Saturday, March 28, 2015

Happy Little Classroom Challenges

Oh, Bob. 

I had a much different class this year than my first year as a teacher.  I had a mix of levels, most of my students being  kindergarten-first grade readers. I teach second so it felt a lot like instructing at three different grade levels. This is an experience I think most (all) teachers can relate to. I also had the ESE cluster and a fair number of undiagnosed students that needed a lot of attention both academically and emotionally.

It can certainly be time consuming to differentiate activities among students that you are 1. Preparing for rigorous unit tests, more complex reading, and 3rd grade state testing while 2. Working on sight words, basic phonics principles, and poor oral language skills with others. It takes creativity. Especially if you're also managing students with behavioral issues and trying to find activities for, and ways to reach, students that don't love school in general.
Because a big percentage of my schools' population live at or below the poverty line, I see a lot of kids that grew up in households where parents might not have been around to read nightly to them. The parents worked two jobs or maybe they couldn't speak the language. Sometimes both. That lack of "lap time" really effects a child's ability to view themselves as a student I think. If they haven't grown up with warm memories of a particular book being read to them, it seems harder for them to connect with reading like some other students that had the privilege of mom reading-them-to-sleep.
I felt challenged a lot more this school year and I left (for maternity leave) with a new perspective on what it takes to really teach.  Some days I wondered if I had the patience to get through (nope). Other days I felt accomplished. 

If you're still here (thanks for staying!), let's talk goals...

I have two goals I know will be on my long list of "areas for improvement":
1. Differentiate word work better! 
- I loved the spelling inventory from Words Their Way because it really gave me an idea of where to start with word work but I struggled a little bit with how to form groups effectively. I want to get a system down next year that will work like clockwork. 
2. Get on the floor! 
- Getting back to the "lack of lap time" I was talking about before. Next year during independent reading, I'm going to get on the floor more with my kids that can't read and read to them and with them. Yes, I do this during guided reading and read alouds but I feel like this one-on-one time might work wonders. I know for some it will be the closest thing they get to having a book read just to them so it's worth a shot. 

The biggest challenge of all will probably be leaving on time each day to get home to my babies!

How do you manage so many different levels of learners?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Scoop - March 22

I'm linking up with Teaching Trio for The Sunday Scoop in what will be my first linky party!

Here's my 3-2-1:

have to do...
1.  I've started chapters 7-11 of my Math Vocab Matching Center Part 2 to go along with Part 1 (which covers chapters 1-6 of the Go! Math curriculum for second grade). Check out that resource {HERE}.  It includes many essential vocab words students need to know in order to really grasp math concepts! The included words go way beyond the vocab in the text book. You'll see a lot of math words and language that would most likely be on an exam and that are essential to know in order to have effective math talks. Part 2 will have even MORE words. {PART 2 is complete - check it out HERE or save and get the BUNDLE}
2. Nuff said. Ew.
3. The first book is SAH GOOD. I'm half way through the second but I got a little busy having a baby so I put it down for a couple of months. I have missed you, Jamie Fraser.

hope to do...
1. LOTS to do with this resource.  The past couple of years I felt like I was often scurrying to find effective shared reading materials that were relevant to the month or that were aligned with Common Core. So, I'm creating my own. The end.
2. GradeCam looks super interesting and I need to know more. I'm into anything that makes grading tests and inputting data quicker.

happy to do...
1. My three year old starts dance classes on Monday! I can't wait to get her some fancy outfits to go with her fancy (and vintage... it was mine!) dance bag.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy International Day of Happiness!

"The pursuit of happiness is serious business." - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
I couldn't agree more with you, Ban (can I call you Ban?) and the United Nations, that HAPPINESS is serious bidness.  March 20th, officially deemed International Happiness Day by the United Nations, is a day that recognizes "the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world".  This is a holiday I can really get behind (see also: International Donut Day).  Everyone deserves to be happy!
To celebrate International Day of Happiness, or World Happiness Day, you can share a song that makes you happy on "The Worlds Happiest Playlist" by going to I'm listening to the stream now and it is GOOD.

I'm very grateful that I have so many things to feel good about. Here's a list of 10 things that make me HAPPY.

1. My dog's tired face
2. The sound of my 3 year-old daughter's voice!
3. Fresh sheets
4. An ice cold can of Coca Cola (extra points if it induces brain freeze!)
5. Having enough things to be happy about to make a list
6. Publix ♥
7. Getting snail mail
8. My son's newborn smile (it may just be gas but who cares) 
9. My husband's special brand of humor
10. fuzzy socks
11. (Because #5 was kinda a freebie) Palm trees with Christmas lights 
It's good, right?

What makes you happy?

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Homework Club {FREEBIE}

I had the greatest group of kids my first year teaching. I will always have super fond memories of them and my first year as a 2nd grade teacher. They were a sweet group and I wanted to reward them whenever I could. Sweet yes. Inclined to return homework? Not so much.  I wanted a system that would motivate them to do it; not because I think homework is the most important thing on earth but I do think it's an important lesson in self-discipline. It's hard to go home after a long day at school and do more school work. Especially for some of my kids that didn't have a support system at home. My dream was for them to take charge of their learning and do their best even without expectations from parents to succeed. I found the idea of the Homework Club on Pinterest and ran with it. My students responded really well to it and homework was actually getting turned in for many more days out of the month than before (more on that later). 
Enjoying our monthly Homework Club Lunch!
If students turned both their math and reading homework in everyday that month they got to be in The Homework Club, which ultimately meant they got to eat lunch on the rug, in the classroom with me, and have doughnuts while we watched free television on YouTube. Obviously awesome.
As you can see from the picture above, there were only two homework club members in attendance that month BUT 2 out of 16 kids ain't bad when you look at it in the grand scheme of things: the HW Club motivated my most unmotivated students to complete and return more homework than usual. I was also super strict about completely BOTH math and reading. If they only turned in one, I still booted them. Tough love! 
Last year I used magnets to keep track of my students by their numbers. If they didn't return HW, I simply removed their magnet from the whiteboard. I created a new system for the HW Club that I plan to use next school year (since I'm on maternity leave and can't implement it now!). I've added it as a FREEBIE in my TpT shop. Check it out HERE


I decided to add a few new elements to my HW Club for next year when I return... homework passes, numbers and a sign to use in a pocket chart (instead of magnets), certificates, and a cute ticket to give students that are in the club at the end of the month. The ticket gives them access to the Homework Club Lunch. I want to laminate those so I can reuse all year!  
Do you use incentives for Homework?