Currently: July!

It's that time again! I missed out on the fun last month so I wanted to make sure I participated this time. :)

Listening - We had a "laundry party" today. It's actually still going strong. UGH. I really hate laundry days. I should probably feel guilty about the amount of laundry we had to do considering I am on summer vacation... but I don't. :)

Loving - Speaking of summer... I love spending my days typing away while I watch new shows in the background. I discovered Scandal and and Parenthood during June. I finished Season 1 of both shows and I'm working my way through Season 2. I would have finished all of Scandal by now, but the hubs got caught up in it and I re-watched the whole first season with him so we could be ready for Season 3 in the fall together. Yay!

Thinking - Lord have mercy! Summer, slow down! It is flying by way too fast. I haven't even been home (to WNC) yet!!

Wanting - I have been reading like a crazy person. Here's what I've read so far. I would love to hear your recommendations - professional or personal!

Here's what I've read so far:

  • The Book Whisperer (Miller)
  • Teach Like a Pirate (Burgess)
  • Finding Mrs. Warnecke (Rigsbee)
  • Save Me (Scottoline)
  • Outside the Lines (Hatvany)
  • Objects of My Affection (Smolinsky)

Needing - I've definitely hit a "summer slump" here. I have (no kidding) about 7 unfinished projects and at least 10 down on paper. I sit down at my laptop and I cannot make it happen. I'm thinking I might have to set up a schedule for myself... is that tho thad or what?!

Tips, Tricks, and Hints - After 2 years of plugging away on this blog, I hit a pretty exciting number this weekend: 1,000 followers! I am tickled pink and I cannot wait to celebrate with you! (hint, hint)

Farley was right. You have to be yourself. One of the reasons she is so wildly successful is because everytime she hits that "post" button, we click over so that we can hear what SHE has to say. It's her voice on that blog, and I hope here as well. :)

Be patient. The "lightning in a bottle" blogs are few and far between. :) The rest of us keep at it in hopes that we'll reach that next milestone a little quicker than the last time.

Be willing to listen. If you're a seller, use the forums!! Better yet - click on the yellow school bus on the right and join Teaching Blog Traffic School. I started to see big changes when I started asking bloggers in those networks for feedback and help. Yes, it stings a little sometimes but products are better because I'm willing to listen to others and use their feedback to improve my ideas. This does not mean asking for ratings on freebies. This means networking, swapping products for edits, and using constructive feedback to improve your ideas.

Big love to Farley for putting this together every month. These templates are always so beautiful!

I hope this finds you happy and relaxed! Soak up these summer days - we know (sniff) they won't last long! Make sure you leave me a good book recommendation and follow me on Bloglovin' before Google Reader disappears tomorrow!

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How We Do It: Homework

I started this post months ago, and never finished it. When my sweet friend Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files asked about homework organization on her Facebook page, I was *inspired* to finish it. :) I also thought it might be fun to find out how other bloggers organize and assign homework.

Button Credits: Ashley Hughes, Mr. Magician, KG Fonts, and Scrappin' Doodles

A couple of summers ago, I was hanging out with one of my favorite teacher peeps and saw her kiddos' homework journals. They were in kindergarten at the time, but I immediately thought, "This is genius!" She and I started talking and she said she loved it - they were easy to keep up with, the kids could look back on previous assignments to review skills, and it was also a great parent-teacher communication tool.

I talked it over with my teaching partner and we decided to try it in 3rd. Two years later, it's spread throughout our whole grade level and several other classrooms in our building as well. We love it!

One of the first out-of-pocket purchases I will make this summer is  25-30 composition notebooks. I wait until they go on sale at Office Depot/Office Max/Target/wherever for $0.25 each. It ends up being a $5-6 purchase - and well worth it for us to be able to start the first day with our homework journals.

Yes, you read that right. We give homework on the first day of school. I know. I'm such a meanie. But honestly, it fits right in with our lessons on Habit 3: Putting First Things First and it gives our students a chance to apply it right away.

We have our first "family group meeting" where we combine both homerooms for a big talk and go over our homework expectations, rewards for completing it all week long, and consequences for leaving it at home or bringing it back incomplete.

Here's a quick rundown on all of that good stuff:

  • We assign homework Monday - Thursday, one language arts and one math assignment each night. 
  • We have a set time each day where we both go over and give the kids time to glue in their homework or write down the night's assignment(s).
  • All homework turned in on time all week long = Homeworkopoly the following Monday. We use Kristen's game board! Since we don't assign Friday homework, this works out perfectly! The kids play as they come in for the day and it doesn't take up any of our instructional time. 
  • If they don't turn in an assignment, they don't play. Period. This might seem a little harsh, but because we stick to this, we rarely have homework issues after the first six weeks. 
  • When they are missing something (barring a family emergency), they take an extra copy of the assignment to lunch and complete it there. They don't have silent lunch, but when they have to make up an assignment, they don't do much talking on their own.  

Homework on the first night of school!

We start the first week with one assignment each night, and it alternates between language arts and math. We've learned that growing our expectations for the kids instead of throwing everything at them all at once builds their confidence and willingness to get their homework done. This also ensures that (almost) everyone will be able to play Homeworkopoly after the first week - another big motivator.

The very first night, we ask them to write about their first day at school. It gives us a chance to see things from their perspective, get to know them a little bit, and it shows me where they are (relatively) with their writing abilities!

The second week of school, we add in 2 assignments per night (language arts + math). By the third week, they were doing language arts, math, and a reading log.


About that reading log.

By December, I ditched the reading logs.

I know... they have to read... they need to read... but here's the thing I finally learned after 13 years of homework and teaching: Reading logs have the tendency to turn parents and children into liars. Not all of them, but a lot of them.

