Saturday, June 30, 2012

Debbie Diller Chapter 2…Unpacking my classroom and a New Design!

First, I briefly want to mention Chapter 2 of Debbie Diller’s Math Work Stations – it’s quite straight-forward.
Chapter 2 of Debbie Diller has all sorts of good tips on how to organize your math manipulatives. You should read this chapter! If you’re naturally organized this chapter will be very gratifying. For example, while reading this chapter I felt like my husband was breathing down my neck – every word she said was his mantra…”A place for everything, and everything in its place”. (sigh)
Are you naturally organized?  If you are I envy you!  Long-term organization is elusive to me as a rainbow colored unicorn.  I try, I strive, I wish really hard, but I can’t seem to achieve organization.  The problem is, that I’ve moved classrooms.  My general inability to be organized transfers into my ability to pack, unpack and stay emotionally stable while involved in these activities. I’m useless. I’m frustrated! I’m whinning constantly! I resent the wealth of resources I have! I cry while driving to work! You get the picture… 
Debbie Diller says when organizing, “sometimes we’re tempted to start putting things way in another part of the room, and we get distracted” – YEP, that’s me!
Take a look at what I’m dealing with – truly the pictures don’t do it justice! I wish I knew how to take a 360° picture so you can see the chaos I’ve created in my efforts to organize!
 In the midst of unpacking it made sense to also organize my classsroom library.  So I have about 75 piles of books to sort through in addition to the general organization issues.  So this next week I’ll be busy getting ready, because…would you believe my room needs to be ready by July 9th?!  That’s when summer school starts.  Wish me luck. 
Math Corner – cool idea!
BUT REALLY, there are some good things in Chapter 2 of Debbie Diller.  What I really want to try next year is the math corner.  The math corner is “a place to store manipulatives and graphic organizers used to teach math concepts, rather than keeping them in a closet where they are out of sight…students may use a material from the math corner…”  So basically the math corner is an area in the classroom that is separate from the work stations where students can access manipulatives, organizers, math literature and such to help them during independent work.  I like this idea, because it places the control in the students’ hands.  They can choose when to use the materials and what materials will help them.  
Now I need to decide where to put said math corner…do you have a math corner?  How did you set it up/keep it organized/etc.?
Now for something totally unrelated – I’m redesigning my blog!  I want something more fun.  So take a look at what I’ve done so far…let me know what you think – too bright?  too much? 
I will try not to let unpacking and organizing my classroom prevent me from blogging and being productive in general.  So many blogs are sharing so many cool ideas and I want to be one of them…
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Friday, June 22, 2012

Linda Hoyt is BRILLIANT!

I am very lucky to have been able to attend a two-day literacy conference with Linda Hoyt as the one and only presenter!  Here I am with Linda Hoyt!
If you haven’t seen any of Linda’s work you need to take a look!  For the past few years I’ve been using Interactive Read Alouds in my classroom.  It’s a wonderful resource that has read alouds identified for different reading comprehension strategies, and lessons to accompany the read aloud.  It’s fantastic!  I’m not doing it justice, you should check it out!

I bought two new books.  They’re my birthday present to myself.  Isn’t that semi-sad?  But I can’t help myself…all of my jeans have holes in them but I would rather buy teacher books than clothes.  Sigh – I’m hopeless!

These are officially on my summer to-read list!
I originally wasn’t planning on buying anything but Linda Hoyt shared some truly inspiring ideas for reading and writing and I had to buy them.  HAD TO!

*********Keep Reading! *********
**There are Common Core nuggets of knowledge from Linda Hoyt herself!!**

Did you know the common core has created a list of text exemplars?
This means that for the grade levels examples of excellent text have been identified in different areas – stories, poetry, read alouds, informational text, etc.

The Common Core emphasizes that our students need to read and be exposed to complex, rich text – especially informational text.  And they’ve provided a list of examples – wasn’t that kind?!

Hoyt recommended that we familiarize ourselves with the text attributes that characterize these exemplars.  What makes them examples of excellence?  By identifying these attributes we can better identify other wonderful books, and we can teach these attributes to our students.

But we can’t stop with just reading these texts, because, according to the Common Core, writing is also of utmost importance.  Our students need to be taught to write and write well.  What better way than to study excellent works of writing!

For example, all writing has punctuation.  BUT excellent writing includes rich internal punctuation.  (I nearly jumped out of my seat with excitement at the term – she gave a name to a vague idea that I had floating around my head).  Also, by writing in clusters of three the text becomes more lyrical.  Vivid imagery is also a common characteristic of excellent writing.

See coded example:
Hoyt recommends that we study these texts with our students.  That we identify these writing attributes that make the texts great together with our students.  Then, with our students, work on creating writing with those attributes (i.e. internal punctuation, clusters of three, or vivid imagery and so many more). 

