Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year Resolutions

A Teacher's Treasure is having a linky party for new year's resolutions. Let me start by saying, I never make resolutions because I rarely keep them and I kind of think it's silly to only make goals for yourself once a year. But, I will eat my words because I do have a few goals that I'd like to try to achieve/ be better at. So here it goes:

1. I'd like to be more consistent with going to church and getting more involved in the church community.
2. I want to incorporate dance and/or yoga into my workout routine. Has anyone heard of the Bar Method? I'm thinking of trying it.
3. Since I'm completely single and not getting any younger, I need to be better at putting myself out there :)

1. I want to become a more effective math teacher by really making sure my kids have a strong understanding of math knowledge and number sense through more practical investigations. I'll be posting more about this soon (if I keep this resolution).

2. I am on the instructional leadership team at my school and have been very frustrated by our lack of progress/ decision making. We have been talking a lot about common core and it seems like all our district (and maybe admin) wants to do is fit what we already do into the common core. I believe we have to change the way we teach (not re-invent the wheel, but be open to new and better ideas) and the way we think about education and what our students should know in order to adopt the common core "correctly" and to help our students be where they need to be in a very competitive world. Soooo with that said, I want to have a more patient and positive attitude and I want to be able to discern when it is my place to speak out and when I should shut up and get on board with what my admin/teachers at my school believe is right even if I disagree. Whew, that was a long one!

3. I want to get more organized - I saw a binder someone in blogland made and I really want to copy that idea for myself. I think it included everything from daily lesson plans to year long scopes and sequences, standards, and guided reading schedules. I'd love to make one for myself to use year after year - and just make the necessary changes as they come.

Cheers to a great 2012! I think it's going to be a great year!!

Font Help!

I just bought a couple new fonts at lettering delights, which I am super excited about, but I can't figure out how to install them so they show up in Power Point or Word. Does anyone know what I am missing?? I have a mac by the way. Any help would be very appreciated!  Happy New Years everyone!

Monday, December 26, 2011

December Class Photos!

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! I am in Florida right now, which is amazing to be in such warm weather compared to chilly Chicago.

Wow the past few weeks flew by! December was busy with Christmas Around the World, Fairy Tales in reading and writing, and an assortment of Christmas activities! Here are a few pics...

Students had to find their match to make a compound word, then they wrote a sentence using their compound word. Here are all of our compound cookies!

Thanks to Christina Bainbridge and all of her cute ideas, we made a bulletin board of Christmas traditions - both our own and from around the world!

We made stockings for kids to bring in small gifts for each other. It was fun to see them so excited to give rather than receive!

 Here are a few pictures of kids working on their fairy tale projects -- these were so cute -- I'll do another post dedicated to just this next week. 

We made gingerbread houses as a tie-in to Christmas around the world and the Gingerbread Man stories. Never have I seen the effect of sugar on children the way I did that day...but it was fun!

 A couple more Christmas Around the World shots...working on our scrapbooks (from Christina Bainbridge). The brown construction paper with the maps are their suitcases where we labeled where we traveled and kept our souvenirs, passports, and scrapbooks.

Enjoy the rest of your well-deserved breaks!!!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fairy Tale Menu Freebie

Happy Monday everyone! We began our Christmas Around the World unit today, and to go with that I am doing our fairy tale reading and writing units as well. I think they work nicely together because we can make connections from fairy tales to the countries we are visiting. Next week my students will study one fairy tale (and all its many versions) very closely while working on a group project. I created a menu of options (many of which I am modeling this week to get them ready) for the project. I just change the amount of points my students with IEPs need to total to accommodate for their needs. I thought I would share it with you! You can get it here. Please let me know if you like it/ can use it!

Our culminating activity with fairy tales is my favorite - each group acts out/ story-tells their favorite version of their fairy tale (they write scripts, but perform without scripts). Last year, the plays were so cute! I can't wait for this year's!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reading Response Freebie!!

Has anyone ever read All Pigs Are Beautiful? I love it! This is the second year I have used this book for teaching an "extended response" (yuck). I am not a huge fan of extended response...does every state have them on their state tests? Or is it just Illinois? Don't get me wrong, I think it's super important that kids can articulate thoughts about a text and answer questions about a text in writing, but I have just never seen a way of teaching it that I like. It always seems so contrived and inauthentic to me. So I don't teach my kids "extended response," I just teach my kids how to think about a text and how to write those thoughts in response to a specific question using examples from the text.

So anyway, to get to the point, All Pigs are Beautiful is a great book for this!! First, I read the story on one day just for pure enjoyment - because the book is really cute. When I finished reading the book, I had my kids turn and talk to each other about some of the things they hears about pigs and people being alike. That's it for the first day. We didn't even really share out. The next day, before I reread the story, I told my kids to listen for ways pigs and people are alike. Then I reread the story. We then shared out about seven or eight different ways pigs and people are alike. I then gave them their response form. We have been writing expository paragraphs lately so I briefly reminded them to write a topic sentence and to give examples from the text. I didn't want to bog them down with too many things to think about though so I just let them go for it. I definitely got a range of results, but every student was able to write at least two ways pigs and people are alike. I am hoping as the year goes on (and as I model more) they will become more and more comfortable referring to back to the text, using transition words, and writing conclusion/ wrap-up sentences!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

December Work on Writing Freebie

I just made a list of writing prompts for my kids to use as a guide during their work on writing literacy station, and I thought I would share it! I don't tell them they have to use the ideas on the list, but I do encourage it. We have been working on personal narratives, realistic fiction writing, and letter writing a lot this year - so most of the prompts are within those genres. Let me know if you can use it and/or find it helpful! You can download it on google docs here (the font looked a little different when I uploaded it to google docs - hopefully it will be fine for you - if not I can email you a copy!)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Field Trip!

