Sunday, January 26, 2014

Option Number 3: Cry in a pile of coats.

This week, I made a few students cry. Pretty typical for fourth grade. They tend to be quite sensitive at this age, but also bounce back quickly. So, a few kiddos crying in one week doesn't have a tremendous impact on me anymore. Five minutes later they're giving me hand drawn pictures and telling me about their favorite video game.

So, one of my little girlies was out sick one day this week. The next day, she returned. About 15 minutes into the school day, she asks to go to the nurse to get her temperature checked. (Sidenote: her guardian sent in a note saying that she was FINE.)

"No, you can go to the nurse in one hour, if you are still feeling sick. Work on your math center folder."

I walk away. I look back to see this lady with a tissue against her ear, coughing into the air rudely and loudly, and a whole table of girls just staring at her. Their math work open and untouched in front of them. Obviously this sick show is way more interesting.

"Fine. If you're going to put on a show, go to the nurse. But you better hope you have a temperature for causing this scene in our classroom. Your choice. Stay in class and do your work quietly, or go to the nurse and go home."

I walk away. I turn just in time to see her sitting in a pile of coats, sobbing. (Yes, fourth graders struggle to hang coats and SOMETIMES there is a pile of coats on our floor.)

Planned ignoring. Planned ignoring. Planned ignoring.

Five minutes later, she is working on her math center folder at the back table.

...I knew she wasn't sick.

What does this mean?

Commissioner King Daily News Article

One of my teacher friends sent this article to me today. Kinda interesting. NYSUT want King out? Withdrawing its support of the Common Core? Hmmmm.

It's a quickie. Enjoy!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Quick Write Responses - Formative Assessment at its EASIEST!

So, I've been looking for more formative assessment to use with my read aloud novels. I saw another teacher on pinterest used something called "Quick Writes," so I developed my own. I typed up some sentence starters to use in response to readings. I shrank them down and laminated them to keep on desks. When we finish a chapter, I have the students use Post Its to write a one sentence response to the text, using a sentence starter from our Quick Writes.

The coolest part is that I don't need them to write their names. I give each child a number on the first day of school and EVERYTHING gets labeled with that number. So, on the back of one of the bookshelves in the classroom, I have all of their numbers written. Kiddos finish their Quick Write and stick their Post It on the bookshelf, covering their number. I can easily see who has finished, and who might need to reread the chapter. I use these during math as well. I'll give the kids a quick question, like an exit ticket for those familiar with the CCLS modules, and it is awesome formative assessment.


Here are the Quick Writes I use in my fourth grade classroom.

Quick Write Response:

I predict…

I infer…

I wonder…

I question…

The characters…

I would change…

I noticed…

I visualized…

I like/dislike…

The author…

The author’s purpose is…

A meaningful connection…

The setting…

I didn’t understand when…

As I’ve read, a change I noticed is…

Monday, January 20, 2014

Remind101 is totally sweet. The website explains the specifics on how to use it, but in teacher terms, here it is. I went online and registered (fo free). I printed out this flyer and handed it out to the parents in my class. All they had to do was text a code to this number. I then went on the website, logged in, and could see which parents signed up for text alerts (they could opt for email alerts, too.)

Next, I would write my text via the website, and send it out. It would be a mass text that could not be responded to. Also, I could plan out texts, like write them and schedule them for a future date/time.

Cool, right? Yea, I thought so.

This one time...

This one time, I went to school with my dog and no other teachers were there. Totally empty building. So, I let the dog off the leash so she could run around a bit. We were having a fine time until she wanders into the auditorium. She went into a closet. I figured it didn't matter...she was trapped, right? Only she didn't come out, so I had to go in. I come to find a door inside the closet, which led to some creepy basementy type hallway...and as I walked down the hallway, the ceiling. got. shorter.

No joke. And the whole hallway got darker.

I must have discovered a secret passageway of sort, but all I could think about was getting my dog and getting out of there. I was so scared that my little puppers had found a secret way out of the school and was long gone, I forgot to be frightened of the horror movie hallway I was currently wandering down.

Eventually, I think my frantic calls made their way to my pup's ears and she realized that I was losing it. She came back to me. Filthy. Before I had to resort to crawling through the, well, crawl space.

Moral of the story? Dog stay on a leash while at school. No exceptions. Except in my classroom with the door closed. Okay, one exception.

Into school I go...

Yes, it is a day off. A lovely, wonderful three day weekend. But I'm going into school. Crazy, right?

We have a big problem in our elementary school. Two copiers. GAJILLIONS of teachers who always need to use them and, without fail, one is ALWAYS busted. Seriously. Sometimes BOTH!!!!

So, I have tried my best to avoid using the copiers during the school day, unless it is an emergency. I will come in early or pop in over a long weekend and do my bulk copying, and then happily avoid the copiers for a few weeks. (Oh, and "pop in" is not right. I live 45 minutes away from my school, so it is actually quite the trip. No popping involved. But worth it to not run into a student when I am walking my dog in my pink polka dotted pajamas on the weekend, right?)

And here we are. A day off, grade 4 math module 5 out, and me dragging my sweet little dog to school to keep me company while I sequester myself away in the copy room for a few hours. Well, the adorable dog gets a Kong filled with frozen peanut butter, which she loves, so don't feel too bad for her! Plus, my classroom has tons of dog beds that I use as pillows for the kiddos to get comfy while working, my my pupperoni snuggles up.

I hope everyone else enjoys their day off!

Toliver's Secret

I'm really into any cross curricular units I can get my hands on. Since I teach fourth grade, the American Revolution is a biggie in Social Studies. The kiddos are always totally into the lessons and love learning more than the textbook covers. (which, by the way, I tend to avoid. I can create better lessons than that 30 year old textbook!)

Anyway, a few weeks into our American Revolution unit, I begin a new read aloud, Toliver's Secret. It is the story of Ellen Toliver, who goes undercover as a boy on a secret mission to deliver General George Washington a message, which is hidden inside a loaf of bread. It's a short read, but totally captivating and AMAZING. The kiddos get hooked and walk away with a vast amount of knowledge pertaining to the American Revolution.

So, I have a sweet student packet with chapter questions and culminating activities on my Teachers Pay Teachers page. Check it out.

