Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blue Ribbon Ceremony

As most of you know, I am currently in D.C. representing our school at the National Blue Ribbon Schools Ceremony. It has been an extraorinary experience. Today we met in a private meeting with Congress Woman Giffords. It was surreal to sit in her office and discuss politics and education. Yesterday we took a tour of the monuments and spent time at the Smithsonian. I love American history, being a first time visitor of D.C., I am in awe at the historic significance of this area. There is so much to offer here and it would be so fascinating to teach in an area where I could show my students first hand the actual location of the events and American symbols that I am teaching them about in the classroom. We leave tomorrow so I'll be back in the classroom on Thursday. See ya back in AZ!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sad Day for Education in Sierra Vista

I am sure that many of you know by now that the override failed miserably....*sigh*. It's very easy to slip into a dark funk at a time like this. I think for many of us teachers it feels like the community just backhanded us in the face. I know that we are not the only district going through record breaking budget cuts and pay freezes, but after teaching in Sierra Vista for nine years it is quite apparent that the majority of the community does not support public education. I read the comments in the online version of the Herald and it is amazing to me how uneducated the people making them are. I just wish that people would do some research and get their facts straight before commenting publicly. I mean how much more can we reasonably take? We have more kids in our rooms (which will increase again next year with the closing of Village Meadows), less pay (and a possible 5-10% pay cut next year), more expensive benefits, less time to teach with higher demands, no planning time but yet more district meetings that takes our after school "planning" time away, and kids that have an abundance of educational, home life, and behavioral issues. I spoke with at least 7 teachers at PDS (mind you, it's the best school in the district; these are great people) who are now planning on pursuing other career options for next year. *sigh*

I walked into my classroom feeling defeated. But then, I saw this face.....

And this one.....

And these.....

and I realized that these faces are the reason that I can endure all of the rest. These kids need good teachers. If we all leave the profession what's left for them?

I don't have the answers to the many questions that loom over public education. I know that at times, my job sucks. But it's not the kids who make it that way. It's time to shut the door on negativity and remember why I got into the profession in the first place. To make a difference in the lives of children by instilling in them an intrinsic motivation to learn and be moral human beings. To guide them in discovering their gifts and teach them how to be life long learners. To enjoy them, be silly with them, and love them.

"A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank...but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child." -- Forest Witchcraft

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Field Trip Fun!

Today we went on our field trip to Apple Annie's. It was fast and furious but it seemed like everyone had a great time! The kids learned about plants, went through the corn maze, and took a hay ride to pick their own pumpkins. I tried to get at least one picture of each kid, but it can be hard to take photos in the midst of dealing with purchase orders, lunches, missing jackets, and making sure all 23 kids have eaten and used the restroom before boarding the bus. All in all, everything went smoothly and we didn't lose any kiddos! :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Just in Time for Halloween!

Monsters are beginning to pop up in room 2. We are happy to have partnered up with a wonderful second grade class in Olympia Washington to complete a fun and educational writing project. Here is a description of this project from the Monster Exchange website.

Monster Exchange is designed to encourage the development of reading and writing skills while integrating Internet technology into the classroom curriculum. Classrooms from a variety of schools worldwide are paired together; the students in each classroom are split into groups, each of which designs an original picture of a monster. The students must then write a description of the monster. The partnered classes then exchange their descriptions via e-mail and the Internet. These students are then challenged to use reading comprehension skills to read the descriptions and translate them into a monster picture. The true challenge involves creating a redrawn picture as close to the original picture as possible without looking at the original and using only the written description of the monster.

The written descriptions, original monster pictures, and redrawn monster pictures are scanned and uploaded to the Internet using the browser-based Monster Gallery Builder.

The kids are really looking forward to exchanging descriptions to see how accurately our friends can draw our monsters. It should be a great learning experience!

Hello Blog World!

Okay so it's time for me to stop procrastinating and start blogging again. I have a bad habit of starting great projects and never finishing them...THIS will not be one of them!

