5 Ways to Make Partner Talk Effective and Productive

Imagine this. You are teaching a mini lesson. You pose a question to your class and say, "Turn and talk to your neighbor!"

What usually happens?

3 kids just sit there. 3 kids ask every other kid in the room to be their partners, but never actually end up with a partner. Some kids pair up and just stare at each other. Maybe a third of the class is actually doing what you asked them to do..?

How can we make this time more effective and productive for our students?
Hippo Hooray for Second Grade
Some call it Pair/Share, some call it Turn 'n Talk, but it's all the same: Partner talk is a proven strategy to promote oral language development, increase student engagement, and deepen their understanding of the content. Instead of students raising their hands and only one or two get the chance to share with the whole class (while everyone else is tuning them out...), now everyone gets a chance to talk. Everyone gets the chance to be heard. And when students are conversing about academic topics, learning is happening!

Here are a few tips to make partner talk successful in your classroom:

1. Assign Partners

I never ever EVER allow my students to choose a partner in the moment. By choosing my students' partners for them, I am assured they are working with someone appropriate for them. I'm also eliminating the struggle of students not participating during partner talk time.

2. Keep Partnerships Long-Term

I keep my partnerships together for at least a semester, and I'm thinking about keeping my current partners together for even longer. Why? By having the same partners, students form relationships and trust between each other. It's comfortable and familiar for them. It makes the discussions less awkward, and they become more deep and meaningful.

3. Partners Sit by Each Other 

I teach almost all of my lessons at the carpet, so when I ask my students to join me up front, they know they are supposed to sit next to their partner. That way, when I ask them to turn and talk, their partner is right there and they can get started right away!

4. Give Each Partner a Name

Peanut Butter & Jelly. Salt & Pepper. Partner A & Partner B (Boring? Yes. But functional). Make sure your students know who's who. That way when you tell your students to turn and talk, you will also say, "Peanut Butter Partner goes first." and there's no arguing about who has to (or gets to) go first.

5. Post Your Partnerships

You always have one or two students who "forget" who their partners are, so by having a list of partnerships posted, you can eliminate time wasted trying to find out who their partner is. It is also incredibly helpful if you have a substitute in your classroom.
I hang this on a bulletin board close to my carpet area so kids can check if they need to.

How Do I Assign Partners?

In general, I partner students up with children of similar abilities. That way, they can have discussions and conversations about topics at their level, rather than one person carrying the conversation. I assign each student a reading partner, a writing partner, and a math partner. In math we also have clock partners with heterogeneous pairings, but we'll save that info for another post. Oh and by the way, don't forget that Common Core is big on peer editing in writing. Those writing partners come in very handy for that standard! I have a peer editing checklist freebie HERE if you're interested :)

What if you have an odd number of students? I make a group of 3. But I am purposeful when making this group. Usually I will put an ELL, speech student, or a special ed student in the group of 3 so they have two other children to look to for, and there is less pressure for them to talk.

What is the Teacher Doing While the Students are Talking?

When students are talking, I'm popping around from group to group, listening in. At the halfway point, I'll call out, "Switch!" to allow the other partner to talk, if needed. After a minute or two of partner talking, I'll stop the partner talking, and I will share out what the students said. "Oh my gosh! Sarah shared something really smart. She said _______."

Sometimes when partners are talking, they miss the answer or point and don't say what I want them to say. In those instances, I just make it up when I share out :) I'll say, "Someone in the back, I don't remember who it was, said ________." and in the blank, I'll say what I was hoping to hear from the conversations.

I never allow my students to repeat what they said to their partner to the whole class. I always do the final share after the partner talk is over. Why not? Because then we're back to one student talking and the rest of the students being disengaged. Plus, we all know what happens when you let a student share with the whole class when you're trying to wrap up your lesson....

Do you use partner talk in your classroom? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

For more classroom ideas, check out my Pinterest Board:

6 Reasons to Use Reader's Theatre in Your Classroom

Reader's Theatre: not just for beginning readers! 

