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End of the year linky parties!

There are so many cute end of the year linky parties right now, I just couldn't resist. What a fun way to wrap up the year!

The first one is Resolutions from A Peach for the Teach.

Next up is the Thirteen in '13 linky from A Teeny Tiny Teacher.

It's been an interesting year for clothes for me. I am almost 5 months pregnant and growing like crazy, so pretty much anything that fits is my favorite article of clothing. :) That being said, I'm obsessed with these boots I got in London this past April. Seriously. They are adorable AND comfortable. That's practically the shoe jackpot! 

Okay, here is my dirty little secret: I am really boring. Hubby and I usually wait until movies are out on DVD and we can watch them on Netflix or HBO before we watch them. I know, seriously. We are so boring! But, this year, I did actually see a movie in the theater. As luck would have it, I LOVED it. In typical nerdy fashion, that movie is my all time favorite F. Scott Fitzgerald novel: The Great Gatsby. It was quirky and modernized, for sure, but that is part of why I loved it so much. Fantastic movie.

Without a doubt my favorite TV series of 2013 was Downtown Abbey. Fitting, too, since I am obsessed with all things British. Who doesn't love a good period drama set in the English countryside, complete with lords, ladies, war, and love? So good. 

This is a tiny little restaurant that only has one location- 3 hours away from me no less- but Oh. My. GOSH. It is so good! Hubby and I are both vegetarian, so the prospect of going to a restaurant where we can order anything on the menu is really exciting. It sounds silly, but it's a great feeling! We have plenty of vegetarian restaurants near us in the Boston area, but this little gem in Southern Maine is so worth the drive. We discovered it on a short trip to visit friends, and keep going back because it is SO good. 

I've always loved outdoor running, and a few years ago my hubby go me into mountain biking. Last year, we starting hiking. Well, this year, he decided he wanted to try mountain climbing. Seriously. We're talking, tiny little iron ladders, rickety wooden stairs, cracking hand-pulls, and 1,530 foot climbs. Check out the teeny tiny trees in that picture! We weren't even 3/4 of the way up, either. It was HARD, but it was a lot of fun. The feeling when I got to the top was fantastic.... until I realized I had to get down somehow. Seriously. Remember those tiny little hand-pulls, rickety stairs, and tiny iron ladders? They are even less fun going down with shaky legs. EEK! It was a blast, though. We are totally hooked. 

For our 3rd wedding anniversary, my husband got me this Forevermark necklace. I absolutely love it. :) It's beautiful, he picked it out, and the necklace length is adjustable so I can wear it with any neckline. I wear it all the time. 

Seriously. These cookies. Ridiculously good. No other words are needed.

This post about Class Dojo. Mostly because I still use it all the time, and LOVE it!

We bought our first home on September 30! It's a real fixer, and we still aren't living there... but we love it. We've been working hard nights and weekends to get it fixed up and ready to move in. There have been SO many set backs, delays, mistakes, and frustrations, but we are getting there. We hope to move in by the end of January... but we also hoped to move in by the end of November. :) Fingers crossed!

One of my favorite hobbies is photography. I love taking pictures! I am one of those weirdos who will stop in my tracks and take a picture at any random time. This picture of the Houses of Parliament isn't great technically, but the I will never forget the feeling when I took it. We were in the London Eye watching the sun set over London. Seriously- whenever I look at it I feel happy. :)

This one is a toss up. Either telling my husband that we are expecting our first baby, or seeing him on the ultrasound for the first time. I literally squeaked with happiness when I saw his heart beating. :)

1. Finish renovating our house and finally move in!
2. Organize my classroom files better. I hate having to search for things I made last year just because I did not file them smartly!

My word will definitely have to be change. We have a new house that we are looking to move into, a baby on the way, and my husband was recently promoted. The times, they are a-changin'... but in such a fantastic way.

Simply Kinder is hosting a fun little link up, for no reason other than to make new friends. :) 

So, check them out and link up. :) Happy New Year Friends!

Book Talks & "What Should I Read Next?"

