Sunday, August 24, 2014

On My Mind

Teachers are on my mind today. Some of them are in their classrooms right now as I type this from my couch. Some of them were there Friday night and Saturday night while most people were already in bed.

Teachers will be on my mind all day tomorrow.  I am in awe of teachers and their dedication the week before school begins and the weeks of August and September as they put in countless extra hours to make sure the school year begins right!

Thank you teachers for all that you do at Back to School time and all you will continue to do in the 2014-2015 school year. Waiting and preparing for the year to start is the hardest part. Kids come in the morning and they will show you why all of this hard work was worth it.  Students and parents are trusting you starting tomorrow.  It is an awesome, God given opportunity! You are God's hands on Earth.

This prayer is for you...

Almighty God,

I come to you today and give thanks for all our teachers.

Thank you for the ways in which they give of themselves each day in the classroom,
serving and instructing the next generation of this land.

I thank you for them all now.

Father, please fill their hearts with courage from your mighty Spirit.

Fill them with your strength, so they may rise to every challenge and not grow weary.

Fill them with your wisdom, so that they may be able to make good judgement when guiding and helping others. 

Fill them with your peace, so that when stress and anxiety comes it will not overwhelm them.

Fill them with your joy, so that the passion they have for their lessons may spread to their students. 

We ask all this in the wonderful name of Jesus.

Retrieved from:


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Specificity? Say What?

Am I a supporter of the TEKS Resource System? YES! Did I drink the Kool-Aid? Probably!  But you know why? Because I get it! Not at first of course. But once I was taught how to use all of the documents on the website, it helped me!  It helped me to understand my standards!

Evidently I have a mantra in my new district... it's "Know your standards!" Because looking at a document that lists your standards (K.12A, K.6B, etc.) is not helpful! You don't KNOW that standard and typically you also don't know it's specificity!

A few people lately have asked me "What's that word?" Specificity. It's certainly a curriculum word. I probably use it more often than I should with an assumption that people know what it is.  Why am I a fan of the TEKS Resource System? Because it helped me to understand my standards- because there is specificity! Specificity would be the details of the standard! The clear explanation of exactly what I am supposed to teach and on certain documents from the TEKS Resource System I can even see the specificity of grades before me and after me!

A teacher told me yesterday that I said specificity like 16 times in a 45 minute training! She laughed and said she couldn't even pronounce it once, and I just kept saying it like it was no big deal! They were laughing at me (in a nice way I think) from the back of the room.  Then they said, "We should turn this into a drinking game! When Leach says specificity- we should drink!" Oh how I wish we would have had some liquor!

If nothing else, I'm going to help these teachers KNOW their standards- and realize that the TEKS Resource System is a support system (I promise) for them to know/understand/teach/use their standards- and yes- the SPECIFICITY of those standards!

Can I get an AMEN?


Monday, August 11, 2014

The Write Stuff: Getting Started with Writer’s Workshop

Hey y'all! I'm excited to bring you a GUEST POST from my friend and teacher Noelle from the Frizz! 

I'm here to tell you all about how I plan on launching my Writer's Workshop this year.

First Day of School
I give my students a blank piece of copy paper (I purposefully give them paper without lines in order to see who draws a picture and who gets right down to writing. Later, the paper will scaffold the writing!)  

I then explain to students that I will set a timer and they are to write for ten WHOLE minutes. (gasp!)

I do not give them a prompt or any ideas.  I simply ask them to write.  

I explain to them that I will be walking around the room taking notes and should not be disturbed.  

The guidelines for this activity are: 
-No talking
-No walking
-If you run out of room on your paper, raise your hand for a new piece
-You may not ask the teacher for help.  Just do your best!

While the students are writing their little hearts out or staring at the ceilingpicking their nose raising their hands to ask you what to write about or how to spell a word, drawing a picture, I have my clipboard in my hand and am walking around the room writing furiously.

This is my chance to take notes about what kind of writers I have this year!

