Friday, May 30, 2014

New Literacy Stations

With the school year winding down (and testing being over!), my students had some time to collaboratively enjoy reading stations based on the novels they read with me in small groups.

These stations are now available here on my TpT store!

New centers include:

A chronological order sort for The Son of Neptune with an included answer key. 

 Including answer keys was one of the things I revised this year after seeing what a difference it made with my own small groups.  Instead of being interrupted to referee on events, I would simply hand them the answer key when they were done so they could check themselves.  Some groups could handle having the answer key at the beginning of station time, but some needed time to try the center without being tempted to look at the answers right away.  

The second center is for Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter.  

Students will separate out characters and descriptions to fit the appropriate magical camp.  My students loved doing this center and even though they'd read different novels (some read the Lightning Thief while some read the Lost Hero), they could still work on the center together!

Additional centers will be posted over the summer, I just need to move first!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

New Guide

Rick Riordan is my new favorite author.  I just finished reading The Son of Neptune and absolutely loved this book.  Rick Riordan's writing is drenched with sassy commentary from the characters and provokes many literal laughing out loud moments.

My boyfriend made the mistake of asking what the book was about...he got a fifteen minute synopsis of the Rick Riordan universe instead of a brief retelling.  Sorry babe...but don't ask about a book if you don't want a long explanation!

My teacher guide is available here and corresponding centers will be up soon!

Lucky for me, there are sequels:

Even luckier?  They were buy one, get one free at our Scholastic book fair this week!

Even though summer break is days away, I will still be reading books and prepping materials for my students next year.  I love that I get time to read :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

What a strange feeling.

There are two weeks of school left. 

 If we're getting technical, there are six and a half days with students, plus one day to clean out my classroom.  The end is in sight!

This year has been the most challenging of my career.  I've definitely grown as an educator, mostly in part to the amazing team I'm privileged to work with.

It's a three day weekend.  My lesson plans are done until August.  I have nothing to grade.  My report card comments are all completed.  

I have no work responsibilities until Tuesday morning.  This is a very strange feeling.

So I will be spending finishing up The Son of Neptune so I can meet with my final groups on Wednesday.  I'm just glad I get to spend some quality time reading without feeling guilty for procrastinating about work!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Does it make me a bad teacher if I say no?

My small groups are wrapping up now that our end of the year count down is in single digits.  I'm giving my munchkins the weekend to finish up their novels and having our reflective end of year conversations about how much they've learned.

Today I was asked something I've never been asked before.

One of my girls asked for summer homework.  

I'm not talking about a book list or packet of worksheets.  No, she wanted the rest of the Harry Potter series chunked out into assignments with homework questions, for her summer.  She also wanted me to print her copies of my teacher guides so she could quiz herself.

I think I'm flattered? 

Does it make me a bad teacher if I say no to making her homework questions?

I told her she can email me or talk to me on my teacher facebook about the books and that seemed to pacify her desires.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Staff Development Day

Yesterday, I attended my first staff development not at my current school.  After five years, I was ready to venture out and try a new school.  I'm so excited for this change but was super nervous because I don't know anyone.

I arrived early and got to check out my new classroom.  I will definitely need to find more bookcases, but I like the layout! I will definitely use table teams instead of rows, but that's the only major change I'm making.  

I hope the 12 x 12 ft carpet stays in the reading corner!

We then learned about the NEPF (Nevada Educator's Performance Framework), talked about SBAC (standards based assessment consortium, how we'll be tested next year) and went over expectations.  We had some computer based training on our new grading & attendance system but had plenty of time for a team bonding task and lunch.  I also found time to tour the school, talk with the librarian about Battle of the Books, and found stickers to level my books (since we are an AR school).  Overall, it was a very positive and productive day!

I absolutely loved the energy of my new school.  I felt so welcomed, appreciated, and valued as an educator.  I feel rejuvenated as a teacher and that's such a wonderful feeling!

I also get an entire day to shadow my new grade level tomorrow to see how they operate, which is a pretty awesome opportunity! I love learning from others and these ladies seem full of great ideas!  

Onward and upward!

Sunday, May 18, 2014


I just finished grading my students' writing proficiency exams. (Yes, teachers grade these.  No, we aren't paid to do so, it's just something that's expected to get done.)

Some of them did a great job with their expository pieces.  For their task, they were given two short informational articles to read and respond to.  In their responses, they were expected to refer back to the text for evidence and write with a problem and solution text structure.  This was their end of year task.

