Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Liebster Award, Compound Words, Contractions and more…

As a new blogger it made me feel extremely special last night when I received a very nice comment on my blog from Tammy at  It is wonderful to know that somebody finds my blog interesting and worth commenting on, so MUCHISIMAS GRACIAS Tammy!
 Maybe I’m the only one, but I wasn’t sure what Liebster translated to – so I checked it out, because I’m a language nerd…it’s German for “favorite”.   
Part of the Liebster award’s awesomeness is that I now need to nominate other bloggers with less than 200 followers.  
Here are the rules to the award:
1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog – see above (thanks again Tammy!) 2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you – (just in case you missed it, here is Tammy’s link again..
3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog  - see above 4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to up to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed  - see below 5. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment at their blog.  On my to do list!

Here are 4 great blogs that have wonderful resources on their site.  Be sure to swing by their blogs and check out all the amazing things they have going on!

Ms. Apples at Elementary Apples
The Bilingual Teacher Clubhouse
Jennie at JD’s Rockin’ Readers
Kris at Teaching With Love 

Onto other things…I wanted to share some fun images of what we’ve been doing in class.  I found some cool activities through pinterest for compound words and contractions – which I’m sure you all have seen, but I’m still a proud teacher and want to share!

We used the dowloadable compound word sort from the first grade parade.  Unfortunately I was out the day my kiddos did this, but based on the sub report they loved the activity and were experts by the time they did the flippy book.

We’ve also just started working on contractions.  Contractions are hard for native Spanish speakers, because they don’t exist in Spanish.  For example, my husband is studying English and big time dislikes contractions! I think they seem like a lazy way of speaking to a nonnative speaker and it's not always obvious how to make a contraction or how to decide which two words made a contraction – but either way my kids need to learn them!

They LOVED doing the contraction surgery.  I found this activity on pinterest and on different blogs, I'm not sure who thought it up, but that person is brilliant! 

We talked a lot about how the two words change to become one.  I modeled how to conduct surgery on the words and had the students work in partners.  We had superhero and princess band-aids for apostrophes, very exciting stuff!

Unfortunately, after the whole activity about half of my class was struggled to identify what the original two words were that made the contraction…so our final contractions are now posted on the wall with the two original words – so my kids have a reference…otherwise they can’t transfer back and forth from two words to a contraction and vice versa…English is HARD!  My kids understand the concept but just can’t make the leap between the two forms without a reference…baby steps!

I previosly alluded to a grumpy cat activity we've been working on and I'm worried because I cannot find the kids' final draft of their writing anywhere!!!!  I'm giving it one more day and then I might have to make my kids redo the writing, because we have the artwork with no writing at this point - where could it have gone?!?!  Honestly, this is a wonderful example of why my room needs a major clutter intervention!

Mrs. Castro Pin It

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Clutter Linky x 2

This is probably illegal linky behavior, but I'm going to combine 2 diffrent weeks of linkys into one post, because I have everything ready and I hate being so far behind!

Controlling the Clutter:
Being a teacher you would think I am an excellent planner.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  Don’t get me wrong, I plan.  But usually the best things that happen in my class aren’t planned – they’re moments of inspiration on my part, my assistant’s part or my students’ part.  I don’t like to make plans weeks in advance – generally I plan a few days at a time.  When I plan far in advance I generally waste a lot of paper because I change the plan part way through.
However, some things do require a PLAN.  Getting control of my classroom clutter would be an example of such a thing.  Fortunately, I’ve been able to check out other teachers’ plans – blog stalker, I know!  And I think I have a basic plan that I am comfortable implementing.

1.  Invest in file folders and hanging folders STAT!  (In my ideal, money-doesn't-matter world, these would be color coordinated and fun…but that probably won’t happen.  Budgets are no fun!)
2.  Use my filing cabinets effectively.  Decide where to store each subject area’s materials and clear out all the random materials.
3.  Decide where and how to store extra school supplies – my own and my students.
4.  Begin investigating organizing solutions for math materials, centers, etc. 
5.  Finish sorting through the materials I inherited and toss anything I doubt I will use.

I think that about sums up my plan for now.  This is my short-term action plan.  I hope to accomplish all of this by the end of spring break.  I’m sure I’ll need to make another long-term plan soon once I get the basics taken care of.  I want to begin doing more math centers, but before I can start I need to get the current clutter taken care of and investigate what organized teachers do for their math centers.

