Tuesday, November 12, 2013

THE Best Online Resource For Teachers...aside from TPT....

I'm linking up with some lovely ladies for helpful hints today!

Click the picture to link up.

Have you heard?

During professional development at the beginning of the school year, I went to a technology training and was introduced to planbook.

This was after I had spend ooddles and boodles of dollars on my Erin Condren lesson plan book.

You know the name. 

It's popular in the teacher/pinterest/blogger world. 

We see one and begin to instantly salivate like a dog hearing the dinner bell.

You're drooling now.

Go ahead.  Get a kleenex to wipe it up and return to this post.

We'll be right here waiting....

Don't get me wrong.  I love my paper plan book.  When it came in the mail, I took tons of pictures as I opened it up from the purty little box. I have labeled, and planned, and graded in the Condren.

But let me tell you why I will not be purchasing a paper lesson plan book next year.

(All opinions are my own.)

I signed up for the one month free trail for the month of August.

It's nice that they give you a trail before paying or giving any kind of credit card information.  

They are not as sneaky as netflix, where you sign up for a free month but also give them your payment information, then conveniently forget which day you need to cancel before the payment......two years later you are still using netflix......sneaky I tell you.....sneaky....

Once you log in, you will need to create your classes.  

Click on classes and enter the subject areas you teach.

It's easy to adjust this based on elementary or secondary teachers.

Mine looks something like this:

Notice it is color coded?
Just as cute as Erin.

Once you add classes, you can edit the times.

For instance, we go to the computer lab on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so I can adjust that setting accordingly on the planbook.

On my paper plan book, I cannot get this specific.  
There is just not enough room to hand write all of the lesson plans.

Once you have your book set up, you can share and link it to other teachers, administrators, or parents.

This feature is too cool!

I can also add standards to my lesson plans easily!

Check it out:

At any time, I can see how many times I have taught the standard over in the right.

(Don't judge....I have not been good about labeling standards with my lessons.  At my school we are not required to put them into the lesson plans.  Inputting standards lasted through the second week.)

Here is what a typical week looks like on

I can include homework, links, pdf files, notes to myself, small group information.  
You name it, there's a spot to input it into this website!  

It's amazing!

Notice at the bottom you can attach files?

And the best part?

Next year, I will input my first day of school in the calendar and it transfer all of my lesson plans accordingly.

What a waste of time to rewrite everything by hand!

Now, what if I don't want to teach the same lesson next year?  OR what if my students work at a different pace and I need to extend or bump a lesson back a day?

Don't worry!  They've thought of that too!

When I am ready to print my lesson plans for the week, all I have to do is print to PDF.

Planbook has made my life as a teacher much easier.

It truly is worth it.

Next year, I will not be buying a paper lesson plan book.

Are you willing to take the leap of faith and go online?

Come on.  Everybody's doing it.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

A Blessing and a Curse

My poor students.

I have been trying to be a super-hero teacher.

My thought for the past four years has been: Let's do Daily Five and Literacy Workstations and expect miracles to happen.

You see, at the charter school I work at, I have the freedom to structure my day however I would like.

They give me choice and free will to do whatever my student's need in order to succeed.

I am required to teach the TEKS and Standards, but HOW I teach the standards is up to me.

Some of you may be thinking, Woah! What a blessing to be able to decide for yourself.

And yes, it is an amazing blessing to be able to decide how I want to teach my students.

But with the power of choice comes great responsibility.

It is a blessing and a curse.

That is a lot of responsibility.

Up to this point, I have been too scared (or wise...I'll leave that up to you to determine) to dump the resources in my classroom (Imagine It! Teaching Resource aka Basal Readers) and do what's best for my students.

For four years, I have taught with Imagine It! as my guide, and for four years I have KNOWN there is a better way to teach reading.

One story, whole group, reading at the same pace.

Did someone say Boring?!

Did someone just start picking their nose?
Un-Tying their shoes just to tie them again?
Seriously, you are asking to go to the bathroom when we just had a bathroom break?
Please stop talking to your neighbor.
Do not put your shoe lace up your nose.....

You see, when I teach whole group (Someone told me this my first year of teaching and I believe it with my whole heart) I am only teaching to 1/3 of the class- if that!

1/3 of the students are bored because the material is too easy.
1/3 of the the students have checked out because it is too hard.
1/3 of the class (on a GOOD day!) are with me.

I would love to STOP reading from the basals.....

But I'm too scared.

So instead of doing what is best for my students, I have continued to teach from Imagine It!, all the while combining Debbie Diller's Literacy Workstations, Reader's and Writer's Workshop, Conferring, Guided Reading, AND the Daily Five/CAFE.

Talk about a headache for planning.

Most teachers do not have enough time in their day, but I TRULY do not have enough time.

A good friend recently told me: All of those things were not meant to go together.

