Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Sunday Scoop!

Happily linking up once again with Teaching Trio.  Who knew this little link-up would be a great motivator for me to focus on a few important tasks I had to- or simply wanted to- accomplish each week?

Taxes?  'Nuff said!

Stickers?  Okay, I've never been consistent with stickers but this year, my class actually asks for them.   So, I found a beautiful red box and put some cute ribbon on it and moved it to an area that THEY could access and get their own when deserved.  If left up to me, I'd never actually pass them out.  What's hot in my class?  Googly eyed stickers like this:

Because of their love of them, I instituted a little challenge each day, The "row" that packs-up the quietest wins a sticker.  I've been doing this for two months now and you'd think I'm handing out tubs of Lucky Charms or ice cream cones!  If you came into my room at 2:20 each day, what would you hear? NOTHING...for ten whole minutes! 

Now I admit I do like me some chitter chatter when unpacking in the morning.  It's a great time for them to interact, get to know each other and foster a sense of community.  But by the end of the day, well, I need it to be quiet so we all do what we need to do...  

I can't process why they're so set on winning a sticker but boy, they are so focused on that prize.  So, I am trying to kick it up a notch with the coolest, smelliest, glitter-filled stickers I can find.  Larger stickers truly seem to tickle their fancy!  Hey, whatever floats your boat, kids!

Downton Abbey is simply a fantastic show and if you've never watched it, I suggest you start at Season 1 and binge watch on your next snow day.  Amazing!  Here's some fun for you...what's wrong with this famous DA Publicity shot?  Answer at end of post IF you can't figure it out! 

I love The Good Wife just as much but it's been MIA for so long and doesn't come back until March 1.  Can I say how much I hate this newish strategy of shows taking long winter breaks?  Stupid. Annoying.  

I'm committed to using more of the recipes I find on Pinterest...not just Pinning and forgetting about them.  I found this recipe on Pinterest and used it for for both pork and chicken. My kids loved it.  Easy.  Fast.  The chicken was delicious.  Pork was okay.  (And I love pork!)

I think we are officially the last family in America to own a GF Grill.  It's not even new but it's never been used before.  It has been tucked away in my parents' house for years and I finally swiped it a few weeks ago. I'm not picky but I really just want to be able to grill super skinny pieces of chicken to put in salads for school.  Anyone know how to make a tasty thin piece of chicken like that?  Seriously, I'd so appreciate knowing and hope George shows me the way...

Okay, in the period piece DA photo above, there's a WATER BOTTLE in the picture.  When this happened, it was WATERGATE all over again. Who did it?  Why?  LOL!  Love the way the cast responded.

They linked up this pic to WaterAid, an organization that helps provide access to clean water all over the world.  Cool, huh?

Want to link up?  Click on button to hopon over to Teaching Trio's blog and find out what to do!  Hoping to read your Sunday Scoop today...

Have a super week!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Accepting Only Their Best

Keeping expectations high is a must in the classroom.  I've honestly found that the higher my expectations are, the better the kids perform. I'm sure you agree.

But every once in a while, the kiddos get a bit lazy and forget that I won't except just any answer EVEN IF it's a right answer. My sweeties know I want them to dig a bit deeper.

Case in point:

During Morning Meeting today, (our 100th Day!) I asked the students to make a word using the letters in ONE HUNDRED.  

Now we do SO much of this each week with my Word Wizard Packets that I thought it would be easy breezy.  (Click on pic to get freebie!)

Well, this morning, I didn't get the responses I expected  Most kids looked at the chart, quickly went back to their desks, scribbled a word on the sticky I had left for them, and slapped it on the paper.  Want to know what almost every child wrote down? 


Now RED is a nice word.  Actually, I'm quite fond of the color. Truly.  My son even has red hair so I assure you that I have nothing against red at all. Promise.  

But I digress...

But how could almost every child go for the easy answer?  The LAZY answer.  Except this one:

Not sure if you can see the's UNDER.  Good word.  Much, much better than red, isn't it?

As I read off the responses,  giggles started to emerge when they realized that almost every answer was RED.  When I rattled off UNDER, I heard a gasp.  Then another. The class immediately knew this was a good word. A much better word.  I didn't have to say a thing.  The students did it for me.  "Mrs. Mullarkey should give you smart beads. (I did!)  "You put a lot of thought into your answer." (He did.)  "You challenged yourself." "I wish I could have gotten that word," said another.  

