Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: December 2014

A New Year...New Goals

I am excited to be joining Stephanie from Mrs. D's Corner for a fun linky about our goals for 2015!

It is hard to believe it, but 2015 is just over a week away. Last year, I set, what I thought, were some pretty lofty goals. I was blown away by how easily I met all of my goals. It was an amazing year! I plan to work just as hard to have a successful 2015!

We are planning another Caribbean cruise for fall break. I desperately want to be bikini ready by the time of the trip. Teaching and running a business has not been good for my waist line! This will probably be my toughest goal to meet.

I love having a TpT business, but it can be lonely working from home every weekend. I love meeting other TpT authors and will be more diligent this year about going to local meet ups. I am so good about Facebooking, but I want to improve my blogging. I have so much to say...but not as much time.  I am going to double my income this year. It sounds crazy! But I sat down with my husband and lots of data. It is totally possible!

I need to be a week or two ahead when it comes to my lesson planning. I hate having to do lesson plans from home on Sundays. My new Erin Condren planners will make this task so much more fun!

I have so many files on my computer! I have been organizing my clipart, but now I need to organize my digi paper, borders, products I have purchased and products I have made. After I get organized, I need to get it all backed up somehow. Yikes! This sounds like a lot of work. I would love any advice that you have.

I am so happy with the book clubs that I added to my guided reading groups this year. However, I have not done enough to teach close reading strategies. I ordered a new book and plan to do some research. We love to read, now we need to read deeper!

No two students are alike. Just like snowflakes. The unique qualities make them so special. But it also means they don't all learn or behave the exact same way. It is all about differentiation!

What goals do you have for 2015?

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A Day of Reading...

Today was the second to last day of school before winter break (HAPPY DANCE!). I have a BIG party planned for tomorrow, so I wanted a nice and relaxing (but meaningful) day today. It was the perfect day for a Reading Day!

I told my kiddos that they could bring a book and a pillow from home if they wanted.

Here is our focus board for the day!

The first thing we did was 30 minutes of read to self. My kids are used to this because it is one of their reading centers. They have built up the endurance for 30 minutes. Adjust this time based on your students current abilities.

After we read for a while, we did a fun reading response. The kids got to choose two characters from their book and write what they might say to each other if they were talking on the phone. This was great practice for writing dialogue (one of our language standards this quarter!)!

Next, I read them one of my favorite Christmas books- Mooseltoe. That book is so adorable and great for figurative language. After we read the book, we made this fun craft with some construction paper, google eyes, gold glitter glue and sequins.

After our craft, we took a snack and restroom break and went back to read to self. The kids were excited to get back to their book. I love that they love reading! I read to myself during this time as well. I think it is super important that kids see adults enjoying books too! I got comfy with a couple chairs and started reading a book that I haven't read since I was a kid! FUN!

After this round of read to self, we wrote a letter to the author. I encouraged kids to tell the author their olin of the book so far (using the text for examples) and to as the author questions. The kids enjoyed sharing their letter with their partner.

Next, I met with a couple of my reading groups who were SOOO close to finishing their book club books. My other students read from Time for Kids (which they adore) or worked on their reading i-Ready (online computer program) lessons.

Next, I shared another fun holiday book- Olive, the Other Reindeer- with my class. Cute book!

We ended the day with a BANG!!! We had a book auction. You can read about my end-of-year book auction HERE. This was a mini version of that auction. I had 12 books that I got using my scholastic points or purchased for $1. Not every kid would get a book. I warned the kids. They were great sports. My kids earn tickets each week for turning in their homework packet and having good behavior. They were able to put their tickets in the bucket of the book or books that hoped to win.

My kids did a drum roll on their desk as I drew the winner of each of the books. They all cheered for each winner. It was super FUN! After the auction, I made a point of writing a short inscription in each of the books.

I did this before winter break, but this could be done anytime during the year. I strongly believe we worked on some important reading, writing and language standards. I also had them reading for an extended period of time which is great preparation for standardized testing. But most importantly, I am teaching my kids tat READING IS FUN! If that is all they learn this year- I will still be pleased!

To add even more meaning to your reading day, consider using one of the following products:

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Frozen Themed Classroom Party

I am very excited about the Frozen themed party that I have planned for my kiddos on Friday. I thought I would share my plans in case you are still planning your own class party. I will update with pictures after Friday!

UPDATED- I added pictures!!!


I sent out a signup genius invite and had my parents sign up for food items. Every item was signed up for within a few hours!

They are cut in the shape of snowflakes!

I also asked parents to donate frozen themed plates and napkins and a crockpot of hot chocolate!


