Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lakeshore/Target Giveaway

I discovered a new blog today--Erica's Elementary Excitement! In honor of her new blog, Erica is hosting a great giveaway! You can enter to win BOTH a $50 Lakeshore gift card and a $25 Target gift card. You can enter for up to four chances to win. You should definitely check this one out!


Monday, June 27, 2011

3rd Grade Gridiron Giveaway

3rd Grade Gridiron is giving away a $25 Target gift card! Visit this fun blog and find out what you can do to enter for a chance to win!


Chapter 1--The Book Whisperer

Are you participating in The Book Whisperer Read Along--we just started today with Chapter 1, so it's not too late to join in!

I am fully committed to implementing some type of reading workshop this year. I'm still working out the kinks as to what that will look like in my 4th grade classroom, so this book came into my life at the perfect time. I can already tell you that I am not going to be able to contain myself to a chapter a week. In all honesty, I'll probably have it finished by Wednesday at the latest and will be re-reading each chapter in the weeks to come. And I'm very excited about that!

First of all, reading the Introduction and Chapter 1 is like reading the story of my life. I am a reader at heart and I always have been, so it's difficult for me to put myself in the place of my students who don't like to read. My mother loves to tell the story of my desperation for learning to read as a child. She says that in the weeks leading up to starting kindergarten I would ask her repeatedly, "Will they teach me to read?" And back in the late 80's (which was when I started school) kindergartners really didn't do a whole lot of reading instruction...and that was a frustration to me. When I finally did learn how to read, however, I took off! I tested at an 8th grade reading level as a 1st or 2nd grader. I've ALWAYS been passionate about books and reading, and as a teacher it is SO important to me that my students learn to love to read.

There were so many great quotes in this book! Here are a couple of my favorites:

"Making the workshop work became more important than the readiness or interest of my students or me. You see, while I searched for the key to being a master reading teacher, I forgot what workshop teaching was all about--my role as a master reader..." (p. 18)
I was struck by this comment! So many times I make reading instruction about kids being able to pass a test or a quiz. I mean, after all, isn't an "A" on a test the true indicator of whether or not a student has learned the material? I loved this reminder to pass on what I already possess within myself...the love of reading!

"Reading changes your life. Reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten, taking travelers around the world and through time. Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education. Through characters--the saints and sinners, real or imagined--reading shows you how to be a better human being." (p. 18)
I think this one speaks for itself!

I also identified with the section where Miller discusses her "good intentions"--what she felt were solid, well-planned lessons that completely fell flat with her students. How often have we all been there? On page 13, she makes reference to the fact that teachers teach how they were taught--and it's so true! I spent 12+ years in school with teachers who stood in front of me, lectured, then made some kind of written assignment. So it's very difficult to release some of that control and let students be more involved/responsible for their own learning. I loved that idea of student readers as apprentices--we provide them with the tools for the job, yet release them to practice A LOT on their own! We provide them with guidance and instruction while they do the work themselves. And how incredible to have 100% engagement instead of limiting it to the student who is currently reading aloud for the class!

Ultimately, I want my students to recognize their teacher as a reader--that I would want them to love reading even if I wasn't their reading teacher. Reading is an experience--it is moving, powerful, and life-changing.

I'm really excited to continue reading this book as well as several of the others that she recommends for the workshop classroom. I'll close with the image of the Wordle that I created--I'm linking up at Thinking of Teaching. Feel free to join in with us! 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Getting To Know You Linky Party

As I mentioned a few posts ago, The Book Whisperer Read Along starts on Monday! Beth at Thinking of Teaching interviewed Donalyn Miller with the questions posted below, and then invited her readers to post their own answers and link up. Here are my responses. Feel free to click here and join in on the fun!
1) What is your favorite book (or series) from childhood?
I LOVED the Babysitter's Club books when I was a kid. I owned at least 30 of them (if not more), and I read them over and over and over again. A few other stand-out faves include Charlotte's Web, Number the Stars, and Just As Long as We're Together (I was also a big Judy Blume fan).

2) What is your favorite book (or series) now?
Again, how do I just pick one. I'm a HUGE Harry Potter fan (have you checked out Pottermore yet? I'm very curious about how this will work). I like books by Jodi Picoult and Francine Rivers. I'm also a big fan of mystery/suspense novels. One of my favorite mystery series is the Booktown Mystery series by Lorna Barnett.

3) What is your opinion of e-readers?
I have a Kindle, and I do enjoy it. I love the instant gratification of purchasing books that I really want to read. It's also great for when I'm traveling. However, as most book lovers will attest, there's just something about a new book. I like being able to easily flip back and re-read something if I've forgotten a detail, and I like being able to put my bookmark in and see how much I've read. I still purchase books despite having a Kindle, and I have no intentions of stopping.

