Thursday, May 30, 2013

End of the Year and Summer Learning

Tomorrow is Emily and my last day of school!!!
Our original last day was suppose to be last Friday.
Missouri seemed to love the cold weather and especially SNOW!!!
So three and half additional days tacked on.
But Summer break is upon us...
FINALLY!!! lol

So summer plans for me???

June will involve a large amount of revising to the 5th grade reading and writing units that I co-created.
I am sure I mentioned in early posts about how I spent the last year or so writing units of study, based on the ELA Common Core Standards, for my district.
It has been such a tremendous learning experience and overall I am so happy I embraced this challenge.
I am SOOO ready to be finished with them. lol
Not sure if they will ever truly be finished though because as I learn more about reading/writing workshop and Common Core, I want to change them for the better.
My friend Tracy, who is writing them with me, will probably want to or probably already has wanted to strangle me throughout this process. lol
We finished the revisions to the launching unit for writing last night and I already texted her today about changes I want to make.
Haven't heard back from her yet...
It's probably because it's the end of the year. lol

Here is what triggered today's desire to revise the unit...
once again:

I started reading Notebook Know-How Strategies for the Writer's Notebook by Aimee Buckner.
A friend of mine sent me this book today and of course it got my mind going.
It has some great information about why you should use notebooks and also some valuable lessons to use when launching your writer's workshop and notebook usage.

My district sent me Notebook Connections Strategies for the Reader's Notebooks to read and incorporate in the the reading unit revisions.
I absolutely LOVE this book.
I posted about it not too long ago after I had just started reading it- Reading Workshop- Notebook Connections.

So halfway through the book, my district asked the Teaching and Learning Coaches to write literacy related modules to use next school year, for professional development.
Guess what module I was chosen for???
One would hope reading notebooks because I was already reading Notebook Connections, right?
Not so much...
I was chosen to write the writer's notebook module.
Of course...
No worries!!!
Now I am reading Notebook Know-How.
I'm not writing the module until July.
So I am all good!
Plenty of time to get the writer's notebook one read. :)

I am halfway through chapter two.
Chapter One was titled Why Notebooks? and discussed just that.
It was great information and I have some wonderful quotes to use in my Powerpoint.
But the number one point I took from this chapter is what is a writer's notebook.
Here's what I read...
"A writer's notebook creates a place for students (and writers) to save their words--in the form of a memory, a reflection, a list, a rambling of thoughts, a sketch, or even a scrap of print taped on the page."
"It a place for students to practice writing."

I am not finished with chapter two yet but it is titled Launching the Notebook.
I had a huge AHA in this chapter.
Oral Storytelling...
So often students don't know what to write about or they feel they have "nothing valuable or of interest to others to say."
Aimee Buckner's first goal is to get her students to believe in themselves as writers.
She does this through oral storytelling.
Spend time right off the bat telling stories to the students and listening to their stories.
One story will trigger other students to connect through their own similar stories.
We all know this to be true.
One student tells about how he went to a water park and then suddenly 5 hands go up with similar stories.
This is the perfect time to introduce the notebook and send them off to tell their stories.

The next take-away from this chapter is taking the time to teach students strategies for finding things to write about.
Now this is nothing new to me.
I've done this in my launching units over and over...
But not the way Aimee does it.
In my launching, I would spend a day, maybe two, collecting writing ideas.

When I first started Balanced Literacy, it was simply jotting down idea after idea after idea.
Similar to this...

Then I moved to writing territories which looked more like this...
- baseball
- KC Royals
- Not a Cardinals fan (sorry St. Louis people lol)
- one of ten kids
- noisy Italians
- my dad passing away

I liked my second approach much better and still do not feel it is a bad way to collect writing ideas.
But I really liked the way Aimee uses strategies for finding writing ideas and spent longer than a day or two to teach them.
Her first lesson is talking about the History of a Name.
She read the book Chrysanthemum and then discussed the role of the main character's name in the book.
The importance of it...
She then has the students write about their names.
Maybe why their parents chose that name
special meanings
This could lead to how pets were named, names they wish they had, or characters' names in books.

