Thursday, March 29, 2012

What Mrs Sykes Can't Do...

OK.  We did our first day of county-mandated standardized testing today with my 2nd graders.  My poor little 7 and barely 8 year olds who did not know they were taking this test until Monday, when we tracked back in after our 3 week vacation.  (It was just told to us in the past month that we were doing this test!)  Who had very little experience bubbling test items on a Scantron sheet with a number 2 pencil, being sure to erase any stray marks and not redraw a circle if they accidentally erase a circle because the redrawn circle may be scored as your answer.  We practiced bubbling for 3 days.

Ick.  Double ick.  Super double-dog ick.  Years ago, I used to teach 3rd grade.  I loved teaching 3rd grade.  The curriculum was interesting, the kids had a wonderful sense of humor, and I worked with fabulous teachers. The issue was the testing.  I gave 8 standardized tests during a year, testing everything from their writing skills to  their likelihood for entering the Gifted program.  It stressed me out.  It's not developmentally appropriate to expect them to sit and stay focused for spans over 2 hours, and then use the scores to decide if they should be promoted, gifted, goat farmers, whatever...  I'll let you use your inferring skills to decipher why I don't teach 3rd grade anymore.

But I digress...  The point of this post is how I have tried this week to take the fear away from the testing.  First of all, we renamed the test "Our Time to Shine!"  We made up a little jazz-hands movement to go with it every time we said it.  It made them laugh {almost} every time.  We talked about how a test is just a way to show what a great job you are doing.  Then I had to explain that Ms. B. and I couldn't read any of the test to them.  You know me... I needed an anchor chart!  Here it is:
Well, we made it.  One child cried, and some of my struggling readers finished 40 reading questions (with passages) in 25 minutes, but we held it together as a group.  I stopped another child on number 45, reminding her that there were only 40 questions.  It took us a while to figure out all the places she misaligned. If you are in a state/district that routinely tests 2nd graders and below, my hat's off to you!!  I could barely take the stress of it today, and I have 2 more days next week...  {Breathe}  In. Out. In. Out. {wine} In. Out. {wine} That's better... ;)  How do you handle testing in your class? 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring In to Fluency

Hoo-ray!  I was in 2 meetings this morning to help some of my struggling students, and we decided they needed more fluency practice.  I whipped up this packet, called "Spring In to Fluency!"  It has 3 pages of voices for practice with expression, and over 90 Fly Fluency Phrases, all with adorable Spring clip art. Click below to check it out!  :)

Since I like to spread the love, I'd like to send this packet to the first 3 people who follow my blog, my TPT store, and leave their email addy.  Thanks!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

NC Bloggers Meet Up! - A Recap

Wow!  What a fun time I had at our first NC Bloggers Meet Up.  I met some a-maz-ing people, and we had a great time!  Randi from Teach it With Class organized it, and she is just all sorts of awesome.  We talked for more than 2 hours about blogs, our schools, blogs, our districts, blogs, our students, blogs, well... you get the idea.  :)

One of the best things about blogging is that the blogging community is so friendly.  Teacher bloggers ARE teachers, so they are probably helpful and positive (unless you tell us we can vent for a sec with the door closed!!  just sayin'), and the vibe from the blogger group was supportive.  We had a super time at the Mexican  Restaurant; a few of us even enjoyed a beverage, good food, good company, fun.

Before I left, my hubby asked me if I was really about to go meet some people I had only chatted with online for dinner.  I realized that sounded pretty bad, but I assured him they weren't all strangers - my buddy Casey from 2nd Grade Maniac was going to be there, too!  I was worried the storms would keep people away, but we had a nice turnout.  Seriously, the middle of NC was under a Tornado Watch for hours while we ate; at one point, the storm was shaking the windows!  It sent a few of us to our phones for the weather updates.  :)

Here's the picture, from Randi.  {She remembered we needed a picture, I forgot, so I'm using hers!!}
Visit their blogs and leave a bit of love for the NC bloggers!  :)

If you're a NC Blogger, Randi was talking about another meet-up this summer.  I'll keep you posted!  :)  Enjoy!  ~Jen

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Beginning Teacher Story - Fire and Broken Bones

I was thinking about some of my first year stories last night at the NC Bloggers Meet-Up, and I just had to share... In January, 1998, I started mid year in a small school in rural Eastern NC teaching a 2nd/3rd grade combo.  We had 99% free/reduced lunch, and the school had been taken over by the state... I did my best, and I loved each of the students as amazing, unique, and creative individuals.

