Monday, August 25, 2014

Weekend + Final Reveal 2014-2015

I spent a good amount of time in my classroom today after not being there since last Tuesday. We spent Wednesday night - Friday mid-morning at our cabin, then I had a not-so-awesome car issue when I got home and had to call in a big favor with a friend so I could still go down and see The Husband this weekend. 

It was sooooo quiet and lovely in Ann Arbor (and really funny since The Husband purposely wore an MSU hat around town and got a ton of dirty looks from the die-hard UofM fans haha). The Husband had to work still so all day Saturday I was pretty much on my own. It was peaceful and quiet and awesome. (I never realized how LOUD my world is until I got back home yesterday...holy moly.) 

The Husband spoiled me rotten while we were in AA together. He gave me money and told me to go to the mall while he was at work. Who was I to say no? :) Then we shopped some more that evening when he was done with work AND he took me out to dinner twice. That never happens at home. I have a nice, new wardrobe for this fall and almost everything I got was on sale which is even better. I took the girls shopping for back to school when I returned home yesterday and they did well also (and we came in under budget..woo hoo!).

Today The Oldest started at the local community college and thus, it meant I needed to take advantage of the fact that I am her ride and spend the day at work. Except for my library, my room is DONE. Yay! (Library literally consists of just resorting the books I brought from home into the existing books. It won't take long.) The Youngest came with me and despite her ADHD tendencies, she was actually quite helpful. I don't think I would have finished today if it wasn't for her help.

I am taking tomorrow off so I can get ahead on my graduate school work since my new classes started yesterday. Wednesday is our official first day back with a full day of PD, Thursday is a building-wide staff meeting and then time in our classrooms for the afternoon, followed by our Open House. This is the first time in all 9 years I have taught that we've had our Open House before school. I think it's a great idea and I'm excited to meet my kiddos before the first day.

My 4th Grade Classroom 2014-2015 
(Final Version)

Starting from the hallway and then going clockwise in the classroom
 photo Tour1_zpsced9c524.jpg

 photo Tour2_zpsfac31817.jpg
That's my recycle bin you see at the bottom (yes its a laundry basket!)

 photo Tour3_zps27b96439.jpg

 photo Tour4_zpsb78e0e75.jpg

 photo Tour5_zps6b2b1b38.jpg
I decided to just put up all the words to start the year since we don't really emphasize the monthly words.

 photo Tour6_zps01846555.jpg

 photo Tour7_zpsc17ed6de.jpg

 photo Tour8_zpse5f0cb1a.jpg

 photo Tour9_zpsb1002464.jpg
I LOVE this space! That black organizer is from Thirty-One. It is being retired (*sad face*) and I had a spare that I used in my display. I wasn't sure what to do with it. But it makes a great math manipulative station!

 photo Tour10_zps507735b9.jpg

 photo Tour11_zps3f21b92d.jpg
This is where my desk was last year. But since I do sometimes like kiddos to use the ELMO, this seemed like a good solution.

 photo Tour12_zps4613b24b.jpg
Mr. Principal found this rug no one else was using and said I could use it :D

 photo Tour13_zpsbd725c91.jpg

 photo Tour14_zpsc25caf21.jpg

 photo Tour15_zps1407d57a.jpg

 photo Tour16_zpsdfa17ec0.jpg
I think I might actually be in love with this view.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lazy {The Last Hurrah of Summer}

The girls and I decided to spend mid to end of our week at our cabin. With The Husband out of town for work and The Oldest actually having two days off in a row from her job, it seemed like a good idea. I have not nearly been up here as much this summer as I would have liked but life has been busy!

I have been incredibly lazy all day today. I can't tell you the last time I had the luxury.  I did bring my Reading Street stuff with the plan to start creating my Choice Menus...but lazy won.

Tomorrow I will take the girls home, The Oldest will go to work and then I'll unpack and repack to head down to see The Husband for the weekend. Monday really starts the crazy-busy. 

