Teacher Vlog #2

3:00 AM

Week #2 of vlogging is complete! Next week I'll be working in my classroom, so I can show y'all the behind the scenes of that whole process, but for this week, there's a lot of reading, shopping, and working! Remember, I'm still overcoming a fear of filming, so just please be patient with my film flaws :)


I'm getting my master's degree!

5:34 AM

Happy Friday, friends! I am so so excited about today because it's the first day of school for me! 

Kind of.

Let me explain.

I have been putting off and putting off getting my master's degree for the longest. I got my Bachelor's degree in elementary education almost 10 years ago (what?!?) and I've just never started the next step in the education process. I have been busy, busy, busy and I could never wrap my brain around even thinking about adding something else to the mix. But then once I started looking into it, I realized that you can actually take most of (if not ALL) your Master classes online now. I'm so excited to partner with the University of West Alabama and share my online journey with y'all! 

Now, I'm just dipping my toes in the water this summer and I'm only taking one class, but I'm so excited about it! It's called Imaging/Graphic Design Technology Learning (the program I'm getting my Master's degree in is Learning, Design, and Technology.) I LOVE learning about different ways to use technology to enhance student learning, so I'm hopefully that my first class will be full of useful info. 

If you're like I was and you're unsure if you'll be able to fit in "going back to school," you should look into the online programs at UWA. I couldn't believe how easy it is! Now if the actual class is as easy, I'll be one happy girl! :) :) 

I'll be checking in all summer and updating y'all on my process. How many of y'all have your Master degree? What is it in? Did you go the traditional route or did you do it online? I'd love to know! 

Disrupting Thinking Book Study: Chapters 2,3

4:03 PM
Happy book study day, friends! Today we are discussing chapters 2 and 3 in our book study of Disrupting Thinking.

Here's what my notes looked like from these two chapters

I have to admit, I connected more to chapter 2 (The Responsive Reader) than chapter 3 (The Responsible Reader.) I do think it's important to be both responsive AND responsible, but it is a bit overwhelming, right? I mean, it's very hard to change some kids' thinking about how to response to the text instead of just reading to answer questions. It's a lot to think about how to get them to connect to the text and then challenge it to change their mind about something or defend their way of thinking about it. It's important, yes, but I was just more motivated by chapter 2. What about you?

This book has really got me thinking about how to teach reading. I like to think I've always put importance on connecting to the text, but I do think in the past, I've focus a bit too much on just reading and answering questions about a text. I mean, my number one goal in teaching ELA is to make every one of my students a reader, but at the end of the day, we are also responsible for teaching them how to read for information and how to cite evidence properly when writing a constructed response. Sometimes I think I skip over the responding to the text to focus more on answering a question correctly. That pains me to say, but I want to reflect on this honestly. This is something I need to work on. Yes, there's a balance, but I think we have to teach kids how to respond to the text and make connections. I loved the quote on p.28:

"If the reader isn't responsive, if she doesn't let the text awaken emotion or inspire thoughts, then she can barely be said to be reading at all." 

This made me think of when you DNF a book (did not finish.) When I'm not into a book, either because I don't understand it or because I simply don't enjoy the story, I DNF it. The text isn't connecting to me emotionally or intellectually, so I don't read it.

I think if we teach the kids how to respond to the text and how to connect to it and question it, the answering of the questions will become a second thought, which doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. If they are connecting to the text, they are understanding it and should be able to answer questions about it, even though that isn't (and shouldn't be!) the main objective of reading. 

Okay, I want to hear YOUR thoughts! What stuck out to you in this chapter?

