Sunday, November 24, 2013


A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues. - Cicero 

To get our students in the spirit of this time of year we decided to have them help us create a
 "Thankful Tree." 
I decided to share a few of the things they and our teachers are grateful for this year.

I hope you enjoy reading through some of their thoughts. And while we're on the subject -
What are some of the things YOU are thankful for?

(Feel free to share in the comments.)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Guest Post - "Who's That Blogger? Linky - Reveal and Winners

On Tuesday I told you I was part of a fun linky hosted by The 3AM Teacher along with several other teacher-bloggers. Today the winners have been revealed. Take a look to see if you are one of them.
Thanks for participating! Have a great school year!


Who's that Blogger Reveal & Winners!!!

I have labeled the childhood photos with the matching blogs for you all to peek at!! Because of the volume of entries, winners will be notified throughout the weekend. I appreciate your patience as we send out emails and prizes.

Click on each image to see the photo

Winner of the $125 Amazon Gift Card!!!
You will receive an email notification and once your email has been confirmed, I will send you the Amazon gift card!!

Thank you so very much for playing!!

- 3AM Teacher

As a Thank You from "Little Red Schoolhouse and Designed by Ms. D.,click on the cover for a Freebie from my  TpT shop. I hope you'll drop by.

The 3AM Teacher also created a fun Freebie for everyone to grab!! 
Click the image to visit her TpT shop and download the new decorated owl FREEBIE!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Guest Post - Who's That Blogger? Linky

This week I am excited to be included in an awesome "Back to School" blog linky hosted by The 3AM Teacher.
Read through the post below and find out how you can win some awesome resources as you get ready to return to school for another great year! :)

Welcome Everyone!!

         Are you ready to have some fun??
                                              ....Play a game?
                                                              .....Win  prizes and cash?

I have teamed up with 65 AMAZING blogger buddies to put together the ultimate Back to School Linky/Giveaway!!!

Each one of my blogger buddies submitted a cute childhood photo & generously donated something special from their online TpT shops for this occasion!! We have included a fun game for you to play for a chance to win over $300.00 in prizes and a BONUS  CASH-PRIZE raffle you can enter at the end of this post!! 


The game is easy to play....

 Your job will be to try and match each blogger with their childhood photo!!! With over 60 childhood photos and bloggers to match up, this might get tricky!! As I mentioned above, each blogger has generously donated one awesome prize from their TpT store. Successfully match a blogger and childhood photo, and you win the prize offered from that blogger!!! The more you matches you make, the more prizes you win!!! 

Check out some of the prizes you could win!!!

but Wait....
That's not all....

ONE lucky follower will win a $125 Amazon Gift Card!! Scroll to the bottom & follow the directions in the Rafflecopter for a chance to win $$$

The link below will open a form that will allow you to submit your answers for the match up. 

Use the blogger links and numbered images to help you along the way!! Each childhood photo has been assigned a specific number. 

Once you open the form, use the drop-down menu beneath each blog button and select a number that corresponds to a childhood photo. 

The form results will be collected throughout the week. At the end of the week, each submission will be "graded" and you will receive a prize for each blogger and photo you successfully matched up!!

The game closes on Friday, August 23rd at midnight (Arizona Mountain Time). Answers will be announced on Saturday, August 24th. Winners will be notified through email throughout the week. 

Use the blog links below the photos to search for clues!!
Click HERE to Play the Matching Game!!


Follow the directions in the Rafflecopter for a chance to win a $125 Amazon gift card!! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you so much for participating!!! Good Luck!!!

If you would like to post about this linky/giveaway, grab the special image below to display in your post and link up below!!! Make sure to use the link to the actual post,,,

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Teaching With the Common Core Standards - Book Club - Chapter 8 - Technology and the Common Core Standards

This chapter was one I identified with a great deal. While I wouldn't say that I am a technology wizard, I'm certainly not a techno-phobe. I feel quite comfortable with using technology and have used it in my classroom in a variety of ways. Other teachers I know use it with even greater alacrity and I am amazed at the things they create and share with their classrooms and others. Many of the resources that are listed in this chapter - and there are a good amount - I have had personal experience using and others I have seen or heard others use.

