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Latest from the Blog

Reader's Workshop Series – Read and Respond Journals

Read and Respond Journals are the glue that holds our Reader’s Workshop together. I like to think of our journals as a map of each student’s learning and reading progress through the year. On the first day of school, each student gets his/her own crisp journal and we begin mapping out our year. During The First Weeks, students add illustrations of their favorite reading memory and their go-to reading spot. They also learn how to write and share meaningful reading recommendations and record their first Just Right Reading Range for the year. Excitement buzzes as students begin adding to their Must-Read Lists and filling in boxes on their Reading Challenge Record. We also set our first of three S.M.A.R.T. reading goals for the school year so the students can immediately begin reading with a purpose at home and at school. The bulk of the journal is used for writing about reading.

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Our reading conference table and supplies for student conferences.

Reader's Workshop Series – Balancing Accountability and Choice

“Time for reading is time well spent.” – Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer. In Miller’s class, students spend half of their reading block engaging in choice reading while she sprinkles meaningful, targeted instruction around the room…sounds like my cup of tea! I agree with every study she cites and all of her evidence that choice reading is the number one way to engage and build stronger readers. My classroom reality is…of course…different. I have to modify Miller’s style to get as close to my ideal while still meeting district initiatives. The result is a reader’s workshop block that starts with a 15-minute whole class read aloud, followed by 30 minutes of choice reading accompanied by reading activities that keep my students and me accountable. Here is a look inside a typical day during our third grade Reader’s Workshop: Read My school uses the Accelerated Reader program (the first conflict to Miller’s approach). All

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Reader's Workshop Series – The First Weeks

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of the Reader’s Workshop model I love so dearly…a bit of background. My classroom is a place where students learn from hands-on experience, explore their interests, converse, make mistakes and problem solve. I love to equip my third graders with tools that help them become independent learners in and out of the classroom. Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer validates all of these aspects of teaching in relation to reading instruction. Her words and experience boost my confidence in justifying the learning my students and I gain from our Reader’s Workshop experience each day. Prior to reading Miller’s book, my master plan for Reader’s Workshop was filled with units and mini lessons that covered every state standard. Teaching reading skills and strategies is undoubtedly essential to reading instruction.  Therefore, I use structures like close reading and literature circles during our RTI reading block in the mornings to ensure

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Reader's Workshop Series – The Inspiration

One of the most difficult challenges in my first years of teaching was making the most of my Reader’s Workshop block. Finding a balance between teaching students reading skills tailored to their individual needs, giving students a solid block of reading time, conferring with students about their reading progress and holding students accountable for reading quality “just right books” was something I valued but could not efficiently manage for the life of me. I read countless books and blog posts about experts and professionals who had it all down to a science. I followed their recipes and had days where the mini lesson went smoothly but the conferring was inefficient and vice versa. One day I were perusing through the book fair after one of my parent-teacher conferences and stumbled upon my saving grace… another book about teaching reading. 🙂 But this one was far different from any other I

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A peek inside my personal/career goal book.

Beyond A Resolution: Goal Setting For A New Year

New year. New start. New adventures. New resolution goals. Yes, resolutions are fun and get your blood pumping, but I decided to abandon making one for 2014. I honestly can’t remember making a resolution I have kept so I decided to make a more “official” commitment to achieve a few desirables this year by starting A GOAL BOOK! So far…I am LOVING this thing. Here’s the inside scoop: I headed to one of my favorite hangouts, Paper Source. Every time I walk into this store, I develop a serious case of O.C.D. which requires me to touch every product on every shelf…eeek! Over an hour after walking through the door, I walked out with these little beauties. The moment I got home, I opened up my crisp new goal book and got to work recording my goals for this exciting new year on the first page in a shinny silver pen to match

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I Am Thankful For New Ideas

Today is the final day of idea sharing for the We Are Thankful Linky Party over at Blog Hoppin’. I am truly thankful for all of the amazing new activities and tips I have picked up from my fellow bloggers and I hope you’ve all had a chance to swing by the linky to see the plethora of ideas for all grade levels. Something new I tried this week that I wish I knew about all along is a free app called Too Noisy. I displayed this app using my Apple TV and the kids were absolutely thrilled! The noise meter moves and the smiley face changes to a worried face when the noise level in the classroom is rising and then to a sad face when the noise level is too high. The sensitivity of the meter is adjustable, which I love because you can change the settings based

