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September in Summary Tarheelstate Teacher

Confession: I beat myself up a lot! I have such a big to do list, new ideas come my way to add to the to-do list, and then life is going on all around me, and I beat myself up for what I did not accomplish.
Tarheelstate Teacher on Instagram
Well, I have to tell you, this monthly blogging routine of looking back on all that I have accomplished in the past month has become really cathartic. After spending week after week moving one action item to the next week and realizing that EVERYTHING takes longer than I expect it to, it's really nice to stop and review all that I have accomplished. A lot of time when I am writing these posts and going back through my blog feed and tpt store, I think, "Wow, I really did that this month?" because it feels like so much longer ago.

Time flies by in a blur and I can't believe where I am at this moment. That happens in the classroom too, right? Time starts to fly. I mean it is October ya'll. And once you get the candy corn out of your teeth, you will be gearing up for turkeys and all things holiday. IN NO TIME!  Don't forget to take time to enjoy those moments. Stop teaching (yes, you who are like me and always say "I don't do class parties.") Take time and figure out something academically okay that you can do to have a fun time with your kiddos. Life is about making memories and we need to model that for our students. In October, I like to do my Pumpkin Personalities/Adjectives writing project, and last Thanksgiving, I did a Book Tasting that was one of my absolute favorite events of the year. {It was one of those I invited the principal to ;) If you like the Pumpkin Personalities (which you can do as jack-o-lanterns or just stick with fall and have them be pumpkins), I also have a snowman personalities writing project. I always thought these projects were a great way to take a break from essay writing, narratives, etc. and give the kids some "creative writing" time.

If you have subscribed to my newsletter, God bless you :) I'm going to be working on something very special for you next week. Think, pouring my heart out a little, inspiring your teaching life, and sharing some freebies! My newsletter (that I have yet to get rolling) is one of those priorities that keeps getting moved down the list because of #allthethings and this life I'm living and trying to enjoy.

And, before I recap what happened this month, I want to leave you with some advice one of my friends wisely shared this week. It went something like this, "A student who finishes 19 problems out of 20 does not cry over the one they have not done. They are happy that they finished 19." Or at least I think this is what most of us would teach our students to focus on. I'd pat that kid on the dang back and say "You are good, my friend!" As teachers, we seem to always look towards what we have left to do, what has not yet been done, and we really let that get us down. I'd like to encourage us all to look more at what we HAVE accomplished and to celebrate that. I've even sat down in the past and written a list of all the things I HAVE accomplished for my classroom when I was feeling down. It's a real eye-opener and it's very hard to feel like a failure when you see all that you have done in black and white (or sparkly gel pen and astrobrights, whatever your flavor!)

I worked really hard to update more of my math task cards. I focused in on my Around the USA Number and Operations in Base 10 sets. I used United States data on various topics to make these task cards engaging and real-world kind of meaningful for math time. I've updated 3 out of 4 (see there goes that me thinking about the one I haven't finished yet. STOP!) When I do get that final update finished, I'm going to put these in a bundle. The rounding set is more for 3rd grade, the one that still needs an update is challenging for 4th and perfect for 5th, but depending on your grade level, you may see a need for all of these as you differentiate for your classroom. Here's the math focus for each set of my Around the USA task cards:

 Real World Math Task Cards Number and Operations in Base 10Rounding to Tens, Hundreds, Thousands 3NBT1 3rd Grade: Students practice rounding with data on the highest mountain peaks in each state in the US. (orange cards)


Place Value and Comparing Powers in Numbers 5NBT1 5NBT2 5NBT3a: Students practice working with Patterns in Place Value and comparing the value of digits in different place values. I couldn't find task cards that I thought were really hitting 5.NBT1 or 5.NBT2 very well (long ago when Common Core was first implemented), so I made these based on United States population data and the lengths of rivers. (red/green cards)

Read Write Compare and Round Decimals with Different Number Forms: Students practice reading and writing numbers in different forms, comparing, and rounding (pink/green cards)
Multistep Word Problems for 5th Grade Task Cards
This one is the B-E-A-Uty that needs an update. Nothing really bad about it, but I wrote the exponents with a carrot. Yes, a carrot, because when I made them, seriously in 2013, I did not know how to use a superscript to make an exponent. (I also fixed this issue in some of the task cards above, so if you own them, one, I love you, and two, you need to redownload from your tpt purchases to get the best version). Now, these multi-step word problems are amazing. They make your kiddos do some good multi-step math work AND they use real-world data. Each task card is a PAGE with 6-15 connected questions on each task card. (They are obviously not meant to be done at the speed of most task cards, but are perfect for problem solving station or your fast finishers.)
 Building a Reading Life Readers Worskhop Launch Kit
OH MY GOODNESS! In other news, if you have purchased my Building a Reading Life Reader's Workshop Launch Kit, The MEGA LITERACY BUNDLE, or the Reading & Writing Bundle, you are going to want to redownload ASAP. I have updated the Reading Life file to included a 10 day outline for Launching reader's workshop, a list of behaviors to teach, and my First Day Love of Reading Minilesson in pdf form so that it is easy for you to access. If you don't have my Building a Reading Life resource, you can still access that minilesson here for free
Differentiated 4th Grade Fractions TestsEarlier this month, I finally got my 4th Grade Fractions Differentiated Assessments polished and uploaded. I was seeing fractions for days. Ya'll as much as fractions are my passion. It was a little much. Haha, good thing I'm working on Adding, Subtracting, Multiplying and Dividing Decimals for 5th grade right now, because when those are finished, my plan is to go right back to fractions to create the 5th Grade Differentiated Fractions set.

Here's what's included in the 4th Grade Fractions Set:
#itsallthestandards #allthethings #nowonderittookforevah!

♦ Fraction Equivalence and Reducing to Lowest Terms
♦ Equivalence with Mixed Numbers and Improper Fractions
♦ Comparing and Ordering Fractions
♦ Decomposing Fractions
♦ Adding and Subtracting Fractions
♦ Adding and Subtracting Fractions Word Problems (with 30 problems with 3 different real-world, cohesive themes)
♦ Multiplying with Fractions
♦ Multiplying with Fractions Word Problems (with 30 problems with 3 different real-world, cohesive themes)
♦ Decimal Notation for Fractions
♦ Comparing and Ordering Decimal Fractions
♦ Building Blocks, Goals, and Stretching Beyond Summative Assessments for Fractions Concepts & adding and subtracting fractions AND Decimal Fractions

4th grade standards based assessments common core
Don't forget that I've already created a bundle for my 4th Grade Differentiated Assessments. If you've bought one of the 4th grade sets, you can actually get a refund of that cost if you buy the bundle. TPT is amazing ya'll! And, you know what, I decided this month that if you want to use these assessments as a grade-level, the extra licenses would only be $3. That is a steal, ya'll. All of my differentiated/leveled assessment sets are right at 100 pages. I've put the extra license for the bundle at just $10 additional dollars per teacher. THAT'S FOR MATH ASSESSMENTS FOR THE WHOLE YEAR IN 4TH GRADE?!?!?!?!?!