My first year was filled with challenges; I had a runner (Where did he go?  He ran away from school?  Really?), a biter, several kids whose parents I saw selling stuff on the street corner by school daily, state representatives evaluating my teaching, an inexperienced principal, and a group of students who had home situations that made us cry most days.  I still love those kids!!  <3

One day I walked into my room from a meeting and my students were complaining that someone must have burned popcorn.  I thought nothing of it until I saw the flames.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Y'all - it's a good thing we practice those fire drills, 'cause I started to panic.  Luckily, habit took over, I yelled "Fire!  Line up!"  My class walked jogged out in our line, and I alerted other classes, since the fire alarm hadn't started ringing.  Everyone was safe.  The firetruck came, everything was ok.  It was an electrical fire in one of the ancient florescent lights - it didn't spread.  No damage done, except the lights didn't work.  Whew!

We couldn't go back in our classroom because of the smoky smell, and I needed a moment to calm back down, so we had an extra recess time.  About 10 minutes into this, I hear "Watch this!"  I turn, and in slow motion I see Marshall jump from the top of the slide... time slowed... it felt like it took forever for me to start running... when he landed, everyone heard it and turned.  His arm was *very* broken.  OK.  Whuck?  I'm brand new.  They didn't tell me about this in my teacher preparation courses!!    We didn't have walkie-talkies, outside intercoms, or any of those things.  I stayed with Marshall while my assistant ran to the office for help.  The secretary ran out with a ruler and a pillow, which we used as a splint for his arm to get him into the office.  Grandma wouldn't be able to pay ambulance fees, so we waited for Grandma to race over and pick him up to carry him to the doctor.  By this point, I was crying and hysterical (What have I gotten myself into?), and the secretary gave me a Dr. Pepper and made me relax for a few minutes.  Whew!!! 

Have you had any cr-a-zy days teaching?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Common Core Standards Shortcut & Dropbox

After 3 ag-ra-va-ting days without internet service at home, I'm back online!  Yay!  :)  I really missed y'all.

Here's a super cool Common Core shortcut...  right over here ------------->>

Click it.  Isn't it cool?  Want to get your own?  Check it out here.

Also, have you checked out Dropbox?  I live in fear of losing my precious files, so I back up everything important on my laptop, desktop, and flash drive.  An easy solution is to use Dropbox.  You get 2 G of storage for free, but if you click this link,  you'll get another 250 MB for free.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Fabulous Resource for National Board Certification


I'm proud to say that I am a National Board Certified Teacher.  It's the time of year when many people are frantically finishing up "The Box," where they send their hard work, videos, and artifacts off to be scored as they strive for National Board Certification.  If you are in the midst of this process, just know that I understand how crazy difficult this process is for you!  I still have my pictures from when I packed my Box in March 2010.  Here's a glimpse for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about...

If you are considering pursuing National Board Certification, you need to do a lot of research and soul-searching beforehand.  For me, this involved a lot of serious conversations with my husband and my parents about how to provide support for our family while I worked on NBs.  Since we have 2 kids (ages 2 & 6 at the time), this was no small task; my amazing husband loaded the kids in the car practically every Saturday for a few hours at the park, the library, grandparents' house, etc., and I would work on NBs. Throughout the work week, I reserved an early morning before the bell each week to work on NBs.

Luckily, there are some *Fantastic* resources out there to help us as we undertake this process.  I went to absolutely every National Board support meeting offered by my school system, formed study groups with other EMC-Literacy candidates, and scoured the web for tips.  The best, best, best, best resource I found was the compilation of advice/tips/resources from Angela Watson at the Cornerstone for TeachersClick here to visit her NBC free resources page.

I hope this is useful to you!!  ~Jen

Monday, March 12, 2012

Comprehension Freebie... Just Because I Like Y'all

Just because it's Monday... a freebie for you!!  :)  

I created and used these Reading Speeds posters often with my reading remediation groups in grades 2-5.  It was astonishing to me to see how many students did not know that there was more than one way to read, and how you read depends on your purpose.  For example, you scan a menu when you want to see if they have your favorite enchiladas, but you read a new novel by your favorite author very differently.  (Download all 5 posters using the links below.)
If you give them a try, I'd love your feedback!  :)  Click here to download from TPT, click here to download from Teachers Notebook.  Don't forget - I'm hosting a giveaway with my teaching buds Casey (2nd grade Math Maniac) and Cassina (Field of Poppies).  Click on the button to go to the giveaway page!!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

It's a Giveaway!!

Omigosh!  My little blog has hit a milestone...  100 followers!   This calls for a *Giveaway!*  I've joined forces with 2 of my 2nd grade level teammates: Casey from 2nd Grade Math Maniac and Cassina from Field of Poppies to offer some super-cool prizes.  

One lucky follower will win...

