Friday, June 30, 2017

My 5 Favorite Books of All Time!

I remember the day I got hired in my first teaching position.  It was a Friday afternoon and I was standing in my mother's kitchen.  The phone rang.  I ran to get it because I had just had an interview the day before for a first grade position at a local elementary school.  I prayed this would be the call.....being a teacher was all I had ever wanted to do.  As a little girl, I was always the one who wanted to "play school".  I would round up the neighborhood kids and I would be the teacher.  My neighbor Judy always told me that I was the one who taught her daughter Deann to read.  She was about 5 and I was probably about 8 or 9 years old.  I was a teacher my whole life.  So when I got that call from Ruby Hawkins ~ my soon to be principal ~ I was over the moon!

The day before I had gone on an interview.....I sat across Mrs. Hawkins desk and one of the questions she asked me was "Tell me some books you have read recently".  Hmmm.....ok that was easy.  I had just finished a book that would shape my career forever.  The book was "Marva Collins Way".  If you haven't read it, please put it on the top of your book list for your summer reads.  I wanted to be Marva Collins ~ her strength, her ability to connect with students, her way with troubled children. Marva Collins started her year with this statement "The first thing we are going to do here, children, is an awful lot of believing in ourselves".

I patterned myself after Ms. Collins.  I knew I wanted to connect with my students and find the good in all of them.  I wanted to take those troubled kids and show them that I loved them and believed in them.  Marva Collins taught me how to do that.

One of the next books I read, as a young teacher, was "A Room With A Different View".  I LOVED this book!  In her book, Jill Ostrow, takes her kids on a year long adventure where they transformed their room into an island.  The students, a multi-aged classroom of 6-9 year olds, literally built the island (and everything needed) and transformed the room.  No more desks and chairs.  This room had nooks and crannies and bridges and huts, all built with the strategies of cooperative learning and problem solving.  Jill Ostrow was the "flexible seating queen" and way ahead of her time, published in 1995. Flexible seating is not a new thing...Jill Ostrow was doing it 22 years ago.  Jill Ostrow taught me how to integrate my curriculum and reach the needs of all my students using differentiated instruction.  

Then, along came Debbie Miller.  Oh, how I loved her.  I wanted to step inside her quaint and charming classroom with the checkered tablecloth, twinkle lights and soft lamps around the room.  I read with understanding when she wrote about sitting quietly after school, with a cup of tea, reading over her students work for the day.  My quiet time is also after the students go home.  I rarely walk out the door on time.  I like to putter around my room, getting things ready for the next day, looking over my students work and thinking about where I need to go with each of the kids.  Looking over their reading levels ~ How can I get Ryan to understand those blends?  How can I help Emily with her comprehension?  Picking books that are just right for them.  

In her book, Debbie Miller teaches the importance of building relationships with our students. She teaches how important is is to really get to know your students, understand what makes them happy and sad and then building a relationship around that.  That is how you truly reach your students. Debbie Miller is the master at differentiation and teaching kids how to reading with meaning. She teaches us how important comprehension is in reading and how to truly teach your children to do just that. 

Next, I discovered Debbie Diller (not a typo....yep Debbie Diller....with a D).  I had always been an advocate of learning centers in my classroom.  I remember having centers in my very first classroom back in 1982.  It was VERY new back then and teachers thought I was a little bit crazy....and they were intrigued.  "Your students don't sit at desks in rows?", "Your kids move around the room and go to centers?"  What's that all about??? Those were some of the questions asked of me as a new teacher. It seems funny now....everybody uses centers in their classrooms today.

So when I found Debbie Diller's book "Literacy Word Stations", I loved it.  She was me!  She loved centers too and in her books she taught how to incorporated centers in your room, what materials to put at centers, and how to manage centers.  If you are new to the idea of centers, these books are for YOU!  She will teach you EVERYTHING you need to know.

 Finally, one of my more recent finds in the book world was Jan Richardson's "The Next Step In Guided Reading".  I learned about guided reading about 15 years ago.  I took a series of classes from a friend who had been trained at the Ohio State Literacy Collaborative,  which was started by the gurus of guided reading, Fontas and Pinnell.