When I finished 4th Grade Fractions, I turned my attention to 5th grade Place Value. (Umm, YAY 5th grade!!!) So excited to get 5th grade rolling because, don't tell, but it's my favorite grade level to teach. The 5th grade Place Value set that's focused on Patterns in Place Value, Rounding, and Comparing is all set for ya. Anyone else struggle with 5.NBT1 and 5.NBT.2?!?!?! Well, I struggled with it the whole time I was making the assessment, but I think I included enough versions and enough variety that you will have just what you need to assess, practice, review, and post-test your students.

Here's what you get in 5th Grade Place Value:
GENERALIZING PATTERNS IN PLACE VALUE
♦ Word Form, Recognizing that a Digit in 1 Place Represents 10 times as much as it represents to its right and 1/10 of what it represents to its left
♦ Describe the new value of a number when it is increased or decreased by powers of 10
♦ Change the Value of a Number by Multiplying or Dividing by a Power of 10

PATTERNS WHEN MULTIPLYING OR DIVIDING BY POWERS OF 10
♦ Multiply or Divide by powers of 10, Explain Patterns that Occur in the number of zeros, and Explain how the decimal moves when a number is multiplied or divided by a power of 10

DIFFERENT NUMBER FORMS
♦ Write Decimal Numbers in Word Form, Expanded Form, Base 10 Numeral Form

COMPARING NUMBERS
♦ Comparing the value of the same numeral in another number that is in a different place
♦ Identifying Place Values to Compare two Numbers

ROUNDING to the nearest whole, tenth, hundredth, and thousandth

Adding, Subtracting, Multiplying, and Dividing with decimals are in the works right now! And I'm having tons of fun writing the word problems! Did I just say that out loud?!? 
If you've been busy this month {like I know you have}, make sure you didn't miss any of these posts from September.

A Lesson Fail and 9 Ideas for Success with Teaching Character Traits

An Announcement about Growth Mindset Task Cards (leveled and differentiated) that you can get for free on Facebook

7 Things You Can Do to Help the Unobservant (busy) Principal

How I Survived What's for Dinner {as a busy teacher}

 tarheelstate teacher on instagram
Are you following me on Instagram? The hustle quote above is something I posted this week as well as this sweaty picture of myself after the gym. I'm going to be cranking it up on instagram, and honestly, it's my favorite form of social media. I'd love to have you friends following me over there!

Cheers to you! Don't forget to live, enjoy the life, and take a break from the hustle sometimes!

A Lesson Fail and 9 Ideas for Character Traits

Ideas and Activities for teaching character traits and describing characters
I once taught a guided reading lesson to a group of 4th and 5th graders on describing characters in a story. The plan was for us to read through the book (for the third time on day three of guided reading with this group), look at the character’s actions, and decide how we would describe them. With a group of five children, I expected that we would brainstorm a few words quickly and I could focus the lesson on justifying our character traits with evidence from the text.
Do you know where this story is going? Do you recall yourself attempting to teach the same lesson at some point in your classroom? You can laugh with me. It doesn't hurt too bad.

Back to the story, in case you are not recalling your own memories at this moment…I was quickly dismayed at the lack of vocabulary that my students were able to generate. I heard characters being described as nice, kind, mean, good, and bad.

Now, to add some background information to this story, I was teaching a reading intervention group. These students had been identified specifically for having low language skills. No one was ESL or ELL, but their ability to communicate their thoughts and retell stories through the use of grade-level appropriate vocabulary was very low. Our routine was to read the same short story each day for a week focusing our attention on different aspects of the story with each reading. And toward the last few days of the week, we spent time discussing the story by focusing on one tiny literary aspect. Students basically had the stories memorized, so the rest should be easy, right? FACE PALM!

However, after this lesson fail, I realized that my readers would not be able to come up with quality vocabulary without a little scaffolding from their teacher! And to tell the truth, even students reading on grade-level sometimes have difficulty coming up with good words COLD TURKEY, am I right?!? Thesaurus PLEASE!!! I quickly picked myself up off my kidney table (hehe) and came up with a strategy. I began developing a list of words, creating definitions, and providing students with pictures that would trigger the meaning of the words. I printed a set of these vocabulary word cards to use during my guided reading lessons. I would pull out a handful prior to each lesson, looking for words that DESCRIBED a character in the story AND words that were ANTONYMS of how I would describe the characters in the story. Can you imagine?!?!? Students were SO MUCH MORE successful! And you know what happened as the weeks continued? They started INTERNALIZING the words I had introduced to them and firing off new words not even included in my word set.

Later, I began using these character traits and definitions in reader's workshop  with the whole group when I taught lessons on describing characters. I used them in writer's workshop to support my minilessons focused on brainstorming ideas for personal narratives that focused on strong emotions and feelings. I printed all of the character traits on cardstock and made a border of character traits on the main wall of my classroom. You can find my 48 character traits in my teacherspayteachers store. {This summer, I created an EMOJI style set, which you will see in many of the pictures below.}

Some of the words I used may seem pretty basic to you or for some of your students but I have found that having even a simple list of words works magic in helping myself and students generate more sophisticated vocabulary for describing characters. Having this list helps us choose great words and generate better ones because we are not starting from scratch! No face palms for you, because you can learn from my mistakes!
Ideas and Activities for teaching character traits and describing characters

Today, I've got 9 Ideas for How You Can Get Your Students Practicing and Using Character Traits to Increase their Vocabularies for Describing Characters, Traits, and Feelings

