Worship Wednesday - Results-Oriented Prayer

"God wants to get us out of the habit of results-oriented prayer."
~Beth Moore

This past week, my friends and I met for session 6 of Beth Moore's Bible study, Jesus, the One and Only. This study has been such a great addition to my Lenten journey this year. This session in particular focused on our Lord's prayer. 

When I heard Beth say the quote above, it convicted my heart! So often, the focus of my prayers is what I want from God... whether it's petitions for people I know and love or for myself. I quickly skip to the part where I tell God what I want HIM to do for ME. Wow. How can prayer, which is a good practice, so easily bring out my selfish nature? It's really humbling to think about! 

Worship Wednesday - Loved and Accepted

I am struggling, my friends. Not with anything huge or even anything serious. Just struggling with over-scheduling myself, really. For example, I was so exhausted on Tuesday when I was getting ready for work that I forgot to wash the shampoo out of my hair... but by the time I realized what had happened, it was too late to do anything about it. I just had to rock my greasy, shampoo-coated hair all day!

Pssst! It's greasier than it looks in this picture. And it just got worse all day. 

I have had this problem my entire life... I always bite off more than I can chew! Can anyone else relate? Please tell me I'm not alone! ;P I have honorable intentions with all the goals that I have set for myself, but honestly, it's all just TOO MUCH. I feel like I am sinking under all of it. (I'm honestly struggling to keep my eyes open while I type this post.)

I don't have any big revelations this week. Just the reminder that God doesn't ask us for sacrifices and burnt offerings. (If I wasn't so tired, I would look up the actual verse for this! lol!) He doesn't expect us to "perform" for him. He accepts us right where we are--even if that means we are exhausted from our own self-induced over scheduling and our hair is greasy. (Ha!)

I hope you all have a blessed week!

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Now it's YOUR turn! 
  1. Write a blog post that includes a scripture, song, or experience that has stirred your faith this week. Be sure to use the image above in your post and link specifically to this post from your own blog. 
  2. Join the link up below. 
  3. Leave a comment on at least 2 people before you in the link-up.
This link up will go live every Wednesday. (I am doing this to challenge myself to stay in the Word even though the school year is always super busy!) Feel free to join in as often as you would like!


Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites ~ Graphic Organizers, Semantic Maps, and Word Webs (Chapter 5)

Fabulous in First  Chapter 5 (March 14th)
One Extra Degree Chapter 6 (March 17th)
Mrs. Jump’s Class Chapter 7 (March 28th)
The First Grade Parade  Chapter 8 (March 31st)
In April, you will be visiting these girls for the remainder of the study:
Mrs. Ehle’s Kindergarten Chapter 9 &10 (April 4th)
What The Teacher Wants Chapter 11 (April 7th)
First Grader At Last Chapter 12 (April 11th)
Erica’s Ed Ventures  Chapter 13 (April 14th)
KinderGals Chapter 14 &15 (April 18th)
A Rocky Top Teacher Chapter 16 (April 21st)
The Inspired Apple Chapter 17 (April 25th)
Little Warriors Chapter 18 (April 28th)
Falling Into First Chapter 19 (May 2nd)
Kickin’ it in Kindergarten Chapter 20 (May 5th)

Worship Wednesday ~ God's Lavish Love

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, 
that we should be called children of God! 
And that is what we are!
(1 John 3:1a, NIV)

I have a tendency to be really hard on myself when I feel like I have failed at something. This is a verse I return to often because it reminds me to be more gentle and forgiving of my own flaws and failures. God doesn't just love us a little bit... His love for us is LAVISH (sumptuously rich, opulent, splendid, extravagant). Wow! What a precious gift it is to be His child. 

This can be a difficult time of year during the school year. Standardized tests approach in the near future or are already happening. Spring conferences. Report cards. Not enough time to do entirely too much. It's exhausting! Wherever you are in your journey, whatever you are struggling with (personal or professional)... I pray that you feel God's LAVISH love embrace you this week and give you strength to finish the race.

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Now it's YOUR turn! 
  1. Write a blog post that includes a scripture, song, or experience that has stirred your faith this week. Be sure to use the image above in your post and link specifically to this post from your own blog. 
  2. Join the link up below. 
  3. Leave a comment on at least 2 people before you in the link-up.
This link up will go live every Wednesday. (I am doing this to challenge myself to stay in the Word even though the school year is always super busy!) Feel free to join in as often as you would like!

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites ~ Games (Chapter 4)

I'm joining up with my bloody teacher friends today to focus on Chapter 4 from our online book study of Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate. Today's focus is GAMES! At first, I felt like games really weren't my forte in my classroom, but as I read the chapter, I did feel more affirmed. This quote stopped me in my tracks, though!

