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June 29, 2019

"Adopt a Reader" Idea

This last year there was a great idea that swept over the classrooms - having sponsors step up to "adopt" a reader.  For $9 a year, a child could receive a school year's worth of books from Scholastic. 

9 books from the dollar deals.  $9.  That's it.

Well I saw fellow teachers put it out there on Facebook, and they were getting so many of their personal friends to donate.  A person there and a person here.  I put it out on Facebook too, and then came the awkward silence that followed.  It was just a little embarrassing.  

Then I got a message from my dad that forever changed my classroom.  He said that he wanted to sponsor not just one or two kids, but the ENTIRE class of 30 kids.

It's he a great guy?!!

(Yes, it was a tax write off for him, but STILL! He is a great guy, and he knows how important reading is.).

The kids this year received a book a month from my dad.  

I picked up some handled gift bags from Michaels, labeled the bags with the kids names on one side, and added this note on the back of the bag.   I chose different genres they would enjoy, all of them were from the dollar deals.  I chose a mixture of classics and newer.  They each had a message to pass on.   The kids were able to fill their home libraries with the books, or they passed them onto others after they read them.

It was a nice treat every month.  It was a gift that continued to give.  AND Dad has already said he's going to do it again next year.  :)  

June 28, 2019

Free Reward Cards

One thing that I do every summer is print off a new batch of reward coupons.  These free rewards have been so helpful with my classes the last few years.  I use these in conjunction with Class Dojo.  After so many points the kids get to choose a random one from the mini tub.  I try and focus more on positive praise, and that has helped with some of the behavior issues that have crept up.  They are motivating.

Anyhow, here they are in case anyone else can use them.  Reward cards to print - can print 16 cards per page (just select 4 pages per sheet) can be read just fine. Then laminate them to save for multiple uses.  

Hope this helps!

June 27, 2019

Book Beads!

This last year my grade level team wanted to switch things up, so we started a grade level 40 Book Challenge.  Our goal was to encourage kids to read multiple genres, then share them with us during our Reading Conferences.  I had read the Book Whisperer and it was important to me to give students some choice, but since they are 10 and 11 year olds I also wanted to give them some direction.  I gave the kids this sheet that outlined the different genres I wanted them to focus on.

A little bit of this, and a little bit of that.  As they read their books, they kept this in their Classwork folder (in a sheet protector) so they could jot down the book titles and dates of completion.  About once a month I would pull out the pony beads and we would update their pipe cleaner with the completed book beads.  

Pipe cleaner?  Yep - a black pipe cleaner with a black pony bead twisted on the end to keep them from sliding off.  The ends of the pipe cleaner had an address label folded in half with their classroom number (since they would all start looking the same).  Each pipe cleaner could hold up to 30ish beads (they needed room at the end to twist the pipe cleaner back around the black bead to make a circle).  This was a quick, easy, and cheap method for the kids to view their book choices of the year.  I stored 5 pipe cleaners per mason jar, total of 6 jars, which really motivated the kids to keep reading throughout the year.  Plus it looked pretty. :)

The colors were added to the spines of my classroom library books via more address labels and a big box of markers.  The students helped me label the books as we were talking about them during our conferences.  During our Reading Conferences we would talk books, what they enjoyed, and I'd ask them some specific (to our unit) questions about their books.  Sometimes I would listen to them read - even big kids love having that one on one attention.  So the kids weren't rushing through their books, we had them write short (key word: SHORT) book recommendations/summaries on index cards that this year I hope to add them to the inside front covers of the books in my library.  

Okay - here's what I have in case anyone wants it:

Reward cards for students to take home

Hope this helps!

June 26, 2019

The Move to 5th Grade

A little over 2 years ago I was presented by an opportunity to leave what I thought was my dream grade to move to a new one.  Age wise, it's really not that different between 4th and 5th.  It's still upper elementary, the kids are still independent - or they are compared to their primary selves, it's still the same type of material to teach.  But after 10 years in 4th grade, I was ready for a new challenge.  I had gotten to the point that I was starting to dread teaching certain units, even though overall I still loved it.  This coming year will be my 20th year in the classroom.  I've taught every grade (except 7th) in some manner and fashion over the years, with the majority of my time in 4th grade.

Now, back up a little... why would I have moved from my dream age?  It's mainly about the classroom.  You see, my mom had taught for years and years in an old moldy classroom and ended up getting some major health issues because of it.  Oh, she loved the primary ages with her whole heart and she was in her happy place while at school, but looking back some of her health issues could have been changed due to the physical classroom she was in for those many years.

I was in an old, falling apart portable.  I didn't want the possible mold and whatever else was living up there to cause the same issues that something similar has caused my mom.  Now, I know every classroom has it's highs and lows.  The portables are the largest floor space of all the classrooms (besides the science labs).  There are options to move those rolling cabinets to wherever you want them to go.  But it was mainly a health thing for me.

Like I said, I've taught everything from K-8th (except 7th).  Here's the run down of what I've learned with the different grades... they are ALL special and unique.  They all have pros and cons (can we say a Kindergartener's wet shoelaces anyone?).  They all have exciting moments and they all have those moments that you wonder what in the world the kids are thinking.  As the kids get older, you can definitely have more conversations with them as individuals.  As the kids are younger, they tend to show their love to their teachers a little more open.  I learned over the years that it's very hard for me to teach the same age span that my own children are in.  I like variety, I like learning new things, and when I get into a rut - even if it's a self imposed rut, then I start screaming for something different.  I want to be creative, I want a challenge, I want to keep growing.

