Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Holiday Coupons

My teaching partner and I decided to give our homeroom students the same gifts for Christmas. They will get a small bag filled with a deck of cards, bookmark, candy, and these coupons. You can find an editable version of the coupons here. We plan to print them on red and green paper. Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 2, 2017


Thankful Thoughts pattern by AnnaLee Waite, Just CrossStitch Magazine, December 2017
My first project since 1997

I am very thankful to be a teacher and I have always been and always will be very dedicated, but teaching can be an all consuming profession. It can consume large amounts of your time and money.
This year, after twenty plus years of teaching, I am trying to learn how to balance work and play. I am learning this from my young teaching partner and colleagues. They are dedicated, dynamic, amazing teachers, always prepared and always give their all when teaching, and they still manage to take the time to shop or have coffee with friends, go to see performances, and travel. I am learning how important it is to relish the seasons and take time to do things just for...fun.

I am setting down my purple pens and resource books and picking up a thread and needle. Instead of watching teaching videos on the Teaching Channel, I watch my favorite stitching friends, Priscilla and Chelsea, on youtube. Instead of spending my waking moments walking down the school hallways, I am strolling through Hobby Lobby and antique shops. I think, in a way, these precious moments I spend having fun are rejuvenating me and my passion for teaching. These bursts of creative pursuits are inspiring me, not only at home, but also in my classroom as I make charts, write lesson plans, and make materials for my students.

So, let this be a lesson to teachers just beginning your career. Take a little time for yourself to have fun-visit with friends, participate in a group, or work on a hobby and do not feel guilty. You will never regret taking time for fun, I promise.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Fourth Grade Math Centers

My students are assigned a math center to complete after they finish the independent practice for the daily lesson. At the beginning of each month I organize 20 centers in these trays. The centers are sets of task cards for the standards/skills/strategies that were taught the previous month or months. These centers provide a spiral review in hopes the students will remember how to solve the problems and not forget them throughout the school year. 

Every day the students get a different tray and by the end of the month they will have completed most of them. I do have 23 students and some have to share the center. Instead of printing the recording sheets, they use a piece of notebook paper. The answer key is folded and clipped with a clothespin. The students use the answer key to check their work before turning it into the basket. This provides them with immediate feedback.
This particular center is a center from third grade. I used this same set-up last year and the trays had not only a set of math task cards, but also a set of language task cards that they completed during the reading block. Because I teach mathematics and science and not reading, I only have to create centers for math this year.
After they complete the "task card" center, they use the laptops to work on math skills at Moby Max, Front Row Ed, and Zearn. As the students work on independent practice and centers, I work with students in small groups. I meet with 2 groups, an extra practice group (for that day's lesson) and a reteaching group (for a standard/strategy that has been previously taught).

Saturday, September 16, 2017

My Fourth Grade Classroom

We have been in school for about 6 weeks and I am just now posting my back to school photos! I am teaching mathematics, science, and RTI and my partner teaches reading, language, social studies, and RTI. This is my first experience with departmentalization and I really enjoy it. I am not sure what took me so long to take the leap! It took about a day to get my classroom ready and since these photos were taken, I have placed my desks in three straight rows and added a rug in one of the corners in the room. The rows allow the students to clearly see during instruction, but provides a shoulder partner for turn and talk. For group work, they choose a different location in the classroom.
 The front of the classroom
 Side view
 Back View
 Tubs for math tools and books
My partner teacher and I display the same work. 
She gives my homeroom students' writing to me and I display it here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Next Year, New Grade

I have enjoyed my time these past two years in third grade very much. The students are independent (they can tie their shoes!), our class discussions were filled with details (and fewer "stories"), and the subject content was so interesting. Next year I will be moving to fourth grade, which is departmentalized, and teach two mathematics and science classes. A dream position! I am glad for the summer but already looking forward to next school year!

Sunday, May 14, 2017


I have noticed a couple of similarities with third grade students who need extra help with reading.

1. They are still tracking print with their finger when reading. This slows the reading and then affects their comprehension. Decades ago (in first grade) the rule of thumb was to give them a bookmark or an index card to place under the sentences and then move down as they read. I think in an effort to make students appear more "engaged" we have prolonged tracking print with their fingers.

This is especially important to fix as students are reading more passages and articles on the computer, especially for testing. You might see them reaching out to touch the screen or rereading words, phrases, and sentences more often.

2. For vocabulary, using context clues should be used in conjunction with structured vocabulary lessons. Has the common core standard which requires students to use context clues in reading replaced the need for teachers to just teach words? No doubt they need to use context clues when reading. Sometimes context clues are not enough, they need more direct instruction.  It is not just science and social studies content words that are difficult, but words like "remember" or "disappointed." 

One strategy I have used this year is before reading the passage together (choral or partner), I dedicated the first five minutes for them to read it silently and highlight words that are unfamiliar. As a class we discussed the words and sometimes I would display a visual for the word using my laptop.

My reasoning for this was to allow them to first use the context clues to find meaning and provide support only for those words they had trouble with. I worry with the reading shift away from using books and instead using passages as the primary source for reading instruction, that we are limiting students' vocabulary. If we move away from using books for reading instruction, then maybe we should bring back a scheduled read-aloud time for the intermediate students.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Retirement...not mine

Just wanted to give a shout-out to my mother who is retiring at the end of this school year after spending 36.5 years teaching. Her experience spans all lower elementary grades and Title I reading. We have spend most of my career teaching at the same schools and I will miss seeing her daily. I have no idea what we will talk about now! I can not remember a time when my mother was not either a college student taking education classes or actually in the classroom. It is a bittersweet time, more for me than her. Congratulations mom, I am so proud of you!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

My New Rug

I have missed having a space for my students to meet for some of our whole group lessons.
Most of the rugs I found were too cute, too large in size with an equally large shipping fee, or were just too expensive. I found these 5 x 7 rugs from walmart.com and bought two of them so I would have more than enough room for all my students. Surprisingly, my students enjoy sitting on the rug with their laptops and center tubs during small group time. It was also great to use when demonstrating area! I have a few pom-pom puff balls in blue, green, and yellow hanging above the rug, and will add red, hot pink, and orange to hang over the ceiling space above the rug.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Folded Fraction Strips

At the beginning of our fraction unit, we fold strips of papers to make the fraction units, but it can be difficult for some students to fold equal parts. My students will use these strips throughout the unit in many lessons. This year I decided to make strips with dotted lines for students to use as a guide when folding. If you are looking for these, you can find them here.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Poppy the Pumpkin

Every grade-level/team at our school decorates a pumpkin as a Storybook Character. The entire student body votes on their favorite to decide the winner. We also have a Storybook Character parade.
This is our third grade team's pumpkin-isn't she a cutie!

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