Monday, December 29, 2014

Favorite Teacher Blogs of 2014

This was the year I discovered some amazing blogs that have literally transformed the way I view my teaching profession.  Connecting with these wonderful teachers has ignited my passion for the career that I had grown to love.  All the politics, evaluations, and teacher bashing of recent years had dimmed that light a bit.  

Through Pinterest, Bloglovin, and Teachers Pay Teachers, I have found so many teaching tips and strategies, helpful advice on student behavior, and classroom resources! 

As a bonus - these teacher bloggers have inspired me to blog about my teaching journey. Even though my blog is just a baby -  their continuous inspiration has kept Teaching in the Heart of Florida growing!

Here are my top ten (in no particular order) blogs of 2014:

1.   Schoolgirl Style
2.   A Modern Teacher
3.   The Cornerstone for Teachers
4.   Teaching and Tapas
5.   The Curriculum Corner
6.   3rd Grade Thoughts
7.   The Guru Sensei
8.   Tales from Outside the Classroom
9.   Ashleigh's Education Journey
10. Common Core and So Much More

If you need to find your teaching passion again, or want to find new classroom ideas and resources - check out these blogs.  Once you start, you will wonder how you survived in the classroom without them!  Have fun!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Reflecting on the First Half

Honestly.  This has been the busiest, most stressful school year ever. Implementing the new Florida standards has been a HUGE challenge in every way. Of course, this is the year that I am doing the unpopular, but necessary job of grade level chair.  (In my grade level, it's passed on to the next victim with a sigh of relief) The little stipend that you get does not entice anyone to do the job.  In our school, the grade level chair makes all the copies and this takes 2 - 3 extra hours per week.  Those are precious hours that could be used for more enjoyable activities, like having a life! 

One of my goals this year was to create more products for my TPT store. Unfortunately, that has not happened due to the increased workload at school. But, I am hopeful that the new year will bring a bit of a break in the constant occurrence of 9 and 10 hour days at school. So, my goal for 2015 is to find the time to work on these projects and increase my product line.  I truly believe in the idea of Teachers Pay Teachers and I am proud to be a store owner and a buyer.  

With all the added responsibilities I acquired this year, one has been a blessing- starting this blog. I really thought long and hard about committing to writing a blog.  I wasn't sure that I wanted to add another thing to my to-do list.  But it has been extremely rewarding both personally and professionally.  I look forward to sitting down and writing about teaching, because it is still an extremely honorable profession (no matter what the critics say).

When school got out last Friday, I made a promise to myself to NOT do any school related activities until at least January 3rd.  I am taking the time to relax, spend time with my family, read for pleasure, catch up on my sleep, and take a break. I hope you will take a much needed break too - relax and recharge - you deserve it.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Teaching in the Heart of Florida!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Remembering Sandy Hook

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.  As an elementary school teacher, I cannot fathom living through an experience like that.  Our sweet children come to school every day expecting life to be normal just like every other day at school.  Teachers never expect to be the person that may have to save the lives of their students.

On this day two years ago, normal changed forever.  Now, we have hard and soft lock down drills.  We have fences and gates and new security rules.  We talk about where we would hide our students if a shooter were on campus.  We have keys and padlocks and badges and we have to make sure everyone on our campus is a friendly.  

When you became a teacher, did you ever think this would be in your job description?

A few weeks ago, there was a shooting at Florida State University in the main library.  My daughter goes to school there. I was devastated.  Fortunately, she was not at the library - but she could have been.  Due to the quick response of the front desk staff, only one person was critically injured - but he is paralyzed for life.

Why hasn't the shootings of these innocent children and teachers caused more uproar? Why has nothing changed?  The media was covering every aspect of this for about a week or two, then nothing.  We should never forget what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary or Florida State University or any other school.  Our children deserve a safe place to learn.

Everything changed that day 2 years ago. Today I remember 20 sweet children and their dedicated teachers. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Super Cyber Sale - Last Day!