Casey's oh-so-cute "Spring Hundreds Board Mystery Puzzles" to help your green beans with place value! 
From Field of Poppies, Cassina's Contractions Mini Unit, including the games "I Have..., Who Has...?" and "Scoot!" games to work on those tricky contractions!

4 items from my Teachers Pay Teachers store or Teacher's Notebook store!  Might I suggest...
a collection of 5 Prefix and Suffix games, 
and 5 weeks Mystery Word printables.
(Of course, the beauty with this giveaway is you get your pick!!) 

You have 3 chances to win!!  Be sure to enter before Wednesday, March 14 at 7:00 PM (EST), when we will select a winner using and verify their entry.

Entry #1: Follow all 3 blogs and all 4 TPT/TN stores.  Leave a comment below with your email address.

Hello Mrs Sykes blog                     Jennifer's TPT Store               Jennifer's TN Store
2nd Grade Math Maniac blog       Casey's TPT Store
Field of Poppies blog                      Cassina's TPT Store

Entry #2: Blog about our giveaway.  Feel free to grab the button.  Leave a comment below with a link to our post and your email address.

Entry #3: Show some love!  Leave a comment at 2nd Grade Math Maniac and Field of Poppies, then come back and leave a comment below with your email address.

That's it!  Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!  Jen

Friday, March 9, 2012

Best Practices 4 Teaching Literacy - freebie site!

I stumbled upon a fantabulous freebie site for teachers, just for Literacy!  You know how happy that made me, right?!?  Guess what?  They said I can be a contributor.  Me.  Little.  Ole.  Me.  {Insert Happy Dance}

That's not all, they also have sites devoted to math, science, classroom management, and social studies.  Click on the button above to visit the site, and choose your subject on the menu.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Currently, a Freebie, and a Sale!

Link up with Farley for the monthly Currently!  Here's mine~
Here's the Freebie...  it's a K-5 progression of ELA Common Core State Standards.  Click the picture for the Google Docs pdf.  Enjoy!!

And... the sale!  Tomorrow is my work day, so for Monday, March 5, I'm having a sale at my Teacher's Notebook store.  20% off everything!  One day only; come on down!!  :)  Jen

Guided Reading Guide and a Freebie

     When I went back into the classroom to teach 2nd grade in 2010, I found that I *really* missed one special part of my prior life as a Literacy Specialist/Literacy Coach.  I missed working closely with teachers, holding workshops, and meeting regularly to discuss the best practices they are using in their classroom so I can see how best to support their professional growth.  Stemming from that desire to assist other teachers, I created this blog to share resources.
      I created this Guided Reading Guide based on the needs of my teacher friends.  We were always chatting at the grocery store or while waiting to pick up our kiddos from Scouts, and we always ended up chatting about . It's become a quick refresher for anyone who is beginning guided reading for the first time.

I hope you like it, and give me some feedback.

"I am very happy using this product as a first time teacher of guided reading. This is a well focused document and fun to use!"
"This really helped me in getting myself ready to start Guided Reading. Thanks for such a helpful resource."
"Everything i need in one place!"

Here is a Freebie from the Guided Reading Guide...  It's a cheat sheet for before/during/after reading.  Click here to download on TPT.   I'd love it if you left feedback on Teachers Pay Teachers! Thanks!!

Need more?  Here's a blog post all about Working with Small Groups.  :)  Happy Teaching, y'all!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reading Madness, a Vist from the Cat in the Hat, and a Giveaway! :)

Whew!  Just got in from a l-o-o-o-n-n-g day at school.  I had a fun day corralling my sweeties, who are super-duper excited about tracking out tomorrow.  (FYI - we're in a year round school, so our breaks are at different times than the traditional calendar schools!)  Anywhoo, we did have a productive and fun day.  The highlight for us was the "Moonlight Reading" event this evening, which involved students and their families coming after school to listen to favorite books read aloud by the teachers, milk and cookies in the cafe, and extended hours for the book fair, all while in our comfy pajamas.  I was one of the readers, and we had a blast!!
 Yes, I'm rocking the "Cow Jumped Over the Moon" PJs!  :)  Don't judge!  We had such fun, reading amazing picture books aloud to the families.  We were visited by a special guest...
Yep, the Cat in the Hat was there!  The kids thought that was pretty cool.

For the Giveaway:  be sure to hop on over to my dear co-worker Casey's 2nd Grade Math Maniac blog to enter her "It's My Lucky Day Giveaway!"  The prize is 5 items from her TPT store.  Trust me.  She has a-maz-ing stuff that your kids will adore. 

I'm off to rest for the hoopla of tomorrow: track-out day, Read Across America, track-out day, Dr. Seuss fun all day, track-out day, Camp Read A Lot, track-out day...  ;)  TGI(almost)F!
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