How dyslexia introduced me to my passion for teaching...
There are several distinct times that I can remember knowing I wanted to be a teacher.
The one that stands out to me, and is one of the most vivid, takes me back to my freshman year in college. At the time I was at Loyola, New Orleans. I was a journalisim major. I had a work study job back then, working the desk at the all girls dorm. I was so lucky to have that first morning shift of 6am, not really! The only other people up at that time were the ROTC boys.
One of those ROTC boys had become a good friend that year. And he stopped by as he usually did at the desk to say good morning. This particular morning "Sam" asked me to stop by his dorm and look over his English paper. I remember telling him sure and we made arrangements to stop by after lunch.
As I came in that afternoon, I can tell you the sun was shining brightly into his dorm room. He sat at his desk with a worried look on his face. He was still in his ROTC uniform. He holds the papers and warns me it's bad. I was thinking how bad could it be? He slowly hands me the paper and looks up at me from his seat like a young kid, not at all the young confident man I am use to seeing run through the quad.
He warns me again. "Be honest."
I looked at the paper, and no joke, I was shocked!
don't know if my mouth actually dropped. I was looking at the writing that looked like it had been written by a 4th grader maybe even a 3rd grader. The writing was messy. Letters were reversed. Words were jumbled together. I could hardly decipher what he had written.
He says, "I have Dyslexia."
At this point in my life, I had no idea what Dyslexia meant. I just knew he was up an English creek with no paddle and coming to a huge drop.
I wanted to ask how in the world did he get through high school. I wanted to ask how was he going to get through college.
I remember looking at his face and thinking, "Wow...this guy just trusted me with a huge secret. What am I supposed to do with this?"
I slumped down, and sat on the floor and looked up at him and said, "Okay! Let's get started..."
I remember the sense of relief he felt. He was smiling again. He was grateful and unburdened.
I think back now, and think how much he would have benefited from a computer or any assistive technology. I don't think we had an Office for Student's with Disabilities Resource Center back then. I was clueless at the time.
As a mom and teacher today, when I tavel back to that day in 1988, my heart goes out to that young man. We have come a long way with accomodations, assitive technology, laws and regulations, research, etc... But we still have a long path to pave for our children. We still have many to educate and much awarness to raise about what living with dyslexia looks like and what the future can hold.
I left Loyola during my third semester. I also dropped my major. I came home and decided to major in psychology. Being around Sam made me want to know more about how the brain worked. And as things would have it, a few months later I changed my major one more time, the final time, to Special Education.
And every time I meet a struggling student, I say the same thing... "Okay! Let's get started!"
A few weeks ago, I shared some writing strategies. Here is one of them in action. We used post-it notes to help construct and learn about letter writing. What you need to know: This is a First Grade classroom. You can adapt this strategy to really any grade level and for any struggling writer.
Click on the link for the video, scroll below for the lesson plan.
Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
Large Post-It notes
A teacher model represntation of using post-it's
We read aloud the funny and rythmic book by Doreen Cronin, Click, Clack, Moo. The story is about cows who write letters to Farmer Brown. They are complaining of the conditions at the farm. The chickens and the duck become involved in the negotiations between Farmer Brown and the cows.
After reading the story, we look back at the letters. We take notes of how a letter is written:
salutation, body, closing.
The teacher then explains how we will be pretending to be a farm animal and we are going to ask Farmer Brown for something. The children were instructed to think of a farm animal, what that animal might need or want, why they need or want that item, and what would the animal do if Farmer Brown doesn't provide the item. In the story, the cows threaten to not produce milk, and the hens threaten to not produce eggs.
Next, the teacher models for the students. First, the teacher writes, the salutation on one post it. Then, the teacher takes a second Post-it and writes the introduction and so forth with the help of the students. Next, the children discussed their farm animal and their plea in the group. Then, the student's were released back to their desks with 6 Post-it notes to begin writing. The teacher and the assistant moved around the room guiding the students. Finally, when the notes were in order, and had been edited for COPS (Capitlization, Organization, Punctuation, Spelling) then the students were free to write their finaly copy.
