Sunday, October 6, 2013

Better Late Than Never

Tomorrow starts week 7 of the school year and I spent a big part of today looking at my reading textbook and trying to figure out how it all works. We use Reading Street by Pearson and I gotta say, I think I like it!

I've been using different stories and bits and pieces while trying to follow our district curriculum and I've had to create a lot of my own materials and search for things online to fit it all together. It's kind of like forcing a square peg into a round hole.

Well, I've already covered all of the objectives for the first benchmark, and I've still got two weeks to go. So I kind of felt like I had a bit of freedom to do what I want to review before the test.

Well, I discovered this little link on the Pearson website called Teacher Resources. You can probably guess why this post is titled better late than never! Yes, I just today discovered the teacher resources. Let me tell you, a whole bunch of treasures fell out! Haha!

To make a long story short, I think I have a decent grasp on how this is all designed to work, and I've decided to be a bit of a rebel and abandon the so called curriculum our district has provided and try out a week using the book our state spent a fortune to provide for us. I'm going to try to use a chapter in the book as designed, as closely as I can, because I want to see how it all works. 

This could be a disaster, jumping in like I am, or it could be exactly the stress relief I have been looking for... No more searching and creating anymore. Maybe, just maybe, I will be able to use the amazing resources provided, and it just might work beautifully!

Stay tuned. I'll let you know how it goes...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My Time Issue

There are never enough hours in the day. And if there were, I don't know if I could get enough caffeine in my system to make the most of them!

Today at school, we learned about a really neat (really expensive, I'm sure!) resource called LLI. I can't even remember what that stands for! Leveled Something-that-starts-with-an-L Intervention. (I just remembered! Leveled Literacy Intervention) It's basically guided reading lessons for below grade reading groups. It's really cool and comprehensive and teacher friendly. I have seven kids in my class of thirty reading below grade level. I am supposed to be reading with them every single day. Sounds perfect, right? It would be, if I had the time to use it!

I basically have an hour and a half block of time for Reading/Language Arts. I spoke to our reading specialist and asked her how we could fit this into our day. She said, ideally, you'd have a two and a half hour block for Reading/Language Arts. I'm missing an hour.

So I have a choice. I can do guided reading groups and get/keep my kids reading on grade level, or I can teach them the learning goals they will be tested on throughout the year on benchmarks and in April on our state test. 

The best compromise I can see is teaching them the tested curriculum and try to fit in reading with my kids one on one, hopefully once a week.

That's my current plan. Keep your fingers crossed, imaginary readers. Those LLI boxes will be sitting in a corner of my room collecting dust. Every once in a while, I shall glance longingly in their direction...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013


I've been busy today. After a lazy, sick in bed day yesterday, I really had to kick it into gear today. I worked all morning on school stuff. I found and printed worksheets. I made and printed notes pages. I printed and read over lesson plans and the spelling list. I organized it all, ready to go back to school tomorrow.

Throughout the day, I had the kids clean their rooms, the kitchen table, the dining room table, the easel area, and work on their laundry.

This afternoon, I went to Walmart and bought some things to help me organize my life. I cleaned out a couple of clutter spots and took the polish off my nails. I took meat out for dinner to thaw and I cleaned the kitchen.

I did not finish one single list. I still have papers to grade. I still have clutter spots. My nails have not been repainted. My laundry is not done. Theodore is still in his room not cleaning it. I had a whole list of things that I should have gotten at the store, but I only bought the few things that I wanted.

I have one hour to go before dinner is supposed to be on the table and we start our nighttime routine of dinner, dishes, baths, setting out tomorrow's school clothes, and getting to bed on time.

I worked hard today. The to do lists never end. Even so, I almost let myself feel like a failure because there is still much to do and not enough time to do it all. There is never enough time to do it all. Rather than focusing on all that did not get done, I am going to focus on all that did get done. I'm going to praise my children for being such good helpers and send them out to play a little longer. I am going to sit for a few minutes and enjoy my quiet house and then start dinner for my family. When my husband gets home from work, I'm going to listen to him tell me about his day instead of making a mental list of what I need to do tomorrow. I'm going to sit with him, hold his hand, and watch TV. I'm going to go to bed on time.

We were productive today.

In which I talk about school incessantly...

Since nobody reads my unknown little blog, and I'm okay with that, it's kind of like my online journal. I've been working on school work all morning long, so it's on my mind and I want to "say it out loud" to someone. This seems like the best place for it.

I teach third grade this year and I love it! But being at a new school in a new grade, there is a lot of work to be done. I like to think that all the work I am putting in this year will make everything a lot easier next year. I will beg and plead (and refuse to move, if it comes down to it) to stay in third grade forever. I know my principal likes to change things up, but that is not a worry I need to focus on in September! So I am working very hard these days just knowing this will all pay off in the long run.