Don't miss out!
Today is the last day of the Teachers Pay Teachers Super Cyber Sale!

I hope you have taken advantage of the great deals. It's a great time to get the resources that will make your teaching day go a little smoother and help your kiddos learn something in a new and unique way.

If you are looking for a fun way for your students to practice and reinforce their multiplication and division facts - Winter Math Bingo is perfect for you!

Guided Math Center Planning Guide

Here's a little freebie for you!  My Guided Math Center Planning Guide is perfect 
for teachers who love to teach math in small groups!  Check it out!

Happy Shopping!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Super Cyber Sale is Here!

Now that the turkey has been eaten....let's move on to the real holiday season!

Teachers Pay Teachers is throwing a site wide sale on December 1st and 2nd. This is a great time to get the resources on your wish list.  

Here are a few suggestions for year round resources for your classroom from my store:

This is a great set to use in RTI groups and
 as a way to improve overall fluency 

in all readers.
 This bundle has everything you need for the school year.

Florida 3rd Grade LAFS Planning and Progress Monitoring Checklist
Florida teachers need a unique standards list in order to track when they teach what in Language Arts. This resource is perfect for both planning and tracking of the LAFS standards.


Florida 3rd Grade MAFS Planning and Progress Monitoring Checklist
Set up exactly like the LAFS Standards Checklist, but for Math.
Really ideal for planning and tracking MAFS Standards.

Check out all the great deals - but don't wait too long!  The sale is for December 1st and 2nd only. 20% off all products in my store and many others on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Super Cyber Sale is Coming...

Mark your calendars!  The Teachers Pay Teachers Super Cyber Sales is coming.......My store will be 20% off all resources. This is an excellent time to get those goodies on your wish list.  I know I have a few math resources on my wish list......

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Teaching Is........

Hope you are having a relaxing and restful Sunday.  You'll need your strength for the corks tomorrow.....

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I'm Dreaming of Turkey, Stuffing, and Bingo? - Pre-Holiday Math Activities for Stir Crazy 3rd and 4th Graders

So, I know the countdown to Thanksgiving Break has begun for you, as it has for me. The kids and the teachers are in dire need of a break! Parents are wondering what they are going to do with bored children for one whole week - but we aren't! We are absolutely giddy at the thought of sleeping in, playing Candy Crush endlessly, eating delicious food and possibly visiting relatives in far off places like Illinois or Iowa. Meanwhile, we still have ONE WHOLE week to get through.  How will we keep these students engaged in learning and behaving all week?

What about a nice game of Multiplication and Division Bingo? My plan is to use it during my Math Centers this year.  It includes a power point, 5 Bingo Cards, and a check off sheet for the Bingo Caller. This is a center that my 3rd graders can run themselves while in their math groups. I'm going to give them candy corn or M&M's for markers and let them practice their math facts. What a great way for students to practice math facts, indulge in a little Thanksgiving themed fun, and even sneak a Candy Corn or M&M or two!

If you need a fun Thanksgiving themed math activity for this last, never ending pre-holiday week, check out my Thanksgiving Multiplication and Division Bingo game on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Hoping you have all the turkey, stuffing, and Candy Crush your heart desires.
 Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day 2014

This is dedicated to all the veterans out there and especially to those in my family - my husband, my dad, and my nephew Burt who is still serving our country. Thank you for your service and your sacrifices. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Best Thing You Can Do All Day

One of the most rewarding and worthwhile activities you can perform as a teacher is to consistently read aloud to your students.  There is absolutely no other thing you will do during the day for or with your students that will hold their attention more or reap more benefits. As parents, we train our little ones to look forward to being read to usually by making it the last thing we do before they head to dreamland each night. We snuggle up with them and read books over and over until we could do it with our eyes closed.  But we do it - because it is so important and so powerful in their literacy development - even as babies.

Over the past 5 years, read aloud has been pushed aside in the schools because "we don't have time". We were preparing them for the state tests, which became more important. Unfortunately, many teachers stopped making time for reading aloud.