Do you have an idea for using Post-it's in your classroom? Share below.
WRITING: Top 5 Tips For Any Grade
Welcome to a new series on the blog about everyday strategies you can do at home to help your own child or your students to succeed in specific academic areas. This week's plug is for WRITING.
I often get asked by parents if I could tutor their child in the writing process. More often than not, the student's needs are organizing their thoughts. Hopefully, your child is familiar with the writing process from school. If they are very young, then chances are they may know just a little bit about it.
Children usually think the writing process is a punishment. Teaching first grade I often get asked by the students...Do I have to do a sloppy copy if I do it just perfect the first time? Yes, darling, I am trying to teach you the writing process.
Here are a few ways to avoid the tears and frustration with the writing process. You may want to implement all of these techniques or you may just pick and choose what you need for your child depending on what is expected for their writing assignment.
I hope you are able to glean some good ideas here the next time your child has a writing assignment or perhaps you're a classroom teacher who may see something here as a good strategy to help one of your littles. Leave me a comment if you do try one of these out or if you have any questions.
I just started my last course for my Reading Endorsement. This course looks at the history of Reading. I was unsure at first how interesting this would be...let's be honest...don't we want to know more about what will work in our modern day classrooms. But after reading the first few articles and book, I realized something. As in everything that we do, we need to know where we have been to know where we are going. It's been amazing to read about studies from the early 1900's, that have made such an impact still on how we teach today.
My other "aha" moment this week was realizing how our teachers today don't value research as much as they should. Or as much as our counterparts in other fields do. We simply say...."Oh, I don't like that test." or "I don't think that works." If they only understood the validity of some of these instruments. If they only read more about their craft. I know we are overwhelemed with the job expectations and demands. But we, as educators, need to stay informed and educated, after all we are practitioners of our craft.
Stay tuned, as I resurrect the Learning Logs with some historical facts you might find intersting and might even realize that it's not "new" after all. For example, Thorndike in 1917 was bringing to light the need for reading comprehension, to understand what we are reading. Or how in 1970 and 1978 Singer forshawdowed the concept of Common Core. Singer's research revealed the need for student mobility as well as teacher mobility. Singer noted the need for curricular validity regarding standardized testing.
So many interesting facts. Hopefully, you will look at our current state of instruction and see where it gained it's footing.
This semester I worked on my practicum for my Reading Endorsement. I chose to work with a student who could read at grade level and beyond but was struggling with comprehension strategies. Part of our practicum required we do a project based learning activity.
This project has turned into a great idea for any classroom, student or parent who wants to expand or help a student with comprehension strategies.
My student had a deep love of chocolate.
Then again most people do.
She was very interested in learning about Milton Hershey. The practicum started with reading the book Who Was Milton Hershey? (available on Amazon).
We read a few chapters each week. I taught my student how to 'leave tracks" in her reading.
The leaving track strategies are effective for comprehension also it is an effective strategy for study skills. You can read more about leaving tracks in the Learning Log Blogs.
As we went through our lessons I quickly picked up that most of the help my student needed was vocabulary based. As with many students who read above grade level she was a great decoder but had no clue at times what she was reading to the lack of understanding of some of the vocabulary words.
How do you help this child?
First, make sure your student is interested in the material they are reading. They must have a vested interest in what they read.
Second, make sure they have some background knowledge and if not, provide them with some. Having background knowledge helps the student make a connection with what they are reading.
Third, provide them with tools that will help them and teach them how to self-monitor their learning. In this case, I provided my student with post-it notes. She was to tag several items she made a connection with. The idea was to tag areas that she could connect with either: text to self ( a connection she personally made with the story) or text to text (a connection to a previous material she has read). I also asked her to tag parts of the stories she had strong thoughts about areas that she loved or areas that made her say OMG!. Finally, the last set of tags were for her to use to tag vocabulary she came across that she may be unfamiliar with.
