming early tomorrow to give it some extra TLC.


Thursday, August 2, 2012


When I left my classroom at the end of May, everything was packed up and it all looked very empty and lonely. I went back this week to start unpacking and organizing my room. We don't have to go back to work for a while yet, but I know I have a lot of planning to do this year before we get started. I want to do all the decorating and stuff before we have to be back at work. I'll do my planning then, because I will get my teacher manuals checked back out to me. Also, I think our general education classes are getting a new reading series this year (or next year, they already picked out Literacy by Design.) I really want to see the materials for that when I'm planning out everything, so hopefully there are a few extra copies of things.

Anyway, I lugged a bunch of stuff down with me. I think I have a school supply problem. This is not all of what I purchased for my room so far. Nor is it even all of the glue sticks.

Sorry for the bad quality on the second one. I bought a ton of Dots on Turquoise stuff. I really want my room to look nice and neat, but I'm also super opposed to commercially-made bulletin board sets and posters. I thought that maybe I could put the anchor charts that the littles complete onto the posters, and I have a few other ideas. Anyway. Lots of stuff. I think all of my money from my second job went back into my first one. Oh well.

And here's what I amused myself with as I worked on my classroom:

Yes, I watched Tuesday morning prelims on my SmartBoard. Then watched women's gymnastics live. I would have watched finals live, too, but my sister was with me and we had to leave before 2:30.

This is my new word wall. It is super-messy. I do not understand how all of you ladies are so good at cutting straight lines and aligning things. It is obviously not a talent of mine. Or a talent of my sisters. I'm kind of worried about how this turned out, and having enough room for all the words. And applying words without tearing up the paper. I'm going to change the sign out, too; it looks way too small.

I have a lot more work to do, but this is what my classroom looks like now:

Yes. A wreck. It's a process. Hopefully it will start coming together soon. I'm not going back until next week, so in the meantime I'm going to work on making some things for my class on the computer. I thought that my computer was on it's way out, as the trackpad was not working consistently and the replacement cost was going to be enormous. Considering that my macbook is old enough that I can't upgrade to OSX mountain lion, I was planning to buy a new one during tax-free weekend. I was conflicted, though. I love my computer. Also, I am not made of money.

Then, I noticed my computer no longer was sitting very flat on the table. I turned it over, and the battery was bulging out of the computer. Yikes! Since the battery is under the trackpad, I was wondering if maybe this was the source of my problems.

So now I have a new battery and my computer is working much better. (Yes, I have a blackbook. It's amazing.) So, no new computer this August. I'm okay with that.

Monday, July 30, 2012

daily five ((all the chapters i've slacked on))

I am so slack.  I could say I've been busy with work (true,) practice (*gulp* I entered in the Masters Zone Championship,) the conference I went to (that sucked but was at the beach so it evened out,) watching the Olympics (my minor claim to fame is that Michael Phelps once pushed me into a pool,) or making stuff for my classroom (which will be more accurate now that my macbook is fixed,) but I don't really have a good excuse.

Except for naps. And shopping for school supplies. I think I've purchased sixty glue sticks. I might have a problem.

Anyway, no excuse.

I have a problem with not finishing things so, even though I'm not sure I have anything meaningful to contribute, I'm going to toss in my two cents on the rest of the book. I'll make it quick.

Chapter Four

Read to Self. My class was pretty good at this last year. We talked about the Three Ways to Read a Book, built stamina, made an anchor chart, and such. One of the things I think we need to improve upon are checking in after practicing. Also, I want to help kids make connections between the reading strategies they learn with me to the books they read. This is more difficult for my littles who are in Reading Mastery Kindergarten (different orthography) than my first grade and up Reading Mastery littles or the ones who just do reading conferences/guided reading. Finally, I want to make sure to emphasize that this is independent reading to the other adults in the room. Sometimes, adults have trouble leaving the kids alone to read. I want to make sure that we all know that Read to Self and Read to Someone are both important, but are separate things.

Chapter Five

Read to Someone is harder to implement in my room because there can be so few children. This was mostly accomplished last year by littles reading to my wingman paraprofessional or to other adults who visited. I want to try to encourage them to read to each other more this year and set my schedule up in a way this will be feasible.

Listen to Reading is something that we kind of tapered off with throughout the year. I cringe at this, but it was mostly because the littles that were in my reading block by the end of the year were not there at the beginning when we went over how to use the materials. I want to also expand past our CD player to using the iPod nano I don't use anymore and Tumblebooks.

Chapter Six

Work on Writing might have to be a once-every-day thing in my room. Because of our schedule (I essentially teach an extra subject) and some other external factors, I'm not sure I can do a separate writing time. I think one of the mini-lessons during D5 is going to be a writing one, then they can choose when during D5 to work on writing. During my post after reading No More I'm Done I went more into depth about some things I wanted to change about my writing instruction.

