May Desktop

Happy May to you! So many fun things to look forward to this month-my birthday and wrapping up the school year are just two of them.


Grab this fun background with graphics from Daria Miazhevich to brighten up your computer.  You can click here or on the image below to download the background.


Hope you have a wonderful May!
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Not This But That: Vocabulary Instruction


This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit!

Have you checked out any of the titles from Heinemann's Not This But That book series?  They're bite size literacy versions of awesome.  They're small and each book is under 100 pages from start to finish.  The books in this series are divided into three sections:

Not This: This section is an overview of a common instruction practice.

Why Not? What Works?: The second section of the book focuses on what we know about best practice for the topic.

But That: And the final section focuses on implementation of these ideas in our classrooms.

Here are a some of the titles available:
You can see a full list from Heinemann here and here's an Amazon list if you like getting books in 2 days.  #primespoiledmeforlife

This month I read No More "Look Up the List" Vocabulary Instruction.  It was a huge eye opener.
Know your vocabulary instruction is lacking but not sure how to make the change?  This book is a perfect (and fast) overview of what works in vocabulary instruction as well as what doesn't.

Vocabulary is the red headed step child of literacy instruction and one I don't feel I have a strong understanding of.  I loved this book and think it's amazing resource for getting a quick but deep understanding of the challenges of vocabulary instruction as well as strategies that work.

Why?

Because authentically teaching vocabuary is hard.  Why is it so hard to move beyond look up the list instruction?  "Yet we continue to teach this way.  Why? Like most of us, we default to teaching the way we were taught." Unlike guided reading, conferring, and book clubs, there just isn't a ton out there for teachers on how to teach vocabulary.

Aha Moment

I love this quote.  "You'll learn ways to help students realize that words are something they can acquire and that by learning the right strategies they can be successful, independent word learners."
Teaching kids to be independent words learners > trying to teaching students individual words.  Duh.  How did I never think of that????

I Wish

There was a greater awareness of thinking of teaching vocabulary as multi-faceted.  This book breaks it down into four components:

•Foster word consciousness
•Provide rich and varied language experiences
•Teach individual words (even this is broken into three levels)
•Teach word learning strategies

Reading about the multiple components of teaching vocabulary instruction only confirms even more so that looking up words in the dictionary or using vocabulary workbooks helps us check off the vocabulary box in our lesson plans but misses the mark with our students.

Surprise

The power of self-selection.  In a study on fourth grade students, researchers found that self-selection did not water down vocabulary.  Instead students chose words of greater difficulty, and they learned the words they selected.
Let's be honest, we can sometimes sell our students short.  However, "Choice has been identified as a powerful force that allows students to take ownership and responsibility for their learning.  Studies indicate that motivation increases when students have opportunities to make choices about what they learn and when they believe they have autonomy or control over their learning." (Gambrell, 2011)  It only makes sense that this would be true within vocabulary instruction.

Good For . . .

An language arts or content area teacher.  This book does a good job of addressing the varying vocabulary needs across the curriculum.  Whether you have a language arts focus or are a content area teacher, this book speaks to the vocabulary needs in your classroom.

Wise Words

Know your vocabulary instruction is lacking but not sure how to make the change?  This book is a perfect (and fast) overview of what works in vocabulary instruction as well as what doesn't.

Know your vocabulary instruction is lacking but not sure how to make the change?  This book is a perfect (and fast) overview of what works in vocabulary instruction as well as what doesn't.

Know your vocabulary instruction is lacking but not sure how to make the change?  This book is a perfect (and fast) overview of what works in vocabulary instruction as well as what doesn't.

Know your vocabulary instruction is lacking but not sure how to make the change?  This book is a perfect (and fast) overview of what works in vocabulary instruction as well as what doesn't.
I hope you'll dive deep into vocabulary instruction with No More "Look Up the List" Vocabulary Instruction.  I love the format of this series with and plan to read more.  Any other vocabulary must reads I need to add to my list?
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5 Tips for Guided Reading in Kindergarten

This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit!

