Thursday, July 11, 2013

Liebster Award

I spent today working at the Teacher Resource Center working on cut outs for my bulletin board, making posters, laminating items for my classroom, etc. This was my second trip as I attempt to get stuff done early before the rush sets in before school starts and the center is packed with teachers. They also have a limit on how much of their supplies you can use per visit (i.e. only 20 sheets of the small colored construction paper or 10 sheets of the large colored construction paper) so multiple trips are necessary.

I was so excited when I got home and finally checked my e-mail to see that I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Jamie over at Sixth Grade Tales! The award is for blogs with less than 200 followers. Thank you so much Jamie for thinking of me and nominating me for this award! :)

The rules for accepting the nomination are as follows:
  • Link back to the blog that nominated you.
  • Answer the questions that the nominator asked you.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Create 11 questions for your own nominees.
  • Nominate 5-11 blogs with less than 200 followers.
  • Contact the nominees to let them know that you nominated them.

Let's get started!

Questions for me by Jamie:

1. What is your best advice for starting a new school year?
My best advice for starting a new school year is to make a positive connection with all of my students' parents during the first two weeks of school.

This was a policy at my old school and each teacher would call their Classroom Guidance students' parents during those first two weeks to let them know that we are open to e-mails, phone calls, questions, etc. A lot of the parents were so thankful for hearing something positive about their child and were grateful that I had taken the time to personally call.

My new school does not have this policy, however even though I had over 115 students I did call all of their parents within the first month of school. Sometimes that is the only time I ever get to call home with a positive phone call because the school year gets going and I get so busy with lesson planning, etc. I had two parents tell me that they were so thankful I called this year because no one had ever called them before to brag on their kid! (These were great kids ya'll!)

It is also great for when you do have a problem that arises and you can call home and remind the parents that you called the first week of school because the student was doing so well!

2. What is your favorite book for professional development and why?
Gah! Can I only pick one? HAHA

This past year I was frequently referring to Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom by Susan Winebrenner:

I recently finished my Rank 1 (which is 30+ hours beyond your M.A. here in Kentucky) and received my Gifted & Talented Endorsement. I really wanted my GT endorsement because I feel like I have learned so much about how to help my students that are struggling with reading and getting them caught up, however I did not really know enough about how to push my accelerated kids. This book has been amazing! I got this book during my last GT class and have used so many of these strategies.

My other favorite book is by the Reading Guru Laura Robb called Teaching Reading: A Differentiated Approach.

This is the binder of ALL of the reproducible resources, but there is a small paper back book that goes with it too! The book is great if you aren't familiar with Laura Robb or just want to get an idea of how you can differentiate for your reading classroom, but the binder....OH MY! I have poured over this binder! It has been highlighted, sticky noted, etc. I am hoping to implement some more of her strategies into my classroom this year. It is a little overwhelming at first when you see how amazing it ALL is so I'm going to have to take some baby steps as I dive in to make sure I do this the right way.

3. How do you deal with giving homework? Is it the same each week?
I think that middle school students need to get in the habit of having homework more frequently and to help prepare them for high school. Did I mention that I am a certified high school teacher too? I actually did all of my observations, student teaching, etc. at the high school level and it was eye opening! I realized that my job as a middle school teacher really needs to prep them for all of the work that they are going to have to do in high school. Not only that, but they need to have QUALITY work, not just quantity.

I LOVE Kelly Gallagher and his Articles of the Week for homework! He is a superb teacher and stresses that kids need to be aware of what is going on in the news so that they can build their background knowledge and help them to become more literate.

Let me pause there and say that his Article of the Week are quite advanced. Therefore, I sometimes make my own and I sometimes use Vale Middle School Articles of the Week. For the most part you can use any of them anytime you want, however you might not want to do the Candy Corn one until Halloween Time. :)

I like the Articles of the Week because it gets kids reading informational articles, thinking about the article, comprehending the article, and even discussing it in class. My kids loved the Cinnamon Challenge article since that was such a YouTube sensation last year! Great stuff!

But back to homework, I will assign the Articles of the Week on Monday and they are usually due on Friday (sometimes Thursday depending on the week). I make the kids write in complete sentences. If they don't, they get marked off 10 points and can fix it to get their points back.

