Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Week Before Thanksgiving

Hey everyone!

I'm at work (I know...WAY too late), but I wanted to post.  I don't have a math/Investigations post ready yet, but after seeing a craftivity on Step into 2nd Grade with Mrs. Lemons' blog (something she got from A Cupcake for the Teacher).  So I headed right over to that TPT shop and happily spent $3.  Here's a picture of some finished turkeys on my hallway display.   

I'm so happy that I took the time to do this.  We listened to our Disney music, and worked away assembling the turkeys.  I had traced all of the patterns on rectangles and put them in baggies for the kids.  They followed along with me, cutting out and assembling their turkeys-GREAT practice in following directions.  The students then wrote what they were thankful for.  Some of them wrote lots and lots!!! 

This was such a successful, fun activity, and I must thank both Amy at Step into 2nd Grade and Teri at A Cupcake for the Teacher.  Amy, thanks for blogging about this great activity.  Teri, thanks for putting it together and sharing it with's adorable. 

This craftivity was so fun for my class that I am making a resolution now, to incorporate more "fun" activities like this into our plans.  Whatever happened to learning being fun?! 

In other news, I'm reading this book with my kids this week:

We read Henry and Mudge stories at the beginning of the year, so a Cynthia Rylant book fits right in.  Do any of you read this book?  What activities/assessments do you do with it?  My students will all take the Accelerated Reader test on it tomorrow, and we wrote a response to it today, but that's pretty much been it.  Do you have other favorite books to read for fall/Thanksgiving?

I know I mentioned AR (sorry, I feel like this post is ALL over the place).  My students have recently become very motivated to achieve the points levels at which they earn a prize (sponsored by the PTA).  Some teachers at my school do their own rewards within the classroom as well.  I'm about to start this, because as the students move up the levels, the point increments get bigger and bigger.  I don't want them to lose motivation.  Do you have a reading incentive program in your classroom?  How does it work?

Okay, that's all for now.  Time to go HOME!  Thanks for reading.  :-) 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Saving Science

Hello blog readers (if you are still out there-I've been gone for a long, long time),

I need your help today.  Science has become terribly, horribly boring.  Our 2nd grade students are so desperate for engaging science that they are literally digging up the playground at recess (No, I'm not kidding)!!! 

Not my students, but I think this captures how they feel.  :-(

We are about to embark upon our energy unit, and we need your help!  We are looking for engaging experiences to provide our students that will still yield a grade.  What do you do for science in your 2nd grade classroom?  What do the kids really love?  How do you grade it?  What are your sources for lessons/experiments? 

I've looked around the internet a bit, especially at the websites of two of my favorite scientists, Bill Nye and Steve Spangler.  I'm about to check out Pinterest next, but I'd love to hear your science success stories.  Please help us...BEFORE my students dig to China!

I hope to make my way back to blog land.  Maybe next week I can write a post to update you on how Investigations is going and what it looks like in my classroom.  Thanks for reading (and hopefully helping!). 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

DonorsChoose and giveaway winnner!

First things first:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congrats Jessica. You have an e-mail from me in your inbox.  :-)

2nd great news: KIA Motors matched my DonorsChoose project and paid for half of it.  Yay KIA!!!  I only have $64 to go and I'm so excited!!!  You can check my project out by clicking on the widget on the right of the page.

Time to go to school!  I'll do a better post this weekend.  :-)

Monday, August 13, 2012

First Week Science: Ice Balloons

I'm so excited to have Angi from First-Graders from Outer Space as my first guest blogger.  She is clearly some kind of science rock star!!!  :-)  I just know that these will be great experiments, and my students and I will definitely be playing some cold potato (see below)!!!  Thanks again, Angi.  Without further ado:

Hellooooo Psyched to be in 2nd readers! This is Angi from First-Graders from Outer Space. I was very excited when Molly asked me to be a guest blogger and share some science experiments with all of you! Our first day back to school was on July 31st, so we have already done our first experiment. The kids loved it and I hope you do too!

Before I start, I have to admit that I completely stole this activity from the Exploratorium After School Activities webpage. I fell in love with the activity and modified it for our short, 25-minute, daily science block. You might want to go check it out on the Exploratorium site first, so you get an idea of what I’m writing about. (Psst...there’s videos there, so you can watch the whole process!) After reading here, go back and check out more activities on their website!

I’m very jealous of his balloons...ours never turned out that clear. :( Anyway, now that you’ve learned about the ice balloons, I’ll tell you what I did to modify the activity. 

The activity has been split into three days. Each day I’ve split the class into six groups (because that’s how many flashlights we had on hand). The goal is to get the students to start asking questions, stating observations, and making predictions. I actually take paper with me during this activity so I can write down the great things I hear them say as they work. This allows me to tell a lot about my kiddos right at the start of the year. I can see who works well in groups, who is shy, who the natural leaders are, those who make good observations and who is comfortable taking risks.

Prior to doing the experiment, be sure to freeze your water balloons in the same fashion as in the Exploratorium video. I would say to give yourself more than two days of freeze time. We tried this last year, and one of the balloons that was in over the weekend fell and cracked open. One of the kiddos got splashed with ice cold water. He thought it was hilarious, but others might not! ;)

I stretched each activity to fill a 25-minute block of time. This was done by asking a lot of questions and stopping for good observations that were made. If you point out the great observations, chances are they will start dig deeper when they think about what is happening to their ice.

