Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tic Tac Toe, Three in a Row

I think I'll get acquainted today with Flying Into First Grade's linky.  Today's topic is Tic Tac Toe.  I need to choose three categories that make Tic Tac Toe, three in a row. 

I choose the vertical column on the right.

Dream Vacation:

Florence, Italy is my happy place.  I've been to Europe several times but three times to Florence.  Hopefully I'll be back several more.  If anyone needs a tour guide, I'm your gal.  My feet know their way around that place.

Books I'm Reading:
I won't share the 12 books I've already read this summer or the 5 others that are waiting in line, but these are the 3 that I'm currently working on.  The first is for fun, because I love my fiction.  The second is a given, because Regie rocks.  The third is for my math instruction, because I'd love to improve the way my kids work on problem solving in my classroom.


Working out in my Nikes is a favorite hobby of mine.  Singing is another.  I do most of my singing at church, but the second picture is the cover of the Christmas CD my cousin and I made.  Lastly, Regie is not a hobby of mine, although it's not a bad idea.  Reading is though.

If you're up for a little Tic Tac Toe, head on over to Flying Into First Grade!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin
Pin It!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Answers Solve Nothing

Today's quote comes from Share & Compare: A Teacher's Story About Helping Children Become Problem Solvers in Mathematics.  Maybe it will make a bit more sense after reading this thought.

"Children's problem-solving accomplishments can sometimes be characterized as 'unconscious competence.'  They can solve problems and communicate their solutions using drawings and manipulatives, but they seem unaware of the thought processes taking place."  
Larry Buschman, Share & Compare 17

These quotes challenge my way of thinking and operating as a math teacher.  To me, they're saying that it's not all about the solution, and drawings and manipulatives aren't even the most sought after goal in a child's mathematics instruction.  A mathematician's ability to communicate about their problem solving strategies is proof that something worthwhile is going on.  I've been taking steps in the right direction.  I've added "How do you know?" to my math conversations.  I've been more aware of expecting my kids to teach their strategies to the class as well as informally with partners.  Yet in spite of the positive changes I'm making, there are levels of communicating about math that my kids have yet to experience.  Just finding the answer and showing the work isn't enough.  The math talk that kids engage in is where it's at.  

Pin It!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Three Will Do

This is a first for me.  I've never shared five random things from my week before.  I'm experiencing such a lazy summer, I don't know if I'll be able to get to five.  :)

I got to spend a few days at Cannon Beach, Oregon after running a half marathon in Seattle with my best friend.  That mountain of a rock is quite a site, and this is what it looks like at a negative low tide.

Meet my bugs.  They've really put a damper on the beginning of the summer.  They seem to have a liking for my master bathroom and bedroom, so much so, that I've even found them on my pillow.  Bad move.  Anyway, I haven't slept in my bed for a month now.  This is getting really old.

I've been a busy little reader.  I finished this one, my 12th book of the summer, just this week.  I'm already on to the next in the series, and I've got two teacher books that I'm working my way through as well.

I guess three will have to do, because I'm all out of randomness.  Thanks Doodle Bugs for the linky!

Pin It!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Third Teacher

I recently finished my 11th book of the summer.  I'm on a book reading frenzy of sorts, making up for all the books I didn't read while being a teacher the past nine months I guess.  

One of my favorites out of the 11 reads was Smarter Charts by Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz.  It's filled with powerful tips that show teachers how to envision, make, and use charts in more powerful and engaging ways.  The charts they talk about are not time-consuming.  Nor are they cutesy, but they're so very eye-catching.  They're meant to be engaging tools that students will repeatedly use to become independent problem solvers.  These kinds of charts take on the roll of teacher as stated by the authors themselves in the quote below.

"Consider this book a consciousness-raising effort aimed to elevate charts to a level of necessity - not just because we teachers are told to, but because we have found them to be incredibly helpful tools, full of information, and truly the third teacher in the room."

The book also contains several photos of charts for those of us who live on the visual side of things, as well as a handful of lesson plans so we can envision the making and use of smarter charts in action.

You can find the authors of this book on Facebook.  Look up Chartchums or click on the picture below.

The authors also blog about charts.  Their posts include excellent ideas, descriptions, and photos from teachers who are creating smarter charts with their students.  The posts are excellent.  Click on the link below to see for yourself.

I'm looking forward to putting the ideas from this book into action next year.  I'd definitely recommend it if you'd like to see charts become the third teacher in your room as well.

Pin It!

