In the Nick of Time

I know. I'm really behind. Let me remind you that I have only been out of school since December 23rd.

You read that right. December 23rd. Some *smarticle* (rhymes with particle) decided we needed to be in school until December 23rd!! Clearly, they have no children of their own. Nor have they been in a classroom in a gazillion years. Do you KNOW how NUTSO my precious angel-demons were? Completely and totally out of their minds. Anyhoo, I saw this linky party popping up here, there and everywhere. I want in on this fun! :)

Everybody's favorite funny girl Kristin @ Teeny Tiny Teacher and Hadar @ Miss Kindergarten are hosting. Or, they were. I'm guessing they still are.

11. Favorite movie you watched:
Loved it. Just loved it.

10. Favorite TV series:

Just discovered Big Bang Theory. Hilariousness.  

9. Favorite restaurant:

 We went here for our anniversary. 
I love Thai food. 

8. Favorite new thing you tried:

Testing the TpT waters. I have discovered that I really love creating and writing materials that I can use in my own classroom. It has been a fun source of extra income and I look forward to the days I give myself to just sit and write!

7. Favorite gift you got:

 Somewhere, angels are singing. 
Words cannot describe how much I love this machine. 

6. Favorite thing you pinned:

 Every word rings true. 

5. Favorite blog post:

Probably Clip Chart Goodness. Using this has made me a better teacher, and it makes my students strive to be better people on a daily basis.

4. Best accomplishment:

Getting this blog up and running. I love sharing ideas with all of you!

3. Favorite picture:

Birthday fun with My Sweet Boy.

2. Favorite memory:

 My teaching partner, Michelle, got married this year. 
It was beautiful. 
Such fun.

1. Goal for 2012: 

Get healthy. I don't want to worry about sizes and pounds. I just want to be healthy again. 

What a fun way to look back at the year! Don't forget to enter the ginormous giveaway I'm participating in!

Ringing in the New Year with a Ring of Bloggy Giveaways!

A BIG thank you to Mandy for putting this all together. I am so excited!! I'm also working on a couple of new units to post in my TpT store just for this event!

Twelve blogs have joined together for a MEGA New Year Giveaway!  The winners of the giveaway will be able to choose any item (winter themed or not) from any of the Teacher Pay Teachers stores listed below.  Nearly 100 items will be given away in this HUGE event!

Each blog will have 6 winners.
Each blog will select and post 6 winners for that blog.

Third Place: There will be THREE third prize winners that will be able to choose any (of the winner’s choice) ONE item total from any of the blogger’s Teacher Pay Teachers store listed below. 

   Second Place: There will be TWO second prize winners that will be able to choose any (of the winner's choice) TWO items (total)  from any of the blogger's Teachers Pay Teachers stores below. 

First Prize: ONE grand prize winner from EACH blog that will win any (of the winner's choice) ONE ITEM from EACH blogger's Teachers Pay Teachers stores listed below!

 Here are the participating blogs/ stores: 



How do you enter?  There are several possible ways to enter:

1.      Follow my blog and leave a comment on this blog post saying you follow  (or note that you are already a follower).

2.      Follow my Teacher Pay Teachers store and leave a comment on this blog post saying you follow.

3.      Blog about this contest  and leave a comment on this blog post.

4. Visit the other blogs and stores, and enter according to their instructions.

 However, there are still MORE ways to enter! You can also follow the blogs and stores of ALL the blogs participating in the list above to increase your chances of winning!  There are at least 24 chances to win even if you DON'T blog!!!! Remember to comment that you follow their blog and TpT store on their blog!

All winners will be chosen on January 6th, 2012 by 8:00pm Eastern time.
Good luck!  Maybe YOU will be one of the big winners!

Dictionary Unit Winners!

I don't know what I was thinking when I said I would have my unit done by Friday. Really? In middle of Christmas chaos? :)

Thank you for being patient - I do have 3 winners!

Thank you ladies! Please email me @ mrsspann@gmail.com if you are still interested in proofing this!

I hope everyone has had a fantastic Christmas-Hannukah-holiday season. I'll be back soon!

December Dictionary Dee-lights!

Hi Peeps! 

I've been hard at work on a Dictionary Skills Unit for the last couple of weeks. I'm almost finished and I need a couple of proofreaders! The unit covers:

  • ABC order
  • Using a dictionary page
  • Guide words

I'll do this like a "giveaway" because - well, it is! It will also make me sit down and finish the last two parts. :)

I'll pull three names out of a random number generator. All you have to do is:

A) follow my blog and tell me that you do!


B) become a follower and tell me you did!

