Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Curently January

It's January (almost)!  We are in Michigan with family and have settled in for a rocking New Year's party- which will consist of watching the ball drop in our PJs!   We've never been big "go out on New Year's" people and this year will be no different.

I'm hooking up with Farley for her monthly Currently! Some months it's the only time I blog!


LISTENING: It is switching between the news and football! I will admit, I don't watch enough news- so the "year in review" show is really helpful! #that'sembarassingtoadmit

LOVING: We've had two weeks off work- two- glorious- fun-long-weeks home in Michigan! When we were leaving town, I made it a point to enjoy the time away! I even deleted work email from my phone! Being with my family has been wonderful! We spent the first half of the vacation with my in-laws and the second half with my parents.  I even got to see my BFF! Life has been good on vacation!

THINKING: Everyone knows that traveling is fun, but going home is always good! We will get a few days at home and still on vacation and I can use that time to unpack, put Christmas away, do the laundry, and just enjoy the remaining hours of this amazing vacation.  Have I told you I got two weeks off?  Sunday is going to be very depressing!

WANTING: So I got a new car for Christmas- and we took that car home with us to Michigan. Granted, it saved gas money, is much more comfortable than my husband's truck and it is better equipped to ride in the elements that Michigan presents... but it was a BRAND NEW CAR! And now it has dog hair in it... and snow in it... and it's just dirty! Thank goodness the husband promised me he would clean it if I allowed us to take it!  So that is what HE will be doing on Sunday!

NEEDING: This is about the time of a vacation where I start to think about the things I need to do when I get home. But I'm going to try not to think about it and will just enjoy some more time to sit in a chair and read a book! I did a lot of reading this vacation! Yay!

YES, MAYBE, I WISH: Pretty sure we have a ski trip planned for Spring break... and we are talking about taking our boat to the Bahamas again... in a dream world... I'd go back to Europe! Anywhere in Europe would be fine with me!

It's going to be a blessed New Year! Full of blogging... full of Leach's Literacy Training... and full of fun!

Wishing you a wonderful New Year! How do you celebrate?
Melissa

Monday, December 29, 2014

Like Us on Facebook

Hey y'all! I hope you are enjoying some quiet time after the Christmas rush! I sure am! Today is going to be spent in my jammies! I am catching up on email, writing thank you notes, doing a few blog posts, and adding a few FREE files to Teachers Pay Teachers!


I wanted to check in with y'all to make sure you have LIKED Leach's Literacy Training on Facebook! Sometimes I don't have time to make a blog post, but will post things on Facebook instead!

Please take a second...
Click here... and LIKE us! 

New Year's Resolution- more blogging- and more FREE stuff for great teachers like YOU!

What's not to like about that? 











Melissa

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Math Talk

I am preparing for another training! And can you believe it- it's a MATH training! We will be applying what we know about Reading and Writing Workshop and Guided Reading to create a Math Workshop in classrooms in Lake Dallas ISD!

I made a file for those teachers and thought I would share it here with you too!   Math classrooms, should float the learning on a sea of talk. And we all know, that it is no longer about the "right" answer, but rather the right thinking! Teachers need to ensure this kind of mathematical talk occurs.  And better yet, hearing students prompt one another in this way.

Many of you have my Prompts to Support Independence at the Guided Reading table. These could be Prompts to Support Mathematical Thinking.  Teachers could use these at the small group table or post on the white board and refer to them as they think through math work as a whole class.

Get yours now- for FREE in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!

Want to explore Guided Math over the holiday? Here are a few of my favorite websites...

https://guidedmath.wordpress.com/
This is Nikki Newton’s blog- a place to talk about Guided Math

http://tunstalltimes.blogspot.com/2013/11/guided-math-in-first-grade.html
Ideas for Guided Math in Frist Grade (pictures galore)

http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=385384
There is much to be found on this Guided Math Live Binder

http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=417520

Hold onto your hats- another great Live Binder

And of course the books...

Merry Christmas y'all!
Melissa

Monday, December 1, 2014

Currently

Hey y'all! Yes... it's DECEMBER! And a cold 1st day of December in Texas too! I'm joining up with teachers all over the country for Farley's currently. You should too.