I've given some thought to Work on Words this summer, because I want to make sure I have engaging options for the littles to practice with. I've purchased some stamp pads and letter stamps, unifix letter cubes, cheap stickers, letter beads, and play doh with stampers. I also have some of the standards: white boards, magnetic letters, markers, etc.

Chapter Seven

This is kind of a non sequitur, but I'm having this nightmarish anticipation that, when making an I chart, one of the littles will say that the teacher will be on the computer or at a meeting. Urgh. I don't have a planning period (or a bathroom break) all day, so sometimes I'm doing non-instructional things out of necessity when I wish I didn't have to.

Instead of me taking the notes on who's doing what during check in, I think I'm going to have them keep track on a sheet on their own. I also think I'm going to make a little clip chart with the choices for them to show what they're working on.

I'm really excited about getting started with using this format for our literacy block. Everyone who participated in the book study had such great ideas, I'm glad I could learn from everyone. :)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

daily five ((chapter three))

I'm linking up with Mrs. Freshwater's Class and Thinking Out Loud for Chapter 3 of the Daily Five book study.

Gathering Place

I have a rug right in front of the SmartBoard in my classroom that we use as our gathering place. I believe I under-utilized it this year. Because I have such a small number of students in my room at once, I sometimes was tempted to do our gathering at the kidney table. Since a lot of our work is done at the table (even when other locations around the room are offered,) this didn't become a Brain and Body Break. I want to make sure we do our whole-group lessons on the rug this year.

Picking Appropriate Books

At the beginning of the year last year, I did some lessons on Good Fit books. As a new teacher I didn't have very many books in my classroom, and those I had were not at an appropriate independent level for my students. (I later was introduced to our literacy library with the leveled books, a month or two into the year.) We mostly focused on "reading the pictures," "retelling the story," and finding books we were interested in. I am planning on using the "I PICK" method and the shoes lessons that were detailed in the book this year.

We were lucky to receive a large leveled library from DonorsChoose this year in January. I want to continue adding to it this year and focus on using those levels as a guide for where to start looking for books that they will "know the words" in. I also want to add more options to each of the levels in our library.

Setting Up Book Boxes

We have these book bins from Really Good Stuff in our room. You can see the neon ones above in ou leveled library. The children each have a blue one for their notebooks, and they have a second one for their book boxes (if they come to me during literacy block.) I am. . . not crazy about them. Really Good Stuff has been great about customer service, but several have broken in my room even with normal use (ex. no one threw or kicked them.) The second set I ordered even arrived with many broken in the box during transport. They've sent replacements and a gift certificate; the RGS people have been super-nice but I wouldn't get that particular product. I've heard the ones without the wings are more sturdy.

As far as the actual books in the boxes, I'm lucky to already know my children's reading levels and have some idea of what they may be interested in reading. I want to get to know the interests of my littles this year, and have them discover interests of their own. I used the public library a lot at the beginning of the year to bring cool, new books into our room, but slacked off after I built up our classroom library. I want to make sure I continue bringing in library books throughout the year this year.

Anchor Charts

This is something that I want to start making with the class again. At the beginning of the year when we did more whole-group work, we made anchor charts to display our learning. As we did more individual academic work and less whole-group, we made fewer anchor charts. I've said that I want to do more whole-group mini-lessons this year in addition to our individual instruction, so we will return to making these.

Short Intervals of Repeated Practice

I already do this a lot in my room. I totally agree that practicing the wrong way will not help students learn the target behavior. 


Alright, I am incredibly bad about transition signals. I got  a chime last year as a new-teacher gift . . . and promptly put it out of reach, swearing to take it back out in a few weeks when things were more calm. I know, I know . . . that sounds ridiculous (but you were also not in my class on day 1, so don't judge.) I am considering using the chime from Day 1 this year (because I know it will be much better this year.) Or. . . . I'm also thinking about Whole Brain Teaching's Class/Okay. ((I may just use this part of WBT, but I do have some questions about using WBT in a resource class and how to mesh it with PBIS.)) 

I like the check-in signals suggested in the book. I think I want to use more visual signals and gestures this year, both as signals/responses and in my instruction in general. 

Correct Model/Incorrect Model

Okay, this is one area where my behavior instruction education conflicted with the book. I always use the correct model side, with students and myself demonstrating the correct behavior for the class. I've also used nonexamples, or the incorrect model. I've never let a student do the incorrect model, because I've always felt it is like letting them practice the wrong way. My professors would cringe. Following this up with demonstrating the correct behavior, though . . . I'm still considering this.