1) VOCABULARY DEVELOPMENT: Begin a “Word a Week” Routine. Display the character trait/adjective at the beginning of the week. Use a Frayer Model (with four quadrants) or other recording sheet for students to keep up with the words they have learned and to guide aspects of your word explorations. You can focus on one word development topic each day, like synonyms, antonyms, real-world examples, and using the word in a sentence. Create an anchor chart with the four quadrants to display and allow students to add to it throughout the week as new ideas come to them.
oblivious emoji character trait lesson
I made two templates for "A Word A Week." One contains the 4 quadrants for the frayer model. The sheet below has students' write a definition for the vocabulary word in their own words, list synonyms for the word, make a connection to a book character or person they know, and make a plan for how they will use the word in writing and speaking.
vocabulary development ideas for character traits
2) VOCABULARY DEVELOPMENT: Given a list of words, students can complete a word knowledge sort to have them think about their level of mastery for each vocabulary word. (This would be a great strategy to use before starting your "Word a Week" routine. Then you could focus your attention on the words most students don't seem to know. This will allow you to get more bang for your buck as you teach them a new word each week.
word knowledge continuum sort for character traits
3) LITERACY STATIONS: Given a list of words, students can sort the words into positive/negative trait categories. To apply the words to their own reading, they can sort the character traits by focusing on one character in their book and whether or not that character exhibits that trait.
describing characters in books lessons and activities
4) READER’s WORKSHOP/INDEPENDENT READING: Tie the character traits to students’ independent reading and your read alouds. Lead students to think about the character traits shown by the characters in their books (or class read alouds) and to consider how a character's personality (or character traits) have changed over the course of a story.
wonder by rj palacio describing characters example
Addressing "character change" is a great follow up lesson to just describing characters because characters usually are different when we compare their actions and personalities at the beginning of a story to how they are at the end of a story.
describing character change and traits graphic organizer

5) GUIDED READING: Have a set definition cards ready to use during guided reading. As you discuss characters in the story, allow students to choose words that describe the characters. Work hard to help them find words that MORE PRECISELY describe the characters’ personalities and actions. The definition cards CAN BE USED AS TRIGGER WORDS to help spark other descriptive words not included in the set. As your students get better and better at describing characters, vote or discuss which words they have generated most accurately describe the characters and which word they think is the best representation.

6) WRITER’S WORKSHOP: Choose 3-4 strong traits or emotions that lend themselves to writing personal narratives about a time students exhibited those qualities {determined, courageous, embarrassed, and livid are always good choices for my students}. Display the character trait/emotion on the smartboard. Get students talking about the emotion and sharing stories (whole group or with a neighbor). Have students title a journal page with the chosen emotion and ask them to list as many memories, moments, and ideas that come to mind for that emotion. Using different character traits in this manner gives students many story ideas to choose from when writing personal narratives.
Ideas and Activities for teaching character traits and describing characters

7) BULLETIN BOARDS: Create a bulletin board of emotions that students can refer to when describing characters during writing activities and class discussions. You will be amazed at how their heads turn to refer to the words you have discussed. Expect students to come up with 3-4 descriptive words when describing characters in their own books and your read alouds.

8) Start the year with Character Trait Lessons: Start by having students use character traits to describe themselves as a "Get to Know You" activity. Turn this into a fun activity by having students leave their names off their papers, numbering each student's sheet, and posting them in the hallway. Students can guess “who’s who” by reading one another’s sheets.
using character traits as a get to know you activity

Put your students love of pumpkins to work with this PUMPKIN PERSONALITIES vocabulary and writing project! Students will engage in vocabulary learning through synonym/antonym/Frayer Model and other graphic organizer work. After students study a trait, they write a creative story about their pumpkin who has that trait. Want to take it to the next level? Have students decorate a real pumpkin (or cardstock pumpkin, included) to represent their pumpkin character in 3D.: 9) Use holidays/seasons as an opportunity for creative writing focused on character traits and adjectives. Students can write stories about pumpkins, snowmen, Valentine hearts, shamrocks, or anything else you can think of. They can personify the item, choose a word, and write a story that shows the object acting in that way. My students have written about malicious pumpkins, jubilant snowmen, and compassionate Valentine hearts. Sometimes I focused the writing project on poetry, other times, they were required to write imaginative narratives with a strong beginning, middle, and end. To prepare for celebrating the writing projects, we decorate a pumpkin (real or a template printed on cardstock), make a snowman, or create a valentines heart to represent the character in the story and their trait. Our writing share and celebration turns into a bit of a classroom party and is an educational way to have some fun around different holidays.

So there you have it! I hope I've given you some fresh ideas for incorporating more work with Character Traits into your classroom. I do know this for sure--when you make vocabulary development a FUN and REGULAR part of your classroom routine, students start using the words you have shared with them. Sometimes they are playful or use the words to impress you, but they are really trying them out on their tongue or in their writing and learning how to use the words more precisely. It's a win-win. I challenge you to teach your student some new words this year beyond your academic and content area vocabulary. It will be so rewarding! What do you do to keep vocabulary development fun in your classroom? How do you teach character traits?

And most of all, did you feel me when I was talking about my lesson flop? Please let me know in the comments if I am NOT alone on this one!
9 lesson activities for character traits and describing characters

Have you Introduced Growth Mindset This Year?

leveled math assessments differentiation for growth mindset
I've got a passion for getting students excited about math and changing every-single-mathitude {yes, that's math + attitude} I can into a positive one. If we expect to get anywhere with our students in math class, we MUST change their mindsets, attitudes, and belief in themselves.
Differentiation in math + growth mindset is this perfect fusion of my passion and teaching style! I'm always there to motivate my students and inspire them to feel AWESOME or differently about how they have felt about all things "school" in the past. Like I did last year, many of you have introduced the "Growth Mindset" way of thinking to your students this year, but after those introductory lessons, you may be wondering, "What's next?" If you are asking yourself this question, I think you are amazing! You have already laid a solid foundation for helping your students understand the "power of yet," you are helping them understand how their brains work, and that intelligence is NOT something we are born with that stays static. We can learn things that we never thought were possible simply by allowing our neural pathways to develop, coming back to challenging things again and again, and keeping our minds open to believing that WE CAN LEARN, we just may not have learned it yet.
How teachers can link learning goals to scaffold for students
I bet you've already figured this out, but it is nearly impossible to teach multi-digit multiplication to a student who has decided math is hard, believes they do not know and cannot learn their math facts, and quite frankly, hates math and groans the moment it begins. But, I believe we can give all students the instruction they need {and deserve} by using leveled and differentiated resources in our classroom. Now, you might not be able to do this all the time, every day for every single math objective you teach, but I PROMISE from experience, struggling students gain more traction when you teach and have them practice in a way that carefully links one learning goal to the next. Your average students will gain more confidence because they start out with an easier form of the objective and work their way up to new learning, and you will not feel so guilty about your high-performing students who learn things very quickly because you are prepared with the next step to increase the levels of difficulty for them. {Can you say #thismagicmoment? Sounds amazing, right?!?!}

