Catch up with me!


Check out my classroom projects!

Things I enjoy ...





Ambassador blog badge











Where Moms Who Blog Go!







Farting Robots???

Missing a Monday is never a good thing …

Not that I like missing any day of the week, but I think Mondays are really tough since I think the tone is established for the week that first day.

But sometimes, it is totally unavoidable (like when your husband has a double ear infection along with a severe sinus infection and your daughter has an ear infection with lots of coughing and congestion, so he would not be much help to her staying at home)

So I contacted a sub, made sub plans, and got everything as ready as I could

In my mind, I was going to get a lot accomplished being at home that day since the rest of my family would be sick and in bed …

Well, you know how plans go …

But I did make a few things happen that might not have been possible otherwise …

While sitting on the couch (with my feet up) and spending time on Twitter, I came across a tweet from an author about swag bags to go with his book …

I am all about reading and swag bags!

So I sent a message to Jarrett Lerner saying that my students would love a swag bag (I did go and look at the summary and review of the book first before sending him a message … and quickly decided some of my students would really enjoy reading a story about a robot who farts: EngiNerds)

He responded asking questions about my class and mentioned that there is a classroom activity and discussion question guide on his website, and that he is willing to Skype.


Our class has already had a few Author Skype visits this year, but that is another blog post!

So while I was connecting with this author, I decided to check out his Twitter …

WOW! He tweets about so many great books and authors! I immediately want to purchase each book for my classroom!

I guess I will just add them to my ever-growing “Books To Buy” list!

One of his retweets led me to the site of another author ..

But that is another blog post!

I can’t wait to see how my students respond when I introduce this new book to add to our classroom library!

Normally I lay out the new books on a table in the classroom to let students see the new library additions a day before they can check them out …

This time I might do a book talk resulting in a book raffle …

How do you introduce books to students to get them excited about reading the new addtions to the classroom library?


Being Challenged




What do those 3 words mean to you?

What thoughts do those words inspire?

In my 16 years in public education, I have had a lot of new, several firsts, and more beginnings that I can count. I have moved schools (some by circumstance and some by choice). I have moved states. I have moved rooms. I have moved grades. With moving of any kind, there comes a variety of news, firsts, and beginnings.

At the end of last school year, the principal at my current school retired, so here was another opportunity for me experience something new, a first, and a beginning.

We tell our students that for change and growth to happen, things might be a bit uncomfortable; however, it is in that uncomfy feeling that things begin to make sense.

My school year did not start off the way I thought it would …

I took a chance last year and moved back into the classroom in a 3rd grade dual immersion program. At our school, students in the dual immersion program in the 3rd grade are taught in English for 50% of the day and in Spanish 50% of the day. I took on the role of the teaching the English half of the day. I really enjoy what I get a chance to do! My partner teacher and I planned over the summer. I spent time by the pool working on my schedule and gathering resources and reflecting to make this year in 3rd grade even better than last year.

As teachers we must be flexible (remember that I used to be the person who wanted everyone on the same page at the same time, but I am recovering from or overcoming that tendency). As a flexible teacher, I suddenly found myself not in 3rd grade but now in 4th grade, and I would be teaching the same students as I taught last year as well as a collections of news, firsts, and beginnings.

I have taught 4th grade before. It was the same group of students (who already knew what they could and could not get away with in my classroom). And although there were some tears at not working with my awesome co-teacher, I embraced the change and got ready for a new adventure.

Some adventures are shorter than others …

Soon I was moved back to teaching 3rd grade, which again resulted in some news, firsts, and beginnings.

I enjoyed my week as a 4th grade teacher. I enjoy my time as a 3rd grade teacher. I enjoy what I do!

Another new, first, and beginning for me this year was a new principal.

That principal came in with new ideas to share about restorative justice, a literacy focus, parents, volunteers, dismissal, lesson plans, copies and even reading homework. But even with the new ideas, I could tell there was one central focus …. the learning of our students.

I like to ask my students clarifying and probing questions to get the most our of their answers.  

I am now being asked clarifying and probing questions to get the most out of me as a teacher to benefit my students (or I guess I should say OUR students).

I am not being asked to things or to answer questions that are beyond my ability. I just have to slide out of the comfort zone and go deeper with my thinking and questioning.

That is what I want for my students to do …

Why should someone not expect that from me?

Why should I not expect that from myself?

I can’t tell you how much time I have spent looking at Depth of Knowledge activities, verbs, questions, and sentence starters already this year.

And I am not just looking at them, but analyzing, synthesizing, and applying them

But I feel like it is making me better …

It is challenging me to really examine what is happening in my classroom.

It is challenging me to form more meaningful relationships with my students, their parents, and my coworkers.

It is challenging me to really look at my curriculum using a different lens.

It is challenging me to have even higher expectations for my students.

It is challenging me to have even higher expectations for myself as a teacher.


Record to Improve?