Final Thoughts 

This chapter talks about needing to "move slow so we can eventually move fast." I think that, similar to other classroom procedures, more time at the beginning of the year will save time in the end. 

My one concern is new littles that miss this time. I had five students in my literacy block at the beginning of the year and six at the end with many in between . . . and only one of the first five was in the last six. Because my students are young, they are usually being initially identified for services. Some respond quickly to intervention and need to reduce service minutes. . . or add when there's insufficient response. Some need to switch their service time as tolerance for different activities becomes apparent. Some need to be served in a more intensive environment and are transferred to me from their home-school. Some need even more intensive services and go on to another program. Others are found to actually need services from a different type of program, like academic resource. While keeping students in the Least Restrictive Environment is the best thing for them, it can mean some changes while the most appropriate setting is determined.

If you have a class that has a lot of student changes (maybe a transient population?) how do you handle this? I've been thinking of many ideas on my own, but I'd love to hear from someone who has experienced this and has any tricks.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


I'm kind of new to the whole creating-my-own-materials game. Or, at least, the fancy side of it. Most of my teacher-created materials this past year involved Boardmaker and MS word. Occasionally, there was even glue/scissors/white-out and multiple photocopies. Not fancy.

I decided I wanted to branch out this year, and I mentioned a few posts ago that I was trying to make my own classroom decor set in Power Point. I'm not sure I'd used PP more than five times in college, and I didn't have that mad of skills in middle/high school. I watched a few YouTube videos and went at it, though. My big thing was: where do you find cute shapes to put over the background? Like, frames?

Well, I found some, after poking around a few sites. Check.

But, wait! The insides are transparent! And using Fill in PP makes the whole thing filled in. Grrr.

To google!

. . . I need Photoshop???

Okay, yeah. I'd love photoshop. And my own swimming pool. And for a 7-11 around here to actually carry regular Mango (not sugar-free!) Slurpees. And lots of other things. I don't have the money for photoshop. . .

But, I found this website, Splashup. It worked really well, for my purposes. And it was simple. And free.

So, now I'm on to making classroom labels for my arts/crafts stuff, literacy supplies, math manipulatives, and whatnot. Wanna see?

Okay, I don't have a CU license for the graphic from Scrappin Cop, (mostly because I'm trying to decide between the unlimited one or individual one) so I can't give away/sell these. (Yet. Let me know if you'd be interested.) I think it's kosher to post a screencap like this, though.

I know most teacher-bloggers are already doing much more creative stuff than this, but I was proud of my small accomplishment. Hopefully someone out there can benefit from the Splashup link, too.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

daily five ((chapter two))

 In between some embarrassingly slow swimming (a 3:08 200 fly, gah that's like 55 seconds off my best time!) I managed to gather my thoughts on Chapter Two of the Daily Five. Here we go!

1 .What goals do you have for your classroom as you work to implement the principles and foundations of the Daily 5 discussed in chapter 2? What support do you need to do this?

My Goals:
- Provide instruction that supports independence
- Find more ways for children to take ownership and responsibility in their learning and in our classroom
- Provide a structure to support literacy learning and allow learning to continue outside of direct instruction

Supports Needed:
- A procedure for teaching D5 to mid-year placements. I'm thinking of making a class book/social story with photo support in addition to whole class "reminder lessons." I think adding new students is a bigger deal in my room, because they usually have severe behavioral or emotional needs at first. How does your class handle acclimating new students, in general?
- I need to add some additional supplies to my room to have some choices for Word Work. 
- How can my paraprofessional and I support students with difficulties without "getting in the way?" If you have one, what is the role of your parapro/assistant during D5?

2. What stands out as the most significant aspects of this chapter? 

I think the anecdote about staying out of the way is significant. I think this will be a challenge for me, because my students expect me to intervene with everything. I have been working on it with them this year, but need to refrain if I want them to become independent.

3. How do the foundational principles of the Daily 5 structure (trust, choice, community, sense of urgency, and stamina), align with your beliefs that support your teaching strategies and the decisions that you make about student learning?

Trust: I think this is a big area for me to work on. I think that I am hesitant to trust some of my students sometimes, because they sometimes say and do things that reinforce the belief that they are not completely trustworthy. Yet if they're never trusted with independence, will they ever learn it? I think that I need to operate under the assumption that all my students can be trusted with more responsibility if they are given proper instruction and support. 

Choice: This is definitely one of my beliefs that I try to incorporate into my teaching practice. I want to continue improving on this year by making sure that I provide activities that students want to choose. This is sometimes hard for me, because I have to think "outside the box," so to speak. Many of my students do not enjoy activities that other students might enjoy. We spent a significant amount of time this year learning to play games together. Although all but my most recent arrivals can participate successfully in a group game, some don't seem to have any fun doing it. Except for my students with specific special interests, many of my littles cannot identify anything they are interested in or enjoy doing. This makes it a little more challenging, and I want to get better at finding things that interest them. 

