Friday, August 28, 2015

Five for Friday ~ August 28, 2015

Happy Friday!
I'm up early before my kids this morning and figured I'd link up for my favorite linky party... Five for Friday!  Thanks to Kacey from Doodlebugs Teaching for hosting each and every Friday.  Click the picture to join in on the fun!

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Man, are we in for a weekend here in the Bahamas.  Thanks to tropical storm Erika... things look like they are going to get interesting.  I live right about where the S is in Bahamas.  We are preparing for extensive flooding and no power for days... Did I mention that it's still mid 90s and humid?  Ugh!

My daughter's anxiety is pretty high right now with the storm coming.  I've been trying to help her understand what is going to happen and what won't happen.  I was given the advice to have lots of comfort food around to help ease the stress of the flooding and power outages.  So I made some chocolate chip cookies and whole wheat banana muffins.  No power needed to enjoy these!

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It has been stormy already this week.  We've already endured a couple long power outages and the tropical storm isn't even here yet.  Here's my two enjoying a little screen time while we still had power.  My daughter is very afraid of thunder so we used Dolphin Tale 2 to distract her.  Brother is enjoying some Power Rangers.  

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I started a blog post series about what it's like to be a teacher and have your own child struggle with reading.  The first two posts were some real honest talk.  The most recent post included some action steps parents can start to take when their children are struggling with reading.  I meant to get another post done this week about the intensive reading intervention I'm doing but storm prep has taken over.  Hopefully I'll get it posted sometime next week.  You can catch up on the series here

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Tuesday was our last preschool story hour.  Can I just say that I have the best friends and moms?  They spoiled me!  I wasn't expecting any gifts and I received a gift certificate for a massage, a teacher Tervis cup, and some authentic Bahamian gifts.  Not to mention some adorable cards from the kids!  I am so sad that it has ended but excited for everyone to head off to school, many for the first time. 
In honor of school starting we read School Bus by Donald Crews.

For the art project I drew buses on fingerpainting paper with a black sharpie.  I love this paper from Melissa and Doug.  It holds a lot of paint and gives the kids lots of room.  Then I mixed shaving cream and yellow and black paint.  The kids had fun painting their buses.  I'm in love with how they turned out.

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I haven't felt very creative this week.  Everytime I sat down to try and create a million other things were running through my mind that I had to do.  Awhile back I started a new series of products called One Book Wonders.  The idea is that all a teacher needs is one book and a few basic classroom supplies to teach a day or two.  They make great sub plans or plans for filler days before and after breaks, before or after testing, etc...  To this point I made one and it has been doing really well this week.  I really want to make one for preschool/kindergarten but have been afraid to lately with copyright fears going around lately.  The other challenge is that we don't want our preschoolers doing a bunch of worksheets.  So I've decided on a book and I hope to have it done within a week or two.  (I say two because I don't know what the power situation will be like this upcoming week.)  My current one is using the book The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems.  It is for grades 1-2.  Click the picture to grab it in my store.

The newest one will be using the book I'm Brave!  This should be timely with fire safety month approaching and there's never a bad time to teach it the rest of the year...
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On that note, my 4 year old just wandered downstairs and is wondering what I'm doing on my computer.  Time to wrap this up and get him his breakfast.  To all my friends in South Florida... stay safe and take care as the storm heads your way after us.

Happy Friday!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

When Your Own Child Struggles with Reading ~ Taking Action (Part 1)

Hello Friends!
Happy Sunday!  Got that cup of coffee?  Good!  Today I share about how I am taking action to help my daughter with her reading struggles and what your first steps can be.  If you're just stopping by for the first time you can catch up on this series with my first two posts on this topic here.  I shared some real and honest talk about what it's like to be a teacher whose child is struggling with reading and how I came to the decisions that I did.

Now it's time to take action.  We are taking action.  We have "Mamacademy" every morning.  I plan just under an hour's work.  Some days we finish real quick.  Other days it has taken us ALL MORNING!!  ALL MORNING!!!  Can you feel me?  Can you sense what these days are like?  Can you hear my frustration, exasperation, and prayers for patience??

