Wednesday, August 20, 2014

First Year Flashbacks...

I am linking up with one of my blogging buddies, Laurah at The ESOL Odyssey to share my reflections on my first year of teaching.  Wow, what an amazing journey it was.  That year will be treasured forever as a huge time of finding myself and growing as a teacher.  

What age group and subject were you teaching?
At the time I graduated (1989), jobs were hard to get in the State of Iowa.  I graduated from Iowa State University with good grades and strong recommendations from my cooperating teachers. Still there were 200+ applications for every position I applied for.  I decided to get brave and apply a long way from home.  I was hired for a fourth grade position in Superior, Arizona, a small mining town about 45 minutes outside of the Phoenix area.  

What was your first classroom like?
My first classroom was amazing.  It was a large room that opened straight out to the playground. All of the rooms were accessed from the outside (maybe 6 classrooms long) in a rectangular building.  A long hallway ran through the middle of the building which accessed classrooms from the inside too...a design that actually worked quite nicely.  

My class included 19 Hispanic children and 1 Caucasian child.  All spoke English, but for many, Spanish was the primary language in the home.  I loved every minute with my little group.  We had amazing parties and our potluck teacher meals were to die for.  School lunch was catered by a local Mexican restaurant (yum!).  Not kidding!  

Were you given supplies or materials?
I was given some supplies, and I started with leftover books in my classroom library. I was fortunate though to have access to a well stocked library and to have had a teacher retire the previous year where I student taught.  I snagged lots of her giveaway items.  The previous teacher in my room also left me a few things as well.  That year, I made quite a few decorations for my walls, etc.  

What was the hardest part of your first year of teaching?
I think the hardest part of my first year was being away from home.  I was 25 hours away from all those I loved, and about a month into school, I got engaged.  I flew home to see Joe and my family on holidays and special family events (4 times that year I think), and each time, I cried when I had to leave.  The beauty of being there that year though is that I really focused on being a good teacher.  I spent my evenings planning and prepping.  What else was there to do, right??  Because that part of Phoenix is not hopping with people right out of college, I found it hard to meet new people.  I was a little too shy to just go show up places and start up a conversation, but I survived and still have fond memories of that time.

What was the best part of your first year of teaching?
I think the best part of my first year was just getting to know the families, bonding with my students, and collaborating with my fellow teachers.  I really enjoyed the cultural experience and flavor of the area.

What do you know now that you wish you knew that first year?
One thing that would have helped me tremendously would have been to know Spanish.  As hard as I tried to reach out to my families, not knowing their language did cause a barrier to communication.  Technology would have been tremendously helpful as a bridge to improving communications had we had what we have today.  Even if it is a rough form of communication, the ability to use tools like Google Translate help us to reach out to those who speak a different language.  

I am so thankful I had the opportunity to travel to Arizona and be on my own that year. I grew so much.  I learned to appreciate each child's unique situation and gifts. When many come together from different walks of life, we all walk away stronger and more empathetic to other.  

Last week, at an inservice, our Director of Curriculum and Instruction shared this short Ted Talk video from Rita Pierson, and I found it so inspirational.  I hope you will too.  

I hope all my readers will be champions for their students this year.  Have a wonderful back to school, and please come back Friday for a little more hopping fun with my literacy loving blogging buddies for our Blasting off a Great Year hop.
Feel free to pin and share with your friends!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Winner, Winner...Chicken Dinner!

Well, all the courses have been served, and what a week it was!  I feel like a slug after all that feasting, but alas, there are prizes to award.  Drum roll please...

$25.00 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Certificate
Nikki S.-4th Grade Teacher

$25.00 Target Gift Certificate
Alicia B-MS Special Education

I Teach! What's Your Superpower? Apron
Deniece F. 
Becky F.
Winner:  Carmen B
Winner:  Alyson H.
Winner:  Emily L.
Winner:  Andrea L.
Winner:  Heather M
Winner:  Elie Z.
Winner:  Caitlyn B.
Winner:  Claire 
Congratulations to all of the winners, and a big thank you to all of you who donated products for the giveaway. I hope that you'll check out their blogs and stores for ideas and products you may need.  Thank you, readers, for making blogging such a rewarding adventure.  I absolutely love the cyber professional community that has developed through it.

