Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wow...Thanksgiving is over already?!?!

Where is this school year going? I cannot believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone, and now we have 3 crazy weeks until our winter break!

I really wanted to have an awesome teacher blog this year, but I guess that will have to wait until my 2 graduate courses are over in mid-December. I apologize for not having FUN and FRESH stuff to share! However, with that being said, because I started this blog, I have learned so much and found so many wonderful ideas from my fellow teacher bloggers! You all are the BEST!!!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that the upcoming holidays allow you to get some rest and relaxation!! I promise to spend some time updating my blog very soon!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

TBA Book Club--The End Of Molasses Classes by Ron Clark

I am participating in a book club linky party. We are discussing The End of Molasses Classes by Ron Clark. Ok, I am posting on my iPhone, so I will keep this brief tonight. I will add more tomorrow. I just completed Principle 5: Listen. While the whole book has affected me and moved me and motivated me, the section about listening to our students really hit home. Sometimes I think we fail to stop and listen, or we fail to ask the right questions when we have troubled students. Maybe they are just waiting for us to talk to them, to help them. I feel like maybe I have had some "Kenneths" over the years, and I do not want to let any more to slip by without me reaching out to them. I am going to work on my listening skills and try to remember that sometimes, we have to take a risk and ask our students what is going on.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I am so horrible at keeping up with this blog! I apologize!  However, I do think my absence can be excused because here is a list of what I have been up to:
  1. I am a member of our school's Continuous School Improvement Committee. We are building everything from scratch since we are a brand new school. It is interesting to say the least!
  2. I am taking a course on designing computer-based instruction. It is a GREAT learning experience that is adding to what I learned during my studies in my MAEd in Instructional Technology program.
  3. I am taking a course on Gaggle through my school system.
  4. I went to the N.C. Elementary Educators conference last weekend. I got to see Ron Clark speak, and he is definitely a motivator! I went back into my classroom with a new outlook on how I want to teach my students. This was the second time I had the opportunity to hear him speak, and I think this time around it meant a lot more to me. The first time, I was a brand-new teacher and probably had no clue about the challenges I would face and how to handle them :)

Am I forgiven?? :)

I also saw "The Bag Ladies" at the conference. Oh my gosh, they have some of the greatest project ideas! I am trying to figure out where I want to use some of their ideas. I wish their website had some "freebie" ideas (I think that might encourage people to buy the books if they haven't seen them in person). They offered up some great ideas to make activities that we do in the classroom into FUN, hands-on activities. I know my students love to do "artsy" things, and these are easy enough for a crafty-challenged person like me to do and to teach! Check them out! The Bag Ladies

I created a tutorial for the Three Branches of the U.S. Government that I will share with you once I tweak it a bit. I only got an 88% :( so I need to fix some things before I make it public!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The First 3 Weeks

Oh wow, it has been a whirlwind the past 3 weeks! We finally got into our building on August 30th, and I feel like I have not stopped running since then. Our school is BEAUTIFUL! It has some flaws....closest adult restroom is in the office, classroom design not the best to allow easy flow of students, not a lot of space for a classroom full of 9-10 year olds, lack of furniture to allow for group work, etc. It is very obvious that teachers were not asked to serve as consultants to the architect. However, overall, it is a wonderful space and we will learn to make it all work for us as the years go by. Our Smartboards are expected to be installed this week. I am doing a HUGE happy dance for that. It has been tough living without any sort of projection technology for the first 3 weeks. We got 10 boxes of math manipulatives last week, so now I feel like I can be a proper math teacher. It is all falling into place! The students are happy, (most of) the teachers are happy, parents are happy. It will be a great year!

I am attempting to do "Math Workshop" in my class this year. I found some great ideas from a variety of teachers including these two things from

Math Workshop Rotation Board
First Days of Math Workshop

I know I have not been providing many "fantastically fresh and fun" 4th grade ideas so far, but I will share things soon!!! Until then, thank you for following my blog!

