Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cute Classrooms

One of my favorite things to do in my job is walk around a school when the teachers are at lunch! They leave and I begin to stalk their classrooms! Teachers are so fabulous and we can all get ideas from one another. Isn't that the best? I travel the country and get to snoop in teacher's classrooms and I am paid to do it.  So here is a classroom that made me so envious. I hope you can get some ideas from these pics...

Here was a door I could not HELP but want to enter! A party inside is RIGHT! This is only the beginning of her FUN room.

Then there is the classroom constitution. I love this. I love that it is written in kid language and that they have all signed it. And of course the fun change in FONT makes it CUTE! When I go back in the classroom, I want to be CUTE like this.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in were her TABLE POINTS on the board! This is so much cooler than Table 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. I'm so doing this some day!

Look how she organizes her intervention groups! The school (or maybe just this teacher) calls it Pow Wow time. Team Morales- you are such a clever gal!

This is such a simple thing but I love it too. The year I left the classroom is the year that having standards posted became a requirement. I would do it similar to this if I were back in the classroom with a pocket chart underneath it...

This is how she has her magnetic letters organized.
I really thought this just happened in cute Pinterest classrooms, but here it is in living proof!

More cuteness! Look at what a great CAFE display this is! WOW! My classroom is looking awful compared to this one.

I'm not sure if you can tell in this photo all that is happening. The "people" are one per student and their shirts are decorated with things that are their story ideas. Never at a loss for something to write about in this classroom. Then below it... it says we are a caring family of thinkers... learners... writers... scientists.. mathematicians... etc.

Look her cute "What's a Kid to do?" Sign!

Here is my favorite way to teach kids expectations. This is her chart for Station Expectations. What it looks like, sounds like and feels like.

I tried to save the BEST for last. All of my books are in my basement in plastic tubs, but this makes me want to dig them out and get a better display! There are books that are in the classroom library for students to have access too and those are in cute tubs, but what about OUR books? The ones we use certain months or for certain lessons? Doesn't this make you happy? Don't you want to do this for yourself?

Doesn't this just make you happy? When I go back in the classroom I will have a lot to live up to. Traveling the country has raised the bar of good ideas. Thank you to Mrs. Morales for sharing her room with me and with my BLOG readers.

What's your favorite thing about your classroom?

What would I want a picture of if I came snooping?


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shopping for Books

Reader's Workshop is a time of day when students are engrossed in reading books of their own choosing. It is a time of day when we are living a REAL READER'S LIFE- rather than a SCHOOL READER'S LIFE.

Unfortunately, there is a difference.

Real Readers talk about books.
School Readers complete graphic organizers about books.

Real Readers are always thinking about their next book to read.
School Readers can't wait to know when they will be done reading a book.

Real Readers pick books they want to read.
School Readers pick AR books so they can get points or because it is their "level" or they just read what their teacher tells them to read.

If we are going to have this time of day for real reading- we need to teach kids what real readers do.

Let's start with shopping for books. Right now, I want you to think about how you pick out a book at the library, Barnes and Noble etc. Do you pick based on a favorite author? A friend's recommendation? By topic? Genre? Tell me this, do you walk into the store, find someone who works there, tell them your reading level ("I'm a Level L", or "I'm a 1.2.") and then have them show you where your "section for reading is?"
Real Reading doesn't work like that. So we need to teach our kiddos what will WORK in the real world.

Shopping for books is like shopping for shoes! That's my lesson and I'm sticking to it!
What do books have to do with shoes you may ask? Lots.
First, I want to be somewhere for shoe shopping where my kids might actually go! DSW would be a fabulous place to talk about for this lesson, but I've been to MANY cities, and sadly MANY of them are without a DSW- therefore our kids would have no idea what I was talking about. So alas, to Walmart I went and armed with my camera.

First- what KIND of shoes (just like KIND of book) do you want? Do you want tennis shoes (show the tennis shoes picture), do you want dress shoes (show dress shoes picture), maybe boots?  What is your purpose for these shoes? Just like readers have a purpose- to be entertained, to be informed etc. I was there looking for comfortable shoes for work.

Once you know what section of shoes to be in and have determined your purpose then you want to look for shoes that interest you. Some shoes are ugly, some are cute. (Show picture of ugly shoes) Some book covers look interesting and some don't.  So maybe you start a stack of shoes you like just like you might put a few books you like in a pile. So here I am now, with several shoes I like in a pile. (Show several shoes lined up on floor)

Here is the hardest part- while I might need shoes for work- and while I might have found a few pairs I think are cute and that I have interest in buying- I need to make sure they ARE MY SIZE!


The lesson for "Is this book my size?" well you will have to keep reading my BLOG for that! This lesson helps kids understand shopping and selecting books. The same kind of shopping and selecting books that they can do in a real bookstore and in the real world.

Click here for the pictures that will help you with this lesson in your own classroom.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I Can Read Books

So today I'm hoping to share something
VERY simple...
VERY easy...
while still being a VERY good idea!

It's called I Can Read Books! Do you use black and white/paper books  in your classroom? You know the ones... you copy them on the copy machine. You cut them into their pages. You lick your fingers to collate them by pages. You staple them and then you repeat that process 25+ times for each student in your classroom. To get ONE set of books ready to read in your class takes almost an entire prep time.  Do you know what I'm talking about? It doesn't stop us from making them however- and I would give blood, sweat, and so much time to make them for all subject areas. We might read two a week in my class! One of the reasons I loved using them is kids could HUNT and color what they knew in the print- new high frequency words- letters- phonics patters etc.

So, we would read them. We would find some new words/letters etc. and then the students would have a few minutes to color them and they would go home with the kids in backpacks/folders that night.

