Class T-shirt Ideas!

Have you seen those cutie-patootie class T-shirts floating around? You know....the ones where the kiddos

drew their own portraits and they're all imprinted on the shirt? So darn cute!!

A+ Images is the company that makes these adorable shirts. And guess what! They do other custom shirts
as well! Earlier this month, I uploaded my blog logo image & look how perfectly it came out! I love it!
The colors are perfect! Aaaand...the shirt is so comfortable!

That's me on the right there wearing my shirt. By the way, my sweet friend Ciera from Adventures of Room 129, on the left, also is wearing her shirt from A+ Images. And in the middle of course, is the amazing Kim Adsit.

I am super excited about having my class make Class Faces shirts next year! How cool will it be to have them to wear on field trips & just for special days at school?! And don't forget...you can upload an image too. Rather than having each child draw a portrait....you could have your class design one image to use. Maybe a class motto or mascot? The possibilities are endless!
I'd love to hear more ideas! Pop over to A+ Images, take a look around, & let me know what other ideas you have!

Daily 5: Our Core Beliefs *Book Study*

I'm just a bit late to the Daily 5 Chapter 2 party, but I'm excited to dive into this chapter with you! If you didn't catch Chapter 1 yet, it's all about how Daily 5 edition 2 differs from the first edition. There are quite a few shifts in The Sisters' thinking.....you can catch up here.

Chapter 2 explores our core beliefs about reading & reading instruction, & how those core beliefs are the foundation blocks of the Daily 5 framework. I know many people are hesitant about implementing D5...teachers have to give up some control. That's scary. I know...that's part of why I just couldn't wrap my brain around this framework. However, D5 is built on a solid foundation of their core beliefs.
Source: The Brown Bag Teacher

Trust & Respect
Think about the types of activities kiddos are spending most of their time on through the day in many classrooms. If those classrooms are like mine used to be, kiddos are busy with workstations while I'm working with small groups. They're doing hands-on, interactive activities, search & write the room, sorts, playing games. You know...fun stuff. But here's the deal.....shouldn't I have them spend MORE time reading & writing than they are spending on the 'fun stuff'? The answer is, of course, YES!

I bet lots of classrooms are similar to mine...& I bet the reason for that is the same as mine: I don't really trust my kiddos to spend that time really reading, or really writing. But you know what? Just like with everything else, if you really teach your expectations, let your kiddos practice them & build up their stamina...they WILL spend their time really reading & really writing.

Community
I know we all know the importance of working towards building a community of learners. It starts at the beginning of the year: we all work on get-to-know you activities, & team-building exercises those first weeks of school. It builds a foundation for a successful, positive school year. I have a unique perspective on community: I teach a 1st, 2nd, & 3rd grade multi-age classroom, I team teach with an identical classroom (think 55 kiddos - 2 teachers). We function as ONE classroom. In fact, we are referred to a TEAM (there's 1st grade, 2nd grade, TEAM, 3rd grade, etc. in our building). We also keep our kiddos for all three years, so each year, we launch our 3rd graders to 4th, & we get a new crew of firsties in the fall. (This year, we're getting 18 firsties). We work very hard on community.

I was pleased to read in the book, "It isn't uncommon for two children to sit side by side, one with a chapter book and one with an early picture book, completely comfortable with the truth that each selection meets that individual's need at that particular moment". That is exactly what we saw happening! Wow. We introduced D5 at the end of April...so our kiddos hadn't had lots of exposure or practice within the framework, but we already saw that happening by week two. Wow. We were amazed! When you've taken the time to build a strong community, you'll see kiddos hold each other accountable for behaviors, expectations, and even personal goals.

Choice
I'm already a true believer in choice. It allows kiddos to take ownership & responsibility for their learning, & not only does it increase motivation, you'll see gains in motivation, too! I'm pleased that choice is a big part of D5. Of course, we can't forget that teaching the expectations & allowing kiddos time to practice those are key!3

Accountability
Have you held back from doing D5 in your classroom because you were concerned about accountability? Oh, yes...kiddos are accountable! Even though they're not completing & turning in papers. Even though they're making choices. Here's the thing though....accountability is a two way street. We need to be accountable to our kiddos too! I like the way The Sisters explain it: think about those activities we've currently got kiddos working on.....do ALL of your students have the ability to independently complete them? Do you find yourself needing "be out among the children, managing and redirecting, flitting from child to child in order to help them them complete their work"? Yes? I know I did. And think about that...that's not really how I want to, or should be, spending my instructional time. With D5, we need to hold ourselves accountable to teaching kiddos those expectations: what it looks like, sounds like, & feels like to be engaged in the tasks we're giving them.

