Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Back to School Book Favorites!

I am only a little over 24 hours away from my first day back and I'm SO excited to get started.  I was able to meet 18 out of the 28 students and parents I'll have this year.  I was honestly OVERWHELMED with how much support and love they all were already showing.  I think its going to be a fantastic year!!  So of course this means I'm blowing the dust off of my Back to School binder with all of my favorite 'go to' games, activities and most importantly - BOOKS!! Back to school themed books are some of my favorite ones to read all year.  Above all, First Day Jitters.  Classic!!  So today I bring you...

Myself and other amazing bloggers would love to share our favorite of the favorite Back to School books and with that maybe.. a freebie!!  

So there are so many amazing discussions that come from reading this book.  The biggest of course is  'Did you know that Sarah Hartwell was a teacher?'  and 'How did the author conceal the fact that she was a teacher?'  But something I love to do to help put a positive spin on the book is have the students change the ending.  Yes its an adorable story about being nervous on the first day of school and we always talk about the fact that those feelings are completely natural, etc.  But I want to make sure I end on a positive note in aide to try and relieve some of the jitters my students might be having.  

So with this I have the students recreate the story with a positive twist.  Same characters, same setting, and they even have the challenge of trying to recreate the allusion that Sarah is a student - but this time she's EXCITED to go to school.  How would the story change?  The students get to choose a word to change the title.  Example:  First Day Delights  Then its simple (duh, its the first day of school!)  They brainstorm, plan out their writing, and write!!  I love doing this too because it lets me see how they are as writers and I get to know them so much better.  We always share out our stories when we're done and talk about how we're going to make our own story by having the best first day we can!

If you want to try the activity, please feel free to download it by clicking the photo above!  And definitely make sure to check out the other Back to School Book Favorites these authors have!  Happy Back to School!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Why I Don't Level My Classroom Library

Hey friends!  I want to preference this post by saying these are my opinions.  There is probably research out there to contradict what I do as well as support what I do.  Please do not take this post as this is the 'right' way.  Just some things to ponder over ;)  

So you've all seen those pictures on blogs, Pinterest, etc - of those AMAZINGLY beautiful classroom libraries.  Not a book out of place, color matching book containers, and newly placed labels gracing the front of each bin.  Makes me DROOL!!  Grab your tissue now - drool zone ahead!  

Beautiful isn't it!?  Yeah - that's NOT my classroom!  That would be the amazing Reagan Tunstall's classroom.  My classroom, yeah, it doesn't look like that.  The bins are broken, they are mismatched (not my choice - because my budget doesn't allow me to buy new ones), and there are books crooked and laying on top of other books.  Do I WANT it to be like that?  No, but the reality of it is - that's what it has to be and that's what it becomes due to the fact that I don't level my library.  There are many reasons why I don't level mine.  Again, there are pros and cons to both ways - I'm just sharing my thoughts ;)  

You've all heard of the 'walk of shame' right?  When a student gets in trouble and they have to walk over to move their clip on the clip chart or flip their card, or whatever the system might be.  It's embarrassing.  Have you ever thought of that or those students who are always having to pick from the 'lower' book bins?  Let's face it.  The students KNOW what the levels mean.  Whether we do A, B, C or Lexiles, or levels like 1.0 - 2.0, etc.  They figure it out.  How would you like it if you were the child who always was picking from those lower bins?  The other students would look at you and wonder why and YOU would look at them and wonder why...  As minimal as it may seem, I don't want there to be any doubt in my students' reading abilities.  I want them not to have any type of book segregation that may come about due to my organizational need to level my book.  Now - do I have the level on them somewhere physically on the book?  Yes!  Inside the front cover only where the student opening the book could see.  

There are natural categories to books and I want my students to experience those categories.  So when I organize my books, I do them all by genre.  This then allows the students to understand similarities between books without me even having to 'teach' the genres themselves.  Now, I do obviously teach genres - but you would be amazed at how quickly the students understand genres when they are choosing them and understanding them on their own without me giving them the specifics of each category.  

Not leveling my books allows my students to SEE what other books are out there that are not technically on or in their level/range.  If I have my books leveled and they are told to keep to that specific level(s) then they don't get to see the other books that are out there.  Seeing books that aren't on their level gives them something to look forward to.  A motivational tact if you would.  I've had MANY conversations with students about 'I can't WAIT to read this book!  I'm going to get there Mrs. Harris!"  And that's all because as they were searching through the various levels of books, they were able to see books at all different levels.  I also think this is good for their understand of the different types of books - picture, chapter, etc. 

