Thursday, September 3, 2015

3 Must Have Pins for a Super September

Oh readers, I have missed you, and I apologize for being MIA the past month and a half. We celebrated our 25th anniversary with a family lake trip and when I returned, I helped lead the kickoff of a new collaborative blog, Virginia is for Teachers, with a group of my best bloggy buddies. It was a ton of work, and now, my responsibilities will decrease to one post a month.  I think I can handle that, and whether you're from Virginia or not, I hope you'll drop by.  Here is the link. I blogged on the first of the month about Building Partnerships with Parents if you'd like to check that out.  Otherwise, I may repost on my blog later in the week.

So, my favorite linky is up and ready for September and so am I!  I am excited to share a few of my favorite pins that you can add to your boards too.  I love classroom organization pins, and honestly, I think you can use them any time of year.

This is a great collection ideas for teachers and parents to prepare for the hustle and bustle of a new school year. :) pinned by Jodi from The Clutter-Free Classroom This is a great collection ideas for teachers and parents to prepare for the hustle and bustle of a new school year. :) pinned by Jodi from The Clutter-Free Classroom www.CFClassroom.comThis pin has 40 organizational ideas included in it, and from those 40 ideas, I think this command center is my top idea.  I honestly need that in my kitchen!  The idea can be copied without much trouble with a $13.00 oil pan from the automotive section of Walmart.  I made a focus wall in a similar fashion for my room last year. All you have to do is block off sections for the content you want, adhere magnets to the backs of your posters and such, and add them to it.  Hot glue to your wall, and you're set!

LOVE this dry-erase reading table!  Why haven't I thought of this?  It is on my to-do list for the summer :o): LOVE this dry-erase reading table!  Why haven't I thought of this?  It is on my to-do list for the summer :o)Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables. Great guide on converting your wood tables into amazing whiteboard tables.: Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables. Great guide on converting your wood tables into amazing whiteboard tables.I hope you found a *few* new ideas with that last one, but if you didn't, you might like this one. I expect you'll be heading to Lowe's or Home Depot later this weekend! Chalkboard and whiteboard paints are just so cool!  I love the idea of using these to repurpose your hum-drum tables to make them the perfect "anchor chart",

Guess what??  I'm not stopping with just tables covered in whiteboard paint though.  How about this cool Scrabble board made from magnetic paint, and even regular paint can be used on bulletin boards in place of faded butcher paper.  Ah...who comes up with these ideas?  Love them!

So we've talked organization and repurposing, but another favorite Back to School thing I enjoy is thinking of all the ways I can use things from the Dollar Tree.  I will end with some of the pins I found that have truly useful ideas.  The first were these awesome storage containers.  They just happen to be the perfect size for task cards and playing cards.  I love that the lids have to "snap" closures, and the set I got was 3 of them for $1.00.  A STEAL!
This clever idea is demonstrated with math practice, but I can see using little photo albums with task cards to make distribution quick and easy. Really, anything you'd use a dry erase pen to answer could be placed in one.  For kinders, you might put in name practice or letter formation cards.  
Put magnetic letters and cookie sheets at your word work center!: Put magnetic letters and cookie sheets at your word work center!As a reading specialist, I will always purchase cookie sheets and magnetic letters. Magnetic letters can be hit or miss there, but I did see some at the start of the year here. There are so many great word building activities that can be done with magnetic letters and a cookie sheet.  You can even stick magnet tape on the back of printed gameboards to give the cookie tray pizzazz, and like the tables, spray paint can be used on them too.  
I hope you got a few ideas today, but if not, page down.  There will be a TON more to look at today. Thanks so much for dropping by and just more day!  I'll get you started with tomorrow's face. :-)  

See you soon...
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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Why You Need Parents as Your Partners

So what do you see in the image above? What does it mean to you? Our little people need their parents involved in order to build up the number of successful experiences they have. I had an experience with my daughter this evening that sort of fits this post, so I think I'll share it.

My daughter just discovered this online writing tool that she can use to write and share her writing with others(Writing??  For fun??  Of course!!), and she's brought out her laptop for me to read her updates each day(Really!!).  Imagine if I didn't make a big deal about it and praise her for her skill. She'd likely give it up!  School experiences are the same. We really need our parents to praise and reinforce appropriate behaviors, achievements, and positive efforts.