If your darling little students are anything like mine, they have a really hard time making book choices. I use Classroom Organizer (a digital library tracker- TOTALLY love it- check out my review of it here!) so I can easily see what books are checked out to what students, and for how long. Too often, a student has no book checked out or a history of books being checked out for just a couple days. We all know that most students don't read entire books in just a couple days (although there are a few out there that do!), so it leads me to believe that they are starting books and giving up on them. The ones with nothing checked out are even more troubling! You'd think my library looked like this:

Seriously. Isn't it frustrating when they say "I can't find anything to read" as they stand in your library full of hundreds of books? Well, a few things have worked for my fifth graders. First, for those kids who just don't have a book checked out, it's all about hyping something up. Make it cool. How do you make it cool? Well, for this age, just make it out to be the book that all fifth graders will want to read. I do this with a book talk for my class. I gather up some books from my library, put them in a basket, and call my kids down to the carpet. Before I chose the books to bring down to the library, I make sure I know the "hook" for each one. What will get them psyched for it? Once I've got them down on the carpet, I talk about the books one by one. I read the blurb on the back or a few pages from the first chapter. I talk it up, and ask for students to volunteer their thoughts about it. After I do this for 5 or 6 books, and then leave them up at the front of the classroom to be checked out. Every time, without fail, the basket is empty by the end of the day. Win! I start book talks right when we get back to school. Now that my kids are used to the routine, I have them signed up to give book talks to the class. I still talk about one or two books, but I have a few students talk about a book they recently read, too! I ask them to make sure that it is a book that is available from our library, and they do have to hand in a few sentences ahead of time to show that they are prepared. Here are the guideline I give them:
  • Make sure you pick a book that is REALLY good. One you want to rave about!
  • Prepare ahead of time! Know what you are going to say. Limit yourself to 1 - 2 minutes of talking.
  • Talk about the reasons you liked the book. How did it make you feel? What were you thinking? What scenes or characters were memorable? 
  • Don't give away the whole story!
I make sure that all the students will get a chance to do a book talk over the course of the term by asking them to sign up ahead of time. This also gives them plenty of time to prepare!

So, what about the kids that just don't know what to read now? Maybe they have one book that they absolutely loved, but can't find anything else like it. I am loving the website What Should I Read Next for kids like this!

It's so easy to use- and so far the results have been great. Ask your student what was the last book that they read that they really enjoyed. Then, go to the website and type in the name of the book.

Hit "enter" and watch the results line up!

In this case, the student ended up reading The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, and she really enjoyed it. The only caveat with this comes with students who are stuck in a genre rut. You know- our friends who exclusively read Diary of a Wimpy Kid. These books are great for reluctant readers, but getting them to branch out into other types of books is the ultimate challenge! 

So, what works for these types of readers in your classroom?

Where is she now?

Seriously, people, I have been off the grid for a while. With everything I have going on, I couldn't keep up with blogging! What's new you ask? Well, you saw before that we bought a house. Yay! However, this house is a project. Although the structure and layout are fantastic, it was seriously outdated. We're talking wood paneling, mustard yellow appliances, baby pink bathroom tile, and dirty old shag carpets. Yuck! We have been hard at work for three months and it's coming along really well. In fact, we may be able to move in soon after the new year! I'll post pictures when it's done. Seriously, you won't even recognize it.

I have also been taking a state sponsored ELL course. This course will give me Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) endorsement on my teaching license. Although this course was "optional" for now, we have been told we would not be able to renew our licenses when the time came if we did not take it. I have learned SO much, but it has been so crazy time consuming! We meet every Wednesday for 3 - 3.5 hours, have a 2 hour online session each week between in person classes, and have LOTS of homework. Seriously, it's been like a part time job!

Well, the biggest news of all is.... hubby and I are having our first baby! I am due May 30.

In the picture on the left, I can totally hide the fact that I am expecting. Scarves work wonders! Once I turn to the side, though, it's all over. The secret is out! I wasn't planning on telling my kids for a while, but a few asked me if I was having a baby. I kept avoiding the question until one of them raised his hand in the middle of class and asked me again. I looked at him with a straight face and said "Why, do I look like I had too many cookies?" I couldn't keep the straight face for long though, and started laughing. I did end up telling the class that I was expecting. It was sweet to see how excited they were! I totally was not prepared for how exhausting pregnancy is, thought. Oh my goodness! I can barely make it through the school day, never mind the planning, grading, tutoring, duty, and SEI class. I'm starting to get some energy back, though, so I'm happy about that.

So, my fellow bloggy friends, that's what I've been up to for the past few months. Can't wait to catch up with all of you!

