Friday, November 1, 2013


Sorry I have been MIA for far longer than I wanted to be. To be honest, I've been a little overwhelmed lately.

I love teaching. I can't imagine being in any other profession and I take a lot of pride in my work. However, I am a bit of a perfectionist and so when I do something I have to give it 110% every day all the time. As an introvert, this leaves me feeling exhausted and I end up needing a lot of "me" time to recharge my batteries.

I am loving teaching the reading workshop this year. I am having so many moments with my students where they finally have found a book that they are in love with. This month I had two students that discovered a book that they actually liked and read cover to cover for the first time...ever! I am beyond proud of them. Their passion in their book talk was obvious to the audience and I could have burst with tears at how proud I was of them! It was truly inspiring!

I think that the hardest part about teaching for me is trying to be an extrovert. It really wears me out. I am so over stimulated from 8 AM until I get home at 4:30 PM I just crash on the couch. Many of my planning periods I am in my classroom trying to steal some "me" time, however there is another class in there and sometimes I have to rush off to meetings. I know my fellow teachers understand what I am talking about when I say we really don't have a spare moment in our day. During hall duty my kids want to give me a hug or talk to me. Lunch time is our team time and it is only 24 minutes (not counting the time it takes to get them down to the cafeteria and back).

Please understand, I do not mean to sound as though I am complaining. I won't change my job for anything, but I hope that explains why I don't get to blog as often as I would like right now. My batteries are drained and I'm trying to just recharge.

Here's a little more I found out about myself after taking the Carl Jung personality test. I was shocked that this is really spot on with my personality. Maybe you have a similar personality:

Hopefully I will be back soon...and with more minion stories. :)

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Inspiring Readers

My kids are really loving reading workshop! It was a thing of beauty to finally roll it out this past week and see them all so excited about their books. After explaining how it was going to work one of my students' said, "Wait, you are giving us time to read?" I said, "Yes!" I could feel their excitement in the room (this was a class of mostly readers already). The few students in this classroom that had previously told me they did not like to read or did not have time for reading are changing already. 

I noted on Friday that after asking the students to go ahead and put up their journals, post-it notes and books that two of my reluctant readers were still engrossed in their books. I let them continue and did not bother them. The bell rang to switch classes and it wasn't until then that they put their books down and scrambled to pack up! :) 

One other happy story to share. On Friday's we give a character ed. presentation to our 6th hour class. The theme of the month is friendship and we are e-mailed a PowerPoint to teach and discuss with the students. My mom, who teaches Spanish at my school, had popped in to ask me a question and asked if she could stay to observe. She took a seat and I continued to teach and talk to the students and get them involved with the lesson. One of my students from 3rd hour had asked if he could check out a book from me earlier in the day and said he really liked it. Of course I told him yes. In class he was engrossed with the book during the whole lesson. When my mom brought it up later I was a little sheepish and said, "I know, I should have asked him to put the book away and pay attention, however he is a reluctant reader and I don't want to discourage him at this point. Also, it was a character ed. lesson, so although it is important I felt like it wasn't vital to his doing well in class." She too agreed and said she couldn't believe how engrossed he was in his book--she noted that he didn't even look up once. SUCCESS!

I think reading workshop will really change the way I teach forever. My advanced students love having time to read and cozy up with a book. Meanwhile, they are still proving to me that they can grasp the concepts through their journal entries and through small-group lessons.

I am sorry I am not updating more--between lesson planning, grading assignments, responding to e-mails and keeping up with my school blog for parents I feel like I have not had a chance to keep you all in the loop. Hopefully I can find some balance as the school year continues.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Book Whisperer

My mind is completely blown. How can everything that we are taught in college be so drastically different and yet still get test results? I have spent this summer pouring over Laura Robb's Teaching Reading: A Differentiated Approach and Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey. I have been reading so many research based articles on reading I think my mind can't handle any more.

Last night I finally picked up The Book Whisperer by Donalynn Miller which has sat on my coffee table for 6 weeks now. I dusted off the title and grabbed my pad of paper ready to read.

I couldn't put it down. Just like everything else I have read this summer she talks about the exact same things. Her book is an easy read--I stayed up until 5am to finish it. She doesn't give you a bunch of research and methods practices like most of the other books but instead gives us a window into her classroom to peek into as she tells us about books and conversations with her students.

I love Laura Robb, Stephanie Harvey and Nancie Atwell because they DO give you the research support to differentiate this kind of reading in your own classroom. However, Donalynn Miller practices all of these same concepts.

I still have a few questions to help wrap my mind around some of this thinking. How is it possible that this will not only make my students readers who enjoy reading but also get the test results on standardized tests? I have to say, it will take time to implement.

Laura Robb stresses that you do  not have to read the same books at the same time as your kids. You can tell when they know what they are talking about or not..I like that Donalynn Miller does read many of the same books. It helps to get the "reading bug" and to make it contagious.

