Friday, September 27, 2019

Small Group Warm-Up Activities!

Hey there! 

What are you up to on a Friday night? Here I am blogging...but hey, the house is quiet and I've had something that I've been wanting to share for awhile. 

My daughter is actually home from college, but she wanted to go to the football game. My husband is at a men's recharge (preaching services). I cannot wait to spend some time with Harley tomorrow so I figured now was a good time to hop on and show you what has me so excited.

Ever since learning more about the process of learning to read, I've been trying to find quick and easy ways to get a lot of practice into my intervention time with students. I'm pretty excited about two new things I'm using this year and want to share them with you.

First, SuperSpeed 100 for sight words. This is a FREE activity from Whole Brain Teaching. They also have SuperSpeed 1000. I am using this (along with their FREE Biffytoons for my youngest readers) to practice sight words and it literally takes only about 3 minutes of my intervention time and the kids are loving it. The best part is that I've already seen my 1st graders improving on their AimsWeb Plus Word Reading Progress Monitoring. Whoop! Whoop!

Second, is what I'm calling Phonics Warm-Up Activities. I created these to use with my students as they progress through our explicit phonics and phonemic awareness lessons. My initial thought was to have students warm-up using the boards by reading the line of words with our targeted sound, but now I see that the possibilities are endless! Here's a peek at some of my students using the boards:

The boards can be used in small groups, as a center activity, or when students have extra time in the classroom. They can be used as a warm-up activity, roll-and-read, decoding practice, fluency practice, or as an orthographic mapping activity. My latest idea is to play "Bingo" by giving students sound hints to find specific words. I'm going to try this out next week. 

Like the SuperSpeed games, these activities are simple to prep (print and go) and don't take a lot of my intervention time to get lots of practice in. The boards start with short vowels and progress through more difficult skills. You can check them out in our TPT store for a full list of skills covered if you're interested. 

Enjoy your weekend! I know I'm going to enjoy seeing Harley...miss my kiddos so much (thankfully they still text and/or call quite a bit ;-))!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Check Out My Offices...or Classrooms!

I call them offices. I guess they could be considered tiny classrooms. Either way, here is a peek at my work spaces for this year.

Before we get into that, here is my first day of school picture. A selfie--which I'm not great at--because my husband had already left for work. This is the first year I have no kids in my picture! I had just left them in Oklahoma for college on Sunday.

I wanted to take it in front of my new "inspirational" arrangement--turns out I would need those phrases!
This one too.
My first day was actually miserable. It had nothing to do with school though. Without unnecessary details, let's just say we had money stolen and feared our identities and accounts were compromised. It made for a busy week of closing accounts, opening new ones, etc. All is well now.

These pics are of my K-2 office/classroom: 

My daughter made the wall files for me out of pine 1x3's and 1x2's for the depth. I always get questions, so thought I'd try to help you out even though I'm probably not explaining it well. 

I love my brain poster. :-)

Segment and Write boards from Pathways to Reading. 

It took me all week to get this counter cleaned off! :-)

New idea yet what I will use it for. Thoughts?

Two main rules of time with Mrs. Ratcliff. 

These next few pictures are of things I helped put together in the teachers' lounge and/or office. 

A couple of other teachers and I formed a P.O.P. (Power of Prayer) group a couple of years ago. We are a small district, so we divide the entire staff and board members into a weekly prayer list and cycle through it 3 times a year. We also display a verse of the week. At each building we have a weekly prayer meeting open to any staff that wants to join us. 

Finding time to meet as a staff is a challenge, so we have this calendar in the lounge to try and keep everyone updated on what is going on.  
I put together one of these in both buildings for staff to recognize staff. These are from Staff Morale Boosters pack on TPT. The pack included some other fun things as well. Looking forward to spreading some "cheer" this year!

Everyday at 1:30, I drive 20 minutes to the 3-12 building. This is my office/classroom where I work with 3rd-5th graders. I haven't made it as homey (other than the futon), but maybe some day.  

Excuse the mess on the table. Getting ready to plan/prep for MTSS groups.

Brain poster again! I'm planning to add the words: What's Happening in your Brain while you are Reading...

I have to admit, my first full week was extra long. I'm thankful it was also revival week at my church even though it made for late nights. The services helped keep my focus on the eternal after going through that first awful day, especially this sermon: Are you fixated on the right thing? I highly recommend it!

I'm rested up and ready to get back to it tomorrow! We're hoping to finish up testing this week, so I can start working with kids next week. Woohoo!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

New Year, New Grade!!!

Hi, well I know it has been quite awhile since I have done a blog post.  Let's be honest, life has just been busy like we all know.  I'm glad to be making a blog post again after a long time.