Now fast forward to the next morning or even the next week and guess what is all crumpled up at the bottom of their backpack? You guessed it! That book that it took me almost an entire Music prep time to assemble. My I Can Read Books were clearly not getting the same amount of honor at home as they would get at school! So I stopped sending them home! That's right! I keep them at school now. If you can't treat my little books right- you can't have them at home! :)

Enter easy idea here!

I got folders for every kid and a management plan (here the folders are kept organized by tables- green triangles, purple pentagons etc.) and I started having kids put their books away in their I Can Read Folders after we had read them that day rather than in cubbies to go home.  

Now, in our classroom I have one more collection of familiar reading. It also makes an easy center.
I don't have to do anything but teach to have the center keep itself going.   I put a sign/poster/dry erase board near the center that says "When you read your I Can Read Books this week remember to look for __________ "  and I would write down what we had learned lately. A new high frequency word, a new letter, some phonics rule or skill, new punctuation etc. 

Kids were then re-reading books from AGES ago (well a few weeks ago is ages in Elementary terms) while armed with a highlighter (and if you are not that brave then a yellow crayon) and if they found a NEW thing in an OLD book they would highlight it. The kids get so excited to find NEW things in books they know how to read! It is too funny. "There is an A in Humpty Dumpty!!! Look there is an A!" 

Now... if you want to go to the next step... keep reading. 

At some point the books DO go home- when the folders get so stuffed, we do a little cleaning out- however. I want to make sure they have a VERY SPECIAL place to go home to. So we also decorate I Can Read Boxes in early October. You know like Valentine's Boxes? It is a family school work assignment. 

It is around early October that these folders start to get a little stuffed. And I'm ready to see a few of them go home. BUT I don't want them to end up in the garbage. So we make a VERY special box! The kids bring those boxes to school (all decorated) and we do a little quick "OOOOOOOO and AHHHHHH" circle to show off their at home handiwork. Then the students get to pick their first ten (or so) books to go into their I Can Read Box. 

And voila- the boxes go home. Every month or so we empty the I Can Read Folders and kids take their books home to put in the box. Now my kids have a familiar reading collection at home too! At the end of the year... we have an I Can Read Party. Kids bring their box to school... SOOO STUFFED WITH BOOKS some of the boxes can barely close anymore! 

It's usually nice weather and we have a reading beach party! 
Kids think it is so cool to look back at all the books they know how to read!  

Hope you like it and can use it! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012



FREE Webcast

I really haven't heard much said about Education in the last four years or even now as they are debating. I think the economy has taken over the air waves instead. I am however really interested in what the candidates Education Advisors have to say. It's happening in DC and I have plans to attend the event. Some of you may want to tune in from the comfort of your own homes as well.
I had to share...  Happy Thursday!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

God's Plan for My Life

For those of you who don't already know, I am an Army Wife! Before Jeff and I were married, I was a classroom teacher in Michigan.  When I moved to Texas with him (after our wedding) I found a classroom teaching job at a wonderful school.  I had never imagined leaving the classroom until a friend of mine told me of a job opening at Region 12- an Education Service Center and the job was training teachers in best practice instruction K-5 Literacy! At the same time I sent my resume off to that job, I applied to be an Independent Consultant for SDE. I got both jobs! Amazing right? I spent almost four years working three jobs, my job at ESC Region 12, my consulting with SDE and my own company Leach's Literacy Training.

I have met so many teachers across the county and I love what I do! But like a snowball rolling down a mountain... all jobs continued to grow and become bigger... at times bigger than I could keep up with! I was blessed! I loved my job and kept getting opportunity after opportunity to consult around the county was something I was very thankful for.

It is a really fun life at first! Traveling is exciting! Packing suitcases... being in an airport... the hustle and bustle... room service... the amazing teachers I meet all around our country.... and then of course the joy of finally being home and in my own bed.  The side you don't know about until you are living that life however are the delayed flights... the lost luggage... the cruddy room service or junky restaurant choices available in a city... the long lines at the rental car desk... and my favorite... hotel rooms right next to the elevator or a broken AC unit.   To be completely honest with my blog audience.. the rush... rush.. rush of it all has started to drag me down.

The last eight months I have been solely employed as an International Education Consultant and in that time, we have also moved to DC which is a NON-DEPLOYABLE position in the Army.  So if Jeff is going to be home most nights... why do I want to be in some hotel room somewhere when I could be on the couch with him? All of this to say... I have been looking for full time work in the DC area since June. I thought classroom teaching was the plan for me again- well- that didn't happen.  I thought I might be a school level Instructional Specialist- that didn't happen either. Lots of things didn't happen and to say I was a bit discouraged in an understatement.  Lots of things seemed like a big disappointment at the time, but now I know why.

God had other plans for me! It is with great excitement, and a humble heart, that I announce I have a NEW JOB!  I interviewed (a month long process) with DC Public Schools and have been selected as their new Professional Learning Designer K-5 Literacy. I start early November in this new position.
I am not sure of all the details of my new position, but I'm excited to start learning my new role and working with the teachers in DC's 100+ Elementary Schools! I am honored that God has chosen me to work for and with the students in our nation's capital!

I am in awe of God's plan for my life.. not to mention my resume!  This was the job he had lined up for me all along! This is the timing and I can see everything falling into place so beautifully.
He is good!
So good!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

In the Trenches Video

It's my YouTube premier! Great face to be paused on right? Hand up and everything! Oh well! This is how I feel about you teachers! It is my honor to teach you... and to see you make my ideas BETTER in your classrooms. What's ONE thing I've helped you learn in the classroom? How have you made it better? 

Please tell me!