Well, read aloud is back.  With the onset of Common Core, teachers are being encouraged to get their students back to the love of reading and the author's craft.  Hallelujah!  This is making me a very happy teacher again!  Personally, I love to read and I have read millions (???) of books in my lifetime.  I want to pass my love of reading onto my students and there is no better way than to read some of my favorites to them. If you love a book, they probably will too.

Here is my top 5:

1. Because of Winn DixieKate DiCamillo 

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book! India Opal is such a sweet inspirational character and we fall in love with her over and over in this book. The heartbreak she experiences over her mother leaving her and her father is at the core of this story. But Opal learns many lessons and being grateful for the flawed people in her life is one of them. Such an inspiration to kids who are struggling in their own broken families. I think they really connect with this character - not to mention, her funny dog Winn Dixie.                                                 
2. White Giraffe, Lauren St. John

Another story of a child who has experienced the loss of parents and has to move to Africa to a grandmother she never knew.  It's a classic story of how a child overcomes loss through a connection to animals - in this case - a white giraffe. I think the author does a wonderful job of using beautiful language and imagery to help the reader visualize what South Africa looks like. It's also a great resource when teaching descriptive writing techniques.

3.   Snot Stew, Bill Wallace

Sounds gross, right?  That's exactly why I read it!  My third graders listen intently every day to find out what Snot Stew is and when it starts to become clear - they love the play on words! They also think I'm kind of cool because I read a book with the word snot in it!

4.   The Miraculous Adventures of Edward Tulane, 
       Kate Di Camillo

I am currently reading this to my class and they moan and groan when I close the book at the end of the chapter each day.  A china rabbit named Edward Tulane learns what love is through a series of unfortunate events in his life. It takes place over many years and many encounters with a variety of temporary owners. This one reads like a classic novel. I discovered this one a few years ago and it's definitely one of my favorites.

5.  A Bad Case of Stripes, David Shannon

The classic book about being true to yourself.   I usually read this at the beginning of the year because I want my new third graders to know that it is perfectly acceptable to be different and be proud of it.  By the way, I too LOVE lima beans!

These are my top 5 read alouds and I am looking forward to sharing each one with my kiddos this year. It's those precious 10 - 15 minutes after lunch that we all look forward to. So happy it's back!

What are your favorite read alouds?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Joining the Dance

I had an interesting conversation with my principal this week. Our reading focus is in a state of change. Our tried and true practices of guided reading at a student's instructional level is being challenged by advocates of the Common Core and close reading. Our shared reading is moving away from a comprehension strategy focus - compare and contrast, author's purpose, main idea, etc. (not to mention all the changes in math - whew!) As teachers, our equilibrium is really out of whack this school year.

I say this because the State of Florida has implemented their version of Common Core this school year. School systems and teachers in other states are way ahead of us.  I can tell by how much when I read teacher blogs and look at resources on Teachers Pay Teachers. But for Florida teachers, we are being asked to make a huge change in how we teach the standards and this is HARD! If you can't teach the main idea as the main idea, how do we teach it?  

Back to my conversation with my principal...she referred me to a blog post Shanahan on Literacy that is challenging the belief that leveled books are not the best way to teach reading. WHAT? That is heresay! Shanahan and others say that students need to be put in text that is challenging and requires them to struggle. This certainly goes against everything I have learned and practiced in the reading arena. 

I'll be honest - I'm feeling very unsure of where this is all going.  I want to do what's best for my students, but right now does anyone know what's best in reading? Is the pendulum swinging too far or is this a needed correction to our reading instruction? As you know, Common Core standards are very controversial and now we are seeing why.

Teachers from other states - what do you think of the Common Core and the new reading requirements? How have you made the change? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Well, Florida is joining the dance this school year - but right now it feels like your first middle school dance - you know, awkward and uncomfortable. But we all survived that, right?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Getting in the Swing of It

Now that school is in full swing, I am finally seeing how and why my struggling readers are struggling. It takes a few weeks to get to know our new students - what their strengths are and what their struggles are. 

