Sunday, September 28, 2014

A reflection

This post is much different than any posts I have shared before.  This post will not have cute pictures of my classroom or ideas I've found recently on Pinterest. It's not a Five for Friday, Monday Made it, or Wordless Wednesday. It is however, a reflection and a look back on where I was and where I am now...three years later.

I started teaching kindergarten at a small private school in a job I had thought would be temporary.  Time passes quickly and I had a child, got divorced and 13 years later....I was stuck.  I had applied to countless public school jobs to no avail. No "thanks but no thanks" letter, very little interviews and the feeling of being stuck.  And then it happened.  Three years ago I got called for an interview for a public school kindergarten position.  The interview went great and I got called back for a second interview.  My heart was broken when I was told that after it being narrowed down to me and another finalist, that the other person was chosen.  I emailed the principal and he very politely explained that they had found a better fit.  In hindsight I know that he was right.  Two weeks later I saw another posting at the same school for a first grade position. I immediately emailed the principal and was fortunate enough to get an interview and this happened.  My dream came true.  Aside from getting remarried and having my son, it was the happiest day of my life.  Until...the principal said he would need to contact my current employer-the small private school. This was not going to go well.

I wanted them to hear it from me first.  After having worked with them for 13 years and parents paying a tuition to send their child to my classroom I wanted to do what I thought was the right thing.  I ran out into the parking lot with my cell phone and placed the call.  To say they were angry was an understatement.  I drove straight there and listened to them yell and carry on for half an hour about how I was leaving them high and dry three weeks before school started. It was actually one day shy of three weeks.  How could I do this to them and so on. I was shocked, taken aback and frankly hurt. I knew in that moment that they didn't truly care about me.  They cared about making money and I was in many ways, an easy way for them to do that.  I left in tears.

They never returned my principal's phone call until 3PM that day. I left them at 11AM.  Perhaps it was to punish me or perhaps it was to gossip just a bit more.  I suspect both.  The next day when I came to collect my things the locks were changed.  All of my stuff had been gone through and packed up.  They had taken it upon themselves to rifle through all of my belongings and pack it up.  I was shocked.  I was being treated like a terminated employee. I remember my father holding up a laminated anchor chart that I had made on my living room floor at 9PM one night and he asked if it was mine.  My former boss started screaming that it was hers because it went through their laminating machine and was on their chart paper.  Really?!  I still cannot believe the lack of professionalism, class, and basic manners.

That day I left knowing that I had made the best decision in leaving.  Their actions solidified to me that I had indeed been stuck.  I don't know what I was expecting them to say.  Perhaps "Congratulations, Julie. Although we are disappointed to lose you, we wish you much luck in your new position."  I taught there for 13 years.  My first class of students there went to my wedding and they are now in high school.  My own son attended every classroom there from infancy up to preschool. I considered them friends as well as colleagues.  Three years later and it still hurts. I still keep hoping they'll wish me well. I am learning to accept that won't come.

Three years later though and I am so happy, so fortunate to have my dream job.  I couldn't ask for more supportive administrators. 

I'm proud to be where I am now and though it may hurt sometimes to look back it has paved the road to where I am now and for that....I am very grateful.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

It's all about the apples

It's time for another Five for Friday with Doodlebugs Teaching.

I teach in the middle of apple country.  There are at least 3 orchards within walking distance of my school.  It's pretty beautiful, actually.  Therefore, we make sure we cover apples in our curriculum.  I couldn't resist this purchase that I bought this week from A Year of Many Firsts. I love how it is a great introduction to close reading.  The simplistic text is prefect for fall for my first graders.  However, her product has 3 different leveled texts so its perfect for differentiation.

We used her fabulous product to read mini books about the life cycle of apples and to learn about apple trees during the various seasons. 

We also enjoyed doing a close read about apple picking.  I don't know what it is about highlighters but every time they get to use them, the kiddos squeal with delight.  We highlighted key details and vocabulary from the text and answered text dependent questions.

We also also labeled the parts of an apple.

I love the vocabulary activity in the product too!  We learned about various vocabulary words in relation to apples.  This sorting activity in which we identified the vocabulary word and found the word meaning and picture to match was adorable!

We  had an apple activity day this week where parents came in to volunteer and we had various apple themed stations set up.  Here are a few:

We predicted and estimated weight, measured circumference and predicted whether we thought an apple would sink or float.  After conducting our experiments we recorded our results.

I love how their personalities really came through when they made an apple person.

We worked hard on our Seasons of an Apple Tree book.  We used cotton balls to show the snow on the tree in winter, sticky dots for apples on a an apple tree in the fall, and paint to add pink blossoms to our spring apple tree.

We also brainstormed some apple adjectives.

It is safe to say we are now "apple experts!"

I began introducing capital letters this week and when to use them.  I re-created this anchor chart I saw on Pinterest.

which tied in really nicely with this book:

My implementation of writer's workshop this year is still going really well. In this session, we are learning how to add more details to our illustrations and our writing.

