Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Month of Firsts

This month has been full of firsts for "The Accidental Teacher".  For the first time tonight I am making spaghetti squash!  I love spaghetti squash and have eaten it in many forms, however I have never attempted to make it myself.  That ends tonight!



It also occurred to me as I was using a sledge hammer to cut my squash into halves, that this month has been full of firsts. Here they are in no particular order:

My daughter Maddie turned 10 - the first of my daughters to hit double digits! Along with turning ten, Maddie hosted her first sleepover at our house.

This year was the first time we went to a new pumpkin patch.  We go to the same one every year and we LOVE it, however it was closed on the Sunday we tried to go.  So we ventured out into Southwest Washington and found a new place. It had the best pumpkins (although that could have been because it was under the power lines!)

We did go back to our favorite place, where for the first time I had a friend take pictures of my children.  She is so talented!








I know it is a LOT of pictures, but aren't they fabulous!

I also had the privilege of being on the design team to help revise our district common math assessment so that it aligns with the common core state standards.  If you had met me 3-4 years ago and asked me about keeping "data"; I would have laughed at you and said, "No, I don't keep data.  It's only one moment our of one part of a child's life and does not reflect the whole child."

Not anymore.  I have been reborn into a data queen.  For the first time I love data.  Not literally of course, however I have learned how to use it effectively to help me see the learner better.  I have learned how to take my anecdotal notes from conferring during workshop and combine that with the checklists I love AND align all of that to the standards.  I did not do this alone, I had the fabulous help of my first grade team.  Together we came up with a common data format so that when we look at student work in our PLC, we have the same data charts.  Now we are comparing apples to apples in stead of apples to oranges to pears to bananas! We created one for each of the writing units we are teaching this year.  Here is the one for Personal Narratives:

This is also the first time I've ever contemplated doing something else with my life.  I have been a classroom teacher for 13 years and have been working with children in some capacity (swim lessons, baby-sitting, day camp, etc) since I was 12.  I am on several teams and committees this year where I get to design professional development and staff development and plan curriculum.  I am really enjoying it.  It has me thinking that I want to try out something new.  Something different.  I know every teacher goes through this.  And maybe this is a mid-life crisis.  I am closer to 40 than 30.  But the possibility of something else is a little exciting!

One last first ~ This is the first year I have raked leaves.  I usually leave them on the ground, but this year I raked.  I also had a helper!




Monday, October 1, 2012

One Month In & Lakeshore Learning Surprise

Good Morning to everyone out there!  Happy Monday!

I am officially one month into my school year and so far so good. I looped up with most of my class from kindergarten so we have our routines and procedures down cold. I also went from 27 students to 20 so that helps make our day much smoother.

One of my goals for this year is help my students become independent thinkers.  I use the workshop model in all content areas which means my students have a lot of time they are working independently or in small groups.  This is fabulous until a group gets finished with their task and are wondering what to do next.

This is where the internet comes in handy.  There are SOOOO many fantastic resources out there for teachers and here are a few I use in my classroom. One if our favs is the Froggy Hearts Addition game from Swamp Frog First Graders.
Another great activity for students to work on when they are finished is building with pattern blocks.
Our newest favorite activity came over the summer.  I was contacted by Lakeshore Learning (one of my most favorite places to go shopping for all things teaching) and they asked if I would be interested in using one of their newer products in my classroom.  Of course I said YES! I few days later it arrived!

 Last year, our favorite math unit was our geometry unit.  I wanted to keep up their learning about shapes so I got an activity my students could play independently when they finish their math task.   The Roll and Build at My Seat Geometry game was a great way to to sustain their learning about 2-D and 3-D shapes and build independent practice.  

The activity comes with a laminated card with very clear directions, a large foam dice with shape pictures that are easy to read and pieces for building shapes.  I only had to explain the directions once and my students were off and building.


