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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Back to School Goals

Thanks for your congratulations! I'm pretty excited to be a reading specialist this year... but I am a little sad I can't link up my classroom to Teacher Week today! I'm in a shared space and I honestly don't know how much setting up I'll even get to do. You can check out my classroom reveal from last year here, though, or some tips for setting up a new classroom here!

But in the meantime, I'm going to squeeze in a link-up with I {Heart} Recess. Is it just me, or does she have the CUTEST goal sheet designs?

Personally, my goal is essentially to get off of the couch and DO more :)

Organization is always a challenge, but this year in my new position I really want to work out a great way to communicate with my colleagues. I think we can do so much more as a team!

My Planning goal ought to be a little easier now that I have to turn in plans once a week (and I'm only teaching half a day).

Professional: Since kids won't be graded in my small groups and they will likely have plenty of homework from their other teachers, I want to come up with something valuable but hopefully more interesting and fun to help with my Students goal. (So many struggling readers think they HATE reading and I want to change that!) I see some great take-home reading bags for younger students, but haven't found quite what I'm looking for with older kids, so I'm hoping to come up with some!

I'm also brainstorming ways to communicate with parents... email newsletter? blog? Facebook page? Since I'm not their classroom teacher, it will need to be a little different- but I'd love to start some kind of Reading Tips newsletter/blog/etc. for ALL of the parents at our school, not just the intervention kids.

And finally... my motto for the year. Do the best you can with what you have :) I would've loved to have a classroom this year, and I would've loved to be full-time... but I'm in a different kind of position this year and I'm hoping to find the blessings in that!

Link up your back to school goals here, or share them below in the comments!

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Monday, August 12, 2013

10 Fun Things About Me

Yay! I look forward to Blog Hoppin's Teacher Week every year.

1)  I just got a job as a Reading Specialist near Cincinnati, Ohio! I also have two years of experience teaching 2nd and 3rd grade and two more years of experience as a Reading/Math Interventionist. Until this year, I've always lived in Indiana. I'm excited to work with struggling kids this year- there is NOTHING like helping a kid catch up and learn to love reading!!

2)  I have been married to my husband for 2 years, but we started dating about 8 years ago. He's smart, cute, so good to me, and cracks me up all the time. (He actually used to do improv comedy like on Whose Line Is It Anyway.)

3)   I have been big on reading ever since I was little. I used to get in trouble for reading after bedtime or when I should've been cleaning my room. My mom had to set a limit that I couldn't check out more library books than I could carry (because I would try). I don't read as much anymore as I'd like to, but I still love it! These days I alternate between cool brain science books, fluffy young adult books, teacher nerd books, and deep, emotional books. My husband teases me because I love sad books about the Holocaust or dogs dying... but I have to admit, it's true. If a story pulls me in so much that it makes me cry, it's a great book!

4)  I'm a huge Green Bay Packers fan. They're a publicly owned team (the only one in professional sports), so I'm actually a partial owner. My mom's family grew up in Wisconsin and we are all huge fans... so YES, I own a cheesehead! Between my husband and me, Sunday afternoons are basically booked for football. Even our wedding had some football love...

5) I am extremely proud that I was chosen as a Scholastic Book Clubs (now Scholastic Reading Club) Teacher Advisor for the year 2013. Working closely with the company has been incredible, especially as they roll out some new changes this fall that I helped with! (If you got online code stickers with your Welcome Back pack, I suggested that!)

6)  I grew up in a town called Kokomo. Yes, like the Beach Boys song. No, it was not tropical... our only "Beach" was the city pool!

7)  My dad died when I was 11. He had a heart attack at the age of 42 and it was completely out of the blue. I miss him a lot, of course, but I think losing him when I was so little is part of why I have such a passion for photography and pictures now. I love capturing the everyday as much as I do the big, important moments- I think losing someone when I was young has made me want to capture as many memories as I can. Sentimental reasons aside, it's another way to be creative and artistic and it helps me notice God's beauty around me. I take pictures all the time in my classroom and it makes me so happy to watch the kids' faces when they get to see them at the end of the year!

8)  I started college as a Biology major and I'm still such a science nerd (and band nerd, and drama geek...) If I could go anywhere for vacation, it would be to Costa Rica. I have always been fascinated by the rainforest and wanted to see it for myself! If I wasn't in the field of education, I think I'd be doing some kind of animal study or brain research!

9)  I'm a dancer at heart! I took ballet, tap, and jazz from the time I was 3 til I was 16, but I also did winterguard in high school and swing dancing in college. Now, I'm trying to get back into Zumba- both to get off my couch for a little exercise and because it's a blast!

 10)  I love watching shows like Design Star, Project Runway, Food Network Star- anything where people have to be creative. The more ridiculous the challenge, the better! Some of my favorite memories are with friends who do improv or are just naturally random... my cousin and I taking a picture with items starting with every letter of the alphabet at Target, baking makeshift cookies out of brownie mix at 3 a.m. with an old roommate, or making Barbies "talk" on video for a Spanish project with my friends in high school. Having just left a college town, I knew a lot of people who would drink and act silly, but I love my friends that don't need ANY excuse for being silly and random!

