Illinois Reading Conference

Today was a really great day at the Illinois Reading Conference!  I was able to attend some really great sessions today!  

I always really enjoy attending professional conferences because I feel rejuvenated to go back to school and try new things in the classroom.  

Today I learned about close reading and new exciting books to use in the classroom.  

I am also really enjoying spending time with friends/colleagues.  We are having meaningful conversations about best practice and instruction.

Off to bed to get some rest before another day of great sessions!


Leaving for 3 1/2 Days….

What do you do to prepare for a substitute? 


This week I will be gone for 3 1/2 days.  I am very nervous, but I am also excited for a short break.  This has been a long couple of weeks and next week will be long too.  


I think it is very beneficial for teachers to leave the classroom to go to a professional conference.  I am so excited for some professional development and a break.  Plus stepping away from the classroom rejuvenates teachers to be the best they can be for their students.  Also it gives teachers time to grow as professionals. 


Is anyone else here at the Illinois Reading Conference?  Anyone else taking time off to grow as a teacher? 


Chant With Me: NO SNOW DAY! NO SNOW DAY! Last Day of ISATs tomorrow!

Tomorrow is our last day of ISAT testing!  My kids are so excited that tomorrow’s test has no extended response and it is only 20 multiple choice questions.  Let’s just hope there is no snow day!!!

But can we just talk for a minute about that extended response?


We have been writing reader’s responses for most of the year.  Also, we have been working on writing an introduction to answer a question, using evidence from the text, connections (specifically to text or to world), and wrapping up the answer when answering questions about our reading.  Almost every single student in my class answered today’s extended response in this way.  Beforehand the students felt a bit stressed about the question, but they told me afterward that they felt prepared and confident about answering the extended response question.  

As I reflect on how our team prepared the fourth graders for the extended response, I can’t help but notice that we did not teach an exact formula (like I have done in the past).  We taught students the components that should be included in any response about text.  We didn’t teach the students how to answer questions about text a week or even a month before the test (like I have done in the past).  We have been working on it almost all year, so they had a lot of experience writing about their reading.  

We will continue to refine the way we have our students respond to their reading so that our team can make sure our students are prepared for not only a standardized test, but also good readers and informed writers.

How do you prepare for extended response?  

Dealing with Stress

How do you deal with a particularly stressful week? 

I know we all have stress daily, but this week (already) I am feeling particularly stressed!  We are finishing up ISATs this week and then I will be gone Thursday, Friday (Illinois Reading Conference), Monday (ELA District Committee Meeting), and Tuesday AM (Building Leadership Team Meeting-Rising Star).  This Wednesday the quarter ends, and I am trying to finish giving assessments before I go.  I know I will not finish everything before I go, which means I need to finish when I get back.  Grades are due next Thursday morning and we have parent/teacher conferences next week.  AHHHHHHH!!!!

I am not feeling reflective or inspired right now.  I just want to sit down and confer with my students while they are reading and writing.  That would be so much easier than thinking about everything I have to do. 

So, how do you deal with all of the stress that comes with teaching? 

One thing that helps me is having a solid team, who is willing to help, and a great co-teacher, who is willing to help calm me down when she knows I am stressing out. 

Thank you for listening to me rant for a minute…I already feel a little bit better. 

5 Celebrations!

Today I am celebrating!  (I am trying to be positive even though I am so tired!)

1.  I was able to find a little bit of balance this week with my reading and writing.  I am going to continue to work on balancing my time in both areas.

2.  We have 6 ISAT tests down, and two to go!  I am so proud of each of my students!  I can’t wait to see how they do the rest of the week!

3. Last week, we started our fable unit and we started reading The Fabled Fourth Grader of Aesop Elementary School by Candace Fleming.  I love this book!  It is so funny and the kids love it!  I can’t wait to continue our novel study this week.

4. I was able to spend time with some of my good girlfriends this weekend!  We went to one of my favorite restaurants, Bien Trucha, in Geneva.  I always enjoy spending time with good friends and of course, shopping in Geneva.

5. I bought some gifts this weekend to encourage and support the loved ones in my life.  I love giving gifts to friends, especially when they are books!  

I already feel better after taking a minute to celebrate!  I hope everyone has a great week!

Balance….Reading and Writing

I LOVE to read!  I love reading books that let me escape from my own world and transplant myself into a world made-up by a skilled artist.  