Day One

You will need:
a large tub for each group
frozen water balloons for each group
a flashlight for each group
toothpicks for each person
paperclips for each person
magnifying glasses
blank paper

  • First, give each group a tub with a flashlight. Have them turn on the flashlight and point it up to the ceiling. Place an ice balloon on each flashlight.
  • Students will take turns using the magnifying glasses to look closer at each ice balloon. After getting a close look, ask them to draw what they’ve seen. You may want to point out spikes, bubbles, frosty areas, or cracks they could draw. (Be sure to be listening for the great observations the kids make!)
  • Discuss the toothpicks and paperclips before passing them out. What are they made of? Which one do the kids think is stronger? What would each of them be useful for?
  • Pass out a toothpick to each student. Give them time to see what they can do to the ice with the toothpick. Ask for observations. Many will notice that they cannot break through the ice (unless they find a crack or close bubble) and that their toothpick starts to bend or break.
  • Pass out paperclips to each student. Give them more time to see what can be done differently with a paperclip. Ask for more observations. Students might notice that they can chip away at the ice better with the paperclip.
  • Discuss the observations and questions the students have after this part of the experiment. Discuss what other items they could use to alter the ice balloon. (Usually they get very excited when someone mentions using a hammer to break it!)
  • If you have science notebooks, you can glue the picture the students drew into their notebooks and have them write about what they did to their balloon. Depending on the grade level, students may write more or less.

Day Two

You will need:
a large tub for each group
frozen water balloons for each group
a flashlight for each group
student watercolor paints
paint shirts
cups of water
magnifying glasses

  • Start just like you did yesterday. Give each group an ice balloon and allow them time to observe it. You will notice that many will point out what is different about this new one. Maybe this one has a huge crack in and their previous one had no cracks.
  • Ask the kids to take out their paint brushes, but set their paint aside. They will use their brushes to “paint” with just water on the balloons. This will take some of the frost off and might make other characteristics pop.
  • If nobody notices it, ask the students to stop moving their brushes on the ice for a while. If they stay still enough, the brush might freeze to the balloon. (Now might be a good time to discuss the dangers of licking frozen poles on the playground in winter! Ha ha...) Talk about why they think this happens and what they can do to get the brush off safely.
  • Last, allow for time to paint on the balloons with paints. Can the students find any holes or spikes to fill with paint.

Day Three

You will need:
a large tub for each group
frozen water balloons for each group
a flashlight for each group
student watercolor paints
paint shirts
cups of water
magnifying glasses
small containers of salt
a large tub filled with water for each group

  • Start just like the previous days - allow time to observe the new ice balloon.
  • Discuss what students know about ice and salt. Some who live in areas where the roads get icy might know what salt can be used for. (Our kids know that the salt looks like tiny diamonds...they bring it in all winter!)
  • Ask the students to take a pinch of salt each and sprinkle it on the ice. Give them some time to make and discuss their observations.
  • Next, ask the students to paint lots of color on top of the salty ice. They should notice that the melting, salty water has made spots for rivers of color to run down the side of the ice. Allow them to experiment with their paints.
  • Gently drop the ice into the water. Look for any bubbles coming to the top of the water. When the kids pull the ice out, discuss why the mushroom top occurred.
  • Last, let them paint some more on the ice.
  • Make your final observations as a class. Have students write their observations in their science notebooks if they can.

What do you do with all the ice after the experiment is done? Play cold potato! We took our ice out on a warm day and played the game just like you’d play hot potato. The kids had a blast! Then I let them keep them for their recess time...they all got smashed on the blacktop. ;) It’s always fun to play with ice in the summer!

Thanks for letting me be a guest blogger! I hope you enjoyed this experiment!


Friday, August 10, 2012

And so it begins

Hi everyone!!!

School's back in session!!!  (Okay, no it's not, but today was the first day we could enter our beautifully remodeled building.)  :-)  Unfortunately, we're being teased.  We got in today, but have to stay away this weekend while they buff the floors.  Based on e-mails, I was under the impression that our rooms would be A MESS.  I'm happy to report that it wasn't as bad as I was fearing.  This post will have all of the before pictures, and after many days of work next week, I'll post finished ones.  I may do what Christina over at Bunting, Books, and Bainbridge did and post a daily photo update.  While I was there, the workmen got my air all set up (YES, the remodel is THAT good.  Each teacher has her own individual air.).  Okay, here we go with some pictures: 

This is the view from the door.  Sorry for the quality, but as you can see, I get A WINDOW!!!  My fourth year of teaching, and finally, finally, finally I have a window in my classroom.  A WINDOW!!!  Yeah, I'm pretty excited.  I'm a little OCD, so this picture does reflect some "grouping" of desks, chairs, and boxes that I did so I could get a sense of my space. 

This is the opposite view.  One of the workers snuck into the photo accidentally.  :-)  The corkboard over the lockers is new, and I'm pretty excited about it.  Stapling will be oh-so-easy! 

My newly mounted projector and re-mounted SMART Board.  Please excuse the furniture EVERYWHERE in this picture. 

To the right, you can see my new sound box, microphones, etc. on the wall.  My room has its own SOUND system.  This is almost too good to be true!  :-)  In the bottom right, you can see my kidney table that needs to be turned around and scootched into place.  I'll be able to see everything from that spot.  I'm going to load that cabinet up with my teaching things. 

Here's my major shelving for the classroom.  Over to the left, I even have a sink.  I have NO idea what's in most of those boxes.  Some of them are labeled as math manipulatives, but the rest are mystery boxes. 

My kidney table, my sink, and boxes, boxes, boxes.  Not a one of those boxes contains my personal stuff.  That's all in my car, my apartment, and my parents' upstairs storage room. 

