Monday, August 12, 2013

Moving houses and classrooms makes for a busy summer!

So I promised myself I wouldn't suck at updating my blog.... but.... big surprise I did suck! I can't believe it's already been over a month! Which mean it's August! Which means school is around the bend! Like in 2 weeks! AHHH!

July was an absolute whirlwind of a change. The whole process of buying a house is emotional and stressful. Especially when you are selling one at the same time! Fate as it seems worked out however, and I landed this beauty:
The front yard has some really adorable landscaping, and GORGEOUS trees. One of the first things that made me fall in love with it.

 Here's a picture of the inside dining/living room/kitchen area. I never knew how much I would love a bar top! Just tonight I was able to cook dinner and watch Nashville... my new current obsession for a show! Super scandalous and filled with drama.

Dining area. If you look really close you can see one of my boys peeking through the back door!

 My room where Max decided to take a nap. As always!

 And my crafty/interior designer moment: No door for the bathroom? Easily fixed with a red curtain I found in a box! And can I just say that a shower with separate bath tub has been something I never realized I would love so much!

My little reading area part of the bedroom. Has so much space in here!

And here is what absolutely sold me. This backyard is beautiful. Awesome deck and 3 huge beautiful trees that shade the yard all throughout the day. I couldn't be happier here.

So now that you see what I've been spending July doing, tomorrow I'll reveal the classroom and what August has brought! Talk about a busy summer of packing and moving... at home and the job! But here's hoping to many exciting years in this house! :)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Small Group Organization with a Monday Made It to Boot!

A few days ago I posted about getting a schedule down for next year and figuring out times where I could meet with small groups for reading. As I have been reading this awesome book:

The next thing I decided to tackle this week was organizing! Last year I did something similar to what the sisters suggested and had a 'pensieve'.

I don't have a picture of mine as I left it at school, but it's similar to the picture above. Each child had their own pocket divider where I could put notecards and such, plus still have the ability to clip in papers too. I remember thinking how organized and ready to go I was at the beginning of the year. I mean my binder was colorful and had snazzy pockets, how could this go wrong right??

Well, if I could show you a picture of how HEAVY this thing was, how hard it was to lug around when conferring with students, and then taking it home each night to reorganize and go over notes? Yeah right! There was no way this baby could make it home with me. It took up every last inch of my teacher bag with just it in there ALONE and doing the one handed carry... well let's just say that it usually made it down to my car, but I can't really say it ever made it back out of there.

So after reading Debbie Diller's book, I decided to try something similar to the pensieve, but make it more manageable for me to take around. So instead of using a 2.5 or maybe 3 inch binder (yes, it was THAT enormous!!), I've decided to go back to the old 1 inch.

I sadly don't have my AWESOME pocket tabs, but wanted to take a picture to show you my thoughts. I'm planning on having no more than 5 groups, so will therefore use 5 pocket dividers. Diller mentioned that any more than that becomes hard to keep track of.

Behind each pocket divider will be lesson plans. I used Jan Richardson's lesson plan format from her book The Next Step in Guided Reading which differ based on student's reading level. Diller includes some of her own plans broken down by comprehension, fluency, vocab, phonics, and phonemic awareness. I haven't decided which to use, and perhaps it will just depend on the group.

Now behind the lesson plans, Diller suggested dividers that have each student's name on them. Here you can put their running records which the book suggested you do on notebook paper. Starting out each small group lesson, I want to take one running record on a student, while the others are reading at the table. What a quick and easy way to keep assessment ongoing, but not overwhelming! I'll get more into what I plan to do in small group in my next post though!

Now along with running records, I am hoping to take better notes of my students, especially when conferring with them one on one. I've tried sticky notes, labels, notecards, the awesome Daily 5 conferring sheet.. but I either lost these things or couldn't find them when I needed them. This year I am going to try notecards AGAIN but this time file them in those awesome pocket dividers. Then once they are filled up, Diller suggest putting them in one of these:

Now you have a mini file of notes on students! I'm really hoping this could be the answer for me.

Now the last thing I have included in the binder is my small group organization folder. Basically all I did was laminate two pieces of cardstock, taped on a piece of cute duck tape to hold the two together and voila! You've got yourself a homemade folder!

On the back I put the DIBELS scores for the beginning, middle, and end of second grade and correlating reading levels. 
 Hopefully this will be much more helpful than scouring through mountains of papers (usually in the recycling bin!) or asking my team leader for yet ANOTHER copy. I'm sure she'll be thankful to see this! (Click here to download the dibels table! Click here to download the reading levels!)

Now on the inside I glued 5 colored strips of paper (before laminating of course) to represent the 5 small reading groups.