We spent the few days before learning about what it looks like to have effective math partnerships.
I will absolutely be getting more of these activities for my classroom.  They are easy to store, easy to use and align to the first grade CCSS. You can grab a few yourself for 25% off
Enjoy 25% off from Lakeshore: www.lakeshorelearning.com/savenow


Sunday, August 26, 2012

This is the End . . . and a lesson on the power of positive people

The end has come, the end of summer, the end of all my relay races, the end of sleeping in (as much as you can with children).
Our FANTASTIC 2012 Hood to Coast team!
This summer has been unlike any summer I've had.  I've experienced new friendships, watched both of my daughters grow more independent and found out how important it is to keep things positive.

Often I find myself going to the darkside . . . looking for the worst case scenario, seeing the glass half empty, finding ALL the things that could go wrong.  

After spending the summer with an amazing group of friends, family and runners I think I'm learning about the importance of being positive.  I'm hoping this will be something I can sustain and take with me into the classroom this year.

Take for example my sister.  She is one of the strongest people I know.  She had a baby in February (I will post a picture because he is so cute!) and in August was running a 216 mile relay.  Only through hard work, dedication and a positive attitude could she have achieved this AND she had 4 legs while the rest of us had 3.  Katie ~ you are my hero!  
My nephew - Cooper  Isn't he the cutest!
Then there is my van mates.  I spent more than 65 hours in a mini van with these wonderful 6 individuals.  Now I can safely say, (and it is true) that I am the slowest runner in our van, but at no time did they ever make me feel that way.  They were always positive, encouraging, and they gave me the strength to do my best and be OK with who I am as a runner.


Thanks vanmates!  There is not another group of people I would have spend that much time in a van with!
 And finally there is Mr. M.  Although he probably would not agree with me, I think he is one of the most amazing people I know.  2 years ago he quit his upper level management job at a big corporation to go back to school and pursue his passion ~ teaching. Now he has his masters in education and some lucky school is going to get him for a teacher.  Although there have been hiccups along the way, he has NEVER given up and has always kept his focus on the prize ~ educating children. 
Mr. M and our youngest snuggling on the couch.
So, what I'm trying to say is that because of all these wonderful people I'm finally ready to begin my school year.  If you read any of the previous posts you know I have been dragging my heels and not ready to start the school year.  There have been several changes in my school this year that have caused my to be a Debbie Downer.

But now I see that change is good and it can become whatever you make it. I officially report on Wednesday and I will get to see my kiddos on Tuesday for Meet the Teacher night and then on Wednesday, September 5th School is in Session!

What have you taken away from your summer?  Any big lessons learned?  What about meet the teacher night?  I always do the same thing and I would LOVE some new ideas.  It looks like I will be hitting Pinterest later!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Top Ten Back to School You Tube Videos & a Fabulous Freebie

I had my team over for a BBQ on Sunday night and it was so much fun, then I had a staff development meeting on Monday morning to plan out our year in professional development.  Whether I'm ready or not, the school year is creeping up on me.  I'm actually contemplating going into my classroom tomorrow to start working.  I'm post some pictures, eventually.

Today's top ten has me a little giddy.  I was pinning on Pinterest last night and found some fun videos I plan to use this year in my classroom.  Some are old favorites I've used in the past and some are new and some just make me laugh.


I could watch this over and over again!


This one is great for the beginning of the year, especially to infer important ideas about friendships, tolerance, bullying, and more.


Fun video and rap about the elements of a story. Explains plot, character, conflict, setting and theme.


Great for inferring right from the get go...Infer the setting, the profession of the man, what might happen, character feelings based on actions and expressions...


The Actual '73 Giving Tree Movie Spoken By Shel Silverstein


This is another Pixar short for reinforcing or introducing the skill of inference; allow students to watch the entire film (5 minutes) then replay it, stopping to ask inference questions


Fun song to use when learning about map skills.


Vowel Bat - My students would sing this when they were working during word workshop!


Everyone LOVES Pete the Cat



You know you have all been here before - Jerry Seinfeld teaching a history class on SNL


Hope you enjoyed those!

Now for some exciting news, I finished my Reading Workshop Launching unit for First Grade AND it is aligned to the CCSS.  I may not have my room ready, but at least I know what I will be teaching the first month of school in Reader's Workshop. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, I would love to know what you use to launch your Reader's workshop.










Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday Top Ten is Back! My Top Ten New Books for the School Year

I've been in denial, but I think it's time to start accepting that I need to think about school.  My friends and colleges are already back working in their classrooms and even having those dreaded back to school dreams.  This is my attempt to ease into a back to school state of mind.  I'm bringing back my top ten with the ten new books I just ordered for the school year.


I am a member of Amazon Prime, which means that when I order a book I usually get it in 2 days and the shipping is always free.  This makes me so happy, but maybe not Mr. M.  It means that I usually end up spending way more on books than I need to. I'm like a kid on Christmas morning when the UPS driver pulls up in his brown van and delivers a package to my door with the Amazon logo.

Here are my new books for this school year:

Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills

Otto the Book Bear by Kate Cleminson

There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books by Lucille Colandro

First Grade Jitters by Robert Quackenbush

Oh, No George! by Chris Haughton

The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

I Don't Like to Read by Nancy Carlson

Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle

Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Levin (pre-ordered this baby!)

Smarter Charts K-2: Optimizing an Instructional Staple to Create Independent Readers and Writers
by Marjorie Martinelli


What are some new books you have ordered for this school year? I may need to add them to my Amazon wish list ; )

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lost and Found . . . part 2 (bear with me I have a few goodies at the end)

 I know what your thinking, 2 posts in 2 days.  It's a little crazy, but I'm excited to share the beginning of August with you and a few things I've been working on.  

For those of you that read my post yesterday, thanks for not forgetting about me.  Here is a continuation of my summer as it rolled into August.

August began when we reunited with our oldest daughter. found myself missing her like crazy and was so happy to have my family back under the same roof. Maddie returned from the south with the in-laws as they came into town to watch our girls during The Cascade Lakes Relay. 

Get Out of the Van at the starting line
Shortly before the race I lost my mind with worry about whether or not I was ready for the race.  My hips were hurting and mentally I did not feel like I was capable.  I had been training most of the summer and even found a wonderful running buddy; but I was still a sack of nervous energy before the race.

Here is the lowdown on The Cascade Lakes Relay; 216.6 miles in 35 hours; 12 team members.  Each person ran 3 different legs of the race ranging from 8.5 miles to 2 miles. It's very similar to the Hood to Coast except the weather is warmer, the terrain is steeper and the scenery is absolutely beautiful.  Here are some highlights:


Van 2 getting ready to run

We camped at Diamond Lake the night before, this was the starting line of the race.


As we were waiting for our turn to run we stopped off at Crater Lake

Mr. M warming up for his legs
The weather was about 90 degrees with little shade - thanks so much to my  team for stopping to give me water!

There's a rare shot of me running - I had to walk half of it.  7.5 miles is a long way!
Handing off to a team member

Yes we literally ran up a mountain!

Cooling off in the hot summer sun

The reward at the end of the 3rd leg

This is my brother-in-law as Tweety in the costume leg!

Here we are at the Finish Line!  Did not think I was going to make it.

My sister - she just had a baby 5 months ago and then trained to run 20 miles - you are my hero!
This experience was amazing, and although at the time I was cursing it; looking back I find myself remembering the good parts and feeling lucky that I ran with such a supportive, positive team.  I could not have done this without them.  In fact in 3 weeks I will be doing it again as we run Hood to Coast.  Now I know that teaching kindergarten caused a short in my brain because I thought it was a good idea to run 2 relays back to back.  I've LOST my mind!


Things have finally settled down at our home.  My girls are back under the same roof and we still have a few weeks until school starts back.  The Dogs Days of Summer are here:

I did promise you a few things I have been working on.  I try not to do too much over the summer, but I do enjoy reading and have been reading some professional books in between running.  I also have been working on some year long planning for teaching first grade. Here is what I have so far for my reader's and writer's workshop:  
Year Long Plan for Reader's Workshop - from the book First Grade Readers by Stephanie Parsons.



First Six weeks of Writer's Workshop  - from the book First Grade Writers by Stephanie Parsons






I'm also working on creating a document similar to the one I made for kindergarten for teaching Reader's Workshop in the first 30 days of school. Hopefully it won't take me a month to load it!