We are continuing to build reading stamina and it's slowly getting better!

We are learning how to choose "just right" books. I have been teaching the kiddos the "five finger method" to choosing a "just right" book. When they choose a book that interests them, they should open it up and if there are one or two words they cannot read the book is good fit. If there are three, they may need help reading it.  If there are four or five words they cannot read, the book is too hard.  We used A Year of Many First's Be a Reading Expert product to determine what is a "just right" book.  I love how she creates fictional characters and creates "real life" scenarios that we can talk through as a class.

 I don't know what the deal is this year but I have been dog tired by week's end.  Usually I have gotten into the swing of things by now and I don't fatigue as easy.  Maybe I'm just getting older.  Anywhoose.....when the hubby suggested going out for dinner I couldn't say yes fast enough.  Here are our little terrors at dinner.  

How was your week?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Five for Friday

I am soooo glad that Friday is here.  It was a long week of Open Houses (mine and my son's) cub scouts- there was something every night.  I'm downright exhausted.  But...since it's Friday, I'm linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching for another Five for Friday.

We are still working on the idea trait (6 traits of writing) and the implementation of writer's workshop.  We have stalled a bit on the "What to do when I'm done" component of writer's workshop as we learn to not only build stamina for reading, but for writing as well.

I use this book for a few lessons on each trait once I introduce them.  They are short mini lessons that really explore each of the six writing traits.

For example, since I am beginning with the idea trait, one of the lessons we did this week from the book was to choose one of 3 writing topics and write a sentence about each topic.

Sometimes, I still give my students a topic to write about such as the example above.  This week, we learned how to use the words first, next, and last after we have chosen a topic, to organize our writing.  We wrote about how we get ready for school.

Each year we celebrate "Dot Day" in my school appropriately named after the book by Peter Reynolds.  If you have never read it, it is magnificent and I love the message it sends to kids.  Never give up.

I gave each student a piece of writing paper with a sticky dot on it.  They created something out of the dot and wrote about it.

Kids love the book David Goes to School. When I saw that A Grace Filled Classroom had a product to coordinate with the book that also reinforces our classroom rules I just had to have it!  It is awesome, ya'll!

After reading the book we made a character map of David.  Students used their clipboards to write their thoughts on David's personality on their own character map.

We also used the sorting cards in A Grace Filled Classroom's product to talk about whether David was making a good choice or a poor choice in each example.  I love how this teaches accountability and responsibility in a fun way.  It really helped to review some really important social skills!  It came with an adorable craftivity that I haven't made with my kiddos yet but it is on the agenda as we continue to review and practice good citizenship.

I can't say enough great things about this product!  Click on the pic if you want to check it out for yourself.

We also learned about Johnny Appleseed this week.  After reading nonfiction text we brainstormed some facts about him and created these adorable knapsacks.  They open up to reveal some facts we wrote about Johnny Appleseed.  This adorableness is from Linda Camp's TPT store.


I love using my SMARTboard for math!  I am lucky enough to have found every Everyday Math lesson online for the SMARTboard and I use it every day!  This week we are learning to compare numbers and the kiddos are using slates (wipe-off boards) to check in.

These number lines from Really Good Stuff come in so handy at the beginning of the year for practice using a number line.  In the above picture, we played with a partner and rolled the dice.  The first player to make it to 20 and back to 0 was the winner.  They loved this!

We are also continuing to focus on short vowel sounds.  We used more of my Sweet on CVC words- short A product to practice and review the sound of short a in the -at word family.

We sorted "gumballs" by real -at word and nonsense -at words.

We loved using highlighters to find -at words in a word search.

Our morning work this week also involved short a. 

All of these short A activities are available in my Sweet on CVC words- Short A product.

I hope you had a great week! 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Close Reading

    My district is beginning to shift towards a balanced literacy approach.  This year I am going to begin with incorporating the mini lessons.  I have observed a few teachers within my district who are practicing balanced literacy in their classrooms and so far it seems really interesting.  Currently, I am using the Daily 5 method and the two models seem really closely intertwined.

 I started using close reading last year. The close reading passage below is by Susan Jones.

This year, I really want to continue focus in with my first graders on reading text more closely.  I really want them to be able to delve into the text and look for key details. This is so important and a key skill for them to learn, especially as they progress in the higher grades and need to be able to pull information from text for discussion, to probe deeper, to analyze and answer questions.  

I have found that my students are not only enjoying close reading, they are truly rising up to the challenge.  Of course, put a highlighter in their hand and they are ready to do just about anything for you!

So what exactly is close reading, you ask?

This is what close reading looks like in my classroom:

I know that close reading helps my students to become even better readers when they learn how to read, interpret, analyze, and discuss text. If you are using close reading in your class I'd love to hear how it is working for you.  If you are new to it, I'd love to know what you think. 

The close reading products below are available in my store if you want to give close reading a try or if you are currently using the approach and would like something new!

I have bundled these close reads together in one cost effective bundle.  You can go to my store my clicking on the picture below.
Happy Reading!