I just love using reader's theatre in my classroom! Reader's theatre is defined as a group of readers who "perform" a grade-level text for an audience, usually without scenery, props, costumes, and most importantly, without the stress and pressure of students memorizing their lines.

Here are 6 reasons why you should be using reader's theatre in your classroom too!

1. Increases Reading Fluency

Research shows that students who read with fluency have better comprehension of the texts they read. Reader's theatre scripts help increase oral reading fluency as students need to practice their parts numerous times before they perform them to their audience.

2. Encourages Reluctant Readers

You will find that reader's theatre is a great motivation for your lowest readers. Mine tend to choose to take on major roles (narrator, main characters) and have truly risen to the occasion. Seeing their faces when they perform in front of their peers and their grown ups makes my teacher heart soar! I've even had a few parents come up to me after the performance, thanking me for helping to build their child's confidence.

3. Encourages Fluent Readers

Fluent readers benefit too, as they can focus on the expression in their dialogue and are able to dig deeper when exploring the genre and their characters.

4. Allows Students to Perform and Practice Public Speaking Skills

Do you have any actors and actresses in your class? Or maybe you do, but they just haven't been discovered yet! Reader's theatre allows students to be dramatic and "ham it up" in front of their classmates and grown ups. We also used our performances as an opportunity for students to practice projecting their voices and not holding their scripts in front of their faces!

5. Increases Student Focus and Engagement

In order for reader's theatre to be successful, all readers in the group need to be paying attention, ready to read when it's their turn. Nobody wants to be put on the spot when they aren't ready to say their lines.

6. It's Easy and Fun!

OK, so I know that sounds like a weak reason, but really it's not. Who has time to create scenery, costumes and props for a play? I sure don't! Reader's theatre is super easy to implement. You'll also find your students are so excited to perform their script in front of their audience. It's so fun to watch your class take ownership and lead their groups through the performances.

Now that we know why, let's talk about how.

I typically take about a week and a half for our reader's theatre unit. I like to use reader's theatre at the end of the school year (when teaching seems more like crowd control) due to reason number 5 above :) Here's a brief breakdown on how I implement it:


I first start by introducing the drama genre and the characteristics of the genre. I consulted a friend of mine, who is a theatre director at my local high school for a list of characteristics. I was also fortunate to have a student this year who performs in the plays at the local chidren's playhouse, so I let her do most of the talking :)


Then we talk about the difference between a play and reader's theatre. I introduced the four scripts we were going to use and gave a brief synopsis of each. Then I picked names at random for students to choose their parts.


We discuss the importance of fluency and expression and using a loud, sharing voice (level 4 voice in my room). We also talk about making sure you're following along when it's not your turn to speak, so that you are ready when it IS your turn.

DAYS 4-8ish

Then it's time to practice! I assigned each group a corner of the room. We practiced two times a day for 5 days. I also let them read their parts in the script during Read to Self. Gauge your class to see if you need more or fewer days to practice.

A few days before the performance, we sent out invitations. We invited our families to come in to see us perform.
Click HERE if you want a freebie copy of the invite


On the day of the performance, we decided on the order in which the plays would be performed. I just picked student names at random, and if I picked a group member's name, then that whole group would go. I set up the chairs at the front of my classroom. Students picked a chair ahead of time, so that there wouldn't be any confusion or two kids going for the same chair. Before our families came, I pushed all the desks to the back of my classroom and pulled as many chairs as I could for the grown ups. Then my students sat on the floor in front of them.

The trickiest part of implementing reader's theatre... finding reader's theatre scripts that are appropriate for your readers. I've found that most reader's theatre scripts are meant for beginning readers (K-1) who are working on fluency and expression. And the ones that are written at the 2nd-3rd grade reading levels are ridiculously long! I bought a 2-3 grade reader's theatre kit and each script was about 10-15 minutes to perform. Multiply that by the 4-5 groups I have.... #aintnobodygottimeforthat And not only that, but the scripts were super boring.