I wasn't new to guided reading when I discovered Jan Richardson, and yet I still loved this book.  Jan Richardson delves into guided reading strategies in her book and teaches you how to have an effective guided reading lesson. She provides detailed lessons and lots of resources you can use in your own guided reading groups.  If you are struggling with guided reading or just want a refresher, this is a great book for every elementary reading teacher.

What's on my book list for this summer?  Well, I've been looking into Jennifer Serravallo's "Reading Strategies Book".  It looks like a winner to me and I've seen a lot of buzz about it on social media, so I'm going to give it a shot.  I'll let you know what I think of it when I finish.  

I know we all need time to recharge over the summer and get away from the classroom.  We need to connect with our families and friends, spend time at the beach or whatever makes you happy.  But we also need to recharge ourselves as teachers too.  We need to stay abreast of the newest teaching strategies.  Our kids are evolving and so, we must do the same.  Why not take a minute to pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade, find a cozy spot and read one of these inspiring books?  You won't regret it.  I promise.  

That's all from me for today.  I'm off to start getting ready for my annual July 4th picnic.  Lots of friends and family will be here for the celebration.  I hope you have a great holiday and I'll see you soon.....because you know, there's always something fun happening in

Sunday, June 25, 2017

5 Reasons Why You Should Use Interactive Notebooks In Your Classroom

Hey girl hey!
Have you been thinking about trying interactive notebooks in your class.....but you aren't really sure what they are or what all the hype's about?  I hear you!  About a year ago, I started seeing a lot on social media about interactive notebooks and wondered if this was something I should try.  Well you know me.....I'm always willing to try something new if it's going to benefit my firsties! So of course, I gave them a try and LOVED them! And you know what?? My firsties loved them too!  So here's a few reasons you might jut want to give them a shot too:

1. Interactive Notebooks are FUN!

You know me....I'm all about capturing my firsties attention and keeping the fun in learning.  And that is exactly what I found when I started using interactive notebooks.  They remind me of pop up books with lift the flaps and little hidden pictures behind doors.  And what kid doesn't love a pop up book?? Am I right? Interactive notebooks have lift the flaps and windows and doors....but with lots of great educational content behind them.  They keep your kids engaged and learning at the same time.  Suddenly learning your sight word or spelling words becomes fun! WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!!

2. Interactive Notebooks are HANDS ON LEARNING!

Now we all know that kids learn best when they are manipulating things with their hands and really diving into a lesson, right? Well interactive notebooks are perfect for hands on learning.  Your kids will be cutting, folding, lifting, moving objects, using spinners and building words.  When kids are totally immersed in a lesson in this way, they link that skill in their mind to this fun activity and it helps them remember! BINGO!

3. Interactive Notebooks keep kids ORGANIZED.

How often do you do a work sheet with your students and then find it shoved into the bottom of their backpack, laying under a table somewhere, or smashed in the back of their seatsack? You know those kids.....we all have them!  With interactive notebooks, your students stay organized.  They always know where their work is and can use the notebooks as a REFERENCE TOOL.  Do they need to know how to spell a word?  Look in your interactive notebook.  Can't remember what a verb is? Look in your interactive notebook. Last year my kids would ASK if they could use their interactive notebook to help them with a page they were doing.......what???????  You want to use a reference tool to help you with your work??!!  

4. Interactive Notebooks can be used in A VARIETY OF WAYS.

Interactive notebooks are great for so many things!  I love to use them for independent work during guided reading.  My firsties do four things during our 60 minute guided reading block: Centers, Meet with Me, Read to Self and Independent Work. I found that the pages in our interactive notebook were perfect for that 15 minutes of independent work.  They were aligned to the standard we were working on that week, the kids were engaged and stayed on task and it took them just about exactly 15 minutes to do the page.  PERFECT! But Interactive Notebooks can be used for lots of other things too.  
       ~ Morning Seat Work
       ~ Homework
       ~ Independent Work
       ~ Small Group Lessons

