Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A New Spin on Spelling?

I read an article recently about the relevancy of spelling tests and all the weekly routines associated with preparation for a Friday test.  One finding was that kids who were good at memorizing consistently scored 100% on their tests, but did not generalized correct spelling of the words to their writing.  Further, students weren’t self-monitoring their misspellings and were unable to correct their misspelled words.  No internalization.  No  generalization.  No good. 


I decided to reflect on my experience as an elementary student.  I was – and still am - a good memorizer (just ask my husband – I don’t forget a n y t h i n g).  I usually got 100% on my spelling tests (Except for that one time in 1st grade when I couldn’t remember how to spell the word who and looked over on Joey Bolanger’s test only to see that who was, in fact, not spelled hoo, and I erased and rewrote it correctly.  Then my conscience exploded, I cried, and turned myself into Mrs. Halverstadt because, you know, I COPIED.  Anyway.}  So, yes, I was generally a good speller.  And, I really like a good rainbow-write. In fact, I really like to write words in general, so copying my words three times a piece and writing them in sentences was kind of fun in my little world.  

In the primary classroom, when we’re introducing new spelling patterns (short and long vowel sounds, digraphs, diphthongs, blends, etc.), it seems only right to introduce them in some sort of sequence (usually dictated by a basal reading series) and present a happy little routine to our kiddos.  That’s what I did, anyway.  It made for simplistic daily routines that I could reuse each week with little preparation, transferred easily to nightly homework, and gave me the false hope that my kids were GREAT spellers when 90% of them were nailing that Friday test.  Boom.  I rock at teaching spelling. 

Or not? 

I’m not in the classroom now, so I can only experiment with my little class of one, but I decided to move away from teaching from a pre-set list of words this week.  So, no hop, pop, mop, dot, cot, rot, sod, lob or anything like that.  

Here's what we did.  And, yes, it's still a spelling routine, but not the one I've used for the past seven years as an elementary school teacher. 

This is by no means perfect!  It still needs LOTS of tweaking, and I am open to suggestions for change.  What do you think?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The {new} Inspired Apple

I started blogging in 2008, a miserably pregnant 25-year-old, trying to pass the time before our son was born.  It was the hottest June I can recall and my ankles were easily three times their normal size. I wrote my first post entitled 100% Pregnant on June 26th and he was born a day later.   
Blogging was fairly new then, and it was a fun way for me to share our lives and my love of writing with the six or so people who mostly just came for pictures of Becks (hi, mom!).    

Babbling Abby became my little online home, and I posted quite regularly for the first few years, telling stories of my adventures in motherhood and marriage, posting pictures and updates as we remodeled our little Cape Cod, and sharing small bits from my teaching experience.  With each passing post, though, the content became more driven by my passion for education and sharing out what I was doing in my classroom.  I decided in the winter of 2011 that I needed to extend my teacher-related blogging to entirely new space, and I created The Inspired Apple.  

Life became busier, I began teaching full time, and Babbling Abby was severely neglected while I focused most of my attention over here.  I tried for a long time to keep my random-musings separate from this teacher blog, but maintaining two blogs suddenly felt burdensome and unnecessary, so I quit writing about anything non-teaching related entirely.  I'd post occasionally on Babbling Abby with promises to do better and blog more.  It didn't happen. 

Looking back on that season of life, I'm not surprised I didn't blog about more personal things.  I think I would've done a lot of complaining, actually.  Working full time was exhausting, I missed being at home with Beckham, my marriage wasn't its strongest, we were struggling with infertility, and my faith was superficial.  

However, the seasons have changed - as they always do - and life seems a little more manageable again, even though it's more full than it's ever been.  I still love to teach, I still love to decorate, I still love to take pictures of my kids, I still love to share and inspire, and I still love to write.  So, rather than neglect all of that, I've decided to breathe new life into The Inspired Apple and make it a catch-all for my passions, though they may change from day to day.  

And, though I feel a little silly making a big-to-do about this, Babbling Abby holds a special place in my heart because it eventually led to this blog which eventually led to friends across the country and opportunities and experiences I never imagined. I've decided to delete Babbling Abby at the end of the year, after having its posts bound into a book as a keepsake for our family.  

As I'm sure you can tell, the overall feel of the blog has already changed with an amazing new design by Smitten Blog Designs {I *highly* recommend them!} and teaching posts will now be mingled in with whatever I feel like writing about!   Just don't be surprised when you read a post about this week's lesson plans followed by a post about how banana sludge turns to glue on high chair trays.  (For real, it really does.  And, it's equally as disgusting as it is hard to remove.  Babies are messy little people.  Or, perhaps I shouldn't get distracted by replacing pictures in frames after lunchtime and clean the tray in a timely manner. #momprobs)

The picture menu across the top will help you navigate to specific posts, so if you're just here for teaching-related posts click 'teach' and you'll be taken to recent posts about teaching.  The sidebar also contains Archives and tags beneath Find it Fast if you're looking for something specific.  There's a Search box, too.  However, if you don't mind reading the occasional post about banana sludge and the like, just scroll on through :)

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Teaching: Key Details and Main Idea to the Primary Student

I remember them moment I had the idea for this resource.  It was over a year ago and I was working with some intermediate students who were really struggling to identify key details on an activity.  They were in an intervention group I was working with, doing a very basic comprehension activity.  When they were required to recall details from the story they were completely lost.  The answers were right there in front of them, yet they still struggled with the very basic question: what is a key detail?  How could they answer these seemingly basic questions without even knowing what to look for in the first place?  