To see the other posts in the book study:

Chapter 2,3 (this post)

Chapter 4, Part I Thoughts

Part II, Chapter 5,6

Chapters 7,8,9, Thoughts on Part II

Part III, Chapters 10, 11

Chapters 12, 13

Chapters 14, 15, end of book

Teacher Tidbit Tuesday: My Teaching History

5:36 AM
Happy Tuesday, y'all! Today's Teacher Tidbit Tuesday topic is Your Teaching History. I'm going to share what the past 10 years have looked like for me :)

For the first four years of my teaching career, I taught first grade. I shared my lower elementary adventures over on my very first blog, Life in First Grade

After four years of teaching 6 and 7 year olds, I decided I needed a change and I requested to move to an upper elementary position. When I requested it, I was thinking 4th grade, but I ended up in 5th. Even though it was my decision to change grades, I was so nervous about teaching 11 year olds. All throughout college, whenever we had a choice in what grade level we did a project on or any practicum placements that we got to pick the grade, I always picked 1st or 2nd grade. 2nd was my dream grade. In fact, once I got assigned a 5th grade science practicum and I had to create a lesson. I was sooooo nervous about it being 5th grade. I hated all things upper elementary. Now, I can't imagine going back and teaching a lower grade. For me, the move was wonderful. 

So now I'm about to enter my 6th year of teaching 5th grade. Upper elementary life is great. I'm departmentalized, so I only teaching ELA, while my coworkers teach math, science, and history. The biggest drawback to this is that time is a greater factor, but I love teaching only one subject. If you want to hear more about what my days/weeks look like, just let me know! :)

That's it for today's Teacher Tidbit Tuesday post. Here's what topics are coming up. 

Your Teaching History (this post)

Your Summer Rountine

Favorite Instagrammers

Classroom Design Plan

Top 10 Favorite Movies

Favorite Phone Apps

Happy List

Fictional Character Role Models

Workspace Must Haves

What's in Your Teacher Bag?

Teacher Vlog #1

9:02 AM

Happy Weekend, y'all! I'm popping in real quick to share my first attempt at vlogging with y'all. I have a huge fear of talking on a camera, (Instagram stories don't count, people! I can do 15 seconds LOL) and I want to work on overcoming this fear. Here's my first teacher vlog, where all I basically do is work! ha! I'm hoping to take y'all along when I start to decorate my classroom, so hopefully they will get more interesting. If I can keep it up :)


Disrupting Thinking Book Study: Chapter One

5:43 AM
It's book study day, y'all! Who else is excited for today?? 
I really loved chapter one! I'm excited to share my thoughts with y'all. Here's what my notes looked like for this chapter:

Let's start discussing!

The first part that stuck out to me was the story of Marcus and how he thought his writing was the "wrong" kind of writing for school. I've had so many kids in my class tell me about a book they are reading at home and when I suggest that they bring the book to school to read during independent reading time, they always something like "oh, it's just a home book. It's not something you would read in school." We have to change this thinking. I want my students to leave my class thinking of themselves as "everywhere readers" not just readers who read at school when it is required. We have to change this way of thinking. It's like Marcus' writing. I realize that we have to teach the kids skills like how to write certain ways with topic sentences and transitions, but there also has to be more "free writing" and "free reading" right? How can we merge the two together? How can we implement this effectively?

Another point that stuck out to me were all the reasons the students gave when asked why they didn't like reading. I paraphrased their responses, but they basically said:

Are you guilty of doing any of these things that the kids said they hated? I sure am! And yes, I realize that we can't cater our teaching to everything students will love and omit everything they hate, but in order for them to develop a love of reading, they have to look forward to the actual reading part. The second to last reason given was chapter questions and this made me think about when I do a novel study in my classroom. I also do chapter checkpoint questions that require the kids to look up answers to literal, "right there" questions that the majority of them already know if they have been paying attention to our reading, but I make them include the page number that they found the answer on in the text to help them practice looking up an answer. Now, I feel they need practice on how to locate a certain piece of information in the text, so I don't want to change the actual assignment, but I can change the way I present the assignment to them. I made this little note (just look over the mistake...not "they" but "the") a bit later in reading chapter one and it made me think back to the chapter questions assignment.

We have to "sell it" if we want students to enjoy our class and our subject. If we act like it's a boring assignment, the kids will treat it as such. And believe me, I get it. Some days are harder than others. Some days I feel like I have all the energy in the world and I'm channeling Mrs. Frizzle, and other days it's a struggle, but we have to try! Instead of just giving the kids the chapter questions, I sometimes turn it into a game where we race to find the answer or work with a group to explain the answer in the most detailed way possible. We have to make it exciting.

