The End of Molasses Classes- Part 3

 I've really enjoyed this book and I'm pretty sure it will be one that I end of reading over and over every summer!

Part 3: Creating the Right Culture and Climate

I actually disagree with some of Mr. Clark's points.... (gasp!)

Point 39 (page 172)- Open your doors to the parents.
I love having parent help and volunteers, but in the district where I work parents really run the district. I am constantly questioned about EV-ER-Y-THING. Unfortunately, this makes me really really not want parent help. Terrible right? In this point RC says there is one day in his school where parents can spend the whole day in the classroom. I can't imagine. And, granted, his students aren't first graders, but many of my students don't behave very well when their parents are around.

Point 40-(page 173) dress the part! Attire matters
Yes, it's important to dress professionally. I try my best to look nice every day. But I have to tell you when I can where jeans and a cute sweater I feel so much more comfortable. Again, I have first graders so it's a bit different. At the last school I worked at we were allowed to wear jeans at any time. My principal felt that the job was difficult and if being in jeans made us more comfortable then ok!

Point 51- (page 194) Don't Constantly Stress About Test Scores
Absolutely! When I taught fourth and third grade I didn't talk about the state tests that often. Instead I focused on teaching my students. I constantly searched for new ways to teach what I needed to and reviewed items with my students. And when it came time for the test I was confident and told my students that they knew the information and to try their best. (This doesn't mean I wasn't saying a little prayer for a few of my students) So many students have test anxiety because they know how important the test is, but if you have done your job well then your students will perform well. We can't take the test for them! That all being said- it was important to me to give my students an idea of what test day would look like and what to expect on the test.

And my favorite point in this section is Point 91- (page 287) Allow teachers the freedom to make their rooms reflect their personalities- allow them to use color!

Any one else sick of the putty colored paint on their walls? My bulletin boards are bright colors, and I put colorful border wherever I can. At my last school I was given permission to paint my walls as long as I painted it back to beige if I ever left. I chose this lovely blue color and I painted a tree on one wall. My words for my word wall were on leaves so we had a word tree. It was AWESOME! We had old wooden bookshelves that we could paint so my room really reflected my personality. I wish so badly that  districts would allow this more often! Now we are limited to "only use 20% of your wall space" and "no objects hung on doors." (If you saw my post earlier this week you can see that I haven't exactly followed that) No staples in the wall. This is my own personal beef since blue sticky tack doesn't work. How am I supposed to keep important things up without using staples? (I may use hot glue from time to time....shhhhhhh) I do try to make my desk show my personality. At least I can do that much. Pink is my favorite color and I have pink drawers, boxes, pens, etc. Plus lots of little owl trinkets and pictures of my family.

This book has been wonderful hasn't it?!

Fabulous Finds

 I just love the idea of posting Fab Finds so I'm linking up with Thinking of Teaching to share my Fabulous Finds.

1. I just love these homemade coasters from Brown Paper Packages

2. I bought this cute apron to use in class. It goes with my owl theme and now I don't look like a crazy person trying to carry around stickers, hole puncher, highlighters, and tickets while trying to help my students!

I've linked them both up to their sites- just click the picture.

How Does Light Travel?

 I've been meaning to post this! Last week we began studying light. We did an experiment (out of an Evanmoor Science Book...not sure which one) with a flashlight. I told my kids that I would line up several students and aim the flashlight at one person. We wrote in our science journals about what we thought might happen. Some students thought the light would bounce off, others predicted that it would make a shadow. Of course when you point a flashlight it goes right to where you wanted it to. We wrote in our journals that light travels in a straight line. Well I couldn't let the be it! I had to do a little something else so that my students would remember this. We made flashlights and the light from the flashlight stated that light travels in a straight line. I let my kiddos create their own on/off button which they thought was so very fabulous. Ha! Click the pictures below for the templates.

I'm on fire!

 A special thanks goes out to Meghan at Inside the Classroom for awarding me with the blog on fire award!  Meghan- this year has been a little tough for me so this really made my whole weekend! I have to say blogging has changed my life and changed the way I teach. It's even changed the way I shop. Every time I pass a dollar section I don't see junk- I see a math center. I shop for stickers not to dress up  100% papers but to use in my writing center. Thanks to all out there who blog and those who follow me. I'm a better teacher because of you all! With this award I need to share seven things about myself and pass this on to seven others.

