Third Annual Iwanicki Book Awards

Three years ago I listened to a podcast where Dave Burgess was talking about ending the year strong. I remember thinking then that there was absolutely nothing left inside of me. How could I finish stronger than I normally do? How do I have any energy left for one more thing. Without knowing, his podcast kind of gave me the kick in the butt I needed and the Iwanicki Book Awards was born. You can read about former winners here and here. This year, I read over 70 books aloud. Honestly, I would have no idea if I didn’t have a couple of girls keep track for me on a bulletin board display. This is a picture of it at the beginning of May.The top row are all the chapter books that I have read. The rest are picture books. Once again, I summoned up energy I didn’t know I had and we created categories. My favorite category this year was favorite villain. Using google forms, students voted for the first round; which narrowed it down to less than 5. We then voted again, using Google forms to come up with the winners. Students created based on the the nominated books.

During the actually presentation, students for the first year ever, brought in food. Some dressed up. They worked on the word searches. I played gentle music. Then, when we were ready for the announcements, I found an Oscar playlist on youtube. The students would stop what they were doing and look at my paraprofessional who controlled the envelopes. The students started really getting into it and began to introduce him, “Heeeeeerrrrrrrrreeee’sssssss Mmmmmmmiisttttttter Carrrrrrroll.” He would then, in his best announcer voice say the category and all of the nominees. With great flourish, he would hand the envelope off to me where I would announce the runner up and the winner.

Lots of screams, shouts and dancing ensued. Then they went immediately back to working on the word search.

There are some titles that made the Iwanicki Book Awards for all three years. There are new titles. This year’s class LOVED monsters, funny, imaginary stories. Because I read so many books, great stories that they loved, like Wild Robot got completely overlooked. Bob was the book that I credit this year for turning my students into great listeners. Grump was the read aloud I was reading when we filled out our forms, so you will see it several times. We were also in the middle of our social issue book club, so you will see that as well. I have to remember that these are 8 and 9 year olds and they live in the moment.

Here are the winners:


Confessions from a Second-Year Teacher

Tuesday was my last day of school. The 180th day I had spent with my Littles, some of who were not so little. I meant to write a post that day, or yesterday, but as fate would have it, I caught the stomach bug. To be completely frank, this was a total surprise for me. I have a horrible immune system – I missed seventeen days of first grade because I got so sick, spent many summers with tears in my eyes because of ear infections, missed a week of high school because of sinusitis, got mono senior year of college and missed my twenty-first birthday, BUT I hadn’t missed any days this year due to illness. So as I told my mom what had happened, she replied with one word: “exhaustion.” My body had withheld all the illnesses, battled viruses and colds to make sure I could get through the year and then, twenty-four hours after I said goodbye to my babies, it let its defenses down.

But this post isn’t about my illness (I am feeling much more like a human today just as an update). It’s about those one-hundred eighty days that have made me a completely different teacher than I was back in August. There are so many things I want to say and I’m just not sure if I can fully express my feelings through words, but I’m going to try.

First, reflecting on nearly a year ago, I was down in the dumps going through the job search process. Here’s a blog post about it. I had gone through numerous interviews, second round interviews, demo lessons and nothing had stuck. Then, within a week, got offered three jobs. And the one that I wanted the most wanted me back. And I can honestly say, I never looked back.

Then, came the honeymoon period of August and September, quickly followed by an October that pushed me close to my breaking point. October is really hard. It’s a lot of adjusting and readjusting and evaluating and analyzing and reflecting and trying to get better. It was calling my mom at 5:30 in the morning saying “I don’t think I can do this” and her telling me gently but firmly “You have to. Do it for them.” It was twenty-five kids by myself with a variety pack of behavior and academics. It was meeting with my principal and coaches and grade level partner and swallowing my pride and saying “how can I get better?” It was redesigning my lesson plans, becoming more structured, having more authentic and honest communication with families, being open to critiques and comments from my colleagues.

After October came November, December, and January and a breath of fresh air. I got a para. There was winter break. And the most amazing thing? There was growth! My babies started to grow. We were growing together into a huge family. We supported each other. I made positive phone calls home, in the middle of the day, to cheers and hollers from the rest of the class. We had lunch together. We played at recess. I started to become more confident in the changes I made over the fall. And they made growth academically, too. They started to emerge as readers and mathematicians and scientists and learners.