When the authors gave the three reasons why we should read (or why kids should read), they said 

1)to grow
2)to discover
3)to change

I'm going to add a fourth reason

4) to get lost

I am a HUGE reader and one of the main reasons I read is to get lost in a story. I absolutely love my life and there are very few things I would change about it, but I love nothing more than to curl up with a book and get lost in a story about a girl who returns to her southern town to fix up her grandmother's cottage and falls in love with the carpenter.  :) :) We have to teach our kids how exciting reading can be. We have to change their way of thinking. Reading isn't just answering questions or filling out a Venn diagram. 

I love how at the end of each chapter, there's a "Turn and Talk" section where the authors have questions for discussion. I thought I would pick one or two each chapter and include them in these post so we can discuss in the comments. Let me know if you think there's a better way to do this!

1) Some teachers think that in the future, reading may not be as importance as it is now since we will have more audio books and be able to turn to the internet for information. What do you think about this? Do you think reading will go away? Or be less necessary?

As always, here's the posting schedule for the book study. I'm ready to hear YOUR thoughts! What stuck out to you from chapter one?

Chapter 2,3

Chapter 4, Part I Thoughts

Part II, Chapter 5,6

Chapters 7,8,9, Thoughts on Part II

Part III, Chapters 10, 11

Chapters 12, 13

Chapters 14, 15, end of book

Teacher Tidbit Tuesday: Top 10 Favorite Picture Books

6:05 AM
Friends, I am so excited about today's blog post because we are going to talk about one of my favorite parts of teaching....picture books!

This past year, I started doing #classroombookaday, which was created by Jillian Heise. Look her up on Instagram and then look up the hashtag #classroombookaday. Basically this is an idea where you read one picture book each day with your kids. This is life changing! Let me tell you, I was worried about how my kids would respond to this at the beginning. I mean, I teach 5th grade and I'm having them sit on the rug and listen to me read like it's kindergarten story time. I thought I was going to have to convince them to do it everyday and deal with the eye rolls, but y'all, they absolutely LOVED it and quickly let me know if we had forgotten to do it one day.

Now, the idea is to read a book a day, but sometimes our schedule didn't allow for that. Yes, I realize there's always time for a picture book, but sadly if we were on a short schedule and HAD to cover something that day, I had to let the read aloud go. It's okay. though! We still read a ton of new picture books that we wouldn't have otherwise if we didn't do the #classroombookaday

Since adding this part of our class, I have started researching picture books and really it's just become an obsession LOL. Today I'm going to share my top 10 favorite picture books that we read this year.

If there was an award for the cutest book ever, this one would win it. This is the CUTEST, SWEETEST story about a rotten potato that has A LOT of self confidence and decides to enter a beauty pageant. Your kids will be rooting for Rot and loving this one!!!!

Not only are the illustrations in Last Stop on Market Street unique and gorgeous, but this book has such a great message that isn't obvious for children to understand. I love using this one for theme. It made my kids stop and think. 

Henry's Freedom Box is one picture book that everyone needs! You'll notice in my favorite selections that I tend to navigate towards fiction. I love getting lost in a story and I much prefer that type of book to a true story filled with facts, but this book is the exception. I would love to find more narrative nonfiction like this. My kids were HOOKED. They were fascinated with hearing about Henry's escape from slavery. SUCH a good one to add to your collection!

Talk about a complete shock! I got this one in a pack of free books from Scholastic and I didn't think anything about it. I didn't realize I would love it as much as I did and the kids loved it too! Thelma the Unicorn has a wonderful message about loving who you are and not trying to be someone else. Our 'idiom of the day' the day we read this one was "The grass isn't always greener on the other side" and this fit in PERFECTLY! Such a good book for theme. 

Call me crazy, but I'm thinking about buying another copy of Gaston and cutting out the pages and having them framed for my house. Y'all, the artwork in this book is just perfection. The story is also really good. It's about a little dog who doesn't fit in with his family because he looks different. Then he gets lost in the park and realizes that even though he might not look like his family, he loves them anyways. There is a sequel to this one called Antionette and it's also adorable. 

