I am excited to join my buddy Farley for this month's currently.  I have been meaning to link up the past few months, but the next thing I know the month is over!  Let's jump right in...
 
  • Listening - I must say that I am a little disappointed with this season.  I didn't sit and binge watch it all in one night. (no judgment, but that is how I watched the last 2 seasons)
  • Loving - I bought a season pass to the water park that is like 45 minutes away from my house and I am loving it.  I have gone twice this summer and would probably go like everyday if it were closer. 

  • Thinking- Vegas is a WEEK away.  I can't wrap my mind around the fact that I am actually going this year and am not just going to be lurking on Instagram.  I want to make sure I pack everything I need, which will mean that I will over-pack.  {Deep Breath} I will get it done by Sunday, so that Monday and Tuesday can be full of sun, relaxing, and pedis. :)
  •  Wanting - I am about an hour from the coast.  (not the pretty blue water coast, but the Gulf of Mexico)  I LOVE the beach and haven't gone once since school has been out.  The beach is where I do my best reading, so I have to make sure and take a few trips this summer.
  •  Needing - Back around Memorial Day, the Houston are got massive amounts of rain, the addition to my house got flooded.  It has been sanitized and gutted, but needs to be put back together. Ya know, all the fun stuff... dry wall, painting, baseboards, new floors, etc.  I have been working this week on getting estimates.  I want it completed before going back to school. My living room and extra room have been invaded with extra furniture and it is trying this type A person nuts!
  •  All-Star: I am definitely an all star at sticking my foot in my mouth.  Words come out quicker than they are processed in my noggin.  Luckily, that is something I have been working on.  Here's to hoping it works in Vegas! :)
Enough rambling... head over and link up!



I know I'm joining the party a little late, but reflecting is a big part of growing as an educator so I knew I had to join the party even if I was fashionably late.  Even though it was my 10th year of teaching, it was my first year to teach 8th grade.  There were many things that I know need to change for next year, but I am proud of several things I was able to implement with success.
 
 
Communication:
  • I posted my lesson plans to my school website every Friday afternoon before leaving school.  The parents LOVED this.  They knew exactly what homework their kid had for the week and when upcoming tests were.   In 8th grade, you are trying to have students be as independent as possible to get them ready for high school, so this was a resource that they were able to use to help organize their week nights accordingly.
  • I also am big on making contact with a parent before the student gets home for the day.  I am not just talking about if they get into trouble, but also if they have had an accomplishment.  I had a student that got commended on the state test and did twice as well as she had done the previous year.  I called her mom between class periods to let her know the amazing news.  She was so glad that I called so that she could surprise her daughter after school with a mom/daughter treat night.  
Organization & Classroom Management:
  • I have used the same organization strategy for the last several years and it has help me be prepared for each day immensely. I have a 5 drawer organizer behind my desk.  Each drawer is labeled for a day of the week.  I put all of the resources I need for each day in the individual drawers, so that when that day comes everything is together in one place.  No hunting for a mentor text or a paper that I need.
  • My favorite classroom management tool I used this year was positive postcards.  Each student got at least one postcard from me this year.  I had 140, but if you spread it out the year it is not a hard task to complete.  I made sure that those students who often struggle with making good choices had several go home with them this year.  {Parents and students don't expect something like this when they are in 8th grade, but they loved them!}
Concept:
  • I am blessed to teach in a small school district, which mean myself and the other 8th grade ELA teacher got to sit down and decide out scope & sequence.  We have it organized by genres.  From the tougher genres to the easier genres, so that we would pull in and review the harder ones throughout the school year. This is what we came up with:

My Big Summer Project:
  • In Texas, we have Lone Star books that are recommended for the students to read each year.  I like to read at least 3/4 of them, so that I am knowledgeable about them when students ask.  I also have several books that are on my list to read to help me update novels for the class to read next year.
  • Our school is big on AR.  I am not a fan at all.  Last year the teachers came up with something for the students to do with the books they read.  I didn't like it because they were not reading for fun and a lot of the better readers were deterred from reading as much as they normally would.  I am trying to find a way to include independent reading without having to take AR tests.  I have an idea, but have to run it by the other 8th grade teacher to see if she will buy into it.  Fingers crossed she likes it!
 