Today, I'm going to share with you the post I wrote for Virginia is for Teachers. In preparing the post, I found some wonderful freebies teachers and have a few tips you might not have thought of. Since we're just getting started, I'll begin with ideas for the beginning of the year.

Reach Our from the Start

1. Have a communications handout ready to give your parents at your open house or registration day.  This freebie from Mrs. D's Corner is a great find and may be just what you need. Add magnets to the back side for mom and dad to place on the fridge.

Editable Back to School Parent Handbook Flapbook

2. Think about first impressions.  Is the entry to your school and classroom open and warm? Consider posting positive message quotes or posters to express a feeling of care and concern for all students. Some teachers and schools include a "giving tree" in the entry with ways parents can be involved. I love that idea for supplies, but also for ways we can work together.

3. Communicate with parents that each is important to you and that you want them to be a part of your classroom. Have a parent volunteer folder with each parent's name on it that includes a listing of your needs and how they can help.  Be sure to include ways parents can support your classroom at home or after hours too as many will be working parents.

4. As a school, be sure to share information regarding neighborhood and community services that help families. This is considered capacity building, so printing costs can be charged to your Title 1 accounts. This is especially important for ELL populations, parents of children with special needs, and for your economically disadvantaged.

5. Finally, consider using an interest inventory with your parents to get a feel for their interests, goals for their children, and home routines.  Use caution though.  You do not want to come across as intrusive.

Communications...Your Audience is Listening

Weekly newsletters are so helpful in keeping parents informed of homework expectations, important classroom events such as parties, volunteer opportunities, and classroom needs. Parents sometimes wonder what happens to all those supplies we request, and perhaps we need to show them by letting them know what we're doing.

Remember to make telephone calls to just share positives about the children. Coming home to a compliment is a huge win-win for students, teachers, and relationship building with parents.

With today's tech society, why not work it to your benefit. Set up a simple classroom blog or secret Facebook group for school purposes.  Use caution though...only positive information shared and protect privacy at all cost.

During the year, try to build in activities where your students work with their families on a group project, read a book together, or share meaningful family time. It does infringe on your family time, but an occasional meet up at a local park for a potluck dinner or reward outing offers the chance for you to connect with the families.

The next suggestion I just read recently, but I never got a chance to try.  I think it sounds like a great opportunity for the student to feel part of the team instead of two against one. Rather than running the traditional parent teacher conference, give your student a chance to share their work, strengths and weaknesses.  The teacher might choose to excuse the child after his/her part, but I think it might lead to increased effort on work if the child knows it will be part of the conference.

Another important way to connect is to just send random notes home. It doesn't have to be fancy. Kids are happy to take home a post-it note if it's positive.  You might just keep cute stationary for notes on hand. Need to get it done quickly?  No worries.  Email works well too.

Need other ways to reach mom and dad?  Try home visits, a homework hotline, or spotlights in your newsletters. If you highlight a student, you KNOW that one will get home!

What do you do when communications break down?

Watch out for parents who have had negative experiences in the past with their child.  They may feel the need to "advocate" for them right from the start. Find ways to ease those fears by reassuring the parent that it is a new year and new situation, and then set the child up for success.  Give the child leadership opportunities and help him/her form friendships.

If you have parents with limited education or limited income, they may not see why they'd be important or may not feel they have anything to offer.  Find ways to reach out and help them feel comfortable enough to come in.

You may encounter "that parent" that's been challenging all along.  Start early with positives and remember that it's not the child's fault. Involve administration if needed and extend the olive branch often. The child may need extra love and support too, especially if there's stress at home.

