Follow by Email

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Some Sandpaper, Stain, and a Desk Makeover!

Hello buddies-  

Like many teachers my Summer Vacation ends about 2/3 weeks before it really ends as I head back to school to open a room for a new group of students.  Part of saying goodbye to my Harry Potter theme was taking the down the signs that covered my desk proclaiming myself as a Hogwarts professor.  When I took it down I noticed how, well, TERRIBLE my desk looked.  It was time for a makeover. 

I took off the top that was screwed onto the desk when I inherited it 10 years ago.  What I found wasn't pretty!


The wood was old.  There was glue all over it from the wood attached over a decade ago. Basically it was in BAD shape, REALLY BAD shape!  

So I quickly took it home and got to work.  First there was never ending sanding.  Then there was staining with some leftover stain from the hardwood floors in my house.  Lastly, there was the polyurethane. To be honest-I'm not so good with that so my Dad came in and saved the day there!


Here it is sitting in my driveway. 
The final product came out so well it almost looks too good to be in my blue, yellow, and red Superhero themed classroom. 


Here it is in my classroom- Doesn't it look GREAT!
I am THRILLED with the final product and regret not having done it years ago!  Isn't it a thing of beauty?!?!?!

Have a GREAT day buddy!
-Damien 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Up, Up, and Away!

Hello buddies-

Where I live there are 28 days until I have to officially report for the first day of school and 36 days until I get to meet my new third graders.  It's great! I have plenty of summer left but I have been getting the teaching bug. Yup I NEED to laminate! I NEED to hang! I NEED to organize books!  It's an illness-I know! (and one I am sure many of you suffer from.) Sometimes I just NEED to get my teacher on! Ya hear me?

I am SUPER lucky that Summer school is being hosted in my building this year and therefore they are starting to clean the classroom at my end of the building instead of Kelly's end of the building- SORRY KEL! So my room is ready for me!

Here's my first made it Monday!

I use a clip chart in my classroom and until this Summer it was Harry Potter themed.  With a new theme became a new clip chart. I absolutely love my Superhero themed clip chart with punch cards for the kids.  I didn't use punch cards last year but this year I am going to, with the move to a lower grade. The kids will be working towards earning special treats by a certain date.  I love the way it all came out. 

Made it Monday #2 takes place in my classroom. I went in today to get some things done and finished my bulletin boards and the new Math board that I made. 
I'm using red, yellow, and blue to add to the superhero feel of my room. I'm not 100% sure what is going on this board yet, so stay tuned!  

What I love is how my large bulletin boards came out. 

Doesn't it look very heroic! I love the large size buildings (a tip from my buddy Kelly) as I was originally going with much smaller buildings. It leads directly to my Math board.  Here's a close up on the Math board...
Again- I'm in LOVE with it!  
Lastly, I made a cover for my September binder. 

So a new product in my TPT store, some classroom set up, plus time to float and read-
Not a bad Monday!

How was your Monday?
Your Buddy, 
Damien 

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, 
Damien 

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, 
Damien 

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....

SUPERHEROES IN TRAINING

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.
Read: MULTIPLE COATS!

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!
Damien 

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? 
-Damien 

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 www.barebooks.com 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!
-Damien