The Book Whisperer: A Must Read

Sunday, June 25, 2017
This is not a sponsored post by any means, but I had to share some take aways from The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. It was one of the best professional development texts I have read in my 7 years of teaching. It's a quick read with a lot you can do right away in your classroom. Here are a few of the takeaways I got from the text that I'm implementing now!
Model a Passion for Reading
Kids pay attention! If you show them your love for reading, students are going to recognize that and it could possibly get them engaged in reading as well! If you don't love reading, fake it 'til you make it ;) Honestly, I never thought of myself as a reader growing up. I don't think I even considered myself a reader for a good chunk of my 20s. Then I started reading young adult fiction so I could try to get my students hooked. Well, I got hooked. Now, I love young adult literature way more than adult literature. I find that I can read the books faster (I'm not the most patient person) and that's okay! Showing kids that you love reading can definitely make a difference in their lives as well. They literally may not see this in any adults they know.

Read, Read, Read
I started to read young adult fiction to see which books I could read with my students. It turns out I started loving it. Because of this, I can now recommend some great texts to my students. However, after reading The Book Whisperer, I realized I have to keep going and open up my horizons a bit. I LOVE realistic fiction - Wonder, Fish in a Tree, Because of Mr. Terupt - I could read them all day! What I realized is that I don't have many fantasy or mystery texts to recommend to my students. My next goal is to try these out! If I don't like them, so be it! It's okay if I put them down, but if I don't take risks in my reading, my students won't either.

Book Recommendations
Speaking of book recommendations, Donalyn Miller is a big proponent of this. Now, I thought in previous years that I was doing this, but not to the extent that I should. I created this Student Survey you can grab for free to get my students thinking about themselves as a reader right away at the beginning of the year. These surveys are also going to be a great way for me to find tons of books that I think my students will love right away! Additionally, I need to give students the opportunity to share texts they love with their peers! Having tons of recommendations at their finger tips will more likely give them more motivation to pick one up and dive in!

Take it Easy on the Book Units
One of my favorite things to do as a teacher is read a book aloud to the class and really enjoy it with them. I love hearing their reactions and their questions while they get hooked in the text. One thing I realized I need to do is lay off the formal, unnatural way my students are responding to the text like completing a worksheet or written a response where I'm looking for just the right answer. I want to change this up for the coming year. Of course I'll use the texts to teach important literary concepts such a plot, setting, character, etc. However, now I want those lessons to be built in the discussion and experience of the text rather than some packet or book report that needs to be completed.

Okay, so those are just a few of the fabulous things that I'm getting started with right away. There is so much more amazing information in the text and can be applied to any grade level or class! I would highly recommend reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller right away!



Student Interest Survey + a FREEBIE

Tuesday, June 13, 2017
I always love a good student interest survey! I usually give them out at the beginning of the year to get to know more about my new students in my classroom! Here are a few ways I use them, plus you can grab the Student Interest Survey I created HERE!

Building Relationships
It's great to get to know your students likes, dislikes, interests in and outside of school and their personality (which can really shine through these surveys). I love going through these together as a class before administering them so students know the importance and it shows the students how I really want to get to know them as much as possible right away!

Community Building
Using these as a community building opportunity is pretty great too! Students can share out their answers and find others with similar interests. It's a great way for students to get to know each other as well. Students can also feel a sense of pride in who they are, as well as start having some conversations about struggles to foster growth mindset.

Guiding Instruction
If I know a student is really into Star Wars, I might use that to guide some of my instruction, especially if I'm working one-on-one with a student. It makes their learning a little more exciting (hopefully ;)).

Recommendations for Students
After reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, I realized using these surveys is the perfect way to recommend books for students - particularly those reluctant to read. If I know students are really into sports, I'm going to find as many sports books as I can that are quality texts to get in their hands right away at the beginning of the year!

Do you use student interest surveys with your students? How do you use them?

Don't forget, grab the Student Interest Survey for FREE HERE!



Conferring with Readers

Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Have you started conferring with readers during your literacy block? My amazing literacy coach introduced my staff to conferring this school year and it has made such an incredible difference. I am by no means an expert, but here are some resources I used to get started!