By the way, here are a few ideas for teaching the American Revolution:

  • I teach an event leading up to the American Revolution each day. You know, the whole Proclamation of 1763, Sugar Act, Stamp Act, etc. After we learn the details of that event, the kiddos write a letter to King George III from the perspective of a colonist. The rule is that they must cite the event and explain it in the letter. The fun part is the whole voice element. We brainstorm "angry" words and the kiddos get really into it. Plus, not a whole lot of fourth graders totally looooove writing, but they definitely like this kind of writing!
  • When we learn about the Boston Tea Party, we create invitations! I actually pre-make them, and have the kiddos fill in the information like a real party invite. We also have a real tea party, kinda tying in Math. We taste some different teas and create a line plot of our favorites.
  • The King's M&Ms is a pretty famous lesson. A lot of fourth grade teachers know about it. I've used it and it is pretty darn memorable. I use sticky name tags and label one King, two Parliament, and the rest Colonist. Everyone gets a cup of M&Ms. I have the King pick silly taxes out of a hat, like, "Pay two M&Ms if you're wearing sneakers." Obviously, the "colonists" get upset because they are paying silly taxes, and the parliament and King are getting their M&Ms! We have a great discussion tying this in with the American Revolution.
  • Another fourth grade teacher I worked with would have a "Tax Day," in which she gave out fake money and taxed kiddos all day long for very silly things, like borrowing a pencil or going to the bathroom.
Any other American Revolution ideas?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Tale Dark and Grimm

A Tale Dark and Grimm, written by Adam Gidwitz, is my latest read aloud. We are in the midst of reading it in my fourth grade class. This year, I have 11 boys and 6 girls. It is challenging to select meaningful read alouds that captivate the entire class. I had never read Grimm's fairy tales before, but this one is based on the Grimm's fairy tales. Adam Gidwitz based the novel on the extended story of Hansel and Gretel. (Disclaimer: It can be a bit gory...I have altered some content while reading aloud so I don't give any teeny tiny fourth graders nightmares...)

Anyway, my kiddos are loving it. Like, really excited about our read aloud time. I should say, my little friends are quite dependent this year. Our writing block used to be comprised of a mini lesson and time to work on writing. I tried that this year, like I have for the past 6 years, and found the majority of my kiddos staring at the ceiling and "thinking" for 20 minutes. NOT PRODUCTIVE. So, I combined the read aloud with the writing. We read a chapter daily, and students respond to short response questions, focusing on STEAL and SPIT sentence starters (Steal your sentence starter from the question and spit it out in your response.) I leave the book out, or sometimes photocopy pages, so kiddos can look back. If they finish early, they have the option of free writing (10 minutes, usually) or working on vocabulary crosswords with challenging words from the read aloud we are currently reading. This is working better for me. I don't feel like I'm chasing my students during free writing, scolding them for just sitting there, staring, aimlessly wondering about how to waste time until lunch.

Back to A Tale DArk and Grimm. Exciting. It also inspired many of my students to read the real Grimm's fairy tales. Click on the link below to see the full student packet with questions on each chapter at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan, written by Katherine Applegate is kind of awesome. I used it as a read aloud chapter book last year and my class was totally captivated. The higher kiddos and the lower kiddos all enjoyed it and found connections.

So, the book is interesting. It is the story of Ivan, a gorilla who lives in a mall. Yep, a mall! He has friends at the mall, elephants, dogs, and people. The story really begins when Ivan decides that he has to save the new baby elephant, Ruby, from having to spend her whole life in a mall, when she deserves much better.

If you just read the book and enjoy it, great. Lots to chat about. I choose to have students work on short response questions after each sections. Gotta work a little writing in there. We also researched the real Ivan, because, yes, this is inspired by a real story. The real Ivan died last year, but we got to look at his artwork (Oh yea, did I mention he was an artist?) and connect with the character.

Our class was also working on character traits at the time. After we finished the text, I had each child select a character and brainstorm TONS of character traits. We then used Have you ever used it? Super cool. You  can pay for a subscription, but it isn't necessary. It is a website that created word clouds in fun pictures and shapes. The kiddos who brainstormed character traits about Ivan made a gorilla shaped cloud, Ruby an elephant shaped cloud, and so on. It was a fun culminating activity for the entire class.

I also created an indepth novel study of The One and Only Ivan, if you're interested. Click on the picture below to link up to my Teachers Pay Teachers page.

I've been waiting for this since October 20.

If you're a fourth grade teacher using the math modules on EngageNY, maybe you were like me, waiting anxiously for them to release module 5. Maybe not, because I am completely OCD and go a little nutty when I don't have my lessons planned for 3 months in advance...

Anyway, grade 4 math module 5 has been released! Hallelujah! So, I might be the only one rejoicing, but it is pretty exciting. I actually finished module 4 before module 5 was released. I had nothing to teach for 3 days! So I dug around in the fifth grade fractions module in order to introduce fractions and it totally worked. I actually really liked the quick way fifth grade reintroduced fractions to kids who should have some background knowledge.

Now, I know module 5 was released just two days ago, but I totally got my parent letters (one for each topic A-H) and Smart Board lessons ready. If you would like to purchase these, click on the button below to check out my Teachers Pay Teacher store for more information.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Don't worry about that out of school suspension...just come on it!

Nearing the end of that fateful year, the worst year of my life, and I could see the finish line: summer vacation. I wanted it. I needed it. And I knew it was attainable because the child who had been the naughtiest had been granted out of school suspension for a day. He would not be allowed to attend the last day of school. It was finally happening. A day that the rest of my kiddos could enjoy. A day that I could enjoy.

I need to put this out there. I loved this kid then, and I still love him. We had many special moments together. I think we truly bonded. And that’s why his behavior escalated throughout the year. He hated vacations because he hated his homelife and his family. I knew what was going on, but I couldn’t stop it. We were trapped on this twisted Merry-Go-Round.

Anyway, last day of school. Totally bittersweet. I was psyched that my naughty little friend would not be in attendance because he would do or say something to someone and the day would be ruined. I also had a bit of sadness because, well, let’s face it, I liked the kid. No matter how terribly he treated me. And it was pretty darn terrible. (Sidenote: He was smart, so his insults were personal and hit way below the belt.)

My kiddos started trickling in on that last day, some looking forlorn and some looking ecstatic. And then he appeared in the doorway, grinning wickedly. GASP.

“Hi, Miss!”

My mouth hung open. I quickly directed him into the hallway.

“What are you doing here? You were suspended.”

“Nobody told my dad, and he put me on the bus this morning.”

And so, he enjoyed his last day of school. To his credit, he was perfectly well-behaved that day. But, seriously.

A parade, a festival, and a runaway.

Memorial Day. Super fun, big parade, flags, the whole nine. This was several years ago, just an awesomely frustrating and unbelievable story.

Of course, I had enough flags for everybody in my class to get one, and for some kids to get two. When I finished handing them out, my special naughty friend only had one. So, naturally, he refused to line up for the parade. Reminder, in case you forgot: These are fourth graders and not first graders.

