A New Adventure

Today was the official start of a new adventure! I am back at North Middle School, where I student taught, as an ESL teacher. I’m so excited to support the newcomers in content classes as well as teach one section of Level 5 English. This means I am supporting the two extremes on the ESL spectrum! I’m excited for the challenge.
Some kids remembered me from student teaching and even gave me hugs! I almost cried when one of my newcomers (who I met today) made me a card. I have no idea what I did to deserve this, but I’m happy this little girl felt comfortable in such a new environment for her.
I’m going to keep this short for now, pictures and more information to come!



Such a sad day! Lots of tears this afternoon as students left. I got so many hugs and thank yous from kids I didn’t even know that well, not to mention the students I worked very closely with. Taking apart my classroom to go on to new places.
I’m happy for my new opportunity, but boy am I going to miss this place. So many memories.

All Smiles!

My students’ projects are going GREAT. The math stories are almost done, my newcomer will present the house to his class tomorrow, and the lion and tiger fiction/nonfiction writing is going great. My students just make me smile!

My newcomer, whom I’ll call D, needed a break today after practicing for his presentation. So we did some Total Physical Response (TPR). For some reason, whenever I pull out the TPR book, at first he starts complaining. But once we start going through a lesson, he is giggling and smiling. He obviously loves it! Our lesson had phrases like, “Touch your eye, touch your ear, touch your nose, etc.” So I figured that I could teach him the song, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” After doing that a few times, I thought it would be fun to go down to the Kindergarten classrooms so he could “teach” a few kids how to do it.

At first he was nervous. I pulled aside one of my other ESL kiddos and we did the song in the hall. Then I let that student go to his “Happy Choice” and went to find another student. I found a girl who I noticed always said hi to D, and who D recognized. The three of us started doing the song in the hall again, and then a bunch of the Kindergartners wanted to join in. So we went into the first class and did it a few times with the class. Some little ones even came to introduce themselves to D. We went to the next class, and the same thing happened there. He loved it! I think I may have embarrassed him at first, but he warmed up to it. He loves activities like that.

He gave me a big hug afterwards, so I know there was no harm done. ūüôā Loving what I am doing.

End of the Year Motivation

I’d be lying if I said the last few weeks have been easy – they haven’t. I’ve had a rough time keeping motivated for a variety of more personal reasons. It’s like senioritis all over again, but this time I have no excuse!¬†I realized, how in the world can I keep my students motivated this close to the end of the year if I’m not even that way?

So, to fix this dilemma I decided to mix things up a bit. I really have gotten into a pretty good schedule. Maybe too good? Every day started to seem like the same old thing over and over again. So, I took the time to make and find some good units to use with my kiddos.

1st Grade: Nonfiction and Fiction Parallel WritingImage

Earlier in the year, this group had so much fun writing a story, so I decided to do it again. This time, we are going to do a nonfiction and fiction writing unit. I got this idea from ReadWriteThink. Instead of talking about frogs and toads, as the original lesson plan suggests, we are talking about lions and tigers. We haven’t gotten very far just yet, but so far, the girls are¬†motivated and excited! The first day, I read a short nonfiction book on lions while the girls took notes – not horribly exciting in my opinion. But they kept saying, “This is¬†so¬†fun, Ms. S! I love this!” They were obviously ready to change things up as well.

Image1st Grade: Math Stories

This is a unit I haven’t started yet, but plan to next week. I usually work on worksheets sent by the teachers for this group. However, I feel like my skills are not being utilized and that it is quite frankly, a study hall time for first graders. When worksheets are not sent, we often do math word problem practice. So in the same line of thinking with my other 1st grade group, I found a great unit for writing a math story book. I am really excited to start this unit. It will be a great way to work with language and math skills, two things this group really needs.

2nd Grade Newcomer: House Building

While things have been going very smoothly with my new student, I realized I was probably spending too much time on reading and writing. His pronunciation of words wasn’t great, simply because he was using his knowledge of Spanish to help him. So I decided to change gears. I am still using the Oxford Picture Dictionary as a guide, but we are doing more hanImageds-on things with the vocabulary now. Since this unit’s words were about places and objects in the home, we are building a house. There isn’t as much talking as before, but I think he is picking up the vocabulary words in a much more meaningful way.

