Monday, July 30, 2012

The Latest Crafty Creation

Here's my latest crafty creation.  It's inspired by the one I made for my own class (look here), but honestly I think this one's better.  Too bad, because it's not for me.  Someone will get to enjoy it though.  That's what's important I suppose.

Thanks again Tara for letting me join your summer of craftiness.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday Sayings: Shoehorning

(Click above for previous Saturday Sayings.)

We teachers are masters at shoehorning.  When it comes to new curriculum, sometimes shoehorning seems like the only tool we have at our disposal.  Unfortunately, it doesn't necessarily lead to the best teaching or the best learning.  There's little time for little else than squirting.  (Read here to learn more about this.)  With the adoption of Common Core upon us, we certainly don't want to revert to the squirt method.  Neither do we want or need to throw out and abandon all the practices we know are best for our kids.

So if something needs to go, what is it?  That's not an easy question to answer.  It's hard to let go, and don't we believe that everything in our classrooms is there for a very important reason?  

"Sometimes I think that if we, as teachers, want to move on, we need to take carloads of curricula to the dump.  It is only by cleaning out some old things that we can give time and space to new ones."  Lucy Calkins, The Art of Teaching Writing 187

I don't believe all old things are worth cleaning out if they've stood the test of time as best for kids, although constantly being in a state of reflection on how those practices can be improved upon is essential.  On the other hand, there are some old things that could be more efficiently taught in new and better ways.  Take this little guy for example.  

Remember the phonemic awareness/spelling worksheets filled with examples like this?  Some teachers have had a hard time fitting writing workshop into their busy day, yet there's a block of time designated for sheets like the one above.  It might not seem like there's room for writing workshop, but replacing activities about writing with an actual writing workshop, allows the students to practice their phonemic awareness and spelling skills in a much more practical and authentic way.  Sometimes the new fits perfectly into our day simply by reflecting on how the old might be taught in a more efficient and meaningful way.  The lack of shoehorning will give us, our kids, and the curriculum some room to breathe no doubt.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Nail on the Head

If you've been reading my blog the past few Mondays, you've seen some of the signs I've been making with my rudimentary tools (scissors, pencil, glue, Mod Podge).  If you're interested in taking a look, go here.  I made one for my best friend who will be my school's new secretary this year, and I agree with my cousin Laurie.  It wasn't my best work.  I'm happy to say that I made a new one, and I believe I hit the nail on the head with this one.  

Exhibit A: Not my best work

Exhibit B: Nail on the head

Now I'm curious if you agree.  Let me know which one you like the best.  I need to do something with Exhibit A, so if your name happens to be Mrs. Morrill, you've got yourself a sign. 

Thanks Tara for letting me link up once again.  It's been fun.

(I feel kind of weird promoting this, but I volunteered to make a sign for Mrs. I's Class' giveaway.  I'll be making a sign like this one except with the winner's choice of color.  If you're interested, I believe the giveaway ends tonight, Mon. the 23rd.)

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday Sayings: Unexamined Wallpaper

(Click above for previous Saturday Sayings.)

Unexamined wallpaper...I'm guessing we all have some of that hanging around our classrooms, our schools, and our districts.  Whatever the wallpaper represents, we've always done it and never thought twice about whether it's best for kids or not.  

Take for example, spelling tests.  Years ago in my classroom, spelling tests fit into the category of unexamined wallpaper.  The teachers around me gave them.  The parents expected them.  The kids just played along.  I gave one spelling test to the whole class every week, because that's the way it was done.  Then I came across some professional reading that challenged the concept.  Are weekly spelling tests best for kids?  Should everyone in the class, from the most challenged speller to the child who can spell beyond their grade level, be accountable for the same words?  Will a spelling test teach them to spell correctly in their daily writing?  I experienced a paradigm shift, and as a result, my own classroom culture changed.  I took down the old wallpaper and replaced it with something that I felt met the needs of my kids better.

