It's time to link up again with everyone over at the Teaching With Intention book study! Chapter 4 is hosted by two fab bloggers -Ashley over at Schroeder Shenanigans in Second and Positively Learning.

This week's chapter dove right into the meaty question - How can we put our thinking (and that of our students) on display and make it real and authentic with our kiddos?

Debbie Miller reminds us right at he beginning that this is a process - one that looks different at different times of the year.  But whatever we do, we need to remember to base our decisions in our beliefs to get where we want to be.  I had a whole lot of thoughts on this chapter, so I'm going to use some guiding questions to keep things organized.

Honestly, I try to do this A LOT in my classroom and some of the examples Debbie gave let me know I was on the right track.  I'm always sharing my thinking with students when we write, when I'm doing a purposeful read aloud, when we're learning new things, when we're figuring out a math problem or concept, when I'm decoding a word... lots of times!

The part I need to work on is the actual display part.  I really like this quote: "Why is making thinking public and permanent in our classrooms a great thing for us to do? It lets students know that thinking matters."  I need to be more purposeful in writing down what we say - what my students say, not just what I say - so we can refer to it later. I need to let THEIR words become the model, rather than a preconceived way I want it to sound.  Definitely something to work on!

Lots and lots of discussion and questioning! For the past few years, our school has had the true pleasure of working with a consultant who has helped teachers improve in so many ways. I worked with this gentleman as he gave a presentation to parents on how they could encourage early literacy with their children.  The best piece of advice he gave, one that has stuck with me and I use in my classroom religiously, is to not answer questions for students.  Ask them what THEY think. He was using examples like little ones asking, "Why can't we go outside today?" or "Can we go to Grandmas tomorrow?"  Rather than just answering, ask, "What do you think?" 

I have put this to use in my classroom and found it really encourages students to think for themselves and gives them an opportunity to share their thinking with others. Anything from, "I wonder why bats hibernate?" to "How do you solve this?" becomes a learning experience.  Try it - you'd be amazed when you hear what your students are actually thinking!

I have also fond that by modeling MY thinking, my students easily pick up word and phrases to help them explain what they are thinking.  This leads me to the next question:

Aside from, "What do YOU think?", I also use a lot of "Why?" "Tell me more about that" and "What makes you think that?  I've found that these are great ways to help students realize that their ideas come from somewhere - they don't just appear in their heads!  Sometimes it's hard for students to explain their thinking.  I love all the phrases and thinking stems Debbie shared in this chapter to help students clarify and expand on their thinking.  As Debbie says, we shouldn't let students off the hook by moving on to someone else when they don't know or aren't sure about an answer.  These are the perfect times to share strategies for students to use to figure things out!

Although this chapter let me see that I am doing many things right in the area of getting kids to think, it has also shown me that there are so many MORE things I can do to really make that thinking public and authentic.  And that, after all, is what it's all about!

Be sure to visit Greg over at Kindergarten Smorgasboard (thanks for starting this book study!) and read what he  is thinking! Greg talked about having a "Thinking Wall" to record his students' thoughts.... that made me think of using sticky notes for an ever changing display of student thinking... maybe a "Thought of the Week?"

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Hi there!  I'm blogging today over at iTeachSecond about an easy tip to help you be ready for any little "issue" that might come your way while you're at school.  Do you have a "Teacher Stash?"

Head over to iTeachSecond to read more about what I have in my stash - and believe me, it has all come in handy!

And don't forget - my Makeover Madness giveaway as part of the TpT Seller Challenge ends on Friday! Click on the image below to head to my post to enter!

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Being out of school means that I can start to seriously get into this book study.  This week's chapter was a favorite of mine - classroom environment and layout!

Right at the beginning, Debbie Miller states, "When things are going awry for teachers, things are probably not going so well for kids either!" Ain't that the truth! She suggests looking at your room and thinking about three things: (1) areas you like, (2) things you don't like, and (3) your vision for how you would like your room to look - both from your perspective and a student's perspective.
Your classroom layout needs to reflect things that you value as a teacher - and those things should be easily apparent when someone walks in your room.

One of the biggest things that is important to me is a central meeting area where we all fit comfortably.  My rug area is bordered by a wall and 2 shelving units - which not only gives definition to the space, but also gives students a comfortable place to rest their backs. (This picture is from before the beginning of school last year - just keeping it real!)

This is an area I love!  We spend a great deal of time here during the day, sharing ideas, reading books, discussing math strategies, etc.  We start the day with Morning Meeting and end the day with Closing Circle.  My SmartBoard is right there, as is my whiteboard.  The shelving units hold materials we use often, such as unifix cubes, namecards, markers, post its, etc.