In addition to this, I will assign a short assignment during the week usually on Edmodo. One my collaborative teacher, Heidi, and I did last year was post an example of a hyperbole. It was a really quick way to see if the kids knew what a hyperbole was. Surprise! Some of them didn't and we had them fix it and correct it. I LOVE EDMODO!

4. If you weren't a teacher, what profession would you be in?
Wow! Great question! I actually started off thinking I was going to be a journalist but switched to nursing school right before my first semester of college. After deciding that organic chemistry and I did not mix well I went back to my love of reading and all of those inspirational teachers, including my own mom.

I think if I wasn't teaching I would probably want to be a librarian. I love to read and I was also the nerd that loved to do research and write research papers. If I couldn't be a teacher I think I would love working at a large University and helping with research. :)

5. What is your favorite thing to cook?
Well my favorite thing and what my husband likes me to cook are two separate answers here. :) He loves for me to make White Bean Chili which is probably delicious...but I don't eat it! HAHA! I hate beans so I don't go near this one, however the recipe came from a good friend who always won the chili cook-offs every year. It does smell divine though and looks delicious! If only I could get over the consistency of beans. YUCK!

MY favorite thing to cook has to be stir-fry. So easy! I love bell peppers, onions, and chicken or steak whipped up in the stir fry. I love it in a tortilla or with rice. Easy peasy!

6. Outside of teaching, what do you like to do for fun?
I love spending time with my family. We have a dog, Ellie, and a cat, Izzy, that I love so much! They are both so sweet. I also love just hanging out and watching movies with my husband on the couch. My parents live down the street and I am really close to my mom so I also enjoy running around the town with her.

I love to read! I am a sucker for a good romance novel--that is my key to relaxation.

I am also a bubble bath addict! :)

7. What is your favorite place to shop?
This really depends on what  need to purchase. We have a Kroger Marketplace right behind our house and they have just about everything I need there from groceries to home items. I also LOVE Target. I should move in there. One of my favorite stores is Bed, Bath & Beyond. I could spend hours there looking at everything.

My new favorite online shop has to be The Container Store. I think it might be love for this OCD teacher.

8. What is your favorite educational website?
I have so many that I love but the consistent one that I use over and over is ReadWriteThink. There are so many awesome lesson plans on this website and they lay it all out for you so that you know all the materials you need, the standards it is aligned to, how many days it will take, etc.

9. What kind of music do you like to listen to?
I have to say, I am very eclectic. I love pop, country, a little bit of rap. I also played violin from fifth grade through college and I play the piano so I love classical music.

10. What is your favorite television show?
My favorite T.V. show of all-time is F.R.I.E.N.D.S. I have all the DVDs and watch them a lot. Such a fun show!

I don't know that I have just one favorite current T.V. show. We watch a lot of the HBO T.V. series, such as Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, and True Blood. I really like Revenge on ABC but it seems like it is off the air frequently for filming so that can be frustrating. We regularly DVR Big Bang Theory. I love Sheldon Cooper!

Our daily shows that I must DVR are Ellen and Jeopardy. Ellen is such a guilty pleasure because she is so lighthearted and fun so it is a great show to watch while cooking dinner. My husband, Sam, and I "play" along with the contestants every night on Jeopardy. He is a wizard at the game! Once in a blue moon I will pull through and win. :)

11. What book do you love reading with your students the most?
My favorite book that I have taught has to be Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Patillo Beals. I taught it at my old school to my 7th graders in 2011. They ate it up! It is a memoir about one of the Little Rock Nine members and what it was like going through life during that time period. It is eye-opening and because it is real the kids don't want to stop reading it. When I first taught this book I was teaching at a high poverty school where most of the students are on free/reduced lunch and we were a Title 1 school. I don't feel that I have ever had very many discipline issues, but while we read this book I had ZERO. Kids really wanted to come to class and see what happened to Melba and were begging to read ahead. That to me is invaluable in a book!


This school year I requested a class set of books for my 7th graders at my new school. We each have to teach one "exploratory" class so I am going to teach this novel each of the 9 weeks to a set of students. I hope that I have a similar experience as I did before and that my students will love it just as much!

Sidenote: Although the book is very high interest for our kids it is best taught at the 9th grade level. With that said, if you have accelerated kids it is a great read! You can also teach it as a whole class book so long as you scaffold it to help those that may struggle with the vocabulary, etc.

