Monday, July 18, 2011

How I'm Spending Summer Vacation

Another fabulous third grade teacher, Jodi from Clutter-Free Classroom, is doing a fun little writing "assignment" this week, in which bloggers are responding to a topic she posts (kind of like those 45 minute timed writes we give monthly to our students!). Hope this gives you a tiny peek into my world! I'm going to include photos, just because I like to add a little flair.

Before summer vacation started, I made a list, with Ben's help (he's my almost six year old son), of a bunch of places to go and things to do. Otherwise, we would spend way too much time watching TV in our PJs. So, the first thing we ended up doing was making dino eggs. Ben loved it!

We've visited our local parks (but's sooo hot!):

We've spent time at the beach with buddies:

Ben has started tennis lessons, and he is actually getting pretty good!

We've had fun at the Children's Museum with friends:

My husband and I went to the NASCAR Coke Zero 400 in Daytona:

We set off fireworks for July 4th:

Ben and Eva both took swimming lessons:

We went to the "Twilight Swim" at our local pool and Ben was not afraid of the high dive:

We've done "science experiments":

We went to the aquarium:

And we went to the zoo:

This week is going to be pretty low-key, and I have a couple trainings next week (I try not to do too many out of the house trainings - three this summer, but I do a TON of professional reading over the summer). I am hoping to get into my classroom next week to get a little head start on getting things ready for the new year. The week before teachers go back to school, we are taking a mini-vacation over to Disney. We're only planning to do one theme park and then hang out at the hotel for a day to relax and enjoy the last little bit of summer.

Hope everyone else is having a fabulous vacation!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Parent Involvement

I am very fortunate to teach at a school in which parent involvement is high, teachers are respected and supported, and education is valued. Home-school communication is one aspect of management that I pride myself on, as I make myself quite accessible to my parents. My parents, students, and myself are (usually) all on the same page, and I think that has a lot to do with the routines I establish early in the school year. Here are some of the things I do to make sure we're all "in the know":

1. Monday Planners - On Monday mornings, I have my students fill in their weekly planner. They copy down the skills/strategies we'll be working on, homework, spelling/vocabulary words, upcoming tests and events. They take their planners home every Monday to get signed by a parent (due Tuesday).

2. Weekly Newsletters - Last year, all my parents had internet access, so I was able to email my weekly newsletter. On the newsletter, I explicitly report what students should be learning in every subject area, and often give suggestions on how parents can assist their children at home. Of course, the normal stuff, like important dates, weekly words, thank yous, etc are also found on the newsletter. Only very rarely did I have parents say they didn't know about this or that. My reply was usually, "Yes, it was indicated on the newsletter dated ..." Check out some examples of my Weekly Newsletters on the, um, Weekly Newsletters page.

3. BEE Books - I put together BEE (Bring Everything Everyday) Books last year for all of my students, which contained a ton of much needed information in plastic page protectors. Let's see...there was a class contact list, money pouch, ABCs of 3rd grade, Homework Directions Sheet, Frequently Misspelled Word list, and a bunch of other resources. It also contained the...

4. Monthly Behavior Calendar -  It looks like a regular old calendar, but in every Friday box, there's a spot for Parent Initials. I would jot a note when a student didn't turn in HW, didn't complete class work, had a behavior issue, etc.The behavior calendar was expected to be signed and returned to school every Monday. Click HERE to see the Monthly Behavior Calendars for 2010-2011. I'll post the ones for 2011-2012 when I get around to making them!  : )

5. This Blog - I started this blog last year, and I was good about updating it at the beginning of the year, but not so much towards the middle. Part of the problem was that I wasn't able to access blogger at school. I would like to do better this year!

6. Mystery Readers -  It is very rare that we don't have a parent come in to read to the class every Friday. The kids love it, the parents love it, and hey, so do I! It's fun to hear a voice other than mine doing read alouds.

7. Open House - I work on a fabulous team, and we put on an awesome open house presentation in September. I think parents walk away feeling confident that their child is in our capable hands! Heehee.

