Monday, April 30, 2012

Cinco de Mayo Presentation Friday May 4th!

We're going LIVE! 
After much preparation the time is almost near for our Cinco de Mayo presentation! Due to the high interest in our project, we will be presenting LIVE on UStream Friday May 4th at 9:30am CST. Don't worry if this time doesn't work for you, it will be recorded so your class can watch it at a time that is convenient. I have created a Google Document where your class can leave feedback and ask questions. 

We look forward to your participation!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Beautiful Graduation Announcement from Shutterfly

Our oldest daughter is graduating this year and we have been overwhelmed with all of the activities and expenses involved. We decided to not use the traditional, expensive graduation announcements. Instead, we created our own with I love that they had such a wide variety of templates and that we could use our own pictures!  I also like receiving invitations like these because they are more personal and they make a nice display on our refrigerator! The traditional, formal announcements usually get thrown away.Thanks Shutterfly!

Photo Card
View the entire collection of cards.

*I received $10 off my next Shutterfly order in return for embedding  this project on my blog.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Preparing for our Cinco de Mayo Project!

  We have been working very hard preparing for our Cinco de May project. We researched the history, food, music, clothing, and traditions and then Mr. Verrone and Mrs. Morgan created a script. We also made "morroccas" out of paper tubes and beans to use when we sing Cielito Lindo. The students are very excited to wear the costumes and eat all of the wonderfu food the parents will be preparing. The big day is Friday May 4th when we will present on UStreaming to classrooms around the world!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A good friend and an idea from Pinterest

My friend, Brenda Glass, has been coming to our class once every 6 weeks to do an art project with my students. I love this because I don't really have the time (or energy) to plan elaborate art projects. She usually reads a book and then we do an art project. Some of the ideas have come from Pinterest. This site is the perfect place for teachers to share ideas and to get ideas for new exciting projects for their classroom!

She read Do You Have a Hat? and we made these cute face pictures and added a hat

She read Owl Moon and we made torn paper owls
At Christmas we made these cute reindeer and added the students' pictures

Our latest project came straight from an idea off Pinterest that seems to have gone viral in the past few months: Georgia O'Keeffe-inspired watercolor flowers. I first saw the idea on Pinterest and emailed Brenda the link. She took the idea and ran with it. She prepared a really nice powerpoint with artwork and quotes by Georgia O'Keeffe and then showed the photos of the step-by-step instructions found on The Art of Education. My favorite quote that she kept using throughout the lesson is: “To create one's  own world takes courage.”  She used the words to encourage the students to think big and go off the page with their flowers. Many of my more timid students found their "voice" with this project. I never dreamed that they would turn out so beautiful!
First, we did a pencil outline and then traced it with permanent black marker.

We used real flowers to study the details and inspire us.

Next, we traced the permanent marker lines with colored washable markers.

Finally, we filled in the whole thing with watercolors. 

The students loved doing this project and were so inspired and creative!

Thank you Brenda and Pinterest! I couldn't have (wouldn't have) done it with out you!

Battleship Skype with Mr. S

We got to skype with Mr. S of Living Maths in S. Africa again! This time we played Battleship. We hid ships on a grid and had to try and sink each other's ships.  We sunk one of  Mr. S's ships, but he was able to pull ahead and defeat us. We WILL have a rematch- double or nothing!
During the game, Mr. S decided to entertain us with some funny faces!
Pin head!
Elvis: the later years!

Catch the STAAR!

What a fun afternoon we had cheering on and encouraging the 3rd and 4th graders to do a great job on the STAAR test.  Mrs. Morgan's Superstars made posters and as the 3rd and 4th graders marched around the halls, we clapped and chanted encouraging words!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Guest Blogger - Tenille Shade Meets The Sisters

Tenille Shade is a 4th grade teacher with Denton ISD. 

Louise Morgan is such an amazing parent and teacher. I first got to know her after teaching her oldest daughter, Rebekah, years ago when I was still young and green.  We later worked together at Sycamore Elementary, and I was always in awe of her positive energy and creative spirit. Her marriage is an inspiration, and I consider it an honor to be a guest blogger on her website, The Frugal Teacher. Thanks for letting me share Wezie!