Anyway, that's pretty much the gist right now.  Next step, move all of my stuff in, get some butcher paper, and go to town getting this place ready.  I know I promised you a post about birthday bags, but I just finished my summer classes, and I haven't done them yet.  They will probably get made this weekend.  When I get back in Monday, I hope to move in more stuff, unpack the math and mystery boxes, and maybe put up my birthday bags bulletin board and my Daily 5/Cafe Board (Woohoo!!!).  I plan to put my reading corner by the window (pretty right?).  You can't tell from the picture, but the wall by the window is covered in blue cork board, so it should be pretty "user friendly."  I forgot to take pictures of my fourth wall (oops), but it is covered with another white board.  My computers wil go along this wall.  Above the white board is some long skinny bulletin board space that I think will be perfect for birthday bags.  :-)  I'll keep you posted. 

Don't forget to enter my Donors Choose giveaway in the post below (and support/advertise my DonorsChoose project).  I didn't say this before (because it sounds kind of mean), but I will check to see if you've actually done the entries.  If you haven't and you win, I will pick another winner.  Gosh, that really did sound mean, but I want to be fair.  (We teachers always have to be fair, right?)  :-)  Have a great day!!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Crummy Week, A Little Goodwill, and My DonorsChoose Project

Hey everybody!

As I've alluded to the past few days, I'm not having the best week (even though I celebrated my birthday yesterday).  In awesome news, my parents bought me an iPad for my personal/classroom use and because of their timing, it came with a $50 apps gift card!!!  So that's very exciting. 

When I'm feeling especially blue, I like to do nice things for others in order to feel better (it ALWAYS works!!!).  While what I'm doing this time is not 100% selfless (I'll be honest and admit I'll benefit a little), I think it can still do some good, and it will allow me to try new things and expand my blog (one way I will benefit). 

What in the world am I talking about?  I want to purchase a $25 DonorsChoose giftcard through e-mail and give it away.  The winner may donate to whichever classroom she or he wishes (including your own).  You DO NOT have to donate to my project (although I won't turn you down).  :-)  I also want to learn the ins and outs of using Rafflecopter.  I think this is a good way to continue to grow as a blogger while I am still far too timid to start creating my own things and putting them on TpT. 

There are many different ways you can enter, and I'll leave it open for about a week.  FYI, my DonorsChoose widget with my project is at the right of my blog (you need the link for my project for a few of the entries).  My project can also be found here.  I'm asking for a subscription to TIME for Kids to enhance my social studies curriculum.  The reading in these issues also really challenges students and exposes them to nonfiction, which is a HUGE benefit!!!  I'm also asking for a book of graphic organizers to help us make sense of these difficult texts as well as support our district implementation of Thinking Maps.  I'm asking that you comment with your favorite first week of school read alouds/literature units since I'm still trying to decide what I'll do.  Don't forget to include your e-mail.  I'd especially love some 2nd grade specific suggestions.  :-) 

You can earn more entries by blogging about the giveaway and/or my DonorsChoose proejct (your choice), tweeting about it, pinning it, etc.  The only really selfish entry I included is 1,000% optional.  If you donate $1 to my DonorsChoose project you can earn an entry.  This is the only one that is available daily (you could earn a total of 7 points with this option), and I assigned it a really low point value, because I didn't want to "pressure" anyone into supporting my project.  I'm really just trying to get the word out so that I can recruit some support for my project. 
Finally, I want to end with a huge thank you!!!  This thank you goes out to all of you, my readers and "blog buddies."  I have learned so much from all of you, and I'm so thankful for all of your support.  I can't wait to see who wins my giveaway!!!

P.S. Even though you can get my button on the right, I've included it here for your convenience also.  :-) 

psyched to be in 2nd!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Loose Ends, Another Year Older (yuck!!!), and a Birthday Wish :-)

Hell-ooooooooo readers!!!  :-)

Warning: This post is going to be all over the place (hence the loose ends mentioned in the title). 

My new place has internet, and I am loving it!!!  Sort of.  Most of my time (including what should be right now) is spent working on finishing up my summer school class.  I'm all moved in to the new place, and I am enjoying it so far.  I do have random teacher stuff in the car still.  The guy at the Honda dealer asked me if I was a teacher when I was there the other day for my oil change.  :-)  After I get this class done, I'm going to get serious, starting with making my students' birthday bags.  I'll share them as soon as they are done (grad school is kind of slowing me down).  Since my school is under construction, I hope to get as much work done from home as possible. 

Today, I'm ringing in the big 2-6.  Many of you won't think that is too old, but I've approached birthdays in a careful crisis mode ever since last year when I turned 25 and had what I refer to as my "quarter-life crisis."  Mostly, I find birthdays and receiving gifts and extra attention kind of embarrassing.  I'm hoping to use my birthday for good this year and encourage some donations to my DonorsChoose project as well as any others people are so inclined to sponsor.  I've got a few ideas, but I wanted to start small and see how things went.  So far, it's going slowly, but I'm still optimistic.  :-) 

Anyway, birthday celebrations will be pretty quiet.  I already had dinner with friends last week.  Tonight, my parents are taking me out to dinner, then we will enjoy my favorite chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  This afternoon, I'm working on wrapping up some grad school assignments.  I can't celebrate too much tonight, since I have all-day in-service tomorrow.  :-) 

How do you celebrate your birthdays?  How do you celebrate student birthdays? 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Not teaching related at all, PLUS my absence from the blogosphere

Good afternoon!

This week has been nuts (and not in a fun way)!!!  I have moved and to keep it short and sweet I'll just say that it didn't go well, and it hasn't been fixed yet.  I've spent the last 3 days on the phone.  I'll be happy when it's over, and I will never use a certain moving company again. 

In other news, also moving related, Time Warner cable is apparently in very high demand.  So for right now, until Saturday, I'm Internet and cable free.  This post is being brought to you courtesy of a local Starbucks.  I can't wait to be "connected" again. 

