Sunday, September 6, 2015

Currently Enjoying a Three Day Weekend

Well it is already the 6th of September, so I am hoping I am not too awfully late to join Farley's Currently party. It is the beginning of the year, and I have a sneaky suspicion that I will not be the only one late to this party. :) We are all tired...first weeks of school teacher tired! Late or not, I am always excited to join this fun linky party. I could get lost for days looking at all the wonderful teacher blogs out there. Well....sometimes I do lol....Don't miss out and take a few moments to look around; just remember her rule of 3. :)

Showing our Panther Pride!
As always...we spent our days reading and writing away!

We are still sharing our stories and much discussion about where writers get their ideas. 

When I think about what we know first and what we might have to share, these are my go to read alouds... 


When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant and What You Know First by Patricia MacLachlan are both beautifully illustrated examples of writers writing from what means the most to them. When thinking about why writers write, these are perfect mentor texts. 

AND... I LOVE LOVE LOVE sharing this song and video by Miranda Lambert. The House That Built Me reminds me that we all have so many memories to share as writers...we are all writers and storytellers.

This anchor, A Writer's Notebook, is an anchor I work to create every year with my kiddos, and we build on it for most of our launch of writing workshops. We share a lot of great stories and discussion around this one, all of them a great lead in to our own writing.

I am having tons of fun grading our reader's notebooks... you can learn so much about a kiddo from what they share in their notebooks. This is one of my most favorite entries this week.... "a black hole like your desk, Mrs. Dunn"..... oh my...hahaha :) Love this group so much already.

So...this week I was super proud to complete a 100 miles to Labor Day challenge! In the past 6 weeks I have walked or biked 100 miles! Whoo hoo! I put a lot of miles on those shoes this summer, and my goal is to keep going...step by step by step!

My sweet, sweet friends treated me to a wonderful dinner at my favorite restaurant, Kan Pai, as a yummy birthday celebration. Such fun times and great laughs with these girls. 

I received the first of Joshua's senior pictures. The last of my own babies is a senior, and I have absolutely NO idea where in the world the time has gone. We won't be able to use the picture of him with his lamb, Riley, in the year book, but it was certainly one of my most favorites. He has always been so good with animals, and the path that has led him on has been so good for him. So proud to be his mom!

OK... time to talk books! I haven't done this in a while, but I haven't stopped reading. I will have plenty to share as I catch up, and soon I will have the kiddos sharing their own!

How perfect for me to start with this amazing story by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Fish in a Tree is such a sweet story, and I have no doubts that most of you know this already as it is blowing up on most social media. I cannot scroll through our Instagram feed without it popping up at least once a day, if not more. 

Although I had heard a bit of buzz about this one, it wasn't until my favorite summer reading professional development...So Many Books So Little Time...that I just knew I had to pick it up. This made the top of the list by Ken Stamatis, so I had no doubts it would be a great one. According to him, this is a "teacher's book," and I most certainly agree. 

I have taught so many kids just like the sweet and quirky characters in this book... sensitive and frustrated Ally pushes me to be a better teacher just as Mr. Daniels inspires me to do the same. And secretly I love Albert, the "walking google page."

As I read this story, I was frustrated right along with Ally that no teacher before Mr. Daniels picked up on her issues, and I couldn't help but be reminded of Patricia Polacco's, Thank You, Mr. Falker. I laughed more than once and cried just the same. Sweet and moving and a perfectly inspiring read for any teacher, and I am more than sure that I have a few kiddos that can relate to one or more characters in this one. I cannot wait to share this as a read aloud this year.  

With that I will say goodnight for now and finish linking up with Farley... have a wonderful rest of the long weekend...and kiddos, get ready for another busy week!

Happy Reading, friends!

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Monday, August 31, 2015

One Big Party, sort of...

Our second week was one big party! I am more than sure your kiddos told you all about my birthday. That is because I have teammates that totally spoil me, and every year they spoil me MORE! And this year, the kiddos were pulled into all the fun.