I called the main office and informed them that he was not moving, and that my very awesome across the hall teacher friend was kind enough to take the rest of my class to the parade since I was stuck with this kid boycotting Memorial Day. (Sidenote: Several other students offered him their flags, but his mind was made up.)

I was told that an administrator was on her way. As soon as my little one heard me on the phone, he left the room. Left. The. Room. I dropped the phone and raced after him, reaching him as he stepped out of the school, into the fields in the backyard. I think it was at this point that he realized he was crossing a line. To his credit, he came back inside on his own. And that was where my administrator found us, engaged in a stare down in the vestibule.

She told me that he was her case at this point and I should go join my class. Okay, cool, at least our class will have a break from him for this one day. We’ll enjoy the parade and it will be worry-free.
I kid you not, five minutes after I rejoined my class, which was waiting on the front lawn for the parade to begin, and HE was brought back to our class. The administrator said he was better. HE WAS BETTER!!! IT’S A MIRACLE! THE REST OF THE YEAR WOULD BE CAKE! No. That is not how it works.

This is when another teacher friend comes in. She is involved in everything. Plus, her class is kind of a handful as well. Anyway, she volunteered to take him off my hands for the parade and let him march with her class. AHHHHHHH! (That's angel's singing, if you couldn't tell.)

La ti da, the parade ends, the day ends, and I write, literally, 7 behavior referrals. One for each behavior. I could have kept going, but I just wanted to see what my administration would do. The kid left the school! This had GOT to be automatic suspension, right? Wrong.

He did not receive a consequence. NOTHING. I got copies of my 7 referrals in my mailbox the next day, but there was nothing written in the consequence section except something about a talk. A TALK! I was livid.

I marched myself into the principal’s office, showing her the forms, and demanded that he lose field day. The whole field day. This behavior cannot go on. He’s seriously learning that there are no consequences and that he can do whatever he wants. Not to mention the fact that the other kids were learning that he got away with everything, so they could too! Finally, after much convincing and evidence showing, I got a consequence. He missed a half of field day. Big whoop.

It reminded me of the time he called my across the hall neighbor a bitch, received ZERO CONSEQUENCES until I fought for him to lose our day before winter break fun day. Guess what happened halfway through the day? The principal brought him into the school movie viewing, gave him some popcorn, and sat next to him. Like it was a reward. For foul language and disrespect. No joke. This is where I worked.

So, apparently we condone violence. Super.

My nemesis strikes again. This was a few years ago. This time, he wanted to go on one of our computers. We’re lucky in that we have four computers in our classroom, but unlucky in the fact that everyone always wants to use them at the same time. Since all of the computers were taken, he made the executive decision that he would FLICK a girl on the back of the neck until she let him have her computer. Yes, I said FLICK.

This girlfriend was not having it. She was smart though. She knew that if she abandoned her computer to tell on this kid, he would promptly steal her seat. So, she asked a friend to come tell me. (Sidenote: I was on my way over anyway…my classroom isn’t that large and chaotic that I missed physical violence occurring.)

So, I tell this young fellow that he is now putting his hand on a peer and endangering the welfare of others and that he needs to go to the main office. I would write a referral for it later, but for now, he could not participate in our classroom lessons. He refused. Duh. I knew he would. So I called the main office and asked them to send someone down to retrieve our little troublemaker.

Around this time, I realize that it is soooo totally Social Studies time and that we need to clean up from Guided Reading. My fabulous fourth graders were trained by yours truly, so this whole process takes about 30 seconds, and we’re back at our desks, ready to be enlightened about the vivacious Vikings! (Kind of an appropriate topic for the day, I suppose.)

I’m just starting out a totally captivating lesson about longships when the assistant principal, who should be known as Edna from The Incredibles because she looks EXACTLY like that little cartoon seemstress, walks in.

“You need to come with me.”

“No. You can’t touch me. I know my rights.”

“You need to come with me. Let’s go.”


“Well…he looks like he’s not really a disturbance anymore. How about he stays in the room?”

My. Jaw. Dropped.

As a first year teacher in this district, I wasn’t about to get into it with an administrator in front of my entire class. But, come on! The kiddo laid his hands on another student, was blatantly disrespectful, and nada? Cool. I had better brace myself for more of this, because it was sooooo coming. Can you believe this?

Thank you, IKEA!

IKEA is like another world. I could just spend an eternity browsing that mega store! And eating their dollar hot dogs. Anyway, it saved my classroom a few years ago!

I bought these vertical bookshelves from IKEA in white, and then….I turned them on their sides. I put two together in an L shape, placed an adorbs seat cushion on them and VOILA! Meeting area.
(Plus a teacher chair, easel, and comfy rug, duh.)

A meeting area is totes necessary in any classroom, from first grade to fourth grade and beyond! We use ours for read alouds, class meetings, and various discussions. When we’re not meeting in the meeting area, kiddos hang out in there and get work done! Awesomesauce.

BTW it is just cutesy and homey and comfy. Kiddos can’t learn if they’re uncomfortable, fidgety, and always on the floor!

You get a referral. You get a referral. EVERYBODY GETS REFERRALS!

Ha! If you get that post title, we can be friends.

My teacher from across the hall and I shared some subjects. I taught a few to both of our classes, and so did she. We could become experts in those subjects, and cut down on our individual planning time. Win win! Anyway, one day, my one boy was acting up. And when this kiddo acts up he throws major shade in all directions. Personal stuff! Like, aims to hurt the people who care the most. AKA me. Needless to say, by the time our classes were ready to switch, I was ready for a break from him.

I tend to teach with my door open, and so does my across the hall neighbor. Fire violation shmire violation…it can be darn hot in our rooms and the cross breeze is refreshing! Anyway, that is how I came to witness the epic meltdown.

Apparently, my little friend had been refusing to do work with the other teacher. Go figure. It was one of those days. So, she asked him to do the work in the hallway since everyone else completed it when they were told and were now watching an educational movie for review. He refused to leave the room…and chose to start yelling in “Chinese” to the class. Yup. “Chinese.” I put it in quotes because he speaks not a lick of the language. It was just a tad racist. Just. A. Tad.

Finally, this kid decides to go into the hallway. BUT he also decides to keep opening and closing the door obnoxiously. As the behavior is addressed by my saintly across the hall neighbor, this kid calls her a bitch. Yup. A bitch. A fourth grader called his teacher THAT. In front of the whole class. I can imagine their little mouth agape.

Several behavior referrals later, from both myself and the teacher across the hall, I discovered that my brand new school does not discipline the kiddos. A good talking to is just fine, apparently. Awesome.

Introducing my most challenging crew...

When I moved to a new school district I was dealt a tought hand. And by that, I mean that my class was a real handful. I was scared. Just 17 kids, but 11 of them were boys. Rough and tumble boys.