That's when I spoke up.  "YOU CAN! I want you to sit here for a minute and study the letters.  When you come up with a stronger word, go write it down." 

While they sat and thought, I quickly went around the room and put another sticky on each desk.

Were they lazy the first round?  Yep.
Was I? Yep. A little...

Say what? 

I didn't give them "think time."  

I assumed they'd razzle dazzle me so I let "think time" slide and allowed them to get up immediately. 

Yep, I know that even giving students an extra 3 seconds of think time improves their responses. 

Five seconds is even better.  I knew this and am pretty good about waiting it out but I took a shortcut today and so did they. 

Making them sit for just 60 seconds was rewarded by these words:

(WONDERED: Although not spelled correctly, I love the risk)

(Sight word this week!)

And there were more but my camera died. 

Much better, yes?  

So, here's to a little wait time which always harvests better results. (And a kudos to my kiddos for raising their game!) 

Have a great night!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Another Teach Like a Champion Technique (And Freebie Clip Art!)

Last week, I wrote about the NO OPT OUT Technique from this book:

Go ahead and read what I had to changed my teaching and raised my expectations even more. I'll wait.  Okay, back now?  You're a quick reader!  Great! Doesn't it seem like such a simple and easy-to-implement technique?  It is!  Promise.

Today, I want to share with you Technique #4 from the book.  FORMAT MATTERS.  

Okay, again, easy to implement.  Let's look at #1.  How many of your kids say, "My family and me or Me and my family," during sharing time? Until I read this book, I was always hesitant to correct it.  Ater all, my kiddos are 6 and 7 and sometimes I'm just so happy to get them talking and sitting still.  But, my colleagues and I decided to put an end to all that silly talk. Now, for the most part, all of our kids are saying it correctly.  That's just one example but you know what?  So glad I implemented it.  Really, when I didn't stop them at that teachable moment, I wasn't doing any of them any favors.  When I correct them, I simply tap my lips, say the correct phrase, and they know to repeat it. Works well.

Fast forward to # 3.  This reinforces what we do in responsive classroom.  I used to waste tons of time by saying things like, "We can't hear you, Sarah.  Please speak up."  That wastes A LOT of time throughout the day.  Now, a direct "VOICE" does the trick.  Do I always get the volume I want?  No. However, this simple word serves as a QUICK, GENTLE reminder of what's expected and that I think what they say is worth hearing. It has helped!

Backtracking to #2...Okay.  I'm torn here.  I totally get it but it's not always possible time-wise.  BUT, since increasing my use of this technique, I AM getting more complete sentences in their writing!  So, it's all good!

Format #2: I always used "naked numbers" but since switching, I see a deeper connect with their "math talk." When I was observed this year, I did a lesson on ten frames.  Before I started, I asked for the UNIT and wrote it on the top of the chart before I started.  Each time the kids counted, they used the unit.  (I had 4 COOKIES.  I added 3 more COOKIES.)  My fabo math supervisor commented on it and wrote it up in my report.  Of course I gave credit to having learned it from the book. (Okay, I probably learned it from a teacher like you years ago but at least I learned to implement it now through my reading!)

Thoughts?  Love to hear them.  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Problem Solved!

Okay, a small problem but maybe you have the same one...

I have a bookcase behind my guided reading table.  No white board. 

I always need to write something during GR so I used to try to hold a large board that I got at Staples and teach at the same time. 

Sometimes I could sortofkindof prop it up but it didn't work out that well.  And I felt I was always blocking someone's view. 

Well, as of a few weeks ago, problem no more! I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner but...VELCRO!
This is small board but I actually have FIVE boards I keep on hand, one being the large 3x2 from Staples.  I switch them out for reading groups if needed.  If I need to save something, I have the board and just quickly put back up the next time we meet.  I know it's a small problem but boy, it has made all the difference in my groups.  It's great to be able to save work with no effort. (And if I need to remind you, my room is TINY so this is really helpful!)

When my friend Brittany saw me with a group recently, she said she was going to do the same thing. "But you have a great white board behind you!" I said.  She explained that she's always erasing things from group to group., I guess the grass isn't always greener. Here she is hanging up a board.  You can see the others from her reading groups that she had used that day.

