Saturday, July 2, 2016

Schools Out Blog Blowout!

We are so excited to join some awesome bloggers for the School's Out Blog Blowout! We have some amazing things in store for you, so be sure to hop from blog to blog so you don't miss a thing! Thank you so much to Sarah Koves over at Kovescense of the Mind for hosting the hop and for organizing everything! 

Amy here! So each and every summer I like to create a bucket list. Of course I shoot for the moon and usually am able to check off a good chunk of the items, but never all! Maybe this summer is my summer! Here is a glimpse at some of the things I hope to do/accomplish this summer!

1) Take my kiddos to Michigan Adventure. We are Michiganders and I am embarrassed to say we have not made it to this awesome park. My family went every year when I was growing up. I remember going when it was still Deer Park Funland! I can't wait to see my kiddos floating down that awesome lazy river! 

2) Paint my living room. Seems like a small enough task but when I say living room, it really will end up being the kitchen, dining room, AND living room since it is really just one big space. Not to mention it has VERY high ceilings. We are hoping to move within the next year, so it is a MUST!

3) Go with the entire family to a Whitecaps baseball game. We went last year and it was AWESOME! My kiddos had a blast and it was fun for them to experience their first game with my dad. The game ended up having 30 million innings (okay maybe not quite 30 million, but close) so we were not able to stay for the fireworks. This summer, game AND fireworks!

4) Organize my scrapbooking stuff! OH MY GOODNESS!!! Apparently, I have a problem. The problem is, I buy A LOT of scrapbooking supplies but only scrapbook once a year! This means the the supplies just keep growing and growing but the scrapbooks are not. 

5) Take my kiddos camping. This seems simple enough but there is one small problem... I am more of a camp by day and Holiday Inn by night kind of girl. My hubby is the camper and I know he would LOVE it if we all went camping together. My girls would LOVE it. I'm just a little less enthusiastic. I feel like I might need to take one for the team...

Another item on my bucket list is to read more! I want to read more professionally and I want to read more just for fun! One book that I would like to read professionally is The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros. I am committed to changing the mindset of my students and to facilitate the development of thinkers! This book seems like a great way to continue growing in this way! 

Another book I would like to read (but just for fun) is Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarity. I loved her previous book What Alice Forgot and I am excited for her newest book!

I can't think of anything better than a freebie! Wait... how about a hop full of freebies! YES, PLEASE! For this week only, we are posting our September Word Study and Interactive Notebook pack for free! Yup! FREE! All week! This is a new way to approach word study. It gives students an opportunity to look at some of the most commonly used prefixes and suffixes and to practice using them in a variety of engaging ways. This program is designed to give students the information they need to read, write, and understand unknown words. Enjoy! 

More fun?!?! YES! Enter the School's Out Blog Blowout giveaway to win a $100 gift certificate to spend on Teachers Pay Teachers! Good luck!!

School's Out Blog Blowout

Now it is time to keep on hoppin'! Click on the image below to check out OCBeachTeacher to hear what she is up to this summer and to nab another freebie! Thanks for coming by and if you are interested in hearing more from us, stop back soon or follow us to be notified of new posts! Happy Summer!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Trick or Treat Blog Hop

We have been counting down the days to this amazing Blog Hop that we are so fortunate to have the chance to participate in! A huge thank you to Rachel Parlett over at Classroom Game Nook for organizing everything! You are amazing!

There are over 50 bloggers participating in the Tricks and Treats Blog Hop. It doesn't matter where you start, but you will definitely want to make your way through the entire circle of blogs because educators from all over are sharing amazing tips, giving every reader a sweet little freebie as well as the opportunity to register to win awesome resources! After gathering your goodies on each blog, simply click the button at the end of the blog to hop on over to the next!

Mollie and I have loved using stations as a way to individualize our reading instruction. When we redesigned our classrooms a little over a year ago (check out this Classroom Design post to read all about it!), we realized that it was no longer realistic to have designated station spots. It took away the choice of work space that we were eagerly offering our kiddos, it also felt very restricting when we were actually designing our classrooms. we needed an alternative.