This one kid, who was about a foot taller than I am, his first words to me were along the lines of, “In 2 months I can legally change my name because my dad abandoned me and hasn’t tried to contact me.” Sigh. He had “defensive from the get go” written all over his cute little face.

This next student one of those rare kiddos that…well, I’ll be completely honest, I could not find one redeeming quality about this kiddo in the first few weeks of school. He was cruel to be cruel, a low functioning student, and was always causing problems with the other kids. Geez. After a chat with mama, meds were adjusted and he became the Robin to my Batman. Seriously. Kiddo stood up for me when the rest of the male posse was acting up. He worked hard to improve himself and he was totally my choice for MVP that year. By the way, he also won like every event at our grade level field day. Made his teacher mama proud.

And then there was my nemesis that year. This kiddo did not need anyone. He came from a rough upbringing and he didn’t want to get close to anyone. He was like a light switch. One day he was bright and cheerful and hardworking, and then next day the dark shadows across his face warned our class that we were in for a treat. Honestly, 90% of the problems emerged in some way because of this kiddo. But…I still kind of adore him. Kiddos can’t help where they come from, and it’s our job to guide them to a better place. I’m not sure how successful I was at that last part, but I gave it my all.

More stories featuring these little friends to come!

A Minor Setback

While working at my first fourth grade job, I was laid off due to budget cuts and it pretty much sucked. It was upsetting that I was becoming a really great teacher, working hard, gaining acceptance from my colleagues, and suddenly it would be over. I also got a wee bit bitter after being laid off. I started thinking about the other teachers at that school who were both fabulous and not so fabulous, and how I deserved a job over the not so fabulous ones. Like the teacher man who was late to pick his class up from special one day because he decided to take a nap in his truck and overslept. Yup. True. Story.

Anyway, I went on countless job interviews that spring and didn’t get hired until August. It was torture, thinking I might have to do something other than teach. The funny thing is, in August I was offered three different positions. I wound up taking another fourth grade job because…

1. I. Know. Fourth. Grade.

2. I. Love. Fourth. Grade.

3. It was the closest school to my apartment.

And so, another new school adventure began.

Anyway, nowadays, I talk with countless wannabe teachers, people working as substitutes and applying for jobs every day. It makes me realize how lucky I am. I may not be totally in love with my school and job every day...there just might be a few kiddos that make me want to yank my hair out and burst into tears (Okay, yea, I have totally cried on the drive home due to the harsh words and actions of one or two kiddos.)...but I really am lucky to go to work every day and pretty much look forward to the day.

Unless it's a field trip. Those days make my head spin.

Wonder written by RJ Palacio

Okay, so I have to chat about my FAAAAAAAAAAVE newish read aloud. When I say FAAAAAAAAAVE, I mean I love it, kiddos love it, parents email me about how much they love it….EVERYBODY LOVES THIS BOOK! Now that I have effectively talked it up higher than high, time for book introductions.

WONDER by R.J. Palaccio.

Have you heard of it? OMG OMG OMG it is FAB.

Choose Kind Tumblr

So, there is a sweet little book trailer that I used to introduce this book. Kids were captivated. They were excited. This is the story of August, a boy born with a facial deformity, and how he began going to public school in fifth grade.

Book Trailer

Author's Page

Sound good? That’s just the tip of the iceberg! So, the book tells the story from all different perspectives. It changes, and overlaps, and the writing changes, OH MY! Also, there is this English teacher in the book who has precepts, kind of like little lessons/morals explained throughout the book.

So, I can’t give it all away, but I will tell you that we had AMAZING class discussions while reading this book! We also spent time after reading to each create our own personal precept and made a class book. AND we made lapbooks as a culminating activity. Here are the flaps and folds we included in the lapbook:

Perspectives, compare and contrast two characters, character traits, summary, personal precept, analyze quotes from the text, title, author, genre, theme…

Anyway, READ THIS BOOK. I laughed. I cried. I heard from a friend in a neighboring school district that their entire fifth grade is reading it and developing a year-long school-wide theme based on the book!

This. Is. The. Real. Deal.

BY the way, I have a student packet novel study, parent guide, and lapbook instructions available on my Teachers Pay Teachers account. Check it out!

Teachers Pay Teachers

Innnneresting Teacher Gifts Part Dos

Speaking of interesting gifts, I’ve had my fair share over the years. This one year, I opened up a Jesus figurine that was also a jewelry box. True story.

That same year, I received a gift from one of my top students. She was probably the nicest kid ever. Smart, sweet, respectiful, just lovely. One of those kids you want to have in your class every year.

Anyway, this little lady shyly handed me the gift the day before winter break. I opened it slowly, and as I peered into the box, I seriously had absolutely no idea what it was.

I was peering at a square of wood with a circular indent in the middle. There was also a glass tube filled with liquid. My little friend eagerly helped me, pulling out the contents of the box and inserting the glass tube into the wooden base.

“It’s a barometer, Miss!”

It looked phallic.

And I had a sneaking suspicion that her parents knew it when they bought it and had a nice laugh at my expense. Because my face was cherry red.

Ironically, a year later I was moving from one apartment into another. I had put that phallus shaped barometer on my mantel and was packing it up when it exploded all over my hand. True story. My roommate thought it was pretty hilarious, actually.

You wrote WHAT?!?!

Not sure if I’ve told this story yet. Stop me if you’ve heard it. And by stop me, I mean just click on another super awesome post.

Okay, so I was being quite the brilliant teacher when teaching the events leading up to the American Revolution last year. We would learn about an event that totally angered the colonists, and then the kiddos would write a letter to King George III from the perspective of the colonist. Very exciting for fourth graders. I mean, come on, word choice gallore! The kiddos REALLY got into this! I mean, they were livid! (And yes, they used the word “livid” frequently in these letters!)

Anyway, one day I’m reading through the letters and I get to one. It says, and I quote:

“King George, I am so mad I want to pour hot cocoa all over your t***!”


Being the totally awkward person that I am, I gave the writing piece back to this little friend and said that I felt uncomfortable reading it and that he should fix it immediately. And as long as it was fixed we could forget about this. Seriously, do I want to call a parent and say THAT word? Noooooooo!

So he hands it in AGAIN and AGAIN that word is there! The kid had the guts to leave it.

I fumed. I saw red. Here I was giving him a break and he didn’t even want to take it! So, I marched him into the hallway and pulled out my phone.

“Call your mother.”

“What?!?!?! But Miss…”

“Call her and tell her what you wrote.”

So, he did. Sobbing the entire time. He left a message. Yep, I didn’t even have to say the word to a parent! Loophole!

I did, however, have to write THAT word in the referral.

