Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Classroom Pics!

Since toady is Where it all Goes Down Wednesday on Blog Hoppin', I will post some pics even though I am not totally finished setting up! I love, love, love starting over and setting up even though it can be all kinds of overwhelming! Here's what I have done so far:

Here is a picture of the front of the room. You can see my alphabet from the amazing Amy Lemons above the white board. The left side of the white board is my word study board (I follow the Fountas and Pinnell Word Study program) and my calendar. To the right side of the white board is my birthday chart and my Phonics Dance board ready and waiting for the hunks and chunks! Below the white board you can kind of see the hands counting by 5s.

Here is my math board - where all I have up right now is the number grid. The kids love using the red wand to count on the number grid! On the table and in the shelving below the table are bins of math supplies.

This is a view of the back of the room. Starting from the left you see the CAFE menu board, a pocket chart possibly for math stations (but I hate that it's in the middle of all things literacy), my word wall, and my fancy word wall for vocabulary. 

Here is a close up of my word wall and just below it you can see where I keep all of my guided reading supplies. I like to keep magnetic letters, tube phones, leveled readers, reading A-Z assessments, CAFE guided reading forms, Dolch word lists, post-its, DIBELS tools, RTI forms, and recently I added a bin of math manipulatives for small groups during math workshop.

 Here is our computer corner. Right now there are 4 computers, but when school starts I should have 6. 

Here are a couple views of my library - I love my library and I love books! You can sort of see the beanie baby strategies and beanie babies in the 2nd one - which I love (from Christina Bainbridge's website). 

Just a more broad view of a lot of the library.

This is a view of the where I keep a lot of supplies for literacy stations and math stations. You can sort of see on the bottom shelf the green and pink labels on the math work stations I just put together today...yay! The top shelves are for word work, the counter is where students turn in work, homework, S.T.A.R. folders, and take home books. Down in the corner is where my desk is and behind it you can see the mess of my binders where I keep most of my lesson/unit plans.

This is sort of my "behavior management" area if you will. You can see my clip chart, our class promise (Debbie Miller) and our jobs. You may be thinking there aren't enough jobs for the 30 kids on my're right. I am planning on having my students apply for a job (after they've had a chance to experience most of them) and then picking two sets to rotate. For example: line leader (1 boy, 1 girl) - I will pick 2 boys and 2 girls and they will rotate every two weeks. What do you think? Does that sound like a good idea or not so much?

I am sooooooo excited about bucket fillers - I really hope it works! There is another closet hanger on the other side of the coat room for the other half of the class. 

This is my writing area - will double for writer's workshop and work on writing during daily 5. You can't see it, but on the side of that wooden thing there are 5 shelves on each side where I have trays of different types of paper. On the front is where I have the 6 traits and on the wall are the steps of the writing process. Not quite sure what will go on the other side though!

So that's it for now! I hope you enjoyed the tour of my classroom...thanks so much for stopping by!! Comments/suggestions are welcome and appreiciated - I love the feedback :) And don't forget to link up over at Blog Hoppin'

Blog Hoppin

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet the Teacher Monday

Check out Blog Hoppin' to join the fun!

Tell me a little something about you:

I am a Chicago girl!  Grew up in a suburb, went to Northwestern University (for both undergrad and grad school...Go CATS), and live and teach in the city now. I am a huge Bears, Cubs, and Hawks fan and so excited for football season. I have two sisters who are my best friends - I am the oldest. The youngest one moved in with me this summer, which is so fun, and the middle sister is in DC working for the White House. We are scheming for a way to get her back to Chicago!
I love my job, which is such a blessing because I am realizing so many people don't feel that way about their job. Being the nerd that I am, I love being in school. I am working on my second masters (first one in Elementary Ed and the second one in reading), and am trying to decide if I should start my PhD in reading next fall. I love teaching little ones, but I think someday (not so soon) I will want to teach teachers. We'll see!

How long have you been teaching?

This will be my 5th year teaching. I have taught 2 years in first grade and this will be my third year in second grade. I loved first grade, but I really, really love 2nd. I've been at the same school in Chicago the whole time :) The best year so far was my first year in 2nd grade when I looped up with my first graders. If I could loop every year I think I would - having kids for 2 years was such a great experience!

You might not know:

Something you might not know about me (or if you follow my blog maybe you've figured this out) is that I don't really like arts and crafts. I love being creative with lessons, but I don't really get into and nor do I know how to create cute graphics and worksheets and whatnot. I feel like such a schmuck next to everyone in the blog world because you're all so amazing in that way!!!