Community: My room's population was not stable this year. We had our paraprofessional leave early in the year, and the second adult in the room was new every day for a while. Finally I got an awesome long-term sub, but she was unable to take the actual position. We didn't have stability in that sense until after the semester-end. With the littles, we had one out for a long-term, four leave, and six placed after the year began. Even among those there all year, we had many service minute and service schedule changes. Our community was not stable and, with my program including resource/itinerant students, community-building in my room looks different. I think that I will make sure to make an effort to build a sense of community program-wide, so that all my students know each other. This will translate to support for littles that are suddenly put into my literacy block; their classmates will help support their learning Daily Five procedures.

Sense of Urgency: Everything seems easier to accomplish when you know the why, I think. My challenge is in giving meaningful why's. I need to be better at convincing children that reading is fun, as most of mine arrive to me firmly planted in the reading-isn't-fun camp. Convincing them of necessity is not a valid fallback. Why do I need to learn to read, if my mom and dad can't? Expectations in older grades are irrelevant for them, and bad grades are not deterrents. When I told one little that he would need to be able to read a write to get a job, he seriously informed me he wanted to be a hobo when he grew up. I have to be able to convince them it is fun. I have done so with many of them, but others are still unconvinced.

Stamina: We practiced building our stamina with Read to Self last school year, and this makes so much sense to me. To go off the exercise metaphor in the book. . .  I just started swimming again, after taking most of four years off. One of my coworkers, who had only ever swam summer league, expressed surprise when I got in at the beginning of the summer and kept up with the high schoolers for their first hour of practice. "Do you- you haven't been swimming?" But I had a lot prior experience, I used to swim 90 minutes in the morning and 2.5 hours at night. Our kids are like this, too. Some have that experience of occupying themselves at a task independently, some are the metaphorical kid squalling at the side of the pool because they've never been in the water. Taking the time to build stamina brings everyone up to speed.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

clip clip

So, here's where I've been hanging out lately . . .

All my teacher-y friends have been bragging about sleeping in and such. None of that nonsense is going on around here. I have to be at the pool, which is 30 minutes away, by 6:45 every morning. Gah. Yeah.

Earlier in the summer, I was debating about purchasing more classroom labels, decorations, and such from one of the many talented people on TpT. I looked at two sets particularly, agonizing about colors. Andhow they didn't match what I already had. And how certain items in the set were non-multiage-compliant. And how the clip chart levels weren't named something I could live with. (And, and, and. . .)

I set out to learn to use PowerPoint to design some things to go in my room, using the color scheme I already had loosely going on. First order of business: a new clip chart.

You can find it here on Teachers Pay Teachers. *gulp*

In the file, I said I would write on my blog more about how I use the clip chart in my classroom. I feel like so many teachers who are more experienced than me have written on this, but I'm not one for empty promises. Here we go.

Since I haven't yet hung and laminated my new pretty chart, here's a photo of the one we had at the end of the year.

My chart is huge. If you can believe it, our chart was even bigger during first semester. Considering the small number of children in my class, you may be surprised. Let me tell you why.

If you're new to the clip chart party, the basic idea is that students each have a clip. It goes up the chart for appropriate behavior, goes down the chart for inappropriate behavior. You can go up/down all day. Past that is subject to teacher discretion. It seems to be customary to clip up (or down) by moving the clip one color-level up/down. With this in mind, most teachers don't need much space on each level except green. In my class, this works a little differently.

I try to move clips very frequently. If I moved children up in levels every time I wanted to use the chart to recognize their behavior, I'd have kids off of the chart before an hour was up. Our moves on the chart are smaller, and being higher up the color is better in my room. This allows me some leeway in the size of the clip up or clip down that is received. A small infraction might get your clip moved down a mere centimeter, leaving the room without permission is an automatic red. Being in your assigned space might get you a half-inch, working while ignoring big distractions might get you three inches.

When I decided to do it this way, the drawback was that the teacher is moving the clips. This was more on me, and less on the students. However, after a lot of modeling (and lots of other social/behavioral interventions) my students were able to clip up/down by themselves and would, with supervision, were beginning to choose a move up/down proportional to their actions. This didn't happen in my room until the last quarter of the year, (but I also didn't give them a chance to do it earlier.)

Some people have a different consequence at each level, both positive and negative. I currently only have positive consequences attached to our chart. Early in the year, we had a leveled treasure box for littles on Good, Rockin', or Superstar. Later in the year, we upped the requirements for earning treasure box for most of my students. Each of them had a agreement of how many days at a certain level would equal treasure box. Children needing more support could earn prizes more frequently. We also use the chart to determine who has earned Fun Friday. Depending on their current needs, littles have a certain number of days that they must be "above green" to come to our party.