So last year I decided to write my own!
I love that these scripts take approximately 4-5 minutes to perform, are funny and engaging, and the storylines are relevant to what our students are experiencing and are interested in. You can see all my reader's theatre scripts in my TpT store HERE!

Do you use reader's theatre in your classroom? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below!


When You Teach at the Same School Your Children Attend

I never wanted to be at the same school as my kids. I was always fearful that I would struggle with separating being a mom and being a professional. My son is a typical, "active" boy, and I didn't want any tension between my colleagues and me if/when we needed to have those tough conversations about him.

When he went to kindergarten last year, we were at separate schools. But then our lives changed when my husband got a new job. When we found out we were going to be moving, I also got a new job at a school in the town we were moving to. Then when we found our house, it turned out that our children would be attending my new school. I suddenly realized there was no getting out of this one. We were going to be at the same school this year.

Benefits of being at the same school:

It is so special to see your child interacting with his teachers, classmates, and friends. Very few parents get to see this at all, and I get to see it every day! Here is my boy getting a math award that I never would've been able to see if we didn't go to the same school.
Do you teach at the same school your children attend? Check out this blog posts for tips to make both you and your child(ren)'s experience a positive one.

It's so cute when I'm in the middle of a math lesson and I hear, "Hi Mom!" shouted into my classroom as his class walks by on their way to specials, and then my class will shout "hi" back to him :)

YOU'RE KNOWN AS "_______'S MOM" 
I love getting to know who his friends are! And they're so cute when they come up to ask me if I'm his mom.

When he comes home frantic that he needs 5 boxes of mac and cheese for the food drive by TOMORROW, you can calm Dad down by telling him that the deadline is actually three weeks away. But more than school events, you know the curriculum and the programs your child's teacher uses, so you can better help him/her be successful at school.

Tips for making your experience successful:

Seriously. Get snacks and DO NOT run out! Some of the snacks I keep in my cabinet and fridge are supplies to make PB&J, string cheese, a bag of clementines, a giant box of Goldfish, yogurt, and fruit cups. He's always starving after school, and I really don't want to hear for 30 minutes (or however long I stay after school to work) about how hungry he is. And it's also nice on the days he forgets to bring a snack for snack time because he just takes something from my cabinet.

After his snack, he does his homework and nightly reading at one of the tables in my room. That way, when we get home, we can play.

He sharpens pencils for me, counts good behavior tickets and fills in my PBIS chart, takes books back to the library, delivers things to other classrooms. I keep him busy!

I try not to do this too much, but sometimes he just can't be quiet and I have work to do! I will let him play on my phone, iPad, or even GoNoodle. He has his own GoNoodle account separate from my class's. Here's a little video of him I shared on IG a few weeks ago. It cracks me up every. single. time!

I have meetings 2 days a week after school, so we arranged for a responsible high schooler to meet him at the bus stop on those days and stay with him for an hour or two until I get home. It's also nice to have some quiet time after the meetings to get my work done.

I let her know that we are aware of his "activeness" (see GoNoodle video above), and to please treat me like any other parent. If she has a concern, I want her to tell me. I also work very hard to not discuss my child every time I see his teacher. I want to have a professional, collegial relationship with her, just like I do with the rest of my coworkers.

If you see a student running down the hall, you would probably shout after them to "WALK!" and then move on. If you see your child running down the hall, do the same thing. Don't call him over and give him a 5 minute spiel about how we walk in school. I always ask myself, "If I wasn't working here, would I find out this happened?" If the answer is no, then I leave it alone.

The Verdict

I never thought I'd say this, but I love that my son and I are at the same school! It's like something special that just he and I have together. I love that we drive to school together (even though most days he cries that Dad doesn't take him to school), and that we go home together. We have the same schedule, which is great for breaks, vacation, and days off. And when he forgets to bring his snow boots home, I can run in on the weekends to grab them! I'm going to be sad when he goes to middle school in 4 years!

Do your children go to your school? Leave a comment below and tell me about your experience!


I'm a Third Grade Teacher!!