We went to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago last week to take a class on habitats and to explore the exhibits. This is the second year in a row I have done this field trip and it is by far the easiest and best field trip I have taken! The museum is so organized and calm - it makes something stressful, very enjoyable! During the class my students explored and wrote observations in three different habitats - a prairie, a wetland, and a woodland habitat. The museum supplied us with journals, clipboards, and pencils. Here are some pics of the trip:

Our museum educator, Ms. D talking to the students about the woodland habitat

A student making observations about the woodland habitat.

More observations!

How cute is he!

Ms. D is holding up a "pea pod" leave, explaining to students how squirrels get their food in the woodland habitat.

Look how close she got to the squirrel - it was pretty amazing. I was a little freaked out, but the kids thought it was so cool!

Here are some kids touching a snake - they were so surprised about how "squishy" the snake felt - we all thought a snake's body would feel much harder than it did.

The butterfly room at the museum is incredible. It's a room literally covered with butterflies, flying everywhere. Some kids were a little nervous the butterflies would land on them, but it's so cool to be so close to them. It was also a good opportunity to talk about what an appropriate habitat for a butterfly is and to review the life cycle of a butterfly.

When we got back from the museum, I gave my students some time to journal about what they learned. I thought I would give them 5-10 minutes at the most, but when I tried to stop them, they begged for more time. They ended up journaling for at least 15 minutes - SILENTLY - and some still didn't finish (but we had to move on). It was so fun to see them so excited to write and share what they learned. I am excited to keep the habitat unit going this week!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Science and S.S.

I have been so bad about updating my blog with things we have done in the classroom! Here's a recap of just a couple things from the past few weeks. In social studies we learned about map skills and located where we live on the map. I got this great activity from Lessonplansos - I think it turned out so cute!! The objective of the mini-unit was for kids to know where they live by being able to identify their neighborhood, city, state, country, continent, and planet. They also labeled their state, country, and continent on different maps.

In reading, we have been learning about reading nonfiction. We learned about schema and how its important to think about what you already know about a topic before reading. To add on to that, we learned about asking questions before reading to have a focus. Our question was, "why do leaves change color in the fall?" As we read we tried to answer the question (and add new information to our schema about leaves). Here are our answers/ what we learned!

Hope you all had a great weekend!! I can't believe it's almost Thanksgiving...and almost Christmas! Craziness!!! So much to teach, so little time! We had a 3 day week last week, we have a 3 day week this week, and we have a 3 day week next week. Yikes!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Donors Choose

I have a proposal up on, and it expires on December 1st. I only need $105 more to get it fulfilled. The proposal is for nonfiction texts that match with our science topics so I can do a better job of integrating subjects. Any ideas about how to get the word out about it? (I already have in on facebook.) Here's the link in case you want to check it out :)

Hope everyone is enjoying the three day weekend!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Literacy Grant

Does anyone know of a literacy grant I can apply to? To make a long story short, I have to miss a grad school class because I get to go to DC this weekend to meet the President (soooo excited!!!) and to make up for that I need to find a literacy grant I can apply to. I am already writing one for the IRC (Illinois Reading Council), but I need another one. I have been googling and can't find anything. Any suggestions are welcome and very appreciated!!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Halloween!

We had so much fun yesterday...I just wish I took more pictures! We scrapped all of our normal routines and did Halloween activities all day! First we read Little Witch Learns to Read - such a cute book. We had a nice discussion about what strategies we would have taught Little Witch if she was in our classroom and then actually made Little Witch holding our favorite reading strategies. Here are some examples (although I should have taken pics before I hung them up): 

After that (and that took a loooooong time!) we listen to a scary story (that had some scary monster mask illustrations), talked about adjectives, and then created our own monsters and wrote about them using as many adjectives as we could - they turned out cute - although you'll have to take my word for it since I didn't take pics of these! 
The book comes with a CD and the storyteller is awesome! This book would also be great for teaching predictions and/or mental images!!

After lunch we read my absolute favorite Halloween story, There was an Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything and wrote our own versions of the story using onomatopoeia words! Some kids are so creative!

We didn't have time to do the fun candy graphing activity I had planned - oh well - another day! We finished off the day with a costume parade and a party (and a stomach ache :) )!

Here's me with my student teacher (we were Fancy Nancy) and a couple of our friends:

Hope you all had a fabulous Halloween!!

Monday, October 17, 2011


Like many of you, we have been learning about spiders during reading for the past couple weeks. I used the topic of spiders to teach about reading nonfiction, what schema is, and how to revise misconceptions. It was so much fun, the kids were so into it, and I think they learned a lot!

First we wrote down our schema about spiders on "brain files" (I got them from the amazing ladies at Then, I read pages from the book, Spinning Spiders to build more spider schema.

After a couple days of reading this book and sharing what we learned (and revising misconceptions), I gave my students a Time For Kids article about different types of spiders. They worked in pairs to fill out the Spider Schema worksheet to practice finding "new learning" and adding it to their schema. 

As a culminating activity, my students wrote a paragraph about spiders. Only about half of them fit on this bulletin board, but I think it turned out cute anyway! (The other half are on the wall next to the classroom door.) I found the adorable spider paper template from Courtney at Swimming into Second helpful!

Monday, October 10, 2011

O.R.E.O. Project!!!!!

We participated in the OREO (Our Really Exciting Online) Project this year - it was sooooo much fun! Here are some pics of some of the activities we did: 

Stacking Oreos!!!

We made rural, suburban, urban communities!

We have been studying animal groups so we made animal sculptures:

We made charts explaining their Oreo communities

This is part of a city - the Oreos are the skyscrapers and the frosting is the sidewalk :)

This is a tree for part of the rural community - looks a little like a palm tree to me though :)

Here is one complete city block