For the parents who have children struggling in school, the most important thing you as a teacher can do is to share that you love and care about the child and that you will continue to try to find ways to help the child be successful.  Ask the parent for their advice.  Find out what has worked in the past, and what other professionals recommend. Finally, ask if there are any books or websites that could help you better understand the situation.
Final Thoughts...
  • As you talk with parents, keep your discussions open to allow the parent to give input.
  • Listen attentively to them and echo back what you hear.
  • If you are struggling to communicate with the parent, do not give up. Try another communication method or rephrasing your message.
  • Keep positive, and even if you have a negative to share, reword it to be direct, but sensitive.  
  • Use a problem-solving approach when issues do come up.  *Brainstorm* how "we" can work together to address X, Y, or Z. 
  • Last but not least, you can print this parental involvement poster I created a year ago and keep these handouts from Primary Punch on hand to help your parents help you and your students have an *Banner* year!  (See, I worked in another word starting with B.)  
20 Ideas for Increasing Parental Involvement Poster            Literacy Handouts for Parents

Tomorrow is Pick 3 Pinterest Linky, and I have my post ready.  I love classroom organization ideas, so I'll have several I think you'll love.

Have a great *end* of the week.  Only a few more days!
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What Reading Plans Have *You* Made?

Hello readers!  I shared a post today over on Adventures in Literacy Land that I think will lead to great discussion.  So...what reading plans have you made for the year?  Are you implementing the Forty Book Challenge by Donalyn Miller?  Does your school use Accelerated Reader?  Perhaps you do neither and have your own system in place.  I would love to hear what works for you in the comments below or over on Adventures in Literacy Land.  If you'd like to read that post, you can click on the image below.

In other news...

I am in the process of updating each and every unit in my store.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I am opening and updating them all.  I have made huge changes to quite a few products, added a few new, and have a lot coming too.  I'm splitting my time...1/2 on revisions and 1/2 on new.  Please check any Leo Lionni unit you may have purchased, all products on the first two pages of my store, and the Patricia Polacco units.  That bundle is my focus at the moment.  The units that have received revisions are included in the previews below.






Thanks for visiting today, and I will be back later in the week with an informative post for you.  :-)  
Until next time...happy reading...
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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why I LOVE Using Partner Scripts to Beef Up Fluency AND Comprehension

As a reading specialist, time is critical to student growth and achievement, and material selection is at the heart of that. Interventionists have to be mindful of several things when trying to get the most bang for the buck. Children needing intervention have no time to lose.  Most have lagging decoding skills, lack fluency, struggle with writing (spelling in particular), and because of all of that, miss deeper meaning.  Sound familiar? 

Last year, I had one hour and thirty minutes to teach reading, writing, spelling, and grammar.  That's a tall order, so I had to pick and choose where to focus my energy.  Well, we all know that state testing demands that students have strong comprehension skills and vocabulary, and that's how I came up with this product.
Partner Scripts are like Reader's Theater, but they are for use by two persons. After introducing them, students work with their partner to read multiple times for multiple purposes (like the Close Reading Strategy) to improve reading fluency AND comprehension of the text. The scripts also provide students with quality materials they can use as a center when the classroom teacher is meeting with guided reading groups.  In addition to ease of use, I've also found that the text can reinforce other skills too. Because I have written them, I've been able to weave into the content some of the science and social studies material into them. My students needed additional reading opportunities to improve their retention of those social studies and science standards, so I wrote one to go with the rocks and minerals unit for example.  Finally, partner scripts address the students' need to be social. One of the main characteristics of YA readers is that they crave socializing. They want to talk, so these give them something to talk about and permission to do so.
Day 1:
When I begin using a script, I have the students delve into the topic with a brainstorming activity first. This allows me to see what their schema is for the topic and if I need to fill in or explain to them. I also address vocabulary (typically 5-6 words). The words chosen are tier 2 vocabulary words and content words, and we spend time discussing them (what they mean, synonyms, antonyms, and usage). Once we've done the introduction, students are paired and read it for the first time.

Day 2:
On the second day, we begin to focus on comprehension.  Students are asked to mark important parts during reading (using Close Reading Marks...? * !), and as a post reading activity, I ask a few text dependent questions that the partners can work on together. The questions require extended responses (2-3 sentences). 

Day 3:
By the time the last day comes, the students are becoming more familiar with the plot, and they're able to read with ease.  Students reread and add any additional text marks for content they may have overlooked.  The post reading activity is a response to reading writing prompt, so students use what they've read as part of their story or essay.  
I have completed approximately fifteen scripts for the upper grades, and this summer, I created a few for younger readers for mixed ability pairs.  To preview them, just click the images below.  