5. Students aren't the only ones who LOVE INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOKS.

You and your students won't be the only ones who will love these notebooks. Parents really enjoy looking through these fun books and seeing all the hard work their kiddos have done over the year.  They are great to send home for practice or to study before a test.  And your administration will love them too.  What a great tool to take to your evaluation meeting to show all of the skills you have been working on with your students all year!  It's an easy way for you to show the standards all in one place.  And they are perfect for differentiation and RTI.'s the really GREAT news.  I just completed a labor of love for you! My YEAR LONG "Spelling Interactive Notebook" BUNDLE is finally ready for you!  It is jam packed with goodies to keep your kids active and engaged all year.  This bundle has six units...that's a total of 30 weekly lessons. (over 600 PAGES!)  Each lesson contains an interactive page for Monday -Thursday.  This spelling bundle is aligned to the Journeys Reading Series, but can be used on its own too.  The words in the program begin with simple short vowel CVC words and progress with harder skills including long vowels, silent e, vowel teams, blends, digraphs and compound words. 

Want to take a closer look?  Here's a link to my "Spelling Interactive Notebook Year Long Bundle"

And of course, I know it's really nice to be able to try something out first, so I made a little FREEBIE for you here.

Hope you enjoy this little freebie. and I'm off to hunt for treasures at a local flea market.  You know this girl LOVES a great bargain!  Have great Sunday and check back soon because you know there's always something fun happening in 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ten Things You Should Know About Flexible Seating

 Hey Friends!

I have been seeing a lot of questions on social media asking how to implement FLEXIBLE SEATING! Have you been wondering whether to jump on the bandwagon and give it a try in your classroom?  Well I'm here to tell you that I tried it last year and I liked it!  But I did learn a few things along the here are 10 things you should know about Flexible Seating. 


1. What is flexible seating?

Flexible seating is an alternative approach to seating in the traditional classroom.  It basically means that your students have different options when it comes to seating.  No more conventional rows of desks or even tables.  Flexible seating gives students the opportunity to station themselves in a place where they work the best.  Maybe that's sitting with a group of people....maybe it's sitting alone.  Maybe it's sitting at a traditional desk....maybe it's sitting on the floor or a wobble stool.  That's the thing about flexible seating - sometimes referred to as alternative seating - it's ever changing.

2. Is it expensive?  

Not at all!  You don't have to go out and spend a ton of money buying all new seating and tables for your classroom!  I implemented flexible seating for the first time this year and I spent very little money to do it. can buy wobble stools and make crate chairs and buy yoga balls if you want to, but you would be surprised how many things you already have in your classroom and home that you can use for flexible seating.  I made the decision this year that I wanted to try this, but I didn't feel like breaking the bank to do it.  So I did what every other teacher does....I started looking through my stash.  (You know you have one too.....we are teachers.....we never throw anything away!) I discovered two little red stools, an old red table that could seat two, I dragged  a couple of desks out of the storage room and hit up garage sales.  My friend Michelle ❤️gave me an adorable purple table...I cut down the legs and voila, I had a perfect table for floor seating. In total, I probably spent about $40 (2 yoga balls from Five Below, 4 cushions, a chair and tiny table from a garage sale).

3. How do I introduce Flexible Seating?

I decided that my firsties needed a "home base" on the first day of school.  I wanted to explain how flexible seating worked and not have chaos from day one! I made name tags and laid them around on different tables in the classroom for the first day.  That was the only day my kids had assigned seats the rest of the year.  After everyone had arrived, we met at the carpet and I set my expectations for flexible seating right away.  I explained to them that they would be able to choose a different seat each day and that every one would get a chance to sit at the cool yoga balls, stools and tiny tables.  I explained to them that if they didn't get the seat they wanted, it was ok because they would have another chance.  

 Normally, I make all my anchor charts WITH my students....but this time I decided that I would make the rules for flexible seating.  I wanted them to know that, although they had choices every day, I was ultimately the one in control.  They knew that if they made poor choices~ Ms. Schwab had the right to move anyone at any time for any reason.

We also had a pocket chart with all the flexible seating options in the chart.  In the morning, each student would place their name next to the seating option that they chose for the day.  At the end of the day we met together at the carpet to discuss where each child sat.  I asked questions like "Did you like your seat today?  Why?  Why not?  Did you feel like it was a good place for you to learn?  Did it help you pay better attention or not?" Each day the kids would choose a new place to sit, until they had tried out all the seats.  After that, we stopped meeting and discussing it.  They just simply came in and chose a seat for the day.  