The Sisters – Rockstars for Teachers!
Several years ago, I had the privilege of seeing Gail Boushey and Joan Moser present a workshop in Fort Worth, Texas. I had read The Daily Five: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades during the previous spring, and I was pumped about implementing the workshop model in my 4th grade classroom. At the time, I had struggled to find a manageable way to differentiate reading instruction for every child, and I was hungry to find a system that would allow me to keep kids engaged in literacy task while I worked with individual students and small groups.
During the spring of 2008, I attempted to launch the first “daily”.  I was absolutely blown away by the power of Read to Self. Kids were no longer shopping for books, blowing their noses, or asking to the go the bathroom during sustained silent reading. Instead, they were truly engaged in reading books of their choice. Since Read to Self had worked out so well, I decided it would be best to save the rest of the “dailies” for later. The 10 steps to independence had changed my teaching life, and I certainly didn’t want to mess up a good thing.
Fast forward to the present. Last week, Denton ISD, generously sponsored a trip to San Antonio to see The Sisters present live. A group of 13 teachers carpooled south, hoping for a whiz-bang learning experience. The sisters did not disappoint! As we walked into the hotel conference center, the room buzzed with excitement. The Sisters were welcoming and engaging from the moment the session began, and their wit and humor captured and sustained our attention throughout the day.
As the workshop unfolded, astonishment and awe washed over me each time The Sisters referenced a new, insightful piece of educational research designed to keep educators moving forward. I actually pulled up my old notes from four years ago to compare, and not one piece of research they shared was the same. These ladies are voracious readers and learners, which inspires me to continue on a path of rigorous professional development.
On day one of the workshop, they provided explicit instruction about creating a culture of trust and respect. They spoke of the intangible qualities present in a classroom where these core values are honored. I greatly appreciated how they walked us though the evolution of literacy, looking at a historical overview spanning from the 1970’s to the present. Their willingness to reflect on their previous practices speaks volumes about their commitment to student learning.
As an intermediate teacher who is departmentalized, I was encouraged to hear that they are now recommending two rounds of the dailies for the upper grades. I was challenged to find a way to integrate reading and writing workshop which honors student choice. The Sisters reminded me of the importance of keeping our lessons “mini”, and they cited brain research related to a child’s ability to maintain focus for the length of their age. If my students are 10 years old, then I have ten minutes to talk and instruct. Anything I say or do after this time allotment is lost because their brains transition into the lower cortex, which is responsible for blinking and breathing.
The Sisters presentation style had also evolved over the years. The design of their PowerPoint presentation caught my attention, and I could tell they had studied John Medina’s book, Brain Rules. They purposefully used noise and movement throughout the workshop to keep all participants brains functioning at their highest level.
One of my favorite quotes came from a local literacy coach who said, “It doesn’t matter what journey you are on. Just make sure you are on a journey!” These words continue to resonate with my heart, and I believe our students deserve teachers who are perpetual learners themselves. The Sisters set an example of excellence for all educators, and if you every have a chance to see them in person, I highly recommend signing up! 

Tenille with Gail Boushey and Joan Moser at the San Antonio conference.
For more information on upcoming events visit

A Day of Reflection and Thought...again

I was recently named Teacher of the Year by my peers and as I was filling out all of the paperwork for Teacher of the District, I started looking back over my blog posts from the last year. I came upon this one that I had done back in the summer when I finally made the commitment to use the Daily 5 in its' entirety.  It's kind of interesting to see what a difference a year can make. All of the frustations I had before using Daily 5 are gone.  My students are all really good readers, and more importantly, they love to read and write! 