I plan to do a couple of whole-group activities first. We will do some "FREEZE" dancing to songs from the Frozen sound track.

Next we are going to do a challenge that I titled "Free Anna." I printed several pictures of Anna and laminated them. Then I froze them in a container of water. Students will be divided into groups and given a spoon. The first team to free Anna from the ice will be the winners!

After our whole group activities, I plan to move into centers. I have several parents coming in to help me with this. I am going to have four different centers that students will rotate through.

Center One: Ornament Craft

Center Two: Snowball (Marshmallow) Center. This center included two different minute to win it style games.

I somehow forgot to get pictures of the kids doing this game. :(

Center Three: Do you wanna build a snowman?

Center Four: Factor Freeze. I downloaded this FREE multiplication game HERE.

I only had a half day of school on Friday, but a fun wrap up, would be to play the Frozen movie or have a snowball (with balled up paper) fight! How do you celebrate winter break?

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Organizing Reading Fluency

I spent a ton of time last summer, researching and planning a way to keep my reading fluency passages organized and getting kids regularly practicing one minute fluency readings. I knew this would be especially challenging this year because I only have 4 hours and 20 minutes with my kiddos each day. I FINALLY came up with a plan and after implementing it for two quarters, I am loving it! I wanted to share with you the simple way that I organize reading fluency in my classroom.

Organizing the Passages
First, even before I met my students, I knew that I would undoubtably have different levels of readers. What teacher doesn't?! I teach third, but I have fluency passages for grades 2-4. I purchased them on TpT from Common Core and So Much More. I printed the teacher copy and student copy of each of the fluency passages. I had a very dear and patient parent volunteer put all of these passages into page protectors for me. I then organized them in a binder with plastic folder dividers that separate the different grade levels of passages. I put a dry erase marker, pens and crayons in a pencil pouch in the front.

I printed a spreadsheet for each of the three levels. On the spreadsheet, I wrote the names of the students who would be testing in that particular level. I keep their WPM here so that I quickly see who is making progress and who needs intervention. The spreadsheet goes in the divider pockets for each level.

Each Monday morning, I put a sticky note on the next passage that the group is reading. Now the binder is ready for a week of fluency!

Who Does Reading Fluency
In my classroom, everyone does reading fluency. Twenty-one of my students have already met or exceeded my school's goal for third grade words per minute. I am careful not to do fluency practice TOO often with them because I hate how they keep trying to read even faster. No one needs to read 350 words per minute! At the same time, I want them to continue to practice what they are already doing well. I just increase the lexile level for them.

When Does One-Minute Fluency Take Place
When I taught in a traditional schedule, I used to pair students up and devoted about 10 minutes for students to do a fluency reading each day with their partner. I just don't have that time in my current schedule. However, I am very blessed to have  parent volunteers in my room for a couple of hours nearly every day. Fluency is one of my volunteer tasks. Now that they have been trained, all I have to do is leave the binder on my volunteer table and they know just what to do. They will pull students into the hall one at a time and have them read the weekly passage for one minute. There is no way to get through the entire class in one day. This is the schedule that I try to stick to as much as possible:
Monday: Below-Level Readers (2nd grade passages)
Tuesday: On-Level Readers (3rd grade passages)
Wednesday: Above-Level Readers (4th grade passages)
Thursday- Below-Level Readers (2nd read of the passage they did on Monday)
This schedule allows my lowest readers to have multiple reads of their passage. My other groups really don't need that.

Keeping Student Data
My students know that they should bring their data folders with them anytime they get called in the hall for fluency.

Each week, they will graph their WPM on the fluency graph in their folder. This helps students to see their growth and set reasonable and attainable goals for the future. Since my lower group will read the passage more than once, they will graph their cold read in blue and their warm read in red. They almost always see some growth there and it is motivating for them! This graph is just one of MANY student data tracking graphs that you can find in my Second and Third Grade Data Tracking products.

I also have my volunteer record their WPM on the spreadsheet in the binder so that I can quickly see how each student is progressing.

A student who is not making much or any growth, will get a copy of the passage for the week put in their binder. This way they can practice reading it at home and when they have extra time in class. I am excited that I only have to make one extra copy! I used to give every student a copy of the weekly passage. But most don't NEED it. And it was way too much paper and prep for me.

My Favorite Thing About This System
I can use this binder year after year! The passages are all in page protectors and we don't write on them. All I have to do is change out the spreadsheets in the pockets and it is ready for a new group of kiddos. I won't be spending ANY of my summer prepping for fluency next year!

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