Monday, September 19, 2022

The Struggle is Real


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My Best Resource 

Part 1

  I'm nearing three decades in the classroom and still have "aha!" moments where things just click and make more sense to me. My life experience along with my professional experience has brought me to a point where I feel confident in my role to help my most at risk readers. This is the second year that I have had the awesome opportunity to coteach with our intervention specialist. We co-teach in a full inclusion general education 4th grade classroom. Together we plan and provide modifications, interventions and accommodations for our students.

  The first and most important thing we establish in our classroom is a culture of acceptance where each child is valued. There is an understanding in our classroom that we are diverse learners and so this is a normal part of our classroom climate. 

  Now that I've given you a bit of background, I'll tell you what led to my "Aha" moment. As I was circulating to conference with students during Writing Workshop time, I met with one of our students  that has a reading disability. Here is a picture of the first sentence she wrote. 


I was amazed, the only other person I saw write an entire sentence that way was my daughter.  Long story short, she's and adult in nursing school now with a 3.8 grade average.  It hit me! My most valuable resource on how to help my little gal and those with similar reading issues, lives right in my own home. So, I interviewed my daughter. Here is a breakdown of the questions, answers, and how I'm implementing her suggestions.

Q: Did the visual processing therapy help you to see and write the words better? If so how? *Note: This was something I paid out of pocket for my daughter, not an intervention provided by the school.*

A:  It helped a little. It taught me to concentrate on the words and to track them with from left to right with my finger first. This was to teach my brain to track the words in that direction.  As I got older, I was more aware of how it might look to use my fingers, so I tried really hard to concentrate on what the words were saying. That way, I could "catch" myself reading words backwards if what I was reading didn't make sense.

 I found Hand to Mind Finger Focus Highlighters. They are available in a container I got from the Dollar Tree labeled Reading Tools. This container is on my counter and accessible to everyone to use. They are a hit. I understand they might be a novelty right now, but so far I think they are helping. I'll keep you updated.

Q: What gave you the most anxiety about reading when you were in class?

A:  Being called on to read aloud in front of the class. It still gives me anxiety. I was called on just the other day to read in one of my nursing classes and it gave me that same feeling of being a child in school. The fear of not seeing the words correctly or that they will jump on the page and make me lose my place is real.

I do not call on students to read in front of the class unless they volunteer to ease that fear. Read on to find out more about the words jumping on the page.

Q: Does having a book mark help to keep your place?

A: Sometimes. It is hard to read black words on a white background. On my computer and phone screen I have to make a dark background with white letters. This helps so the words aren't "jumping" on the page. 

I ordered highlighter bookmarks and transparency overlays for the students to use. We found that the light colored transparencies work better than the darker colors. They really help make the words stand out on the page. 

 Next week I will post Part 2 of the interview with my daughter and other suggestions and tools based on the first hand information she has given me. Even if her perspective of the reading struggles she has experienced helps just one student,  I am thankful for her willingness to share. 

Monday, January 3, 2022

5 Things to do After Winter Break

 Tomorrow is our first day back from Winter Break. After two weeks off, there’s no doubt that we all be a little sluggish. The start of the new year also signals the half way point of the school year and is a good time for a reset and restart. There are a few things I do each year at this time that I’ll share.

1. The first day back from break we go around the room and share something about our winter break. It helps ease us back into being together again and the kids like sharing what they got for Christmas or anything special they did.

2. We do a clean out of desks and folders. I have students make a list of any supplies they’re running low of. It’s a good time to replenish. 

3. I rotate my classroom library. I don’t put out all of books at the start of the school year so I can rotate them in to spark interest. By this time of the year, they’ve become bored with the books already out. 

4. Change the seating arrangement. This is a good time to switch things up.

5. Student survey. I give the students questions using Google Forms to get feedback on what they think is working for them in class, what they are interested in learning more about, and to give them some choice on reading materials for whole group instruction. I like referring back to the surveys when I conference with students. 

 Have a great start back! 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Teaching During a Pandemic Part 1

Five weeks into the new school year and we are still in person. Fingers’s going well. The kids are adjusting amazingly to all the new procedures and rules. Teaching with these new protocols is challenging to say the least. However, I’d like to focus on the positives I’ve experienced the last five weeks. 

1. Class Environment- My class and I are together literally all day long. To avoid exposure, the children eat breakfast and lunch in the room. We have specials in our room and are outside for one twenty minute recess in which our class is the only class on the playground at that time. All these factors have resulted in a close feeling of classroom community. I’ve seen the children develop sense of belonging a lot sooner than in previous years. There is a heart warming feeling of a classroom family. 

