Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"My Brain Hurts Today"


It has been five months too long since I have last blogged and I feel like there is SO much I want to bring light to in my first post after that long, unintentional, blog haitus- lessons, conversations amongst kids, conversations amongst coworkers, workshops, trainings, PDs... I mean, you name it, I can talk about it. What strikes me as interesting is that it was four words from a 5 year old TODAY that compelled me to open up my computer and start typing...

You know what's funny? How your daily lessons to you 5-8 year olds show up in your own, adult life way more than you expect them to. For those of you who do not know, I am a reading and writing teacher for students in kindergarten, first and second grade. Kids at this age are so egotistical- all they want to write about is something they feel a strong passion, desire or connection to. More times than not, this points back at them- something they did, somewhere they went, experienced, saw. As most teachers can attest to, when students are interested in a topic, their writing SOARS.  Their stories leave out important details because their brain works faster than their hand. You can see the passion on their paper, as you decipher if it's a d or a b the student attempted to write on top of the poor attempt of erasing a mistake.  Right now, that 6 year old in the writing center whose mind is racing faster than fingers can type, is me.

Let me paint the picture for you- it is a Tuesday morning after a four day weekend for the students. Some students come in wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, rested and ready for the week while other students drag their backpack on the ground as they move slower than a sloth into your classroom and forget to perform step number 1 of their morning routine: checking in. You, as the teacher, expect this, and greet each student, awake or not quite awake yet, with a big smile and a cheerful "Good morning, __________!" (one of the most important things to do, in my opinion). The students unpack, begin their morning work and the room is silent... not bad for a Tuesday after a holiday break. The bell rings, we watch the morning announcements, perform our morning jobs, sing our morning songs, and share the best thing we did this weekend. I sit back and smile, as my students soak in every word their friend next to them says, sincerely interested in how their classmates' weekends were. This right here, this is what I live for. We wrap up our conversation, discuss center activities and move into our first rotation... and just like that, we're moving and grooving through our week. I ring the bell, signaling to my little ones that it is time to move to their next station, and just as they have been trained to do, they do so quickly, quietly and orderly. And then it happens...

My next group consists of 4 girls... 4 lovely girls, who are eager to learn, on most days. We get through our guided reading lesson (jam packed with sight words, comprehension questions, reading strategies, higher order thinking questions, etc.) and have some extra time, where I decide to complete some activities from last week. I get everyone situated and am helping one student sound out some words, and that's when I notice it.... one of my sweet angel's head goes down on the table. I immediately ask her what's wrong- she doesn't say anything, but looks up at me and her big, brown eyes, filling up quickly with tears say more than enough. She crawls into my lap and as I hold her, I ask again, "Sweetheart, what's wrong?" ... Ready for it? My sweet, innocent, sight word loving child whispers to me,
"Ms. McDevitt, my brain hurts today." 
And then, the tears come. At this point, I don't know who was more upset... this child who can't work any longer because her brain can't handle it, or her teacher, who has been packing information in at such a fast rate that this sweet child can't process it all. And that's when I had to stop and reflect... what on EARTH are we making these 5 year olds do these days... Food for thought, friends, food for thought...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

You Were Made For This!

As we all know, if you want the truth and nothing but the truth, there's some very reliable little people that will give it to you without an ounce of "fluff." Who could that be? Yep you guessed it, none other than your lovely students. Now don't get me wrong, most of the time you hear compliment after compliment about your hair, your shoes, or your necklace... but every so often, one student's opinion really sticks out to you.... like when I got asked if I was pregnant and 43 years old in the same day... Not that being pregnant or 43 is a bad thing, however when you're 23 and the thought of having a child anytime soon makes your stomach turn, it's not the first thing you wish to hear on a Monday morning. Needless to say, that outfit I was wearing has been donated to the nearest Goodwill for someone else to enjoy and anti-aging cream is the first item on my shopping list!