Have a wonderful return to school.  I'll be back to blog again in a few days.  (I need to focus on getting ready for my students.)  Before I sign off though, you get another chance to clear out those wish lists because Teachers Pay Teachers decided to offer a Boost sale for those last minute must haves since the big sale was early.  Mark your calendar and use the code BOOST to get an extra 10% off.  My store will be 20% off for the day.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cooking Up a Great Year

Welcome to the Cooking Up a Great Year Hop!  We are so glad you dropped by.  We hope to stir up a little excitement for the year by sharing a feast of yummy activities you can use in your classroom. My bloggy friends and I have worked hard to prepare interesting posts filled with a variety of activities and tips for you. We'll be sharing ideas from cooking in the classroom, to cooking chemistry, recipes for those long school days to recipes on how to get the most out of your students this year.  We know you will enjoy the great menu of fun we have in store for you. Below, you'll find the list of participating blogs who are ready to serve you.
Graphics by Teaching in the Tongass (
While you are visiting, be sure to tip them with comments of what you like and perhaps feedback on any freebies that are shared.  Everyone loves tips, right!!

Now on to my tips.  You may not be aware, but big things have been going on all week here at Comprehension Connection.  Very generous bloggers have shared a LOT of great prizes to help me celebrate 1000+ Bloglovin fans and 10,000+ Facebook fans, and I have been sharing tips all week to wet your appetite for the great stuff being shared in our hop. If you'd like suggestions on cooking with K/1, you can check out Monday's post [here].  It includes two book lists for cooking with little people and quite a few freebies developed by other TPT sellers. 

Click Here to Download
Tuesday's topic was fluency.  Second grade is the year to really target fluency, but we continue to address fluent reader skills until the student is well, fluent!  [Here] is the link to that post which included this poem I wrote for repeated readings and phrasing practice.  I love to box, highlight, and underline new vocabulary, sightwords, and phonics elements. I thought it turned out well, and I hope your students will enjoy it too.  You might follow it with the writing prompt below.  
Click Here to Download
Wednesday was dedicated to writing and fourth/fifth graders.  I shared a variety of mentor texts and a writing activity.  [Here] is the blog post link, but you can download the writing set by clicking on the image to the left.
Fresh Baked Comprehension-Graphic organizers for fiction
Click Here to Download
Finally, {yesterday} featured Fresh Baked comprehension materials and an assortment of goodies for Middle School and Clip Art.  Wow...what a celebration!  Guess what?  It isn't over yet.  You can enter all of the raffles up until midnight on Sunday, so after the hop is over and you've recovered from all the tasty treats you're about to enjoy, come back and place your entries!  

Graphics: Teaching in the Tongass
Graphics:  Teaching in the Tongass and Sonya DeHart
As you go through the hop, there are a few things to watch for so you do not get lost.  We're using the next stop button to the left for the next stop, and if you get lost, look for the button to the right which will be linked back here. You can use the map below to reroute if needed. 

Graphics by:  Teaching in the Tongass
Finally, we have joined together to offer a few fun things.  We just learned that August 20th is going to be another big sale day at Teachers Pay Teachers since some start school later and may not have been ready to shop quite yet.  We have one $25.00 gift certificate that will be given to one lucky winner. Two winners will receive these awesome aprons which will make him/her the envy of the whole building. Who wouldn't want an "I teach.  What's your super power?" apron?  You could probably wear it backwards like superman/woman too if you liked.  Finally, if all else fails, we all love to shop at Target, so it appears we have something for everyone.  
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Graphic by:  Enilighted Elephant
I believe you are set to go.  Chef Andrea is waiting for you next door at Chez Reading Toward the Stars where your next course is ready.
Graphics from Teaching in the Tongass
Until next time, happy dining!


    An InLinkz Link-up

Today's Course-Desserts for Middle School, Clip Art for Anyone, and Comprehension for All

Wow, what an exciting week it has been so far!  I am so humbled by the generosity of my blogging buddies near and far who have contributed items to make this giveaway a tasty success!  Thank you so, so much!  I know each winner will be thrilled, but I'm hoping the tidbits I've shared will give you a little "food for thought" to kick that year of yours up a notch (I just had to say that!).  

