Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer, school planning, and babies!

I feel like so much has happened in the last few months, none of which involved me blogging. Oh well! That's life. Now that summer break is officially here and I can settle into the groove of being at home and feeling organized I'll be back on her throughout the summer months with some revisions and new ideas to kick off the next year.

I always try to limit my school work over the summer, but I'm admittedly a little too type A for that. Once I see a great idea I have a hard time not following through with it until it's finished. My current project is making Morning Work for my students. Our daily schedule is changing this coming year and we are going from Homeroom that went from 8:10-8:40 to one that is going from 8:10-8:30. Those 10 fewer minutes really will make a difference in what I can do.

So here's my BIG idea for solving that problem, and dealing with that hectic homeroom time of day. Morning Work! It'll be great structure for the kiddos to know what to expect each day, plus I think some of these activities are pretty darn fun :) Basic template will be:

Math Monday
Writing Tuesday
Reading Wednesday
Science Thursday
Social Studies Friday

Work in progress but here are a few screenshots of what I'm working through. I'm using a lot of resources I already have, or ones gathered from Teachers Pay Teachers (love them!).
Example writing activity

Example reading activity

Example science activity

Example social studies activity

Example math activity
As I said, work in progress but I'm making myself a big binder with black lines so I can just run and copy them each week. The other main reason I'm working on this is because I want to have a structured activity for when I have to leave for maternity leave this winter. That's right folks, baby on the way! I'm due early December assuming all goes well. Another reason not to have blogged the end of the year, that first trimester nearly did me in. Thankfully I had an awesome intern who took over basically everything for me. I'm looking forward to getting the year organized early so I can enjoy the first few months with my students before leaving.

I'll be back soon with more info on Morning Work as well as how our new math planning is going. Hope you get to sit in the sun and relax today. Enjoy it, you earned it!

Monday, May 19, 2014

What is (in)courage?

Have you ever been completely surrounded by people but still feel alone? All of our social media connections should make us feel like we have a huge community around. But truthfully, if you're anything like me, it actually feels more isolating. Sitting in front your technology of choice, ninja stalking real life friends, is that really community? When did we lose the face to face interactions that once existed? Those connections that kept women sane, remembering that they...we...are not alone.

Almost two years ago I was yearning for community. As a teacher in a public school I am surrounded by students constantly, but I'm sorry..6th graders are not my community. My personal community was nearly non existent. Hubs and I moved here when we got married and all of my old friends were 2 hours away. Then I found (in)courage. My sister began working with them on some Facebook groups and so did another friend. I joined up with one of their groups for working moms just to see what it was like. I've been joining and/or leading a group ever since.

(in)courage is hard to explain, because it is still online. Still using social media to connect women. However, the difference, in my opinion, falls in the intent. There is purpose behind the conversations, purpose behind asking for prayer from these women, purpose in getting to know each other, purpose in encouraging and laughing and crying with each other. Yes, they may be from all around the country, but the group you join has something in common with you, and you meet there. You start at that small point, and you talk.

On May 19th (today if you are reading this on a Monday!) we are welcoming women who need community to experience these groups. Please, go to and watch my sister's beautiful video. Look through the groups, pray about which one is calling to you, and join. It's an easy commitment for the summer, and a great time to see what it's all about.

Some of our groups will be on Facebook and others will be on a trial site. My particular group (in)couraging educators will be using the test site because we understand that social media and teaching don't always feel comfortable. My awesome co-leader, Joesette (a homeschool mama), will be inviting all educator (definition is broad and all are welcome) to join us. We hope to talk crafts and share ideas (we might even fail and post funny pictures of messed up Pinterest projects..who knows)! Our prayer is that if you are an educator (young, teens, public school, stay at home, adults, college, anything), and you would like a place to come to, to tell your story, to be inspired, to be encouraged, to be heard, that you would find us and you would join us. We are praying for you already and can't wait to meet you.

If you are reading this and know me in real life, please join. You won't regret it.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

MS Walk

I work with some amazing people. Not only do they care about the students we teach but when someone needs support they are right there for them.