Another part of the classroom Debbie talks about is the library - I love the idea of my WHOLE classroom looking like a library, not just one space.  I have books out everywhere, arranged and organized for different purposes.

This year I switched my student book organization from levels to genres and themes.  I was inspired by a quote from somewhere that talked about students needing to learn to choose their own books - no one goes into the library or on to Amazon and says, "Where are the books in the yellow boxes? Or the level 24 books?" This idea really resonated with me there is definitely evidence of it in my classroom.

The books on the black shelves are sorted by author, theme, series... etc.  I always make sure there are a variety of different "levels" in each box, if possible.  I also have books related to current themes (fall, landforms, etc.) on a wooden display and in colored book bins on the shelves.  Books we've shared together as a class (read alouds, mini lessons, etc.) are usually lined up on the ledge of the whiteboard.

Another belief that is important to me - that you see in my classroom layout - is allowing students choice about where they sit, and in the importance of collaboration.  I have 3 bigger tables that seat 6 each in the middle of my room.  Yes, we have assigned seats, but believe me, we're usually spread around the room. I have smaller tables, a couple desks, camp chairs . . .  choice is important and students feel comfortable working in different places depending on the task.  Collaborative discussions require groups to sit together, while independent work needs more privacy.

These three areas are definite "likes" in my room.  But I also needed to reflect on areas I do not like. My biggest issue is my lack of student work and anchor charts on the walls.  I could say that I do not have a ton of wall space, or that the fire marshal disapproves of covering the walls with student work... but in reality, I have to work with what I am given.  Debbie calls it getting into "acceptance mode."  So true!

So how can I change things? I have a bulletin board near our meeting area that right now holds our calendar, birthday names and a couple posters.  (I can't find a picture of this area itself, but you can sort of see it in the above picture on the right - see the blue fabric board?) I do not use this as my calendar area.  I have about 10 slides we do each morning on the SmartBoard that I use to review and practice calendar, math and LA skills.  I'm thinking about Debbie's quote: "Everything on the walls should be purposeful and authentic." I could move the calendar to another place in the room and use that space for anchor charts.  It's not big, but it's a start. And I really need to find one of those old metal chart stands - that way we can hang the current charts and put the older ones on the chart stand for students to refer to as needed. The white board that spans pretty much the entire back of my room could also be put to better use.

One of the final things I took away from this chapter was the idea that "Classroom environments are organic - they grow as we do."  I love that!  If we want students to feel invested in their learning, then they need to have a say in how things are organized.  I've always found that I never really know what each class needs until we've been together for a few weeks.  One year, collaborative space is a necessity... others year my kiddos crave having a space of their own... It takes time for us to get to know each other and how things will work in the classroom before we make the room ours for the year. And things will change as the year progresses!

This chapter has really gotten me to reflect on how everything in my classroom is set up.  I've realized that some things are where they are just because that's how they've always been! It's time to relook at my classroom layout and make sure each area, each space... is a reflection of my beliefs.  It's exciting!

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Happy Monday! I'm excited to be joining up Kindergarten Smorgasboard and writing about my thoughts on chapter 2 of Teaching With Intention.  Once school gets out this Friday, maybe I'll actually post on time!
This week's chapter is all about walking the walk - how do your practices, the things you do everyday in class with your kiddos, measure up to your beliefs?  Debbie Miller starts by challenging teachers to develop their own set of beliefs - and then look critically at what goes on in the classroom. 
 So... what are my beliefs?  After a lot of thought, I came up with two ideas that are central to my teaching.  There are more, but these seemed most important to me.
1. Building a community of learners is the single-most important path to successful learning.
This belief is the cornerstone of my teaching.  Creating an environment that is respectful, open to discussion and differing viewpoints, where students know each other and care about what goes on, not only in the classroom, but in each others' lives.... this is the kind of learning community I strive to build every year.  We have morning meetings and closing circles (rooted in Responsive Classroom), spend time throughout the year modeling and practicing how to be a good listener, questioner, team player and partner. I pride myself on really getting to know every student in my room on a personal level - and on learning about each other as a class.  I could go on and on about ways we build community (maybe another blog post? :).  But this is definitely a belief I have held for a long time.
2. Start from where you are and grow to where you want to be.
I know this is really broad - and it encompasses other beliefs that probably deserve to be on their own.  As I'm typing this, I am realizing I really need to tease out the different parts of this belief so they each stand alone. Debbie Miller talks about always having a plan, and knowing where you are going.  Where do you want to be by the end of the year?  In January? In the spring?  I think that is important. Keep that plan in mind, but take students from where they are NOW - not where you WANT them to be, or even where they SHOULD be. Every child is on his our her own journey. And the starting point is going to be different for everyone.  Our everyday decisions should be made based on data from our students, taken from formative and summative assessments, anecdotal notes and observations - not just on what the curriculum map, anthology or lesson plan says.  Yes, students should be learning certain things at certain points of the year.  But you can't teach plural and possessive nouns if your students aren't completely solid on what a noun is.  And that is ok. And it's ok if the teacher across the hall is teaching plural nouns and our kiddos aren't ready.  They will be. Just give them time.