The second strategy is so far my favorite.
(I haven't read any others, though because my mind took off after this one and I began taking notes all over the draft of my launching unit.  I also wrote a sample lesson for launching, based on this strategy.)
This strategy is called Writing from a List.
In this lesson, the students create lists (quite similar to my writing territories) on individual topics.
These could be things they are experts on, best/worst events in their lives, favorite words, hobbies, etc.
Now for how Aimee's takes what I did to the next level.
Next the students star or highlight things on their list they could write more about.
So simple...
Yet a duh moment for me, lol.
From here, the students choose something from the list to write more about.
Now that part I did do. ;)

She spends time teaching them strategies, like writing from a list, to come up with things to write about.
It is not something she does in a day or two.
Since it is something she wants them to continue to use throughout the year, she takes her time with it.

I look forward to reading the rest of the book.
I actually have to post this, so I can read some before bed.
So I must say goodbye! :)

Are you on summer break yet?
Do you have plans for some summer learning?

Antoinette :)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Melt my heart

Yesterday we had our 5th grade recognition.
It is a time full of singing, speeches, and smiles.

And tears...
Let me say I like all my students.  They all have their own personalities, and talents.

But every once in a while one of my students just melts my heart.

"April" is that student.
 If you have read our blog before, you know I've taught 3rd grade for the past few years.
April was in my class 2 years ago.  She had a myriad of challenges that lead the special education team and I to believe that she was autistic.  There were many tear filled conferences with her amazing parents.
During her 4th grade year, she went through INTENSE intervention.
She made great strides.
So, when I moved to 5th grade one of the conditions I gave my principal was that April needed to be in my class.
This year, she and I have smiled, talked, and joked.  (Huge for a child with autism.)

One day, April asked me, "How much are you going to miss me?"
My answer, "I will miss you every day."

Then at the end of the week, she had a bad day.  I got mad at her.  I have never done that before.  I was DEVASTED.

So tonight, when her mom and I were talking that day came up.
Her mom said to me, "You know the other day when you were mad at April.  I want to thank you for being mad at her.  It was the first day that April ever came home and talked about her day with me where I didn't have to prod her."
MELT MY HEART! (Plus many tears and hugs.)

I know we all have stories of that special student who could melt your heart.  Thanks for reading mine.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Next year, I will

We are joining up with Joy in 6th grade for her linky party.
The end of the year is such a reflective time.

Emily's answers are in purple.
Antoinette's answers are in blue.
This year, I am feeling so exhausted just trying to get to the end of the year, but I am never too tried to look ahead!
Here are the things I am definitely going to change.

This is the first year in 6 years that I won't be moving classrooms!!!!!!!
That means in the fall I don't have to create bulletin boards.  They just need to be updated.
I am really going to try to maintain my bulletin boards.
That is usually something that falls by the wayside.
How will I do this?
I am planning to create the rough beginnings of many of my anchor charts.  This is the time of year where I can look at the charts I created and see what worked and what needs tweaking.  

I admit it, I am a PILER not a FILER.  : /  It is one thing that irritates me the most about myself.  
This year I used 2 tables instead of a desk.  It turns out the table that was supposed to be my "desk" just became a giant mountain of paper.
  I am hoping next year to get rid of that table, because I need the space.
How can I eliminate my piling problem?
I got some great ideas from Ladybug Teacher Files and Fun in 4B's recent linky party.  

I need to actually USE the items I have more efficiently.  

If you have followed our blog, you know our district took on Common Core and Balanced Literacy this year.  Plus, I moved from 3rd to 5th grade.  It is like being a first year teacher again.  That means I was often planning as I was teaching, with no idea where my students were actually supposed to be.  What did mastery look like?  Well now I have enough of an idea to at least refine what I did this year.  Plus my wonderful co-blogger is helping to edit my grade levels units of study, and I know she will share with me as soon as she can!