I feel kind of bad for being so lazy today because I haven't been able to all summer but I know once I board the crazy back-to-school train next week I'll be glad I let myself have this one day.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I am SO GLAD that we got all of our specials schedules early this year. I don't think in all 9 years I have taught that I've ever had my entire schedule ready this far out before the year begins. It's really kind of nice! I'm not sure what made Mr. Principal decide to do it like this for this year but I am so glad that he did. 

Of course, certain things won't start yet (like library and computer lab because of MAP testing the first few weeks of the year) but knowing already when they will be is awesome. I don't have to worry later about trying to figure out where to put them in a schedule I've been working with for three weeks. 

I had been told that the upcoming group of 4th graders are a) really low academically and b) have many students with behavior issues. Behavior issue kiddos don't bother be honest, they often tend to become my favorite kids. I firmly believe they act the way they do because something is missing in their little life and they aren't developed enough to know/understand what it is and if they DO know, they don't know how to ask for it. I think you really have to get to the heart of the matter and think about the whole child with classes like this.

That said, since I finally finished my work for my doctoral classes, I had a chance to really sit down and analyze the spring data I have on my new kiddos. I was told there was a huge achievement gap...and there is...but it isn't any worse than I've had in the last 5 years. I have some friends who are on a K-2 level and some that are 3rd-5th level. The majority in both reading and math are on 3rd grade level or higher. Of course this doesn't account for the inevitable summer slide but it's much more encouraging than I was expecting!!

The 4th and 5th graders tend to take the MAP test starting the first week of school. This is both good and bad: it's good because you get data right away showing where the students are coming in at but it can be bad in that it often takes a ton of time to administer. I am going to cross my fingers and make initial groups based upon where they were in the spring (because that data shows me they WERE at that level and have the potential to get back there quickly) and then will adjust once I get my new data. I doubt the groupings will change that much this first time though. 

It makes me very, very glad that I made one of my goals for this year to be Choice Menus. I have kiddos who are so behind in math they are going to stare at me like I've got three heads when I'm teaching math -- it's just going to be too far above their head to start with. But I am going to take a closer look at my data once I get the new stuff and really think about what it is vital for my kiddos to know how to do and that is how I will balance my Choice Menus. I have a couple of friends who left 3rd grade performing on a 5th or 6th grade level so I definitely have to make sure they are challenged so they don't get bored. 

It also did not escape my notice that several of my friends who were identified as having behavior issues are VERY low academically. It makes me wonder what accommodations were made to help them feel successful and not totally lost in class, which is usually when the negative behaviors begin. Another reason to ensure the Choice Menus are leveled and at each kiddos working level so they can ALL be successful. 

Pending any unforeseen schedule changes (which I don't think will happen unless the district adds interventionists late this year like they did last year), I have planned 90 minutes per day each for math workshop and reading workshop. I don't plan to teach in set small groups on a daily basis but rather see where the kids are and go from there, sort of like the conferring tracker from the Daily 5. This way if I need to spend 5-10 minutes with my higher kids to help them get started on a challenge task, I can but then I can still give time to my lower level learners so they can find success. 

I think it's going to be a lot of work up front to create these Choice Menus the way I want to make them....but honestly if it helps my kids make gains, I think it will be worth it. And once I make them, I have them and won't have to create them again. 

Should be interesting to see how it all works out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Progress {+ Pics}

Whew! What a day yesterday! 

I had huge plans to finish all of my graduate work (namely an abstract and a 3-page reflection) Sunday...but The Husband told me on Friday that he was going to Ann Arbor for two weeks (the next two weeks!) for work and there was so much to do and time to be spent together that I didn't do anything graduate-school-related on our last day together. I finished my abstract yesterday evening and will do the reflection tonight and then I'll enjoy my whopping 6 days off before my next course begins :)

Yesterday was busy from the word go.