However, upon grading these papers, I became increasingly disappointed.  This frustration during grading is one of the hardest things for a teacher.  The "I know I taught you this!" runs through my mind quite frequently.  There were lots of careless mistakes by many of my students.  

One turned in two drafts, basically saying pick which one is better.  

One wrote a single paragraph.  Not once in the past ten months of school has a single paragraph been a satisfactory answer.

Several turned in work that wasn't complete.

One used no punctuation whatsoever. 

One wrote "thank you for reading my paper" while another ended with the dreaded "I hope you like it."  Neither of  these are appropriate closings.  We've addressed both of these big writing no-no's on every single paper we've written.  These two clearly didn't listen.

Another decided not to use any paragraphs, another wrote no name, another went completely off topic and the final completely disregarded the audience and wrote as if she was writing to her friends and not a formal piece of academic work.

Not a single one used the sentence stems for quoting accurately from a passage.  The sentence stems we went over and have been using all year were completely disregarded.

This is frustrating as a teacher.  I feel disappointed in their essays.  They rushed and I have to score them lower then I'd like because of their silly mistakes.  This is one of the hardest parts of being a teacher.


It's the end of the year. I'm moving both classrooms and into my first home.  The students are becoming increasingly squirrely with each passing day.  We have one more field trip and a lot of loose ends to tie up. There is simply too much to do and not enough minutes in the day. It's frustrating that I want to give my students emotional closure on their novels and give them time to finish their books, but I'm at odds with others on this view point.  I want to keep teaching as long as possible, but that's not being supported.

Our last day is Wednesday, June 4th.  In my mind, that means I can realistically teach up until Friday, May 30th. I can finish novels with students, retest on assessments, and allow them to do some project based learning about their novels.  With everything wrapped up by the 30th, that would allow me the weekend to grade their final projects and have scores in by Monday the 2nd.  We'd use the last week of school to present our novel projects, sign  yearbooks, attend our awards assembly, and reflect upon our learning for the year.  

However, this is not what I'm expected to do.  Every assessment is supposed to be done, and graded, by the 28th.  The 28th is a full week ahead of when report cards go home.

When I expressed how busy the fifth grade has been, my words were shrugged off.  In the past few weeks, we've had CRTs (standardized testing), the writing proficiency, field trips, Discovery Education testing, KIC (science inquiry project), Aimsweb end of the year benchmarks and I DRA'd seventy children.  Plain and simple, fifth grade had the most work to do.  Not complaining, just a statement of fact.  We've been quite busy. We were not given assistance like other grade levels because sadly, blatant favoritism exists.  I wish it didn't, but the favoritism is running rampant these days and I somehow found myself on the other side.  Perhaps it's because I'm leaving schools.  Perhaps it's because I speak my mind and stick up for myself.  I am not being treated fairly at my work and it's one of the contributing factors for my change in school location.  Regardless of how I'm being treated, I'm doing my best to focus on making the best instructional decisions for my students.  All my choices are made to best serve the interests of those thirty one rowdy fifth graders whom I teach and adore to the best of my abilities.

I wish there was more understanding.  I'm asking for time until the second (which is still days before report cards go home) not because I'm lazy.  It's not because I'm being a procrastinator.  It's because with everything going on, we didn't want to over test our students.  We, as a grade level, felt we would get accurate results by spreading out the assessments (as best we could) and not overwhelm them by testing all day, every day.  I'm asking for more time to allow students to finish their novels and give us the chance to meet about the endings.  I'm not okay with just taking away their books and saying we ran out of time.  That's not fair to my students.  I'm not okay with depriving them of an opportunity to share about their novels and reflect on their learning throughout the year.  I 'm not okay with skipping the "how we've grown as learners" end of year reflection.  

My choice is to keep teaching as long as possible, even if it means I give myself an extra long weekend of grading.  

My choice is to provide emotional, literary closure to my students.  

My choice is to allow them time to share about their favorite books and engage in conversations about reading.

My choice is, to the best of my ability, wrap up our year together with discussions and reflections to help them grow as readers and learners.

My choice is to provide them time to think, write, collaborate, and discuss how much they've grown this year.

My choice is to allow them to feel accomplished and share their learning with others.

My choices are not approved by certain staff members.

It's disappointing that I'm not supported by fellow educators when I'm trying to make the right choices for my students.  