I like to write.  Until I started my Masters in Literacy from Judson University, I don’t think I wrote for fun since I was in grade school.  Since completing my masters in June, I have spent more and more time dedicated to writing both personally and professionally.  

I still do not love writing like I love reading, but I think I have grown because now I am doing both.  BUT, I am struggling to find balance so that I can do both somewhat evenly.  When I wasn’t professionally writing, I was reading, reading, and reading some more.  Now that I am professionally writing, I am having trouble finding time to read as much as I would like.  

How do you make time for both on a daily basis? 

Spring Conferences


For the past seven years I have had a spring open house in place of spring conferences (I still have conferences with parents of students).  The students and I create a scavenger hunt around the classroom and the school so that the students could share what they have learned with their parents.  I have received really great feedback from the event.  I also really like another evening when I can see parents with their children.


This year I will not be having an open house.  I am actually really bummed.  I don’t have time to work with the students to set-up the scavenger hunt or the open house in two weeks.  I have been thinking about how to still offer something.  I could offer an open house on another evening next month.  What else could I do?  

What do you do in the spring time to interact with parents?  How do you have students share their growth, thinking, and learning with parents around this time of year?  Any suggestions or ideas?  I am completely open to anything!  Thank you!


We are Exhausted!

Today is day three of ISATs….5 tests down and 3 to go!  The kids are working so hard, and they are using the testing strategies they have learned to be successful on tests.  They are using the charts, graphs, pictures, key words, and their schema to answer each and every question. 



The kids and the teachers.  We are ALL exhausted! 

I don’t remember ever feeling this tired.  Am I more tired because this is a make-or-break year for us? Am I more tired because I am getting older?  Am I more tired because we don’t have enough time in the morning?  I am not sure, but I find it interesting when I hear, “I love ISAT week!  These two weeks are so easy!”  I do not think it is easy, or fun for that matter!  I would much rather hear my students having meaningful academic conversations, spending extended time reading or writing, and learning!

I know assessment is a piece of the puzzle in education, but I can’t wait to get back to what we do best in our classrooms…teaching and learning!

After School….

What do you do after school?  Do you leave soon after the students?  Do you clean-up your classroom?  Do you tutor or do another after-school activity?  Do you call parents or answer emails?

My team and I usually sit in one of each other’s classrooms or out in our pod area and just talk.  We usually talk about the day, students, best practice, the state of the school or district, the ISAT tests from the day, or our personal lives, etc.  My teammate stated it perfectly today, “We are decompressing!”  He is so right!  This decompression is so important after a long, stressful day.  I’m grateful my decompression is not alone in the car, but with teammates who care about our students, our school, and each other.

I guess I didn’t really recognize that we had these conversations everyday until another colleague came into my room while we were “decompressing” and she said, “Oh, am I interrupting?”  We all immediately said no, and she joined our conversation.

As I sit back and reflect, it empowers me that our team is close enough to talk to each other about anything, and we feel comfortable with each other.  This is going to be so important as we move towards an “official” district PLC model.  If we get along, it will make it easier for us to have conversations of candor and continue to support each other to focus on student learning and growth.  It makes me feel very grateful. 🙂

Responding to Reading

How do you have your students respond to text?  

I am going to totally put myself out there and share how I have tried to have students respond to text.  This is an area I am exploring this year.  This is the first year I am having students respond to text this way, so I am not sure I am doing this the best way possible.  I would love some constructive feedback from teachers who have advice to give me!

Our team has started by having students write reader’s responses each week.  My team and I pose a question each week related to a skill or strategy we have been focusing on with our students.  For example, “What are the major differences between poetry and the book you are currently reading?” (CCSS RL.4.5)  The reader’s responses are due on Friday.  I take a picture of the responses, put them in each child’s Evernote notebook, and send each child’s response to his/her parents.  (Each of my teammates sends home responses differently.)

My students and I developed a rubric that incorporates skills in the Common Core State Standards, such as; using evidence from the text and organizing their thoughts into paragraphs.  Each response is worth 10 points.  

Moving forward, I would like to explore other ways for students to respond to text so that it is more authentic.  I have some professional books I would like to read to grow in this area. 




I would like to reread Aimee Buckner’s Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader’s Notebook.

Does anyone have any other recommendations?