Easy peasy, right?

I'll only leave it open until Friday at 9:00 pm. All I ask of the winners is that you help me find any grammatical errors or typos that my tired eyes may have missed. I'll also send the winners a free copy of the proofed and final packet.

Good Luck!

Christmas Writing Prompts

I'm going to be out Monday and I wanted my kids to have something fun to do for writing. This is one of the hardest things for me to plan for when I'm out. So, I created a few Christmas writing prompts. I'm also going to put these out for Work on Writing for the rest of the month.

I hope it's something you can use!

Christmas Writing Prompts

*Scribd is acting crazy this morning, so I'll upload them there later. In the meantime, you can use the link above to get them from Google Docs.


What I'm Thankful For...

I"m joining Rachelle over at What the Teacher Wants AND Farley at Oh Boy! 4th Grade for their I'm Thankful... linky parties!

1.  What are you thankful for in your classroom?

I have been especially thankful for the Donors Choose materials that arrived last month. I have been using our new sight word games and word work materials in my strategy groups. I'm looking forward to introducing Word Work when we get back from break so the kids can work with them more often.

2. What person are you most thankful for?

My mom... hands down. She is the strongest, funniest, most thoughtful person I know. Our family would fall to pieces without her.

3. What 3 blogs are you most thankful for?

Angelia @ Extra Special Teaching is one of the most giving teacher-bloggers out there. If you haven't seen the games she makes to help her students with spelling patterns and sight words, you need to get there... NOW! I have used so many of the materials she has created.

A Teeny Tiny Teacher

Kristin @ A Teeny Tiny Teacher. She's just plain funny. I always come away from her blog with a smile.

My longtime friend, Kari, writes about her adventures as a new mom and her walk with Him. I miss her more than I could possibly say, but I am thankful I can keep up with her (almost) daily posts about life in Senegal. 

4. What guilty pleasure are you most thankful for?

Ice cream. Lots of it. Especially lately.

And Hoarders. It always makes me feel like my house is in waaay better shape.  

5. What are you most thankful for?

God's never-ending grace. His voice in my head, in my heart, reminding me that I am still His child. I am thankful that His love is boundless and that He is in control of every worry I have. Even the dumb ones.

I hope you all have a marvelous break. I hope you know how much I love being a part of such an incredible network of teachers.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Christmas Read Aloud Linky Party

I was trolling/stalking/looking on Amazon last night for some new Christmas read-alouds when I realized my BEST resource would be YOU wonderful people.

So, I decided to try this linky party thing again.

I'll start by sharing one of my favorite Christmas Read-Alouds:

This has been one of my favorite books since I was... in third grade of course!

 My third graders have always been on the cusp of reality and tradition. (Is that pretty typical?) This book helps to keep the belief in Santa alive! :) I have traditionally used it with story maps, but I'm working on a couple of different ideas that I can't wait to share with you!

What is your favorite Christmas read-aloud? Join in with the link below!


Writing About Our Reading

So we've been working on responding to literature using Lucy's Calkins' Units of Study. I was absolutely in love with what my children were learning, and then it happened again.

I hit a WALL.

I feel like I've smacked into that wall several times this year in my Writer's Workshop. Which, let me tell you people, is not an easy thing to admit. I've been teaching for 10 years. I am not used to hitting THE WALL.

When I was finally tired of pulling my hair out, I went to my sweet friend Marnia. She also happens to be our literacy coach. (People, she is f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s.) Do you want to know what happened next?

We hit the wall together. :)

It gave me so much comfort. I was starting to feel like something was wrong with me, like I couldn't see what my kids needed. So we sat and talked it out together. Again. And we came up with an even better lesson.

Some background...

We've been reading short stories from Cynthia Rylant's Every Living Thing. 

Some of our favorites are:
  • Spaghetti
  • Slower Than the Rest
  • Boar Out There
We also used Donald Crews' Shortcut and Pat Hutchins' Happy Birthday, Sam. All of these were "mentor texts" in our room. Each child chose a story they wanted to write about. Marnia and I typed up the text of each story. (Can't share those, peeps. Copyrights. Bummer.)

Earlier in the week, we talked about visualizing. One of my kiddos started to call it "movie-lizing." So we went with that. :)

Back to the present...

We went through this chart and I modeled the journal page below:

Visualizing Journal

One of the things that helped them to be successful was pasting the moment they found to be the "most important" on the journal. I also reminded them that everyone's moment could be different - just like the stories they chose to write about. But, by pasting their moment on the page, we could easily check to see if their writing was connected to the moment they chose.  

