Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Shake Break!

We are right in the middle of our state testing this week! Poor babies have to sit so long! I thought I'd share some of our favorite brain breaks that we're doing to get the wiggles out! 
This is our hands down favorite! My monolingual Spanish speakers love this one because they learn the verbs "shake" and "jump" so quickly!
This Cha Cha Slide has visuals for each move! Perfect for ELL kids, and ones that still have trouble with right and left!
Sooooo cute!! 
This is called "Cosmic Yoga." It's the best kids yoga I've seen! Each episode is about 15 minutes. Each tells an imaginative story, and the yoga moves fit the story perfectly! Check out all the different episodes Here.

This is one of many from Harry Kindergarten. All the videos are fabulous! My kids sing this one all day long! It is a definite favorite! 
And I threw in this cute chicken video to celebrate our classroom chick hatching that we just started!
If you hatch chicks too, this is a must see!!

What are some of your favorite brain breaks? I'd love to discover some new ones!!

Enjoy getting all the wiggles out!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Back in Action

Today was my first day back from maternity leave. Thankfully we had a restful night, and our morning with Paxton went pretty smoothly too. I had my coffee, took an extra cup for the road, and left my house feeling excited to see my babies at school.

I got to school with the intention of getting reacquainted with my room, and getting reorganized. I had just settled in at my desk, with my favorite purple flair pen to make an extensive to-do list. Then I got a call from the office. "Good morning Mrs. Conger, welcome back. You're late for traffic duty." Blahhhhhhh. I HATE traffic duty. Instead of getting our morning prep before the kids arrive, we have to stand in the parking lot and breathe in the car exhaust while we monitor the cars, and the kids in the crosswalk. This was not a good start to my first day back. I put on my beautiful, and very flattering, neon orange crossing guard vest, and headed outside. I hadn't even been outside five seconds before the hugs started! I got hugs, and smiles, and "Mrs. Conger! You're back!!" from so many sweet smiling kids this morning. Some kids I didn't even know! One little girl came up to me with a great big hug and said "Mrs. Conger! Welcome back! We started new math groups while you were gone, and I get to be in your class!" I said "Math groups! I hope I know what to do." She told me that she could teach the group for me if I wanted! Very cute. Traffic duty was actually JUST the thing I needed to get my morning started!

From there I went to pick up my class from morning recess on the playground. When they saw me coming, they started running across the field and all rushed me with a great big hug. I really missed them! I'm glad they missed me too. While I was gone, they had a FANTASTIC sub, and I was worried they wouldn't want me back!

We spent most of the day (thank goodness it was a half day) looking at pictures  and videos of Paxton, telling stories about him, and getting caught up on things they had done over the last three months. Our conversation went a little something like this:

"Mrs. Conger, can Paxton eat pizza yet?"

"Mrs. Conger, guess what? My cousin learned how to jump off our roof."

"Ms. Alcaraz, I mean...Mom....I mean....MRS. CONGER!!

"Mrs. Conger, guess what?! My reading level is an 11 now!!"

"Mrs. Conger you used to have peach color on your skin, but now you just look white."

"Mrs. Conger, did you have your baby yet....?" (Really!?)

"Mrs. Conger, am I from China?"

Seriously. I think I might change my name for tomorrow. And most of those beauties were in the first 10 minutes of our day! They were all wound up and ready to SHARE! They wanted to share every little thing with me that I had missed. It was so very cute, but boy did I need a Tylenol and some silence by lunch time!

I think the cutest part of our day was when I dropped them off at Music. I guess they thought I might leave them again because they all started giving me hugs, and saying 'BYEEEE!! BYE Mrs. Conger!" I had to reassure them that I WOULD be back to pick them up in just 20 short minutes. I promise!

It was a very unproductive, but super sweet day. I missed my kids dearly! They can really make a day better with their stories and smiles.

Tomorrow is a full day, YIKES, and we have to buckle down and finish test prep for our SAT 10 test next week. Two more days until the weekend! I think I can, I think I can...

Happy Wednesday!


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Moving On to New Adventures!

I have some sad/exciting news to share! We're MOVING! Our little family is relocating alllllllllll the way to Charlotte, North Carolina. My husband is transferring to a new office in Charlotte for work, and Paxton and I will be tagging along with him!

Arizona has been a wonderful home to us for six years. I started my teaching career here, at a school I will never be able to replace. It's where my teaching heart is, and where I learned everything I know about education. I am so very sad to be leaving all of my colleagues, and friends here behind.