Would you like to see what one looks like first?  Here's a freebie for upper elementary and one for primary.
    Partner Script for Young Readers

Thanks for visiting today, and if you have a topic you'd like me to develop a script for, please share it in the comments.  Hope you have a great start to a new year!

Until next time...
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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Five Ways Parents Can Make a Difference This Year

Last week, I came across a blog post called Why Your Teacher Is Asking for 45 Glue Sticks, and I loved it. You see, last year, I think I bought about 300 pencils for my students to use, and I do not believe I had many left. Where did they go?  I'm not quite sure really.  I just know that we had to have them, and that's just one item. We also used tons of post it notes, highlighters (in all colors to color code information), dry erase pens, and so much more. Well this post got me thinking about how parents support their kids, and about other ways they can help us make this a phenomenal year, and it will be, right?  So, here are just a few thoughts I have on parental involvement. I hope you find these tips helpful as nothing is more important than helping your child be successful from the beginning and throughout his/her educational journey.
Make Expected and Unexpected Appearances at School

Children want and need to know that school is a high priority to you, and when they feel this, the level of concern for their work, their effort in class, and their behavior is raised. They want YOU to catch them doing well. If they know you are coming, of course they are at their best, but we need that all the time. Plus, this gives you an opportunity to see how your child is learning and what is expected for his/her grade level. Drop in lunch dates are always lots of fun and only take 20-25 minutes of time. In fact, if you have an interest in tutoring, you might even check about running a lunch bunch book club.  

Ask Your Child's Teacher if he/she Needs Your Help
A teacher's job is challenging and exhausting.
Most days, teachers barely get a bathroom break or lunch, and there are always materials to cut out, work to display, or most importantly, children who need tutoring. If you have the time, there is always room for you to help in some way. This too shows your child that his/her education is valuable, and just think how helping a young child read will make you feel.
Take a Moment to Review Papers with Your Child
Have you ever gone through a child's backpack and found bundles of papers in a wad from three months ago?  Most likely those papers came out of your child's desk after a classroom desk cleaning. Sadly, the review time was lost because the work is so old. If you make a routine of going over checked work together, then you will get an opportunity to reinforce great effort and achievement and correct errors. Plus, there are often very important messages sent home that you may miss!  If you do not see papers, be sure to ask your child's teacher.  There may be an issue to resolve.
When your child is working on homework, guide him/her, but do not correct every error he/she makes.  

It is pretty easy to see when a parent watches over homework and when the child is working independently without the parent around. Believe it or not, some parents believe that doing the child's homework for them is helpful. Sadly, it means the child misses out on the necessary practice. When your child has homework, supervise, but with some distance to allow your child to figure it out on his/her own when possible. If the child truly needs you to model it for him/her, then give some direction, but again, do not do it for him/her.  Kids do need supervision with homework though because some children need help to stay on task.  Without supervision, some will sit forever and not start. That just frustrates everyone.  If you find your child is completely lost with the work, then let the teacher know so that he/she can correct the errors and help. Keeping a regular homework routine
helps your child build stamina and helps him/her work out the kinks with skills he/she is learning.

Make Reading a Routine for the Whole Family

Want the most growth possible for your child this year?  Of course you do!  If that's the case, let him/her see you reading, writing, and doing math, and set aside time where all electronics are turned off and everyone reads. Can't do that?  Then, make sure books are carried along wherever you go so you are prepared for reading at any time such as when you're at the doctor's office, while you wait in the drive thru line, or when you're traveling around town on errands. Every minute counts, and if you challenge each other on the number of books you can read this year, you will see that your expectations will be far exceeded.  By next summer, that routine will be in place, and Summer Slide will NOT be an issue for your child.  

Have a wonderful back to school, and I hope that your child blossoms this year.  (and I hope the same for my own too. :-)  

20 Ideas for Increasing Parental Involvement PosterFor more thoughts on Parental Involvement, check out this freebie I put together last year. Teachers might print and keep it handy, but parents might see ways to get involved too.  

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