We are now 5 weeks into school and I have gotten the pleasure of meeting all 61 of my kiddos. We've laughed together, learned together, read together, danced together and sang together. At this point, we're pretty comfortable with one another... comfortable enough for them to start handing out those sweet compliments and opinions. Just last week, one of my second graders noticed that I have a strand of gray hair (yep, at 23!) As she came to embrace me in a hug, (as if the hug would somehow balance out the observation she was about to tell me) she exclaimed, "Ms. McDevitt you are way too young to have gray hair! What is happening to you!?"  I thought to myself, "Well there's a lot of ways I could answer that question, but I'm just going to ignore it." But who am I kidding, I couldn't ignore it nor could I be angry about it... I mean, I am teaching them how to make valid observations, and she hit the nail on the head with that one! So of course, I began thinking of the things that may have some kind of role in bringing on this lovely streak of gray in my hair. One that stuck out to me was that daunting revelation that walk throughs are about to start!

Just saying the words "walk through" or "observation" immediately send panic into most teachers, which is SILLY, but nonetheless, true. After nearly hyperventilating because of all the things I needed to do before my walkthrough, I sat back and took a deep breath. And that's when it all hit me: 


1.) You were hired for a reason!!- HI, HELLO!!! This team of people hired you because they know you are good at what you do! They knew you were going to be the perfect fit for your kiddos, and guess what? YOU ARE.

2.) You are your own worst critic. -That's it. That's all you need to know. 9 times out of 10, you are the one putting this insane amount of pressure on yourself. Relax. You are going to rock it!

3.) There is no such thing as a perfect lesson. - Read that. Read it again. Read it to a neighbor. Turn and talk to your partner about it. Let it soak in. And then, embrace it. If lessons were designed to be perfectly executed every single time, can you imagine how BORING our job would be? Sometimes you have to experience a bad lesson to really recognize the incredible lessons you deliver on a daily basis. And when your lesson is almost perfect, celebrate it and share it with your coworkers! Learn to love celebrating each other's successes!

4.) Believe in yourself. - Get yourself in the right frame of mind. Exude confidence. They will feel that the second the walk through your door. And when you exude confidence, your students start to as well. Whose the real winner now?

5.) Just breathe and do what you do best- TEACH. That's all it comes down to, friends. You were made for this!

With all that being said, have a wonderful week and good luck on your observations... although, let's be honest, you don't need it!

Saturday, September 12, 2015


How many of you spend the first 10 minutes after dismissal cleaning up after your students, even though you tell them it's not your job to do so? It never fails that I return to my room from bus duty and immediately start picking up pencils, stacking left over chairs, straightening up the reading center, plugging in iPads, and my personal favorite: finding numerous topless items and searching high and low to find the missing piece to savor our beloved classroom materials. Throwing out glue sticks and expo markers that are perfectly fine with the exception of the lost top hurts my heart... BAD! Those materials are like GOLD.

This year I have the pleasure of learning how to create a successful and effective co-taught classroom. For someone who has never done that, it is very different than a traditional classroom setting. After about a week of teaching together, my co-teacher turned to me and said, "Man! Everything has a place in this room!" I laughed and kind of shrugged my shoulders because she's right... everything has a home in my room...and I teach my students those homes right away. But then I took a quick survey of my room and noticed that the tablet wasn't in the technology center, one of the reading buddies was in the writing center, and there were papers left everywhere. So I can't be THAT OCD, right?? And what's wrong with being OCD anyways???  I will be the first to admit that when I first got told I was a bit of a perfectionist and maybe a little OCD (from a college professor I think very highly of), I thought to myself, NO WAY. Not me. I'm okay with things being out of place. And then I got my own classroom. I realized in order for me to function, things needed to have a place. And that's when my realization that my college professor might have been on to something about this whole "perfectionist/OCD persona"...

My point to writing this post is to share with my teacher friends that being OCD is OKAY, to an extent! In my opinion, if YOU don't feel organized in your classroom, then you cannot do your best teaching and therefore, your students cannot do their best learning. Weekend after weekend I have gone into school with many of my co-workers. I sit there and organize my desk area, my closet, and my binders. I'm not working on lesson plans, or collaborating with other team members who are also spending their Saturday at school. Why? Because I can't do all those things to the best of my ability until my room is organized and I feel organized. So yes, it is a process. And yes, it may take until late September for me to feel completely organized. But that is SUPER important and will simply make life easier for the rest of the year!