With different small people earning rewards at different intervals, I would probably go crazy trying to keep up. So I don't. They each have a calendar in their notebook that they keep for the month. At the end of the day, they color code their calendar. They may be spot-checked when I fill out their daily behavior log, but I've never had anyone be dishonest about it.

The little people are pretty motivated by our chart. It's not even completely attributed to the tangible rewards. Truthfully, the rewards do not change for a little who is on Rockin' versus one on Superstar. There is no special prize for getting to the very top, yet they all want to. They also do not like being below green, even though there are no specific negative consequences for it. I don't call home automatically if a child is on red, and I never take away recess. They still do not like it.

One little, when prompted to draw something that made him feel sad, drew this:
Clipping down equals sad, folks.

(yes, I am a blob with hair and short arms.)

I will probably post more on behavior management as the summer goes on, since I have a lot to say and would like a lot of input. I also (should) be back tomorrow with chapter two of Daily 5.

Friday, June 15, 2012


I returned from the beach today. I'm kind of dreading going back to work next week, mostly because I know I'll be asked, "What'd you do on vacation?" I'm working on answers that sound more exciting than "I read nine books and worked on making stuff for my classroom in PowerPoint."

I got home today right in time to meet the UPS man. Our friendly brown-wearing bearer of packages had two for me. Twee. Dos.

Package one was from Amazon:

(I know this is not a swimming blog, but deal with it, please. Otherwise skip down a little because I promise something teaching-related will surface later.)

I got a new equipment bag, pull buoy, and fins! I have been saying I was going to do this for a while, but had been bumming stuff off of other people and out of the communal supplies because I didn't have the money until I got a big-girl-job. When I retired, I left my equipment bag at the pool with everyone else's. . . and didn't return. For nine-ish months. My (now-former) coach switched to a new team at the same time. With no one around to tell them no, my bag and equipment were gone through and requisitioned by other swimmers. I'm still kind of bitter about it, especially about my kickboard and the surgical tubing I had in there. Grrrr.

So, now I have a replacement bag and fins that are the same style (different color.) I couldn't find the exact pull buoy that I had, but I liked the pink and turquoise and it was close enough. I still need paddles (although maybe a smaller size than I had?) and a circular resistance band. And I'm currently using a Finding Nemo kickboard from Target. Don't judge.

Also, here's the other package that made me squeal (not literally.)
The one that you would actually care about:

The Luna Projector I won! I'm extremely anxious to try it out, but I think I may keep it boxed up here until I go back into my classroom next month. I don't have much desk space to try it out here. It looks spiffy, though!

On another note, I've been playing around with PowerPoint this week. And I may have made something. Two somethings. A behavior chart that matches my classroom colors (as in NOT bright colors) and a Daily Five choice chart. I'm debating about putting them up on TpT, but I'm not sure anyone else would want them. Hmmm. We'll see.

Let me know if your interested. If you've seen the calendar set I use, they match that color scheme.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I think it's against some kind of rule of etiquette to post twice in one day, but it's not covered in Social Primer and I promise I'll make this quick. Well, it's been mentioned that I've been battling to finish The Out of Sync Child since . . . maybe, August? Last August? I mentioned that, you know, maybe . . . ugh.

I don't quit things, as a general rule. I don't.

But, there is this.

Can I use that as justification?


the daily five ((chapter one))

So, I mentioned a while back that I thought I may need to re-read The Daily Five if I was going to try implementing such a management style during my classroom's literacy block this year. Quite helpfully, Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations and Teaching with Style  are hosting a Daily 5 book study. I've fired up my nook and am set to review Chapter 1. Here we go . . . 

Chapter 1 Discussion Questions:

1. On pages 4-6, the authors present two different pictures of their classrooms. In thinking about and reflecting on your own practice, how would you characterize your literacy block? Does it look more like the first or second scenario, or is it somewhere in between? How will you change it?

In the first senario, the primary descriptors are "putting out fires" and "preparing for and reviewing busywork." In the second, "working independently" is the phrase that stands out to me. It's telling how the former describes teacher actions, while the latter describes students. Truthfully, I think my classroom seems more like the first senario. I don't prepare a whole lot of busywork, but I do spend a lot of time putting out fires. I'd like to partially attribute this to the nature of my class (after all, no one shows up in my room because they're good at staying on task,) but I think I can do more to foster independence. A lot of my students have improved greatly over the last year, and I think that they can serve as models for new-coming students if properly taught. 

2. The typical teacher is very busy having students do lots of different activities. How is what you are having students do now in your classroom creating quality readers and writers?

