Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pep Talk to Teachers

If you've never seen the Kid President, get ready. Here's his pep talk to teachers and students. I love it!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Replenishing the Fun Circuits

Today is Wednesday.  Hump day.  That day in the week when Friday seems so close, yet so far away.  I'm exhausted from the first two days of the week, yet I know the next days will be even busier (because second graders can sense an upcoming weekend even better than a teacher).  Last week was an especially hard week.  Why is it that four day weeks seem longer than a five day week?  Plus, I had two parent conferences.  One where I was the teacher, and one where I was the parent.  And, I had my crier.  I was TIRED by the end of the week.

And, then I came across this article.  This was written by Nelba Marquez-Greene.  If that name sounds familiar to you, you probably saw her daughter's beautiful face on the news last December.  Ana Grace was killed by Adam Lanza last December at Sandy Hook.  She wrote a wonderful article on as a parent's letter to teachers.  Her letter is a touching reminder about why I go to school every day and spend these long and sometimes exhausting days with my students.  Because they NEED me.  And, honestly, I need them.  I need to see the joy in their eyes.  I need to hear their funny stories and laugh at their corny jokes.  If I had to work in an office, I'd probably shrivel up and waste away.

So, on a day when I'm tired and worn out, I'm going to remember these words.  Hopefully, they'll encourage you as we finish out this week.

"As you begin this school year, remember Ana Grace. Walk with courage, with faith, and with love. And don’t let them suck your fun circuits dry."

Let's always remember to replenish our fun circuits.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Spelling and Phonics for English Learners

Exciting title, right?  But, if you're like me, you probably have students in your room who are really poor spellers.  My class is made up almost entirely of English Learners, so they naturally struggle with spelling and phonics.  I started the year using the word study book provided by our district, but it only took two weeks for me to discover that it wasn't the best fit for my students.  I got my hands on a copy of Words Their Way, a book I had been introduced to a couple of years ago and read most of it in one weekend.  While I understood the premise of the book, with  24 students and only one of me, I wasn't sure how I was going to fit in time to meet with my five reading groups and an unknown number of spelling groups.  I didn't know what my next step was going to be.

So, I did what every person in the Western world does when they have a question.  I Googled!  (Seriously, what did we do before Google?)  I searched for "words their way for second grade", and this post from Second Story Window came up first!  What a life saver!  It describes how to use "chunk spelling" to help students generalize spelling patterns and use them in their everyday writing.  Every week, the students work with a different chunk.  We started with the -at family.  On the blog page, there's a link to a Beginning Sound Board the students use to make words.  We did this on Friday.  (And I forgot to take pics.  Darn.)  It was fabulous to watch my kids.  My higher kids were able to put the words together mentally, while my lower readers were having an extended practice time in sounding out words.  (Something they really struggle with.)  Then, we tried to create some big words.  While that didn't work as well as I hoped, I think we'll get better as we go on.  (I was trying to come up with big words with -at in them, and all I could come up with was catastrophe.)  I let the students pick the ten words for their lists, and I was so impressed with how good their choices were.  The students who were my better spellers chose the more difficult words, and my weaker spellers chose the easier words.  I'm hoping that when we test on Friday, I'll see a lot of improvement!

I'm also going to start doing some making words lessons from Pat Cunningham this week.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I'll have my students plus about five other EL students in my class for 45 minutes along with our lead ESOL teacher.  I've been debating what to do with those students, since it's during my writing time, and I think this is the best plan.  While the other students are there, we'll do about 20 minutes of writing and then another 20 minutes of word study.  On Tuesdays, we'll do a making words lesson, and then, hopefully, on Thursdays, we'll be able to do a Rounding Up the Rhymes lesson or a Guess the Covered Word lesson.

I'm excited about my new plan!  While I'm sure it will need some tweaking, I can't wait to see how my students improve this year!  I'll be sure to let you know how it goes!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Has It Been a Month? And. . .Five for Friday!

I can't believe it's been a month since I last posted!  The beginning of the year has been insanely busy, and I still feel like I haven't caught up.  But I decided that no matter what, I needed to link up to the Five for Friday Party!  Here's a little bit of what my week has been like:

I went shopping on Monday!!  (That's always fun.)  I went to Target for a book shelf for our living room and came home with this instead.  :)  To my husband's great relief, this was cheaper than the book shelf I wanted and a lot easier to put together.  I love how it brightens up our whole room.

This is the science activity we did today.  Each group got four pea pods, and they had to count the number of peas in each pod.  Then, we graphed the data and analyzed it.  (Nothing like rolling science, math, and writing all into one big lesson!)  It was great to see them so involved in the lesson.  They really enjoyed it.  I did realize I have to revise the graphing sheet.  Watching them trying to make the bar graphs was interesting.

This is just part of the mess that my corner has become.  I promise, that was neat the first week of school, but since then, the piles have just grown.  (And grown, and grown, and grown.)  I'm hoping I can get it cleaned up soon.  We have parent conferences coming up at the end of the month, so I'm going to have to get a grip on the clutter!

This, right here, is the biggest reason I've fallen behind.  I have been without this since a week ago Tuesday.  (That's 7 school days for those of you playing at home.)  Seven school days without a computer is a lifetime.  I do everything on this.  Grading, attendance, e-mail, hand-outs, parent newsletters, etc.  Everything is on this baby.  Not only that, but I have to write proficiency plans for every single one of my English Learners, (There's 21 of them) and they could only be done on my work laptop since I do them through Lotus Notes.  No computer, no Lotus Notes.  AND, to make matters worse, Lotus Notes only works when connected to the school network.  No writing ELPP's at home for me!  I'm hoping to get them done by October.  (Just in time to write revised ones for the new grading period.  Sigh.)

And last, but not least. . .

This is what I've faced every morning for the last two weeks.  One of my little sweethearts has decided that she wants to be at home rather than school.  She comes in every day screaming.  The last few days, she's been inconsolable until our specials time at 10:40, but Thursday, the school counselor and assistant principal decided she needed to start the morning in my room.  I didn't need to go to gym after that work out!  She wants us to call her mom, and she kept trying to run out of the room, and I was doing my best body blocking techniques to stop her.  The strangest thing is that she finally calmed down around 8:30 (45 minutes after coming in), and she was perfectly fine the rest of the day.  We've met with her mom, and we're hoping that if we can just wait her out, she'll finally decide she's stuck with us and not pitch a fit every morning.

I promise!  It won't be a month until my next post!  I'm hoping to get my life organized and running a little more smoothly this month.  Thankfully, there's no more Curriculum Nights, preschool open houses, or evening meetings in my future.