If you follow me on Instagram, this isn't news to you. But I figured I should probably make this "blog official," seeing as we're 50 days into my school year. <<sarcasm intended>>

Back in July, my husband was offered and accepted a new position as the head principal of a high school of 1,600 students. While this was an amazing opportunity for all of us, it also came with some sad news: I would have to quit my job and we'd have to move. All of these life changes were unfolding right around the TpT conference in Vegas, so I apologize to anyone who was stuck listening to my sob story!! I'm normally not that emotional in real life! HA!

At first, I resigned to the fact I probably wouldn't be teaching this school year. I can't imagine many schools are looking for teachers six weeks before school starts. I had been in my previous position for 10 years, so I had no resume, cover letter, letters of reference, or anything else I'd need to get a new job. But after about 2 weeks of feeling like I had no identity without my classroom, I knew I had to at least try to get a job.

Well, it took about 3 weeks, but I got job! I am teaching third grade at an amazing school in the same district as my husband. I'm still unpacking boxes in my classroom and trying to figure out my new space (hence the lack of a "classroom reveal" blog post this year). But here are a few photos of my new classroom:
So far I'm loving third grade! Although, when people ask me what I teach, I have to make a conscious effort to say "third grade." In fact, it still sounds a little weird coming out of my mouth. And I may have sent my kids out to recess at the wrong time on the first day of school because I was looking at the second grade schedule :)

Hippo Hooray for Third Grade?!

Nope! My blog name is going to be staying the same. I always felt I was a more intermediate second grade teacher, rather than a primary second grade teacher anyway. My content will still be applicable to second grade, but I'll also be able to put a third grade spin on it. I'm really excited to begin blogging again. My new school is a Teacher's College Lab School, so trainers from New York come to my school to coach us and we get a first peek at the new reader's and writer's workshop Units of Study. I am learning SO much about workshop and learning how I can make it my own, and I can't wait to share it all with you.

In the meantime, check out my Pinterest board for third grade! I've invited a few of my third grade blogging friends to pin with me, and we have collected lots of great ideas so far!


RECAP: Wisconsin Teacher Blogger Back to School BASH

A few weeks ago, Jessica from Mrs. Plemons' Kindergarten and I hosted a meet up for Wisconsin bloggers and TpT authors. Honestly, we were just hoping we wouldn't be the only ones in attendance! Haha!! So you can imagine how thrilled we were when we were joined by over 20 other amazing bloggers/TpTers at our event!
After introductions, we got our craft on! Everyone received a bottle of hand sanitizer, and we decorated the bottle with sharpies and ribbon. It was such a sweet and practical gift to take back to our classroom. Take that, Cold and Flu Season!
Along with all the fun and socializing, Jess and I wanted to make sure the event was worthwhile to our blogging and TpT lives. So we created a list of our Top 5 Blogging/TpT Tips and Top 5 Social Media Tips. It was so awesome to have conversations and collaborate with our peers!

Of course there was food:
And we even took a brain break with a Name that GoNoodle Champ contest, sponsored by our friends at GoNoodle!
  Jess and I were so fortunate to be supported by MANY generous donors for our giveaways!

We also had SIX grand prizes, thanks to our amazing donors: Tailwind, Kendra Scott, Teaching in the Tongass, and ESGI.
All in all, we had over $15,000 in giveaway prizes and swag! Everyone left a winner! It was truly an AMAZING outpouring of support for our event!

Our phenomenal group!

Knowing that not all of our friends would be able to join us, we want to give YOU, our awesome readers, to win something as well! We have TWO $25 gift certificates to Teacher Created Resources to give away! Enter through the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends at 11:59PM on Friday, September 11th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We truly had a blast connecting, collaborating, and sharing with each other. This is definitely going to be an annual event. Will you be joining us next year? We sure hope so!!


Independent Reading Routines: The Reading Spot

I'm struggling to stay above water at my new school and in my new grade level (YES! Many changes around here, but we'll have to save that story for another day!), but I just HAD to put my school work on hold for a few minutes to share this nugget of AWESOMENESS with you!