Teaching Through Music


I really have no rhythm. Seriously. Can’t find the beat to save my life.

But I like integrating music into the classroom. The kids become totally engaged. When I play videos from the Flocabulary website, we learn and sing and just have a blast. I paid for the membership so I could print the vocabulary activities and quizzes, but there are tons of free videos on the website as well!

Oh yea, and there are weekly current events raps. Who has time for in-depth analysis of current events? Not I! So, watching a 4 minute video and then chatting about it with my kiddos works out really nicely.

Anyway, totally check this out! It will definitely have a positive impact on your teaching!

Innnnneresting Teacher Gifts

Near the end of my second year teaching, I had formed great relationships with the kiddos and their parents. One parent even volunteered in my classroom during our end of the day free writing time. She would call and let me know if she couldn’t make it on certain days. On this particular day, in June, she called me.

So she called me and let me know that she wouldn’t be able to make it later in the week. Okay. Then she informed me that at that very moment, she was shopping with her son, my student, for my Christmas gift. In this particular school, there was a tradition around winter break and the end of the year that every kiddo brought a present to their teacher, and that the teacher opened gifts in front of the class. Cutesy. I felt very appreciated in this district!

I’m opening gifts, oooohing and ahhhing like crazy. And then we get to this gift.

“I hope you like it, Miss! I picked it out all by myself!”

I tear off the wrapping paper. I open the box. I reveal…

A bedazzled silky shirt.

With zebra stripes.

Teaching Theme

Theme is super duper tricky to teach and it is horn tooting time. My kiddos know theme. They can choose a theme for any book and provide evidence from the text to prove that theme is correct. I’m like a proud mama when I hear those FAB evidence statements pouring out of their mouths and minds!

Anyway, I can’t take credit for teaching theme. I mean, I teach it, but I use these AMAZEBALLS theme posters that I found online. (Sidenote: I am a teacher blog addict. I read a lot. I find a lot of ideas!)

So, this lady, Beth Newingham, created GORGE theme posters, put them up on her website for anyone to download, and I DID! I put them up in my classroom, and as I finish read alouds, my class debates which theme is best. We’ve decided that any theme can be argued…you just need text based evidence, but that there is usually a BEST theme. Once we decide what the BEST theme is, we place a picture of the book cover under the correct theme poster. Visual reminder? Yes, please!
Theme…with a little help from Beth Newingham, teaching it is totally possible!

Beth Newingham

Picture...Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun

One of my most memorable students was in my class during my second year of teaching fourth grade. Her hair was…well, it was a work of art. Totally tight curls that went EVERYWHERE. Huge hair. Teeny tiny skinny kiddo. Huge Hair. Loved her. LOVED. HER.

Okay, do you know that picture book, Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun? Here's the book cover:


I should say, this little friend had autism. She was high functioning, but really struggled with just how literal she could be. Idioms? Those were toughies.

So, here I was, on my first day of the second year of teaching fourth grade. I was totes prepared. Totes ready for ANYTHING. And in she walked. What a quirky cute kid, I thought to myself.

“Alright everybody, let’s get started. Eyes on me, please!”

As soon as I gave the instruction, she was up. Up, out of her seat, running at me. And when she got to me, she pressed her face into my side.

Eyes on me. Ah. This was going to be an interesting year, indeed.

You brought WHAT to school?!?!

I’ve encountered all type of parents; stage five clingers, hover crafts, absentee adults, etc. So, I wasn’t, like, totally, shocked when I discovered that one of the parents of my students was, well, a stripper. This was years ago, but it's the kind of story you just can't forget.

I had this adorably sweet and naive kiddo a few years back. His mentality was half of his actual age, he was always day dreaming lessons away, and he just, well, he just didn’t quite understand the world he lived in. So, anyway, this little friend had a mom who stripped for a living. No biggie because she was also totally involved in the life of her child, helping with homework, showing up for conferences, and showing her love for him where ever possible. Honestly, she was pretty much an ideal parent for any teacher to work with.

Anyway, it was the day before winter break, and, let’s be real, we were having a little shindig. Snacking our faces off, playing holiday games, the whole nine yards. That’s when I noticed this one little boy. He was near the front of the room with a group of kiddos. He was touching something to the backs of their necks, causing the children to erupt into a wave of giggles. I was suspicious, to say the least.

I strode across the classroom and isolated him from his giggly posse.

“What are you playing with?”

And that’s when he placed a small object into my heads. A small object also known as a vibrator.

My mouth dropped.

“Do you know what this is?”

“Um…well, it’s my toy. It has different speeds and it’s a lot of fun. It’s actually my mom’s.”

It was apparent that this child had not a clue as to what he had just placed into my hand. The hand that would need to be furiously scrubbed with brillo pads and bleach later on.

“Okay, sweetie, put this in your pocket and do not take it out again and do not speak of it ever again and do not bring it back to school ever ever ever.”

Some might wonder why I didn’t confiscate that vibrator. Can you imagine the parent phone call?!?!?! Heck no. Heck. No.

Brilliant Teacher Moments - WRITING INSPIRATION

Can we have a brilliant teacher idea share moment? I started my writing time this year with a read aloud, The Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher. I would read a chapter a day to start our writing block. Each chapter gave ideas on how to use a writer’s notebook, so after reading the chapter, kiddos had about 15 minutes to practice the new ideas independently. Since very few new fourth graders have that almighty stamina, this was PLENTY of time to sit and write. Seriously. For was a little much.

Anyway, it took us about a month to read the book, but by the end, I had more experienced writers who figured out what free writing really was. They had pages of writing ideas in their notebooks. They had tons of stories started. They knew how to DISCUSS and SHARE writing ideas. Honestly, they were a little bunch of writers. SCORE!

And you know what? The majority of my lovely kiddos tend to like writing each year. Well, you know, there’s always that one who stares at the ceiling and pretends to be thinking for the entire writing block, holding his book upside down, rolling the story starter cubes eight million times, editing peer's writing instead of doing any of his own writing, etc…any ideas on reaching that special friend? Because you KNOW we all have one!

Red-faced moments...We've all been there.

We all have embarrassing moments as teachers. Some go totally unnoticed by the kids. I have two of those stories. So far.

Red-Faced Teacher Moment #1:
I always use Reader Response Journals as a fourth grade teacher. Totally awesome idea I snatched from a teacher friend during that first year in fourth grade. Each week, I write a letter to each of my students about the books they are reading, and each week my students write back to me. I've talked about these before. Differentiated instruction at its best! So, needless to say, it takes me a while to respond to 18 letters, and I tote them back and forth to school pretty much daily in my super-sized teacher bag.