While pre-kindergarten kids love to play games, 
it is also one of the 10 activities that keep people living beyond the age of 80.
(Mahoney, 2005)

Wow! Did that hit home for anyone else? More games for me, please!  If the administrators ask, I will say, "Just doing my part to increase my students' life expectancy!" :D

The first game I thought of is one of my students FAVORITE games to practice sight words. It is called ZAP! and I wrote an in-depth blog post about it here. I made it years ago, and it is still a class favorite. Some other favorite English/Language Arts games are I Have/Who Has, Sparkle Spelling, Boggle word-building, Clue-style review games, and timed textbook scavenger hunt games. 

When I first started teaching, I worked in a middle school setting with students that were emotionally disturbed. I used games A LOT in my classroom! Games helped my students practice real-life skills, such as cooperation and taking turns. It was also good to practice the appropriate way to respond when you are disappointed about losing a game or frustrated that it isn't going as well as planned. 

Games are also a lot of fun for reviewing math skills. A quick and easy game I play is FLASH! (I mistakenly first called this game Flash Me! In a middle school ED classroom. Haha!) When we are practicing a skill--such as adding decimals with regrouping--the students have to write it on their board. I give them all time to solve (including a period of time where they can get help from a friend if needed), then I say, "Flash!"  They have to flash me their boards... and if the entire class gets the answer correct, they earn a point. If they don't, then I get the point. They win by getting more points than me during a game. I love this simple game because it encourages the kids that struggle to get help from a friend so they can all be successful. 

Mind Reader is another fun math game that helps practice logic, reasoning, and place value. (I should blog about that one, too! It's great "filler" when you have a few minutes to spare!) Factor Relays get kids up and moving, but also practicing their math facts. We have also shot some hoops or measured the distance we could fly our paper airplanes... then used the data we collected to practice mean, median, mode, and range. The possibilities are endless! 

Games are also a great way to boost morale and motivation. I remember the day this photo was taken like yesterday... even though it was 6 years ago! It was Valentine's Day. My kids' brains were FRIED. I threw my lesson plans out for the day, borrowed the TV cart from the music teacher, and we played Dance Dance Revolution! The educational catch? After each round, we determined what fraction of the points were earned by the singer and what fraction of the points were earned by the dancer. Then we converted each fraction to a decimal and a percent. My kids thought it was THE BEST THING EVER... and I won back their motivation to learn. I realized how important it was that day to take time to just have fun and laugh together. Yes, we were learning, too. But more importantly we were having fun doing it

Be sure to head on over to Queen of the First Grade Jungle to join in the discussion! 

Worsheets Don't Grow Dendrites ~ Field Trips (Chapter 3)


I'm joining up with my bloggy teacher friends today to focus on chapter 3 from our online book study of Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate. Today's focus is on FIELD TRIPS!!! I knew I was going to dig this chapter from the opening sentences... 

The purpose of the brain is not to make good grades 
or to score high scores on standardized tests. 
The brain has but one purpose--survival in the real world.
Is it any wonder that the places that you travel to
in the real world are long remembered?
(Tate, 2010, p. 26)

I think it is such a tragedy that standardized testing has really limited our ability to take our students on field trips... or even let them play outside at recess! Every single minute must be accounted for. I hope that this research can change people's minds about the effectiveness of quality field trips. 

I have witnessed first-hand how powerful quality field trips can be for students, especially those from high-poverty neighborhoods. It can be so difficult for students living in poverty to make real-world connections to the curriculum because they often lack the life experience to make those connections. Getting them out into the real-world is the best way to build that knowledge! People often think of field trips as a culminating event, but for our students in poverty, it is a critical life experience to build prior knowledge in order to prepare them for our lessons. 

It's amazing to me how much MORE students remember the content once they have had the opportunity to experience it first-hand. Their vocabulary and content-knowledge starts to skyrocket! No wonder Aristotle and Socrates (historically renowned teachers) spent so much time with their students on field trips! (Krepel & Duvall, 1981)

There is nothing quite like seeing those "lightbulb" moments with your students... when they just GET IT and they are smiles for miles! (I wish I could show you how happy their faces are in these pictures!) It seriously makes all the stress that goes along with a field trip (you know what I'm talking about!!! haha!!) WORTH IT.

One of the things I loved most about this chapter is that it encouraged the implementation on campus-based field trips and virtual field trips. I have not done these as often as I would like to do, but I have seen their effectiveness. For example, before reading The Journey: Stories of Migration by Cynthia Rylant, I like to take my kids on a virtual field trip to Africa during a locust swarm and coastal California to pet a grey whale... all via YouTube, of course! It really helps them connect to the text and understand the content with more depth.  