There is a learning curve here my friends. A student who can decode well has a hard time slowing down to tag. To resolve this you must teach and model for the student the tagging process. After I modeled then she started reading the story with me. As she read I would stop a the end of the page and ask her if she had anything she thought she should tag. After a few sessions, she began doing a better job of doing it herself. Of course, as we progressed through the book she started reading and tagging at home. When she came for her session we reviewed what she tagged.
During the process, I also focused on some activities that were isolating context clues. This is teaching a student to look at the text before or the text after to try to figure out the meaning of a word they may not recognize but can clearly decode.
When the student had concluded reading her Milton Hershey book we went on to have some fun. This is the final and fourth step to this fun project-based learning. What we did next would make any student jealous and want to dive into this book and project.
First, she completed a scoot activity on Milton Hershey's life, found on TPT. I used this as an assessment to see how much she had remembered from her reading. Next, we went to the Hershey Company website. Here she was able to look at actual photographs and articles that she could connect right back to her reading. Finally, she looked up a recipe she wanted to try on the site. For our final session, we made Hershey brownies. Delish!!!
I assessed my student with the Qualitative Reading Inventory at the beginning of our semester and at the end. She made clear gains. She also had a very successful standardized testing at school. She was very proud and mentioned how she used the strategies to help her during testing. The best reward for a teacher is to continue to see your students growing even after they leave you. She came back one month later to tell me she read a Harry Potter book and had successfully passed the AR.
Always strive to make learning fun and relatable and you will have success.
Welcome to part 2 of the 3 part series of OG in the classroom.
I am often asked how does it look? What does the schedule look like?
Well, every classroom will look different. Depending on the structure of your day, how many students you have, do you have an assistant or not? It will also depend on your school and what their expectations are and demands. Finally, how much control do you actually have for structuring your classroom?
Here is what my current situation is. Currently, I am teaching in a First Grade classroom in a Catholic School. I have a part-time assistant 4 days per week for my morning block. We have worked together for 7 years now so she is without a doubt my right hand. Or as I jokingly call her, my school wife. My class size has varied from 24 to 18. The smaller the class size the easier on you for planning purpose.
Make sure you have read part one for help with planning. We use OG strategies to improve our reader and our speller. We made a big change 2 years ago. We no longer give the parents a spelling list to help their child memorize. We now send home the phonics rule. We give them 10 words to practice with for the week. And of course, homework that encourages making words at home. On Friday they are tested on 10 words that they would have seen at some point during the week with all of the making word practices we have.
On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays my schedule is relatively the same. I have my students from drop off at 7:45 am till we go to recess at 10:50 am. This is when I do my ELA block and the largest chunks of OG strategies. On Wednesdays, my block is broken up with specials and I do not have an assistant. On Fridays, my block is broken up with mass attendance but Friday's are usually reserved for assessment.
Every single morning drop-off begins at 7:45 and the students trickle in till about 8am. For those 15 minutes, my students have Book Club. This is where they choose a book they want to read and they find a place anywhere in the classroom to sit and read silently. At the beginning of the year, you must teach your students what this looks like. I practice Daily 5 strategies so I do a lot of instruction on what silent reading looks like and what it does not look like. We also spend time practicing. We also spend time learning how to pick a book.
At 8am, we pray and do the pledge. The students immediately begin working on morning work for the next 30 minutes. The morning work allows me time to do attendance, lunch count, work one on one, conference etc... For morning work they do one page from their Daily Math (Teachers pay Teachers), they do 3 sentences for Daily Fix It from the board (Reading Street Series), and then do a fluency page in their fluency notebooks (Teachers Pay Teachers: The Literacy Nest and Miss Giraffe). Here is where the work begins.