My new school is a Teacher's College Reading and Writing Workshop lab school. I am amazed by the amount of trainings and resources we have at our fingertips, and I am beyond excited to jump into the deep end of that pool! But coming from a Daily 5 mindset, there are a few new routines I need to wrap my head around.

I've been meeting with my instructional coach, and we've been discussing establishing routines for independent reading time. Yesterday she suggested that my students choose a "reading spot" and sit that spot for the whole month.

My first thought was, WHAT?! When I did Daily 5, my students chose a new spot for Read to Self every day. Wouldn't I be taking away student choice and ownership?? Besides, everyone needs a change of scenery every now and then. What if they didn't want to sit in that spot the next day? Also I don't have enough reading pillows and carpet squares for everyone to have one. So how will I make the use of those fun reading materials fair?

But, I went along with her suggestion despite my reservations. She's an expert after all, right?

Well, it didn't take me more that 3 minutes of my instructional coach teaching my mini lesson to realize that this idea is GENIUS!
Think about where you read/work at home. I'm usually parked in the same spot on the couch in my living room when I'm reading. Do I find a new spot every time I sit down to read? Usually not... unless one of my kids is being distracting!

We picked students' names at random, they grabbed a reading pillow or carpet square if desired and available, and then chose their spots. I wrote down everyone's spot, even down to what color pillow they will be using. This will be especially helpful if there is a sub in my room and someone tries to pull a fast one :) We practiced several times setting up and cleaning up. My students were able to get ready for reading and clean up in less than 45 seconds for each transition!
There was no arguing over the pillows. There was no racing to sit by certain people. There wasn't any wandering around the room, wondering where to sit. No more wasting time "getting started right away."

They got their book boxes and pillow/carpet square, went to their spots, and got down to business.

In less than 45 seconds.


We were focused on reading during independent reading time. Not trying to hide behind a bookshelf for the 37th time and then me having to talk to the student like it's the first time I've had to tell them that.
I did tell my students that if there was a day that they wanted to sit in their desks instead of their spots, that's fine. So their options are their reading spot or their desks. That's it.

I wrote down the names of the last three students that chose spots. They will go first next month. Each month we will choose a new reading spot.

Semi-permanent reading spots are here to STAY in my classroom! What do you think? Will you give it a try?

For more Reader's Workshop ideas, check out my Pinterest board!


Daily Lesson Objectives: More Than Just Wallpaper in your Classroom

How many of you display your daily objectives/learning targets in your class?

I'm thinking many of you do. Here's a snippet of my Goals Board. I sectioned off part of my front board with washi tape and put up these cute subject cards. Yes, normally I have goals written on it, but this photo was taken before my Open House last year.
So you have your objectives displayed. But then what? Maybe before your lesson, you read the objective aloud to your students?

I used to do that. And then one day, I took a hard look at my students while I was reading my objective. Guess what I saw?

A whole lot of blank faces. 
Maybe there were two or three kids really listening. You know those few kids. The ones who are angels and are always listening no matter what. But two or three out of 22 students is NOT a good percentage. This was not going to work!

How can I make my lesson objectives board more than just wallpaper in my classroom?

I made a change. I still read my objective to my students. Sometimes I have them read with me. But before I dive into my lesson, I make my students interact with the lesson objective. This makes them active, engaged learners right from the get-go. It also gets them thinking about what they'll be learning during the lesson. Here are some strategies I use when introducing my learning target at the beginning my lesson:
This works great for third grade and up. I tried this with my second graders one year, and while they could do it, it did take them longer than I would've liked. When we are interacting with the goal, I try to keep it short and sweet. But writing the goal helps to solidify it in your students' brains. You can have your students write the goal in their notebooks.

We do a lot of this in my second grade class.  I type up all my unit objectives, and my students glue them their notebooks. We read the learning target together, and then we work to pick out the important words to either highlight or underline. Underlining is faster, but highlighting stands out more. If your kids don't have highlighters (or they lose them like a few of my friends always do), I tell them to use a yellow marker.