4. Did the students fight over where to sit?

Nope....they really didn't.  I told them that they must choose a new seat every day until they had tried out all the different options.  They could not go back to the yoga balls day after day. (You KNOW they were going to try to do that!) Some days they would sit with several friends, some days they would sit with one friend and some days they would be sitting alone. As the year progressed, kids sat with different people every day.  They made friends with EVERYONE  in the classroom.  Sitting with different kids each day really kept the "cliques" from forming and for the most part, everyone got along very well.  

5. Some kids sat alone? Didn't they feel punished or isolated?

I wanted to offer lots of different options when I decided to go with flexible seating.  I wanted my firsties to have the option to sit in a group, with a friend or alone.  I wondered how kids would feel about sitting alone.  Would they feel sad or isolated?  In the past, usually only kids who had misbehaved had to sit alone, so would they feel punished sitting by themselves?  On the contrary!  I soon found out that many children preferred to sit by themselves! My students trickle into the classroom, in the morning, for about 30 minutes. They don't all walk in at the same time.  I was surprised to see students actually choosing to sit at one of the tables by themselves when they walked in.  Not all students.....but many.  They just picked different spots every day.  Often the yoga balls or cool stools would be available....and yet students would choose a desk or table alone.  I guess we all need our space now and then, right?

6. What kind of seating did you have?

My idea of flexible seating wasn't only "wobble stools, yoga balls, crate seats, carpet squares, etc".  In my mind, I wanted the kids to have OPTIONS of where they would sit. I wanted them to all have some kind of base everyday that had a table of some sort.  I really didn't want them sprawled out all over the floor......I knew my control issues wouldn't be happy with that (although there were many times that they did do projects on the floor).  I got rid of three tables (4 seaters) from my room and a bunch of chairs.  In replace of that I had several single desks with normal chairs, two tables of four with both chairs and stools, a low table for sitting on the floor, a couple of tables for two with yoga balls and regular chairs, a small table for one on it's own carpet for sitting on the floor.  So, everyone had a spot every day with a table.  BUT...they also had the option of moving to the carpet and using a clip board, sitting in lots of other spots (bean bags, mini couch and comfy chairs) for independent reading and other work. 

7. Where did they keep their "stuff"?

This was a dilemma for me at first.  I was used to my firsties having seat sacks on the back of their chairs to hold all their books, etc.  I also used to have totes on the top of the tables with their scissors, glue, crayons, etc.  None of that was going to work with flexible seating.  So I changed it up! (I had to learn to be flexible too!) I used a small shelf to hold all of their books, notebooks, interactive notebooks, etc. I had the kids use plastic supply boxes to store their personal supplies like crayons, pencils, scissors, etc.  Every night we stacked the supply boxes on my guided reading table and they would pick them up when they came in the next morning and take it to their new seat for the day.  It worked great for us! You can sort of see the shelf behind these two firsties....books stacked neatly.  

8. What did the parents think?

I honestly never had one parent complain or say much of anything.  We have "Meet The Teacher" night before school begins and so everyone had a chance to see the room and I explained to them how flexible seating would work in our classroom.  I also put a letter to the parents explaining every thing to them in the children's back to school folder. Everyone seemed to think it was pretty cool....and that was the end of it.  If you don't have some kind of meet and greet before school, I would suggest sending home a letter to parents explaining what you will be doing, the rules, etc.  Here is a copy of the letter that I gave to the parents:

9. What did your administration think...what about the other teachers?  

They all thought I was CRAZY!!  LOL.....  Well, sort of. I was the only teacher in my building who had implemented flexible seating, so it was new to everyone.  I had a lot of teachers coming to my room at the beginning of the year to check out the set up and seriously thought I had lost my mind.  BUT....they were also intrigued.  They basically said "You be the guinea pig and let us know how it works out...then maybe I'll try it."  As the year progressed, I had nothing but good things to say about it and some others added some wobble stools and yoga balls to their classrooms.  I'm not sure if anyone will go "full force" flexible seating besides me next year.....can't wait till September to find out!