My students are engaged in reading practice in individual or very-small-group instruction using our reading program for around 30 minutes per day. While other students are receiving instruction, students are . . . completing a worksheet or reading to themselves. I also have literacy centers, but usually use them with my morning group rather than my mid-morning literacy group. 

I know worksheets get a bad rap, but I use a single one per day for two reasons 1) my kids don't mind them because as long as they keep working they're left alone and 2) I need to use them to implement the program I use with fidelity. I think they do help with reading, but I think they could be done as homework instead (many do not complete their reading at home because of lack of help at home/daycare, this would be something requiring no adult assistance.) 

I think that my read-to-self time has helped improve reading stamina, interest, and fluency . . . except for my littles who were assigned to my room late in the year. I think that booster sessions on good-fit books and read-to-self behaviors will be essential.
3. What sets the Daily 5 structure apart from what you are doing in your classroom?  

Students are expected to work independently for longer periods of time. I already allow a lot of choice in my classroom, but this system will give more structure to choices. Also, the addition of mini-lessons is different. I do not currently do much whole-group instruction. I think that this will be a organizational system that is much more suited to my style of individual reading instruction and will help tie individual learning into whole-group lessons.

I am really interested in implementing Daily 5, but am kind of concerned about doing something requiring so much independence when some children are put in my class specifically because of difficulties meeting expectations independently. I'm really hoping to find more SpEd teachers who do this, in order to get some more ideas!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

winner winner

So, I don't know if you read Angelia Grimes-Graeme's blog, Extra Special Teaching.  Or if you've checked out her awesome sight word and phonics games on TpT. But, you should. Really.

I feel like I owe her major props. . . because I won her Luna Projection Camera give-away. Yes. Yes.

This is what I'll be getting:

Well. The camera part. I already have a laptop and SmartBoard. Thank goodness.

Everyone else at my school has a document camera. (By "everyone else," I mean the regular ed people.) And I've been horribly jealous. You'd think I wouldn't need one, since I don't have that many small people. I already have plans for it, though. Reading smaller books together, looking over writing samples on the SmartBoard, etc. I'm super stoked.

I don't normally win things. Well, actually I do. If they're talent/brains based. But, luck-based things. . . I don't win those. I almost jumped up and down when I got the e-mail. I exercised a little restraint, though.

Anyway, so how is everyone doing on their summer lists? So far I've gotten through eleven books, I think. The Out of Sync Child has not been one of them. I do not recall ever not finishing a book. It may be time to break this run, though. I don't know what it is, but I cannot get into it. Ooooh. I haven't read any teaching-related ones since I've been on vacation, I've stuck to semi-trashy. The Marriage Bargin and Bared to You. I really liked the latter, mostly because I usually find romance novel characters to be overly dramatic. These two are, be assured, but at least they have real issues that mitigate it somewhat.

My classroom list isn't going too hot. I've mostly complied spelling lists for the year. And. . . that's it. Eeeep.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

currently (june)

I've finally joined in with Farley's Currently linky! I used PowerPoint for the first time in forever to make this, so let's see if I managed to do this correctly.

My summer job is coaching for a year-round swim team. Not a normal "summer job," since they practice all year, but it's the team I grew up swimming for so they're generous and let me help out. I coach morning practice for one of the older groups, since their normal coach has to work. They're middle-school-aged, which is a nice break from all the little people. The downside is that I still have to get up early during the summer, and I get off of work from evening practice pretty late.

I'm also trying to swim (again.) I think I have said this at least every few months after I got past the first year post-swimming. It's hard to get back into it without a team, though, and one masters group I tried was a really bad fit. Plus, there are a lot of emotional . . . things tied to swimming for me, after swimming so long at such a high level and then stopping. Ho hum.

As for the wish/went/want . . . I want to go to Europe so badly! I think that may happen next summer, though. Maybe. We'll see. Savannah was a quick trip with the ex-roomies. And want . . . a road-trip I probably won't take (Greenville) and visiting family (San Diego.)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

always be planning

In a story I read once (no idea which one) the character is doing an internship overseas. The title of this post is the most memorable thing her mentor said to her. Always be planning. (You, dear reader, should plan to read a lot of planning if you wish to continue reading this post.)

I finished No More I'm Done today and, in a cross of geeky obsessiveness and perpetual planning, proceeded to try to figure out how to work this into my literacy block next year. This was accompanied by my desire to review Daily 5 and The CAFE Book again. And my wish that it was feasible to have single-grade SpEd classrooms (no, not really.)

I read The Daily 5 before school started last year. And I thought: let's try this. Well, my thinking wasn't really flexible enough and my littles weren't really independent enough to manage it at first. Then, we tried doing it during intervention time for two rotations. Then, we had The Assistant Situation and pretty much gave up even the two rotations. Then we used intervention block for social/emotional/behavioral lessons and did Reading Mastery for actual instruction. (And then, and then, and then . . .)

