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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Phew! Two Days Down...

Wow! I forget how crazy the first week of school do I forget every single year? I'm over-planned (as usual) but I'm glad I did not under-plan! These guys are keeping me on my toes. The best part is they are FANTASTIC at Daily 5!

I have some photos coming soon but I wanted to post some of my go-to websites so far this year. Happy surfing!

Reading A-Z: Love Reading A-Z! We use this website for our reading assessments. Each level has two benchmark books (a fiction and non-fiction) that come with running records and comprehension questions. The levels also have dozens of books for kids to read that are appropriate for individuals or small groups.

The Daily Cafe: Launching Daily 5 and CAFE are my goals for the first few weeks. I refer to this site when I need a lesson idea or printable.

Pinterest: This site has revolutionized my teaching. I have found so many amazing ideas on Pinterest!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

End of the Year Wordle

Since I posted the other day about The Daily Cafe website, I just wanted to share that I had an idea featured in their newsletter a few months ago! It featured an idea that my team came up with a few years ago using the Wordle website for an end of the year gift for our students- but you could also use the idea if you have a Student of the Week. You can find my idea in the Tip of the Week for May 20, 2011 here (you will have to scroll down for a little bit). They let me know that my tip would be featured and offered me a free subscription to their site! How awesome!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Reading Pensieve

I wrote in an earlier post about how much I love using the Daily 5/Cafe method in class. I had tried Daily 5 in my homeroom and it was working well but something wasn't quite right. Luckily for me, The Sisters (Joan and Gail) were coming to do a 2 day workshop about Daily 5 and Cafe that summer and it was literally just a few miles away from my house. Yes, it was pricey, but my whole grade level team decided to go and we actually got some professional development money to offset the cost. It was the best money I've ever spent. Two days with other teachers, Gail and Joan (who are hilarious, informative, and SO kind!), and meals and snacks...heaven. I'd go again in a heartbeat and I recommend their workshop (especially the 2 day) to my teacher friends.

Check out the Daily Cafe website for more information about their books and methods.

One of the main components of Daily 5/Cafe is small group and individual reading instruction. The Sisters organize their paperwork and all of their notes in something they call a Reading Pensieve. If you remember, Harry Potter's mentor Dumbledore had a "pensieve" that he kept all his most treasured thoughts in. That's basically what this binder is- notes about your students as readers.

I wanted to share with you my Reading Pensieve (or "My Brain" as I sometimes refer to it with my students) so you can get an idea of what is inside. The Sisters have downloads for most of the pages I am referring to but you might have to be a member. They are also available in their book, The CAFE Book, which has a CD of printables.

Here is the cover of my Pensieve. I custom-made and ordered the binder from It was pricey but I have a birthday dangerously close to the start of school and there is a promo code here and if you sign up for the Zazzle e-mails the deals are even better.
Here is what's inside:

I've kept some essential tools in my pencil pouch in the front- highlighter, pen, etc.

The main tabs are "Keeping Track," "Whole Group," "Small Groups," "Reading Data," and "Students."

In the "Keeping Track" section, I have a calendar for the year. This allows me to make appointments with students and small groups- and keep them! If I tell a student I will meet with them in two days, I can write that in my calendar and remember to follow up.

In the "Whole Group" tab, I have several lesson plans that are available on The Daily Cafe to help me teach my mini-lessons in a whole group setting.

In the "Small Groups" section, I have lots of notes about the different small groups I teach during Daily 5. Above, you can see that this group was working on chunking and blending. I write a quick note to myself about what they did and then, to the right, the members of the group and how they seemed to do with those skills that day. I use a + if they seemed to understand, a check if they did okay but might need more reinforcement, and a - if they will definitely need more help with this strategy.

One photo I don't have is what is in the Reading Data tab- this section is basically for the students' reading scores on running records and the NWEA MAP tests for easy access for me.

In the "Student" section, I have a tab for each student in my class. In each one I've put a Cafe menu, another printable from the website to collect data when I meet with individuals during Daily 5.

One document I did not take a photo of is my check-in sheet for Daily 5. During Daily 5, the students can choose from five different options: Read to Self, Read to Someone, Work on Writing, Word Work, and Listen to Reading. In my class, students must choose Read to Self sometime during our three rounds. They can only do Listen to Reading twice during the week. I keep track of their choices using an Excel spreadsheet I created. I typed in each student's name, laminated it, and then jot down their choice each round with a Vis a Vis marker. I have a code system: R is Read to Self, RS is Read to Someone, W is Work on Writing, WW is Word Work, and L is Listen to Reading. Would you like a copy? I have a Google Doc just for you! Please note- this document only has enough spots for three choices each day since that is how many we have in my class. Also, I only keep track of their choices on a weekly basis (which is why I laminated the sheet and can wipe it off easily) because I found it was wasting quite a bit of paper to keep track longer.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Workshop Week

We had workshop week this week. Usually we start back Tuesday but we have some new technology and curriculum that we needed an extra day for. Luckily, we negotiated for the Friday before Spring Break off in trade for working Monday.

On Monday, I taught the teachers of grades K-2 about the new upgrades to our grade book and reporting system. Nothing too crazy but I'm sure I'll get questions in a few weeks when we start entering grades finally. We also got to play with our new STEM units- in grade 2 we worked with the "Improving a Playdough Process" kit and it was pretty fun! If any of you do STEM at your school I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday we had a staff meeting- the dreaded policy presentation where our principal has to read through a million slides about pest control and field trips and copyright laws. They did have a fun activity for us afterward, though. Our school's theme this year is "Lakers Think Outside the Bowl" (our school is "The Lakers") and they had a little fish pond for us where we could win prizes. I won some sticky notes but some teachers got 30 minutes of coverage for their class! After the fun, I kicked some booty setting up my classroom. I did pay for it later, though- lugging this pregnant belly around so much was exhausting!

Wednesday we had an all-district breakfast and meeting. Our superintendent spoke and did a great job injecting some humor into his speech about the goings-on in our district. They also made a slide show of photos from the different schools set to "Make a Wave" by Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas. I think everyone teared up a bit! Once we were back at school I had only a few hours to set everything up for Back to School Night. At 4:00, kids started coming to meet their teachers and put their supplies away. It was fun to meet some of my new kiddos and their parents. Again, my feet were so tired at the end of the day!

Today (Thursday) was quite restful. I met with my team and debriefed and discussed plans for the first week. I got a lot of small things done in the classroom which was nice, too.

I am not feeling ready to go back yet but I my plans are solid. I think it's going to be a pretty good year!

I will post photos of my classroom and some back to school pictures soon!