Monday, November 10, 2014

There's a (Really Good) Giveaway Going On...

One of my favorite things about blogging is the chance to meet wonderful people like Laura from Love to Teach. She is incredibly sweet and always leaves the nicest feedback on other people's blogs!

She's having an amazing giveaway, featuring some great products AND TWO $75 gift cards! Even the button is adorable! Click on the image below and go enter. I would love it if someone visiting my blog could win a prize!

I've spent most of my weekend working on report cards. Yuck! Report cards give me an anxiety attack. It doesn't seem to matter how much evidence I have, I can talk myself into or out of almost any grade for any student. It's that whole "body of evidence" thing. We're not supposed to use "percents," but, instead, consider all of the evidence together. Things seems more "cut and dried" for math, but for reading...    All of the intricacies of reading summarized into one font-of-six number. (and I keep forgetting if 1 is "high" or 1 is "low" because we have changed systems so often!) Almost impossible, if you ask me! (Of course, they didn't, so I am stuck with their system!)

So, forget about my report card worries and go enter Laura's giveaway. Something good will definitely come out of that effort!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Currently... It's November!

There are many (MANY) things I love about Farley's Currently. But one of the things I love most is the fact that so often it is a Currently post that brings me back to blogging. Doesn't seem to matter how long I have been away, Farley's Currently is like an invitation to come back home.

So here I am. I feel like I should I have some sort of confession statement: "I'm Kim and I'm a blogging slacker." That is, however, more than obvious... considering my last post is dated August! It seems to happen that way with me every year. Each August, I get excited about posting the adventures of a new school year. And each November, I look back and wonder: "Why didn't blogging happen this time?"

Enough looking back. Let's move forward. It's November! The month of football and turkey dinners (and lunches!) and report cards and parent conferences... and days away from school! I panic each year when I realize there are no holidays (without school) in October. So November always seems like an extra blessing!

I am spending this weekend checking in homework, grading papers and planning some quick assessments. We have a new report card this year and it's not ready yet. We saw a prototype, but we can't enter grades yet. I always procrastinate when it comes to report cards, so I have NO room to complain. In all honesty, the program will likely be ready before I am! But I am guessing there ARE people at my school whose grades are actually ready...

Conferences are around the corner. Initially, we thought there would be interpreters to attend our conferences to explain the new grading system to the parents. So, I submitted my request: I needed interpreters in Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese. Alas, there isn't any money for interpreters after all, so we will need to get creative. Thankfully, our secretary sets up a schedule for a few conference sessions in Spanish. And our principal jumps in too. I guess we will need to operate on the bring-a-friend system for the other languages. Sometimes the students present their part of the conference in their home language. It is always so impressive to watch!

All of this talk about report cards and conferences is making me want cheesecake. It's my "feel-better" food. I went to the Cheesecake Factory with a group of friends a couple of weekends ago... Oh the deliciousness! This was my pick for the day... Kahlua Cocoa Coffee Cheesecake!

Let's stop thinking about cheesecake... Unless they will deliver?

Have you read Number Talks by Sherry Parrish? It's a wonderful book and I am learning so much about number strings and math conversations. I can't wait to teach kids who have learned math in this way starting in kindergarten. It is so fun to listen to kids think! (Click the picture to check out the book on Amazon.

I hope that this November finds you well and happy. I am looking forward to seeing what is Currently going on in everyone else's lives. In the meantime, why not hop by to Farley's and make a friend or two at this month's link-up. I'll see you there!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Bright Idea: Picture Book Organization

Oh, I just love to read about all of the Bright Ideas in this monthly BlogLand linky. I have collected so many tips and strategies and materials over the past few months... Haven't you? I am particularly excited about the August edition because I know I will have a list of Back-to-School ideas to consider!

My Bright Idea this month has to do with my picture book collection. I have a LOT of books--as in lots and lots and lots! I keep my picture books in "tall" boxes like these. I got the boxes at the Container Store, and almost any picture book will fit inside.

But here's what usually happens: I am running late for school (Why, Oh WHY do my stories always have to start like this?!) and I need a picture book for a lesson. I rip the top off of the first box, thumb through, no luck. Try the second box, thumb through, consider crying, still no luck. Try the third box, sigh with great exasperation and give up (or, less frequently, squeal with delight when I find what I need).

Based on this "system," I never knew which books I owned, and I was constantly buying a second copy of a book when my Amazon account said clearly, "You purchased this book...."  More than once, I said to the screen (withhold commentary, please): "Well if you're so sure I purchased this book, Where is it?!"

This madness came to an end this summer. I knew that this was the only time I would have for a picture book overhaul, so I took advantage of a few July days.

I numbered the boxes from one to six. (Coincidentally, I found that filling the boxes made them pretty heavy. I figured I got a "gym work out" every time I moved the boxes from one room to another. Well, maybe not a whole work out...)

For each box, I made an alphabetical index--and color-coded it to match the numbered label on top of the box. If I don't have my computer, I can quickly scan the indexes on the sides of the boxes to find what I need. More importantly, because I typed the list in Power Point, if I have my computer close by, I can just do a "search" for the book title and Voila! (Please say this with French accent since I can't find the accent key!) I quickly know which box to look in!

I also listed a possible focus for each of the books: nature, kindness, courage, etc. While it is not completely comprehensive (and there are a few typos and other errors), I have a system that works! I can search the document for a topic and see if I tagged any other books for use with that same topic. Compiling the Picture Book Index took a bit of time, but I did the work while watching movies, so it was fairly painless.

For many books, I took the system one step further....

When I read a blog post or track a pin to a resource about a book, I print it and put it in the back of the book. In this way, I have someone else's notes to help guide me through lesson planning.

Here's an example: Recently, I found a pin from Teaching with a Mountain View and a blogpost from Life in 4B about a book called Sierra that could be used to teach personification. I printed both and placed them inside my book.

So, how do I keep it all organized? I use sheet protectors cut in half! The "combo" looks like this...

I use The Important Book to teach a variety if different strategies every year, so I have (gulp!) three copies of the book (and now you know why!)

I know that my sweet blogfriend,Stephanie, from Teaching in Room 6 uses this book too. I found her blog post about the book, printed it, and placed in a "pocket" at the back of the book.  Now I can see Stephanie's notes when I take out the book to use it in my classroom.

And if you know me at all, you know that the pocket is not affixed crocked--even though it looks that way. When I propped it open (with a book of crayons!) to take the picture, the photo came out wonky-looking. Just had to set the record straight (heeheehee).

One of my absolute favorite sources for picture book commentaries is Barbara Gruener from The Corner on Character. I always love her ideas and she presents them in such a wonderful way! Here's my copy of Stellaluna...

And here are Barbara's notes, tucked neatly into the "pocket" at the back of the book. I use a few small pieces of double stick tape to hold the pockets, and my notes stay right where I can find them.

It is so... refreshing... to have everything together in one place. I am forever spending my time trying to find "missing pieces" when I am trying to plan. Having the books and notes together will save me a lot of time. And having a Picture Book Index will ensure that I can find the right book in the right box without exasperation or tears.

Just look at all of the Bright Ideas listed in the Link Up below! The authors have listed a grade range--and most have listed a topic to guide your browsing. I just know you're not going to want to miss any of them!

If you enjoyed this bright idea, I'd love it if you linked up with me on Bloglovin, Facebook, or Pinterest.