It should be said that I spent a lot of time at school that first year in fourth grade. A. Lot. So…I kept just about everything I might ever need in my handy dandy teacher bag. Snacks, water bottles, you name it, I’ve got it. I was always prepared to spend a night at school. Thankfully, I never had to, but you know, you never know.

Anyway, the bottom of my teacher bag was like a CVS, RiteAid, and Walgreens in one. Bandaids, emergency first aid kit, tissues, etc. And I would throw the kiddos’ Reader Response Journals right on top, and then hand them out the next morning when they were completed. And that’s what I did on this particular morning.

The kiddos were coming into the classroom, starting their morning work when I noticed one student, looking at his Reader Response Journal with a look of question in his eyes.

“Miss, I have a weird bookmark in my Reader Response Journal.”

I sighed. So what? I have attendance, lunch count, morning work, homework, and a million other things to deal with first thing in the morning.

He held up a package of birth control pills.

My eyes bulged.

“Oh my gosh. I didn’t mean to give those to you. They must have been in the bottom of my bottomless teacher bag and just got stuck. Those are my…it’s my medicine.”

“Wow. There are a lot. Are you sick?”

“No…I meant to say vitamins. Those are my daily vitamins. Vitamins keep people healthy!”

Everybody accepted this answer. Everybody went about their morning work. I started keeping my birth control pills in a zippered side compartment in my trusty teacher bag.

I wonder, though. I’m sure, years from now, this kiddo will see a package of birth control pills. Will he recognize them as being the accidental bookmark that his scatterbrained fourth grade teacher left in his Reader Response Journal?

Red-Faced Teacher Moment #2:
SO, this was during my second year teaching fourth grade. In this particular school I worked in, fourth grade is the year for the big BODY CHANGES TALK. The counselors would talk to the boys and girls separately about what was about to happen to their bodies, self-esteem, and peer pressure. Cool. They need to be informed, and I was more than happy to take a backseat in teaching them about this stuff. Can you imagine? My face would look like a tomato.

Anyway, that all ended. Talks were finished and things were back to normal. The next day, my kiddos started the day milling about the classroom, doing their attendance, lunch count, and morning work. (Sidenote: I love self-sufficient fourth graders!) My Special Ed teacher friend wandered in, ready to support learning in our classroom. She had a few extra special little friends that she spent a lot of time with that year.

As my Special Ed teacher friend walked in, she got a weird look on her face and made a beeline for me. She leaned in close and said….

“I think you need to look under the Guided Reading table. Now.”

I looked over an saw a tissue underneath the table. Okay, now I know I am totally anal retentive, borderline OCD, and 100% type A personality….but I wouldn’t freak out about a tissue. What’s the big deal?

As I went over to pick it up, I realized that I might need a tissue to pick up the tissue. It was actually a tampon. An open tampon. Lovely.

I furtively glanced around my buzzing classroom. Nobody noticed what I was doing. Phew. Okay. Get a tissue. Pick up the open tampon. Throw it away. Problem solved.

I never figured out which one of my kiddos planted said tampon in the classroom…whether it was an accident or planned potential embarrassing moment…but my face remained crimson until lunch, thank you very much.

Is a lesson ever an "EPIC FAIL"?

I love experimenting with lessons and ideas as a teacher. I’ve had some AWESOME ideas, those total “ah ha” moments….and I’ve had some real bummers. One of my favorite books, personally, is The Phantom Tollbooth. Seriously, one of the BEST BOOKS EVER. Like, I could read it over and over and over again, and then get the urge to read it again. So, naturally, I decided to read it to my fourth grade kiddos. Because if Ilove it, they will love it, right?

It was an epic fail.

Well, I shouldn’t say “epic fail,” because the majority of kids found it to be an engaging fantasy tale. Just a handful actually got the wordy gurdy jokes and the various higher level thinking jokes. It kinda broke my heart. I would waste time trying to explain the jokes, but it just wasn’t the magical, life changing read aloud that I envisioned. It certainly didn't change any lives or become the "go-to" book for anyone.

A few years later I decided to try The Phantom Tollbooth again. This time, I had three kiddos who were like, seriously, 3 grade levels above the rest of the class. I switched up my game plan and did a literature circle type activity with just these kiddos and…it almost worked.

For my two young ladies in the group, it was MAGICAL. The connections, the questions, the laughter over word play…I was over the moon. Over. The. Moon.

For my fellow in the group, well, honey never finished it. He just wasn’t into it, and I didn’t force it. Maybe one day, but not today. (BTW, he wasn't really into much. He didn't write one single writing piece that I planned that year - instead he wrote a novel. He didn't read any of the guided reading book I selected - instead he read Lord of the Rings. How can you tell a fourth grader to stop writing a novel? How can you yank Lord of the Rings out of his hands? I couldn't. I didn't.)

Well, you can’t win them all. But, I did find a TON of inspiring and wonderful quotes from this text to include in my newsletters for the rest of the year! SCORE!

Teachers Pay Teachers

So, I recently began presenting workshops at my Teacher Resource Center, which is QUITE intimidating. Especially because I appear to be approximately 12 years old. And here I am telling other teachers, older teachers, how they should maybe possibly be running their classroom. Scary stuff. Anyway, my workshops actually went pretty well. Once the participants got over the initial shock of a 12 year old presenting, they seemed to enjoy my little show.

After a workshop, the woman in charge of our Teacher Resource Center noticed some of my novel studies that I brought to share. She suggested that I sell them on Teachers Pay Teachers and maybe make a little extra money. What teacher doesn't need some extra dough, right? Right-o!

Here is a link to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I figure, I've bought enough on that website, maybe someone would be interested in my goodies?


Tale of the Truck Stealing Turkeys (Bad Turkeys)

My one little memorable boy who was in my first fourth grade class...well, he had an academic history. You see, he wasn’t super duper excited about learning, and writing was his least favorite subject. I took a different approach with this kiddo when it came to writing. I had reserved about fifteen minutes at the end of the school day for creative free writing. I put on soft music and gave only one direction: Make sure you are writing the entire time. This boy in particular was a dawdler for a while…not really joining his peers who spent this time sprawled out around the room, brows furrowed in concentration and pencils furiously dancing across their pages. I didn’t push him…just gently urged him each day to try writing….writing anything that came to his mind. It took a few weeks, but finally he started writing. Boy, did he ever!

By November, this youngin had a book series. Yup. A freaking book series! He would write this adventure stories about super heroes fighting monsters. Each title was an alliteration, introducing the reader to the newest monster. And each book’s main character was based on himself. Naturally, whenever the monsters were about the strike, the main character “qwickly changed into my spysuit.” Every. Book. And you know which book was my favorite? “The Tale of the Truck Stealing Turkeys (Bad Turkeys)”

Of course, he now had fans in the class. A FOLLOWING! His peers even started signing out HIS books to read independently from our class library. I set up a section in the library for his book series! And then came parent-teacher conference time.