In Part 1 I described how my classroom is laid out and how we have the phonics rule everywhere for the children to see. So on Monday's they have not had formal instruction on the phonics rule of the week but they know where to find it in the room and try to figure it out. By Tuesday we have completed a day of instruction so they are asked to remember and if they can't be directed to move about the room to find what the phonics lesson is for the week. By Thursday I know who may really be struggling now and who will need a lot of focus and one on one instruction.
The fluency notebooks are where the students read to themselves a passage, they highlight the rule as they see it in the passage. For example, if they are looking for the long vowel a with magic e ... they would highlight only those words in the passage. Then we ask them to write the words they highlighted on another page. They also write the rule on the top of the page. Then they find an adult in the room and read the passage to us. At times the passages may have comprehension questions or they are puzzles that require they put the story pictures in order.
At 8:30 we conclude the morning work and meet as a group on the carpet. On Monday's I am sharing the rule and modeling the rule. I use magnetic letters, the smartboard with magnetic letters, or a simple whiteboard and marker. I start the year with the smartboard so we can do blending easier. Begining of the year we start blending CVC and CVCe. As the year progresses and we have learned more rules then we blend more difficult words. On Tuesday's the students are working with the manipulatives. Either they are building words with magnets or with their own personal whiteboard. On Wednesday's we are usually working in much smaller groups or one on one during this time because some students are pulled for support or for enrichment at that time. This is when some of my students get more multisensory practice. Thursday's we work on making more words and this time more challenging words. The kiddos now either practice on their whiteboard or writing on their desks. THEY LOVE WRITING ON THEIR DESKS! It all comes off with Lysol wipes. We may also do sorting at this time too. For example, if we are adding an inflected ending they may sort by ed making the t sound or id or ed or d.
By 9am we have reviewed the phonics rule, the grammar rule, the comprehension skill. And now we break into centers. In my classroom, the students move about the centers as they wish. They have 3 targets they must hit each day but should strive to hit all centers. The 3 targets usually are Word Work, Work on Writing, and Journal. While the students are at centers my assistant is working with a small group and I am working with a small group or a one on one. It is at this time that the sand trays come out and we do some work with multisensory at my table. We review the phonics lesson with the trays. Then we move to reading in small groups. By Wednesday I have read with all the groups and will revisit my low group for some more reinforcement of the skill that week. My higher kiddos are also working on answering more implicit reflection questions for their reading. By Thursday we are playing more games in small groups to reinforce the skills.
At the centers, the students are working on a variety of activities. Some of the activities include: word sorts by rule, making words, word search, reading the story to self, reading the story to a friend, computer station: spelling city/ixl/mathletics, grammar practice, comprehension practice, listening to a story, games: roll and read, Bananagrams, pears pairs, apples, boggle, etc...ABC order, fluency notebook, fluency passages, etc... Again time is spent at the beginning of the school year to teach the children how to use and work at each station. I have bought bundles from Teachers Pay Teachers and I have made some of my own. It's an ongoing process.
Red words or sight words are taught on Tuesdays. On Tuesday afternoons, I write a sentence on the board with the red word in red. The students have gathered their red word paper, their red crayon and the plastic needlepoint sheet to write their red words. We do the red word drill and the students keep their red words in a folder. The red words also have a place on our class board. On Wednesday we review our red words for the week. We also review past red words on a power point. On Wednesday the student's take home their red words. At our open house night we teach the parents about red words so they know how to review with their child: write, trace, tap, write.
Thursday's we do a practice test at the end of the day. I print out a practice test I make on IMSE with the sound lines. I also write the sound lines on the board so I can review with the students what the sound lines mean. They become experts. I do allow my students who need the accommodation to have sound lines on the actual test day.
Friday's is the test day. We do a phonics test and we do a spelling test. I usually write the sound lines on the board and the students spell the words on their paper. We are very explicit. From Monday to Friday it is always... "I say, You say, We say." So I would say... "the word is bake," then the students repeat "bake". I then say and tap with my fingers "b-a-k-e" on each sound line on the board. The students then repeat the sounding out "b - a- k -e". Then they write the word.