I also email my parents frequently as things come up, send home study guides for tests, and generally do my best to be proactive, instead of being reactive. I hate being behind the 8-ball!

Teacher Resources Page

Thanks to a comment an anonymous poster left today, I became aware that the documents I tried to upload to my Teacher Resources Page (and probably my Weekly Newsletters, too) were unable to be opened! Yikes! I tried again using Scribd, so I hope everyone who wants to see, can now see what I have on those pages. I didn't want to link too many documents because I'm still not sure if it works. If someone can take a peek and let me know by commenting on this post, I'd be most appreciative! I am learning as I go!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ten Things to Know About Me!

Inspired by another blogging teacher, Go 4th With Mrs. Owens, I am making a list of ten things to know about me. What a great way for students to get to know their teacher, and of course and even better, what a great way for teachers to get to know their students! Here's my list:

10. I love reality TV shows - give me The Real Housewives of (insert any) County over 60 Minutes any day!
9. My favorite place to shop is Target. Where else can you buy peanut butter, a cute dress, cilantro, and a pretty binder, all in the span of 15 minutes?
8. You would never guess this about me, but I love NASCAR. My husband and I have been to the Daytona 500, the Coke Zero 400, and we are looking forward to going to Homestead in November for the last race of the season! Go #99!!!
7. Although ice cream in most any flavor is great, mint chocolate chip has been my all time fave since I was a little kid.
6. I am a very picky eater, although I have gotten better as I've gotten older! But...I still order my cheeseburgers PLAIN!
5. I am an only child. However, I like to think that I have learned to share by now!
4. In the 11 years that I have been a teacher, I have always taught third graders! It's such a fabulous grade to teach!
3. I am interested in taking photographs, making my house and classroom pretty, and creating organizational systems.
2. My favorite place to be is on a beach (Pass-a-Grille, preferably) with a book.
1. My family means the world to me - my husband (Greg) is the best, and my two kids (Ben and Eva) are adorable and funny and I love them very much!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Daily 5(ish)

Last year, I read a great little book called The Daily Five by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. The authors advocate using five stations that students should rotate through every day, as opposed to teacher-created centers, which are often very time-consuming to make and manage. These are the five stations:

1. Listen to Reading
2. Read to Self
3. Read to Someone
4. Word Work
5. Work on Writing

I am planning to take some of the ideas I gathered from the book to use in a way that would best benefit my students within the confines of my schedule. Here's what I'm thinking reader's workshop might look like, while incorporating the Daily 5:

First, I will conduct a shared reading mini-lesson, during which I will teach a strategy or skill that the whole class needs to learn. Next, we'll move into our three "rounds" of stations, each of which will last about 15 minutes. While students are in their assigned station (yes, I will assign stations, even though the authors suggest letting the kids choose - they get to make plenty of choices throughout the day, and things will be much better managed if I assign the stations!), I will be working with guided reading groups at my small group table. Here's what my rotation is going to look like (in my head, it all works out!), with 4-6 students in each group. Remember, I will also be plucking students from their station rotation to do guided reading with me:

Round 1 - A: Word Work (Mountain Language, spelling, vocabulary, etc)
                 B: Listen to Reading  (Tumblebooks on the computer)  
                 C: Work on Writing (cursive, journaling, reading responses)

Round 2 - A: Work on Writing
                 B: Word Work
                 C: Listen to Reading

Round 3 - A: Listen to Reading
                 B: Work on Writing
                 C: Word Work

After the third round, we will do a whole-class share to reflect on the day's learning during reader's workshop. Now, one of the stations in The Daily 5, Read to Self, takes priority above the other stations. Because of this, I did not want to include it in the 15 minute station rotations. Instead, I am devoting a 30 minute period outside the daily 5 time/guided reading time for students to independently read. While they are reading, I will be conducting independent reading conferences, ideally conferring one-on-one with each student once every week to two weeks.

We'll see how my plan works out in terms of practicality! I am always open to tweaking as I go to make things run smoothly.