I have 4 third graders who have made it this far without really learning how to decode words, so the more difficult texts in 3rd grade are pretty overwhelming. Of course, these students are in my reading remediation group for decoding, fluency, AND comprehension. So, every day these 4 students are working really hard during reading block because I pull them 3 times - once for their regular reading group, once for decoding interventions, and once for extra comprehension work. Whew!  Pretty intensive, right? 

I am always in awe of these students, because they put in 3 times the work as every other student, but you know what? They are so grateful for the help. They want to be good readers so bad. Breaks my heart every year - but it also warms my heart because they will improve and they will notice it and be so happy!

This is why I created my Fluency Packs
 # 1 and #2.
Many times, 3rd graders need that extra boost of phonics work, and practice with Fry Phrases.

After they have gained confidence,
 they go on to my Pyramid Sentences,

 which they love! They have lots of fun
 with these and that warms my heart too!

I use all three of these consistently and I see their confidence blooming. Once they are decoding and reading fluently, their comprehension starts to improve.  And the icing on the cake!  It makes all the hard work they put in worthwhile.

Although I created these for my struggling third graders, you might be able to use one of these Fluency packs or all of them for your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th graders. 

Each of these are available separately,
or as a bundle pack on Teachers Pay Teachers.

If you try any of these, make sure to leave feedback.
Not only will I appreciate your feedback, you will earn points toward other purchases on TPT.


Please check out my friend, Dr. Christine Hecox's new blog  She is one of the most amazing teachers and someone I admire greatly!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Teacher's Life - Finding a Balance

Definition of a Chinese Fire Drill: The car stops at a green light, everybody jumps out and runs around the car, then takes a new seat. All the while, the cars behind you are honking their horns because you are not moving. This is how I would describe this school year so far. Everyday it seems that we are adapting and changing what we do to accommodate the "new" standards and testing requirements. Meanwhile, someone is behind us wondering why we aren't moving fast enough.  It's enough to make a teacher scream STOP - I can't take it anymore!  Because of this need to scream, I have taken a step back and decided to get my balance back. So this weekend I did and here's how I did it.

Enjoyed a really nice glass of Chardonnay.

Got back to walking in this beautiful fall weather.

Watched my beloved Seminoles extend their
win streak to an amazing 21 games.

Took a nap.

Indulged in a heavenly pedicure.

Started a new book.

If you are feeling like me....what did you do this weekend to get your balance back? 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Buzz Words

Happy Hump Day Teacher Peeps!

Isn't it interesting how education buzz words keep popping up? Five years ago, it was Learning Focus Strategies and we were all talking about activators and summarizers and H.O.T. questions. Now, the buzz words on everyone's lips are close reading and text evidence.  Why do we need new words for what everyone has been doing?  Maybe we haven't been doing it exactly right.

I think about my own comprehension as a reader. I love to read, but I was never great at remembering all the details about every book I read.  As for taking tests, forget it - we had to remember what we had read - not show text evidence. In 2014, students are required to show how they know what they know.  Isn't that the best? We want our students to know how to find the information, not keep all of it in their memories so they can pass a test, then forget it. 

So, I have been working on this skill with my third graders and I have to say, they are getting it!  I ask them all the time, how do you know? They know I want to hear them say, "It's right here Mrs. Hanneken."  The next step has been giving them the words to tell me what text evidence supports the questions I have asked. This is the cool's only a few phrases, but it has given them a huge boost in their ability to show text evidence especially in writing.  The author states.....the author states on page XX....because....for example....for instance...according to the text. Even my struggling third graders can synthesize the question, find text evidence, and respond in the correct way. I think this is a huge improvement in reading instruction.  Students aren't left to wander around in text trying to make sense of what the author is saying AND answer these hard questions that we teachers torture them with.