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Supplies needed for letters of thanks craftivity - construction paoer, glue, scissors, googley eyes

I'm Thankful for Activities Like

Today over at the BlogHoppin’ We Are Thankful for Linky Party, everyone is linking up classroom activities they are thankful for. In the spirt of fall, thanksgiving and parent-teacher conference season, I have a few activities I enjoy doing with my third graders this time of year. Fall Activity Every year around this time, my students design their very own leaf creature! First, they do a leaf hunt in their backyard or along their walk to school and bring their leaf collection to class. The classroom buzzes with laughter and excitement as they sift through their collection and pick out a few favorite leaves which they arrange into a “creature“. Googley eyes and other unique features are added before the students mount their creature on cardstock to be displayed on the wall. This wall of creatures becomes a game board. Everyone writes a diamante poem describing their creature (a fun way to review

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I Am Thankful for Helpful Hints

Today’s linky over at Blog Hoppin’ is all about Helpful Hints. Here are a few hints that help me in the classroom. Hint 1 – Sub Plans Made Easy Easier Any teacher knows it’s often less stressful to come to work sick than to prep for a sub…so sad…so true. It took me more time than I’d like to admit to establish a system that makes sub prep a whole lot easier than it once was. Every time I write sub plans, I save them to my computer in a very specific way.  I name the file by weekday then date and the type of sub day it was (half-day sick, whole day professional development, etc.) This has made sub planning 1,000,000,000 times easier because I can easily located a “similar” sub day from the past, open that file and whip out revised plans rather than starting from scratch. Hint

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I'm Thankful for Time Savers!

This week, I am participating in the “We Are Thankful For” Linky Party Week over at Blog Hoppin‘. I am thrilled to start with time savers that help me increase efficiency around the classroom. Since my enthusiastic third graders are always inspiring me to create new and exciting lessons, I have a tendency to get lost in the creative cloud after school. If I don’t prioritize my to-dos for the next day of teaching…I soon find myself looking at the clock around 4:30 wondering where the last two hours disappeared to. With these helpful routines and tools, I can whip out everything I need for the following day lickity-split and get to collaborating and creating with my team without my to-do list whispering into my ear. Pre-Planning and Copying Every Wednesday after our grade level meeting, I sit down in silence and solidify my plans for the upcoming week in the

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Using Lino For Student Reading Blogs

Last year, I decided to do a technology makeover on my daily Reader’s Workshop. My favorite part of this makeover was a wonderful app/website called Lino. The moment I saw it, I fell in love with the attractive interface and amazing ability to organize ideas. Rather than using this app for it’s actual purpose (as a digital bulletin board) I decided to use it for my class reading “blog”. Earlier in the year, I had tinkered with the idea of reader blogs because of their undeniable power in getting students motivated to write about their reading. Rather than simply recording thoughts in a notebook mostly seen by their teacher, a reading blog allows students to publish their thoughts for their peer audience and get feedback. Unfortunately, our school’s wireless network was not supportive of so many students connecting to one Blogger account simultaneously and my reading blog dreams came crashing down.

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Collaborate With Clock Partners – Classroom Management Freebie

Collaboration. Conversation. Presentation. Incorporating these essential elements of the Common Core is a breeze if you follow these two simple steps. 1) Stop thinking of these as standards that should be addressed independently. 2) Start thinking of these as tools that students must utilize to achieve mastery in the content areas. During each lesson and learning activity in the classroom, we should provide tools for students to collaborate productively, have meaningful two-way conversations (two-way being the key word), and present their thinking in a way that is clear and powerful. One of the best ways to begin building these skills is to incorporate partner talk in each and every learning activity. Often times, teachers’ default partnering strategy is to have students talk to the person sitting closest to them. This may be quick and easy but it also limits students’ learning horizons as they are hearing from the same person