I don't make her sit for the hour.  We take frequent breaks.  Favorite breaks are to grab a piece of gum (not allowed right before reading out loud), jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups, play dough, downward dog holds, and if we're having a really rough morning... a quick run to the little park for 10 minutes on the swing.  We intersperse these breaks between the tasks.  I also used to let her play a quick math game on her ipad but we are currently grounded from all electronics... another story for another time.  :)

So what do kids need in order to learn to read?  (Whoa!  Loaded question!)
     I'm not going to be able to go into every single detail in a blog post.  It would take several blog posts.  If, after reading this, you still have questions please leave them for me in the comments and I will respond via email.  Promise!

*Kids need to know their letters and letter sounds.  This is one of the things we do so well as parents when our kids are young.  Every parent does it differently.  Are we perfect?  Nope!  Thankgoodness for preschool and kindergarten teachers who fill in the gaps for us.  There are tons of resources out there to help you help your child learn their letters and sounds.  You can read books and do letter crafts.  This is what I do every Tuesday with toddlers and preschoolers in the neighborhood as well as my own son who is 4.  Here's our playroom wall where I display our letter projects...
  I've also just discovered play dough mats.  These are terrific for kids.  Not only do they get the sensory experience of playing with the play dough, they also get practice forming letters in a fun way.  This is a great resource for free mats...

If your kids are older and ready for more of a worksheet format, Babbling Abby has this free resource which Suri and I LOVED doing during her kindergarten year...

*After kids know their letters and sounds they are ready to start learning how to put those letters and sounds together.  We're talking simple two letter words like ~at, ~in ~if ~up ~of, etc...  Get those magnetic letters out, make some letter tiles, save your lids and label them with letters.  Whatever works for you.  Do you or did you watch Sesame Street as a child?  Do you remember the parts where they teach how to put sounds together to form words? Just like that!  Do it over and over and over again.  Do it in the bath, do it in the car, wherever, whenever.  Practice practice practice!

*Next comes three letter words.  This is what Suri and I are currently reviewing.  This is easy peasy for her but I'm building her confidence and feelings of success as a reader by going back to this step.  Plus I can make sure she REALLY knows them and clear up any and all confusions.  We are using a resource I purchased on Teachers Pay Teachers several years ago when I was looking to change up my word work and how I taught reading strategies during my guided reading groups.  The resource is this one:

Guided Reading 101: Printables, Strategies and Word Work 

Deanna does a great job of explaining where to start with young readers...

 We are breezing through the short vowels.

Here's her word work in her notebook...

I had her build the words with the letter tiles provided in the resource.  Then she had to read the words.  Next I had her write the words.  Finally I had her use the word tiles to form the sentence and then she wrote it in her notebook.  This took her less than 10 minutes.

Now word work is only one component of learning to read and reading instruction.  Readers also need explicit instruction in what readers do when they read, what they think about, and how they respond to reading.

When readers read they need to pay attention to three different cueing systems:

*Meaning: does it make sense?

*Syntax: does it sound right?

*Visual: does it look right?

Readers are usually stronger in one area than all the others.  I was a syntax reader.  I could sound out any word put in front of me.  I just read words.  I struggled with meaning.  I still read fast and forget to check for meaning even as an adult.  

Tuesday I'll dig in deep and show you how I'm doing my daughter's reading instruction using an amazing new resource by my teaching besties: 2 Literacy Teachers.  You'll want to come back and see everything it has and how much it is helping!

~See you Tuesday!

Friday, August 21, 2015

When Your Own Child Struggles with Reading ~ Real Talk (Part 2)

 Hello Friends!
Welcome back for part two of my real talk about when your own child struggles with reading.  Yesterday I shared the history of our struggle.  You can read it here.  Today I want to share about second grade, some decisions we made, and what is working.