That's basically it.  Like I said, these are just my thoughts and opinions.  There may be logic to them or it just may be my crazy way of thinking but hopefully I gave you something to think about :)  I'd love to hear what you do to organize your classroom library!!  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Shark Week Blog Hop!

All teachers know that kids learn more when they’re excited and engaged. Today a team of bloggers come together to help your students take a BITE out of learning with a theme your students are sure to love! Even if you're not in school, definitely make sure to 'Swim' through these amazing posts and grab these amazing freebies for later! 


So what do I have for you today?  ;)  

This is an example of one of my Close Read Quickies!  They are designed to be used for an entire week.  I struggle getting in all of the pieces of a close read in one sitting, so in my classroom - we do it piece by piece!  Each student gets one copy of the story and on the back, the questions.  That's all they need for the entire week!  Each day they complete the close read step stated on the right side of the paper.  By Friday, they have read the story 3 times, completed a graphic organizer, answered text based evidence questions, and even done a response to text!  And each day it only takes 5-7 minutes to complete.  That's why I call them quickies! ;)

fintastic freebie

If you're in LOVE with this quick read quickie and want more - make sure to check out my TpT store.  Right now (July, 2015), I only have my animals pack (8 different close reads to use throughout the year), but I'm currently working on many other themed packets for you to use throughout the year whenever you need them!  :)  (If you have a specific topic you'd like, let me know!) To check out the animals packet, click on the adorable tiger photo below!  

Be sure to go for a swim and visit Primary Inspiration for your next freebie!

Every blog in the Shark Week Blog Hop features a jawesome freebie for you and your students- but hurry! Shark Week only lasts until Sunday, July 12  : )

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Daily 5 Book Study - Chapter 3

I'm going to put it out there - I'm NOT a fast reader, but reading this Daily 5 book has completely changed that.... or maybe its just that this book is THAT good!

Chapter 3 of The Daily 5 is all about the 10 steps to teaching and learning independence.  

I'm so thankful that there's a chapter all about this topic because I know its something that I, as a teacher, can ALWAYS use help with.  There were a lot of 'ah-ha!' moments in this chapter as well that I can't WAIT to share with you :)  

Step 1:  Identify what is to be taught
I was very much able to identify with this step as I use content objectives for EVERY lesson I teach.  I find that if I don't - as good of a lesson I think I might have, there's a chance the students honestly don't realize what they are practicing.  Making the students aware of what they are learning/practicing is crucial.  The way we do this for Daily 5 is by creating an "I Chart" (like a T-Chart, but using an I)  We use an I because the I stands for Independence (so clever!)  On the I Chart is where you will write (at the top) what the students are learning about.  First Grade Blue Skies has adorable I Charts ready made and free if you want to check them out!  These would also look great on large chart paper, especially when being taught at the beginning of the year!

Step 2: Set a purpose and create a sense of urgency
I thought this sentence in the book really summed this section up: "Setting a purpose and creating a sense of urgency establishes a culture in which every moment of learning and practicing counts."  Absolutely!  But how!?  It's all about making what you're doing meaningful to the students!  They need to know that by doing these tasks it will help them 1.  become a better reader  and 2.  will make reading fun!  The Daily 5 book suggests to write BOTH of these 'why's' at the top of your I charts when doing the 10 steps to independence.  

Step 3:  Record desired behaviors on an I-Chart
There is something very specific about giving directions.  I can tell a student to go sit and read..  OR I can break down that desired behavior and describe it to the child to they know exactly what my expectations are.  In step 3, we are doing just that.  We leave very little room for error when it comes to the students NOT knowing what is expected of them.  In the chapter, the desired behaviors for "Read to Self" are listed as the following:  

*  Read the whole time
*Stay in one spot
*Get started right away
*Work quietly
*Build Stamina

Notice how all of these are written.  None of them are written telling the students what NOT to do - they are all written by telling the students the positive behaviors they expect to see.  

Step 4:  Model most-desirable behaviors
Students learn the best in 3 ways:  visually, audibly, and kinesthetically  When all three are combined,  the maximum amount of learning can take place.  Not only should we be modeling these desired behaviors but the students should also be practicing them.  Giving the students the time to create the muscle memory of what the behaviors should look, feel, and sound like will help create a sounding board for the year when they begin to do this completely independently.  Every behavior should be modeled.  After modeling, its good to finish by asking the question, "Boys and Girls - If ____ continued to do this behavior, would he/she become a good reader?"  And of course, the answer is YES!!