The chapter's authors, Erica C. Boling and Christina Spiezio, bring out the point in the opening lines the fact that literacy goes beyond just the ability to read and write, it now encompasses the ability use these skills while navigating the technology rich world of the 21st century. One of the concerns voiced is that there is a wide gap between the skills that most students traditionally learn in their schools and the skills and knowledge that they will need in higher education, modern workplaces, and even within their own communities.

While there is not a specific standard for technology within the Common Core Standards it is implied that 21st century students to be college and career ready will be literate in a variety of technologies. References to digital media and technology are scattered liberally throughout the ELA standards. Differentiation is made between learn "from" and learning "with" technology and, while both are important, it is felt that learning "with" technology that has been "reflected and embraced" (pg. 154) by the standards. This is showcased by the "call for students to be able to critically analyze and produce various types of media." (pg. 154) Because students are expected to present what they find and create it integrates the speaking and listening standards within the ELA standards. Furthermore this technology literacy is not relegated solely to the ELA standards, but is expected throughout other content areas.

Several classroom vignettes showing the use of technology within ELA classes as well as other subjects are given. The technology showcased in the vignettes are:
VoiceThread ( - a way of capturing stories digitally
Glogster ( - a place for creating interactive online posters
Wikispaces ( - which, while used for a variety of other reasons, can be used as a safe and password protected place for students to publish writing and share work with others online
Voki ( - another online digital recording program which allows a student to create a cartoon character that resembles them (which will "speak" for the student) then record a podcast - in this case responses to class readings - for others to listen to
Google Earth ( - an online interactive satellite globe which was used to allow students to take "virtual" field trips
Creation of student produced videos - the use of a Flip (small, easy to use) video camera was mentioned as well as using Windows Movie Maker to edit the short science videos

Two pages of resources are shared that deal with help in using these technologies and resources where teachers can find out about more technology to use in the classroom. The authors conclude by reiterating the vital importance of embedding the use of technology throughout all content areas to create digitally literate students who will be prepared to interact and succeed in an increasingly digital and technological world.

As a teacher I have used several of the resources mentioned, though some such as video podcasting and the use of a wiki have been ways of disseminating information to students rather than having students actively participate. However, after reading this chapter I am eager to try even more with my students actively involved.

Questions for this chapter can be found in the comment section. Please use the 'reply' function to respond. I can't wait to hear all of your thoughts! Links to the previous chapters' discussions can be found here:

Be sure to check back next Monday, August 5th, when 2 Brainy Apples hosts a discussion about
Chapter 9 - Assessment

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Teaching With the Common Core Standards - Book Club - Summary - Chapter 5 - Writing Standards

This chapter, authored by Steve Graham, focuses on the Common Core State Standards for Writing. He begins by giving some context to the current state of writing instruction in most schools, concluding that in order to meet the CCSS writing instruction must drastically change for most schools.
The Writing Standards make two broad assumptions:
1) Students will master described skills within the school year. 
2) Students' writing will increase in sophistication and their application of learned skills will increase as they master these skills. 

The standards are centered around four applications of skills in writing:
1) Text Types and Purposes - This includes writing for numerous purposes.
2) Production and Distribution of Writing - This includes creating and sharing text that is well-organized and appropriate to the assigned task by using planning, revising, editing, and collaboration.
3) Research to Build and Present Knowledge - This includes "using writing to recall, organize, analyze, interpret, and build knowledge about a topic..." (p. 88).
4) Range of Writing - This includes differing text task lengths to encourage learning across other disciplines such as science, and social studies, as well as varying audiences.
Graham does note that this are also depended upon the ability of students to record their ideas in a variety of ways including handwriting and electronic means as well as being able to using spelling and grammar correctly, form sentences correctly, and make appropriate word choices to convey meaning.