When I graduated college in 2000, there were NO jobs in my hometown.  Here I was a newbie graduate with the thought that I would go back home (I went to school 367 miles away), and there were no general ed. positions available.  I had to be open to taking whatever job came my way - and it happened at the last moments of the summer, a 40% + 40% positions of being an elementary science prep teacher.  I worked 2 days a week at one school in the district, and another 2 days at a school across town.  I had to learn to share a classroom with a veteran teacher, have 15 classes of students, and teach 5 different grade levels.  But I did it and that experience taught me so much.  You know, growing up I always disliked science, and yet I was totally immersed in it.  I learned to appreciate it.

Then the next year one of my principals called me up and offered me a special needs classroom - adorable Kinder and 1st graders that just needed some extra love and help with communication.  Again, not what I expected, but after having hundreds of students, I absolutely loved my TEN students.  My 6 Kindergarteners went home at lunch time, and afterwards I could work with my 4 first graders on their material.  You can't always imagine what the next year will hold.  I knew with both of these years that they were a 1 year deal.  I had to get an emergency credential to teach these special classes for the year, and as a newlywed I wasn't able to go back to school at that point.

Then the principal once again made a phone call, there wasn't another position at his school, but he called a superintendent friend in the neighboring district.  She then called me and offered me a position right away... get this - as a SIXTH grade teacher!  I went in for an interview - which was more of a "you have the job if you want it" interview, and found out that I would teach 6th grade CORE half the day, and 5,6,8th grade Science the other half.  So from Science to Kinder to 6th/5th/8th in 3 years.  It was amazing teaching in a country school.  Same thing though - country vs. suburban - each district had it's pros and challenges (can you say baby mice in a pencil box?).

You have to bloom where you're planted.

As great as all this is, when I had a chance the next year for a 4th grade classroom, just a 4th grade classroom, I jumped at the chance.  I was pregnant with our oldest, I was commuting 2.5 hours a day since we had finally bought a house where we could afford one, and I just needed a little break.  So I took that year and loved learning more about California history.  History is my thing.  I love it, and I love making it come alive.  The next year that 4th grade class turned into a 3/4 combo.  I was ready to move closer to home and not make that daily commute, but my superintendent/principal gave me the great honor of district Teacher of the Year.

I am forever grateful for that recognition.  I think, no, I know that award opened up doors in my hometown to get me a position.  The last 14 years I have been teaching at the school around the corner from my house.  No commute.  My kids - now three of them - attend or have attended my school.  I taught 8 of the last 14 years in Fourth Grade.  I went to 2nd grade for while too, when I had my second and third babies, it was another favorite.  Smaller class sizes alone was special.  This will now be my third year in 5th grade.  I have fallen more in love with American History.  I really do love the intermediate age group.

The younger grades definitely had more prep work to prep for lessons, the older grades have more time grading after the lesson.  Every grade is special, every grade is unique.

Now why in the world did I tell you all that about me?  Maybe you are a brand new teacher and don't yet have a job figured out for next year.  It's okay.  Something will work out.  After all those beginning years I've realized that I tend to fall exactly where I'm supposed to be.  You may not know the big reason why you are in certain positions, but that's okay.  Every situation will teach you something.  I honestly wouldn't change the beginning of my career - even with all the headaches - because I learned so much.

The other reason? Well, after two years of not blogging I am going to start sharing what I've done the last couple of years in my 5th grade classroom and I wanted to "set the stage".  I want you to know where I've come and maybe why I do things the way that I do.  I'm still trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do in the future, I have some ideas that just won't go away.  Maybe by writing things down I will see the big picture.  Anyhow, that's me.

June 25, 2019

Here I Am... Again...

Hi Everyone,
It's been over 2 years, almost 2.5, since I've written anything on this little old blog.  A lot has happened in the last 2 years...  I don't know if anyone even reads blogs anymore, I know that my own life has changed and gotten busier and there isn't as much time on Saturday mornings to read as much as I would like.

When I first started this website in the fall of 2012, I wanted to remember those good moments in the classroom.  It was a tough year, and one that I didn't think I would make it through without all my hair falling out.  The blog helped me remember to make a memory every day.  To do something memorable, to have some fun, to smile, to review and reflect on what I knew.

Then what was started in fun, as something that was supposed to help with stress, started to become incredibly stressful.  So I needed to take a break.  I had a big loss in my life and went through a rough patch with grief.  My family got a diagnosis that made me rethink everything that I thought I knew about autism, and all our "spare" time has been spent learning about services and therapies, and advocating until we were blue in the face.  In the midst of it all I changed grades and realized that I was completely overwhelmed with a new grade (even though it was just one grade difference), and so I just backed out of the blogging world, creating for TPT, and all the business stuff that comes along with it.

I still don't know what the future holds (does anyone?), but I'm feeling more centered and want this blog to go back to my reminder of those memorable moments in the classroom.  Even without perfect pictures, or pinning anything over to Pinterest, or having to have printables for one to download.  It's not a sales pitch, and I'm still trying to avoid stress because my life is just too stressful.  It's just me trying to navigate what I've learned that past 19 years of teaching, what I've learned and experienced over the last 2 years of being in fifth grade, and how I've grown as a teacher.

Here I am... again...