Today marks one of those days that I know will go down as a favorite memory. A beautiful co-worker of mine has a son who was recently diagnosed with MS. Upon reflection my husband and I were shocked to realize that we currently know 3 lovely people who are living with MS on a daily basis. Today we get to support them.

In just a little over an hour a group of us, some from work, some friends, some family, will be meeting up to participate in the MS Walk here in State College. It's gloomy, probably going to rain, and a bit chilly for May, but since MS doesn't take a day off neither will we. Today we will walk a little over 2.5 miles to show our love and support, because it really does take a village and no one should ever feel like they are going through this alone.

Check back later for pictures and updates. If you'd like more information, or a way to participate, it's not too late to donate.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Update: Team photo :)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Reading on the Run

It's spring break around here for my school and I couldn't be happier. There is such a mental difference between having a last minute day off of school for a snow day, and a planned 4-day weekend. Yesterday was my intern's last day full time in the classroom for the next month, it's the beginning of Lent, PSSA's are coming...ah! I need this break, and I can imagine I'm not the only one.

To kick off my break I got out the running shoes bright and early this morning. It was a beautiful time outside. Still chilly, but not freezing. I don't think of myself as a runner, I'm not the person who can go forever without stopping, but I try to enjoy it. My problem however, lies in running with music. I don't enjoy hearing myself huff and puff so music helps, but then I try to keep up with the tempo of the music (I can't help it, I was in marching band!).

My solution? Audiobooks! I downloaded Audible and picked up a copy of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library to listen to.

My amazing librarian also has hooked me up with Catalyst Digital, a service that our high school has accounts for. My run was fun because I was sucked into the book. Though it's hard to run and laugh when there are farting geese in the book (just read it, you'll understand). I'm looking forward to getting some more running time in this coming week!

Of course I'm a sucker for real books too. We just celebrated World Read Aloud Day on Wednesday with some amazing readers and stories.
My intern reading The Dirty Cowboy by Adam Rex

Our instructional coach reading the cutest book about a penguin, it was a close read, they loved it!
My principal reading Fox in Sox by Dr. Seuss 
My amazing librarian reading some potty books! She read Poopendous and The Butt Book to name a few.
 My class just finished our read aloud of True Talents by David Lubar yesterday, and I think we are going to do Flora and Ulysses next!The Well: Bequest by Polly Shulman (it's part of the Grimm series) and Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman. I'll be honest, Neil Gaiman's book will be read first, he makes me laugh!

I always encourage my students to take books home during breaks, plus with PSSAs coming up in two weeks they will need some enjoyable reading materials for after the test as well. Being the good role model that I am (and a sucker for any good cover!) I picked up two while we were in the library as well. In between cleaning, grading, and a Wednesday inservice I hope to read The Wells Bequest (part of the Grimm series) and Neil Gaiman's book Fortunately, the Milk.
His books crack me up, I'm looking forward to a little humor!
So there you have it, a few good books and some sunshine. It may not be the 'traveling to Cancun' type of spring break but it sounds amazing to me. If you've read any of these books or have other suggestions I would love to hear them!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Close Reading & Tessellations

This week was...odd. We had school Monday, snow days on Tuesday and Wednesday, then school again on Thursday and Friday. It honestly felt like a week of Monday's. Between rescheduling and moving around lessons, communicating parent conference information (oops just realized as I typed that sentence that I forgot to respond to a parent request) and getting my intern back in the loop about what's going on in sixth grade, I'm glad I made it to the weekend!

Every year I like to do an activity with my math students about tessellations. We don't go as specific as say, M.C. Esher or anything, but they have fun. Here are some examples of the work that they did. Ignore horrible shadows, I'm a bad photograph and it was late when I took these :)

They were required to use 3 shapes and the shapes had to colored in a pattern. We had fun sharing using the document camera (I use an IPEVO) and explaining our work. 

In study Ancient China I thought it would be a good idea to take a break from the 'ancient' and teach them a little modern history so they could get an idea of what more recent life has been like. My intern and I found a challenging article using Britannica and made handouts for each student. We then had them do a close read. They read it once to get a general sense of the article, then they partnered up and went through it more closely, marking new vocabulary words, important points (we call them VIPs), and questions. They discussed it together. Finally they worked independently to create a 3-2-1 worksheet where they listed 3 of their VIPs, 2 new vocabulary words, and 1 wondering. We then had the students sit in a group and share out their thinking.