With my huge passion for growth mindset and differentiated math assessments, I got hit {smack} hard this weekend with a light bulb idea! How could I resist offering something on Facebook that you can use to help infuse your classroom with differentiation and growth mindsets? Well, I couldn't :)

If you are teaching 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade math this year, I have got something for you that I think is really special! If you've introduced Growth Mindsets {or mathitudes ;) } to your students and are ready to really infuse your math class with learning that actually allows students to practice having a growth mindset, I'm going to be posting a problem set every Saturday morning that you can plan to use in your classroom during the upcoming week. Are all of your students on the same level math-wise {tongue in cheek ;)}? No? Then, these cards will be perfect for offering intervention, on-grade level, and extension for your higher students. You can use these for morning work, bell-ringers, or exit tickets! They will be great for review or pre-assessing even if this specific standard is not what you are working on right now. Here's place value card #1:
 Place Value 4th Grade Leveled Differentiated Task Card
I imagine teachers displaying these on the smartboard and having students write their answers in their math journals or on piece of paper. I'd have everyone start at #1 and build up to the more challenging problems. Depending on how much time you give and students' abilitites, some students may not finish all of the questions, and that's okay! You want students to being thinking in terms of how far they can "stretch" their brains. Things in math do get more challenging {oh, 4th and 5th grade math teachers, I see your hands are up!}, but I truly believe that if students can see the span of where they came from to where they will be going, they are more capable of believing in themselves. Isn't this the true purpose and true power of differentiation? #canigetawitness? #ifeellikeiampreaching!

Each "task card" was developed by studying the 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade standards. 3rd grade teachers, you will see problems that go beyond your grade level's expectations, but they may be perfect to try with your students to see how deep their mastery goes. 4th and 5th Grade teachers, your students will be able to take a step down, move to work on grade level standards, and then go a step beyond if they are ready.

If you are teaching 3rd, I won't be hitting all of your objectives, but you will find some questions that work really well for your curriculum (two cards focused on rounding whole numbers are on their way soon!). If you feel that some of the questions go beyond what your students can grasp, you can enlarge the image, crop it in powerpoint, or cover it up with your smartboard features. You could also just print cards that go beyond your standards to use as a "fast finisher" task for some of your higher students to try.

What else might you want to know about these freebie posts on FacebookI will number each post and title it with the domain/concept it focuses on. The first post is labeled Place Value #1. You will be able to use the search bar on my facebook page to find the task cards by typing in "Place Value #1," "Fractions #2," etc.

Shhhh! Here's card #2 that I am posting tomorrow morning! You get a sneak peek because you are an awesome blog reader! :) I'm also going to post an extra card on Thursday and then will begin my Saturday's only posts. I want to make sure you have a few question sets to choose from so you can get rolling with incorporating these into your classroom routine!
 Place Value 4NBT1 5NBT1 different number forms
Since I love you so much for being a blog reader, I will go ahead and give you card #3, but you are going to want to go make sure you are following my facebook page because I won't be posting anymore reminders about this on the blog. From time to time, I will remind my instagram followers about this facebook freebie if you want to make sure you are following me there too.
Is this something you can use? If you don't mind, tell me what grade you are teaching and what you are currently teaching in math. I'd love to try to pace myself with what you need!

What Teachers Can Do About the Unobservant Principal

Many of you are really getting into the groove and into your school year right now. It might seem like worrying about reaching out to your principal should be the last thing on your list, but I encourage you to go ahead and read what I have to share and get started implementing these tips right away. SERIOUSLY, even if your principal seems amazing, but they are new to your school and you don't know exactly how "present" and "observant" they will be, you need this!

In my 11 year teaching career, I have worked in two school settings and for 6 different principals and 4 assistant principals. {Did you do the math? That averages to less than 2 years each!?!?!} If you have worked for different principals, I’m sure you have found that great differences exist between them all. I’ve found that each principal prioritized different aspects of teaching and the school environment while leading my schools. In addition, principals often have to gear their focus towards district mandates and goals that the board has placed on them for the year.

While working for a variety of personalities, I’ve found one thing to be common--our leaders are busy too! I’ve had some leaders say that they have to remind themselves to step outside of their office. {Hmmm, I've got opinions about that...but we will just #letitgoletitgoelsaandana}

Today I want to share some strategies for ensuring that your school leaders see the wonderful things you are doing in your classroom on a regular basis.

-Send Email Reminders about Events: Get in the habit of sending an email to your leaders when you have a special event, guest speaker, or student presentation in your classroom. Did you just publish your stories in writers workshop? Is one of your students sharing a slideshow about their trip to Switzerland over spring break? Have you invited a parent into your classroom to talk about diabetes--his research area of expertise? (I have had all of these happen and I was sure to send a quick email to let my principals’ know what was going on and what time they should drop by). Even if you forgot to send an invitation ahead of time, sending an email 5 minutes before the event may work. Every principal has access to their email on their cell phone these days. And, the invite is evidence of what is happening in your classroom, regardless of whether or not your principals are able to visit.

No matter the personality of your leadership, they almost always go out of their way to drop in during these times AND you have created a trail of evidence that demonstrates what you are doing in your classroom. It’s a WIN-WIN.

-Student Shares: If you are not in the middle of DIRECT instruction when you principal pops in, ask that a student share what they are learning. If I am not in the middle of direct instruction, I am often super busy working with another student. This is a great time to say “Sarah, would you like to show Mr. what we have been working on?” “James, would you like to tell Mr. what we talked about during our lesson today?” This means if students are working independently on something, in small groups, or in partners, you have directed your leader to a place where he/she can interrupt the activity for a few minutes and feel like they get a sense of what is going on in the room. {Now, of course you can strategically pick those students--IE the ones you are sure can effectiively communicate what they have been learning, but I often like to put a child who needs to feel smart and good about learning in this position. Talking with the principal about what you are doing? Can you say ‘learning reinforcer’ and ‘confidence booster’?!?!}

-Newsletters and Classroom Blogs: Do you write a newsletter for parents? Or have a classroom blog where you share news, pictures from lessons, classroom routines? Makes copies of your newsletter and place it in the principals’ boxes. {I’ve had principals require this so that they stay in the loop}. I’ve since moved to sending weekly emails to parents and utilizing a classroom blog. When I’m sharing something that should be of interest to my principal, I email him/her the blog post and/or send the email to them as well.

