#ISWAYR–Week 3

So if you’re just joining this blog thread, I’ve posted about the first two week so summer reading here and here.  This makes the third installment, and it’s been fun to watch all the books I’ve been able to log so far.  There is much more of a variety that I’ve noticed in my lists this year compared to past years (2011, 2013, 2014), including many more picture books than previously–probably because I’m now teaching a primary grade, as well as have two kiddos of my own at home with whom to share great titles! (By the way, I just came across this post again, from a few years ago that I thought was interesting…)

Ok, so this week, this is what I (or we, if it’s a picture book!) read (oh, and in some cases finished):

One of my goal this summer was to start collecting read alouds to share with my new 1st graders, and this week’s books had many that I will add to my school year TBR pile.  So many good ones, though, I’m not sure we’ll have time to do anything else but sit on the rug together and READ!  Oh, well, I guess there are worse things we could spend our time doing, huh??

Oh, and one more thing.  Last week I shared how my TBR pile had shrunk and was only half as tall as the week before, but alas then I took another trip to the library.  And this happened:

Not a surprise for a book nerd, though, I guess, right??  Luckily there’s a vacation in my very near future and I will have even more just-sit-around-and-read-time!

What have you been reading?  What do you suggest I add to my pile? Have you read anything on my list? 🙂

 

#ISWAYR–Take 2

Last week I finally decided to update my reading progress after I had had actual time to sit and digest some really good books.  I changed the typical meme It’s MONDAY What are You Reading to SUMMER and jumped in.  My favorite picture was the one where my TBR pile was up to my knees! Remember?  As of last night (when I finished a book in a half hour!), my pile is half as tall.  LOVE seeing the progress.

 

So, to update you, this week this is what we read…

This year I have more picture books in my piles than I usually do.  Partly because since I’m in primary again I need to try out some new titles for my class this fall, partly because picture books are awesome, partly because I have had many great ones recommended to me lately, and also partly because they are quick. 🙂

When I was at the Scholastic Reading Summit a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded (by Colby Sharp) of a book I had meant to read, but hadn’t yet.  And since I had first been introduced to it, it had become a Caldecott winner and so there was another reason why I needed to enjoy it.  It was kind of a long story, but Colby told a great story of how his class does its own Mock Caldecott unit, where they vote for their favorite, and they were SURE that this book should win.  And then it did!  He even shared a heartfelt video from the winning illustrator herself, Sophie Blackall.  I was already sold on the book, but this just added to my interest.

And in case you don’t know, that book was Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear.

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What a joy to be able to read a book with that shiny gold sticker!!

This one was instantly a hit with my kiddos, and somehow it was a story I had never heard!  I guess I had never been a huge Winnie the Pooh fan, so perhaps that’s why, but whatever the reason, this was a great story to learn.  And of course, the pictures were BEAUTIFUL.  I think that’s possibly what I liked the best: the story and the illustrations were equally magical, making for a beloved book that we will surely return to again and again.  This book was made to be reread over and over and over.

And so on today’s list of to-dos: another trip to the library to see what new treasures we can find!

What have you been reading? How tall is your TBR pile?? 🙂

 

It’s Summer, What are You Reading?

Yep.  It’s that time again.  Summertime!  And of course, as a teacher, it means I have time to READ!!  Ok, I am reading all the time, but this is prime sit-and-read-a-whole-book-in-one-sitting time!  So, I thought I’d share what I’ve been reading with you, and then I’d love to hear from you about what you’d suggest!

What I’ve read…

What I’m reading…

In my TBR pile…

Is there anyone who ever has time to read everything in their TBR pile?  I have the problem that mine keeps getting taller (from great suggestions) before it gets shorter (by me finishing something)!  It is totally silly, but at this point it’s up to my knees! See?

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Oh, wait–you probably want to see the spines…here’s another version (sans me!):

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Bets on how long it’ll take?  I’m sure there’s a great math opportunity in there somewhere, but I’ll save that for another day!