I feel hopeful about the new buzz words and the reading strategies that they bring.  Seeing these young readers being successful with the harder text they are required to read and comprehend is making me happy.  How about you?  What do you think about close reading and text evidence? 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Guided Math Freebie

As the journey into Guided Math continues, I found that I needed a specific planning sheet for math center/rotations.  As my knowledge about how to do this in my classroom evolves, so will my planning needs.  For now, I have come up with a planning sheet that I can quickly plan out who is doing what during guided math.

With that in mind, I have created a planning sheet that first, shows what everyone (including myself) is doing, what materials are needed, the whole group mini-lesson taught, vocabulary,  summarizer/wrap up activity and the standard being taught.  In my district, the emphasis is on knowing the standards, so I included space for this too.

If you are doing Guided Math or a 3 Center rotation in your classroom, you may be able to use this planning guide. As we all know, time is EVERYTHING to a teacher, so this planning sheet is available FREE in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Hope you find this as helpful as I have!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Facebook and Stepping Outside the Box

Last Sunday, I continued my blogger's journey by creating a Facebook page. I wanted to be able to share my posts with my teacher friends and their friends and not bore my family and friends with my teaching blog updates. So I invited all my personal teacher peeps to "LIKE" my page and they did so immediately, which was heartwarming and very appreciated.

I had only shared my blog with some of my closest teacher friends because frankly, I was a little scared to have my thoughts "out there" for everyone to read and maybe critique. Well, after posting my Guided Math blog post from September 7th, I received so much positive feedback from teachers and administrators. Several colleagues forwarded this blog post to other teachers and a few to middle school teachers. They love the idea of guided math and feel like the method described in my post could work even at the middle school level. My elementary peeps of all grade levels are eager to try it. The beauty of this 3 centers only plan is that it isn't a huge amount of extra planning, which absolutely nobody has right now. Here in Florida, we are implementing a totally new set of standards and a new way of teaching them, so time is not something we have.

I am so proud of all of the teachers willing to step outside the box and try something new while at the same time implementing new standards.  As I said - no guts, no glory - thank you for your sweet, sweet comments and for being exactly the opposite of what the politicians say about teachers.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Guided Math - To Do or Not to Do?

Periodically over the past few years, each school principal that I have had has hinted that they would like us to teach math more like reading - code: please teach in small groups.  The question for me was always, what is the rest of the class doing while I am meeting with a small group? Now, I know that many of you will say, "centers, of course!"  Seems like a no brainer, right?  WRONG!  I loathe centers.  I know this is not a popular opinion, but I just can't take all the distractions that come with centers.  When I am trying to meet the needs of my small group, I cannot worry about what the rest of my class is or is not doing (especially in this age of teacher evaluations).  Nor can I get my head around some massive rotation schedule that somebody at NASA has to decode for me (you know 8 centers,18 students, rotating every 15 minutes, blah, blah, blah....) So, although I wasn't happy with the whole group method, I just didn't know what else I could do. knew there was going to be a well.  I read a really interesting article on Guided Math that made me think, "I can do this, I can get my head around this idea". Basically, the idea is that there are 3 centers only and the teacher is one of them. Totally doable.  I was really jazzed about this and I jumped right in the 2nd week of school and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! 

Here's the routine: 1) I spend about 15 - 20 minutes doing a mini-lesson on the concept, 2) Centers begin with the lowest group practicing the mini-lesson concept with me, the medium group practicing math facts or working on word problems based on previously learned concepts, and the high group practicing the mini-lesson concepts in partners or independently.  This way there is differentiation in each group ( good for them, good for my evaluations).  3) After 20 minutes, we rotate and the low group goes and continues working on the practice, the medium group comes to me, and the high group does math fact practice, or word problems. 4)  20 minutes later, we rotate again and I see the high group, middle continues the concept practice independently or in partners, and the low group does math facts/word problems.In order to make sure everyone stays on task, I always have an Early Finishers Assignment listed on the board which could be Math task cards,  or an assignment related to the math calendar.