I talked to my students one day last week about how we are going to do book talks this year and they will be reading different genres of books.

"But I don't have time to read. I have football practice after school and then homework for other classes," complained one of my students."

"I promise, I will give you time in class to read your book. However, you will have to do some of the reading at home too," I said.

He looked at me like he thought I was crazy. He was an advanced Language Arts student that was not reading?

"I'm just going to read Dr. Seuss," I heard him mumble.

I came home and poured over my students reading/interest surveys. A few things stood out to me about my kids. One was that they DO have time to read, they are just too busy doing "other" things. The student mentioned above was spending 3 hours a day watching TV because "I'm bored" he wrote.

I was just the start of my "ah-ha" moment. I made my students some guidelines for our book talks in our classroom, just some basic ones that Laura Robb has shared and a combination of some of my other reading this past summer.

I spent hours this past week looking for books that fit into the Realistic Fiction genre. I put them together into a PowerPoint even finding some awesome book trailers.

The kids seemed a little stumped when I told them our first book talk was on Realistic Fiction and I noticed they were looking at me like I was just adding more onto their plates. The student that said he wanted to just read Dr. Seuss looked like he was even defeated trying to figure out how he could get out of my project and reading every day since he was so busy doing other important things.

How could they go through 7 years of school and not find reading enjoyable at all? 

The next day at school I gave my students a paper to keep track of titles of books they wanted to read in the future. I called this the To Be Read "TBR" list. I told them that today all we were going to do was discuss books and they needed their TBR lists.

I then started discussing books with them going through my PowerPoint where I had collected "cool" books that fit into the Realistic genre category. They quickly scribbled down all the books they wanted to read.

At the end of the day I looked at the same student who told me he didn't have time for reading due to football, other homework, etc. He wrote down every book I mentioned in class as one he wanted to read!

I had an ah-ha moment. It is not that my students do not  want to read, it is that they don't know how to find books on their own. No one has taught them this before.

If I can get them to first trust me and trust that I can help them find "cool" books I feel that when I do recommend other books that will be more "classic" or harder in complexity they will be more willing to give it a try.

On Friday, I had five students tell me they went out and purchased one of the books they saw in my PowerPoint because they wanted to read it so bad. One even shared he was almost done with the book! Lucky me, most of the books that I showed them are part of a series so they will have to read the next one to find out what happens. :)

To put the icing on the cake I got an e-mail from a student Friday night. "Mrs. Finley, my dad is going to get me _______ book this weekend. Is it okay to read it for my realistic fiction book talk? What do you think about the book?" I quickly responded back that it was absolutely okay to read the book and left off with a comment that said, "Happy reading!"

I think I've already got my high kids hooked--even those that were maybe a little reluctant or needed some high interest books to show them that reading is cool.

I'm about to flip my classroom upside down.

Stay tuned...

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Friday, August 30, 2013


Lot of great ISN covers and papers to share my kids have been doing in class!

First up, the boys........

Food and animals!

Dr. Oz made an appearance!

Lots of cars...

This one cracks me up! I love that the student cut out each letter to spell his own sentence! I also love the dog on the window of the convertible!

Inside page of the notebook....

I also had them fill-out the fakebook page that I created. This item is free on Teachers Pay Teachers! It let me learn a lot about my kids!

This is a student I had last year that I'm so lucky to have this year! I love that one of her favorite things about Language Arts is me! SO sweet!

Great to know what makes them enjoy a class too!

I also loved looking at their dreams for the future... I have some future doctors, engineers and even a musician!

THIS STUDENT MADE MY DAY! He had said one thing he disliked about Language Arts was "Reading." Look at his TBR list! It is full of almost every book I have discussed with the kids this year! He wants to read them all! :) 

This is a new student who is clearly trying to butter me up! :) 

This is an overview of the different genres and the definition of each genre. I used a lot of the ideas I found online, however I tweaked some things and added horror to the list!

Now time for the covers decorated by my girls! These are a lot more elaborate!

Lots of make-up and fashion....

and pets.....

The "Funkytown Exit" cracked me up as well as the lady from the viral video "Ain't nobody got time for that!"

I blurred out the student's name, however she had a really cute diagonal of her name!

This student spelled out Honey Boo Boo, her favorite show, because she couldn't find the words!

A quote written out in cut out letters.

Cats were on this composition notebook already so this student gave them sunglasses. HAHA!

The inside of the notebooks...

We discussed how to find a "just right" book.

These are some of our notes. I'm not picky with the left and right side rule because they will be doing so much journaling.

TBR list is taped to the back of the notebook.

This is the TBR list closed and the genre overview with definitions on the last page of the notebook!

Just a reminder to please donate to our classroom library through!

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