Teacher bag Linky
This is how I felt about my teacher bag a few short days was a TERRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD situation that has since been remedied.

I had never actually invested in a bag that was a good fit for a teacher's needs.  I some how acquired several random bags over the past few years and none are a good fit for my needs and all are in various states of disrepair.  
See below...

Literally the bigger bag is disintegrating.  And the smaller bag is a mini whole-food shopping bag that my husband got at an Oktoberfest event...sigh

(Did you spot Max?  It is impossible to take a picture in my house without a cat cameo appearance!)

BUT - in honor of this clutter-free project, I have since ordered a new bag, a thirty-one bag...which makes me feel more like an official teacher!  

Introducing my brand new Thirty-One  Organizing Utility Tote in Parisian Pop!
It's lovely.  And already I feel more organized with my little glove compartment!

And my water bottle compartment.  And my pencil case compartment.  
Even my cats are excited!

Now here is an image of what I actually carry around with me almost all the time.  
My general planning binder, where I keep my plans, calendar, student contact information, state standards, and resources I don't want to lose.  I also have a guided reading binder where I have my group information, group lessons, guided reading resources that I don't want to lose, etc.  The little uninspired white binder is my data binder where I keep track of the million data points I need for R.T.I.  And at the end you see my personal calendar/planner...which is essentially only used to keep track of bills and write check marks next to them when makes me feel good.

Here are some random read alouds, cards from kids and The Wednesday Wars a great book I just read!

Here is a new math program I might pilot with my students who struggle with number comes with me, but I haven't gotten very far. Oh and don't forget the crocheted headband, glasses case that I have never used...honestly!

So, I'm super excited to have my new thirty-one bag.  I solemnly swear to not fill it with clutter!

Thank you clutter-free classroom project!  You can link to other teachers’ plans on this website, and find other great materials for managing clutter and getting organized.
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why Spanglish?

My blog’s tagline is Second Grade…Spanglish Style (as you can see above).  I put a lot of thought into my tagline – but my sister recently made it sound like “Spanglish” makes me sound like a bad teacher given that Spanglish is generally has a negative connotation…so I wanted to clarify here, why I chose Spanglish.

1.  I teach in a bilingual classroom BUT second grade in my district is a year of transition.  I continue building literacy in Spanish but we begin to transition to English.  Our classroom uses both languages.  At this point in the school year we are doing more English than Spanish but we still do both HENCE, Spanglish!  

2.Alliteration is amazing, and I really wanted to have alliteration in my title as much as possible…Castro, class, second, Spanglish, style…I # alliteration!

3. The bilingual mind does not always function like a well oiled machine.  I think in both languages and sometimes I’ll struggle to come up with the right word in one language and wish I could just throw in the word from the other language…¿entiendes? 

4.  My students are transitioning and that means that when speaking in English they won’t always know all of the words they need to express themselves, so sometimes they’ll use a Spanish word.  Which is OK with me, because I want my students to feel comfortable when expressing themselves.  We do a lot of vocabulary work to help them build their vocabulary but still, Spanglish happens!

When I think of Spanglish I think of a bilingual person who is able to speak well in both languages, but sometimes switches between the two for various reasons.  I do not promote blending the two languages and making up new words that aren't Spanish or English.  That would not help my students become literate in either language.  

I hope that makes my decision to use Spanglish in my title more understandable…I won’t discuss here what my beliefs are on bilingual education in general, I know that not everyone agrees with bilingual education.  I will say that I love my job, my students and the families I work with.  My goal is to get my students as prepared as possible for an all-English third grade classroom and sometimes that requires some Spanglish.

Mrs. Castro Pin It

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rounding and Estimation in Action!

Here are some pictures to show how my students became rounding experts (or are at least on their way).  As I said in a previous post we made number lines up to 100.  It took a while, but it was worth it!  I laminated these, I’m very lucky because our school has a laminator.  With our laminated number lines we were able to really discover what rounding was all about!
First a student underlines the number in question.
Next the student circles or marks in somewhat the 10s that the number is in-between.  (Which makes me realize that the very first thing we did was review counting by 10s).
Then students can either easily see which 10 is the closest and round to that number, or they can bunny hop and count to each ten. 

