I Love Donors Choose!

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If you're a teacher, you need to learn about Donors Choose.org!  Donors Choose is a tax deductible online charity that makes it so easy for other people to donate to you classroom for whatever your students need...from books to carpets to technology tools. Donors can choose to give any amount they want, from $1 up to fully funding your entire project.  Once you're funded, the items you requested will be shipped directly to you!  It's like Christmas, any time of the year!  Woo hoo!

Last year was my first time submitting a project on Donors Choose. The website walks you through the process and had lots of helpful tips to guide you in writing your project proposal. Luckily I was funded fully by Chevron, who is a HUGE supporter of public school teachers.  I wanted to test my luck and try again this year...and...voila!  Chevron once again came swooping in like Superman to save the day!  They fully funded my Technology and Tools for Readers Workshop project!

Here are some of the goodies my students will be receiving:

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5 Voice recorders to tape themselves reading books or their own creative stories.

A class set of double-sided write and wipe boards for all sorts of uses.  We LOVE these boards!
Tabletop white board for small group instruction
All we have to do in return is send Thank You notes, which we would want to do anyway for someone who donates to our class.  Last year, I included lots pictures of the students using the interactive whiteboard software that was donated.  This year, I cannot wait to share pictures and video of my lucky kiddos using the new voice recorders!

So, if you haven't checked out Donors Choose, head over there to get some much needed love for your classroom!

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Reading Response Homework Logs

We have all seen the data and know how important it is for our students to read outside of the classroom on a daily basis.  Almost every teacher and school district I know requires at-home reading during the week. 

But, do we really want to know what page they started and stopped on?  Do we just want our kids to write down the number of minutes we told them to read?  For my own daughter's nightly reading, the school-wide system is to have the parents initial a box on a calendar {see photo below}.  Really?  That's it?!  Where's the thinking?  Why not practice important reading strategies and skills they are working on in class?  Why not bring more meaning and substance to their nightly reading?  

So, I decided to create Reading Response Homework Logs for my class.  Instead of students charting page numbers and minutes, they will answer just ONE Common Core reading strategy prompt based on their at-home reading that day.  

Every Monday, send home the one-sided sheet with the directions, daily reading tasks, and response space.  My kiddos turn in their Reading Response Homework Log on Fridays. There are 10 different response logs to choose from (in color and black/white) that can be completed with any fiction bookYou could use one format each month, rotate each week, or pick and choose based on your classroom focus and student needs.  I like to change them up each week for more variety.  Each log has cute, simple graphics for easy copying that are NOT month specific, perfect for anytime of the year.  And, no two reading tasks are exactly identical, so our kids are thinking about new strategies and concepts each night!  Woo hoo!

These fiction reading logs were such a hit with my students and parents.  So much more worthwhile and useful than my traditional reading logs!  Of course I had to take full advantage of this enthusiasm and make Non-Fiction Reading Response Logs for when we are teaching skills and strategies related to informational texts.  

The Informational Reading Logs were a more effective than I thought.  Rarely do kids choose to reading informational texts at home.  But, this was the first time I actually guided my students and gave them the supporting tools to read these kinds of texts at home.  I can't believe I didn't think of it sooner!!

If you'd like to take a peek, click here to head to my TpT store.  I'm in the process of making the logs editable so teachers can alter them any way they see fit.

BUT...I'd love to know what YOU do in your classroom!  Do you monitor nightly reading?  Use a calendar?  Something different?  Nothing at all?  I'd love for you to comment below about what you or your school uses to support and encourage nightly reading!

Happy Reading!
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Currently October

The start of a new month means it's time to join Farley's CURRENTLY linky party! Woo hoo!

Listening:  The hubby and I balance out the Barbie and My Little Pony dolls with plenty of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities for our two little girls.  They are just a few feet away from me building a bridge with their KEVA blocks to carry Twilight Sparkle to Ponyville. :)

Loving:  I officially dove head first into social media a few weeks ago.  Yikes!  I'm really too old for that, but I'm SO glad I did.  I signed up for Instagram and Twitter and they led me to the whole new world of Periscope and Blab!  You've GOT to check out our awesome #teachertribe colleagues sharing all that they know while they live stream on these apps.  Be sure to watch Jen @hellojenjones, Brooke Brown @BrookeBrownTpT, Ashley @MsIdealistic, Megan at @MegBoxofCrayons, Amy @amyadapts, and Sheila Jane Teaching @sheilajteaching.  These ladies are true #teacherpreneurs and have SO much to share, it's ridiculous.  Getting to comment and ask questions as they live stream is amazing.

Thinking: I love the fall...the cooler weather {well, not yet this year} leads to sweaters and jeans and cuddles on the couch.  Fall marks the start of the holiday season and the boxes of decorations come out of the attic.  Pumpkin spice is everywhere and smells delicious.  It's just a 'homey' season...super comfy!

Wanting: For fall weather to read the calendar and hurry up and get here already.  Yes, I love the beach, but I am not a fan of temperatures over 85 degrees unless I'm actually in the water with a cocktail in hand.  Knee deep in 7 year olds listening to my read aloud huddled together on my classroom carpet?  No way, without air conditioning.  TOO HOT!  

Needing:  A nice cold beverage to chill me out in this hot weather!

I feel Boo-tiful when my little friends, from this year and previous years, seek me out for hugs throughout the day.  The mom in me can't help but show a little love to my friends that need it the most.

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CGI Math Strategies & Freebie

I am linking up with Angie from Lucky Little Learners and Ashley from Schroeder Shenanigans in Second.  This month we are talking about math strategies, math games, and math FREEBIES. Woo Hoo!

My district has been going nuts over Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) for teaching our math common core standards.  CGI has been around for over 30 years, but now with common core, it's more important than ever to be listening to how our kids think about math and to be having conversations about their thinking.

Instead of diving into our curriculum in the first weeks of school, we instead take some time to explore what our students already know about math.  We pose real-world math situations and use manipulatives to see what our second graders can tell us.  It is so valuable to have them show and verbally express their math thinking...not only for themselves, but for their classmates.  Hearing the 5 different ways their friends solved the problem promotes valuable classroom discussions and sparks new connections!

One of my students' absolute FAVORITE activities for this exploration is Counting Collections.  We simply have gathered various small materials (coins, beads, Q-tips) in plastic baggies for the children to count.  Then, we find a spot on the floor and get to counting.  Counting?   Yep, that's it.  Simple.  But, very informative.

They count their items with a partner.  It takes some time, but it's amazing to watch what they do.  How many items do we put in the bag?  I try for between 50 - 100 items, but it doesn't really matter.  Getting to the exact number of items is not what's important.  It's HOW they counted that matters.  Are they grouping them by 2s?  Groups of 10?  Counting every single bead one by one?  Need a basket to hold your groups of 10?  No problem!  

Understanding how children think mathematically is so much more important to my classroom instruction that trying to simply give them the way to think.  We give them paper to show how they organized their items and record their thinking.

During these weeks of exploration, we summarize our thinking and learning by discussing the common strategies we used to solve our math problems.  Did Emma count on?  Did Abigail organize her items in an array?  Why did Graham use tally marks?  We post our strategies on our bulletin board.

We have created this mini poster of our common strategies for students to use in class and for parents at home.  It has really helped many parents with the new language of common core!  We send home the black and white version and also give our students a smaller half- or quarter-sheet version for easy reference.

If you'd like a copy of my Math Strategies Posters for your class {click here} to snag a FREE copy this month.  

Happy exploring!
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