In the spring, time started to fly and move very slowly. February brought me a new 1:1 para for one of my Littles and her and I hit it off immediately. Due to unforeseen circumstances she was relocated and I had to reevaluate (again). Then, March. March is an incredibly long month which honestly looking back on now, feels like a blur. Next, in April, I felt like we started to move backwards. After a brainstorming phone call with my confidant (my mom) we planned a relaunch to take me until the end of the year, returning to behavioral scaffolds that had been removed in the mid year. We talked about acceptable vs. non-acceptable choices and our class rules and we practiced our skills and centers.

Then, we came to the end of the year. In May, end of year testing. My data was not where I wanted it to be, a problem that first grade had been faced with for many years now. In my end of year conference, I spoke to how I had done some professional development on that topic and would spend my summer on it as well. But I also told my principal how the data is not reflective of how my students became readers. How a student who at the beginning of the year would spend read to self time glancing around the room, shyly asked if he could take Splat the Cat home. How my girls created a book club around Owl Diaries because they loved it. How excited my students were for read aloud. How students begged me to be the class read aloud for the day.

And here we are, in June. The last few days raced past with field trips and picnics and movies and science experiments. As my Littles walked out that door on Tuesday, I made sure to give them each a hug. I told them all that I loved them and always will. It’s hard to put into words what kind of affect those children had on me. They pushed me to become the best teacher I could for them. We all made mistakes but we rallied around one another to become a classroom family. Everyday I learned something new from them, something new about them. It was so hard, but it was so worth it. I’m so incredibly fortunate to be in the school that I am, working with the people that I do, and to have that first class that I did. And it’s only confirmed to me that this is what I’m meant to do. Year Two, I’m coming for you!

Image result for teacher end of year quote

31st Teacher Evaluation

This week I had my 31st end of year teaching evaluation. 31! Holy Cow! That is a lot of evaluations. Holy cow am I old!

My principal and I went over data, we looked at both my goals for my students and goals I had set for myself. We discussed some programs I did and whether I would do them again. We chatted for about 30 minutes.

Then his final question to me was, “What do you hope your students learned this year?”

The first words out of my mouth was “I hope they know I love them.” I didn’t even think about it.

Because if they know I love them..then they also know that they are..







If they know I love them

They will feel safe

They will make mistakes

We will get through the tough times

If they know I love them..

They know we are part of a community

We will grow and change together

We are all learners

When I recommend a book, it is because I know they will love it

When I read aloud, the book has been selected just for them

If they know I love them..

I can push them to accomplish things they never thought they could do

I can have high expectations and they will reach them

So even though I just said I hope they know I love them..I meant so much more than that.

Stairs to Squares – Revisited

If you have been reading this blog, you know that I have been revisiting many of the Youcubed Week Of Inspirational Math activities that I did at the beginning of the year. It has been amazing for us to see the changes in our thinking since September! You can see the other posts here, here and here.

Yesterday, we revisited this stairs to squares problem. It looks like this:

Students were to write what they noticed. In the beginning of year, we ended with just that. Students wrote things like the first figure was in the second figure, the second figure was in the third figure and so on.

They noticed that the number going across on the bottom was the same number in the diagonal. They looked for patterns in numbers. They worked for about 15 minutes in September, finding all they could at that time and then being completely done!

Yesterday, I gave them these questions:

Students very quickly were able to create a figure with 10 in it. They realized that if they counted 10 + 9 + 8 +7+ 6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 they would know how many cubes were in that figure. Here are some of their thinking:

They soon realized that the 55th figure would be much more difficult. Some continued along with the color tiles. Some asked for graph paper. Some used blank paper.

Students then began to realize that they didn’t need paper because they understood the problem. If they added 55 + 54 + 53 (and so on) they would get the answer. They then asked for calculators. I heard things like, “You try it! And then we will check!”

I then called attention to the class. I asked them was there an easier way? Did they need to add all the numbers together? Was there some sort of pattern.

We ended the class after well more than 30 minutes of working and students were not done. Time was just up! During our end of the class reflection, one group shared their looked like this:

Let me see if I can do justice to this one student’s explanation. He saw each figure in terms of groups. So in the case above he saw the first figure in terms of groups of 7. He said that if you take the bottom row out, then you can put row 1 and 6 together, row 2 and 5 together and row 3 and 4. That would make a total of 4 groups of 7 which would be 28 total.

He then tested his theory with figure 9. The group of 9 at the bottom is one group of 9; then row 8 and 1, row 7 and 2; row 6 and 3; row 5 and 5. That makes 5 groups of 9 which is 45.