By the way, Brittany is one of those teachers that simply HAS IT!  This is her second year teaching but you'd ever know it.  Awesome teacher, colleague and friend.  But can I be old enough to be her mother? Sigh. But I digress...

Another problem solved was using Velcro to keep my eraser (gree circle) within easy reach. The "real" ones I got from Target are curved and can't be hung up so I got these make-up pads at the dollar store. Next up?  Putting Velcro on my marker so it's always where it should be when I need it.

Happy Valentine's Day, friends!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Freebie Clip Art Set!

I'm not one to rush the holidays but since I needed some shamrocks, I whipped these up.  Want them? They're a freebie in our store.  Click on picture to grab them and enjoy!  Feedback always appreciated!

Just put these Surfin' Sharks up in our store, too.  John made the sharks and I designed the boards.  Fun!

Stay warm.  Stay safe!  Way too much icy weather here!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

February Math Freebie

How much do I love giving my kids open-ended journal prompts?  Sooooooo much! After you grab my two-page freebie by clicking on the pic, you can read about them and see them in action HERE.

I'm getting a lot of feedback that referring to how they're going to be used with the "high" students. Honestly, ALL my students benefit.  After modeling a few, they really take risks and do a fabo job! Differentiation is built right in to these open-ended questions. See for yourself!  (January and December freebies available in my store, too!)

And over in Dandy Doodles land, John just pfinished this:

Have a great day!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Problem Solved! My Love-Hate-now LOVE Relationship with I Have, Who Has Games

In theory, these games are terrific ways to reinforce concepts in a fun way, correct? Every time I announce we're playing at morning meeting, my kids get soooooooo excited.  I mean jump-out-of-their-seats excited.  Here's an example of what I use in my packets and then I'll tell you my Wah, Wah, Wah...struggles.  My on-going problems but also - my recent Ah-Ha moments!

Two long standing problems with the games in my room:

1. Some kids just didn't focus on their cards and someone would need to repeat, "Who has light?" ten times before the child holding it would finally say, "I have light. Who has pie?"


My fix a month ago: I started timing our games. Who doesn't love to break a record? I think the timing aspect has added to their love of the games and makes them FOCUS.

2. This is the biggie that has driven me BONKERS:

MUMMBLING THE WORDS! Lack of enunciation!
Who has lie? Who has light?

I swear, when Firsties say them, most of the time, they sound the same. The "T" seems to POOF away on light and other words. (ALL endings disappear!) 

We've talked about enunciation. Pronunciation. Every kind of 
ciation I could think of but it still didn't help.

I was ready to chuck the word versions of I Have, Who Has forever...

Until today.

Actually, yesterday since it's 4:30 in the morning!

I'm almost too embarrassed to admit this little AH-HA moment because it's so simple that I feel I should have been doing this from the start...

Drum roll please...

Have the kids SAY the word, SPELL the word, SAY the word again.

Yes. That simple. 

Yes. I feel like a fool for playing this game for five years and never doing this before. Am I the only one who didn't know this trick?

Hope my tips helped if you've shared the same struggles!  
Have a great day!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Three Books That Raised My Game...

Although a day late...

I'm linking up with Teaching Trio to bring you three of my favorite...teaching books!

Teach Like a Champion was required reading in my school two summers ago. Can I say how much I loved it? While the book isn't perfect, (All schools featured are charter schools from same area I believe) one tip changed my classroom...forever.  (Cue music!)  


In a nutshell: It's NOT okay not to try!

You know those kids who are always shrugging their shoulders and saying, "I don't know?" The ones who want to fly under the radar for whatever reason they have? The first time you let them slide or move on to someone else to answer, you're giving them a free pass to shrug the year away.  Now, I know you're thinking that you would never accept a bunch of "I don't knows" but I did. With one child a few years ago. I'm not going to go into the reason but I assure you, I was confident it was for "all the right reasons." 


Some of my friends have admitted to accepting "the shrug" for various reasons, too: students who were so low that they knew they probably didn't know the answer; The child that was just sort of "out there" all the time; Or the child who no one ever expected to know ANYTHING and, somehow, expectations just weren't the same for that student.

No Opt Out allows EVERY child to answer every question EVERY time.  They have no choice.  Sound mean? Unrealistic?  I don't think so.  I actually think it's a win-win situation for the entire class. Dignity for all!  