I have my class list next to my notes page to easily help me remember which student goes with which number on my clipboard.  

This saves me time and energy when I am taking notes!  

I might write things like this:
1. hasn't written anything down after 8 minutes
2. drawing very detailed picture
3. uses complex sentences
4. tying his shoes for most of the time
5. needed 2nd piece of paper
6. struggled to get started 
7. drew lines for himself on paper

Basically, I am writing down anything and everything that will help me get to know my students as writers and help me further plan my writing mini-lessons.

As the weeks pass and we build our stamina in writing, I continue to use this clipboard to take notes.  

I also use another document to help me plan my lessons in the future. After our writing time, I will quickly jot down things I noticed students do or not do on the "Yesterday while you were writing I noticed" section.  

Okay.  That was just day one.  Are you still with me?  

Day 2: All About Me Bag Introduction
I read aloud Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge and share my Me Bag.  Be sure to read more about that here

Day 3: Who is a writer?  and What do writer's do?

During this lesson we talk (and make an anchor chart) about all the people who need to write (mom and dad, teachers, doctors, my older sister, and even 2nd graders!) and what writer's do (WRITE! draw pictures to help them write, brainstorm, read lots of books, jot down ideas, etc.)

After the mini lesson I will have a few students share their All About Me bag with the class. 

Day 4: What do writer's write? and Why do writer's write?
During this lesson we talk (and make an anchor chart) about all the things writers write (lists, notes, thank you cards, stories, emails, directions, etc.) and I read Read Anything Good Lately?  We also brainstorm all the reasons why writers write!  

Again, students will share their bags with the class.

Day 5 (is a BIG ONE!) First Day of Writer's Workshop:

This is where I launch my Writer's Workshop!  

With my coffee mug in hand, I pull out the folders, fresh pencils, crisp paper, and my fancy No Walk! No Talk! anchor chart. 

I explain to students that the time has finally come for us to have our first Writer's Workshop (insert blank stares here cheers and applause here!)

The class will brainstorm the behaviors and expectations as I make the anchor chart.  

I make sure the chart includes things like: 

-Get started quickly
-Stay in one spot
-Silent voice
-Do what writer's do: WRITE!

Then, I send students off to start writing. 

I follow the Daily Five routine of building stamina.  

If I noticed a student not following the directions above, I ring my bell for cleanup and everyone meets back on the carpet.  

We discuss as a class why we came back (by this point, my class has already mastered this routine through read to self!)  

We read over the anchor chart again, possibly adding new ideas that might help the class build stamina.  
 And I send them off again to write.

We continue this routine each day until the class can successfully write for 20 minutes.  

I call this time "No Walk! No Talk!"

To read more about No Walk! No Talk! click here.

WHEW!  That concludes my first week of Writer's Workshop!  After day five, you might need to celebrate with one of those cold adult beverages or a box of brownie mix....if you know what I mean!

What's next? Have no fear! That first day of Writer's Workshop will give you PLENTY of ideas for what to teach them next! It's so awesome- albeit also scary! You may find that you need a mini-lesson like Writer's Gum! Let the students writing guide you to the next (and the next and the next) mini-lesson! 

Now I will kick up my feet and enjoy the weekend!  

Want some of the forms I talked about? Need to see more details about No Walk/No Talk or Writing Rules? Want a form to keep track of your writing conferences? 

Click on the link to purchase our Launching Writer’s Workshop pack!


Launching Writer's Workshop on TpT

I've gone and done it! With a little help from my friend! We have a product on Teachers Pay Teachers!

If you've been reading about my Writer's Workshop and you need some help getting started or some forms to help you stay organized... this may be just what you need!

Check it out on Teachers Pay Teachers by clicking here!   And be sure to check out all of my new FREE stuff while you are there too!


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Currently August

Another month has slipped by- and another month of summer is almost over! It's back to SCHOOL month! I spent the month of July with great teachers in Killeen ISD. We had fun learning about Balanced Literacy and the TEKS Resource System.
Woo Hoo!