From here on out, things are getting busy!!!  First up, my birthday is Sunday.  While I am still in my 20s, I've reached that point where birthdays are kind of horrifying (ANOTHER year older, etc.).  You know what I mean.  I am hoping to get some DonorsChoose $$$$ from family, though (if only I were BFF with Oprah or Stephen Colbert-my classroom would be so lucky!!!).  :-)     

The celebration of my birthday continues Monday with a day spent in district in-service.  No, we won't be celebrating my birthday.  We'll just be in an all-day meeting that I'm not particularly excited about.  I do hope that the math Investigations mystery will finally be unraveled.  I still have NO CLUE how that will work next year, and it makes me antsy to be so uncertain.  It will be nice to see some coworkers and my principal, though. 

Shortly thereafter (I HOPE!!!), we should receive news that our building is ready to be opened up to teachers.  From that point on, school will essentially be back in session...lots to do to get ready for another fun year!!!  (I do have a quick driving trip to Oklahoma planned though, so that will be fun!) 

To give you something teaching related, I will tease my birthday bags.  Once I have Internet again, I'll share them with you.  I think they will be a fun thing for my students' birthdays.  I love the birthday "balloons" that I have seen on Pinterest and some of your blogs. 

How are you spending your last few days before returning to work?  If you have already gone back, how is the new year going for you? 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The CAFE Book, Chapter 7: Strategy Groups

Last chapter!!!  I'm proud of myself for reading this book, reading Guided Math, and taking 9 hours of grad school this summer.  I'm even fitting in some time to go on a mini-vacay in a few weeks before getting back to work!!!  :-) 

I loved what they said about whole-group instruction being the "spray and pray" method.  Ha, ha!!!  I think it is very forward-thinking of them to acknowledge that while students in a guided reading group are on the same reading level, they all have different needs.  The rationale for strategy groups seems pretty sound.  

Key Thoughts:
  • Strategy groups are flexible.  Students can be moved in and out of them as needs change.
  • Strategy groups do not come into effect until all DRAs are administered and the teacher has conferred individually with each student.  Along with implementing the Daily 5, these activities take between 4 and 6 weeks.
  • The first strategy group pulled is the highest-need group.
  • The first group meeting always begins with teacher modeling. 
  • The structure of a strategy group meeting is similar to that of conferences.
  • Strategy group forms are MESSY (in a good way).  Students names are added and crossed out as necessary. 
  • The length of a group meeting is based upon the students' ages.  7 year old students meet for 7 minutes. 
  • The strategy group meeting ends with the teacher giving the students a job to do.  The teacher can do a few conferences while the Daily 5 round finishes. 
Well, as they say, "that's all folks!"  :-)  I'm excited to try this in my classroom this year.  Do any of you that have experience with this have any practical advice?  What do you wish you had known when you first began using CAFE in your classroom? 

Friday, July 27, 2012

The CAFE Book, Chapters 5 and 6 (Conference Examples and Whole-Class Instruction)

Back to my own personal book study with The CAFE Book.  :-)  Chapter 5 is pretty short, mostly containing example conferences, so I'm combining it with Chapter 6 in this post.  

(VERY) Brief notes about chapter 5:
  • Teach students to ask themselves "who" and "what" to Check for Understanding.
  • Have students keep personal word collectors (can be used with Work Work for Daily 5), and keep a class word collector, also.
I TOLD you that would be short!  :-)  Moving on...

Notes about chapter 6:
  • I LOVE how they point out that we never "finish" teaching reading strategies-what a great philosophy!!!
  • The CAFE menu is built basically in order of instruction. 
  • I don't know that I can fit in 3 strategy lessons a day-how do those of you that do The Daily 5 and CAFE do it?
  • Students practice strategies in whole group by turning and talking to a partner. 
Whole-Class lesson elements include:
  1. We identify what is to be taught, and share the "secret to success" with the strategy.
  2. We teach the strategy.
  3. Students practice with partners.
  4. We select a student to write and illustrate the CAFE Menu strategy card (the first time it is taught).
  5. We review the strategy.
  6. We encourage practice during independent reading times.
  7. We post the strategy after independent practice (the first time it is taught).
  8. We continually connect new strategies to strategies already on the CAFE Menu board.
Other notes:
  • A very important lesson to be taught early is the lesson on good-fit books
  • The CAFE Menu Board is "simply a visual organizational tool that can help you link assessment data and goal setting into purposeful, intentional instruction" (p. 104).  WOW!  Visual and organizational!!!  This book is TOTALLY speaking my language!!!  :-)   
Chapter 7 will focus on strategy groups.  I'm excited about this chapter, because I think this will be where I "tweak" guided reading groups.  Do you use strategy groups?  How do they fit into/complement your existing guided reading groups?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Conferring with Children: Principles and Examples (The CAFE Book Chapter 4)

First things first: I have set up my CAFE Notebook.  :-)  I went to Target yesterday (I'll share the rest of my goodies in another post) and went a little crazy-blame going to my last "in person" class of the summer.  Unfortunately, the binder I chose is WAY too small.  Don't worry, I have my eye on a few other cute (and larger) ones, and I'm planning to re-purpose this one for Math Workshop.  :-)
Please forgive the "carpet shot," but isn't it PRETTY?!
Extra copies in the pocket.  I followed the set-up recommended by the book, but have highlighted the primary grades strategies recommended by Boushey and Moser and placed that CAFE menu up front.

A pocket tab for each student, behind which is a CAFE menu, and reading and writing conference note pages

Moving on to The CAFE Book Chapter 4.  This chapter focused on conferring, which, as I mentioned during the Guided Math book study, is pretty new to me.  