I have decided that I need to get over my perfectionism. I never thought that I was a perfectionist, but as I reflect back on the projects I've let go it makes perfect sense. Basically, I end up quiting when my creativity begin to dwindle. If I can't think of the perfect story, topic, or next step, I end up putting the project on the back burner while I "wait" for the creative juices to flow again. Well sometimes they flow in a whole different direction and I never get back to many great projects that just need to be completed.

So, I have decided that I need to stop over thinking this blog. Things that seem everyday and mundane in the classroom to me could possibly be things that you want to hear about. It's time for me to get back to why I originally started this give you a glimpse into the world of second graders. Some days it may be exciting and creative and other days it may be simple and routine. Either way, I am back to blogging and excited to share with you what's happening in our little world!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Secretary Needed!!

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you wished you had a secretary?

My life at home has been on the hectic side lately. First we passed around a nasty little bug which put each one of us out of commission for a day or two. Then we found out our AC was leaking into both of the kid's bedrooms. Between getting everyone healthy and dealing with the clean up and AC people, I feel like I'm being buried under a mound of paperwork and to do lists that I have put off at school. Luckily I have an understanding husband who let me stay at school until 6 tonight so that I could try and catch up. But really, I think teachers should have secretaries. Any takers? :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Snack Time!!

I used to loath snack time. I tried it one year. What I saw was scary.

My idea was to have kids bring a quick, healthy snack to eat while they are working independently on writing or some other activity. What I got instead were 24 kids unwrapping Ding Dongs and Twinkies, smearing their cheesy little Doritos hands all over their papers, and a line a mile long of kiddos needing me to open something. Plus, little crumbs of chocolate cupcakes and the remains of Goldfish crackers were repeatedly ground into my carpet. Not pretty. Definitely not how I envisioned it in my head.

That was when I banned snacks in my room. It was a blessing that lasted many years. But then, I was handed a new schedule that put lunchtime at 11:45.

If you know kids at all you will understand that going from 8-11:45 without a break is almost impossible. Their little minds begin to fade away and their bodies get a case of the wiggles. So, I decided to put snack back into the day along with a 15 minute recess.

But, I've learned. Now I have a class snack. My parents donate boxes of cereal, bags of pretzels, goldfish crackers, animal cookies and any other bulk snack items that they can think of. On the way out the door I give each kid a handful. If they don't like that particular snack then they simply say no thank you. This is not a buffet; you get what you get and you don't throw a fit.

The best part is that it literally takes 2 minutes to pass out and if they drop any it falls onto the sidewalk; no more little fishy parts being ground into the carpet....yay!!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Working With Words

The last component of Daily 5 that the kids learned was Working With Words. Each week the kids have 10 spelling words and 2 challenge words. These words are usually sight words and word family words that they need to know for both reading and writing. We use these words for our word work each week. The students choose from a list of several word activities that they can do to practice their words.

The list is growing but here are a few;

Stamps- The kids use letter stamps to print the words on paper.

White Boards- The kids use white boards to write the words. They can practice writing them over and over or they can use blue for consonants and red for vowels.

Rainbow Writing- The spelling words are written on paper in a variety of colors.

Magnetic Letters- The words are spelled on the easel whiteboard using magnetic letters.

Playdough- The letters for each word or rolled out and formed using playdough.

We also have letter beads, string words, and a scrambled egg word activity that we use. Word Work has quickly become a favorite Daily 5 component of many of the kids in the room!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's Official!!!

WE are a BLUE RIBBON SCHOOL!! Yay!!! I am so proud and lucky to have taught at such a great school for the past 8 years. There were only 4 chosen in the entire state. Here is the official notification listing us on the Department of Ed website. The Herald had an article on us in today's paper. I am so excited to represent PDS at the recognition ceremony in DC in November. Go Dustdevils! :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Miley Who?

