June 27, 2020

Personal Learning Networks

"Learning communities, like gardens, flourish when they are cultivated, when they are nourished as they evolve and mature." (The Connected Educator, pg.110)

As the PLC in my brick and mortar building continue to meet weekly, I find myself looking more and more to my network outside my building for ideas and motivation. It seems in this world of crazy times, we are more connected than ever and for that, I am grateful.

This poor little blog that I dutifully check multiple times a day years ago has become neglected. The crazy thing is that I still check a handful of education blogs that I was once connected to on a daily basis even though I have stopped posting. To those blogs that I love so much, thank you for being my motivation and giving me so many ideas to use in my classroom. I will forever be thankful.

Now, my PLN has expanded to Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter (still not Instagram and I don't know why). I want to follow you, so please leave a comment or two with your info and I will be there to be part of your PLN.

A PLN is a great thing to have, especially if your PLC in you building is waning. Reaching out to others virtually provides encouragement, motivation and (best of all) ideas to use. It gives us ways to discuss problems facing education (and there are a lot now-a-days) and build new perspectives.

I plan on revitalizing this little ol' blog because I am starting a new adventure in the CTE teacher world and plan on posting regularly. Why? Because it is fun and I enjoy it. If you know of any CTE/CCA teachers I can follow on any platform (expect Instagram :) drop their info below.


August 6, 2019

Back to School Letter for Students

Oh, HI!

It is has been a llllloooonnnggg time.

I really enjoyed blogging and am glad to be back. Being a full time working mom was busy for the past few years and this blog was in the back of my mind the whole time. I am definitely back for good.

I am jumping on to share my Welcome Back to School Letter that I send home to my students at the beginning of every year. I send this out about 3 week before school starts and it is fabulous!

I actually prep these at the end of the previous year, so all I have to do is address and mail them. Makes it super easy! 

My favorite part is that I add my address for the students to write to me before school starts. IT IS SO MUCH FUN! I always have 5-10 students write to me, in which I write back. Parents always gush on how excited their student is to get a letter. Such a simple way to set a positive relationship with parents. 

July 12, 2017

My Daily Schedule (3rd Grade)

Hi all! I am hooking up with Jen from Teacher by the Beach for her Monday Motivation series. I am a little late, but it works!

My schedule changes EVERY SINGLE YEAR.

Annoying...oh well though.

I've been trying to figure my schedule out this year since school ended in May. I think I finally got it all arranged...maybe...

If you have any suggestions, please throw them my way!

Here is the breakdown:

Morning Work
I use 5-a-Day Math from Got to Teach. It is HARD at the first of the year, because the students are unfamiliar with many of the terms. But by introducing concepts before I reach them with our math program makes teaching the concepts later on so much easier. I love it! 

I do whole group teaching for 20 minutes and then 4 rotations. More to come on this.

Planning on using the Vocab from Not So Wimpy Teacher. I am waiting to purchase this on TpT at the back to school sale. 


For interventions, we keep a small group of students and send the rest to their specials class. After 20 minutes we send the small group to join the specials class.

Read Aloud
My FAVORITE! I usually read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Holes, Dolphin Adventure, and a few more that rotate. Those are my constant ones though.

No duty this year! Wooo Hooo!

I follow Wonders (because we have to) and supplement here and there when needed.

I need to tweak my writing this year. Any suggestions? I use 4square and start out with a Mentor Sentence mini lesson, but need something more. I HATE the writing in Wonders. I follow the topics, but do so only because I am required to.

Reading Groups/Recess
For one hour, I have a reading aide come in while I do groups. This year though, I am going to need to do one group before the reading aide comes in, because my recess is during my reading groups. It will be interesting. I do four rotations: Read to Self, Meet with Teacher, Word Work (spelling with the aide), Work on Writing.

FOSS kits and Mystery Science make up my science curriculum.

And that is that! Any suggestions, please share. Have a great week!

June 20, 2017

My Classroom Library Tour

I hope everyone is having a fabulous summer! I know that I am completely loving it.

So today I am joining up with the amazing Jen from Teacher by the Beach for a Monday Motivation (even though I am posting this on Tuesday) and we are discussing our classroom libraries. I know I am crazy, but this is so exciting to me! I love getting a glimpse into other classrooms.

My classroom library has been through a lot of changes over the past eleven years. I have had it the way it is now for the past three years and I absolutely love it! Here is the breakdown:

*Divided into genre or author or series
*Each genre has an assigned sticker color
*Each book has a sticker color for the genre it belongs in
*Baskets and labels are white, so I don't have to redo them when I want to change up my class theme

Clear as mud? Great! The below pictures will be a better explanation.

Up in the lefthand corner of every book is the genre sticker and on the genre tag the sticker is also in the lefthand corner. I also LOVE having my books face forward in baskets. I have had them with the spine face out before and the kids just didn't look through them. If there is a larger amount of one series, then I gave that series a sticker color too.