-Have Excellent Communication with Parents: I believe that next to creating lines of communication with your leaders, it is important to have excellent communication with your parents. Sometimes parents will share their excitement and appreciation of your hard work on your behalf! When we have a field trip or fun classroom activity, I snap pictures throughout. If I don’t have time to blog about it, I share the “cute” pics of activities with a quick email to parents. {Also great for cc-ing your principal on these!}

-Share student work: Every year, I publish at least one classroom book or magazine--one year it was a Civil War Newspaper, another year students created “Future Articles” about potential careers, we write magazine articles about specific time periods in United States history before we go to DC, you get the idea! I always take student articles and copy them into books for the kiddos so that they can see everyone’s work. Make an extra copy and put one in your principals’ box.

Are you a google docs school? Even better. My students have google docs, and over the past few years I’ve had a few students share their work with the principal through the “share” feature. Students can type a quick message, “Mrs. Roose wanted me to share my project with you. We are working on travel brochures for different places in North Carolina. I hope you enjoy it!”

-Forward Parent Emails: Did you just get praises from a parent? Forward these over to your principal! If that sounds like you are tooting your own horn, comment on how much this child is grown and how you just wanted to share some student success with the principal! They love to hear good news too--write comments in your forwarding email focused on the child and it’s not really about you at all {but a good principal knows it’s because you are doing an amazing job! ;) }

-Document and Save: Go ahead and make an “Evidence” folder in your email account. Each time you send those emails, move them over to your "Evidence" folder. {You could even call this folder "I'm AWESOME." #nojudgmentzone #teachersneedALLthePOSITIVEwecanget.} Not only will you have a record of what you have done, but you will most likely have a record of your principal’s response. After popping into the classroom, my favorite principals would even send me a complimentary email full of positive feedback and interest to share with students! File those emails! Don’t feel like your principal knows enough about what you do and how you teach? Who cares!?!?! You have been collecting evidence for yourself ALL year! And truly, those unobservant principals that seem to be checked-out are the ones missing out on watching teaching and learning in action and getting to know your sweet kiddos better.

Please do not take my suggestions as brown-nosing. I consider myself a person of character and sucking up is truly (and sometimes painfully detrimental to myself) not in my vocabulary. However, when we have leaders who do not make finding their way into our classrooms for more than required observations a priority, we must take care of ourselves and our own professional reputation.

If you are having a really difficult time with your leader(s) or become nervous when they pop into the classroom, these are ways that you can invite him/her in on your own terms where you are in control of the situation and what they will observe. You will begin building the connection that your classroom and your students are where your leaders are welcome to drop in AND enjoy teaching, learning, and children! And, perhaps you will receive more grace on the days that they pop in and you are not in the middle of a magical lesson.

 7 Ways You can Help a Busy Principal Build a Better Relationship with Principal
Even when a principal is amazing, they often get SOOO busy with all the other things it takes to keep a school running smoothly. Sometimes, your reputation proceeds you and they don't pop in because they aren't worried about you. But, you still need to reach out to them. I'd much rather my principal REALLY have evidence for my amazing teaching skills than just spout off generic praises or hearsay about my teaching. 

If you found this post helpful, be sure you pin it! I'd also love for it to get into the hands of new teachers. These are tips that I had to learn over time {and wish I'd used more often once I realized that my new and promising principal did not visit my classroom as much as they envisioned they would}.

I'm hoping you all have really supportive principals this year and that your relationship with him/her only encourages you to teach harder and motivates you to be there for your kids! Do you have any tips you would add to this list? Drop them in the comments below!

Adios August! Hello Approaching Autumn!

{Come find out about some back to school personal stuff, differentiation in math updates, blog posts you don't wanna miss, and more!}
Gosh, I am so happy to take some time to reflect on August today. It sure went by in a whirlwind for me #iseeyourhandsareuptoo :). Last week was my daughter's first week of school, and while getting into the swing of things was not a struggle at all, I dealt with a ton of emotions as I sent her off into someone else's care at her new school. I mean, really, it was like I had just dropped her off at kindergarten and it was a li'l embarrassing. But, as I talked to a few other moms this week, I was reminded that I wasn't as insane as I felt by being a hot mess of emotions as many of them could mirror my struggles. Fortunately, we have a 3 day weekend to just relax and enjoy some time together. And, I can get my big girl panties ready for next week! I know it will get easier as we get into the groove and she finds her place at her new school. And I'm looking forward to all that she and I get to celebrate this year with her learning, the new friends she will make, and the new experiences she will have.

 4th Grade Standards Based Assessments
In other news...if you sat down and had a conversation with me about all things teacher, I'd tell you how passionate I am about differentiation in math and how I'm focusing 90% of my energies on borderline obsessing about how teachers can best differentiate for their students in math. If you've been hanging out here with me for even the slightest bit of time, you know that I'm working on Differentiated Math Assessments #likeaboss. This month, I went ahead and posted the BUNDLE of all of the 4th grade Math Assessments so that if you fall in love with this approach to assessing students, you are able to grab all of the assessments at a 20% off discount. Currently, the Place Value/Addition and Subtraction set, Whole Number Multiplication, and Whole Number Division set are ready for you. Each one is nearly 100 pages worth of standards based assessments on very specific concepts so that you can assess your students and proceed to differentiate. The 4th Grade Fractions assessments are just about finished and will be uploaded this weekend.

 differentiated math resourcesLast weekend, I uploaded the Place Value/Addition and Subtraction set {Numbers and Operations in Base 10}. I also put together a freebie from the place value assessments that focuses on Generalizing Patterns in Place Value (4.NBT.1) so that you can get a taste of the differentiated assessments.

What Topics are included in the Place Value Set?