What is conferring? (my take, anyway)
Meeting with students where they're at, academically and physically (meaning, get down on the floor next to them where they are to read with them) and spending time discussing the book THEY are reading independently. Conferences take LESS than 5 minutes with a specific goal and time for you, as the teacher, to get to KNOW your readers!

What does conferring look like?
What?!? I move around the room and talk individually with students about their books??? And you're telling me the conference is less than 5 minutes? Are you kidding me? I had ZERO clue where to start. Thanks, again, to my lit coach, she showed us this great Jennifer Serravallo video. It was a great starting point. Now, do all my conferences look like this? NOPE and that's okay. I've adjusted my conferring style to what works best for me and my students!

What questions do I ask?
Again, NO clue at first. I started out with the usual questions - problem, solution, characters, setting, new information learned, blah, blah, blah. I wanted to go deeper, so I started researching. I started with the hierarchy of goals (check them out on her blog HERE) in Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book. This really helped me get started with what I should be looking for. I then, of course, cross referenced with multiple other reading resources I had (we all know we've got them collecting dust on our shelves) and of course, found some on the wonderful world of the Internet. I had STACKS of books, papers, and websites for great questioning.

Now, I didn't want to carry around all these stacks on stacks on stacks to the carpet, then to a desk, then at a corner table, then to a crate seat (yes, I do flexible seating), so I put together all the questions into categories and wrote them up on cards in two formats. Check them out in my TpT store HERE if you're interested!

Now what???
Give it a whirl! It may not be pretty at first and may not make sense, but once you get into the groove, you'll see the benefits of conferring with readers!




Using Task Cards in the Classroom PLUS How to Store Them!

Monday, April 17, 2017
Do you use task cards in your classroom? I started using them for math and absolutely LOVE them. It's a great way to practice your content while getting students moving around. You can easily use them whole group, small group or individually with students depending on their needs.
All you have to do is print out the task cards you're using for content, cut them out and tape them up around the room. Give your students an answer sheet (I actually create a quiz page in our Schoology account if you have that - super easy and less paper.) Then students wander around the room solving problems instead of sitting in one spot and doing worksheets - it's a win-win in my book!

There are so many great resources and Teachers Pay Teachers sellers out there that have such a variety of task cards. I have created some in my own store that you can find HERE. I also have a few favorite go-to stores depending on level of content I need: Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd, Lucky Little Learners, Blair Turner and Rachel Lynette!


Now, storing task cards can be a bit of a pain, but not with these incredible photo organizers from Michael's. Make sure to be patient and wait for a Michael's coupon - it pays off! I have 4 of these photo organizers and they are amazing! You can also get them on Amazon HERE!

How do you use task cards in your classroom? My next goal: use them in literacy too :)




Getting Ready for a Student Teacher

Friday, March 3, 2017
I really love having a student teacher and practicum students in my classroom. It's such a great way to share your passion for teaching! However, it can be a bit overwhelming when they're about to start! Here are a few ways I get my student teachers ready!
Organize a Space for Them
We want these student teachers to feel like they have some ownership in the classroom. I always find a nook with a table or desk for them to use so they feel like it's their workspace and their classroom. I usually put them in the opposite corner than my desk so they have their own space. Plus, it's always nice to have an extra set of eyes on the opposite side of the classroom. I make sure this space is set up BEFORE they come in!

Welcome Basket
I like to put together a little welcome basket with some teacher essentials - really quick and easy. I put in a few items such as post-its, Flair pens, a clipboard, paper clips, etc. I like to get them in the teacher mode. And let's be real, they will need all these things at some point, so instead of them feeling like they're always asking for little things, provide them with it all right away!

Meet with Them Before They Start
I find it's really important to meet with your student teacher before they get started. It's good to get to know them a little bit and for them to know you. I usually like my student teacher to come right before students go out for recess, so my kiddos can put a face to a name and know who to expect coming in. Then I spend my lunch period showing my student teacher around the building, discussing expectations, showing them our workroom, showing them how to make copies and all the little things that we won't have time for on the first day.