I have a bunch of performers in my room. One day a group of girls came in from recess wanting to perform a song they had practiced on the playground. I love impromptu moments in the classroom where we take a break from academics to simply enjoy each other, so my answer was "Go right ahead!". I grabbed my camera and began filming. So without further ado, here are some talented and cute gals singing "Party in the USA".

After that, every day for the next week I had kids wanting to perform after recess! I finally asked them to show me at recess so we could stay on track with our Writer's Workshop. I think I will have to have a Talent Show some Friday afternoon!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fly Little Butterflies, Fly!

Today we released our butterflies that we raised from tiny little caterpillars. Seriously the process of raising butterflies is very simple thanks to Insectlore. You can even raise your own insects at home by purchasing a kit from insectlore. Along with butterflies, they also sell ants, frogs, ladybugs, spiders, and worms. What a great way for the kids to learn about lifecycles!

We released our butterflies during recess. It would have been fine if just my class was on the playground.  It also would have been fine if the butterflies flew away once they were released. Instead, we shared the field with 4 other classes and many kiddos who chased after the butterflies that "flew" right to the ground. Seriously, why do kids want to pull their wings off? The kids in my class were running around trying to save their butterflies all the while yelling and screaming at the other kids to go away. Not the beautiful release into nature that I expected, but I guess you never know what's going to happen when you teach second grade!

Monarch of the Week and Mystery Reader

I'm late on this one but I wanted to make sure I posted pictures of our last Monarch of the Week and Mystery Reader. Last week we didn't have either because of the short week and conferences so these are actually from the week before.

Monarch of the Week- Kayla!

Mystery Reader- Connor's Grandma Sharon! (okay, I know that she is technically my mom. But I do have my own kid in the class so it's okay!)

Crazy Blog Layout

I went to post today on the ole blog and found that my background was completely gone. Evidently the talented lady who designed the blog layout had to change photo carriers because so many people were using her images and Photobucket was freaking out because of the enormous use of bandwidth. I don't claim to understand what this means, but luckily she provided new links and I was able to restore the layout with only a few clicks of the mouse. So, if you came to the blog over the weekend or today, you probably saw a bunch of craziness going on. All is well now and I will be posting like a mad woman!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

We're Waiting Patiently.....

I apologize for the lack of posts the last few days. Unfortunately the kiddos broke my camera so I've been lacking pictures and videos to post. The new one is in the mail and should be in my hands in the next few days.

So, I wanted to let you all know about something that's on all of our minds here at PDS.....

Our Blue Ribbon School results should be here in the next week or so!  I checked online and last years results were delivered on September 15. This is so exciting!

For those of you who do not know, PDS is one of 6 schools in the entire state up for this prestigious NATIONAL award!


If we are selected, one teacher and the principal get to fly to DC to accept the award....

Drum roll please.....

I am that teacher!!! So you can see why I am extra excited to find out the results. I will keep you posted!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lapbook Fun

I came across the lapbook idea a few years back and felt it would be very useful in my classroom. Lap books are file folders that record student learning on a topic. I use lapbooks the most in Science and Social Studies. Basically, I teach one small component of the topic a day and then the students complete the activity that goes with it and glue it into their lapbook. At the end of the unit the students then have a record of their learning. We use the lapbook to review what we have learned.

We recently completed a mini lapbook on butterflies. I always let the students do their own cutting and gluing, but I know the books would turn out neater if I did the cutting and gluing ahead of time. I fight with myself all the time because I know that kiddos need to take ownership of their work, but my micromanaging teacher side wants them to be uniform and neat. As you can see,  my "let the kids have ownership" side wins every time! Lapbook downloads are available from Hands of a Child in a million different topics.  These would also make great home projects if you want your child to do some extra learning over breaks.

Here is a picture from the Hands of a Child website that shows a very nice lapbook on Beavers.