Listening: What happened to the good old days of raking? Seriously... that sound is SO.ANNOYING.

Loving: I did! I have to admit I wasn't really as excited this year as I usually am. It felt more like a task on the to-do list, but once I got started, I was glad I did it.  I had to get it decorated! 25 24 days until Christmas people! WHAT? That is CRAZY!

Thinking: We had an entire week off for Thanksgiving and I will tell you it was heavenly! I didn't even take my work computer home (OK- so I took it home, but I did not open it/turn it on once). It was amazing and much needed. Now of course I'm right back at it again! Education is so exhausting y'all! 

Wanting: I have to BUY said presents yet, but wrapping presents is my absolute favorite thing to do! I'm sure that will change when I have kids- and there are a ZILLION to wrap!A friend of mine had a brilliant idea- Santa presents are not wrapped! That would save a lot of time/work right? Maybe I'll do that someday. No! This is not the announcement that there are kids on the way! 

Needing: There's like no time between holidays this year. Is it always like that? It just feels rushed this year.  We got home from Thanksgiving- and in two more weekends, we are leaving again! I have to get a tree-and SOON- or it won't be worth all the work to put it up! But husband was hooked to the TV watching football yesterday, and a Christmas Tree is just not on his list of needing right now.

Giving: You know it's always FREE! If you haven't been.... please... the GIVING is GOOD! 

Melissa

Monday, November 24, 2014

Support at the Guided Reading Table

Hey y'all, I am preparing for a training on Monday and in doing so, I found a file that I think will help a lot of teachers at the Guided Reading table!

Across the county, we have round tables in our classrooms, we have leveled book rooms full of sets of books, and we call kids for a small group lesson we call Guided Reading.  What I've come to figure out however, is that this just LOOKS like Guided Reading, it doesn't mean it IS Guided Reading.

The difference? What is the teacher DOING with kids at the table?  It's true right? Giving teachers a table and a selection of texts does not mean they know what to DO with the kids when they come to the table.  And the teachers I have trained welcome the opportunity to actually find out what is expected in a Guided Reading lesson.

One tool that helps teachers at the Guided Reading table has been developed by Fountas and Pinnell (actually almost all tools we use at the Guided Reading table were originally designed by Fountas and Pinnell) is a document that outlines possible teaching points (lessons) at the table for readers depending on the text level.

Sometimes teachers don't know what to teach- and they don't have a method of tracking and determining the next step/needs of the readers in their Guided Reading lessons.
So... thank you to F&P for your books...

 

Working in DC, we compiled from books above and created this document that will allow teachers to know what students should be learning/doing with text at different levels.  A teacher could reference it as they plan instruction with a text.  A teacher could also use it for a group to check off behaviors they see students demonstrate- almost like anecdotal notes.

There is one for each level with behaviors to teach and observe from A-Z.

Sadly it's not as easy as check off all the boxes and move to another reading level- but it does help a teacher know how to increase the rigor of instruction according to text level!

What I appreciate most about this document is that it focuses more on the reading behaviors students need to learn and internalize- and less on other elements of text that many programs, textbooks, etc. see to focus on.

So thanks be to Fountas and Pinnell! Get your copy from my dropbox here! Please download before the New Year!

Melissa

Friday, November 21, 2014

Rewordify

Have you heard of it?

If you have students that need accommodations or linguistically accommodated texts... then you need to check out REWORDIFY! You can copy/paste text into the site and voila! Look what is spits out for you to print!


Copy and paste grade level text with which your kiddos are struggling, click “rewordify” and BAM!!!!!  (well --- there’s one more step.)


Select the tab “Text/Print Activities” then click the button for “Text with Vocabulary” and hit PRINT --- and THEN, BAM!!!!!  Click around at the other options too while you're at it- but this one is my favorite! Be sure to give it a read to verify- cause it's just a computer- so mistakes are possible! 

But it's still pretty amazing if you ask me! Get to it! Rewordify!