The day started with balloons and doughnuts. Sarah even remembered my favorite and picked up a couple of blueberry cake doughnuts! Whoo hoo! Diet was out the window this day, but I am pretty sure that it is a rule that on your birthday you are NOT allowed to count calories. There were flowers and cards, too. I will overlook the glitter on the card because there was so little of it, Sandy. ;)

Before I knew it, we had more flowers and gifts! What girl doesn't love gifts, right! But not only did I get gifts...a special parent brought birthday goodies for both classes. I would love to share pics but in the madness that ensued...I didn't get any. However, every kiddo received a cupcake, a few laughs, and more fun outside for about 10 extra minutes of recess. 

Now I don't want you to get the idea that we were all play and no work....nope, not this room! We have been trucking right along. I mean just look at my beautiful bookshelves... all covered in anchors. Yes...yes... I know my anchor charts are important to the kiddos, and we refer back to them so often. However... every year I miss looking at that beautiful shelf with all those amazing books ready to be in the hands of my voracious readers!

But what do you have to do with limited wall space for all those anchors we work so diligently to create together each day?...Well you use what you have and for me, that is book shelves. *sad sigh....

You might have noticed a few furniture changes between the two pictures. After our first week, we could definitely see things that needed to be changed and rearranged. A few pieces were taken out, and others put to use in different places to make for a smoother running space. 

Goodness.... I digress....

As I started saying, we have been trucking right along, and I am more than proud of our accomplishments thus far. 

I think we are off to an amazing start in our shared reading.  This is a small thing I do each day with the kiddos...about 15 minutes...and it gives me so much! I have promised my students that if they work really hard during our shared reading and participate by SHARING their THINKING, then they will more than likely never get reading homework from me. Of course other than reading a book! 
I mean no more worksheet-homework, YUCK. I have found that I can get more from this 15 minutes a day than I ever could from all the time it took me to track down the homework that was more than likely slapped on the paper during the bus ride to school the next morning...IF they remembered to do it at all. So for now....they are working their tushes off to give me what I am looking for...because no one WANTS to do a reading worksheet if they don't have to... :) If you know my former students, please do NOT tell them about this because there might be a riot if you do. I haven't always been this nice about homework. I am pretty sure I once heard a kiddo say that they really wanted to be in my class but they hoped not to get me because they heard through the school grapevine that I was the homework queen.YIKES!

Now a little handwriting/ word-study practice is all that they will get from me. Of course other than reading a book! They must always read a book, or two, or three! Not all in one day of course. ;)

With our shared reading, we have created a glossary in the back of our reader's notebooks. Each day as we share and discuss the week's passage, we take note of any new or important vocabulary. We add these words along with their definitions to the correct page of our glossary, and then we create a sentence using that word. When possible, I will allow the kiddos to sketch their ideas or visualization of each word. 

I will then post the vocabulary word on an anchor titled, Our Glossary. This way students can always monitor themselves to make sure they have all needed vocabulary.


We have also had tons of fun with our morning meetings! Love, love, love that we have a Responsive Classroom! We have become a family and gotten to know each other so much more quickly with our morning meetings.

I Mustache You is one of my most favorite shares. 

Brain breaks are just as important as our morning meeting shares and activities. :) Sometimes you just need to get up and move and maybe even giggle a little! This is quick idea that I actually stole from one of our back-to-school meetings in the beginning of the year. Yes... I have played this game too, and let me just say my kiddos are far better than I am. Ha!


Below is a picture of our weekly journals. These are journals that we write in each week as a reflection of our learning and accomplishments. I wish I could take credit for this insanely brilliant idea, but if you know me, well then you know I probably haven't had an original idea in years. I get all of my magic from the wonderful teachers around me, and this beauty came from my friend, Dawn from Teach to Each

At the time she was teaching first, so I had to tweak it a little for fourth. Let me tell you though ...this has quickly worked its way to becoming one of my most favorite learning tools. We do this from the first week of school to the last week, and watching the growth in writing is so fun! 

Each week as we cover new skills, students are expected to use those skills in their letters. This week we discovered how to correctly use a semicolon, so the kiddos had to use a semicolon correctly as they wrote to their families. Such a quick assessment and parent communication all in one!

I try to include pictures throughout the year, a few every couple of weeks. Again, watching my students grow not only academically but emotionally and physically as well is so fun and enlightening. Man the growth spurts in fourth grade... you don't even realize it until you compare those pics. So crazy!