Ok, now it’s your turn! What are you reading?  What do you suggest I read? 🙂

 

Things I Learned on My Summer Vacation

Summer is one of my favorite times of year.  I love being able to sleep in and stay up late.  I LOVE traveling and exploring new places (or revisiting old, favorite places for the 20th time hee hee).  Most of all, I love the time to be able to read, write, learn and really digest new things that I don’t have time to attend to during the busyness of the school year.  I thought I’d share some of that learning I’ve been doing.  First up–math! You probably don’t know about this fabulous place in NYC called Mathematics in the City.  And if that is true, then you also don’t know about the amazing teacher leader/trainer/consultant/math guru named Kara Imm.  Man, I’m sorry for you, and want you to book a flight right now.  Seriously it’s worth every penny.  It’s ok.  I’ll wait. 🙂 So, anyway, my experiences with Kara go back to a couple of years ago when she first came to Kirkwood to help us learn more about fractions.  Yes, I survived.  I learned alot and I even had some fun along the way.  I definitely began to understand fractions in a way that I know I didn’t when I was in school.  That new understanding really helped me as I then taught my 5th graders (at the time) to truly understand fractions and what they mean, not just how to do an algorithm or figure out a formula.  She then came back a year or so later and helped us through a lesson study–again with fractions–and we learned a little more. Well, fast-forward to today (a couple of years later), and we were lucky to have Kara back AGAIN.  This time she worked with our whole staff, around many math topics, and helped us all bond as we figured out how to best help kids understand mathematics.  One thing I love about the way Kara presents is that there is ALWAYS some teacher-doing-math time.  I never did that kind of thing until I went to a writer’s workshop presentation many years ago and they had me write (which I thought was totally weird).  From that first moment, I totally got how important it is, though, for teachers to feel the same struggles and frustrations as their students go through.  We got to work through many hard investigations and work through them the way our kids would.  It was really interesting that for many of us, these problems were made harder than they needed to be, though, because of the way WE learned fractions.  Like I mentioned before, I wasn’t taught the WHY but just the HOW, which in many ways is not the easiest or most efficient/effective way to solve the problem.  So, giving this same investigation to 5th graders who don’t have a UNLEARN many inefficient strategies isn’t really that bad.  Our kids are not so confused and frustrated as we are. We did two big problems: one called Muffles’ Truffles (which involved early multiplication) and another with a scenario about Frank, a farmer, and how far he drives.  It’s a problem that involves a gas tank and figuring out (with fractions) if Frank has enough to get him where he’s supposed to go.  While there’s not really any way to truly understand the scale of our conversations and they work we did without being there, here are some notes that my partner and I used to draft our thinking.  There’s also a picture of the chart we made for our Math Congress (which is a topic I haven’t written much about but TOTALLY should!), which was a way to consolidate and present our final draft to the other mathematicians. IMG_489911694842_10204737906631950_6188272882800941260_n

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 We talked multiplication and we talked fractions, we talked Math Congress (nope, haven’t written about it yet…), and we also discussed the topic of basic facts.  This is a hot topic in math these days (and for a while, really), and for many years we’ve responded with daily kill-and-drill activities, timed “mad minutes,” and crazy stressing out on memorizing lots and lots of facts.  Kara brought some info related to how important it is to respond in a different way.

For many people (including teachers, parents and students), being QUICK is best.  But we were reminded that being quick doesn’t equal being mathematically PROFICIENT, which should really be our goal.  She gave us information on how facts DEVELOP, they don’t come first.  She also helped us see that the facts (in this case we focused on multiplication tables) are not random (which is how many kiddos see them, saying “there must be 100s and 100s to learn!”), but are connected.   Seeing those connections and building on the RELATIONSHIPS between facts is how to both LEARN them and UNDERSTAND them rather than just MEMORIZE them.  For many this was mind-blowing, and for others it was validation of what we already knew to be true.  For sure, though, it was nice to be “allowed” to deal with learning facts in a different way going forward.

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My notes from Day 1 of our Math Institute.

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More notes from Day 1. It seems I was so busy DOING math on Day 2 that I didn’t write anything down!

