Saturday, August 1, 2015

iTeach First Bloggers Back to School Giveaway - It's a Big One!!

It's that time of year again. 
Back to School!
The teachers of iTeach First have a FABULOUS giveaway for you!
Who doesn't want an iPad Air 2 with a shock proof, kid-friendly case that also doubles as a desktop stand, a stylus pen, and an iTunes gift card?  
You can use this iPad as a personal device to help you get organized and lead whole-group activities, as a small group learning center, or as an individual choice time or enrichment activity.  With so many free educational apps to choose from these days, the possibilities are endless. No matter how you chose to use it, we know that it will become a favorite resource in your class this school year.
Winning this would make anyone's back to school special!
To enter, just fill out the simple rafflecopter entry form here.
Here is an iPad app my first graders love.
It is called Learn Sight Words.  It is great for the primary grades.
Just for fun, comment below to tell us why you want to win it, or how you would use it in your classroom. I can’t wait to hear all of your fun ideas. Best wishes to you all, and may the odds be in your favor!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Summer Recap

It feels like yesterday I was counting down the days until summer and now it is time to go back to school.

Why does the summer always fly by??

My family has been super busy this summer and that left me very little time {actually no time} to blog.  So I thought I'd share a summer recap.

We were home for about a half week and getting ready for my son, Nick, to go to camp.  He has been going to the Easter Seals of the Rockies camp for 3 years and loves it. 
Usually it is a respite time for the rest of the family.
But not this year.  My daughter and I went to California instead. We drove 16 hours from Colorado to Southern California.  Emily was trying out for a gym there that has 6 locations in California, Nevada, and Arizona.
First, we went to Del Mar.  Luckily the fair was going on so we got to enjoy that.


The day we went to La Jolla, and almost everyday thereafter, June Gloom had set in.  I am an ocean girl so it didn't stop me for enjoying the salt water.

We traveled around Southern California for a week then headed to Vegas. 
After a few days we had to leave.  Tryouts were over and we had a plane to catch to the East Coast. 
We didn't really get to enjoy Utah as we were in a rush but it is a beautiful state to drive through.  And the speed limit is 80 most of the way =)
We were home for a day when it was time to leave again.  This time the whole family went.
Emily and I had spent a lot of time in the car so we were thrilled to fly.  We went straight to Cape May to visit Tom's dad.  He rents out his beach house most of the summer so we wanted to have the opportunity to visit before the chaos started.  The kids hadn't been there in 5 years and remembered why they loved it there.  Nick went fishing with Tom and his brother.  He caught a sand shark, a sting ray, and a flounder.  Nick was overjoyed with his ocean catches.
Our entire family lives in NY and NJ so we spent two weeks visiting and catching up.  My nephew graduated high school and we were able to attend.  I spent a lot of time with my brother, Will, who had a heart attack in March and his family.  It was such a relief to see him at home.
We spent time in NYC, the best city in the world.  I feel so at home and miss living there.
The highlight of our time in the city was visiting TPT.

I've always wanted to go "behind the scenes" and see how TPT works.  This is a community I've belonged to since late 2010 and was ecstatic to have that opportunity!
Jodi, Jillian, Sam, and Karen showed us around the office.  Everyone was so friendly!  We went into a conference room and chatted.  It was if we were old friends. 
My daughter left thinking that she wanted to work there!  I was reeling from their positive energy for days.  {And then I got to see them again in Vegas}
Emily started watching Gossip Girl on Netflix this year so I surprised her with a Gossip Girl Tour.  She loved, loved, loved it.  I cannot tell you how many times we said, "And who am I? That's a secret I'll never tell.  I know you love me. XOXO Gossip Girl"
After almost 3 weeks on the East Coast, it was time to leave.  I had to get to Vegas for the TPT Conference!  I had 2 days to unpack, do laundry, and repack for Vegas.
I found a bargain flight last winter so I knew I was going to get there before my roomies.  That's ok.  It was a balmy 106 degrees, so I headed for the pool. I had been traveling since the beginning of June nonstop and needed some R&R.

