Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Well, thanks to the baby boy shipping off to Marine Corps boot camp, I have THROWN myself into my job and my room is almost ready to go. Just a few finishing touches....but it's coming along.
Here's what I've done so far:

Finally finished the hall bulletin board. Went with an Olympic theme...yes, I know Olympics are over, but it went well with my giant flag,which I LOVE!

This one is a little hard to see, but I moved my banner from the top of the window to the middle. It was driving me crazy..and I planned on curtains, but am told the fire marshal says that's a no-no. I'm such a rule follower. UGH!

I improvised to block out the light in the window and door at the back of my room AND make it useful. This is where I display my monthly helpers and birthdays. Its not my fave, but it'll do.

I'm utilizing every inch of space I can! I SO wanted a Boggle board, but didn't have the space. So I'm using my magnetic letters (which I have  TON OF) and my file cabinet to make a magnetic boggle board. I can change it weekly and although this is a small one, I'm starting them off easy and looking to expand the Boggle board to full size when they get the hang of it!

Thanks to PINTEREST, I found these cute birthday balloons which I attached to birthday pencils, and this cute little "Birthday Book" where the kids will write about what they want for their birthday.  I ran the balloons off on colored the different colors!

We start Monday...and I'm still working, but am pretty comfortable with my room's status!! Ready to get the year started!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

My 2nd Graders go to College!

Yep, you read the title correctly. My 2nd graders go to COLLEGE!!!
Some pretty prestigious colleges at that: Texas A&M (Gig'Em Aggies), Texas Tech (Guns up!)
University of Texas (Hook 'Em Horns!) and TCU (Fear the Frog!)---and our first year even Baylor (Go bears!).

That's how smart they are..
All because of their 2nd grade teachers!

Okay, let me explain. They don't really GO to college. That's what we call our focused groups
What? Need me to explain further? Okay.....

A few years ago, I was sittng in a workshop with other 2nd grade teachers and we were discussing HOW ON EARTH we were going to fit in all the things we were required to do with our new Language Arts adoption....Mc-Graw Hill Texas Treasures.

There simply WASN'T enough time in the day......everything was specialized......3 different spelling lists, 3 leveled books, 3 different stories a week. It was all TOO much! My class was all over the spectrum......low babies who barely knew the letters in their names to PACE kiddos who could read anything I stuck in front of them and everything in between! There was only ONE me and I had no idea how I was going to give them ALL my best when I am only one person!

Luckily I wasn't the only one in the district stressing about that. It lead to a very in-depth discussion and one lady told us what they did at their school and how it had served ALL the kids and improved their reading (and their scores)....but more importantly their learning!

So, I took the idea she gave me back to my (at the time different) principal and she basically told me if I believed it was going to work and help the kids to GO FOR IT! So, We came up with 'colleges'.
We each named our group after our Alma Mater.....luckily none of us went to the same college, and used testing data to divide the kids into 4(or 5 our first year) groups. That first year we had 2 'high' groups- they are the kids that can read fluently, they worked on expanding vocabulary, improving their writing and higher order thinking skills. We had an 'average' group- they worked on comprehension and some fluency as well as vocabulary. We had a "below average" group- they could decode, but needed extensive work on fluency and comprehenshion. And then we had my low baby group- we worked on decoding, accuracy and fluency.

Splitting the kids this way allowed us to tailor everything for them.....spelling lists, the pace we taught the stories and concepts, station work, EVERYTHING was targeted for just them. The kids loved it. The parents loved it. We loved it.

Last year, we got a new principal. I wasn't sure she'd love it....but she did. Our groups are very fluid...if a kid does alot of improving, he/she may 'transfer' to a different college. If they are struggling, they may do the same! We saw some really positive things come out of it. Noteably:

*The high kids were no longer the 'shining stars' in the classroom. There was an entire class of them, which prodded them to work harder, smarter and have higher quality work so they could stand out of the crowd.Many of them weren't used to this, and it greatly improved their effort ,they stretched themselves in learning. and some of them learned the hard lesson of "you can't win all the time."

