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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Book Study and a FREEBIE!

Hello buddies-

In my never-ending attempt to be a better teacher I have been devouring professional texts this summer.  Most recently I am reading Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo.  Although I am only on the third chapter this book has confirmed a great deal of what I already knew about reading instruction and has provided some great tips or strategies.  

Jennifer talks about a Reading interest inventory and the need to learn about students as readers.  I have a reading inventory a colleague shared with me a few years ago and until I read this book I was happy with it.

I used the questions posted in the book to create the Reading Interest Inventory shared in this post.  It's not pretty- I warn you. I plan on posting the reading inventory into my Google Classroom and had to make it in Google Docs (which I love for functionality, but not so much for design). 

You can access the Reading Interest Inventory HERE  

Hope it helps you get to know your readers. 
Your buddy, 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

And the baskets are PINK!

Hello buddies-

So as I've mentioned before, I am changing grade levels. If you've change grade levels before that this post is going to cause quit a bit of head-nodding and if you haven't changed grade levels than read this post as a cautionary tale. 

So, I'm excited to change grade level and move from fifth to third. You should also know that I am a bit of a work horse and was excited for the challenge that comes along with it. I've found piles of books to read as read alouds. I have my new Writing Workshop units of study and have already finished reading and taking notes on the first unit. I have a new theme that I LOVE. I've created a new clip chart, new name tags, new writing chart, ordered posters from Vistaprint. I found new Math games and have read three professional texts about how to improve my craft.  I'm preparing and LOVING it!

So one day last week I stopped in my completed classroom.  I lucked out since I usually can't get into my room until mid August but the custodial gods were in my favor this year.  All the Harry stuff was gone and I started prepping and organizing materials. I printed! I laminated! I cut!  Things were going well. 

Then I uncovered my classroom libraries. I had planned on putting away all the fifth grade level books and making room for some new third grade level books for my incoming kids and then I noticed it!  Yup! I can't believe I didn't notice it before. In al the planning to change themes and grade levels I didn't even notice it. How could I miss it?!

 The baskets were PINK!!!!!!

You see when I had a Harry Potter themed classroom I tried to get everything in blue, silver, and purple.  Very magical-right? However, baskets at my dollar store were scarce so I wound up with blue, sky blue, and pink. It worked, I accepted it! Pink is kind of purple-right? Well now I couldn't possibly have pink baskets in my red, blue, and yellow superhero classroom!!!! I wouldn't be able to look that library straight in the face ever again. It would haunt me every single day-EVERY day! So I set off to THREE different Dollar Trees and there were no baskets that met my needs. They were either too small, weirdly shaped, or  not the right colors. What am I Goldilocks? What's a teacher to do?!?!?!

Head to Home Depot for a library basket makeover project! 

These are the light blue and pink baskets from the Harry Potter themed classroom
I had when I was a Fifth Grade teacher. Cute-but not very superhero-like, right?
The light blue became yellow.
And the pink became red. 


Here is the project underway. 

Here they are- don't they look SUPER Heroic and will be great next to
the dark blue baskets I already have in my library.

The lesson I learned from this basket freakout and makeover project- when life hands you a classroom theme makeover catastrophe, grab your spray paint and get rid of the pink!

I've got quite a few makeover projects ready planned for this Summer, so stay tuned for what comes next!

Your Buddy, 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Everything Old is New Again...

Hello Buddies-

So last week I posted that I was moving from Fifth Grade to Third Grade this September and that meant saying GOODBYE to my very pretty and well loved Harry Potter Classroom Theme.  After some mourning of the "end of an era" (that's what I have been calling it) it was time to start planning.  

Step one was to pick a theme and some colors to go along with it.  After much debate a theme was chosen and the colors were picked.  I am happy to a announce that my new theme will be....


I'm super excited about the theme and if you follow us on Pinterest (if not, what are you waiting for) you've seen some of the SUPER ideas I have up my sleeve thanks to the wonderful people sharing their themes and ideas.  

Now colors- well, I was replacing my *magical* blue, silver, and purple with a heroic red, yellow, and blue.  That meant some painting, therefore making everything old new again...
This is what my shelves looked like during my Harry Potter theme. 