This is a goal of mine every year.  Any one have this goal?
I am busy being a wife, dog owner, grad school student, volunteering at my church and trying to become a mom (in the fall).  
I LOVE being a teacher and working with kids, but that can no longer eclipse the rest of my life.  Maybe if I can make some of the changes I listed above I will have more free time!  :)

What a year it has been!
Lots of ups and downs.
But I have to say...
Overall, I feel it was a success!

Always room for improvement, though.
So here are my thoughts for next year:

 In my position, as a Teaching and Learning Coach, I have to be on the ball in regards to what is new in the district.  Gone are the days where professional development days were laid back and easy because now I am always presenting.
To help me be in the know, I did a TON of professional reading.
I've read from Lucy Calkins, Matt Glover, Debbie Miller, Fountas and Pinnell, Aimee Buckner, Katie Wood Ray, Richard Allington...
Just to name a few...
I am involved in a monthly book club with some amazing ladies from the first school I taught at.
Guess how many books I have read for book club!!!
If you guessed ZERO, you would be correct.

 I am SOOO not a morning person.
I love my snooze button. (Well not actually, but I sure do swipe at it often. lol)
With my new job also came lots of early morning meetings. LOTS!!!
I am that person...
I know some of you are cringing...
I sometimes usually show up a few minutes late.
I drive really fast to get there when I do.
I got a ticket the other day!!!

I have gotten better with this one, but only after a large portion of the year was over.
Once again, with my new job, I found myself spending LONG hours reading, planning for professional development, meetings, etc.
I was also writing units of study for the 5th grade teachers in my district.
I sure got a ton accomplished, but I sort of lost out on some me time.
I finally decided that enough was enough and did a ton less once I left school.

My final goal for next year is to continue to do what I feel literally saved me this year!!
I plan to continue to focus on the positive.
I don't deal well with negativity.
I wish people understood how it doesn't really solve anything...
It only makes matters worse.
So throughout the year, I really tried to focus on the positive and hold me head up high.
Some of my favorite "Antoinette" sayings...
"It's a means to an end, and I'm gonna love the end!"
"I can't control the cards I'm dealt, but I'm gonna play them like I have the royal family!"
"Life pitches you curve balls every once and awhile and sure you might miss from time-to-time.  But doesn't it feel amazing when your bat actually makes contact?"
Cheesy, I know.
It kept my spirits up for the most part and has been a huge factor in how my year has panned out and my weight-loss.

With the end of the school year approaching, what are you definitely going to change?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Thoughts and Prayers

Just wanted to send out a post to say our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who is suffering as a result of the tornados lately.  Our hearts ache similarly to how they did when so many innocent lives were lost at Sandy Hook.
Though the two are a result of different circumstances,
fellow Americans are suffering right now
and that is what truly matters.
We so much wish there was more that we could do to help everyone in this time of need.
Know that our hearts are heavy for your suffering
and our thoughts and prayers are with you.

We hope and pray that none of our followers live anywhere around where these tragedies have hit.
Especially with those poor schools in and around Moore, Oklahoma.

Monday, May 20, 2013

End-of-Year Reflections

WOW- Another year just about under our belts!
And what a year it has been...
Lots of ups and downs but overall a great year!

We are linking up with Erin at Miss Lifesaver for end-of-year reflections.  This is the perfect time to think back on where we were when the year started, what went well, and what we would change for next year.

Erin posed three questions to reflect on...
1- What was the biggest professional challenge you faced this year?
2- What was the biggest personal challenge you faced this year?
3- How do you think you've grown from your experiences?

Antoinette's answers will be in blue. :)
Emily's answers will be in aqua. 

Biggest professional challenge-
If I was to come up with a one word theme for this year, CHANGE would it!

