Saturday, January 26, 2013

What an Amazing Week!!!

I can't even begin to tell you what an exciting week I had!!! I attended The Leader in Me Symposium in San Antonio with a fellow teacher, my principal, and my counselor. OH. MY. WORD. I cannot even begin to express to you the exhilaration I feel right now. I feel renewed and refreshed and I am SO ready to see my kids again on Monday morning!!!

To begin, The Leader in Me is a program that was inspired by the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This book, written by Stephen Covey, discusses 7 habits that have the power to completely transform your life. If you haven't read it, put it your must-read list and head to the bookstore or buy it online as soon as you finish reading this post!

Stephen Covey passed away last year. However, his son, Sean, who has also authored numerous books involving the 7 habits, including a picture book used to teach the 7 habits to kids, was at the symposium to give a keynote speech. I MET HIM!!! Yes, this is me along with my co-workers and Sean! Ahhh!!

Hearing him speak about the passion his dad had for living your best life and hearing his dad speak (they showed a short video highlighting his career) was so inspiring. To hear for yourself, check out this video below:

That was just the morning! We then learned a lot about The Leader in Me by visiting several schools who had gone through the implementation of the program and achieved their "Lighthouse" status. The kids were absolutely jaw-dropping. These kiddos, even kindergartners and first graders, spoke so eloquently, were so well-mannered and exuded such confidence, that I couldn't help but just say, "Wow." The kids had learned about the 7 habits and truly taken them heart and applied them to their own lives. It was an amazing sight. I will have to do a separate post about this program, otherwise this post would turn into a novel!

After we returned from the school visits, the moment I had been anxiously awaiting finally came. RON CLARK GAVE THE AFTERNOON KEYNOTE! Yes, you read right. Ron Clark- THE Ron Clark!!!!! I was thrilled! If you are not aware of who he is or what he has done in the world of education, watch this video RIGHT NOW and then finish reading this post! :) Then, go buy his two books and read them immediately! I promise you will not be sorry!

To say that Mr. Clark was an inspiration does not at all capture his essence. He is full of energy and his passion and enthusiasm are contagious- you are glued to his every movement, and they are sometimes so unexpected and crazy that it makes you gasp! He is truly the model of what an educator should be- someone who is so passionate and dedicated to their work that they are able to effortlessly ignite that fire in every other individual in the room. When you watch him teach, you will often see him jump up on to a table or bust out into song or dance. He does the same when he is speaking to adults! 


After his speech, I was able to meet him face-to-face and he autographed my books. I almost cried! I feel like this is exactly what I needed to reinvigorate my teaching. I cannot tell you what an amazing experience it was!!! I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity and I will never forget it! 


Hearing him speak and really thinking hard about what he writes in his books, I am realizing that I need to reevaluate my teaching. It's that time of year when we all start to feel the pressure of the state tests and that weight starts to settle onto our shoulders. I mustn't forget my goal as an educator: to produce highly effective and productive citizens who will contribute to our country in a positive way. I have to ask myself- am I truly doing EVERYTHING that I can each and every day to inspire my students and mold them into the people I want them to be? Am I requiring that each and every second of the day they perform to the highest of standards? I would be lying to you if I were to say that I am. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I have let up a bit since the beginning of school. I don't mean that I do not have high expectations for my students, because I do. What I mean is that I have let that certain level of comfort seep through the classroom. A non-rasied hand here, a forgotten thank you there, and I shouldn't. It is not helping the students and it is certainly not helping me achieve my goal.

After this week, my resolve is stronger than ever. My students MUST learn not only the academic lessons I have to teach them, but also the important LIFE lessons that I have to teach them too, because the sad reality is, if I don't, it is highly likely that no one ever will.

On Monday morning, my kids are going to be truly excited to have me back in the classroom. Cocky? Over-confident? No! I say they will be excited to have me back because I am going to make sure I do everything I can to ensure they feel that way. Do I have the day already planned? Nope! What I do know now, is that we will start the morning with this song, which was performed at our symposium this week by a deaf and hearing combination choir of student leaders from one of The Leader in Me schools. I have lots of planning to do this weekend before Monday comes to achieve my previously stated goal- but I will get it done!!

I hope that you will be inspired to truly reflect and evaluate your teaching and find whatever it is that you need to reignite that flame if it has started to die down, or add the spark that will turn it into a wildfire. Our kids deserve our very best. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

A New Center

 I am enjoying this wonderful day off so much! But I have been busy! I finally got my car inspected after putting it off for weeks AND I actually felt patient enough to sit through getting my car washed! Ok, it was just the automatic one in the parking lot of the grocery store, but seeing as I haven't gotten my car washed in MONTHS- that was a huge step for me!!

Ok, on to school stuff....

I have had these Drawing Conclusions cards from Educational Insights for awhile now and I couldn't figure out how I wanted to use them. They are short reading passages with comprehension questions- amazing! But, they were a little plain. The box contained 50 cards from reading levels 2-5, which I loved!

