Tuesday, August 26, 2014

It's so hard to say goodbye!

Oh boy, I have been away way too long. Each night I kept meaning to write a new blog but really wanted to include some of the writing the kids did on my last day.

I have had a lot of time to reflect on being in the classroom again and how I planned differently with the CCSS. I felt empowered! The new standards are rigorous and focus on critical thinking. I loved seeing the mathematical practices happening right before my eyes. It was also nice to read literature and informational text outside of what is offered in an outdated curriculum.

I also LOVE LOVE LOVE to create teacher materials and with the planning for lessons centered around the CCSS I was able to try things that before I usually did not have time for since I was following a structured and sometimes scripted program. I am just not a supporter of the one size fits all lesson.

I also appreciate that I was able to reflect on the student learning taking place by examining their work and adjusting what was needed! I didn't need a test to tell me what they learned! I built in ways for them to apply what they had learned! Isn't that the way it should be?

I often think back to when I was in school and had I had some of the opportunities that we have now for students...I think that my performance in school would have been dramatically different. I imagine what I could have shown my teachers had they tapped into my love of reading and creating.....at least I know that this is how my kids will be taught. I am the first college graduate in my family and I do not want to be the last!

So.....back to the last morning with my second graders.....I asked the students to write me a letter during their morning journal time and promised all of them that I would write back. I have not started my letters back, but I envision a sort of pen pal relationship with these kiddos throughout their second grade year. How cool would that be? I hope they are as excited as I am!

I wanted to share a few with you...

This letter was super special to me because you can see at the end of the 4th line and on the 5th line this little girl is recalling how I told them over and over that it is okay to make mistakes and that we learn from mistakes. I LOVE that! She expressed how she loved the games we played in class. She is referring to Kakooma and Math on Our Head that I wrote about in a previous blog. This just proves to me that meaningful learning CAN BE FUN and the fun is what they remember the most. I will cherish this one forever! If they all remember one thing I told them, I hope that it is how I told them about how making mistakes proves they are learning. (This one totally made my heart HAPPY!?)

This letter is so awesome. This child is asking me to come to his house with a box full of pizza and play Star Wars on his xBox! I mean....come on....that is the cutest thing ever! Do you know what this tells me? This little boy KNOWS that I care about him. Building relationships with our students is always a positive thing! If we care, they care, and we all care about school and learning. This one was a JACKPOT for me!

The night before my departure from the class there was a school wide Open House. I attended and was in the room with the new teacher. I encouraged parents to meet the new teacher and brought out my iPad to show parents the free apps (like KAKOOMA) that they can download for their kids to encourage fun practice of skills.

The highlight of my night was a shocker! Two of the little guys in the class live at a local shelter in town. I wrongly assumed that they were in the shelter with their mother. These two little ones live, parentless, in the children only shelter which is like a group home. They attended that night due to a caregiver from the home bringing them over to the school because they BEGGED to come see me. I am so humbled by the fact that in three short weeks I was able to make such an impact on the boys. The caregiver went above and beyond her normal duties to make sure the boys got what they wanted. After all, it isn't that common for kids to BEG to go to school, but these two did and she listened. One of them even wore his vest that he saves for special occasions just for me. The caregiver made sure to tell me this.

For days I have been thinking of these two boys and their siblings. I can't walk away from them; any of them. I will continue to work with the class, but for the impact that these two little guys had on me, I have set a goal, a mission, to create some kind of program, organization, partnership with the children's shelter and our school district. I don't quite know what this will look like yet, but I will be meeting with the director in a couple of weeks to create a plan. I can't wait!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Have you heard?

Have you heard of Khan Academy? You should definitely check this out and SHARE with others!


Saturday, August 16, 2014

It was a FANTASTIC Friday in 2nd grade!

If you have been keeping up with my blog posts, you already know that I have been out of the classroom for over 5 years. I am loving my time with these kids. They bring me job each and every day........I totally forgot about how they also bring me GERMS each and every day! After a wonderful breakfast out with the hubs, we hit urgent care! I have middle ear infections in both ears and a super sore throat......and the antibiotics have begun!