One more important topic of discussion (and of course we experienced them, too!) was number strings.  In short, these are a related set of problems that kiddos use mental math to solve.  Practice is done regularly (maybe even every day), and these help mathematicians become more flexible as well as see the relationships and connections mentioned earlier.  I’ll write more about this next part later (yeah, like I said I would with Math Congresses), but one way we learned to assess newly gained knowledge is to use a two-pen test.  Yep, it’s just what it sounds like: a test you take with two different pens.  The first one is a timed portion to see what kiddos know how to do quickly, and then the second pen is used to finish the rest of the page, with whatever time frame is needed.  Teachers can get all kinds of useful information about what facts kids know and which ones they still need to work on.  Genius.  We will definitely be trying these out in 2nd grade this year!

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Whew.  That was a lot.  I know I tend to be long-winded, so if you hung in this long I TOTALLY appreciate you.  🙂

Now I ask you–what did you learn on your summer vacation?

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See? Minds blowing!

#IMWAYR….on a Thursday :)

I haven’t done it often, but at least a couple of times, I’ve written about what I read, both during the summer and the school year (and in case I missed anything, check out the reading tag on the right side of the page).   And since it’s summer, and I have TIME to read again, I thought I’d add the titles from by TBR pile that I’ve gotten through so far.  At this point it’s almost a book a day!  (Oh, and the #IMWAYR is a Twitter thing–It’s Monday, What Are You Reading–if you didn’t recognize it. 🙂 )

So…at the beginning of the summer (I think it was probably after our first official library visit of the season), this was my pile:

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Now, it looks like this (and yes, you’ll see that I did cross a lot of those original ones off my list, but then found TONS more that were interesting):

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I’m not kidding, I could read the whole library!!  I make up for all the time I don’t read during the school year by WAY OVER DOING it once I am out for summer.   But hey, when you have time, go for it, right??

Ok…here’s what I’ve read so far.  Not quite sure if this will end up being reviews, summaries or just pictures, but it will be a list for sure:

IMG_2783    Almost Home by Joan Bauer

Remember last summer when I read Close to Famous and Hope was Here by Joan Bauer?  Well, for some reason, I found out that she wrote TONS more books than I had seen, and I had to check them out!  This one I bought at Barnes and Noble, and finished it that same evening!  This one had a similar vibe to the others of hers I had read: the main character was a young girl with family troubles, mainly on her own, and who is forced to learn a life lesson she didn’t really expect.  There was not, however, food involved in Almost Home, as I remember—Close to Famous was all about cupcakes, and Hope was Here was set in a diner.  That must have been a theme for Mark Twain nominees last year, because they were all about the same thing!

Peeled by Joan Bauer           IMG_2780

After I finished Almost Home, I went to the library to find some other Joan Bauer books.  I think I read Peeled first, but honestly I finished the next three titles in about a day and a half so I don’t really remember the order!  The main character of this one was again a strong female, and the setting included a high school newspaper.  I mentioned it to my husband, and he actually mentioned that he’d read it as a read-aloud, but that his class was a little bored by the details related to how to write a paper; maybe I’m biased already to Bauer as a writer, but I didn’t really notice.  Enjoyed the whole thing from beginning to end!

Stand Tall by Joan Bauer

IMG_2774This title was refreshing, as it included a male lead character (aptly named Tree), rather than a female lead, as her others had. There were themes of finding yourself, learning an important life lesson and overcoming adversity–like in the others–but I’m beginning to think that that’s probably what I like about her writing, so it’s ok with me!

                                                                  Squashed by Joan Bauer

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The premise of this book made me laugh out loud at first–it’s a girl who raises a prize pumpkin for the festival and is dealing with some villains who don’t want to see her win!  Sounds a little silly, but in a weird way, the pumpkin becomes as much a character as the girl, and you are quickly rooting them both on to win against the “bad guys.”  As with other Bauer books, I liked the way she develops characters, realistically sharing what they would go through and including believable dialogue.  Liked it even more than I thought I would!