Seven things about me:
1. I heart football! I'm so glad it's football season!
2. I don't understand why we can send a camera to Mars, but we can't make cheese burn fat.
3. I am a terrible housekeeper. I have to say I don't even put in much of an effort. Maybe that should me my resolution for the new year. Poor husband.
4. I could spend hours and millions of dollars inside Barnes and Noble.
5. Terrified of spiders. There was a GIANT spider in my house on Friday and my husband wasn't home yet so I found an empty sherbet container and set it over the spider. So we're heading to bed and my husband asks, "Baby, why is there a sherbet container on the floor?" Duh. Spider.
6. I miss Seattle. I miss long sleeves. I miss the smell of rain.
7. If I win the lottery I'm hiring a personal chef, live-in maid, and a masseuse that's on-call 24 hours. How bout that?!

Here are the blogs that I'm pass this HOT award onto in no particular order!

1. A Teeny Tiny Teacher

2. 1st Grade with Miss Snowden

3. Faithful in First

4. First Grade Blue Skies

5. Mrs. Bainbridge's Class

6. Corner on Character

7. Clutter Free Classroom

End of Molasses Classes Part Two

 This week I read part two of the FABULOUS Ron Clark book "The End of Molasses Classes." This section is about parents and parent involvement in the success of students. Loved it. Love his book. And have a crush on him!

Here's what I loved most:

1. The Parent To-Do List on page 119. Especially "Limit chaos in the mornings." I have first graders who live on routine. When they show up even 15 minutes late in can destroy their day. I also like "Review all homework not DO all homework assignments." Amen, Ron. And finally- leave encouraging surprise notes for your child. My mom did this. She would leave a note at the front door  that said, "Have a great day!" or a note in my lunch box that said, "I know your hard work will pay off with your history project!" That made a huge difference in my day. I leave love notes for my students when I'm absent. Sometimes it's a class note like I had yesterday, "Good morning kids! Please listen to the sub and be good helpers. I will be back before lunch!" Sometimes I've left notes for certain students, "Tommy, please show our sub where the _____ are." I usually leave these notes for students who are challenging because then they've done something to help and are more willing to listen and help the sub.

2. Point 26: Don't be a helicopter parent (page 121)
If only I could send out this section to all of the parents at our school. I've gotten lucky this year and have one parent that I had formed a relationship with a couple of years ago when she was volunteering in the workroom. I was able to call her and say, "Honey, you're going to have to back off and relax. I REALLY think your son has to figure out for himself EXACTLY what he has to do to be successful. You can tell him what that is until you're blue in the face, but you'll only make yourself crazy. You're going to have to let him figure this out. He can do it. I promise." Granted. I've never been able to say this to a parent. Which got me thinking, how can we let parents know that being a helicopter parent isn't a good thing. I decided I'm going to add "What I'm Reading" to my newsletter. Maybe I'll get lucky and have some of my parents read this!

Also, I thought of countless students who could have been more successful had they just not been "rescued" every five minutes. In my own class we are problem solvers. I say "Problem Solve!" every day to at least one of my students. If you don't know how to do something then you need to ask. If you made a mistake- what can you do to fix it? I make my students accountable for everything they do. I even tell them at progress report time "Look at your report. Do you see a grade you don't like? If you do then think about what you could do differently to be more successful? Maybe you should come and talk to me about what I think you should do." Scouts honor, this works. My kids really take responsibility for their work and their choices. I won't lie. We just hit the nine week end and that's how long it takes to train them in my expectations and procedures. It's a VERY long nine weeks, but after this things are MUCH easier.

Link up to the linky party here to see other responses!

Mentor Texts for Writers Workshop

Kimberly at Funky First Grade Funis having a linky party to share mentor texts to use with writing lessons. Here are two of my fave's.

1. Tuesday by David Wiesner and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. There are no words and the story is really different. Frogs/toads are floating around on lilly pads throughout the town in the middle of the night.  It's great for teaching introductions, writing about characters feelings, or for writing good descriptions. I like to show a picture in the middle of the story and ask my students to write about what they think is happening. (Sometimes I can ask them to write about it from the toad's point of view) Really funny stuff! It also leads to great discussions about how important details are in our pictures and how they can help tell the story or help us plan our stories.

2. Maybe I just love this book and I work it into writing, but I think it's great as an example of voice in writing. True, in first grade we don't hit that hard. But I do tell my students that I want their writing to sound like they wrote it. I want it to have feeling and expression, just like when we read.  Alice the Fairy by David Shannon is just hilarious. Truly told from a childs point of view. Great imagination and wonderful pictures!

I hope you'll link up! I could use some fresh ideas!

Big News!

