polka dots

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene = no power at home = lots of work done at school!

Hurricane Irene did us in!!

Sunday around 2 in the morning the rain started. It was a steady, heavy rain all day – our power went out at 2 in the afternoon Sunday when the heavy winds started. The rain kept up till about dinner time, but the winds were still getting worse. We decided to drive around and take some pictures, and then get ourselves some dinner, since we couldn’t cook. My neighbors lost 2 trees, another tree was laying across one of our roads. I even saw a tree on another neighbor’s house. Roads were flooded over, and some of the shoulders of the roads were gone. I can’t believe the damage we got, when we weren’t even near the coast! 18 hours of rain, 12 with heavy wind, and 19 hours without power (we didn’t get it back until 9:30 yesterday Morning)!  Living in the country is definitely nice, but when you lose power you aren’t really a priority in the eyes of the power company – why fix the problem with only 14 customers without power when you can help more in the towns??

Needless to say, I ended up going to the school yesterday early in the morning, so I didn’t have to sit without power at home. I called the power company at 5 when I got out of bed (I couldn’t sleep anymore since I went to bed so early the night before!) and they told me to expect power back on at midnight – I was like, ummm…. Really? So I made the decision to go to the school and got there around 6. Ever had to get ready to go out in public in the dark, with only a little flashlight to help? I’m sure I looked pretty scary as I walked in the gas station to get a hot chocolate! I didn’t even do any makeup till I was at the school!
Anyway - I got a lot done once I got there, and I took some pics of the beginning of my centers.  These are what will stay all year, and then I will change out the other activities based on the skills we are learning about at the time. Let me know what you think!
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This is the accelerated reader center. Books are sorted by reading level – the buckets are color coded based on their reading group. So, my kiddos know what group they are in, so they know what bin to select a book from. I have some handy little reference materials in each bucket – I’ll have to remember to take share a pic of what’s in them another time!

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Here is my writing center! Most of my centers have these shelves that I bought awhile ago – not only does it keep things organized, but the kids know what order to work through with their things! On the first shelf there are 4 folders in my reading group colors. This is how I differentiate the centers - the kids pull their folder and do the work that I selected just for them. I do this for most of my centers. You will also notice the work buckets I have at the center. This has crayons, scissors, glue, pencils, sharpener, erasers, markers, and colored pencils. That way, they don’t have to leave to get any supplies! I also have a book of writing helpers and a beginner’s thesaurus for them to use. The signs are from Christie at Teaching in Flip Flops!

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Next up is the fluency center. The fluency station is from Lakeshore (I love them!). This is a piece that I have wanted for a few years, but couldn’t justify buying when it was so expensive. But, when I moved up to 3rd I inherited it! Can’t wait to use it! On the right are the high frequency word cards separated again by reading group color. They practice these as soon as they get here, then move on to the other goodies. I have a handful of animal puppets in the back left corner – these are fun to use when reading, and they get silly and have fun while they get their work done. They came from Dollar Tree a few years ago, and my kiddos loved them last year, and will enjoy them again this year! I also have a whisper phone here.  

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This is the comprehension center with tons of goodies! To start, I have my “egg-celent” comprehension eggs (thanks to Christina Bainbridge at Mrs. Bainbridge's Class),  some story dice I have had for awhile, some fun brain feeler sticks (from Miss Knight’s Khronicals), my supply bucket, and my FAVORITE story wands (from you guessed it – Lakeshore!). These are so much fun, and I love using them with my kiddos (except for a few boys 2 years ago that seemed to think they resembled light sabers and not fun learning tools)!

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Thanks for taking a look! Tomorrow (Thursday) is the first day for staff. I am hoping to finish up, and get the most current pics up for you to see before my kiddos come back next Tuesday.

+ Laura +

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Teacher Talk Tuesday

Blog Hoppin’ is focused on Teacher Talk Tuesday today – advice for new teachers. So, here’s my advice for any of you starting out in the new world of teaching:

Don’t get discouraged!

I had a very rough first year with a class filled with challenges. I felt like crying almost every day because of some incidents that would happen. Find someone who you can vent to at the end of the day (someone who doesn’t mind you sounding a bit like your whiny little friends that you are complaining about!).  Once you get it all out, you can actually think about all the wonderful things that are happening too, and you will remember why you wanted to be a teacher in the first place! J

Enjoy every minute of it!