We stumbled on the idea of housing all of our materials in binders! It ended up being the perfect solution! We 3-whole punch any graphic organizers or activities we want the students to complete during their station time which allows the students to place the completed activities in their own Literacy Binders.

We use station labels along with student numbers to assign who is in which station. The first person in each group is in charge of grabbing the Literacy Station Binder as well as putting it away.

This has been a compact, organized way for us to continue Literacy Stations in our classrooms without the hassle of finding space for each station.

Now for a sweet treat! For the past three years we have enjoyed expanding our students' vocabulary and word knowledge. We are working to instill a love of words in our kiddos and I dare say they are enjoying it just as much as we are! Check out our Word Study and Interactive Notebook for November. This resource is normally $6.50 but we have made it free just for you this week! We include our November word list but the activities can be used with any words! Enjoy!

If you like the November Word Study pack, you will definitely want to enter our giveaway! We are giving away our Year-Long Word Study Pack! Good Luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now it is time to head on over to the next GREAT blog in our hop! Join Jennifer over at Pages of Grace to find more Tricks and Treats! 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Back-to-School Blog Hop

We are so excited to join The Owl Teacher and several other bloggers to share some Back-to-School tips and resources to start your year off right! 

Mollie and I are always encouraging our kiddos to be in charge of their own learning, to take risks, and to celebrate the growth more than the outcome. We have found that having routines that support this thinking is extremely important so that it is not only on the forefront of our minds but also our students' minds. 

One way that we encourage our kiddos to do these things is to have them take time to self-reflect. At various points throughout the day, lesson, unit, etc. we ask students to share where they feel they are on a scale from 1-4. These numbers come directly from our report card and are posted in our classrooms to help our students become familiar and comfortable with using them. 

One of our goals is to encourage students to focus on their growth rather than their outcome. The idea is that to start out a new math unit at a 4 is perfectly okay! It is where many of us start when we are learning something new. Through time, practice and further instruction we ask students to monitor whether or not they are moving up the scale. We celebrate when someone starts a lesson as a 4 and ends it as a 3. In previous years students would walk away from a lesson feeling frustrated that they had not mastered it, now our goal of making small movement is much more attainable and encouraging. My students have even started saying "I started as a weak 3 and now I am a strong 3!" This attitude does so much for my little guys and gals to feel accomplished and motivated to keep going. 

Here are some close up shots of each of the levels of understanding in case you want to create similar posters to hang in your room! 

We also include this rating scale on things like homework. Here is a math resource we created that allows students to complete a couple of problems (rather than 30 or 40!) as homework as well as share their level of understanding with us and parents. 

It communicates with parents where their kiddo is in any particular unit and it gives us some formative assessment to know where to go next in our instruction. You can check out the entire preview by clicking the pic below!

Enter the Rafflecopter to win some amazing resources!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hop around to the amazing blogs below to collect more Back-to-School tips and resources!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

August Currently

Amy here! I can't believe it is August! Let the countdown to meeting my new kiddos begin!

We are linking up with Farely at Oh Boy Fourth Grade for her August Currently. Here is what I am up to right now!

Listening: I am a soundtrack junkie! A movie could be terrible but if the soundtrack is good, you got me!

Loving: I am a Michigander through and through and I LOVE all of the four seasons we experience here in the Mitten. This summer started out a bit slow in June but July did not disappoint and I have high hopes for some gorgeous weather this August.

Thinking: Speaking of gorgeous weather... I am TERRIBLY behind on my summer to-do list. UGH! With school right around the corner I need to kick it into high gear!

Wanting: I already have the bedding and I am in the process of picking out a new color for the walls. A little overwhelming but SOOOOO exciting to make a change!

Needing: Oh ice cream! We have such a love/hate relationship! Sooner or later I am going to have to say goodbye!

B2S RAK: We have several new staff members starting this year and I am looking for just the right little something to welcome them home!

Check out what some awesome bloggers are up to this month by visiting Oh Boy Fourth Grade and following the links!

Friday, July 31, 2015

What's in Your Cart? BTS 2015 Linky Party

The only thing more exciting than all of the prep for a new school year is an AWESOME Back-to-School sale! Tons of sellers are marking down resources in addition to TPT offering a 10% discount (just use the code BTS15). We are linking up with Speech Room News to share a few great deals from our store as well as to share what we are counting down the minutes to buy!

