Thursday, March 22, 2012


I had a professional day today (how weird is it to be on-campus and technically not be there?) I have had so many great subs this year, both during the long time that I was without an assistant and on the days I've been out. I've had great subs. Today's wasn't one of them.

I left some things for her to prep for tomorrow, things my assistant would've done if I was there. I left written instructions. I went over it with her. I left a picture of the finished product so she could see how it went together. . .

Complete waste of paper. NOTHING was done right, and it was wrong enough that my little perfectionists will not abide it. Ugh.

Anyway, after being sad about that waste of natural resources. . . I did have one thing to perk me up.

It's here! (Except my three copies of workbook B . . .) I'm stoked, because my kids actually like Reading Mastery (Yes, haters, they like it) and some are close to the end of RM Classic 1. The first day we started reading in the storybooks, one of my kids declared it awesome. They love the storybooks, because they like that they can read a lot of words correctly without picture prompts and understand the story. "It's not a baby book." (Interesting how Level D guided reading books are babyish, but the orthography isn't. It probably helps them that I've shown them that the letters gradually change to regular font.)

We're going to go ahead with the language arts component next week. I'm not sure how they'll feel about it. They like the reading portion, but they also understood the urgency of working hard on reading. ("Once I read better, I can get cooler books on library day.") They don't seem to realize that they have language deficits. They can tell me amazing things about their special interests, solve complex problems, create great things with legos . . . but falter when I ask them to put something under their chair or say that the picture goes above the story. We did positional words during our location/movement unit, but they didn't seem to realize that they should know those concepts.

We'll see. Tomorrow it's off to do more progress reports and try to re-cut all the pieces for the project we're doing . . . ho hum . . .

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

anger button

I escaped to my mentor's classroom today for a moment, referral in hand. She blinked in surprise; I hardly ever use office referrals, and usually only after a huge incident. It had been quiet.

It's (student,) I said, he's sassy, rude, and defiant today. This particular child, dear to my heart like all of them, has improved a lot this year. He's normally anxious and sad when he acts inappropriately, not measured and cruel-tounged. I have less sympathy for it, I told her.

She grinned, and I thought it was just because she's the complete opposite of me in what kinds of kids with emotional disabilities she works best with. She pulled out a sheet from one of her socio-emotional lessons entitled "Angry Button." It was illustrated with a surly child. "That's (student) right now. And that's your angry button." She laughed, but it was true. I have more patience with children who are completely out of control or are obviously upset, but get annoyed with ones who are hurtful or defiant with calm intention.

I'm trying to get better at it quickly, because I know my reaction is part of the problem.

Above is one of the pictures from our DonorsChoose Thank You projects. We finally got all of our materials back (on time!) I put in another project, but it hasn't been approved yet. I had enough points to do a special request, so I'm asking for an iPad. 

For our St. Patrick's Day display, my mentor and I used the pots of gold activity from The Teacher Wife. The littles (and her kids, the bigs?) wrote about a person who is worth more to them than gold. I loved how cute it looks in the hallway, and we managed to hit goals for all of our kiddos from grades 1-5 in one swoop.

Some of my littles also made these leprechauns from The First Grade Parade and wrote about a time they felt lucky. One of my littles had the hardest time pounding out one sentence for this, but most of them were pretty motivated by the craft.

We read Julia Cook's My Mouth is a Volcano and did this cute activity from Mrs. Miner's Kindergarten Monkey Business.

We're going over contractions right now, so we made these contraction kites I found at The Weekly Hive. I'm kind of conflicted about teaching them (and some of our word wall words) because our reading program will not cover them for a while. I'm also conflicted about doing spelling with our word wall words because they are words my kids absolutely cannot read. I spend more time each week teaching them to read the words, rather than have them memorize the spelling. Plus, our WWWs aren't grouped in a logical (to me) way.

Tomorrow I have a professional day, so I left some pretty cool plans. I'm hoping they have fun. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

my caseload, it keeps a-chanigin'

I'm going to try to get in a post over the weekend, but I'm at my parents house recovering from the plague (you should've seen my swollen joints yesterday. . .)

I lost my kinder-baby about a week ago. Her family moved out-of-district, so she's at a new school. Her new district has called already because they don't have a class like mine for kinders (especially with high iq.) I'm not ruling out boomerang-ing. We'll see.

I have a new friend that may be starting next week, dependent on the IEP team's decision. And I'm concerned about how to do my literacy block (story of my life) because I probably don't have materials on his level. I'll figure it out, though, nbd.

On another note, I received word that my request for Reading Mastery was approved. Yay!

Friday, March 2, 2012

drinking the kool-aid

Friday couldn't be soon enough this week. My assistant was out for 3 days this week, which only served to remind me: a) how awesome he is and b) how much I've delegated to him, even though he says I don't give him much to do. On the upside, I taught (essentially) solo for half of the year, so it wasn't too rough.

The week after Valentine's day was National Engineers Week. My littles engaged in a few engineering projects, although not as many as I had hoped for (I planned a TON that we didn't get to complete.) I think that's one of the things I'm going to plan out over the summer before next year. They had a blast creating things, but I think that next year I need to put more emphasis on genuine problem solving. Although, truthfully, the one activity that had the most components of our design process (aka problem solving model) caused the most stress/meltdowns among the little people.

Here's (some of) us with our hoop gliders:

We also did lots of other things that I have no pictures of.

Anyway, if you're wondering about the title of the post. . . 

I don't know how it is where you're from (and depending on if you're regular or special ed, YMMV) but around here direct instruction doesn't exactly mean Direct Instruction. And scripted, systematic, Direct Instruction is kind of a bad word. Kind of like basal reader, except somehow worse.

But, I was trained in DI. My college program lived/breathed/thought DI. And we learned how to test, place, adjust, remediate, supplement, modify, enrich . . . but most of that was done with a curriculum in mind. Every classroom I went in (13 observations, 2 internships, and one practicum = 15) used at least one scripted curriculum. (The school I did practicum in was school-wide DI! Regular ed kids used Reading Mastery.)

When I walked into my classroom in August, my first question was: "Where is my curriculum?" (Answer: "What do you mean?")

My school uses a Balanced Literacy approach. We have no core curriculum program for literacy. We use the workshop model. I have never seen it done, because it happens in regular ed classrooms. I could go observe now at my school . . . if I had time. We didn't really cover guided reading in college. I'd never seen anyone do conferring. It's foreign to me. So I read. Guided Reading, Literacy Workstations, The CAFE Book, Daily Five, everything I heard about. My literacy coach tried to help, but we come from very different training and I work with very different kids than she's used to. 

I think I'd love what they're doing . . . if I taught regular ed. But I don't. So I'm drinking the Kool-Aid, so to speak. I borrowed Reading Mastery 1 Classic from a colleague (because there's tons of RM stuff in our district's SpEd division) and I'm requesting that they buy my class Reading Mastery Signature Grade 1 (possibly other levels, too, as my kids come in/out.) I'm going to do Fast Cycle through Classic unless it seems like I need to slow down, and two of mine should be through it pretty quick (I started them at lesson 60 per the assessment guide, and they got through a lesson today super-fast and very easily) then continue on in the signature series (because we need the writing and language instruction, too!) 

So, if you know anyone who uses RM in their classroom that blogs, can you point me their way? I want to make sure my literacy block is still extremely interesting and engaging . . . but also efficient and systematic and effective. Yeah.

Also, two things I really love:
1) Engaged little people! (Bonus points for being engaged in good and not awesome evil!)

2) My enthusiasm for this one probably makes me a little weird, but . . .