They loved the strategy! They felt like it was a meaningful way to work through the reading and by seeing it twice they were able to understand it better (this coming from some of our struggling readers!). Success at the end of a hectic week! Woot!

To wrap up the week I have some students who are going to perform on Monday. Yes that's right, perform. They have a made up group called 'California Cows' and they are going to sing and dance. My class makes me laugh, I can't wait to see what they are going to do. Have a wonderful weekend, around here it's a bit busy because at PSU it's Thon weekend (FTK!). If you want to check it out here is the live stream. Pretty amazing stuff happening. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Encouraging educators & Flocabulary

What a crazy morning! It was a frozen wasteland as soon as school was to start (which also happened to be when my dear husband left for work and to take the kiddo to daycare), and now it's gorgeous and the snow is melting. 
a little taste of spring
In order to deal with all of this week's changing schedules I thought it would be a good idea to sit and write a bit. To start, let's talk about the newest session of (in)courage groups. If you were able to sign up for one I hope that you are enjoying it. Participation is a huge way to get the most out of the wonderful leadership in each group. Our group, the (in)couraging Teachers group, is going really well. I have such a heart for these ladies and I think that we are getting into our groove. My favorite thing is checking in and seeing one of the ladies post a link or write a post about what's going on.

This session has been about having a routine. Our routine, which I love, is Monday Prayer/Praise, What Works Wednesday, and Fun Friday. In between we comment on each other's posts and pray as needed. I hope the ladies are enjoying it just as much as I am.

In school related events we recently celebrated Valentine's Day by having an Affirmation Party. Students come in prepared with kind sayings for each of their classmates and we write them on large paper hearts that we hang in the room. There is, of course, also food! 

Finally, during a teacher training I was introduce to the website Can I just tell you how addicted I am? I think my kids are going to be sorry I found this. Everything is made into a rap. Yep, a rap. Maybe I love it so much because  my writing abilities stop at making semi complete sentences, but it's really fun. The students are engaged and the work is meaningful. Check it out if you have a moment (I know, right). In the meantime, stay safe and warm. Spring will be here soon (I hope!).

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why visit (in)courage?

Most days I get so excited about the successes at school. I love sharing with anyone who will listen about how I was able to do something awesome that day with my class. Other days, it's not so easy. Teaching is challenging, you have students, parents, administrators (who rock at my school!), coworkers, curriculum, standards, and everyone else jumping in to say what needs to happen.

A few years ago I was looking for some working mom encouragement. Balancing everything is hard and sometimes you feel like no matter what you do, someone is being neglected. My sister started telling me about (in)courage.  A group of women who support each other via social media. She was a part of it for a long time before I jumped in. I was hesitant, I'll admit. How was I going to have time to discuss with a group online if I was already stressed in 'real' life? Once I joined the working mom's group I realized that this was just the boost I needed. I could check in on the Facebook group as frequently or infrequently as I wanted. I could read stories from women like me seeking advice, sharing humorous stories, or offering something that worked for them. I felt more grounded. I knew this was a good place to be.

God opened a huge door last year by allowing me to team up with the amazing Amy to co-lead our new group. We started a group for teachers ( because we have a heart to encourage those like us! Our conversations on the page aren't always the deepest but we support each other. I know some wonderful teachers all around the country now and am inspired by what they do in their classrooms/lives every day.

This session Amy and I are looking forward to a pretty cool structure. That way, if you can only pop in every now and then like I did in my first group, you should still be able to come away with some encouragement. The game plan right now is: Monday praise/prayer requests, Wednesday sharing (maybe a Pinterest board will be shared, who knows!), Friday fun (blog posts, articles, silly stuff, etc). Our Facebook group is closed so anything that is shared remains private, that way our teachers have a safe place to ask for advice, connect, and renew.

