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December Currently

It's one of my favorite Linkys with the one and only Farley!!!

Listening: I am obsessed with my Holiday Albums! I talking Mariah Carey "Merry Christmas," the soundtrack from "The Best Man Holiday," and Idina Menzel "Holiday Wishes."

Loving: I come from a a really BIG family (check my bio), but I don't live in the same city as any of them. I am in L-O-V-E with being able to spend time with my family during the holidays. If you follow me on Instagram you've probably noticed lots of family pictures! If not, I'll give you a little taste. For Thanksgiving my fiance and I went to Ohio to visit with his family, and we'll be in Miami for Christmas. As a bonus, one of my sisters in currently spending the night with my niece and flying out tomorrow. 

Thinking: I have to catch up on my holiday decorating. Last year was my first Christmas in my cozy house so I was inspired to decorate after a L-O-N-G renovation. I need to kick it into gear!
Wanting: Nothing at all! I probably write this for every Currently, but I am blessed beyond measure.
Needing: A clone! The next three weeks are filled with travel for work. I'll be at my alma mater FSU this week, NOLA next week, and Cincinnati the week before the break. This time of year I am very thankful for Precheck (AKA keep on your shoes and laptops stays in your bag) and my airline status because it keeps me sane during holiday travel. I also need my alma mater FSU to STOP raising my blood pressure every football game ;-)

Giving: Every year I participate in the Angel Tree Fellowship with my church. We adopt kids whose parents are in prison and buy gifts on behalf of their parents. I absolutely LOVE this program and am excited for the kids we are giving to this year!

In the spirit of giving I am also giving away my Native American unit! It's here! If you have issues opening (it's a large file) just email me! Seasons Greetings! 

Building Five Star Relationships

This blog post is serving double duty. I'm linking up with Jasmine over at Buzzing with Mrs. McClain for her You Oughta Know blog hop. I am also posting the second topic in a series about teaching in low income communities.
The first lesson without a doubt is getting to know your students. This is probably a "duh," but I wanted to include it just in case (wink, wink). Knowing students means not only their interests, but also what motivates them, how they receive feedback, things that anger them. Below are a few of my favorite resources to use to get to know your students. 
Other Ideas: Attend an extracurricular event, do a home visit, eat lunch with students 
I purposefully used the term "influencers" versus "parent" because in my experience I've found it helpful to know the adults that students look up to. That might be a previous teacher, extracurricular coach, older sibling, community leader and/or everyone in between. When I prioritize getting to know the people who know the people who are important to my students, it proves that I care, and provides another support link for students. SHAMEFUL PLUG-  I'll be doing a full blog on "Working With Stakeholders" that will include resources...I hope you come back.
When students feel valued as individuals and connected to a community, it provides the framework for a strong classroom culture. A safe and nurturing classroom is something that is intentionally built and maintained by the classroom teacher. From rules and procedures, to the classroom layout and student pairings... EVERYTHING BUILDS (or destroys) CLASSROOM CULTURE. Below are a few resources to assist with building relationships and creating a safe class. 

               Posters by Maria Manore              Subway Art by Hope King 
Personal relationships with students take time...and consistency. A lack of consistency creates a slippery slope when it comes to building trust filled relationships with students. Students have to know teacher expectations and these have to be followed through every time...without fail. I tend to think of my relationships with students as flowers... they need consistent sunlight and water. 
The final thing you OUGHTA KNOW is that building relationships is hard and time consuming. The most difficult thing in my experience was that many of students have many different layers of protection around who they were, which makes it difficult to open up. I own the times when I stopped trying (please don't judge me). That said, hindsight is a gift. Looking back, I've built stronger skin and have changed my orientation towards relationship building. This can be summed up in one of my favorite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quotes, "The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy."As it relates to relationships, I believe that enduring through adversity and humbling myself in service of my kids and community is what has enabled me to build strong relationships and networks.   
I'd love to hear how others approach building relationships.