The process begins

These were my heroic colors
Now- I'm lucky enough to have a phenomenal co-teacher who came in with her family to help paint.  In one day we painted two metal shelves, a filing cabinet, my mailboxes (they were nine years old and UGLY), the top of my wall length shelves, and a small patio table I use during Writer's Workshop. Since the floors in my room hadn't been done yet I was free to be messy as the custodians were going to do my floor after the painting was done. 

Here's some work in progress: 

Painting Yellow over Grey was NOT fun at all.

This cabinet was once purple!

This was after the first coat dried- There was a second coat applied the next day. 

The chaos in progress. Here you can see the mailboxes we painted as well. 
I'm SUPER (expect a ton of SUPER puns in the future) excited about my new theme and am embracing the change.  If you have any SUPER ideas (see!) feel free to share below! 

Up, Up, and Away!

Friday, July 17, 2015

And We're Movin' On

Hello buddies-  

Some BIG changes for the Reading Buddies occurred the end of this year that kept us away from our little blog here.  Let me catch you up.

I teach fifth grade and have done so for 9 years, except the one year I went to fourth to loop to fifth.  I LOVE fifth grade!  I LOVE the kids, I LOVE that they are mini adults, I LOVE being their last year at my school, I LOVE the books, and I LOVE that they are mine for 6 hours a day.  That last "LOVE" was added on purpose-keep that in mind.  

Our district has been talking about departmentalizing fourth and fifth grade four about two years now.  Last year they piloted it in four schools and with zero data whatsoever- no PARCC scores, no DRA comparisons, NOTHING- they decided to departmentalize next year.  I am sure that there are many wonderful things to being a departmentalized teacher but it is NOT for me. My slogan has been "If I wanted to teach a subject instead of a child I'd be a middle school teacher". So, with no say on departmentalization (seriously-why does no one ask our opinions?) it was obvious a change was needed and I requested a grade level change to a non-departmentalized grade level which meant I would be a K-3 teacher-YIKES!

When the chips fell it wound up I was going to teach 2nd grade.  I was excited and nervous as hell.  Now, my good Reading Buddy Kelly teaches 2nd grade at my school so I knew I'd have someone to help me along the rough parts as I adjusted to such  younger grade and was super excited to be her grade level partner.  For about three weeks we chatted, tossed ideas around, I started pinning my Safari theme ideas, and was preparing to move my room to the other side of the building.  Then the whole school was called to a staff meeting- UH OH!  Well the details are monotonous, but all you need to know is this Reading Buddy was left hanging for three days!  I know that doesn't sound like a lot but it was KILLING me not knowing what I would be teaching.  When all was said and done- GOODBYE Kelly and 2nd grade and HELLO 3rd grade. That's right- next year I will be a third grade teacher.  
All this came down and now lives in my basement-BYE Harry Potter theme!

I'm super excited now (though still mourning not working with Kelly a little bit). Third grade is definitely more my "wheelhouse" and what I "do" as a teacher.  Plus Kelly and I can stay Reading Buddies!!! (YIPPE). Now it was time to say Goodbye to my last fifth grade class, a class I looped with and LOVED and get ready for a new grade level and a new classroom theme. Let's just say I was an emotional mess for all of June.  More tissues were used, more cookies eaten, and more stressful breathes taken than ever before.  However now I'm ready! 

Ready to be a third grade teacher. 
Ready to say goodbye to fifth grade. 
Ready to say GOODBYE to Hogwarts. 
Ready for a new adventure! 

Will you join me on my new adventure? 

P.S.- If you follow us on Instagram, TPT, or Pinterest (TheReadingBuddies) you already know my new theme,but for those of you who don't follow us (what are you waiting for- JK)- STAY TUNED!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Narrative Writing- The Heart of the Story

Hello Buddies-

How's it going? Life is pretty busy here as we enter the final inning of the "big game". As I write this blog post I am currently in the middle of PARCC testing(yuck), my DRAs are due in two days (double-yuck), and somewhere in there I am trying to teach.  But this ISN'T a complaining post (I promise).  This post is all about my recent Narrative Writing Celebration.  Thanks to a dear colleague of mine and my extreme fear that for my looping class I would be the last writing teacher they would have before middle school (PANIC!)- I dived deep into Writers Workshop and it has been a HUGE success.  Seriously, like my kids are writing better than any other class I have ever had and the district keeps sending teachers to my classroom to see my writing instruction.  Not too bad for year two of Writers Workshop.  

