My classroom is not a quiet, orderly place.
Students are constantly moving, thinking, talking, reading and writing.
I do my best to help my students find success.

January 12, 2016

One Little Word 2016

Last week, I had it.  I knew it.  My One Little Word would reflect how I wanted everyone else to see me.


I wanted to be off the roller coaster of last year.  I wanted to be someone my daughters, husband, coworkers and friends could count on to be calm, collected and stable.  Someone who they could get advice from and always be there for them.  Not talking over them.  Listening.

I made a poster.  I made another poster.  I read a bit today.  I listened to music.

I realized I needed to find a different word.  I want to be calm and collected.  But steady didn't fit.

I listened again to Rachel Platten's Fight Song.  I especially like the power of it.  You can't help but raise a fist in the air as you sing along.  My favorite verse of this song is:
I might only have one match, but I can start an explosion. 
 It's been an exciting school year at a new school.  There's a lot of great ideas and people and students.  I've tried to be more of an observer and less of a talker.  It's mostly working, but to be perfectly honest with myself, I love to talk out ideas and collaborate with others.

I really like to help others figure out the idea that works for them.  I decided on a different OLW.


A spark is the beginning of a fire.  An explosion of ideas.  Something small that turns into something big and meaningful, or something that is extinguished when it doesn't get enough air.

When I talk with my coworkers, my family and my friends, I will be a great listener.  I will ask questions.  I will see if a conversation leads to research and more questions and ideas.  I will keep an open mind and open heart.  If a spark doesn't lead to an idea, I'll let it fizzle out.

My thanks to Rachel Platten for her awesome song lyrics.

Created with Vanilla Pen app.
 I might only have one match, but I can start an explosion. 

December 29, 2015

Cookiepalooza #SOL

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Two Writing Teachers

One of my favorite holiday traditions is baking cookies.  When my girls were little, we would spend all day Christmas Eve making a huge mess of the kitchen.  The cookies we baked (if they cooled in time!) would become gifts for the neighbors and dessert for my aunt and uncle's Christmas Eve party.

Last year we moved the cookie baking date back to December 23rd.  I prepared dough and a few of Lindsey's friends came over to help.  One new friend had a joyous time manning the pizelle maker, while others rolled chocolate crinkles, peanut blossoms and cut out sugar cookies.  

Cookiepalooza was established.

This year, both girls invited multiple friends.  We had veggies and dip (to balance out the cookies we planned on consuming) and Oberweis chocolate milk (for cookie dipping).  We also decided that it would be fun to have a graham cracker house building contest.  

The house was a noisy, flour-y mess.  Smiles, laughter and piano music (thank you, Jeff!) filled the air.  I burned calories (and just a few cookies) running up and down the stairs between our two ovens.

At the end of the night, everyone took some cookies and helped clean up.  The sweet smell of candies and frosting filled the air.  It was a great way to improve my spirits and get in the holiday mood.

December 1, 2015

"Can you read this? Pleeeeeease?" #SOL15

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My first reading group of the morning are four sweet, yet challenging, boys from one of our first grade classrooms.  It's taken nearly two months to develop a routine for them to get to my room, let alone work in our reading intervention program.  I'm happy to report that all of us (I'm the most likely to get distracted!) are following the routine pretty smoothly.

I use a lot of hand signals and facial expressions to get their attention and encourage them to quietly grab their bags and head down the hall to my room.  Usually one of their exuberant classmates announces my arrival when she sees me in the hallway.  Sure, it's fun to be "famous" (LOL) but I'm encouraging her to silently smile when we meet eyes.

Once the boys get to my room, the routine is to "warm up their reading brains" by reading a book.  I usually have to use some stickers as positive reinforcement (Book bag?  Sticker.  Reading?  Sticker.) but they are settling in pretty easily.

Today M brought a Hot Wheels book with him.   He was very excited to have this book from the library.  He asked if he and C could share my wide teacher chair to read.  The two of them sat and poured over the pictures, making quiet conversation about cars, drivers and sharks.  The other boys were reading their little books, finding success with more words than usual.

It was a sweet, happy reading moment. <Sigh>

When I asked them to grab a white board for word work (usually their favorite) activity, M looked up.  "Can you read this?"

"How about after we finish word work?"  I replied.

"Pleeeeeeease???" responded three of the four boys.  The fourth clasped his hands in front of himself and made puppy dog eyes.

How could I resist?  I read the book aloud to them, and they sat, enraptured by the story.  It made me smile to see them caught up in a story, even if it was about miniature cars being attacked by sharks.

M held up another book.   "How about this one?"  he asked.

"Let's read it tomorrow!"  I responded.

"OK - I'll leave it here.  Don't let anyone take it.  Promise?" M insisted.

Don't worry, M.  I plan on taking a few minutes of our time together each day to read to you.
It's important.  It's essential.  It's magical.

Scholastic Reader Level 1: Hot Wheels: Shark Attack
Image from Scholastic

November 10, 2015

Finding the groove #SOL15

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It's November.  Time for the air to get chilly, the sun to set early, and my head to 

Now don't get me wrong, my head exploding can be a good thing, a bad thing, or a bit of both.