And then I had an Aha moment:  My students need CONSISTENCY!  They need their teacher to pick ONE way to teach reading and stick with it!

And that is where I am left today.

Which one do I pick?

Daily Five and Conferring?
Reader's and Writer's Workshop?
Literacy Workstations and Guided Reading?

Yikes.....Wouldn't it be so much easier if someone said, "This is what you are doing.  Here's the research behind it.  Make it work for your students."

A blessing and a curse.

On another...more up beat note:

I'm linking up with Denise from Sunny Days in Second Grade to tell you about my current celebrity crush.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

2nd Grade Sight Word Book


I have recently added this pack to TPT for FREE!  

My students have been using this sight word book since the beginning of school.  

With lots of practice, we are becoming experts at reading sight words!

This little teacher also has a concrete idea of which students are experts and which students need more practice.

Click the picture to get your copy.

Read below for how to use this pack.

Here's what the front of the student booklet's look like.

I have found that highlighting each list once student's have mastered it works better than putting a sticker on the circle.  

These books get a lot of love in second grade.

The stickers tend to fall off.

When you open up the booklet, you will see one list (I cut each page in half on the black line.)

I have my teacher copy of each list for every student in my binder.

It looks like this:

At the end of two weeks, I ask the students to read me list 1.

I place a check in the Try 1 box if the student reads the word correctly within three second.

If the student makes an error, I have enough room to write the error. 
This helps me know how to better teach the student the sight word.

You can go through one list per week, one list every two weeks, or two lists every week. 

It really just depends on your learners.

These words come from the Dolch 2nd Grade list.  
There are 100 words total within the ten list pack.

If a student does not master the word on the first try the first week, we come back and check on that word later. 
 I have provided three tries for that reason.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email or comment below!

I would love for this resource to be as useful in your classroom as it is for us!

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Running Records

Happy weekend!

To all of those teachers who have already started to get the weekend blues (GUILTY!) take a deep breath and relax.

Thanksgiving break is on its way, with Christmas right behind it.

I had a three day weekend because I took off Friday for a mental health day just because.
Mr. Weekend Blues always comes knocking on my door early Saturday night when I have a long weekend.

On Thursday I went to a 1st and 2nd Grade Conference.  So it's kind of like I had a four day weekend, if you consider not being with my students.
Oh how I miss them.
I just can't wait to get back in the classroom.
My ears have really enjoyed the peace and quiet.

At my conference on Thursday, the Keynote speaker was the one and only Melissa Leach.

To give you a little background knowledge, my very first year of teaching I went to one of Melissa's Writer's Workshop trainings.
It was a very basic "this is what writer's workshop is" session, but it rocked my world as a teeny weeny first year teacher.
At the time, I was struggling to teach writing my first year according to the teacher manuals that were found in my classroom.

On Monday, everybody was expected to brainstorm, by Tuesday students were writing and by Friday we were all suppose to have a nice, neat final draft.

It just wasn't working- to say the least.

Her session came at the perfect time.
She gave me the courage I needed to jump in and try something different.

My second year of teaching, I was able to attend her Writer's Workshop Institute which met five times over the course of the school year.


Let me tell you:  This was my saving grace as a teacher.

Every time I met with Melissa, I was inspired.

Just when my teaching juices had all run dry, I would attend another session and get fired up.

I truly believe I made it through that tough second year of teaching because of the inspiration that came from Writer's Workshop.

Every time I attend a Leach Teach Training, I walk away with the inspiration to help my kiddos.

Melissa has been in DC this past year, but I have been lucky enough to see her when she visits Texas.

Y'all, this girl's good.

She can make an old, tired sloth get excited about teaching writing!

But enough about Melissa.  She is probably rolling her eyes at all my hype (I promise it's ALL true!)

I'm here to tell you about what she has TAUGHT me yet again!


The day began with her Keynote.

Taking big lessons from small students.

Aside from all of the cute, humorous stories she told us about her former students (which we could all relate to) she reminded me to ENJOY our students.

Her advice:  If you ever come to the place of frustration or feel overwhelmed, get your students settled in with an independent activity (I'm thinking Writer's Workshop!), turn on Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World song, stand at the front of your classroom and WATCH.

These kids we are teaching are precious.

They are unique.

They are wonderful.

Sometimes as teachers, we can become caught up in the standards or to-do lists that we forget who we are teaching.

We teach children, not mini adults.

We teach children, not perfect angels.

We teach children, and they are wonderfully made.


The next session I attended was Running Records.

I am going to be honest with you and tell you I thought I knew what a running record was before attending the session, but now I can honestly say I KNOW what a running record was (and boy was I wrong the first time!)

The purpose of taking a running record is to better plan for the next guided reading lesson.

Formative assessment= Where are you in the learning of this? (Assess as it is being learned)
Summative assessment=What did you learn?

I had a lot of misconceptions between benchmark assessments and running records.

