Sunday, October 26, 2014


     I don't think there is ever a situation or a classroom where children listen 100% of the time.  That would be teacher nirvana.  But this year I seem to have more that don't listen than those that do.  In years past it seemed to be the other way around.  True, I have a group with academic needs more so than most, but the lack of listening has gotten to be a major frustration for me. 
     I am willing to try about anything.  So if you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments.  I put 3 things into place this week that helped some.  The first is nothing huge.  We all do it from time to time.  I simply put blanks on the board to spell the word LISTEN and they can earn a letter at each special they go to.  When we have spelled the word, I am going to let them have 10 minutes extra recess.  At each special this week the behavior has improved - greatly.  At least the specials teachers are no longer complaining when I pick them up. 
     Step two - I draw 2 students names from my popsicle sticks and they are my "magic" for the day.  I don't tell them who they are - so no one knows if it is them.  At the end of the day, if the "magic" students have been really good listeners, they go to the office treasure box.  Almost every day, I have been able to send at least one of the two.  Throughout the day I will stop and look around as if I am looking for someone and say something like, "Oh there is my magic and what a great job they are doing listening!"  Everyone shapes up fast without me having to fuss.
     I used exit tickets some in my reading room last year.  This week we started with them again only with a bit of difference.  Rather than using one at the end of each subject, I wrote down one question from every subject we had that day and then at the end of the day I gave them all the exit questions (about 5 of them) before we went out for recess.  Rather than have consequences for wrong questions, I am keeping up with the number of correct questions they have and then the person who has the most at the end of each month will get a prize.  To wrap up each lesson they started "helping" me by suggesting what the question should be!  I liked that. 
    None of these ideas are anything huge, but I am hoping that something or perhaps a combination of somethings will work to improve those listening skills.  Any ideas?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Mentor Sentences

     For as long as I have taught (nearly), I have used "daily oral language".  I would put the incorrect sentence on the board or a ditto and ask students to copy it correcting the errors.  We would most often check our work as a class.  I believed in this.  I purchased copy books dedicated to this strategy.  One year, I was so creative as to take incorrect sentences from each person's writing to make an individualized daily oral language.  That was a lot of work, but it made sense to me. 
    About three weeks ago I discovered "mentor sentences".  Being an internet junkie, I read all I could find about them.  They made sense.  Perfect sense.  The reasoning is simple.  Instead of taking an incorrect sentence for them to look at and ponder over, give them a good, well written example from a piece of literature.  When I read that, it was like "duh!" - where has this idea been my whole career?
    I love trying new things.  When I do, I often drive those around me crazy talking about them.  But this was one idea I could not pass by.  It simply made too much sense.  So I set about to give it a try.  First came the hard part.  Finding a sentence.  That remains to be be hard part.  I think of a grammar skill or two (or three) I want to focus on for the week.  Then I go searching through all my children's books at school  looking for a good sentence.  It is sort of like searching for the needle in the haystack, and if it wasn't so great an idea, I probably would give up.  I can forsee a summer project of looking for sentences in my future.  Once you have the sentence though, the rest is a breeze. 
    My procedures may be a bit different from other sources you may find on line, but here is what we do.  On day one, after I read the book the sentence comes from, I project the sentence on the smartboard, (or write it on chart paper).  Students take a copy of the sentence and glue it into their journals.  Then we "notice" the sentence.  We take about 10 - 15 minutes talking about things we notice about this sentence - parts of speech, interesting words, grammar, capitalization, punctuation - anything they see as important.  We list what we find underneath the sentence.
     The next day, we copy the sentence in our best writing and label the parts of speech.  All of this is done in their journals so they can refer back if they need to.
      I was a bit worried about day three.  I saw it in my mind as being a flop.  I almost didn't try it.  It would've been a huge mistake.  We pull out our journals again and focus on "improving" what he author wrote.  Pronouns become nouns.  Verbs get traded for better, more exciting ones.  We add adjectives where they would work.  It gets a total make-over.  The first day we did this, I could not believe the great ideas they came up with.  My group?  It was not only valuable, it was fun!  I was so proud of what the ideas they had.
     On day four, we use that sentence as guide and write one of our own.  The idea is to model that sentence using our own topic.  For example if the mentor sentence is a compound sentence, we try to copy with a compound sentence.  If it has things in a series, we do that.  I tell them what element I am looking for.  Their sentences were wonderful.  Did we all write that one perfect sentence?  Sorry, I teach in the real world with very real third graders.  But some of us did.  And those who didn't were coming very close.  And their teacher was doing a happy dance for anyone who listen!
     Mentor sentences - I love them.  I am thrilled by what I see as a reasonable way to talk about sentence structure.  I still wish I could find sentences to use easier, but that will work itself out. I am hoping to see transfer to their other writing.  I think it has more transfer possibilities than looking at incorrect sentences does, but time will tell.   There are lots of sites with better instruction than what I have provided.  Investigate and then give it a try.  It really is amazing!