Let me lay out my system for you, dear imaginary readers. I teach third grade language arts and social studies. My partner teacher teaches math and science. This year, we are team teaching. We have classrooms that have a "curtain wall" dividing them. We've open up the curtain and mixed up our classes. Basically, we have thirty kids and two teachers in a self contained environment. Only I am still only responsible for language arts and social studies and she is responsible for math and science. We just take turns teaching and supporting each other. So far, it works beautifully. We've been doing it for two weeks and we've pretty much ironed out all the kinks.

Now, here is my plan for teaching. Each week, I choose a reading strategy, a grammar skill, and a story from our reading book. 

Monday is word study day. I give the spelling pretest and then the list of vocabulary words. My students look the words up in the glossary and record them in their personal dictionary. Then they listen to and follow along with the story on audiobook. (Different spelling activities are assigned for homework each night.)

Tuesday is reading strategy day. I have a prepared half sheets of notes about the chosen strategy. These are the things that are tested on district benchmarks throughout the year and the state test in April. We've already covered summary, inferences, and character relationships. This week we are doing locate facts and details. So I introduce the strategy, they glue the notes into the reading section of their reader/writer notebook, and we do a crafty/hands on/fun activity to apply the skill. This is usually a foldable or graphic organizer or the like. They read the story again with their table groups then we do the application activity.

Wednesday is Critical Thinking Questions day. They read the story independently, then answer the 5 critical thinking questions from the book after their story. These are also done in the reading section of their reader/writer notebooks.

Thursday is Writer's Workshop day. I have a prepared notes page for the weekly grammar lesson. We've done singular and plural nouns and we are doing common and proper nouns this week. I introduce the topic then we brainstorm and make a class T chart/poster. They glue their notes into the writing section of their reader/writer notebook and then write a story on a given topic that relates back to the story of the week. This week it's about things we collect. Then, they use two colored pencils to search for and underline their common and proper nouns. Later it may be verbs, adjectives, compound sentences, whatever. They are applying the grammar lesson to their own writing. Then I have a worksheet to complete on the topic.

Friday is Poetry day. We do our Spelling Test. Then we read a poem. I have been searching online for various poems that go along with our weekly story. We read it as a class and discuss the poem. Then they glue that in the reading section of their reader writer notebook, write two sentences, making a text to self and a text to text connection, then they illustrate their poem.

Whew! I also have two or three social studies lessons during the week. We take turns teaching science and social studies. Luckily, another teacher on my team plans those. We also have a set time for a read aloud and independent silent reading each day. That's a school wide initiative. We also spend fifteen minutes at the end of each day writing in our reflection journals. Basically, writing about what they learned each day. That's also a school wide initiative.

Stations is the last thing we are working the kinks out of. We are trying to set aside about forty-five minutes in the afternoon for stations. The current plan is to have eight stations. Two Language Arts (one independent/hands on activity and one reading with the teacher), two math stations (again one independent/hands on and one with the teacher), one science, one social studies, and two computer stations. Since we have combined our classes, we have 8 student computers. The plan is for the kids to do two stations a day and get through all eight stations in four days. Friday's station time will be spent on Ketchup and Pickle Time.

Today, I made a list of all the things I need to do to prepare for the upcoming week each week. Since I am determined to follow this weekly routine, my prep work should also become routine. Then I made it cute and printed it on card stock, of course. I broke the list down by day, Friday, the weekend, and Monday. So far, it made things feel less overwhelming and I should be pretty well prepared for the week.

Well, that's all my current thoughts on school. I still have papers to grade and a quick trip to Walmart to do. I need pretty plastic folders and another bowl for taking my lunches. Plus laundry to work on, finger nails to paint, a movie to watch, and dinner to cook. I better get going!

Until next time...

Good Morning

I wake up this morning to the sounds of Charlotte and Theodore fighting. Loudly. So, without even getting out of bed, I call out, "Go to your own rooms! Go back to bed! It's too early!" It gets quiet. I snuggle back down into my pillow, proud of myself for how easily that worked. I close my eyes to drift off back to sleep... Then a sound jolts me. My eyes snap open. It's Charlotte's  TV. And it's loud. I smile to myself, roll out of bed, and head to the coffee pot. At least they aren't fighting now. Let's get this day started, I guess.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Gone Mobile...

I am so high tech that I am updating my blog from my phone. How cool is that? I know. People have probably been doing this for years, but it's brand new for me! Maybe now I will be able to keep up with it better! Maybe.