They can be very large and use two folders taped together, or small using one folder depending on the time available. I usually try to do two a year, a small one at the beginning of the year, and then a larger one in the spring. Overall, I like how the lapbooks provide another way to make learning memorable for the kids

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


This is a fun little incentive for kids who bring their homework back to school finished and on time. It works exactly like the game Monopoly. Each kiddo rolls the dice and then moves his/her picture around the board the number of spaces that were rolled. Landing on Chance or Community Lunch box allows the student to pull a card from the corresponding bag. The cards have extra privileges that the students can redeem during the week. The Brain Bender space gives the students a fun thinking activity instead of their normal morning work, and landing on the "Take a Seat on the Bus" space gets them to the prize box.

While this is fun and encourages kids to do their homework each week, it also serves another purpose. In today's world of "everyone wins" (our city sports teams don't keep score until they are like 10) I have realized that many kids have trouble with losing. They need more practice with sportsmanship and learning how to be gracious losers. So, not every spot on the board wins the kids a prize or incentive. Really, out of 4 rolls (a month of homework) most kids will only land on something "good" one time.

I am actually pretty amazed with how well my kiddos have handled landing on the dud spots. So far no tears or outbursts. Actually the only kids who have been upset are the ones who didn't get to play at all because they forgot their homework. I bet they don't forget two weeks in a row!

You can download game pieces and instructions at

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Monarch Shirts!

Each year I have my class paint shirts that go along with our class theme. The kids love this activity and enjoy wearing their shirts on Fridays and on field trips.

We completed our shirts on Friday and let them dry over the weekend. Today I let each kiddo put on their shirt for some fun class photos. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mystery Reader

Everyone loves a great mystery, especially second graders. Every Friday in our room we have a guest mystery reader. The mystery reader can be a mom, dad, granparent, aunt, uncle, or any other member of a student's family. Parents sign up to be mystery reader ahead of time and keep their date a secret from their students. Then on Friday, my kids wait with anticipation to see who is going to walk through the door during storytime. It is so much fun for the kids to see their family member walk in unexpectedly!

Our first Mystery Reader was Mr. Marquez. What a great job he did reading aloud the book "The Wolf who Cried Boy". Thank you Mr. Marquez!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Monarch of the Week

Congratulations to Daniel our very first Monarch of the Week!

Each student will get to be Monarch of the Week during the school year. The Monarch of the Week has  fun activities they get to do each day of their special week.

  • Monday- The student brings in pictures that they get to share on the ELMO (document camera) and 3 show and tells to share with the class.
  • Tuesday- At the beginning of the year each student made an All About Me poster that they will share on the Tuesday that they are Monarch of the Week. The pictures and poster go on the bulletin board.
  • Wednesday- The student's family members or friends come to school to eat lunch with him/her.
  • Thursday- The student gets to switch seats so that they can sit by a friend all day.
  • Friday- the rest of the class makes the student a special Monarch of the Week book. 
  • All week- The student is line leader, gives hand sanitizer before lunch, and is the special teacher helper. 
Students are chosen to be the Monarch in a random drawing. If a student completed their work neatly, followed class rules, and went above and beyond to be a good citizen, I put his/her name in the drawing. This is just one more way that I encourage kids to be the best that they can be. I believe that all children can and will behave if placed in an environment where they are valued and encouraged in a positive way. All kids love to be the center of attention and Monarch of the Week gives them the opportunity to shine!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Picture Day!

Today was picture day. For teachers that means that although pictures only take 30 minutes or so, the whole morning is thrown off.

My morning was nothing short of crazy. Kids come in looking spiffy in their nice duds and perfect hair, but, they spend all morning worrying and complaining. "My shoes are to small", "My headband won't stay up", " I can't find my picture money!", are just a few of the comments that I heard by 8:10 this morning.

After 2 phone calls home for missing money, a shoe change, and a fixed headband (thank goodness I have a daughter!), we were back in business.