This is just one example of many.  Hoyt was able to make these attributes come alive.  She was also able to present instructional strategies that were feasible for any grade level.  Remember, I’m excited and I teach in a bilingual 1/2 classroom where nothing is easy!  I can’t wait to start teaching writing!

Hoyt shared many more strategies and ideas on reading informational text and writing informational text.  I will share them as I have a chance to reflect and read her books.

Click below for the common core list of exemplars:

This was ridiculously long and I commend you if you made it this far, you’re an awesome teacher!!!  I hope at the very least the link is helpful so you can hunt for the text exemplars at your grade level.

Mrs. Castro
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Debbie Diller Math Work Stations Chapter 1

I believe I’ve taken more naps in the past week and a half than I have in over 20 years!  I’ve never been much of a “napper”, even as a kid…but I can’t keep my eyes open lately.  BUT, this is my week of professional development and I’ve semi-emerged from my hibernation state.

I’ve finally begun reading the book I bought ages ago.  I forgot to mention when I went to the Debbie Diller conference that she signed my book…so exciting!  Check it out!  It’s like I’ve been in contact with genius! 
After going to see Debbie Diller I knew I wanted to implement her vision in my classroom, but I’ve been resisting reading professional books lately.  Now that I’ve napped a week of summer away I believe it’s time to get busy!

Here are the key points and ideas I’m pulling away from chapter 1:

*W.S. are not meant to replace a math program or curriculum – just support and extend it.

*Partners - Something D.D. really emphasized at our conference and then seen here is: W.S. are meant for groups of 2 – a.k.a. partners.  NOT groups.  Why? Increased engagement, less interpersonal requirements, easier to work as a partner then a member of a group.

*What is the teacher doing? Leading a small group, or observing students and taking anecdotal notes.  W.S. are not implemented in order for the teacher to lead small groups, that is not their purpose.  D.D. was very emphatic on this point at the conference.  Groups are important, but so is observing students in action.

*Math talk – I like that D.D. makes such a point of explicitly teaching students math vocabulary and then expecting them to use the language at the work stations.  I’m looking forward to reading more about this!

*Differentiation – D.D. briefly discusses this in this introductory chapter.  It is clear that with some planning, the W.S. are a great means for differentiating math instruction.  In a bin there may be different materials to meet the different needs of different groups, or there may be extension activities for students who can work more quickly…

*Controlled Choice – D.D. talks about allowing “just a few choices of materials or activities within a work station.”

**I am anxious to read more about D.D. work stations.  I think the idea sounds great.  I’m also anxious about the amount of time and planning that go into setting up meaningful work stations that offer the amount of differentiation and choice necessary to make them an effective use of our math time.** 

Did you use math work stations this year? Any tips you would like to share?

Tomorrow and Friday I’ll be at a Linda Hoyt conference.  I’m quite excited! 

Last week I went to an iPad training day.  It has led to my latest obsession - the Sock Puppets app. You talk/tell a story with different settings/sock puppets, and then your voice is magically changed to sound ridiculous. The mister and I cannot get enough of our sock puppet stories! Maybe I’ll share one sometime…

Mrs. Castro
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Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Bucket List Linky

I’m finally getting my act together and joining this linky party! You can see more bucket lists or join the linky party here at A Cupcake for the Teacher
Summer Bucket List
Professional Bucket List:
1.  Organize my classroom in a super meaningful/purposeful way!  Inspirations on my Pinterest board click here!

2.  Make this amazing organizational masterpiece as seen all over Pinterest.  This particular version is from Molly at Lessons with Laughter
Organizer--LOVE it!!!

3.  Sort through materials and pitch whatever is no longer relevant/useful/deemed unworthy.

4.  Set up a math workstations area for my classroom…I have to paint a bookshelf that is covered in cobwebs in my parents’ basement to hold this amazing amount of learning funness!  

5.  Read Debbie Diller’s Math Workstations from cover to cover! 
math workstations

6.  PLAN!!!! Next year I’m switching from bilingual 2nd grade to bilingual 1/2.  I need to meet with my teammate and plan!!!!

7.  Finish creating my Splat unit.
8.  Continue to create bilingual materials for freebies and for sale…I’ve been slacking!

Personal Bucket List:

1.  Finish the Couch to 5K running program.  I’m on week 5 now, and the runs are getting longer and I tend to psych myself out during the run – “this is boring”, “nobody will know if I stop now”, “who says running is good for you?!”, “why did I decide to do this, it’s lame”…and more.  I use an app for my android phone to keep track of my progress, there are apps for iPhones too!

2.  Participate in the Lozilu 5K Women’s Mud Run!!!!  To keep myself motivated I’m signing up for this event later this summer.  I’ll have had 2 weeks of being able to run a 5K at this point, so I think I should be up for it.  Granted everyone I know thinks I’ll get hurt considering I’m super accident prone…they’re probably going to take bets, but I will not let their negativity bring me down!  Have you done a mud run?  Looks super fun!