Yesterday I left off with the end of first grade.  As I was thinking and reflecting on my post I realized that there were some positives about her first grade year here.  The biggest one was the math program her school used.  They used Singapore Math.  It was my first exposure to Singapore Math and I really like it.  I like the strategies they teach the kids and the way the content is taught.  The scope and sequence is really good and on par with what first graders need to know.  The other positive was that in combination with her reading instruction and the resources I was supporting her with at home, she was making progress.  Slow progress, but progress nonetheless.

But her school refused to promote her to second grade.  I knew she was ready to do second grade work given the chance.  So I went to the principal of the new school a mile from our house and I begged.  The director of the school was the same director of her school from first grade so I made sure to let her know what I was doing and asking.  The good news was that they said yes and Suri moved on to second grade.  She had a WONDERFUL teacher.  She had a relationship with this teacher which is crucial in getting Suri to perform for you.  If she likes you she's much more likely to do what you ask.  She made a ton of progress this year in reading.  She made some progress in math.  It was a fantastic year and I was so hopeful.

I WAS so hopeful.....

Then I learned about who her third grade teacher would be.  It is not a good match for Suri.  There is only one teacher per grade level at this school.  We worked so hard to overcome a really tough first grade year.  We can't go backwards...  What to do???

Could we put her through another transition?  

Talk about agonizing....

At the end of the school year we were also deciding whether we wanted to stay another two years or head back home to Seattle.  With her education seeming to be suffering we ultimately made the decision to head home.  So our family will be moving home to Seattle in November/December.  But what to do for the beginning of her third grade year??

Homeschool??  Would our mother/daughter bond survive knowing how challenging working together has been in the past??

Leave her in her current school and hope the warnings were wrong and a couple of months won't do too much damage??

Send her to another school?  A school that could meet all her needs but is on the other side of the island and is basically a self-contained classroom?

Ultimately we decided on the other school.  It is very similar to a self-contained classroom back in the states.  Is it her least restrictive environment?  No.  Is she loved, nurtured, and being pushed to perform at her highest ability?  Absolutely.  She attended the school for their summer session and is doing so well there.  She has bonded with her teacher and teacher assistants.  She is learning to sign with her classmates that are non-communicative.  She is learning to show compassion and empathy for her classmates whose struggles are greater than hers.  But she still has some gaps...

I had to have a real and honest conversation with myself.  

Yes, working with her is hard.  Yes, there are tantrums and tears and whining and yelling.  But this is what I know how to do.  This is what I'm good at.  She's my daughter.  I HAVE to do this for her.  I HAVE to show her how amazing reading is.  Time to dig in and get it done.  No more excuses!

So along with the intense instruction she is receiving at her new school we have started "Mamacademy".  She is enjoying a 2 week break currently until school resumes in September so we have Mamacademy in full swing.  We work every morning for 1-2 hours at our table.  I say 1-2 hours because it depends on her.  Some days we work smoothly through everything and we are done in an hour.  Other days there are tantrums and tears and whining.... it takes a lot longer.  What are we doing?  Intense reading intervention.

**I know that she knows her letters and sounds.

**I know that she knows her short vowel sounds but occasionally confuses them when reading.

**I know that she struggles with long vowel patterns.

**I know that she doesn't use her reading strategies when she comes to word she doesn't know.

**I know that she knows Fry's first 200 words for her sight words.

**I know that she really struggles with reading comprehension.

So knowing all this where do I start??

I'm starting with reviewing short vowel sounds.  Yes she pretty much knows them but I want her to buy into working with me and I can do that by building her confidence.  I can review short vowel sounds with her, she feels confident and successful because it's relatively easy for her, and mom and Suri are happy.  Mother/daughter relationship intact.  :)

What am I using?  Two resources:

Deanna Jump's Guided Reading 101: Printables, Strategies, and Word Work.  You can get it here.

Reading Reflex... a book that details a reading intervention program widely used in the US.

Want to know where to start with your child?  Want to know more about what kids need and in what order when they learn to read?  Grab your cup of coffee and check back in on Sunday when I share some action steps and resources to get you started and how we are using the above resources.

