They Were Fighting To Read To The Class (Literally)!

Yes you read it right. My students were literally fighting to read to the class. As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I wrote about how I turned a deficit into something positive. Since I didn’t have the required materials (the listening CD), I decided to have them read the Student Anthology. It was so successful, in fact, that the students wanted to read in front of the class.

This came about because I told the students that I thought it was time for them to start reading to me instead of me reading to them. They agreed also. So, I told the students that after Recess I would make a list of students to read. I had a list but one or two students decided that they didn’t want to wait, so there was a slight altercation. I really didn’t mind the fight so much because of the reason why they were fighting. I still chastised them a little, but not like I would have if they were fighting for mean and selfish reasons.

Initially I’d only planned for one student to read, but they all wanted to read. Far be it for me to interfere with their eagerness to learn. In response to their enthusiastic response, I scheduled 20 minutes after Recess and 20 minutes after Lunch for them to read.

I gave out so many claps, high fives, and various compliments today. There was such an air of excitement about learning. It was a great atmosphere in the class. Today, (like the incident last year when I told the students that I was so proud of them for fighting) they became a family.

Turning A Deficit Into Something Positive!

Since I had to switch to teaching 4th grade, I am, once again, at a disadvantage. I don’t have all of the required materials. However, instead of thinking of it as a deficit or something negative, I choose to think of it as something that I can use to my advantage.

The old way that I taught the story was letting my students listen to the story on CD. But, since I don’t have the Listening Library on CD, my students are forced to read from the text. Let me just say (as I puff out my chest) that they did an excellent job. When they got stuck on a word, I simply told them what Sound Spelling card to refer to and they did it. I was so impressed. I had a pep talk with them and told them that I was so proud of how well they blended and that I looked forward to blending with them because it is so fun since they are so good at it.

I was proud enough with the blending. Now, I am even prouder with the reading because it shows that they are learning; that I am actually making a difference. One of my students, Lil’ Man, didn’t want to read aloud because he didn’t think that he could do it. I let him know that I knew that he could do it; that I would not embarrass him like that. I told him that I would not have asked him to do it if I didn’t think that he could. He didn’t want to do it, but I gently pushed him and he did it. He couldn’t believe it. He was so proud of himself. He was grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat. Boy was I glad that I chose to see my lack of materials as a positive thing because it definitely turned out to be a very positive thing.

What Is Four Step Language Math?

I don’t even know how I came across this information, but am happy that I did. Reading this information was the validation that I needed to let me know that I am doing the right thing. This is pretty much what I do with my students. Read it and see what you think

(Taken directly from the site) Four Step Language Math is a math intervention program that blends in with any form of teaching, whether it is algorithms, manipulatives, drawings, or repetitive memorization. Four Step Language Math is more like a foundation in which teachers can get reinforcement for their teaching and give students a safe outlet to learn and become true owners of their knowledge. It helps teachers to establish a safe community that fosters communication and learning. It allows teachers to differentiate instruction and assess individual student needs through anecdotal records in a small group setting.

Four Step Language Math Intervention Program is composed of four basic components. The first step is based on gathering information about the problem through data identification. The second step is based around analyzing the information gathered and deciding on a strategy that will best help a student solve the problem. The third step is where the students take the information they gathered and use the best strategy to solve the problem. The fourth step is revisiting the process of solving by showing the students understanding of the steps taken to solve the problem.

The four steps the students do in class and on their own help them to further comprehend mathematical problems, trains them to think analytically, builds upon their reasoning skills, and gets them to think about their thinking. All of the steps and knowledge are then further enriched when the four steps are discussed in class providing further understanding of math.

If you would like to learn more, here’s a link I found: Click here

PINKALICIOUS by Victoria & Elizabeth Kann

Pinkalicious (2006), written and illustrated by sisters Victoria and Elizabeth Kann, is the cutest little girly book. It had me at hello. I was hooked when I saw the cover. Once I opened the cover and read it I was convinced that I needed to purchase this book for Phillise since she absolutely adores pink just as the title character does.

