Monday, May 27, 2013

Next School Year...

So I have officially survived my first year of teaching!! And I didn't jump out of a window or drive off the Grand Canyon! 


But is it sad that I am already thinking about next year?? I can't help it. I mean, this year went really well overall, but there are some things I definitely want to change for next year. Lucky for me, Kim at Finding Joy in 6th Grade is having the perfect linky party - What Will You Do Differently?

I was definitely too sweet with my kids at the beginning of the year. Luckily, I had an amazing class so it wasn't too detrimental, but I might not be as lucky next time. So I need to toughen up right away and let them know that there are consequences to sad choices.

I still can't get over how much paper accumulates over the course of a day. So. Much. Paper. All. The. Time. Before school ended, I tried to get my filing cabinet somewhat organized and I have gotten a ton of plastic paper trays to help combat the paper monster. I also need to recycle things that I don't need right away too instead of stacking it up somewhere in case I "might" need it later.

Fluency is a big deal in Arizona. In fact, a new law was recently passed that if a 3rd grade student is falling far below for fluency/RCBM, that student will automatically be retained. Just like that. Parents and teachers have no control over it. So it's really important that my students make their fluency goals so they have an easier time reaching fluency goals in the later grades. Fluency at my school is a struggle for kids. Only 8 of my 21 students achieved their fluency goals and I had the most growth in first grade!! Not too hot at all.
So right away, fluency is going to be a huge focus of mine. I've got some ideas mulling in my head so hopefully it will help out my kiddos!

I was a lot better with math journals in the beginning of the year, but as the year continued on, we did them less and less until never using them. Next year, I want to do them (ideally) daily, but at least a few times per week. I've got some great resources from TPT that I am planning on putting to use.

What will you do differently next year?!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Classroom Library Organization {Part 1}

I have a confession. I, Liz, am a children's book-aholic. I don't really know how it happened. Well actually I do.

Ever since I got into the School of Education and saw my first practicum teacher's beautiful book collection, I knew that I had to start finding and collecting quality books for my future students' library.

So I began to scour library book sales, my old books, thrift stores, and basically anywhere else to start finding awesome books. I never paid more than $1 per book (unless it was a truly special/favorite book of mine) and my collection began to grow and grow.

I am really proud of my classroom library, Suzy, especially being a first year teacher. I can thank my cooperating teacher for showing me the huge importance of having an extensive classroom library. She was on the committee for picking the Charlotte Zolotow (I think that was the one...?) award winner and she got heaps of books to review. I learned a lot about high quality lit from her.

Now the problem with having an extensive library is how to organize it. Suzy didn't really organize her books for the kids. She just had assorted books in various tubs and each kid would take one tub and be able to read a huge assortment. Books that were not out for looking at were alphabetized by author in a cabinet. I knew that I wanted some more organization, mainly so I could find books quickly when I needed them.

This year, I did book colors. Each book had some colored dots on the black that matched a genre tub. Yeah, didn't really work well. It was difficult for the kids to put away and books were often not in the appropriate bins. So yesterday, we scraped (and by we I mean my kids) off all the dots.

Next year, I want to do sticker labels that I've seem on other teachers' blogs. It seems like it's a much better way to find and categorize books plus it seems easier for kids match the sticker label with a picture and words to the right bin than a color. 

Look how sad my room looks! It is getting so empty! I haven't gotten that far yet, but I did sort and box up my books by category. Basically, my room was a hot mess after school since I wanted to create more categories for my books. For example, instead of having an animals bin, I want to have more specific animal bins. Like dogs, cats, bears, etc. Instead of having a blanket non-fiction bin, I broke that up and matched by category so students will find mixtures of fiction and non-fiction in the bin about dogs. 

 Yikes, it was such a chore. Thankfully, all the books (with the exception of the books that fell in the sad box called Random Books) now have a home and a new category and have been neatly put away in the closet for the summer since my room is getting painted (and the LAST thing I want is for my books to get all painty!!)

I will also need to get more bins and baskets too but I'll cross that bridge when I get there. Plus all the labeling and stickering of the books. Yikes, I am tired just thinking about it. It truly is a labor of love, but so worth it. I love seeing my kids get excited to read books that I read to them already or see them, especially my lower friends, reading books for fun that they picked.. When we were picking off the color labels and sorting together, kids kept coming saying "Remember when we read this book?!" or "I loved this book!", Music to a teacher's ears. 