 I have some exciting news for y'all! I'm one of the presenters at Novembers Teaching Blog Expo!! I'll be presenting ways to survive RTI. I know it's not our favorite topic. And I'm not claiming to be an RTI expert by any means, but I have found some ways to make RTI work FOR me. There are three other fabulous presenters with wonderful presentations as well. Check it out! I signed up for the last expo and spent a huge chunk of my weekend morning in my pj's with coffee writing down new tips and tricks to use in the classroom. You won't want to miss it! Click on the flier to go directly to the webpage. (Please ignore my picture. My husband took it ridiculously close up. So awful.)

Desk Fairy Freebie

As I was getting ready to leave my class today and turn the lights out I looked back and saw paper avalanches waiting to happen in about half of my students desks. Oh. My. Goodness. The other half were so tidy. I could see every spiral and every folder. I guess it's time for the desk fairy to visit....only I'm so addicted to my owl theme in my classroom that I had to make an owl themed desk fairy ticket! Woo hoot! Click on the picture to download!


End of Molasses Classes Weekly Linky Party

 I've joined the linky party on TBA covering the AMAZING Ron Clark's newest book "The End of Molasses Classes."

I've been a long time fan of Ron Clark and received the book as a birthday gift. After reading Part 1 I have to touch on some of my favorite points. I've read the other posts from the linky party and I'm so proud of how honest we are as teachers about our strengths and weaknesses and where we know we've screwed up. Please join in on this linky party- it will only make you a better teacher!


Amen! Growing up my mother was strict and tough. Her expectation was that I tried my best and put forth my best effort on every assignment. Her expectation was NOT that I make straight A's. I work in a district where parents want and expect their children to make straight A's. On page 8 RC says, "I am afraid most parents would rather their child get a good education where they received A's and praise than an outstanding education where they struggled and received C's." That about sums up the area where I work. A few years ago I had a horrific school year. Our district had created an accelerated class where what was taught in five days would be taught in four and the fifth day students would work on an enrichment project. I did not teach the accelerated class. I was left with students where were average or below level and all of the behavior problem students. I worked my tail off! I tried to make everything exciting and fresh. I was literally singing and dancing to keep my kids attention. (It made me livid to hear the other teachers talk about how it was the best year of teaching they had ever had because their students worked so hard and they loved the enrichment projects. It felt like I was working 50 times harder than they were!) One parent did not like the 75 that her child had received on an assignment. To be honest that 75 was generous. She accused me of hating her child, hating all boys, she told my administrators that I made students sharpen pencils with scissors. (WHAT?! HOW LUDICROUS!) I was told to apologize to the parent. Yes, really. It ruined the year for me. Every grade I gave was questioned because the parents all felt their children were A students. I admit it, I gave up. I started giving A's even when the child didn't deserve an A. I couldn't take it anymore. I had no support and I was miserable! 

This year I started off the year telling my parents that first grade was challenging and that I had very high expectations both with behavior and academically. I told them that with the bar high students would work hard to reach it. I also told them I couldn't do it without their help and support at home. I'm still being questioned by a few parents on absolutely everything, but the majority of parents like that their children are being challenged. I think when I first started teaching I assumed most teachers challenged their students. It turns out more teachers than I thought give A's because they have no support.


I love this one! I had a fourth grade student who was having a hard time with his parents divorce. It was an ugly divorce and it had been ongoing for more than a year by the time he entered my classroom. But he loved football. I told him I loved football too and we talked college teams and the NFL. I was tough on him. His outbursts and disrespect were not tolerated EVER. I knew he was having a rough time with the divorce, but my expectations are always the same from day one to the end of the school year. His father was so supportive of me holding his son accountable. One day J asked me to come to his football game. I jumped at the chance! When I showed up he was SO EXCITED. He turned bright red and immediately ignored me- ha! His father and grandmother were there. His grandmother told me what a great year her grandson was having and that he loved coming to school. Every year since then I have attended at least one game. A couple of years ago, before I was married, he asked me to bring my boyfriend too. So adorable when he went up and shook Dave's hand, "It's nice to meet you sir." He emails me at school from time to time and reminds me of how great it is to be somebody's favorite teacher. He is in middle school this year and came to meet the teacher night. He is taller than I am, but had his arms around me telling all the parents that I was his favorite teacher. So simple to take an hour out of my Saturday to see him play and forever have him working hard for me. 

Run out and get this book! You 'll be so motivated! And join the linky party here. Part two of the linky party starts this week. Have a great weekend!

Check out this video from Ron Clark!