I have spent the last month or so working with a guided reading group in kindergarten.  Joining these friends has been the highlight of my day.  They are darling and hysterical and so very fun.
Can't decide if #3 or #5 is my favorite.  5 tips for guided reading in kindergarten.


1. Plan ahead

Y'all.  This is no joke.  Kindergarteners come at you 90 miles an hour.  You need a game plan before the little people come to you.  I can wing it okay, but it's a lot harder in Kindergarten because a large chunk of my mental energy is spent keeping everyone on task.  If you're going to think big picture about your students' growth and where you want them to be, planning is not optional.
If  you're looking to learn more about the how, what, and why of guided reading, Jan Richardson's The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading is an excellent resource.  If you're looking to plan for groups more thoughtfully, I really love Debbie Diller's Making the Most of Small Groups.
The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading is a must!! If you're not sure how to teach guided reading, this book will get you there. Excellent resource for how to plan strategically for guided reading groups.


2. Be ready to change plans

Having said that planning is important, be ready to switch gears.  I had several things I'd planned to focus on with my group of kinder friends, but one thing became glaringly evident: they were not checking their picture based guesses to make sure they matched.  Not even a little bit.  Real conversation:

Me: That's a great guess!  That matches the picture.  Does it match the letters?
Kinder friend: Yes!
Me: You're not even looking at the page.  How do you know it matches the letters?
Kinder friend: I just know.

My lesson focus shifted away from what I had originally planned to work on self monitoring because I know that's a key skill and one that often makes it difficult for kiddos to transition from level 3 to level 4 on the DRA.


3. Become an expert

This is a big one.  And probably the most important one.  There is no guided reading resource you can purchase that will negate the need for you understanding what readers need at varying levels.  What we see on the surface of guided reading books is that gradually there are more words on the page and those words get harder.  There is so much more to know about the needs of readers at these levels.  This book is a must:
Awesome resource!! The description of each guided reading level is so thorough and detailed.
One of the most valuable resources you can own is The Literacy Continuum by Fountas and Pinnell.  And here's why:
Awesome resource!! The description of each guided reading level is so thorough and detailed.

Awesome resource!! The description of each guided reading level is so thorough and detailed.

Awesome resource!! The description of each guided reading level is so thorough and detailed.
Let's be honest-did you even think there was that much to know about a Level D book???  I was shocked about how much is possible with these simple texts.

This book is not cheap, so it's best if your school gets a copy.  If that's not in the cards, then my best suggestion is to watch it on Heinemann.  They run matching online codes when they offer one at a big conference.  My school was able to get 7 copies for 30% list price and free shipping because we purchased online while there was a big conference going on somewhere else.


4. Extend the pattern

Group books are the best! One of the books we read was On the Farm.  It was all about animals that live on the farm.  Each page followed a predictable pattern.
I made a super simple page on my computer, so we could make an In the Zoo book that followed the same pattern.  Each child made his/her own page.  I copied the pages, so each child had his own book.  It gave us a chance to practice listening to and recording sounds, more practice with sight words, and an extra special book to add to book boxes for rereading.

Extending the pattern can happen on the fly, too.  Here was a quick extension for A Hug is as Warm as:
Each child took a turn whispering the word in my ear.  I drew the picture (which gave them a chance to make a prediction) then wrote the word (allowing them a chance to confirm the prediction.)


5. Question Students When They're Right

We as teachers have gotten so good with reading strategies that we're ready to swoop in when kids have trouble.  Only asking does that look right/does that make sense when students are wrong trains them to not think about what they're reading.  They don't need to question it because we're ready and waiting to swoop in when they're wrong.
Instead of confirming a student's correct approximation, ask her if it makes sense, and then if it sounds right.
At first they'll tell you no because they're used to only being asked that when they're wrong.  Your kiddos will look super confused BECAUSE THAT'S NOT HOW THIS WORKS.  You'll probably need to intervene because they'll be busy trying to work out what else the word could possibly be.  The good news is kindergarteners are super flexible and will catch on quickly.