4) Finish this sentence: "On Sundays I like to..."
...go to church, eat lunch with good friends, take naps, and spend QT with my sweet husband.
5) Describe yourself in 5 words!
Christian, sensitive, creative, free-spirited

6) Hardcover or paperback? Why?
Paperback--I think they're easier to hold while you read.

7) Coffee or Tea?
Depends: I am a good southerner, so I love my sweet tea. Tea in it's sweet form is really about the only way I like it though--no flavors or hot tea, please! Coffee on the other hand--I love to try new flavors and creamers. Coffee to me is also more of an "experience"--it goes with books, working, shopping, movies--everything!
Your turn!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Target Gift Card Giveaway

Mrs. Owens at Go Fourth! With Mrs. Owens is hosting a Target gift card giveaway to celebrate reaching 50 followers! I am loving all of these chances to win gift cards--my classroom wish list continues to grow, so gift cards are an awesome way to take care of some needed/wanted items!

Click on the link above to find out how you can enter to win. You have until Saturday at midnight to enter!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gift Card Giveaway

Annie at The Moffatt Girls is hosting her first giveaway! Head over to her blog and find out what you can do to win a gift card to either Target or Amazon--it's your choice! You have until Friday at midnight to enter!

The Moffatt Girls


SMART Board Training

I spent about five hours today at a SMART Board workshop provided by Region I of the Louisiana Department of Education. I've had a Promethean board for the past two years, but my new school uses the SMART software instead of the Activware. I've got to admit, after everything I saw today--I'm pretty pumped about the SMART Board.
I love that everything on the SMART Board is activated by touch. The Promethean board often frustrated me because it was virtually useless if I didn't have the stylus in my hand...and I'm notorious for walking around with the thing in my hand. I'd inevitably leave it on a student's desk or bury it on my desk or misplace it at some other obscure location. I also think it cuts down on transition time when you call students to the board and don't have to hand anything off to them.

It also has some really cool features. For instance, our trainer today taught us how to use the recording tool. Did you know that you can record yourself teaching while demonstrating something on the board, then play it back as a video? The video doesn't show YOU, but it shows what you did on the board and what you were saying as you did it. How helpful would this be on days when you know you're going to need a sub? You can pre-record your lessons, then whoever fills in for you can just hit play!

I also found that the SMART Board has more interactive tools...dice you can roll, timers that you can set, student selectors. I'm impressed. Today left me itching to get my hands on my laptop for the fall so I can start creating things for my classroom!

Do you have a SMART Board or a Promethean board? What are your thoughts? Are there any great tools out there that I should know about?


Monday, June 13, 2011

The Daily Five

I've finished the first book from my summer reading list: The Daily 5!

I know that I'm probably a bit behind--many of you have already read this and even use it in your classrooms! And I can honestly say that after having read it myself, I am motivated and inspired to use this in the fall with my 4th graders! I love the fact that The Sisters give such detailed descriptions of how to implement this into your room. So many books I've read have wonderful ideas, but really leave you hanging when it comes to how to even start the process.

I also love how they address ways to use The Daily 5 in an upper grade level classroom. Because I teach 4th grade, I don't have quite as much time in my schedule dedicated to literacy, so I love how the program can be tweaked to address your needs. For example, I probably won't dedicate as much of my day to Listening to Reading...perhaps for my lowest students, but the majority of the class will listen to reading during read aloud or by reading with someone.

I also love that it's a framework that fits in with your curriculum. Students get that individualized reading time that they desperately need (and that can't be provided by whole group reading instruction), yet we can still use the programs that our schools have purchased and oftentimes expect (or maybe even insist) that we use. It's not enough simply to tell students to read a book when they're done. Reading a book after completing classwork is just not the same as being provided with a way to actively engage with the text you are reading.

The Daily 5 makes differentiation so much easier! Students work at their own pace, and they're given the tools that they need to be successful. Last year, I had an immature class. Wonderful, sweet children--yet very immature. They were very weak when it came to being self-sufficient workers/learners. They were more content for me to "hold their hands" through their work instead of attempting it on their own. If I'd had knowledge of The Daily 5 a year ago, I think my entire school year would have been a different experience. The kids would have been set up for success, and I could have spent more time with the students who needed my individual attention.

If you haven't read this book yet, I would highly recommend it. I'm also about a quarter of the way through The Cafe book--I'll be back toward the end of the week with my thoughts on it.

What about you? Have you read The Daily 5? Do you use it in your room? I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments!


New Year, New Classroom

I will begin my fourth year of teaching this fall. Yet somehow, I'm about to put together my fifth classroom? I taught for the RSD in New Orleans for my first two years, and the building that I taught in for the first semester of year #2 was condemned (makes sense, right?) at the end of November, and we had to move to a new (to us) building in January. And actually, now that I'm thinking about it, because of all this I taught in a portable for two weeks that December, so technically this will be my SIXTH classroom!