Ah, no worries! It is all worth it!

So on Thursday we spent some reading time talking about informational text and it was perfect that our local newspaper runs a special informational text page each Thursday. I have NEVER seen so many kids get so SUPER excited about reading the paper. Seriously, it made my heart so HAPPY!

This week the paper featured the state of Mississippi which was so fitting for our class. We have a little guy in our class that moved to AZ from Mississippi just days before school started. He was my resident expert as I sent them on scavenger hunts for information. I asked them to find things like....tell me the name of the state bird, why is Mississippi nicknamed the Mud Cat state, and who is the capital city of Jackson named after.

We also pulled down the map of the United States found Arizona and Mississippi so we could see the travels that our little guy took by car to get to Arizona. He told us about driving over the Mississippi River. It was just so all perfect! One of the those teacher moments where you *sigh* and think to yourself......yep, this is why I do this.

I also showed them the Mississippi River on the map and told them how when I was a little girl I spent most weekends boating on the same river with my family and how we loved to eat catfish! I also thrilled them with speed in which I can spell Miss-iss-ipp-i! They need to practice!

We also played a math game on Friday.....I called it Math on Our Head. My friend and colleague, Andrea, came to help us play. It was amazing! I wish I would have recorded their giggles and the math language they were using. They told Andrea and I that it was SO FUN! YES! School is FUN, FUN, FUN!

I found the game in this book.
Click on the book to see it on Amazon!
One of the authors, Yeap Ban Har, is AMAZING!!! Andrea saw him in Las Vegas this summer. I follow him on Facebook and Twitter! He is always posting math problems. (The game we played is on page 17.) I can't wait to do the other number sense activities with the kids in my class!

This week was such a great week! I am having such a wonderful time planning from the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards instead of following a boxed program. It is powerful to me as a professional to evaluate the understanding of students and to determine when to move forward, or go back to solidify understanding. I love being able to change my teaching based on what the kids need! This is the way it should be!

On Friday, a teacher was hired for the classroom that I have been filling in for and she will start next week. I have been given time with her in the classroom to help ease her transition and the transition for the students. I look forward to supporting her and of course, the kids! I hope she is open to having me come in to be a guest teacher during the year. There is no way I can just walk away from these kiddos! They already stole my heart!

I am looking forward to next week! I have to get ready for open house. I am going to do a scavenger hunt in the classroom for the students to do with their parents! I am off to prepare!

Check out my new Bloglovin' and Twitter buttons! Thank you to Honey Bunch Blog Design! They are so AMAZING!!!! You can visit them by clicking on their logo on the bottom of my page or here!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It was a WONDERFUL Wednesday in 2nd grade!

Wednesday already?!!! Man, the days are flying by! Well we are into the 2nd week of school and the kiddos are definitely getting comfortable. I am learning what makes them smile and how to brighten their day, should they need a little  boost. They are getting to know me as well.

I am pretty sure they think that I bake cookies or doughnuts at school at night when they go home. They are always amazed at how good the room smells. It is a wax warmer and yummy smelly wax! I gotta have my baking smells!

This morning for reading we had a discussion about reading with our pencil. Imagine the surprise on their faces when I told them we were going to write on what we read! Shocker! (I used a text I found on readworks.org, if you don't know this FREE website, check it out!) Here is the anchor chart we created. The kids and I worked together to choose what symbols we would use when annotating.

Side note....I am definitely getting old! I did not think they would know LOL! I mean really, they are 7 and 8!

Anyways, we did it. We read with our pencil. I modeled annotating and did lots of thinking out loud. They copied what I annotated. We had to look up the word conjure, that one really confused them, but now they know!!!!

Tomorrow we will do our second read! Can't wait!

We also started a Dictionary section in our Reading notebooks. I made this little sign for them to put in their notebook and we strategically placed a sticky note on the page so that we can turn to it quickly. 

I also introduced prefixes today and we talked about re-. Here is what they put in their notebooks. (I did not make this....got it on TPT.....you can find it here.)

