.... from a small rural school in Elbert, Colorado.

A good teacher is surrounded by MANY great teachers! Thank you to the great teachers at my school and out in blogland!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I'm Celebrating!

I'm celebrating with a freebie from my TpT store.  On June 6th I said that I would pick someone to get my 15 day read aloud study - "The World According to Humphrey" free when I reach 15 followers.  Well today is the day!  YEA!  I finally have 15 followers and I decided that instead of 1, I would pick all 15.  My product is free for a short time just for you (or anyone else that decides to download it).  Just click on one of the pictures or "TpT" above and that will take you to it.  I am working on lesson plans for quite a few read alouds right now including: "The Cricket in Times Square" (almost done), "Sarah Plain and Tall", "How to Eat Fried Worms", and "The Secret School." My favorite part of these lesson plans is the legal size vocabulary books with vocabulary written in context.  I feel like I can do so much more with my read alouds when I'm prepared.  These plans will help me know exactly what words are coming up and give me a way to use the words throughout the year.  I also love the character studies.  My students love being involved when I'm reading and these give them the opportunity to really pay attention to details.  With preplanning there are also some fun activities thrown in that will engage my students and create a love for reading.  Of course I haven't left out the standards.  Anyway, thanks for hanging out with me in blogland for the past month.  I'm so excited to be on this journey with all of you amazing teachers.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Little Late to the Party!

Okay - so I'm a little late. I missed "The Daily Five" book study yesterday and today's almost over, too. I read at least 20 different blogs and lots of questions and now here I am. I decided that I would just share a few personal thoughts, since I agree with all the thinking out there on the importance of community, trust, etc. and you don't need to hear it again.

I have been using "The Daily Five" for 3 years now and plan on using it for the rest of my teaching career, no matter what grade I'm in. I love it! I'll tell you why, just commenting on chapter 2, so as not to get ahead here. There is nothing like building STAMINA in your students. It is empowering. They love it and feel like they can take on the world. For most of them they didn't think they could do it without us (teachers), but if you do it like the book says later on, you'll see, it works. Don't go faster than the book says, even though you're going to want to. (I know from experience but it pays off to listen to “the sisters”).  STAYING OUT OF THE WAY is the right way to do it. They don't need us if they have stamina and therefore we can do some real teaching with those that need it. BUILDING A SENSE OF URGENCY gives the students the reasons they need for why. This really helps those challenging students because they always need to know - why. Of course CHOICE is motivating and the whole structure leads to choice, not just letting the students choose when they do each “daily”. I've done it both ways (because I had to with aides) and choice is still ingrained in the program. Teachers don't create cute little centers but let the students do real reading and writing. Therefore it doesn't matter how many students choose to do what at what time. In fact, as you'll see in the book, the choice in what daily to do at what time doesn't even come into effect until a couple months through. Also it still works if you can only do four and call it "Daily Four." I like to read aloud picture and chapter books throughout the year teaching vocabulary and therefore don't do "listening to reading" since I only have time for four 35 minute sessions. I do a 10 minute mini lesson, 20 minute "daily" - reading to self, writing, word work, or reading to someone, with 5 minutes to stretch and share. All of this leads to TRUST. It just works. The students feel more grown-up and they love it. So - keep it simple - it's as easy as it sounds!  Keep reading because it will all make sense soon.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Whole Brain Teaching???

I probably haven’t been this excited about something new since “The Daily Five,” 3 years ago.  What do you know about “Whole Brain Teaching?”   I follow Third Grade Thoughts and have learned just enough to make me interested.  Last night I downloaded all kinds of FREE e-books and can’t wait to get started.  I watched some videos a week or two ago and I can’t believe I haven’t heard about this before.  What do you think?  Do any of you use “Whole Brain Teaching” in your classrooms?  I’m not so sure about the “scoreboard” but I love “class, yes,” “teach, okay,” and the Power Pix.  I even think the class rules are pretty cool.  With the new way our school district/state is going with standards led rather than text-book led classrooms, I can see this as such a benefit.  We are supposed to do LOTS and LOTS of mini lessons followed by “Demonstrations of Learning” in our district.  We even have all of our curriculum maps that tell us the most important learning objectives to teach.  I can see how “Whole Brain Teaching” will help me get to the necessary learning quickly and in a FUN way. 