"Where is the evidence of these beliefs in the classroom?"
This was the biggest takeaway for me from this chapter.  We all have mandates, programs, pieces of curriculum, units, etc. that we may not agree with - but that we have to do.  How can we teach what we are asked to teach, and still be true to our beliefs? Debbie encourages everyone to take an in-depth look at every little thing that goes on in the classroom.  Does it align with your beliefs? If so, then keep doing it! If not, then you have to make a choice.  Change your beliefs, or change your practices. 
This chapter has really made me take a look at what my beliefs are and how they play out in the classroom.  After 20+ years of teaching, I can say that my practices may have changed, but my beliefs have stood strong. And I need to keep remembering to be true to myself - and my students, in everything I do.
That's all for chapter 2! Make sure you stop over and visit the three lovely ladies hosting chapter 2 and check out other teacher's thoughts.  Lots of link ups!      
 Stay tuned for chapter 3 coming later this week!

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Happy Sunday!  Are you looking for a quick and easy-prep activity for these last few days of school, summer school or even next year? I blogged over at iTeachSecond today and shared a sample activity from my Bundle of Beach Fun.

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"If I were to ask you to close your eyes and envision the perfect classroom scene, what would you see?" This is how the book, Teaching With Intention, by Debbie Miller begins. 

This reminded me of a question that used to always be asked in teacher interviews (maybe it still is?) - "What is your ideal classroom like?" As a new teacher some 20 years ago, I always had the most detailed ideas of how to answer this. Bright light, colorful posters and charts everywhere, students working around tables instead of desks, a carpeted area for us to meet together, a fully stocked classroom library... etc.

Within a few years of beginning my teaching career, I realized the real question should have been, "How will you take a small, dark corner classroom, with mismatched tables and chairs, old furniture and no budget and make it into your ideal room?"  You see, the answer to the "ideal classroom" question has nothing to do with how the classroom looks, and everything to do with how it FEELS and WORKS.  With the explosion of Pinterest, blogs and Teachers Pay Teachers (all tremendous resources!), it's easy to lose sight of the fact that while a classroom can look perfect, it doesn't mean that what happens in that room on a daily basis is ideal.

I am excited to join The Kindergarten Smorgasboard for what I now will be a fantastic book study this summer.  This book has been on my wishlist at Amazon for a while now, and I'm so glad I'm joining with everyone to share my thoughts - and hear everyone else's!

Can you believe over 600 bloggers have signed up to participate??!! I was planning on signing up at the start, but all that school stuff got in my way, so now I'll just link up each week. So now - on to chapter 1, hosted by  Stephany at Primary Possibilities, Jessica at Mrs. Plemons' Kindergarten and Keri at Enchanted Kinder Garden.

As soon as I read the first sentence of this book, I started scribbling my thoughts. Much of what I was thinking was in response to the question posed at the very beginning of chapter 1.

I admit. I have been teaching for a while... what seems like a loooong while, when you put a number to it. But every year I make changes in my classroom to help it get closer to my "ideal" vision. I want my classroom to be a place where students are engaged and focused all the time, where my kiddos take ownership of decisions, where everyone's opinion is valued and discussion is encouraged.  I am a big believer in tables, instead of desks... they encourage conversation and cooperation... and I want that conversation to be student-led.  A central meeting area (I have two!) is important.  Students need a place to come together as a group. 
Organization is also key! I love the saying "A place for everything and everything in its place." The only time things get messy and unkempt are when items do not have a home.  My own house may not be that organized, but you can bet my classroom is! I have found that thinking about classroom organization from a student point of view helps things run smoother. I make sure student materials are stored in easy to reach spots. Since I have tables and not desks, buckets and bins are around the room to hold what we need - and all are labeled for easy clean-up and storage.  This not only helps students put things away, but also allows them to find what they need more easily.

In my ideal classroom, students are engaged and are responsible for their learning.  Cooperative learning, group discussions, student choice and ownership would be key.  Students are working on curriculum with choices. My role as the teacher would be to guide students through their learning journey.  I have definitely gotten there is some ways.  I have some work to do in others.