We have been playing Kakooma on the iPad (gregtangmath.com or in the App store for FREE!) You can also download the game on paper and print it out.....for FREE.....so today we learned how to play on paper. We now have a cubby labeled Kakooma in our room where they can play on paper whenever they are done. No more, I AM DONE, NOW WHAT. In our class, KAKOOMA is what! AND it is leveled, so the kids who want the challenge, get it!

So, as you can see, we had another GREAT day in 2nd grade. We are all growing on each other. I was bombarded by hugs at dismissal today. This warms my heart!

On a side note.......I hear the phrase FUN FRIDAY all the time from kids. My thing is....WHY is it that only Friday is labeled as a FUN day in school? Shouldn't EVERY day in school be fun? Learning is fun! School is fun! Just saying. 

On that note, I am looking forward to FUN Thursday tomorrow!

Monday, August 11, 2014


Greetings! I am Rachel McCoy. This is my 15th year in education. I was in the classroom for 9 years teaching first grade and Kindergarten (my total FAVE) in both Casa Grande and Phoenix, Arizona! I was a site-based Instructional Coach for 4 years and am now a District Specialist. I am originally from Illinois where I grew up on a farm in a small.......small town! I recently started blogging after my fabulous trip to the SDE National I TEACH K Conference in Las Vegas last month. I was honored to be a presenter at the conference!! I also attended the first EVER TPT Conference!

Due to a teacher shortage (what?!) and the start of school with classrooms without teachers, I am enjoying my days in a second grade classroom. I am loving every minute of it! I have missed this!

Besides being a busy with education, I am a mother of 3 sons and one daughter. My furry kids include 4 dogs and one cat. I have been married to my fantastic, amazing, generous, selfless husband for just over two years. We tied the knot in Vegas in front of the Bellagio fountains.

In July we did 5 days in California visiting Disneyland, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld. We took the best family photo EVER!

I am also in school AGAIN! I am pursing a second master's degree! This one will be for Educational Leadership! Go NAU!!!

The sound of rain. The smell of baking cookies. Reading, reading, and READING! School supplies are a weakness. The sound of large groups of children reciting The Pledge of Allegiance (I always tear up). Watching dirt track racing....love the sprint cars! Listening to my kids read. The sounds of my husband's laugh.

I would love to work at Disneyland! I thought about it when I was in college, they had a recruitment going on! LOL! I would say most days I dream of some kind of graphic design. I love creating!

Loud. Passionate. Creative.

Sure, I would love to help you blow your nose....said no teacher ever! (boogies totally gross me out!)

Hmmmmm.....definitely my Grandpa Moody....I miss him so. NKOTB, that would be a party! I would also be thrilled to see my very first class from 2000. If I calculate correctly, they would be about 20 years old now. I wonder what they have become.

Shhhhhh! We heard you the first time! 

Being able to fly would be so cool, but so would being able to get ready much faster in the morning. So why not go big! I would want to be able to wake up all done up and ready to go!

I have to go with two here:
1. If a child can't learn the way we teach, then maybe we should teach the way they learn. -Ignacio Estrada
2. The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do. - Steve Jobs

At Last by Etta James (I wish I could sing! That could be my superpower!)

Neither! I love sleeping! Seriously. I do. 

I am obsessed with Greg Tang. I call him my math boyfriend. He inspires so much of what I create. My favorite at this moment is my new resource, Make Ten , which includes math posters and subitizing cards.....

and my brand new Behavior Management System....


I still have one baby tooth! The little guy never fell out because I did not have an adult tooth to push it out! Hehehehe! That tooth is OLD!

Click on the image above to head over to Falling Into First to join this AWESOME linky!
Thanks, Stephanie!!!

But I had so much planned?!...

It was a magnificent Monday in 2nd grade today. I had so much planned and not enough time. That is always the case, isn't it?

I was super excited to talk about closed syllables today and boy were they excited when I told them one of the super secrets to reading multisyllabic words! First we made our anchor chart and had our discussion where we did spend a bit on talking about vowels vs. consonants. Then we talked about how closed syllables have short sounding vowels. Finally, it seemed they were all getting the hang of it so I threw out the challenge.

