Archives for December 2013

Happy New Year-Reflections and Resolutions

Is it seriously the end of 2013?  I mean, really…it seems like just yesterday we were starting a new school year!  Anyone else feel that way?  This year has seemed to just fly by.  I’ve heard that the older you get, the faster time goes.  This reality has hit me hard this year!

So…it’s time to reflect back on some things that have happened over the year.  Some good, some bad…but all that has happened has been for a reason.  I like to think that no matter what comes our way, we will make it through it…hopefully smiling!  Here are a few things that happened in my crazy world this year:

photo 1(28)January: I was able to attend my first ever workshop by Gretchen Bernabei.  It TOTALLY changed my view of teaching writing and impacted our Writer’s Workshop in such a positive way.  I am forever grateful to her amazing writing skills!

February: My husband and I had an opportunity to spend time with some of his family from Maryland, including his cousin and her twin girls.  Man, they are a mess!  I can’t even fathom having two little munchkins to run after–my ONE is bad enough!  😉

March: The tail end of Spring Break we got to see my husband’s sister and her kids that now live in Missouri.  It was our son’s first time to really interact with his cousins: running around with them, laughing with them, and playing together with them like they were long lost best

April: The test.  Game day.  Nerves.  Excitement.  Everything we had done all year was being put to the test.  Two days of Writing, back to back.  We were all SO glad when it was over.

May: Field trip time!  Our students were rewarded with a trip to Austin’s Park, a pizza and game venue that kids really like LOVE!  It was so much fun to race them in go-karts and try to beat them to the top of the rock climbing wall.  No mercy!  This gal is competitive!  We had an amazing time!

June: School ended.  For the first time ever, I got to go to New Orleans with my husband’s family.  All I can say is: Willie Mae’s Fried Chicken.  Best part of the trip, hands down!  I cannot look at fried chicken the same anymore.  Move over KFC…you have been replaced!

photo 2(27)July: I began really getting into this whole blogging thing.  Yes, I “started” my blog back in April, but I didn’t put much effort into it until now.  I found out personally what it means to be a blog stalker, and I fit that description very well!  😉

August: We celebrated our son’s second birthday at Lago Vista resort.  We had a great time watching him splash in the water and make new friends.  The second half of August was filled with back to school things and actually starting a new school year.  You know all of that stuff!

September: Dun…dun…dun…the official scores/ratings from THE test came in.  Wow.  Not good.  Not good at all.  We worked so hard in preparation for that…as well as other things…and it seemed that the world just came crashing down on us.  We have a lot of work to do this year to make sure that we don’t fall into that trap again, but it will all be OK.

October: I was invited to go to another workshop by Gretchen Bernabei for FREE!  You heard me, FREE!  I met her and talked with her, and she even put my blog up for the whole room to see.  I’m sure I’m one of her biggest fans, so this just made my heartphoto 4(15) sing!  At the end of October, we closed on our first home.  It was an exhausting ride to get to that final step, but we made it!

November: Painting, moving, trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot filled every spare second we had.  Our home was a foreclosure and had been neglected for awhile, so you can only imagine what we needed to do to get it “liveable.”  We celebrated Thanksgiving with all of our family at the end…a much needed break from the craziness!

December: For the first time in a few years, my WHOLE family got together for Christmas.  It was crowded, kids everywhere–PERFECT!  So thankful for another year of time with our families.  Oh, and I can’t forget: I moved over to a self-hosted blog and awaiting a new blog design.  SO EXCITED!!

There you have it.  A look back at my year.  😉  Now on to “My 1.”

I’ve linked up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for her New Year’s post.  Instead of writing out lots of resolutions, she has encouraged us to think of 1 thing that we want to focus on for the new year.  Here goes.

After looking back and reflecting over my year, I realized that there is something that I really need to change in myself this year.  I’m a little bit of a control freak.  I don’t like things that I can’t control.  I guess I’ve always been this way, but it’s really gotten to me this past year.  There are lots of things in life that are out of our hands, and I need to learn to accept them and move on.

Several times, I catch myself agonizing over these things and stressing out because of them.  This applies to things at school and at home. I can’t control what other people choose to do.  I can’t control students’ parents.  I can’t force people to believe the same things I do…even though I know that I’m always right!  LOL

This year I’m going to focus on letting those things go.  I know that I can’t control everything, and I need to stop causing myself unnecessary grief!  Here’s to a wonderful to new year!  Happy New Year to everyone out there!  May this year be full of love and laughter, and letting the little things go!

**Be sure to visit 4th Grade Frolics for more resolutions.  There are some truly amazing people out there!

Update: I decided to link up with another awesome teaching blog, A Peach for the Teach . More awesomeness over there!