Rules of the Road and Best Foot Forward by Joan Bauer

IMG_2784 IMG_2789Told you I was on a roll with Joan Bauer books, huh?  It’s what I talk to my kids about with “trusting an author.”  I figured (just like with Jerry Spinelli, Sharon Creech, Ralph Fletcher and the like) that if I liked one of her books, I’d like the rest of them.  So far, that rings true!  Rules of the Road and Best Foot Forward are actually related to each other–I found out as I began the second one–and have the same main character.   As with other Bauer books, the main character is a strong, independent female, and similarly there is a theme of a teenaged person trying to find themselves and figure out their place in the world.  In this case it’s Jenna, who is hired as a driver for an older woman for the summer, and who learns alot about herself and others along the journey she takes (literally and figuratively).  The setting of both books is split between Chicago and Texas, and the focus is on a major shoe company that Jenna works for (the lady she’s driving is the owner).  It seems a little silly at first (just like the pumpkin idea in Squashed), but it doesn’t take long to start to care so much for the characters and their plots, that the shoe part just makes sense.

                                                                                                             Backwater by Joan Bauer

IMG_2790I had to get one more Bauer title in, since I had found it in the library, and the timing of it was a little funny–I read it while I was on a cruise (Get it?  BackWATER?  I was on the water?  Ok, I’ll laugh by myself. 🙂 ).   The title seemed a little confusing considering there was a cabin in the woods on the cover, but you quickly find out the connection and it makes sense.  This one had similar traits to others I’ve read, but the main character had a stronger involvement with family than in most of the others; she wasn’t as alone and on her own this time.  Instead, she helped someone else find their place in the world (and in the family) and in turn learned some valuable life lessons along the way.  Another great book!

Recipe for Adventure Series by Giada De Laurentiis 

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I have to admit that I was a wee bit skeptical to see Giada’s name on a book.  I mean, sure, she might be a fine writer, but she’s not known for that.  She’s known as an expert on food, not on words.  I must also add that I’m not entirely sure that she even wrote these (man, sorry, I guess I’m extra cynical today!).  BUT then I read them, and for the audience for which these books are written, I am sure they are lovely.  I did enjoy the melded aspect of food, family and time travel (sorry for that spoiler), and for the most part I was entertained.  I mean, I did read all three, after all.  Were they the best books I’ve ever read? No. But they were quick fun reads, and spoke to my love of food and culture, even including words from other languages as well as recipe cards that you (or your kiddo) could make at home once you’re finished.  For someone, they may be just the thing to get them into books and into reading, and for that I say–go for it!

Marty McGuire Has Too Many Pets by Kate Messner

IMG_2772I read this one pretty soon after school was out, mainly because I have read the other two Marty McGuire books and loved them, but also because I was researching possibilities for read alouds for my littles for next year.  Since I’m moving back to primary, the list of favorites I’ve been sticking to for the last decade will no longer work!  This was as good as I thought it would be–the characters are funny, believable and often surprise me.  I did honestly laugh out loud with this one, too, when I found out what one of the pets were; I had to Tweet @KateMessner and tell her how pleased I was with that part of the story!  I knew it would be one I could read at home, too, to my own kiddos.  Well done, Ms. Messner!  Another great one.  I have Waking Up Missing in my TBR pile, now, which is a Messner book I didn’t discover until just last week.  Excited to read it!

The Lemonade War Series by Jacqueline Davies

IMG_2787IMG_2786I remember reading somewhere on Twitter last year about a whole school that reads The Lemonade War as a read aloud.  Yes, every classroom!  Kinda liked the idea, and so tried that first book in the series last summer.  Haven’t gotten around to suggesting that idea to my boss (but hey, @grrprincipal, if you’re reading this and want to try it, I’m totally game!), but still might read it to my own class.  When I asked my “tweep” about why they read it, they mentioned the family themes in the book, as well as the lessons kids can learn about being an entrepreneur–they have competing lemonade stands, after all.  In these subsequent titles, the main characters are the same, but are solving different problems: in one there are mysterious candies that show up around Valentine’s Day, as well as a missing bell on their grandmother’s property on New Year’s Eve.  I enjoyed these as much as the first, which is nice since sometimes sequels don’t fare as well as the original.