First up, one of our best deals, our Year-Long Word Study Bundle. This bundle gives you everything you need to expand your students' understanding of key prefixes and suffixes in order to read, write and understand unknown words. Our kiddos LOVE putting together their Word Study Notebook and it becomes a challenge to hunt for words using the prefixes and suffixes we are learning!

Another resource that we can't wait to get started on with our own kiddos is our Publishing S.Q.U.A.D.s pack. We always struggled with how to get our kiddos talking about their writing in a way that actually benefited both the advisor and the advisee! This system gives your students a framework for how to talk about writing. You will be AMAZED at the conversations you will hear them having!

Our best seller is also on sale! Are you struggling to help your students understand Bar Modeling? We were and found that taking our kiddos on a little trip back in time to see how they learned about bar modeling in previous grades helped us to create a solid foundation for building their knowledge of bar modeling. We printed the slides and used them as anchor charts throughout the year. We loved watching kids refer to them as they worked through word problems.

Now for a few resources that we can't wait to get our hands on!

First up, Math Projects from Teaching with a Mountain View. She is AMAZING! We love all of her resources but we are revamping our math this year and we are looking for fun and engaging math projects that get our kiddos applying what they have learned. These are perfect!

Next up, Teaching and Tapas awesome Close Reading Bundle. She is a wonderful writer and we love the way she includes such valuable work in a student friendly format. Looking forward to using these for whole group as well as for intervention.

Last but not least, we are excited about purchasing Color-By-Number For Big Kids from a fellow Michigander, Kristine Nannini. These will be the perfect fit for our new math workshop!

We are so excited for the sale because we feel like it will get us one step closer to being ready for a new year full of fun, growth, and learning!

Happy shopping everyone!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

21st Century Classroom Design: A Look Back

I have been meaning to write this post for a while but we have found so many great blog link-ups and book studies going on this summer that I have not had a chance. Mollie and I did a complete overhaul on our classrooms last summer and got rid of desks! We wanted something completely different that would provide our kiddos with more choice and an environment that encouraged self-directed learning and collaboration. After doing TONS of research and TONS of scrounging (ugh and buying) to get just what we needed to put something awesome together, we finally put together what we felt was the perfect classroom design for us. I have to tell you, a year later, it was exactly that... a PERFECT classroom design for us!

Here are links to the two posts where we give you a sneak peak into our classrooms: Amy's Classroom and Mollie's Classroom.

I've started setting up my classroom for this coming year and to be honest I am changing VERY little. The classroom really worked for us last year and the feedback from the kids was positive. 21 out of 26 kids would choose a classroom design like they had this year over a traditional classroom design. For those that would prefer the traditional design, they said they missed having a desk to "keep all their stuff". I have to say the kids not having a messy desk was one of my favorite things about the design this year!

* Some of the reasons kids liked the new design were:

  • "You could interact with different people and you didn't have to be around the same people all the time." 
  • "You could choose cozy items and they made learning more comfy." 
  • "You have lots of choices." 
  • "I like being able to move a lot. It is hard to sit all day."
* Some things kids would change are:
  • The personal white boxes were not sturdy enough to make it a full year. They thought if they got one at the beginning of the year and then one after winter break, it would be better.
  • The kids did not like the times they had to sit in their home bases. (I'll talk about this more later in the post)
I felt like the kids expressed everything I hoped they would when reflecting on the year. They understood that this year was about strengthening their independence and their ability to think about their own learning. Think about how powerful it will be for these kiddos as middle schoolers, high schoolers and even COLLEGE age students to KNOW exactly how they learn best and to make educational decisions that are best for them. 

So what will I change? I did move my "Math Gear" (new pics to come!) to a different spot in the room. 