Currently... October!

Seriously, I don't what it is but I simultaneously feel like time is flying but also dragging on. I can't believe it's already October, but I also can't believe it's ONLY October! Ha. Linking up with Farley from Oh Boy 4th Grade for Currently.

Here is the treat... The website What Should I Read Next? You can go in and type in what book your student read (and enjoyed) recently. Then, it populates a list of books that your student should try next! 

And you read that right- I am a home owner! How overwhelming, but exciting. We bought a 1930s colonial in a fantastic neighborhood. It's definitely a "fixer" but I can't wait to make it our own. 

Off to make lunch and go to bed... what a long few weeks it has been! 

Math Workshop

I've gotten a few questions about the way I run math over the past few months, so I think it's time for a post to explain it! I have taught math in workshop format for the last couple years. I have really had a lot of success with the format. I love the fact that I talk to every kid, every day about their learning. I get some verbal assessment time to check and see what they know, and they get to prove that they "got it" after each lesson. The kids love it, too, because they get to play a game every day! I think the most important thing to do before you get going is to get organized- especially with older kids. If you know, down to the minute, what kids should be doing they are far more likely to do it.

I have 90 minutes for math each day, give or take 5 - 10 minutes for transitions. That sounds like a lot of time for transitions, I know, but we have departmentalized this year for the first time. The kiddos are still getting used to it! Here is the breakdown of my time block:

10 minutes - "do now"
20 minutes- whole class lesson
40 minutes- groups
10 minutes - debrief

To keep track of the madness of the workshop, I have a bulletin board dedicated to running of math workshop.

The left side of the bulletin board tells each group the order of the stations that they will attend. My groups are named after owls, because that's my theme. :) So, the barn owls go to me first, independent practice next, then the math game, then end it with "teacher's choice."  On the right, I have a pocket chart with the name of each station. In the pocket chart each day, I place a description of what the students are doing at each station. This board is much of the reason the workshop runs well! The kids aren't constantly bugging me for directions again (and again), and the plans for the math period are clearly laid out.

Do Now
I begin each class with a standard, predictable "do now" activity. When I begin every math class, the kids are just completing some sort of hallway transition and need an activity to help them get down to business. Our "do now" activity is a group problem solving activity based upon the lesson we are about to learn. They are assigned to work in mixed ability groups with people that sit near them (I call them "neighborhoods"). They are given a problem that they have not yet been taught how to solve, and they work together to see if they can solve it. At the end of the activity, I randomly call on 2 groups to share their answers. I let them give their answer as well as an explanation of how they got there, but I never tell them if they are right or wrong. At the end of the lesson, we touch back in on it. 

Whole Class Lesson
This is the "traditional" teaching part of my lesson. I teach the concept to the whole class. We review vocabulary, touch on our prior learnings, and then get direct instruction time. If we are running short on time because of delayed transitions, this is the section I cut some time from. We do one or two problems together in the whole class lesson as well, but we do not do any true assigned work. 

This is my favorite part of the entire class. The kids are broken up into leveled groups- of course, they do not know they are leveled! The groups change for each topic based upon the students ability within that topic. There are four stations, as well, so every group is always at a station. The stations are:
Teacher Choice- this station changes daily. It could be targeted intervention, math fact review, open response style journal writing, or if they are especially well behaved, another game. 
Independent Practice- assigned practice to work on independently. This is their chance to "prove" their knowledge!
With the Teacher- This is targeted reteaching. The kids get instruction from me that fits their need. The lower ability students receive direct, explicit instruction, the mid range students receive reteaching to varying degrees, and the higher students have a quick reteaching, followed by enrichment. The great thing about the small groups is that I have the ability to stop and break it down for one or two students. I've had days that the higher ability group is struggling, and I have had to back it up and give them direct instruction. Other days, I have found that my mid range group needs tons of enrichment because it just "clicked." I have hte freedom to talk to the students about their learning and see where they truly are at. I can meet their needs- no matter what they are. 
Math Game- Here, they play the math game related to the topic we are playing. Honestly, this is their favorite part. They love the fact that they get to play games! Little do they know, I'm a sneaky teacher, and they are actually learning and talking about what they learned. Ha. :)

Here, we talk again about the "do now" activity. I give them the correct answer, and ask them to correct their process if they did not get it correct the first time. We also talk about what we learned and what the important take-aways are. If we have extra time, we do a sneak peek of tomorrow's lesson.