 In the end, my students are the reason I'm a teacher. I'm standing by my choices.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


I love mentoring new teachers. I wish I could be mentor full time, but that's just not in the cards right now.

One of my mentees, another fifth grade teacher, was nominated by our school district for new teacher of the year.  I couldn't be more proud of her!

I met with a new teacher during my prep today.  He just finished his degree and is observing as many teachers as possible.  I have an open door policy, so having another teacher in the room is pretty normal.

He observed phonics, whole group reading, small groups, KIC (science inquiry) and writing time.  Hopefully our super active fifth graders didn't scare him off!

The enthusiasm and eagerness of new teachers is infectious. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Oh geez

End of year chaos seems particularly intense this year.

It doesn't help that I'm moving out of my classroom and to another school, thus requiring a more in-depth cleaning.  I'm also moving from my apartment into my first home, so my life is filled with a plethora of boxes.

In the next month, there's a mere twenty one days of school with students.  In that time, we've got:

-the Nevada Writing Proficiency
-Discovery Education testing
-another reading test
-2 field trips
-career week
-guest speakers on staying tobacco-free
-assessment day
-KIC (kids inquiry conference)
-school carnival

I've also got 3 days of sub plans to make, a room to clean, and report card comments.  Yikes! I don't think there's a normal day on my calendar until June 5th.  

Keep calm and make it til June!

New Novel Guide

Somehow in all the craziness of the end of the year, which is extra hectic this time, I managed to finish another novel.  My students are halfway through this book and will finish before the end of the school year, so I just wanted to make sure I did as well.

While reading and discussing the novel with my youngsters, I created a teacher guide to go along with Lemony Snicket's second prequel to The Series of Unfortunate Events.  In this novel, the narrator Lemony is challenged with another mysterious case of finding the missing brilliant chemist Cleo Knight.

In true Snicket fashion, the book left me frustrated with a whole new set of unanswered questions.  The third prequel, Shouldn't You Be In School? isn't scheduled for release until October of this year.  Oh Lemony, why do you do this to me?

The 20 page teacher guide is available here on TpT!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Teacher Appreciation Week

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week (wahoo!).  I love seeing cute ideas like these online:

But am realistic enough to know that I will probably not be receiving cute things like I decided to make them for my grade level instead!  We aren't feeling very respected or valued by a majority of our students and their families at the moment, so I might as well seize the opportunity to let my work wives know I love them and appreciate their daily efforts.

I will be missing our free teacher luncheon due to a previously scheduled vacation.  My best friend is getting her PhD and there's no way I'd miss the opportunity to celebrate her 9 years of hard work.  I do get to take advantage of a free mini-facial at work and am contemplating if I'm brave enough for this:

Fifteen minutes in line? Worth it.  If the line wraps around outside the building? Definitely not.

I do believe in acknowledging the hard, often unnoticed work of fellow educators.  I know that classroom didn't arrange itself over night.  I know those papers didn't grade themselves and those small groups didn't shuffle themselves to best meet the needs of students based on data by accident.  So thank you, fellow educators, for consistently going above and beyond to provide your munchkins with an excellent education.

To thank you, I'm hosting an appreciation sale:

Visit my store for 20% off May 6th and 7th!

Happy teacher appreciation week!

Narrative Informational Writing

In whole group reading, we've been working on narrative informational texts.  This concept was a tad difficult for our students to wrap their brains around.

The text is informational and designed to provide facts to the readers.  However, the text is also written as a story.  These texts aren't literature because the characters and settings are real people.

We used historical passages from the American Revolutionary Era to help students with this concept.  We chose this because students were already familiar with some of the key historical players and we could incorporate social studies content.

When students were reading, they also had to analyze the text to determine the text structure.  They made organizers in their notebook and I used the social studies readers. 

 I split the class into groups and gave them different sections to read.  

After giving them time to struggle with the text, they met with another group to compare answers.  For the most part, both groups came up with the same answers.

They did really well with this concept! 

Thursday, May 1, 2014


I have a teacher facebook.  It's completely separate from my personal account and it's a great way to connect with families and students.  Every so often, I'll get messages like this: 

This will possibly be one of the hardest things about moving to a new school.  My old students can't just come visit me unless their parents are willing to make a twenty minute drive across town.  

At least I'll be able to keep in contact with them online!  I do love hearing about the books they're reading :)