This is a great strategy for getting students to think about what they already know about the objective. You can do this a few ways: Thumb up, thumb to the side, thumb down; holding up fingers, or writing in their notebooks. When we use our interactive notebooks, my students give themselves a before learning rating right on the table of contents page in their notebooks. We use a 3, 2, 1 scale, with 3 being "I know many things about the learning target and could teach a friend."

My students are all assigned a "pair share buddy" that sits near them. That way, when it's time to turn and talk, they aren't spending the whole time looking for someone to talk to. Some things partnerships can talk about:
---Read the objective to each other
---Restate the objective in your own words
---What do you already know about the objective?
---What words don't you know? Maybe your partner can tell you what they mean!

These strategies are meant to be a spring board into the rest of your lesson. There are SO many other ways you can activate your students' prior knowledge and prime them for learning after you introduce your learning target. I try to keep this part of my lesson to less than three minutes.

Do your students interact with your learning goals? If not, I encourage you to give it a try this upcoming year!


Advice for New Teacher Moms

Today I want to share some tips and advice for teachers who are also moms. And if you're not a mom (or a dad!), stay tuned because I have a freebie that could work for everyone at the end!
My kiddos! Sly is 5 years, MC (Middle Child) is 3 years, and Muffin is 10 months.
I have three kids, which means I've been on maternity leave three times. I've heard many stories from teachers across the country about what their schools expect from them while on maternity leave. I am thankful that at my school, they hired a licensed teacher to take my place for up to 12 weeks.

I wrote a 20-ish page document I lovingly called "How to Run my Classroom" and gave it to my long-term substitutes. Haha!! I hope I didn't scare them too much! I met with each of them for at least a half-day before my leave to show them around my classroom, meet my students, and answer questions.
Is it hard to completely disconnect? Yes... and no :) Once you're holding your baby, all you'll be thinking about is feeding, diapers, and sleep. If you're trying to manage a baby and a toddler, or in my case last time, I had a kindergartener, a toddler, and a baby, then the days REALLY fly by. I also felt that for 12 weeks, my classroom wasn't mine-- my long term substitute needed to run my class in the ways that worked best for her. And even the best substitute in the world isn't me. No matter what, I would have to change things when I got back. So I let her do her thing, and then I did mine when I got back. Kids are flexible. When they would question me ("That's not how Mrs. _____ did it."), I would reply, "I know. But this is the way we're going to do it now." and my students were fine. I am thankful for AMAZING teammates who know exactly what I want in my classroom and who were willing to help and mentor my long-term substitutes.

My leaves were unpaid, but I could use my sick/personal days to get partially paid. Although you can imagine how many days left I had after 3 children in 5 years... When my MC was born, I sent Sly to daycare for three half-days. When Muffin was born, Sly was in kindergarten and I sent MC to daycare for three full days. I am thankful for an understanding husband and the ability to save money so I could have one-on-one time with my new babies.

What about when it's time to go back?
Two of my maternity leaves were at the very beginning of the school year. Let me tell you, that was HARD! Another teacher set up my classroom. Another teacher built my classroom community. And then here I come waltzing in 12 weeks later, and, "HEY KIDS! I'm your teacher. Now let's get to work!" I remember after my first maternity leave, I looked at a few of my students and had NO IDEA what their names were! That first week I got back, we did a lot of rules, routines, and expectations. Just like it was the beginning of the year. I moved at a faster pace, since it wasn't the beginning of the year and we had curriculum to cover. I did this even when I came back in January after my October baby. If you don't do this, you'll be dealing with behaviors for the rest of the year.

Are you a nursing mama? I was able to successfully pump at work with MC and Muffin. I pumped for 5 months with MC and 7 months with Muffin. I pumped 3 times a day on most days: 9:00 during my prep, 11:45 at lunch, 1:45 at afternoon recess. I let my principal know ahead of time of my plan to pump, and I was on the scheduling committee, so I could make sure I had consistent times every day to pump. I was also able to switch duties with my teammates so that I never had afternoon recess duty.