Oh, and here are some pics of my classroom. We have not been given the go-ahead to put things on walls, so it is a bit bare. I have actually changed it up a bit since these pictures were taken.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tomorrow is THE Day!

Wow, tomorrow is finally our first day of school!!! We spent last week attempting to set up classrooms in a construction zone. On Wednesday, we finally had furniture in the classrooms and Thursday we got our curriculum materials. We are still not at 100% and will live without a gym, school kitchen, or media center for quite some time. We do not have many supplies or manipulatives yet, but they will be unpacked and delivered to us soon. It is going to be quite an adventure, but I am so excited to finally meet my 23 4th graders!!! Here is a picture of my classroom as it looked on Thursday. It is MUCH better now, but still not exactly where I want it to be. Once we get the go-ahead to put things on the wall, I will post my FINISHED picture!

Friday, August 19, 2011

I apologize!

I have been horrible about posting actual ideas lately. I will admit that I have been trying to relax and enjoy the last few days of my summer break :) Today I plan to go through all of my documents from last school year, and hopefully I will find a few original things to share with you!

I know that many of you are back in school. I hope that your year has started off FANTASTICALLY!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

We have a date!!!

I am so excited! I finally know when I will get to start with my wonderful 4th graders! We were scheduled to begin on September 1st, but they have pushed our start date to September 6th so that they have time to install all of the computers, furniture, etc. According to our principal, we should be able to get into our classrooms to start setting up on August 29th. Now I feel like I can finally start planning a bit! We will have a week with our school faculty to start working on school improvement plans, getting to know each other, and planning before we can even get into the building since we head back to work on August 22. This year will definitely be stressful, but also very exciting!

Also, we are hoping to do 2-person teams this year if our principal will allow it. We are looking at one teacher taking care of Reading/LA and Social Studies, and the other teaching Math and Science/Health. If we do this, I will be doing the Math & Science. I am a little nervous about this, since I have always just naturally felt stronger teaching Reading/LA (probably because I started my teaching career as a 7th grade Language Arts teacher). I am looking forward to possibly being able to focus on a few subjects vs. all of the subjects. Does anyone out there "departmentalize", and if so, do you have any words of wisdom???

Sunday, August 14, 2011


One of my fellow teachers took some pictures of our new school. This is what the classrooms looked like about 10 days ago. They have been working at lightning speed, and hopefully we will be in and ready to start on September 1st. I have no idea what furniture we will have or anything, so I can't even begin to wrap my brain around room set-up at the moment. Hopefully when teachers return on August 22nd, we will get some information :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Student Binders

I have decided to try to implement a student binder system this year. Last year, my students had a great deal of difficulty staying organized, and it really impacted so many aspects of the classroom. We were unable to give suggestions for the supply list this year, but I managed to find some binders at Sam's Club...6 for $8.58. I picked up four packs, and will go back for more if I get more than 24 students. The name is pretty basic. I am calling it our HERO binder after our school Heroes Elementary. Another poster on A to Z Teacher Stuff gave me the idea for the acronym Have Everything Ready and Organized...which fits perfectly! I found some adorable clip art from Clementine Digitals. Students will be required to keep their homework folder, planner, and "take home" folder in the binder. I am hopeful that this will help with organization, and that the binders will hold up :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Back to School Ideas

Since I am unable to get into a classroom to start setting things up, I have decided to spend some time each day coming up with some engaging, educational ideas for the first few days of the new school year. I will share a few with you today (and I hope you will do the same in the comments section). I wish I could remember exactly where I found these ideas, but I am pretty sure not one of them was my original idea. So, THANK YOU to the creative minds that got me started :)

*Early on during the first day, I play the Eraser Game (Instructions here: Eraser Game ). It is a fun, hands-on way for the students to understand the importance of having rules and knowing the rules/expectations ahead of time. We then have a great class discussion about what would happen in the classroom if they did not know my rules/expectations/procedures. This is a great segue into modeling of some of the procedures.