The focus for today's post is about getting gourmet quality comprehension.  Yesterday, I talked about how reading and writing go hand in hand, and about how using mentor texts to model the Six Writing Traits helps children develop their own writing style and voice.  Quality literature and informational texts are the key to building the schema that students need to be able to express themselves in their own unique way.  Like writing, reading requires foundational skills as the ingredients to real reading. Students need alphabetic knowledge, decoding skills, fluency, and word knowledge to put it all together for comprehension.  Each foundational skill is like the ingredients of bread, and without proficiency in each, student comprehension is like bread without yeast.

As you begin your year, whether you are in primary, the middle grades, or middle school, take a hard look at each child's foundation. You will find the missing or lacking "ingredients" by analyzing the following:
  • Spelling- (Yes, spelling is very, very important. It shows the teacher what a student understands related to phonics rules.) Pay attention to spelling within writing samples in particular.  Many students can memorize for a week, but it is within the application of spelling to writing products that you learn the student's understanding of phonics rules.  Take note of what the child knows, uses, but confuses, and is lacking.  Teach what he/she is using, but confusing during conferencing times, mini lessons one-on-one, or in small group.
  • Writing-Look for the student's usage, knowledge of sentence structure, and use of punctuation/capitalization.  Is the child able to formulate ideas and transfer them to paper?  Does he/she struggle to keep to a central idea?  If so, it is likely that they need help with this in their reading too.
  • Comprehension-Discuss with the student both text dependent questions and inferential questions to determine whether the child gets the gist of the reading.  Sometimes lagging schema negatively impacts understandings. Students also may need help with text format or skill work.
  • Oral reading miscues and fluency-Listen and take running records to observe whether the child has appropriate pacing, expression, observes punctuation, is accurate, and phrases appropriately.  All of these are necessary for reading to be considered fluent.  If a child monitors their reading accuracy, rates may be lowered, but comprehension may not be impacted greatly.  See the chart to the left for recommended rates by level. When the student is disfluent, the teacher should select a lower level text.

Click Here to Download
I have found this reading behaviors checklist very helpful when working with my students. You might download the freebie checklist and print one per child to use as you listen informally to your students' reading.  It's helpful to reuse throughout the year as part of progress monitoring.

Now, I think that's enough comprehension talk.  Let's get on to today's giveaway.  With this collection, the winner receives some amazing prizes including a mix of units for middle school, Back to School activities for a broad range of grades, an amazing yearly planner, decor items, and some great clip art sets...close to $65 in value.
Click Here to Download
Now, before you go, I have a sweet treat using a yummy set of clip art from The Meek Moose.  Heather's clip art and materials are aimed at older students, so you MS teachers may want to give her store a good look.  I love her kids clip art as they have a more mature style perfect for more sophisticated viewers.
Thank you so much for joining in my celebration this week, and be sure to come back for a hardy meal of great teaching goodies for the new year and beyond!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Table is Set and Ready for Readers to Dig In!

Graphics:  Teaching in the Tongass and Pretty Grafik

Do you hear the dinner bell ringing?  Can you picture the table being set and ready for you?  Do you smell the aroma of fresh grown flowers as the center piece?  Well, you are in the right place then because dinner is served!  The main course today features goodies for the 4th and 5th grade teacher as well as something special for the writing enthusiast that may be stretched higher or lower to meet your students' needs.

Writing in my classroom focuses on the Six Traits of Writing  (voice, word choice, ideas, sentence fluency, organization, and writing conventions), and the way I model these traits is through the use of mentor texts. As I plan my writing assignment, I pair it with mentor texts that will stimulate the ideas, organization, vocabulary, and format that will lead to better papers in the end.  As we know, reading and writing go hand and hand.  If you are having students write to explain how to do something, then sharing how-to books helps students grasp the format and type of language they need to use to clearly explain the steps.  Read alouds also may help students who may lack the descriptive language required to explain more vividly.  Here are a few books I have used with food related themes, but the list is quite long on Amazon.  By just scanning through classroom libraries, teachers are sure to find a large stack that ties to the theme of cooking.