When I pumped, I only allowed myself to do it for 15 minutes. Some days it was 10 minutes if I was late getting started or needed to stop early. But my LC told me that any amount of time is better than no time :) By law, your place of work needs to give you time to pump, so if you don't have the schedule that I had, talk to your principal/supervisor.
My space was behind my desk.
I don't have a picture of what it actually looked like behind my desk, but let me tell you about it. Under my desk I had a mini fridge. I used a bathroom mat from IKEA to sit on to keep my bum from getting too cold on the tile floor. I originally bought the mats for my students to sit on during Read to Self, but I have five of them, so I felt OK permanently borrowing it from them! I had an outlet back there and kept my pump plugged in all day long. I also brought a Thirty-One thermal lunch tote back and forth every day to transport my milk and my pump parts. When it was time to pump, I pulled my rolling chair out of the way, unfolded and set up my mat, sat down on the floor and got down to business. I liked sitting on the floor. I could be more relaxed and comfortable on the floor.
I learned that little nugget from my LC. Such a time saver!!

I keep my door locked at all times, so when it was time to pump, I would shut off the lights and close the door. Sometimes I would put a sticky note on the handle of my door, OVER the lock, that said "Please don't come in." I only did that when the custodians were around. Don't need them walking in on that!! Make sure you put the note OVER the lock. I've heard of people putting the note on the door and still getting walked in on. If you put it over the lock, they have to move it in order to key in.

Honestly, I didn't mind if adults walked in on me. All of the teachers in my wing knew about my situation. I was well hidden behind my desk, so I would shout "Hello!" when the door opened, so they knew I was in there. I've also participated in quite a few team meetings while pumping! I never had a student walk in on me, but I have had them rattling the door knob and banging on the door. We had several chats about how it wasn't OK to do that. During inside recess, I would retreat to an empty classroom to pump.

Pumping at work definitely takes dedication. Some women can work while they're pumping. I can't. I found that I didn't make as much when I wasn't relaxed. I had to completely shut off my school brain to pump. Yes, it was hard to get back into school mode. And every night, I came home with a mountain of school work to do because I couldn't do it at work. Yes, many times I would get overwhelmed. But I just kept telling myself that I wasn't doing it for me; I was doing it for my baby. And it was only temporary. It also helped to have many supportive coworkers to remind me that I'm a mom first.

When I go back to work in September, I will not be pumping. #beenthere #donethat #SOoverit! My baby will be a year old, and my plan is to nurse in the morning and at night. But what can I do to make sure I DON'T come home with my school bag bursting at the seams?

I came up with this:
I need to make sure not one second of my prep time is wasted. So I made a schedule of what I am going do and when. This is actually for my schedule last year. I had a prep every day for at least 40 minutes. Every other Monday I had an additional 30 minute guidance prep. Every third Tuesday I had an additional 30 minute Spanish prep. On Thursdays, I had an 80 minute art prep. Every other Friday I had phy ed, which was 40 minutes, in addition to my 40 minute music prep. So those days were a little more loaded than other days.

Do I do all of these things every day? No. I know that things come up. Sometimes I have parents to call or additional meetings to attend. During grading periods, progress reports and report cards need to be completed. But it's a great guide to keep me focused so I'm not wasting 10 minutes of my prep figuring out what to do. Click HERE if you'd like a copy of my "Weekly To Do List." It is editable. You'll need these fonts: KG Skinny Latte, KG Be Still and Know, KG Miss Kindergarten, KG Lego House, KG Always a Good Time. If you use your own fonts, no worries, but some of the formatting will be off.

I love being a teacher. I love being a mom. It definitely is a balancing act to do both well. And having a cleaning lady helps too! What tips do you have for a working teacher mom?