Bonus Tip! Target dollar spot makes it fun.

I cannot overstate how much more engaged kindergarten friends are when you involve a little novelty.  Whether it's little erasers, fun sunglasses with the lenses removed, finger pointers, or whatever nonsense you find at the Target dollar spot, a little engagement goes a long way.
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April Desktop

Hey there!  I'm so happy April is here.  It means summer is sneaking up, and that's always a good thing.

This little bunny is so cute sailing away in his hot air balloon.  I'm ready to sail away to spring and into summer with him!  These darling graphics are from PeaceArtShop on Etsy.  You can click here to download the calendar or click on the image below.


I hope you have a wonderful April!
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March Favorites

This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit!

Hey there and happy almost April to you! Flipflops are here for me in Texas and shorts are close enough to touch!
My new binge worthy obsession, Kendra gets kicked to the curb?, and more in this month's favorites.
I hate cold weather, so I can feel my happy increasing with each degree the temperature goes up.

If you need a new series, The Fall is AWESOME.  It's sneakily addictive.  You think you can stop at any minute.  You're wrong.  The giant bags under my eyes last week from lack of sleep are proof of that.

Aaaannnd Nickel & Suede is my newest obsession.  These earrings are beautiful and weight about -.03 ounces.  I seriously forget I'm wearing earrings sometimes.  The first pair (yep, I immediately ordered more after wearing my new pair for one day) I bought are the matte gold in medium.

To give you an idea of what the medium is like, here's a side by side with some Kendra earrings.  The earring on the left is the largest size and the earring on the right is one size down.


School t-shirts are my jam.  We can't wear jeans except on rarely given Fridays (super sad, and I don't want to hear from you people that can wear them whenever you want.  I can't hear you.  I can't hear you.  I can't hear you.)
Since I can't wear jeans, my I can't deal with life go to is a teacher t-shirt.  My newest one from The Wright Stuff is Picture Books Are My Jam.  How cute is this?

Anyone else a rereader?  It's pretty much the best thing about being super forgetful.  (If you've ever emailed me to ask me to do something, you know this is #truth.)  I love rereading books.  I can only remember that I liked the book and pretty much nothing else.

I reread the Slated series recently.  If you're a YA reader, this is a good one and should go on your to be read list!

And finally, the best thing that happened to me all month . . . .
And yes.  I kneaded it.  And it was glorious.

That wraps up March!  It was a great month, and I am even happier to welcome April, and the warmer temperatures!
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Conferring with Readers

This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit!

Who's ready for this month's professional read?  This year I made a New Year's resolution to read a professional book every month.  FYI-This is the first time I have actually kept a New Year's resolution for more than 5 minutes (probably because they are usually related to me eating less food that tastes really good.)

Conferring with Readers? Who's got time for that?  Well, hopefully you.  This is one of those books that will make you think deeply about what you're doing and how we teach our readers in a one size fits all manner.

Conferring with Readers is the best friend of The Reading Strategies Book.  TRSB is the what, but this book is the how.  A must have for any teacher wanting to teach students through choice and independence.

Why?

I love The Reading Strategies Book.  As I worked with kids on implementing strategies, though, I was left wanting more.  Was I doing this right? How could I better?  I felt like I was shooting in the dark and wanted to know more about differentiating reading instruction for students.

I have decided to refer to Conferring with Readers as the best friend of The Reading Strategies Book and want to dig deeper into conferring with students individually or in groups, this book needs to go on your must read list.

Aha Moment

There wasn't a singular moment in this book that set the lightbulb off.  And that was kind of the best thing about it.  Some books are heavy on ideas but light on implementation.  Too often you're left feeling strongly that the ideas are good but without any clue of how to make it happen in your own classroom.
This book is the HOW.  What it looks like, what it sounds like, why you plan a certain way, how to plan that way, how to manage the structure in the classroom, all the practical parts.
 