In honor of picture day and in my teacher attempt to try and add some curriculum into our morning, we read the book Picture Perfect.
This is a hilarious book written by a class of second graders whom very cleverly depict their school photo mishap. Basically each students explains why their school photo did not turn out. Answers range from "My brother gave me a black eye", to "I got into my mom's makeup".

The reading of this book led to a lively discussion with my own kiddos about other things that could ruin a school picture. We then wrote and illustrated our own book using the ideas they came up with. I will be uploading our book this weekend so you'll have to check back! Let's just say it's a good thing we did this project after we had our pictures taken!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Great Thinkers Wanted

This year I decided to use the space on the wall to extend my teaching. The Think Tank board is one example of an interactive bulletin board in my room. Each week I will place a different task on the board. The students have the whole week to solve the task and write their answer on the back of one of the blue fish that you see in the little container on the bottom left of the board. After they write their answer down, they write their name on the front of the fish and staple it to the board. On Friday, I take all of the fish off of the board and check the answers. The fish that are correct go into the fish bowl that you see on the blue shelf. Once every couple of weeks I draw out 5 fish and those students will get to eat lunch with me in the classroom. The board also serves as a quick assessment tool so that I can see who is understanding a particular concept and who will need a little reteaching.

The Think Tank tasks can cover grammar skills, math, reading strategies, or anything that I want to review. My goal is to put up tasks that require students to use problem solving skills. I find that word problems in math are especially challenging for second graders. For some reason they shut down whenever they have to "think" past basic computation. Hopefully the Think Tank will help turn my students into fearless problem solvers!

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's a..... Bracelet?

These strange little bands that you see your student coming home with are actually bracelets. I like to use these cute little pieces of plastic goodness as rewards for good behavior. They are fun and cheap (which is a big plus for my pocketbook) and the students love them.

These are the go to reward that students choose when they are the "Mystery Walker" or if they save their bathroom passes for the week. If we're having a particularly "chatty" day, I keep a bunch of these in my pocket and randomly give them to the kiddos who are on task. It's amazing how fast a room can get quiet when I'm passing these babies out. I don't like to do that often because honestly, I think that kids should behave without a reward; but, it's a nice little thank you to the kids who are seldom off task and a reminder to the rest.

For my teacher friends, I purchased these "fun bands" from Oriental Trading before school started. Right now they have them for $4.99 for 50 or, $29.99 for 500. The quality is decent as long as the kids don't pull on them. I have had a few break. If you know of a place to get them that is cheaper or a higher quality, please let me know!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ready, Set, Write!!


The kids had a great time yesterday decorating their writer's notebooks. They are now covered with pictures, stickers, and other mementos that will hopefully spark ideas and enthusiasm for writing. The students will use their notebooks to practice the writing genre we are working on. Currently we are beginning to write personal narratives. Each student will write many personal narratives in their notebook during this unit. At the same time, they will learn the mechanics of writing and also learn about the writing process. At the end of the unit, they will choose one story from their notebook to edit, revise, rewrite and publish. The notebooks will make great keepsakes at the end of the year!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Math Booklet Mania

Second graders love math booklets. Well, okay, they love the Tootsie Pop they receive when they finish a math booklet. I'm usually not the kind of teacher that condones bribing kids with candy, but these little math booklets sure help with math practice so I guess a Tootsie Pop here and there isn't going to hurt anyone!

Math booklets are simply packets of practice sheets stapled together that the kids work on when they finish their morning work or math sheet. Very simple and "old school" but they have a useful side too. You see the packets are leveled. There are 17 of them and each one gets progressively more difficult. The skills at the beginning are review of first grade; addition, subtraction etc. But then, they begin to introduce new skills in level 3. Missing addends and minuends, double digit addition and subtraction with and without regrouping, advanced patterning, money, multiplication and even long division. I have found that these little booklets let advanced math students learn new skills at a faster pace and provide extra practice for students who need it. Plus, students love the little celebration we have during morning meeting when they have completed a booklet accurately.