\*The low babies began to participate in class. It was a safe environment. There was no Einstein to compete one to outshine them....they were all in the same boat. They began to get comfortable and take chances. They supported each other. No one was 'stupid' for not knowing an answer. Their confidence increased greatly and they grew leaps and bounds.

*The average babies grew HUGELY. They were no longer falling between the cracks....low babies were not getting all the attention and the geniuses were out of their loop so they had no one to 'carry them' on their portion of the work.

It was a win/win situation for all of us.

The downsides were:
* The low baby teacher (me) had a LOT of documentation to do. However, it was easier to do the documentation because I found an easier system and could do it for everyone!
*You're letting go some of your babies......which means you have to have total trust, confidence and participation from all of your team members for this to work. It's hard letting go. It's hard not knowing what your babies are doing. But this lead us to in-depth discussions as a team about where each kiddo was. It also gave us the benefit of having more than one teacher able to give input about where we saw a kid being and what they were struggling (or excelling) in!

Thankfully, it went over so well, our principal is COUNTING on us doing it again! I'm excited because now in year 3 I think we are 'tweaking' what we can do with these kids and I expect the huge growth to continue!

So, our 2nd graders will be college bound again this year!!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Birthdays- 2nd Grade Style!

I LOVE birthdays!
Not mine, that just means it's another year I'm going to have to lie about my age!
But in school, I LIVED for birthdays!
Mine was always one of the first since I'm a September birthday, so I couldn't WAIT for school to start as a kid.
However, when I was in school, teachers stopped making a big deal about birthdays in about the 2nd grade.
Major let-down.
I was DONE with school after that.
Not really, but it was sad!

So, I love to celebrate birthdays in my class!
Kids are allowed to bring treats for the class....which they LOVE to do.
But this year, I think I'm going to do things a little bit different!
First of all, when it's their birthday, their morning work will be a little different.
They will get a fun "Birthday" book color page to do instead of the regular morning work!
The Birthday book will then be put in the writing center for students to 'sign' and say a nice word or two about the birthday boy or girl!
It will be their keepsake at the end of the day to take home.

Secondly, they get to sit in the "rolly chair" for the day.
BIG deal in my class!
They love the rolly chair!

Next, they will get a Birthday pencil, and a "Pick a recess equipment" tag to use whenever they wish.
(Not just the day of their birthday)

And finally, we will sing the Birthday Chant (Marine Corps Drill Instructor Style ) to them
Saw this on pinterest....can't take credit for it....
But in true Marine Corps cadence style, I changed the ending......
Here's mine....

I'll throw this little gem on my not-as-smart-as-yours-board and we'll chant away while marching in place for full effect! Then I'll tell them all to drop and give me 20!

And for the final touch, I'll take their birthday picture and give them that as a keepsake too!

I've seen TONS of ideas of what other people do for birthdays! I think this is gonna work for me this year!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

It's WHAT day???

Okay, I feel like I just woke up from a fog!
I realized that next week is my LAST full week off (although it's not technically a full week off because I have a team leader meeting on Thursday) we're getting down to the count, folks!

Good news is that since the baby boy shipped off to boot camp (and I got my scripted phone call at 12:15 a.m. Wednesday morning) I have been up to school every day and making huge progress.

Bad news is I'm not sure how I'm going to pull off a school year without getting to work around 9:30 and taking a nap at 2:00! Looks like I'm going to have to readjust my schedule!!!

Here's what I've done so far.....

Ok, I caved.....I did!
I wasn't going to use this board as a word wall this year....but I'm out of cute ideas for displaying work and out of room for a word wall anywhere else So, I combined my newly made Cowboy ABCs and word wall! It'll look better once I have some actual words on it!

This is where I'm going to be displaying my anchor posters! I reused some yellow material I had and made the 'fence' border myself.