GENERALIZING PATTERNS IN PLACE VALUE
♦ Standard Expanded Form, Powers of 10 Expanded Form, Expressing the Value of the Digits in
SHORT WORD FORM, VALUE OF AN UNDERLINED DIGIT♦ Writing Numbers with Values increasing in Powers of 10 (10, 100, 1000, 10,000 times greater)
♦ Increasing the Value of a Number in Powers of 10 (10, 100, 1000, 10,000 etc.)
DIFFERENT NUMBER FORMS AND COMPARISONS
♦ Writing Expanded Form, Powers of 10 Form, Word Form
♦ Identifying Place Values to Compare two Numbers
♦ Converting from Word Form to Standard Form
ROUNDING
ADDING AND SUBTRACTING WHOLE NUMBERS

♦ Computation
♦ {THEMED} Multi-Step Word Problems
♦ Building Blocks, Goals, and Stretching Beyond Summative Assessments

After I finalize the 4th Grade Fractions assessments, 5th Grade teachers GET READY because I'm working on Place Value and Fractions for 5th grade in September. {This is why the 4th Grade Bundle Timeline has a little break in it from September-December.}

If you are checking in to my August updates, I really hope you've already caught some of my blog posts, but just in case you missed something...This month, I was fortunate enough to guest blog at Tried and True Teaching Tools where I focused on Morning Meeting and the roadblocks teachers may face as they try to implement a morning meeting routine. (Of course, I offered helpful advice for these roadblocks because you know how much I love community meetings.)

I wrote about my Back to School Schedule for the 1st Week of School. Even if you've already began your school year, you might find some helpful tips and freebies linked in this post!

I shared how I "trashed" reading logs last year and still had accountability for my students' independent reading at home. {If you read nothing else, I HIGHLY encourage you to go read this one! It was a #gamechanger for me last year!}

Was meal planning a real struggle for you last year? I want you to take care of yourself this year and nourish your body...YOU DESERVE it! So, don't miss my post about how I solved the "What's for Dinner" Overwhelm last year.

I hope you have a restful Labor Day weekend and that you are excited about September. I caught sight of a few leaves on the ground yesterday and if this North Carolina humidity ever breaks, I'm ready to bring out those skinny jeans and tall boots. Thanks for stopping by! I'll see you soon!

How I Survived "What's for Dinner?"

How to Plan for Dinner
What's for dinner? After taking care of everyone else all day, is your drive from school back home enough time for you to figure out what's for dinner? Are you snacking on saltine crackers and supplementing real dinners with bowls of Raisin Bran? I don't know about you, but as exhausting as teaching is, realizing you will be home soon and don't know what you will eat {and you are starving} is one of the most draining, depressing feelings in the world for me! It was especially hard during the years when I didn't enjoy cooking and quite honestly, just didn't know enough about food preparation to know what to do. And in my first decade of teaching, figuring out what I was going to do in my classroom was about all I could handle.

In 11 years of teaching, "What am I going to eat for dinner?!?!?!?" has crossed my mind approximately 1,980 times (that's 180 x 11 if you are curious--and that number's only accurate if I only asked myself that question once a day!) and if you are the one in your household that is responsible for cooking (or you are a single teacher and responsible for taking care of yourself) I'm sure your numbers are up there too! But I'm here to help! I made ONE change last year that made my "What's for dinner" stress a little more bearable, and even EASY some weeks. This strategy does not rely on having 100 ideas for crockpot meals or spending all day cooking so you can freeze up a month's supply of dinner, so please keep reading!

Before I jump right into my tips, you need to know two things: 1) If you are vegan or vegetarian, this strategy can still work for you, but you can go straight to the recipes and just think #meatless. Some of these recipes are already vegetarian and I've added the meat in my adaptation. 2) I am NOT suggesting that you leave a crockpot on all day while you are at work. I did this ONE TIME this year and the stress and anxiety it caused was just not worth it. Maybe I have unwarranted anxiety and fear about an unattended crockpot, but all I could think about all day was when I'd get the call that my house was burning down. Since I can't live with that anxiety, I'll teach you how to NOT depend on the crockpot for your fast meals on a day you have to go to work #likeeverydaythatendsiny #savethecrockfortheweekends.

Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, are you salivating thinking about what's for dinner? Unless you are uber lucky, your personal chef is not going to show up tonight, so let's roll!

Here's what you need to do:

Step 1) Buy 3-4 pounds of chicken breasts. I buy organic boneless chicken breasts from Costco. One package is typically three pounds. (If you are a more advanced cook, you can use a whole chicken, but I don't like the taste of the dark meat as much and #aintnobusyteachergottime for picking chicken off the bone on a week night. Seriously, I've cooked a whole chicken 3 times {ever} and made homemade chicken broth from them twice. And, I get it! I love the "free" and tastier chicken broth, but remember, this tip is #allaboutsavingyoutimeandsanity).

Step 2) Grab your crockpot (if you don't have one yet, run now. This post is NOT all about the crockpot, but you need one for the life-changing aspect of my easy-meals strategy!)
shredded chicken in the crockpot for meal prep
Step 3) Cook the chicken using the "Best Whole Chicken in a Crockpot" recipe from Lisa Leake at 100 Days of Real Food I bought her cookbook by the same name two years ago when I learned more about GMO's and whole-food, organic lifestyles. This cookbook is #lifechanging, and worth every penny, I promise! But, the recipe is linked on her site for free. And yes, the recipe says for a "whole chicken" but it all works for chicken breasts too! In addition, I don't chop onions. Save yourself the time by buying dried onions and throwing in a tablespoon instead! #savemoretimeandnocrying
You will cook the chicken for 4-5 hours on high. I've found that closer to 5 hours makes the chicken so much easier to shred.

Now, here is where the magic happens!

Step 4) When the chicken has cooked for 4-5 hours, shred it in the crock pot and separate the 3 pounds of chicken into three bowls of around 2 cups each. I include broth and all in the bowls {nothing goes to waste kind of girl here}. When it's time to use the chicken in the meal, I may or may not dump all of the broth in along with it, but it's tasty and there if I need it. If you use a recipe that requires more chicken during your week, you can include another meal that week that allows you to use less chicken (like a soup where you are just throwing in some shredded chicken because your husband is a carnivore!)

Now, you have at least three nights worth of chicken ready to be matched with a recipe that will have your taste-buds and tummy feeling oh so happy and you feeling LESS stressed about meals! {Ummm, go you!} Let's not forget about the goal of almost never driving home worrying about "what's for dinner" again! #andlessdrivethrus #letsbehealthier
what's for dinner with shredded chicken
Now, for what you REALLY Want...the FOOD! 

Here are 12+ of My {FAMILY's} Favorite Recipes that work with Shredded Chicken

Broccoli Quinoa Casserole from Chungah @Damn Delicious: Organic broccoli is another thing I buy in bulk at Costco, and since they have very few organic frozen veggies, we end up eating broccoli as a side or in a cheesy chicken recipe quite often. You can use rice or quinoa in this recipe.