He then started playing around with half and how that played into everything.

This has been quite a journey for me to see how much they have all grown. Each time I do one of these activities, I am blown away by how different it is from the beginning of the year. At the beginning of the year, my third grade students could barely work for 15 minutes. The worked to get an answer and be done. Now, students will continue to work and work until I have to finish to move on to another activity. They know that there is no “done” . They keep digging and digging!

This website is beyond amazing and I am so grateful for it!

Graphing – Revisited

If you follow my posts, you know that I am taking the Week Of Inspirational Math that I did at the beginning and then throughout the year and doing many of the exact same activities again.  You can read about two other lessons I did here and here.  There is a method to this madness.  I want to remind the students off all of the good mathematical philosophy/norms they have learned this year.  They have also grown in their ability to discuss math, work with partners/groups, practice grit and perseverance and so much more.  This poster is from the site and hangs in my classroom.  It is the message I preach.921CDAB2-A755-4BCF-8CAE-77BA9CEEBA23

This week, we revisited this graphing activity.  Students are to just write what they notice about the graph.img_5103

In the beginning of the year, the students realized that there are different emojis.  Most are yellow, there is one blue and one read.  Some emojis were cute, some not cute, some are used, some are not used.  Pretty straight forward.  Some students began to identify the what each quadrant held what emojis.  Some could even identify the cutest emoji; the not cutest emoji and the like.  They worked for about 15 minutes in September and were done.  Many finished before the time was up and just kind of looked around.

Flash forward to Friday of this week.  I had to cut them off at 20 minutes.  Everyone was digging and discussing as much as they could.  My job was to just walk around and get to hear all the good talk that was being had.  I didn’t need to coach anyone.


The students seemed less interested this time in giving the correct answers and more interested in finding things that didn’t seem obvious and coming up with their own questions.  This paper, the pair was questioning the number of emojis in each quadrant and did that mean anything.  They were are also making predictions on how the mad/sad faces were not deemed as cute.

This next one blew me away.  The student said it reminded him of Mind Craft and started naming the x and the y axis.  He went on to teach his group about positive and negative numbers.  The decided that each of the emojis needed to labeled with (x,y) label.  Their work took them in that direction and img_5104then other groups heard them and began their own study of quadrants. The photo on the right shows the beginning of their work.

Then a young lady asked if she could stay in for recess because she loved our class notes and wanted to use Google Draw to duplicate it.  Here is her work.

img_5124In the end, we met as full class and below you will find the notes that I sloppily and quickly wrote.  Children who struggled with this at the beginning of the year met with success and students that understood it in September pushed themselves even further. Every child participated.  It was great! We have about 15 days left of school for this year.  I am hoping to do several more of these lessons!








Mystery Skype 2019 and Google Earth

In 2017, I wrote this blog on Mystery Skype.  Since then, my classroom has participated in many, many Mystery Skypes.  We are in Connecticut and we have Mystery Skyped as far away as Hawaii and Alaska.  We have Skyped Tennessee, Texas, California, Colorado, Massachusetts and the list goes on and on.  We have Skyped and learned about two different Canadian provinces.  We are getting to learn about how schools are different around the world.

After we Skype, the students fill out a little worksheet on the town we just Skyped so they will remember forever!  Questions such as weather, part of the United States, interesting fact etc. Students also color the state in on a map of the United States. Then we use Mapquest and find out how many miles away from our town the school is.

One thing I have added to my Skypes this year is Google Earth.  This is an incredible website. We plug the school in on the website.  There is an earth rotating.  Then it feels like you fly and hover above the school.  You can manipulate the website so you can get in very close or back away to see the area around the school.  This has been so cool for us to be able to see which schools are in cities and which are in countries.  When I was plugging the information in last week to find a school, one of my students yells out, “This never gets old.”

I work in an incredibly small district for Connecticut.  There are 5000 people total in our town.  However, we Skyped a town that the school was k – 12!  All around their school was farm land.

This past week, I did something I had never done. I Skyped a town in Connecticut!  I actually Skyped with a fourth grade class at Kelsey’s (the co-writer of this blog).  That was super fun.  We are actually on opposite ends of the state.  When we did a google earth on them, we could see the ocean!  We are on the Massachusetts border.

Skyping has become invaluable to me as an educator.  To be able to bring the world to my students in such a fun, creative way has completely enhanced our learning!


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