Monday, June 29, 2015

Reflections on my summer so far....

Today was my first "official" day of summer vacation!

I've spent the last three weeks teaching for the Department of Education in TN.  To those familiar with TN, it was part of the summer TN Core trainings.  This year, our training focused heavily on ELA tier 1 teaching. I took lots of pictures and want to share some of the most memorable activities that we did.

During the training, we stressed the importance of teaching vocabulary.  Did you know that over 50% of reading comprehension is tied to the student's ability to understand vocabulary?  It isn't about teaching a list of words from the story, it is about helping the kids use their context clues and learn vocabulary as it is embedded into the text.

Crazy... when you think that so many of us give out a list of words to study each week and test them with a matching test on Friday.  NO MORE!   Each week I will be testing the kids on their ability to understand the vocabulary in a new text and writing about it.

Here is a way to help the kiddos "dissect" vocabulary within the text.  This is a "tier 2 word" from the story Lon Po Po.   Tier 2 words are high frequency/multi-meaning words.  If you haven't read about vocabulary tiers yet, just google it.  Very good information to have and it will change your vocabulary instruction!

The format for this acitvity is always the same.  The word and a picture are at the top.  In the next section, they define the word in their own words.  Next, they write a sentence.  The last section is the actual word taken from the context of the story.

I've used this activity in my classroom at the end of the year and the kids LOVED IT!

We also spent some time working on using close reading and repeated reading.  I have to admit, before this training I don't think that I spend enough time rereading text over the course of several days, so it will certainly be something that I focus on this year.  I have already picked out a bunch of books to help the kids uncover the multiple layers of meaning throughout the book.

We stressed the you don't have to reread the whole story.   After the first read through, you can reread smaller sections to help the kids really connect the meaning/purpose of the story.  So the first day you start off by reading the whole thing, then on rereads you can either read a small section or specific part.  

We had lots of fun creating these posters during our discussion.

Another area we talked about was decoding.  So much of our instruction seems to be using isolated lists of words.  We encouraged our teachers to try and write a text for the students to read using a specific pattern/sound.  Here are some of the examples, that they wrote in less than 5 minutes.    While we discussed the benefits of using this in our classroom, we saw how easy you could differentiate this for your best readers... having them write their own TEXT!  This allows those already reading fluently to still participate during this type of activity.   How cool would it be for the class to decode a text that was written by a classmate?

Another activity we did to practice decoding was to break a story apart on sentence strips.  The students read their strip and together they work to put the story in the correct order.  It was more challenging than you think!  I tried this with my kids in May and they couldn't get enough of it!  They worked in teams to write their own 10 sentence story and for the next 4 days we practiced this activity with the stories they wrote.  Doesn't get much better than that!  Here are some teachers trying the strategy out. This was a favorite of my teacher participants!

This wasn't actually in my training, but I saw it in another room and had to share.  You put sight words in the snack size ziplock bags.  Attach the bags together using tape on the back.  Then, you can mix the words up and change them out in a snap!  What a fantastic idea!

That is about all for today....
It has been a busy three weeks!

People always ask me why in the world I spend the first month of summer vacation teaching teachers? The answer is simple.....  I LOVE IT!  At the end of the 3 weeks I know that I've touched so many more classrooms and hopefully gave a few teachers some new ideas that will make their classrooms a better place!

Happy Teaching!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dare to Dream!

This week's TPT Challenge was a tough one for me....

Dare to Dream!

Easier said then done.... very hard for me to put into words.

What are my dreams?  What is really important in life?  What do I need to accomplish to make a difference in this world?  I have done a lot of thinking and here are my thoughts....

To live a full and happy life....

#1.  Be the best parent I can be!
My two boys are my world.  As much as they drive me nuts, I can't imagine life without them.  I have to work hard to balance being a parent, a teacher, and everything else on my plate.  My boys need to come first and sometimes we just have to be reminded of how important being a good parent is.

#2  Bring JOY to my kiddos each day!
This is something I make happen in my classroom.
You might be the only person in the whole world that cares about that child, so make them feel loved. Sometimes the hardest kids to love are the ones that need it the most.

#3  Continued success with TPT!
TPT has been an amazing opportunity for my family.  It has paid for a much needed surgery for my husband.  That surgery gave him his life back.  He is now able to do everything that he had only wished he could do before.   We have finally been able to take real vacations and move to a new home. So yes, TPT have been life changing for us financially.  But more importantly it has given me a new drive and focus for teaching.  The lessons and activities I do with my kiddos are more engaging and complex thanks to TPT.  TPT has made me a better teacher!

#4 Make the world MORE AWESOME!
Yes...  that sums this challenge all up.  Tell someone they are AMAZING and mean it.  Let's all make this world AWESOME!  Not only for ourselves, but everyone around us.

My dream is to make the world more awesome.  Do I know exactly how to do it?  No, but I am going to keep trying!


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

WOW! My product was featured on someone's BLOG! HOW COOL!

Ok, so yes I might be a little dramatic, but SOMEONE PUT MY PRODUCT ON THEIR BLOG!

I love the game BUMP and so do my kids!  They play it over and over again.  The best part is that they are reinforcing so many different math skills while they do it.  They are easy to use and you only need some dice and linking cubes.

I have different BUMP games for holidays/seasons, but this blogger put together a great post on all of the different BUMP games you can download for FREE!  I found a few in her post that I didn't already have, so they are in a pile ready to be laminated for next year.

You can check out her post and download some great ones!  Just click on her link below!

Monday, June 15, 2015

My Summer Plans and Joining the TPT Seller Challenge!

Summer is finally here!

My summer plans are packed full of fun!

I couldn't be more excited for all of the great things that are coming up for my blog and TPT store!

I am even more excited about going to VEGAS for the TPT conference in a few short weeks!

My blog is finally getting a MAKEOVER!  I've hired a wonderful TPT author to create a new look for my blog.  My hope is that my new logo will be ready in time for the TPT conference and the blog is fully up and running over the summer.

I spent last week teaching some amazing teachers in TN.  We focused a lot of the instruction on reading and specific strategies for helping all our kids. The best part for me was hearing all of the wonderful ideas from the teachers in my sessions.  I've got several new ideas that I can't wait to try out on my kiddos this year!  I will be teaching the sessions for two more weeks, so I promise to blog about what we are doing in the sessions and show you some pictures.

I am joining into the fun with the TPT Seller Challenge!  For the next few weeks I am following the challenges set up by some amazing TPT authors to help me make my store better and increase my followers!  This week's challenge was to revamp a product that I currently have.  This was on my to do list last year and I didn't get them all done, so this challenge was exactly what I needed to get moving on revamping some old ideas!

Here is my "evidence" for the challenge.  I can't believe how much better it looks!  It will be FREE in my TPT store for the next 24 hours, so please download it and leave some feedback!  Keep checking back often because as I complete these challenges I will be putting a product up as a FLASH FREEBIE!  So you don't to miss any of them!

Here is the NEW and IMPROVED "Whooo" is Even and "Whooo" is Odd packet.  I can't believe how much better it looks.  I added a printer friendly version of the game cards for folks that don't have access to color ink.  You can download it for FREE for the next 24 hours!  Just click on the picture and it will take you to the product.  

Happy Teaching!