This is my sink area.....consider this the 'before' picture as now I have cleared it of all clutter and rearranged the stuff on top of the cabinets to look a bit better!

My bookshelves and 'reading center'. I got bulbs for my lamps and when they are turned on, it looks quite 'homey'. I intend on taking the kids pics the first day and putting them on the bulletin board with  the "Good Readers" to complete this bulletin board.

My desk and 'teacher table' area Notice the colored cowboy hats on top of my cabinet? I got them for a dollar at Dollar Tree! Lots of colors! LOVE em!

My "not as smart as your board" and meeting area!

Our grade level bulletin board in the hall I plan on putting some catchy title....which I'm sure will come to me and somehow relate to our theme of " _______ kids: The next BIG thing"
I'm thinking of something like " Dream BIG!!" and die-cutting little stars where they write their 'dream' for the year on it and putting it in our 'blue' area of our flag!!!

Another Dollar Tree find.....I'm going with a Red, White and Blue theme....can you tell I had a kid ship off to boot camp on the brain when I was shopping???

Found these sticker letters at Dollar Tree the saying, " Wish it, Dream it, Do it"

Well, I'm tired and it's WAY past nap time......the school schedule is gonna KILL me!!!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

August Currently

WOW! I cannot believe it's already AUGUST! The summer has flown by and it's time to kick back into school mode! I'm linking up with Farley at Oh Boy! 4th Grade for her August Currently!
Here's mine:

My 3 B2S "Must Haves" are 1. Lamps!- I posted a few days ago about a workshop I went to where I learned the only thing that decreases (dissolves is the word they used) melatonin in the brain is LIGHT! And I HATE overhead lights! SO, it looks like I need to go lamp shopping!
2. Curtains! My room sticks out of the footprint of the building so my windows have nothing shading them from the blinding morning sun! And my poor babies that sit by my window are blinded if I don't have, when I'm out grabbing lamps this week, I need to pick up some cheap-o curtains!!!
3. Shelves and organizers- I have 2 small bookshselves from I would like about 3 more and some organizers for my books for those shelves!!!
Did I mention I needed to win the lottery????

Farley's Rules are:
1. Rule of 3----look at the 2 blogs in front of yours and the 1 behind yours and comment!!! Spreads the love!
2. On the B2S, you can promote your TPT products, just promote someone else's too!

That's it!!
Fun fun fun!!!
Okay, gotta break down and have that cake and Diet Coke! I mean, it's  DIET'll cancel all the calories out right???

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Displaying student work

Yay! Today I went up to school and my carpets were DONE!!! Which meant I got to move my desks around and arrange my room! Until I get that done, it feels like I can do NOTHING!

SO, I got a LOT accomplished today....and may go back tomorrow and do more!!!

One of the things I did was tear down the ratty old number line (I'm looking to purchase a new one) that was under my whiteboard, and sat and thought and thought and thought about how to use that space!

THEN I remembered seeing several ideas of how other teachers display student work in their classroom. I NEVER have enough wallspace, so I thought the best use of this space would be to display student work.

I'm already planning on having 23ish kids. Maybe 24. At least until our numbers solidify and we get to hire a 5th teacher......SO, I figured I may as well go ahead and count on it!

I had several ideas about how to display work....and all of them would have required me purchasing stuff....which I am trying to avoid right now. Did I mention I'm a teacher and I'm broke all the time?!?

I figure if I can use what I have, then why buy something?
So, what do I have??? TONS of construction paper....almost every color.
I thought about using different colors....but I want to stick with my cowboy theme....and the bulletin board on that wall uses cow hide print and red. SO, I went with red.
I put up 24 pieces of red construction paper, used brown construction paper to haphazardly cut strips to make "frames". Then I made some badges on my handy dandy computer and put student numbers in them and then printed them, laminated them and put them up!
Its a lot of red.....and I'm debating if its TOO much red, but as I sat and stared at the complete project, it kinda grew on me........what do you think???