These are the stickers I used to label the genres. There are 10 different colors and it worked great! I did have to double up on a few genres as you can see in the pictures.

I went through all my books last year and order the newer versions of the classics. The older pictures on the covers were a turn off to some of my students. As soon as the newer version books arrived, the students started checking them out like crazy. Just a thought :)

Hop on over to Teacher by the Beach and check out the other amazing libraries! Have a great week~

April 25, 2017

ABC Countdown to the End of the Year!

I can't believe we are already into our ABC Countdown this year. We get out of school on May 26th and it is coming fast! I had to be SUPER creative to make some of our end of the school year activities fit with the countdown this year, but it worked! Here is a peek at our countdown. Enjoy!

April 21, 2017

Reading Wonders - Thinking Boxes for Assignments

Happy April 21st everyone!

My district adopted Wonders this past year and although I have a few issues with the program, I will be using it again next year.

One thing I did to make the Wonders program a better fit for me and my students, was create thinking boxes for their assignments for the 4th grade text. These are just simple basic thinking boxes that require the students to cite their text evidence. The questions come from "My Practice" book and the vocab is from the same.

There are four total pages for each weekly unit. The first is a graphic organizer that goes along with the weekly skill, the second and third are the thinking boxes, and the last is a vocab page that comes right from the My Practice book.

I use the graphic organizer on Monday when introducing the weekly skill. We fill it out as a class as we read the story from the "key" textbook.

The following two pages with the thinking boxes are used with the "lock" textbook. In the bottom right corner is says 2.2L or 2.2S, L being for the Long story and S being for the Shorter story.

I ususally print the vocab on the back of the shorter story page.

I would like to share them with you. Just click the picture above or click here and enjoy.

Please just pay it forward :) Have a great day!

(If there are any mistakes on any of the pages, just shoot me an email at croftsclassroom@gmail.com and I will fix it)

April 20, 2017

10 Ways to Make Every Day Earth Day

Such a great infographic from Family Autos was sent to me the other day. I figure I would share it with the blogging world. 

I don't know if I could adhere to #5 very well :) 
But I love a good steak or some venison.

Enjoy my friends and have a fabulous Earth Day~

April 9, 2017

Book Study - The Reading Strategies Book - Wrap Up

Well, it is time to wrap up the book study. Hopefully you have learned as much as I have! So many of you have given me brilliant ideas to use in my classroom. 

A question I still have, and hopefully we can continue to discuss, is how to assess students. Using running records is the main way I assess, but in some of the Facebook posts, people have elluded to assessments they give. Any idea what that is about?

Next question, would anyone be interested in a book study for The Writing Strategies Book? If so, just drop a comment below. Maybe if there is enough interest we could start sometime soon. Let me know.

Once again, I have learned so much from everyone who has participated in the book study. Thank you so much!

If you are just joining us, please get caught up with the links below.

April 1, 2017

TRSB - Goal #11: Understanding Vocabulary and Figurative Language

I would like to give a warm welcome to Brittany, our guest host today, who will be presenting you with Goal #11 from The Reading Strategies Book. Enjoy!

I am thrilled to be writing this blog post about the Reading Strategies book.  I am so passionate about Literacy and absolutely love teaching it. A little background on me: I am a teacher in Charlotte, NC where they have been implementing balanced literacy for the last 5-7 years.  I have taught first grade and now teach second.  It has been so fun to see the transition the readers go through in these grades! I received my Masters from Teachers College at Columbia University and feel truly inspired by the Reading and Writing Project.

Goal 11: Improving Comprehension in Fiction and Nonfiction: Understanding Vocabulary and Figurative Language.  I love this topic and feel it is so important to explicitly teach.  Something I notice frequently when tutoring upper grade students, is the difficulty they have with tackling tricky vocabulary and figurative language.  I love the idea that language is playful and can have multiple meanings when given different contexts.  One of my favorite lessons from the Lucy Calkins 2nd Grade Reading Units is all about teaching idioms. My kids go crazy once they understand that language has more than one meaning! They love trying to figure out what they mean and coming up with their own.  While that lesson was taught way back in October, the kids STILL listen for a point out idioms in their books and our read alouds!

Here were some of my favorite strategies from this section of the book!

11.3 Insert a Synonym (Levels H and above)
This strategy is so versatile! It can be used with almost any reading level and asks students to really make sense of what they are reading.  This strategy asks students to find a word that they can substitute for the word in the text that would make sense.  I love that it forces kids to think about “what makes sense” as they read.  Modeling for students that it may take more than 1 or 2 tries is also so important.  I especially love using non examples to get them to really pay attention!