I am not done setting up my room but my thinking is that I want to get rid of any obstructions that make it difficult to see kiddos. I moved it to the back wall so that my kiddos were not behind the shelf  and difficult to see. Some of the issues I had with off task choices were behind this shelf so it made sense to move it. :-)

Another change I will make is purchasing two white boxes for each student. These boxes are made out of cardboard so I knew they might not last but I had to give them a shot because they were so cheap! I am still happy with the boxes as a whole but I do think replacing boxes in January will help. My kiddos were rough on stuff in general this year (boy-oh-boy! I lived with three brothers growing up and I never could have imagined how rough kids could be until this year! I love them anyway!!!) so I am going to go into next year prepared with two boxes per kid but who knows! Here are the boxes I buy from IKEA (CAN YOU BELIEVE THE PRICE!?!?!) $1.99 for 5!

Mollie and I had written a grant to purchase the furniture we felt necessary for this design. Unfortunately, we did not receive the grant (they had decided to no longer purchase furniture with the grant money) but we were able to "frankenstein" a classroom that was close to our original design. The one thing that was missing was a place for kids to stand and work. We committed to keeping our countertop cleared off so kids could stand and work there if they wanted however, most kids did not choose that. I don't know if it was because their backs would have been to the rest of the room or if it just felt strange standing at the counter but I am still interested in a space for kids to stand when they are working. I came across these tables at IKEA for $21.99 and I think I am going to buy one to see how it holds up and if there are kiddos who would prefer to stand. I'll keep you posted!

I will not be changing the idea of "Home Base" for my kiddos. I know they said they didn't like sitting in their home base because they liked making their own choices but for me it just meant that home base was doing its job. My kiddos only had to sit in their home base when there was a guest teacher OR if as a class they were struggling to make good decisions. I did not need to utilize this natural consequence very often but when I did it obviously had the impact I had hoped for. I would love to consider ways to have the kids earn not sitting in home bases when the guest teacher is there but I am worried about overwhelming the guest teacher (can you even imagine walking into a classroom with zero desks and learning that the kids just sit wherever they want!!!). This procedure also helped my principal to feel more comfortable with the new design considering when things are going well with a guest teacher, she is the one called in to support.

I have said more than once that redesigning our classrooms was the best thing that I did in my 15 years of teaching and I still stand by that. I can't see myself EVER going back to a more traditional design. Next up... technology!!

We have received great feedback from people who are interested in giving this type of design a try. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to leave a comment here or email us! We are so passionate about this, we would LOVE to talk!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Book Study: Making Thinking Visible - Chapter 3

"Better late than never" is a saying for a reason right?! Things have been a little hectic around here so I have not had a chance to read Chapter 3 from Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison until now! I am linking up again with The Owl Teacher to reflect on this book all about how to create opportunities for kids to not just share their thinking but to SHOW their thinking.

This chapter explains what "thinking routines" are and why they are important to students' learning. As I am sure we can all agree, routines are key to our survival! When our kids know what to expect and what is expected of them, it saves us valuable learning time and our sanity!

The authors broke routines down into three categories: tools, structures, and patterns of behavior. The first way to use thinking routines is as a tool. My big take-away from this section was before giving our kiddos a task, we should determine what type of thinking we want our kiddos to do. Once we know what kind of thinking we want from them, we can select the appropriate thinking routine for them to use as a tool.

The second way we can use thinking routines is as a structure. This is section got me super excited to learn more about thinking routines. The structure of these routines naturally scaffolds students' thinking and helps them to systematically get to higher level and deeper thinking. I LOVE THIS! I am always trying to create opportunities for my kiddos to go deeper and think at a higher level but I am always concerned that if I push them there too quickly, and their understanding breaks down that I won't know where I lost them. A structure that scaffolds allows me to see where my students are struggling so I can support them.

The final way we can use thinking routines is as a pattern of behavior. This section simply explains that incorporating thinking routines into the classroom consistently will help your kiddos develop into true thinkers. In the past, education has focused too much on students learning and understanding the thinking of others without encouraging them to do any real thinking themselves. Adopting thinking routines in your classroom will ensure that you students not only gain a real understanding of skills and concepts but also that they uncover their own thinking about them.

I am so eager to learn more about these thinking routines and start to plan how they will be present in my classroom this school year. Visit back next week as we start looking at routines for introducing and exploring ideas!

Don't forget to check out The Owl Teacher to read about her thoughts on Chapter 3!