I played lacrosse at Northwestern and won a national championship my senior of the best moments of my life I think :)

What are you looking most forward to this school year?

Other than the obvious things like watching my students grow and trying new things like Phonics Dance and Math Workshop, I am really looking forward to finishing my masters in reading and finding out if I passed National Boards.

What do you need to improve?

 I am looking forward to improving my math instruction through implementing math workshop (a la Debbie Diller). I am excited to be able to meet with small groups consistently during math and really meet the needs of all of my students. I am hoping I will be able to find enough time in the day to make it work!

What teaching supplies can you not live without?

Everything Post-It!! I love all shapes, sizes, and colors! I have been in my room this week setting up and came across three plastic bins full of post-its...I LOVE them!

Apparently I can't get enough of clear plastic bins either - they are officially taking over my classroom :)

I also really love books. I use them to teach everything!

Blog Hoppin
Hop on over and link up!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pen Pals

Hi blogger friends! I am wondering if anyone would be interested in being pen pals with my class this year. I did this last year with another 2nd grade teacher in my district and it worked out well as a part of the work on writing station of daily 5 - and the kids loved it. This year, I would be open to working with a teacher from any grade level and it might be fun if my kids got to send letters to kids in another state. My school is in a very underprivileged area (in Chicago) and they rarely leave the neighborhood, let alone the state. Also, I would be open to including technology somehow - maybe through email or skype? I don't want this to be a huge, overwhelming commitment and am pretty flexible so I'm pretty much open to any ideas!! If you are interested - email me: and we can talk specifics :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I fixed the problem!

Yesterday a few people commented that the google docs link  to my Daily 5 schedule template didn't work. I think I fixed the problem - let me know if it still doesn't work though! Sorry for the inconvenience!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Daily 5 Organization...Plus a Freebie

Daily 5 Organization
I have been trying to figure out how to make an easy template for my students to keep track of their Daily 5 choices. This is what I came up with. I have each day color coded right now for my students to easily differentiate each day. The numbers in each box represent each round of literacy stations. My students will just circle which station they do for each round. I have it this way because I hope to have my students choose their stations as part of morning work (while they are turning in homework, eating breakfast, choosing new take home books) to save time.  The only thing all my students must do each day is Read to Self, and they must do one reading response each week. 

Uh Oh
The only thing I am a little nervous about is allowing my students to choose all of their stations all of the time. I am a bit of a control freak...I can't help it...and I keep thinking what happens if 8 people choose RAZ-kids at the same time even though we only have 4 computers??? I can just see chaos now! Furthermore, I was thinking of assigning quarterly "reading buddies" for read to someone in order to PRC2 effectively (see a previous post). Does anyone have any good ideas about how to manage letting the kiddos choose their stations?

I plan to use 2 pocket folders with three prongs in the middle for my students' reading folders. I will include this template (enough for the quarter) as well as paper for reading responses (divided by a tab for organization) in the three prongs. The two pockets will be used for mini-lesson handouts as well as guided reading assignment sheets/assignments. 

If you want a here!

I can never figure out google docs. If it doesn't work for you, let me know. I'd be happy to email it to you!

Top 3 Things Linky Party!


Simply 2nd Resources  is having a linky party to share the top three things we are going to focus on in our classrooms this year.  Here are my top 3:

1. Math Workshop: It is my number 1 goal this year to make math workshop work in my classroom. In Chicago, our school day is so short that I have only had 50 minutes at best in the past to teach math. I need to find a way to squeeze out 10-20 more minutes a day in order to make math workshop work. I have read Debbie Diller's book and read so many great ideas on blogs. My hope is to start math with a quick 5 minute meeting to go over anything new at the math work stations/ to get the stations organized/ do a quick read aloud...maybe I'm being too ambitious to say I only need 5 minutes for this! Then, 20 minutes of workshop, where students can participate in one activity and I can meet with one small group. Next, I will teach the Everyday Math lesson whole-group for about 20 minutes. Finally, my students will have about 10 minutes for independent practice of the "new math" in their math journals. During this time, I will walk around to help those tier 2 and 3 students that need more support. What do you think? Am I missing anything? I know I need about 70 minutes for this to work...which I totally don't have...but I am hoping to "make it work" in the words of Tim Gunn :)