2. Quiet Hallways-This may seem like a little thing, but it has made a difference. Since traveling through the building is limited, the hallways are so quiet. I can leave my door open without the learning being disrupted. The children can hear me teaching even behind my mask. My microphone helps too. ☺

3. Morning Welcome Slides-My children used to choose lunch on our Clever Touch Screen. I would have my morning work listed on the white board. Since I couldn’t have the children all crowd to the screen and touch it, I flipped my routine. I made welcome slides for the morning work with my word of the day and joke of the day to display. Each child has an emoji with their name and magnet on the back to put on the white board under their lunch choice. I like it this way so much that I’ll keep doing my morning slides from here on out.                

4. Small Class Size-With Social distancing I can fit 18 desks in my classroom and as a result I have a smaller class than normal. One of our team members volunteered to move into our Art Room since it is bigger and take more students. She is an ultimate team player. I can’t thank her enough. With my smaller class size, I can give feedback faster to my students and do more quick checks on skills.

5. Creative Teaching-Best practices of education emphasis collaboration among students and interaction during lessons. This is a challenge with the restrictions of not sharing materials and social distancing. I’ve really had to think outside the box on how to structure my lessons so the children are engaged in the lessons in addition to the normal asking and answering questions. In Part 2 of my series Teaching During a Pandemic, I will share some of things I’ve done to keep my students engaged. 

Editable versions of my morning welcome slides are available in my TPT store if you want to check out the preview.  


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

5 Things I Have Learned Teaching From Home

 Hello everyone! This is the second post of my Teaching From Home Series. Wow. What a journey this has been. My philosophy of being a life long learner has never rang so true. My reflection of this process has lead me to list 5 things things I’ve learned about myself and others. 

1. Beyond the Comfort Zone-I cringe listening to my voice on audio much less view myself on video. I pushed passed those uncomfortable situations in order to deliver content to my students. It wasn't easy. My first audio lesson using Screencast-O-Matic took me 7 tries before I was comfortable publishing my lesson. Now I record without the nerves and barely have to redo my lessons. I took my newfound confidence even further and recorded myself on video reading aloud a book that we started before school was cancelled. I recorded myself reading 11 chapters and published them to my Google Classroom.  If it weren't for the distance learning, I would've never tried to push myself out of my comfort zone. 

2. Everything Google Slides-  I have learned to do so much with slides during this time. Using slides as interactive tool for lessons with Pear Deck is the latest thing I've discovered. I took a webinar about it and was amazed. Besides that, slides can be used as an assignment tracker, interactive assessment tool, student paced lessons, etc. I've even stretched myself and made my first digital product. Something I never thought I'd be able to do before. 

3.  Google Meet- Before the distance learning was forced upon me, I didn't know anything about Google Meet. This became my relied upon communication each day in Google Classroom. With my set office hours each day, students could "pop" into the meet link to ask questions, show me work, or just say hi. It was so nice to be able to see them. Last week, we had fun on Google Meet with a scavenger hunt. It was a blast. I displayed 3 items at a time for the kiddos to find and show.  There are many scavenger hunts for video calls on Pinterest. This is the one that I made.

4. Teamwork- I already knew I teamed with an awesome group of teachers, however this situation proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt. We had to work together so closely to get things planned and implemented. We all shared our Google Classrooms and divided up the lessons. During distance learning we all got to know each other's kiddos since we were teaching them all. Another positive to come out of this.
5. A Little Kindness Can Go a Long Way-  Kind words and understanding can produce better results than taking out frustrations on others due to a situation beyond our control. Unfortunately, I was on the receiving end of  the frustrations felt at having to educate my students in an new way. For the most part, kindness and understanding helped to ease fears. 


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Teaching from Home Series Post 1

Hello! Long time no blogging. I have to say adjusting to the new normal for teaching motivated me to get my blog on again. After all, going digital is necessary for our new teach from home routines. We are all in this together is our new motto. With that spirit in mind, I want to share my new top 5 must haves for teaching at home.

1. Google Classroom-I have used this resource for the past 3 years, however it’s become essential for my new normal. Thank goodness my kiddos are familiar with it because now it is my main platform for teaching.

2. Screencast-O-Matic-This resource has been a lifesaver. It is a Chrome Extension that allows you to narrate while you video your screen. The free account allows you to record 15 minutes a day. This was plenty of time for me to demonstrate how to fill in a digital summary organizer, model thinking aloud as I did it, and also show how to turn in the assignment in Google Classroom. This is why it made #2 on my 5 must haves.

