Literacy Love Letters

My third year out of the classroom, and the experience has been bittersweet.  The joys and high I feel supporting teachers, advocating for their needs in order to better serve students, and simply listening to their experiences is irreplaceable.  The bitterness comes from yearning to talk, laugh, and learn with students each day.

When pull up to a school site and observe the kids socializing in their clusters, playing tag, yelling at each other…it tugs at my heart.  As a result, I have now become the teacher you hate.  You know the one.  The one that walks through the office and notices the student “in trouble” or the child “benched” at recess and whisper to them, “It’s going to be ok.”  Or I give them a genuine smile and wink to let them know that they are loved.  See, your reading this and rolling your eyes.  Because for all I know, that kid could have just stabbed another kid with a pencil—for the 11th time.  I know, I get it.  But I miss them.  I miss hearing their voices, both on paper and filling the air of classrooms and hallways.

The 40 Book Challenge created by the amazing Donalyn Miller a.k.a. The Book Whisperer changed my life.  (Please refer to this post for more details.)  She validated my core beliefs and set me free down the road of treated students as authentic readers, forever readers.  Each week we wrote letters back and forth regarding not simply the stories they were reading, but their thoughts and questions about life.  Sharing our reading lives together through letter writing was my favorite memory of classroom teaching.  It was undoubtedly, the most transformative thing I have ever done.

Many of you are emailing asking for the pages sized for a Reader’s Notebook.  (Click on the link at the bottom of this post.)

Please help yourself and share with photos and stories how you are making it your own.  I beg you to share.

This instructional coach now lives vicariously through you.

St. sample of reader's notebook
An example of simple annotations made by the tchr. You don’t have to write a novel to each st every week! That would be impossible. Especially with more than one period.
Weekly letter for 40 Bk Challenge
St. sample–simple notes by me again. “Not sure. Let’s explore that.” Short, sweet, and to the point. Sometimes I simply wrote “See me” if my question was too long to write.
Readers Notebooks on Parade!
On display for Open House! Students were so proud of all their hard work. Tchr beaming!

40 Bk Challenge Cover

Open House- Bragging about our 40Bk challenge
At the end of the year, we tally all the books we read as a whole. It’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment! Sts are so proud! We sort of make the “reveal” of the total number an event in our class. All our celebrated for their contribution.
St. sample of tch response in reader's notebook
I annotate the letters to show I read them and model how that is diff for everyone. I also write a short response to kids each week. Sometimes they are a couple of words or a question, sometimes it’s a longer response.
St. Sample of Rd Ntbook
Some sts preferred to type their letter (or were asked to due to illegible handwriting). No problem here! Note the tchr-st exchange on the left side. IT was awesome! Sts. loved communicating to me through a letter each week.

Click on the link below for the download.

40 Book Challenge

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Wall of Gratitude & Praise

Wall of Gratitude & Praise

If there is one thing teachers know, it is that we do not simply teach academic content.  It is also our responsibility to instill character and compassion within our students.  From day one, we create and implement routines and procedures with the objective of fostering a safe and positive environment for all learners.  One can search the internet for hours for fun and creative ways to accomplish this task.  So here I go, adding one more to the list.

One year I decided to add another routine to cultivate kind and positive classroom behaviors.  In addition to my “Raining Compliments” wall, I created the “Wall of Gratitude and Praise”.  This idea is so simple and executes beautifully.

Materials you need:

  • Letters that spell out “Wall of Gratitude and Praise”
  • Paper for students to write messages on
    • I used construction paper and cut them in rectangular shape.  You can select any color you want based on your classroom decor.  I went with whichever color I had in my storage. 🙂
  • Wall space that will allow for students to continuing adding to the wall throughout the year

Routine:

  • Each Friday, in the last 15 minutes or so, each team (my students’ desks were arranged in groups of 4-6) would get a couple of minutes to nominate one classmate that deserved words of praise or gratitude that week.
    • The nominee could not be someone from their own group.
    • The nominee could not have been nominated the past week.
    • This allows for students to ‘spread the love’ and not have the same students receiving messages each week.
  • Took only a short time for students to understand that
    • Words of praise: anything a student did worthy of praise that week, i.g. trying their best, amazing participation in an activity or debate, excelling in a sports tournament, a great drawing, bravery in trying something new, etc.
    • Words of gratitude: anything a student did that was kind, period.
  • Each student then crafted one or two sentences about the individual and wrote it in marker on the paper.  Specificity was highly encouraged to make the sentiment more meaningful.
  • One person from each team then read the words aloud to the class so we could celebrate each student selected.
  • We then tacked up each paper on the wall and continued adding to it for the entire year.

It was a beautiful thing to watch grow, because it wasn’t just the wall that was growing.  The students themselves grew in recognizing and freely giving kind words of praise and gratitude.  In the midst of classroom work, we started to hear things like, “Oh my, that is something worth complimenting” or “Wow, _______ did an amazing job! Let’s remember that for Friday.”

Like I said, it was beautiful.

Wall of Gratitude & Praise
Building community–Once a week (or whenever I felt like it) each st group got a slip of paper and selected one st to give praise to or express gratitude for something. See post for more info…

I’m Baaaaack in Action!

I’m Baaaaack in Action!

My apologies to all for the lack of content and update on this blog.  I had some minor, ok major, things going on in life and I just couldn’t keep up.  I am happy to announce that I will be back in action committed to sharing thoughts, ideas, lessons, content, etc. on this blog.  And I can’t wait to connect with other educators and/or just plain thoughtful people that can help me grow.