What I decided to do was split the cards up into four sets, one for each reading level. I laminated them, punched a hole in the corner, slipped a book ring on it, whipped up a little title card, directions, a recording sheet and voila! I'm happy with them! A new station ready to go! I'll throw each set in a different container with several copies of the recording sheet and they will be good to go! I have another set for making inferences- let's see if I have enough energy to get those done today as well!

I also had a nice visit with my parents yesterday and mom showered me with more gifts- have I mentioned before that I have the most amazing mom in the world? She is an educator herself and was cleaning out her office and decided she was ready to part with some stuff, so she passed it on to me! I am in love! My kiddos will be so excited and I have some new interesting reads!

Now back to work! This week will be a strange one- I'm heading to San Antonio for a conference and I am so excited! I am finally going to learn about the amazing Leader in Me program I keep reading about! I'll be away from my class for two and a half days, but it will be oh-so-worth-it! 

Enjoy the rest of your day!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Day the Teacher Lost Her Voice!

Hey guys!

I can't believe it's been so long since I blogged last!

This one won't be long, but I just have to share this!

For the past week, my allergies, at least I think that's what this is, have been slowly attacking my voice. Each day my voice got weaker and weaker and by Friday I could barely whisper. I felt completely fine, I just couldn't speak normally. It was so frustrating!!

So, on Friday, I gave up! With thanks to technology, I turned on my projector and pulled up good ol' Microsoft Word. I got the kiddo's attention by using my handy bell, and directed them to the screen. I then proceeded to type my explanation- that I had lost my voice and it was extremely painful when I tried to speak, so I would not be talking at all. I typed everything I would have said out loud and typed the directions for the assignment- even down to "Go!" For the rest of the day, the kids had to READ everything I would normally say- it was great!!! I had a student read the book I had chosen about Martin Luther King aloud to the class and another student ask the class to give character traits that described him and record their responses on an anchor chart. I sat back and watched!

The kids were very sympathetic and I think they really got a kick out of the complete change of pace. And the best part? They actually spent the entire day reading! Ha!

I think I might just have to fake it another day in the future- it was just too great!!! If I wasn't so lazy right now, I would get my phone and show some pictures, but that will just have to wait until tomorrow!

Have a great Sunday! Enjoy the day off tomorrow!!!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Fresh Start!

 Well, Christmas break is long gone and we are back to reality! We had very productive first week back. I was slightly worried that it would take us a day or two to get back into the swing of things, but my kiddos jumped right back in and we didn't miss a beat! I am so proud of what they remember- they were blowing my socks off this week!

We started with making resolutions. We made a quick resolution anchor chart and had a great discussion about what resolutions are and why people make them.

I started using Stephanie's 7 Habits posters after reading her awesome post about them. I have been interested in the "Leader in Me" program for awhile now, and I thought that these posters would  be a perfect way to experiment with the language. I have this hung on the board where it is easily visible so I can constantly refer to it. I love it!

This week's habit was 'Be Proactive.' We had such wonderful conversations about what that means and came up with lots of specific examples. The "I do not blame others for my wrong actions" talk was most important for my kiddos. It has been great to have that poster to refer back to when the kids slip into the whole, "She made me do it!" line. I am excited to continue using these each week. I'll keep you posted on how it goes!

After we had this discussion, the kids came up with their own goals for family and friends, the classroom, and any other goals they wanted to include. We then rang in the new year with a little noise!!

We then started reading one of my absolute favorite stories from our Reading Street textbook, Goodbye, 382 Shin Dang Dong. It is about a little girl who is born in Korea and when she is eight years old, her family moves to America. This was a perfect story for our class because the kiddos could relate to what it feels like to move- many of them have moved several times in their life.

I love having conversations with the kids and hearing their explanations for things. In the story, the little girl is asking about her new home in America and comparing it to her home in Korea. We read that in Korea, they have rice paper doors. You should have heard these kids' explanations for what rice paper is! I got a good inner chuckle from this! Needless to say, we had a discussion about how paper is made!

As we read the story, we took notes of how the main character, Jangmi, felt at the beginning of the story and at the end. I made a quick little suitcase out of chart paper to record our notes on just to add a little flare- sure beats plain ol' white chart paper! The kids got a kick out of it!

 In the story Jangmi also describes her favorite fruit that she would eat with her best friend in Korea, chummy. When she moves to America, she meets a new friend and that friend has her taste honeydew melon. Jangmi says that the honeydew reminds her of chummy. So, as a special treat, I brought in some honeydew melons for my kiddos to try. Most of them had never had it before! We did a very quick 5-senses writing about the honeydew as they enjoyed their treat! 

The kids loved seeing what the whole melon looked like and what the inside looked like! It was a great way to end our week! The kids really enjoyed this story and it will surely become a touchstone text for us in the future.

