Archive for September, 2010

I hope you will join me this fall if you live in the Dallas area!

I’m speaking on “Teaching Vocabulary through Whole Group, Small Group, and Literacy Work Stations in K-5” on Thursday, Nov. 3 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. This workshop is being held with the Warren Instructional Network and will take place at the Garland Special Events Center at 4999 Naaman Forest Blvd. in Garland, TX. For more information, please see the registration form. Or contact Kyle Warren at 817-723-7413 or kyle@warrenin.com.

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A few weeks ago on my Facebook page I asked what your biggest challenges were as you started the new school year. I will share some of your answers below, but now that we are almost done with the month of September, I am curious to know how you faced your challenges and what you have learned from them. Good luck! Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

From Dana: “Time! The tardy bell rings at 8:15. We have specials at 8:45 (we have to let everyone finish breakfast, go to the class to put backpacks away, to the restroom, and get to specials by 8:45.) We come back at 9:35 and have intervention until 10:30. So realy teaching begins at 10:30 and we go to lunch at 12:10. I feel like I have NO time to teach.”

From Kelly: “My biggest challenge is fitting 27 first graders in the same space that just last year housed 15.”

From Kara: “My biggest challenge was being told I would changing rooms. At the end of the school year, I packed my room with the intention of staying in the same room which I had been in for the last 11 years. Little did I know my plans would soon be changed. With every bad comes something good.”

From Shannon: “I have moved back to second grade from teaching third grade. My challenge so far is getting back into the swing of doing my stations. I have to rework everything for second graders. But I am excited about it!”

From Erin: “My biggest challenge: not feeling like I always have to get everything done! Basically — leaving work at work! I’ve learned that I need to have a life outside of school.”

From Lynda: “Using a new reading series and having two new — and wonderful — teachers join my team. I am also being challenged with finding new ways to motivate reluctant students. But learning new techniques will help me grow as an educator.

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Feeling rejuvenated!

Feeling totally rejuvenated after taking a vacation in the mountains of Colorado. What beautiful country! Tom and I visited Estes Park, Nederland, Boulder, Breckenridge, and Aspen. We loved the mountains and the cooler weather. It was a shock to return to the heat and humidity of Houston, but we were glad to be home again!
It was good to have time to relax and rejuvenate after working all summer. Looking forward to a wonderful new school year!

Went hiking on trails like this one by the reservoir in Nederland

Relaxing by the pool in Aspen - but too cold to swim!

Lovely Lake Dillon


With Tom on the last day of our vacation

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Just received the copyedited version of Math Work Stations and am working as fast as I can to go through it! I even took it with me on vacation to CO. My husband, Tom, just retired last week and we took a few days off to celebrate. But, I want this book out as soon as we can, so I brought it along!

Here you’ll see what it looks like now. I read through all the copyediting suggestions and agree/disagree with each one. (Mostly I agree.) I should have it back to my publisher in a week or so. I’ll only see it just one more time before you will be able to see it in its entirety! It will go to the designer next, so it can be typeset and look like the final product. I’ll keep you posted!

This is what the copyedited manuscript looks like

Working on the manuscript in our hotel room in Colorado

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Yesterday in Rolla, MO several teachers asked me how to keep classroom libraries organized. As I wrote about in Literacy Work Stations on p. 31, I recommend that you do this by setting up the library with your students. This is great to do early in the school year.

Start with empty bookshelves. Clear a shelf at a time, if you’d like. I like to have the whole class sort and organize the books into two piles– fiction and nonfiction. Seat your class in a circle on the floor. Then think aloud about what makes a book fiction (made-up story, characters and setting, problem and solution…) and what makes a book nonfiction (facts, photos, true information). Place labels (index cards work well) for FICTION and NONFICTION on the floor and show kids how to sort the books into these two piles. Pass out several books to two children at a time. Ask them to look at the book together and determine if it’s ficiton or nonfiction. Then go around the circle, have the pairs tell which kind of book theirs is, and have them put it into the appropriate pile. This may take several class periods to accomplish. Store the books in labeled boxes each day. After the books are sorted into fiction and nonfiction, work together to sort the nonfiction books into smaller groups. Children will come up with ideas, such as weather books, animal books, poetry books, and people books. Make category cards for labeling the classroom library baskets. Add illustrations. (I like to use Google images.) Likewise, sort the fiction books into groups with the children. These may be sorted by author, genre, easy-to-read, chapter books, leveled books, etc. You might designate one classroom library area for fiction and another for nonfiction.

In upper grades, you might want to add genre posters to your classroom library as you teach different genres. You can find wonderful genre posters on this website. I’d love to hear about and see your classroom library! Send pictures to d.diller@live.com.

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A new look to my website

I hope you’ll visit my website at www.debbiediller.com to see our new look! We now have a storyboard posted, telling about what we do at Debbie Diller & Associates. We have several new trainings available, too, including our new training on Math Work Stations and training for literacy (and math) coaches. 

New books I’ve been reading are now posted along with new products recently released. Please check us out!

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My new letter ID kit (for small group instruction) is finally being released by Really Good Stuff. This kit includes severals sets of magnetic letters (in soft, touchable foam) with blue consonants and red vowels, so students who are having trouble learning letters can touch and feel how letters are made.

Also included are letter formation cards, sorting mats with multiple ways to sort letters, and a letter ID folder for keeping track of which students in your group need what. The kit includes lots of help for you, including cards with many ideas for teaching letter identification in small group instruction. Check it out at Really Good Stuff!

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Moving to Florida

Recently my daughter, Jessica, moved all  her stuff to Gainesville, FL. (She’s working at the University of Florida doing research and is very happy in her new life there!) We loaded up a moving truck with everything in the August heat of Houston. It was a big job, but I was glad to be home to help her. We shopped for things for the 1950’s bungalow she’s renting and found the perfect curtains at Target (of course!). I sewed a fun trim on them to spruce them up and couldn’t wait for pictures of the newly embellished curtains hanging in her new place. One thing led to another, and last weekend I found myself in a fabric shop looking for material to make curtains for her bedroom. What we moms do!

Tom and Jessica work to tie furniture in place in the van

I sensed a lot of "Spaces & Places" moments while trying to get everything to fit in the van

Jess is standing by the ironing board after trim has been added to Target curtains

New bedroom curtains sewn on Saturday ready to mail to my daughter

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Makeover at the gym

Recently the gym in my neighborhood was remodeled. All the hand weights were put on a rack in a closet, but nobody was putting them back in any sort of order. As you can imagine, this was driving me crazy! The way I see it, the weights needed to be organized because we were using them in a strength training class. So, I talked with the instructor and then the health club director. They both agreed that it was a good idea to do something with those weights. In Spaces & Places form, I put like things together and then added labels! Here you’ll see part of the transformation. 

When I went to the gym on Saturday, everyone told me how much they loved the weights being so easy to find… just like materials in a classroom!

Disorganized weights

The bands were also all mixed up

Now the appropriate weights are easy to find

Doesn't this look much better?

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I loved working with teachers in the Richmond, VA area at the end of July. We looked at balancing whole group and small group instruction, literacy work stations, and how to set up a classroom. I worked with Johanna Burks who provided lots of support for teachers, including fabulous door prizes as pictured below! Lots of happy teachers!

Door prize winners

Happy teachers with their prizes!

A great group of teachers in this summer training

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