Interested in joining? Check out to learn more about the group of awesome women (my sister Crystal Stine is a major part of the group now!). Then move over to the Community Groups page to see what groups might jump out at you. I won't be offended if you choose another group, I'm just happy you found someplace to call home. Registration opens to the public on Monday January 27th. Groups fill up quickly so jump in if you want to give it a shot. I pray that you'll find a group that encourages you in the way you need it most right now in this season of your life. Happy Sunday!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Youth Group - a different kind of teaching, and Read Aloud Day!

This morning marks the kick off to my church's new Youth Group program. I'm fortunate enough to be able to use my teaching talents to participate as the coordinator and assist a great group of teachers. We are using Lifeway's The Gospel Project curriculum and I think it will be really good. 

Isn't it funny though, that when you go to teach something that isn't in your classroom, or is in front of a different group of people, how nervous we get? I can't believe how much I've worried, planned, changed, and prepared for this lesson today. Takes me back to being a first year teacher! I'll be honest, I don't miss that feeling. 

In addition to writing the lesson plans for the teachers each week, I also decided to do a bit of decorating in the room that we will be using. Take a look! The theme comes from a kit I picked up at Office Depot. I think it is just enough color for the small space!
Those ugly brown bars got some cute border paper the other day too!

While I was planning for that this morning I stumbled across World Read Aloud Day! Did you know that it's coming up on Wednesday March 5th? So, what does a proactive teacher do when she knows how busy her favorite readers are? Yep, sends out early morning emails to her favorite principal, librarian, superintendent, and coach (Kris if you are reading this, look for that email soon hehe). 

Here is a link if you want more information about it. I want to surprise the students with a full out read aloud day. We'll have some special surprise readers lined up, as well as a homework assignment to bring in their favorite picture book for that day. We'll get into groups and read to each other our favorite stories! I can't wait. They offer this great classroom kit and I'm going to send home the statistic page. What motivation to read to your children! Sign up, it's a good time.
It's snowing here today, wherever you are, enjoy your Sunday! And if you can, try to do something for you today. Recharge, because tomorrow we start again! Happy teaching :)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

RA, Planning, and Weekend Work


If you are reading this as a first year teacher, or a pre-service teacher, I hate to break it to you but weekends just won't be the same...ever. Most weekends I do actually get to sleep in (granted my daughter will be 4 at the end of the month so that is all relative) but not today. Today is a morning of coaching responsibility which will require getting approx. 18 sleepy students, 1 awesome co-coach, and a school bus to a Math League meet that is about an hour away. 

We do have a lot of fun on these trips, I just really, really want to be in bed (it's currently 6:30am as I type this). I'll update once we get our results. We have a young team and they are doing a great job learning the program. We've managed to hold our own and I'm really quite proud of them. If you are interested in seeing more about Math League, we using the IMLEM model and are quite pleased with it. Check it out here:

In addition to that, as most teachers are doing at this point in the year, I'm starting to plan out what my curriculum is going to be looking like in the spring. I'm not the teacher who does the same thing every year. Honestly I can't think of one year that was exactly the same as any other. And I love that! 

So far I've already made an addition to my writing curriculum with our daily journals. The students love them. They were able to bring in their own journals and we've been doing some free writing. A few ideas I'm going to modify from Pinterest:


I was given the opportunity on Monday to present Reading Apprenticeship to our interns along with some fantastic colleagues of mine. Good stuff happening there. I think my intern will be using Reading Apprenticeship as his Inquiry Project for the spring and I am looking forward to sharing some ideas that he will be using. 

I am looking forward to planning some reading stations to go along with that! My team is also planning to celebrate MLK day (we have school that day), Chinese New Year (January 31st), and Valentine's Day (we do Affirmations to build positive community). I can't wait to share some pictures of those days soon.

Finally, for those of you who might be like me, completely eager to do something for yourself but lacking the time. I wanted to share a pin that I found really interesting. I love going to the gym but getting up early is challenging, especially if you've been up late grading or sending emails. This seems doable and I want to give it a shot. I'll be honest, I haven't tried it, I'm not endorsing it, I just thought it looked like something that most of us could do. Happy Saturday everyone, and if you are reading this much later in the day...good for you!