As I have discussed in numerous previous post, after 13 years in the classroom, I decided to expand my experience in the world of teaching and become a Teaching and Learning Coach (instructional coach).
My "students" became the teachers.
My "classroom" became two NEW schools.
My "team" became 11 other educators who I only got to meet with and see every other week instead of daily.

This position was brand new to our district, so none of us knew exactly what to expect.  To add to this, our district took on MANY changes...
Common Core
Apple Computers
Balanced Literacy
Rigor and Relevance

My thoughts exactly, in the beginning of the year, where it was as if our position was the Louisiana Territory and we were Lewis and Clark being sent off into the vast unknown to explore, learn, and bring back our findings.

Well the first leg of the expedition is coming to a close and I am happy to announce that I survived!  I am also happy to announce that I really love my new position.  I love all of the new learning I have experienced and love that there is so much more to come.  I love working with the principals and teachers in my buildings and helping them with all of the changes and new learning being introduced.  Most of all, I love my new team!  I work with the most amazing group.  There are no cliques or competitiveness.  We are truly a team and I am blessed to have started this journey with these people.

Biggest personal challenge-
In August, along with everything else I was taking in, I decided that I wanted to change my unhealthy lifestyle and finally take off the many, many unnecessary pounds that have accumulated throughout the years.  I am EXTREMELY happy to announce that I have shed 56 pounds!
I feel like a different person!
I am a different person!
Although I still have a ways to go, I am so proud of what I have accomplished.  I have learned how to eat healthy and balance splurges on things I really want.  I have learned to cook... I actually own so many spices that I am considering buying a spice rack. lol  I have joined a gym and am enjoying a variety of classes.  I am putting my health and happiness as a priority and hopefully adding years onto my life.

Growth from these experiences-
I think I have somewhat addressed this in the first two answers...
A favorite quote is "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger."  That is pretty much it in a nutshell.  I am a stronger person!  What is life without taking risks?  How do you grow as a person without learning new things and embracing change?
It's scary...
But, it feels great in the end when you succeed.
Life delivers all types of pitches...
curve balls
fast balls
change ups
Yes... sometimes you swing and miss, BUT what an amazing feeling when your bat actually comes in contact with the ball.
Overcoming challenges is what life is about.
It defines who you are today!
That is how I have grown from these experiences...
I am a stronger person!

Hey!  I am so excited this year is almost over!
Biggest Professional Challenge
In the past few years I have not had a year where I taught the same thing in the same classroom.  (I am kind of a nomad.) After 3 years of teaching 3rd grade in 3 different classrooms, I took Antoinette's position as a 5th grade teacher.  (Technically I stepped into a few of Antoinette's prior roles in my building!)  
I taught 5th grade when I was a beginning teacher.  (Boy have I changed!)  
I've taught this group of kids before. (This group of kids will challenge you EVERY DAY.)  
I told myself every day, you are doing the best you can.

I am super into music so I pulled part of the lyrics from a song that represents me this year:
I'm the wind
You're the kite
They were right when they said
We were breathing underwater
Out of place all the time

In a world that wasn't mine to take

I'll wait
Is this my life?
Am I breathing underwater?     -"Breathing Underwater" by Metric

The final verse sums up my current emotion:
Lights of days
Will beat a path through the mirrored maze
I can see the end
But it hasn't happened yet             
(8 more days!!)

Biggest Personal Challenge
This has been a year of solving problems.
I severely broke my ankle 5 years ago.   I have had some kind of surgery or injections every year since.  This year, I went to an ankle specialist.  I had what will be my final surgery for the next 5-10 years!  
I have spent the last 5 months completing physical therapy.  (I actually graduated therapy last week.  Love the PT I worked with!)  It's not where I want it to be, but I can do the rest of the work on my own now.  
Cause of ankle problems found and solved (sort of).

Also, I have been on a fertility journey for a year now.  
I am SO thankful to my second opinion doctor.  He found that I had stage IV endometriosis.  Now I have been able to get treatment, and it has answered all my questions about why things just weren't working the way they were "supposed to."  