Yesterday we started working on the inside of the house, and decided that it needed two floors. Unfortunately I was out of cardboard at school. I told him I’d bring some more the next day (today). So this morning, he finds me before school starts and was hiding something behind his back. He brought an empty cardboard cookie box for us to use. Such a simple little thing, but I am still smiling ear-to-ear about that. He is such a sweetheart.

3rd and 5th Grade: Folklore Unit

With my final two pull-out groups, we are working on a folklore unit. I have been doing this for some time with the 5th grader. It’s going okay – but I do think it would be better with a larger group. So I’m giving it a try with my 3rd grade group. First, we learn basic characteristics of 5 different types of folklore – myths, legends, tall tales, fables, and fairy tales. Next, we read one of these folklore types, without me telling them what it is. Then, they try to see which folklore type it is. Go to this link to view the PDF for this unit’s handout.

To make this even more interesting, I am going to add a writing part to this unit as well. For my 3rd graders, I am going to ask them to write a fable. For my 5th grader, I¬†think I am going to ask him to write a legend. This will require research on a character in history, then adding crazy, larger-than-life ideas to it as well. I don’t know if this will be too difficult, but it is worth a try. I can always add more support as necessary.
3rd and 4th Grade After-School Tutoring: Love That DogLove That Dog by Sharon Creech
I tutor two students after school as well. I’ve had a great time getting to know these kids and really feeling like I am a part of their lives. I decided that we could use a break from the everyday routine as well. So, this week we started reading one of my favorite books,¬†Love That Dog¬†by Sharon Creech. So far they really like it. It’s such a fun book. My hope is that we will be able to create the visual poetry used in this book. I think it could be a really great way for these kids to play with language.
So overall, things are looking better. I feel refreshed, I feel motivated, and I am planning to take this last month of school out with a bang!


Yet again, I am not blogging as much as I would like. But the end of the year is upon us, it is a GORGEOUS day, nothing can get me down!

A new student came to our school two weeks ago straight from Mexico. Their pull was the family they have here in Mt. Pleasant. What scared terrified me at first was the fact that he came in with zero English, and I had 24 hours to prepare. My mind went where it usually does in new situations – the worst possible scenario. I worried that he didn’t have any schooling in Mexico. I worried that his behavior would be poor. I worried his attendance would be worse.

Fortunately, those worries are gone. He did go to school in Mexico, and his records appear that he did fairly well there. He is succeeding in the Common Core math that is done with his peers. His behavior is good. He is ready to learn every day. He is a happy, fun child. Of course, he has his ups and downs, but overall we have zero behavioral issues. Attendance has not been a problem at all yet – he has made it to school every day.

The first week he was here (Wednesday – Friday), we took it easy. The next week though, was work time. I am working with him individually between 1-2 hours daily. Right now I am using the Oxford Picture Dictionary for the Content Areas. It is working really well so far. I have been doing a lot of speaking and listening, but reading and writing as well. I think I am going to slow down on the reading and writing for now. Though he is able to pronounce the words correctly, when he reads them, he pronounces them as if they were Spanish words. Because we only have so many more weeks of school left, I think I will just focus on the speaking and understanding of English.

Finally I feel like I can really do something to help a child. Hope this feeling continues!

It’s been a while . . .

So I haven’t been doing too well with blogging! Oh the woes of a first-year teacher. Here’s to hoping I do better at this!

I am working with my students less on paper worksheets and more on BrainPop ESL (which I love – insert RAVE REVIEW here!). So that means I’ve had nothing to display on my “Look what we did” board. So I changed it!