First, a little “me” update.  I AM NO LONGER IN THE CLASSROOM!  What??!!  I know.  It’s like I’m experiencing a sort-of-career-identity-crisis. It’s summertime and I’m not quite sure what to do with myself or where to begin preparing for this new role.  (Perhaps, someone out there can offer words of advice.)  I have accepted a position as an English Language Arts Instructional Coach for the district.  What does that exactly mean, you ask…?  Not quite sure yet.  Job description is a work in progress as this is a pilot program.  But from what I understand, I will basically be a teacher’s support system, a partner to aide in enhancing their greatness!  Nothing evaluative about it.  I truly hope to be an asset to teachers and relieve some of the constant stress they feel as they work tirelessly in the trenches.

Fingers crossed and I’ll keep you posted.  Successes and failures to come, I’m sure.

Moving on from that topic, over the next couple of months my goal is to post lessons and projects from my last couple of school years.  You know, the lessons that I learned a ton from that I made a mental note to post right away.  And then I never did. Ya! Those ones.

I couldn’t help myself, but share some photos of my final Open House.

Sniff.  It was a great ride, and who knows? I may return.

Shoebox State Floats! Shoebox state floats!  Voting time!

Loved, loved, loved how these shoebox state floats turn out as their final product.
Loved, loved, loved how these shoebox state floats turn out as their final product.
Follow me for upcoming posts about all Open House projects!
Follow me for upcoming posts about all Open House projects!

Love me some Open House! IMG_6405 IMG_6418 IMG_6421

Follow me for upcoming blogs and free sharing on all Open House lessons/projects!
Follow me for upcoming blogs and free sharing on all Open House lessons/projects!
Saved all the EQs we worked on throughout the year.  Follow me for upcoming post on all EQs and lessons!
Saved all the EQs we worked on throughout the year. Follow me for upcoming post on all EQs and lessons!
Free 40 Book Challenge--and I'll upload the Reading Ribbon final project FREE soon!
Free 40 Book Challenge–and I’ll upload the Reading Ribbon final project FREE soon!
Follow me to see lesson on which event would have pushed your students over the edge! So fun.
Follow me to see lesson on which event would have pushed your students over the edge! So fun.
Follow me for all free sharing on projects and lessons!
Follow me for all free sharing on projects and lessons!

IMG_6461

I love this job-follow me for all free lessons and projects shared for Open House.
I love this job-follow me for all free lessons and projects shared for Open House.
Used mentor texts during our slavery unit to identify quality sentences, then analyzed each of them.
Used mentor texts during our slavery unit to identify quality sentences, then analyzed each of them.
Such a good lesson having students read quotes then determine who said it.  POV project
Such a good lesson having students read quotes then determine who said it. POV project
Follow me for free lesson shares!  Text connections
Follow me for free lesson shares! Text connections
Keeping it relevant for our kids!
Keeping it relevant for our kids!

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Teachers LOVE a sale!

Tpt Sale!!! Have fun!
Tpt Sale!!! Have fun!

Hello all!

My complete and total apologies are in order. I have been out of this whole “blogging” world for a long while, but I’m back. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) this is what happens to a teacher when you are on a year round schedule. Please don’t hate me, but I’m returning on Monday from a glorious FIVE WEEK BREAK! What??? I know, it’s crazy…and I must admit wonderful. And you know all those plans we make when we’re off, how much stuff we will get done, how many projects we will tweek and improve, etc…..

Well, let’s just say that I’ve accomplished about 5% of my “teaching” goals, but on the positive side, I’ve had a wonderful break with my adorable two year old, family and friends. I even made it out to Disneyland! Enough about that. Just wanted to shoot out a quick post promoting my Tpt sale beginning on Black Friday. It’s the perfect opportunity to buy any item at a great price.  I will be uploading more projects soon so be sure to follow me (and the blog–because I always show photos of the projects in action here).

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Don’t forget to count your blessings!

I love edmodo!

edmodoIf you don’t already have an edmodo account that you are using with your students, please do yourself a favor and get started.

Just a quick share to all who don’t know about it:  This has become the single best way I have found to communicate with my students.  (It’s been super helpful with parents as well, but Google Voice texting capability surpasses edmodo’s “alert” to parents.)

Edmodo operates and looks similar to a facebook page.  The benefit of this is that is so user friendly and students are immediately hooked.  I use edmodo in lieu of a classroom website.  I found my website extremely difficult to keep updated and, as a result, people stopped checking it.  Edmodo is a constant stream.  The homework is posted daily by my “Edmodo Administrator”.  The students are allowed to help each other and discuss issues related only to academics.  They can’t even private message each other!  They can only send me a private message and then I’ll be alerted via text.  I am able to quickly respond to a question on the edmodo app.  It’s awesome!

There are so many cool things you can do with it.  Here’s a list of just a few:

1.  Put all important tests and events on the monthly calendar.  Parents and students can view at all times.

2.  Send out “alerts” (think twitter) to all who entered a phone number at sign-up

3.  Homework is posted daily for parents and students to see

4.  Badges can be awarded to students (I created a bunch of my own.)

5.  Embed movies and article links to keep kids interested and checking in

6.  Save files to your library to stay organized

The list could continue, but I cannot.  It’s past my bedtime.  Edmodo takes literally 10 seconds to sign-up so check it out and take the time to view the intro. tutorial.

It’s well worth it!

Good night!