Monday, June 24, 2013


On the last day of school I gave my kids a test.  Really, it's not as bad as it sounds.  In fact, my kids loved it!  It was called "How Well Do You Know Your Teacher?"  (I got the idea from Miss Trayers at Not Just Child's Play.  You should go take a look.)  One of the questions was, "My teacher always says..."  Many of them wrote down these words.

Listen to your heart.

I was secretly rooting for that response, because I consider it to be about the most important thing that I teach them.  I'd be a happy camper if in 40 years, that's the one and only thing they remember about their year in first grade.  Miss McMorrow taught us how to listen to our hearts.  Anyway, I have a few reminders on my walls about this topic.  (Here's one that I made.)  I also recently revamped another one.  Sorry to the person who created this saying.  I've had it for so long I can't remember where I found it.

Heartprints here
Heartprints there
We leave heartprints everywhere

Thanks again Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for another Monday Made-It!

Pin It!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Vygotsky Takes a Seat

Kimberley from First in Maine is hosting a little book study of Catching Readers Before They Fall.  Click on the above graphic to read her thoughts on chapter three.  Mine are below.

Chapter Three:  Vygotsky Takes a Seat in Our Classrooms
What I loved...

The work of Vygotsky and Zone of Proximal Development are nothing new to me, but I'm still challenged by them.  

(p. 32)

"Oftentimes in classrooms, students who are expected to complete tasks that are out of their reach will become very frustrated and confused.  Similarly, students asked to constantly work within their ZAD using skills and strategies they have total control of become bored and take on little or no new learning."

How I connect this learning to my teaching...
Teaching is quite a balancing act.  Keeping kids from hanging out too much in the ZAD or in the Out of Reach area is a challenge.  Both can be equally frustrating for kids and teacher alike.  This means that I need to know where my kids are at.  Knowing their frustrations as well as their strengths will help me provide the right types of support so they can find their way to the ZPD as much as possible.  Using discernment in regards to their behavior is important too.  Sometimes their actions are cries for help when what I'm expecting of them is too easy or too hard.  Vygotsky gives us much to think about.

Thanks again Kimberley!

Pin It!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Cut Some Strings

Book reports.  That's the first thing that comes to mind after reading this quote.  Has anyone really ever learned to love reading by doing book reports?  I'm thinking not.  Like Donalyn Miller says, there are often so many strings attached to reading that it turns into schoolwork instead of an enjoyable activity that students will choose to do even when their lives are removed from the classroom.  

When I think of things required of students, I like to think of them in terms of what I as an adult would or would not like.  So far this summer I've read 11 books and not once did I complete a diorama, take a computer test, complete a packet of some sort, fill in a worksheet, and the list goes on.  I did, on the other hand, talk about what I was reading with friends, make comments on Facebook, and make a few recommendations as well.  I even chose to jot down some of my favorite quotes and make notes about how some of the books could influence my teaching.  If my adult reading behaviors can translate into the classroom, then the fewer strings attached to reading, the better.  What would happen to our readers if we teachers created an atmosphere similar to what we as adults enjoy?  When possible, let's cut a few strings, let them read, and find out.

I'm off to run 13.1 miles.  Bonus points for anyone who remembers what city I'm running in and who I'm running with.  :)

Pin It!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Gettin' Fit Obsession

Halle from Across the Hall in 2nd Grade is doing another one of her favorite linkies today.  The topic - Gettin' Fit Favorites.  I can totally pull this one off!  If you can too, you should hang out with Halle today as well.  
Warning:  I might have a slight obsession with a certain brand.

I love this shoe.  My feet and the Nike Pegasus have been friends for years.  I can't fathom running in anything else.

I don't own this particular shirt, but I don't work out in shirts without swooshes.  True story.  Sorry Reebok and Adidas.

Yep, Nike shorts are a must too.  

This is my water bottle.  Noticing a pattern yet?  
(I could have also included pictures of my Nike sports bra, Nike socks, Nike sunglasses, Nike hat...)

This is my newest running must-have and the only thing I wear that's missing a swoosh.

Okay, so if you didn't notice, Nike is my brand of choice.  I should seriously get paid for all the endorsing I do. :)  

Speaking of gettin' fit, I'm off to run a half-marathon with my best friend in Seattle this Saturday, and you can bet I'll be covered in swooshes.  Fun times!  

Pin It!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Teacher Always Says Linky

Tis the season to link up, so I'm joining the masses with my own linky and inviting you to join me as well.  (Which is a bit scary since this is my first ever.)  I've wanted to post about my classroom mantras for a long time.  There are so many things that I say over and over.  (My kids can attest to that.  In fact, I say them so often, I let the children finish my sentences!)  The thing is, I'd love to know what you say too, because most likely I'll want to steal your clever sayings for myself.  So if you're reading this, consider yourself personally invited to join me.  We'll probably all find something new to add to our repertoire.

