Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tried it Tuesday: Fluency Center w/ Whisper Phones!

After the long heart felt blog post yesterday, I realized how good it felt to vent and write. Thank you all for the kind emails of support. It is really nice to know we have so many caring friends, even Internet friends. We are real people behind this blog. Real moms, teachers, and friends with real lives full of surprises, stress, emotions, and sometimes fun. Boy am I ready for break! Today we have a half day and then we will be off for TWO weeks!

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Fluency-Task-Cards-BUNDLE-Oral-Reading-Fluency-Practice--687584So I'm happy to have the chance to share our newest center with you for Tried it Tuesday. Recently, I purchased these awesome fluency task cards from Teaching with a Mountain View. 

I printed them in color and put them into Dollar Tree 4X6 photo albums! Super easy, cute, and a huge time and lamanation saver! (Dollar Tree just restocked these albums for Christmas, so call around, they are easy to find!) Next it was time to make the whisper phones.  This was Robyn's job. She went to Home Depot, grabbed some PVC pipes, elbows, and some duct tape and put her husband to work. Luckily, he is handy and cut the pipes perfectly. It literally took him a few minutes. Robyn wrapped the pipes with some cute duct tape and Ta Da...whisper phones were created! These things work AMAZING too! 

So how do we use them? While I am taking a Guided Reading group, one center rotation visits the fluency center. Each student reads through task cards of fluency paragraphs and decides on one to read to their partner. They then time themselves whisper reading the same passage three times. After the third time, they read it to a partner at the center. The partner needs to give feedback to the reader stating one glow and one grow. Each student is responsible to complete this worksheet every time they visit the center. The sheets are collected and used for cold read data, fluency goals, and formative assessments. Since many of my students have fluency goals, this is a great way for them to get extra practice. It's also an easy way to have students reflect on their work, feedback, and progress.

Want to try this out? You can have a copy of the center sheet. Grab it here!



Monday, December 22, 2014

A Depressing Post: Losing a Best Friend.

Remember the movie, My Girl? Remember Vada and her best friend Thomas J. that passed away, unexpectedly, leaving his best friend to deal with the pain on her own? I think I've watched this movie a dozen or so times, but no matter how many times I see it, I always feel the same thing. First my throat starts to itch inside and slowly close, the next thing I know I start to cry. Soon it turns to ugly sobs while I feel my stomach tense up and turn into uncomfortable knots. I know, I'm pretty emotional. A sense of depression comes over as I see this poor little girl deal with the sudden loss of her best friend.

Recently, I've known this feeling all too well. It's been exactly one month since we lost a best friend. She wasn't just that...she was our coworker, editor, role model, and personal cheerleader.  She thought everything we made for our classroom, TPT, or blog was prize winning and praised and supported our work. 

She was the smartest and kindest person I've ever met... not just to her friends, but to her 50 fourth graders she taught every year. Every year for eight years. If someone did not have lunch, she would buy it for them. If a student had a birthday and the parents were not "around" to celebrate, she'd bake cupcakes for the student to pass out in class. If a student reached a goal in class, she'd bake their favorite treat for a celebration the next day. She'd devote lunch time to lunch bunch for getting to know her students better. There were times when her students did not have food in their homes and would write about it in their writing journals, the next day they would find bags of groceries on their door step. At Christmas time, she'd always adopt a family and provide the children with gifts, clothes, and food to fill up their pantry. One year, she taught her class how to knit comfort dolls and sent hundreds of them to children who needed comfort.  A few years ago, her class created soda tab bracelets, sold them, and raised over $1500.00 to help local families dealing with cancer bills. She frequently volunteered and was our school's Kindness Ambassador for Ben's Bells. She brought, modeled, and shared kindness everyday through actions and words.

This was just the beginning. In the classroom, she was a reading rock star. She didn't just teach her students to read, she taught them to be passionate readers. She shared her love of reading with everyone she met. Anywhere she went, she'd always have a book available. Oftentimes she'd be reading two or three books at a time. She was a role model for all. She was a passionate educator. When she found an educational role model, she became a "fanatic." This started with Nancy Boyles and continued with Donalyn Miller. She was awesome at Twitter and "stalked" her favorite authors, joined in on edu-chats and tweeted people around the world. Always learning from others. She met authors, invited them into her classroom, and went above and beyond in everything she did.

She spoke the truth, and stood up for who/what she believed in. She was smart. Really smart! She was worldly, having traveled all over the world and even growing up in Africa. She spoke a few languages and always showed genuine compassion for everyone, especially ELL students.

She was an amazing mother to three teenage boys  and wife to an awesome man. She loved to laugh and make others smile. She was a perfectionist and never stopped thinking about how she could better herself. If there was an idea or suggestion, she would try it, but would first ask as many questions as she could about the topic. She loved to exercise, be outdoors, and be with friends.

She loved to talk. She had such amazing and hilarious adventures in her life. She would often entertain us at PD or lunch with her tales. We had many memorable memories in our eight years together, working a few classroom doors away from each other. She referred to me as her "Young BFF" and always laughed about the fact that she could be my mom. She gave the best advice. For advice on students, children, marriages, diets, exercise, and motherly opinions...she was the one to go to!

Then...just like that, like when Thomas J. was stung by tons of bees, had a fatal bee allergy, and died. She passed away. There are so many "what ifs?" that we can think of now, so many things we want to say, and so many more ways we could have helped our best friend, if we knew.  We are full of anger. And sadness. And pain. Why didn't she let us help her? Did I let her down as a friend? 

A month has passed. Thirty days of daily tears. Cleaning out the classroom. Boxes. Tears. Interviews. Demo lessons. More tears. More moving. Changes. To little, too late. Life will never be the same. 

My stomach is in constant knots, my heart aches. My mind is a blur. A smile is forced. A laugh seems guilty. How the heck do I still have tears to cry? We miss our best friend. The shock has worn off, now the pain is stronger. It's knowing she isn't coming back that makes me feel like Vada missing her Thomas J.

I wrote this as a way to reflect on my feelings, not as a plea for pity. I hate the response, "I'm sorry for your loss," because I feel like it is SO much more than MY loss. As much as this hurts me, I am sick over what it has done to her family, school, and community as well. Maybe someone understands or has experienced similar thoughts and feelings. Death is hard on everyone any people experience grief in their own unique ways.  For me, I thought blogging/journaling and putting thoughts into words would help. 

Let your friends, near and far, know how much you appreciate them and how much they mean to you today and always, but most of all... Be kind! Thanks for reading.