Step 5:  Model least-desirable behaviors, then most-desirable
Just like modeling the most-desireable behaviors, modeling the least-desirable behaviors is just as powerful.  Not only does it help determine for the students exactly what behaviors you hope not to see, but it allows them to see the complete difference between both behaviors.  When doing this, you'll want to make sure to always end with the doing the most-desirable behavior to help end on a positive note as well as the picture left in their minds of what to do correctly!  And if you're really smart - you'll have the students who you 'know' MIGHT be one to do the least-desireable behaviors to model them incorrectly and then correctly for you ;)  

Step 6: Place students around the room
This was definitely one of my 'ah-ha' moments.  Before reading The Daily 5, I would have NEVER 'practiced' this.  But now, its like 'duh!'  

Allowing the students the chance to practice grabbing their book boxes filled with their 'Just Right Books"  or other materials and finding suitable places to sit will allow you the chance to have those important conversations about where they should sit.  Also, by allowing the students to know that there will be many transitions and many opportunities to sit in the 'best' spots, then you won't have those petty arguments throughout the year. Again - DUH!!

Step 7: Practice and build stamina
Step 7 will happen with step 6 - while practicing finding spots and grabbing materials, they will also have the chance to build up their stamina for independent reading.  The Daily 5 is very specific    about starting small and working your way up.  Do not assume that your kids can do an amount of time you would think 'normal'.  For my 3rd graders, I plan on starting at around 4-5 minutes.  How will I know if that's too much time at the beginning?  I'll look for specific behaviors that are telling me they (even just 1 or 2 kids) have reached their breaking point.  Those might be looking around the room, talking to others, getting up for drinks etc.  When these behaviors begin to be present, stopping that practice round and moving on to something else is a good thing to do!  

Step 8:  Stay out of the way
This was another 'ah-ha!' moment.  I always thought that when teaching independent work, my presence was always needed to keep behavior in line.  But think about it this way - by doing that you're teaching the students that, that is how they should act when you're there walking around.  So what happens when you're not there and instead you're with other students?  They act differently!  I've never thought about it like this.  But if I'm eventually wanting the students to be able to behave and be independent as I'm working with others, then as they practice that behavior I need to stay away from them.  No walking around, no whispering positive things in their ears.  Nothing - except for my 'invisible' watchful eye looking for those behaviors to know when its time to move on!

Step 9:  Use a quiet signal to bring students back to the gathering place
Just like it sounds...  (pun intended!)  No need to talk to the students or get them all riled up with a loud noise or even your voice.  A simple 'call to order' by using a soft chime, rain stick, or soft music.  Using something louder can throw off the stamina that the students have going on.

Step 10: Conduct a group check-in; Ask, "How did it go?"
Making sure that the students get a chance to reflect on how their session of daily 5 or practice session went, can be a very important moment in the day/lesson.  Calling the students back to the gathering location and simply asking them to give you a silent signal on how they did on the specific desired behaviors allows them to think back on their behaviors and efforts and also to set goals for next time.  Using a 1-4 scale, a thumbs up/down/sideways, smiley faces - whatever you want to use.  Being able to have those discussions and setting goals, whether in journals, verbal, or intrinsically, can be a powerful tool.   

You made it all the way through!!  Please let me know what you think and make sure to check out all of the other amazing bloggers and their takes on Chapter 3!  :)  


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summer Camp - GoNoodle Style!! (Linky & Giveaway!)

So if you're like me, you use GoNoodle ALL THE TIME!!  If you have no idea what GoNoodle is, then STOP reading this post and go check it out night now!  I mean it.. stop...reading and GO!  It's honestly one of the most amazing resources a teacher of almost ANY grade could use in their classroom.  The website - which is free - is filled with fun brain breaks, exercises, and activities that get the kids up and out of their seat and moving!   They last anywhere from 1 minute to 5 minutes so they don't take a lot of time and are perfect for those in-between lesson times.  GoNoodle PLUS, which is the paid version, is even BETTER!  There are customizable activities you can use for math, reading, social studies, vocabulary and more!  It's worth every single penny!  Whew!  Ok, can you tell that I <3 GoNoodle?  

Well...  as if GoNoodle couldn't get ANY better - they just did!  Starting Monday, June 29th - GoNoodle is kicking off their FREE Summer Camp Program!!  This program is perfect for moms of kids at almost ANY age!  My twins are 2 and 1/2 and you better believe I have them signed up and ready to go!  

