Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Bag Fun

Happy Summer!!  I was soooooo ready for this much needed break!!  So far this summer I have done some summer cleaning, lots and lots of yard work, dog sat our friend Shadow, attended a fun blogger meet-up with my co-teacher/blogging partner,  some retail therapy (a girl always needs new shoes), worked on our 2nd grade math common core units for next year, finally started some creating for TPT, hung out with friends and done a lot of sleeping relaxing!  What have you been up to so far this summer?


During the summer I am always thinking about what I want to do next school year - what should I change, keep the same, start new, not do again, etc.   One thing I started two years ago was using "book bags" with my students and they love it!  This gives students a variety of books to have available at home to read independently or with someone else.  I have several students every year that do not have access at home to a variety of books to read and this makes that happen for them.

So here is how it works.  I have created a class set of book bags.  Each bag contains 5 books with a variety of levels.  I usually put at least one picture book, one chapter book, and one informational book in each bag.  Be sure to label the books with either the teacher name or book bag number too.

At the beginning of the year, I send home an informational letter to the parents.  It lays out what book bags are and what the expectations are for using the book bags.  There is a part for the parents to sign  acknowledging the expectations and stating that they understand that if a book or book bag is lost or damaged it needs to be replaced with another book (any children's book in good condition - it doesn't have to be brand new).

Each week students take home one book bag.  I have a checklist to keep track of what book bags each student have taken.  I love hearing them get excited when they come up to get their bag - "I got book bag #2!" or "I got the one with the Magic School Bus book!"  Each book bag is labeled with a numbered tag as well.  (I have added a sticker on the back with my name so if it's left in the building or on the bus the finder knows where to return it!)  

I found these super cute Dr. Seuss reusable bags at the dollar spot at Target last year (love me some Target!). 

If you would like your own set of book bag tags, parent information letter, and tracking sheet, I have two different files for you!  Click HERE (or on the picture below) to download the free black and white version.

If you would like the colorful version, click HERE (or on the picture below) to purchase that file.  The "colorful book bag tags" file contains 4 different sets of 40 book bag tags each, parent information letter, and tracking sheet.

Hope your students love this as much as mine do!  Enjoy!!