Growth from this experience
I don't care how many times I hear it, I am still learning patience is a virtue.  
Also, patience is rewarded.  
Be open to possibilities.  
This hasn't been an easy year in my classroom, but I know next year it will be better.  I will be more prepared for the challenges 5th grade comes with.  
I have also learned that it is AWESOME not to pack up your classroom and move!  
I look forward to being in the same room next year, with a great group of kids (I've had them before!)

As you think back about your school year and your life, what reflections do you have?  Have you found a new focus?  Learned something new about yourself?

Head over to Miss Lifesaver's blog and link up!

Antoinette and Emily

Friday, May 10, 2013

Assessments are OVER!

It's Friday!
The sun is shining!
And most important, I have finished grading and entering all my district assessment data!!!!!

It makes me want to sing!

How do you celebrate finishing things in the spring?


Monday, May 6, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Week


Wanted to take a moment to tell all of you out there how much I appreciate all you do for your students.
I know I don't know you personally, but from following your blogs and seeing the time and energy you put into your job, I know you must be amazing teachers!

You know I love quotes...
Found this one and felt it was perfect.
This is dedicated to all of you! :)

"Every one has a favorite teacher.  We may love this special teacher for her charisma, enthusiasm, or knowledge.  Often, our best memories of childhood revolve around a great teacher, who inspired and changed our lives.  Their words or actions linger in our memory decades after we leave school.  Subconsciously, we emulate them as we pass on our knowledge to the next generation. Thus, a great teacher's influence can last for many years."

To kick off teacher appreciation week, PTA provided lunch for us. 
They had Capital Grill cater an amazing meal.
We had...
clam chowder soup
a lobster appetizer
and the most AMAZING mac and cheese.
I kid you not...
It might possible give my mom's homemade a run for its money.
Sorry Mom! lol

The background of our feast was the most adorable posters.
I am assuming PTA made them.
They are so cute!!!

I hope each and every one of are told numerous times how much you are appreciated!
Thank you for everything you do to help educate and mold our next generations to come.

Antoinette :)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Teachable Moment on my Alabama Vacay!!

Ever been to Gulf Shores, Alabama?
That's where I am now...
Well, sort of...
I am actually at Fort Morgan which is a hop and skip from Gulf Shores.

It is absolutely gorgeous here.

Pic Number 1
Need I say more...

Last night, I got in after dark.
Could hear the ocean, but couldn't see it.
This is what I woke up to this morning.
Coffee on the deck with a fabulous view.

 Loving a cuddle with my cutie niece, Audrey!
Oh and we can't forget Ellie the elephant. :)

After coffee and breakfast, it was beach time.
Rain was predicted but luckily, our only obstacle was the clouds.
The sun did show its brilliant face every once in awhile.

The waves were kinda outta control
So we moved to the pool!
Played some volleyball and hung out with some of my favorite kiddos.

I did mention a teachable moment, didn't I?
So the rain did come.
The wind made a fierce appearance as well.
Thankfully later in the evening.
We looked outside and saw the water decided to claim most of the beach as its captive.
It not only lined the shore, but also carved a path further up the beach.
Like it created a little island.
There in the middle is our belongings.

So we were checking out what looked like a small river.
Only it was the ocean, of course.
As a person in the education field, my mind started wandering to the world of weathering and erosion.
What a perfect example...
So I began explaining it all to my niece and pointing out examples.
I enjoyed it much more than she did. lol
I took a bunch of pictures because if I still had a classroom, I would so be showing them to my students.

The pic below is one example of my teachable moment.

Do you teach weathering and erosion?
What about weather in general?
If so, have you ever thought of going out and taking real-world examples to show your students?
A crumbled wall...
A broken up sidewalk from tree roots emerging from below...
A river bank...
Clouds and/or fog... (Was so thinking like a teacher on the plane when we were flying through the clouds.)
Another great idea would be to have the kids go out and take pictures to bring back to class.

You know you are in the education field when teachable moments pop up everywhere you go.
Even on vacation...

