Monday, August 31, 2015

Teacher Week: Monday Fun Facts

Today, I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin' for their Teacher Week 15 Linky. Each day this week, they have a different topic to share with you. Today's topic is to share five fun facts about myself. Here we go:

1. I teach literacy classes at a university. Just over a year ago, I finished my master's in Literacy Instruction, quit my full-time position teaching fourth grade in order to teach at the university and be able to have a more flexible schedule. I only teach online, so I'm able to create my own schedule almost completely (it's amazing!). Other than teaching online, I fill my working time with TpT, subbing, and this year I'm actually going to be teaching P.E. a few afternoons a week. It's fun to try new things.

2. I taught grades 1-8 in one room for four years. Think of it as a modern-day Little House on the Prairie. In this small private school, I taught all grades (with the help of a teacher's aide), as well as did the job of a principal, janitor, librarian, etc. :) These small schools are a unique and different environment than a larger school, but allow for a great amount of differentiation since most students are in a different grade already. It's a lot of work, but a great experience.

3. My husband and I spend as much time as possible on our boat. We enjoy all sorts of water sports - mostly wakeboarding. My dream is to one day live on a lake. There's a beautiful property that I'm eyeing right now, so I'm slowly saving my pennies!

4. I love Hawaii. We try to go at least once a year, if possible. Some day we'll branch out and go somewhere else, but for now, it's our favorite spot. Kauai is my favorite island, and the Marriott is my favorite place to stay. We'll be back there in November :).

In Kauai. My husband and I have a hard time taking normal pictures...
5. I did gymnastics for a long time. When I was young, I competed in gymnastics (artistic gymnastics - so vault, bars, beam, and floor). After I went to high school, I switched to coaching, where I coached for 8-9 years all throughout high school and college. Nowadays, I stream every gymnastics competition live (including waking up on Sundays at 6 am for the Olympics!).

A long time ago...

So there you go. A few things about me. Hop over to the Blog Hoppin' blog to read a bunch of posts from other great bloggers.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Classroom Decor Inspiration

Sources clockwise from top left: Angie Campanello, Live, Laugh & Learn in Second Grade, Angie Campanello, Appletastic, Schoolgirl Style, Schoolgirl Style

I love setting up my classroom for the new year. It's honestly one of my favorite times of the school year :). However, I don't have my own classroom this year, so I will just share some things that I'm swooning over in the hopes that they help you as you set up your own classroom.

First off, I love clean and organized spaces. I'm not a very cluttery person. I love this piece from IKEA. I've used their Expedit bookcases before that are similar to this, but I love the desk. This could work for a small teacher desk or as a workstation for the students (computer area?).

This rug isn't cheap, but seriously cute. Love the teal color.
I think your classroom can be cute and color-coordinated, while still being functional. Here's a great bulletin board that serves a purpose, but is very neat and pretty.

Having a specific color scheme can help your classroom seem less cluttered and more organized. For me, I wanted my classroom to be homey since I was going to be in it for a minimum of 8 hours a day. Other than while I'm sleeping, that's more time than I was going to be at my house. Here's a space that I think is somewhere that I could be comfortable in for a long time.

This was my reading nook the last year that I was full-time. My students loved it (and that bench is now in my home office :)).

Here are a few other classrooms that I love right now. Hopefully they'll inspire you to organize and create a comfortable space.



Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Making Grammar Fun

Grammar is one of those things that many students do not like. However, it was something I loved as a kid. I'm not sure why, exactly, but I think it had something to do with the fact that for most parts of grammar, there is a specific right answer, and I felt good knowing that I knew what that answer was. I liked math for the same reason (though my engineer husband tells me that high level math often does not have a "right" answer).

When I started teaching, I looked for ways to make grammar fun for students. I know that many people like to teach grammar within other writing and reading units, and I do too. However, sometimes I think it's necessary to start teaching some of the concepts explicitly and by themselves, and then integrate it into your other units as a review.

So, here are a few things you can do if you teach the parts of speech in your classroom to make it fun.

Not only are group activities fun, but they also provide opportunities for the students to communicate with each other to learn the concepts even better.

I like to have groups work to solve problems. This seems easy in math or science, but it works for grammar as well. When learning about a part of speech, I like my students to work together to create posters of rules for using the part of speech.

