Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Reader's Workshop Basics


I am here today to tell you all about Reader's Workshop!

I love reading hasn't always been my favorite part of the day. 

I have tried many different things during my reading block over the course of the past five years.....The Daily Five/CAFE, Imagine It/Basal Readers, and a combination of everything in between.  Recently, I tried out Reader's Workshop and have settled on it because IT WORKS!

This past week I was fortunate to learn from some of the best professional developers in the country on this topic.  It was a great week of review and a chance to go more in depth with Reader's Workshop.

I am here to tell you all about Reader's Workshop.  Let's get started.  Shall we?

Reading Workshop Must Do's:
- Five times a week
- Mini Lesson (about 10 minutes....yikes!)
- Conferring, assessing, and/or small group lessons
- Private reading time (read to self with just right books)
- Partner reading time (with like ability partners)
- Teaching Share

Management tip: before you start your workshop, say "readers, prepare!" along with any instructions you might need to give your students before you start your mini lesson.  It is helpful to have materials on desks, ready to go.  This will save us precious transition time when we move from the carpet to our read to self spots.  If you need students to bring a book to the carpet for the mini lesson, you can ask them at this time as well.

Let me give you the run down on the structure: 

Making time for Reader's Workshop is essential.  You need at least 45 minutes (1 hour is ideal) in order to fit it all in!  The first thing to think about when transitioning to Reader's Workshop is finding a chunk of 45 consecutive minutes.  

Now, let's dive into each piece of the pie.

Mini Lesson:

We start on the carpet with the whole class.  We teach a brief, focused lesson. We use a very specific structure to our lesson in order to promote gradual release of responsibility.

- Connection
- Teaching Point
- Active Engagement
- Link

Reading Time:

After the mini lesson, we send our students off to go practice the work we just taught them.

We call this time Private Reading time or Read to Self.

We can give students books to read that promotes their independence.  These books should be within their independent reading level and can be kept in a book bag or book box for easy management.

As students are reading to themselves, the teacher can be assessing, conferring, or working with a small group of students.

The second part of the reading work time involves Partner Reading.

During this time, we want to pair up students who have similar reading levels.  The partners can read together and talk about their text.

Share Time:

We bring the students together back on the rug for a final share time.  As the teacher, we can share what we noticed during a conference, teach a new skill, or review the day's teaching point.

The goal of Reading Workshop is to teach the READER.  We want our readers to grow and learn.  In order to do this, it is important for us think about what avid readers do every day.

Stay tuned for more on Reading Workshop!
 photo signature1_zps4ea97c0d.png  photo Mac-Header_zps21ed0e8a.png

Friday, June 19, 2015

End of Year Behavior Management

I am currently sitting on my couch watching reruns of Friends with my new puppy.


How'd I make it past the hardest month of the year (May) and onto blue skies and butterflies, you ask?

In my classroom, we always get a little restless during the last month of school.  The weather is warmer, summer is on our mind, the sun goes down later (which means bedtimes get pushed back and my students come to school like zombies).

We are very comfortable with each other at this point....almost too comfortable.  Instead of treating each other as peers, we sometimes treat each other like brothers and sisters (and not in a good way)!

As a teacher, I need something, anything, to keep my students engaged and on task and safe!  We do have four weeks of learning left, after all.

How do I keep things sane?

The Summer Count Down Behavior Star Award!

Each day, I remove a star from our white board and the students who were well behaved earn the something special.

I make a big deal about it, and my students always get into it.

On the first day of the countdown, I always have a student who asks what the stars are for.  During our Morning Meeting I explain to students that if they do their job today (learn and not act like a fool keep each other safe) they will get the special star award.

Notice our stars at the top of our white board. It is a great visual reminder to stay on task.

Each day is different, which keeps them on their toes.

On certain days when I know that we will have a few minutes at the end of the day, the star activity will take place then.  But other days I know that we won't have time, so the star award takes place the following day.