I Wish

I wish I had come across this book much sooner.  Sorry previous 3rd and 4th graders.  The third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers are reading this book at my school as part of book club.  I wish that making time and space for teachers to meet to discuss and grow in practice (vs data and standardized testing scores) was something that happened everywhere.  If you're looking for a book club selection to read with a group of teachers, this is an excellent text.  


Surprise

It's not as complicated as it sounds.  If you are already an advocate of the power of independent reading, this book provides a bridge for integrating independent reading with your reading instruction.  I'm not going to say it's easy, but this book shows you how it's possible.


Good For . . . .

Anyone who is in love with The Reading Strategies Book or teachers who want to move towards individualizing their reading instruction but aren't sure what that would look like or how to actually make it work.
I have always admired teachers who were able to run their classrooms this way.  I just couldn't wrap my head around what I would actually "do" with readers in a conference beyond "So, tell me about reading now . . . "  I was pretty confident that wouldn't be successful.  Turns out I was right.  There's more to it, and this book will show you the way.  Conferring with Readers is the How to The Reading Strategies Book's What.


Wise Words



I hope anyone who loves The Reading Strategies Book or wants to move beyond a one size fits all model of classroom instruction will add Conferring with Readers to the must be read list.  It's a practical guide to a typically pie in the sky concept of conferring with students.
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March Desktop Calendar

Happy March to you! I'm so happy March is here. I love spring, and I love spring break even more!

March 2017 Desktop Calendar Free Download • I Teach. What's Your Superpower?

These spring colors are happy and fun.  I love the yellow.  Since I look wretched in yellow, I'm going to enjoy it every day on my computer screen.  These gorgeous graphics are from Futurel on Creative Market.  You can click here to down the calendar or click on the image below.


March 2017 Desktop Calendar Free Download • I Teach. What's Your Superpower?

I hope you have a wonderful March!
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February Favorites

This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my late night random Priming habit! 

Hey hey! Happy almost March to you.  I never have trouble saying goodbye to February because I hate the cold weather.
It's time for February favorites! Read about my InstaAmazing new kitchen tool, my latest bad habit, and more!

February did me a favor this year, and kept it nice and warm in Texas.  Turns out flip flops in February is a real thing.
Number one hands down, no contest, without a doubt is my Instapot.

We've cooked spaghetti squash in 9 minutes (for real), a roast in 40 minutes, chicken tacos in 18 minutes, and pork tacos in 40 minutes (we love tacos, okay?)  It's amazing.  Worried about having room for a crock pot and an Instapot?  No worries, it does the slow cooking thing, too.  And sautéeing.  And yogurt making, but that's way outside our household abilites.


p.s. Don't get too impressed.  I had to Google how to spell sautéeing.

I love this t-shirt I bought from Mindy Mae's Market.  It was kind of expensive for a t-shirt, but since it pretty much sums up my entire life in one hashtag, I felt it was a worthwhile purchase.


My husband and I visited the Holocaust Museum Houston this month.  It was inspiring and heartbreaking and so many other feelings wrapped up in one two hour visit.  It was an honor to learn about the men and women featured in the museum and very sobering to realize how truly horrible humanity can be.


I'm continuing to ease out of my solid color comfort zone (gray, black, and denim-I love you so much!)  This pattern from Loft is so bright and fun.  I didn't grab it the first day I saw it because it wasn't on sale.  Loft consistently puts the whole store on sale for 40% off, so full price is for suckers.  I was polite enough not to say that to the checkout lady when she told me it wasn't on sale.


Shriners Hospital Philadelphia has a special place in our family's heart.  Our older daughter was diagnosed with Scoliosis in 2014.  She needed surgery to correct it, and Shriners Philadelphia is one of the few places in the country that offers an alternative to fusion for kids.  It means we trek back and forth once or twice a year, but it has been worth it.  Our doctor and the staff there are simply amazing.  Now that our second girlie has been diagnosed with Scoliosis, they're keeping an eye on her, too.


It was an amazing 72 degrees in February, so we spent some time out and about.  How cute are they?  Turns out my husband and I make great people but terrible spines.

Who else is ready to say goodbye to winter and hello to March and spring break??

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