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Reading Buddies

Hey ya'll!  Are you loving summer as much as I am?!  Let me just tell you.  I had big plans for what I was going to accomplish this summer back on June 3 when my vacation officially started.  Have I touched those plans?  NO.  Not.   At.  All.   My mind is telling me to start, but my body is enjoying these lazy days of summer!  Part of me wants to feel guilty for not starting my long list of things to do, but the other part is telling me to enjoy every last minute and just relax a little.  So that's what I have done.  And, I'm lovin' it!!!!!!
I do want to take a minute away from my book and lounge chair to share with you how I use reading buddies in my classroom.  A couple of years ago I had to do an action research project for one of my Master's classes.  For this project,  I focused my attention on a small group of students in my class who had scored in the red zone for oral reading fluency (ORF).  I wanted to see if this group of students scores would increase if specific interventions were put into place for them.  I tracked their progress using their ORF progress monitoring scores over a 3 month period.  At the end of the project, I was pleased to see that their scores had improved.  I attribute some of this improvement to one specific intervention that I implemented, reading buddies.
I conferenced with the parents of each of the students in my study group.  I didn't meet with them to discuss my study.  I met with them to discuss their child's scores and what those scores meant for that time of the year.  This was a conference I would have had regardless of the study.  During that conference I explained to the parents how important it was for our first graders to become fluent readers.  I also explained to them that I would be sending home specific passages each week for their child to work on to help build that fluency and accuracy.  Now as much as we would like to think that all parents will follow through with our request to complete homework and such at home, I knew that this was not likely going to happen for the majority of the kiddos in this group.  So I enlisted the help of a few "friends." 
These "friends" happened to be other first graders from another class in my building.  A teammate of  mine let me "borrow" a few of her "top" readers every morning.  These students were well behaved, way above grade level in reading, and were great role models for my students.  I had them do the same thing that I had asked the parents of my students to do.  If they weren't getting it home, I KNEW for certain they were getting the extra help every day with their reading buddy.  It was a win-win situation for all of the students.  My students got the extra help that they needed and their buddies got to feel "all special" and stuff for getting to leave their class and come to mine.  As I  mentioned earlier, my students scores did increase over the 3 month period that I conducted the project.  Having that extra "focused" help each day made a big difference with their scores and their confidence.
Since then, I have continued to use reading buddies each year.  Only those reading buddies have been 2nd graders.  I teach at a K2 school, so obviously that's as high as I could go.  After our winter benchmarking, I look at my class scores and determine which students would benefit from having a buddy.  Then I contact a 2nd grade teacher to find out if they are willing to participate.  I leave it up to the teacher to decide who they are going to choose as reading buddies.  The ones that are chosen are the ones who are reading way above grade level and can be trusted to take the job seriously.  I have not had any issues whatsoever using reading buddies in my class.  The 2nd graders that I have had have worked very hard and have done exactly what I have asked them to do. 
To get started, here is what I typically do.  First, I hold an orientation with my reading buddies.  I explain to them what I want them to do and how I want them to do it.  I go over my expectations for them and their "friend" they will be working with.  I want them to know that this is serious business, no time for playing around.  If they are having a problem with their friend, then they need to let me know immediately.  I then show them the basket where I keep the materials that they will be using.  I take gallon size ziplock bags and label them with the names of the students that have reading buddies.  In the bag I  place wordlists, fast phrases, and decodable text that I want my students to work on during the week.  Each bag could contain different materials depending on the needs of that particular student and I change the materials out weekly. Typically I have my reading buddies come in first thing in the morning.  When they come in, they get the bag and I assign a place for them to go work.  Easy enough.  As I'm checking folders and monitoring morning work, I can keep an eye out on the reading buddies.  I have to tell you that so far I haven't had any issues with my  buddies at all.  They come in and they get started.  It melts my heart to see them working with my kiddos and really taking an interest in helping them out.  Not to mention that my kiddos get to see what 2nd graders are like and what the expectation for them will be as 2nd graders themselves. 

When they are finished working, they meet with me and let me know how things went.  I ask them a few standard questions and then send them back to class.  I work at a PBIS school, so I pay them a pelican buck each day for their service!  This past year I had several boys as buddies. This worked out perfect because I had several boys who needed that extra help with reading.  My boys responded so well and really did make great improvements with their reading.  Now I will also tell you, that the girls I had this year were pretty fabulous too.  They took their job seriously and would let me know if their friend wasn't working up to par!  They were definitely little teachers in the making!
I love using reading buddies in my class for so many reasons.  It's easy to manage and I get to monitor how the buddies are working together.  If you've got some kiddos that need some extra support, consider giving it a  try yourself.  Whether you use students from your own class or students from another grade, you will find that it's such a big boost of confidence and responsibility for all that are involved!
Now, back to my book and lounge chair!
Happy Summer Y'all!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Reading

About 3 1/2 years ago, my best friend called me up and said "Jess, you have to see if your principal will let you come to my school and see this!"  We had worked together for a couple of years in first grade. We taught side-by-side and loved to plan, work and teach together.  We have been friends since we were about 2 years old. So, pretty much, we could finish each others sentences. Unfortunately, our school was closed down, due to budget cuts. We were sent to two different schools, but that didn't stop us from talking shop. She went on to tell me about The Daily 5 by The 2 Sisters-Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  Long story short, I went to my principal, and he not only said yes, but said take it as a professional development day and get a sub.  Woohoo! was what I was thinking, but out loud I only said--Thank you.

So I went up to her school, and got to travel to many 1st and 2nd grade rooms, where Daily 5 was alive and kicking.  I was hooked!  I drank the "kool-ade"  I couldn't get enough of it.  I went on to that night, and ordered The Daily Five and The Cafe Book.  