So, for the past two years, no one, not one child in my class has said, "I don't know," when I've asked them an academic question.  Seriously.  Okay- someone surely did it ONCE.  But once was all it took for EVERYONE to know it wasn't allowed. Does this sound harsh?  It's not! Promise!  Once you implement it, you'll look back and wish you did it sooner! Here's what it can look like... there are FOUR FORMATS:

Format 1: You provide the answer, the student repeats the answer.
Teacher: What’s the capital of NJ, Kim?
Kim: South Brunswick.
Teacher: The capital of NJ is Trenton.  Now you tell me. What’s the capital of NJ?
Kim: Trenton.
Teacher: Good, Kim.  The capital of NJ is Trenton.

Format 2: Another student provides the answer, the initial student repeats the answer.
Teacher: What’s the capital of NJ, Kim?
Kim: South Brunswick.
Teacher: Who can tell Kim the capital of NJ?
Maha: The capital of NJ is Trenton.
Teacher: Good. Kim, now you tell me. What’s the capital of NJ?
Kim: Trenton.
Teacher: Yep! The capital of NJ is Trenton.

Format 3: You provide a cue; your student uses it to find the answer.
Teacher: What’s the capital of NJ, Kim?
Kim: South Brunswick.
Teacher: We can find the capital by looking at the map and locating the star. The star is labeled “Capital of NJ.”  Now locate that star, Kim, and tell me the capital of NJ.
Kim: Trenton.
Teacher: Good, Kim.  The capital of NJ is Trenton.

Format 4: Another student provides a cue; the initial student uses it to find the answer.
Teacher: What’s the capital of NJ, Kim?
Kim: South Brunswick.
Teacher: Who can tell Kim how to find the capital of NJ?
Maha: Look in our book and find the star labeled “Capital of NJ.”
Teacher: Yes. I'm asking you to use your book to locate and name the capital of NJ. Kim, what’s the capital of NJ?
Kim: Trenton.
Teacher: You have it! The capital of NJ is Trenton.

Now I teach FIRST GRADE and it's made a huge difference. I imagine it's even more effective in the upper grades.  If you try it, let me know your thoughts!

NUMBER TALKS:  In a nutshell: Builds math fluency!

What I love: SO EASY to implement and only takes 5-7 minutes a day.  Can be less.  I love how I get to peek into my students' brains and see exactly HOW they see numbers.  My kids dig deeper into number sense and always amaze me with their increasing fluency.

Reading Essentials: This book is OLD!  2002? 2003?  Yep. Ancient!  But it still rings true today.  I LOVE REGIE ROUTMAN!  Maybe WORSHIP is the right word? The book is so easy to read and every word is golden.  I could go on and on, but lucky for me (and you!) I found my favorite chapter in a PDF online HERE.

Okay- this post took me forever!  I have some lesson plans to tinker with.  Hope you can check out one (or all!) of the books soon!

Want to share your favorite things?  Click on the button!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Here's.....My Scoop!

Sunday's here already?  That means it's time to join up with Teaching Trio once again for the Sunday Scoop!

Loved having my friends/colleagues over last night!  Lots of fun, good food, and some fine wine! It's funny how much like a family we've become over the last few years. From celebrating to grieving together, it's nice to know I work with such an awesome bunch!  

Meant to post this earlier but had to go and do my #1 above: Prom Dress Shopping.  Last year, we hit the jackpot early on and bought two in a day at a great store.  (Her Junior and his Senior Prom.) Didn't my sweetie look beautiful?

We thought we'd zip over there today and come home with a dress.  Nope. Nothing seemed right. Not sure which one of us was bummed out more.  I think me.  Last year was oh, so easy peasy. Just getting the vibe that it's going to be a long search this year.  Anyone know of any fabo stores in NJ we can try next? We have to go down to the Atlantic City area next week which means we're driving 100 miles on the Parkway...we have to be able to find a store somewhere.  Right?  

Don't forget to enter my giveaway of a product from Mrs. Mouse on my previous post and head over to Jungle Learners to enter a ton of other giveaways.  There are 35 in all!  You have to be in it to win it! 

So what's your Sunday Scoop?  So easy to link up!  Click the button below and you'll find out how.  Happy Super Sunday.  (Oh, my #2 above?  I NEVER make it to the end of the game anymore.  Sigh!)