The book begins on a rainy day when it was too wet to go outside. So the little girl asks her Mommy to make cupcakes. What color does she want? Pink, of course! She tastes the cupcakes and decides that they are simply PINKALICIOUS! She offered one to her little brother Petey, but he’s very picky and didn’t want to eat it. So she ate it.

She takes a nap. When she wakes up she begs for just one more.

“No,” says her mom.

“You get what you get, and you don’t get upset,” she said. But she got very upset. Finally her dad tells her that she has had enough and sends her to bed.

The next morning when she wakes up she discovers that she has turned PINK! She’s pink everywhere so her mom takes her to the doctor who tells her that she has a very rare and acute case of Pinkitis. “For the next week, no more pink cupcakes, pink bubble gum, or pink cotton candy.”

“To return to normal, you must eat a steady diet of green food, her doctor tells her.”

Does she do it? What happens after that? Well, I guess you are just going to have to read it and find out for yourself.

My take- I really liked it and would recommend it to other momies to read to their pink-loving little girls. I’d say the age range is 3-8. I read it to one of my students who’s 8 and she loved it.

Now Teaching 4th grade!!!

This is the breakdown of my class:

  • One 2nd grader
  • Two 3rd graders
  • Seven 4th graders
  • Two 5th graders

Last year I identified myself with the 3rd grade teachers since I had mostly 3rd grade students. That’s why it made perfect sense to stay with the 3rd grade teachers last year. This year, I still identified myself as a 3rd grade teacher until I thought about all of the 3rd graders from last year who are now 4th graders. That’s when I realized that I also needed to move with my students. So, I now identify myself as a 4th grade teacher.

Although this means that I have to learn new “stuff” (notice how I get all technical with it), I’m willing to do that to meet the needs of my students. So, I need to go to make a new lesson plan. And as always, here’s to continued success!

I Lost My Voice!

I lost my voice, not in the literal sense, but in the figurative sense. I barely know who I am anymore. I’ve lost myself. I’ve been through this before when I had my first two children. Now that I’m starting a new career (my only career), I’ve lost myself again. But, this time, I’m older and wiser; a little rounder too, but that’s neither here nor there. I am working on me while dealing with all the other facets of my life. I must say that I am doing a pretty good job. I know a little bit more about what to expect. I’ve had a little success along the way and am looking forward to continued success. So, if you’ve lost yourself and/or your voice, take it back; find it again by getting to know yourself, what you will or will not accept and tolerate. Finally, find what makes you happy (that’s good for you) and do it. Here’s to reconnecting and rediscovering you, in all your glory.

And as always, here’s to continued success!

Math Journals In The Special Education Classroom

The big focus this year is writing across the curriculum. The administrators want to see writing in every subject. So, I am doing something what I didn’t do last year. I am using Math journals. At the beginning of the year I let the students know that we were going to be doing a lot of writing this year; much more than last year.

During Math, the students have a question of the day for their Math journal. Since we are working with the Lakeshore money, I have them practicing Math all day. I let them do what I call trading up. For instance, if the think they have enough money, say two $5 bills and they want to trade up to a larger bill, they raise their hand before Recess or Lunch, I have them count out their money to make sure they understand, and also to test their counting skills. If they have enough I let them trade up. At the end of the week they are allowed to buy from our classroom store. Consequently, it works its way into our question of the day for our Math journal. These are examples of our question of the day:

  • How many $5 bills make 1 $20 bill? Show me.
  • How many $1 bills make 1 $10 bill? Show me.

To show me, they answer the question, then draw a picture explaining their answer. This is working out great for my students. This would work in pretty much any special ed setting. It just needs to be adjusted to suit your students. I wish I would have used this last year. No time to look back and regret though, only time to move on and do better. Gotta’ go! As always, here’s to continued success!

Visiting Day by Jacqueline Woodson

Visiting Day (2002), written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by James Ransome, is a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s own visits with her favorite uncle on visiting days in prison.

I saw this book at an AEMP (Academic English Mastery Program) conference and had to have it. I knew that this would be perfect for my class because a couple of my students have a relative, usually a parent (usually the dad) who is on “vacation”. I told them to say that, instead of saying jail or prison because it sounds better. It’s not that they’re ashamed, it’s that they don’t want someone judging them because of the bad choices of their relatives.