I was truly amazed at what they came up with! I'm not saying that this lesson will be just as successful in your room, but I wanted to share it with you. If you liked this, I'll be happy to share what we work through in the weeks ahead!


We've been struggling with dialogue. And quotation marks.

And when I say struggling, I mean FALLING FLAT ON OUR FACES.

So, I did what any good blogger-friendly teacher would do. I turned to Google Reader. Thank goodness for Google Reader.

I found 2 things that were REALLY helpful:
This post by Dots-N-Spots.

Dots-N-Spots' original display

It reminded me of the perfect book for that transition time between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

So we read The Ugly Pumpkin. (If you don't have, you seriously need to add it to your classroom library.) Every time I get to the line "Oh my GOSH, I'm a SQUASH!" I die laughing. I giggled just now thinking about it. :)

The 2nd thing I found was a set of thinking "cues" for their writing. And, for the life of me I cannot find the post. So if this is your idea and I didn't give you credit, I'm sorry and thank you. It worked.

The prompt is to ask the kids 2 questions: WHO said it? WHAT did they say?

If the student can identify those two parts, then they know where to put the quotation marks.

So here is our GOURD-geous garden. They are pretty durn cute squash if you ask me. :)

We had so much fun making these! The kids have been rereading The Ugly Pumpkin over and over during their Read to Self time.... We just started Daily 5, BTW.

Holy Moses. That's a whole post all in itself. :)

Porkenstein Writing Activity! UPDATED!

**I didn't realize the clipart wasn't saved correctly. It's been fixed! :)* We are right in the middle of Conference Week and life in NUTS!

I'm linking up this week with Me and My Gang for a TON of fun Halloween freebies! Tomorrow we''re reading Porkenstein and filling our day with all things Porkenstein. I wanted share this fun writing freebie I whipped up.  My kids always love this book and I'm really looking forward to reading it with them. I hope it's something you can use!

Pork en Stein Writing Activity


Data Notebooks

Life has been a rollercoaster in the Bookworm House lately. My favorite {I know... but she is.} student is losing her brave battle with leukemia. My husband's grandmother is also in failing health. We were called home this past weekend to say our goodbyes. Since then, both of them have continued to improve somewhat. I don't understand this plan, but I am thankful for any time I can spend with both of them. Your prayers are both coveted and appreciated.

Not how you expected this post to start, right? On to data notebooks!

Our school piloted the 7 Habits last year, and we have gone "schoolwide" this year. This includes data notebooks. We are departmentalized 1st-5th grades, and each teacher is require to track a few different things:

 - Guided Reading Progress
 - Reading Fluency
 - Sight Word Recognition
 - Letter Recognition

 - Fact Fluency
 - Number Recognition

 - Mock CRCT scores (3 times a year)

These requirements are differentiated according to each child's needs. For example, a student who doesn't know all of their sight words is not ready to have their reading fluency tracked. Another child may already know all of their addition and subtraction facts and is ready to begin tracking their multiplication fact progress.

I'm including most of the forms we use to keep track of all this student data. I'll post the math forms in a separate post. I'm still converting some of them to PDFs. :)

Guided Reading Progress (K-5)

Fluency (K-2)

Fluency (3-5)

Sight Words (in order of difficulty)






Letter Recognition

Mock CRCT Graphs

I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions!

Listening Center Freebie

So I've been searching the internet all afternoon looking for a 3rd grade listening center form. Yeah - those don't exist. :) I did find a couple that helped me put this one together.

Our Response to Literature standards emphasize forming and supporting an opinion about a text so I wanted to incorporate some of that in the response. I have a very *active* group this year and they needed something to hold them accountable for this piece of our center rotation. I'll model this tomorrow, so wish me luck!

I would love constructive feedback and/or love notes!:)

Listening Center

First Week Frenzy

W-O-W. I have had a whirlwind week so far!

As an inclusion teacher, I know each year will bring new challenges. This year is no exception. I'm really really really glad we are using the clip chart system. It has been  the perfect system so far, and it fits in well with our 7 Habits focus. Speaking of the clip chart, I have to say THANK YOU to everyone who has encouraged me to try this. Know that you not only changed my thinking, but you impacted my entire grade level. All 6 of us are trying the clip system this year. Our 7 second grade teachers are trying it as well. W-O-W!

We've also started to dig deep into the first three habits ~

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First

Today I taught a lesson using Habit 1: Be Proactive. Since I departmentalize, I was able to use two different books with the lesson. I couldn't decide which one to use, so I pulled a different book for each class. One of the texts was significantly shorter than the other, so this was a great way to differentiate for my inclusion group. This early in the year, they have the attention span of a flea. :)

Group 1: Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan

Group 2: A Day's Work by Eve Bunting

I'm sharing the T-Charts we made today. We had some really rich discussions about what it means to be a proactive person and the books lend themselves really easily to this habit.