But I only have two more days of school (both of them being short days too!!) until summer. Then I start summer school in a week and then head home to get everything in order for the wedding!

Happy last days of school!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Weekend - Scholastic Warehouse Sale

I don't know about anyone else, but did this past week seem to drag on and on forever??? Needless to say, I am so glad it is Saturday! 

Evan is away on a conference near Boston until Wednesday (he left this past Wednesday at the crack of dawn) so it's just me and this cute face until then.

We have spent a lot of quality time cuddling and spending time at the dog park. We both love the dog park. Marlee loves it because she gets to run and play with lots of other dogs. I love it because it wears her out and I get more sleep. 

Corina at Surfin through Second blogged about the Scholastic Warehouse sale that she went to last weekend and that's where I went too!!

From what I gathered, the book sale happens a few times a year and I noticed that almost all of the products I had seen earlier at our school book fair (which I think was two weeks ago but I don't really remember...?). Anyways, everything was 50-80%, which was awesome! It was really difficult to not throw everything into my bag. Especially YA fiction. Even though I'm too (technically) too adult for YA fiction, I think I will always love it. I didn't get any though.

There are aisles and aisles of books - all sorted - plus they had some novelty school supplies and adult books too. 

I tried to really limit myself with the fiction books, but I got a few of my favorites plus some non-fiction books and three adult books for me. Marlee, of course, was oh so interested in them. Actually, after I restacked them, she proceeded to lay down on them. Silly dog!

And I was super pumped to see that What does the X-Ray say book was written by second graders at Longfellow Elementary School in West Allis, Wisconsin, which is super close to my house! So of course I had to get that one!!

Tomorrow is just housework and cleaning and some school stuff. I was able to get report cards finished today and my awards for the awards ceremony on Monday. Hopefully I remember to take pictures of that!!

Happy Weekend!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Five for Friday and Winner!

My first Five for Friday! I have always wanted to do F4F but I never get my act together during the week to take enough pictures. 

1. Winner of my Giveaway!! Congrats Kelly Beam Brown!! I will be emailing you soon!

2. We made these for Mother's Day. After searching the 99cent store for ANY sort of craft-y type thing, one of my teammates and I decided on flower pens. Here is the finished product:

They turned out pretty cute. We also made mini notepads (just stapled paper that the kids decorated), a thank you letter, and a picture of Mom. We then decorated a brown lunch bag to put everything in and then we stapled it shut to stop any curious Moms from sneaking a peek!

3. We have been doing some How-To Writing and one of my kiddos wrote about how to make a gingerbread man cookie. And then flip it over and I see that it's the runaway gingerbread story. Yep. He wrote that in the directions. 

4. One of the (few) enjoyable things about living in Phoenix is the beautiful weather. Evan and I have been eating meals outside since like April...?

5. So I may or may not be the only teacher still doing reading groups. But they are my favorite time of the day! I always include sight word work, especially for my lowest sweeties. I love these letter tiles!!

Your turn! Go link up!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How I Became a Teacher

After reading Abby's post and with it being Teacher Appreciation Day/Week, I am writing about why and how I decided to become a teacher.

Like most kids growing up, I definitely wanted to be a teacher at many points during my life. But I also wanted to be a plethora of other things including a farmer (my sister and I had this whole plan to buy an old barn near our house...and then it got torn down), a librarian (because I wanted to scan and stamp books) and a fashion designer (since I am a fashionista). But I never really felt a true calling for anything or felt that I was destined to do anything. 

I was all set to enter college in Fall 2007 going in undecided and just working on some gen eds until I could figure things out. However, before I started college, I went to Nicaragua with my church on a mission trip to teach a combination of ESL and Vacation Bible School to residents of one of the poorest cities in the country. Two of my good friends were going too so I thought it would be a great time spent with friends. Boy was I wrong. It was a great time, but it was so much more than that. It changed my life.

While there, I developed a love of teaching and giving knowledge to people who don't have it and need it in order to be successful. 

All I wanted to do was help these wonderful people in any way that I could. And the best way for me to do that was to help them learn English. 
We did basic English words like days of the week, colors, numbers, and worked with Biblical stories. Everyone was so hungry to learn.

 I worked with kids and adults and they were some of the kindest, most grateful people I have ever met; they just wanted to learn and absorb everything that they could. Although I was only there for a week, I felt such a calling to pursue education and teaching when I got back to America.