Find Me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

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Differentiated Instruction: Students Teaching Students

Our campus has been discussing differentiated instruction a lot lately. We are focusing on student needs and effective teaching strategies that help all students. There are multiple ways to look at this concept and it encompasses several ideas.


In my classroom, one way I’ve found that reaches all students is to allow the students to teach each other, not just in small groups or within their table groups, but actually working out problems for the entire class and explaining how they reached their answers.


This week we have been working on combinations. Some of these problems are very easy, and the kids catch on very quickly. Some, however, require some serious thinking skills to figure out all possible answers.


This is where the “student teachers” come into play. I could stand up there and explain how to work these problems until I’m blue in the face and some kids would get it, but others will completely tune out. Put a student up there–automatic engagement for all involved.


Not only are the students happy ecstatic to be called upon to help their peers, they extend their thinking and learning by explaining their strategies to others. It encourages them to work harder and think critically about their work. They are more likely to ask questions and seek help so that they may be called upon to teach others.


At first I thought that the idea of differentiated instruction sounded like a lot more work on me (and it can be at times), but this simple technique actually saves my voice and allows the students to find theirs. 😉


Narrative Writing In Action

Just a short post for you tonight. I’ve been meaning to post some pics of my students’ rough drafts for their narrative pieces, but I’ve been so extremely busy with so many other things that it slipped my mind. Some students have already finished their publishing, so I figured it was past time to get these on the blog!

Last week we worked on thoughtshots and snapshots that Gretchen Bernabei references in her books and trainings. We used mentor texts from Fun Size Academic Writing for these activities, and the kids really took off with it. The picture below is the mentor text that we colored up for thoughts.


We glued our drafts to large construction paper and then used the outside edges to write in our snapshots and thoughtshots. The students just drew arrows to the places where this new information would go.








The students enjoyed the lessons, and once they were finished they were amazed at how their narratives were transformed. A quote from one of my students: “Wow, Mrs. Shook, my story sounds so much better with this extra stuff I added!” Gotta love ’em!! 😉


Remember Sandy Hook

As educators, we remember and honor our fallen colleagues and their students from Sandy Hook School.  We honor them each day in our classrooms in which we continue their dream of teaching our children.  We honor their memory with our service.  Join with teachers everywhere in committing random acts of kindness to show our love for Sandy Hook.


Narrative 11-Minute Essays

After several long weeks of expository writing, we have switched back to narratives again.  Students always usually enjoy writing narratives more than expository pieces, so this was refreshing to most.

I have tried the 11-minute essay (introduced by Gretchen Bernabei) with my students for expository writing, but not for narrative.  I thought I would give it a try.  Rather than giving them a truism to think about, I gave them a narrative prompt.  Their prompt was: Write about a time you went to your favorite place.  They used the text structure: Where I was–>First Moment–>Next Moment–>Last Moment–>What I Thought.

Wow!  They impressed me once again!  Simply speaking–they wrote an entire narrative in 12 minutes.  Yep, I gave an extra minute for their introduction (2 mins. for intro., 3 mins. for each body paragraph, and then 1 min. for concl.).  The craziest part about it was that some of my students wrote more in 12 minutes than they have in an entire week of Writer’s Workshop.  I guess the time crunch works!  I’ll definitely be doing this again…probably as our rough draft for just about every piece of writing from here on out.

Canyon Lake by Gasseli

Basketball Court by Ciarra

Closet by Avery

My Room by Joe

Pantry by Avery

The River by Annaleah

The Car by Daniel

They loved it SO much, that we did it two days in a row. After sharing out on day 1, we noticed that some students were spending too much time on their way to their special place.  On day 2, some students chose to use their same place and make it better, while others chose to write about somewhere totally new.

I made copies of each student’s writing (it was in their notebooks) and gave it back to them.  Since they did not skip lines, we had to come up with a way to add to our stories without trying to squeeze everything between lines or in the margins.  The students have cut out their writing pieces and glued them down onto large pieces of construction paper.  They will be adding icons, ba…da…bing sentences, snapshots, thoughtshots, etc. on the construction paper with arrows pointing to where the information will go.  I’ll be sure to post some pictures of their work.

I will also have them publish this piece of writing, so all can see what they look like after some individual conferences with students.  Remember: They wrote these in 12 minutes!

I have posted a sampling of some of their papers (above).  Some of them are already really well written, while others need some serious interventions.  I like to post more than just awesome papers so that we can look at them and use them as a teaching tool for students.  I do this in my classroom–use real student writing to show how we can make it better: adding icons, changing verbs, punctuation marks, checking for spelling rules, schesis onomaton (renaming), etc.  Hopefully you can find a use for them in your classroom, too!