ImageImageI think I’m going to keep it like this but change the word or phrase to learn monthly. Obviously I did “I love you” because of Valentine’s day. Have to get in the spirit of things!¬†

On another note, I have a district ELL meeting tonight. It looks like in the near future we will be working with Jobi Lawrence(!!!) to rewrite our Lau Plan. I’m a little star struck! (As far as you can get with the state Department of Education, haha!) Hopefully I will have lots to post about that experience.¬†

My heartbreak

Posting twice in one week?! Nonsense! But I have something that I really think I need to say, so here it goes.

Today I was working with a Kindergarten student during math. I was sitting at his table and doing double work by keeping another student on task.

Long story short, this second student says to mine, “Say Spanish for us.”

My student replies, “Why?”

“Because it sounds so funny when you talk like that.”

Such a short exchange, but it did more damage than I even want to think about. My student’s expression immediately changed and was clearly very upset. I turned to the boy and tried to explain to him why what he said was bad. I asked if he would like someone saying he talks funny too. He replied that he didn’t, but would not apologize.

I then turned to my student and tried to mend what happened. I told him that he was so special being able to speak two languages. I mentioned another girl in the class who speaks Vietnamese. I said that she has a special talent too, but hers is a little different. I told him that I speak a little Spanish because I think it is such a great thing to be able to do that, and he should never think he is bad for being different.

I don’t know that what I said made a difference. The other kids at the table were very nice and later asked him how to say certain words in Spanish, including “magic.” I think that one really did cheer him up.

But the thing I asked myself after all of this happened was if I saw the moment that my student’s attitude for his language changed. I have fifth grade students who say they don’t speak the language their parents speak. It already happens so commonly, losing that first language. But did I just witness a change for this student? Will he subconsciously believe that he is lesser because he is different? Will he decide to not speak Spanish anymore?

How does a 5 year old already have an opinion like that – that speaking another language is funny? That absolutely breaks my heart. How are we supposed to teach our kids to be accepting of everyone when they already hold these prejudices when they are 5?

I don’t know these answers, and I don’t think anyone has it. I just want to do something to change this.

Iowa Student Learning Institute – #isli

I had the awesome opportunity this weekend to attend the very first Iowa Student Learning Institute at Waukee High School. 2 high schoolers, Ian Coon and Jack Hostager, had this brilliant idea to create a conference so students could get together and share their opinions on the state of education. The environment of the place was phenomenal Рstudents were sharing their feelings about school and how they can be impacted. I have always heard that our job as teachers is to do the best thing for the kids . . . but how can we know what is best unless we ask in a manner like this? 

The first speakers were¬†Duane Magee, Brett Neese, Zak Malamed¬†(via Skype), and Dr. Scott Mcleod. All of these men gave such great messages. One of my many tweets from the day include, “We need to prepare all students to lead because we don’t know where our leaders will come from.” And how true is that! We don’t know. We need to ask ourselves what type of world we want, and make our schools look like that.¬†

Breakout sessions had at least 2 college students who were facilitating the conversation (basically to make sure that the conversation didn’t die out). Teachers and community members were asked to voice as little as possible. One of the best ones I went to was called, “Don’t Tell Me, Teach Me – Redefining the Role of the Teacher.” The students in this session didn’t say anything revolutionary, but it was a wakeup call. They spoke about how students and teachers should be at the same level and learn together. They spoke about how classroom environment can make or break a relationship. They reminded us that good teachers make you feel like a¬†person,¬†not a student. While a lot of the conference discussed the changing of school with technology, this session told us that the most important aspect of a good teacher-student relationship is just that – a relationship and open communication. Technology means nothing if that doesn’t exist.

One student quote I tweeted was that we are in the middle of a culture clash. I think some may say that we need to meet in the middle. But is this the case? I don’t think so. I honestly believe a revolution is coming. The old methods are leaving. The students don’t need to change, teachers need to change to meet them. Period.

ImageAnd finally, Angela Maiers ended this amazing day with a very inspirational speech. There is something to say about letting students know how important they are. Plain and simple, that is her message. This photo doesn’t speak volumes, it shouts.¬†Kindergartners wrote this. This is what our kids know. This is what we need to tap into.¬†

This is why I’m a teacher. This is what I want to do. I can’t say it any better than a fellow educator, Devin Schoening,¬†did: “I can’t wait until their thoughts drown out the voices of the adults in this space.” It’s not my turn anymore – it’s theirs.¬†¬†

And finally . . .