I fell in love with the misters around the pool.  They were very necessary in that heat.
That night was the Blogger Meet Up.
Only 1,100 people attended.  It was crazy and fun but I was totally overwhelmed.  I get very quiet and reserved in big crowds.  I wish I could just be myself, but I was just too uncomfortable.  I definitely had sensory overload. 
Let me be honest with you...
There are people in this blogging world who are super creative and intelligent and I would love to meet them.  However, I am not the type to be running up to someone and start fawning over them.  It is just not me. 
I just watched all of those people who are comfortable doing that.  It was entertaining and next year I will know what to expect.
Here I am with a group I know - my Colorado blogging buddies.

Here I am with the sweet Laura Martin.

Some girls I met up with at the Primary Mingling Session on Friday morning.  I was very grateful for them bringing me out of my shell a little.  I even had lunch with Aly and Mr. and Miss Giraffe (who are the cutest couple EVER).

Paul doing the keynote on Friday morning.

The sessions were jam-packed with great information both days. By Friday my head was swimming with information and I just needed time to process it all.  It was not going to happen for me in Vegas but I hoped once I got home the following night I could have a good night's rest in my own bed and wake up and go over my notes.  Those were my plans....
 Nichole from The Craft of Teaching, myself, and Sara from Mrs. P's Special Education Classroom in the photo booth at the Farewell reception.

I thought this was my last look at Vegas until next year but, haha, it was not.
I got home from the TPT Conference on Saturday night and on Monday morning Emily and I were driving back to Las Vegas.
When we were in California in June, Emily tried out for a new gym to continue her All Star Cheer journey.  Well, she made the team in Las Vegas.  We had to go there to meet her host family, see if she thought the team would be a good fit, and attend choreography.
Emily loved the gym and her team immediately.  I really like her host mom and family.  The owner wanted her to move out immediately.  So, we drove home and packed her up to move away from home.
At first I was excited for her and her new adventure.  Then it hit me that my 16 year old would be living almost 900 miles away from me for close to a year.  I knew this would happen but I didn't think it would until college.
After soul searching, long conversations with my husband, and lots of prayer, we agreed to let her try it.  It was an amazing opportunity that she had worked hard to get to.

 One week ago we took her to the airport to go to Las Vegas. 

On a one way flight...


We waited until it was time to board and after hugs and kisses

she was gone.
In the past week I have spent many an hour in the fetal position in her bedroom.  I prayed and still pray that we made the right decision.
I burst into tears while I was cleaning my car and found a bag of her goldfish shoved under the seat.
I've sprayed my house with her perfume so it smells like she is still here.
I'm not going to lie.  It is hard.  I hope it gets easier.  Maybe once school starts. 
But for right now it's minute by minute.
 I speak to her several times a day and she is doing great!  She loves her living situation (she is living with a teammate the same age as her from New Mexico).  She is thrilled with her team and she claims she does not miss home.  I guess that means my husband and I did a good job in raising her.  We all want our children to grow up to be happy, caring, successful, and independent, right?
But it is hard.
 I need your help friends.  Will this get easier?  What should I do with myself?  I need your help please

Friday, June 26, 2015


Do you have students who can tap out each sound in a word but cannot put it all together to make a word?

Do you have students who sound out words when writing but miss sounds and put the sounds in the wrong order?

What about children who only hear the beginning and final sound?

Every year I am surprised by how many first graders are not yet able to do these things.  I have more than a handful that cannot rhyme as well.  Some can hear rhymes but cannot produce them and others just cannot rhyme.

Will this effect their reading and writing?  Absolutely.

 These students are lacking phonemic awareness.

Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work. In the same way we have students orally rehearse their stories before writing children need to work with phonemes, or sounds, before attaching letters to them. This is phonemic awareness.

 Phonemic awareness is essential for beginning readers and must be systematically taught. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate individual phonemes, or sounds. All this work can be done in the dark – with no letters attached. Without phonemic awareness, phonics makes no sense.   Phonemic awareness is an excellent predictor of reading success and it must be explicitly taught. 

