Thursday, June 26, 2014


As always, reading was really my main focus with my class this year because some of them were struggling with decoding and comprehension while others just had no interest whatsoever in reading. We spent an hour every day reading together in our reading workshop and each child improved tremendously this year. In fact, by the end of the year, I could not get them to stop reading!

 To emphasize the importance of reading and to show the students how much fun reading can be, I required the students to read a book each month and to do some sort of book report to show what they learned. Here's what we did each month!

The first one we did for September was a mini book book report. The kids got to make their own little books sharing what they remembered from the book and rating it too. I loved their adorable drawings and and their cute little handwriting!

October's book report was a pumpkin book report where I stretched their summary writing skills a bit. The students had to write what happened in the beginning, middle, and end of the book. These turned out super cute and are available for purchase at my store.

Our next bookreport for November was a turkey book report. The students had to color, cut out, and assemble an adorable turkey and write book information on turkey feathers.

For December, since there are not as many school days, instead of doing a book report we did a project called "The 12 Books of Christmas." The goal for each student was to read 12 books in the month of December and make Christmas ornaments with the names of the books written on them to decorate a reading Christmas tree. In our end of the year recap, this was one of the kids' favorite projects!

January/ February's report was much more extensive and was more of a research paper than a book report. My family always teases me for assigning research reports for 2nd graders, but you have to start somewhere, right?! The ability to communicate through writing is a skill so few adults possess and I want every child that I work with to have a solid foundation in writing. I will kindly step off my soap-box now and get back to on topic.
In honor of President's Day, the students were required at the beginning of January to choose a president that they wanted to read a book about and write a report about. The students were required to write a 2 page report giving interesting information about the president (or president' relative) they studied and they share ideas for what they would do if they were president... in front of the class! Public speaking is another skill that few people are comfortable with... Start 'em young, I say! The students had the option to either dress up as the president or make a poster with pictures of the president but I did have some students who did both. Some of them really had some great ideas about what they would do if they were president and some were completely hilarious! The kids worked SO hard on their reports and did such an awesome job! I was so proud and impressed!

In March, I introduced the students to the mystery genre of books and we made book report sandwiches. I found the template for this in a book called The Creative Teacher that my best friend bought for me last year. It is available for purchase here and is full of fun teaching ideas. Several of my boys really got "on board" with reading this month because of discovering how fun mystery books can be! The kids loved being able to read their reports to the class!

In the past our final book report for April/ May was a Boxcar Children poster report. The students had to read a Boxcar Children book and then make a giant poster telling what the book was about. Many of the students typed their own reports and came up with some awesome ideas for decoration.
This year, though, I changed up the April/ May bookreport and had the students choose a book that had been made into a movie (like Peter Pan or Because of Winn Dixie). They had to read the book and then (like the Boxcar Children reports) had to make a poster advertising their book, including a star rating.
I hung all the posters in our hallway to show off all the kids' hard work!

Hmmm... make things enjoyable and students want to do it more?? What a novel idea!
{pun intended.}

Stay inspired!

2012-2013 YEAR RECAP

Wow... this is a long time coming. Life's gotten so busy that I never published my end of the year recap from 2 years ago! I guess this really is a Throwback Thursday post... one I never posted!

Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
It's over.

I can barely believe that this whirlwind of a year is over. My sweet kiddos are now 3rd graders, my walls are bare, my room is clean, and now I can write.

This year more challenging than anything I have faced before but so full of learning and growth that, while I am completely exhausted, I can now look back and remember and share some of the things I learned this year.

I went into the school year feeling apprehensive yet confident and prepared that I would be able to manage my new gigantic group of second graders. I had planned and worked all summer getting ready for the new adventure so I was really looking forward to the first day of school. And then they came in. All 27 loud, and excited kids loaded with new school supplies and joyful smiles to begin another year. Before they came in, I thought my room was huge with plenty of space for all the kids with the desks groups in pods to maximize space and cooperative learning. And then they came in. Finding places for all their stuff was nearly impossible and all day I felt overwhelmed and to be honest, I was really missing my class from the year before. Change is always hard for me so I was struggling to deal with it. That first day was exhausting and it only got more difficult as the kids became more comfortable with me and with school in general.

While I had prepared a great deal all summer for the school year, there were some things that I could not predict and plan for, which completely blindsided me.

The year before there were two first grade classes and so blending the two classes into one was definitely a bigger challenge than I expected. Every teacher has her own method, style, and expectations for classroom behavior so it quickly became apparent that some of the students from one of the first grades were not used to being in their desks and having to raise their hand to talk, get out of their chair, sharpen their pencil, etc.

 In addition, there were several students who could barely read and could not find pages in their textbooks. In the three years I had taught previously, I had never had students who struggled so much with these issues so those factors were definitely unexpected and added an additional challenge.

Overall academically, socially, and emotionally, the class as a whole was a little more immature and needy than classes I had before and was so much bigger that every day I was being stretched too thin. They all needed me every second and, while I was managing, I was getting worn down very quickly.

Last summer, I discovered that I have food allergies and quite a few environmental allergies as well so I have been on a gluten-free, corn-free, and dairy-free diet to prevent me from getting sick as much. But, after a few weeks of being in school, I got sick with severe sinus infections and missed a few days of school. These days I was gone ended up being complete disasters which left me feeling bad for being sick. So now, I'm sick, I'm exhausted, and feeling guilty for being sick and exhausted all the time. Since I came back too soon from being sick, the next week I got sick again.