I am teaching! After two weeks with short days due to heat, holidays, and community activities Рmy schedule really is coming into place! 


That meant I had to start getting ready for working with students. Good thing I have this super cute planner from my Mom! (It’s from Erin Condren. I got the one at the link, but with a yellow background and white stripes.)


I knew that I needed to have labels in my 

classroom – labels everywhere.¬†I don’t remember seeing labels where I was student teaching, but I do remember¬†them being in my Spanish classes in high school. I think that’s a pretty good thing to have in ESL classes. I debated buying some from teacher stores online, but¬†they can get pretty pricey! Instead I found this cute set online. I printed them at the public library and had them laminated. Overall it was much cheaper than I would’ve found!¬†The next time I work with my Kindergartners, I will have them find where the different objects¬†are in the room and put them up for me! Good idea two-fold: they are learning where things go in the room and learning new words (not to mention they are making it so I have less to do!! ūüėČ ).

ImageSo after a few days of working with kiddos, I finally have some student work to show for it! I changed the bulletin board I have in the hall to showcase what they do. I’m excited to see how they like it! When I told them they needed to write in their very best handwriting for it, they took the challenge.¬†



As a type of get-to-know you activity, I had the students complete a “Me Poem.” I had thrown around some other ideas, but thought this would be good because it was something I could alter for all of the ages. Kindergarten was even able to do it with plenty of guidance.This is an example of a 5th-grader’s poem. He said he hates Art, but I thought he got very creative in writing out his poem!¬†

Anyway, we’ll see how the next week goes! I think I’m going to have to change my schedule again due to Title I Reading and some other conflicts. But that’s okay – it’s what is best for the kids!¬†



All ready

I am so excited to say that my very first classroom is set up! I am missing a few minor things, but overall I am so happy with how everything ended up.

On Thursday, my school had a “Backpack to School Night.” This is so parents can come and meet teachers and drop off school supplies before the year starts. I stayed in the main hallway by the main classrooms and ended up translating for about 5 Latino families. I think all I really needed was a confidence boost and more practice with my Spanish, so I definitely got that!

My roommate let me borrow this large map for my room. While right now I’m not planning on really doing anything with the map, I think it’s a good thing to showcase in an ELL room. And who knows, maybe it will come in handy later this year.la foto

I decided that instead of constantly changing bulletin boards to go with the season, I would do more of an information board. So I have a large calendar for school events, student birthdays, lunch menu, and local news. I still need to buy a weekly calendar for the lunch menu like this. I’m pretty happy with how this board turned out!¬†la foto (1)

My classroom came with A LOT of picture books. They had several issues though. A lot of the books were on too high of shelves for little ones to reach. Most of the books are paperback, so as they are placed traditionally on a book shelf, it’s impossible to know what book you are looking at until you physically pull it off the shelf. So I stole an idea from¬†my mom, and bought¬†¬†baskets so the kids can flip through the books. I will admit that one shelf is probably a little too high, but I didn’t have many options! I think this system will work much better. I have 10 baskets of basic picture books, 2 baskets of bilingual, 1 basket of wordless books, and 1 basket of picture dictionaries and the like.la foto (2)la foto (3)

I talked about this in a previous post, but it is finally on the wall! With the help of my associate, we put up the names of students who we know will be in ESL. We have several transfers so everything is up in the air right now. Anyway, I think this looks terrific! I still need to buy hand print stickers. I tried several stores in town here, but I think I might need to go to a scrapbooking store to find them.la foto (4)

And lastly, I copied yet another idea from one of my cooperating student teachers with this cubby shelf. 6 cubbies are saved for each grade level, while the others have paper, pencils, rulers, glue, and scissors. I think this is a nice way to organize things for the kids.la foto (5)

My main goal was to make the room more student-friendly, and I definitely think I accomplished that! Let the school year begin!

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