2. The Phonics Dance: I just learned about the Phonics Dance through the fantastic bloggers I follow...I love blogging :) Again, scheduling is going to be a challenge. Given that I am adding something to an already packed day, inevitably something has to go. But, what will that be? Right now I am thinking of dedicating one round of mini-lessons during the Daily 5 to the Phonics Dance, which means I will have to squeeze in all of my vocabulary, fluency, and accuracy mini-lessons during one round rather than splitting between two, if that makes sense. So Daily 5 will look like this: 
Comprehension mini-lesson
Round 1 literacy stations/ Guided Reading
Phonics Dance mini-lesson
Round 2 literacy stations/ Guided Reading
Accuracy or Fluency or Vocabulary mini-lesson 
*I am thinking M and T= vocabulary W and TH= accuracy F=fluency??
Round 3 of literacy Stations/ Guided Reading
 All I know is that my students will just love the Phonics Dance, and I have heard nothing but how great it I will just have to make sure I am getting to everything I need to in that third mini-lesson! If anyone has any better ideas though, I am completely open to hearing them!!!

3. Word Walls: I have always had a word wall in my classroom, and when I taught first grade I used it everyday in an interactive way. However, for the past two years in second grade, I have gotten away from that. Last year was rock bottom. We even stopped adding words to the word wall at one point...really embarrassing! This year, I want to make sure my students use the word wall as a resource and that I use it as a scaffolding tool for word recognition and for spelling. That's why I am going with the popcorn word theme for the word wall this year, and also why I am not going to put the HFW from our basal up on the wall - and just focus on the 2nd grade Dolch word list (and Hunk and Chunk exemplars). I think it will be far more meaningful and engaging! 

I can't wait to post pictures...but I can't get into school for another week because they are redoing the floors in my hallway. We don't start school until after Labor Day, but I am very anxious to get to work! 

I can't wait to read about all of your top 3 things you want to work on this year!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Phonics Dance!!!!!

I just received my Phonics Dance manual, CD, and Hunk and Chunk cards in the mail. I read through the manual and I was loving every minute of it! If you have not heard of the program by Ginny Dowd, Becca at Simply 2nd Resources gives a great description! The bottom line for me is it puts chants and movements with each Hunk and Chunk (phonograms...ou, ai, ed, igh...). I can only imagine how much the movements, chants, and repetition are going to impact my students' spelling and decoding abilities. I love how it will only take about 15 minutes each day, but how what students learn during the Phonics Dance instruction will be naturally carried over to reading and writer's workshop. Ginny Dowd gives so many great resources in the manual - monster word cards and chants for tricky words, seasonal creative writing ideas, reading response prompts, word wall games, and so much more. I definitely suggest going to to learn more and/or order materials. Here are some examples of the Hunk and Chunk cards:

Now, even though I said I love the program, which I do, I still have a lot of questions about how it will look in my classroom. I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your help!

Currently, I follow Fountas and Pinnell's word study program. Monday I introduce the spelling pattern(s) for the week, we brainstorm words, and then my students choose 10 of those words they want to learn. Tuesday they do "Look, say, cover, write, check" with their own spelling words. Wednesday they do a buddy check (they have spelling buddies). Thursday we do a "making connections" activity - making words, word sorts, rhyming words...and Friday spelling buddies give each other their spelling test. My question is: would I still do this with the Phonics Dance? The program has you introduce a new hunk and chunk on Mondays and Wednesdays. I couldn't introduce a hunk and chunk on Wednesday and then test my students on Friday...sooo I am wondering if anyone does spelling tests/lists and phonics dance or is it one or the other?

My next question is about the word wall. I love putting "exemplar" words for each hunk and chunk on the word wall...but then that's only two words per week. What other words do you all include on your wall? In the past I have put up the high frequency words from our basal series (Harcourt Storytown). I don't love this because I don't feel that my students really learn the words - so I am sort of leaning toward using the 2nd grade Dolch words? What do you all think? I'd really love to hear how you use word walls and introduce new words.

The final question I'll ask you all is: when do you do the Phonics Dance? First thing in the morning? During Daily 5 mini-lessons? (Those were my two thoughts.) I teach in Chicago Public Schools, which from what I have heard has the shortest school day in the country. I need tips about how to fit this in! :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Exciting News!

I have some great news that I am so excited to tell you about! The Teamies aka Mrs. Schroeder and Mrs. McCumbee have created a blog for 2nd grade teachers called Me and My Gang...and the best part is I am going to be an author. Given that I am new to blogging, I am a little nervous about this, but hopefully I can learn from all of you! So come on over and check it out! It's going to be great :)