That's just one example, but over the years, a lot of wallpaper has come down from the pedagogical walls of my room.  In fact, there are still some unexamined bits and pieces hanging around.  In all reality, I doubt there will ever come a day when I should feel content that it's all been removed.

"We must always look critically at ourselves and our practices in order to improve and refine them."  Regie Routman, Literacy at the Crossroads 37

If I've opened a can of worms and you'd like to know more about what spelling looks like in my classroom, go here.

Chrissy from Read Write Sing is joining me today with her own Saturday Sayings.  Let's go see what she's got to share.  It's bound to be good!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

21st Century Approach

This is an example of what my handwritten lesson plans have looked like for 18 years.  Of course the content has changed, but the neatness has never wavered.  When people look at my writing, I fess up that I'm a freak of nature.  My world is naturally symmetrical and just so.  When it comes to writing lesson plans, this is a time consuming way to be, so this summer I've had a goal to do away with the lesson plan book and try a more 21st century approach.  I'm going with the lesson plan binder, and I'm typing my plans.  My little fingers on the keyboard are sure to save me some time.  

This is my binder cover.  (My pastor's been saying that we're highly favored, greatly blessed, and deeply loved.  There will be days when I'll need this little reminder.)

This is page one of my lesson plan template.  I've got a Mac, and I found out after much trial and error and some wise advice that Pages was the best program to use for this project.
This would be page two.  A lot of information is missing.  I'll have to wait until August to know more specifics of my schedule. 
One thing I like about a lesson plan book is the ability to look ahead and schedule things for future months.  I decided I'd have to include monthly calendars for this purpose.  Fun for First inspired me to include a note section with each month, although check out theirs.  They're so much prettier than mine.

I created some first grade at-a-glance common core documents that are perfect for my binder.  It's nice to have all the standards on one or two pages.  This is the math one, which is all yours in one click.  (Click here and here to get copies of the first grade ELA common core in the same format.)

Brian Cambourne is going to hang out in my binder as well.  These are his conditions for learning.  It might be nice to keep handy.  (Click on the picture for your own copy.)
Have you heard of Brain Rules by John Medina?  It's a great book.  Anyway, I want a reminder of what brains need in my binder too.  (Click on the picture to get yours.)

I'm guessing this binder of mine will collect more as time goes on.  Hopefully it will help me to be a more efficient and better teacher.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Moments of Craftiness

I've had a few moments of craftiness this summer.  First I made a sign for my classroom.  I really like it.  Look here to see a picture.  It then inspired me to make a few more.  I made them the old fashioned way without any fancy tools.  We're talkin' ruler, pencil, scissors, glue, and Mod Podge.  

This first one was for my cousin Laurie who teaches senior AP Lit.   I love the message her kids take with them when they leave her room.
This next one was for my Aunt Susie.  It matches her office at the church.  I love her message too, especially since any woman can be the woman God is with.  
Lastly, I made this one for my best friend who will be the new secretary at my school this year.  This is for her office.  (Honestly, I might make her a different one.  Not sure I love it.)

Once school starts I'm doubtful that I'll be in the sign making business for a while.  It's been fun though.  Thanks Tara for letting me link up.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Bit of This and That

Besides daily naps, what have I been up to this summer? 

A bit of classroom craftiness...
(I posted about this here)
A bit of running...
(My best friend and I ran the Seattle Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon.  She's an inspiration - lost 133 pounds and has kept it off.  Visit her weight loss blog if you need to be inspired.)

A bit of reading...
(This isn't the only thing I read, but it's probably my favorite.  Here's a post about it.)

A bit of traveling...

(I got to go here twice this summer.  Sigh.)

A bit of conveyor belt sushi...
(Yum!  As long as it's not raw, that is.)

A bit of shopping...
(I love a good skirt, and Woodburn Mall outside of Portland is great too.)