Brain Research
Brain research fascinates me. Learning about how the brain works and how that affects learning is so interesting. And being able to apply that to my instruction is nothing short of awesome! Brain research is at the foundation of D5...it's why some of the pieces are there. Here are my take aways from this section.

  • Maximize the effect of your lessons: your kiddos can only attend for the number of minutes equal to their age. So..your 7 year olds? You've got about 7 minutes before you start to lose them.
  • Follow the 20/80 rule of thumb: 20% of our kiddos' time should be spent in direct instruction. 80% spent practicing skills & concepts we've covered in instruction.
Isn't it interesting how those work together? The brain research that tells us we need to keep lessons brief also then allows us to give kiddos more time for that important practice.

Transitions as Brain & Body Breaks
GoNoodle Inspiration BlogThis is a concept I truly appreciate! Think about the last time you were sitting in a meeting or training. For me, that was just last week. At a certain point, I just need to get out of there! I need to stand up, walk around, move! Can you relate? Your brain just can't take in any more. I can't tell you how many times I've thought to myself, "This is how my kiddos feel!" haha! This is a part of D5 that I've really taken to heart. The Sisters recommend providing some kind of movement between ending a rotation & beginning your next mini-lesson. GoNoodle, anyone?

A quick brain/body break really makes a HUGE difference. Kiddos love it, & it really does seem to heighten their ability to attend. And it's quick! We use GoNoodle for almost all of our brain/body breaks, & you can find lots & lots of them that are just over a minute. That's not a lot of time, & it truly does make a BIG difference. While I'm on the subject of transitions, I thought I'd share another big take away I had from the D5 Conference I went to:

You know how when you're transitioning & you have those 3 or 4 kiddos that are just taking their sweet time putting things away & getting to the meeting area? You know how you say things like "I'm just waiting for Billy Bob, Sammy Jo, & Mellie Mae", "I'm just waiting for 4 people...."? Do you do that? Because I totally did. Here's the secret to getting them to the group:

Don't Wait

That's right...just go ahead & start. They hear you...they won't miss out on any part of the lesson. And they'll get the signal that it's time to get over there! Honestly. I put it into action & it does work. They can hear your lesson as they're putting things away & they do start moving quicker & getting to the group faster. Amazing, right? 

What are you thinking so far? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please comment below or link up if you have a blog!



I'm Visiting iTeach Third Today!

Hey, everyone! I'm over at iTeach Third Today! We have 4 new people joining us in our building this year, & I've been collecting ideas & thinking of ways to make sure they get their year off to a great start. Click over & read about ways you can help a new teacher feel welcome! See you over at
iTeach Third

How Daily 5 Has Evolved *Book Study*

Work on Writing
Confession? I've actually owned The Daily 5 (1st edition) for about 3 years. I've *read* it (okay -- I'm confessing....I skimmed it). While I love the concept...& I know lots of people swear by Daily 5.....I never really could wrap my brain around it. It made sense....I just couldn't envision it in my mandated highly encouraging Daily 5. So, when my principal sent out an email saying there was a Daily 5 training with The Sisters.....who wanted to go? I quickly raised my hand! SO glad I did! Friends, I'm telling you D5 makes so much sense & is so easy to implement that I was able to put it into action the next day!
room. More to the point...as part of my instruction. Earlier this year, it began to look like my building was going to go to


The root of my confusion about D5

Read to Someone
In the classroom, we have so much that has to happen during literacy block:

  • Reading instruction - shared reading, small groups, one-on-one conferences, modeled reading, close reading
  • Writing - form, process, traits, conventions
  • Reflecting - kiddos have to learn to self-monitor & reflect during reading
  • Assessment - formally, informally, formative, summative
As the sisters say in the book. "how can we possibly do all of those things without losing important pieces, or for that matter, without losing our minds?" D5 truly is the structure that can help you do that! The framework makes managing all of those components easy! Really!