Melissa

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Literature Circles

So a teacher in my district reached out today with a question:

"I'm trying to do literacy circles with my high reading groups. I'm not feeling it though...
 Do you have any suggestions on books or blog posts I could read over the break to make my groups more meaningful and beneficial? Right now they're just reading a chapter and answering some comprehension questions together. How can I make it better? Thanks!"


I'm sure she's not the only one out there, "not feeling it", so I thought I'd answer it on my blog! 

The whole goal of Lit Circles (made popular by Harvey Daniels) is to foster voice and choice for kids in reading and to allow them to engage in student driven conversation and deep thinking about texts. As always, it is easier said than done!  Getting kids to a level of independence with ANYTHING requires a lot of teaching first!  

One way to foster this independence is to give students specific jobs, Harvey called these roles and provide students with role sheets- these are tasks to complete and prepare for their group meeting. Each role asks students to look or do specific things in order to create deep conversation and often times unique perspectives to shine.  The more kids work with their roles and in Lit Circles, the better they get and as a teacher, you can sit back and let them SHINE!  

So how would I introduce this to my students? Slowly... but surely! 

The number of kids in the group determines the number of roles I am going to have my students tackle- one role per student.  BUT, I need to teach them.  So, I would introduce them in a small group (AKA Guided Reading) or to the whole class if my whole class was going to be participating. I would teach one role to the whole class or to the small group- and the entire class, or group would practice that role for a day or so.  Then I would introduce the 2nd.  The goal is that students are so familiar with these roles that each student will have their own role each week (and a different one the next) so as to foster lots of rich and varied conversation in the group.


I went home and realized I was still holding onto a file from back in the day when I used to do lit circles with my students!  So I shined it up a bit (still not as CUTE as others for sale on TpT, but it's the best I've got!) 


My role sheets are for use with elementary kiddos- I've used them in 1st-3rd, but are good 1st-5th. Some for older kids (middle school perhaps) can be found hereI also appreciate the resources/explanation on this site

What are you waiting for? Head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers site and get yours for FREE! This may be JUST what you need to spice up your text talk for kiddos in your class after the Thanksgiving holiday! We get the WHOLE WEEK off next week in Elgin Texas!!!! 

Gobble! Gobble! Have I told you lately that I am thankful for hard working teachers like you?
Melissa

Monday, November 17, 2014

FREE Procedural Text Resources



If you are a 3-5 teacher who follows the TEKS Resource System Scope and Sequence, then you are like my Elgin teachers and are gearing up for some PROCEDURAL WRITING in your unit on Informational Text.

I spent some time (OK- maybe I spent two hours or so because I was procrastinating another task) collecting resources.  Textbooks have "How-To" pages, but kids can't write on them or highlight them!  And everyone knows the best procedural writing also has VOICE!

So if you need some easy to print/copy HOW TO/PROCEDURAL examples to read, study, examine, dissect and perhaps imitate in writing with your students- look no further than my DROPBOX!

Please download to your own computer.... this folder will no longer exist once we move into the 4th six-weeks!

Happy Monday from Texas!
Melissa

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Need brain breaks for your kiddos? 

Check.
It.
Out.
Free.
Fun!
Whoo-hoo!

https://www.gonoodle.com/


Melissa

Monday, November 10, 2014

Writer's Workshop Folders/Tool Box

I worked with my teachers in Elgin today! We had a great day of clarifying expectations for writing and to talk specifically about mini-lessons in Writer's Workshop. If you are like my teachers, you are gearing up for Poetry Writing (K-2) and Expository Writing (3-5).  Another blog post to follow with the ideas I shared with them!

Sometimes it's the smallest things that get teachers the most excited. In this morning's training with K-2 teachers- it was the idea of writing folders!  Classroom walls are a great resource for students, but in Writer's Workshop I like to keep students heads DOWN and looking at their writing. So rather than making them look around the room to find support for writing, I give them TOOLS in their writer's toolbox.  That toolbox just happens to be the first two pockets of their writing folder! And that writing folder happens to be two folders taped/stapled together and has two OTHER pockets that hold their writing. It looks like this....