I'm looking forward to reading another wonderful story from our basal next week: Suki's Kimono! If you have any ideas for this story, please let me know!!!

I hope you had a great first (or second, for some of you!) week back!

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Stuff!

 Whew! I am exhausted tonight even though today was a work day!!! I can only guess how tired that means I will be tomorrow with the kiddos!

I cannot tell you what a wonderful day today was! My room is officially clean AND organized. I cleaned out cabinets that I have just been shoving stuff in for months now! It feels SO good to start with a clean, fresh  room.

As I was gathering up all of my things last night, I had to take a quick picture of all the goodies I got from family this Christmas. I'm tellin' ya- I am one LUCKY girl!!! My family knows exactly what I want! My mom and dad treated me to a little shopping spree at my fav store, Lakeshore Learning, and that made for one happy girl!!!

I figured that anyone who would take the time to read my little blog would appreciate these goodies as much as I do! I was so excited pulling them all out today when I got to my room! Ah! I have big plans for all of these wonderful things- from stations, to warm-ups, to whole-group lessons. I am psyched! I also got other random goodies I will blog about later- including a light up timer that goes from green to red as the time runs out- amazing!!!

One of my favorite products of all time are these Building Fluency Card Banks. They are perfect for practicing fluency AND they are about all sorts of interesting topics!  They come in two sets- one with reading levels for 1-3 grades and one for 4-6. Every Friday we do what I call "Fluency Friday." I make copies of one of the passages for the whole class and they take turns reading the passage to a partner for one minute. The kids are trained on how to mark errors and calculate the number of correct words per minute they read.  We record them on the tracking form that comes with the product. I know, Lakeshore thinks of everything! Each passage has numbers at the end of each line so kids can easily count backwards or forwards from where they stopped to calculate their scores. They repeat this process twice so they have an opportunity to improve their score. I'll do a separate post about exactly how I do this process with the class another day! It takes lots of training and practice, but the kids love it!

I am most excited about having the first set with levels for grades 1-3. I have some struggling readers and now I have a wonderful resource at my fingertips to use with them. It will be a great way for the kids to see how they are progressing. Can't wait to use them! This will also help me differentiate for those babies that need it during our Fluency Friday- yay!

In the future, I plan on creating an entirely separate fluency folder with a snazzy label so we can keep all of  our fluency things together. That's on my list of "to-dos". If I do wind up making them, I will be sure to share how they turn out! For now, we will continue storing our tracking sheets and passages in our catch-all "Language Arts" folder :)!

Another one of my favorite products are these Reader's Theater Scripts. I LOVE them!! My kiddos love doing reader's theater, but I do NOT like the preparation! First you have to print them out, then go through and highlight each role on a different copy, blah, blah, blah. Usually they have an odd number of characters, or one person only gets a line or two of text to read. Ugh. This product solves all of those problems! It comes with several stories, each with FOUR scripts- perfect. Each one is highlighted already- yes- already! Brilliant! The kids can sit with their group and there is no hassle! The stories are short enough that within the station time, they will have an opportunity to read for more than one character. I. am. in. love!

Moving on... my mother-in-law found me the CUTEST tape dispenser ever! Check him out! Adorable!
Random, I know, but he is so cute! I had to share!

Now for my MOST favorite find of my shopping spree- my name tag and pencil holders!!! Can you hear the angels singing?! I have not blogged about this yet, but at the beginning of the year I tried to create my own do-it-yourself pencil and name tag holders using rulers. A friend came up with the idea. I just knew they would be perfect! I plugged in my glue gun and went to town! I glued three rulers together to form the holder. They were super-cute and I was so excited! I took them to school, hot glued them all to the desks (by the way, hot glue is easy to remove from desks!) that first week of school and they were ADORABLE- until... they started falling apart. Imagine rulers on the floor, rulers in the desks, rulers everywhere! The hot glue just wasn't strong enough to hold them. Kids would bump them and they would come apart and all I was left with was a massive pile of rulers. They just didn't work. I was heart-broken.

Mom came to the rescue during our shopping trip and found these little gems at Lakeshore! They are blue, my favorite color, all one piece and made of STURDY plastic! I just about died! They can hold a name tag, or any other thing you can dream up to put in there, and a pencil. No more rogue pencils! I stuck the holders to the desks with adhesive squares that are supposed to have a firm hold but remove easily (we shall see!). I am anticipating them falling off, but at least if they do, they won't break! We will see how they work tomorrow when the kids come in! I couldn't find them on the Lakeshore website, so if you like them, check with your local store.

For now, I can enjoy how neat and straight the room is (minus the overflowing trashcan) with the holders in place.

I am looking forward to seeing all of my kids' faces tomorrow and see how they have grown! I missed them!

Tomorrow is all about a fresh start- resolutions and all!

Have a great night!!!