Here are some of my big take-aways from this chapter:
  1. 1) Conferring is a SHORT process (5 minutes or less).  I love the structure that they provide, and while I won't sit there with the timer on my iPhone running, I think having the outline handy will be good.  The elements of successful conferences are:
    1. Check the Calendar for Appointments-I am so happy that they shared the guideline of conducting 2-3 conferences per day.
    2. Prepare for the Conference-look behind the student's tab in your notebook and review notes from the last conference.
    3. Observe the child and listen to reading-listen to the student read for about a minute to see if they are using the strategy they are working on.  Document the book they are reading as wel as some observations about their progress toward their goal. 
    4. Reinforce and Teach-Choose what to teach the student that day (continue with goal/strategy or adjust it).  Tell them what you noticed about them as readers.  Explain and model the strategy.
    5. Practice the Strategy- Observe the student practicing to check for his or her understanding of what was taught. 
    6. Plan-Ah-ha!  Now I know what a touch point is.  We are looking for 4-5 pieces of evidence or instances where the student has successfully used the strategy.  Once this occurs, the strategy is highlighted on his or her CAFE Menu and we move on.  We decide when to meet next with the student.
    7. Encourage-this one is self-explanatory.  Make sure the encouragement is specific and related to the student's goal and his or her text. 
  2. Conferences occur in the student's current workspace (not at the small group table).
  3. Don't forget to have the student post a new strategy goal on the CAFE board if necessary. :-) 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Calling all Elementary Science Enthusiasts/Experts!!!

Tonight, I have a story for all of you:

While I was in school, I loved reading.  I loved social studies.  I even loved math.  Science and I did not get along until 9th grade biology, when I was finally able to survive based on my knowledge of vocabulary.  We were at odds again after that brief year.  The only thing I really liked about science, was this guy:

Picture from Google Images
  I loved how funny Bill Nye The Science Guy was, and I loved his demonstrations as well as the experiments you could do at home.  When I became a teacher, I became determined to work hardest at science (since it was my least favorite-interesting logic, I know).  I really wanted to make it fun for my students, so that they wouldn't feel the way I did about science when I was a kid.  This was especially important last year.  I taught a classroom of truly wonderful bilingual students.  A campus requirement was that we teach science in English.  This made them even less excited about science, so we worked even harder to make them less afraid of it.  First, I bought one of these for myself:

Again, from Google Images (and not the exact one I bought)
Next, I also bought 2 student labcoats, worn by the Scientists of the Week.  The kids loved this, and it really motivated them to participate in science class. 

My district's curriculum has some really good elements.  We frequently use the video clips and virtual labs (these are really fun for the class!) from Discovery Education, and they really boost student comprehension.  Some of the experiments in our curriculum are very engaging, also.

Irony of ironies, guess which subject I'll be planning this year?!  I'm excited about the opportunity.  :-)  I have recently been introduced to Steve Spangler (I'd love for my class to be as fun as I'm sure his science classes are!).  For those of you that aren't familiar with him, here is a YouTube clip of one of his appearances on The Ellen Degeneres Show:

Don't you think his science classes would be a BLAST?!?!  I know I do!!! 
Do any of you have any really fun things you do in science?  Tell me about it in the comments.  If you are really passionate about science, please consider writing a guest post for my blog (again, leave a comment expressing your interest, or e-mail me here)-I'd love to learn from you, and I bet everyone else would, too!!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

CAFE Step-by-Step: The First Days of School (Chapter 3)

Hello again!

Here we go with Chapter 3!  We are getting into the good stuff (the stuff we teachers really want to know).  :-)  I can't wait to set up my CAFE board for the beginning of school!  Putting the bulletin board up marks the very first step of implementing the CAFE in the classroom.  I need to remember to put it somewhere at 2nd grade height, leave it empty except for headings, and possibly that the Sisters recommend a 5ft.x5ft. bulletin board (referring to "the Sisters" is kind of weird.  It reminds me of nuns!).  :-)  

I think when I set up my binder, I'm going to make sure to have the highlighted/bolded copy of the CAFE menu as the first thing in my binder as a guide for which strategies are introduced in the primary grades. 

This is the CAFE Board featured on the 2 Sisters' website,

When setting up the CAFE board, I need to include each letter/word with it's definition:
  • Comprehension: "I understand what I read"
  • Accuracy: "I can read the words"
  • Fluency: "I can read accurately, with expression, and understand what I read"
  • Expand Vocabulary: "I know, find, and use interesting words"  
Under each heading is a space where students can put their sticky notes with their names on them, declaring their current literacy goals.  Below that is space where we will add reading strategies all year long.  


The first few strategies that Boushey and Moser suggest teaching are:
  1. Check for Understanding (Comprehension)
  2.  Cross Checking (Accuracy)
  3. Tune In to Interesting Words (Expand Vocabulary)
  4. Back Up and Reread (Comprehension)
From Whole-Class Lessons to Individual Conferences: Assessment to Instruction:

According to The Sisters, this involves seven steps:
  1. Assess Individual Students-in my classroom, this will occur as I complete DRA testing on each student.  The idea is to determine each student's reading strengths and areas of need.
  2. Discuss Findings with Student-Ask students to tell you about themselves as a reader, then share what you, the teacher, noticed about their reading.  With the student observing, record their strength on their reading conference sheet.
  3. Set Goal and Identify Strategies with Student-Together, the teacher and the student, look at the CAFE menu strategies and set a goal, making sure to only focus on one or two strategies at a time.  I like that they assure you that if you "make a mistake" you can adjust the strategy the next time you meet with that student. 
  4. Student Declares Goal on Menu-The student writes his or her name on a sticky note and places it under the correct heading on the CAFE board. 
  5. Teacher Fills Out Individual Reading Conference Form-On the student's Reading Conference form, the teacher writes the child's name, strengths, and goals.  This is done (alone with #6) while the student is declaring his goal on the CAFE board. 
  6. Teacher Fills Out Strategy Groups Form-Next we fill out this form, creating a new one if the student does not fit into an existing strategy group (other students may be added later as they are found to need work on the strategy).  If the strategy group already exists, the student's name can simply be added.  To end this, we ask students to restate their goal for us, helping them if they need it. 
  7. Instruction-Once assessment has been completed, instruction, based upon student needs, may begin. 
I'm looking foward to Chapter 4.  I'm excited to discover the principles of conferring with children and see some examples.  SO glad I picked up this book and started reading!!! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The CAFE Book Chapter 2: The CAFE Notebook and Record-Keeping Forms