I'll be adding church camp and another trip to Seattle to my list before school starts.  What have you been up to this summer?  Link up with Vicky from Traditions, Laughter, and Happily Ever After and share your summer with us.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday Sayings: Squirt. Squirt. Squirt.

(Lots of previous Saturday Sayings are a click away.)

My thought for the day comes from Bill Martin, quoted by Ralph Fletcher in his book What a Writer Needs.  Enjoy.

Squirt.  Squirt.  Squirt.  Guilty.  I know I can get stuck in this mode.  Anyone else?  There's this little thing called time that causes us to commit to practices that don't mesh with our pedagogy, as well as convince us to abandon those we know are worthwhile.  That nagging sense of time haunts our thoughts with the long list of what must be accomplished.  Thus, instead of inviting our kids into the splash zone, we send a few squirts their way and move on.  When we squirt and they squirt back, the kids don't get our best and neither do we get theirs.  

While thinking about this Saturday Saying, I was reminded of a post from Lori at Conversations in Literacy about surface level vs. deeper level thinking.  The surface level is where the squirting occurs.  It's when we take time to get to the splash zone that we get to that deeper level.  The kids get our best and we get theirs too.  I'd like to hang out there much more this year.  Welcome to the splash zone kids.

(Click here to visit Lori's post.)

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Just Tickled

This comes a little late in the game since I used this idea during the last week of school, but honestly I'm scraping the barrel for helpful posts.  I keep thinking one of these days I'll just plumb run out of ideas to share, and believe me, this one isn't all that inspirational or original anyway.  With that said, I should probably let you make up your own mind on the usefulness of this post.  Moving on.

The last week of school is the only time of the year when I use word searches.  Maybe that's why the kids think it's such a treat.  Truthfully that's just part of the reason.  What makes these word searches worthy of their time are the words they're searching for - their names.  The kids are just tickled that they can find their own names and they're quite vocal when they've found a friend's.  It's a fun way to end the year.

I've used two different sites to create these word searches.  Both are easy to use.  Click on the pictures and you'll be taken to the sites.  I sure hope someone out there finds this idea a useful one!

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Monday, July 9, 2012

From Scratch

It's not like normal borders are against my religion, but I just don't use any in my classroom.  Instead I'm a glutton for punishment and create mine from scratch.  Technically I only have two bulletin boards anyway, so it's not really a big deal.  I'll show you what I've done.

Yep, it's a braided fabric border.  It's really rather easy.  If you can braid hair, you can braid fabric.  

Cut three strips, staple the ends together, braid, staple the ends together, staple the braid to the bulletin board, and repeat.  Easy cheesy for a creative look.

Thanks to Tara for letting me link up again!

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Saturday Sayings: A Lot of Easy

(Click above for other Saturday Sayings.)
(Janice is one of my favorite teacher mentors.  She trained me in Reading Recovery my third year of teaching and changed my teaching life forever.  Sappy but true.)

I can't say for sure that Janice invented this saying, but she's the one who brought it to life for me, so I'm giving her the credit.  This next quote confirms that she was ever so right.

"Lots of easy reading is absolutely critical to reading development and to the development of positive stances toward reading."  Richard Allington, What Really Matters for Struggling Readers 44

If a lot of easy reading makes reading easy, then wouldn't it be safe to say that a lot of hard reading makes reading hard? If it's hard, then it's for sure not enjoyable.  If it's not enjoyable, then why try?  I'm pretty sure most of us know a reader or two (more like handfuls) who have found themselves in this boat.  No doubt many factors affect the attitudes and abilities of these readers, but I wonder how many of them simply haven't spent enough time with books that are easy.

I think it's important to make sure that "a lot" and "easy" are part of what our developing readers experience.  Both parts of the equation are necessary.  

  • How much time do our kids actually spend reading books independently?  
  • How much of what they read is easy for them? 

A lot of easy reading makes reading easy.  It's so simple, yet deserves a lot of thought and consideration.  

P.S.  I like to share this saying with parents.  It's typically an eye-opener for them.

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