I also love that this chapter encouraged us to take our kids outside for our lessons when we can. Read-alouds are a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. If it has recently snowed, take your kids outside for 5 minutes to experience it with all their senses, then bring them back inside to write about it. Or better yet, have them take clipboards and write about winter while they are out in the snow! (Yes, I totally did this... and afterwards, their poems TOTALLY ROCKED!!!) 

I've honestly never seen my kids MORE engaged in our curriculum than when it has been tied to a well-planned, strategic field trip. Isn't this what we WANT?! They also remember the material LONG AFTER we move on to new subjects. 

I feel like I have used this strategy as much as I was permitted in the past, but there is definitely room for growth. I want to incorporate MORE on-campus field trips and MORE time outside. I want to use the research above to encourage the administrators in our district to permit our students to go on more field trips in the community. They are SO POWERFUL!

I made a list of ideas for on-site field trips that you might like to try based on my own previous experiences.  I hope you find it helpful! Click on the picture below to download the file. 

Be sure to head on over to Mrs. Wills Kindergarten to check out other posts from our book study! 

Worship Wednesday ~ The Lord Who Heals

I learned something pretty amazing about the heart of God this week that I simply | MUST | share with you!  It comes from a verse in Exodus. The Israelites had just been delivered from Pharaoh’s army, but within days, they lost faith in God and began grumbling again. The Lord said to His people,

The word Hebrew word for heals in this scripture is raphah, which means to mend by stitching, repair thoroughly, make whole.  The Lord takes our broken pieces and literally STITCHES them back together to make us whole again.

Take a moment to just soak that in.  

The first thing that came to my mind was my grandma (pictured above).  She is quite a talented seamstress and loves to do counted cross-stitch in her spare time.  I have watched her spend hours on this labor of love. I say labor because counted cross-stitch is intense! She invests time in selecting the exact shade of string that she needs in a given section. She gathers the fabric in her hands, shines a light directly on it, and then precisely counts the tiny squares on the fabric to make sure she is sewing in just the right spot. She then does this over… and over… and over. It seems tedious, but she has a vision. It’s hard to predict the end result from the tiny details. Yet, after many hours of this intimate experience with the fabric, a beautiful piece of artwork emerges.  We can all step back and see her vision come to fruition. And it is magnificent.

My favorite cross-stitch from my Grandma, based on The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.

I love this imagery because it reminds me that God actively pursues an intimate, up close, and personal encounter with us!  To sew us back together, He must literally hold us in His hands and focus intently on every detail. It takes a vision. It takes time. It takes precision.  It takes… gulp…  a NEEDLE!

The process of healing often hurts. We must remember that with every painful penetration, His intentions are to heal us properly and make us whole again. For the process to go more smoothly, we must allow our hearts and our spirits to be pliable in His hands.

Is God trying to heal an area in your life? Have you fully submitted to His authority so that He can properly stitch you back together? I am ready to be pliable in my Savior's hands, receptive to His vision for my life. I can't wait to see what beautiful art He will create with our lives when we give Him full reign the Lord of our EVERYTHING!

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Now it's YOUR turn! 
  1. Write a blog post that includes a scripture, song, or experience that has stirred your faith this week. 
  2. Link up below. 
  3. Leave a comment on at least 2 people before you in the link-up.
This link up will go live every Wednesday. (I am doing this to challenge myself to stay in the Word even though the school year is always super busy!) Feel free to join in as often as you would like


3 Favorite Authors for Intermediate Kids that Think They Hate to Read

In over a decade of teaching, I have met many kids that try to convince me they hate to read... but it never works. When kids think they hate to read, it just means THEY HAVEN'T FOUND THE RIGHT BOOK... and I am up to the challenge!  One of my favorite ways to get kids to fall in love with reading is to introduce them to some of my favorite authors. 

ROALD DAHL.  How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! The first way I get my kids to love reading is to making it come ALIVE to them. Roald Dahl is the perfect author for this. His villains are the vilest, and we just LOVE to HATE them! I get incredibly animated when I am reading aloud, especially if I am reading aloud a Roald Dahl book. I've been known to have people poke their heads in my class to make sure everything is alright. (Oh, yes, we're alright... but we're reading Matilda and the Trunchbull just flung Amanda Thripp by her pigtails!) 


At first, my kids that "hate" to read aren't quite sure how to take me... but before long, they are the ones begging for read-aloud time! (Or maybe it's because I let them sit on top of their desks. Bribery works! Haha!) 