So, there it is. I'll be honest- it's not without it's problems. Sometimes I have to move kids to groups they do not belong in because of behaviors. It take a lot (and I mean A LOT) of training to get kids into the rhythm of the workshop. I have a few helpers that take out and put away the stations, which is a huge help. I also have found that the chatty kids WILL chat- no matter where you put them! I try to contain the off topic behavior as much as possible, but I also have to let some go- which is not in my nature. :)

Linking up with Jivey for the very first time for Workshop Wednesdays!

Winner & an exit slip idea

And the winner of the pencil sharpener giveaway is.....

(drumroll please....)

Jennifer N

WOO! Congrats, Jennifer!

So, I've been on the hunt forever for a good "exit slip" type activity for my students. There are a bazillion out there, I know, but I wanted to find that perfect fit for my students. They are techno-addicts, and really enjoy something different. Finally it hit me- let's tweet!

We don't have any electronics in the classroom, or wifi for that matter, we had to get creative. I got myself some fluorescent poster board, tons of stickies, and got to work. I have the "twitter feed" posted on the whiteboard at the front of my classroom. We use @FirstName as our twitter handle. I even tweet as @MrsB sometimes!

At the end an activity, I will give students a quick prompt to respond to. Early in the year, it's mostly "how do you feel about this" type questions, but as we progress in our learning we will dive in deeper questions. This prompt asked students to tweet about how they felt about the reading they did in class today.

Kids can tweet during the day, too. They get one "on topic, no prompt" tweet per day. I get things like this posted from these:

I love that they use hashtags! :) 

Don't forget to enter the giveaway

A quick reminder to enter the Classroom Friendly Supplies giveaway I am hosting! :)

Meanwhile, I've been working on a post about my the way I run math workshop in my classroom. Unfortunately, I've been overrun by spelling tests, math quizzes, reading benchmarks, and sentence type packets. Boo! Typical Sunday night... remember when I said it was my goal this year to save Sundays for me? So far- not so good! Ha. So- look for my math workshop post tomorrow. :)

Another great pencil sharpener giveaway!

I know I've told you all before, but seriously, I love the amazingly quiet pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies. It's solved some serious problems in my classroom. We're talking disruptive students sharpening pencils just for fun, not having enough sharpened pencils to keep my kiddos working, and having to do all the pencil sharpening myself. This sharpener is quiet and fun to use, so the kids want to use it! In fact, I've made "pencil sharpener" one of our class jobs because they all wanted to use the sharpener so much. Check out how sharp they made my pencils...

You can read my full review from May here.

So, what are waiting for? Enter the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To do lists

I love a good list. I make lists about everything- groceries we need to buy, lessons I want to try, craft projects to take on, and even lists of lists I want to create. It's kind of a sickness. The only problem is keeping track of all those lists! I am always leaving one behind or losing it in my mound of paperwork. I needed a better way... a seriously better way. Enter Wunderlist.

Wunderlist is a web and mobile app that allows you to create multiple to do lists. You can organize them by priority, deadline, or alphabetically. For me, it's the best because I can combine my home, financial, shopping, school, and volunteer to-dos in one place!

You can see the different categories I chose to add. I have all my bills and their due dates (set to repeat monthly), house maintenance, personal tasks, study (for all those PDPs and grad credits), travel, shopping,and work. My work one is always the longest- but it is always the one that helps me the most!

You can set Wunderlist to remind you about the task, or you can choose to check in on your own.

I'm totally hooked on Wunderlist... check it out!

Radio Silence

Knock, knock... anyone still out there? It's been a long time since my last post! I've been busy with a few things. Turning my classroom from this...

to this...

to this...

to this...

Still a work in progress, but I am loving the bright colors!

I spent some time hanging out on a boat in the Atlantic off of Key West...

Then some more time snorkeling in coral reefs.

I celebrated a birthday by seeings Cats and drinking blueberry martinis...

And my husband proved he understands me well with his birthday gift to me!

All in all, August was pretty wonderful.

Did you guys notice my new theme? I am totally loving what Dreamlike Magic made for me! :) It totally suits me. 

Be back soon... with a giveaway!

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