So the students have 10 words that follow that weeks rule. They have 2-3 red words. Finally, they have 2 dictation sentences where we revisit the prior weeks' rule, this weeks rule, and previous red words.
Our first-grade team has had great success with this program. In fact, the majority of our students who come into first grade below grade level exit at grade level or beyond. It is amazing to even watch the kiddos who came in high to soar even further because they have learned about syllabication and sounds and rules.
This was a brief description of our schedule. We also have additional time built-in for writing and handwriting throughout the day.
Part 1 of a three part series for Classroom teachers
I am often asked by colleagues how do I, or we, teach Orton-Gillingham strategies in a whole classroom setting. Let me first say I am a classroom teacher who has been trained in Orton-Gillingham by IMSE. Although, I have many credentials and degrees working with student's of special needs, I currently teach in a "regular" classroom setting. My class size has varied through the years from 24-18.
OG is intended to be used in small groups and one on one. However, on this literacy journey I have embarked on it has proven to me that OG strategies can be and should be used in a classroom setting. As many of you know, I am in the process of completing post-graduate work for my endorsement in Reading.
This 3 part series is intended to share with colleagues how I, and my team, use OG in a whole classroom setting for 1st grade students. I hope you will find the information useful. We have found great success in the classroom setting. Our students are better spellers and readers. All of the children in the classroom are challenged at all times. Teaching OG strategies allows you the ease of differentiation. It is important to note that those of us teaching in a whole class setting do have limitations as we are to adhere to a pace to complete standards that must be taught. Some of my colleagues also have high stakes testing to worry about. For this reason I have split this series into 3 parts: planning, whole class instruction, small group instruction.
Planning is of the utmost importance to have a successful classroom year. This is also the most time consuming up front. I highly suggest you sit with your reading series teacher manual. I assume if you are teaching whole class your school has a reading series that all teachers must use. For our school, the current series is Reading Street.
I use a long range planning template to plan out the whole school year. This is an essential instrument for our team. Once you create your plans, the following years are easy as you just have to tweak dates, and some field trips and adjust for short weeks. We literally refer to this document weekly when we meet as team to plan.
With this plan you should go through your reading series and take notes of the phonics skills they have laid out to teach, the comprehension strategy, and the grammar strategy. Let's also not forget about any other vocabulary that may be important to the story for background knowledge.
We saw a need to move away from memorized weekly spelling lists. Memorization of spelling lists only teaches you how to spell those 10 or 20 words. Instead, we decided to use the OG strategies to teach explicitly the phonics rules weekly. So, using the reading series we sat down with the Recipe for Reading and How to Teach Spelling books and came up with new spelling lists. Using these materials we wrote down the rule so we could communicate it to parents effectively, came up with 10 spelling words that the students would not know ahead of time, 2-3 red words to be included on the test, 2 dictation sentences that will use that week's phonics skill and previous weeks phonics skills, and finally a list of 5 more words and one more dictation sentence to use for the practice test. At times we did change the order of the stories in the series to best teach the phonics concepts,
This will take a lot of time. But once your lists and sentences are done, they are done. You may need or want to tweak them as you go the second year. We absolutely did this.
You also need to have some OG spaces in your room. For example, I have the sand and trays in the back of the room to use with my small groups. I have a container with red crayons and another with red word paper and the plastic needle point sheets in the back of the room. It's near my small group table incase I need to do the red words in small groups. But it's also easily accessible if the class has to get ready to do red words together. My letter/sound cards are here as well.
Around the room on the walls I have sound cards, phonics rules, and COPS. The children are taught from day one that these are all tools and resources I expect them to learn and learn to use.
On the board on the top left corner I have PHONICS RULE and I write the rule and examples of the rule at work. On the board at the lowest right corner I have a the I Can Statements... I can read and spell words that follow this phonics rule....