Here are some examples that I have used in the past:

- Shoes off
- Play dough
- PJs
- Watercolor
- Bring a stuffed animal
- Free draw (my kids this year begged for free draw!)
- Hat day
- Games
- Extra recess

The key to this behavior management activity is to reward the students who are behaving well.  You can base that off of anything that you use already in the classroom.  In years past, I have used the clip chart and said "if your clip is above blue you may participate in the star activity."  This year I used class dojo and told my kids they could participate if they had any green points for the day.

In my class, the students who did not meet the criteria for behavior missed out in some way.  If the activity took place at the end of the day, the students completed extra work.

This is a great way to keep students motivated, engaged in learning, and on their toes!

I am curious and always open to new ideas: how do you keep your students engaged at the end of the year?
 photo signature1_zps4ea97c0d.png  photo Mac-Header_zps21ed0e8a.png

Friday, June 12, 2015

How to Score Your Dream Job

The Interview Process.

When I hear those three little words, I go weak at the knees and get butterflies in my tummy.

Every teacher in America has had to go through some form of the interview process with a school district.  So I'm just going to say what everyone else is thinking: interviewing is terrifying.

I haven't met a person who hasn't gotten nervous going into an interview where they wanted the job.

The process can be grueling, frightening, and just plain awful.

But it doesn't have to always be that way.

I just had the opportunity to interview 8 times for five different elementary schools.

Skype interview, phone interview, one-on-one interview, panel interview, grade level team name it - I've done it within the past two months!

You see, I absolutely love my current school.  I wouldn't trade it for the world.  I am supported by my admin, have great teacher friends, and love teaching my students, BUT it is time to move on.

My husband (finally) graduated with his masters degree and has accepted a job offer in a different city.  Where the husband goes, the wife goes too.  I am sad to leave what I call home but am excited about what lies ahead.  A bitter sweet goodbye.

After over two months of interviews, I have come out on the other side alive and well and will be teaching at my dream school.

How did I do it?

Lots of patience, perseverance, and pinto noir.

I know that some of you might be in the middle of the hunt, and others might be just getting started.

I want to offer some helpful tips I picked up along the way.  Let me be the first to say, I had no idea what I was doing when I started this whole process, but boy-oh-boy I have learned a LOT!

Back story: The last time I was job hunting, was also my first time job hunting.  I was fresh out of college, with a teaching certificate, but had no clue what to look for in a school.  I had three interviews and took the first offer I was given.  That school that gave me plenty of sunshine and water to help me grow as an educator.  I was lucky.  But the point of this back story is for you to know that: it's been a while.  And I'm pretty sure the interview process has changed DRASTICALLY within the last five years.  Yes, I applied online, but the application process was much more simple. Times are a changin'

Image result for interview

Tip #1: Change your frame of mind.  

You are interviewing the principal and teachers just as much as they are interviewing you.

This mindset eased so much of my nervousness as I went into the interview.

Ask questions!  And lots of 'em!  You will be able to tell what the climate and culture of the school is like within the first few minutes of the interview.  If it's not a school that fits with you and your teaching style, don't be afraid to say adios!

Here are a few questions I found very helpful in determining if the school was a good fit for me:
- What are you most proud of about this school?
- What do you wish to improve about this school?
- How do you work together as a team, and what does that look like on a daily basis?
- Would you tell me about your parent involvement?
- What is your staff retention rate?
- What technology do you have available for teachers?
- What is the average class size?
- How does the administration invest and support its teachers?
- As a principal, how would you describe your leadership style?

Image result for laptop research

Tip #2: Research the school.

It's easy to go online and spend a few minutes looking at the school website, TEA reports, and Campus Improvement Plans.  You will find a lot of information that will be helpful in guiding you while you generate questions.  Always read the schools mission statement and see if it aligns with your teaching as well.


Tip #3: Dress to impress.  

Odds are, you will be feeling nervous as the interview starts.  Wear something professional that you feel good in.  Even if you know the school has a more casual dress code, dress business professional.  I have noticed that when I am dressed up and looking my best, I feel confident as a professional.   We want this mindset every time, so save your cute chevron and your blue jean jacket for after you get the job.  If you are unsure, look here.