Those Shoes was a book that lots of my kids connected to and loved. Again, it has the perfect message about fitting in and being accepted by your peers. This is one that is so relevant to our kids' lives. You will definitely have an engaged class when you read this one. 

Do you notice how I'm continually saying how these books have a great message? While reading all these picture books, I've discovered that it helps with teaching theme SO MUCH! I've found that picture books provide great examples of themes in a short format that is engaging to kids. 

Nerdy Birdy is another great one for theme! This one is about a bird who doesn't fit in because it looks a little "nerdy" and isn't cool like the other birds. This one has a shocking twist that my kids literally gasped at! Don't you just love when kids are so invested in a story that they actually gasp when something surprising happens! Love! 

When I first read Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, I was worried it was too "young" for my kids to fully appreciate it, but I was wrong. This book is perfect for teaching rhyme scheme, figurative language, and sequence. It also contains a rich vocabulary that I loved because it made the kids question the meaning of unfamiliar words. 

The Gardener was one of the more serious read alouds that we read this past year, but it was the perfect story for upper elementary. If you're discussing characterization, the uncle in this story is a great example for inferring character traits. Another great one for theme as well. 

And my number one favorite picture book from this year (and all time!) is The Paper Bag Princess. Y'all, Princess Elizabeth is a strong female character that is smart and brave and self confident! This one is super short, but packs a lot in! I recommend this one for the beginning of the year because it is so short and it will give your kids practice for how to sit and behave during a read aloud. This one had my kids laughing at the end. It's just the perfect little book. 

Okay, now I want to know YOUR favorites! Share below so we can get even more ideas! If you want a post about which books I use for different skills (teaching plot, conflict, character traits, cause/effect, etc.) let me know and I'll work on that! :) 

That's it for today's Teacher Tidbit Tuesday post. Here's what topics are coming up. 

Top 10 Favorite Picture Books (this post)

Your Teaching History

Your Summer Rountine

Favorite Instagrammers

Classroom Design Plan

Top 10 Favorite Movies

Favorite Phone Apps

Happy List

Fictional Character Role Models

Workspace Must Haves

What's in Your Teacher Bag?

Disrupting Thinking Book Study: Intro/Part I

1:37 PM
It's time to begin our book study on Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst! Now, like I posted on Instagram and Facebook last night, a lot of people haven't been able to get their reading of the intro/part I/ chapter 1 done because the book sold out on Amazon, so lots of y'all got your copy later. Because of that, I changed the posting schedule up a bit (you can find the revised version at the end of this post) and today we are discussing the intro and part 1. We will discuss chapter one next week. :)

Let's get started on today's discussion!

Now, I gotta admit, when this was the book that was chosen, I was a little concerned. I was afraid this book would be full of theories and research and not actual useful information. Boy was I wrong! I am LOVING this book and we are only on the introduction! 

Here's what I took away from this week's reading.

Right off the bat we are given a story about a little girl with mismatched socks. I loved this story!  I highlighted the part about how the company, LittleMissMatched, was founded and I wrote "out of the box thinking"....then I turned the page and saw this:

Oops! Ha! At least I was on the right track. I think it's so important to focus on disrupting our thinking because when we do that, it opens up so many possibilities. 

I also highlighted from the last paragraph on p. 7: 
We as teachers have to start thinking this way, right? If it isn't working, it's time to disrupt the system and figure out a better way! 

The most important take away I had from this section was from the part from Bob's article that he wrote after September 11th in which he discussed how students would (or wouldn't!) learn from reading difficult texts. He said that students wouldn't learn to read difficult texts by "taking quizzes or preparing for them, or by collecting points and prizes for numbers of books read, but by engaging stories and poems that touch them, reading them in the company of other students and committed teachers who will help them make connections, explore responses, and raise and answer questions."
This might just be my favorite part of this week's reading. I am so saddened when kids talk about how many AR points they have or ask to read an "easy book" because they need so many points to meet their goal. Ugh. 