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Building A Community for Respect and Learning

During our transition to Common Core, I catch myself worrying a lot. Luckily, it’s the kind of worrying that does a body good (you may be thinking that doesn’t exist…but I think it does). That’s because each worry I have leads to a problem solving session…which leads to new and exciting ideas about teaching…which lead to amazing new projects that challenge me and keep me loving my job. One “healthy” worry I just can’t shake is how to best develop my third graders’ brain stamina and develop their perseverance when solving complex, multi-step problems. My colleagues and I talk about this constantly. Yes, we have always focused on these elements of learning but never have we done it to the degree called for by the Common Core Standards. As I mulled this worry over in my mind during the summer, I realized this challenge could not be mastered with a

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Reader's Workshop Series – Read and Respond Journals

Read and Respond Journals are the glue that holds our Reader’s Workshop together. I like to think of our journals as a map of each student’s learning and reading progress through the year. On the first day of school, each student gets his/her own crisp journal and we begin mapping

Read More »

Reader's Workshop Series – The First Weeks

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of the Reader’s Workshop model I love so dearly…a bit of background. My classroom is a place where students learn from hands-on experience, explore their interests, converse, make mistakes and problem solve. I love to equip my third graders with tools that help

Read More »

Reader's Workshop Series – The Inspiration

One of the most difficult challenges in my first years of teaching was making the most of my Reader’s Workshop block. Finding a balance between teaching students reading skills tailored to their individual needs, giving students a solid block of reading time, conferring with students about their reading progress and

Read More »
A peek inside my personal/career goal book.

Beyond A Resolution: Goal Setting For A New Year

New year. New start. New adventures. New resolution goals. Yes, resolutions are fun and get your blood pumping, but I decided to abandon making one for 2014. I honestly can’t remember making a resolution I have kept so I decided to make a more “official” commitment to achieve a few desirables this

Read More »

I Am Thankful For New Ideas

Today is the final day of idea sharing for the We Are Thankful Linky Party over at Blog Hoppin’. I am truly thankful for all of the amazing new activities and tips I have picked up from my fellow bloggers and I hope you’ve all had a chance to swing

Read More »
Supplies needed for letters of thanks craftivity - construction paoer, glue, scissors, googley eyes

I'm Thankful for Activities Like

Today over at the BlogHoppin’ We Are Thankful for Linky Party, everyone is linking up classroom activities they are thankful for. In the spirt of fall, thanksgiving and parent-teacher conference season, I have a few activities I enjoy doing with my third graders this time of year. Fall Activity Every year

Read More »

I Am Thankful for Helpful Hints

Today’s linky over at Blog Hoppin’ is all about Helpful Hints. Here are a few hints that help me in the classroom. Hint 1 – Sub Plans Made Easy Easier Any teacher knows it’s often less stressful to come to work sick than to prep for a sub…so sad…so true.

Read More »

I'm Thankful for Time Savers!

This week, I am participating in the “We Are Thankful For” Linky Party Week over at Blog Hoppin‘. I am thrilled to start with time savers that help me increase efficiency around the classroom. Since my enthusiastic third graders are always inspiring me to create new and exciting lessons, I have

Read More »

Using Lino For Student Reading Blogs

Last year, I decided to do a technology makeover on my daily Reader’s Workshop. My favorite part of this makeover was a wonderful app/website called Lino. The moment I saw it, I fell in love with the attractive interface and amazing ability to organize ideas. Rather than using this app for

Read More »

Collaborate With Clock Partners – Classroom Management Freebie

Collaboration. Conversation. Presentation. Incorporating these essential elements of the Common Core is a breeze if you follow these two simple steps. 1) Stop thinking of these as standards that should be addressed independently. 2) Start thinking of these as tools that students must utilize to achieve mastery in the content

Read More »

Building A Community for Respect and Learning

During our transition to Common Core, I catch myself worrying a lot. Luckily, it’s the kind of worrying that does a body good (you may be thinking that doesn’t exist…but I think it does). That’s because each worry I have leads to a problem solving session…which leads to new and

Read More »