I want my kids to go home and want to read. I don't want it to be a fight, a chore, or a lie. So, in my room, reading at night is optional. I encourage them to take their guided reading books home and reread what we read in class that night. I also let them check out whatever they want from our classroom library using the Book Retriever app. (They are coming out with a desktop version soon - eek!) Now, because I am checking the books out I can see whether or not they are taking a just right book home. We'll talk about check-in and check-out on another day. :)

Here's what homework looked like by December:

Homework with the reading logs...

We found that when we were making copies, we could reduce everything to 85% and it fit fabulously in their journals. It we needed it full size, they just folded it in half and glued the bottom half to the page.

After letting go of reading logs...

You can *almost* see at the top where K wrote "CHECK POCKET." We glued a manila envelope (the kind with a clasp to close it) on the back cover so that we had a place for notes from school, notes from us, spelling lists, permission slips, etc. It really worked out beautifully.

Here's another bonus. My district uses Words Their Way and last year, I had 4 different spelling groups going on at any time. In addition to Spelling City practice in class, I threw in spelling homework a couple of times each week. This meant 4 different lists. Lists get lost, right? Well, with the homework journals our kids had no excuse for losing their lists. Once they completed the first assignment, the words were in their journals - it didn't matter if they were lost or not! :)

The kids also used their journals as a reference. We throw in review skills once or twice a week, and when the kids get "stuck" they can look back through old homework assignments to kickstart their brains. It's helpful to parents as well!

Now it's your turn! I would love to hear how YOU do it! :) Just grab the image at the top, put it in your post, and link up with your post (not your blog's home page) at the bottom!

We Read, We Blog, We Teach: The Book Whisperer

I am so stinkin' excited to be a part of We Read, We Blog, We Teach again this summer! Especially since we are diving into one of my very favorite professional reads again - The Book Whisperer.

Please join me today as we look through Chapter 2: Everybody Is a Reader and Whisper: Student Surveys. I've got another fun freebie for you!


Promoting Leadership Behavior


We recently started our journey as a leadership school. As we worked through our first year, I tried to think of ways to tie in the seven leadership habits with our behavior management system. My teaching partner and I liked our clip chart system, but we hit a big wall with a few of our students.

This "wall" came in the form of a few children who could not handle moving their clip after any kind of redirection. Stomping, crying, wailing, gnashing of teeth - it was about 9 kinds of awful. We kept repeating our "family" mantra - You can always turn your day around! - but it didn't seem to help.

It finally occurred to us that no matter how many times we told our students this, all some of them could SEE was that they were on orange - Teacher's Choice. Or, their clips were on red - Parent Contact/Office Visit. 

They were so fixated on the consequences that they couldn't possibly think about ways to turn their day around.

When we talked about it, my partner and I knew that WE would enforce consequences where and when they were appropriate --- but did they need to be public (on the chart)? We decided they did not.

It took a little time, but I came up with a rhyme for each piece of the chart. I tried to incorporate components of our leadership habits in each section.

Author's Note: Clip charts aren't for everybody. In fact, I don't use them anymore myself. However, this one worked for me and I'm happy to share it with you! 

I have never been so excited to test out something new in my classroom. The difference in our little crew was amazing. When they had to clip down, the students would recite the rhyme, talk to one of us and (gasp) move on with their day!!

We saw positive changes in the rest of our little school family as well. I cannot wait to start the year with this tool when we go back.

I would love to hear from you if you decide this is something you want to use! To get it, click on any of the images in this post OR click HERE.

Make sure you're following my 7 Habits Pinterest board for loads of other ideas as well!

You can also sign up below to get a FREE set of Paradigm posters that support the Leader in Me teachings!


Five for Friday: June 7, 2013

1.  Hello from Miami!

Can you see me waving? :) It's actually not that pretty right now. We managed to squeeze in about 2 hours of sunshine this morning before the sky opened up. Right now it looks like this:

My sweet husband has gone on a run for food and movies. We've already watched 2 today, but this storm is hanging around and we're hungry! I can't complain though. We've had such a wonderful week here.

2. We celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary while we were here in Miami! We ate dinner at a yummy Cuban restaurant called Havana 1957. We are not South Beach clubbers (HA!), but we had fun walking around and playing "looky-loo" at all of the locals dressed up for a night on the town. :)

3. Before we left for Miami, I spent some quality time with my sweet mama and 2 of my sisters. Back in Febraury, I mailed them all a "card" that looked like this...

It was such a fun surprise, and an incredible mini-weekend together. We worshiped, listened, laughed, cried, and did it all again the next day. :)

Beth Moore and Travis Cottrell - Living Proof Live 2013!
Me, Sister J, Sister K, and The Mama - We missed Sister N!
4. I got my Erin Condren planner!!

 I am simple. I love green. And chevron. And this planner. Love, love, love. I can't wait to write in it!!

5. Packing up my room!

I think I've done this post in reverse! :) My room is all packed up! I had to dismantle my library this year (sad face) so that our custodians could clean every square inch possible of my tile floors. I'm anxious for the room to get cleaned so I can get back in there and put my room back together... it's a sickness, isn't it? :)

I am thankful for a blog post I saw somewhere out there that gave an awesome tip -

Put your "essentials" in a box and label it "Open Me First!" so you'll have the basics while you're unpacking. 

Brilliant! :)

I hope this finds you either already on summer vacation, or with the end in sight. I'm headed back to school on Monday for 2 weeks of (half day) Leadership Camp. Looking forward to sharing more with you!


I'm posting a quick update from vacation (don't shoot!), so this will be short and sweet! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations Susan! 
I've sent you an email so I can know where to ship your book. If I don't hear from Susan within 48 hours, I'll pick another winner!

Thanks everybody!