The challenge: Looking at the chart and thinking about what we have talked about, can you see or hear another way we can determine how many syllables are in a word?

I was AMAZED that they actually came to it! The number of vowels sounds should tell us the number of syllables because each syllable contains a vowel or vowel sound! Geniuses!!

After completing the anchor chart they had to record it in their reading notebooks. Next we practiced breaking apart words into syllables using highlighters to help us tear the paper. Boy, they LOVED this!

Tomorrow morning when we start our reading block, I will be giving each student a word that I have already made so that they can show me what they learned from today about syllables.

Marvelous Math Time! Today we started with a number recognition activity that I found on Pinterest. I wanted to get a feel with how comfortable they are with number recognition to 100. I randomly called the numbers for them to color as I roamed the room. They did pretty darn good!

 Of course they loved the surprise picture we made.

Another activity that I was able to snap a few pictures of today was an addition to our Reading Notebook. We talked about sentences and what makes a complete sentence. They totally had the hang of this from the start. Then we did a little color coding to label the parts of the sentence we talked about. I wrote the first sentence for them to copy....the one about my mom eating bugs (EEK!) and the other sentence is their creation. I was super proud of the results!

                My dog walks.                                My dad eats bugs on pizza.

I know my time in this classroom with these wonderful thinkers is running short. Today there were two interviews and chances are that one of them will be hired to be the teacher of my class......see, I said MY CLASS! This is going to be tough. As teachers, it only takes a few hours to fall in love with our class. 

We shall see what tomorrow brings. I am looking forward to another day with these amazing kiddos!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Behavior Management YOU can actually manage!

It is the beginning of the year, the time when we spend minute after minute going over rules and procedures. Now when it comes to classroom rules we take the time to tell the students what they are and what we expect....but do we take enough time teaching them and modeling the behaviors?

I know I can certainly take more time!

I have been working for quite awhile on an idea that came to me and was made even better with the help of Andrea and Azure, my two amazing friends and colleagues.....and it is FINALLY finished!

I know from my classroom experience that using the treasure box take lots of instructional time and money from my pocket. FEAR this NO more! I have come up with a system that teaches students about desired behavior through meaningful and purposeful conversations.

Check out my latest creation!
Click here to see it up close!

Display the posters....use the prompts to engage in meaningful conversations!
  • What does it look like?
  • What does it feel like?
  • What does it sound like?
After the conversation, hang the poster in a page protector and mark off a letter each time a student displays the behavior! I promise you will see the kiddos work to get the letters marked off!

Once all the letters in the title are marked off, either the teacher or the students can choose the reward. These are found on the circles in the above image. They include things like students getting to take their shoes off AT SCHOOL...listening to a story outside....having a danced break and so MUCH MORE! The reward system is based on how silly you think you can be as a teacher! The kids will L.O.V.E. it!

I would love to hear your feedback and answer any questions you might have!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Day 3 in 2nd Grade.....Fantastic Friday!

FRIDAY!!!! Today topped yesterday! These kids are amazing. They are capable of so much! And I'm singing.."Ain't no stopping us now...!"

We started the morning with another word problem! Woo- woot for word problems! Here are some samples of their work...and one of the problems I gave them:

So we might need to work on a little grammar as you can see, but I will be sure to sneak that in while writing our sentences for our word problems. I was so impressed by their use of the Part-Part-Whole model!

One of the things that we did during reading was to revisit the Collective Nouns page in our Reading Notebooks. We listed so many collective nouns: team, pack, batch, bunch, choir, band and so on! They really got the hang of it and now have a nice page in their notebook to refer to when needed!
Here you can see the superstar student who decided to challenge himself and put two...YES....TWO collective nouns in one sentence! Oh la la!

Another GREAT sample from a student! I was so impressed that the student used A LOT as TWO words! SCORE!!!!!

We also had a chance to revisit our Math in Our World Anchor Chart and THEY DID IT! They found math in their world! We talked about all of the math qualities that remotes have like how you have to know numbers, know how to order numbers to move up or down on a menu, and they even discovered shapes with meaning on the remote as well. We also talked about time and money! Oh boy, oh boy....slowly but surely we are seeing math all around us!