So it's the 1st (or the 3rd) of the month and it's time for my August Currently- thanks be to Farley!

Listening: I don't really watch TV. If the TV is on, I'm usually doing something on my computer. Unless it's terrible reality TV and then I watch it like a train wreck! But without fail, my husband will be on the couch with me, while I'm on my computer and he'll think I'm paying attention. Bless his heart. Maybe one of these days I'll be able to put my computer down and watch bad movies. But alas, last night, I was NOT in fact watching.

Loving: San Antonio in August! HOT, HOT, HOT! This year may be a slight bit cooler? Regardless it will be full of teachers looking for some great ideas for their classroom at the State Curriculum conference. Fire up Texas teachers!

Thinking:  I have been in graduate school for the last three years! I've been fitting the work of it all into the nooks and crannies of my life, but not anymore! I am officially D-O-N-E!  It is such a relief! I can't wait to have some weekends where I don't have anything to do! Sleeping IN instead of getting up to write a paper!  Oh my goodness that sounds amazing.

Wanting:  There is just always so much to get done over the weekend. See above? Sometimes it all just hits me! Saturday was one of those days! I was so overwhelmed and had so much to do. I learned a good lesson though. If I ask my husband, if I give him specific things to do (sweep the floors and dust the living room), he will do it! Just knowing he is working (cleaning) while I am too, makes me feel so much better.  #TEAMWORK

Needing: I am taping my first Webinar!  I am not a fan of my voice recorded or my mug on camera! I am hoping to just get it over with. Notice I am procrastinating this with my Currently right now...
This also means that I have to get dressed and put on makeup this morning- and put on work clothes- and brush my teeth- a lot sooner than I would otherwise be doing!

1st Days: I am starting my new job next week on the 4th! So much to learn. So much to uncover. I'm excited, but as with any new job, I'll be in an overwhelmed state for a while I'm sure. Reminiscent about my time in DC and the "back to school" PD week we pulled off at Wilson High School in 2014! God keeps designing my path and the 2014-2015 school year will be another exciting journey of His design!

Thanks for reading! Wishing you a great August full of things you said you would get done this summer along with some sweet time to relax and prepare for the children who will be coming into your care for SY 14-15!


Friday, August 1, 2014

UPDATE Friday Freebie: Work Station Check Sheet

Hey y'all! Happy Tuesday!

I've written about  Work Boards for managing Literacy Work Stations. Today I am proposing another method for Work Station management where students have more of the control over their own grouping/rotations.

Some teachers manage Work Stations/Centers in their classrooms by allowing students more choice. Rather than grouping them and telling them where and when to rotate, they set up a system of Work Stations, provide all of the materials, and students decide which Station to go to on which day, how long to stay, and who they might work with at that Station. As you can see, it is much less teacher control than other methods, but students in upper grades need to learn how to manage their own learning and this is a great way!

Students simply record when they went to a given station in the week and perhaps write a reflection about their work there. And voila! Want yours for FREE? Head to my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Or THIS one created by

Now, does this pose other manage issues that grouping students yourself and rotating them doesn't?
Of course! Will you possibly curse me if you try it- yes! I will say this is not for the faint of heart, but it can all be taught.  And the lessons on self regulation our students learn in the process is pretty awesome!

Possible Mini-Lessons you will need if using this method:

1.) How many people can be at a Work Station at a time?
2) How long should I stay at Work Station? Do I need to go to all the Work Stations each week?
3) Who do I work well with? Who do I not work well with?
4) What do I do if there is no room at the Work Station where I want to go?

And there are more I'm sure, these are just some of the ones I remember talking with my students about. I also had years where I did both. I started the school year putting kids in groups and rotating them, and in January I transitioned to this method.

So what do you think? How are you going to manage your students in Work Stations this year. It can be done. Remember, less is more and SLOW DOWN, train the troops, it's not a race!