"One of the most compelling and well-established findings in the research on beginning reading is the important relationship between phonemic awareness and reading acquisition." (Kame'enui, et. al., 1997)

"The best predictor of reading difficulty in kindergarten or first grade is the inability to segment words and syllables into constituent sound units (phonemic awareness)." (Lyon, 1995).

The skills required for phonemic awareness are:

  - Identifying sounds - Although there are 26 letters in the English language, there are approximately 40 phonemes, or sounds, in the English language. Sounds are represented in 250 different spellings, for example,  /f/ could be ph, f, gh, or  ff.

 -Rhyming - Students need to identify if words rhyme or not.  They should be able to produce a rhyming word from any given word. (The latter is typically the more difficult task.)

 - Syllable awareness - Being able to count how many syllables are in a word and manipulating one of the syllables (e.g.: "Say insect without sect.  In.")

 - Compound Word - Building of and deleting one of the words that creates the compound word.  Building:   Teacher says, "Butter" and  pauses, then says, "Fly".  Students say, "Butterfly."
Deleting:   Teacher says, "Say skateboard without skate."  Students say, "Board."

 -Onset/rime manipulation - The onset is the part of the word before the vowel, however, not all words have onsets. The rime is the part of the word including the vowel and what follows it.
Teacher says, "Rab" and pauses.  Then says, "Bit".  Students say, "Rabbit."
Teacher says, "Say dentist without den."  Students say, "Tist."

 -Beginning, final and medial sound isolation - Singular phonemes and digraphs

Children can first isolate an initial sound, followed by the final sound.  Isolating the medial sound usually comes last.  Isolating digraphs is an easier skill than isolating blends.

 -Blending and segmenting phonemes- Blending means putting the sounds together.  (Ex.: /c/ /a/ /t/, cat)
Segmenting is the act of isolating each phoneme in a word.

 -Manipulating phonemes by adding, substituting, or deleting sounds -  The most challenging of  the phonemic awareness task is the ability to manipulate or work with individual sounds in spoken words. Children who can think about and manipulate phonemes become better readers and spellers. They distinguish and remember words that are similar such as spray and may and spring. Manipulation tasks include addition, substitution, and deletion.

Performance on manipulation tasks such as substitution "have yielded strong predictions of, or correlations with, reading achievement." (Lundberg, Olofsson, and Wall, 1980; Mann, 1984; Rosner and Simon, 1971)

Do you teach this important skill?  If not, that is probably what is missing for your at-risk readers.  As a reading specialist who worked with 3rd-5th graders who were below grade level, 80% of them did not have phonemic awareness. It makes sense that they could be close to or even on grade level in the primary grades but once words got larger with more irregularities, they had no clue how to attack these words.  Even though they were taught phonics, they did not have the foundation for it - phonemic awareness.
When I returned to the classroom eleven years ago, I made sure that I spent ten minutes a day teaching phonemic awareness. That short amount of time has been worth it, for sure.  Over this time I have created a phonemic awareness curriculum.  It has been modified and adjusted until now.  I am slowly publishing it on TPT.  The first month is up individually and bundled.  The bundle is only 11.99 right now but will eventually be $29.99.  I will add each month to the bundle as it is published, which will be by December 2015.  Snatch it now for this super deep discounted price.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Colorado Teacher Meet-up and Giveaway

On May 30th some of the best Colorado TPTer's met to share ideas, resources, and lots of laughs.  Ashley Cook of Teaching in Bronco Country did an amazing, SUPERB job of planning and organizing this gathering.

Ashley with Mary from Teaching with a Mountain View

The Meet-up was at the Rio Grande Restaurant in Highlands Ranch, CO. The staff was so awesome in accommodating our group.
We started off the afternoon by getting to know each other and visiting with old friends.  I am always amazed at how much talent is in Colorado!  These ladies are smart, funny, and kind! 

I sat by the hysterical Deedee Wills, who just moved to Colorado.  We all know she is super-talented and smart but who knew how funny she is?!?

Check out all the prizes:

Here I am with Sara, from Mrs. P's Special Education Classroom, whom I love.  We will be rooming together at the TPT Conference in Vegas next month.

And then we went home with these goodies:

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