I also have individual bags of magnetic letters in table baskets, along with one large group of drawers with additional letters. I don't tend to use these in many whole group setting, but rather they are accessible for the students if they need them when making words in small group centers In another corner of the room I have individual white boards and white board thin markers. The 1st graders love these. We sometimes work on making words in circle time, sometimes at our desks during direct instruction, and finally....for lots of fun... I allow them to write on their desks with the white board markers. YES! ON THEIR DESKS...it comes clean with wipes.
I have several games that are always available (Bananas, Apples, Pair to Pears, Scrabble Junior, Boggle, and just Scrabble tiles) in my word work center.
All the students have a Fluency Notebook. I have purchased from Teachers pay Teachers, Emily Gibbons - The Literacy Nest- and Miss Giraffe's fluency files, among other goodies I will refer to over the next few series.
Finally, I have a slideshow I have made with all the red words (individual on each slide). I also have a smart board file that has magnetic letters. We choose the red words most important for 1st graders to use and divided it into our 3 trimesters. Although they are tested weekly on 2-3 words, we also have them read the list at the end of the trimester.
Once you have all of these tools above your ready to plan your week.
I know this is a question many of have asked: What is the daily schedule?
My daily schedule can vary some days but for the most part here is what the week looks like:
7:45am-8:10 am the student's are arriving ... as soon as they are unpacked they begin on Book Club. Book Club is quiet time that we use for sustained quiet reading. You have to teach your students how to do this. How this looks and what is acceptable in your classroom. This is when I bring in some of that good old Daily 5. The children LOVE silent reading time aka Book Club.
8:10-8:45am the students begin work on their morning work. At this time they complete the "Daily Fix It" from our series. I do change up the sentences at times to work with our red words that week. They also complete a page out of their Daily Math. When the students are done they go to their Fluency notebooks. They read their fluency passage that aligns with the phonics rule. They have to read the passage to themselves, highlight the phonics rules, write the words they found on the page, and then they have to find an adult and read the passage to them.
9 we have circle time and this changes day to day:
MONDAYS: circle time we discuss the rule of the week and the story of the week. I introduce the comprehension and grammar skills we will be working on. Finally, I show them how I make words with this phonics skill. I always start with..."I know you know how to spell the sound ____. Who can tell me what are some ways we can spell this sound?" I also have them use their magic finger and draw it up in the air, or "write" it on the rug, etc...
Centers on this day include read the story on their own, word search, journal writing, computer center with Spelling City, working with my assistant, listening to stories, and finally reading with me in small groups. It is in these small reading groups that I bring out the sand trays and work on the multi-sensory part of the instruction. Here is also where differentiation happens. If I have students very advanced who do not need this part of the instruction I skip it. I will caution... they all want to give the sand tray a try in the beginning so I let them show me they can.
You NEED small groups in order to differentiate. There will be some students who need the 3 part drill at this point. There will be students who come in who do not and we go right into reading and focus more on comprehension skills. And of course you have those students who are right on grade level and they will need the 3 part drill with some lessons and with others they just need the practice of making words.
TUESDAYS: circle time we review the rule of the week. After Monday's practice I would say about 1/3-1/2 will have it down...depending on how complicated the rule was...sometimes over 1/2 will have it. On this day the students practice the phonics skill in circle time. Usually they all have their individual white boards. I will say "The word is "train". What is the word?" They respond "train". I then proceed to tap using my fingers the individual sounds to model...usually some of the students do it with me... others wait till I am done and tap it for themselves. When I can see most are done I say "reveal". They show me how they spelled train. I give them thumbs up if they have it right, other times I might say...wow that says tran.... what was our rule again? If they have trouble I direct them to the areas where the rule is written. Other times they "phone a friend" to explain the rule.
Centers on this day include read the story as a group, ABC order, making words activity, computer center for math facts drill, vocabulary, fluency notebook and playing a game with the skill. Of course we still have small group reading because it is likely I did not get to meet with each group on Monday.