Whether it is from a video, a voice mail message, or an audio recording of a message you left …
How do you react when you hear a recording of yourself?
Do you notice how your words can sound different than you think they should?
Do you notice how fast or slow you are talking?
Does it make you cringe a little and want to do it again to make it better?
Reading Fluency is more than just how many words I can read in a minutes and how fast I can go …
Think about how you react when you hear a person read aloud or give a speech. If the person does not read very smoothly, then most of the time the listener is more focused on trying to determine what is being said rather than the meaning of what is being said …
I was at a conference recently and after looking at the session descriptions, I marked the ones I wanted to attend … and sometimes had 3rd or 4th choices too.  But my favorites seemed to be the top choices of others too …
So I decided to do something I have done before at conferences … find a session that does not have that many people in it and attend it! That forces me to really listen and challenge myself to find connections I can use.
This time, the strategy turned out to be a gold mine! 
I do admit that I had thought the session description sounded a bit interesting when I first saw it but since the presenters were K-2 teachers, I was not to sure if any of the info would work for me …
Boy was I wrong …
I am used to teaching 4th and 5th grade students … this year I am teaching in a 3rd grade dual immersion class … these kids are babies!!! (in my mind at least)
The session I attended on focused on ways to use technology to help students improve their fluency.
The presenters have ipads in the classrooms. I have recently added a few Kindle Fires to my classroom, but can easily adjust the ideas, since the ideas here don’t focus a certain type of technology but focus on the improvement of fluency skills using the technology available.
Students can use the recording and playback features on the tablets (or even tape recorders if that is what is available) to increase their fluency and ability to self-evaluate.  
A student will record himself reading a story and then listens to it with a critical ear (most of the time we don’t need to be taught how to be critical) using a rubric. The rubric is a way for a student to listen to himself and then think about how he can get better.
How many times should he practice reading out loud before recording again?
What are the words that he needs to really focus on for clear pronunciation?
How can he make the words easier to understand?
After self-evaluation, guidance, and practice, a student records himself reading again. We now have both recordings and can hear the change and improvement. Have you seen a child’s face light up when he realizes he has really improved? It is pure sunshine!
As students progress, they begin recording their retell attempts and again use a rubric to evaluate  which leads to improvement …
Students can even record answers to comprehension questions to help them decide how to make the answers better …



Jumping In With Both Feet

Jumping in with both feet ….

That is how I approached starting a new teaching position this year (although I did lots of research and thinking before jumping) …

So I guess what I mean is that I am choosing not to start slow …

I started a teacher read aloud of Wonder by R.J. Palacio on day 1!

This has been such a great classroom community building experience.

Not only do I get a chance to model fluent reading and how I think while I am reading, but this book has also prompted my students to ask good questions, notice details, make inferences, and start discussions.

And all without any worksheets …

I have gotten a chance to observe and share my love of reading!

Students will ask me, “When we are going to find out what is happening to Auggie today?”

I remember reading a blog post this past summer from a teacher who mentioned a character in the bookthey read aloud in class seemed to become a member of their class … and I absolutely loved that, so maybe that is what is happening here too.

And I am just reading aloud and sharing my thinking about what I am reading …

I having such a great time!

Another thing that I started doing that first week of school was math centers or stations.

I started with some back-to-school math centers to help me do some preassessment of students but in a way they didn’t realize.  

We talked about expectations for how many people should be at each station, voice levels, and amount of focus needed.  

In my early years as a teacher (this is my 15th year but I still feel like a first year teacher at times), I liked to be in control and know what everyone was doing at all times … and actually I wanted everyone to be doing the same thing and at the same pace.  I know that is not possible, but part of me wanted it to be …

And there are times that part of me still does …

But since I know that is not going to happen, I am trying to provide enough structure in the math stations while still allowing for flexibility and differentation …

It also frees me up to work with students who need some extra encouragement and/or enrichment.

I think my past experiences doing Problem Based Learning helped me get to this point

I have heard other teacher say they just aren’t ready to start centers yet, and that works but for me, I jumped in with two feet ….

That could be due to the fact that I am afraid I might have talked myself out of it if I had put it off too long …

Vocabulary is another area where I am jumping in …

Right now I am using picture books to review, reinforce, and introduce reading skills.  The inspirations for these lessons include 6 vocabulary word a week … not 10 or 15.

I introduce one new word at a time, and we do a type of Frayer Model that includes a definition, illustration, sentence, and example. As a class we talk about ways the word can be used. Students and I work together to give lots of possibilities for each of those categories for the word. Each student creates his or her own Frayer Model for each word in their notebook.

Although we do one word at a time, we generally do two words a days. I have the words listed in the top corner of the board at the back of the room, so they are in view and I can try to use them throughout the day and week.

I am trying to promote the usage of these words in conversation rather than just a word and definition on a vocabulary list …

So here are 3 of the many things I have done in my classroom the first few weeks of school that I hope to continue throughout the year …

But I do recognize that I can’t be afraid to make changes that are needed to benefit student learning …


photo credit: Been Here Before? via photopin (license)


What questions will you ask and inspire today?