Nobody ever said teaching was for the faint of heart!

SO--all of that information simply to lead into the fact that I went up to my new school today to do some scoping out of my new digs. This is actually the second time I've been up there. I went last week and moved all of my boxes/bins into my room from one of the kindergarten rooms where I was storing them, and I set up my desks. Here's a bit of what I've accomplished:
This is a view from the entry to my room. You'll see two other doors in this picture--those actually go into two other classrooms.
This is from the other wall--the door in the corner is actually the entry from the hallway.
The organizer in me is just itching to start unpacking boxes and moving larger furniture around, but I'm going to wait a few more weeks. The former 4th grade teacher hasn't had an opportunity to move her personal things out yet--she's going to teach religion next year, but her office space is still a work in progress so she hasn't been able to move in yet. So for now, my stuff will be staying like it is.
I'm already excited though! I'm already planning and looking toward a new year. More later on what I've got up my sleeve for my 4th graders this fall!


The Book Whisperer Read Along

I think I mentioned a few posts ago that The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller is one of the books on my summer reading list.
Because of this, I was really excited to discover that Beth from Thinking of Teaching is hosting a read along of this book through Teaching Blog Addict. Not only am I just going to be reading the book--I'm going to be reading it was a group of teachers who will be discussing it together online!

If you're interested in participating, the read along is going to start on Monday, June 27th--so hurry and get your copy of the book so you can participate!

For more information, click on one of the links above.

Happy reading!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Once Upon a Teaching Blog Giveaway

I love teacher blogs--especially teacher blogs that are written by 4th grade teachers (like me)! One of my newest additions to my Google Reader is Once Upon a Teaching Blog. Katie is having a giveaway to celebrate reaching 50 followers. The prize is a $25 gift card to Barnes and Noble or Target--it's your choice if you win! Click on the link above to find out how you can join in on the fun! You have until midnight on June 14th to enter!


An Amazing Giveaway

Happy Saturday, friends!

I hope you've all had a fabulous week. I went to a retirement party last night for two amazing teachers at my last school. It was so great to be with all of my teacher friends as we celebrated the careers of these two women.

I wanted to post about a great calendar packet giveaway that's being held at Kindergarten Works. This is a TON of cute, helpful stuff for the classroom. Click the icon below to find out more!

KindergartenWorks Raffle Ticket

I'm reading away on my book-a-day challenge. I'll try and post again this afternoon with some updates on what I've been reading!

Take care,

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Book-a-Day Challenge

I am a reader. And that is definitely putting it mildly! I will read anything I can get my hands on, from children's books to my husband's theological tomes, if it has words I like it.

As a child, I always set these yearly reading goals for myself: 92 books in 1992. 96 books in 1996. And I always met my goal (granted the books I read were much shorter back then). And yes, I am slightly Type A. What can I say? I love things I can mark off of a list!

So you can imagine how excited I got when I read about Donalyn Miller's Book-a-Day challenge. If you're unfamiliar with Ms. Miller, she's the author of the popular book, The Book Whisperer. Which, by the way, is on my summer reading list.
Her challenge is to read one book--any kind of book--everyday throughout the duration of summer vacation. I'm pumped about this one! My classroom library has expanded quite a bit over the last year thanks to Scholastic and some generous classroom parents, so I'm thinking I can take this challenge as an opportunity to expand my knowledge of the books in my room--so I can branch out with my read-alouds!

If you're interested in learning more about the book challenge, click on the link below:

I will definitely be keeping up with my reading list via the blog! And now I'm off to pick tomorrow's book!


My Newest Teaching Venture

Welcome to my new teacher blog--Apples From My Basket.

I'm about to begin my fourth year of teaching, and I will be teaching (appropriately) 4th grade! Prior to this year, I've taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, and 3rd grade. I'm hoping I'll be able to camp out for awhile in 4th grade because let's face it--it's not easy coming up with all-new lesson plans each year!

I've been writing on my personal blog, Life is Beautiful, for almost four years. Throughout my career, teacher blogs and classroom websites have been SO important to me. I started out with Pre-K Pages and PreKinders during my first year, and have eventually moved my way up to Beth Newingham as my grade level has continued to move upward. I've always wanted my own teacher blog/website, and I finally feel like I have a little something to contribute. Or at least the occasional funny story.

I also began to realize that I was posting more and more teacher-related stuff on my personal blog, and decided that I wanted a definite distinction between my personal life and my professional life. And voila! Apples From My Basket was born.

So happy reading and happy teaching! Thanks for stopping by.