Tuesdays are red word days. We start the year doing red words as a whole class. My assistant or a parent volunteer who maybe in class that day, walk around the room to make sure the students are crossing their midline and tapping correctly on their arms. Especially my lefty kiddos. As we get further along in the year, usually mid year, most of my higher students will have the basic 1st grade red words down. So at this point during morning work I will pull the students individually to spell for me the red words for the week. If they know them I don't have them do the red word drill. Then I work with those who don't know them in small groups doing the drill. You could differentiate at this time and give those students who know the words more difficult red words to learn as well. I have don this from time to time.
WEDNESDAYS: this day is nutty. My kiddos who receive support get pulled right away so our morning work changes a bit. My specials interrupt the morning as well. This is another opportunity to differentiate for those higher level students when the support kiddos are out. When the support kiddos are in, it gives me an opportunity to pull them into small groups and work one on one or small group to work on previous skills or skills that have tripped them up. We review red words from yesterday on this day.
THURSDAYS: circle time continues with review of the skill, however it is mostly driven by the students. They teach the class on what the rule is, how they know, what they know. We normally write on our desks this day. Usually, we are sorting rules. For example they may draw three columns if we are learning the phonics rule for igh... They may have a column for i_e, ie, and igh. As we continue to practice with I say you say...tap out sounds...they pick a column and we review why the word belongs in that column.
Centers on this day are similar to Monday and Tuesday. Those in the higher group get differentiation now by working with more difficult words that follow the rule, sorts, comprehension, etc... The average group continues to power through centers of making words, computer, word games, writing, vocabulary, fluency, etc... At this point my lower group or some of my kiddos that need more one on one practice are pulled into my back table to continue practice and application of the rule. This is also an opportunity to review past skills and reinforce lessons.
Thursdays is also the day we give a practice test of 5 words. Very similar to making words in the am. However, the practice paper has sound lines. We review what the sound lines mean prior to beginning. I use IMSE's planning tool for this. Again... I say, you say, we tap sounds. If a student makes an error, they circle the word so mom and dad know what they got wrong. The students correct their work as we go. A dictation sentence is given at this time.
FRIDAY: Test day. We give the students their spelling, phonics, and comprehension test on this day. At the beginning of the year I do a number of accommodations. For the first half of the year, I write out the sound lines on the white board, for each word they are being tested on. For some students they may need paper like the practice test where the sound lines are written the same. I usually pull this accommodation as we move through the year. A few times I have had some very gifted students, and for them I will give them more difficult multi-syballic words for testing.
If someone bombs the test, I of course give them an opportunity to do the test verbally. This can make all the difference for some kiddos with learning disabilities. I also keep notes of who may not have met the phonics skill with 80% accuracy and I focus on that as a review for them the following week. They will continue to see all these skills since we have built our dictation sentences to build upon the skills learned.
This is it.
All packed up for summer.
My room is empty but my heart is full.
Normally this last day of school I am running to the staff luncheon and grabbing a toast. And just as quick I am headed home.
Today I linger.
Longer than even on a usual day.
It's Friday at 4:08.
I can't believe this year is done. Another one in the books.
I looked over my blog from the last day last year. I was heartfelt. I was proud of how far I stretched myself as an educator.
But not today.
Today, I stare at this empty room and think where did my time go. It's a lot like when I dropped my eldest off at college for the first time.
How did it go so fast?
I want more time with them.
I want to make one more memory.
I want to greet them one more morning.
Did I teach them everything I needed to?
These 20 munchkins stole my heart. They truly took a piece of it.
If last year's class pushed me to stretch myself, then this class took me and cared for me. They filled my bucket.
I stare at this empty room and think these are awfully big desks to fill. I don't know how the next class will do it. I don't know what awaits. But I know the 1A class of 2018 set the bar high.
But it's off to enjoy summer. Tutor. Learn more on my Literacy Journey. Prep for next fall. But I think my mind will drift a lot to wonder how my 20 kiddos are doing. I will hold on to the giggles, hugs, smiles, and "best teacher" notes and hope to catch a glimpse of them walking the halls when they visit their new 2nd grade class.