Bunny Hopping

Students discovered on their own that the 5 is in the middle and we learned to always round up – most students mastered this concept, some still need a “5 --->” written on their worksheet or number line.
When it came to estimating a sum most students easily adjusted to rounding the addends to find the estimated sum.  A few students struggled – they would mix up which addend they had already rounded because the didn’t put the first number in the first box – which was an easy fix.  HIGHLIGHTERS!  You’ll see below that for some students I highlighted the corresponding columns – this made a big difference!
Nearly all of my students no longer need a number line and can round in their head…which makes me one proud teacher!  Here is a picture of one of my students when I told her she was a Rock Star!  CHECK OUT THAT SMILE!  Honestly…there she has no number line buts  solving estimation word problems…it probably helps that she decided to sit at my desk – teacher brain waves and all! 

So there you have it our rounding and estimation activities in action!  I’ll have to keep sticking rounding questions in their morning work to make sure they retain this stuff – our curriculum never cycles back to anything! 
You can get the rounding, estimation, problem solving and exit slip worksheets for free on my brand new Teachers Pay Teachers page – it’s the only item (for now), so don’t worry it will be easy to find!  One super amazing lady already gave me feedback!
I’ll post more next week about two project my kids worked on this week, one related to Grumpy Cat and the other to compound words. 
Mrs. Castro

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Weird Week, Vocabulary Stories

As a teacher I do not love weeks that do not follow the normal routine.  I never thought I would become routine oriented person, but I dread these weeks that completely throw the routine out of the window!

This week we had President’s Day off – which I appreciate, OF COURSE!  
We had a teacher plan day on Tuesday – quality planning time is a good thing.  
Wednesday was a district meeting for all primary bilingual teachers, necessary but…how I wish I didn’t have to miss a day with my kids!  
I’ll be with the kiddos tomorrow, but am out Friday for a personal day.  
Which translates to my students will be with me for one day and with a substitute for two days - DISLIKE this ratio!  Ok, I had to vent...but alas it is out of my control and I'm moving on.

These types of weeks are usually a challenge for me to plan for.  LUCKILY, I found all sorts of cute ideas on different blogs that inspired me and I know my students had fun without me today. This week my students will be working on making connections and compound words, big time!  

Here is what I left for the sub, we’ll se how it turned out tomorrow…
Compound Words - students will be discovering compound words with the book Flying Butter and If You Take a  Mouse to the Movies.  We'll see how many they discovered tomorrow - fingers crossed they were working hard.  After that I was inspired by this blog post by the First Grade Parade where students make flip books to show how two words make one word, so I'll see how those turned out tomorrow.
 I also wanted to share a couple of images of our vocabulary stories.  We started using the Isabel Beck vocabulary instruction kit in January.  I was hesitant because although the words are AMAZING my students are all second language learners - and such rich vocabulary can sometimes be overwhelming out of context.  BUT this was definitely a case of me selling my kids short!  They absolutely love this vocabulary.  They're constantly using the words throughout the day hoping for a chance to clip-up by making a super impressive sentence (I've become harder to impress as the weeks go by).  

With language learners it is so important to teach words within context, so one of the activities we do during the week is we write a story using these words.  Again, I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out, but it turns out this is one of my absolute favorite activities of the week, and I think it's safe to say my kids would agree!

We try to write a funny story including all of the vocabulary words.  We brainstorm together and it turns into a fun shared writing and reading activity.  I took a couple pictures of our stories, somehow I missed my favorite about one of my students challenging me to a dance war...maybe another time.  

They really are ridiculous - but so much fun.  The kids love having their names in the story!  Unfortunately, with this short week no new vocabulary (another reason to prefer regular weeks) - but next week awaits with great words like: 


Won't the third grade teachers be impressed when my second language students show up saying how astonished they are by the tidy classrooms and how irked they were by the chaos in mine, inspite of the this they still have to admire me and chuckle at my ridiculousness...