The strips of white paper are an awesome resource Diller included in her book that shows you some things to work on at each different reading component. I plan on laminating these, and then velcroing them on to give me ideas for what this group needs to work on or what they have mastered. Easy to write on as well if they are laminated.

I'm also thinking about putting their names in those tabs you usually use for file folders. That way I won't have to laminate and can easily change names by slipping the paper in and out. I want to velcro these on there too, which will make it easy to move their names to different groups as the year goes on. Not sure if I will leave them that large, or cut them in half so I can fit more names on the folder.

I'm really excited to finally have MADE SOMETHING even though it is late Monday night- it still counts!! And I'm organized. Things are looking good! Also here's the the DIBELS table in grades 1-5 if you are interested in it!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Schedule (and getting my life together!!)

Is it just me, or is Debbie Diller a genius? I have absolutely LOVED her math workstations book, and it has completely transformed my math block. I posted a lot about that last summer and am feeling much better about how I do math. This summer, I sat down and wrote myself some goals on what I want to work on this summer. Reading has always been top of my list, specifically small groups. Enter this book:

Has anyone else ever wondered "What exactly am I suppose to be doing in small group?" or "How the eff do I differentiate for all these students and not go absolutely bananas?" or maybe even "Where have I put my small group books/lessons/word tiles/markers/small sticky note that has super important anecdotal notes about this child who I have a meeting on tomorrow? How have I lost them AGAIN? AHHHHH!" No? Maybe that's just a typical day in my life. I suck at organizing. Absolutely am a hot mess with a hot mess of a classroom. Every year I set goals to NOT be a hot mess.... so here's hoping this year is THE year!

So upon sitting down and trying to figure out my life, here were a few problem areas/goals I wanted to work on for next year:

  • Schedule - How in the world do I get everything in stick to it? And what is "EVERYTHING"?
  • How many groups can I really see in a day?
  • How can I infuse Daily 5/CAFE/Workstations altogether and make it work for me?
  • Can I do one on one conferring this year?
  • How do I hold them accountable for what they're working on in small group?
  • Readers Notebooks?!?! Say what?!?!

If I let it, I could probably keep this list going on and on and on some more. But basically, I came to the realization that I really needed to revamp my reading block and figure out what the eff I was doing. So this summer I am hoping to post about how I want to set up my entire English language arts block (writing included) and get some amazing feedback from y'all.

Now to tackle this huge enormous gigantic behemoth task, sitting down and figuring out a schedule was first on the list. So my teacher buddy came over yesterday and here is what her and I came up with:


What are y'alls thoughts? I struggle so much with staying on time,  but I feel like breaking it down and making sure I cover all the components I need to will help me in the end. And of course flexibility will need to be remembered!! How do your schedules look?

Check back later in the week. Next up: Organizing Small Group

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dusting out the cobwebs

Wow, so when was the last time I posted? Almost a year ago? I definitely had such huge aspirations to keep this going during the year, but once school started, everything went out the window- as always! :) How do y'all do it?

Since it's been awhile, I was hoping to share some highlights from this year, school and personal!

1. I had 26 (27 at one time) wonderful 2nd graders this year. Quite a handful, especially having figured out I had 9 girls.... and 17 BOYS! Haha, talk about a class that kept you on your toes and always moving. One of the most fun groups I have had though.

2. I ran 10 miles (without stopping!!!) in under 2 hours in an awesome race called the Rock N Roll Austin 1020. While running you get to hear 20 bands play throughout the course. Huge feat that I actually was able to run that whole thing! Next goal for January: 13 miles in a half marathon!!

3.  And one of the most exciting things that happened this year was being named my school's Teacher of the Year. Such an honor to have your colleagues think that of you!

And getting a big check is just a cool experience in itself!

My district also took a short video of my class doing the Phonics Dance for a Teacher of the Year video. If you have no heard of the phonics dance, or haven't seen it you should! It's an absolute blast! You can see the video HERE. Just click on the video that says Amanda Wilkie under Baty Elementary. :)

If you're interested in more about the phonics dance, check out my post here about it, and the actual website here.

4. Lastly I am in the process of selling my house and buying a new one. I though buying was hard, but selling and buying at the SAME time?? Super stressful! The whole thing should be done by the end of July... but I am so ready to be done now! Keep your fingers crossed for me it works out!

I'm so excited to be back in the blogging world. I've miss y'all and hope some of my buddies from last summer still remember me! :) My biggest goal: not letting this baby grow cobwebs again :)

Hope y'all are having a wonderful summer. Can't wait to see what everyone is up to, and read about all the wonderful ideas this blogging community provides.

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