Instagram Fun!

Hi Y'all,

So...it's been a while. It's been a very tough couple of weeks, and this has been put to the wayside. However, I'm hoping, since I'm done with graduate school (!), and my time has opened up significantly (read: no more 3-4 hour grad school work sessions per DAY), I can hopefully devote more time to my blog.

So, in an attempt to welcome myself back to the bloggy-world, I'm linking up with What a Teacher Wants! and Apples and ABCs Teacher Talk Tuesday! I had my own, personal Instagram, and this was an excuse to create one for my classroom (which I've considered for a while). I've only added a few pictures to my new Instagram account, but I'd love to gain some followers! :)

Check it out if you have the time! I'd love to find some others to follow as well... and I can't wait to continue to link up each week, and see what others are up to as well!


Check out my Instagram at mindfulrambles! Click the image below to take you there!



Cheers,
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First Year Friday: Featuring ME!

Happy Friday!

I'm so excited for this Quickie Post! It means I get to tell you about my feature on Sparkles, Smiles and Successful Students for Amber's First Year Friday Feature {Tips from Top Teachers}! And guess who is the feature today?! Yup, ME (you guys are so smart!). Head on over to her blog for my blog post for some first year teaching advice, and tell me what you think! Also, if you want to be featured, fill out this form. It is super easy, and a great way to connect with a terrific blogger :)

Cheers,

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Processing and Healing...

Hi everyone,

So I have been MIA for the past several days. My last post was Monday morning, smiling from ear to ear about one of my favorite days in springtime in Boston, Marathon Monday. That smile turned to tears just a few hours later, when I first heard of the senseless tragedy that occurred at the finish line.

I spent several hours after the bombings attempting to tracking down my friends. Thankfully, all are safe and accounted for, but unfortunately, this cannot be said about nearly 200 victims.

The past 3 days have been rough for the city of Boston, but we are a resilient, strong community of people. Not only do we have each other, but the entire nation. We feel the support across the world, and for that, I, as a resident of this historical and amazing city, am thankful. I am Boston, I am strong. I am Boston Strong.

Here is to looking forward in the wake of this tragic event,
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Just Some Food for Thought...

Happy Marathon Monday for those of you in Massachusetts!


It's a beautiful Spring day here, and I am so excited to start my Spring break off right. The fiancĂ© took off the first two days this week so we can get some major wedding stuff done (67 days to go!), and our day is packed. CUrrently, he is out getting cat food, while I eat breakfast and get ready for the gym. Together, we will be going to the gym for a few hours (yes...hours. He runs an average of 10 miles a day...), then we are off to drop our dog off at the groomers. After that, we are finalizing our wedding invitation (yes...I know we are incredibly behind!!!), and book our honeymoon (Hawaii!!).  Then, the day will be spent shopping for tea cups and an archway, along with picking up dry cleaning (for a wedding we have this coming weekend). Tomorrow is going to be even MORE jam-packed with wedding-related tasks (wedding rings! booking hotel! cake tasting!).

My 300 Follower giveaway has ended, but Rafflecopter is acting up, so I can't pick a winner! As soon as it is up and running, I will let you all know!

As I am typing this, I am sitting by my kitchen window, laptop open, with a bowl of warm oatmeal and cup of freshly brewed coffee. There is something so serene about this scene to me. It reminds me of lazy Sundays (or Mondays), with not a care in the world. It also conjures up images of independence and adulthood - oddly enough. Sitting in your robe, with a Cup o' Joe, just taking it all in. While we are all so busy rushing around, planning every minute of our day (ignore the above paragraphs please...), accessing our lives via technology (ignore the fact that I am typing this on a MacBook), it's the independent, secure individual who slows down the pace, slips on her robe, and enjoys a calm, serene breakfast by the window overlooking her garden (hypothetically. I do not have a garden because I tend to kill everything green I touch). While my life is certainly not this carefree, especially today, it is moments like this that allow me to slow down and reflect on the important things in life. Today, I will allow myself to enjoy every moment, even the stressful ones, because we only live once (please...do not cue "YOLO"), let's make it last...

Cheers,
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IT'S HERE! + Successful Saturday (Nonfiction Curriculum Fair!)

It's Spring Break!! I have been waiting for this for weeks! It was especially difficult to see all of my bloggy friends on Spring Break, when I was chugging along during the worst month of the year (It's actually a fact -- March is the worst month of the year. Look it up. It's science people.)

Well, we finally made it, and it could not have come soon enough. This last week was one of those weeks that makes me question whether or not teaching is actually my calling. It felt like everything possible that could go wrong was. It felt like everything I did or taught was a disaster. I felt like a complete teaching-failure last week. So you can imagine my excitement with 3:00 pm on Friday rolled around. I have this next week to reflect on my teaching priorities and decide the best way to make my teaching most effective when we come back.

Enough of the depressive post - time to reflect on what HAS worked this year :)

I've been meaning to post about previous successes in my classroom, but, as I mentioned, last week was a week from hell, and the previous weeks I've just been too darn busy to post anything meaningful (sorry).

Time to go back in time here people. I'm talking all the way back to March 14th - when we had our Annual Nonfiction Curriculum Fair! The entire Lower School spent several weeks planning, creating and prepping to showcase all of our work on our class's Nonfiction Topic. Each class had a different topic they were going to study and present. Our class studied Sea Animals, and each of my kiddos had a different animal to study. This was perfect, because it was just familiar enough that my students had a lot to offer, but we still had so much to learn and compare. It was also important for me to incorporate as much reading instruction as possible. Other classrooms focused more on the research process and presentation. My kiddos are not currently at the level that that is a priority to me - I wanted to use this topic study as a means to utilize our reading strategies, while still continue to teach reading skills. I found this terrific series, A Day in the Life: Sea Animals. The series is fabulous and there are lots of different topics, all with specific animals for each topic! (Desert Animals, Arctic Animals, & Rainforest Animals)

We have 8 kids in our class, and with 6 Sea Animal books in this series, we had to get creative (not very creative I must add....). We had two students do Sea Turtles (because we split our reading groups into 2), and we took the Narwhal book from the Arctic Animals series. This worked out well and the kids were still able to work individually on their topic without repeating much!