(Yup... random, silly fun is a big part of why I love teaching elementary, too!)

I would love to learn a little more about you! You can link up here for today and the rest of Teacher Week!

If you're new here... I hope you'll stick around! :) Thanks for stopping by!

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Tips for Meet the Teacher Night (and 5 FREEBIES!)

Hello friends- it's Throwback Thursday, to one of my most popular posts this week!

This open house/ meet the teacher night post was originally published August 25, 2012.

If you’re new here, you may not know that I’m running a series of new teacher tips called I Just Got a Teaching Job… Now What?!

I don’t know about you, but for me, meeting the kids is nowhere near as nerve-wracking as meeting the parents.

If your school has Open House, Back to School Night, Meet the Teacher Night, or anything of the sort, it’s probably one of your biggest worries as a new teacher.

For me, I student taught in Spring- so I hadn’t been part of any of this beginning of the year stuff, and I felt downright clueless. Since my parents didn’t officially come in before the first day, I made a brochure to leave on my door during registration with very basic information to know before school even started. Not every parent picked one up, but I had two or three parents mention it later, so I think it was a good move!


Yes, the Scotch tape is not the best look, but it was falling apart without it! Let me know if you’re interested in the template and I can post that, too! Sorry- no idea where this has gotten to!


This is one of those areas where talking to your fellow co-workers is so very important. You need to know:

  •  Is there an open house?
  •  Is open house before school starts, or after?
  •  Is there a set day/ time for the whole school or grade level, or do I choose when to have it for my class?
  •  Are students invited? What about siblings?
  •  What things do you hand out and talk about? Can I have copies? (Remember- digital is best for easy tweaking and not having to reinvent the wheel!)
  •  What sort of things do you set out for parents? Do you have them fill anything out?

At my old school, it happened before school, for the whole school on the same night, with a specific schedule. At my new school, we have a “walkabout” on the first day where parents can visit their child’s classroom before leaving, and most teachers also have their own parent meeting or open house in the next couple of weeks.

The time of your open house makes a big difference on what to do. It’s also a good idea to find out or decide if there’s a specific time frame for all of the parents to listen to you present, or if families will trickle in and out over a longer time frame.
If your open house occurs before school starts, think about what parents need to know.

You need to tell them:
  • what their child needs for the first day
  • how to best prepare their child for a new school year
  • how to communicate with you, and how you will communicate with them
  • that you are competent and confident
And the kids want to know:
  • where your room is
  • where their desk is
  • something about their teacher
  • something that will get them excited about the year!
When parents arrived at open house (for me, it was the 2nd week of school), here’s what they saw.


The Target pocket chart had directions, and then I put out a parent sheet and packet. The sheet I wanted them to return was BRIGHT pink, to hopefully make it stand out.


Grab your freebie copies of the parent information sheet and generic parent packet here.
When parents are trickling in, you want them to have something to do. I like to have things the kids are excited about, because then the kids drag their parents straight to their desks.

I had my kids give their parents a “quiz.” That day at school, kids filled out their favorites, and a note to their parent.


When parents got there, the right answers were hidden, and the kids got to give their parents a quiz and grade it. (The novelty of this is so amusing to 3rd graders.)


I got the quiz from Rachel at Minds in Bloom. You can pick up her freebie here.

After a quick summary of the packet from me, I gave parents time to check out a couple of stations where things were set out for them. I like to use some kind of tripod sign to make it clear where things are, and don’t forget to leave out some pens and pencils. Flower pens are great for making sure they don’t disappear! (You can see how I made them here.)


You can also get a copy of my parent volunteer form here (free).

The kids also got to share some of the work they’d done- a mini-book, Graphing Myself (grab as a freebie from The Tattooed Teacher!), and an All About Me writing project.


This was our first writing project. I model brainstorming important things about myself, such as things I like, things I’m good at, things about my family, places I’ve been, what I look like, how old I am, and if I’m a boy or girl.


Kids can use more than one page if they need to, and I staple them together along the top.


Then, we glue it onto a big piece of construction paper folded in half. When parents come, they read the All About Me’s and see if they can guess who the page belongs to. If they think they know, they lift up the flap, and…


see if they are right! We discuss ahead of time that their head should almost fill the page, and that they don’t look like a smiley face. We have noses, eyebrows, and eyes that don’t look like just dots. Unless long hair is covering them we have ears, too! We really focus on filling the page and adding lots of detail, and they turn out great.


The kids love seeing if they can stump their parents, and they make a really nice keepsake. I also hang onto them until the end of the year so kids can see the difference in their writing skills, their handwriting, and their drawing.

You can pick up a freebie copy of the All About Me writing sheet here.