Broccoli and Penne Pasta from Nealey Dozier @the kitchn: When we made this recipe, my husband took over and did all the work! It was Ahhh-MAzing! I think it's the butter and cream cheese. The ingredients are so simple, it's perfect to throw together after work. We are in love with the Simply Delicious organic penne pasta from target, so I always keep a bag or two in stock.

White Chicken Chili from Brooke @Skinny Mom: This recipe is just an easy throw in the pot! I use lots of different beans, just whatever I have on hand. The hubs loved this recipe, but I noted that it did not make leftovers the first time I made it, so I double all the ingredients now.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole from Mitzi @writtenreality...mmm, look at those pictures...enough said, and notice how I'm substituting shredded chicken for something that traditionally uses chicken breasts. We can use chicken breasts on the weekend. There's just something about already cooked meat in the fridge waiting for a recipe. Maybe it's just a #mentaltimesaver, but at the end of a long day of teaching, our capacity for decision making is soooo dwindled.

Cheesy Enchilada Casserole from Jonna@Just Get off Your Butt and Bake. I found this recipe last summer and then proceeded to make it every other week for a long time! I made it with shredded chicken sometimes and beef other times. My husband and I would then eat the leftovers for lunch or a "leftover" dinner night. He got sick of it! {Oops! Don't tell me you like something!} But I never did! I can still make this from time to time, but had-to-take-a-break! Because we {he} was getting tired of this meal. I started freezing half of it (wrapped in aluminum foil and put in a freezer bag) so that we wouldn't eat the leftovers for days on end. Good thing anyway because it's not the healthiest of meals with all the cheese and sour cream, but it is fairly easy to make and like I said, it's one of my most favorites!

Curry Chicken Casserole This is another recipe from Lisa Leake, seriously, grab her cookbook and search her website when you have time! We are fans of curry, but it can be hard {for me} to get it right. This Curry Chicken Casserole takes a little more time to make {for me}, but it is worth it. I've prepared it all on a Sunday and popped it into the over when I got home from work Monday afternoon before. This is also a great meal to double-up on and freeze 1/2 of for a bad day. This recipe also includes broccoli. I told you that we eat A LOT of broccoli!

Lisa also has a recipe for Corn Chowder in her cookbook, but not online. It can have a little heat to it, which is nice from time to time. Here's a whole slew of recipes for corn chowder to fit your tastes.

Vegetable Soup from Jaclyn @Cooking Classy: Just think soup! In those chilly fall months {when we are not only cold, but WORN out from teaching and potentially getting congested and sick}, vegetable soup with shredded chicken thrown in is the perfect comfort food to warm you up!

Taco Shepherd's Pie from Sheena @Noshtastic: This recipe takes a little time with the mashing of potatoes, but everything else is EASY! If you want to speed up your after-work prep time, I suggest boiling and mashing the potatoes on Sunday and having them ready to top the Shepherd's pie when you make the meal. I guess you could use the boxed mashed potatoes, but my whole-food self cannot really suggest that for you....but if you already eat boxed mashed potatoes...well, go ahead and sub!

Tomato Bisque Soup another from Lisa Leake: We make this one heartier for a dinner meal by adding penne pasta and shredded chicken. If we have some, I cook french bread to go along with it. And, why not steam some broccoli as a green veggie side, too? (< 3 will you still love me if I keep saying "broccoli"?)

Chicken Quesadillas: No recipe here, just add a little butter to a frying pan, place a tortilla in it, throw on some shredded cheese and chicken. I like to have cheese on the top and bottom to hold the tortilla together #neattrick...#ipromiseihaventbeencookinglong. Then, top with another tortilla. Or you can use the fold method to make a 1/2 sized tortilla. I feel GUILTY making this meal for dinner with some beans and rice because it's WAY TOO EASY, but my husband was ecstatic the first time he came home to it, so I have the green light to consistently add it to our dinner rotation.

Buffalo Chicken Chili from Jennifer @slow cooker gourmet: Who doesn't love ALL THINGS BUFFALO CHICKEN? I throw this recipe in from time to time when I remember how much we love buffalo chicken. This recipe cooks it all in the slow cooker, but I've used all the ingredients to cook a pot on the stove and it still tastes delicious!

How else can you use your shredded chicken? 

You will find a million ways now that you know this dinner trick, but any chili recipe will work with shredded chicken. Any recipe that calls for beef {like my Cheesy Enchilada Casserole FAVORITE Mexican dish} should also be just as tasty with shredded chicken instead. Any recipe that calls for sliced chunks of chicken (like the Broccoli and Penne Pasta recipe) or chicken breasts (like the Chicken Cordon Blue Casserole) works just as well with shredded chicken. And any recipe that is meatless but you think chicken would taste great in {and you want to "beef" up the protein-with chicken} works too, like our favorite 5 Ingredient Broccoli Cheese Soup Recipe from Sara at Budget Savvy Diva--I know, more broccoli, are YOU tired of it yet?? I'm not!
recipes with shredded chicken
Now, one last tip about my shredded chicken dinner strategy. I alternate between weeks where we have shredded chicken meals and weeks that we do not. We are an omnivorous family, so we have one ground beef meal, 2-3 chicken meals, and one other meat a week. I inhumanly do not need much variety in my life, especially when it comes to eating and being hungry, but I have found that keeping things mixed up helps us continue to enjoy meal time. I've even learned to switch up our brands from time to time with simple staples like yogurt and bread just to keep our taste-buds alive and not bored!

list of dinner ideas
As I struggled to balance it all this past year, I had quite a few breakdowns over meal planning. A number of times, I told my poor husband that I was JUST SO TIRED of feeding him. He doesn't get home until 6:45, so it really is my role to put dinner on the table. I had a really bad week where I bought a rotisserie chicken from Harris Teeter one night and pizza and ice cream the next night {really, this.is.not.how.we.roll. at my house}. In these moments of exhaustion and desperation, when I finally calm down {and get over being so pissed that dinner is my responsibility}, I always come back to this: feeding my family healthy foods that nourish our bodies is REALLY and TRULY one of my top priorities. I want to save our eating-out adventures for the weekend when we can relax and enjoy it more. Most importantly, I want us all to live long, healthy lives. So, cooking--and I mean really cooking--is a priority. And because it's a priority, I have to have strategies for making it work for us!

meal planning for busy teachers and momsWhat should you do now? PIN this post so you don't lose it or forget about it. PRINT ALL of those recipes that look good to you. SEARCH your own pinterest boards for recipes that will work with shredded chicken and print those too (you can share those here too, I'd love some new ones!). ORGANIZE your recipe binder. Mine was OOC (out.of.control) this summer! PLAN your dinners for the week. And last, if you want more ideas,  I'd love for you to FOLLOW my Food Pinterest Board. I'm always looking for quick, tasty, and mostly healthy meals to feed my family!