When I first started my teaching career, I started in Special Education and taught it for four years.  Then I went to first grade for a year and looped up to second grade.  I taught second grade for a couple years and then went back down to first grade and have been in first for the past 15 years.  The opportunity came up this year for me to move back to second grade and I'm excited to say that I am now teaching second grade.  I have always loved first grade, but really enjoyed second grade as well when I taught it.

The downside was that I had to move.  Although, there is a good thing about makes you or should I say me clean out and throw out what I don't use anymore!!  So, I made the move and changed rooms.  Since I would be in a new room, I decided to use some of the mint owl theme that we have on TPT.  I actually started school 1 1/2 weeks ago with kids.  I am loving 2nd grade!  Below are some pictures of what my room looks like now. 

Our reading area

An extra work area.  On the back board will be where I will show off their good work.

Word Wall

Calendar-I had to put a post it note on Friday because I tell the kids that day is my Sad Day because I don't get to see them on the weekends.  So we call it my Sad Day instead of Friday.

Material area and where we do our lunch count and milk count.

Another sitting area

My small group area

My dollar tree find-this room that I moved into doesn't have as much storage area as my other room.  I found these baskets at dollar tree and got chalkboard labels to label each one of them.  It definitely helped with more storage area.  

Hope all of you are having a great year so far if you have started back!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Curious About Our Top Five Selling Products???

I have confession to make. 

I pretty much only shop on Teachers Pay Teachers during a sale (which the BIG one happens to start tomorrow). 

I know. I know.

You're thinking, "You're a TPT seller!"

Yes, I am. We are. Kristi and both are pretty similar in this area. In all honesty, both of our districts provide great curriculum and we only buy (or make) things that supplement it. Hence the reason we have so many "I have...who has...?" games in our store. We aren't looking to rewrite curriculum or make millions on TPT. We have just made some things over the years that we like and thought other teachers might like too. :-)

Neither of us spend a lot of money on our classrooms either. Some might call us cheap...or wise...or both? I've purchased only 1 thing all summer, and that was mostly because one of my teacher friends needed someone to split the pack with her and I knew I needed another one for all my "I Have...Who Has...?" games. Ha!

I love these things... I now have 3 of them! :-)
Anyway, since the back-to-school sale is upon us, I thought I'd share the five top selling products from our store.  

Drum roll, please. 

In my role as a reading specialist, I use the vowel diphthong and digraph games A LOT. Those more difficult vowel patterns take lots of repetitions for my kiddos. Even if we've moved on to another skill, these games are a quick and easy review for my readers. 

In the classroom, Kristi and I both love to immerse our kiddos in the "sound of the week" from our curriculum. I mean if we are working on the /oi/, /oy/ sound, we will play songs during transition times with that sound. Students will read decodable stories with that sound. Word work activities will be centered around that sound. The Connect 4 games from our packs with that sound make a great partner activity either during word work or as an option when work is complete. We use the "I Have...Who Has...?" in small groups or as a whole class when there was a few minutes to fill. The last year I was in the second grade classroom, I would put the "I Have... Who Has...?" game out as a morning tub activity as they trickled in after breakfast. I loved seeing my kiddos practice that sound by choice! :-)

If you're shopping the sale, have fun! Watch out for those sellers that raise their prices during the sale--ugh! That happened to me last year, and of course, I decided I did not need that product after all...because I'm cheap, you know. ;-)

P.S. I report back 2 weeks from today!!!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Summer Break and Looking Ahead!

Hello there! I hope you are having a wonderful summer break and not working too hard yet to get your room ready. ;-)

I thought I'd pop in and catch you up on my summer break and upcoming life changes. I know we've been pretty quiet here, but I'm hopeful that will change a little this year.

1. I finished my Master's Degree as a PreK-12 Reading Specialist and passed the Praxis exam! Whoop! Whoop! I am so thankful to be DONE. This will be my first year in my position as the Title I teacher that I don't also have homework on the brain.

2. I took up kayaking with a teacher friend. We ventured out almost weekly this summer, and I'm so thankful she invited me to try something new. I tend to want to be home all day, every day in the summer to recover from the busy year.

3. I started volunteering once a week at The Pregnancy and Family Resource Center. It was a little outside my comfort zone in the beginning, but I felt called to get involved beyond saying, "I'm pro-life." It has been a blessing to get to know new people who have a love for the Lord and a desire to help people.