It's the feeling of wanting to jump on EVERY SINGLE good idea I hear and wanting to be part of

all the cooooool


                                       and new books

                                                         and shared reading experiences 

                                            in classrooms around my building.

But, I have my own programs and students and testing and reading and learning to do as well.


It's a good problem to have.  

In other news....

I'm finally finding my groove.  I've got a mess of data and notes that need to be organized
 (same mess, new school!)
 I have a rhythm to my day.
(and there's a few minutes for a bathroom break!)
My students are gems
and my coworkers have accepted me into the tribe.

It's November. Time to make sure we all take care of ourselves, soak up ALL the sunshine we can, 
and take time to smell the Mr. Sketch markers.

October 27, 2015

Morning Effort #SOL15

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I'm really excited to be working in a new school this year.

I'm really exhausted since I'm working in a new school this year.

I'm back in the reading support game, but lots of new materials, procedures, people and spaces.

Today I slid out of my car, feeling every day of my forty-six years.  The humidity, cold air and dark morning did nothing to make me feel better.  I reallllyyyyy didn't want to get out of bed this morning.
I left my bags in the car and slowwwly walked over to my colleagues at the car line.

"Hello, pumpkin!"  called Michelle L.

"On the struggle bus today, Chris?" teased Michelle Z.  (She knows I tend to drive the struggle bus!)

I whined a little lot and considered getting back in my car.  MZ offered to tell the office I was going home sick.  ML encouraged me to do what I needed for me.

I decided to stay.

What changed my mind?  My 3rd graders.  They are my final two groups of the day, yet they come each day (mostly) without whining or complaining.  They are eager to have their reading time, write with pens! and leave with a pile of books each day.  If they could have stamina, so could I.

(D does ask every few minutes, "Is it 5:00 yet?"  He knows he is released from small group at 2:25, so we need to work on his clock-reading skills, hee, hee) 

I welcomed a bunch of kiddos to school, went back to my car for my bags, and I walked in with a kindergarten student who was dragging tail (and his Alvin backpack).

"I'm glad you came to school today," I told him.

"You, too," he said.

October 6, 2015

Push and pull #SOL

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I've had some interesting conversations with fellow parents of teenagers, especially those in their senior year of high school.  We've decided that we may be the WORST parents in the WORLD, but then again, maybe it's just the stress as we consider that our children are graduating.  In a few months.  Oh. No....

We've talked about the stress the kids are under:
peer pressure,
social media,


I don't envy any of these kids.

Some of the kids are "push" kids... these kids just need a little push to get their motors started and rolling down the right path.  Other kids (like some of this year's seniors) are "pull" kids.  The kids who we have pullllllled through homework and social skills and making good choices and helping them develop their lacking executive functioning skills.

Ugh.  I'm tired.

It's time, fellow parents of HS seniors.  Let us release the ropes of parenting (or in my case, cut the enabling cord) and let our kids FALL.  We've done it before.  Remember when they were learning to toddle around the house?  We let them!  We were there to pick them up, kiss the scrapes and help them move on.  We can do it again.  Really.

Well, we can at least try.

We can be there for each other when the stress gets to be too much.  We may even laugh about this school year one day, MANY years from now.

It's time to let them figure it out and find out what they are made of.

They can do it.  So can we.

September 1, 2015

Giddy about Gardening #SOL

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C'mon.. you can do it!
One day in June the family piled into the car and went to Home Depot.  We usually don't shop the home improvement stores as a unit, so we must have decided to randomly stop after a meal out.

As we wandered the store, we came upon the seed rack in the garden section.  We started looking at seeds.  "It's too late," my husband warned, "but you should see what will grow in the back yard."

Ah, the backyard.  Our neighbors installed a stone retaining wall two summers ago.  We have not decided what to plant at the foot of the wall on our side, so we've just been mulching the area.  

Hmmm - could this be a place for a garden?  

We decided on the spot that we would plant seeds in our new garden.  My husband picked cilantro and peppers (he loves pico de gallo), I picked carrots, and the girls chose watermelon, cantaloupe and spinach.

That day the seeds went into the ground.  Weeks later the sprouts came up.  Then flowers... and ... you get the picture.  We were actually growing a GARDEN!  We added a tomato plant and jalapeno pepper plant.  (Jeff really wanted to make pico!)

We've been pretty good about taking care of these little plants.  I've been completely mesmerized as I've watched tiny seeds grow into seedlings, sprouts, plants, flowers and now FRUITS and VEGETABLES (thank you, first grade science curriculum, for the inspiration and vocabulary).

Will we ever get to eat a juicy watermelon this year?  Doubtful.  I don't even think the cantaloupe will get past the flowering stage.  We have enjoyed tiny carrots, lots of cilantro, and some spinach.  We may try fried green tomatoes, and I'll have to find out how the peppers grew... I don't eat jalapenos!  I can't wait to plan what we are planting NEXT year!

Tomato plant