Using Reading Mastery worked for us. We had three littles in our literacy block. A fourth one joined us, and we adapted. A fifth one was transferred, and we adapted once more. A sixth one was emergency-placed and . . . we winged it.

Please note that this equaled to five different reading groups daily. At 20-40 minutes each. Only one pairing was feasible. During the last six days of school, this digressed into "if you're not being assessed or doing reading group, find something quiet and nondestructive to do." And, amazingly, they were able to. (Except my newest friend, which is to be expected.) While every child got 40-ish minutes of quality individualized instruction out of this, downtime was less productive. I think they are now capable of using a Daily 5-style organization for their non-small-group time.

This kind of organization would allow me specific times to do whole-group mini-lessons instead of the majority of instruction coming from RM. I already do lessons to enhance our existing curriculum, and I think this would hold me accountable for fitting them in daily instead of letting them get pushed back. Here's what I came up with:


(Please excuse my sloppy handwriting. I hadn't used Penultimate since I got my Gumdrop iPad case, and the screen cover is making my stylus not respond consistently. Any advice?)

I've seen a lot of teachers blog and say they do only 3 rounds of D5, or fewer mini-lessons, or whatever. I tentatively decided on 5 rounds in order to give plenty of opportunities for me to pull small/individual groups. At the beginning of the year, I'm going to try to consolidate groups a little. I think I will have four reading groups that I can split between myself and my wingman assistant. I may also have small groups for DI writing, but I'm not sure about this. I also think that the take-home sheets will be for homework this year.

Along with five rotations, I'm currently planning on 4 mini-lessons, a read aloud, and a sharing time. My school is adopting a new core reading series, so I may get my writing and reading lessons from there. (I haven't seen the text yet.) If not, I may pull ideas from CAFE and organize writing around the six traits.

My second mini-lesson will be socio-emotional or behavioral. In case you're new here, these are the interventions that I do. My flexible-setting class is an academic milieu, but we still need explicit instruction in these areas as well. These may be teacher-made lessons. While I asked for Teach Town Social Skills for my class, I'm not going to get my hopes up. (Expensive!) Even if I get it, I might use it at a different time of day.

I'm looking at purchasing another program to use as a guide for this time. While I don't want a book to teach directly from, it would be nice to have a strong resource. I'm planning on integrating Skillstreaming for areas where my kids truly have a skill deficit, and I'm looking at three other ones for purchase. I will probably get $200 to use for my classroom in the fall, so I'm considering I Can Problem Solve, Impulse Control, or Strong Start. If you like any of these or have good advice on another, please let me know!


I have spelling lists for all the grades, so I think I could spend Monday on introducing the words and then have the kids practice them during Work on Words. The other days we would work on handwriting using Handwriting With Tears. I have the second grade materials. I'm also considering dropping the $20 on the online materials so that it's easier to use the SMARTboard to demonstrate.

Finally, I think that including a sharing time would keep the littles accountable for their choices and being able to talk in front of everyone is motivating for them. An Author's Chair time was sorely missing from our writing this year, ad I think it would be a welcome addition.

If you're still here, thank you for reading. If you have any suggestions or things for me to consider, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from someone who's done Daily 5 in a SpEd room . . . or a regular class with 4 grades worth of instructional levels. I promise once I get my MacBook working again, I will try to start making freebies or something to keep you coming back.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

i don't have anything to write about

Actually, I do.

It's my students that don't.

I know my original beginning of the summer reading list included Gabriel's Rapture (finished!) Math Work Stations (on Chapter 2,) and the entire Harry Potter series (halfway through Philosopher's Stone,) but something else snuck in.

I got this book for reading on the last workday of school, since I was pretty much done with all my work but had to stay until 11:30 anyway. (I didn't want to drag my hard copy of Math Work Stations to school.) This book so far has made me feel like I need to totally overhaul my writing instruction. Totally.

Normally, when I read a professional book, I think of what things I can incorporate from it, based on my students' needs and what I already do that works. However, I'm not really sure my writing instruction works right now. At all.

That might be a bit of an exaggeration. My students showed improvement in writing this year, but it was mostly in that many of them wouldn't write anything when they came to me. Not even a picture. Past that, their improvement has mostly been in conventions. Which is not exactly the most important thing. And, according to one of our last professional developments at our school, that seems to be a theme. Our students are generally strongest in conventions.

