Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jennifer Serravallo's Reading Ladder-getting kids motivated with a FREEBIE

Happy Sunday! 
So since being in my new position as an ELA/SS Instructional Coach I have seen the other side. I have gone to the dark side....j/k! For real though, I have seen a whole new world...ok ok, enough movie puns...
Since I plan with every grade level and we have had a chance to start getting into the groove of things I have had many conversations with teachers about getting kids to think and respond about their reading. Many students either: A: don't know how to (whether it be from incomplete modeling or lack of experience) or B: are not motivated to do so.

Enter in Jennifer Serravallo's book- The Reading Strategies
On page 57 she talks about a reading ladder. Creating goals for kids as well as a visual for them to see where they are headed. I love this! I also like the fact that it is for any level and any genre, creating a resource you can use anytime! Especially in the lower grades the power of stamina comes into play daily. The other great thing about this idea is it can be used whole class (make an anchor chart) or tailored to individual kids so they can create individual goals and celebrations.  Once they reach the top of the ladder they get to "party".  This "party" can be something the kids and teacher have come up with together. 
Some ideas:
-read a favorite genre
-choose extra free choice book
-read to a teacher
-share with class/read to class
-etc etc etc!!
I'd love to hear your ideas! Please feel free to leave them below in comments or share them on my FB page!

Well if you know me at all I like to "cutsify" my things. #sorrynotsorry 
So I took this wonderful idea and just made it "cutsified" on paper. ;)

I wanted it to be generic enough that it can span grade levels. Of course, I recommend making this into an anchor chart too so that you can model it yourself for the kids and set the expectations. You could even use it for a read aloud and complete one together as a class as well and enjoy a "party" too!

I have also included a version that they can list the book title, author, and date as well. 

The kids can keep these in their reading journal or any other designated spot you like! 

I hope this helps motivate and give some guidance for your kids and if you have not purchased your own copy of The Reading Strategies book, you should! She also has a writing one coming out too!! 

Click HERE to grab yours!

Have a BLESSED week ahead! 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Five for Friday! Special Edition for getting the MOST out of your days!

Hello all! So this will be a different type of Five for Friday post this week. I wanted to throwback a tad to a post I had done previously, but felt pulled to re-post some of it. It is the beginning of the year for a lot of folks and that means excitement AND chaos! No matter if you are a first year teacher or veteran- reflecting on your practices is KEY! Even this being my first year out of the classroom I still strongly believe these following ideas!

So first off, I just want to say that I appreciate honesty and truth. I try hard not to sugar coat things (I am not Willy Wonka) too much because a lot of times in the end it ends up all at the bottom of the bowl anyways right?

 I appreciate other blogs I read that are real and raw and discuss and showcase the true side of teaching/life. It is a hard job, I think we all know that. Is it the hardest job of all? mmmm probably not but it is up there. I say all of this because my post today is about setting the tone of your classroom. What I talk about today is not always 100% perfect and goes according to plan everyday... fire drills happen, crying happens, meetings happen, lice happens (me and the kids ha!), life happens. However, I just want to share some ideas of things that have seemed to work for me even through all of that chaos. I don't want to give an image that the classroom runs perfect all day, everyday, but that there are strategies and practices you can use to help it get there as much as possible.

The thing about teaching is it is, and can be, so drastically different year to year, class to class. Some kids have backgrounds that could rival "The American Dream" and others can make you question "The American Dream". The classroom and teaching is essentially, in Forest Gump's words, "like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get." One thing I have learned over 8 years of teaching so far is to try hard to be compassionate to it all. Extend grace. Now like I said, I like to be real...there are some years it is more of a struggle to do this. I mean, I am trying to do my job here people and your issues make that difficult. But here is the thing, we ALL have issues. Big or small. Deep or shallow. Hence; the reason we are human and need our own grace from our God. So how can you try to make it a positive environment in your classroom? Here are some ideas.

Greet at the door:

This is an oldy but goody. Like I said things happen- like the mornings we sometimes "Noah's Ark" it to school because of all the rain we've gotten and things just aren't running as normal. Or maybe the morning your head won't stop itching and you just can't figure it out and lo and behold have some very special visitors, have to leave immediately to douse your head in bleach. The list can go on. BUT those are not everyday occurrences so do what you can to stand at that doorway and give that first smile. I have also made sure to teach my friends to say good morning everyday. It actually gets to the point that if it doesn't happen I am a little sad lol. I tell them it is important to acknowledge others and make them feel welcome and visible.
This is a wonderful book to help pinpoint mini lessons if you need to teach your little friends interactions throughout the year. It really breaks it down by social skill and role-playing!