See you Sunday~  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

When Your Own Child Struggles with Reading ~ Real Talk (Part 1)

Hello Friends!
Today I'm going to share about a struggle that has been happening in our house for a couple of years now.  I'm sure I'm not alone in this struggle and I hope that by sharing what I know I can help others out there struggling along with us.

I have been a first and second grade teacher for 15 years.  That means I have been teaching children how to read for 15 years.  I am pretty good at it.  My scores were always pretty good as far as kids making benchmark at the end of the year.  But I also knew how to inspire kids to love reading.  That is, until my daughter came along and started to struggle with learning to read.  From the day we met her (at 18 months) she wouldn't sit still for a book.  Reading books with her was always a struggle.  We would start and she would wiggle off our laps and head off to play.  When it was bedtime she'd just want to be snuggled, no books.  So we told her stories.  We talked to her.  We played with her.  We did what we knew how to do.

She's a teacher's kid.  There's no excuse, right?  That's what I told myself and berated my self with.  What teacher's kid doesn't love to read?  Mine.

I tried and tried and tried to work with her.  Everytime I tried it turned into a battle.  I don't do battles but this was a battle I tried to fight.  Unsuccessfully.

Finally first grade rolled around and she started receiving Title One services.  She was a little behind, but not so much that some intervention and good instruction from her teachers couldn't overcome.  Then came the move to the Bahamas.  November of first grade.  She was out of school for about 3 weeks with the hotel time in Seattle and the time it took us to get settled, find the paperwork, and register her for school here.  I tried to work with her.  Have you ever tried working with your child in a hotel room with a 2 year old little brother running around?  Not easy.  Not impossible, but not easy.
Our temp housing here was a little more conducive for getting some school work in.  We had a 2 bedroom suite with a kitchen.  Little brother could be outside at the pool with his daddy or in another room watching tv or playing with his trucks.  We worked.  But it was a struggle.  But I figured something out.  If we worked through the tantrums and the tears real learning started to happen.  We were making progress.

Our first Thanksgiving in the Bahamas as well as our "school" table.

She started school at a wonderful school.  Unfortunately she didn't have a wonderful teacher.  School is different here.  If you're not the average achieving kid schools really can't accommodate you.  Teachers seem unsure of what to do.  Intervention?  Never heard of it.  Accommodations?  Depends on the teacher.  I had her put back in a kindergarten classroom for reading instruction since that's where she was in regards to her Bahamian peers.  They thought I was crazy for suggesting it but if her first grade teacher couldn't teach her to read, someone had to.

Looking back now I think "Why didn't I just pull her and start homeschooling her?"  Then I have to be real and honest and understand that I was miserable back then.  I missed my friends like crazy.  We had been stuck in temp housing for a month.  We were finally moving into our home here.  It was the holidays and all the craziness that they bring.  I was transitioning from working full time to being a stay at home mom.  I was having a hard time transitioning.  I was stuck at home with two kids with no car and I was miserable.  Miserable in that I threw my first adult temper tantrum as an adult.  My poor husband.  He was a trooper though.  Some days I just walked out when he came home.  I would take the keys and drive.  Many times I ended up at the ocean.  Something about the ocean just helped calm my soul.  It was there I would pray... pray for patience, strength, resilience, grace, for His help, for His guidance.  I would go home ready and refreshed to keep plugging away.

Someone said something to me back then and I think it rings really true... "A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child". 

She managed to finish her first grade year but I was shocked to discover that they gave letter grades (A,B,C,D,F) to first graders.  Her grades were terrible but I really didn't care.  I knew that it wasn't a true reflection of her strengths and weaknesses.  The school decided that they wanted to retain her and let her have another year in first grade.  I refused.  She does not have a learning disability.  She struggles with attention but she is so smart and very capable.  I was on the hunt for a new school for the next school year... second grade.

Tomorrow I share about the progress she made in 2nd grade and the recent schooling decisions I have made, as well as resources for where to start when a child is struggling with reading.   

