Saturday, October 4, 2014


What better way to get back into the blogging groove then to share what is currently going on in my life. School (my work and my specialist degree) have taken over my life, in every single way!  If anyone knows how that goes, it is all of you, my blogging buddies and my faithful followers.

Anyhoo, here is what is currently happening over here in my neck of the woods:

Listening:  I am almost finished with season 3 of Homeland!  I can't wait to finish, since the new season starts tomorrow.  I am addicted!

Loving:  First off let me start by saying how scared I am of every animal other than my Shelby.  That being said, I bit the bullet and adopted 2 guinea pigs for my classroom because the owner no longer wanted them. Our school is an environmental school and my good friend has pretty much brought a zoo into our lobby and her classroom.  I am joining the bandwagon and bringing these two lovely ladies to my classroom:

Meet Anna and Elsa
(mom is brown and daughter is the white and gray)

Thinking:  I have been MIA for a few weeks, but that doesn't mean that the ideas for posts are not filling my every thought.  I am making a list and slowly, but surely, the list will become reality here on my little slice of teacher life.

Wanting:  Moving to fourth grade was a dream come true, but I have to admit that i am overwhelmed. Between working in the new lessons to help teach the Florida Standards Assessment, teaching writing when I only have 30 minutes a day to teach it, sponsoring the Young Author's Club, working on my specialist degree in science, and all the other joys that life brings...I CAN'T fit it in.  Any ideas????

Needing:  See wanting for reasons why my house is a mess, lol.

Treat:  This week I decided that I wanted proof that my kids were reading the books they were checking out from the library.  I also want them to get used to summarizing in as few words as possible.  I came up with "Tweets to Repeat".  Students will recommend their books in 130 characters or less (ala Twitter requirements) and all tweets will be posted outside our classroom for all to see.  I whipped up these tweet speech bubbles and I thought you might like them. Click on the pic to head on over to the free download. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Student Grouping Dilemma

I have spent the day working on my student groups for reading.  The only data I have is last year's FCAT scores, so that is what I used for now.  My first class is filled with students who need so much intervention so it was hard for me to group them.  There isn't a low or a high in this group, but I love them to pieces and I hope that I can bring them to become great readers by the time we leave each other at the end of the year.  I am not used to having students at this level (I have always taught students who are gifted) and the challenge has brought me to tears this year.  I hate to say it, but at first I thought I did something wrong and that is why I was given a group who needed so much help.  Then my wise husband and a few of my teacher pals smacked me upside the head and told me that it is because I am the one who can help these kids succeed.  So now I have taken on this challenge and I am finding ways to help these kiddoes become the best they can.  Fourth grade has overwhelmed me beyond anything I ever experienced in first grade, but I LOVE it.

My second group is filled with students who are at higher FCAT levels and even though they are still in need of my help, they are a little more independent.  I do find that they finish the lessons faster than my morning group, so I need to have a few things up my sleeve for them.  In this group I have my first ESOL Level 1 student (also a first for me).  This student doesn't speak English and I don't speak Spanish, so we are just trying to get through this.  I think this has been the biggest frustration for me because I am at a loss as to how I can help this student learn.  Any ideas?  I paired her up with a Spanish speaker and I have labels around the room to help with visualization.  I just don't think it is helping.  I would love some ideas!

I came up with this color coded group chart for my groups and I wanted to share it with you.  I hope it is something you can use even if it is super simple in style.  Sometimes less is more and that is why I am using this. 

Have a great Sunday and a blessed week!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Florida Teacher Blog Hop July 25-27

Welcome to the Sunshine State! Enjoy yourself as you take a tour around our wonderful {and large!} state! Grab some freebies along the way, and be sure to enter to win our Bundles of Sunshine!

I live way down south in Kendall, Florida.

I was born in New York and my grandparents moved us down when I was 2 years old, so I am pretty much a native Floridian!  I grew up in Coral Gables and I have to say that was the best place to grow up, hands down.  George Merrick founded Coral Gables after the 1926 hurricane and his home is now a museum. If you want to read the history, just click on the link under the picture.