I don't know about you by, when I read a good book, I can't put it down.  I stayed up late into the night when Twilight first came out and didn't think a teaching book would be the same. Well I was wrong.  I felt like Gail and Joan were my friends, colleagues or buddies for years.  Having been in the classroom about 13 years at the time, I pretty much have my own style or ways of doing things.  But after reading their book, my only thought was, "I wish I had this when I first began teaching". I told my Principal and A.P all about my experience.  My Principal, being a wonderful person, said "OK, I'm going to order the books, and you are going to do a Learning Community--see who wants to join."  [paraphrased]  Well, basically about 20 teachers, from K-2 all got involved.  It was wonderful and great and fun. We read the book, chatted and got to see how other people incorporated Daily 5 into their Classrooms.  

If you have not read The Daily 5 and are expected to have Differentiated Reading Groups/Instruction, you need to read this book. It is one of the best "Teaching" books I've read, because it gives explicit reasons, and training for you and your students.
They also have a great web-site with free ideas and if you want, you can also pay to become a
If you do get a chance to read it this summer, please come back and let me know what you think!
Here is how my CAFE board starts in the beginning of the year--Blank, waiting for Reading strategies to be added.
Here is a freebie of the Daily 5 Signs I use in my classroom as well--to anchor students to each Daily 5.

More recently, the Two Sisters, have written a 2nd edition, where they have enhanced, adapted and/ or changed the structure as they have seen the ebb and flow in their classrooms.
If you are interested in Reading the Daily 5 or some other professional materials this summer to get you ready next year, check out the carousel below.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Literacy Fair!

What a year!

My school year officially ended today, even though I still have more moving and unpacking to do in my new classroom, and three (count ‘em) workshops next week. That’s okay. I can still say I’m on Summer Break!

My fourth grade team ended the year in a big way: We hosted a Book Fair (otherwise known on Pinterest as a Literacy Fair)!

Our students picked out their favorite “Good-Fit” book from this year that they already read. Over the course of a week, we worked on completing a graphic organizer together in class.  The organizer gave students everything they needed for their tri-fold boards to help them “sell” their book to their classmates, and even to the third graders who came for a sneak-peek into fourth grade! {Since I didn’t create the organizer, I’m not able to share it here. It included the following categories: book title, author, illustrator, setting, author’s purpose, theme, main characters, conflict, plot summary, their recommendation, and a twist on the conflict resolution: students wrote it in the form of a question to entice their classmates to read more!}

Once students brought home their finished organizers, they used a little bit of construction paper and glue, a lot of imagination, and they created some real masterpieces! We encouraged family participation, and were not disappointed!

These are just a few of all the great book displays kids made!

Amy Marie


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Spelling in a Techno World

Hello, all! It's Andrew from Mr. First Grade... I wanted to share a spelling tool that I've been utilizing in my classroom for a few years now.  Last week, I had the opportunity to present at our district's technology in-service on Spelling City.  They told me that I'd have an hour and fifteen minutes to talk about the site, so of course I said "YEAH! I'd love to!" and then later, I went "Oh shoot... that's a long time!"  So I did some digging.  The more I dug, the more I found.  Like I said, I've been using it for a few years, and maybe you have as well, but I was BLOWN AWAY by how many features this site has.  Did I mention it's a FREE resource?

When you first sign in, you can create your own spelling/vocabulary lists by clicking on the LIST MANAGEMENT section.  I added all of the spelling lists for our reading series, as well as our sight words, and here's what my lists look like...

You can decide how many lists are available to students for practice by selecting YES/NO under the "published" column.  You can also import lists from other teachers if you don't feel like typing them all in yourself!  On the homepage, you can search for lists - I recommend searching for a title from your reading series, then going to that teacher's page to import all of their lists.  Once you import the lists into YOUR lists, you can also edit the list without altering the original one.  This was especially helpful for me because we add 3 sight words to every spelling list.  I was able to import someone else's Reading Street spelling lists, then go in and add just the 3 extra words.

Speaking of importing lists, here's where my favorite find comes in! Under the Teaching Resources page there's all sorts of goodies like sample lessons and useful word lists.  The word lists include word families with practically every vowel sound, digraph, etc.  There are science and social studies word lists broken up by grade and topic.  The math word lists are broken up by grade level and common core strand... And all you've gotta do is hit "IMPORT" and the words are plopped right into your list management page.  BLEW MY MIND.