That being said, on to the story. The book begins with a little girl and her grandmother preparing for their monthly trip to visit her father in prison. Visiting day is very special. On that day they are up at the crack of dawn, frying chicken, cooking collard greens, and baking sweet potato pies.They are going to eat this during their bus ride. They bring enough for them and others on the bus. The little girl is very excited to see her father.

Next, readers are given a look at her dad as he excitedly prepares for his mother and his beautiful little girl. When they arrive, her dad shows them off to all of his friends, holds his little girl and gives her little treats.

The illustrations were beautiful. My students were entranced by them. It helped contribute to the book being a wonderful read-aloud. The content, though adult, was treated in a very kid friendly way. It was still hard for some of my students to hear it. It was especially hard for one of my students to hear since her dad is “on vacation” now. The part that made her feel better is at the end of the book when the little girl says that her grandmother told her that it wouldn’t be like this always; that Daddy would be home soon. The good part about this was that there was no judgment or condemnation in the book. The story is told in a matter-of-fact kind of way. Readers aren’t told (and really don’t need to know) why the dad is “on vacation”. The focus of the book was family and unconditional love.

If you know of a child who has a parent or relative who is incarcerated, get this book for them.

Yet More Much Needed Financial Resources!!!

My friend Susan told me about this grant that, depending when you first receive it, can be worth up to $24,000. That’s right $24,000. It’s called the TEACH grant. The award is $4,000/year beginning as soon as you begin college if you know that you’re interested in teaching, follow a path to securing your teaching credential, and agree to teach for four (4) years.

A note of caution here: If you do not fulfill the requirements within 8 years it is converted from a grant to an unsubsidized loan.

Here is the link:

My Revised Schedule

**This schedule may change again. It is not set in stone. I need to find out if Voyager is part of OCR. If it is, I will have to change it to after Recess and move math to after Lunch.**

This is my newly revised schedule:

8:00~8:05 Morning Assembly

8:05~8:10 Welcome/ Homework Review

8:10~8:20 Writing Journal

8:20~10:20 OCR

10:20-10:40 Recess

10:45~10:55 Storytime (Usually a story related to the OCR theme or whatever upcoming holiday there is)

10:55~11:25 ELD

11:30~12:30 Mat

12:30-1:10 Lunch

1:10~1:20 Storytime

1:20~2:05 Voyager

2:05~2:30 Homework Review/Class business/Dismissal

I have to say again that the day almost never goes like this. This is a perfect scenario. Sometimes we come pretty close though, but definitely not all the time.

Where Is My Timer?

I am so lost without my timer? Where is it? The last time I remember having it was last Thursday at the grade level meeting. I guess I’ll go next door and ask about it tomorrow because I really need it.

It’s how I manage:

  • my transitions
  • Nu’s behavior
  • to stay on schedule

I do so many things with that timer. I really rely on it. I really need to find it. If it’s not next door, I will buy another one. I simply cannot function without it.

Guilty Me!!!

I feel so guilty. I yelled at my new student in front of the whole class today. I feel so bad. I didn’t mean to yell at him. I really didn’t. Sometimes after I react, I think about the reason(s) why. I know that one of the main reasons is because he is so mouthy. He behaves just like his sister who was in my class last year. She used to irritate me in the beginning of the school year. However, by the end of the school year, I had gotten used to her and had grown quite fond of her. I hope the same happens with him because right now, he is like fingernails scratching the chalk board.

His sister was the same way: very mouthy, whinny, and immature. Whenever I would tell her to stop talking, she would always have at least two more things to say. Needless to say, he is the same way. He looooooooves to talk. Too much!!! He kept talking even after I talked nicely to him and moved on. Seriously, he kept talking for about 7 minutes after that. I still didn’t say anything to him. I just tried to cut him some slack since he’s only recently been put in Special Ed. (last week). Don’t even mention the fact that his former classmates are teasing him. However, cutting him slack was obviously the wrong thing to do.