Working In Low Income Communities: A Blog Series

Thanks for reading! I'd love to for you to leave thoughts in the comments section... especially if they are different from the experiences listed in this entry. I hope you will check back soon for my entry on building relationships. 

November Currently

I've been in rut when it comes to blogging, but linking up with Farley is the PERFECT pick me up!

Listening- My hubby just bought a new Dizzy Gillespie album, which if you love jazz will not disappoint! This has to be one of the best big bands ever assembled. 

Loving - THE WEATHER! I went on a beautiful and long walk with my puppy today and it was simply gorgeous outside. 

Thinking - I lost a student. My second of the year, and third in the last two years. My heart is heavy. I am praying for the families of my students. Sleep in perfect peace Andrew, Ron, and now Demantrae. 

Needing- Given how difficult this week has been, I need a break! We'll be going to Ohio for a Thanksgiving, and I've been doing a ton of reflecting on all the things I am grateful for. 

Reading When I need to cope with the *trials of life*, I read. I am currently reading the book Courageous Conversations About Race with my team AND planning a new blog series about various topics from the book #staytuned 

Halloween Bash Blog Hop & Giveaway

I'm linking up with The Teaching 2 Step for a Halloween Blog Hop! This is a fun hop that allows me to share a little more about me, and includes a few treats for my followers. Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

YOU MUST TRY: While many know Halloween for the candy, I think of fall and SOUL FOOD! One of my favorites is southern Mac-n-Cheese! It's a very easy recipe that yields top notch results!

FAVORITE COSTUME: My favorite part of Halloween is that I get to dress the part that I play on a daily basis free from judgement! All teachers are super heroes, right?!?!
In the spirit of Halloween, I have a real "TREAT" for you over on my TPT store. The first is a story starter and other goodies writing resource.

The second is a sale on my new unit "The Tell Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe. I am VERY proud of this unit and it's perfect for older students! Visit my store located here
There also some fabulous prizes to win so be sure to enter to win!
Secondary Giveaway Pack a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tricks and Treats: A Blog Hop

I am linking up with Mrs. Plemons for a fun October blog hop! I am using this space to talk Close Reading!

Close reading is a deep examination of a short piece of text, with multiple readings done over the course of a lesson or series of lessons. Students are guided through multiple levels of understanding, including comprehension, analysis, and deep thematic understanding, through the use of text based questioning and discussions. Below I am addressing common misconceptions (i.e. traps) to close reading, and giving some "tricks" that have worked for me in my teaching/learning journey.

Misconception #1- If students read a text multiple times, they are engaged in a close read of the text.
The Trap: Repeated reading is an element of close reading, but remember students are not simply rereading the text. For clarity, reading a text multiple times, using a different graphic organizer is also not close reading.
The Trick: Students need a frame for how to process each read that ideally focus on a gradual increase in rigor for students. I like to think of this as "rounds" or "phases" of reading. The first is grounded in literal comprehension. Meaning, do they get the gist of the text. The second phase drives inferential thinking and how the text is crafted. The final phase is centered on determining and/or evaluating themes. The overall aim is for students to put all of the pieces together better understand what a text says, how it says it, and what it means.  

Misconception #2 - There's "a way" to do it and you have to set a clear aim, or objective.  
The Trap: The outcome of close reading is for students to understand rich and complex text in all of its layers of nuance. Applying an aim or objective may narrow the scope of student thinking in a way that contradicts the purpose of close reading. In practice and execution there a a number of approaches that are acceptable to use during a close read. That considered, there's a difference (IMO) between setting a purpose and driving towards a specific objective for the day. I'll have to speak about that in another blog post.
The Trick: I've seen many wonderful examples of teachers using graphic organizers or other worksheets to engage students, but teachers can also leverage other strategies such as selective annotating and peer talks. One thing I've noticed with using more prescriptive approaches such as graphic organizers is that MY students over-fixate on completing the "task" versus using it as a tool to interpret the text. Therefore, it's good to mix up your use of strategies based on where your class is in a manner that supports their ability to analyze the text. 