If this is your first time hearing of GoNoodle -- Camp GoNoodle is a great introduction that you can do with your whole family!

How It Works:
     Head to camp! Each Monday starting June 29, a new set of five adventures will appear at  Go on adventures! Each adventure uses’s active videos and games for inspiration, and challenges kids to use their imaginations, get moving, and be outside. Picture building your own DIY jetpack, creating an obstacle course race, or making sushi with things you already have at home.  Sing along! Each week includes two brand new camp songs to inspire creativity and movement.  Connect with fellow campers! Share your adventures using the #campgonoodle hashtag to join the camp community. Each week, Campers of the Week are recognized as all-stars and earn exclusive Camp GoNoodle prizes.  Earn badges! Complete each week of adventure by printing the weekly badge to hang up, loud and proud.
There will be 4 weeks of camp...each having a different theme!
All you need for Camp is...
a free GoNoodle account
a device with internet access
a family ready for adventure

If you already have a GoNoodle teacher/classroom account, but want to participate at home with your own family, you will need to sign up HERE to receive Camp GoNoodle emails!

So whether you're a mom of a 3rd grader, a toddler, or even a middle schooler - this program is for you!!  I hope you'll join me as I'll be posting all about it with pictures (adorable ones at that!) of my kids doing all of the amazing activities that GoNoodle has planned for us!  

**Attn Bloggers**  Want to help me spread the word...AND have a chance to WIN some amazing GoNoodle Swag!?  Then here's what to do:  

1.     Grab the GoNoodle Linky Image (both of them!) for your post
2.   Use a program (like PPT), fill in the linky image answering all of the questions
3.  Write a blog post about Camp GoNoodle and use the images in your post - encourage other bloggers to come link up too!!

(use this link in your post so everyone who links up will show up on your page too!)

 <!-- start InLinkz script -->
    <div class='InLinkzContainer' id='538888' >
    <a  rel='nofollow' href="" title="click to view in an external page.">An InLinkz Link-up</a></div>
    <script type='text/javascript' src='//'></script>
<!-- end InLinkz script -->

4.  Come back here and link up with me!  

GoNoodle is going to use a random number generator to choose a winner from all of the teacher bloggers that link up.  This will occur next Saturday, July 4th.

Here's what you can win!

I hope you'll join me in both participating in Camp GoNoodle AND linking up!  Can't wait to hear all about your adventures! :)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Summer Stock Up!

So believe it or not, I only have 4 more weeks left of summer break..  *Insert Tears Here*  And one of those weeks I'll be in Vegas!  So there's spare moment that I'm not thinking about... dun dun dunnnn..  Back to school!  I'm already stalking all of my favorite blogs, TpT stores, Instagram, etc to find what I want and need so I'm not overwhelmed when the time comes!  

So I'm teaming up with some other amazing bloggers to bring you the #SummerStockUp!  We have all chosen one (or two) items that we think are 'da bomb' that will help you kickstart your year off right.  There are lots of different categories to choose from too!  And what's even better - everything in the stock up you'll be able to grab a 'sample' of on Facebook before purchasing so you know if you'll like it or not!  

So here's what I got for ya! ;)

Nothing else screams B2S than Getting To Know You Activities!!  And what better way to do 'get to know ya' than by using a Cootie Catcher!?  

There are FIVE different versions to choose from!  Some of them have questions for the students to answer and some of them are interactive, where the kids get to write in their answers in order to play!  The directions on how to fold them are included of course! ;)   These are perfect to keep your students engaged and entertained while you're collecting that beginning of the year data, fluency, etc.   You can grab the full product HERE!  

Another back to school category:  Classroom Management!  

The first 6 weeks of school, as we all know, can make us or break us!  We have to teach those procedures and expectations just right in order to create the classroom culture we want and need.  During this time, I do a lot of goal setting with my students.  Even with the procedures I think it makes it more motivation and meaningful for them.  So I created these little "Go for the Goal" books that the students keep in their desks for the first 6 weeks of school.  As we learn the procedures, the students create a personal goal for themselves and write it in their book.  Then they come up with 2-3 things they can do to meet this goal.  

For example:  there's a page in the book dedicated to Hallway Procedures.  As a student, I might write: "I can be quite in the hallway"  That would be a great goal!  Then to do this I might write:  
1.  Not turn around in line
2.  Keep a bubble in my mouth at all times
3.  Ignore my friends when they are talking to me

This breaks down the procedures into actions that they understand.  