Mrs. Castro
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Castro's Clutter Chaos

Ok, I found another great Linky party that should really challenge me to get my act together.  I'm not the most organized teacher BUT I'm not really as bad as these pictures will make it seem.  I do struggle finding the time to really sort through all of the materials I have.  I inherited a lot of stuff from the teacher who previously taught as the bilingual second grade teacher - which is mostly a blessing, but sometimes a curse.  At this point I've sorted through most of the material, but there is still sooooooo much I need to get to.  It's overwhelming, and until now I've had an "I'll leave it for tomorrow (a.k.a. summer)" attitude.  
However, The Clutter-Free classroom will help me change my procrastinating cluttery ways.  I'm a few weeks behind, but am determined to join the fight against clutter!  Week 1 of the challenge, asks teachers to take before pictures of their room.  I have taken pictures.  And you may think that since today was a plan day my room would have become less cluttery, but if you think that you would be wrong!  My clutter making skills are enviable and by the end of the day I had created several more piles - honestly, sometimes even I drive myself crazy!
So without further ado, here are some before pictures of my classroom.  (Don't judge me!)

All of the boxes I inherited - 2 literacy curriculum, a math curriculum, social studies and science materials, a classroom library, teacher books and more!  (I really am lucky!)  This picture is from last June or July.

Here are some pictures from today.
My Desk - where the mess happens.  ;)

 Next to desk

 Closet - it's semi-organized! A bottle of juice logically goes next to Kleenex and Ziplock Bags!
Check out one example of a filing cabinet drawer - trust me one is enough!

My closet - those binders are binders I have purged of unnecessary materials - so I'm on the right path at least!
Here are some more pictures of area of "improvement needed" areas.
 Where I spend most of my day - by the ELMO, whiteboard and student desks.
 Underneath the easel - kind of a free-for-all down there...
Student mailboxes/extra materials/teacher resources in cabinets above - didn't want to take a picture of that.  :(
 Inside the lower cabinets - mixture of student games for indoor recess and actual educational games.  NOT GOOD, I know!
 My only two drawers - probably could be used more effectively.
Honestly, it's not as bad as the pictures make it look.  It's controlled chaos - but I know that is not the most efficient and effective way for me to use my precious classroom space.  Perhaps after seeing these pictures you feel better about yourself, or perhaps you can sympathize...either way I expect my classroom to look a lot better at the end of this challenge! 

Maybe you feel inspired and want to try joining the clutter-free challenge - you can find out more by clicking the picture below.  There you can also see lots of other teachers who have begun this process as well.

Cheers to clutter-free!
Mrs. Castro  
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Sunday, February 19, 2012

How I Met My Hunny

This seems like a fun linky party to join - even if Valentine's Day has passed.  Great idea Ms. B.!
My husband and I met in 2004 while I was studying abroad in Buenos Aires,Argentina.  We met soon after I arrived in the country.  I went to Argentina thinking I was a bilingual superstar, and quickly realized my Spanish listening and speaking abilities were akin to a toddler!  Reality can be rough.

So, realizing I wasn't able to communicate effectively, I sought solace in familiar English movies.  I found a local video rental store - and struggled to communicate that I would like to become a member...I gestured and stumbled through this process and left empty handed.  The owner explained something about delivering a movie - which I assumed I was misunderstanding, because since when is there movie delivery?!

So I went back to the apartment and tried to explain what had happened to my host "mom" a lovely lady about 80 years old at the time.  She hadn't heard of movie delivery we sat waiting to see what would happen.

Eventually the bell to the apartment did ring, and I ventured downstairs.  Outside waiting was a very handsome young man waiting with my movie in hand.  I accepted the movie and thanked him, went back into the building and realized I had not given him a tip!  Having never dealt with movie delivery I was unprepared and so embarrassed that I hadn't given him a tip.  I looked back over my shoulder to see his reaction, and he was still looking at me, but I didn't see any resentment in his eyes...sigh.

I didn't do a very good job making a good first impression.  We didn't run into each other for several months.  During which I dated another Argie - which ended badly.  I sought solace again in movies - and that is how we were reunited.

My husband Ariel would always be playing movies in the shop while he worked - movies like What About Bob?.  He has great taste, right?!  So we began shyly talking and eventually he timidly invited me to helado (ice cream), and how could I resist?

Here is a picture of us on one of our first dates - ice skating, although in the pic we are drinking submarinos a super delicious Argie version of hot chocolate.  We look so young!!!!
OK, and I couldn't resist putting this pic of him on the same date - because he was sooooo cute!

