Your Opinion, Please!

Good afternoon! Apparently I just can’t stay away from blogging for long periods of time. I might have a blogging problem. 😉

I just wanted to drop in quickly to get some feedback from my followers. If you have time, I would like you to respond to a couple of questions.

1. What products do you wish you had to promote learning in your classroom–as in a downloadable product?

2. What could you use to help prepare your kiddos for their upcoming tests? Task cards? Quizzes? PowerPoint presentations? Worksheets? Daily skill review? Bell work? And what subject?

I’m done creating writing task cards–for now–and would like to create some products that would help you and/or your students in these upcoming weeks to help them need up their skills. Leave me a comment with your wishes, and if I can help you out, I’ll get you yours for free. 😉

How does that sound?

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It Will Be OK: The Final Days of Writing Test Prep

I don’t know about you, but these last few days have absolutely FLOWN by! My days are slipping away incredibly fast. Is there a way to just stop the clock…even for just a little bit? If only…

So…I just wanted to drop in to say…it will be ok! Breathe. Relax. It will be ok.

I know we are all cramming as much as we can into little minds that are probably overwhelmed already. Our little minions are required to know SO much…maybe even more than we think they should be held accountable for, but that’s life, right?

For this reason, I have decided to slow it down a little. Last week, my kiddos were getting frustrated that they weren’t able to actually finish a piece of writing until Friday, so this week I chose to give them only 2 prompts for the week, rather than 4. I want to be sure that they can get from plan to final copy without getting “writing hiccups.”

Do your kids ever pull new tricks out of their hats right before the test that make you cringe? Oh, say…start writing half a page or forgetting their purpose for writing? Yeah…mine, too. I just want to pull my hair out when that happens, but I also know that they are just getting nervous and that…it will be ok.

I’m planning to do a gallery walk on Friday. I’m going to post well-written papers, both narrative and expository, around the room for students to read and write down their noticings. I think this will be a great wrap-up from the week. Instead of cramming even more, I’ll ease up a bit and do lots of discussing.

Our principal has been a great supporter of our efforts in writing, too. Each morning this week, I have chosen one student to read an awesome paper during announcements for the whole school to hear. The students are ecstatic to be chosen, and it shows the rest of the campus how hard we have been working. It’s a win-win!

On Monday, I’m going to give the students their very first piece of writing to look at. This is always fun. It shows them how incredibly far they have come this year. Kids don’t always realize how much they learn, so this visual really hits home with them. In fact, some of them even tell me that “it’s not [their] paper.” When I show them their name at the top, it’s indisputable. Some of them are embarrassed. Others are in awe of what their writing looks like now. Whatever the case, it’s so fun to watch. 😉

We will end our time (after a little review) with drawing pictures. Pictures, you say? Yes, pictures. I have the students draw a line down the middle of a piece of white paper. On one side, we will draw a picture of the test grader BEFORE he/she grades our paper. The other side will be their face AFTER he/she reads our paper. The “before” side is always funny–steam coming out of the ears, eyes rolling in the back of the head, foaming at the mouth–you name it. The “after” side is always a face with a huge smile.

How will you end the last couple of days? Are your kids tired? Are YOU tired? Just remember…IT WILL BE OK!!

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Liebster and Sunshine Blogger Awards!

Wow!  These past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind it seems like.  During that time, my little blog has been nominated for TWO awards!  Can you believe it?  Not just one, but TWO!  I feel so honored!!  So now it’s time for me to answer lots of questions.  Hang with me!

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First is the Liebster award.  This award is given to emerging bloggers and to spur connections between bloggers.  Thanks to Miss Hewes from Cultivating Questioners for this nomination.

I have several questions to answer about myself.  Here goes:

  1. What do you value most in life? This has to be my family.  I would be nothing without them.
  2. What activities do you enjoy and why? One of my favorite things to do is be outside in the sunshine and plant flowers and work in the yard.  It’s just fun.  I’m looking forward to doing some planting with our son this year since he’s finally old enough to help…a little anyway!
  3. What is something you had more time for? Umm…everything!  I feel like I never have enough time in the day to accomplish whatever is on my plate!  Specifically…playing with our son.  Working full time, blogging, planning lessons, and day-to-day responsibilities take up lots of my spare time.  We play as much as we can, but I always want more!
  4. What is one change you would like to make in the world? I would love to start a program that allows for school personnel to get into hospitals when babies are first born to work with new mothers on how to help their child succeed…before their child has shown any signs of delays or hardships…when moms think their child can do anything and be anything they want.
  5. What is something you would like to change about yourself? I would like to be more confident.  I feel like sometimes I take a backseat when I should be in the driver’s seat, but I just can’t seem to make myself do it.  I’m getting better at it!
  6. What “big” question do you often ponder? Why can’t we all just get along?  I get tired of such negativity and people who seem to only want to damage others.  If we could just manage to live with each other and respect one another, the world would be a much happier place.
  7. What surprises you most about your life–something good in your life that you hadn’t expected, dreamed of, or thought possible? This might seem weird, but my husband and I bought a house through a government program (Good Neighbor Next Door) that I had only read about on the internet.  I just didn’t think it would ever be possible.  I had looked around for about 9 years without luck.  Then one day, it happened.  Like the stars lined up and everything was perfect.  It DOES exist!!
  8. What sorts of things amuse you? Lots of things!  Right now, our son.  He is such a little sponge, and I am amazed at how quickly he learns.  By 2 years old, he knew all of his letters (upper and lower case) and their sounds, could count forward and backward to 12, and knew all primary colors.  It’s just so neat to watch him!
  9. What is something you couldn’t do without? The internet.  It’s my way out into the world!!  When we first moved in we were without it for about 2 weeks.  EXCRUCIATING!!  Haha.
  10. What do you like to collect? I really don’t collect anything anymore, but I love looking for Cars with our son.  He lights up when he sees one he doesn’t have yet.  Love it!