3.  READ!  Any recommendations?
2012-02-18 09.30.53

4.  Celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary by doing something different.  With my husband studying and working it’s hard for us to get away, but I need to think of something because holy moly – 5 years!!!

That’s it for now!  I hope that this helps me stay accountable.  I am good at making lists, not always good at checking things off them, or even remembering where I placed the list to begin with!  This should help!
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Best Endings post and Bunnies!

First, I posted for the first time in a long time on Best Endings!  Best Endings is a great blog where you can share what books you recommend and discover new books to read.  Check it out:

Now for the bunnies…

The house where we live sat unoccupied for over a year.  This means that the yard is semi-overgrown.  Slowly but surely we’ve been chipping away at it so we don’t look like we live in a suburban jungle.  The front yard is looking pretty shnazzy right now – at least in my opinion and considering my black thumb!  I even have tomato plants, parsley, mint, and basil.  Check it out my tomato plants!  Please also note the lovely annuals – that were planted last weekend.
Really, I’m going to talk about bunnies…

Unfortunately in our zeal for improving the yard, this past week we dug out an area and discovered a bunny burrow.  There were 4 little bunnies and their neighborhood had just been destroyed!  According to the internet the mom should return in spite of our scent.  So we covered them up as best we could and waited to see if the mom came back. 

What was really awful is that while the weather had been great last week, this week it’s been cold and rainy.  We covered the little guys up with a big leaf so they wouldn’t get wet and waited…the leaf didn’t move.  Further research led to the discovery that the mom uses landmarks to find her burrow, well at bunny eye-height, everything was markedly different and we weren’t sure if she would find them…but all the research said to leave them alone.

Wednesday afternoon burrow uncovered…Friday afternoon still no mom and 2 bunnies had already died.  I felt terrible!  I cried.  I didn't know what to do.  I felt guilty that we exposed the burrow.  Then my hero of a husband went outside and put the remaining two in a box and brought them in.  We warmed them up and then did something I now regret – gave them a little bit of warm milk.  They seemed to like it. 
BUT after they warmed up I started looking for a wildlife refuge and found one.  What does it say…not to give them anything to drink, not even water.  So now I’m worried the milk will be the end of these two little guys:

In a few minutes the wildlife rehabilitation place opens so I’m hoping I can deliver the bunnies ASAP since I’m obviously a hazard to them.  Right now they’re sleeping warm and toasty in a box, in the bathroom – the only door in our old house that latches properly so these two guys don’t get them:

So there’s the latest…pray for my little bunnies.  I know there are lots of bunnies in the world, but they still seem precious and special and I desperately want them to make it!

Mrs. Castro Pin It

Friday, June 1, 2012

Survival Mode, Moving, Linky x 2

Only 2.5 days left with the kids this year!  This year has flown by, but the past few weeks I feel like I’ve been in survival mode and completely unable to to think of blogging, or creating.  I’m exhausted all the time, and in a semi-paralyzed state knowing that I need to pack up all my stuff, set up a my classroom, teach summer school, and prepare for the 1/2 classroom next year. 

I’m a terrible packer…every move we’ve ever done personally, I’ve been more of a hindrance than a help.  I’ve broken fingers, cried, and basically been a complete nuisance…so I’m absolutely DREADING packing and unpacking and all that.  Luckily, my lovely assistant is a genius when it comes to organizing and general productivity, and she has offered to help. 

On Pinterest I also found a lovely site that has all sorts of tips for packing up your classroom…I’m going to print and study this over the weekend!  Do you have to pack your room up every year?  (CRINGE!) At our school you only need to pack if you’re switching rooms or your room is being painted…I don’t think I’m meant for schools that require packing annually…I would be a hot mess!!!!

Pinspiration – click the image to go to the original site, and learn how to pack like a pro!

Onto other less emotionally terrifying things – there are all sorts of wonderful linkys going on! I've been stalking the reading ones, because I’m a book nerd.  Lately, I’ve been in a funk…I haven’t been able to find anything that can hold my attention (may have something to do with work and the dreaded move!).

Mrs. Stanford's Class

For Pleasure
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness – the sequel to A Discovery of Witches.  The first book is absolutely amazing.  If you like romance, supernatural, and a well-written story then you’ll love these books!  I can’t wait for this to come out in July!

The I will probably reread this whole series, because the final installment came out and I can’t remember what’s going on!  The series is titled, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott.  This is young-adult fiction that is somewhat similar to the Percy Jackson series because it brings ancient mythologies to life in the present.

I will definitely read other books, but at this point I don’t know what they are…I’ll be checking your blogs to be inspired!

Professional Reads
math workstations

If you have any other books you recommend share away! 

I’m so glad I’m finally blogging again!  Coming soon will be my summer bucket list.  Not because you care, but hopefully by sharing it, I’ll hold myself accountable.  Moving rooms is a great opportunity for organization and I need to take advantage of it…that means I need a bucket list! 

I hope you all have a great weekend! 
Mrs. Castro
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