So when I got back to Wisconsin and went to college orientation, instead of doing undecided majors sign up, I went to the School of Education with the pre-education majors. I signed up for classes and got information on applying to the School of Ed. 

After having a tough time with the first three semesters of college, both academically and emotionally, I got my act together and started being more successful and getting decent grades. I started volunteering at a local elementary school as well as joining Jumpstart through Americorps. Jumpstart is a program that sets of college students with preschool "buddies". These preschoolers are at risk for falling behind in kinder so we worked with them on beginning literacy skills.
My adorable Jstart Buddy Luv'ly!

And in the summer of 2009, I was accepted to the School of Ed!! I was so excited that pretty sure I acted like these people: 

I started in the program in Spring 2010, all pumped and ready to learn how to be a teacher! That semester was a rocky one though. I actually withdrew from the program for a day. We had been going on school visits and I just could not believe what I was seeing. I was shocked to see these poor kids learning in environments that were so boring and uninspiring. I felt that it wasn't for me at all and I dropped out of the program. Well, of course, God had other plans and the very next day on our very next school visit, I see an amazing teacher teaching fractions in such a way that was engaging and fun for students! So after frantically calling my advisor  I was able to withdraw my dropping of the program before it went through. 

I continued to go through the rest of the five semester program, having no doubts that I am meant to be a teacher.

I graduated from UW in Spring 2012 and luckily had a job teaching first grade in Phoenix after attending a job fair put on by my school. Evan and I moved down here and it's hard to believe that my first year of teaching is almost over!

Thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way. I have had lots of teachers from my elementary, middle, and high school teachers to college professors and TAs. Thank you also to my wonderful cooperating teachers who have shaped me into the teacher I am today. Thanks to the wonderful mentor teachers who have shown me the ropes of having my own classroom. 

With Teacher's Appreciation Week, thank you to teachers everywhere for working so hard for the needs of your students. For staying after school late, spending your own money so your students can have a little bit more, for what feels like herding cats, for smiling when you feel like screaming, and for everything else that you do. 

Just remember that although it doesn't always feel like it, you are making a difference in someone's life every day.

Thanks for all you do!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

My First Giveaway!!

How is it already Sunday?! Seriously, the weekends always seem to fly by so fast! Nothing too special happened this weekend. A little shopping, a little dining, a little school work. 

I've been avoiding a lot of things lately, mostly wedding things and end-of-the-year things. It's just too much to do both right now. My goal is to get the wedding invites out by next weekend and to cross some more stuff off of the end of the year checklist.

I don't know if yours is the same, but my school requires so much to be done. I remember at student teaching, my awesome CT Suzy's idea of cleaning was putting things in the closet and shoving things in the sensory table. Whereas I have this endless checklist of things. Plus my room is getting painted so everything has to come off the walls. Boo!! 

Onto exciting news - it's giveaway time here at Teaching in the Valley! I reached 100 followers awhile ago but was so bogged down that I didn't really have time to celebrate. But now that things have reached a lull for a bit. Some wonderful bloggers have graciously donated some wonderful products. These lovely ladies are thoughtful, creative, and wonderful! I have gotten so many great ideas from reading their blogs and because of that, they have helped me become a better teacher. It's time to let the giving away begin!!

One lucky winner will win:

Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Currently

T-Minus 17 days until summer. And it's May. So that means it's Currently Time with Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade

Listening: There has been this annoying fly in our apartment for the past few days and it's so obnoxious. It just keeps buzzing and buzzing. 

Loving: Summer is so close! Only 17 school days!

Thinking: My kids had their fluency tests yesterday and a lot of them did so great.But I still have a few who just didn't make any growth. And I still have some who grew but still are far from our benchmark. I keep thinking and wondering what else I can do to help them as well as get ready for next year too. Fluency is so tricky because I feel like it has just become a big deal and it's so new and difficult to teach. But I'm trying my best!

Wanting: I am sick. Again. Boo. If I could count the number of times daily that I get coughed on and sneezed on...

Needing: A massage and some meds to just feel better and ease this feeling of I-have-gotten-hit-by-a-truck.

Summer Bucket List: I am getting married (66 days!) this summer. It's so close yet seems so far off. And I want to read more. I have so many books that I keep buying but haven't read yet. And I just got two new professional development books through my district, and I'm excited to read them. I just need the time!

Your turn! Go link up!