Tomorrow, before I deal with him, I am going to take a deep breath. If he begins to grate on my nerves, I will take a step back and ask my assistant to deal with him.
I also plan on taking him aside and explaining the class rules to him. I guess I didn’t have the time to do that. Tomorrow I will definitely do that. So, until next time!

Much Needed Link To Financial Resources!!!

I will have to pay back a truckload of money once the time comes to start repaying my student loans. That is why I have managed to hunt down over $50,000 to help repay them. I have the resources all over this blog, but thought that a post with all of them together was a good idea. So, here they are:

$19,000 A.P.L.E. (up to $11,000 for General ed., up to $19,000 for Special ed.)

$6,000 Paraeducator Career Ladder Scholarship (for former paraeducators)

$ amount varies Perkins Loan Cancellation

$9,450 AmeriCorps

$17,500 Teacher Forgiveness Loan (up to that amount for special education, certain math and science teachers)

$ amount varies- Loans cancelled after 10 years of service if they are consolidated.

To go directly to the site, click on the program you are interested in. I hope this helps.
*** George left a comment about a program that cancels your loans after 10 years of service. I am waiting on him to reply. Once he gives me the information, I will disseminate the information to you.***

Don’t Sign In, You’re Going To Training!!!

Those were the words that I heard today just as I was about to sign in. What? Today? Are you kidding me? What about my class? I didn’t get a chance to tell them that I wouldn’t be there today.

“How are they going to behave for the sub?” I wondered. Would the sub understand Nu who can barely sit still, or any of the others? Well, as it turns out my fears were unfounded. The school booked a sub who is familiar with my class. She even brought her own work. Thank God.

Since I knew that she was there I was able to rest and enjoy training. So, I have to go. I can’t do any of my work that I was going to do because I had to leave them at school for the sub. However, I do have some homework and some sleeping to do, so I’m off. And as always, here’s to continued success.

Frustrated & Annoyed Me!

I am so frustrated. I just about have my planning together. However, it seems like no matter how much I do, it just never seems to be enough. My lesson plans are together for Math and ELD for the next couple of months. However, my lesson plans for OCR need to be updated every two weeks. I love the format that my Literacy Coach came up with but I am still becoming familiar with it and am so frustrated I don’t know what to do.

When am I really going to be comfortable with my planning? When am I going to feel like I have it down? I am so frustrated and annoyed.

In addition to all that, I have an I.E.P. that is overdue but could not get into Welligent all weekend. When I tried to access it a little while ago, I wasn’t allowed to change anything.

Let me say again that I am so effing frustrated and annoyed!!!!!!!!

An Easier Way to Teach Open Court to Special Education students, Part 2

**This is the second installment of an easier way to teach Open Court to Special Education students.

I sat down with my very knowledgeable Literacy Coach and made lesson plans with her. I asked her about planning my lesson on Tuesday, and by Wednesday she was ready for me with a lesson plan template for all 10 days of the lesson. (Just in case you missed my earlier post, special ed teachers using OCR are allowed to teach only half the stories (first, second, and last), so that the ones that we do teach are taught in depth.)

She suggested that I use the English Language Support Guide (ELSG-pronounced el sig) for the first day before I even start the GREEN (Phonemic awareness), RED, or BLUE (writing) sections since it lines up with lessons being taught and introduces the students to the skills they need to learn.

The template has the day of the week with room for the date in the header with:

Preparing to Read:

Reading & Responding:

Language Arts:

If you would like a copy of the lesson plan and the template, email me @ with the heading Lesson Plan template.

“I’m Not Bothering Him, He’s Bothering Me,” he said.

That’s what one of my students, Nu, said. If I didn’t see what happened with my own eyes, I would have thought that that was what really happened. I talked to him and explained to him that I had, in fact, just watched him hit my other student, Polo, five times.

“He is not bothering you,” I said, “you are bothering him. When I said that he looked at me with a disbelieving look on his face. It was as if he honestly didn’t know that he was the culprit; that he was the one hitting Polo instead of the other way around.