This is my favorite!

My writers figure out really fast that if they ask me how to spell a word, they're going to get this response out of me.  

This is one of my favorite things to ask a mathematician.  

This year we talked about not sweating the small stuff.  When it comes to their neighbors, they can turn small stuff into big stuff much too quickly.

Boy does this one come in handy!

This works really well when you insert the name of the person someone is trying to control.  In other words, take care of yourself!

I could go on.  I'd better stop, so you can start working on yours (especially since this linky is only up for a week)!
  • Please use the graphic at the top of my post to link back to my blog.  
  • Feel free to use the graphic below for your mantras if you're feeling fancy.  Otherwise, please just make yourself at home and share them in whatever fashion makes you happy.
  • Of course your mantras can come from a variety of places - behavioral or in any academic area.  
  • Share as many as you'd like.  The more, the merrier.  

Graphic provided by

Pin It!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The 20 Percent

Kimberley from First in Maine is studying Catching Readers Before They Fall on her blog this summer.  It's a great book and a great blog, for that matter.  I'd recommend both in a heartbeat.  Anyway, she's shared her thoughts about the first two chapters.  Read them by clicking on the graphic above.  Here are my thoughts.

Chapter One: Expanding Our Paradigm of Reading
What I loved...
I happened to love the same thing Kimberley did.  "The strongest safety net of all is the classroom teacher."  When I think of my struggling readers, I can typically list off several reasons why they struggle and none of them have anything to do with my instruction.  Those struggles are valid and relevant, but I can only control what I can control so I need to look to myself and the way I teach in order to meet their needs, in spite of the stuff I can't control.

How I connect this learning to my teaching...
I don't want to ignore outside factors, but I need to resist the urge to focus my energies there and instead focus them on finding a way to make my classroom instruction so powerful that it meets the needs of all my students.

Chapter Two:  How Reading Works
What I loved...
"We are very much opposed to the deficit model that blames the child for his or her reading difficulties.  If struggling readers are not learning how to read, then we need to look at ourselves and our teaching, searching harder and longer to discover how to teach them better."  I'd say that goes hand in hand with what I loved about the first chapter.  I'm seeing a pattern here.  The authors are inviting us teachers to pursue best teaching practices for all our kids, not just the 80% who will learn to read just be showing up. 

How I connect this learning to my teaching...
I can teach the 80% to read with my eyes closed, hands tied behind my back.  They're going to learn to read no matter what, it seems.  It's the 20% who are the challenge.  What am I doing for them?  How does my instruction change in order to teach them better?  I believe it takes some nitty-gritty research that comes with spending quality time with these readers and their struggles and then making a plan as to how I can teach and reach them better.

Thanks Kimberley for letting me join you.  You've got my juices flowing.

Pin It!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Excellence is a Habit

I recently discovered this quote, and I just can't shake it.  It's hauntingly brilliant to me, if that makes any sense.  It's so wonderful I wish I were its creator.  In 18 words Paul Bambrick has summed up what a teacher's world is all about during the first several weeks of school.  Make that months or why not just all year?  It all starts on day one though. 

On the first day of school I have a special tradition.  I always let one of my best secrets out of the bag.  "Guess what kids?  Don't tell anybody, but Mr. Graves always sends me the best kids in the whole school."  I then proceed to spend the rest of the year teaching them how to be the best kids.  Before they even show up, I have a vision in my head of what that looks like, but I must remind myself that these little people can't read my mind.  They must be shown what excellence looks like, over and over.  When I just assume that they know what excellence is, I might end up with big pink erasers that have been attacked by pencil tips or that are dismantled in shreds on the floor under desks.  (Not that that's ever happened in my classroom.  Ugh.)  They need me to repeatedly teach them to be the class I want - the best kids in the whole school.  The excellence I'm looking for is a habit.  It's my job to teach it daily.

Pin It!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

At the Beach

Halle from Across the Hall in 2nd Grade has another favorite things linky today.  The topic: favorite beach or pool day items.  I don't make it to the pool or beach very often, but here goes.

I'm seriously no fun, but I've found that skin cancer isn't either so even though I love the beach, I don't much love the nasty things the sun does to my skin.  Sorry sun.

Yep, still no fun.  When possible, I like to find shade.  

Of course, books and beaches go hand in hand!

Speaking of beaches, I get to hang out a few days on this one soon with my best friend after we run 13.1 miles.  Sweet.

Pin It!