 The next part of the chapter acknowledges that while there is theoretical and empirical support for having writing standards there are concerns including underestimating the abilities of some groups of students as well as vagueness in explanation of certain of the standards and expectations at each grade level. After expressing his concerns the author then recommends the use of "tested and expert evidence-based practices."

The CCSS in Writing for grades 3 - 5 state that students should be writing for three purposes: to inform, to persuade, and to entertain. They are to "write in a planful, thoughtful, reflective, and collaborative manner." They are also expected to write in support and analyses of other content areas. As the standards are set the basic standard does not vary from grade to grade, however the elements within that basic standard do change between grades. The book then shows in tables these similarities and differences. This applied across all four applications of writing that were listed above.  Additionally, several teaching vignettes are shared to demonstrate some of the practices the author suggests are effective in teaching writing to students in these intermediate grades.

Graham feels that Range of Writing is the that is weakest standard in terms of necessary specificity. It stands that students will do both short and more lengthy writing exercises across content areas but it lacks any real guidelines. He suggests that some of these pieces of writing would include student note taking, question creation, completion of graphic organizers, and summaries, as well as lengthier pieces where students "personalize, apply, and analyze" the things they read. He also states the importance of writing in the subjects of math, social studies, and science. Writing in these areas requires students to make decision about what information is important, what the consequences of actions are, and how to organize and present the information students find. Doing this forces students to deal in greater depth with the materials they are presented and therefore encourages greater comprehension and synthesis of the information.

Links to the previous chapters can be found here:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Teaching With the Common Core Standards - Book Club - Chapter 4 - Reading Standards: Foundational Skills

*Discussion topics/questions will be found in the comment portion of this post. Please feel free to add your thoughts or ask questions of your own.

I chose this chapter for a variety of reasons. My first several years as a teacher were spent teaching in the primary grades where it is expected that students will pick up what are considered "foundational" skills in Reading. The last few years I have spent in intermediate grades, so I have seen both ends of the spectrum. I have seen very young children grasp foundational skills quickly, older students who struggled with these same skills and everything in between. To start however we need to understand which skills are considered "foundational." These skills include: print concepts, phonological awareness, phonics/word recognition skills, and fluency. Often in the upper grades there is the preconceived notion that these skills have already been taught and therefore there is not a necessity to focus on them. Increasingly perception just isn't true. Far more intermediate students are struggling because - for whatever reason - they never mastered these skills. Just like a building collapses without a strong foundation, so too does comprehension collapse without these vital building blocks.

That then begs the question - What now? What can upper grade teachers do to help these struggling students gain the foundation they need to be successful readers, especially with the increased rigor brought about by the CCSS? Before we delve any deeper into that question, perhaps a quick review/summary of what these skills cover would be appropriate. 

Print concepts - Ability to recognize basic features and conventions of text including progression of text, i.e. left-right, top-bottom. Also encompasses recognition of all upper and lowercase letters and the fact that joining letters together in specific ways creates words and that spaces separate words.

Phonological awareness - Ability to recognize sounds (phonemes), syllables, and whole words in spoken language. 

Both of these skills are expected to be mastered by the end of a child's first grade year in school.

Phonics/Word recognition - Ability to apply word analysis skills - including phonics - to transfer words in print into the corresponding spoken words.

Fluency - Ability to accurately, with automaticity and prosody (expression).

So, now that we understand what the foundational skills mean, back to the question - What do we do to help students master them? The authors of this chapter focus mainly on helping students master the word recognition and fluency standards with their instructional suggestions.

Word Recognition

1) Focus on word patterns - a) Teach students common rimes - consistent word patterns also known as word families. b) Teach students Latin and Greek word bases - including prefixes, suffixes, and root words. This helps students focus on morphemic pattern which are pieces of words imbued with their own meaning.