After that happened I realized that I need to try to think the way that he does. Basically I need to out think him by thinking the opposite of what I or someone else would think in the same situation.

I’m starting to see how and what makes him tick.

The Naughty Prince by Benoît Debecker

The Naughty Prince (2001), written and illustrated by Benoît Debecker, was quite an interesting little book. The ending was so unexpected. Since I read mostly children’s picture books, I run across a lot of cutesy little book with a sweet, yet unbelievable corn syrupy ending. This book did not have that problem. I liked it because it was realistic in that some people are never going to change, no matter what, or how much good information or how much intervention they are afforded, they will still be unlovable sourpusses.

As Fergie said, “Fairy tales don’t always have a happy ending, do they!”

This book expresses that sentiment exactly. After finishing this book I thought twice before reviewing this because of that. I kinda’ didn’t want it to end up with a cute little wrapped up fairy tale ending and I got what I asked for because this book did not have a cute little fairy tale ending, and I liked that. I think that if it would have had a fairy tale ending, I wouldn’t have liked it. I am debating whether to read this to the kids in my classroom. I’m still undecided, but I’m leaning towards yes. So now, on to the review:

The book begins with:

Once there was a little prince who didn’t love anything or anybody.

Luckily for him, and even luckier for everyone else, Prince Niles lived on a deserted planet lost at the ends of the universe.

Prince Niles hated happiness, and detested niceness. His favorite past time was saying wicked things and thinking wicked thoughts. However, one day while looking across the skies, he saw a beautiful planet that was blue, yellow, red, and green. It was exactly what he hated. How dare they be happy?

He believed that he absolutely must put a stop to it. He jumps into his rocket and determines to put a stop to it. He is going to flood the planet with black goo, but he pushes the accelerate button instead of the BLACK GOO button and he ends up making a crash landing. A crash landing directly into a crowd of happy people. How do you think that makes him feel? Well, I guess you’re going to have to read it and find out for yourself!

Pick it up at your local library!

Language Travels or (Why Some Words Don’t Follow Rules)

Language travels from place to place, and mixes and merges with other languages. It’s been happening that way for a long time, it’s just that sometimes we forget and wonder why some words don’t follow rules. It’s because of the language of origin.

In my Theories of 2nd Acquisition Language class, one of my classmates, Josh explained how much of a mutt the English language is. Why does it have so many more phonemes than the Hawai’ian language for instance. The Hawai’ian language is a very simple language. However, it’s a pure language, while English is not.

This came up because I was asking my teacher how to explain to my students why “ea” in weather doesn’t follow the “when two vowels go walking” rule; why isn’t it pronounced more like weether instead of the way it is. That’s when we had a great discussion about it.

So, the next time you think about trying to explain why, just save yourself some time and tell them that that particular word is a rule-breaker.

Guess How Smart I Am?

Well, guess!!!

I am so smart that I turned in a paper meant for my second class into my first class. Yep, sure did! I cannot believe I did that. That’s goofy even for me. I had the biggest laugh.The killer part is that I got a 90% on the paper. The only reason that I didn’t get a higher grade is because I didn’t make a connection between the paper and that week’s reading. So guess what I will be doing tomorrow?

Not Doing Mountain Thinking!!!

I just realized a minute ago that I am doing the same thing that I was doing last year-avoiding. I have 2 homework assignments due tomorrow which I have not even started on. Instead of doing them though I have been doing some oh so important web surfing on the gossip blogs.

Hopefully now that I realize what I’m doing I can fix it. The whole problem is that I am overwhelmed again. I feel like quitting. Last Wednesday I wanted to throw down my whiteboard marker while I was teaching, walk out my classroom and walk out of the school. It was so bad.

I am starting to wish that I never started teaching. I read many blogs and have been reading pretty much the same thing that I’m writing. It is so damned depressing. I don’t know how much longer I can last.

One thing I know that I need to stop doing is biting off more than I can chew. Sometimes the situation is so bad that you can only take it one minute at a time. Well, my situation is like that now. When I go down to the yard at 8:00 a.m. to pick up my students, I feel like just walking out the front door instead of going to the class. I know that I can’t so, I am just going to take it minute by minute until I don’t have to anymore.