Hi everyone,

I love that Gail Boushey and Joan Moser love office supplies as much as I do (see p. 14).  :-)  I'm excited to read about what they suggest.  As I mentioned during the Guided Math book study, I thought I might use a clipboard with labels, attaching the labels to each student's page for record-keeping.  I particularly like this picture that I found on Google Images, because this teacher has labels, divided by subject-all of the record-keeping in one place:

I think a binder is a logical place to hold all anecdotal records, divided by student.  I love their advice to buy a pretty notebook so that it is easily located, and I'm sure we'll all be better off if we listen to them and buy two (since it is doomed to fall apart halfway through the year). 

The Sisters suggest having 2 sections for your notebook (perfect since I just had to turn in a portfolio for one of my classes-I've got more stick-on tabs than I know what to do with!).  Section One contains teacher notes, and Section Two contains dividers/tabs for each child. 

Section 1: 

This section is where we organize and plan whole group instruction.  A calendar to schedule and document conferring with individual students and small groups is kept here also.  The calendar is used to schedule "appointments" with students to review their progress with their CAFE goals.  The calendar also serves to keep the teacher focused.  

The Keeping Track Form is roll sheet where the teacher can record the dates that she has met with each child.  The benefit to this is that the teacher can make sure she doesn't forget to give each child the attention he or she needs (some children will meet with the teacher more often than others).  

The final form type that they suggest you keep in this section is the Strategy Groups Forms.  These forms allow the teacher to keep track of who she meets with and what they work on (reading strategies within the CAFE framework).  The Sisters state that once students or entire groups have mastered a strategy and need a new goal, their name(s) is(are) crossed off of the sheet.  As they say, "[i]t's messy at times, but effective" (p. 22).  That sounds good to me!  

Section 2:

In each child's section of The Notebook (I love how they capitalize those words in such reverence!) is:
  • a CAFE Menu
  • Reading Conference form(s)
  • Writing Conference form(s)     
I like how there is a spot at the top of each form to record the student's current strategy and goal as well as that student's particular strengths.  This system seems pretty easy to maintain and like it will keep me, the teacher, SUPER organized.  On this form you can record instructional interventions and observations.  There is another spot where the teacher can record what the student needs to do next to continue making progress (these seem like they would make good goals for future student conferences).  Also, these forms are simple and user-friendly-just what a teacher needs!

So far, the only thing I have yet to understand is the touch points.  Do you all know about these?  I saw them on some of the sample forms in this chapter.  I'm so glad I'm taking the time to finally read this book (and beating myself for not doing it years ago), and I'm looking forward to reading Chapter 3: CAFE Step-by-Step: The First Days of School.  If it's half as good as the 25-day Daily 5 implementation plan, I know that this will be a FANTASTIC chapter.     

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Herding Kats in Kindergarten is having a Donor's Choose giftcard giveaway.  I almost hate to blog about it, because I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want to win!!!  :-)  I figure that by sheer odds, I'm bound to win one of these contests I enter eventually, right? 

Anyway, this was just a quick note to let you know about this giveaway.  :-)  Remember, if you win, you could always support my classroom.  :-)  *Cough*checkoutmywidgetontheright*cough*.  :-)  I'll be back "same bat time, same bat channel" tomorrow.  :-) 

Reading about the Two Sisters and The CAFE System

Hey bloggers,

I don't remember where, but I had heard about The Daily 5 (I think from coworkers?).  Anyway, I read the book and gave it a try.  :-) 

Here's the truth of the matter, loyal readers: it really was as wonderful as promised by the authors as well as my colleagues.  :-)  The kids loved it, and I saw such growth from them.  I especially love their 5-week implementation guide.  The kids knew what we were doing each day.  At first, they were disappointed to only practice for 3 minutes, but it quickly grew into a competition to see how long they could sustain each activity (they were SO excited to try it for 6 minutes, 9 minutes, etc.  They actually GROANED when I called them back to whole group). 

I'm probably going to use The Daily 5 every year until a retire (a LONG way away).  :-)  This year, after I get The Daily 5 up and running (especially in light of all of the beginning of year assessments that have to be done), I want to try implementing the CAFE system.  I'm going to use the wee bit left of summer (not taken up by grad school and moving), to tackle this book.  

I have seen/heard rumblings in the blogosphere about Daily 5/CAFE book studies that are going on.  I plan to use my blog as a journal and take it one chapter at a time.  That way, when I'm ready, I'll have all of my notes about The CAFE system in one place.  Do any of you know where the CAFE book study is housed this summer?  (I love how Brenda from Primary Inspired kept everything so organized for the Guided Math book study!  Thanks!)  How do those of you that are using the CAFE system integrate it with Daily 5 and guided reading?  I'm sure that this question will be addressed in the book, also.  

So here I go with Chapter 1: 

Right away, I like the flexibility that teachers have with The Daily 5 and The CAFE system.  Kids, too, love the choices that are available to them. 