3. Pinterest Digital Teaching Board-I wonder what I did before having Pinterest as a resource. I can’t even remember. Cruising through all the pins on distance learning can be overwhelming, however. I created a board and narrowed down resources that pertain to my current needs. Some are “look at later” pins, but most are helpful to my current planning.

4. Google Meet-With all the Zoom Bombing, I’ve relied on Google Meet to collaborate with my team members. It’s connected to everything Google and easy to create meetings through my calendar and send out invites. My teaching partner and I are going to try it with our students next week.

5. PDF Merger-Thank goodness for my team. One of my team members told me about online PDF mergers. Our district had to create At Home Learning Packets for the students who don't have technology resources at home. I needed to upload the packet into one PDF. I found a Chrome extension called Small PDF. You can gain access for 14 days free. Another I found online is called Combine PDF. This worked great and is free, however you are limited to the amount you can convert each day.

These are my first 5 must haves for Teaching from Home. What are your must haves? Leave a comment to let me know. We are in this together. 😊

 My children's story "The Time Travel Storm" is free for the next 5 days if you'd like to grab it for distance learning or just for your digital library. Click on the Picture. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Five Ways to Use Plastic Protector Sheets in the Classroom

 This is part two of my post series Five Things to Start the School Year.  I talked about how to set up and use a calming corner in the classroom last week. This week's post is simple but valuable. Last year I discovered the many uses of plastic protector sheets. Again, it's one of those things that made wonder how it didn't know this before I listed five ways I used them below. 

*This post contains affilliate links to products that I recommend. If you purchase something from the page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.

  1. Handwriting Practice-Have a class set of handwriting paper ready to go inside of the plastic sheets with a skinny dry erase marker and felt square to use as an eraser slipped inside of each sheet. Pass them out to practice cursive letters when you have an extra few minutes. They can also be used to practice spelling words or as a rough draft of paragraph writing. 

      2. Document Camera-If you have a document camera, use the sheets 
          to project pages that you are using for whole class instruction or are going over as a 
          whole class. Since I have two Language Arts classes, this worked out great. I just 
          erased what I wrote on the sheet so it was ready to go for the next class. For 
          example, I assigned small reading passages on Mondays and Wednesdays for 
          for homework. Each passage had two questions to answer. At least one question 
          would ask the students to underline text evidence in the passage. I used the plastic 
          sheet with the homework page to go over the answers in class. I'd erase the marker 
          and the page was ready to go for my next Language Arts class.

   3.  Learning Center/Station Directions-Another use for 
         the plastic sheet protectors is to insert learning center/station directions. I liked this
         because I could number, highlight, add, or take away parts of the directions as 
         needed. In stations that had learning games, the answer sheet was also added so 
         the children could flip the directions over and check answers if needed.

   4.   Guided Reading Passages-Every once in awhile I copy passages 
         for guided reading time that correspond with the skill or strategy of the week. 
         I insert passages inside the plastic sleeves along with a skinny dry erase marker and 
         felt square for each student in the group. While reading we practice marking up the
         passage finding text evidence, prefixes, suffixes, root words, etc. Erase and its ready
         to go for my next class.

   5.   Check in Homework-Plastic sheets are a great way to check in 
          homework or anything else turned in.  Insert your class list inside, mark off who has
          their work turned in. Erase the next morning and start again. 

These are a few of the ways that I used plastic sheets in the classroom. I'd love to hear other ideas! 


Monday, July 8, 2019

Five Things to Start the School Year

*This post contains affilliate links to products that I recommend. If you purchase something from the page, I may recieve a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. 

The 4th of July has come and gone once again. Each year this signals the time to start preparing myself mentally for the upcoming school year. I've begun the process of clearing the Summer Fog from my brain by listing things I need to start the new year. Part of this process involves evaluating things that I tried last school year that worked and how to make them better.  I'm going to post one of five ideas each week until the start of  year.  Without further ado here is post one of 5 Ideas to Start the School Year.

                                                        Calming Corner  

      Last year I set up a calming corner using an extra desk. I attached directions on how to use the corner in the  middle of a privacy board that sat on the desk. Items needed for the calming corner were placed in a basket or on top of the desk. I loved it! This is something I plan on using again. I tweaked my instructions after trying it for a  year.  It's nice to have a place for students to go when they need a break or are getting frustrated. It's one of those things that I wonder why I didn't try sooner.

 I liked the sand timer because not only is it quiet, it can be soothing to watch the sand flow. Another thing I liked about this corner was that the students learn some strategies for soothing themselves. They also learn that it's okay to get frustrated and what to do about it. It's not a get out of work corner. The work is not going away, but it's a good way to take a break and feel refreshed. I've included some of the things I used in the corner if you are interested in learning more about them. 



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