But when I think about how wonderful it will be to be so much closer to our families on the East Coast, and for Paxton to be able to grow up around them, I get very excited! My family heart is still at "home" in Michigan. We will be much much closer. It seems like we are being led on this path for a reason, and I am excited to see where it will take us.

Now the long to-do list beings. Sell our house, pack up, find a new job, find a new house, DRIVE across the country with a baby...! Yikes. We started today by listing our house. Hopefully the market is stable enough for a few weeks and we'll be able to sell it quickly. I also need to find a job! Anyone know anything about the Charlotte area? I have been researching, but its hard to gauge the feeling of an area and its schools from the internet. I've been using the Great Schools website to help me, but I'm starting my search without any background knowledge. I'm working on my resume, and looking at openings daily. It will be very different to move away from Arizona, a state with such a large ELL population, to a state with a much smaller one. I'm hopeful I'll find the perfect job where I'll still be able to use all my ELL skills. I guess I just have to have faith that the perfect spot will find me. It's scary to be ending this year without a job lined up, but I know that new opportunities for me are out there somewhere!

I'm glad to share this news with all of you! It's been very hard to tell people, and say that "we're moving" out loud. It makes it seem more real I guess. Everyone has been very supportive and happy for us as we start our new adventure. Thanks for letting me share that with you! If anyone has any advice, tips, or knowledge about moving to the Charlotte area, please let me know!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Friday, March 29, 2013

Five for Friday

It's Friday! A BEAUTIFUL, sunny 90 degree day here in Arizona! 90 degrees is about my max, so it can stop heating up any time now. Today, I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for a Five for first! It's totally random, but fun nonetheless!

1.  This is our baby monitor. It has bright blue lights that flicker up and down the sides when baby boy is fussing or crying. Notice the LACK OF blue lights tonight, which means he is SLEEEEEEPING! Hallelujah!

2. I need more Cadbury Eggs, pronto. This candy dish was full before my husband came home....

3. It's 8:00 here in AZ, and I'm starving. But we have nothing good to eat at home. I am dreaming of this from In-N-Out Burger.

4. Grandma is coming to watch Paxton when I go back to work in a few weeks. Today, my husband and I booked a trip here in Tucson for a weekend away! Can't wait! Thank you Grandma!

5. I guess I'll just skip dinner, and go right for the dessert! :-)

Have a great weekend everyone, and Happy Easter!


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Finding More Bloggy Friends!

Happy Tuesday everyone! With lots of time at 1:00, 3:00 and 5:00 in the morning to browse the internet while I'm up with Paxton, I've discovered some new teacher technology! Instagram! Now I know Instagram is not new, but I had no idea that teachers and their blogs had Instagram for the classroom! I may be very late to this party, but its been fun following teachers and seeing little snippets throughout their day, so I thought I would share! I just started, but already I've found so many bloggy friends to follow! It definitely helps keep me awake while Paxton is up eating during the night. You should check it out and follow me while you are there!

I also started a Facebook page to try and connect with many more inspiring teachers! Check it out! 


Friday, March 15, 2013

Shake It Like Seuss

Last week on our campus was the Read Across America Celebration. On Friday, I took Paxton to the character parade we have each year. He was all dressed up in his Dr. Seuss outfit! Can you tell how much he is LOVING the hat?? One of my teammates got it for him from Little Blue Bird. It came with a bow-tie too, but since Paxton is rockin' 4 chins instead of a neck these days, we didn't wear it. His Thing One and Thing Two onesie is from Zulily. So cute! My students were so excited to see him all dressed up!

Our campus Technology Mentor added to the fun after the parade with The  Read Across America Shake! It is the Harlem Shake, but Cat in the Hat style. It was so much fun! The kids had to try SO hard not to giggle or laugh while they were reading. It turned out great!


I'm Back!

It's March already?! Where has the time gone? I haven't posted since August! So much has happened in my life, and blogging just wasn't happening. It's been a great year, with so much exciting news to share!

In November, I had the most exciting day of my teaching career! I was named the 2012 Arizona ELL Teacher of the Year! The Arizona Department of Education, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal, our district Superintendent, my district's entire Language Acquisition Department, and our entire school threw a surprise assembly to announce the news to me! I walked in thinking it was Character Counts assembly, and was totally blown away. Everyone was in on the secret, except for me! I was eight months pregnant at this point, and very emotional. I bawled like a baby the entire time. I was so honored, but in disbelief! I couldn't believe this was happening!