That is the best I can do right now because I really hate doing this right now. It’s not the teaching that I hate. I love that. My biggest problem is the lack of consequences when the students misbehave. I send them out the room and nothing. No suspension. Nothing. They can almost get away with anything. So, as I stated above, I am just going to take it one minute at a time. I have to to keep my sanity. That is why I am writing this right now even though it is filled with so much negativity. If I don’t, I feel like I am going to lose my mind.

I am trying to encourage myself as I write this because I have to work. I can’t quit at the beginning of the second month of school. Can I?

I Kinda’ Know What I’m Doing Now!!!

I know what I’m doing now (Well, kinda!) I’m thinking back to last year when I had no idea what I was doing on anything. Especialy not planning. I think about this because now I am a little better at planning because I am utilizing the resources at my disposal. There’s a new Literacy Coach at my school who is wonderful. She helped me put together a lesson plan for OCR that uses the English Language Support Guide (ELSig) and the Intervention Guide.

Now, I am going to sit down with my Math Coach next week to get my Math lesson plans together. So, I kinda’ know what I’m doing a little. Once I learn all of the curriculum, I am going to be unstoppable.

I wil post the lesson plan later in the week just in case you’re interested. As always, here’s to continued  success.

A Wicked recuperation!!!

I am still recuperating from the past couple of hard weeks that I’ve had. After the past couple of weeks, I have been so in need of some relaxation. I am so thankful for friends who make that possible. My friend, Susan, managed to score us some tickets to Wicked. I am so happy that she did. It was simply wonderful. It had to be one of the best plays I’ve seen; complete with the excellent scenery.

The story was told from the Wicked Witch’s point of view. I hadn’t thought of that. It’s nice to think of things from different viewpoints. I’m happy that I went.

It’s Getting Better (Isn’t It????)

Things seem to be getting better on one hand. However, on another hand, I’m still dealing with the same behaviors over and over again. I am tired of it. They are not learning. No, that’s not correct. They are learning, but they aren’t applying it. I wish I had the power to give some of these students an OT (Opportunity Transfer- kicked out!) The main ones that act up are the ones who aren’t even in their own school.

I have to ask myself if it’s getting better. I think it is. I am so through with these students. I wish that I could just quit. I cannot imagine a whole year like this. Somedays I go down to get the students and see these three students in particular and want to run out the school.

I know it’s going to get better. I just want to know when!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Proactive vs. Reactive

One thing that I have learned during my time as a parent and my time working in schools is the need to be proactive instead of reactive. What is proactive? and what is reactive? Simply put, reactive means reacting to a situation that has already occured, while proactive means heading off any problems before they start or before they get worse.

The reason I post on this today is because I have not been proactive on a situation brewing in my classroom. Robin, who is just a mean bully when he’s off his meds, has decided that he wants to pick on my new student, Polo. There have been so many other behavior problems from other students that I haven’t properly defused the situation. Right now I am in a reactive mode. I need to be in a proactive mode. The proper proactive role to take would have been sitting these two down and having them discuss what the problem is.

The real problem is that Robin is a big a** bully who’s picking on Polo. I need to have a talk with the two of them tomorrow so that Polo can feel safe and not like he’s in a battlefield.

Now that you know my mistake, don’t make the same one. Ask yourself if you’re being proactive or reactive. If you’re not being proactive, now’s the time to start. Trust me it makes for a more peaceful classroom and a less stressed you.

As always, here’s to continued success!

The Chicken Or The Egg???

Yeah, it’s the age old question. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

I was just having that discussion with one of the teachers that I work with. She thought that the behavior of one of her students was impeding his learning process. ‘Well”, I said, “is his inability to read a direct result of his behavior, or are the behaviors there because he can’t read”.

“Hmm,” she said.

I could go on and on about this. In fact I wrote about it before in another post. Children would rather be thought of as bad, than stupid.

So, if you have a misbehaving student in your class who can’t read and is misbehaving, ask yourself, which came first. The chicken? or the egg?

Just a little something to think about.