First up, I had to get the kids up to send off their dad. Then The Youngest and I had to head to the ENT for a follow up after her adenotonsillectomy in July. (Dr and intern were impressed that we had ZERO issues. Wish all my surgeries/recoveries had been so easy!) After that, we headed to Starbucks to meet with a teacher I used to work with (she got a new job in another district). I asked her before school got out last year (before she had gotten the new job) to help me with how I'm teaching Text Talk vocabulary because my kiddos are just NOT getting it and the 3rd grade vocab was so much higher on MAP than for us. Since she got a new job, we met to go over it instead. It's really funny because I do not drink coffee. Ever. I can't even stand the smell most of the time. But we met at Starbucks :) (Thankfully those sorts of places have other options too!) The Youngest was super patient while we talked shop and I let her get a cake pop even though it was only 10 am! haha

After that, we zipped over to Dollar Tree for a couple of things, grabbed lunch through the drive-thru and FINALLY got to my school. Whew! It was nearly noon by the time we finally got there. The Youngest was a great helper and we got a lot done so I definitely feel like progress is being made. It was really rainy and yucky this morning so I went in for about 3 hours by myself too. Once I felt like I was no longer being productive, I left. No point in sticking around if nothing is really being accomplished.

4th Grade 2014-2015

This sign hangs on my door so anyone who might come looking for us knows where we are. I lost the arrow that would point to each topic so I stuck a pom pom into a paperclip and stuck it on haha (you can see it on the bottom at "Home").

  Last spring, I found this set on TpT. It says "What's the SCOOP in 4th Grade?" and the kids wrote memories and things they learned on the ice creams. :) I thought it made a cute little back to school display.

The door. You won't be able to see through the glass when I'm all done because I will either put paper or something else up. It majorly cuts down on distractions not having the glass visible for the students.

  This is my back counter (this was yesterday -- it does not look like this anymore, it's got a lot less clutter!). I covered the shelving with this super cute fabric because a) no one needs to see the curriculum stuff on those shelves and b) it's just super cute! That opening spot underneath the counter will have a small rug and a bean bag. For whatever reason the kids L-O-V-E to sit under there during SSR.

  This is my desk area. (It's to the left of the picture above.) This is also as of yesterday so it has changed a bit. I decided this year to separate my teacher area from my tech area and so far, I'm really glad I have. I love having my own space.

  Right now (knock on wood), I am slated for a small class, only 21 kiddos! So I had enough room to leave this HUGE space up front for a meeting area. I wish I had a big rug but I don't :(

  Across the way is the teacher tech area. I used a spare student desk and my ELMO and desktop computer stuff will be there. This way students can use the space as well without me worrying about my own stuff being in their way. It's hard to see but behind the tech area is another table that students will be able to use during partner work. The big wall in the back will have charts and whatnot on it.

Crappy lighting, sorry! My Double E desk setup. Love it! 

  The blue pocket charts in the back corner are around the library area. Not quite sure what is going in those charts quite yet.

  Word wall and small group table. The table on the left (with the green crate underneath) is another spare table I had since I had more kids last year. There are recess games and clipboards underneath the table and on top of the table will be literacy stations and partner games.

  It's not all finished yet but I'm getting there. Mostly I have a lot of little things to sort and put away. I found a huge stock of Literacy Centers in my barn that I forgot I owned. They will be great during small group/Choice Menu time (more about that soon!). 

I know I won't get into my room again until Monday as we're going up north tomorrow-Friday and then I'm going to Ann Arbor to see The Husband Friday night - Sunday morning. Then my second doctoral class begins and I go back to work. Busy busy!

Saturday, August 16, 2014


I spent my Saturday at a vendor event hawkin my Thirty-One wares :) I didn't sell a ton but I did sell a cash and carry item and get a pre-sale for the September special. I also booked a party for a young lady who is getting married and wants matching bags for her bridesmaids. I told her what the total would be and her mom said, "You should just do a party, this nice lady will help you get free stuff. " It was cute (and I definitely will help her get free stuff!).