Picture Books

It’s funny that for my summer reading challenge (which is self-imposed really, and is just to read as much as I can), picture books seem like a cop out.  I know, picture books are books as much as 500 page novels, but maybe it’s that they’re so short.  Or maybe I’m just vain.  It’s probably just a personal problem, but I guess when I say, “I’ve read 25 books so far this summer,” it means more if those 25 books are novels, chapter books, rather than picture books.  Phooey.  Who cares.  They’re good, too, and they’re going to become much more important in my life again, now that I’m teaching 1st grade again.  So, that being said, I’ve read these 3 so far, and have some others laying around to try soon:

IMG_2788I have to laugh as I look at this picture again, because of the continued influence that both The Quiet Place and Rapunzel have had on my kiddos.  Allison is 3, and is in a princess phase (I think this may be genetically imprinted in little girls!), so got Rapunzel from the library, but was really disappointed that it was different than the Disney version she knows.  And ironically, my children have built their own Quiet Place just today with the boxes that our two big living chairs came in.  Inspiration is everywhere!  The other one, I Want My Hat Back, is an favorite we had to reread.  I believe it’s nominated for the ShowMe Reader in Missouri this year.  Yay!

Clementine, Friend of the Week by Sara Pennypacker

IMG_2793I have been a fan of Clementine for many years, and even in my 5th grade class, a year didn’t go by without sharing at least one of her books.  Even big kids can appreciate silliness, and laughing together is a great way to connect and also learn to love books!  I have already read Clementine’s Letter and Clementine and the Spring Trip, and was sure I had read all of her adventures.  Somehow I’d missed this one until now!  And just like all the other silly tales, I laughed out loud and enjoyed every minute of Clementine’s antics.  🙂

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

IMG_2791Just when I think I am a knowledgable teacher in terms of good books, I find something I’ve never heard of, in this case My Father’s Dragon (and the series that follows).  As I was polling my friends for suggestions for 1st grade read alouds, more than one person mentioned this one.  Again, I’d never heard of it–and I’ve even taught primary grades before!  Glad that Leah and Christy suggested it, though, because it was great, and I can totally see how a class of younger readers would love it!  My kids at home did. 🙂

Boys Adrift by Dr. Leonard Sax

IMG_2794It was bound to happen.  I had read almost 20 books  that were works of fiction before I got to a professional book.  For me, this was a big deal.  This one is actually a choice from school, and we’re going to have book clubs on it (and some other titles also related to educating boys) this fall.  I was interested in this book both because I have a son, and because of what’s happening lately in regards to gaps between girls and boys, how boys are getting left behind.  I also chose this title from among the choices because of the “why” nature of it; many choices were related to what to do to help boy learners, but I needed to understand the nature of the problem first.  I am so interested to discuss this with the really smart people I work with, as we brainstorm how to address what these needs look like in our school population.  Using what we’ve learned, we will make changes and we will help the boys (and girls, too!) in our school succeed!

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

IMG_2819This was the debut novel from Lynda Hunt.  It was also the debut of my reading anything off of the Truman Award nominees list.  I’ve always read Mark Twain nominees, because these were what my 4th-5th graders read, but the Truman ones were for middle school.  Who cares, right?  I know.  Dumb reason.  Well, I found this one at the library and MAN am I glad I picked it up.  At first it reminded me of Almost Home (remember my Joan Bauer binge?), because of the girl with mom problems who has to live in foster care.  This one took a little different turn, which I really loved, and was especially touched at the end.  I cried!!  I am pretty certain this was the first time I’ve had that much emotion in a story that actual tears have come.  Sounds like a great book!  The only thing that is frustrating about it is that she doesn’t have anything else for me to read yet! 😦

Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica

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This book was totally a case of read-what’s-lying-around.  Grant had checked it out–not sure why or how he found it–but it sounded interesting, so I threw it in the car for our LOOONNNGGG drive to Disney.   Now, while I found it really interesting, I was a little bit bothered by the language and some of the topics discussed (so reader beware: this is not for youngsters!).  I have never worked in the restaurant industry, and while I’m not sure how true-to-life it is, Dublanica makes it sounds CRAZY!  Some of the things that happen in the kitchens are a little surprising.  Anyhow, the book is actually based on a blog that he used to write (of the same name), and that was cool.  Plus he’s a great writer, so it was definitely a page-turner.  Thanks for leaving this lying around, Grant.  Found a good read really easily. 🙂

French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

IMG_2821Last year I was given a BIG pile of books (mainly about fashion) from my sweet friend Lisa. One of them was Lessons From Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer Scott.  I devoured it in pretty much a day (and this was DURING the school year, which was weird.  Must have been the weekend…).  I have never visited Europe, but I would have to say that France is a place I’d love to go someday.  I don’t know what it was about the book, but it made me so enamored by French culture.   I loved the “secrets” she shared, which really just seemed like sensible ways to live your life and be a lady.  So…when I saw the cookbook version of this book, I was reminded of the original and had to find it to read it.  This one–French Women Don’t Get Fat–was just as great!  This one was written by an actual French woman (Jennifer Scott had just spent time with a French family), and who better to explain how I can be French and fabulous?  LOVED this one.  Again I am inspired to change some things based on the Parisian way.  And to find more books like this to read. 🙂

Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka

IMG_2822If you know me, it’s no secret that Ralph Fletcher is one of my favorite authors (and hey, I even mentioned him somewhere in this post, I think), and I am always on the look out for a good book written by him.  I ordered Guy-Write earlier this year, but hadn’t had a chance to pick it up til the other day (I think I’m about a 1/4 of the way through so far).  I mention it because I actually found this text in that Fletcher book.  I was inspired to read both of them, actually, because of the Boys Adrift book by Dr. Sax.  For years I have been interested in helping boy writers find their voices, but now more than ever I am hoping to sharpen my skills and add to my knowledge.   In Guy-Write, Fletcher does an interview with Jon Scieszka (of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man fame), and it was hilarious!!  This book was there, and it sounded so interesting and it did not disappoint.  So funny and real and written in a way that made it a really quick read.  Grant even said he might try it as a read aloud with his class this year, which I thought was a great idea, too.  Plus, I thought it was doubly cool that Scieszka was named the First National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, which is an amazing honor (I think I’d kinda want to be one)!  He has a goal to help boy readers and writers, too, and with such a great platform on which to do his work, I know he’ll help make changes for boys everywhere!

So there it is.  My list so far.  I’m pretty proud of it and am reminded of how great it is to get lost in a good book.  The places you go, the people you meet and the things you learn are amazing.  I can’t wait to continue to add to my list!  After all, summer’s only about halfway over, right?   🙂

 

Things Teachers Do in the Summer: TRAVEL

In addition to finding tons of great, new books to share with my new class, I also had some fabulous opportunities to travel with my family!

Ok, I’ll give you one guess as to where we went.  Alright, you can have two or three guesses if you need them, but if you know me at all, or if you’ve spent any length of time here on this blog you already know the answer.:

This IS indeed, the Happiest Place on Earth!

This IS indeed, the Happiest Place on Earth!

We spent the first 10 days after school was out in our favorite place, which is the week we typically go because it’s not too hot yet, and the crowds aren’t as crazy as later on in the summer.  This year’s weather was a little weird, though, because Tropical Storm Andrea decided to come for a visit at the same time as we did.  It was rainier than normal (not the usual 3 o’clock shower that is over in 5 minutes) and cloudy most of the time we were there.  But hey–we didn’t let that get us down!  We’ve been to WDW many times, but we always find a way to make new memories.  Two highlights from this trip were the Princess dinner we had at Akershus Royal Banquet hall–in Epcot’s Norway pavilion–for Allie (which we actually went to on Daddy’s birthday–HA!) as well as a Pirate cruise that Riley took with a small group around Crescent Lake near Epcot.