What worked for you this year?  Head over to link up!
 
Thanks so much Stephanie for hosting this!  Don't forget to check back around August 8th to see how I am Looking Forward & Refreshing my teaching!
 




Now we are jumping into the acronym PIRATE... P stands for Peer Collaboration.  I pride myself on what I thought to be peer collaboration, but after reading this chapter I realized that it was more like glorified group work.  I am hoping to change things up next year to try this out.
Top 5 things I learned while reading this chapter:
  
5. "Give me 5!" - I had always seen this as an attention getter to be primarily used by the teacher.  I hate to admit this, but in the past I would use it when group work got too loud.  While reading this chapter, I discovered that it is a tool for not only the teacher to use, but also for students.  I am really excited for them to be able to ask for help from their peers and share the tips/tricks they figure out while working.  While it will take a lot of modeling, I know that my 8th graders would be able to pick it up.  My only concern would be them overusing it, but Paul gives ways to correct these behaviors.
 
4.  Spaces that encourage learning - Seating arrangements that encourage collaboration work best when learning like a pirate.  Also, letting students choose their own seating lets them feel empowered and can also lead to them monitoring their behavior on their own to keep that privilege.  The best part of it all is that you don't need expensive furniture to do this!   I think that I have done a pretty good job about this in the past.  In my classroom students can be found sitting at tables, in desks pulled together, huddled on the floor, or even sprawled out in the hallway.  I want my students to feel comfortable with their they are learning and working.  Who am I to say that laying on the floor isn't best for them and that they should be in a desk? My principal is quick to question me when she walks in my room and sees the students sitting in their perfectly rows quietly.  She knows that is not the norm in my class.  The only requirements I have are staying on task and putting things back where they were before leaving the class.
 
3.  The right kind of competition - Competition can be detrimental to student growth.  We want them to work together instead of trying to be better than one another.  Although internal competition in good for self-reflection.  From asking themselves how they can do better next time to how they can help with their peers better.  Towards the end of the school year I started having my students self reflect on certain days.  They never knew when I would have them reflect and that seemed to help with honesty and corrections being made the next day.
 
2.  Dealing with conflicts - Conflicts are to be handled with care and in nonconfrontational ways.  I LOVED the three strategies he gave for students to handle conflict.  They were: rock-paper-scissors, compromise, and choose kind.  Rock-paper-scissors is a great way to handle conflicts no matter how big or small.  This was a go to decision maker for some of my hardheaded students this year.  It definitely recommend it. :)
 
1.  Responsibility partners - They are used when completing individual products.  Students have someone to bounce ideas off of, but will use their own ideas to make their products.  They also have: someone to check in with to make sure they are completing their assignment correctly, answer each others questions, and hold each other accountable.  They are responsible for each other whether it is good or bad, which will make them become invested in their partner's success.  The benefits are overwhelming: learning empathy, develop patience, and adapt to different ways to encourage others.  I LOVE this idea.  Too often when you have students do something individually they will not ask questions or will overwhelm you with questions.  They have someone to confer with first.  I had never thought of having a partner when not working on a group product.  This is ingenious and a strategy that I cannot wait to try next year.
 
Here is my favorite quote from this chapter. I plan to hang it up by my desk to remind myself and my students of this.
{Click the picture to download for free!}
 
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3HcWlZVXtxzYjItYWJWbnVPNWc/view?usp=sharing
 
Next week I will be discussing the next chapter which covers "improvement focus vs. grade focus".  Head on over and check out what my fellow bloggers have to say about peer collaboration until then. :)







I'm very excited to be joining some of my fabulous blogging friends to help Stephanie from The Learning Chambers celebrate 1,000 TpT and Instagram followers.  I mean look at all of the FABULOUS bloggers that are involved in this giveaway!!