10. I'm still not sure....convince me!

Believe me when I tell you, this was not an easy decision for me!  First of all, taking those tables out of my room and putting them in storage gave me heart palpitations!  I put big signs on them that said "Property of Room 12 ~ DO  NOT  TAKE!" If your school is anything like mine....once it leaves your room, you KNOW somebody is going to snatch it up.  I thought "Oh my gosh...what if I hate this and my tables are gone???" But I took a leap of faith and went for it.  And I'm so glad it did.  

My kiddos that needed to move around (you know the ones that you are always telling to sit down and stop wiggling???) picked the perfect spot for them.  A place where they could move and not be a distraction to the class.  My quiet students who liked to have some alone time were able to find that in our classroom this year.  My firsties made LOTS of friends....not just the few who sat beside them at the same table every day.  We learned how to wait our turn and be cooperative with each other.  We learned that it was ok if we had to wait another day for the yoga ball chairs....because another friend was waiting for them at a table for two.  We learned how to be responsible for our own materials. How to put things away on the correct shelf so we could find it the next day.  In all, it was a great experience.  I'm excited to hit up the garage sales again this summer to see what other great seating options I may find!  So why not give it a chance? What do you have to lose....other than maybe a table or two??

So are you ready to get started with flexible seating yourself?  Here's the perfect start up set to help you out!  This huge FLEXIBLE SEATING BUNDLE includes a Choice Board (pictured above)  to help your students pick their seat for the day, a Parent Letter to explain the exciting news about flexible seating to families, a Rules Chart, and a Student Log to keep track of their choices at the beginning of the year.  You can take a better look at this set here. 


Monday, June 5, 2017

Journeys Reading Series ~ How To Fit I t All Into Every Day

The Journeys Reading Series ~ lately, I've been noticing a lot of people on social media talking about it.  They either love it, hate it or are kind of overwhelmed by it.  And I can honestly say "Been there....felt like that!"  All three.  Love it, hate it, sometimes overwhelmed by it.

So I thought today I'd tell you a little about how I use the series in my room and how it works for me. One of the biggest questions people seem to have when they start out with the Journeys series is "How am I ever going to fit all this in every day???" 

Oh man, do I understand that feeling!  When I opened my manual for the first time and looked it over I was like "Who picked this out??????".  🙄

But I soon came to realize what a really great program it was.  I love the way Journeys introduces the letters in kindergarten...there is a reason behind what seems to be insanity.  It really does a great job of letter introduction so that you can move quickly into simple CVC word.  In first grade, it is very similar.  Each skill builds on the one introduced before and it cycles back all you never have to feel like your kids have to "master" something right away.  They have all year.  

But there is A LOT of information every day - Spelling Strategies, New Sight Words, English, Grammar and Writing - EVERY DAY.  How do you do it all?  Well....I knew I wanted to touch on all the skills every day but it took up so much time.  I decided to make a program that I could use on my interactive board - one slide each day that had all the daily skills we needed to work on ~ the JOURNEYS FIRST GRADE WORD STUDY MEGA BUNDLE 

Each day there is a new slide with the skills we are learning that week.  We work on the spelling strategy for the week, our new sight words, whatever the grammar skill is for the week and we play a different game each day, relating to the sight words or spelling words.  We spend about 15-20 minutes a day on this whole group lesson.  The kids enjoy it and we pack a lot into this powerful lesson.

If you're like me, and you felt overwhelmed by all the components of the Journeys series....the JOURNEYS FIRST GRADE WORD STUDY MEGA BUNDLE  just may be your answer! But don't make your decision on it yet...... I've made a sample of this Journeys First Grade Word Study and I'd love to send it to you as a FREEBIE.  Take a look at it and see if it's something you might be interested in using in your room.  My first grade team and I all use this every morning and it has truly changed our life!  We are finally able to teach all the necessary Journeys skills, while still having time for everything else - Math, Guided Reading, Science, Social Studies, etc.  

If you'd like to try it out for free, just click on this link.  Let me know what you think!  I sincerely hope it helps you as much as it helped me!  

That's all for me tonight. I hope to hear from you soon for that FREEBIE....have a great week and be sure to come on by again because you know...there's always something fun happening in....