If you haven't read this book and feel like your writing instuction could use improvement, I encourage you to check it out. Here are some things I've been thinking about so far:

  • I had never seen writing workshop in a classroom before, except for when I was in first grade. As the student. Since I was already identified-gifted (but our school's math/science pull-out didn't start until third grade,) I mostly sat in a corner with my writing box and journal. (That was most of my elementary schol experience, actually. Why waste time on the kid in the 99th percentile?) I had the best crayola bold-colored markers in my box, and I loved the color names. Azure. It was wonderful. I don't remember my teacher ever giving me any instruction or conferring. I always had work to take home to show my grandmother, but not due to anything my teacher did. Anyway, I'm digressing. What I mean to say is this: this book explains what writing workshop can look/sound like and how it can be effective.
  • I was kind of tangential with my marker story, but I'll tie it back in. She suggested the use of motivating supplies that the children will be interested in to make writing time more engaging. I think I can easily accomplish this.
  • I need to strengthen my mini-lessons on writing, and I think that using more mentor texts and modeled writing will help. I used these strategies already last year, but I think I can improve.
  • I need to provide more choice in writing topics this year, instead of mandating a prompt every day. I started out doing this, but it was not working. I think I need to work on better lessons at the beginning of the year on choosing a topic in order to facilitate this.
  • The book initially is very insistent on no prompts. However, my students are assessed on response to prompts and also have to complete prompted writing at times in their regular class. I think I can work this skill in by not requiring prompt responses until we're established in our routine and only having a "must-do" every few weeks. I'm still considering this.
  • I need to change my language subtlety when conferring with students about their writing in order to promote revision. I also need to change the way I think about finished products and our objective in writing.
  • Finally, I think I need to make a bigger deal about sharing and publishing student work.
I'm not quite done yet, and I'm sure there are more things to consider about my writing instruction. Have any of you read this book? Any thoughts? 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

hello summertime

I am completely done.

And, yes, they did finish fixing that hole in the wall. They also installed an industrial-strength doorstop. They promised it would last at least the summer plus two weeks. We'll see.

I had my end-of-year induction conference today. My principal and assistant principal were extremely complementary. They listed on my form that I was particularly strong in collaboration, meeting the specific needs of my student population, and comprehensive planning for teaching and learning. They also apologized to me for my assistant situation at the beginning of the year. I didn't expect that, but I appreciated it.

I'm going to kick my summer off right: a swim, a nap, and a good book. Hopefully you're out for the year, too, and able to do the same.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

requiem for a lost latte

As you might surmise from my blog title, I'm a bit serious about my caffeine intake. This consumption is usually in the form of a venti iced nonfat latte from Starbucks. (An expensive habit I need to quit, but that's tangential.)

I even took a photo of my beloved latte (I'm only mostly joking) this morning, while commemorating the last breakfast I would scarf down frantically in my classroom (as a first year teacher, at least.)

However, me drinking all of this latte? Not meant to be. 

One latte was already lost last week to my newest small person, who snatched it away and drank from it before I could blink. (He then had to be stopped from taking it out of the trashcan to drink.) This one ended up on the floor when one of my other littles threw it. After denting a wall and bending my chart stand. Within four minutes. Before the school bell even rang. 

When my wingman/assistant came in, he tried to talk to the child and nearly got  his hand shut in a door. When he said, "You only have two hours before you're done for the year." . . . the small person only cried harder.

My mentor: "They're just showing you how much they're going to miss you."

I totally feel for this kid, and not wanting to leave. I get it. And compared to how this child started, today was no big deal. I'm just getting frustrated, because there is nothing I can do about it. I can't offer ESY just because you want to stay at school all summer. Sorry.

So, now that I'm DONE with my first year of teaching (!) I'm celebrating by going to Disney World taking a nap.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

shut. the. door.

Guess who has her IEP progress reports done a full 23 hours before they have to be sent home tomorrow. That would be this lady. That's even with staying up all night reading Gabriel's Rapture (I told you I use reading to procrastinate.) I also have all of my IEPs checked, my instructional files almost ready, and my room almost completely cleaned. Yes yes yes

I can't believe it. Tomorrow, year one is over.


So, anyway, if you've been keeping track. . . I hadn't seen the carpet in my closet since halfway through the first nine weeks. I had so much junk (tons of toys!) that I inherited and was unsure what to do with (besides, well, hiding it.) The closet also was locked, with no key to be found, for over half the school year. It was a black hole. Or something. But not anymore. . .

It's still extremely messy, but a much more usable kind. I can get to everything. I can actually walk into the closet. It is amazing. I have been bragging to everyone about how I can see the bottom of my triangular storage closet for once. (Most of them get stuck on "You have a triangular closet?" and don't fully appreciate the unclutering. A shame.)

Also, the bookshelf in my room is slowly getting more organized, too. And the buckets are going home tomorrow (woot!)

So, are you all out yet?