Quiet time:

 At our school we have a moment of silence every morning before the announcements. I have tried to explain that this is their time to think about their day and set the tone for how they want it to go. What kind of choices do they want to make to lead into their day? We even try to rate our day on a scale of 1-5. 5 being an epic day and 1 being, well, just isn't my day. We do this before it even gets started to show them that how we see our day going can affect it and we want to try to start out on a positive note! Once again, are there days we forget to do that particular piece? yes, and if I notice I try to place it later on such as walking down the hallway rhetorically "How's your day going so far? Are you making the choices to give yourself an epic day?" I'll let them show me on their hands 1-5 quietly what they are thinking. Some of course don't feel the need and they are totally meditating on it in their heads eh? We also discuss that some days can be a roller coaster and can go from a 5 to a 2 and back up again. We have to learn to navigate those curves and bumps. (This is GREAT for morning meeting time!) I also use this moment of silence too. I think about my own day and typically ask God for his leadership in the classroom that day. 

Morning Song:

So a few years ago I was pondering while laying in bed not being able to sleep. This is normally where I do all my good thinking haha that, or the gym. I wanted to find another way to positively start our days. I wanted it to be a song of some sort, but something original to our little classroom environment. Long story short, I came up with this:
Kids sing-
"We are Beierle Owl's and we work very hard! We do this everyday so we get really far."
I say-
"Are you ready to work hard?
Kids say-
"Yes we are!"
I say-
"Make each other proud?"
Kids say-
"Starting right now!"

Here's a little video of them in action.

We try so hard to do it as a start to our day. Again, truth, does not always get done, but we try! And  I have friends that will help remind me and say "We need to sing the Beierle Owl song!" 


 I play it daily in the classroom. I play it while they come in and when we work. It helps to take the cold, uninvited vibes that might be trying to lurk around the room and dissipate them. 

I play music every morning while getting ready. Pandora is my BFF. I can really get lost in it and it helps to calm me. 

Some of my favorite stations:
Tenth Avenue North
Toby Mac
Lecrae (christian hip hop-more for just me!)
Calm Meditation
Jeremy Camp
Owl City
Capital Kings
Jack Johnson (for kids)
Pentatonix and Lindsey Stirling
Film Scores- fun to guess which movie it is from
Michael Buble
Jammy Jams-kids radio
80's hits (me again)


Goodness doesn't everyone need this from time to time? But little kids who sometimes don't ever have that? Try to reassure them daily of your love for them and that you want the BEST for them. You are there to help and lead. The moment they walk through that door, whatever happened that morning at home, on the bus, in the car matters to you it does, but that once they are in that classroom you are there to love and guide. That our day does not always have to be determined by circumstances 2 hours prior or by another person. Yes, even  as adults it is hard to leave things at the door frame and walk in confident and ready for action. But also as adults we can lead by example. I often will share little things that go wrong in my own life, morning, or day so they can see a glimpse into the fact that everyone has struggles. It is what we do with them and how we react to them what can change the course. 

I had a little friend make a sad choice in cafeteria causing him to have a think time during fun stations. I sat with him and discussed his choice and what happened and he started crying and said "I just made a sad choice and don't want to be in trouble" I immediately talked with him about how sometimes we do make choices that are not the best ones but it was a mistake. People make mistakes, what we do from here with it is up to us and will determine where we go. The important thing is knowing when it is a mistake, learning from it, and then making a decision to rectify it. 
At the end of the day they are just kids. Do I have my own moments when I am like "REALLY friend?! *head explosion* of course! Once again, human.

Pull out positive:

 Some days are tough!! Some days it is hard to find the positive when you feel buried in all the negative. I promise though, God promises, there is sweet victory in there somewhere. It may not be deer in headlights apparent or it may literally kick you in the chest (true story from my first year of teaching- got kicked by one of my sweet autistic babies- not on purpose of course, but still warranted paperwork for injury lol) You can find something to celebrate! I dare you!

Leave it at the door:
Do this for yourself too, just like we want our kids to do. There are days I wake up on the wrong side of the like literally, my hubs wanted to change sides and it was not happening. Spilled protein shake on my shirt, forgot my zip drive, dog threw up, etc, etc, etc. (I don't have any "kids got into a fight" analogies at this point in life...yet) Let's talk about that word GRACE again. Sometimes you have to give grace to yourself too just like you extend it to others. I use my morning drive to think. But one thing I have really cherished is I call my hubby right before I get to school and we pray before I get out of the car. Some days the prayers are short and some days a little longer, but it really helps set the tone before I walk in. Some days I don't feel the affects of the prayer until later.