Coral Gables Merrick House

We then moved to Westchester, where I went to high school.  Once I was married in 1987, we moved to Kendall and it has been my home ever since.  Kendall is southwest of Miami Beach and 200 miles north of Key West.  We rarely get a chance to head on over to the beach, which is unfortunate.  I think we have only been twice this summer!  
The area of Kendall that I live in is very close to the Miccosukee Indian Village.  There is a beautiful hotel and is known for its bingo hall.  I have spent many nights with my grandmother playing bingo, once we even won $10,000!


As you hop through each of our blogs, make sure to click on the great freebies that we have to offer.  They may be ideas or activities, but they are free and we love FREE!  To grab my freebie just click the image below!

I found this poster on Facebook after someone had posted it, but could not find a copy of it anywhere.  I decided to make one of my own and share it with all of you.  There is a poster for primary grades and some of the wording was changed to make it more applicable.  The other poster is for intermediate grades.  I hope this is something you can use!

The Florida teachers below have two fantastic giveaways for you! You can enter once from each one of our pages. All you have to do is follow my blog! Hop around to all the blogs listed below, and be sure to follow them to get more entries. The more entries you have, the more likely you are to win! Each pack also includes a Starbucks gift card from me
 (because, well, a teacher's gotta have a coffee!).

I hope you enjoy reading about our state and learning more about our wonderful blogging buddies from Florida!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Peek Inside My Math Block: Go Math

One of the daily emails I receive from my faithful followers asks me how I use Go Math during my math block.  When I first started using Go Math, I was beyond confused and had no idea what I was doing.  This is what many of you confess when you email me, so I figured it was time to lay it out for you.  Hopefully this gives you a better feel for what you may want to incorporate in your math block. 
Go Math is a great tool and I feel awful for those of you who didn't have the opportunity to be trained like I was. Albeit, the training came a year late, but it opened my eyes and there was no turning back.  The next two paragraphs highlight one of the authors, so if you want to jump to the meat of the post, it starts after the second book image.

One of the authors, Juli Dixon, was my trainer and she has become my personal math hero.  You can read her daughter's story and learn more about why she believes in teaching math for understanding.  Her daughter was involved in a tragic accident and learning was difficult. This is the story of their journey and it fostered a new way to look at math.

Juli has also authored and co-authored many books on the common core and math curriculum.  She is a true inspiration.  This is another one of my go to books, Beyond the Common Core, A Handbook for Mathematics in a PLC @ Work.


Now on to what you really want to know.  I am going to use Lesson 1.1, so you have an idea of how to start  your year.

Introduction of Lesson, Formative Assessment (10 minutes)

The first page of every lesson begins with a Listen and Draw activity.  This is to be used as a formative assessment. It is unguided and not taught.  This is where teachers get an idea of how students think about this type of problem.  How will they approach this type of problem solving?  All students will not approach it in the same manner, so you will get to see all the different ways that students are able to figure out how to solve the problem.  Some will draw, some will need manipulatives (I always have manipulatives out at my tables), some will just go straight to the problem.  Teachers should be using a checklist or other form of data check to document the information.  Once all students (only give 10 minutes) have finished, you can then show a few of the ways the problem is to be solved.

Students may have drawn actual ladybugs, circles, squares, etc. to show adding to.  It doesn't matter what they drew, they should show 2 groups and an answer next to the word ladybugs.  Rather than correct or have them redo the work if it is way off, jot a note or show them 2 groups on the margin of the page.  You want to keep their work in tact so you can use this page to gauge your teaching and their learning for the rest of the lesson. If most of your students get it, then you know you can move quickly through the next steps, if not then you will need to adjust the flow of your lesson.  

Model and draw part 2 shows up at the top of the next page of each lesson.  This is a continuation and should only be a 5 minute teaching point.  This is another way to show students how adding to (or whatever you are teaching) can be modeled.  Students are to be listening and engaged, but the teacher is doing all the talking as it is only a model for the lesson.

The next part of the lesson is Share and Show.  This is the We Do portion, where teacher and students work together. This is the next 5-10 minutes of your lesson.  The teacher models the first problems and then the students complete the problems with a red check.  Students can work together during this time, as this is not independent work, it is guided practice.  I am asking questions and soliciting students for answers during this time.  Students are talking to me and to each other.  It is noisy, but they are learning from me and from each other.