That's a win win in my book. Just don't tell your child's dentist!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Read to Someone

Partner reading can be a very useful reading tool if used the right way. I will admit that up to this year, I have always been a little hesitant to have kids partner read because 9 times out of 10, one partner is goofing off while the other is reading. Or, they both end up playing around.

Much like all of the other components of Daily 5, with proper training, partner reading can be fun and enjoyable.  The children are taught that there are several ways that they can read together. The first video that you will see shows a pair of children demonstrating "I Read, You Read". With this method, one child leads the reading while the second child echos. Then they both check for understanding (this particular pair forgot to check for understanding). This method is great for building fluency, especially if the lead student is a fluent reader.

The second video shows another method of paired reading called "2 different books". This strategy is great for kids on different levels because they each read from their own book. The first student reads a page of his/her book while the second listens and then checks for understanding. Then the second student reads from his/her book while the first listens and checks for understanding. The two girls in the second video illustrate this method perfectly!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Never Ending Bathroom Dilemma

It seems that every year I get a few students who abuse their bathroom privileges. These are the students that suddenly need to go "really bad" at a convenient time for them, like when they are supposed to work. Before I know it, little Suzie has spent the entire work time in the bathroom and because I was busy helping other kids, I failed to notice.

The other typical bathroom caper is the child who needs to go two or three times a day who swears he/she will have an accident if they don't go RIGHT NOW!! Not only do they have to go immediately, but this child will announce the desire to use the restroom in the middle of story time 5 minutes after returning from recess.

Now don't get me wrong, I know there are medical issues that require kiddos to need to use the restroom more often, and kids aren't adults so they don't always manage their restroom usage effectively, but on average, the typical 7 year old should not have to use the restroom at recess, lunch, and three other times during the day.

I feel like yelling out like an evil villain in that deep "I got you" laugh... because, lo and behold, I have solved the never ending bathroom dilemma.

I'm sure this is nothing new, but it is new to me. 

This year I started using bathroom passes. Each child receives 4 passes on Monday. They may use the restroom as needed during class by handing me a pass. Once they are out for the week I start deducting time off of their recess each time they need to go. If their time spent in the restroom was too long (we're talking over 5 minutes and only for kids who tend to live in the bathroom) I take another pass. Of course they can go at recess and lunch for "free". Kids with all 4 passes left get a small token at the end of the week.

It's amazing how well they manage their bathroom breaks now. This may seem trivial or "mean" to the average person outside of education, but I can assure you, no one will end up wetting their pants and more time will be spent learning, which of course is the main objective here!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect!

Like anything worth learning and doing, it takes practice to get better. This is especially true with reading.

I can teach strategies, pull guided reading groups to reinforce and observe how children use these strategies, and meet with kids one-on-one to give them reading goals.

But, if kids don't spend a significant amount of time practicing on their own, it is quite difficult for them to make significant gains.

I have learned many things with experience. One important thing that I have learned is that you can't expect beginning of the year second graders to walk in on day one and read quietly for 20-30 minutes. They need time and direction on how to build their reading stamina.

We began Read to Self on the second day of school with a 3 minute block of time. We are now up to 15 minutes. We have discussed what behaviors are necessary to maximize our Read to Self time. The students came up with the following:

  • Find a quiet place to read and stay there
  • Read the whole time (no pretend reading)
  • Don't talk or make noises that will distract others
  • Get started quickly
As soon as I observe a behavior that goes against those listed above, I stop the children and bring them back to the meeting area. We then discuss what we need to do to fix the problem for the next time. This process can be slow and tedious, but the children learn that reading time is valuable and we must take it seriously. This video clip is a quick peek inside our Read to Self time. I love how engaged all of the kids are with their reading!

Believe it or not, it takes them only about 20 seconds to choose their own spot and begin. What amazing kiddos!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Magnificent" Monarchs!