Brain Breaks:

So this is more for the kids throughout the day to get them up and moving but, hey I can whip and nae nae with the best of them ;) Go Noodle is a life saver and SO fun! I know probably everyone and their g-ma uses it now and that is awesome!! 

Build a Growth Mindset: 

Wow this could be a whole blog post on it's own! This goes for kids and adults! How can we expect them to follow and grow in their abilities if we don't MODEL it?! 
Opening those doors for them to walk through physically, mentally, and emotionally is the key to their success. We have an obligation to make them feel safe to make mistakes and to GROW!

Again, are there days you feel like you accomplished almost nothing or did not make an impact at all..yes! But it is how we handle that and process it that will make the difference. We could all go home, throw on our PJ's, grab the ice cream, turn on Netflix and chill until...

Which there is nothing wrong with a little Netflix "are you still watching" action haha...just have to come out of it at some point right? no? 

Over the summer I spent a lot of time brainstorming for Growth Mindset and various ways it can be applied throughout the classroom and school in general. Ultimately it comes down to the person. No one can make you have a certain mindset.  However, I developed a bundle for teachers to use to help promote it and model it for their kids and for themselves!
Feel free to check it out- I am so thankful for all the positive feedback I have received from teachers already utilizing it! 
Here is an example of how one teacher (Mrs. Hahn's class) has set up their board. 

Here is a link to a video I did as well to preview it and give you insight to what I was thinking when creating it! 

Click HERE to get yours!

Reflection & Journaling:

I have found that this works wonders not just for my OCD lol but for everything. If you truly want to be an effective educator you have to educate yourself too! Not just doing PD and reading books etc. But to reflect on your time. It is so important to reflect and learn from aspects that went/go really well and flawlessly but also that go bad too. 
How can you tweak it, make it better? 
What went wrong? 
What went right? 
Honesty time again- I am a hoarder....of's true I normally can't leave Ross, Marshalls, or Homegoods without one. I am always like "SO cute! I'll use that for sure!" well I plan to haha...

I have one (not so exciting or cute) journal for teaching. I have made tabs for ideas I get, you know, at the gym or while I am supposed to be sleeping. 

I also keep one for personal/bible journaling/prayer requests.

It really does help to take a step back sometimes. Mentally and physically. 

Find a Balance:

Well this is the pot calling the kettle black. I can be the worst with balance. Sometimes I do not know
when to SHUT IT DOWN! I will tell you, though I have found ways to do this better.

-Time management is key!

-Set goals for yourself (grading, plans, paperwork) get to what you can then pick up later.

-Prioritize- I was once given advice to create a list based on priority. Instead of just writing it all down in one long list (which is daunting) make a scale 1, 5, 10. 1 being not too important, still need to get done but I won't lose sleep over it. 5 being medium priority, it needs to get done with some alertness. 10 being most important, I better get this done now! These are things that might have time constraints. Now the real key is not writing it all on the 10 section. lol...comes with practice.

-You won't get to it all! Once you come to understand and accept this it makes it a lot easier to deal. Trust me, coming from someone that makes a list for everything and wanting to accomplish it all. I have learned what to let go of, that I am comfortable with. What I am comfortable with letting go of or not letting go, may not be the same for the next person. You have to decide. 

 My job, the kids, the work, the effect I can extend means the world to me but one thing has to be repeated to myself daily. "Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life." My life is also at home waiting for me daily. My family. We get one shot at this blessing called life and we don't know how long our time in his temporary home will be. I take the gift God gave me seriously, but like everything requires balance. My husband has been helpful in reminding me of I need to remind him too #workaholic ;) 

I have been struggling with some things lately and came across this verse. 
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17 (this could be a whole other post too!)

Life is messy people. I am sure you already know that. You never know what others are going through. Extend a hand, offer grace. If teaching is what God has called you to that is an amazing journey filled with up's and downs. Be the best YOU and lead by example. Those little minds will soak it up and you can leave a lasting effect on them you may not even realize. 
Keep it real! There are no perfect people, situations or classrooms. Everyone has a story. Being willing to share and be transparent and build that trust. 

Have a BLESSED weekend!!