Once you've chose a few books, perhaps this set will help guide your students through discussion and comprehension followed by the paired writing task.  This set is free through the duration of this celebration and blog hop.  After that, I will return it to the regular price.  I hope you enjoy it.
Graphics by:  Teaching in the Tongass
Here are two other products from Teachers Pay Teachers that you might use as well.  Both were nicely done and are in my files. :-)  
Cooking Up Small Moments - Personal Narrative Writing
Free during celebration week only
Recipe for Success! A delicious way to start the school year!Homeschool Recipe Worksheets: Cooking with a Purpose 

Now, on to the big news for today, and that is today's raffle.  There are two prize packs for today. The first, valued at $65.00 includes a winner's choice item from each of these 4/5 teacher bloggers and a $15.00 winner's choice item from Comprehension Connection.

The second prize pack, valued at $75.00, includes the items listed below from each teacher blogger.  These products are amazing, and your students are sure to enjoy them all.

Come back tomorrow for Middle School and Clip Art (as we move toward the desserts!)  The big blog hop will begin on Friday promptly at 8:00 AM EST.  Have a great day readers and thanks for dropping by.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Today's Specials-Fluency and Goodies for Second and Third Graders

Graphics by:  Teaching in the Tongass

Welcome back for day two of the Cooking Up a Great Year Giveaway and Celebration!  Today, I'll be featuring specialties from some very talented second and third grade teacher bloggers and a hint of fluency from me to you.  I'll start off today with my contribution. 

I love using poetry to work with my students on fluency skills.  You can quickly address phrasing, observation of punctuation, decoding skills (which impacts fluency), pace, and expression through modeling and repeated practice.  Words that may initially be challenging to decode are worked out with repeated reading, but unlike the pages of a book, children do not seem to mind rereading poetry.  With all poetry I use, students work with it multiple times.  We use highlighters to mark phrases and pencils to box vocabulary and underline sightwords. With repeated reading, you will observe increased pace and better observation of punctuation.  In fact, one way to finish working with a piece is to do a recorded reading.  What a fun keepsake that would be for the end of the year!

With the poem I am sharing, you could use it in multiple ways. Students could partner up for a paired reading followed by a discussion of how to make the year extra special. It could also be projected on a smartboard for choral reading and group work with the text. Teachers may also have students create their own couplets about school themes or write a "How-to" set of directions for a wonderful school day.  (You will have to come back for that later. Hint!)  This poem is an original I created  in honor of this celebration.  I have recently developed an interest in writing poetry for my students, and this will be a fun one to use as I kick off the year.  I hope you enjoy using it. (if you do)

If you are not a fan of my poetry, that's okay.  You may have luck with some of the giveaways below. 

The first prize pack is a collection of Winner's Choice items.  Each seller in this set will let the winner select an item from his/her store that is less than $5.00.  In addition to the winner's choice items from these donors, I am also adding in my Poetry for your Pockets bundle (a $12.00 set) making this prize package a $72.00 value.  

Prize pack #2 contains a collection of 10 different units geared toward the needs of a second or third grader plus the Poetry for Your Pockets poetry bundle from my store.  This prize pack is valued at $65.00.  

The final prize set includes a winner's choice item less than $5.00 plus a $15 or less winner's choice item from Comprehension Connection.  This prize pack is valued at $65.00.  
Winner's from these giveaways will be announced Monday, August 18th and entries will be accepted through Sunday, August 17th at midnight.  Good luck to you readers, and come back tomorrow to check out what's in store for the main course!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Celebrating with a Gourmet Menu of Learning Fun

Graphics by:  Pretty Grafik and Sonya Dehart
What a fun week this will be!  Comprehension Connection is now over a year old (even though my first post was in 2012) and is 1264 followers strong.  That is just crazy to me.  I'm just a reading specialist with a love of sharing ideas (and learning) new ideas, and it has been such a wonderful journey connecting up with so many amazing teachers (classroom and reading) through the process.  I have truly enjoyed forming new friendships, and I've even been able to meet quite a few in person which brings back memories of *wanting* to meet my penpals, but actually getting to do it.  
Graphics from Teaching in the Tongrass 
Here's what's on the menu...
Well, I have some great things in store for my readers this week as I mentioned.  Each day on Comprehension Connection, I will be sharing something I've cooked up along with a course of my Giveaway Menu.  Today's course has lots of goodies to wet the kindergarten and first grade teacher's appetite.  