It goes by way to fast, and you want to remember the first year! Don’t sweat the small stuff – if you sit there agonizing over every little detail, you will miss all the other things that are going on in the classroom around you!

Document everything!

I took pictures like a mad-woman my first year, and I am so glad I did! I can look back and see my first babies, and funny thing is, you really only remember the good! The few “bad” things are actually ones to laugh about now! I wonder “Why did I ever think that was the end of the world?” I also have a file on my computer with the funny things kids would say to me throughout the year. It’s funny to sit back and remember these funny things once in a while when you are feeling a bit discouraged!

Learn from the kids!

Take the time to actually learn from your students. They have so much to offer, and can help you learn not only about student learning habits, but they can actually teach you about yourself!

Make friends with you colleagues!

My first year I was very intimidated and I didn’t feel like I was an equal to all the other teachers who had been teaching for years. I was so wrong! My colleagues truly valued my opinion, and made sure that I felt I was one of the team. My grade level quickly became my good friends, and I don’t know what I would do without them! We go hang out in each other’s rooms when we need a few minutes out of our own rooms. In the mornings when the kids are coming in, and after dismissal, we would all stand in the hallway talking, about anything BUT school! Sometimes you need a break, and that’s ok!

Click the pic below to see what others have to say over at Blog Hoppin’. Its Teacher Week 2011 -  join in on the fun!

+ Laura +

Blog Hoppin

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet the Teacher Monday!

Tell us a little something about you...

My name is Laura and I am a (soon to be) 3rd grade teacher. I was told in May that I would be leaving the comfort of 2nd grade to travel up to the new world of 3rd grade. Fortunately, I was able to keep most of my kiddos, and I can’t wait to see them again!

 I am also a Pop Warner cheerleading coach of girls from 5th-8th grades. Games start in 2 weeks - I can’t wait!

I am new to the blogging world, having started my blog this summer when I got wrapped up in all the fun of checking out everyone’s wonderful ideas! I am still enjoying my summer, as I do not have to return to school until September 1st for a Superintendent’s Conference Day. I start with my kiddos the following Tuesday.

How long have you been teaching?

This will be my 6th official year of teaching. I graduated from college in May of 2006. I was able to get into my old school to substitute for the rest of that month and June. Over the summer I got a phone call from the principal asking me if I would be a long-term substitute for the AIs Math teacher. I jumped at the chance, especially since it was at a salary pay, not per diem! I worked for 5 months as the AIS Math teacher for grades 2-4. I also taught 2 sections of AIS Reading for 2nd grade. Long-term substitutes do not rely on the teacher to make the plans – you become the teacher and assume all responsibilities for planning and curriculum. After 5 months the teacher came back, and I became a regular per diem substitute again for the rest of the school year.

In may of 2007 the principal called me again, and offered me a job teaching. I wasn’t sure of the grade level until August. In September I started teaching 2nd grade, and I loved every minute of it. I spend 4 years in 2nd. As I stated before, this coming September I will be moving on to 3rd grade.

You might not know...

I hate being a student! I know, I know, what am I doing teaching, right?!?! I am not one of those people who loves to sit in a classroom everyday being talked to – I like to DO the talking! When I finished my Bachelor’s degree and started subbing, I took a year off of attending school. But, after that year I needed to start in on my Master’s degree which is mandated in New York State. Knowing I hate being a student, I gave online school a shot, and graduated from the University of Albany with a Masters in Childhood Education (Literacy 1-6) in 2010. Phew! I am sooooo happy that is over! 

What are you looking most forward to this school year?

I am new to looping, and I can’t wait to get to see my kids again! I am one of those teachers who gets sad at the end of the year thinking “What will I do without these guys?” I get so attached, and for once I get to keep my kids and build on our relationship! I am so excited because I truly had so much fun with them last year, and the possibilities are endless for us this year!

What do you need to improve?

I know absolutely nothing about 3rd grade. I have so much to learn about my curriculum, and then we have to add in the new national Core Curriculum that we are adopting (anyone else starting the core curriculum this year?) I am scared at the prospects, but I have a great grade level chair who I know will get me through it!

What teaching supplies can you *not* live without?