 I tried out the ESGI free trial at the beginning of the year and now I'm wondering how I lived without it! ESGI is an online assessment tool created by a kindergarten teacher genius! Here's an example of how it works: a number shows up on the computer, your student reads it, if they read it correctly you click "yes" and if they read it incorrectly you click "no." Takes two or three minutes!


Everything is saved online and parent letters and student flash cards are automatically created. Woohoo! I did the beginning of the year phonics assessment and pre-math assessment with my first grade class and printed out the letters and flashcards for my parent conferences. I loved it, and my parents loved it! It's so specific that parents know exactly what they can do to help their child. I even had one parent go home and use the flashcards with her child. She emailed me, "You were right ____ really didn't know those words! We'll be working on them at home to make sure she know them. Thanks!" I got a couple of my teammates to sign up for the free trial too. We decided to try it out and now that we know we L.O.V.E. it we're planning on writing a grant for our entire grade level in the spring. You owe it to yourself to check it out! Sign up for the free trial- why not?!

PS: Now that my free trial is almost done I'm going to purchase the license to use it for the remainder of the year. I can't wait to do the coin assessment and the digraph assessment!

T.G.I. almost Thursday!

The short weeks are always the longest! Rough day, but I got the sweetest new student today and my loving firsties welcomed her right away! I think she was a little overwhelmed by how many students wanted to be friends and be a helper for her.

A couple of weeks ago Rebecca at Teaching First was doing a giveaway of a science literacy bag. (You can see the post here) I, of course, scoped out the website and I'm so intrigued. The bags are from Teacher Bag Books and Beyond and after looking at them I'm convinced I must have some. I also thought it would be a great gift to do the bag a month for one of my friends daughters. She is VERY four and very sassy and she simply isn't that interested in reading. Today Ms. Kerri at Ms. Kerri's Krazy Kindergarten blogged about a literacy bag she made for her own classroom. (Way cute!) Do you use literacy bags? Do you use them every week? Just for one particular group?  I would love to incorporate them some how! Tell me more!


 I posted about Dropbox last spring, but I just have to write about it again! I used to haul my flash drives back and forth from home to school. Then the darn thing would fill up and I'd have to buy another one.  Then my husband told me about Dropbox. It's basically a cloud that holds all of your files--- and it's FREE!   You get a certain amount of space free---- believe me, I have a TON of files in my Dropbox and I'm nowhere near filling it! I downloaded it at home and I pull or save my files into Dropbox. I downloaded it at school too and now I can access all of my files and games for my first graders without having to bring flash drives everywhere. I had to ask permission from my Technology Department to download it, but they didn't hesitate to say yes. I've also downloaded my wedding photos into Dropbox. They have a share feature so I was able to share my pics with my whole family without attaching each individual picture. This may be a great solution for you! Click the logo to download!

Starting the week off on a high note!

A few lovely ladies have awarded me some blog awards and it's made my whole week. Some of them were given to me during Science Week and I was just too excited about science to post about it!

Miss Toffee from Miss Toffee's Class  and Mrs. L from  Live Love Learn with Mrs. L awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award!
Thanks ladies! I received the Versatile Blogger award a few weeks ago too. I'm so flattered. Here is the link to my Top Ten for Versatile Bloggers!


Marcy from Buzzin' on Cupcakes in 1st Grade awarded me with

Here's the story behind this award:

I Heart Your Blog Award: A dear friend of mine taught me a profound lesson several years ago when she shared her personal mantra, "There is only love." Since then, I have realized that by adopting this mantra in my own life, I have changed my whole approach to everything I experience. That being said, as a total newbie to the teacher's blogging world, I discovered this gold mine of amazingly creative and talented teachers out here in cyber space. There are so many of you spreading the teaching LOVE around the globe by sharing your ideas and experiences. I just had to create a blog award to celebrate those of you who touched my heart and inspired me, increasing my LOVE of teaching. 

1. Give the "I Heart Your Blog" Award to your favorite Top 10 blogs that have touched your heart and inspired your teaching by listing them on your blog.
2. Contact that person and let them know of their heartfelt award.
3. When you receive the award, copy and paste the graphic on your blog and give a shout out to the person who nominated you.
4. Spread the LOVE by passing the "I Heart Your Blog" Award on to your Top 10.

HERE ARE MY TOP TEN! I've tried to include a bunch of blogs that I'm a new follower of! They are FABULOUS!

1. Mrs. Bainbridge's Class
2. Beg, Borrow, and Steal
3. Herding Kats in Kindergarten
4. First Grade Owls
5. First Grade Schoolbox
6. Lory Evan's Page
7. Seusstastic
8. Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational
9. Starbucks, Standards, and Sharpies
10. Teaching with Flare