It's very challenging to help students who have gone much of their elementary career without knowing basic foundational skills.  Not impossible, but definitely challenging.  With this particular group of students, a mini-lesson was in order to go back and reteach this skill.  

But, what could be done - at a much earlier age - to help solidify these skills before reaching late elementary school?  

And, then I thought of my own son.  A first grader now.  What would make these skills more concrete for him?  What would give him the strongest base for learning and maintaining these skills as he progresses?  Equally as important - how would I want to teach these skills so that I was engaged as a teacher, too?  {Not selfish, just honest!}  

In addition to detailed lesson plans and included activity sheets, definition posters, and exit slips, I added a Teacher Cheat Sheet for each activity.  It's a little snapshot of what you'll need for the lesson and includes pictures and suggestions for teaching.  

I will start working on this skill with my little firstie after Thanksgiving, and I'm actually really excited about it!  Here's a preview of the entire resource, and you can check it out >>> HERE <<< too.

Aaaaaand, there are some big(ish) changes coming to The Inspired Apple this week, and I'm really excited {and a wee bit nervous} to share them with you!  

Happy Monday!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Keepin' it Corny: A Thematic Study of Corn for the Primary Classroom}

I'm convinced you can make a theme around anything, so this week Becks and I are studying CORN.  
This may sound completely uninteresting, if not flat out boring, but CORN IS COOL, y'all.  

Here's a snapshot of our week. You can click the graphics to HERE to download.  
Cover graphics within are clickable.

Today, we started by reading Corn by Gail Gibbons.  I seriously love her.  She has a book for practically everything!  The illustrations are divine and the content is spot on for primary students.  
We will be making a Fact File for our study of corn throughout the week, but spent today just reading it for enjoyment and for new words.  {More about that tomorrow!}

After that, it was time to explore!  I cannot tell you how much fun he had with this.  I took some Kroger-bought cornmeal, poured it in a pan, and let him go to town!

Even though sensory bins are soooooo pre-k, I think that they are invaluable in primary!  I don't know many kiddos under the age of eight who don't mind exploring with their hands!

 Was it messy?  Absolutely! But, oh so worth it!  We left it on the kitchen table, and he returned to it throughout the day many times.

Aaaaaaand, it was the perfect segue into learning about adjectives this week!

I did a super-brief mini-lesson...
And, then it was his turn to describe me...
Afterwards, Becks did a similar (independent) activity to describe cornmeal.  I was so impressed with the adjectives he came up with.  He would even go back to the pan of cornmeal to touch and taste it to come up with them.  Love that!  We also stuck a piece of tape into the cornmeal and taped it right to the page.  {This would be perfect for a traditional classroom, too, and would give your kiddos the opportunity to have a sample of cornmeal at their fingertips to observe.}

The Adjectives All Around printable can be found HERE.

 Do you take time to study all things corny?!  I'd love to hear!

 PS.  Sweet girl had her one-year check-up today and had to get FIVE shots.  Sister was asleep by 6:30pm.  However, I did snap a cute before pic when she was all smiley and giggly :D
Happy Monday!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Five for Friday {11/7/14}

You can link up with Kacey, too!  Just click the graphic above :)

Tomorrow we are celebrating Faith's first birthday.  This may come as a surprise, but I'm not a Pinterest Party thrower.  I'm a cake-balloons-family kind of party thrower.  And, probably pizza.  Because what's a good party without good pizza?  

Not gonna lie, I teared up a little bit when I pulled these parcels from the mail addressed to Miss Faith Mullins.  My heart skipped a little.  Because she's my daughter and she's one and that's enough for me to be ridiculously sentimental about.  

I also did some completely (ir)rational birthday shopping and went crazy at Dillard's.  {PS.  Besides the Thanksgiving outfits, everything was under $15 and less!  #winning}
I have decided to revamp our home school room and schedule.  Something about what I am currently doing wasn't jiving, nor was the initial space we moved in to.  So, I'm spending this weekend putting some real thought and effort into changing it up a little bit.  I plan to report back.  

I did, however, purchase a white board which is pretty transformative alone.  A white board makes you feel official (and is also a really good alternative to all the paper I was wasting).  Becks has taken to "teaching" me.  Yesterday was Transfiguration where I was instructed to turn a Space Man into a dog.  It was unsuccessful and I think I'm failing wizarding school.
Becks did this little noun hunt activity this week.  He drew a picture of a noun, wrote the word, and then wrote whether it was a person, place, or thing underneath the post-it.  Simple and a nice little formative assessment.  Oh, and the clip board.  Because that's always fun.  Mine is from C.Jayne Teach.  
 Here's a better view of the picture he drew of me.  I think I'm shimmying.  

I wrote all about our adoption on the blog this past week.  
If you missed them, you can read them here:

 Part I here >>> A New Beginning
 Part II here >>> The Journey Begins
 Part III here >>> Blank Pages
Part IV here >>> Complete Surrender
I hired a babysitter this week.  Not only am a struggling to find balance as a stay-at-home-work-at-home-teacher-mom, but Brandon and I need a night (or two) out every now and then and we needed to find someone comfortable with Faith's needs.  The whole 'medically fragile' things can be a bit of turn-off when it comes to hunting for a babysitter : /  Thankfully, we were able to find someone who took care of another special little lady with medical needs, which has set my mind at ease.  Hopefully, B and I will get that night out soon!  In the meantime, while she's getting to know the kiddos, I'm hanging around and getting accomplished!  Hellllloooooooooo, clean and organized basement!
Happy Fridaaaaaaay!