The surprise assembly was on a Friday. I was eight months pregnant here, and feeling huge, and yucky. So I woke up that morning, put my hair up, no makeup, and wore my school polo shirt and jeans. My husband is all the way to the left in the red shirt. He was in on the secret!! He took the morning off from work to be there for the presentation. I was SO MAD when I found out that he was in on it. He let me go to school looking like THAT! 

Me and Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Huppenthal

My poor kids had to sit on the stage the whole time and just listen! They were so patient as everyone spoke. But they don't look very happy here!

They are thinking "MORE PICTURES??! Is this over yet?"

In December, at the Arizona State OELAS (Office of English Language Acquisition) Conference in Tucson, I got to attend the ELL Teacher of the Year Banquet. It was at such a beautiful resort. It was so nice to be there representing my district, and have so many supportive people attend with me. My kids were really bummed to find out I would be gone for two days without them. They thought this award was for them, and that they were famous! I had to give a speech in front the entire conference. I was SO nervous! I was sure I was going to go into labor right there on stage. Of course, I was teary through the entire thing. I had so many special people to thank. The award had my name on it, but it was really such a collaborative effort of my district administrators, school admin, my colleagues, my students, and my community.

My district put together this video to show at the banquet. Thankfully, this time I knew about it, and I actually got ready that morning! :-)

I had even more exciting news in January. On January 10th, my husband and I welcomed our first child, a boy, into our world. His name is Paxton, and right now he is my whole life. I've been on maternity leave since our winter break in December. I have about 3 weeks left until it's time to head back into my classroom. I have enjoyed every single minute being home with Paxton, and am so lucky I could take the time for such a nice long maternity leave. Being pregnant, and being on maternity leave didn't leave me with much time or energy for blogging. But now that I'm thinking ahead and getting excited to go back to my kiddos, my blogging and TPT excitement is coming back.

Going back to work will be quite the adjustment, but I'm excited to get back to my students. I can't wait to show Paxton how much his mommy loves teaching! 


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Here Come the Kiddos!

Tomorrow starts a brand new school year, and boy will it be a year of many changes! At my school this year we have a new principal, assistant principal, Math Achievement Advisor, and Admin. Secretary. It took me all spring and most of the summer to try and wrap my head around all this change! During the summer while I was teaching summer school and working at district office, I got to know many of the new faces coming to school. I am the type of person that hates change, but so far our new school members have brought wonderful ideas, energy, and enthusiasm to our campus. It's always hard to see people that mean so much to you leave to take on new adventures, but I think I am finally feeling ready for a new, energized fresh start this year!

This year I also have a new grade level! Think of my blog now, as "Second Grade Brain Sprinkles!" I'm excited for a new challenge, and will be happy to have many of my students from last year. But because I have so many of the same kiddos, trying to figure out what activities to do this first week of school was quite a challenge! I can't just pull out my usual first week plans. Instead, I loaded up on TPT back to school units and crafts, and I know my kids will love it all.

I hope that you are all enjoying a relaxing Sunday evening! If you have already started school, have a great week! If you are lucky enough to still be on vacation, enjoy every last minute!

Here are some back to school freebies to help get you excited about a new school year! Free for today only! Go grab them!

Classroom Helpers

I made these monthly behavior charts to match my behavior management clip chart. Hopefully it is something you can use with your kiddos too! Both these freebies are available to download in my TPT store, for today only!


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Celebrate Spring Freebie!

Happy Spring everyone! I hope wherever you are, that you had some lovely weather this weekend. Here in Arizona it was 85 and sunny! I have a "springy" freebie to share today! Hopefully it will start your week off with a smile. I absolutely LOVE Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. The illustrations in the book make me smile, and who doesn't love a girl named after a beautiful flower! Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Techies Unite!

I LOVE technology! I can't get enough, and love to use it anyway I can in my classroom. My low income Title One kiddos really need the opportunities to use technology at school, and I try to get as much of it into our day as I can! I have two parts to this post. The first is a technology success, and the second is a technology problem that I need your help with! Long post, so I'll get moving...

My school has a somewhat functional old school computer lab, but no tech teacher. We have a class set of computers, and a few games to play on each, but we don't have a comprehensive program for students to use. Last year I started the search for something meaningful to use during our computer time. Our weekly 40 minute computer block  is really important, but I felt like it was being wasted by just "playing" and not having a purpose.

I finally found what I was looking for! The website/program we have been using is It is part of the Reading A-Z website. It is an entire online leveled library and reading incentive program. Students listen to and read narrative and expository stories at their independent reading level, answer comprehension questions, and monitor their reading progress.