I think the reason I never could wrap my brain around the structure is because I thought I had to do five rounds every day. What?! How can that happen? I have time constraints, people! We all do...right? But the thing is YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO FIVE ROUNDS EVERY DAY. At the conference I went to, Gail & Joan were very clear: DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. They themselves say teachers don't have time....tweak the structure so that it works for you. Only time for 2 rounds? Do 2.

The Difference Between 'Traditional' instruction & D5

Read to Self & Read to Someone
Raise your hand if you remember the days of teaching with the basal. Everyone reads the same story...we all do the same worksheets. Lots of whole group instruction. The problem is -- that model only 'hits' a relatively small percentage of your classroom. It's too high for some....too low for others. It's just right for just a few kiddos. I love that the D5 framework makes it so easy to truly direct instruction at students' needs! Because here's the truth: to really make progress, kiddos need time to do that important work! They have to have the opportunity to for high-success reading, to read to each other, to talk about their reading, to write. The rotations in D5 allow you to give kiddos those opportunities. While you are meeting with small groups or even individuals, the other kiddos are doing all of those important things!

I can't wait to get further into the book and learn more about HOW this all works....how you can get it all up and running (and it's easy!). I am super excited about this book study!! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter! Comment below, or if you have a blog, please link up!


Daily 5 Book Study!

I am super excited to launch the Daily 5 Book Study this week! It's going to be epic, friends! Be on the look out for ideas, tips, FREEBIES, and maybe even a giveaway or two! We've got some awesome hosts lined up. I hope you'll follow along with us and add your ideas, too! If you have a blog, please link up with each chapter. Don't have a blog? Please add your tips and ideas in the comments!


Prodigy Games Tech Thursday

I'm linking up with Teaching Trio's Tech Thursday. We discovered a pretty sweet website/app (it's on both platforms) about three weeks before the end of the year. Which was awesome, because my kiddos loved it so much they would have done that ALL DAY. SuhWEET! Let me introduce you to Prodigy.....

They love it because they love the game aspect of it....They get to be a wizard (even choose their own
wizard name), they earn wands, robes, pets(!!)...and it's all in a very anime style graphics. The basic premise is appealing to kids. I'm not kidding y'all....they would have played it happily ALL DAY if I'd let them!

Here's why I love it:

  1. It's Common Core aligned - over 600 skills for Grades 1-8.
  2. It's FREE!!
  3. The game starts with a diagnostic assessment...yet it's all within the game format, so kiddos are even then engaged in the game format.
  4. Kiddos progress through the skills at their own pace. Got a kiddo ready for 4th grade skills as a 2nd grader? It automatically will move her up to where she needs to be. Same for a kiddo who needs some lower level skills. It automatically puts kiddos in an appropriate level.
  5. You can CREATE ASSIGNMENTS which are then delivered to kiddos within the game format. You can choose a specific skill, the number of questions, and even a 'due' date. You can assign it to all of your students, or you can CUSTOMIZE them & choose specific students. I used this option mostly for my kiddos who needed some remediation. I'm actually doing Guided Math in my room, & I loved that I could have kiddos continue working on the skill I was focusing on with them in small group!
  6. It has awesome reports!! 
    1. Check this out: on the reports for the assignments you've given them, it shows you who has completed the assignment and their scores. My favorite part?? It also gives you a breakdown for each question: lists the names of those who got it correct...AND it lists the names of those who got it incorrect AND THEIR ANSWER! This lets me see where their thinking went astray....exactly what I need to go back & work on with them. Or -- in the case of a couple of my little sweeties...have a little talk about being responsible & doing your best at all times. "jj? Did you really think jj was a reasonable answer?" 
    2. General Reports: You can check the 
      1. Usage Impact, which will tell you the number of skills kiddos have mastered vs. the amount of time they've spent on Prodigy.
      2. Individual Student Progress - take a look at each kiddo's performance by strand or by topic.
      3. Curriculum - You can check out what skills are on Prodigy that align to what you're working on..& how well kiddos have done on them!
      4. Trouble Spots - it actually lists by skills with a graph of how many have mastered the skill & the number of those who have not. LOVE how it informs my instruction!!
If you do Guided Math, Math Daily 3, or workstations in your room, your kiddos & you will LOVE using this site/app. Give it a try & let me know what you think!