Habit 1 Lesson T-Charts
I found our talks were better when we made notes after reading the book instead of stopping and talking as we read. I have to give credit to my co-teacher, Schona, for that nugget of truth. Of course, your classroom may work differently.

I hope this has been helpful! Don't forget to enter the Lakeshore giveaway - it ends tomorrow night at 11pm!!


Poetry Notebooks

Does anyone else out there use poetry on a weekly basis with their students? This is one of my goals for the new school year. We will have reading "binders" that house their reading journal, guided reading work, center activities and a poetry notebook section.

Each Monday during my Skills Block (think: Vocabulary/Grammar) we would read a new poem and introduce a new skill. The skill is always embedded into the poem. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we reinforce the skill through partner games, poem-related activities and other printables. We reread the poem everyday to build fluency. I'm going to post the poem each week as a center workstation and have the kids do an activity that connects the poem to a reading skill... visualizing, connections, etc. On Friday, I assess the current skill as well as reviewing skills previously taught during Skills Block.

Each unit I've created has been posted in my TpT store. For some reason, the unit on singular and plural nouns will not upload to Teacher's Notebook. The order of the units for me is based on the skills mandated by my state (GA) and school system.

Week 1: Prefixes (just un- and re-... We go back and add more throughout the year.)
Week 2: Synonyms and Antonyms
Week 3: Homophones
Week 4: Singular and Plural Nouns
Week 5: Contractions
Week 6: Suffixes
Week 7: Review and Extend

(I only have 7 weeks for this quarter because we spend the first week of school introducing the 7 Habits, Reader's Workshop and Writer's Workshop. The second week is spent reinforcing rituals and routines and introducing Words Their Way.)

I just finished a fun new unit on suffixes! I'm putting it up in my TpT store and my Teacher's Notebook store. It's only $2 right now!

Week 6 - Marvelous Suffixes) PREVIEW

BACK to my original question....

How do you use poetry in your classroom? I would love to hear from you!


I'm a big believer in keeping things simple.

I'm also a big fan of Rafe Esquith and his classroom.

If you haven't read this book, go get it. Now.
So, I made a poster for my rules. I stole them from Rafe.

Rules Poster

So, here's to a new school year.

Be kind. Work hard. Everything else just falls in between the two.

Book Whisperer - Chapters 5 and 6

In the "tornado" that has been my life since we came home from the beach, I have completely neglected my blog. I missed it. Seriously. I even stayed up until @ 1:00 a.m. so I could finish Chapter 6 and play "catch-up."

After reading Chapter 5, I have decided a couple of "truths" for myself. I may ruffle some feathers by saying this, but remember I included two very important words: for myself.

Personal Truth #1:

If you do not love reading and are not enthusiastic about it, I'm not sure teaching children to read is right for you. "I am not mandating an activity for them that I do not engage in myself... I want them to remember me as a reader." How are you going to inspire a love of reading? Why would you choose teaching? I'm sure I am preaching to the choir here, but I shudder at the thought of a "mechanical" reading teacher for children of any age.  After all -  "readers are made, not born."

Personal Truth #2:

We all need a reading improvement plan. I need to share more of my childhood experiences as a reader with my students. I need to read more children's literature. I need to ask my students for suggestions in order to connect with them as readers. I need to share my struggles with my students - when I'm laboring through a book, when I find words I don't know and when I completely abandon a book. I also need to do a better job of modeling my struggles with my own texts instead of trying to convince them that I struggle with third-grade materials.  I need to "wear my love of reading proudly in front of (my) students every day."

Chapter 6 had me a little less fired up, but it still left me questioning a lot about my own reading teaching and practices.

Every year after testing while we are waiting to find out which students failed and need to retake the Reading  portion of the test, we have this horrible intermittent period of time known as "remediation." Remediation  consists of putting all of the children I fear may not have passed the test into one group and all of children I feel did well enough to pass into another group. (Note: This is not my idea.) The Scary Group gets three hours of intestive reading (read: test prep) instruction while the Not-So-Scary Group gets three hours of math instruction. That's right. I have one hour with my more capable readers. For the last two years, I've done a Charlotte's Web unit.