Have you found any superb dinner strategies that have helped you make it through the "What's for Dinner?" overwhelm? We'd all love to learn from you! Share in the comments!

BUNDLED Leveled Math Assessments Now Available...

And on sale (listed at 20% and on sale at an additional 20% today, Monday, and Tuesday!)

I have one more week before my daughter goes BTS and starts 3rd grade. One more week to enjoy summer with her...so, that's why you haven't heard from me this week. I've got a list a mile long of topics I want to chat about with you, but I just couldn't do #allthethings and bust out a blog post for you this week. But, I do want to make sure you've heard all kinds of good news that's going on around here.

I have consistently posted to Instagram this week (Yay me!), so if you are not following me there, I'd love it if you did! Sometimes you will get a sneak peak at something fun I'm working on, sometimes you get to see what I'm reading, and sometimes you get a peak into my personal life (like how we decorated and painted the bathroom last week!).
 follow tarheelstateteacher on instagram

Let's get to the heart of why I'm checking in with you today. It's something I want to make sure you DO NOT MISS OUT ON!
 4th Grade Common Core Math Assessments

I have spent my whole summer working hard on my Differentiated Math Assessments for 4th grade (and the 5th grade ones are on their way too!). These math assessments are truly my passion. I cannot talk about them without getting louder, antsy, hot and flustered (a little overwhelmed at all I have left to create), but most importantly UBER-SUPER excited about envisioning these assessments being used in classrooms to help students move from one grade level's standard to the goals of their current grade level, and to beyond for those students who master grade level standards quickly and are ready for more more more...because you know what, they all deserve what they need. And, it is not always easy to provide it for them #understatement...am I right or am I convicted? Either way, I know what it has been like to {inappropriately} administer the same exact assessment to every kid (for the most part) for 11 years and I know in my heart that I now discovered and created a better way.

I am so lucky to be partnering with the 5th grade teacher from my last school this year. I'm volunteering my time to plan math with her and create my differentiated assessments fast enough that she can use them for pre-testing her units, reviewing and extra practice work, and post-assessing her students. We just spent the morning planning out the first few days of her math unit and discussing how to use the differentiated math assessments. I'll be in her classroom on Wednesday to co-teach math with her. To my joyful pleasure, I'll be working with the same students I taught last year (in 4th grade), so it is a soul-fulfilling opportunity for me (and it makes me so excited to be able to be "in the classroom" this year helping a newer teacher, obsessing about math instruction, and working with my students again).

If you are not too familiar with my leveled math assessments, I wrote a three part series earlier this year (really, I need a 20 part series on this topic, so maybe that's coming for ya). I focused on what a leveled math assessment is, why I'm so committed to leveled assessments, and all the different ways I discovered that I could use my leveled assessments (for more than "testing").

As I've been working on these this summer, I see the light at the end of the tunnel (well, January really), when these will be completed. I am pushing SOOOOO SOOOO hard to have the Place Value assessments uploaded by August 27th {they are ready!!! :)} and the Fractions uploaded the following weekend. This is realistic because I've been alternating between drafts of the Place Value and Fractions Assessments this month and they are getting close! My 5th grade group that I am working with needs the Fraction Assessments because that's actually their first unit (focused on foundational fractions concepts and addition/subtraction because Math Expressions includes 2 fractions units instead of lumping it all together into an overwhelming heap #smartysmart), but I know so many teachers will need the Place Value assessments for the beginning of the year.

If you are interested in grabbing the bundle to get a huge discount on ALL the math assessments instead of purchasing one at a time, I want you to know, it is marked at 20% of the estimated cost of all the assessments' individual prices AND it is marked 20% off of that for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday! I know your busy and I don't want you to miss out if you want these! {TPT is having another boost sale and you can get an additional 10% off  with the code ONEDAY from TPT on MONDAY if you want to #saveevenmoremooolah}
And I hope you already know that you can get tpt credits on all of your purchases! I love when my credits build up to 20 or more and I save dollars off of my total purchase. So many ways to save...and I know how relieving it is to be able to buy things you need for your classroom to save your time and sanity. When I switched grade levels two years ago, I loaded up on resources that helped me teach and differentiate for math. It was nice to earn some credits for giving feedback on my purchases. (Thanks to Senora Cruz for this handy image that shows you how to earn credits!)

Please email at tarheelstateteacher@gmail.com me with any questions about my leveled/differentiated math assessments! I'd be happy to tell you more!

How to Ensure You Have Reading Accountability Without Using Reading Logs

Hey Y'all! I know you are busy doing one of two things: relaxing to soak up your last few days of summer and thinking about all the things you need to do OR preparing to head back to school while wishing you were relaxing! I'm participating in this amazing back to school blog hop and giveaway hosted by Laura at Create Clipart {her website is beautiful if you've never checked it out!}. Everyone's chatting about classroom management and organization ideas, so you'll want to check out all the goodies and take from it those that will improve your practice and help you keep your sanity this year. {Read to the end of this post to enter a giveaway where you can win either a $50 tpt gift card or a package of 30 amazing resources from the bloggers in this hop!}
I'd say if you like what I have to share, you can plan to implement this in NO TIME, and it will actually simplify your teacher life a little AND add something to your daily schedule that I believe you will absolutely enjoy. Actually, I probably should have called this post "The Best Change I made in the 2015-2016 School Year that Was Amazingly Effective and Soul Full-filling!" I bet you can't wait to hear about it after that introduction, so here goes!
Reading accountability without reading logs
Last year, I decided to make two changes to my reading routine that made a huge difference. The first was to make 20-30 minutes of independent reading a non-negotiable in my class schedule.  I ALWAYS want my students to read, and I always think independent reading is in my schedule as a non-negotiable, but inevitably mini-lessons and read alouds go on too long, small groups push out time for students to read on their own, or other interruptions to our schedule make it hard to give students their independent reading time. Well, I made my commitment out loud to my students last year and I really stuck to it. We may have missed 2 days the whole year, perhaps on a half day or a crazy snow day, but never because I squeezed it out with too much planned. {If you find your independent reading time being squeezed out, I challenge you to make this promise this year! It is so worth it!}

The second change I made is the focus of today's post. I got rid of reading logs!

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