This is the student view. They can choose which story they want to read, and decide if they want to listen to it, read it independently, record it for a RR, or take the quiz. They earn stars for each activity. More stars are awarded for reading independently, and answering all of the comprehension questions correctly. There is also a progress monitoring bar at the top for students to track how they are progressing towards the next level. Each student must complete all of the tasks (check marks) before moving on to the next level.
 As an incentive, kids earn star points for listening to a modeled story, reading independently, and answering comprehension questions correctly. They can decide to save their star points, or spend them in the "Raz Rocket" store.  (below) It has a really engaging space theme with sounds, animations, and video!
  The teacher interface has so many tools you can use!! It is easy to keep track of all the students and monitor their progress. It will let you track how many minutes students used the program (in school AND at home), how long they spent reading, how long they spent "shopping" in Raz Rocket, what level they are on, etc.

You can choose the reading level for each student when they start at the beginning of the year. All you do is match the reading levels to age, grade, Fountas and Pinnell, Reading Recovery, or DRA. 

You can even view and print reports! It keeps track of all of your students minutes, reading and level progress, and comprehension quizzes.
If you have the headphones with a microphone, students can also read and record running records. It will send you a copy of their reading to assess! From there you can assign specifics books and skills, or move students to a new level if that's necessary.
If you have an extra minute, I would definitely check it out!  You can view many of the tools, and play around with the stories, layout, and gadgets before deciding if its right for your classroom. The package I bought is the one year subscription for 80 dollars. It comes with full use at home and at school for 36 students. Because it is one full calendar year, students can even use it at home over the SUMMER!!! Yahoo!!!!!!!!!!!

This is where I need your help! We have a Wii at home that my husband and I never use. I brought it to school to hook to my SMARTboard. I took all the pieces to school all pumped to hook up the 2 or 3 cords and voila! More awesome technology!
Buuuuut....that's not quite how it went down. I can't figure out how to connect it to my SMARTboard! I submitted a district tech request, but those take forever and I am too impatient to wait. I want my kiddos to be able to use it, like yesterday! I tried for hours and connected it to my TV, VCR, and everything else I could get my hands on. Does anyone know how to successfully hook it up?  I am also interested in any great learning games you know of for the Wii! I don't have anything yet, but really want to make this an engaging and MEANINGFUL tool for my kids. Help!

I also took my old ipod touch into school. I finally got access to the district wireless, and I want to use it as a center. Anyone know of some good apps? These are the ones I have so far:

How do you organize the usage of your special classroom technology? Do you have a rotation schedule for who gets to use what? Do you use it as an incentive? I'm not quite sure how I want to have students use these new pieces of technology. We just got a student classroom computer, and I haven't even figured out how to give everyone a turn on that. It's so hard with only one for 25 students! Now with the Wii and ipod I really want to get a solid plan in place to make this new technology work smoothly for us. I would love to hear ideas from your classrooms! Please!

THANKS for all your help with this long post! I hope you are all having a great week!


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Making Connections, Thank You, and a Question!

This week and last we have been revisiting text connections. I have taught it many times previously, but since discovering Comprehension Connections, I wanted to tweak a few things. My kiddos need a much more concrete way to make connections, and use their schema. If you don't have this book yet, you HAVE to read it. It has changed the way I teach comprehension forever.

We started by reviewing schema with a really quick activity. (Sorry I don't have any pics, my board eraser is VERY enthusiastic this week!) First we made a t-chart on the whitebaord;  Peter Piper Pizza was on one side, Zimbabwe was on the other.  I asked my students to tell me first about Peter Piper Pizza. Every single one of my students has been there before, and they were able to easily share their experiences as they visited. They shared the food they ate, the games they played, the sounds, the smells, the tickets and prizes, etc. Next, I asked my students to share what they know about Zimbabwe. (Insert crickets here.) Eventually I got some "huh???", and "what's that!?" They only thing we had to share was that it had 4 syllables. It was a great activity for my students to understand where schema comes from. We can make lots of connections to Peter Piper Pizza, because we've been there. We can't make any connections to Zimbabwe because we don't know what it is! We've never seen it on TV, read a book about it, or visited there. They really understood this, it was perfect!

To independently practice our T-S connections, we read Green Eggs and Ham. This was a perfect fit for a our Seuss day activities last week. Thankfully I found this T-S activity from First Grade ABCs just in time! It was perfect to tie in our T-S standards, and have some Suessy fun too! You can get it from their fabulous blog, here. 

Here is our Making Connections "target" anchor chart. It is a great visual for students to see the connections between T-S, T-T, and T-W. They really understood the text being the heart of everything, and then we expand on our thinking as we move outward to make connections.  