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I was so surprised as how shy she was around the princesses.  Those are pretty much the only two that she would talk to–when the others came around she was buried in my shoulder hiding her face!  She did the same thing for Mickey and the others, too, which just surprised me because of how naturally outgoing she normally is!  Our prince was not at all bothered by all the pretty ladies who came to our table, though, and he took pictures with them instead!

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I don’t really have many good pics of Riley’s cruise, but that’s mostly because I wasn’t there!  He took off in his pirate skipper with the tour guides and 5 or 6 other kiddos in search of Captain Stinkyfeet who had stolen the pirate treasure!  I was so proud at his willingness to do that without us (he’s learning to let go 🙂 ) and he had a SUPER time. It was all he could talk about for days afterward!

The one other highlight of the trip was meeting up with some an old 5th grade friend and his family who happened to be there at the same time as we were:

What fun to run into Keelan, his sisters Macie and Amelia and his parents!  Fun in the Florida sun!

What fun to run into Keelan, his sisters Macie and Amelia and his parents! Fun in the Florida sun! (Doesn’t Riley look like he could be related to all of them?)

Disney is usually our big excursion for the summer, but this summer we finally got around to going somewhere else in the world (which is honestly a BIG DEAL for our family!).  So in July we packed up and headed east to Charlotte, NC to visit some friends who had moved there a few years ago.  We spent a lovely weekend with their family (of which I have NO pictures–I realized this after we were home…) and then headed to Asheville for the next few days.  We were excited to see the mountains, as well as enjoy Asheville’s food scene, which is focused on sustainable, local, fresh ingredients and is right up our alley!

Several days we went driving on the Blue Ridge parkway, which is the scenic route through the Blue Ridge mountains and afforded us some AMAZING views, along with tunnels and roadside overlook points to stop and check out.  We went shopping, ate some fabulous food, and also visited the Western North Carolina Nature Center.  While we’re definitely still lovers of all things Disney, this was a great time for our family and it’s the trip that Riley keeps going back to when he reminisces on his summer fun!

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This one cracks me up! Just an example of the cool rocks we drove next to on the road–here we stopped to look at the water running down the walls. Obviously it was more interesting than smiling at me for the picture!

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We also learned that Asheville is home to the highest point east of the Mississippi river–Mount Mitchell.  So fun to trek to the top of it!  Such beautiful views from way up there!

IMAG0854IMAG0882IMAG0872Doesn’t that picture just say it all?  WE HAD FUN!!

What did you do this summer?  What adventures did you go on?  Where did you visit?  Leave a comment and tell me all about it!  Send me a picture, 5th grade friends, and I’ll add it to the blog! 🙂

Starting to Get Settled…

I love to share what things look like when I first walk into the classroom in the summer.  Remember these from a couple of years ago?

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It’s the classroom I was in 2 years ago, but gives you a good idea of my first sights when I return to school at the beginning of the year to get stuff put together again.  This year’s view was very similar, only in the room next door.

Putting a classroom back together is a tedious process, with lots of bits and pieces to put in their places and a big puzzle to work out.  And that’s if you put everything back where it was last year!  If you decide to make any changes (because something didn’t work last year or just because you want to try something new for a new group of kiddos), then it’s pretty much like starting all over.  Your plan has to be completely different.

So I started by putting all of my furniture back right where it was at the end of last year.  And then I started thinking….

We really loved our room arrangement last year, and it worked for us based on our traffic flows and how we used each part of the room for different activities.  Except…that I knew I wanted to trade my desk with the table right next to it so that I could use the only whiteboard in our room for small group teaching times (instead of just having it behind my desk and covered with random things I tacked up there and didn’t really use).  Smart, right?  Yeah, it took me all year long to figure that one out…:)

So once I got the table and desk switched, I really liked it.  But then I couldn’t leave well enough alone, and it so it got me wondering what else I could move around that might work even better than what we had last year.  My carpet was the next thing on my list.  Maybe moving it into the corner (where my desk had been and where that new table was now sitting) would be a good idea–again because of that whiteboard.  Having it in our meeting space might be even better than for small groups.  So I picked up the fabulous carpet (remember when we got it last year?) and moved it into the corner, along with my easel and my chair.  That left me two tables, two filing cabinets and a supply shelf to figure out.  I think I like the new changes even better than last year.  I figured out that putting the rug in the corner also meant that the doors of my closets can now be used for charts and other things we’ll refer to during lessons (more on my ideas for that soon!).