We are finally done with our "Magnificent Me" beginning of the year project and I think it turned out great! I found this idea online and thought it would be perfect for the first week of school. The kids drew and painted a large picture of themselves and then cut it out and glued it on another sheet of construction paper. They also cut out a large magnifying glass and traced and cut out their hands. The final step of the project was to write a bio poem that we typed up and copied onto transparencies. These poems then became the "glass" in the magnifying glasses. We have a few proportion issues; but, the kids had fun and they make a great display! Thanks Martha for your help with this project!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Monarchs in Disguise

Can you find your Monarch?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Doctor is In!

Don't panic!  This post honestly has nothing to do with the physical health of your child. It does however, have to do with the many assessments that your child has completed over the last few days. Much like a doctor needs to assess the health of each one of his patients, I too must assess your child's academic abilities before I can decide on the right course of "treatment". My goal is to get an overall picture of your student's capabilities and needs. Wherever your student lands on the knowledge spectrum, I can assure you that I will be able to meet these needs and challenge each student appropriately.

Our STAR reading testing was completed today. If you would like to know how your student STAR tested, please send me an email. I will be able to give you an approximate grade equivalent. If your student did not read over the summer this may be slightly lower than last year. I am also conducting running records on each student. I value running records more than the STAR test because I can get a picture of exactly which strategies your student is using and what the area of need is. I will be happy to let you know what you can be working on with your student at home. Running records are a bit time consuming but I am aiming to be done by Friday. Of course the best course of action for any student is to have home and school support that is consistent and focused. I know that by working together, we will find the perfect prescription for you child's success! (Okay, I know...I took the whole medical analogy too far....but it's late and I'm tired!) :)

See you tomorrow!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Books, Books, Books!!

I love Scholastic. I honestly think I'm addicted to buying books for my classroom. It is so much fun to introduce a new book to a class full of eager readers. They love reading new books and I can't blame them... there is nothing quite like the feel and smell of a new book in your hands.

Which brings me to the point of this blog. I don't consider myself to be a Scholastic pusher, but I can't help myself the first month of every year. Scholastic is offering 10 TIMES the bonus points plus 4000 extra on top of that! That is HUGE in terms of just how many free books we can get into the hands of the kiddos!!! I am begging and pleading all of you (my parents....not sure who all is reading my blog!) PLEASE help us get to $200 total so that we can get the full amount of bonus points this month.

Here is the link to parent ordering

I am also putting the link permanently of the top right of the blog. Our class activation code is GKMR6

I apologize that I am only providing Lucky this time. In order to get the benefit of the bonus points the orders have to be from one catalog. I will send the other forms in future months.

THANK YOU!!!! I appreciate your support of our classroom!!

Here is a quick video of the kids juggling on Friday! Sorry that it's a little dark, with the overhead lights on it's washed out..I will figure out the lighting soon!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Serve it Up! What's On Today's Cafe Menu

This summer I spent an extensive amount of time researching best practices in reading instruction. I have always used a mix of whole class, small group and individual teaching approaches; however, I have struggled with how to mesh them all together. Another area of personal struggle for me keeping the rest of the kids working independently while I meet with groups and individual students. I have tried centers in the past, and I know many teachers who are able to use them successfully, but I am not one of them. I find centers to be a ton of work to set up and manage. So, I was very excited to find Daily 5 and CAFE.

You will be amazed with the focused reading instruction that your student will receive this year. If you would like to know more about it, I have attached a parent letter here

We began Daily 5 today with "Read to Self". The students worked on how to correctly read to themselves. We practiced for 3 minutes. Tomorrow we will increase our time, and in the next few weeks, work our way up to 20 minutes. By slowly increasing the amount of time the students are expected to work independently we are building reading stamina. I expect all of my students to eventually read for 20 minutes without getting up, talking, or "wasting time" and I know they will all accomplish this goal.