Yes, I have asked my students to read a passage for me as I tried to figure out their reading level.  I made notes on a copy of the text.  Yes, I called that a running record.  (Don't judge.)

Here are the differences:

Benchmark Assessments are usually used three times a year: Beginning, Middle, and End.
Benchmark Assessments are considered FORMAL assessment (summative).
Benchmark Assessments typically have comprehension questions included and it is the first time students read the text.
Benchmark Assessments assess student reading level.
Benchmark Assessments could include ITBS, TPRI, DIBELS, and using Reading A-Z reading passages to find student's independent or instructional reading level.

Running Records use the same symbols as benchmark assessments; however, they are considered informal assessment (formative).
Running Records are usually completed on a blank piece of paper and do not include comprehension questions.
Running Records are given in order to see how the student is applying strategies and is conducted on the student's SECOND reading (WOAH!  Aha moment!)

We were given the symbols and markings for running records and then we all practiced taking running records.

I have to tell you, I was VERY uncomfortable with taking a running record on a blank piece of paper.

The thought of a blank piece of paper and a student reading in front of me is terrifying.

What if the student goes too fast?

What if I forget the symbol for repeat?

What if I get off track or WAY behind the reader?

What if my student makes a the kind of mistake where there's not a symbol for that?

Never fear, just tell the student, "Hold on.  I'm a little slow today."


Ask the reader to wait.

What a genius idea.

After practice at the conference, I am anxious to get back in the classroom and try it out with my readers.

I wish I would have learned about this last year in first grade.
My firsties would have helped me become comfortable with running records at a slower fluency rate.
These second graders read f.a.s.t!

I know that my running records will not be perfect by any means.  I will probably mess up the symbols, get off track, and simply not be able to keep up with some readers.

That is not the point.

That is not the point Mrs. Perfectionist.

Repeat: That is not the point.

The point is to assess students as they apply (or don't apply) the strategies you have taught them.

A running record gives you the information you need as a teacher to guide your instruction on a DAY to Day basis.

With that in mind, I think I am up for the challenge of Running Records.


The last session with Melissa was the ABC's of Managing the Instructional Environment.

I wasn't sure how we would have time for all of the letters of the alphabet, but we did.

I walked away from that training with a few key points that are worth sharing!
If you've made it this far in the blog post, stick with it!
We're almost finished :)

*Anchor Charts should be the student's words.  We use anchor charts in order to link lesson together.

*Problems arise when student's feel hurried or rushed.  Take time to create a daily schedule and stick to it. (How many times have I rushed students along, only to find one throwing a fit five minutes later?)

*If you are not modeling what you are teaching, chances are you are probably teaching something different.  MODEL MODEL MODEL.  And when you have finished modeling, model again.  Repeat.

* Fair is not the same.  Fair is what you need to be successful in learning.

*Teach students what to expect with centers.  Create a "Looks like/Sounds like" chart for students to refer to.

*Two new things make a negative!  How many times have I changed FIVE things in my classroom only to find my students in a confused panic.  Duh.  This is common sense.  If I am going to change something about my centers, pick one thing at a time.  First change the activity.  Wait a week.  Then change the location.  Wait a week.  Then change the center grouping.  Wait a week.  My poor kiddos.

* Teacher Voice:  What do you want your voice to be saying all day long?  What do you want your students to hear all day long?

This last one was the kicker.

This year, with this group of kids, more often than not, I am correcting a behavior.

I don't WANT to be the teacher that responds to misbehavior.

I want to be the teacher that acknowledges responsible behavior.

I need more Conscious Discipline in my life.

This week, I will be praying this prayer:

In my classroom, God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

What do you want your student's to hear all day long?

I would love to know your thoughts!
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Special thanks to this girl for inspiring and motivating me to write this post.


Thank you for blessing me and my classroom!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Currently Late!

Holy Macaroni!

I woke up yesterday and realized it was the seventh of November.


I have missed this month's currently by SEVEN eight days!

At my school, we have the motto of "No Excuses" but in this case, I just need to say that switching grade levels is kickin' my rear end.

Now, I am pretty sure I will be the last entry for currently, which means I should earn some sort of award right?

Maybe next month (with a little motivation) I will earn the "Most Improved" blogger award!

Listening to NOTHING...well except for our neighbors three year old tantrum.  But aside from that, there is nothing else pouring into these ears.  I took today off from school as a sort of "mental health" day.  Sometimes your soul needs rest.  Other times, it's your ears.

Loving the colder weather.  It is not longer over 100 degrees in Texas.  I no longer walk outside and become an instant human sweat-ball.  End of story.

Thinking about guided reading.  I attended a training yesterday and have lots on my always.  More to come in my next post.

Wanting a back massage.  Scratch that.  I am needing it.

A yummy pin: I am currently obsessed with this soup recipe.  It's Fall in a pot, Ya'll.

Sweet Potato-Sausage Soup

Check it out here:

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