I also like to use songs. Who doesn't love a fun song? Here's a way to have students remember helping verbs by creating a song about it. Click on the picture below to download:

Students always love games. Games are great for grammar (and everything else), because the students practice the topic with repetition without usually even realizing it.

I subbed in a 6th grade classroom last year, and I played Zip, Zap, Zop - Verb Style with them-but didn't take any pictures :(. This is a simple, fast-paced game that originally was a type of ice breaker. I changed the rules a bit to make a grammar version. Click on the picture below for directions:

I know - people don't like the term worksheets anymore, but we are running out of different words to call them by. The thing is, worksheets/graphic organizers/activities can be engaging and not a waste of time, if they are the right ones. I like worksheets that make students think. When I teach the parts of speech, I like to have the students really know the differences between the parts of speech and how they are used, so I put that into the activities that we do. Here is a picture of some worksheets that will make your students think and are more engaging than the traditional workbook.

Follow the link below to download a free excerpt from the pronoun unit - includes the first lesson, group activity, and activity pages.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Picture Book Love: The Circus Ship

Have you read this book?

Click on the picture of the book to preview some pages on Amazon. I found it a a teacher supply store a few years ago and had to have it. However, everyone that I show it to has never seen it before. So, if you don't have it already, go buy it!

It's short, and written in rhyme.

In brief, it's the story of a ship carrying circus animals that gets shipwrecked in a storm. The animals swim to shore and try to fit in among the nearby townspeople. The townspeople aren't sure about the animals at first, but then the tiger saves a girl from a burning house, and they start living together happily. Then the greedy circus owner comes to town to get the animals back, and the townspeople and animals work together to devise a plan to keep the owner from getting the animals back.

Between the rhyme, pictures, and story, the book provides great opportunities for reading and writing activities. I've used the book the last two years in my fourth grade classroom, and the students love it.

Even though it's a short book, there's quite a bit of vocabulary in it, but my favorite thing is that it has bunches of figurative language in it. There are examples of similes, alliteration, hyperbole, and onomatopoeia. I teach my students about these words and then we identify the figurative language in the book.

The illustrations really add to the story. In one page, Chris Van Dusen hides all fifteen animals in the picture so the students can find them. You might think that that would get boring for fourth graders, but after I finish reading the book, my students all want to borrow it so that they can count the animals and make sure they found them all.

There are also other things that are special about the illustrations, so we write them down as well.

The book is very loosely based on a true story, so the students can research the real event that inspired the book - the sinking of the Royal Tar. Then they can do some compare and contrast activities with their findings.

I put together some lessons and activities to go along with the book, including some fluency task cards that have real historical circus facts on them.

Click on the picture below to see the whole unit.

What books do you have in your classroom (or personal collection) that you can't live without?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Back in the (blogging) saddle again...

It's been a year and a half since I've posted on my blog...yikes. When I first started my blog, I was very busy with school (my own) and work, but wanted to have a place to share my ideas. After starting a new school year and trying to finish up my final project for my master's, I took a break from blogging and never could quite figure out how to start up again.

I really do want to try again, so let me catch you up on the last bit of my life, and then we'll start in with the educational posts.

First, I finally finished this...

My dyslexia booklet was my final project for my master's. I spent almost a year researching, writing, and designing it, but am happy with how it turned out. I'll eventually post it on the blog, but if you want a copy before then, send me an email.

Then this happened...

I finally graduated with my M.Ed. in Literacy Instruction. Other than my final project, I was only able to work on it during the summers, so it took me four years to finish.

Also, I made a big decision during last year to quit my job and work part-time instead. I had an hour drive each way, and working full-time with the drive was starting to drain me. I also wanted to be able to spend more time on my TpT store.

I got a job teaching online classes at a local university. I teach literacy classes to students getting their B.A. in Education, as well as supervising student teachers. I also teach a little bit for the M.Ed. program.

One of my friends at the the school I worked at last year just had a baby, so I'm taking over her classroom until the end of the school year. It's third and fourth grade, which are the grades I have the most experience in, and I love that age group. I've done two weeks already, with ten to go. I'm excited about being able to take some pictures of the things that we're doing to share with you on the blog. Stay tuned for more on that adventure.