THEN what I do is as I watch my class over the next 6 weeks, I give them feedback on all of the goals they have set.  I'll randomly collect them at the end of the day and go through and write them messages on how they are doing.  Or I'll give stickers randomly in their books.  They LOVE getting that personal feedback from them and its so motivating!!  I love using these procedure books!!  And no matter what your procedures are - you can use them! They are perfect for any grade :)  

You can grab the full version of the product HERE!  

Make sure to head over to my Facebook page to grab free versions of these products to see up close!  :)  

So want more?  There's LOTS more!  Check out the entire Summer Stock up by clicking on the photo below and checking out ALL of the categories there are!  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Daily 5 Book Study, Chapter 2

Hi Y'all!  Thanks for joining me for Chapter 2 of the Daily 5 book study!  I'm enjoying every flip, turn, and word of this book and getting excited to begin to implement it!  So here's the low down for chapter 2 :)

The chapter began by asking a very important question that we ALL have to stop and ask ourselves...  

"What beliefs and principles influence your teaching and learning goals?" (pg 22)  

At this point, which was the first sentence in, I had to stop and think.  On what values and beliefs do I stand on when it comes to teaching and learning?  My first one is KIDS FIRST!  If it doesn't do right for the students, then I won't do it..  I'll get back to you on my others ;) 

So as you can guess, this chapter was all about The Daily 5's Core Beliefs and Foundations.  I'm going to quickly go through each one and give a little insight with about them.  :)

Trust and Respect
What I love about this section (all of them really) is that it made me very reflective about my current teaching.  In one sentence, "Trusting children is the underpinning of what makes the Daily 5 work."  Think about it - how can they be doing all of these amazing 'stations' without our trust.  It's something we have to establish from day one.  But how do we do that?  By getting to know our kids.  By understanding that their behavior is a sign that their stamina isn't ready for what I'm giving them and that they either need a break or redirection.  Stamina is something that is taught, not assumed.  Children are almost always doing their very best and even in the difficult times its our job to trust them no matter what.

It makes perfect sense that community is a core belief of the Daily 5 when trust is one.  Those go hand in hand.  Without one there can't be another.  One of my biggest hesitations when it comes to The Daily 5 is accountability.  How will I KNOW that they are doing what they are supposed to?  If I can teach my class to be a community that holds each other accountable in a respectful manner and culture then I won't have to be the one who is constantly up and correcting behaviors and answering questions.  The students rely on one another to do just this.  Again, this is all taught and practiced - we cannot assume that this can be 'known'.  

"It rings true for all of us, not just the children we serve:  When we have some say in the matter, we are much more motivated to complete the talk."  This about sums it up people.  Being able to CHOOSE what they want to do when they want to do it (other than meeting with the teacher of course) they enjoy it!  Maybe they don't want to write every day at 9:30.  Then they don't have to!  This diagram from the book shows that a child's achievement is directly related to their motivation and use of choice in their academics. 

Let me tell you a sigh of relief came to me when I came to this core value.  I do feel that this is one of my own beliefs when it comes to teaching.  I want and need to hold my students accountable and be consistent about it as well.  They basically stated in this section that holding students accountable isn't always about having them complete this specific worksheet.  When doing the Daily 5, students are able to demonstrate their accountability by making acceptable choices in their rotations, noise level, sitting location, etc.  

Brain Research
The next core value is brain research, which I found fascinating to read about! And this is where I had my 'ah-ha!' moment as well that confirmed I need to change the structure of my reading block.  The book stated that "The average number of year the children are in age parallels the average number of minutes they can maintain attention during direction instruction.  What more can you say to that!?  

Transitions as Brain and Body Breaks
Knowing now that students' attention can only be as long as their age, they clearly need a break from activity to activity.  This doesn't always have to be an actual break, meaning they are doing something different like GoNoodle, or brain break activities - although those are great to do every now and then!  Just the fact that they are getting up and moving is giving them the break they need.  This is giving them time to refocus, getting them physically moving, and also provides time to squeeze in a focus lesson.  

These core values are truly the organs of The Daily 5.  Without them, it simply won't work.  Now is our chance to start thinking about how we are going to teach these values to our students.  What kind of classroom management system will we have to keep a positive culture going?  How will we integrate the brain and body breaks into our Daily 5 system.  Will we take into consideration the amount of time the students can learn whole group?  

Lots to think about!  And go!  

Want to post about chapter two!?  Link up with me here!

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