11 Random Facts About Me:

1. In high school I was a synchronized swimmer on my school's synchronized swim team.

2. I have lived in 6 different states (5 before I was 7!). West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky.

3. I played the violin from fifth grade through college. I picked up the cello my senior year of high school and I have played the piano since kindergarten.

4. I married my husband at the age of 23. He said he knew he was going to marry me the night he met me! I tried to avoid him but after a week of "stalking" me he had charmed me. :)

5. I really love the smell of fresh shoes. I know that is probably weird but there is a distinct smell when you walk in and I love it!

6. I mentioned I had a cat, Izzy, earlier, but I am also allergic to cats!

7. Speaking of allergies, I also found out at the allergist that I am highly allergic to cockroaches. It doesn't get any weirder than that!

8. Our dog, Ellie, was born the same week that we officially started dating (February 14--yes, you read that correctly...cheesiest holiday there is!).

9. I love to have my bathroom counter uber organized and will line everything up according to height. I used to do this to my parents bathroom when I was a kid and my mom loved it!

10. I adore the smell of Yankee Candle Spiced Pumpkin!

11. I love to laugh. My husband and I have gone on several vacations just to see a comedian.

Nominations for some of my favorite blogs for the Liebster Award:

5. Erin @ Miss Lifesaver

Questions for my nominees:
1. What made you interested in blogging?

2. Share your favorite easy recipe after a work day.

3. What is your most memorable teaching experience?

4. Where did you graduate from college and why did you pick that school?

5. How do you deal with difficult students and parents?

6. How do you or are you planning on staying organized this school year?

7. What is your favorite television show?

8. Do you speak any other languages?

9. What is your favorite educational website?

10. What is your favorite professional development book?

11. How do you feel about grading? Do you grade everything the kids do or do you do participation grades for some of it? How do you grade their notebooks and homework?

Thank you again Jamie for this sweet award! I hope that my nominees will let us all get to know them a little bit better and have fun taking part in this award!

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  1. I really enjoyed reading your answers. We have a lot in common. Thanks for the advice on the homework as well. That website is awesome for middle school articles! I look forward to learning more from you.

    Sixth Grade Tales
    Follow my new Facebook page

  2. I'm glad that I found you through Bloglovin'! I'm also teaching 7th grade LA this year and we can share ideas. Or... maybe pen pals? That would be cool.

    (My hubby and I also watch Game of Thrones and True Blood. Have you read either series?)

    Life In Middle School

  3. Jamie, I'm so glad you liked the website! It is one of my favorites! :)

    Lauren, I would love sharing ideas with you! This is only my second time around teaching 7th grade. I taught 6th for two years and then moved to 7th. When I switched schools this past year I was back in 6th and they asked me to move up to 7th since I had done it before. The first time around was tough because my colleague was a newbie so I was the veteran teacher with only two years experience. I feel like I have a better handle on it now and with all of you amazing blog friends and pinterest I feel like I can do this. It will be extra tough having some of the same kids again and knowing I can't use some of my really awesome resources twice on them. :)

    I have not read Game of Thrones yet. My husband loves the books and read them twice and has been on me about this. I'm hoping to fix this soon. As for True Blood and the Sookie Stackhouse series I actually watched the show before I knew about the books. When I tried to read the first book I just felt like it was too similar to the first couple of episodes and like I knew everything so I quit. Everyone tells me to give it another shot because they love them, but I'm just not sure I can since know so much from the show.

    I'll be reading! :)


  4. Hi Amy,

    Thanks SO much for nominating me for a Liebster award, but I already received one. I don't think I can get it twice? But I appreciate it!

    And I'm with you on the Laura Robb massive book! I poured over that thing and copied and tweaked things until I was happy with them. It's a great resource!

    My daughter is reading the fourth?fifth? is there a fifth book of Game of Thrones. She is totally caught up in them. She'll be bringing them for me to read when we get together for vacation in a week!


  5. Thanks for the nomination. I received 3 at once, so I'm going to combine them and do my post tomorrow or Monday. I just wanted to say that I LOVE Kelly Gallagher and have been doing AOW in my classroom since I went to a workshop with him back in 2009. He's definitely made me a better teacher!


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