*For Social Studies, I developed a scavenger hunt that matched our text book. This was a great way for me to assess my students' map skills and other prior knowledge of our social studies concepts. Students were required to completed a set of  "challenges" such as locating a particular place on a map within the book using latitude/longitude, solving riddles about states, etc. We have a new text book this year, so I will be working on the newest scavenger hunt this week. I have also used scavenger hunts to allow students to "peek" through their other textbooks, but overall, I think the Social Studies hunt is the most authentic because they are, in a sense, being explorers! I will post my finished work very soon!

On a different note, I had the chance to attend a potluck that was held by my new principal and assistant principal today. Several of the teachers who are moving to our brand-new school were able to attend. I have met many throughout my time in the school system, and I am VERY excited to be working with such an awesome group of educators. As of noon today, we are still on track to get to move into the building sometime after August 25th, and our start date is still slated for September 1st. Hopefully none of that will change :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Top Ten Reasons I Know It Is BACK TO SCHOOL Time!

Head on over to the linky party on Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits!

Here is my top 10 list:

10. My garage is filled with all of my boxes ready to move into my new school....whenever it is finally complete!

9. I have a 10-mile long "TO DO" list, and the stress is on when I realize I only have 2 weeks to get it all done!

8. I am going through my closets to see which outfits still fit and will work for the 90+ degree temps we inevitably have during the first month of school.

7. I am dreading giving up my sandals and flip flops for my ultra-comfy (but not as cute) Dansko shoes!

6. I spend about 5 hours each day browsing all of the awesome teacher blogs and Pinterest for new ideas for my classroom.

5. Since I am going to a new school, I am feeling like a brand-new teacher...I will have new teammates, new administration, a new school. It is scary! I am sure the back to school nightmares will start soon :)

4. I am starting to plan our menus for the month after I go back to work. Between getting into the swing of working and my daughter's 3 nights of gymnastics each week...I need a plan!

3. I am trying to adjust my water drinking to match when/how much I drink while at school. Sounds silly, I know, but I need to get back into the swing of no "potty" time during class time. EEK!

2. I am thinking about everything I planned to do this summer, and kicking myself for only doing some of those things.

1. While all of my non-teacher friends are EXTREMELY excited about getting their crazy kids back to school, I am extremely excited to get back into the classroom with all of those crazy kids :) (Even though I will miss my 2 babies while they are in school/daycare).

Friday, August 5, 2011


 Meet the Dubiens

Ok, so I am not really crafty AT ALL, but I saw this on Pinterest and I have to make one for my desk. I also plan to make one for my daughter's 2nd grade teacher. It is just sooooo cute! I got regular terracotta pots that we will decorate, and I think mine will be smaller, but I am excited!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


After my stress of yesterday, I managed to calm myself a little. The contractors are swearing that our school will be ready for us to move into so that we can start the year there. So, today I went to gather my personal books, supplies, resources, etc. from my current school (all 15 bins...eek!). It made me sad, but also excited. I plan to spend the next few weeks going through everything and only moving the really great stuff back to school. I think I will either have a "teacher yard sale" or post things on eBay. I hope to have time to search for and develop more ideas very soon :) Thank you for following me!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I know that I should not listen to rumors and I should wait to hear the official word, but today I heard that we might not get into our school (which is currently under construction) at the beginning of the year. This means that we will probably have to double up, squeeze into odd spaces, and try to start the year off in a very abnormal way in a variety of buildings. I am terrified! I have always had that safe cocoon of a classroom every year. I have so many ideas and plans, and I honestly don't think many of them can be done if I am not in a classroom. I plan to organize my "stuff" the best I can and get things ready to go. This is not the kind of start I had hoped to get :(

Sunday, July 31, 2011

4th Grade Reading Street Goodies for SmartBoard

I am so excited to have a SmartBoard this year (at least I hope to have one!), so I have been scouring the internet for resources and ideas. I found this great website with resources for our reading series, Reading Street.