1.       My SMART Board – I love this thing, and it is the best thing invented! My kids can never get enough, and it really brings our lessons to life – let’s just say watching a live Venus fly trap eat its lunch on the big screen got us hooked last year!

2.       Our laminator – I am lucky that our school has one for everyone to use. I laminate everything – not only does everything become shiny and beautiful, but it lasts so much longer! I am a laminating queen – one of my colleagues last year joked at a faculty meeting that some of us would probably laminate the children if we were able to – sometimes guys just don’t get it!

3.       Post-its – I use these so much during the day! On any given day you can look at the calendar on my desk and see 5-10 post-its listing my things to remember!

4.       A candy supply - sometimes you need a pick-me-up to keep you going! Last year my class aide (who I had for about 45 min a day) would have days when we would just about empty the jar!

So there it is, a little bit about me. Want to join in on the fun? Click the picture below to get Blog Hoppin’!

+ Laura +

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hey Guys!

I have been so MIA lately! I started coaching my cheer team again this month, and for now, that has been what has been taking up most of my time. We have a total of 18 girls on our team, ages 10-13, so it can be stressful at times! But, I also love doing it. I consider it my other job, and couldn’t think of another better way to spend the rest of my summer.
I now have the following countdowns going:

·         Just over 2 weeks to go until our first game – OMG! Will we be ready?!?!

·         Less that 3 weeks until the first day of school! I have so many things swarming in my head of what I HAVE to do, and what I WANT to do – I’m not sure that it will all be done, but I feel confident that I could start tomorrow if I had to. My room is about done, I just have a few more (or maybe a lot more) little touches that I want to add (this is where the OCD tendencies take over!).

I am working like mad to try to make my room different from last year, since I am looping with most of my class. 13 of my friends will be making the trip with me from 2nd to 3rd. I am so excited to be working with them again! Then end of the year was weird for me, because I wasn’t really saying goodbye – it was more like leaving for a short vacation before seeing them again. BUT, I will also have 10 more new friends to greet on that first day, which is also exciting.

SOOOOO…. How many of you have ever looped with a class? What are your thoughts on the subject? This is all new to me, so I would love to hear what you all have to say. Please leave me some comments!

Until next time!

+ Laura +

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

classroom pictures.... FINALLY!

I’m amazed at the amount of blogs that I have been reading where the students are starting this week! I can’t imagine starting this early – we never start until after Labor Day… this year I go in the Thursday before for our Superintendent’s Conference Day, have the long weekend, and start with kids the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Anyway, I have taken a few whole days to sort out my classroom and transform it from a 2nd grade room to a 3rd grade room. I was lucky to be able to stay in my room, since I begged not to have to move only one door down the hall to the newly empty 3rd grade room - I HATE budget cuts, and knowing that I am taking over a friend’s classroom and that she is now out of a job :(

The days I have spent in the school, I have gone through the 3rd grade room and taken out the things that I will need. I kept all my 2nd grade materials, since it isn’t that far off. Needless to say, with the extra materials and more students (this year I’ll have 23 compared to last year’s 16), my room is crowded! I can’t walk in a straight line to get to anything! My room is so tiny compared to the wonderfully huge ones I have been seeing here in Blog Land.

I am posting some of my photos of the work in progress. There are still a lot of little things that need to be taken care of, that add up to a lot more time! I will be going in again tomorrow, but a friend will also be in her room across the hall, so I may do more talking than working! J You see, the two of us are still bitter that after being the closest of teammates and doing everything together last year, we were separated when I was moved to 3rd. But, at least I’m not going far.

Enough talk… here are the pics!

This first one is the view from the door. Can we say cluttered?!?! Anyway, you can see my reading table. Next to that is my meeting area with the rug – used a lot in 2nd grade, and I still plan to use it in 3rd! My desk is in the back corner in front of my cupboards. You can see my vast seas of desks – 4 sets of 6. I only have 23 students as of right now, but last year got 2 new students on the very first day of school! Not the phone call you want to get from your principal while you’re in the middle of taking attendance!

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This is the back wall. Two computers sit on the counter, 2 more are on a computer table behind the centers pocket chart. I kept my word wall from last year, and will make it more grown up and 3rd grade by making it a Wonderful Words wall – we will add words when we hear interesting words in any of our readings, and then there they are for easy reference to spice up our own writing! Along the back counter are small white supply drawers and bins to sort their finished work by subject. You can also see several center tables just waiting to be filled with materials! The pile mess on the back set of desks is all the posters I still have yet to hang.