Did y'all agree with the teachers' response to the author's question about what they wanted most from their students in terms of deep learning? The teachers said "apathy," that students are "just going through the motions, getting good grades even, but nothing is sinking in."

 I SO agree with that! So many of our students are not interested or concerned with enjoying the story or looking for meaning in the story or connecting with characters from stories. They just want to read the text, answer questions about it, and then take a test. We have got to change this way of thinking and make kids passionate about reading! 

This brings me to the section about part one. I absolutely loved reading the snippets of conversations from the students that varied in age from first grade to college. Isn't it interesting to see how the students' opinions on reading changed as they grew older? I wrote "YIKES!" out beside the convo the author had with the 4th grader. I hate that the student only enjoyed reading on Fridays when they got to read whatever they wanted...but only if no one had misbehaved that week. Oh goodness gracious! How sad is it that. I felt for that kid.

We have to put our students in the right mindset and promote a love of reading. We need to strive to eliminate all the "fake reading," which is an art that so many of our students have mastered, right??

Okay, that's it for my thoughts. Now I want to hear YOURS!  If you want to comment here, that's great, but I will also post a picture on Instagram and Facebook tonight at 7pm CST if you want to comment and discuss there! Whatever works for you!

I'm super excited to read on to chapter one!

Here's the revised posting schedule if you need it.

Happy Book Studying! :)

Teacher Tidbit Tuesday-1st year of Teaching

3:30 AM

It's Teacher Tidbit Tuesday, friends! Today's topic is all about our first year of teaching. I'm about to enter my 10th year of teaching, which is just crazy to think. I feel like my first year of having my own classroom was yesterday! 

So let's take a walk down memory lane, all the way back to 2009. I was fresh out of college and trying to find a job during the worst economic time since the Great Depression. There were hardly any teaching jobs available in my area, so I was terrified that I wouldn't be hired anywhere. Thankfully a teacher went on educational leave for a year and they hired me to take her place. She ended up not coming back to teach, so the job became a permanent position!

Here I am with my very first group of 1st graders. Look at my young 22 year old self! 

I was lucky enough (and still am!) to teach at my first choice school, which was the school I attended from kindergarten through 12th grade. I was even allowed to do my student teaching there, which I was thrilled about! What's even neater is that my student teaching class was in kindergarten and then I was hired as a first grade teacher the following year, so I had many of my kids from my student teaching days. This made my first few days of having my own class a little easier since I was familiar with some of my kids already. :) 
***These kids were also my first group of 5th graders when I switched from 1st grade to 5th grade, so I always called them my guinea pig group!

My kindergarten student teaching class. I made a voting booth so we could all vote for the new president of the United States since the 2008 election was during the fall semester of my internship. 

Reading to my student teaching class on Johnny Appleseed day. Look at those fun pan hats!

Decorating pumpkins with my student teaching class. 

My first year of teaching is honestly a blur. I just remember feeling so overwhelmed and confused and unknowledgeable about everything. I hope I'm not alone in thinking that college didn't prepare me for my first year of teaching. I had some great teachers at my university and I learned a lot, but nothing compared to the knowledge I learned after my first year of teaching. I mean, you can discuss behavior plans in a college class all day long, but until you actually have your own group of students that you are responsible for, you aren't going to figure out what works for you and your students. 

If you're a first year teacher, I'm sure you are scared to death and beyond nervous, but don't be! Take it from me, who becomes stressed over the simplest things, it's all going to be fine and it's all going to work out. And the things that don't work out? That's fine too! Let me share a few things that were fails for me during my first year teaching:

This was taken on my very first day of being an official teacher. I chose to wear my hair in a ponytail (something I despise!) because I knew just how exhausting the day was going to be and I wanted to be prepared and ready! See that stuffed elephant and monkey? I had the best idea (stolen from a college professor that I LOVED) to have class mascots that we would send to different places so we could get letters back and learn about different areas of our country. Kinda like Flat Stanley. I even let the kids name them. I will never forget Bella the monkey and Edward the elephant. Remember, it's 2009...Twilight was killing it at the box office! ;)

We decided to send our class mascots to the state capital so they could have their picture taken with the governor. We wrote letters, drew pictures, kissed them goodbye, packaged them in a box with a disposable camera, and sent them off on their great adventure while we eagerly awaited their return to see what goodies they brought back to us from Montgomery, AL.