Sunday, August 24, 2014


    Eight days have passed already.  The room was ready - okay, not as cutesy and stylish as I would have liked, but ready.  While getting very depressed over the room decorations, or lack of, I was hit with a very profound thought.  I have taught for over 35 years and have the joy of seeing lots of my former students.  When they come back no one has ever mentioned how pretty they remember my room being.  I have heard about how much fun our poetry notebooks were - several mentioned they could still remember the poems and said them to their children at night.  They mention when we "went" to Japan and ate Japanese food and sang Japanese songs.  They talk about the wonderful books I read them. Not one has ever said "wow, those were some bulletin boards!"  There is a lesson there.  Mostly for me.  I still want an attractive room.  That is important to living inside it for a year.  But as long as I am ready, really ready for those wonderful kiddos, the rest will work out. 
    I have a great group - 16 really cute kids.  I am blessed already just by getting to know them.  It is going to be a good year, I can feel it.  Do I wish I could back to last year's job?  Oh, yes.  I loved it.  It was so different and challenging.  But you find joy where you put it.  I plan on putting lots of it into this year. 
     I have several websites I need to tell you about.  Next time I sit down to write, I will share some of them with you.  Have a blessed day and thank you for dropping by.  Please consider signing up to follow me.  I would love to not feel quite so lonely on the tiny slice of the web!  Also drop me a comment and let me know what your connection to teaching is. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Oh my!

     In my naive mind, I thought while moving back into my old room would be a ton of work and of course a hassle, I had no idea.  No idea.  I went over this past Thursday and walked down to my new (old) room.  Oh my.  The cupboard - one old wooden one and one new metal one - were jam packed with "stuff".  Some very good stuff, but I have no idea what all is in there.  Furniture was everywhere.  That in and of itself was daunting.  But it led me to the conclusion, I have no space for my things.  They are all down in the room I was in last year.  Neatly packed away inside the wall of cupboards I had.  I wasn't sure what to do or where to start.  My things had come out of this room a year ago, so I knew they would fit.  However in that year, two teachers had occupied that space.  And left things - lots of things.  I got some things done, but none of it was moving my things in.  I feel sort of like I am invading someone else space.  I want to think about my kids and plan and get excited about our year together, but all I can focus on is how to move into this room.  I will post pictures later when it is "my" space.  Right now, I am feeling somewhat like the man without a county.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

And So I Return

    The reply to the email was swift and abrupt.  I opened it with a lot of hesitation.  It is official that I will be going back to third grade.  I still honestly don't know how I feel.  I would love to have kept the job from last year until retirement (about 5 years).  It was filled with challenge and excitement.  It was - quite honestly - a boat load of work.  Seriously.  But I loved every second of it.  Even the early morning duty in the cold weather.  It was different and kept me on my toes.  I don't do change well, never have, and the way the schedule changed around throughout the year was a challenge.  But I adjusted.  I began last year with a pledge to myself to not complain about one thing at school.  That is not to say my brother who lives with me didn't get a few ear fulls.  I pledged to be positive and cheerful.  I did it too.  I won't say negatives never crept in, but I fought them away diligently.  Now I have to continue this personal challenge this year.
     I guess I thought I didn't know which direction I wanted to go.  But I think I was wrong.  I wanted so badly to continue what I had started last year.  I find myself fighting depression about the move.  I know I must shake this free.  Waking up in the middle of the night thinking about the days ahead is not healthy.  I will make this a wonderful year.  I will try to get a hold of my emotions.  Just not this second, just not today. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

HItting send

     I just hit send on an email to my principal.  Now I wait.  I am not sure what I want to hear.  I loved my years in the classroom.  But this past year has been so very special.  I loved just teaching reading (and math after Christmas).  I loved the small but challenging groups.  I even - gasp! - actually liked working with kindergarten.  It was such a breath of fresh air to do something so different after so many years of the classroom routine.  So now I wait.  I have to know.  I don't want to know. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Bit of News

     I am not sure I am ready to write this post.  But hopefully it will be good for me.  I just got off the phone with my principal.  It seems I may be heading back to the other end of the building and back to third grade.   I understand all the reasons.  I even see some good things there, but I have to admit I am fighting to be positive.  I will be positive, but it is not coming easily.  I loved this last year more than anything I can say.  It was awesome - so full of blessings.  I must of said a thousand times "if I can just do this til I retire".  He didn't say it was certain, he is trying to find someone, but it looks pretty clear that is where I will be heading.  I am praying that God will place me where I need to be and then bless me.  I did love the classroom.  I just had fallen in love with this position.  I will keep you posted, but please say a prayer this is going to be a good thing.  I haven't cried yet, but I sort of feel the tears on edges of my day.  This has been such a tumultuous summer already, I sort of feel like laughing that this should happen.  Just one more event of the summer of 2014!