The CAFE book sets out to answer the following questions:
  • How do we organize all of our assessment data so we can make it work for us?
  • How do we keep track of each child's strengths and goals so we can maximize our time with him or her?
  • What about "flexible groups?"  Is there really a way to make them flexible?
  • How do we present strategies so that students can access them when needed and practice them until they are proficient?
Good news!  According to the 2 Sisters, the CAFE system is the answer (YAY!!!!).  I think that this system will be especially great as our classrooms become more and more diverse with students on all different levels.  The framework is simple (alway good!), and "provides a structure for conferring, a language for talking about reading development, and a system for tracking growth and fostering student independence" (p. 5). 

The CAFE System's Core Elements:
  1. The teacher keeps a notebook with a few key record-keeping forms, including a calendar, individual student conference forms, and strategy group planners. 
  2. Children meet with the teacher during literacy workshop conferences to be assessed, to received focused, explicit instruction, to set goals, and then to follow up on progress.  The student posts his goal on the class CAFE chart.  (Is this where I have seen the student's name on a post-it under one of the 4 letters of CAFE?)
  3. The teacher plans small-group instruction based on clusters of students with similar needs in one of the CAFE categories.  The groups are flexible and needs-based, rather than based upon reading levels.  The students may even be reading different books.  
  4. Whole-group instruction occurs in response to needs shared by many children, using read-alouds and other materials.   
The benefit of The CAFE system is that the teacher can spend more time on individual instruction instead of whole-class instruction.  

Wow!!!  After reading Chapter 1, I'm already SO excited to read the rest of the book (uh oh...this might just be more tempting than my homework for grad school...).  I'm looking forward to reading Chapter 2 and finding out about The CAFE Notebook and Record-Keeping Forms!         

Friday, July 20, 2012

Blog Awards and a Little Bit of Classroom Decor

Hello all!

Since I've been so busy, I've neglected to announce/thank my fellow bloggers for some awards.  I have received the following 2 awards:

Allison from Busy Teacher Love, Sailing Second Grade Seas, and

Where Seconds Count

have given me:

Thanks ladies!!!  :-)  You all were so sweet to think of me and my little ol' blog!  :-)  The rules of the award are:

I order to receive this award I must:

1) Copy and paste the award onto my blog.

2) Thank the giver and link back to them.

3) Nominate 5 other bloggers and let them know by commenting on their blogs.


I ALSO received The Versatile Blog Award from Shelly at


Thank you, thank you, thank you!  :-)  Again, so very sweet of you to think of me. 

The rules for this award are:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Include a link to their site.
3. Include the award image in your post.
4. Give 7 random facts about yourself
5. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award
6. When nominating, include a link to their site.

7 Random Facts About Me
  1. I'm a fluent Spanish-speaker and former bilingual elementary teacher. 
  2. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Mexican food and could probably eat it every day (I probably almost do).
  3. If I ever had to quit my job, I'd only give it up if I could be a world traveler instead.  Dream destinations include: Costa Rica, Australia/New Zealand, Ireland, Portugal, somewhere in South America, and South Africa, among others.
  4. I'm somewhat ambidextrous, which I credit to only being provided "righty" scissors in elementary school.  I'm a proud lefty.  :-)
  5. I like baking, but I don't do it very often (grad school keeps me busy-I feel like I'm beating a dead horse with the grad school statement).
  6. I have a photographic memory-it's scary how much I remember! 
  7. I'm really not one yet, but I'd love to be a runner.  I'm working on it!  :-) 
As far as all of the other rules (re: re-gifting the awards), I have to break them.  I like giving these awards to people who have not received them, and I don't have time to search the blogs I follow to check.  Here's what I'll do: if you want the award, leave me a comment with a link, and I'll edit the post to award you one or both of the awards.  :-) 
Now, on a completely unrelated note, I've started to experiment with PowerPoint because I read that it was the application (along with Word) that was frequently used for all of those lovely products that you all create.  :-) 

My classroom theme last year (that I'm modifying, tweaking, elaborating, and keeping), was RETRO, peace signs, denim, tie-dye, etc..  I bought these adhesives that I used as locker tags, but getting them off turned out to be a BIG disaster.  So, I created what you see below.  To protect my students, I am only showing the "new student" template that I saved in the event that I need to create an additional locker tag. 

The student's first names are there in navy blue font.  I plan to size them the way I want (2 to a page?), print them out on white cardstock, laminate them, and attach them to the lockers.  I haven't decided yet how I'm going to attach them so that they stay but the kiddos don't play with them all year...suggestions? 

Anyway, I know that this is NOWHERE near the realm of some of you fabulous TPT creators, but I'm so excited to baby step my way into this world.  There was something so satisfying about making exactly what I wanted.  Do you have any tips?  :-) 

Final Chapter of Guided Math Book Study- Putting It Into Practice

We did it!!!  :-)

I'm most excited about guided math in the classroom because it "offers teachers an alternative to the standard whole-class instructional model so frequently used for mathematics instruction" (p. 245).  I think it could be changed to say "for all instruction."  Also, I agree that the type of deep, conceptual learning that guided math encourages, as Sammons points out, is difficult to imagine within the confines of traditional (whole-class) teaching. 

As a teacher of ELLs, I cannot agree more with Sammons that math is closely linked to both thinking and language.  Thinking is especially important, because I think at times teachers take for granted that their students are prepared and understand how to think mathematically.  This goes right in hand with teaching students and modeling the use of mathematical language.  The use of this language needs to be both oral and in written forms. 

The value of the guided math framework for the 21st century teacher (although I'm sure that there are many advantages to this model) lies in Routman's (2003) assertion that "teaching within an effective instructional framework, with a clear focus, and an intimate knowledge of the students' learning needs, a teacher can actually do more instruction, more effectively, in less time" (p. 249).  As we move forward, more and more demands are placed on teachers and students and the time they have together.  The opportunity to provide better instruction in less time should not and cannot be ignored. 