During CAFE today, the students learned two reading strategies that they should be able to tell you about, Check for Comprehension and Cross Checking. I will post about each of these important strategies in the next week or so. After we learned about each strategy, we placed them on the CAFE menu so that we can all access them on a daily basis. Tomorrow we will practice these and learn two more.

Please talk to your child about Daily 5 and CAFE. Ask them which reading strategies were "served" on today's menu! See you tomorrow!
The Cafe board. Where reading strategies are served daily.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Photo/Video Release

Here is the release form. I will also send a hard copy tomorrow. Thanks!

Photo/Video Release Form

What a Bunch of Clowns!

What a successful first day! All of the children were very well behaved. I was especially pleased with how well they used manners and spoke kindly to each other. I always make sure to point out to the students when I hear someone speak in this way.

All of the children earned time this afternoon to "clown" around. Not literally, but we are learning how to juggle! Juggling is great for eye hand coordination, timing, and learning how to be patient and persistent. The students earn a few minutes of juggling time each day if they can beat me on the daily scoreboard. The daily scoreboard goes along with "Whole Brain Teaching", which is the method I use for classroom management. If you would like to learn more about it you can go here. Click on "first steps" to view the techniques that are used in my classroom. If you would like to see how some of these techniques work in a first grade classroom, you can view a video here.

I took a video clip of our little clowns juggling, but I can't post it until have permission from all of you! I will be sending home a form tomorrow. If you do not want your child on this blog (no names will ever be used with pictures/video) please make sure to indicate that on the form. See you tomorrow for our next update!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


What a day! Another Open House officially bites the dust. It was so nice to meet all of my parents and students! All 23 of you showed up, which is a better turnout than any other class in the school (well at least that I know of!). 

I hope the students enjoyed the classroom. It seemed like they were having a good time exploring the room, playing with their balloons, and eating a cookie or two. I took a few "before" photos of the classroom prior to the students arriving so that I could look back on how clean and organized it is. I know from experience that it won't quite be the same the rest of the year! Anyone like to clean? :) See you tomorrow!

We're a little out of balance this year! The blue balloons are boys and red are the girls. 15 boys 9 girls!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sneak Peek!

I worked today for several hours to put the finishing touched on the classroom. Tomorrow I will put the labels on all of the reading baskets, and get together copy work and folders for the first day of school. I think everything turned out great! This is by far my favorite classroom. I think I learn a little every year about what the kids (and me) want a classroom to look and feel like. This year I added more rugs, lamps, Christmas lights, flowers and plants, pillows, and more seating. So without further delay...I give you, a sneak peek inside the new home of Mrs. McComish's Monarchs!

The right side of the classroom library and Homeworkopoly board

The view of the left side of the library and the Monarch of the Week board.

Non Fiction Section

The Butterfly Garden

New seating area in front of the Butterfly Garden

Seating insde the Butterfly Garden

Seating area in the front of the Meeting Area

The Meeting Area

CAFE Board (Reading Strategies)

Daily 5 Board (Not quite finished!)

Part of the Word Wall, Small Group Reading area

Calendar, Reading charts, part of the chapter book section

When we find interesting words in our reading we will add them to this board.

Let me know what you think!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Come One, Come All!!

Tuesday is the big day! Open House always brings a myriad of students and parents eager to get a taste of what the new school year has in store. The classroom waits, untouched, for a new flock of second graders to bless it with their presence. Each kiddo leaves a little less worried about what is to come on the first day of school, as they have now found their seat, viewed the new room, and dropped off their supplies.

For my parents: Open House is from 4:30 to 5:30pm. Feel free to drop by at any point during that hour block of time. If you would like to bring your student's supplies you may place them all in the brown paper bag that has your child's name on it.

For my students: I can't wait to begin the new year with you! There are so many exciting things in store for you as super second graders! Check the Blog again on Sunday night or Monday morning for a "sneak peek" into our classroom.

See you all on Tuesday!