Image result for interview questions

Tip #4: Prepare your answers for possible questions they may ask.

Here's the scoop on interviews after my 8.

They will all be different.  Not one interview I had was the same.  And I interviewed at three schools within the same district.  Some were strictly formal, others were more laid back.  Some involved only the principal, others involved the entire grade level team and administration together.

But the one thing that all eight interviews had in common were the types of questions that were asked of me.

Hands down, the first questions that I was asked at ALL eight interviews was along the lines of "Tell me about yourself."

If you have prepared for this question, your interview will be off to a great start.

Here were some other common questions that came up during my interview process:

- What are your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher?
- How would you describe your classroom management style?
- How do you collaborate with other teachers?
- How do you handle conflict?
- What do you need from your administration?
- What do you need from your grade level team?
- How do you communicate with parents?
- How do you differentiate instruction for all learners?
- What ways to you assess your students?
- How do you use data within your classroom?
- What experiences have you had with students with special needs or learning disabilities?
- How will you integrate technology into your classroom?
- Tell me about your best lesson this year.
- Tell me about a lesson that you wish to improve upon.
- Do you have any additional information you would like for us to know?

Image result for practice makes perfect

Tip #5: Practice makes perfect.

Your fifth interview will go better than your first because you have more experience interviewing.  If you want your first interview to go well, practice practice practice!  Your first interview will go better if you practice answering some questions in front of could be your dog.....or a mirror.  Saying it out loud helps you to organize your thoughts and answers.

I hope these tips help!

Do you have any other advice or tips?  Let me know in the comments below what you think is the best tip in order to hear the principal say: 
Image result for interview questions for teachers

Good luck. 
 photo signature1_zps4ea97c0d.png  photo Mac-Header_zps21ed0e8a.png

Thursday, June 11, 2015



My last post was in September and it is currently June!  I'm going to save you some time and skip the details......I'm back!

I found a great new *to me* app for reading!

In July I am moving homes, cities, schools, and grade levels!  (Read more in the next blog post!)

Although I have loved every second in Second Grade, I am headed back to FIRST GRADE! 

Hip hip hooray!

I am so excited to try out this new app with my firsties in August because I know it will be a fantastic app on the iPods or iPads.

Here's the scoop:

Epic! is the name of the app.

Epic! - Books for Kids

There is a parent/student edition (that costs $) and an educator edition (that is 100% FREE!).

This app gives educators "instant access to an unlimited library of amazing children's books."

With an educator's account, you can select your age of students and their favorite topics to browse.  You can even add students under your account.

Selected text have a read-to-me option as well - which will be great for my firsties!

I've browsed several of the categories already and have found LOTS of my student's favorites within the app:

-Big Nate
-Fancy Nancy
-National Geographic
-Flat Stanley
-Scaredy Squirrel
-The Berenstain Bears

Just to name a few!

There is also a plethora of informational text to choose from (which I know is going to be a top priority for my students next year!)

Here is a sneak peak: 

Here's the home page for educators from my laptop.

 You can browse reading lists and genres to fit the needs and likes of your students. If only I knew about this when I was teaching Social Studies this would have saved me tons of time hunting down books from the public library and other teacher friends!

Here's what a book looks like.  On my iphone, the book only showed one page at a time, not both pages.  You can see this book is a read-to-me book.  If I wanted the app to read, I would just click on the green speaker on the title page. Viola! A listening center.

Lastly, I have showed you what happens when you finish the book.  It suggests more books you might like, has a possible activity to go along with the book, and if the students are logged in, they can earn badges and rewards.

Another feature includes a reading log!  

There are so many possibilities with this app.  I can't wait to use it in the classroom.

If you have kids at home or are still in school (seriously, what's up with your school district!  It's JUNE!) comment and let me know how you like using it!  

I'd love any feedback I can get before August.

See you later and happy reading!

 photo signature1_zps4ea97c0d.png  photo Mac-Header_zps21ed0e8a.png