Misconception #3 - Any text is great for a close read. 
The Trap: Every text does not have the layers of nuance requiring a deep analysis. Teachers have to find text that allows students to gain new insight each time they read it, and include complex ideas or structure that will stimulate deep conversations and support teachers in crafting text dependent questions.
The Trick: When considering text, give yourself enough time to the complexity of ideas presented, vocabulary difficulty, text structure, and major themes the can be gleaned through multiple reads. This takes TIME. While you might use a few of these elements each time students read, refrain from calling it a close read unless it truly embodies the spirit of close reading.  

Misconception #4- Close reading is not for struggling readers 
The Trap: Research indicates that close reading can be a powerful entry point for struggling readers given the emphasis of rereading the text multiple times.
The Trick: Teachers have the creative license to modify lessons that embed strategies, such as teacher questioning and targeted vocabulary and theme instruction to assist students with analyzing the text. Close reading can be scaffolded by using methods that most teachers are familiar with such as, Interactive Read Alouds, using post-its, jigsaws, and shared reading, to name a few. Additionally, all students should be positioned to engage in discussions regardless of their independent reading level. Discussion is a powerful strategy to get ALL students engaged in the text. It not only also students to develop their own theories, but also allows struggling readers a peek into the minds of their peers and how they process text. 

Thank you for reading! I am anxious to hear your thoughts close reading! Before you go please take a treat! My first treat is a lesson plan and text analysis of "Still I Rise" by the late Dr. Maya Angelou. The second treat is the close reading template I use when analyzing text. Enjoy!!!

Don't forget to visit the blogs below for more tricks and treats!

Wordless Wednesday

I'm linking up with Miss DeCarbo for one of my favorites...WORDLESS WEDNESDAY!

I modeled a lesson for one of the teachers I am supporting that involved pulling students during their "walk and talk" time. Students L-O-V-E "walk and talk" so I focused on the skill, and aligned my instructional activity to that. 
 What's your approach to engaging students during remediation? 

You Oughta Know About...Goal Setting and Monitoring

I am once again linking up with the fabulous Mrs. McClain for her You Oughta Know Blog Hop!
You oughta know about setting meaningful goals with your students. Year after year I have refined my approach to goal setting with my students, but there are three principles that have remained the same.

1. Student Driven 
Students are responsible for setting and reflecting goals at the beginning of each quarter. This is something that requires teacher assistance and guidance. Depending on the goal that is being set, teachers will need various types of information. For example, current levels of student performance (state assessment, pretest data, reading inventory), behavior information (approximate number of detentions, days on lower level of behavior chart, ect.) and common areas that students will are likely to select to improve in. The latter is not a requirement, but helpful in thinking through how to be specific and assist students with breaking down the goal into measurable chunks. I start by modeling how to do a self reflection and evaluation. My goal here is to make my thinking palpable for students and to walk them through the honest process of self-analysis. Two key ideas: 1) We are ALL working on SOMETHING 2) THIS IS PERSONAL 
 2. Include an Action Plan 
Students need to know what steps they can take to improve. Since the goals are driven by students, I like to share examples of how to craft goals based on their self identified area of development. It might also be helpful have to goal bank that aligns with the key areas from the goal setting sheet.
3. Include Benchmarks and Celebration 
Students need to know what success looks like! I tend to let students articulate that in way that makes sense to them and guide them in thinking through the actions. However, I lead the celebration of my students. Ironically, my students are naturally REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hard on themselves. Meaning, they struggle with the process and have FITS when they make mistakes. They sometimes takes the all or nothing approach, therefore, I prioritize taking time to celebrate progress. #thejourney
All of these templates are currently my FAN FREEBIE over on my Facebook page! Enjoy!