Celebrations are a HUGE part of Writers Workshop and this time around I chose to publish our books hardcover using a great website called where you can order a variety of blank templates to write in.  They look great when finished and the kids talk about having created a "real" book. LOVE THEM!

Look at my writers and readers with their hardcover books
Although our book were fantastic, and they were.  I wanted those in attendance to see behind the published piece so besides a video of my kids explaining the writing process and answering some pretty challenging questions about writing we created exposition boards. An exposition board included samples of our work with post-it notes showing off some of our techniques and the changes made to our writing throughout the process. 

Here one of my writers teaches our second grade buddies about the process behind his story.

An exposition board close-up- (and sideways! LOL)

The boards are really impressive and help my kiddos to guide the conversation when parents, kids, administrators, or other teachers stop by their station in the APR. The post-its show what they want to showcase and help them share what happened, in some cases, weeks ago in our classroom.  God bless my classroom para who photocopies the samples for the kids to use on their boards.  

In the end our celebration was a HUGE success and my kids were so proud of their writing and a few people (including myself) teared up as the read the HEART of their story aloud in small groups.  

How do you celebrate the writing that your students have completed? Is your school using Writers Workshop? I'm dying to know!

'Til next time!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Hello friends-

Remember us, The Reading Buddies? We probably hang out at the bottom of your blog feed.  Oh, now you remember us!!!!!

Well we are back.  We are working hard dot spruce up our blog and post on a regular basis- It's our new resolution.  

I was wondering how many of you run a "class blog" that your students can read and respond to? I do.  Here's a particularly profound post that I wanted to share with you that I just finished writing.  Check it out and don't forget to let me know what you do as far as "class blogging". 

Nice to touch base again friends and we promise to pop by more often. 

Here is my most recent class blog post: 

What do those numbers symbolize?

My age? (I wish)

Years teaching? (not yet)

They actually symbolize the final days of the school year.  As I write this post (Tuesday night) we have 27 days remaining in this school year which means we have spent the last 333 days together learning, laughing, and loving being around each other. As I have mentioned before I was really nervous, yet incredibly excited about having a looping class. However, I can honestly say that you have alleviated all of those fears and and surpassed any expectation that I had of our time together.  Although I know that you are ready to go, it will be hard to let you go on that final day in June. 

It's a weird thing, teaching. You are partnered up with a group of people who you will spend six hours a day, five days a week, for 180 days (and for us-double that). Then, some warm day in June as the sun blazes and the desks empty, it's done! That's it! We say goodbye knowing that we will never be part of the same group again. WEIRD, right?

The end of the year is a time to reminisce, to look back at the good times we had together. Let's look back at all we have learned and the fun we have had.  In your comments below answer the following question:

What's one experience you had in FOURTH grade that you hope to remember for a long time?

The Reading Buddies
Damien & Kelly

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fall Fun

Hello Buddies!

I know it's been a while but life just keeps getting in the way of our little blog here.  As I type this I should already be asleep because I have been tired for the last two hours, yet here I am!  

I thought we would share a simple and fun activity the Reading Buddies got together to do the end of last month. We had all been working our little behinds off with SGOs, preassessments, data collection, report cards, parent/teacher conference, and you know-TEACHING that it was time for a little fun. As they say, sometimes you just have to pull out the paint. 

I found some lovely autumn colors in my closet and a sheet of card stock for each student (regular paper would have ripped or dried weirdly).  I poorer the paint to each table and Q-tips as paint brushes. This way the little ones couldn't over do it with the paint and I could throw the Q-tips out which means no paint brushes to clean and dry and put away.  Everything we used just went in the trash.  

Here are just a few of our lovely Fall Trees. 

Hope you've had some fun in your classroom lately, if not...IT'S TIME TO PULL OUT THE PAINT!