Just in case you are new to "Whole Brain Teaching" I included a couple videos from Youtube but there are many more.  I just typed in Chris Biffle and found so many that I'll be busy for awhile.
You can sign up for free like I did at  Once you become a member you can download lots of resources.  The best part is - it's free.  They have one requirement.  If you use something in your classroom, you will need to email 10 other educators about the program to spread the word.  Isn't that easy.  I'll be sending my emails out soon, because I'm sure I'll be using it.  My whole school will know about it soon. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Giveaways - YEA!

There are some great giveaways out in blog land today. 
All teachers love Amazon or Target.  Go visit Tori at Tori's Teacher Tips.  She is a great 2nd grade teacher with fun ideas.

Visit 4th Grade Frolics for a fun birthday party with lots of prizes.  There are so many prizes that I can't list them all here.  Tara has hooked up with lots of her blogging friends to help with the party.  Let's celebrate!!!

Fun in Room 4B
Elizabeth over at Fun in Room 4B is also giving away a Target or Amazon card because of her 400 followers.  You'll find great ideas while visiting there.

Jackie over at 3rd Grade's a Charm has a few more that you can enter if you're interested.  Have a fun day and hopefully one of us wins the prizes. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Daily Five Linky Party

Okay - I couldn't resist!  I love The Daily Five so I might as well join in on the fun.   I've read the book at least 3 times already and used "The Daily Five" structure for the past 3 years.  Each year I do it a little different to make it work with my schedule and class, and already have some changes in mind for this year. I can't say that I've done it perfectly, but I keep trying.  I'll be sharing some of my challenges and things that have worked along the way, and I'll also be checking in on all of the other blogs in hopes to learn a lot during this study.  I am excited and looking forward to a great upcoming year doing "The Daily Five."

 The following are a few questions that are going around blogger land so I'll add my answers to them as well, therefore keeping focused on chapter one.

1. On pages 4-6, the authors present two different pictures of their classrooms. In thinking about and reflecting on your own practice, how would you characterize your literacy block? Does it look more like the first or second scenario, or is it somewhere in between? How will you change it?

Since I've been doing "The Daily Five" for the past few years in third grade my literacy block looks more like the second.  My students are doing authentic reading and writing activities very independently.  I work with students one-on-one the whole time without interruptions.  It's great - it truly works. 

 2. The typical teacher is very busy having students do lots of different activities. How is what you are having students do now in your classroom creating quality readers and writers?

I don't create reading and writing games or activities and my students still LOVE IT! They love that they can do what they love - read and write - like a big kid, without all of the busy work.  My mini lessons give the students a challenge to work on and they are up for it.  It might just be a new reading strategy or the next thing to work on in their writing, but they give it a try and can't wait to share it.  I love that I don't have to grade busy work, but can teach my students what they need in their reading and writing.  This is the perfect structure for differentiation since I work with them one-on-one, the students are always working at their level.  Therefore, they feel successful and continue to grow.  I see huge, noticeable growth in reading and writing throughout the year.

3. What sets the Daily 5 structure apart from what you are doing in your classroom?

It's definitely different from what I used to do. I used to have interruptions and now I have NONE!  It's true.  I followed the book to a T - at the beginning of the year - building stamina just a few minutes at a time.  The students all know what is expected and love it.  They can get their work done and feel successful. 

Visit Teaching with Style and Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations and from there you can go all over blog land.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What Are Your Favorite Read-aloud Stories?