A Day of Reflection and Thought July 14, 2011
I spent some time on the computer today exploring Google+ and downloading TweetDeck. I also started re-reading The Daily 5. I read this book 2 summers ago while I was in new teacher training. After the training, I was excited and determined to implement The Daily 5  in my classroom. Well, that didn't happen. In fact, for the last 2 years I am embarrassed to say that my classroom has been more like the one described in the first few pages of the book:

We spent too much time managing their behavior, planning activities, and putting out fires instead of teaching.  We didn't have time to plan for excellent instruction that would meet our children's needs, nor did we have enough time for small groups or individual conferences.  We knew there had to be a better way. (Boushey & Moser p. 5)

How had I let my classroom become exactly what I knew it should not?  I'm not really sure. I was able to implement the "Read to Self" component quite easily, but my inexperience combined with some unexpected situations became too overwhelming. I found myself becoming discouraged and started doing what I had observed in other classrooms and just "winging it". Student behavior, paperwork, and new curriculum all played a part in my inability to have full control of my teaching and my classroom.

As I get ready to start my 3rd year, I am no longer able to play the "1st/2nd year teacher card"  but I feel much more prepared than ever. My PLN (Personal Learning Network) has helped and encouraged me tremendously.  At the end of the 2010-11 school year I had no idea that by visiting a few blogs and setting up a Twitter account would open up a whole world of information that was there for the taking. I did not plan on spending my summer fully engaged with other teachers from around the world...but I'm glad I did!

Anyway, enough about me being a bad teacher...I am rejuvenated and ready to take on the world!

My Goals:
  • Implement all 5 components of the Daily 5
  • Integrate student blogging into "Work on Writing"
  • Skype with other classrooms around the world
There! 3 goals. I never set goals before.  My only goal was to make it to the last day of school!

I think 2011-12 is going to be the best one yet!

So! After reading this, I realize how publicly setting goals can be a very good motivator to do what you say you are going to do! 
  • I did implement all components of the Daily 5 and wonder how I taught reading and writing before.
  • I did integrate student blogging into the "work on writing" components and have been amazed at how much better my students are at writing than in past years. They are more motivated to write better now that they know they have an audience that includes their parents, the prinicipals, counselor, other teachers, and students and teachers from other classrooms around the world!
And yes, 2011-12 has been the best one yet!
Now I must get back to my paperwork.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Collaboration with a Bilingual Class

I am currently collaborating with Gabriel Verrone, a bilingual teacher, to create a presentation for our Cinco de Mayo Skype in the Classroom Project.
Working with 40 students who are researching, practicing scripts, and creating products has been challenging but fun. We have been meeting every Tuesday in the library to work and learn together.

Our project will include history, clothing, crafts, music, and food. The information will be presented in both English and Spanish. We have had such a great response to our project, that we are considering doing a live stream or group Skype sessions. A teacher in Chicago, David Karnoscak, recently used UStream to share student presentations on Native American Tribes. 

The nice thing about Ustream is that it can reach many classrooms at one time and feedback can be entered on a "check-in and chat" roll.  We haven't quite decided which route we will go for our presentation yet, but I will keep you posted on our progress. May 5th is just around the corner!

Do you have any suggestions on how to best present this awesome project?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Visit From Mr. Morgan

We had a special visit! Mrs. Morgan’s husband came and read to us. A long time ago he wrote a story called “Two Socks” about a drawer full of socks who learned how to get along even though they were all different. Mr. Morgan is a high school teacher and took time to come and visit our 2nd grade class. He also makes really awesome comments on our blog posts. Thanks Mr. Morgan!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

Busy feet!

It seems like every year I have a student (usually a boy) who can't sit still or needs to be fidgeting with something in order to pay attention. It took me a long time to realize that when a student is twiddling with something in their desk, doodling, tearing up an eraser, or turned upside down in their chair, they are not just playing or trying to ignore me. In most cases, they are actually listening better than if I had made them sit quietly with their hands on their desk! Of course, all of this activity can be distracting and disruptive to the rest of the class, so the vice-principal at my school came up with an ingenious solution that requires a bungee cord with hooks on each end and a PVC pipe. Slip the pipe over the bungee cord and hook it to the desk leg.  The student has a place to keep his feet busy while keeping his bottom in the chair. I started using this with a student this year and it has really helped him stay focused and on task. Every once in a while I have to ask him to not be so noisy with it, but most of the time it is barely noticeable.
The feet stay busy while the student is engaged and on task!