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sunday at Sandy Toes... A Perfect Beach Day!

Hello Friends!
What a wonderful weekend it was!  My husband had 4 days off and we really tried to enjoy it to its fullest.  We decided to head out to Sandy Toes (Rose Island) for the day on Sunday.  We hadn't been out there in over a year.  It's so gorgeous and peaceful out there.  Sundays are the days they welcome locals with their boats and everyone enjoys the beach, the bar, and the grill.  Well, we don't have our own boat but they will take you out there on theirs for a very reasonable price.  So off we went...

 We love the boat rides out to different islands.  There's nothing like the beautiful color of the water and the breeze in your face on a hot day.

I couldn't agree more!

We headed straight for the beach.

The water is so warm right now.  I just love floating around and relaxing.  I probably spent the first couple hours in the water.

So did my daughter...

My son equally loves the sand and the water.  We call him sandman at the beach.

Someone found a very recently dead barracuda in the water and brought him ashore to show the kids.  They loved it.  They spent a good deal of time moving him to a spot where he could be easily observed.  Science at the beach!

Sunday is the day Bahamians bring their boats out to Sandy Toes.  The locals hang out up at the beach bar, you can order food from the grill, and chill in the water.  My daughter's friend from school was there with her family.  The girls spent a majority of the afternoon jumping off their boat.  Here's a view of about half the boats...
As the afternoon was winding down we'd had enough sun and were ready for some shade.  We headed up to the bar and deck and enjoyed some non-alcoholic pina coladas...
Anyone else singing along right now too??

Sadly 5:30 rolled around and we had to head to the boat for our ride back.  There was a group of 4 people who nearly missed the boat.  We had already pulled away when they came down to the dock.  Our captain had warned us that the boat leaves on time.  He said his boss would've told him to leave them but he just couldn't do it.  So we went back for them.  This boat doesn't run on island time!  

Somebody fell asleep shortly after for the whole ride back...

It was a great day.  Everyone had so much fun.  We are trying to enjoy our time here as we only have about 3 months left.  Days like this make me wish we could stay forever...


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Five for Friday ~ August 14, 2015


Hello Friends!
Happy Friday!  It's a good Friday in our house.  My husband has a 4 day weekend this weekend and we are looking forward to lots of family time.  He only gets weekends off every 6 weeks.  So the 4 day weekends are special.  It's also my daughter's last day of summer school until school starts again on September 2.  Thanks to Kacey from Doodlebugs Teaching for hosting this fab linky.  Click the picture to join in on the fun!

This week I have been working on copying all the photos on my laptop onto a USB drive.  My mac is 8 years old and still chugging along.  When I took it in to the Apple Store the last time I was in the states they recommended I remove the photos to help speed my computer up.  So as I've been doing this I've stumbled across some fun photos.  This Five for Friday is five fun photos that I found...

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I LOVE this picture.  I used to come home from work on my husband's days off and he and Suri would be building her "castle".  Correction, her daddy would be building her castle around her.  It was one of her favorite things to do with her daddy.  We had a LOT of megablocks.  :)

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She was a fashionista from an early age... what else can I say??
So was Levi.  It must run in the family...
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Count them... 4 kids!  What a crazy, fun, exhausting, whirlwind year that was!  4 kids ages 4 and under.  Levi is the droopy dragon.  He ended up falling asleep in the stroller as we took the other three out trick-or-treating.  Looking back it was one of the best years of our lives.  Suri still considers the boys her brothers and they are forever family to us.

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One of my faves of Suri and Levi.  With four kids at the time I didn't catch as many of these brother sister pictures as I could have but this one sure is precious.  Levi is probably 5 months.  Suri would be 3 years old.

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 I just love this picture I took of Levi and his daddy walking.  I remember this day because it had been raining for a few days (What?  Rain in Seattle?) and the kids were restless.  We went out for a walk during a welcome break in the rain.  Levi is about 20 months in this picture, so still toddling around.