After I got home it was time to hunker down and finish my huge 150 point paper. It's a compilation of 5 essays we did and some other learning. I'm sure it's fine but man....every time I turn in one of these assignments, I feel like I'm going to throw up. I'm so worried I messed up or forgot something. I always do fine but the nerves are bad!

I hate that I doubt myself. It's not like I don't do my best. I guess it is because, at this point, it's totally for real. This is what will help me accomplish my goals and I worry because I don't want to mess it up.

But I could do without feeling like I'm going to be sick every Saturday when I submit the paper for that week! :)

I have to do my practice abstract for my mini writing course and a final reflection and then these classes are over. Crazy! If I finish them both tomorrow (which is the plan), I will have a whole week off and then my next classes begin. And I go back to work. And my hubby will be out of town for two weeks. At back to school time! Serenity now! haha

Thursday, August 14, 2014

DENIAL! + Classroom Sneak Peek

I am totally in denial. Totally.

I am not ready to go back to school. Not at all. It isn't because I haven't had enough summer and time to relax. It isn't because I don't like my students, school or colleagues (if I didn't like them, I wouldn't stay there). 

I just don't feel ready. This may be because I've been so focused this summer on "doctor school" as The Husband calls it rather than the upcoming school year that I don't feel prepared. It may just be that I want to hold on to these last few weeks. 
All summer, I have seen people making, creating, building, printing. laminating for their classrooms. It gives me a headache. Yes teaching is my life's work. But you know what? There is a reason why we have summers isn't to bust our tails as hard as we do during the school year. I know there are so many teachers who relish in that and I'm glad it works for them. I don't think I will ever be one of them though :)

As such, I did go into school today. We were allowed in starting this past Monday but I am in DENIAL so I didn't go (plus I was up north to celebrate my birthday). I only went in today because my kids were at my mom's house and I was avoiding graduate work haha

Here's what I walked into:

You can see my Thirty-One fabulocity that helped me get all of my stuff back to school this year. The custodians, bless their hearts, always set up the tables in rows because its easier for them to do that when they are done cleaning the floors. In my ideal world, they would read my mind and set it up how I want it done so I don't have to move all of the furniture myself :)

I didn't get as much done as I would have liked to, partly because I didn't really know where to begin and partly because one of my colleagues showed up and of course, we haven't seen each other all summer so we chit-chatted longer than we should have! I got my desks arranged and hung my fabric. Messed with my technology set-up and I think that will be good to go once we're officially back and I have a little more time to play with it. 

A couple of pictures of what I did accomplish:

I decided to try something different with my teacher area -- it will be separate from the tech area where my ELMO is. I didn't take a picture of that because it's not all set up. I always had my own desk and such over there but this year decided to have my own teacher space, along with my filing cabinet across the room. (See my pink purse? That's my desk.) I hung this fabric on the shelves to hide them because they are really ugly and no one wants or need to see all of my junk up there. Yes, its organized but I hate looking at it. This is much cuter! (Sorry its hard to see -- it has alphabet letters on the black and then a ruler deign and kiddos on the bottom. Super cute!)
A few years ago, on some blog, I saw that someone made curtains out of pillow cases. So I did that too. But I bought this chevron fabric originally to cover my shelves (see above) but it made me dizzy to stare across the room at it haha So I decided to use some on the window instead. The long piece wasn't quite long enough so I overlapped a second shorter piece. It's not the most perfect looking thing but I love the little pizazz it adds to my room.

That's pretty much what I accomplished. Lame, right? :) I forgot to take a picture of my desk setup (I will definitely do that in my final "reveal"). As of the spring, I am only slated to have 20-21 students this year so I had some extra tables to figure out what to do with. I really want to be better at using individual learning and choice menus this year so that I can do a lot more focus group work with my kiddos and less whole group stuff (very important this year as I have been told our kiddos coming up are either really high achieving or really low achieving). I *think* I have set up my room in a way that will foster that. I hope so.