This kiddo has a father and a mother who encourage his eccentric and quirky behavior. He also had a fourth grade teacher who supported his wacky behavior. So, I didn’t think we’d have many surprises at this conference.

“We have a problem.”

Yikes. Huh? I rack my brain…my tired brain since this is one of the last conferences of the day….for any issues that came up concerning this boy recently. None. I drew a blank.

“It was past midnight on a school night when I went to check on our son in bed. I discovered him in his bed, with a flashlight under the covers.”

Okay…I don’t know what this has to do with me…

“He was writing!!! We have always fought with him to write, whether it is on his homework assignments or for pleasure, and now he is sneaking writing paper and pencils into his bed! What are you doing to encourage this? We want to know the secret!”

(Internal sigh of relief, external grin.) That’s when I showed off the section of the library dedicated to the popular alliteration series and his ever growing book series. His parents were shocked. Naturally, they asked to take some home as keepsakes, and by the end of the year I had sent the remaining books home as well, although this caring kiddo insisted that I keep at least one. I choose my favorite, and I still have it today.

The Tale of the Truck Stealing Turkeys (Bad Turkeys)

So, you see, when it seems impossible, some kids will write. IF you give them the chance. Nowadays, with all of the push for achieving high scores on state exams, it's difficult to justify giving your class free writing time, especially when they spend it the way this boy did in the beginning of the year, by dawdling. But you should! They will discover what they are passionate about and they will write.

Reader Response Journals

Okay, confession time. I am a teeny tiny bit obsessed with fourth grade, and some of my bestest ideas emerged from this unofficial mentor I worked with my first year teaching fourth grade. She had all of these little tricks and behaviors that come about when you’ve been teaching for a while. One of my favorites is the Reader Response Journal. I truly believe that this is a tool that can be used at any grade level and it bring quality writing to a whole new level.

BTW it is differentiation at its best!

So, anyway, the Reader Response Journal. In the past, I have gone all fancy pants and bought the official Fountas and Pinnell Response Journals, with neato dividers and tabs and printed pages, but there is no need. This year, I bought two subject notebooks. One subject is for mini versions of our classroom anchor charts. GENIUS. I shrink down all of those anchor charts (and then some other great printables) to glue into the first section of the notebook. Totally accessible resource for kiddos. Fostering independence? Yes, please!

The second section is the letter writing section. I start the year by modeling, modeling, modeling…a little more modeling...and eventually they get it! We write letters back and forth. I allow the first paragraph to be totes personal, an awesome way to get to know your kiddos throughout the year. The rest of the letter focuses on independent reading, read alouds, and guided reading texts. Depending on the ability of the child, we might write a two paragraph letter or we might be writing for pages and pages and pages!

My students flourish as writers, and I totally owe it to my Reader Response Journals. This year, I used an “Evidence Statements” bookmark so that the kiddos use those while writing. We talk a lot about sounding smart in our writing by using evidence statements and transitions.

And I'm not writers, my kids blossom. The stamina required for writing a letter is intense. Plus, most of my kids use a highlighter to highlight the questions I ask in my letter and then answer them in their letter. IN ADDITION, during the school year, I start noticing little Post It notes with labels created by the kids. They tend to stick a Post It note on our character traits list in the anchor chart section because they use it all the time. It's cute, seeing my teeny tiny dependent fourth graders (whom I often use the statement, "I have a shadow, I don't need another. Please stop following me around the classroom all the time.") grow into independent kiddos who figure things out on their own!

So, try this! And let me know how it goes for you, in your classroom. I’m curious!

Awesome Lesson...a wee bit misinterpretted

I was struck my inspiration near the end of my first school year teaching fourth grade. I read a story about a teacher who had her students write something positive about each of their classmates. It is a story you WANT to read to your kiddos to start this lesson. (Here's the link:

Anyway, after spending about 20 minutes passing around papers with each student's name on the top and having the kiddos write something kind about that person, each student received a copy of the super nice comments.

We did the activity. Passed around papers. Each one had the name of a kiddo in our class, so when the paper got all the way around the room and back to that person, it was filled with personalized awesomeness. I saw looks of appreciation and happiness and…what was that? Confusion?

“Kiddo, what’s wrong?”

“Miss…somebody wrote something mean on mine!”

“What did they write?”

“They said…they said…they said that I was SKETCHY!!!”

The room got quiet. There were suspicious glances thrown around. Who had done it? Shootskies. I didn’t think any of my sweet kiddos would ruin this well-planned activity.

One little ball of energy stood up. He literally bounced over to his little friend and snatched the paper out of her hands. He studied the paper until he discovered the apparently hateful word. Sketchy.

“I wrote that!”

The entire class kind of held its breath. They were ready for what came next. You see, this little friend who received the “sketchy” comment was not exactly the nicest kid. She was nice, don’t get me wrong, but she had her catty moments and they did not go unrecognized by her peers. Was this little friend about to call her out?

“You’re just so…so…so…great at drawing!”

Collective release of breath. Sketchy. Good at drawing. Artistic. Ah, the joys of fabulous fourth grade and making up words that fit our needs.

And that was the first time I did that lesson. The rest of the comments were FABULOUS and THOUGHTFUL, so I continued to use this lesson every year. And every year I kind of hope that someone keeps their list tucked away as a reminder that they are pretty darn special, and that a class of 18 peers thought so as well.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Introducing my most memorable student ever!

Flashback to 2009:

As my first year as a fabulous fourth grade teacher progressed, I definitely got a handle on this whole teacher thing. Seriously! I’m sure that is hard to believe, considering how my first day went, and how my communication skills with the kiddos probably needed a good shake, but it’s totally true. I got better! I worked at it, for sure…spent a few weekends, nights, and early mornings in my classroom reworking lessons, researching ideas, and setting up activities. It paid off though. A few months into the year, I actually felt comfortable. And that’s when I got a wake up call.

Every year there is a little friend…a little friend in your class that occupies just a bit more time than the others. A little friend in your class that drives you just a bit crazy. A little friend in your class you will probably never forget and will definitely walk away clutching a piece of your heart. This was my first year of fourth grade and I had one little boy who just melted my heart. Even after he cartwheeled down the hallway and literally bounced off the walls on the way to P.E.

So, this little boy was in my class. I should totally preface this with a story within a story. While I was spending nine million hours of my summer vacation setting up a gorgeous classroom, I received a visit from a teacher friend whose classroom was upstairs from mine. She wandered around my classroom, remarking on the nametags I had set up on each chair. Most of the comments were pretty generic. “Nice kid!” “Oh, his mom works in the high school.” “Divorced parents.” And then she stopped her grazing. And then her mouth dropped. And then she turned to me and said, “They gave you HIM?!?! Your first year?!?!”

