Guided Math Part 3 — Confessions of a Real Teacher

I had plans to take photos of my math rotation board and how/where my math centers are stored. But, it went to the part of my brain where all good intentions go to die. In between conferences and trying to survive this week, I forgot. You will have to enjoy my pictureless descriptions and imagine […]

via Guided Math Part 3 — Confessions of a Real Teacher


Decorah Iowa Eagles (2 Nests)


We started following this first nest about the middle of February…Decorah Iowa Eagles

Egg #1: 2/20/17 @ 7:30 PM. Video here!

Egg #2: 2/23/17 @ 6:18 PM. Video here!

Egg #3: 2/27/17 @ 7:03 PM. Video here!

We just started following this set of eagles. The second nest in Decorah, Iowa is the Decorah North Eagles…Decorah North Eagles

Egg #1: 2/19/17 @ 5:53 PM CT

Egg #2: 2/22/17 @ 3:09 PM CT

Egg #3: 2/25/17 @ 5:12 PM CT

I truly have loved sharing the websites of the two different Bald Eagle nests in Decorah, Iowa with my students. We always take time during our snack break at 10:00 a.m. to see what is happening with them. Both sets of eagles have 3 eggs they are waiting on to hatch. It has been over a month since the eggs were laid.  Both sets of eagles so they should be hatching soon!

They have a great tutorial on you tube about how to tell the difference between mom and dad eagle. It has made a difference with my students. Here is the tutorial video…How to tell the difference between mom and dad eagle.  My students are always coming into the classroom with a new fact they learned about eagles at home.

  • Some Eagle Facts:
  • Both mom and dad take turns sitting on the eggs
  • Mom is larger than dad eagle
  • Dad looks like he is wearing eye liner
  • Young bald eagles are not bald
  • Only found in North America
  • Bald eagle nests are 2-4 feet deep and 4-5 feet wide.
  • Bald Eagles don’t sweat…so they need to use other ways to stay cool like panting, staying in the shade or holding their wings away from their body
  • Their talons are important for hunting and fishing
  • The beak and talons grow continuously, because they are made of keratin, the same substance as our hair and fingernails
  • The beak of a female eagle is deeper (distance from top to chin) than the beak of a male
  • The bald eagle is the only eagle confined to North America
  • The average bald eagle lives for about 15-20 years but it is possible for some to live over 30 years old

Website to find Eagle facts

Small Grouping/Assessments 2

Part 2 of Small Grouping/Assessments…Writing Block

I organize my writing groups into 3 different groups. I look at the students district Writing Prompts along with classroom work to split up my groups. My first group is an intervention group who I work with daily (They are the students who need support to come up with a topic and guidance of how to write 2-3 sentences that make sense). My second group is an average group (They can go back to a piece of writing to add more but are working on editing) that I check in with once or twice a week. My third group is a top group ( they can go back and reread their own writing, edit and then add at least 8-10 sentences easily to a piece and start a new piece of writing) that writes independently so I check in with them at least once per week. I have assigned three different spots in the room where each group can work and write. They can chat with each other for ideas, write by themselves facing away from their small group or edit with someone from the group. I do confer one on one with students but not on an assigned schedule. I have trouble organizing that!

We always start with a whole group mini lesson, turn and talk time and then will end with a whole group share. I try very hard to ask someone to share who writes using something from my mini lesson but that doesn’t always happen. There are times I stop in the middle of our writing block to have one my students share something that I noticed about their writing (others celebrate their writing with a 10 finger woo)! I have a chart that says, I finished a book today. We celebrate those students who have put their names on the chart with a 10 finger woo! They don’t always share their book with the class but they love being noticed in front of their peers. When I go to the finished book basket, I notice most of my low students are passing in books that are really not finished. What do you do in that case?


Small Grouping/Assessments 1

Doing formative/summative assessments and flexible small grouping is ongoing in my classroom. I kind of wish someone else would come into the classroom to do the end of trimester assessments needed!  I do learn a lot from the one on one informal assessments but I would love to just do the everyday teaching of whole group, small group and one on ones! Organizing all the things needed for small grouping is a BIG challenge. How do you honestly organize your student assessment things/small grouping for the different subjects? Trying to keep up with 22 students and their guided reading levels, literacy skills, writing skills and math fluency levels is very challenging for me!  How do you manage all of those? I just finished the 2nd trimester running records, writing prompts and number sense assessments and want to make sure I am challenging my students that need it and give enough intervention to those who need it.