I am not the only one that gets to enjoy this...the parents and family members that invest in this two-way conversation each week have such an amazing keepsake at the end of the year. A complete journal of their fourth grade year, written in their own sweet little voices! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! And I love that I work with such talented teachers that share their inspiring ideas!

I will share more examples and photos here as we continue journaling away!

I came up over the weekend and spent a good amount of time working around my room and on bulletin boards or displays in the hallway. I am so excited about these. These are more magic from Donalyn Miller, the Book Whisperer! Have I mentioned how much I love her ideas? I can't wait to see this grow!

I am still giving it my best to stay on it my best to become healthier step by step. My most favorite walks always include Josh or Katiebyrd. Katie and her fiance came and walked with me the night before my birthday. Nothing better than spending time with my own kiddos. Now that they are all going off in their own directions, anytime I get with them at all is so special.  I now have a new favorite picture of Katiebyrd and Joshua...look at those cuties!

Speaking of Katibyrd...have I told you? She is engaged! She will be getting married in June, and she could NOT be more excited. Here she is after having just decided on her venue. She will be getting married at St. John's Chapel by the Creek, and I cannot wait to see what an amazingly beautiful bride she will be! I know... I know.... right now you are thinking that I couldn't possibly be old enough to have a daughter getting boggles the mind doesn't it! ;)

So much happening in such a short time! I am so blessed to have such sweet and hard working kiddos and just as blessed to work with such an amazing group of teachers and parents that I call friends.... and that spoil me so!

Happy Reading, friends!

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Monday, August 24, 2015

First week in the books ~ 2015!

Just look at that sweet group of cutie patooties! I totally love them already. We are going to have so much fun this year... I can't wait to see what amazing things we learn from each other!

As first weeks go, ours flew by so quickly. I have to admit our first day had me a little their excitement we had a chattery group of kiddos. I wasn't sure if it was the classroom set up, getting to see old friends, or if we were in for a long chatty year, but by the end of the week we had ironed out most of the kinks to have a smooth running classroom. I am so glad that I did not chicken out and start the year with desks. I do believe these kiddos love our classroom setting as much as I do....*sigh :)

Just look at these book lovers reading away! One of our first goals was to really establish firm expectations for our writing and reading workshops, and I would say that we accomplished that. Of course we will need to revisit and maybe even make adjustments throughout the year, but we are off to a great start.


While setting up our reader's notebooks, I really stressed the importance of our reading record and our book status forms. These forms can tell me a lot about a kiddos reading when I call them up to conference with me. 

This example is one of my own reading records... if I ask the kiddos to read 40 books and keep a reading record, then I feel I should do the same. This is a mix of young adult and adult books which is what I tend to do throughout each year. 
There is so much I can learn about my young readers from this one form... 

Our book status form is an idea I took straight from the pages of Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller. I fell in love with her philosphy of reading instruction with The Book Whisperer! Her books inspired me and gave me the courage to really reach out and teach reading the way I always envisioned it. If you haven't read these two books yet, you should pick them up as soon as possible!

In writing workshop we worked just as diligently to establish routines and expectations, and create a safe place to keep all of our fun and creative writing ideas.

Every year while creating these writing notebooks, I ask myself "why".... so much work and such a crazy-messy time but when I see the final products, I know exactly why I stick to it an have my kiddos create these.

One of our first entries into our notebooks is our Heart Map! This is another activity that can be wild and crazy, but I sure do love the results and the discussion.

Another of my favorites has become my students' weekly journals. This is a journal in which kiddos tell about their week and share their thoughts on school and their learning - and sometimes outside school events make their way in, too! They share these journal entries in the form of a letter to their families, and the exciting part is their families respond as well. The kiddos love that their parents have homework just like them.... my parents have always been so good to respond and participate with these, and the kiddos LOVE, LOVE, LOVE reading their responses. I will share more about these later. 

Look at this beautiful group of ladies that I have the privilege of working with every day!
Of course we had to do a silly pic :) ~ great things ahead for this group!

Well, I think that wraps up our crazy-busy first week! I am so excited for all the fun and learning we will have this year with this cute little group!

Happy Reading, friends!

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