Meanwhile, all this time that I'm trying to stay afloat, trouble was brewing with some of the parents in the class. From the beginning, many were frustrated that there was only going to be one second grade class and were (naturally) concerned that their child(ren) would not receive the help and attention that he/ she needed. Some were concerned that the curriculum was "too easy" and their child would not be challenged enough because of the larger class size. While these concerns were valid, there was nothing I could do. The parents were not upset with me... at all! In fact, they were concerned that it was not fair for me to have to deal with all these kids. To make a long story short, the administration of the school decided to hire an aide to help me and to help work with students who needed extra help. From the beginning, the administration of my school had said they were willing to hire an aide, but I did not ask for one from the beginning because I really had no idea how difficult this class was going to be and, while I was managing on my own, it was not worth killing myself.

Lesson 1 learned: Don't be too proud to accept help.

I had lots of help from my aide that worked 4 hours each day and I had a mom who volunteered to listen to kids' Bible memory verses and work on reading with them. She was such a blessing!

Something I discovered with this class is that almost every single one of them love to talk and be the center of attention. Although that did make for some difficulty when I was trying to teach a new concept, I really tried to work with their personality and channel that for good (and not evil!). I had a group of students who LOVE to share (all. the. time.) so I tried to find ways for them to share answers and teach each other as much as possible.

Lesson 2 learned: Don't be afraid to try new things. You might just stumble over something life-changing! For me this year, my new adventure this year was incorporating Whole Brain Teaching strategies into my classroom management. They work! To be honest, I am a little worried that the first time the 3rd grade teacher says "oh class" my kiddos will respond with a surprising, energetic "oh yes." I wish I could be there to see that! "Teach, ok!" was also a total hit with my class of performers this year.

With the whole situation with the parents, because, while I knew in my head that their concern and frustration had nothing to do with me, I decided to "bend over backward" to make them happy.  I had explained to the parents from the beginning that the curriculum in the beginning was designed to review material from 1st grade to "catch up" those who might not have caught everything the first time around, but that things would get much harder. But since I'm such a people-pleaser, I just wanted everyone to be happy so I was constantly copying extra, harder worksheets for the kids whose parents wanted them to be challenged more. At times, I felt like a crazy person teaching my class and working with them on activities and then trying to challenge some of the kids with extra work at the same time, while my aide was working with those who needed lots of extra help.

Lesson 3 learned: You can't cater to every whim and wish of a parent. While our job as teachers is to serve our students and their parents as best as we can, catering to them is not the best way. You have to do what is best for the whole class not but sometimes it is impossible to do what is absolutely best for every single child.

After reading this, you may think that I had an awful school year but in the grand scheme of things... that couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, it was hard and I was stretched beyond what I thought was possible, but I grew tremendously as a teacher and as a person. God showed me so many areas that I can improve in and blessed me with the opportunity to minister to so many kids this last year. His grace truly was and is sufficient for me. While it was difficult and did not begin, progress, and even end the way I had expected, it was truly rewarding.

And now I can cry because I miss my loud, excited kiddos, who are now 3rd graders.


Okay... another Throwback post that was never posted! Interestingly enough-- I have many of the same goals this summer!
June 2013
Hi, I'm Susannah and I have a list addiction. Like, seriously. I am forever making lists about everything and embarassingly enough, I even made a list of all the different lists I need to make this summer.

Well, one of the lists I've been working on is my summer bucket list of goals and projects for the summer. I was kind of (okay... not kind of but completely) obsessed with doing school stuff last summer and did not take a break at all from working on school stuff, which definitely added to my exhaustion at the beginning of the school year, so number 1 on my list this summer...
 REST and TAKE A BREAK from school-related stuff (planning, creating, writing, etc.). I want to spend  lots of time just being a wife and doing the house-wifey things I don't have time to do during the school year (i.e. cleaning, organizing, crafting, etc.) Now these next ones are in no particular order...

Share. When I do decide to do school stuff, I am planning to post some of the worksheets, projects, and activities I made this year for my class to my TPT store. My class this year needed a lot of extra practice after learning a new skill to cement it in their minds so I can't wait to share all those helpful things with other teachers! I find so many helpful resources on TPT and get so excited when I don't have to make something that I know other teachers will appreciate the things I have created too!

Blog. I neglected this thing for the entire year so now I would like to catch up on sharing things that I've learned and used this year. I was totally HORRIBLE with taking pictures this year of all the exciting things we did, which I will work on next year. I will have a much smaller class so I'm hoping to actually keep up on blogging during the school year too. 

Create. Last summer, I made all my decor for the beginning of the year (bulletin boards, nametags, nameplates, posters, etc) and it was so much fun and it was way cheaper too. I'd like to do the same things this summer and hopefully create a whole theme packet for my store. I also want to learn how to make my own clip art. I love drawing and having a super talented artistic brother so I would LOVE to learn to make all my own clip art so I don't have buy it so much!

Decorate. My house mostly but also my classroom too. I really want to have my room decorated and ready to go before in-service in the fall so I won't be as stressed to start the school year. We'll see how that goes, though!

Craft. I want to make some artwork for my house and recreate some of the awesome ideas I've discovered on Pinterest. 

Read. I do not get to read enough during the school year (besides teacher blogs!) and since reading is one of the most relaxing things for me, I plan to do lots of reading this summer. 

Connect. I want to spend lots of time with my husband this summer. We both were so busy this year with me teaching and him working full-time and selling real estate on the side that we both love to take time this year just hanging out together. He will still be super busy all summer but at least I will be able to spend time with him and help him with his real estate work. 

While, I will still be working part-time doing bookwork at a summer day camp at my church, it will totally seem like a break from working on school stuff 60+ hours a week. I'm definitely looking forward to a much-needed break from kids this summer and to going to Disneyland with my family. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE working with kids but when you've spent so much time being a "second mommy" to so many kids for a whole year, you need a break!

And everyone needs Disneyland. Just saying. 

What do you do in the summer?