Does it bother me when things are not put back correctly and I have to spend 10 minutes after school reorganizing? Oh yeah, sure does. HOWEVER, I have to remind myself that that is truly the sign of a classroom that learning has taken place in. Students are supposed to use the classroom materials you put out for them as a resource, they are supposed to integrate their reading and writing activities, they are encouraged to find spots in the room where they feel they can do the best learning. So yes, being OCD is okay, but try and remind yourself that the messiness at the end of the day means that your students are learning and YOU are teaching!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Post First Week

Holy SMOKES! There is no tired like back to school tired! What a fabulous first week I had with my sweet little ones, but my goodness, all that time off has certainly caught up with me! It's funny how much things change from the beginning of kindergarten to the end of kindergarten, and how much you forget that as a teacher.

I found myself a bit frustrated after the first day of school asking myself questions like, "Why don't they listen to me when I am speaking?" or "What is so hard about sitting criss-cross on the carpet?"  or "How do they not know how to write their own name?" And then it all came back to me...

  • Why don't they listen to me when I'm speaking? Well because for many of them, this is their first experience at school and they've never been in a group larger than 10 before. They don't know when it's their turn to talk or their turn to listen. 
  • What is so hard about sitting criss-cross? Sitting. Sitting is hard, for more than 10 minutes. Asking them to sit criss-cross is a total game changer. Be happy if they're sitting for now.
  • How do they not know how to write their name? Well, writing their name requires knowing how to hold a pencil, and holding a pencil properly is something a lot of your students don't know how to do. But they will, soon. 
As I reflected upon our first day together and these answers started popping in my head, OUT went the frustration and IN went the excitement! 

THIS is the best time of the year. 
THIS is when the lightbulbs start going off in their little minds. 
THIS is when your students are like little sponges, soaking up each and every word you say. 
THIS is when their little personalities unfold right in front of your eyes. 
THIS is when they need your love, attention, dedication and energy the most. 
THIS is when these little babies start to understand the feeling of success. 
THIS is when you start noticing that each day keeps getting a little better.
THIS is when you get the opportunity to help shape and mold a wonderful little 5 year old. 
THIS, this right here, this is what you LIVE for. 

So yes, there is no tired like back to school tired, but there is also no better feeling than this feeling right now. Soak it up, teacher friends! This is as good as it gets. Have a fabulous week!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

ABC it's easy as 123!

It has been awhile since I have posted... still getting used to how this whole blog thing works! I wrote a check to someone today (yes, people still do that...) and politely asked the gentleman what today's date was. "July 21" was his response and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor before he did it for me. This summer has FLOWN by. Not having to keep track of what day of the week it is has been nice, but I'm afraid all of that is ending way too soon! With that being said, I started cracking down on some projects that I wanted to have completed by the end of summer..... let's just say I am not going to get to all of them!

The first project I worked on earlier this week is for my kindergarteners. For those who don't know, I LOVE Dr. Jean and all of her fabulous music that is so appropriate for our babies. In fact, I used to have her music playing as much as I could throughout the day... the kids absolutely love it and would sing along during their independent work! One of my FAVORITE songs is "Alphardy." This is an alphabet song that helps children learn letter/sound association, and it is quite catchy! We sing this song everyday in kindergarten until we have mastered our sounds and are ready to move on to blends, vowel/vowel teams, etc. To purchase some Dr. Jean CDs, click here! I promise it's worth it!

I found that as my students were singing along and definitely catching on, we were still having trouble identifying letters. SO, I created a book that goes along with the song and we flip through the book as the song plays. SUPER simple, super handy and super easy to put together. All you have to do is print the book out, laminate the alphabet cards [if you want it to last!], hole punch them and throw them in a binder. You will notice your students will start to grab the binder on their own and sing the song with friends during independent center time! If that doesn't warm your heart I don't know what will! To get this product, just click here! Here is a sneak peek of what the alphabet cards look like!

A great extension for this activity is having your students create their own Alphardy song! This is where it gets really funny because those kiddos come up with the silliest things! Click here to get the blank ABC book template and use it as a quick informal assessment, or just another fun activity that promotes letter/sound association! The way I used the blank template was I shuffled up my alphabet cards, flipped them over and had each child pick one card- the students had to come up with a word beginning with the letter they picked, check with me or my assistant, illustrate a picture and using conventional spelling, spell their word. The excess cards were put in my writing center for students to complete (which they did almost immediately!) and when the book was finished, we got to sing our silly song together as a class! I think my students liked our version just a tad better! :)

If you're looking for an easy way to build class community and get students eager to learn letters and letter sounds, this is the product for you! Visit my teacherspayteachers store at The Reading Palette for more ideas!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The "Back to School" Sign ALREADY?