At the beginning of the school year, all problems will have a red check because Go Math works on gradual release. Another point to make is that all problems do not have to be completed.  Go Math was written with extra practice built in, so if you find that all of your students get it after the first two problems, you can stop using the book and move on to more hands-on centers earlier in your lesson.

The third part of my math block is using the On Your Own section.  This is the You Do portion of the lesson where students work independently. I walk around and ask questions to check for understanding. This is a 20-25 minute part of my block.  This is when I use the information from the formative assessment and the Share and Show to see who needs intervention.  I pull those students who didn't know how to approach the problem and/or had difficulty with the problems, to my table and we work together.  I use different manipulatives and center work that I have already put together prior to the lesson.  All the other students are working in their books (I assign a set number of problems depending on their understanding.  I may say do all the odd or all the even.).  Once they finish, they move on to a quick math center of their choice that is geared to the day's lesson.

All students must attempt the HOT problem.  This really shows me who can think out of the box and who still needs guidance.  I check the HOT problems and give students stickers to show they are "HOT" for math.  It doesn't matter how they approach the problem, so accept any thinking and have students explain what they did. You will only know that they understand when they can tell you WHY.

After 20-25 minutes have gone by, it is time to check one or two problems and the HOT.  This is quick and I still formatively assess so I can see who will still needs help on the content for this lesson.  

We then move on to the last page, Problem Solving.  This is the last 15-25 minutes of the lesson where we wrap up and check for complete understanding.  The only items I use here are the HOT problem and one other question.  We do the HOT as a We do (students work together) and then they complete the other problem on their own.  As the year progresses, students will no longer work together on this problem.  It will be independent.

The PARCC test prep is completed on their own and I use this as an exit slip.  This is a spiral review and may or may not have anything to do with the day's lesson.  I have student's tear out this page and bring it home with their home learning so parents can get an idea of what is to be expected.  I also have students circle the take home idea in red.  They can do this as an option at home, but it is not required.  If they do this part, they must bring some sort of proof the next day.  I put all of their names in a bin and have a drawing at the end of the week for a math prize.

Well, that is how I run my 60 minute block.  The times are approximate and some days I end up with lots of time left over and some days I have to "borrow" time from another subject.  I hope this helps.  Please leave me some love now and then after you try this I would love for you to come back and tell me all about it.  If you would like my Go Math PowerPoint, it is free in my TpT store.  Just click here and you will be able to download it.  I also posted on how I use Go Math in our Interactive Math Notebooks, you can find that post here.

Happy Saturday all and thanks for stopping by :)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Big News for Me and Smart Start Focus Walls for McGraw Hill Wonders 4th Grade

I have been holding on to this news since the last day of school because I didn't know how to announce it.  I am sure you have figured it out since I only make focus walls for first grade so why would 4th grade necessary.  Yes folks, I am moving up from first to fourth!  I am both happy and scared, nervous and exhilarated, and I am up to the challenge!

Now what to do with my blog name.  This has been on my mind since I got the news and I have decided that I am keeping Faithful in First because I have been faithful to first for pretty much all of my teaching career.  I am going to change the tagline to read: wishes, wonders, and wants of a fourth grade teacher.  If I become super popular in the future (wink, wink) I may change my mind, but for now my small following won't lose sight of me, lol.

So, since I am now only going to teach reading, language arts, and social studies I am already in planning mode.  I have finished the McGraw Hill Wonders Smart Start mini focus walls for 4th grade and they are in my TpT store as a freebie.  I have had so many great things said about my first grade focus walls (units 5 and 6 will be up in the next few weeks) that I decided to keep with tradition.  You can click the pics below and head on over to download the freebie.

Week One Smart Start 4th Grade

Week Two Smart Start 4th Grade

I am looking forward to learning more about 4th grade and even thought I am very nervous, I know it is going to be fabulous!  I would love advice from any 4th grade buddies, so please comment away with ideas and anything else you can help me with on this new journey.