Sunday, March 29, 2015

He has what?! Sensory in a 1st grade classroom

As I look finish out my 7th year of teaching, I found myself completely lost when our Occupational Therapist came into my room to observe a student.  This particular student had been referred for an evaluation for handwriting issues.

Within a couple minutes and observing many other students she had asked if I did Brain Breaks. Why yes, thanks for asking, we LOVE ourselves some GoNoodle.  Koo Koo Kanga Roo anyone?!  We can't skip a morning or afternoon without it especially since it feels like moons ago was the last time we had outdoor recess.

As I patted myself on the back for doing something that I thought would benefit my class, I proudly asked her "Why?"

Pointing out the behaviors she started to explain that she noticed a lot of my students were seeking more "input".  Input. Ok, I got this...I can explain more about what we are reading, not a problem! In fact tomorrow in our small group, I will make sure that each student receives more input about their reading. Right? Ok how about completely wrong.

Little did I know, this term "input" had nothing to do with me at all.

She started talking about "Sensory".  My mind started flipping through the card catalog of terms from my undergraduate to my current graduate classes trying to place the term sensory. And then I couldn't.  Never studied anything about it, couldn't tell you a thing about it.  I had no idea what she was talking about or how the heck I was going to help these students.

Please tell me someone out there is with me on this one...

I started my search googling what she was talking about because of course with the limited time this sweet women has in our building she didn't have time to give me a Sensory 101 lesson in the 15 minute time frame she was there to observe the particular student.

And I came upon this awesome graphic to teach me more about sensory.  Check it out.  

Oh, there is that little term, "input" in more 1st grade teacher friendly terminology.  BUT I still don't get it. Someone please oh please help! Our OT is only in our building for less than 2 whole days and on those days she is seeing students so how will she ever have time to educate me.  The teacher she just told that she saw multiple sensory needs for.  

Then it clicked. A good friend, amazing mother, Occupational Therapist, and fabulous blogger over at Your Kids Table was literally a phone call away. Panicked I called asking her to put this in "Allison terms" because I simply don't know how I can help my students.

Within moments, she calmed me down and was beyond excited to partner with me to help my students in need.

The next couple posts will be a collaboration of what to look for, how we can accommodate Sensory
Procession Disorder in our classrooms, and questions/answers as well as advice from an Occupation Therapist.

What questions do you have about sensory?  Do you have students with sensory needs? I would love to hear what you are seeing your classrooms!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Benchmark Literacy: Let's Hear From a 4th Grade Teacher

As we continue to discuss Benchmark Literacy, I have taken the time to meet and discuss with one of our 4th grade teachers, the good, the bad, and the ugly about BL.  I love all of the time and detail that this teacher has put into piloting Benchmark.  She is going to be an awesome example to the rest of the district next year.

Check out what she has to say below...

Pros:  I love teaching in small groups.  I feel like I have an opportunity to interact more with my readers than I did teaching reading whole group.  Guided reading is a great time to discuss our reading and apply strategies.  Students seem more comfortable participating in their small groups than amongst the whole class.  They enjoy the nonfiction title and absorb the information.  As a teacher, I get a better indication about their strengths and weaknesses as readers and can adjust instruction accordingly.  My students love working in their work station groups.  They get varied learning opportunities on a daily basis and they enjoy moving about the room to complete their stations.  

Cons:  Time, time, time.  There is never enough!  In the upper grades, the leveled books are very content heavy and therefore it is difficult to complete a book per week.  Although, our week one books can flow into week two, that takes time away from our genre study books.  Assessment is also difficult this first year.  The unit tests are very challenging, and until the students adjust to the new rigors, the tests are intimidating.  I have seen improvement as the year has progressed.  

Overall, I love this program and feel the pros outweigh the cons.  

Hopefully you are finding these insightful as we move through the grade levels.  Next up are 1st and 2nd grade as well as an area in which we have struggled with, the writing component.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Benchmark Literacy: Hear it from a 3rd Grade Teacher

A handful of teachers in our district are currently piloting Benchmark Literacy.  Our district is going to officially adopting it district wide in the fall.  A lot of comments/questions that I have received has been about what we are seeing in the district both good and bad.  So I should title this post...Let's be honest...

I have to say that overwhelming response has been that "Benchmark Literacy is amazing! A lot of work but amazing!" {I would completely agree with this!} 

The following are the Pros and Cons are from a 3rd grade teacher in our district who is piloting.

Pros: I definitely know more about my students as readers. I listen to them each read on a daily basis and can identify their strengths and weaknesses better than I could with a basal. The students really like having their own book that only their group reads. They get very into the topics in the books and we always end up looking up more information about the nonfiction selections. Their reading grades are a much more accurate depiction of their reading abilities than they were with a basal.

Cons: It puts a lot of responsibility on the students to make sure they are focused during the mini lesson and on task during their workstations. There is not a lot to hold them accountable throughout the instruction time (no worksheets to complete to see if they are paying attention) so I think my lower kids struggle with that responsibility. 

Any more specific questions?  Leave a comment below and I will make sure I to find you the answer! 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Benchmark Literacy Small Groups

One of my absolute favorite parts of Benchmark Literacy is our leveled reading groups.