When Blogger Friends Get Together

Oh my word! I've said it before & I'm going to say it again: blogger friends are the best kind of friends! There is just something so powerful about getting together with a group of like-minded people.....people who share the same interests and passions as you. The energy is palpable. If you haven't been to a meet up, and an opportunity comes up....jump at the chance! You will not regret it!

Last weekend, I got to hang with some of my blogging besties in Nashville, Tennessee. #nashteacherbash! Friday night, several of us hung out at the Nasville Sounds game. Thanks to GoNoodle for providing the awesome cool shades for us all! (My kiddos are going to be SO jealous!). I met several new friends at the game...we had so.much.fun! And to top off the evening? Some pretty spectacular fireworks!

Saturday, we all met at Atmalogy for some meet & greet, connecting, chatting, & some DE.licious Jim & Nick's BBQ! Check out this spread provided for us by GoNoodle!! BIG thanks to them for their generous support! Love GoNoodle! Oh my gosh, y'all....this food was SO delicious!! Not lyin'! Do you see that mac & cheese right there? Seriously the best mac & cheese I've ever had...amazing!!

Kudos to our hosts for organizing everything! I know it was a pretty big job to be doing at the end of the year which is crazy on its own! They contacted sponsors & collected an awesome array of fabulous-ness that was donated. I've got to tell you that I won a pretty swEEt prize: $100 from the awesome Teaching in the Tongass. I'm NOT going to tell you what the secret strategy is that I use to win these "put your name on a slip of paper" drawings. But I WILL tell you that both my friend Kenzi & I use the same strategy....and not only did we both win, our names were drawn out one right after the other. We are totally thinking of doing a STEM project based on our secret strategy....so you may or may not learn the secret at a later date! Ha!

Saturday evening we all met up at Chuy's for dinner. This time we split into smaller groups. We had some wonderful dinner conversation! It's amazing how much alike we all are!
Afterwards, we all walked over to tour around the Opryland hotel. Simply beautiful!

Sunday morning, we met at Monell's, a lovely old manor home that's been turned into a restaurant. The entire ground floor is filled with long tables. They have a lovely buffet of wonderfully delicious food...and it's all served family style! Our group took up two tables...the tables are that big. Our server brought out baskets, platters, & big bowls of everything you'd ever want for breakfast: fresh cinnamon rolls and fluffy biscuits, gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon & sausage, pancakes, grits, corn pudding, potatoes, and even fried chicken! Mmmm! 

Can't wait until we all get to get together again! Plans are already in the works, people!


Summer Reading! What are You Reading?

I LOVE books. Period. Honestly...I love to read. Books....magazines....blogs...online news....I love it all! I rarely read for pleasure, though, because I'm the type of reader who reads a book cover to cover. As in if I start a good book I don't stop until I finish. Are you like that? I mean, it's like the book is calling my name if I have to put it down! haha! Because of that, I don't read for pleasure during the school year. Because...I've  got to work.

I'm happy to link up with my sweet friend Ciera at Adventures of Room 129 for her Summer Reading Linky. I've got two professional books I'm reading this summer:

 I was able to go to a Daily 5 Conference with The Sisters in Chicago in April. I totally drank the D5 Kool Aid -- LOVE it!! I mean, like I came back & put the structure into action in my classroom the next day love it! I'll admit, I actually had both the Daily 5 & Cafe books & kinda sorta read them both....yet I was never really ever able to wrap my brain around it. Seeing & hearing about it at the
conference just really made it all click. (If you ever have the opportunity to go to a Daily Conference, go!). I'm excited to be hosting a book study of the new 2nd Edition of Daily 5 this summer! We're starting up June 20th, so there's still plenty of time to grab a copy of the book & join us! You don't have to have a blog to read along with us....discussions can happen in the comments.

I'm also going to re-read Number Talks (Sherry Parrish). I read this a few years ago as part of Math Leader training for my district. It really made an impact on my math instruction. I'm looking forward to refreshing my skills over the summer. If anyone is also planning to read this one, or would like to read along with me, please let me know! I love being able to talk about what I'm reading! 
That's it for my professional reading (as of now! haha!). I'll have to let you all know about my personal leisure reading as it comes up. By the way -- I'm taking suggestions! Let me know if you have a title I 'just gotta read'!