And then….I looked at the spot where my next was and agreed that I liked it there…but then had another (even better!) idea: maybe I don’t even need a desk anymore.  I’ve gone back and forth over the last few years about whether or not I really need one; I don’t sit at it except before and after school, and it’s space that kids could probably use in a better way.  It really just serves as a place for me to house all my stuff.  What I really have wanted for a while is to have a dining room or kitchen table in my room.  I love the idea of kids (who are really a part of our learning family) sitting all around it having lively conversations and growing together.  The problem?  I still had a desk, and no table.  I knew I could probably find one on Craig’s List, after having no luck at Goodwill and garage sales over the last few weeks, but I thought instead to appeal to my friends on Facebook.  It worked.  I really quickly found a friend (who also happens to be a parent from our school!) who had a table that she’d been hoping to do something with–perfect, right?

I don’t have it yet, but I am SO EXCITED for what the room will look like when it’s in place.  My new plan is that it will go where my next was, and all of my stuff will find a new home.  Then, if I need a place to perch, that will be my primary home, but kids can also sit there with me when they like, as well as using it for conferences and small groups.  What do you think about that?  (Really, you can tell me. I promise. 🙂 )

So the title of this post is starting to get settled, then, because I feel like with the furniture in the right place, then I could start to get some things on the walls.  This makes me feel like things are closer to coming together, and it definitely makes it feel a little more like home.  So here’s where I am so far:

I got our We're Connecting with the World map up!  It's just waiting for some time zone clocks (a new addition this year!) as well as all the pins to represent the new friends we'll make around the world this year!  This is definitely an important part of our room.

I got our We’re Connecting with the World map up! It’s just waiting for some time zone clocks (a new addition this year!) as well as all the pins to represent the new friends we’ll make around the world this year! This is definitely an important part of our room.

I moved the calendar this year around the corner.  We only really use it for reference, but on this wall we can see it more easily from most parts of the room (as well as if I'm sitting at my new table or if I'm on the phone).  We'll see how we like it.

I moved the calendar this year around the corner. We only really use it for reference, but on this wall we can see it more easily from most parts of the room (as well as if I’m sitting at my new table or if I’m on the phone). We’ll see how we like it.  Oh, and I found that little bucket in my closet–it has the calendar numbers in it.  Cute, right? 🙂

This will give you a better idea of all that craziness I was trying to explain before: rug in the new corner, my desk which will become our new table.  You can also see (as well as in the previous pics, too) that I got our Read Aloud Timeline hung up and we're ready to get started adding to it for this year's new titles!

This will give you a better idea of all that craziness I was trying to explain before: rug in the new corner, my desk which will become our new table. You can also see (as well as in the previous pics, too) that I got our Read Aloud Timeline hung up and we’re ready to get started adding to it for this year’s new titles! Oh, and that big mess of books on the table is the middle of a reorganization project in our classroom library.  Anna and I are going to start tackling it on Tuesday, and believe me, I’ll share when I’m done. 🙂

The new birthday wall will be next to our meeting space here, as well as those closets I mentioned before.  I plan on changing the titles there to other topics...

The new birthday wall will be next to our meeting space here, as well as those closets I mentioned before. I plan on changing the titles there to other topics…

Ok, one last picture:

Just a little treat from the littlest Bearden's in our family!  Had to keep them busy while Mommy was working in the room the other day. :)

Just a small treat from the littlest Beardens in our family! Had to keep them busy while Mommy was working in the room the other day.

What does your classroom look like right now?  What about at the beginning of your work?  How do you tackle that big pile of “stuff?”  I’d love to hear how it works for you!