Sammons closes the chapter and the book in a most inspirational way.  She first stresses the value of establishing positive learning relationships with your students (an integral part of my teaching philosophy), suggesting that these relationships will encourage students to take academic risks.  Finally, she states that the guided math framework only comes to its true fruition when implemented in individual teachers' classrooms, each implementation a bit different from the rest, in a way that is best for that teacher and her students.  I can't wait to discover what the guided math framework will look like in my classroom (especially with that new, mysterious Investigations curriculum)!!!

Thanks so much to all of you that joined me in this awesome book study!  :-) 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Quick Note/Celebration

Hey everybody!

I just noticed something, and I felt it couldn't go without recognition.  I have 50 followers!  

Thanks to all of you who have taken a chance, supported me in my new blog adventure, and followed my blog.  If I had any skill yet with Google Docs, PowerPoint (beyond creating presentations for grad school) and creating my own stuff (I'm just starting out), I'd commemorate the occasion with a giveaway...maybe by the time I get to 100 followers I'll have a clue.  :-)  If you know of any good online tutorials or you have any advice (you all make BEAUTIFUL things for use in the classroom), I'd love to hear it.  Time to get back to my grad school midterm. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rolling out the Red Carpet/Asking for Help

Hey everyone,

Appearances can be deceiving.  I'm posting pretty much everyday, but the truth is this: I'm REALLY busy with grad school (and will be for the next two weeks at least), so I write a few posts all at once, then schedule them to be posted at varying intervals.  As a side note, there's still time to to link up in my First Day of School Linky that you can find here.  Now, on to the real reason for this post.

I'm always trying to spread my fledgling bloggy wings.  I'm also very busy for the next two weeks or so with grad school.  So, I'm rolling out the red carpet. 

What in the world am I talking about, you ask?  I would like to host my first guest bloggers.  Topic is completely open.  (In fact, I encourage the blogging of new topics.  My blog has mostly focused on book studies and technology.  I know that the scope of my blog will widen when the school year starts, but I think that hosting guest bloggers might just be the perfect way to get this started.)  You can comment on this post, making sure to leave your e-mail, or e-mail me here if you are interested.  You and I can work out the details including the topic you will discuss and when you can have the post ready.  Thank you for helping me to widen my blogging horizons.  :-)      

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

DonorsChoose Word-spreading :-)

Hello bloggy-world!  :-)

In the effort to publicize my DonorsChoose project (and after reading what Swimming Into Second had to say about publicizing your projects), I have created a Giving Page for bloggers.  It can be found here.  Unfortunately, I did not do this until after I had already donated to my project, so I don't appear as a member/donator on my own page...darn!!!  I'm also thinking of asking for DonorsChoose giftcards from family and friends for my birthday next month (I don't think its cheating...:-) ).  I'm asking for a subscription to TIME for Kids for my class.  It really enhances our integrated language arts, reading, and social studies curriculum, and I have also seen math and science related stories featured in their weekly issues.  I have just added the Donors Choose widget to my blog like the one Swimming Into Second has on her blog. 

picture from Google Images

I have joined DonorsChoose as a way to further enhance my students' educational experience.  For those of you that are unfamiliar, you should head on over and sign up here.  To give those of you a little bit of backgroumd, the site operates on a points system.  It costs (a) point(s) to post a project (points vary depending on the scope of the project).  When it gets funded, you have the opportunity to earn more points.  While you can create projects using the inventory from many, many vendors, once you get 6 points, you can request materials from outside vendors.  I hope to get to this point.  In the past, I was awarded technology grants from my district, but those grants have understandably become a thing of the past. Technology's important role in the classroom is increasing, so I hope to earn the points to apply for classroom technology through DonorsChoose.   

Do you use DonorsChoose?  How do you publicize your projects on DonorsChoose? 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ah-ha (!!!) and Campus Book Study

Goodness gracious!  Considering that this summer I am taking 9 hours of graduate school credit (3 classes), I can't seem to get away from book studies.  I have participated in the Guided Math blog book study which has been fantastic.  I have even had the opportunity to e-mail back and forth with Laney Sammons and get her help with some things.

For my campus, I have just finished reading Teach With Your Strengths.  It was a quick read with a lot of valuable information.  For those of you that are familiar and were wondering, my five signature themes are:
  1. Includer
  2. Focus
  3. Responsibility
  4. Harmony, and
  5. Developer
The second theme, Focus, was particularly funny for me to read about this week.  Thursday, I attended a training on my district's new elementary math curriculum, Investigations.  I came home completely frustrated because so many questions remained and I just couldn't "see" how this would look in the classroom.  The explanation of the Focus theme says "you need a clear destination.  Lacking one, your life and your work can quickly become frustrating."  BINGO!!!!  Needless to say, this theme of mine inspired me to go home and head to the computer to learn as much as I can about Investigations.  I found their website that features some video clips showing Investigations in action.  Laney Sammons has suggested that I do all of my direct instruction in small groups, and I must admit, I'm intrigued.  I can't believe I'm saying this (nerd alert!), but I'm actually looking forward to staff development in August because I hope to get more answers about Investigations math and how it will look in our 75 minute math block.  (We are actually split by lunch and recess so it is 30 minutes, followed by 45 minutes.)  Do any of you use Investigations?  How does guided math fit with that? 

What's next?  In addition to reading for my classes, I'd really like to get through The CAFE Book.  I've read The Daily 5 book and implemented it most successfully.  I'm curious to see how the CAFE system can enhance my small group reading instruction. 

It's amazing how we teachers keep ourselves so very busy during the summers.  How are you staying busy (or relaxing) this summer? 

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