There are three prize packs on menu for today.  The first pack includes all winner's choice items from each store. The winner will be able to select an item valued at $5.00 or less from each donor's store and a $15.00 or less item from my store.  The second prize pack is a collection of products that the donor has chosen from his/her store to share with the winner.  I am also including in this pack the fall edition of my Concept of Word Poems which are perfect for the K/1 age.  The final prize set includes 12 winner's choice items and 2 donor choice items along with COW poetry set I am donating in prize pack #2.  How is that for the appetizer round? 

Now, I just mentioned the appetizer round, right??  That means there is a lot more to come, and of course, we will end with an amazing dessert to help our readers kick this school year up a notch!  24 bloggers are joining me on a "Cooking Up a Great Year" blog hop filled with cooking themed ideas you can take straight into the new year.  We are SO excited as our hop includes great prizes too!  Now here are today's prize raffles which are open all week.  The winners will be determined on Sunday and announced Monday.  

Before you go, I said I'd share a little something each day, and since today is Monday, I am going to share Mentor Texts you might use for a cooking theme.  My blogging friend, Emily at The Reading Tutor/OG runs a weekly linky party for sharing mentor texts devoted to a particular reading or writing skill, and I just love it because it gives me a chance to become more familiar with new titles, gauge appropriateness for my readers, and learn new ways to use them.  Whether you're a reading specialist, librarian, or classroom teacher, it is especially important to know books.  Matching books to student interest is a great motivator.  It forms a bond between you and your students too.  My kids LOVE to tell me about their favorite parts as well as what they hated about a book, and by knowing books, I can make informed decisions on recommending to kids and parents.  Here are my choices and a little blurb about each.

Of these books, I'd like to highlight a two of my very favorites.  The first on my list is One Smart Cookie by Amy Rosenthal.  Her books are just wonderful for vocabulary development and life lessons.  For young readers, it's important to read books at a higher level to develop word knowledge and usage, and with this book, not only will students get lessons on social skills, but they can relate to cookie making too.  Kids love to make cookies and eating them! Making homemade cookies is an experience some children don't get to have often, so why not make cookies with your class after sharing this lovely book.  Amy's other titles are featured below, and each is a must read to and with your classes.

Here are a few cookie themed freebies I found that readers might tie in with these wonderful stories.
Cookies and Milk Contractions MatchCookie  HOW TO /Procedural Writing FREEBIE!Gingerbread Catch that Cookie Free Literacy and Math Activity

If you want something healthy to balance out your cookie making, why not go with soup?  There are a large number of children's books that deal with soup including Growing Vegetable Soup, Chicken Soup with Rice, Mouse Soup (discounted in my store today as part of this post...$2.00 deal), and Pumpkin Soup. Some of these are classics that often get forgotten.  Stone Soup by Ann McGovern has been around for 30 years, and sharing it along with other old time tales such as The Little Red Hen and The Princess and the Pea would be great fun too.  Teachers can even share multiple versions of Stone Soup.  Amazon carries Stone Soup by four additional authors.  Here are soup themed freebies for you to enjoy.
Stone Soup Sentences ScrambleAlphabet Soup Beginning Sound MatchYuck Soup Snack & Class Book {Simply Kinder}

Be sure to drop in tomorrow to catch lessons for second and third graders as well as more great giveaway opportunities.  The Rafflecopters will be open all week with entries taken until Sunday night along with the big event this weekend, so be sure to visit daily so your sure to catch all the great information.  By the end of the weekend, you will know more about cooking in the classroom and at home then you ever thought you needed. Sad to say, I'm not giving away a personal chef. :-) 

Thanks for visiting, and until next time...happy cooking!


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