In today's training a Kindergarten teacher asked me if I had files I could send her so she could make "toolboxes" for her kids.  I told her I was sorry... I didn't have the files anymore. Which was true. But I came home (unloaded the dishwasher, changed clothes, went to the gym, ate dinner, and MADE them).  I'm hoping she will use them- and that I made them- and sent them to her before she makes them herself.  I also am posting them here so teachers everywhere (all 3 of you who read my blog! LOL!) can use them with their kiddos. You can get them FREE in my TpT store.   Happy writing!




Melissa

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November Currently

It's that time again. November, can you believe it? I love November... because with November comes Thanksgiving. Jeff and I just purchased our tickets home to Michigan! Can't wait to be with family this year as we usually don't travel home.  

I'm doing Farley's currently.  You can too if you go here!


Listening: I do like the Amazing Race! It's probably the closest I'll ever get to Morocco!  I'm also 100% sure that my light would NOT shine on a show like that! I have no patience... I don't like not being in control... I don't like not knowing things....  but I like watching other people.   

Loving: It was such a beautiful fall weekend in Texas!  We sat outside on our back porch with the fire pit burning last night! The air is off- the windows are open! It's FALL y'all.  

Thinking: I hate when weekends seem to disappear from you! That's how this weekend felt.  I wish I could have just one more day. But alas, tomorrow I'm back at work and things that did not get done will still not be done. 

Wanting: My sweet best friend is stressed out! I hate that. I want to see her so badly. I miss the days when we lived in nearby cities- even living in the same state would be good. But I am down here in Texas, and she is still home in Michigan.   I'd love to have another trip home to see her or get her out here for a few nights.  I just miss her! This is our favorite song right now... send it to your friend to make them smile!



Needing: I'm really wishing I would have started on this sooner- it's been on my mind- but there's so many other things that had earlier deadlines!  So I have TWO office days set aside this week to design the best little PD on Mini-Lessons in Writer's Workshop that you ever did see!  Praying PowerPoint inspiration tomorrow and Tuesday. 

Reading:  I am excited about this new series that someone told me about! She said it's like Hunger Games meets Bachelor! What's not to love about that? 

Happy Fall Y'all! 

Melissa

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Write About It Wednesday: "Say what?"

I worked with 4th and 5th grade teachers in Elgin today. We were reviewing our data from a recent District Assessment.  There was a question on said assessment about dialogue. Specifically, where the comma goes in relation to the quotation marks! Oh goodness!

It is in our student expectations that students know how to use dialogue in writing. Our students take a very special test in 4th grade in Texas. It's called the STAAR and we all know that a student who can use dialogue in writing, and use it well has mad skills as a 4th grade writer.  So, we want our students to know how to use it- and correctly. Also of note, our students have questions about editing and revising they have to answer... it is a tough test to say the least.

So it was my job today to think about ideas to support teachers in teaching our students how to use dialogue in writing.

Ummm... has anyone reviewed how to use dialogue lately? This is quite a complicated process in the English language.  Once I reviewed it myself (#notjoking) I thought about how I would teach it to students.

The first thing I had to do was break it down for students.  The easiest way I could think of was: leaders, followers, and interrupters!

In a leader sentence, dialogue leads a dialogue tag (What's a dialogue tag? he said, she said, Madelyn shouted etc.)
In a follower sentence, dialogue follows a dialogue tag
In an interrupter sentence, a dialogue tag interrupts the dialogue

I made the following anchor chart...


With students in front of my we would add examples under each type! And with our highlighters, we look at what is important about each example! Where are the capitals? That gets tricky in the interrupter examples! Where are the commas? When is there not a comma because there is ending punctuation? That gets tricky in the leader examples!

Getting kids to notice the differences, see the ways that writers can use dialogue, and to come up with examples is key!

I may give kids a handout like this  to glue into their Writer's Notebooks or to add to their writing folders as a reference.


I could also ask kids to go back and practice or create one example of each kind of sentence in their Writer's Notebooks!  Oh the possibilities! 

A second lesson on a second day might have an anchor chart like this one.... dialogue about dialogue!

** I looked at this so many times my eyes are spinning- if you find a mistake in my dialogue- please just make your chart NOT have any mistakes **

We'd want to mark it up- highlighting key features in each place where dialogue is used.  Then when students are working on using dialogue in their writing, they would have an example of a chart with dialogue in action!