4. Vacation to Chicago! I never would have picked the destination (I'm a small town girl), but my son is interning there this summer. We had a good time doing all the "touristy" things...Navy Pier, Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), Lake Michigan, Buckingham Fountain, Cloud Gate ("The Bean"), Lincoln Park Zoo, and of course, pizza. I personally felt that Auerilo's was the best, with Giordano's taking a close second. ;-) 

My favorite part of the trip, though, was getting to meet all the people at Sauk Trail Baptist Temple in Richton Park! Such a sweet spirit! It was a little overwhelming to meet this wonderful congregation who had taken in my son, took excellent care of him, and invested in him and his future in ministry. If you want to read more about that, you can click over to my author blog.

5. Writing. I've been working on my 2nd Bible study this summer. The progress has been slower than I would like because of finishing up my Master's, but I'm hoping to move a little more quickly now. Click here for my first study, There's a Fly in my Tea!

6. Trim Healthy Mama. I've been eating the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) way since October 2017. I lost 18 pounds by March 2018 and have maintained that. It has become a big part of me, so I had to share. I love the food freedom that I've found (remember I ate pizza twice on vacation--Ha!). 

The plan just makes sense to me. It doesn't cut out whole food groups (i.e. carbs). It is not a quick fix. It does take some effort and smart food choices. Going back to that pizza...if I had wanted to stay on plan, I would have just scraped the toppings off and ate that with my salad. When I do choose to eat off plan (which is rarely because I feel so much better eating this way), I just get back on plan with my next meal or snack. 

7. Now...looking ahead. I report back to work on August 19th. I will have three days of inservice before taking Thursday (the first day of school) and Friday off to take my youngest to college. Both my kids will be away at college this year. 

This year will be quite different for us. No kids at home. No more homework (YAY!). I am still coaching volleyball--chose to give up basketball to free us up to visit Chaz and Harley. I'm excited for a slower pace! 

I hope to share some ideas and information from the Reading Specialist point of view this coming year. 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

What's Your ONE Thing???

Well, hello there, strangers!
I know it has been a long time. I know. But something happens to me when I have free time. I write. I write about my two passions—the Lord (working on my 2nd Bible study) and teaching. 

Why do I have free time?  

Two reasons. 
  1. I do not coach a spring sport.  
  1. I have a few weeks off from my master’s classes (which I will finish this summer—If you could see me, you’d know I’m doing the happy dance about that!!!!) passion for teaching has prompted me to hop back on here and write a little something for the blog.
Every year that I have been teaching, I choose one thing that I want to work on over the summer. One thing that I want to improve in my teaching.  


I’m the type of person that always wants to improve, to continue to learn and grow, to be the best that I can be. By choosing just one thing, it makes it a manageable goal that doesn’t eat away at my summer vacation and it also makes it easy to focus on implementing in the new school year. I know in the past, I’ve blogged about “too many great ideas syndrome.” You know...when you see so many wonderful things and you try to implement them all and you don’t end up executing any of them well. 

My “one thing” has been writing...enter Writing Workshop which completely transformed my writing instruction and gave my littles the confidence to be authors! 

My “one thing” has been small group instruction...enter Daily 5 which allowed me to structure my literacy block in a way to meet the needs of all learners, engage my students who were not in my group in authentic reading and writing tasks, and prompted me to make time for one-on-one conferencing. 

My “one thing” has been small group math...enter math rotations which involved a whole group mini-lesson followed by small groups with targeted instruction and meaningful activities to review, practice, and extend math. 

My “one thing” has been Whole Brain Teaching...that actually took two summers! First, I added attention getters and teaching strategies. Then, I added the Super Improver wall. 

I could go on...but those are some big things that I researched and studied to implement in my classroom. Self-directed professional development really is the best kind! 

This year in my role as the reading specialist, my “one thing” is to create a stream-lined process for gathering information and diagnostic testing of students who are referred to me, progress monitoring, and communicating that information to teachers and parents. I’ve got a few ideas...I just need to do some research, see how things are done in other schools, and form a plan that works for me. 

What’s your “one thing”? 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Check Out My New Room!

Hello there! I know it has been awhile. You might remember I am in the middle of getting my reading specialist degree, and between that, teaching, and coaching volleyball, I have very little free time right now. I'm lucky if I can keep my tradition of a Sunday afternoon nap! ;-)

Anyway, I had to make a video of the literacy spaces for a class I am in, and I knew you all would like to see it. I just moved into this space this year. I'm super excited about the windows!

The good news for me...volleyball season is winding down a bit. This Saturday will be the 6th tournament in a row, and then I actually have a Saturday at home next week! 

What will I ever do with myself? 

Probably laundry, clean the house, or homework... :-)

Displaying pin-it-fix-1.txt.