If you walked into my classroom on any given day, the first thing you would notice is movement - and hum of activity. Students would be working all over the classroom, in areas that they chose as a good spot for this particular activity.  Some would be working in groups, some in partners and some independently.  Students might all be working on the same task, or different ones.  But everyone is usually engaged.  I work hard at the beginning of the year (and throughout the year!) to teach, model and encourage ways to have positive discussions.  Discussion stems are posted around the room and you can hear students using them as they speak.  My room is definitely not quiet - and you may not see me right away.  I am usually working with a group of student, or one single student, somewhere in the room - but I am always aware of what my other students are doing. There is a great deal of student choice in my room - activities, work spots, etc.
Organization is another area I've got covered! While I'm always looking for new ways to organize things, there is no doubt that when you walk into my room you see an organized classroom!

I have to be honest. The idea of giving up control and allowing students make major decisions about their learning is hard for me.  Don't get me wrong - I am proud to say that my style of teaching really encourages all the things I talked about in my ideal classroom, but I still have a ways to go in this area. My students definitely have choice and ownership in the process, but I'm hoping by the end of this book study I can let go a little bit more. I would really like to implement more of a workshop approach in my reading and/or writing.

I also struggle with having TOO much on display.  There are times when the walls and every available space are COVERED with evidence of our learning - anchor charts, posters, student work, etc.  And I worry that it is too much.  I need to find a happy place between visual overload and bare walls.

Needless to say, if chapter 1 already has me thinking so much about how I can improve my classroom, I can't wait to see what chapter 2 has in store! 

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Happy Sunday! My view this morning overlooks the lake and I am happily writing my to-do list of blog posts and TpT resources to work on this summer.  Before I start this post, I want to remind everyone about my little giveaway going on over at iTeachSecond.  Today is the last day to enter so click on the picture to find out more!

Now, on to the purpose of this post - ice cream! Have you ever had one of those times when you just didn't want to do a big activity, but decided to anyway - and it was really worth it? That's what happened on day "I" of our end-of-year ABC countdown. I did not originally plan to make ice cream in the classroom.  First of all, it was about 100 degrees all week that week and while EATING ice cream sounded good, MAKING it just seemed like too much work.  I'm really glad I changed my mind, though... it was super easy and really fun (and maybe a little mess, too!)

I started by asking my kiddos how they thought ice cream was made.  What are the ingredients? What do you do with them?  We then read a great book from Reading A-Z on making ice cream and compared our ideas to the real thing.  We wrote a quick 4-step summary , which would serve as our plan sheet for writing later that afternoon. Gail Gibbons also has a great book about how ice cream is made. We read that one before we started our own ice cream making project.

Making the ice cream was easy! First we laid out the ingredients.

 We had one table set up to put together the big bag with the ice and the salt

 And another table for the smaller bag with the half-and-half, sugar and vanilla.

I had my kiddos work in partners - one person did the big bag, the other did the small bag, then they switched and did it again so everyone had their own ice cream making bags.

Then the fun began! Put the smaller bag inside the bigger bag - make sure it is covered with the ice  and SEALED TIGHTLY. 

Then start shaking!

It took about 5 minutes for my most exuberant shakers to have ice cream - and once everyone else saw it, they started working even harder! The ice cream was delicious!

After we cleaned up, we used our how-to summary from the morning to write an informational piece on how to make ice cream. I stapled a copy of the recipe to their writing and sent it home for them to try.  Two of my students have already done it at home with great success!

You can download the recipe I used, along with the planning sheet and writing paper by clicking on the image below.

Making ice cream is a great activity for the end of the year, or during the summer. Have you ever made ice cream with your kiddos?

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Happy Wednesday!  It's time for a little Wednesday fun today :-)

First, a Wednesday giveaway to get you through the middle of the week!

Look interesting? Head over to iTeachSecond and check out my Win-It Wednesday post.  Enter to win a little something you can use to get the wiggles out these last few days of school - or the first few days next year!  My kiddos love these and they're easy to use!

Next, my link up with Christina over at Sugar and Spice.  (hmmm... looks like Miss DeCarbo might be on summer break with the linky! I'll link up later if it goes live, but I'll still share my picture now :-)

I posted this pic on Instagram a few days ago and it really hit home with many of you!

 My house has been a crazy mess since they started working on repairing water damage from this winter... so I've been taking out my stress on my file cabinets at school.  With pretty much all my resources being digital now, I haven't even used most of what's in those files for years.  Time to purge! That was only one of five crates taken to recycling that day! My oldest paper? A certificate of participation in a workshop from 1999 :-) (And please do not leave me a comment telling me you were in high school then.... or elementary school... or not born yet... :-) Have you done some binge cleaning lately?

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