Do your students love read-aloud stories like mine do?  I actually remember being in 4th grade and story time was my favorite.  I fell in love with authors like Beverly Cleary and Judy Bloom.  Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Henry and Beezus will never be forgotten.  I became a reader that year.  I was hooked, reading every book in the series.  After that I haven’t been without a book.  I love them.
I have done many read-aloud books in third grade over the past 6 years.  Among my favorites are Magic Tree House, Little House on the Prairie, Charlotte’s Web, A-Z Mysteries, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, The Secret School, Beezus and Ramona, How to Eat Fried Worms, and The World According to Humphrey.  My students remind me of myself when I was little.  They are getting hooked every year and I’m so excited.
You can get a copy of this Word Doc free at TpT
Our school also has “Accelerated Reading” which has been a great success.  The students can choose any book in their range and test on it.  I love doing independent reading this way.  I work with the students one-on-one and the proof of their comprehension is in their AR tests.  I teach the Daily Five’s “picking a good-fit book” and from that and the AR range the students do pretty well on every book.  Once in awhile I have to discuss with a kiddo that a book may need to be abandoned for the time being.  My students fill out a reading log in class daily and meet with me according to their needs.  Some students meet with every day and others once or twice a week.  I keep a chart documenting every monthly STAR (Accelerated Reading) test result along with “Scantron” test results and notes taken on the reading logs.  I move students up and down on the chart every week based on who needs to read with me the most on the top to those students that can work more independently on the bottom. This year it worked perfectly since I did it every week and was able to catch those students that were getting hung up on something.  The growth in reading was amazing.

This summer I am creating lesson plans for every one of my read-aloud books, since we have to have everything aligned to the Colorado standards (which include the CCSS).  I just finished my first one on “The World According to Humphrey” which will be my first read-aloud.  I’m very excited and can’t wait to read it to the class.  I’m looking forward to all of the vocabulary work, character posters, and fun activities.  My students will have no problem remembering this story – probably for life.  Anyway, it is for sale in my TpT store if you want to check it out.  You can download the free preview (8 pages and 4 different days) and see what you think.
I’m also hoping to get more followers.  I have 5 now – THANKS!  As soon as I get to 15 I’ll pick someone randomly to receive a free copy of the lesson plan.  YEA!  Please leave me a comment on your favorite read-aloud book while you’re here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Another Giveaway - YEA!

Head on over to "Thoughts of a Third Grade Teacher" to check out her great site and enter a drawing for a Learning Resources recorder called the HearAll Assessment Recorder.

Friday, June 1, 2012

No Monkey Business

Go visit a third grade teacher at No Monkey Business.  She is giving away 10 free items from her TpT store to 2 lucky winners.  She has great ideas, too.

Do You Have a Class Pet?

If you do … you have to read the book, “The World According to Humphrey” by Betty Birney.  I heard about it last year and since I have class pets I thought it would be a great read-aloud. It was a hit. My students talked about this hamster named Humphrey all year. 

The book became a class favorite quickly.  It is about a hamster, named Humphrey, which lives in a room 26 and has many adventures in the classroom and on his weekend trips to the students’ houses.  He gets into some trouble and is worried about the teacher, but everyone who spends some time with him is changed.  Since my students loved it the librarian ordered the whole series for the library and a few parents and grandparents ordered them for Christmas presents. 

 “The World According to Humphrey” will be my first read-aloud this coming school year because I plan on doing it before bringing in our class rats and guppies. 

I am working on lesson plans for it in my daily read-aloud time including extensions for my gifted students using other books in the series. There are 7 books in the Humphrey series with a couple more coming this summer.  The books are between the Accelerated reading levels 4.0- 4.4, which is perfect for my above average readers.  In "The World According to Humphrey" plan  I will include vocabulary study, geography, role-play, creative writing, research, and more.  I also plan on including some hands-on work with our own class pets. The author’s website,, is great and I plan on leading students there, too. 

Please let me know if you have class pets and how you handle them in your classroom.