This is hard stuff eh?  I am going to need more practice and so will your students. This will make a perfect work station don't you think? Editing passages with dialogue would be a great idea.

If you have an idea for how students could practice using dialogue in their writing as part of a Writing Work Station or Work on Writing in Daily Five, please share in a comment!

Melissa

Thursday, October 2, 2014

October! WOO-HOO!

Goodness how I love this time of year! I used to think I was alone, but I know it is favored by many! What do y'all think of my fall blog design? Not enough glitter right?

What do I love about FALL??????

Pumpkin Spice Candles
Apple Crisp
Leaves
Decorations
Halloween
Cinder Mills
Candy Corn
Jeans and Sweaters
College Football
Trick-or-Treating
Thanksgiving

If you've ever experienced this season I'm talking about, you'll understand that living in Texas in October can be challenging! Don't get me wrong, I love Texas, but I'm still bare legged and wearing peep toed shoes! I don't have cider mills to go to and the leaves will not turn yellow, orange or red.  I am changing out my closet tonight (after this blog post) and I have decorated my house with a few things that bring me joy despite the fact that it's still 90 degrees outside.

I am excited for this CUTE Currently by Farley. I will admit, I was ready to do this last night (October 1st at 5pm... and 6pm... and 7pm... but by 8pm I was reading a book in bed!)  So I'm
doing this on October 2nd- and trying to post it somewhere in the 100s... instead of the 700 that I usually am! (OMG- I was lucky number 100!!!!!)

So here goes!

Listening: I love country music! SO GOOD! I know County has changed a bit, but I still love it! I love the old stuff and 90% of the new stuff. Have y'all listened to Dirt by Florida Georgia Line? The lyrics are amazing! I just wish a country music LEGEND sang it! George... Garth... Toby... I'm sure they are kicking themselves if they passed on it!  If you don't know what I am talking about.... check it!

Loving: See above! What's not to love about FALL?!

Thinking: This week has just dragged on and last weekend went by so quickly! I'm ready for boat time (yes we can still be on the boat in October in TX). I'm ready for sleeping in. I'm ready for college football. I'm ready to spend some QT with my CUTE husband!  I might even do the laundry and clean the house...might.

Wanting: I constantly want ice cream and chocolate these days. Maybe that's what my body craves when it is under stress? I need some DQ and a Twix bar. But I won't... and I haven't since September 1st! Which is probably why I want it so badly...

Needing: Am I getting old y'all? My body aches! It cracks when I stand up! My hips... back... its awful! I need to make a massage appointment. Maybe that's how I'll spend part of my weekend.

Trick or Treat: If you don't already know, or haven't already been, I always have FREE TREATS on TpT! Please follow me so you'll know when the NEXT free item is uploaded!

Happy Fall Y'all!


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Engagement

I will fully admit, as I sit to write this post, that it is probably not the most jazzy of my posts to date, but it is weighing heavy on my mind- and truth be told- my heart as well.

Engagement is an issue in our schools! I believe ALL schools have this problem! Not all classrooms, but in all schools there are children who are watching the clock, waiting for this thing that they consider torture, that others call school,  to be OVER!

I was never one of those students. I loved school.  Rather, I had my new pens, I had my Trapper Keeper (yes- I just dated myself) and was the one talking in class! Equity sticks were designed to keep me QUIET! However, when I observe in schools, I see the opposite! Especially in late elementary school, middle school and high school.

So... for that reason let's talk about engagement.


I have a few questions to ask you:
Are your students participating?
Do kids talk (about academics) during your class?
Are there kids that get by the whole day without saying a word?
Doesn't this bother you!?

Let's think about this! Linda Hoyt says, "Float the learning on a sea of talk!" If you've ever been in my trainings, you know I believe in it! I probably say Turn and Talk more than you'd like, but one thing is also true- you participate! You have to- and many of you actually want to!  I usually say turn and talk, at a point when you are itching to talk with your neighbor about the learning anyway!