And guess what? They never returned. My silly little naive self didn't think to actually contact anyone at the state capital. I just shipped it off, thinking someone would receive it and have nothing better to do than take pictures with a stuffed elephant and monkey and take the time to ship it back to us and pay for postage (remember, it was 2009...financial times weren't the best and I'm sure government employees were a bit short handed!)

My kids eventually forgot about poor Edward and Bella, but I learned a valuable lesson: fun little projects are great, but communication is key! Case in point: later that year, during Dr. Seuss week, I email our district representative, Richard Lindsey, and he came to read to our class. 

Another piece of advice! When you have a guest reader come read to your class, pick out a book ahead of time. I decided to let the kids pick which Dr. Seuss book they wanted him to read and they picked The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. If you don't know that one off hand, trust me, it's looonnnngggg. I'm pretty sure he was sneaking peeks at his watch. LOL!

Another fail: 
For Johnny appleseed day, we were apple obsessed! I had planned so many fun apple related activities, which included an apple taste test where each student came up and tested out different types of apples to pick which kind they liked best. This activity was going SO WELL. I mean, look at this sweet kid's face! 

You know what went wrong? 

I didn't remember that we were having a scheduled fire drill. So when the bell started ringing right in the middle of our taste testing, we all had to evacuate the building and head the the baseball field on the other side of campus. By the time we returned to the classroom, our apples looked less than ideal. #fail. 

Fail #3:
During one of our reading stories, we learned about the Mexican culture, so I created a fiesta for our class. I brought the food to school and had even got brightly colored paper plates and napkins and a piƱata that the kids were SO excited about! As I started to pass out plates and drinks, I realized I had forgotten all about drinks and cups! I had to quickly scrambled to find a enough drinks for everyone because I hadn't thought about that small detail!                      
There are COUNTLESS other fails from my first year of teaching AND every other year. I know it may seem like everyone has everything figured out when you start looking at blogs and social media, but they don't. You're just seeing a highlight. Everyone scrambles at some point and every teacher has been a first year teacher at some point. You aren't alone. 

Thinking back to when I created my first classroom for my first year of teaching, here's a few points I feel you should concentrate on at the very beginning:

1)Your classroom rules. Post them and inform the kids of what you expect. 

2) Your behavior plan. Research what you want your behavior management strategy to be.

3) Your schedule. Think about it and then write it down and fill in what's going to occur in those time slots. How is your day to day going to be? What's your morning routine look like? After a few weeks in, don't be afraid to change what isn't working, but don't start off the year without some sort of routine. The kids will behave better if they know what their day will consist of, even if you end up changing it later on. 

4) Map out how you want your classroom to be designed. Think about the different areas in your classroom that you want to create like your classroom library, different places for centers, your small group meeting area, etc. I'm a firm believer in planning out your classroom design and then going back in and changing it a few weeks into the school year if something isn't working right. You will be amazed at how important the flow of the classroom is! 

5) Communication to parents. If you're lower elementary, think about how you are going to do a send home folder every afternoon. For upper elementary, how are you going to communicate to parents what is happening in your classroom? (I use remind.com and it's wonderful!)

Okay veteran teachers, what advice do you have for those new teachers out there! Share away! And if you're a new teacher, let us know what grade you will be teaching. :) 

That's it for today's Teacher Tidbit Tuesday post. Here's what topics are coming up. 

All About Your First Year of Teaching (this post)

Top 10 Favorite Picture Books

Your Teaching History

Your Summer Rountine

Favorite Instagrammers

Classroom Design Plan

Top 10 Favorite Movies

Favorite Phone Apps

Happy List

Fictional Character Role Models

Workspace Must Haves

What's in Your Teacher Bag?

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