My first grade life: Sometimes I need chocolate, other nights a glass of wine...but apparently tonight I need BOTOX.
Oh, the things kids say.
They always speak the truth.
They don't mean to be unkind.
As a teacher you just have to roll with the punches.
Today, in the midst of a very frustrating comphension lesson, for both the kiddos and myself, I said to one of them: "We have to abort this mission, my head is going to explode." I pointed to my forehead, there in itself was my mistake.... He looks at me, for a moment really believing my brains are going to spill out of my skull.
He asked curiously..."why? what?"
I joked, as I usually do, and again pointed to the forehead and said..."Don't you see it? My head is cracking open, it looks just like Harry Potter's scar." As I pointed VERTICALLY to what I felt was an imaginary line.
When he seriously looks at my forhead and moves his finger across my forehead and says.... "Actually, I think it looks more like it's cracking side ways..." as he points to that large wrinkle going across my head!"
I busted out laughing. And yelled..."Seriously kid?!?"
Only to be followed by another cute kiddo with..."Yeah Mrs.M., I think there maybe a crack between your eyes too."
Out of the mouth of babes!
It's March, which for my hubby means employment review and possible raise and bonus.
For teachers, it means returning your intent form to teach next year. And in the next month or two we will get our contracts to sign. Hopefully, a raise....you might need a magnifying glass to see it, but a small raise hopefully none the less.
But, I got my bonus early this year.
Yes, I got a bonus.
I got this beautiful rose from one of my awesome firsties.
What's so awesome about this rose, is that this little guy brought it himself. He wanted to bring us flowers to school on Friday. One for me and one for my assistant. He wanted to do this so badly he forgot his show and tell at home and mom had to go get it.
This rose means the world to me. This simple single rose says: respect and trust. See this little guy had a tough Kinder year at another school. And frankly if you had asked anyone if he would have flourished as he has I think no one would have believed it.
There is a saying "Bloom where you are planted." This little guy did just that. He was transplanted to our school this year with a four inch binder filled with all sorts of paper work.
Want to know how many times I have looked in that binder?
None, since the day he started in August.
Want to know why?
Something in me knew that this little guy needed someone to believe in him. More than any binder could tell me. He also needed to trust me. What we have built is truly amazing. This little guy has not just bloomed he has blossomed like this rose in our classroom.
If you take a little time as an adult/teacher/coach and show to your students that you respect them they will respect you back. If you take the time to speak to them with kind words you will take the wounded and heal them. If you take the time to let them earn your trust, you will earn theirs.
This little guy came in full off anxiety, not thinking he could do much, his paperwork said as much as well. And slowly he spouted. He grew into more than he thought he could. He continues to grow more than most adults thought he could.
He came in as a basic non-reader with limited sounds. Unable to write beyond a very pre-k stage. An incredible support team was established for him. This includes his wonderful parents, sisters and extended family, his pediatrician, his reading coach, the school support teacher, his tutor, myself and my teaching assistant, and finally a classroom of students who have been taught that a classroom is not just a group of friends but rather an extended family. Among this group there are have been other therapists (OT,PT, Speech etc).
We gave him a ground that was tilled with love and support. That was irrigated with trust. And supported with respect. See these are the items you need to successfully build up a child. A child who now can read, write, present in front of his classmates. He is a child who knows now he has purpose. And isn't that what we all need...to know we have a purpose. We bloom where we are planted and loved.
Our group is not tooting it's own horn. We are sounding the bells. Build a classroom with mutual respect, trust and love. Give kids a chance to show you what they can do. Work together, come together. Be supportive of all members of the group. Be consistent. Trust each other and respect the work of each.
My heart belongs to him. Never will I forget this little guy and how much he has taught me in return. This was the best bonus of all, this rose says it all.
Wife, Mom, Educator and Lifelong Learner