The positives are many!  First, I feel like I really SEE how all of my students are doing each and every day. I can solve the misconceptions immediately and assess what I need to do with that group or individual student right away.  No need to grade papers to find out how the class performed on a new concept.  Second, the students really love it! They like that they get personal attention from me, but also independent/partner time to practice. Third, I feel much less stressed during math lessons, because I am not constantly running around trying to help all of my students at the same time.

I have been raving to my third grade team about how much I love this and some of the brave ones have jumped right in with me. No guts, no glory - love them!  I will have to provide a progress report in a month or so, but right now I am super excited about math block!

 This is the article that inspired me, but I am not doing it exactly like the author. She has been doing this awhile and her guided math time is a little more in depth, with more activities.  I'm going to take it slow and hopefully gain speed as the year progresses.  If this intrigues you, check out the link below.

Good luck - let me know your thoughts!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Thrifty Thursday Sale - 20% Off

Since tomorrow is Thursday, I'm throwing a 20% off sale on my entire Teacher Pay Teacher store!   

Here are a few of my biggest sellers -

Fluency Pack #1 Start with Basic Blends and Syllables
This resource is perfect for those struggling decoders.  With repetitive practice, they will show improvement in no time.
Fluency Pack #2 Phrases
After they master their blends and syllables, help
 them put it together in short Fry phrases.
Fluency Pack #3 Pyramid Sentences
Let them show off their much improved fluency by practicing
with Pyramid sentences.  Students LOVE to practice these!
Wonderful Word Wall Words Pack
A complete word wall perfect
 for 2nd or 3rd grade.

It's the perfect time to stock up on the basic resources that will help you move those struggling readers along. Just click on my TPT link and save BIG time on my Thrifty Thursday Sale!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Football and Teaching - A Crazy Fan's Coping Strategies

    Anyone who knows me knows I am a HUGE Florida State Seminole fan. With that being said, I am also a nail biting, pacing, nervous spectator when they are playing - especially when they play scary - like last night.  (If you are not a football fan, just skip this part!) Last night - yikes! They won 37-31, but it was an ugly win. Anyway, my current coping strategy is to multi-task by zipping around on my I-Pad which has led to most of my accidental discoveries, like Schoolgirl Style, Teachers Pay Teachers and so on. Well, thank you FSU Seminoles for your performance because I found the most amazing website and I have to share it with you!

   The Curriculum Corner has the most resources for teachers I have ever seen and it's all in one place and it's FREE, yes I said FREE!  Every kind of organizational tool I have thought about, but never took the time to make.... lesson plan templates, small group, centers planning, progress monitoring, Common Core resources and on and on. You can be that highly effective teacher you've always wanted to be without sacrificing all of your free time - so check it out.

    You can thank the Florida State Seminoles later....but personally I don't want another game like that one. Go Noles!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fluency Bundle Pack - 308 Flashcards in ONE Resource!

Amazingly, I survived the first week of school! Super tired, achy feet, brain whirling, but I survived. A principal I used to work for said a teacher's day is like keeping multiple plates spinning in the air and not dropping any. So true, isn't it?

As I was thinking about getting my reading group materials organized for the school year, I realized that I wanted everything ready at the beginning. I don't want to get going, then suddenly realize I need some major resource for my struggling readers that I don't have available. The days and evenings are too busy to be creating new resources. So, I bundled my 3 separate Fluency Packs into one BIG pack on Teachers Pay Teachers so you can get your resources together at the beginning of the school year. The bundle pack includes 236 phonics/syllable flashcards, 56 common phrase flashcards, and 16 pyramid sentence flashcards. Separately, these resources are priced at $18.00, but my bundle pack is only $15.00.  So, if you're like me and need this resource now, it's a great bargain. Check it out - my link is on the side of the page.

Now, go soak your feet, cause tomorrow it starts again!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TPT Back to School Boost Sale - August 20th only!

This a great opportunity to get those resources you need to make this a fabulous school year!  All items in my shop are 20% off, so get in on the great deals!