There have been so many AMAZING blogger meet ups happening over the past few months!  I've been having a serious case of FOMO as I've seen bloggers and TpTers connecting and sharing across the country. So, my friend, Jessica, from Mrs. Plemons' Kindergarten and I decided to host a Blogger Back to School Bash right in our own backyards so we can meet, connect, and collaborate with our Wisconsin blogging friends!
I know what you're thinking... BACK TO SCHOOL?! But we just got out!!!

Since the meet up will be happening in August, our Blogger Back to School Bash will be a great way to get excited about the upcoming school year. You'll also score some SWAG to take back to your classroom!

The plan is to meet up at The Delafield Brewhaus on Saturday, August 15th from noon-4:00.
The Delafield Brewhaus is conveniently located right off of I-94, about halfway between Milwaukee and Madison. We'll meet in the mezzanine to have lunch, give away awesome prizes, and chat and get to know each other in REAL LIFE! You'll also take home a sweet bag of SWAG to start the 2015-2016 off with a BANG! In addition, we are looking into going to a paint bar later in the evening for those who are interested.

To join us, please CLICK HERE!

Please note that you DO NOT have to be from Wisconsin to attend :) Please RSVP by August 1st so we can make sure we have enough goodies for everyone! Our space can only accommodate up to 40 guests, so make sure you sign up right away.

We can't WAIT to see you next month!


Teaching Main Idea in Nonfiction Texts

Every year, I let out a big sigh when it comes time to teach main idea in nonfiction texts. Why is it that I am able to do this as an adult, but struggle to find the words to teach it in an easy way for my students? I think I have finally found the solution, scaffolding my teaching to gradually release this difficult, but extremely necessary skill to my students.
Teach your students how to find the main idea and supporting details of nonfiction texts with these scaffolded lesson ideas and activities!

Getting Started

I always start my main idea unit with teaching the difference between interesting facts and important information. We start with reading short articles from Time for Kids or National Geographic as a whole class, and then move to students doing this work independently with their Just Right books in their book boxes. I give students a two column T-chart graphic organizer to organize the information they read.
Teach your students how to find the main idea and supporting details of nonfiction texts with these scaffolded lesson ideas and activities!

Introducing Main Idea

Once students know how to differentiate between interesting and important, we move on to singling out the most important fact from the text: the main idea.
Teach your students how to find the main idea and supporting details of nonfiction texts with these scaffolded lesson ideas and activities!

I was having a hard time finding text that were not only quick and short, but also at my students' reading levels for our first experiences with finding main idea. So I wrote some one, two, and three paragraph passages. We begin with multiple choice passages, so that we can have conversations about each option and why the right answer is correct and the wrong answers are not. It's a great way to tie in previous work with interesting vs. important.
Teach your students how to find the main idea and supporting details of nonfiction texts with these scaffolded lesson ideas and activities!
We usually do this for a day, two tops, and then we amp it up a bit more. We are going to use these shorter passages again, but this time, students are on their own to write down the main ideas.
Teach your students how to find the main idea and supporting details of nonfiction texts with these scaffolded lesson ideas and activities!

Supporting Details

The next step after finding the main idea is to be able to find facts that support the main idea. The supporting details are the proof or the evidence that points to the main idea. We use the same passages, with both a given main idea and a blank main idea, to practice.

Teach your students how to find the main idea and supporting details of nonfiction texts with these scaffolded lesson ideas and activities!

Fly Free Little Children!

It usually takes me about a week to teach and practice main idea and supporting details, but once my students have a strong grasp of it, I want them to apply this work independently with texts at their levels. I give them these graphic organizers to keep in their book boxes and eventually glue into their reader's notebook. I also use them during guided reading groups. 
Teach your students how to find the main idea and supporting details of nonfiction texts with these scaffolded lesson ideas and activities!

I have put together a little freebie HERE of some of the resources mentioned in this post.

Or if you want to check out the entire, 160 page resource, click the image below or HERE.
Teach your students how to find the main idea and supporting details of nonfiction texts with these scaffolded lesson ideas and activities!

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 Teach your students how to find the main idea and supporting details of nonfiction texts with these scaffolded lesson ideas and activities!

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