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Front corner of the room – you can see the reading table and student mail center – this is where I put graded papers, and they are emptied on Fridays only. You can also see my SMART Board – the best addition to my classroom! I’ve taught with it for 2 years, and don’t know what I did the 3 years before that! The rolled up screen above it sits lonely remembering the days of my overhead use (I finally just got rid of the overhead this summer!).

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My reading materials shelf. This has all my reference materials, as well as my bins for small groups. They keep me organized, and when I call a group to the table they grab their bin and we have all the right supplies rightthere! On the counter are more things that need to be hung up!

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One of my centers. The bulletin boards on either side were just made – in our school we have to have our ELA skills and strategies for each week posted for the students. This wall is actually the back of the cubbies and along the top I have my 2nd and 3rd grade EOR (elements of reading) kits for comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency.

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These are my cubbies, which are to the right when you walk in the room. They may seem like a good thing to have in the classroom, but I hate them! They take up too much room and too many students go there during the day to get something they absolutely MUST have! Along the top are my theme bins – these are holiday bins and also center themes. The small cupboards have my Shutterbug books for both 2nd and 3rd grades. The door is our classroom bathroom, and on it is my Text Talk list. This is from last year (but having the same kids this coming year I wanted to keep it up to keep referencing. Text talk words are interesting words we hear in read-alouds. We write them down, discuss, and try to use in our speaking and writing. I am thinking of making these words the first additions to the word wall.

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Thanks for taking the time to read this lengthy post! I hope you saw some things you liked! I am so OCD that it was hard for me to post these, knowing things are not finished yet! :)

For more fun, head on over to TBA for more classroom photos! Click the pic below to join their party!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's Like... Christmas!

I walked in my room today to do a bit more. When I walked in I was greeted by boxes on my reading table. My requisition order came in! I’m like a kid at Christmas I just have to open my packages as soon as I see them! I ordered back in April I think, so I always forget what will be waiting for me in the boxes! $

Each year we get money at the end of the year to buy supplies for the next school year. This past year we were allowed to spend $250. Sounds like a lot, but it didn’t go too far. Here’s a picture of everything that I was able to get with my money:


Most of the stuff is ELA. But, I was able to get 4 new SMART Board games for math, so I can’t wait to check them out! The ELA items are all for centers. I opened some of them already, and they look so fun! I just can’t tell you how much I LOVE Lakeshore! I could spend soooo much money on their catalog!

Anyway, I also decided to find homes for my new goodies (inside my newly cleaned out supply cupboards!).

Here’s my ELA cupboard looking a little full:

It will have much more room during the school year when many of these things are out at centers. And here is my math cupboard:

As long as I’m posting pics of the cupboards, i might as well show you the middle cupboard. Here is where I store my picture books and construction paper:

All the books are in bins labeled by holidays, seasons, or favorite characters. I recently reorganized my novels, and will soon be moving on to these.  This last picture shows the cupboards closed. These are behind my desk in the back of the room.
The wonderful signs you see decorating my cupboards come from Christie at Teaching in Flip Flops. I just LOVE her things! I have much more of her stuff around the room I will have to take more pictures again soon!
+ Laura +

Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer Fun

It’s been so long since I posted I’ve been super busy getting ready for not only the start of school, but the start of cheerleading season (I coach Pop Warner cheerleaders) which starts today well practice does at least!

Yesterday was the best day of the summer so far! To me summer means traveling to concerts, and yesterday a friend and I went to Saratoga and saw my all-time favorite band the GOO GOO DOLLS! I am in love with Johnny Rzeznik, no matter how old he is getting! J It was an awesome show, with Parachute (didn’t know who they were until yesterday - lol), Michelle Branch (another of my faves from back in the day), and the Barenaked Ladies (who were hysterical) opening for them.

Just in case any of you are also fans, I am attaching pics from my 2 favorites, Michelle Branch and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Michelle Branch

Goo Goo Dolls

  Johnny Rzeznik up close
umm can we say gorgeous??

What about you guys what’s your favorite Goo song?
What is your favorite thing to do in the summer?

Tomorrow, I am heading in to the classroom. I will post pics of that soon!

+ Laura