In BL each unit is broken down into 3 weeks.  The first two weeks there is leveled instruction for your small groups {I absolutely love these!} and the third week is Readers Theater.  I still run small groups during this week, it just looks different. {more on this later} I group my students based on their level using Fountas and Pinnell.  In the past, I have tried to run my small groups based on the student's reading level but never had all of the resources at my fingertips.  It is amazing to simply open the plastic bag and there are all the contents you need to teach!  I have started to take the comprehension card in each of the bags and type up the questions along with the graphic organizer and writing prompt.  You can find these over at my TPT store.  Need 2nd or 3rd grade comprehension worksheets? My friend has made grades 2nd and 3rd over in her store Primary Perfectionist Check them out! 

The follow pictures are the contents of the leveled books.  I wanted to share how I have formatted the comprehension questions.  I love the questions and love even more that students are able to respond in writing.

Each bag contains a teacher's guide, a comprehension card and six copies of the text.  


These are amazing especially because they guide our small group time and give me grades for comprehension & writing.  This is an area I will follow up with in the next couple posts. 

I would love to hear if you are currently using Benchmark Literacy, how you utilize small group time? What does this time block look like in your classroom?  

If this is a reading series your district is considering, what are your concerns, questions, etc.?  I would love to hear!

Up next, the good, the bad, and the ugly...
Hear it from teachers that have spent the year piloting Benchmark Literacy.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Benchmark Literacy

This year our district is piloting a new reading series, Benchmark Literacy.  As we approach the 100th day of school, I can finally say that I think I have it all figured out.  It is so nice to walk into school on a Monday and not have my head spin until 3:15 on Friday.

Benchmark Literacy is an balanced literacy approach with whole & small group instruction, phonics, and writing.  

We started off the year by assessing each student using a non-fiction Fountas and Pinnell piece.  This was such a great way to find out what level each of my students were on.  Fountas and Pinnell is a separate component to Benchmark.  Our reading specialist have used F & P but we have not individually assessed our students using it until this year.  I love it! Have you used Fountas and Pinnell?

I guess I should back up...I absolutely love that Benchmark eases into the school year.  The First 30 Days is literally what you do for the first 30 days of school.  It is amazing, it goes through how you classroom will run throughout the entire school year.  This isn't the only thing that you do during your literacy block as there is phonetic review.  In 1st grade this is BuildUp Phonics.  They also have a review for Kindergarten as well as 2nd grade that parallels the First 30 Days.

I can't say enough great things about Benchmark Literacy.  Although this was just a sweet little taste, stay tuned, because I will be sharing so much more including what I have found works really great, and what has not been as successful!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The First Snow Day of 2015!

Here in Pittsburgh, we have been pretty lucky so far this winter.  At this point last winter, we had multiple delays and closings that extended our school year.  Today we had our first delay that turned into a closing. Boo and Boo!  This means that we will no longer have Martin Luther King Jr. day off. At least at this point, we will at least have a clerical day that Friday.  

Have you heard about the Whole 30?  I first learned about this through Rachelle over at For Blogness Sake.  She is a rockstar and totally inspired me to get back to basics with what I am eating.  

I have not finished reading the book, shhhh, I think you are supposed to completely finish reading it before starting but listen to a sister, I needed to start.  I was so excited that my awesome husband after much begging and pleading said that he would do it with me as well.  All I had to say was: "You can eat Potatoes..." #hooked. I left out a lot of the things you can't consume, like wheat, dairy, and well, alcohol. #opps

If you have no clue about the Whole 30. Check it out here at The Whole 30 website.  This is one of the most resourceful websites I have seen for a program like this.  It is full of recipes, shopping lists, and must knows to get you started.  There are a ton of great Pinterest boards as well as people on Instagram that have shared recipes as well as motivation so seek them out as well! Take the plunge and check out Whole 30 today.  

I am off to watch the new episode of Fixer Upper! #hgtvlove

Monday, January 5, 2015


And then it was January!  {What?!}

I can not even believe that Christmas has come and gone, as well as our break and here we are linking up for another "Currently!"  Fingers crossed the remainder of the year flies by just as quickly as the first half!

Listening: I wish I was watching, but I believe it is all repeats since I along with the Mr. have watched every episode of Fixer Upper, Property Brothers, and Rehab Addict within the last two weeks.  I love having it on in the background no matter what else is going on. 

Loving: I am loving the She Reads Truth app.  Not only do the graphics speak my style, having the ability to read the Bible whenever and wherever I want is ah-mazing.  
If you don't have it, go download it!

Thinking: I had a list of things that I planned to get done over break. Maybe a quarter of it got accomplished.  Perhaps a little less HGTV would have helped with this list getting complete.

Wanting: I would love, love, love a 2 hour delay this week! No cancellations, but a 2 hour delay to get on top of paperwork, copies, and well maybe just sleeping in for 30 extra minutes.  

Needing: Is the lack of sunlight after 4:45 p.m. killing anyone else on the East Coast?  I feel like after I leave school I basically have 1 hour to complete anything and then it is instantaneously night.  Not to mention my see through skin! My mom has reminded me that we are adding day light minute by minute each day so I must just keep the faith.  

Yes: I will blog more. Other than the monthly Currently. Fingers crossed.
Maybe: I will actually plan what we will eat each week for dinner. It makes so much sense yet I can not pull it together.
I wish: I lived where it was sunny 365 days out of the year. So many reasons on this one but until then I will be taking my Vitamin D. 

And thats a wrap for January...until the next blog post that is hopefully before February's Currently!

Have a great first week back to school!

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