2) Guided word building - Give students the chance to "build" predetermined words guided by the teacher. Two ways of going about this are presented. a) McCandliss, Beck, Sandak, and Perfetti (2003) have students start with a word and change, add, or subtract one letter at a time to create new words. This has also been called a "word ladder." b) Cunningham and Cunningham's Making Words approach has students use a limited number of words gradually increasing in difficulty and in the number of letters used. Finally all the letters are used to make one last word that students are to try to discover without the aid of the teacher.

1) Wide Reading - Reading multiple texts in succession to maximize one's reading ability. This has most often been seen in schools through silent reading either of trade or textbooks, guided by the teacher, or by independent silent reading. For those who criticize independent silent reading as having too little accountability another approach has been developed by Reutzel, Jones, Fawson, and Smith (2008) called "scaffolded" silent reading where the teacher takes a more active role in helping students choose books and adding a measure of accountability for students. 

2) Deep Reading (Repeated reading) - Whereas wide reading has a student read many texts once, deep reading has students repeatedly read a text until it can be read with great accuracy, expression, and automaticity. While repeated reading is helpful in understanding more complex narrative text, it is especially helpful in reading informational text which introduces both concepts and vocabulary together. Suggestions for types of reading that are effectively used for deep reading include poetry, Reader's Theatre, famous speeches, short excerpts of texts with strong "voice." A more intensive version of deep reading called a "fluency development lesson" was developed by Rasinski, Padak, Linek, & Sturtevant (1994). This calls for students to master a 100-200 word passage during a twenty minute period of instruction. This lesson also includes word study, teacher modeling, and discussion.

As the authors wind down the chapter they also mention "four block" instruction pioneered by Cunningham (2006) wherein one "block" of approximately 20-30 minutes is reserved daily for word study. New words are added to a board or "word wall" for students to use as a resource. They also mention Shanahan's (2012)  description of a 20-30 minute fluency block where students work on a text that will be performed at the end of the week. The chapter lists several books that have strong "voice" as examples of works that can be used to develop fluency.

The conclusion of the chapter stresses the authors' hopes that teachers will explore multiple methods of instruction to help students master foundational learning skills, especially word recognition and fluency.

It is vitally important that we find ways to help students fill in the holes where their understanding falters. While it can seem a daunting task, it is possible to help scaffold students' instruction and understanding to help them gain the necessary skills to be good readers.

** Activities suggested by the authors**
1) Choose a word that you will be working with over several days. (Could be content area vocabulary.) Figure out all of the words that can be made using the letters in that word. This website is a resource for finding those words -

2) Find Greek or Latin affixes you'll be learning during the year and choose one or two to brainstorm all the English words you can think of that use those affixes.

3) Find a book you will be reading to the students. Look at the first five pages and list all the interesting, unusual, and irregularly spelled words you can find. Then decide which of those words you could display and discuss or make part of a word study unit.

4) Have students find a challenging text and read it to a partner having the partner keep track of the number of words that were read correctly. Have the student practice reading the text to themself or a partner two or three times. Put the text away for a few days without reading it again. After three or four days have students read again to their partner and have them count the number of correct words. Even without reading the text for several days, the second reading should have more correct words than the original.

Please take a chance now to add your thoughts on this chapter and the ideas it brings forth. I look forward to seeing the insights you all have to offer.

Don't forget that next week's chapter discussion will be hosted by Jennifer Findley of "Teaching To Inspire In Fifth."

For those who may be new to this discussion you can catch up on our previous posts with these links:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


So... in order to give my legions (ha ha) of readers an opportunity to follow me in another format since Google Reader is disappearing, I've set up an account with Bloglovin. If you follow more than one of my blogs you'll probably see this post again since in order to "claim" my blog I need to create a post. Bear with me... :) I figure giving people options is good, right? :)

If you want to follow using Bloglovin click on the link below. :)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

And thanks for reading...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer Learning - Post #1 - Teaching with the Common Core Standards - Chapter 1

Just a reminder that our Summer Book Club has started and our first post by Mr. Hughes of An Educator's Life has been posted. Read through the post and leave us your thoughts. Remember - you can participate in this discussion even if you haven't read the book. Our second post will be up next Monday.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer learning...

