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!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Fourth!

We are linking up with Jasmine at Buzzing with Mrs. McClain and MANY other sellers to throw a big sale in honor of Independence Day. 

You can head over to our store and find everything (INCLUDING BUNDLES!) 20% off today and tomorrow! Here are just a few awesome deals that may be helpful as you prep for a new school year (yes the Back-2-School displays are starting to role out at the stores!). 

If you are looking for a way to deepen your students' understanding of words and build their toolbox for identifying and understanding unknown words, this is a perfect bundle for you! Everything you need for Word Study for the entire year! Just print and go!

Now is a great time to set up our Teacher Resource Binder. This resource has tons of forms that will help you to get organized and stay organized throughout the entire year. Head over to our store to see the three different designs to choose form. And the best part? Once you purchase it, you will have updates every school year so you will never need to buy another resource binder again! 

Head on over to our store, Two Nuts Teachin' from the Same Tree and grab some awesome deals. Also, check out Buzzing with Mrs. McClain to find more great deals!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Currently: July

It has been a little while since we linked up with Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade for her monthly Currently blog series so we are excited to be back!

Listening: I love Ellie Goulding (and my daughter Ellie is convinced it is because of the name). I have a playlist on Spotify that I am listening to over and over again! :)

Loving: Jen at Hello Fonts updated her bundle and added several new fonts this month. I LOVE THEM ALL!!!!

Thinking: WHAT HAPPENED TO JUNE!?!? My kiddos are counting down the days to our family vacation and every time they mark a day on the calendar they get excited and I shed a tear. Summer is going WAY too fast!

Wanting: I really need to make a trip to IKEA. It is just sooooo far! I think they need to build one here... although my hubby may disagree...

Needing: I really want to run a half marathon in September but it has been a LONG time since I ran on a regular basis. I totally thought that I would have all kinds of time now that it is summer... think again. :(

All Star: I do love to-do lists and I can rock several at once!

Be sure to stop over to Oh' Boy 4th Grade to check out what other bloggers are up to this month!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Weekly Summer Link-Up: My Favorite Quote

I absolutely LOVE the topics that Monica over at I Heart Grade 3 came up with for the Summer Link-Ups! This week I am sharing my favorite quote! If any of my students are reading this post, they will probably know before I even share it!

If I can help to build the confidence of each and every one of my students and ensure them that their dreams are possible, I will feel as though I have had a successful career.

What is your favorite quote? If you want to read some inspirational posts, hop on over to I Heart Grade 3 and follow each of the links to see what other bloggers are saying is their favorite quote!

TPT Seller Challenge Week Two: Dare to Dream

I love this week's challenge! I am posting kinda late but I really wanted to think about it... what are my dreams related to TPT. What do I hope to accomplish as a TPT seller??

Here they are:

#1: Our Forever Home

My hubby and I picked up our keys on our wedding day 10 years ago this October. This house, our first house, was exactly what we needed and exactly what we wanted 10 years ago. However, it is not the perfect house for us now. We have two little ones (okay, I am a little delusional - they are not that little anymore. :( They are 6 and 8) and our house is just too small for all four of us (and of course our stuff!). I would love TPT to help us move into our forever home. A home that we all choose together and that fits us perfectly!

#2: Travel the World

I LOVE to travel! I would love to take my hubby and my girls on amazing trips to amazing places. I think it is so important to teach our girls an appreciation for different cultures as well as an appreciation for the history and beauty of our country. I look forward to our first TPT trip!

#3: A 2nd Career

Right now I can't imagine not being in the classroom but I do know that I have a love and a desire to develop curriculum and to work with teachers. The beauty of TPT is that I am working on developing resources now! This is a dream that I won't have to wait to fulfill! I would also love to possibility of providing professional development to other educators. Mollie and I presented at the Michigan Reading Association conference this past March and I KNOW that would not have happened if it were not for TPT. We are looking to present again this year and we are going to submit TWO proposals! I dare to dream of a possible 2nd career in providing professional development!

Thank you to the the awesome ladies who put this whole challenge together! Thank you for pushing us to be better and to think big! You are the best!!!

Peppy Zesty Teacherista

Sparkling in Second

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Book Study: Making Thinking Visible - Chapter 2

Today I am back to share a little about Chapter 2 from Making Thinking Visible. I am a bit late but I actually had a couple of work days this week to help prepare some word study materials for our district so I did not have a chance to read and post about this weeks chapter until now.

This chapter, titled Putting Thinking at the Center of the Educational Enterprise, is all about the fact that many teachers have been placed in a position to focus too much on the delivery of content putting the teacher at the center of the educational process as opposed to the student. I found this chapter to do an amazing job putting into words exactly how I have been feeling in recent years. I want so much to help my students to become thinkers and problem solvers but I struggle to create opportunities to develop and practice these skills because I need so much time to cover the overabundance of standards we are expected to cover. This chapter has me so excited to read about a possible solution to this issue!

The solution starts with making thinking visible. When a student's thinking is visible it not only helps the teacher to know what students are understanding but also how they are understanding the concept or skill. There are three ways that the authors explain will help us to get insight into our students thinking.


We have all heard how important it is to ask higher level questions but many of us have also run into the roadblock of creating those questions ahead of time as well as ensuring that the questions we develop are appropriate for what our students need at that moment. The authors suggest three ways to implement meaningful questions into the classroom 1) show students our own interest in topics by sharing questions we have, 2) ask questions to help students to build an understanding of the concept or skill, 3) facilitate a deeper understanding by asking questions that push beyond the answer such as "What makes you say that?"

Taking the time to listen to our kiddos, I mean REALLY listen to them, will help to develop a natural conversation that includes questions that push thinking. In addition to supporting good conversation, demonstrating what it looks like to truly listen to someone helps students to become better listeners.

This is something that I really want to focus on this year. Documenting is not simply recording what students have been doing but it is meant to help move learning forward. I especially love how the authors explain that documenting should come in many forms. The learning community might document using photographs, audiotapes of discussions, writing, drawings, etc. This type of documentation works perfectly with the focus on multiple intelligences in my classroom.

I am so excited to move into the actual thinking routines. It is exactly what I need to explore while putting plans together for next year! Be sure to hop over to hear Tammy's thoughts on this chapter at The Owl Teacher. Come back next Thursday to hear about a few of the 21 routines we will be learning about throughout the rest of the book.