When you click on a list, it will bring up all of the options for practice. There's a chunk of free games that students can play, which they love.  You also have the ability to print worksheets of your word lists.  I especially like the handwriting worksheets option... I have handwriting fonts on my computer, but these are automatically generated from your spelling list.  Love it.

There is an option for a premium membership, which works out to roughly $2/student, I believe... Our principal told us that instead of purchasing spelling books for us, which we don't really use anyways, he's going to get us all premium memberships.  *Happy Dance*  With a premium membership, you can add students and assign different lists and activities to different students.  For example, I could add my advanced list to Spelling City, but only assign it to those students who are advanced in spelling.  I could also assign extra practice, such as the "teach me" practice, to my ESL students.  Students can take the test right on the computer.  It logs their score for each test in your grade book, as well as their overall score.  You can exempt students from assignments if they're absent for a few days, AND you can re-assign things to students who need extra practice... I'm pretty pumped to have this for next year!

If you want to give it a shot, OR if you already use it and want to see what else you can do with it, check out their FAQ page.  It's got short videos explaining every aspect of the website!  I highly recommend it... My students love it, and like I said, we only used the free side of it!!

What do you use to keep your students motivated to practice their spelling words in such a technology-driven society?

Monday, June 16, 2014


HAPPY MONDAY MORNING FRIENDS!! I hope - oh how I hope, hope, hope - that you are ALLLL enjoying your summer breaks!! 

The weather this weekend in Northeastern Ohio was absolutely GORGEOUS! If you follow me on instagram - @schroedershenanigansin2nd - you may have seen that I've been spending some time outside, loving the sunshine and the beauty that is SUMMER<3

There's really nothing like a sunshine filled day at the park :) And, I've been a bit obsessed lately with taking pictures - I may need to take a photography class....and buy a camera #ilovemyiphone - and I snapped this gorgeous shot of these monstrous trees that were still kind enough to let the sunlight in. :)

And really - does anything say summer like iced coffee?!? Nope.  Definitely not. Journaling, reading and ice coffee-ing were my Saturday morning agenda, after Zumba of course, this weekend!

 Shameless selfie alert - - - I don't shop for myself.  Like....EVER. But I bought new sunglasses annnnd a new bag this weekend on a shopping date with my hubby. :) Soooo selfie it is to show them off.

As BLISSFUL as summer has been - I've been trying to stay in SOME sort of routine as far as keeping my school/TPT/organizational to-dos fresh in my mind.  SOOOO I've (been going to school regularly #don'tjudge annnnd) created a Summer Break To Do list pack! :) It's perfect to just keep track of those ideas that jump into our teacher brains WHILE sipping on a mai-tai or while binge watching ______ on Netflix?!? 

I've been semi-successful so far at staying productive in some way shape or form each day, and I've used my newest product, some cutesy summer break themed to-do lists to help me to prioritize and to keep track of the inevitable to dos, whether they be school related or projects to tackle around the house!! 

Click below to take a closer look at these TO DO LISTS IN MY TPT STORE! :)

You might like to plan your to-dos at a glance for the week . . .

Maybe you like to map out a few mini projects to tackle throughout the week either for home or for school! . . . Oh, and don't forget to check them off when you're done! I know y'all love to check things off of your list as much as I do!!

Or maybe you just want a good ol', adorably clip-arted (THANK YOU NIKKI @ MELONHEADZ) to do list to jot down your thoughts as they come to you!

SOOOO enjoy these blissful days of summer, but hopefully you can use these to do lists, too, to prioritize and not put off all of the things you've been waiting for summer to tackle! :) Summer's here! 

I'm off to tackle a few things at school and thennnn off to plan out outfits and to pack for a weekend of hosting parties with my mom at home followed immediately by a weekend in DISNEY! I'm headed to see Mickey next week! eek!

Thanks for stopping by, friends! :) :)