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SHEL SILVERSTEIN.  The next way I try to get kids to fall in love with reading is to show them how books can make them FEEL. The Giving Tree is probably my favorite children's book of all time. I read it every single year to my students because I love it so much. I also genuinely cry every single time I read it. My kids are always fascinated that a book can make someone cry, and it opens up a great conversation. Plus, his poems are tons of fun to read aloud. I like to put one up on my ELMO every single day for kids to practice reading during morning work time. They will practice his poems over and over because they are so hilarious! (They don't even realize how amazing this practice is for their fluency and expression!) 

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CHRIS VAN ALLSBURG.  Another way I get kids to fall in love with reading is to show them that books have the power to TRANSPORT them to new worlds. Chris Van Allsburg is a master at this. He often explores darker, more suspenseful topics, and kids hang on every word. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is also one of my favorite books to inspire them to write creative stories! 

What are YOUR favorite authors to help kids fall in love with reading?  I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!


Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites (Chapters 1 + 2)

I am really excited to read Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate with many of my blogging buddies. To me, this is what a true Professional Learning Community looks like--teachers coming together to "talk shop", learn, and grow. I love that we aren't bound by school districts or geography, thanks to the wonderful world-wide web!  For this session, I am linking up with Elizabeth from Kickin' it in Kindergarten for chapters 1 and 2. 

Wow! This book is so encouraging! I love having the research to back up things that I have felt were Best Practices since day one. I think this will help me move forward in confidence! 

I don't know about you, but there are many times that I feel self-conscious about the volume of my classroom when I am being observed by others. I often feel worried that the observer will think my kids are too loud or off-task... even when they AREN'T! Why do I struggle with this insecurity?  I think it's because our traditional view of classrooms had desks in rows with students sitting quietly, facing forward, and PASSIVELY RECEIVING of information. But this is not how the brain learns best... and this is not what my classroom looks or sounds like!  

I want my students to be ACTIVELY INVOLVED in the learning process. I want to challenge them to think, move, discuss, analyze, and USE the information they are encountering. I will never forget the day that I read the First Great Law of Whole Brain Teaching in Chris Biffle's book... 

The longer we talk, the more students we lose.

This hit me hard! This is exactly true! And yet, how many times do we allow our own words to dominate the entire learning experience? I know I am guilty! Sometimes, it's just easier to talk and lecture through a lesson... but it's definitely not the best way to have an impact on students and increase their comprehension of the skills they are learning. Here are a few of my favorite strategies for getting students to be actively involved in the learning process through brainstorming and discussion.  

Kagan's Cooperative Learning Structures are really helpful for getting all students actively talking in a productive way. LINE UPS (especially VALUE LINE UPS) are one of my favorite structures. You ask students a question or make a statement, then they move around the room based on how much or little they agree with the topic or statement. Students that are near each other in line can talk about why they feel that way. I also like to lead discussion between opposing views with the whole class. I used this a lot when I was a middle school intervention specialist. 

ALPHA BOXES are another one of my favorite ways to get students talking in a productive manner. Students select words from the story that are both interesting and/or important. They can meet as partners or small groups afterwards to compare and contrast the words they selected. It leads to some really great discussions about what words are most important to the text. You can read more about this strategy (and grab a FREE graphic organizer so you can try it!) here

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I am really passionate about incorporating art into my classroom practice. When I began teaching, I worked as a middle school intervention specialist with students that were labeled emotionally disturbed. So many of them struggled in school, but were gifted artists! I wanted to use art as an outlet for them to build their confidence. I love that the research backs this up! 

I have incorporated art into my classroom in so many ways over the years. Here are just a few of my favorites!

Our Black History Month 3D Portraits were a supplemental activity while students worked on their research projects.  You can read more about how we created them here

We have practiced building different types of landforms with Playdough. This drastically increased their test scores over landform vocabulary terms. 

We have also written and illustrated many of our own books, such as this non-fiction book about types of bridges. We wrote this after reading Pop's Bridge by Eve Bunting, researching different bridge structures, and creating our own out of popsicle sticks! 

Let's not forget how much fun art can be for teaching MATH concepts! For this assignment, students created Polygon Creatures and wrote a story about them. They had to include a detailed description of what they creature looked like using math terms. They also had to include specific details about their habitats. I was really impressed with how their stories turned out! 

Art is also a great way to introduce kids to mathematical terms before you teach them the content. We recreated The Scream by Edvard Munch as self-portraits in October... long before I started our unit on geometry in February! Yet, the kids remembered so many of the geometry vocabulary terms that we learned while recreating this drawing: parallel lines, intersecting lines, ray, line segment, horizontal, vertical, plane, points, and more. 

Don't worry, incorporating art into the classroom doesn't have to been overwhelming or complicated! The kids made these simple "contractions" flowers and "compound word" butterflies during centers.

I am looking forward to linking up on Tuesday for chapter 3! 
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