Today we started our journey of writing our personal narrative with an anchor chart and brainstorming! I modeled and said my thoughts out loud for brainstorming ideas for writing. They thought I was goofy while talking about how my dog jumped a fence and ran away from a pet resort, but I know it was the key to getting the results they achieved!
Looks like she might write about her mother's friend moving in with them!
I'm going to bet this has something to do with the Ninja Turtles! I can also see he is thinking about writing about his trampoline,  his new game, or going swimming! 

Looks like someone had a birthday party they want to write about or maybe the arrival of a baby sister!  This is amazing work!  Our anchor chart below!

Second graders are amazing beings! They build me up by telling me how wonderful my artistic skills are...too funny!

While they were brainstorming today I pulled up iTunes radio on the iPad and played classical music. You could have heard a pin drop (if the music was off)...you get the point. I swear the music was calming and helped them focus. I am going to experiment with this more often!

Well...the weekend is here! Whew! I made it! They made it! WE made it!

I hear that their is an interview on Monday. Fingers crossed that the principal is able to find someone to be the teacher for these amazing kiddos! Secretly....I admit, I won't be disappointed to be able to stay longer. I am learning so much about them and how they learn. It will be hard to leave and let go. I am thinking I will have to work a deal with their new teacher so that I can be a guest reader or something! I can't just walk away.

I am looking forward to the week ahead! Go Roadrunners!!!!!!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

2nd Grade.....Day Terrific 2!!

Today was AMAZING!!! I am so in love with teaching math and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, that math is how we start our days. The students quickly got to work on a word problem upon taking their seats. For some it was a struggle, but not because of the math, some said they couldn't read it. Yikes! Monitor and adjust, monitor and adjust....we read the problem through a couple times together. It was all good after that. I surveyed the room for answers...which I should add were a slew of different ones. No worries, we worked it out. I can for sure tell that these kiddos were holding on to the 'key words' in word problems and that is such a NO NO in my book. We started talking about part-part-whole and got the problem all filled in to discover that they were NOT supposed to add the two numbers! Ah....grasshoppers! We did another one and I eased them in on a few steps of model drawing. First and foremost find out what you are trying to solve and writing that in a sentence form. Organization is the key for my little grasshoppers!

After that was all said and done we transitioned into taking notes for the first time (sooooo cool) in our math notebooks. First up.....The Break Apart Strategy.... Here are a few samples of their work and mine too.
This is my notebook sample. I completed it at their pace while projecting is for their guidance.

You can see this little thinker drew TEN hearts to remind her that TEN is our friend and the broken cookie to break apart and share the numbers to make them easier to work with. LOVE!

This little guy came up with the GREAT idea of drawing a ninja slicing the numbers to make them easier to work with! This is AWESOME!!

Here we have SUPER ten our friend! See the YAH.....YAY! Ten is even saying 'Hi' looking to make some friends.

All in all they did a FANTASTIC job in their math notebooks today. I also introduced them to Kakooma...this was so fun! They ended up getting their time to 17 secs to complete a math puzzle! We shall see what they can do with it tomorrow.Later in the day we worked on collective nouns.....I totally had to research this....remember, it is my second day! Tomorrow I have an awesome addition for their reading notebooks that will help with collective nouns.It has only been two days and I am head over heels for this class. They are a GREAT group of kids. One of the things that I was given upon getting this class was the cards from the year before with the levels and all that jazz on them. I vowed not to read them BEFORE I met the kids and taught them the procedures. I did peak for health issues and what not. I took a closer look after school today. Based on what I read, this class is not what was expected, but you know what, I am glad. I am glad that they are EVEN BETTER! It all comes down to keeping them challenged, keeping them engaged, and them knowing that I totally believe in all of them and won't let them fail or give up! So I have heard that some interviews are in the works for the position I am filling in for. I have to admit, it only took me 48 hours to fall in love with these kids. I don't know how I will ever say goodbye! With that said, chin up...going back tomorrow to do the best that I can to make sure that I give them the best of me. It is what the kids deserve. All kids deserve a teacher who gives them their best.