Now, I do use a shared reading approach to this where students all have their own copy as we read a chapter or two a day. But what Donalyn wrote about these class novel units struck a nerve with me. It always seems to move painfully slow, and by the end of the unit this year I was sick of it. Can you imagine being sick of one of your all-time favorite books? It was terrible! I've already decided to "repent"  and make it a regular read-aloud next year. I can still do some of the fun arsty-fartsy stuff with the kids, but I can see how I am losing precious minutes of reading time. Especially when I only have an hour with one of my groups.

I am curious to see how everyone else feels about reading logs after reading Chapter 6. After reading Donalyn's thoughts about them, I'm really struggling with whether or not  to continue using them. I change the way my kids respond every 9 weeks. I'll share them with you today. I know I'm going to take out the "parent signature" requirement part of them, but I still want to see my kids responding to what they read at night. I'm only asking for a sentence or two at most. My teaching partner and I are using Homework-opoly next year, so there will still be accountability for homework. I'm just not sure if reading logs will be a part of it.

I'd love to hear your thoughts! If you've read through all of my rants, you deserve these freebies! HA! ;-)

Reading Log 1.0

Reading Log 2.0

Reading Log 3.5 Common Font

Reading Log 4.0

The Book Whisperer: Reader's Notebooks

I have used Reader's Notebooks since my first year of teaching. It's a part of our Reader's Workshop model and often an integral part of my mini-lessons. Every year I "tweak" and revise what goes in them, but I never ask my students to do anything in their notebooks that I haven't modeled extensively for them and with them.

I don't have the students write letters, but I do ask them to try out various responses with the books they read independently or during our guided reading time. I keep a crate of blank response pages near our mini-lesson area so students can choose how they are responding to their books. I only ask that they use 2 different responses each week. Sometimes I print out a key page from a flipchart (ActivBoard) or I'll make a copy of my modeled response for them to paste in their journals as a reference. My kiddos know to bring their notebooks to guided reading and reading conferences. I use their responses (after much modeling and practice) to assess their understanding of a particular reading skill or concept. They make frequent appearances during parent conferences and RTI meetings. There is so much we can learn about our students through these notebooks. I cannot encourage you enough to incorporate these into your room if you aren't doing so already.

One of the things I do at the beginning of the year is to reserve the first 5 pages for our "Table of Contents." I teach the students to number their pages and record their entries in the Table of Contents. This makes it easier (for both of us) to find specific entries for assessment and conferring purposes.

I'm including my Table of Contents today. When I have access to my school computer, I'll upload my first set of responses as well.

Happy Reading!

Table of Contents - Reading Journal


Book Whisperer: Chapter 4

I had so many "a-ha!" moments and connections with this chapter, it was impossible to keep track of them all. :-)

I will be entering my 10th year of teaching in August. 10 years of Reader's Workshop. 10 Years of trying to convince children to love reading as much as I do. 10 years of waiting for Donalyn Miller to write a book so I can stop banging my head against a wall. :-) Seriously.

My students have always enjoyed listening to me read. I purposefully choose books I know will be exciting, suspenseful, thought-provoking or funny. I still have plenty of kids each year who "pretend-read,"sleep or misbehave their way through our Reader's Workshop. I think I definitely discovered part of my problem this week: leveled readers.

I'm sure this will cause a few gasps and hopefully a good debate too, but I don't think I'm going to be quite as strict about the kids reading books on their level. (Can you hear the doom and gloom that goes along with that phrase??) I want them to use strategies (5 finger rule, read the first chapter, etc.) to determine if a book is just right for them or not. I don't want their identity as a reader to be all wrapped up in a letter from the alphabet. If they are using their strategies and I am holding them accountable by conferencing with them consistently, then they should be sticking fairly close to their level in their book choices anyway.

I also want to have more meaningful discussions about genre. We have our 9 weeks laid out in a curriculum map already. Do you know how much time we have for genre? One week, cupcakes. I'm thinking I'm going to have to find extra ways to talk about genre - don't you agree?

I found myself nodding my head in agreement when Donalyn mentioned readers who choose "low-brow" texts at first (Captain Underpants, anyone? Goosebumps?). I will admit it. I am a book snob. I am also a hypocrite. I go home and read the very James Patterson thrillers she mentioned!!!! HA! So, guess what else I'm going to do? You got it - add a Captain Underpants and Goosebumps basket to my library. I have to meet those readers somewhere, right?

What are your thoughts? I'm really interested to hear about how you feel about leveled readers in regards to the freedom our kids need to choose their books. How long do you spend teaching genre initially? Do you have any suggestions as to how I can stretch it out without taking away from the other standards I need to teach? I love that I have a new community of teacher peeps I can come to!

PS - Don't forget to enter!