To celebrate, we are giving one lucky follower an Amazon Gift Card worth $100!!  That is just in time for summer and it would definitely help purchase all of those books that you want to read this summer.


Make sure you enter the giveaway by entering in the rafflecopter below.  Good luck friends!  Fingers crossed!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway






Chapter 2 was all about common concerns most teachers would have about a student-led classroom.  I must admit that while I skimmed the chapter to read each reason, several concerns were ones I would give.
Here are the concerns that I could relate to:
  • Too much at stake - I teach in a high stakes grade level with state testing and actually in 8th grade in Texas, if they can't pass the reading test they are "supposed" to be held back.  This puts a lot of weight on my shoulders to make sure I am doing everything to help my students be most successful.  Student-led classrooms could actually help with the high stakes testing.  It helps allow the students to think deeper and problem solve without really any extra work on my part.  It is something that i will have to wrap my mind around, but I know it will benefit my students, especially those struggling because they will have even more peer support.
  • Too much work for me - As teachers, we feel like we have our hands full all of the time... between accommodations, paper work, meetings, & phone calls to be made.  Why would we want to add more to our plate.  With student-led classrooms, you give them the information they need and then step back so that they can practice the skills.  It is actually less work for me as a teacher.  I'll have time to walk around and talk to kids to monitor their learning and build rapport, which is a win-win for everyone.
  •  Not enough time to fit in curriculum - I have struggled this year trying to fit in everything my 8th graders were accountable for.  How on earth could I give them more freedom and fit everything in?  I could actually maximize my time with a student-led classroom.   I would be able to do more quick checks for understanding and application of skills.  A key point I loved with this was also give lessons ONLY the time they need.  Sometimes I spend longer on certain skills because they are my favorites.  I can definitely cut back on that.  Make sure I have covered everything and then revisit those that I love.
There were several more concerns that were dispelled in this chapter.  I really thought they were excuse killers as to why this wouldn't work in a certain classroom.
There were also 3 benefit to a student-led classroom discussed:
  • Increased retention - Students retain the most when they have to simulate, drama or lead.  With a student-led classroom, these are done on almost a daily basis.  They also learn the best by stating the questions and working towards finding the answer. You really need to make sure that they are able to transfer skills to real life, so that it will be useful to them.
  • More time for feedback - As a teacher you are able to walk around and provide guidance and spot the strugglers before they hit their frustration level.  Students will also be able to learn from their peers, which for most doesn't seems as threatening.
  • Teacher evaluation - All students are graded based on what administrators see when they walk through the classroom.  They are looking for student-led activities and learning to be happening.  This model will help out the teacher along with the students in the long run.
Head over and check out what my other bloggy friends are saying while you wait with anticipation for next week.




I am a little late, but finally have time to join in with my friend Farley for the June currently!
 
 
Head over and link up!
 




I know many of us are just getting out of school (myself included), but I am joining some of my Secondary friends to help you look ahead to next year with tips we find to be helpful. 


My biggest tip would be to start off organized, whether it be going through your closets and purging things you don't use anymore to premaking binders where you use student information.
Here are a few things I will be working on in the next few weeks to help me be organized when the year kicks off:

  • As I am putting everything away for the summer I am not only making sure that each thing will be easy to find when August rolls around, but I am also going through each shelf piece by piece.  I inherited my classroom from a seasoned teacher last year that moved to the high school.  She left EVERYTHING in her closets to try and help me out this year, needless to say we have very different teaching styles.  I left the majority of it in the closets because I was overwhelmed with my move to 8th.  I am now going through everything to see what n I can use and what needs to be chunked.  Just coming back and being able to find everything when you need it will help with back to school stress.
  • I know it may seem old school, but I keep all of my lesson plans with a copy of any materials needed in page protectors in a binder.  I love having everything at my fingertips! Does that mean that my lesson plans don't change from year to year? Why of course they do, but I add in the new plans and materials each year.  With being so overwhelmed this year I got about a 1/3 of the year in binders.  I plan to make my binder covers (They are split by 6 weeks.) and have the dividers in them and ready to go.  I am going to use these editable binder covers that I have in my store.
Totally Beachin {Editable} Binder Covers
Head on over to another blog in the link-up to check out their tips while I start my organizing!





I am so excited to be participating in the book study this summer with The Primary Gal over Learn like a Pirate.  This is a must read book.  I am having to pace myself because once I start reading, I don't want to stop.

 
The first chapter is short and sweet, but had me hooked.  It went through and talked about what a student-led classroom looks like. 
 
Here are some key points I picked up on:
  • The classroom looks/appears as though everyone has equal power, for the teacher's word is final. (That is just understood.)
  • The teachers says or teaches what is needed and then gets out of the way.
  • Provide opportunities to practice skills so that they become habit.
  • Always give feedback.  Supportive feedback for negative choices and encouraging feedback for positive choices.
  • It will only be effective if students feel safe, appreciated, & connected to their teacher.
  •  Informal conversations help to build rapport with students and can begin before having them in your classroom.
While I was reading this chapter, I think I gave a whole hearted "Amen" several times a page.  There have been years where my classroom has resembled a student-led classroom and those were the BEST years in my teaching career. 
 
Things I can do next year to help build a student-led classroom:
  • Give up a bit of control to make it a reality in my room next year, which seems to be a hard thing for me with my type A personality, but will be beneficial for my students. 
  • Remind myself to give feedback no matter what.  It seems to be easier for me to give supportive feedback than encouraging feedback.  Don't let the "good" kids slip through the cracks.
  • Continue to be my outgoing self in the hallways and talk to ALL kids, no matter whether I have them in class or not.
I can't wait to continue to read Learn like a Pirate and share my thoughts with you.  While you wait for next week, head over and check out what others said about the first chapter.
 
 





I am linking up with 2 fabulous ladies to share my home office space.  Mine is not all that fancy right now, but I hope to fix it up and make it even more welcoming this summer. 

Here is my actual office:



 It is definitely plain Jane.  A few musts are my laptop, printer, laminator, desk calendar, and cute pens.

But let's really be honest..
THIS is where I do my best work.  I love sitting in my bed with the tv on and papers spread out.  I know its probably not the most "professional", but it works for me.

I am hoping that if I pretty up my office and make it more welcoming {and add a tv} that I will be more motivated to work in their. 

Any ideas on how to spruce up my office space to make it more welcoming?

Head over and check out what other blogger's office spaces look like! 



Why I Started Blogging

I am back again with week # 2 to join up with Ms. Monica to tell about why I started blogging.  I had to look aback at some previously horribly written posts to remind myself.

During my 2011 Christmas break I stumble upon teacher blogs.  I have no idea what I was looking for, but I was hooked.  I am ashamed to say that I spent the rest of my Christmas vacation reading blogs and being amazed at the amazing teachers behind them.  I just thought it was brilliant to not only put out all of their classroom ideas out for others to see and use, but that they were creating memories that would be remembered.

On January 8th, 2012, I wrote my first post. I introduced myself and this was when I was still a new-to-me 5th grade teacher.   I decided to try and blog every week or two.  I wanted to keep a record for myself of what I had done in my classroom.  It was even better than my written out lesson plans.  I was documenting what worked and didn't, pictures, and feedback from my peers. 

Blogging has genuinely been for me.  I hope to pick it back up over the summer and continue it into the next school year, so that I have not only the lessons laid out or me, but also the memories that make with my classes.

Why did you start blogging?



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