Resources Binder or File
I swayed away from a binder of printed papers this year and switched to a Google Doc which has worked amazingly so far! In the doc, I include a slew of information for them so they can reference it throughout their time. I also love using a Google Doc so I can easily add any information for them that I forgot or that has come up throughout their placement that they will need to know. Here is all the info I include: 

  • important dates
  • important people to know
  • a general schedule for my blocks and specials
  • the curriculum topics that will be covered during their time with me
  • curriculum resources I use frequently in my teaching
  • any behavior or special ed students they need to be aware of
  • a general description of our school make-up, as well as our school-wide behavior program
  • my expectations of them (how to dress/act, professionalism, etc.)
  • a calendar of their progression into their lead weeks so they know what they will be expected to teach each week

Give Them Homework
I always give student teachers homework for their first day. It's usually 2 things. The first is an introductory letter to be sent home to families. In the letter, I want them to tell about themselves a little bit and make sure parents and families are aware of their presence in the classroom for their placement. The second is a community building activity to do with the students on their first day. I give them about a half an hour to plan for a way to get to know the students and their names right away.

How do you get ready for a student teacher? I'd love to hear some more tips!



10 Ways to Use 10 Frames

Sunday, February 19, 2017
Ten frames are such a great tool to use in any classroom! Ten frames help students subitize, build mental math strategies and structure numbers to 10. Here are 10 ways you can use 10 frames in your classroom!


Flash Ten Frames
Flash a ten frame at the student(s) for approximately one second. Then ask the student the following questions: How many were on top? How many on the bottom? How many altogether? How many more to make 10? Mix it up: Use frames with black counters, frames with red/blue counters, pair-wise counters or five-wise counters!

Quick Writes 
Each student will need a whiteboard or piece of paper and a marker. Flash the ten frame at the student(s). Students will then write how many dots are on the frame on their whiteboard. You can also flash a ten frame and students need to write the number that goes with the frame to make 10 like in the picture below. Share out answers.



Quick Write Pairs
Each student will need a whiteboard or piece of paper and a marker. Flash the ten frame at the student(s). Students will then write the combination of 10 the frame represents on their whiteboard. Share out answers.



Slap 10
This game is just like the game Slapjack. You may need 2-4 sets of ten frames depending on how many students are in your group. Two frames are flipped over. If together they make a full frame, the first student to slap the pair gets the cards. Play until the cards run out. The winner who has the most cards at the end of the deck wins.

Work Mats
Give each student a blank ten frame with chips. Tell students to create a number on their 10 frame. Then discuss how they made the number. Give students the freedom to create their number however they would like to discuss the various combinations.



Observe Frames
Study the various ten frames. You can also use red and blue ten frames found {HERE}. Ask students what they see, how many are on top and the bottom, as well as how many more to make 10. Be sure to expose students to pair-wise frames and five-wise frames.

Flash and Yell the Number
Flash the ten frame. Students yell back the number. Whoever yells the number first gets the card. The player with the most cards at the end wins. The students could also yell the number that goes with the frame to make 10!

Flash and Yell the Pair
Flash the ten frame. Students yell back the pair on the ten frame. Whoever yells the pair first gets the card. The player with the most cards at the end wins.

Math Games
There are a ton of math games with ten frames. Check out my products HERE and check out this search I did on Pinterest HERE. Tons of great ideas!



Shake and Spill
We often do a shake and spill version with equations, but it really helps giving kids concrete manipulatives to solidify their learning. Put 10 two-colored counters in a cup. Shake and spill. Then place the counters on a work mat. Discuss how many are red, yellow, and the combination to make 10.

Also, check out this great blog post I found that gives a great description of why we use 10 as a benchmark. How do you use ten frames in your classroom?



Classroom Inspirational Words

Monday, February 6, 2017
I entered a new classroom this year and I knew I had to spruce it up. I love bright colors and have a pretty ugly brick wall with little character. I knew I wanted to put something inspirational on that wall. Here is what I did!

It was SUPER easy! I typed one letter to a page on a PowerPoint slide. I printed the letters on the specific colored paper I wanted. Then I laminated the pages and cut them out! Make sure you have enough colored card stock or paper per the word you want.

A little tip: for the inside of the closed letters (o, p, r, etc.), I used a utility knife on a hard surface so the letters wouldn't be bent.

If you want these words for FREE, grab them HERE!




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