4th Grade Reading Street

Phases of the Moon Webquest

For the course I was taking this summer, Web Teaching: Design and Development, I had to create an instructional webpage. I chose to make a basic webquest on a topic that was a bit tricky for my students over the years-the phases of the moon. I apologize in advance for the "catchy tune" on the one video. My three-year old son sang it for about a week straight :) However, I figure it was doing its job if a three-year old was learning about the phases of the moon!

Phases of the Moon Webquest

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hello, my name is Colleen, and I am a Pinterest Addict!

Have you found this site yet? I have found some amazing teaching ideas (and other helpful idea) here! I have spent entirely too much time visiting the various boards and pins posted on my friends' pages. It is wonderful! You can check out the site and follow me by clicking the link below!

Follow Me on Pinterest

Summer is Winding Down!

Where has this summer gone? I returned home to NC after a 2-week trip to Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and realized that I have 3 weeks left until it is time to head back to school. The stress is kicking in! However, the 3-week countdown is not even the scary part! The scary part of it is all is that I don't know when my school will even be open! I was told earlier this week that I was moving to a brand-new building, and construction is not yet complete. Even our principal is not sure when she will get the keys so that we can start moving in. So, needless to say, I am a bit nervous. My plan for now will be to put together as much as I can here at home, then I will work on getting it all up and ready for students when we finally move in.

What is your big stressor at this point in the summer?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Branching Out!

This blog was previously designed to focus on reading/LA ideas. However, after being motivated by so many fabulous teacher bloggers, I have decided to branch out and share any and all classroom ideas I can think of or find online :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Technology in Reading & Language Arts Instruction

How do you use technology in your reading & language arts lessons?

At our school, we currently use Scott Foresman Reading Street. One thing that I really like about this basal is that it comes with a HUGE amount of technology resources. We can give assessments online and collect data more quickly and easily. It includes videos and activities for the students to do to practice skills. We can even view/print leveled readers for our students on a variety of topics. I am excited to FINALLY have a SmartBoard for next school year because many of these resources are perfect for use on interactive whiteboards!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Using Picture Books to Teach "Making Inferences"

Many of my students struggle with making inferences. It is quite difficult for them to take what they have read, their prior knowledge, and their own thoughts/ideas to infer about the meaning of what they read. I am working on compiling a list of picture books that can be used to teach this skill. Here are a few I have found so far (click on the title to go to to for more information):

The Stranger                           Chris Van Allsburg

Fly Away Home                      Eve Bunting

Teammates                              Peter Golenbock

June 29, 1999                           David Wiesner

Tight Times                              Barbara Shook Hazen

Encounter                                 Jane Yolen

Thank You, Mr. Falker          Patricia Pollaco

Image from: 

Laura Candler

Another example of a wonderful internet resource for reading/language arts instruction is Laura Candler's site, Teaching Resources. I have used both her free materials and materials that I have purchased from her site, and I have not been disappointed. Many of her activities focus on cooperative learning, and I find that they are all very easy to adapt to fit the needs of all students. My students had so much fun with these lessons/activities. I do not think they realized they were definitely learning and practicing new concepts!

Daily 5 and CAFE

I recently began planning for the 2011-2012 school year, and I am hoping to incorporate the wonderful programs created by the "2 Sisters", Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.

The Daily Cafe

I love the routines and the fact that these programs foster independence in students. My daughter, a 1st grader, used both Daily 5 and CAFE last year, and her literacy skills are fantastic! I plan to have her serve as my consultant as I set up my programs :-)


I hope you enjoy my blog that will provide links to great ideas for teaching reading and language arts in the upper-elementary grades. I will include programs that I find effective, links to websites that I find to be good resources, and any other information I can share. Feel free to share your own ideas as well!