My bulletin board papering project came to an abrupt halt and I turned to look at this teacher friend who had just delivered seemingly terrible news.

“No, I mean, he’s great…just…a real character. Lots of energy. Kind of…just different. You’ll have an interesting year, for sure!”

And with that, my new teacher friend left me. Left me wondering…what would this year be like?

So, here I am. I’m teaching a totally engaging and awesome lesson about Native Americans. I’m rockin’ it! And then there is a knock at the door. The Special Ed teacher friend. She motions me over and whispers in my ear, “The custodians are currently cleaning smiley faces off the boy’s bathroom walls.”

I pulled back and looked at her quizzically.

“The smiley faces were drawn with POOP!!!”

I stood there with my mouth agape. Okay, so that is pretty nasty. I mean, really not what I wanted to hear when I was on the cusp of filling the minds of my eager kiddos with tales of Hiawatha. But why was she telling me this gasp-worthy news?

“We think it was a boy in your class.”

Shoot. Ew. Grossgrossgrossgrossgross!

Apparently, one little boy had a history. A history of drawing with his own poop. But nobody could prove that MY little friend did this, especially since it hadn’t happened in a very long time. So, we started a twisted ritual that involved checking under his fingernails each time he returned from the restroom. Yup. I said it. Checking. His. Fingernails. You can imagine why. Don’t make me say it.
Weeks pass. He continues to pass the fingernail tests. Phew! And then…another doorway visitor. This time, after school. This time, another fourth grade teacher was with the Special Ed teacher friend.

“We need to check the boy’s bathroom together. The poop writer struck again. This time he signed his work. We need a handwriting check.”

So, the poop writer drew his smileys and signed his name. There are two kiddos in fourth grade with that name. One in my class. We pinched our noses, ventured into the boy’s bathroom, and identified the handwriting. It was my student. Argh. Just another day in the life of a fabulous fourth grade teacher.

Substitute Teacher Plans

So, I had to take a personal day today. UGH! Is that not the WORST? I know what non-teachers say...that we get a day off. But a day off from school is actually much MUCH more work. I spent all week creating sub plans. They were LONG. DETAILED. I prepped my kids yesterday. They KNOW what is going on in school today. While I sat in the doctor's office I was picturing chaos and insanity ensuing in my lovely little classroom. Oh yea, and then there's the dreaded sub note I will find ominously sitting on my desk when I return.

Anyway, I have some strategies to help sick days and personal days run a little smoother. First of all, my class is well-trained always. They know the routine and usually correct each other without a teacher having to do so. Next, I have a nifty sub binder. It is bright pink and sitting on my back counter. It is FILLED with class lists, bus lists, sick day sub plans, classroom routines, referrals, attendance slips, lunch slips, calendars, etc. IN ADDITION, I have a SUB TUB. I've seen this on Pinterest and decided to create my own. Inside my SUB TUB, I have emergency activities, totally read. A few math games, some Scholastic magazines, etc.

Even with all of these precautions in place, a day away from school is still stressful. I've checked my email 4 times already!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fourth Grade Classroom Photos

                                                                 The meeting area
                                                                  theme charts

                                                                     CRAFT Board
                                                                      Daily 5 Charts
                                                                   Genre Graph

First story. Might as well just dive in, right?

I walked into my first fourth grade classroom five years ago. First fourth grade classroom. I had been teaching for a year already, but that was as a Literacy Specialist…a totally awesome job, but just not the same as a classroom teacher. On my very first day as a Literacy Specialist, there were no kiddos staring at me as I fumbled for introductions. No kiddos asking me how old I was (Sidenote: I look about 16. 17 on a good day. Honest.) No kiddos period. Just a pile of Observation Study forms and Fountas and Pinnell benchmark tests to start on. So I did.

Suddenly, a year later, I found myself in my very own classroom, ready to lead a bunch of fabulous fourth graders through a year of learning. All. By. Myself.

KIND OF A WEIRD SIDENOTE(Here I go again): I had packed all of my classroom library in boxes I got from the liquor store because they were sturdy and I got a lot of weird looks from the custodians who helped me lug them up the three flights of stairs to my Rapunzel classroom in the sky tower.

So, anyway, on that first day, I had the most organized, beautiful, colorful, wonderful classroom ever. Seriously, pretty. I spent weeks prior to that first day doing everything I could to create a warm and inviting space. A community of learners would inhabit this space for 9 months, and I would not disappoint those kiddos. I was determined to be prepared. Every book was leveled and labeled, neatly sorted into genre book bins. Every notebook, folder, and book box had a student name and number on it. (Sidenote: numbering students is a GODSEND.) And on that first morning, as I was looking over my minute-by-minute planned out first day lesson plan, my next door neighbor popped in.
She totally became a real life savior for me that first year. AKA an unofficial mentor. (Sidenote: This teacher friend once showed me a picture of herself sitting in her backyard with a chipmunk perched merrily on her toes. HER TOES. She raised chickens. Picked her own grapes and then made grape pie. This. Is. A. Nature. Lady.)

Anyway, this teacher friend walks in, all confident because she has been doing this whole teaching thing for years upon years. She hands me a cutesy card, all like, “good luck!” And, “you’ll have a great first day!” And, “I know you can do this!” So, I thanked her. And then I asked, “So…when they get here…I just…what do I do?” She laughed and offered all the normal reassurance, which made me think I would just be fine and it would all come naturally to me. After all, it’s not like it’s my very first year teaching or anything, right? Right.

Okay, flash forward a few minutes. Kiddos are in the room. Kiddos are sitting in their assigned seats. Kiddos are STARING. STARING AT ME. I make my way to the front of the pretty, pretty, classroom. I hoist myself up onto a rolling cart. I’m sitting there…not really sure what to say. Okay, now get a load of this. THIS is the very first thing that comes out of my mouth.

“Hello. I’m new to fourth grade. You’re new to fourth grade. I don’t really know what I’m doing yet, but you don’t either. So…I guess we’ll learn fourth grade together!”

And that is how my career as a fabulous fourth grade teacher began.

Welcome to Tales and Teacherisms!

Welcome! This is a blog for teachers who love the kids, love the job, love the work…but reeeeeally need to vent every once in a while! Seriously. We’ve all been there.

Let’s begin with introductions. I’ve been teaching for six years, and am currently a fabulous fourth grade teacher. You’ll get a vivid picture of the world I live in. The ups and the downs. It’s a rollercoaster in fourth grade!