So one of the first things that could potentially increase engagement is TURN AND TALK!  Use it! Please! I'm probably preaching to the choir, right? If so, you can stop reading now!


Turn and Talk allows more students to grapple with the content. Let all kids talk about the answer before one kid gives the answer to the class. Try it for a week! Keep track of the number of times you use it! Set a goal- three times each class/subject!

Participation can be accomplished with turn and talk... but it can still be avoided by students! How are you being equitable in who you ask to participate? I am not here to argue that equity sticks work in every classroom or for every teacher, but they are worth a shot!. Equity sticks, popsicle sticks, whatever you call them, they let students know that at any time, any day, even without volunteering, they may be called upon to participate!

I honestly never used them in my classroom. But, now I wish I did! Is it possible that I always called on the same kids? YES! Is it possible that I never called on others? Absolutely! If I could go back, I would do things differently. (Wouldn't we all?) I would keep allowing kids to turn and talk, but I'd also have student numbers, or desk numbers, or popsicle sticks- but the cool kind- an APP version of course!  

Kids (even if they haven't raised their hands) need to participate- and be called on!  Is it possible that kids won't know the answer- of course! So think about what you would want them to say- because I don't know is an excuse! Instead, brainstorm a list together.  Do you have the anchor chart for what to say instead of IDK?


I remember a student one year, who noticeably did not participate, and it was because she was incredibly shy.  We used talking chips with her! Each day she started with three counters on her name tag, her goal was to get rid of them (by participating) by the end of the day! It worked. The other thing I appreciate about this is the ownership for learning and working that it places back on the students!

Engagement is an issue! It is our job to not let kids slide through their school day without being made to work, participate, or talk! Join me in efforts to see kids involved in their learning every day, in every classroom.

Share your ideas with me! How do you keep your students (all of them) ready and willing to participate each day!

Melissa

Monday, September 8, 2014

Rainy Day Book Shopping

My husband and I spent Labor Day weekend at the TX coast. We towed our boat down to Rockport. We've done that three times now and it is heaven on Earth.  Rain or shine, that was our weekend to be there, and truth be told, there was some rain.  I of course brought a book with me, but I had not expected so much time to read (I was actually supposed to be doing work on the drive down there, but my computer BROKE at the 30minute mark of the 5 hour drive, so I read the rest of the way).

All that time for reading meant I finished my book. So I found myself in Rockport, in the rain one morning, without anything to read! And that just wouldn't do!

I was with my friend Jessica who is a teacher/reader/leader like myself. So what do you imagine two reading people would want to do on a rainy day of their vacation? We went to the used bookstore of course! A quick google search- and VOILA! We packed in the car (my husband as our driver) and headed out on the town!

Lori's Book Nook- in Rockport, Texas! Woo-hoo!

I realized something on this trip to the Book Nook… navigating a used book store is challenging! It made me wonder as a teacher if we are preparing students/readers to know what to do should they find themselves someday in the same boat (pun intended).

Let me explain…

The first thing one needs to know in a used bookstore is what genre they like to read.   Right?  I headed right away to the fiction section. It was probably (lucky me) the biggest section in the store. Romance might have been 2nd! (#notmystyle) Fiction found… I started to browse.


Then I realized… our students need to have favorite authors in order to navigate this favorite section of books.   Books were just swimming in front of my eyes on the shelves so I decided to narrow my looking to my favorite authors.

I started looking for my favorite authors... Charles Martin... Nicholas Sparks.... John Grisham.... Dean Koontz....

And look what I found…
Another thing that I realized, in order to be successful in a used book store, like Lori's Book Nook, our students/readers need to have a list of books to be read! I started to think of my Shelfari page… and what is waiting on my TBR (to be read) list.

What have I been wanting to read for some time now? This might be a good place to buy those books and add to my TBR (to be read) pile.   That started to guide my decision making… I started to look for books that I have been planning to read and found a few.   Do our students have plans like that? Do they have TBR lists so they could hunt for specific titles in a used book store like Lori's Book Nook?



We owe it to our students to prepare them for a day when they too might find themselves without a book to read, and heading to a used book store! What we'd really be preparing them for... is the life of a reader!

Melissa