Now for my nomination for this award.  Most of the bloggers I follow already have more than 200 followers (one of the rules for receiving the award), so I’m only nominating one.  Technically, you may nominate two.  The one I nominate is: Teaching Tidbits and More with Jamie, the awesome teacher who nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger award.

Jamie–this post is going to be really long, so I’m challenging you to the same 10 questions that I answered.  Simple enough!  😉

 

Next up is the Sunshine Blogger award.  I was nominated by Jamie from Teaching Tidbits and More with Jamie for this award.  Big shout out to Jamie for thinking of me when nominating for this award!

The rules for the Sunshine Blogger Award are:

  1.  Post 11 random facts about yourself.
  2. Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated you.
  3. Nominate 11 bloggers you think bring sunshine to the world.
  4. Make up 11 questions for your nominations to answer.

11 Random Facts about Me

  1. I am from Port Lavaca, Texas, a small town located on the coast of Texas between Corpus Christi and Houston–one of those towns where NOTHING good happens past 9:00.
  2. I went to 4 different colleges/universities.  I took the long route!
  3. My immediate family is very small.  My mom was an only child, and my dad had one sister, so my whole family could fit into one small room.
  4. I love to swim…in a pool.
  5. I am a small person…and gave birth to a 9 lb. 12 oz. boy.  Yeah…don’t talk to me about your easy labor!
  6. My first time in an airplane was with my husband (boyfriend at the time), going to meet his family in Maryland.
  7. I’ve never broken a bone…knock on wood!
  8. I think I’ve watched every episode of Friends about 100 times, and watching it now as I type.  Best.  Show.  Ever.  (although Big Bang runs a close second)
  9. I watched my neighbor’s dog jump fly off of the second story of a house being built.  As soon as she landed and we knew she was ok, we laughed.  Until then…SCARY!!
  10. My husband and I just bought our first home in October.
  11. In my next life, I hope to be a singer.

Whew!  Sometimes it’s hard coming up with those!  😉

My 11 Questions from Jamie

  1. What is your favorite subject to teach? Writing!  It’s my forte.
  2. What is your favorite thing to wear to work? Jeans.  And flip-flops…if they would let me!  Oh, the good ‘ol days…
  3. Who is your favorite children’s author? This one is hard.  But…I guess I’ll pick Barbara Park.  Gotta love Junie B.  I’ll probably change my mind by tomorrow though…
  4. What do you like to do in your spare time? If it’s warm, I like to be outside.  Otherwise, I’m probably playing with my son or watching Friends.  😉
  5. Do you prefer books or movies? The books are ALWAYS better.  My imagination is better than what can be put into a movie.
  6. What is the perfect date night? I have a toddler.  What is a date night again?
  7. How do you bring sunshine to someone else? A smile.  A laugh.  A small gift.  Or a combination of all 3.
  8. How did you know that teaching was for you? Long story.  Basically, the more classes I took, the more I knew I had to do this.  I didn’t want to be a teacher.  It just kinda snuck up on me.  The more I teach, the more I love it!
  9. What is your favorite just for fun activity you do at school? Read-aloud with my students.  My mom was great at reading aloud to me when I was little, and I feel she passed along that skill and passion to me.
  10. What is your favorite food? Specifically…chips and salsa.  But pretty much any Mexican food.
  11. Would you rather: have a quiet lazy day around the house or hang with family/friends? Do I have to choose?  I like both of those equally!  So…today my choice would be hang with family.  Tomorrow…who knows?  Can you tell I have a hard time making decisions sometimes?