 I am so excited to keep using this book. I have been using it as my own personal book study. I am trying all the lessons I have time for this year, so I can tweak them and hit the ground running next year. I'm trying to recruit some of my school and team to jump on the wagon too! I have seen such a difference already in my students comprehension, as well as their ability to monitor their comprehension while reading. Love it!

Switching gears, I have to give a BIG thank you (again!) to Rebecca and Katie at First Grade ABCs. Can you tell I LOVE their blog?!  They were super thoughtful and honored me with:

I am so grateful! I haven't had enough time to blog stalk lately, but I am working on my list of new blogs to pay this forward to. There are so many great new blogs to choose from!

Now a BIG favor! I cannot for the life of me figure out how to post a blog button. I don't want to add it to my blog roll on the side of my blog layout, but I DO want to post it here in a post. I wanted to post Farley's button for the currently link up, and Rebecca and Katie's button in this post. Please help! It is bothering me!!!!

Have a great rest of the week!


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Currently, a Top Ten, and Some Sunday Inspiration

Happy Sunday night blogland! Hopefully you all had a wonderful weekend! I actually RELAXED this weekend! After one of the most stressful teaching weeks I have ever had (the State finally came on Thursday! Thursday I also had 6 teachers observe me alllllll day! It was a long week...) I took the weekend to catch up on sleep, do a little shopping, think, and just breathe. It was wonderful. I am heading into this week rested and revived.

I'm excited about this "currently" from Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade. This is my first one and I am excited to try it! Love the spring green theme!

I also have a new blog award to celebrate! Many thanks to Mrs. Cook at First Grade Smart Cookies for the Top Ten Award! Please check out her blog, she has wonderful ideas to share!

 I so appreciate all the blog love! It is encouraging and inspiring to be connected to so many fantastic teachers. It is exactly what our profession and our kiddos need!

Last but not least, some Sunday inspiration for us all. I spent a lot of the weekend searching for some end of the year inspiration. Thank goodness for Pinterest! Inspirational teachery quotes galore. Enjoy! And remember,  It's all about the KIDS! Have a great week.


Monday, February 27, 2012

The STATE is coming!! A Liebster Blog Award and a Freebie!

Holy Moly this is going to be the longest week ever. How is it only Monday?? We are expecting a visit from the Arizona Department of Ed this week to check for compliance within our ELD classrooms. (Really?? Do they NOT KNOW it's Read Across America Week?!) We've been told they will be here "sometime" this week. YIKES. I had other teacher friends open my door this morning, and each time my heart dropped through my toes! Needless to say I am NERVOUS. My district's Language Acquisition Department and the 8 other ELD teachers at my school have been working our tails off for 4 years with our AZ ELL laws and compliance in ELD classrooms. Now it all comes down to this visit! We think they are mainly checking our lesson plans (mine are 12 pages long for the week. I think they are going to be there awhile reading....) our 4 hour state mandated English language block times and minute totals, and our language rich instruction and proof of it on our classroom walls.  If you are an ELL (ELD, ESL, TESOL, SEI, geesh with all the different acronymns!!) teacher and you are curious about more, check this out. The worst part about all this is not knowing. How many people are coming? How long will they stay? Will they ask me any questions? When will we find out our results? Dun, dun, dun...

In happier news, I was awarded the Liebster Blog Award! Yahoo!! Excited is an understatement! I'm really starting to get the hang of this bloggy business!
THANK YOU so much to the wonderful Lyndsey at A Year of Many Firsts! That was so thoughtful of you. If you haven't yet you should check out her blog. It's fantastic.

Here's what I need to do: Thank the person that awarded you the award in your post, choose 5 other friends to nominate and comment on their blog so they know, copy and paste the award to your blog and hopefully your followers will see your 5 and start following them as well...As part of receiving this award I am honored to nominate 5 other blogs with under 200 followers that I enjoy reading. And the nominees are: (sorry! still on my Oscars buzz)



 Now it's your turn to nominate some other FANTASTIC new blog authors. Just make a post similar to this one and tag five authors with the award. Come visit my page to copy and paste this and pick 5 others.Love all this blog love! You all deserve it!

Last but not least, a word work freebie! We are using this as our Daily Five Word Work center this week.  One recording sheet has all 8 parts of speech to find and highlight in a newspaper, the other is vocabulary categories. Hopefully it is something you can use!

Whoa, sorry for all the over usage of  punctuation, capitals, and parentheses tonight. Enjoy your Read Across America Week!