Good morning, friends! So I was running some errands yesterday and of course found myself ending up at Super Target. Target is my best friend and worst enemy... it's a one stop shop for the most part and I love it/frequent there all too often. As I was strolling down the aisle, crossing item after item off my list, I looked up and saw THE sign... yep, the BACK TO SCHOOL sign is up already!!!  I think I stood in the middle of the aisle just staring at it- part of me thinking: "This can't be, it's just the beginning of July," and the other part of me saying, "GO" and wanting to raid every section picking out the newest pens, markers, binders, sharpeners, highlighters, I mean the possibilities are endless. I am convinced that school supplies are a weakness for every teacher... they are too hard to pass up BUT I am proud (and shocked) to say that I left Target without any writing utensils, crafting supplies, or silly erasers. SHANNON: 1 TARGET: 0. [that never happens...]

When I got home, I started thinking about the beginning of the school year and how close it really is. I decided to start making some products that I can use for Meet and Greet and the first couple weeks of school. Personally, being a kindergarten homeroom teacher, I think one of the most important things to have handed out at Meet and Greet is a "Getting to Know Your Child" questionnaire. Kindergarten is such a huge transition for kids, and some parents even, that any little bit helps! So I created a handout that I am planning to have out at Meet and Greet so it makes my first couple of weeks, and year, to be honest, a little easier... and most importantly, makes the students and their parents just a little more comfortable. To get "Tips for the Teacher" click here!

[This product has two versions of the first page- one geared towards kindergarten, and one generic for all grades.]

Let me know what your thoughts are on this product by posting a comment! If there is a certain question or questions you wish this product included, please leave them in the comment box and I will try and make some edits! Thanks!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Little Craftin' Never Hurt Nobody!

Okay, so Saturday was one of those days where you would look outside one minute and the sun would be shining, and then SURPRISE, the next second, it was raining. Those kind of days call for one thing in teacher world... c-r-a-f-t-i-n-g!

Recently, I was talking to a co-worker about ideas for PBIS [Positive Behavior Interventions and Support] and classroom management for this coming year. She was telling me, and I have heard it before, that she used to do 'warm fuzzies' with her kiddos and they loved it. What is a warm fuzzy you may ask? Allow me to inform you- a warm fuzzy is one of those pom poms that you find at craft stores... yep, that is IT. I know, I'm with you... I asked her, "Those little fuzzy things motivate students?!" *Disclaimer* Prepare to have your world rocked: apparently, yes. Those fuzzy little things motivate students to be kind AND to work together... winner, winner, chicken dinner! Of course, I am on board. Why not give our students one more thing to help boost our classroom community, especially when that 'one more thing' is a fuzzy pom pom that I have millions of stored somewhere in that lovely closet of mine?

So, I went to Michaels and picked up three glass jars, some paint pens [because of course, I left mine at school] and one large container to house all these fuzzy things. And then the crafting began and.... ta-da!
("Earn a warm fuzzy by doing something kind, fill up the jar and a surprise I have in mind!" I stuck with "surprise" instead of something like class party because then I get to decide what the surprise entails.. sometimes promising a class party can work against you! For the jars, I just wrote the label, let it dry for a few minutes and then just picked two colors to make the polka dot background! Last but not least, got some of those magical fuzzies and filled up my jar! Craft was complete in 30 minutes!)

SO simple and hopefully, so effective! So what's the plan for this? Well, since I teach three grade levels, each grade has their own warm fuzzy jar. Simple acts of kindness earn warm fuzzies- which is perfect, because I also use Class Dojo pretty diligently in my classroom, but our dojo is based on our school PBIS of Husky PRIDE [being polite, responsible, in control, doing your best and earning and giving respect.] Last year, I found myself rewarding students who were being kind to friends or teachers with dojo points, but there wasn't a category in my dojo that directly aligned with kindness, so this is perfect! Also, a little different than dojo because they have to work as a class to earn the special surprise! All about that collaboration in A111... and also, a little competition within classes never hurt no one! [HUGE MOTIVATOR!] Stay tuned to see how these fuzzy things make my teacher life just a little bit easier!