I am finishing up my first doctoral class this weekend (woo hoo!) and next week will spend quite a bit of time prepping for the school year since I haven't really done anything all summer. I don't plan to go back to school until the 25th because I plan to do a lot at home to help myself prepare for the upcoming year.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Meet the Teacher {Linky}

After seeing this all over my blogfeed, I had to do it too. (So I'm a follower lol :)

 I'm Raye and of course, I blog right here at The Caffeinated Teacher. I just turned 36 (nope, not afraid to admit it!) and will be starting my 9th year of teaching in September.  I have taught 2nd, 4th and 5th grade (including a 4th/5th split twice) and have done a lot of grade level shufflin' and classroom movin' (not always by choice). I'm really glad to have landed right back in 4th grade this year. It's the best grade! I have spent my entire career in my district, including my student teaching, but I have been in several buildings. This year will be my 5th year in the same building.

I have been married for almost 14 years to the best man I know, Jeff herein referred to as "The Husband". We have three daughters, Emily aka The Oldest (19), Bree aka Middle Child (12) and Jill aka The Youngest (11). They keep me on my toes for sure. We also have 2 dogs, Morgan and Hershey and 2 cats, Landry and Sparta. (No pictures, sorry...they don't need to be splashed all over the internet. Just my preference.)

This summer I have done a lot of studying as I started my doctorate in June. I haven't done anything for my classroom except buy fabric for my shelves and buy school supplies. Eeek!

 These are a few of my favorite things:
* Diet Coke (you're shocked, right?) *
* InkJoy pens * 
* Twist-Erase 0.9 mechanical pencils *
*Mr. Goodbar * Cute paper journals *
*Snow days * Michigan Summers *

If you weren't a teacher, what would you want to be?:
Tough one. I can't imagine not being a teacher. I'd love to be a professional writer. If I really had to pick a different career, I think I would be a therapist so I could help people with the bumps in their journey.

Three Little Words that Describe You:
Loud, Faithful, Passionate

Finish the sentence: "____________," said no teacher ever.
"I'd love to do meaningless paperwork instead of teach my students!" said no teacher ever.

Q: It's your birthday and you can invite anyone {dead or alive} to the party, who are you inviting?
Robin Williams, Maya Angelou, my grandpa and Harry, Ron and Hermione!

Q: If someone wrote a book about your life, what would be the title?
Someone did write a book about my life (that would be me of course). It's called The Phoenix Rising: A Survivor's Story because no matter the utter crap tossed at me by the universe, I have continued to get up, stand up and persevere. (It's full of profanity so if that bothers you, don't bother to look it up.)

Q: You get to pick one superpower, what is it?
I would want the power to stop time. Then I could truly accomplish everything I needed to get done in a day without skimping on any important part of my life. (Or I'd just get a Time Turner like Hermione.)

Q: What's your favorite quote or saying?
He who angers you, controls you ~ Anonymous
(Very important quote for me because I tend to be a hot head and I have to remind myself that I can't let the idiots who make me mad control me.)

Q: If you had one song to sing on American Idol, what would it be?
I would spare your ears and NOT sing in public. The only singing I do is in my car when I'm alone! :)

Q: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Oh gosh, neither anymore. I have never been a morning person. Ever. It'll never happen. I use to be that person who could stay up until 2-3 am and that's when I was most productive, especially in August. But the closer I creep toward's no longer true. I don't like to get up early but I don't usually sleep much past 8 anymore (when you're used to getting up at 5:30, that is sleeping in) and most of the time I can barely keep my eyes open past 11 or 11:30. A sign of age I guess lol 

Q: What's your favorite resource that you've created in your TpT shop?
Hmm. Well there isn't a ton there because I don't have time (nor the inclination) to make tons of creations but I think my favorite is my Total Participation Task Cards. They were a life-saver last year.

Q: Share something we might not know about you.
Well I'm pretty open but you probably don't know that Jeff and I got married 6 months and 18 days after we met. We met on June 10, 2000 and were married on December 28, 2000. I guess when you know, you know :)

Go and link up :)

The Caffeinated Teacher