My Nominations:

  • Paula’s Place
  • Teaching Little Texans
  • Fab and Fun in 4th
  • Mrs. Alford’s Classroom
  • Oh Boy 4th Grade
  • Totally Terrific in Texas
  • A Peach for the Teach
  • Teaching Maddeness
  • 4th Grade Racers
  • A Turn to Learn
  • Curls and a Smile

My Questions:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. What is your favorite animal?
  3. What is your favorite thing about teaching?
  4. What is your favorite children’s book?
  5. Why do you blog?
  6. Who do you look up to?
  7. When did you become a teacher?
  8. Would you rather: Have a side soup or a side salad?
  9. If you could click your heels together and be anywhere, where would it be?
  10. What is your favorite quote?
  11. If you could read minds, whose mind would you love to read?

Props to you if you have hung around with me through this L–O–N–G post!  I’m done!  Over and out!

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STAAR Writing Prompt Study

OK, I need to take just a small bit of your time to brag on my kiddos tonight.  Nothing big to most people, but it was a HUGE step in the right direction in my eyes!

Today our students had to participate in a Writing Prompt Study from the state. I didn’t really know what to expect, and like all standardized tests we give, we aren’t allowed to look at what they are doing.  The only thing we ARE allowed to do is read the writing prompt to them.  Other than that…NOTHING!

So…I have no idea how they actually did, but I do know one thing.  Nobody freaked out.  Everyone wrote SOMETHING.  And best of all…NOBODY raised their hand and asked, “Do I HAVE to plan my paper?” or “What are these blank pages for?”  THAT, my friends, is accomplishment!  I think this is the first year that ALL of the students wrote a plan and didn’t ask questions about it.

Did they all write on topic?  I will probably never know, but I’m just so darn proud of the fact that they were able to come up with ways to organize their papers and NOT stress about it.  We have done so much work preparing for the “real deal,” and I hope this success continues!  We still have 3 weeks to upgrade our writing and try out new text structures.

I know I say this all the time, but I feel like I owe everything my students know to Gretchen Bernabei.  This is the first year that I have used her resources consistently, and it has paid off BIG TIME for my students.  Her resources WORK.  Not just for my kids, but for kids of all ages.  You know…she actually teaches middle school…but the methods she uses work for ANY age.  If you haven’t looked into her stuff, DO IT NOW!  It’s never too late to try something new!

I have lots of her resources already posted on my Writer’s Workshop page.  I’ve even had teachers email me about how to use those resources.  I’ve had hour-long conversations with teachers over the phone.  I stand by her work 100%.  I’m here to help in any way that I can.  REALLY!

This whole experience today makes me confident that my students will ROCK their test in April.  It makes me excited to see what else they can learn in these next few weeks, knowing that they have already overcome a huge part of that battle.  I can’t wait to see them in action again.

Are your students ready?  Are you as pumped as I am?  What do you plan to do during the time you have left?  I’d LOVE to hear your ideas!  I might just need to do the same things!

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Presenting…

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity of going to another workshop hosted by none other than the fabulous Gretchen Bernabei. But this time, I wasn’t a “participant.” She asked me to go and show off the things my students have been doing in class. Excited? Ecstatic? Nervous? Yep. All of those things!

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I had a table set up in the back of the room where I put out samples of student writing, writing folders, the grandma page, products from our thoughtshots lesson, planning pages, flip books, etc.  (If you’re curious about the story behind those, just click on them.)

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Several teachers asked questions about how I was implementing all the things Gretchen talked about during her workshop into my daily routines. It was fun to answer their questions and let them know that everything they were hearing REALLY works…and that the products on the table were proof of that.

Ever gone to a workshop and wondered how in the world you would incorporate everything into your classroom? Or think to yourself, “But my kids can’t do that. The kids I work with could never…?” I find myself thinking the very same things. So I think it’s nice to have a teacher that has tried the lessons and had success there to let you in on the secrets or strategies he/she used and how it worked. And that was my job. :)

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There were also times when I would chime in and show samples and talk about them to the whole group. It was lots of fun, and I feel so grateful to have such a good relationship with one of the best writing teachers ever!! I’m looking forward to more opportunities to work with her! 😉

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New Theme

Yes, you’ve landed at the right spot!  I’ve changed my theme because the one I had previously selected on WordPress.com does not support my pages here on WordPress.org.  So…I needed to change the theme.  Also, I’m getting ready for a whole new look once I get my new blog design, so I figured this was a good way to ease into it.

You can now see my pages listed at the top of the screen: About, Anchor Charts, Classroom Management, and Writer’s Workshop.  Click on those for more info.

Thank you so much to all of my loyal followers and email subscribers.  I’m also in the process of getting all of you switched over to the new blog.  You currently aren’t showing up on my stats.  It’s rough changing blog hosts when you don’t know much about how all of this works!  But thank you for hanging in there with me while all of these changes take place!

I currently still have the same blog button, and my new blog design will reflect that.  I’m sticking with black, white, and blue.  😉

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In the meantime, is there anything specific that you would like me to blog about?  Several of you attended a workshop today with Gretchen Bernabei and learned LOTS of new things.  I’m here to help you out in any way that I can.  If there is something specific you’d like to see that we do in my classroom, leave me a comment and I’ll get you a post about it!

Until next time…

Kayla

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