My students are reading every day but I am thinking of trying grouping by literacy skills instead of F & P levels for the rest of the year. What do those groups look like in your classroom? For Literacy, I am grouping by F & P leveling this year. Should I finish with Walpole and McKenna’s Differentiated Instruction? If I do, what would my Daily 5 Word Work station look like? I have a hard time differentiating the word work area. There are times a low student wants to partner up with a high student and they want to play the same game (Example…Going fishing for words). In that station, one of the choices is the first 100 Fry words Fishing game. The lower students have trouble with some of the first 20 words and the higher group can easily do all 100 with no problem…should I go back to grouping by ability for the stations? I will continue this slice topic in another post!

Uniforms for Work?

There are some days when I wake up and wished we had uniforms to wear to work. I have a hard time picking out clothes every day. It does add some stress to my day. I think about nurses, doctors, police officers…ect. They don’t have to worry about the wear and tear on their own clothes. I am a first grade teacher so I spend a lot of time on the floor or down on one knee so that I can talk with the students eye to eye. Most of my pants are worn out in the knees because of this. Somedays I get chalk, whiteboard marker, paint, and other things on my chalk. I often wonder what I would choose if I could for a uniform. I would like the choice of pants, skirts or longer shorts (tan, navy or black), leggings (navy  or black) and long sleeve/short sleeve collared white/navy/black. What do you think about possibly wearing a uniform to teach/work in?

When my own three children were younger, they went to a school that they had to wear uniforms. They had no problem making sure their clothes were picked out ready to go.  All the students at the school looked somewhat alike. I loved that the school had a recycle program right at the school. You could turn in a few items and in exchange take a few items. This kept the cost down for families. I had the initial investment every year but then if my child grew a lot that year, I was able to exchange some of the items at the recycle shop in the school.

I asked one student today in my classroom if she would like to wear a uniform to school every day. She said, “no, I like choosing what I want to wear!” I then asked her mother who happens to be a teacher at my school the same question. She said, “no, I like picking out my clothes I want to wear!”

Overall, I think I would like to try having a school uniform to see how it goes. Do you know of any public school that wear uniforms?

4th Grade Buddies

This year my first graders are buddies with 4th graders. The routine is usually…the 4th graders come down to our classroom to read together (5 books that my students have picked out, fry word practice and 1 magazine), do some kind of math game to practice fluency and a couple of Brain Breaks. Once a month(usually the last Thursday of the month) my first graders get to go upstairs to the 4th grade classroom to do an activity that they plan. It is usually a science/social studies theme related project that goes with our curriculum! There are times the 4th graders have a harder time staying on task than my first graders. I always train the buddies how to sit EEKK when reading with their buddies and how to coach their little buddy when they get stuck on a word. It is wonderful to watch the interactions between the buddies. One thing that is hard is when the 4th grade class has more students than I do. When I match up two big buddies with one little buddy due to the numbers in the class, I find that the big buddies don’t focus on the little buddy at all. They spend time goofing off. What do you do when the numbers don’t match up? It is no problem to put two little buddies with one big buddy because the big buddy can read to both of them or have one do read to self while the big buddy listens to the other little buddy. For math fluency the fourth grade buddy rolls 2-4 large foam cubesread-to-someone-daily-5-clipart-panda-free-clipart-images-oZX3gW-clipart for their little buddy (there are students working on adding 2,3 or 4 addends at a time). My students have to think out loud to explain their thinking of what strategy/strategies they use when trying to figure out the sum. I do a lot of modeling for buddies so they know how to help my students explain their thinking verbally. This activity is hard for some of the buddies because we have a high percentage of speech students in the school. If you do BIG/little buddies…what activities do you do and how often do you meet?


                        My mother turned gray around 45 years old! Once she decided to stop coloring her hair…it became a beautiful silvery color! Even though it was gray, it did not make her look older. I started noticing gray in my 40’s also. I have to color my hair every 6 weeks or my roots become very visible. I should have colored my hair last weekend, just before conferences but life has been so busy getting ready for student-led-conferences. I had two other staff members tell me today that they thought conferences were for the teacher and parent only. They said it is a time to talk about the student without them being there. All my parents know how to contact me if they thought there was a problem. I believe spring conferences should be about the student sharing work they have collected to show growth throughout the year. The students and I always talk about their strengths and weaknesses in class so when they share they know what to talk about. I am about 3/4 of the way done with the conferences and feel they have been going very well. I have enjoyed watching the student do most of the talking! I didn’t get home until 7:30 p.m. tonight because I had to stop and pick up some coloring. I rarely have the time or money to have someone else do my hair. I finally finished coloring my hair by 9:20 p.m then ate dinner. Here I am at 10:39 p.m. trying to finish up this slice! I am so exhausted. One more day of conferences and then I will be all done. I am looking forward to sending home a survey about what my parents thought about student-led-conferences. I will have my students give me their thoughts about having to do the talking and sharing. I am now ready to head to bed. I am glad I had the time to color my hair! I feel better about they way my hair looks! Do you have to color your hair? If so, how often?