I had one more semester left at my university and as soon as I graduated I promptly moved back to Argentina.  After many bumps in the road we were married in 2007!  During the time we lived in Argentina, somehow he put up with my compulsive need to rescue animals - one dog even had 9 puppies!  I don't know how he puts up with all my quirks, but I'm lucky to have him!
We lived in Argentina until 2009 and then moved back to the States.  Ariel had to leave his 4 siblings, Mom, and Buenos Aires to come to the suburbs of Chicago.  Honestly, how many men would do that?  Now Ariel is working and taking classes at the local community college, and improving his English.  At home we speak a terrible mixture of English and Spanish - I really hope we can get it together before we have kids. At this point we just have two amazing cats, Max and Ellie.

So there you have it - how I met my hunny.  I tried to keep it succinct, but it turned out rather long.  If you've made it this far, thanks for reading!  (And yes, Max has one eye - but he doesn't know it!)  Oh!  I promise my Spanish has since improved, although I have my toddler-like moments!  ;)

To our hunnies!
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book Nerds!

Reading is one of my favorite ways to spend my free time (albeit I do not have as much free time as I would like).  Since I was quite young I've been a book nerd.  Some (my husband) might say that I'm extreme in my reading pursuits, but I do not let the naysayers deter me.  Rather, as a teacher I'm given the opportunity to create more young book nerds!  

That being said, there is a wonderful shop on Etsy that makes a book nerd charm necklace that I purchased for myself and my sister - a fellow book nerd. I  wear my book nerd necklace everywhere, and refer to myself as a book nerd regularly with my students.  They've amazed me, as always, and have begun referring to themselves as book nerds!  In their writing they'll include something about how their book nerds.  When they are done with an activity early they'll start reading because, as they'll later tell me, they're book nerds.  Their willingness to identify themselves as book nerds inspired a new area in my classroom.  
Necklace in question:

By this time of the year I'm rather lacking in free wall space, so the door has now become our book nerd nook.  There we are letting everyone know that we are book nerds.  I'm trying to keep track of some of our read alouds, author studies, figurative language and such on the door as well.  Our door is commented on regularly by others in the building.  AND, all of my students can spell "book nerd" perfectly!

 With some new additions: 
The white board announces what or who we are currently reading.
This year I'm experimenting with the whole book nerd theme, by next year I hope to have a plan in place to really inspire my students to become book nerds!  I want my students to know that reading is awesome and it's cool to be a reader.  Maybe by embracing my book "nerdiness" I can inspire second graders to become true book nerds.  Hopefully this early exposure to the term "nerd" will at least inspire a long term acceptance of nerds everywhere, and at best challenge them to become lifelong learners.  

To book nerds everywhere,
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Belated Valentine's Day and Rounding Freebie

I wanted to post a few pictures of my students Splat Valentine's day creations.  Cara Carroll from created a wonderful Splat Valentine's Day unit.  I was a little late in planning so we only read the Love, Splat and did the craftivity.  My students love Splat, so I splurged and bought the book and unit.  Honestly, if I had planned ahead I could have avoided the book purchase and checked the book out from the library - but the more prepared teachers beat me to it!  

We did our writing in Spanish.  Instead of writing, "I feel loved when...", we wrote, "Me siento amado(a) cuando...".  Here are some cute images of our Splats:

I also wanted to share a rounding activity we did this week.  Rounding is a difficult concept for most primary students, and our curriculum spends only one lesson on rounding and estimation.  I wanted to break this up to make sure my kids could master rounding before jumping to estimating.

We first spent a day creating number lines.  At first this seems like a waste of a day, but it was valuable for my kids to put their number lines together.  Some students still struggle with number sense, and they need to see how the pieces fit together.  Also, we have some white boards with number lines - but those number lines are broken into 5 pieces - I like that this on one long horizontal number line.

I laminated the number lines so my students could use Expo markers while they practiced rounding.  They first had to underline the number in question.  Then circle the tens it was in between and find the ten it was closest to. Some students were SPEEDY and I was able to give them some enrichment.  Overall, I found this activity to be a very successful because my kids felt so successful!  I love seeing them build confidence in themselves.

Here are some worksheets I made that break the process up a bit more than some math curriculum do.  I also created some estimation word problems.  I used my students' names and quirks to write them - I'm excited to see them put their rounding and estimation skills in action while reading about themselves!  Below if you click on the image it should take you to the google doc.  There is a pdf file with rounding, estimation, problem solving and exit slips you can download.  I use the exit slips at the end of a lesson to check and see how all my students are doing.

Mrs. Castro

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