We of course, started our unit with a Nonfiction Features Hunt using sticky notes with the different features written on them to match to each feature in their text.

Our variation on the typical KWL chart. We use Brain Frames from the Empower Writing Curriculum. Here, a student is creating a Telling Brain Frame about the questions he has about his sea animal, the sea turtle. Other lessons included things the students already knew about their sea animals, and then things they learned after the unit was done, about their sea animal.

We also have learned about main idea and details earlier this year. We identify main ideas as "just right", "too specific" (or "too small", depending on your student), and "too general" (or "too big"). This student requires certain accommodations and specific scaffolding to access this skill. I quickly typed three potential main ideas based on his sea animal (the dolphin), and had him identify which was just right, too specific and too general. He then cut out the "just right" main idea, and pasted in onto a worksheet I created, identifying the main idea of a section within the text. Other students were required to write the "just right" main idea, without these modifications.

One of our final products for the Curriculum Fair was to write three facts about their sea animal. This student is completing his rough draft, based on a Telling Brain Frame he created about facts about sea turtles.

This student is also writing three facts about her sea animal, the Weddell seal. She generated a list of facts, and copied my handwriting based on her oral fact she provided me.

This same student is now typing her final draft of her three facts on an Alphasmart.

These students are coloring in our world map (that yours truly created). This map was used for our Sea Animal Facts, and for a labeling lesson for the different parts of a world map.

After coloring was completed, the students labeled the different parts of the world, such as the different oceans and continents. This help when they then labeled where their sea animal lives.

Another product we created was our Nonfiction Features Poster, based on our sea animal books.

I created this Nonfiction Features project by scanning different pages of their specific sea animals books. Click here for a freebie sample of this project (based on the dolphin), or click the image below.

After about 6 weeks of reading, research, and preparation, it was time for the Nonfiction Curriculum Fair! We were all so excited!! Here is a picture of our booth's setup.
Pretty awesome right? If you notice the folders on the table with their corresponding books. Each student had a portfolio that had all of their work they accumulated throughout this unit, which we put altogether into their own Nonfiction Unit Folder.

Here is a close up of the final product of our Non-Fiction Features Poster. I loved how this turned out!

And, my personal favorite product my kiddos created: our Sea Animals Around the World Map. After creating and labeling the map, we had our kiddos identify where their animal resides, by pointing their three facts to an area on the map. Some animals, such as the Great White Shark and Dolphin, live in oceans around the world, so I had those kiddos point to an area in the world where you may find one of those animals. Others, such as the Blue Ringed Octopus and Narwhal, was unique to a specific part of the world. I now have this terrific map hanging up in our room :)

As part of the fair, all students were expected to walk around and learn about other class's topics. As incentive for participating in this (and keeping them occupied for the 45 minute time slot), students were asked to complete an worksheet. They were required to ask students about their topics and write down three facts. If they completed their fact worksheet, they received a homework pass! All my kiddos were able to complete this task (with a lot of additional adult support -- which I recruited ahead of time, in the form of therapists and specialists). I had my students "work" at our booth in shifts - that way everyone had a chance to stay at the table and answer questions from other students, and also had ample opportunity to get their fact worksheet filled out!

I look forward to this fair every year! I especially love all the work the students and staff put in, to making this work. Parents are allowed to attend, and since it's on a half day, students often go home with their parents afterward (which is also pretty fun for me!). Everyone works so hard, and it shows! More importantly, the kids LOVE it and have a blast!

Do any of you do something similar? Any sort of school exhibitions? I'd love to hear about it :)

Hey, while you are here...click the links below to take you to some great giveaways.

Also, don't forget about my 300 Follower Giveaway!
Cheers,
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Huzzah! 300 Follower Giveaway!!


Yes, you read that correctly...300 Followers!! I'm so honored, humbled, and downright excited to be announcing that! When I first reached 100 (not too long ago) and threw my first giveaway, I was beyond excited! Who would have thought that something would make more excited in my bloggy-career than that moment :)

A wonderful group of bloggers, teacher authors, and children's literature authors (yes, more on that later) have offered their help to this huge giveaway! I am so thankful to these friends for their generous contributions, and to all of my fellow bloggers for inspiring me to continue writing, creating, and sharing. I thank you all so much for all of the support I have received during my blogging journey. I could not have asked for a more supportive community. A million times THANK YOU!

Now, onto the goods. This was my first time creating a giveaway form for donators to fill out. So much easier! I recommend people use a similar format to help them with organizing all of the information they need to create a giveaway - less time consuming, and so much easier!!

Fill out the Rafflecopter at this end of this post to enter. Make sure you have fulfilled all of the requirements for entering!
Check out my store here.
Vincent Mastro, the author himself has donated his wonderful book to my little ol' giveaway! I'm so honored. I recently did a review of his book, which you can view here. Also, check out Amazon for some terrific reviews on his first installment of Aesop's Childhood Adventures :)

This giveaway will be live starting at midnight on April 8 until  midnight on April 15th. The winner will be chosen soon after that (I'm on Spring Break that week...good timing!). Enter below for your chance to win some amazing loot!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cheers,
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