Have a great day!
Antoinette :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


So excited it's May!!!

We are linking up with Farley!

We just might crack the top 100 link ups. :)
Emily will be typing in orange!
Antoinette will be typing in blue!
You know why??
Because I LOVE blue and I love the KC Royals and they are having a great start to the season!
But I love them every year...
Win or lose...

Yeah, Gary Lezak (a Kansas City local weatherman) is predicting a dusting of snow tonight.  I don't think Mother Nature knows it's supposed to be spring.  I guess it hasn't snowed in May for the past 100 years.

I am loving reading professional literature.
These are currently my two faves!
Loving the ideas.  Just used the poetry one this week!

It is as if she and I are having a conversation about reading notebooks.
Especially love the part about post its!
My dad is having carotid artery surgery later this month.
He had this surgery 20 years ago, and the doctor's have decided it's time to clean them out again.
I am trying to be strong for him.  He isn't going to tell me he's scared, but he is.  
The part I hate is the ICU after surgery.  It gives me flashbacks of seeing him that way when I was 9.
I know God will protect him.
(Sorry to be so serious. : / )

I am wanting the next 21 teaching days to go by quickly!!  
The 5th graders have senioritis.  They are too cool for elementary school.  
I like them, but not their hormones!

Who loves giving end of the year assessments?
I want to know how much my students have learned, but all the end of the year assessments take the fun out of the end of the year.  We are giving 5, in addition to our state assessment.

This summer will be a lot like the last summer.
Grad school, home DIY projects, and relaxation.
I also plan to read for fun and get my tan on!
We will likely go camping, too.
I had an ankle surgery this year.  I have put in 5 months of physical therapy, and now I am ready to work out.  I signed up for a water walking (aerobics) class!

Hopefully this will be my last summer home alone, next year I would love to have the pitter-patter of little feet to be home with me. (That and grad school will be there next year too!)

So I have a one track mind and my currently is focused on my vacay to Gulf Shores, Alabama!!
Ya Buddy!
I am loving my time here.
I have another post ready with pictures and details,
but want to get the Currently out first.
As Emily said, hoping to make it in the top 100 link ups.
Usually we're around 300... lol

So here's my Currently.

My summer bucket list includes many things...
But my number 1 goal is to keep on losing weight.
I have lost 51 lbs since August and am excited about it.
I actually went swimsuit shopping and wasn't depressed afterwards.
I still have a long ways to go...
But LIFE IS GOOD!!! :)

Be looking for my next post with lots of pics from my vacay! :)

Hope you enjoyed our Currently.
Looking forward to checking out many of yours, also.

Antoinette and EmilyK

How much should kids read?

It was PLT day at my school.  
Do you have a Professional Learning Community?  (We call ours a Professional Learning Team.)

We've had PLT for a few years now.  Luckily this year our PLT is facilitated by a TLC, like Antoinette.

This week we were discussing how we judge that a student has read an adequate amount?
In Richard Allington's words, volume of reading.
In other words

How much should kids read each day?

Upon my initial Google search most research talks about time in minutes.

I don't like calculating reading amount that way, since some readers struggle to read, they inherently will read less volume in the minutes than a proficient reader.  How will they close the gap that way?
And as Allington points out, struggling readers should be reading more than proficient readers.

So we got to thinking and researching.
In toddlers and preschool students, you judge their future success by the amount of words they know or are exposed to.  Shouldn't the same be true of reading?

It's not the number of minutes, but the number of words!

Luckily had compiled some research our team is going to discuss next week.

The quote I found most valuable:

If a child reads as much as one million words per year, they will be in top 2% of all children
on standardized reading tests. If a child reads as little as 8000 words per year, they will
be in bottom 2% of all children on standardized reading tests. Therefore, if you read 3,000
words every day you will be in the top 2%. If you read 20 words every day, you will be in
the bottom 2%.

How much do you think students should be reading each day?  How do you track reading per day?