I am very excited to have been asked to participate with a group of wonderful and talented educators in a summer book club. The purpose of this collaboration is to help all of us - and you - to become more familiar with the Common Core State Standards in ELA - English Language Arts. In order to have a common point of reference we are reading Teaching With the Common Core Standards (Grades 3-5). (The picture on Amazon that goes with the link shows the K-2 book, but it is the correct link and information for grades 3-5.)

Click HERE for a link to purchase the book.
I'd like to invite you to join with us in our study and discussion of this book. Each chapter will have a different discussion leader, but all are encouraged to comment and respond. A helpful hint is to follow these wonderful educators and their blogs to keep up to date on our progress this summer. In addition, their blogs are a fabulous resource for anything education related. It's a real brain trust! :)

Mr. Hughes of An Educator's Life and Created by Mr. Hughes has graciously been willing to lead the group and has gotten us up and running. You will be directed from his blog post each week to the corresponding blog and chapter discussion.

Here are the awesome discussion leaders/hosts and the chapters they will be taking the lead on. If you click on the buttons below you will be taken to each of the educator's blogs. Feel free to take a look around.

An Educator's Life
Chapter 1

Teaching to Inspire in 5th
Chapter 2

 Right Down the Middle” style=
Chapter 3

Little Red Schoolhouse
Chapter 4

Teaching to Inspire in 5th
Chapter 5

An Educator's Life
Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Little Red Schoolhouse
Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Out of This World Literacy
Chapter 10

Below is the schedule for the dates of the posts. We will be starting one week from today. Hooray!

If you plan on joining us, please leave a comment so we know who you are. We can't wait for this awesome experience to begin!

Remember, even if you don't get the book we'd still love to have you join our discussions. There are so many excellent ideas and conversations we can have as we all learn together.

Let the learning begin... 

- Ms. D.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

To be appreciated...

A good friend, teacher, and fellow blogger has issued his 2nd Annual Teacher Appreciation Challenge, which I decided to take. I encourage you to take it as well. Whether it's a current or former colleague or teacher let someone know how much you appreciate what they do. (Click on the link above and it will give you all the information you need to participate.)

There are several names I could put in this post. Each is deserving of gratitude and if I had the time and the space I most definitely would. However, time and space are both finite and no one wants to read a novel, so I narrowed my choice down to one. This year I decided to highlight a good friend and outstanding educator -  Mr. Z.

I was fortunate to meet this amazing person through another awesomely talented educator, Mr. H. (Who - it could be argued - deserves a post of his own, as well.) As I came to know Mr. Z. I discovered in so many ways how deep his commitment to his students was. He couldn't stand the thought of any one of them not reaching their potential and he did everything in his power to make sure they had opportunities to make that happen.  From home visits before school started and letters to their future selves, to Super Activities and year end celebrations Mr. Z. poured his whole heart and soul into his teaching. During summers, he even taught students who others might have given up on through his work with children in Juvenile Detention. He could not think of any child as worth less than the best he had to offer. He went beyond teaching the basics and brought the wonder of music, sign language, drama, and so much more to every class he taught. His care and compassion didn't stop with his students, but encompassed the teachers, staff, and parents that he worked with as well. He did little things to let people know how much he appreciated all they did to help students.

I will never forget the influence that Mr. Z. had in my life either as a friend or educator. His passion for teaching rejuvenated my own and has made me want to strive to be better in my own sphere of influence.

So... Thank you, Mr. Z.... 

Thanks for encouraging so many of us to reach higher, teach better, and change the world...
One starfish at a time.

Photo by Backroads Photography