11.7 Picture It! (Levels J and above)
I love this goal because so often students understand what’s happening in the text, but a word in isolation can be tough to figure out! When students visualize what is happening in the text, they are more likely to understand what the word means. Not only does it help with vocabulary, but students comprehension of the text instantly increases as they picture what is happening.  As a second grade teacher, there is a big jump between reading picture books and transitioning to chapter books.  As they start to read harder books, the text offers less and less picture support and more and more complex vocabulary and figurative language.  We use this strategy often to help make the transition and better understand the text.  Sometimes I will even ask students to close their eyes and actually “see” the movie in their minds!

11.16 Be Word Conscious (Levels M and above)
How wonderful would it be if our students actually paid attention to the words they didn’t know in a text? How many times have I asked my students for the meaning of what I thought was an “easy” word and heard crickets? This strategy pushes kids to self monitor.  Once they are fluent readers with strong comprehension skills, they should be able to stop and ask themselves, “do I know this word?” However, I do feel like sometimes kids are not comfortable admitting when they don’t know something and frequently speed passed important vocabulary as they read.  I would love this to be a goal for many of my students! I loved these prompts that went with the strategy and plan to use them with my students!

  • Do you know all the words?
  • What strategy can you try here to figure out a word?
  • Do you think you are reading too fast to notice words that you don’t know?
  • Great job! You realized that there is a word you don’t know.

Here is a great video I found of Jennifer Saravallo teaching a strategy group about understanding vocabulary using text features in nonfiction!

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear more about the vocabulary strategies you find helpful when working with your students!

March 30, 2017

The RSB: Goal #10 - Supporting Comprehension in Nonfiction: Getting the Most from Text Features

Welcome to the discussion of The Reading Strategies Book! 

Today we have a guest post from the amazing Jimi! I am excited to get this discussion going. Enjoy~

Goal 10: Support Comprehension in Nonfiction

I am a proud Kindergarten teacher and I absolutely adore my class this year! They are super smart and very bright. They are like little sponges. But, like most kindergarteners, they struggled with nonfiction. That’s why this goal and the strategies that are in this chapter have become like a Bible to me. They have really helped me out when I was in a jam about how to support my angels with Nonfiction comprehension.

The chapter itself begins talking about why this goal is important-identifying text features is more important than knowing what they are. Speaking as a Kindergarten teacher, I know how important it is for students to be able to explain their thinking and not just read to just read.

Here are a few of my favorite strategies:

10.1 Make the 2-D into 3-D: I love this strategy! I am a big advocate for being able to use ideas and thoughts across subjects. Since we cover 2-D and 3-D shapes in Math, it is perfect to also cover in literacy. This strategy focuses on having students visualize and explain what they see and tell about the page using caption.  The teaching tip is also wise as well-focusing on modifying the language for young readers, ELLs, and students reading at a lower level.

10.5 Get More from Pictures: This is also one of my favorites because it focuses on strategies we already teach our child---look at the picture, read and think what is the same with both. I love how it takes it further and gives students the opportunity to share what they learned from the picture. This is a strategy that can be used with any reading level.

10.12 Don’t skip it! I love this strategy for two reasons. First, in the beginning, we always teach our kids in Kindergarten the strategy of Skippy Frog, which reminds students to skip a hard word and come back to it. Two, the Anchor Chart that goes along with it is great. The best part of this strategy is the teaching tip, which reminds us to teach our students to slow a reader’s pace down by looking at everything on page. This is extremely important with nonfiction because students need to fully understand how all the information goes together.

I could go on and on how much I love this section of the book and how much it has saved my life as a teacher.  The whole book has been such a lifesaver and I can’t wait to dig into the Writing Strategies one. Happy Teaching!

March 29, 2017

The Reading Strategies Book - Goal #9

The Reading Strategies Book - Goal #9: Supporting Comprehension in Nonfiction - Determining Key Details

Oh, oh, oh! I LOVE this section. It is clear full of greatness that I use in my class when identifying main idea and key details.

"Determining importance means picking out the most important information when you read, to highlight essential ideas, to isolate supporting details, and to read for specific information. Teacher need to help readers sift and sort information, and make decisions about what information they need to remember and what information they can disregard." - Harvey and Goudvis

To be honest, the above statement is SO MUCH easier said than done.

Helping kids determine the main idea and key details that support that main idea is essential to any successful teacher/student. But how do we do this?

First, we have to understand that some students are "whole-to-part thinkers" and some are "part-to-whole thinkers". I love how Jennifer describes what each is (pg. 247) and how to distinguish between the two.

I use so many of these strategies in my class every time we are reading a nonfiction text. My two go-to favorites are:

-9.2: Reading with a Sense of "WOW"
---This has made my students better readers all around!

-9.6: Consistently Ask, "How Do I Know?"
---This has helped my students reflect and remember what they read as well as be able to identify those key details that support the main idea.

Please, please, please share your favorite strategies in the comments!