A couple last tips:
- Make sure you have a parent conference sign-up sheet, so that parents with concerns can be pointed in the direction of a sign-up, and hopefully you won’t have to stay all night.
- Get yourself a new outfit for the night. You don’t want to do the whole try-on-10-outfits-until-you’re-satisfied thing and be late! Don’t forget a piece of jewelry or two- I’m no fashionista, but you want to look pulled together to both make a good impression and to feel confident.
- Consider making a quick slideshow of the basics you want to cover. It’ll help you focus on your presentation.
- Good luck! :)

To recap, here are your freebies:
Parent Information Sheet (updated year)
Parent Packet for Open House (editable .doc)
Parent Volunteer Form
All About Me writing page
Parent Conference Sign-Up

And links to 2 freebies from friends:
Graphing Myself from The Tattooed Teacher
Parent Night Quiz from Minds in Bloom

Whew. I had a little more to show you, but I’m going to save it for tomorrow. Please, please, please leave a comment and let me know if you downloaded anything!
(I’d be so happy if you’d consider following or pinning anything you love, too!) Have a GREAT weekend!

Now that it's a year later, I would also add that Open House/ Meet the Teacher night is a great time to introduce Remind 101 (have parents sign up RIGHT THEN) and to show them how the Scholastic Book Clubs site works to encourage ordering! Make sure to emphasize that their orders help you get more books for the classroom!

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Daily 5 Organization: How I Manage Small Group Materials

My favorite thing about the Daily 5 is that it can be adapted a million different ways to fit EVERY classroom.

Becca at First Grade in Foxwell Forest is hosting a new linky party specifically for us to share how Daily 5 works in our classroom. If you use Daily 5 (or plan to!), make sure you go link up on the 5th of each month!

Last week, I posted about  how I structure my 90 minute reading block with the Daily 5 and how I keep students accountable during Daily 5 rounds.


I have to admit… I was initially underwhelmed when I read the Daily 5 book, but I still felt that the overall structure was well worth trying in my room. I’ve used it and pieces of CAFÉ/ Reading Workshop/ our basal series/ guided reading/ my own lessons, so my reading block is something of a hodge podge- but I LOVED how it worked for my class last year!


Reading Rounds are fantastic to manage my small group time, but it’s still precious time and I have to keep everything organized. As you can see in the plan section above, I simply write which group I’m working with in the “round” space of my lesson plans, but I keep more detailed plans in my guided reading binder.

I keep a CAFÉ or CRAFT menu in the front of my reading binder to reference specific strategies and then I include my small group plans. My groups are almost always taught as guided reading groups, but occasionally strategy groups like in CAFÉ (or some combination). Last year, I didn’t have a great way to do this- so I came up with a planning page that I think will work really well!

Blog- Reading Round Planner Preview 1

I fill in the date, book title (usually with GR level in parentheses), and focus of that group. Instead of student names, I usually put numbers for speed, but I like to put a little space between each one so I can mark if anyone were absent that day.

I always teach a specific mini-lesson to each group and leave myself space to write observations or teaching notes. After each group, I make a quick note of what to work on next time, and we’re done!

Blog- Reading Round Planner Preview 2

I realized this year that my students weren’t always sure of their goal because I didn’t always tell them clearly or give them anywhere to document it! This year I plan on having my kids make another section in their reading notebooks for their individual goals that we make during our weekly conferences.

I also made a more cohesive planning page for my conferences, because index cards were just not structured enough (as much as I love them!)

blog- Reading Round Planner Preview 3

This sheet is meant to be used with an individual student, so that  I can easily see progress over time and look at the last lesson when planning for the next week.

As far as my other materials, I keep it simple- a big rubber band around the book set (other than the ones the students have in their book boxes, of course), and a Post-It on the front reminding me who’s in that group. I like to call students over by their book title.


(Yes, this is a graphic novel about a Magic Pickle. It is as hilarious as it sounds and there’s a whole series. My kids LOVED them!)

I keep my stacks of books in a basket from the Classroom Library Company, but they also gave me a plastic tray that fits bigger picture books.


I was really blessed in my last school to have an amazing leveled book library where each book had been labeled with its Guided Reading level on the back.  We used clothespins with our names on them to check out book sets from the leveled library and know where to return them. I doubt I’ll be that blessed again, but it made things SO easy and I think with these planning pages, I’d be set to be super organized this year!

Would you like to try out my Reading Round Planning Sheets? They include both CAFÉ and CRAFT style versions of the small group planning page and the conference/ assessment planning page.

Blog- Reading Round Planner Preview 4

You can grab a copy for free at my Facebook page! This freebie will be up for all of August,  so you don’t need to hurry… but you will need to be on a computer, not a mobile device, and you will need to like my Facebook page to access it.

Please don’t forget to let me know what you think and say thank you!  : ) 

I would also LOVE to read about Daily 5 in your classroom, so link up with Becca!