Wednesday, December 31, 2014

currently 2015

Holy schnikes! It's (almost) 2015 and a cold, cold last day of December here in Chi-Town! I am kinda missing the snow, but definitely not a fan of this cold weather we have going on! Anyways, excited for my 18th Currently with Farley - it's almost been two years doing this link-up with her and I LOVE it! Farley - you're awesome, thanks for getting us all together every month!

If you're new to BigTime Literacy, I'd love to find some new bloggers to connect with! I'm a Literacy Coach just west of Chicago and love my job. I love to read literacy blogs and blogs from middle school teachers (love me some middle school kiddos, too!) Anyways, I hope you'll stay awhile!

Without further ado, let's get on with it!

Listening to....Taylor Swift and Nappy Roots
Well, it's no secret here that I'm a Swifty. I actually just bought tickets for my friend and I to see her at Soldier Field in July and I couldn't be more excited! Have you seen the mash-up a few of her fans did? They blended Blank Space with Style and it's pretty sweet. Check it out!

I also just watched that movie The Neighbors and the ending credits had the song Good Day playing by Nappy Roots and I love that song. I heard it in the gym a few weeks ago and didn't know who sang it, so cool that now I know! Just a heads up though, some inappropriate content, but hey, this kind of song is exactly me, so I must share!

Loving....running into old friends!
One of my best friends, Holly, was in for Christmas. Of course we got to spend a little time together and then went to breakfast with her family in our small high school town. We ended up running into a few other girls from the class of '98 that I hadn't seen in ages... it was so nice! I'm not one to live in the past or anything, but it is so nice to see old friends and spend a few minutes catching up. We couldn't believe that we're coming up to our 20 year reunion in about four years...say whaaaat? We're calling it 10 year reunion part 2!

Thinking...about giving up TV
Ohhh but that will be so hard because The Bachelor starts in January and I think Scandal will be back soon and also there are only 4 episodes of Parenthood left! Maybe a better goal should be no TV on school nights. I really could find lots of better things to do with my time then brainwashing myself with all the junk on TV (Confession: I watched Real World Chicago yesterday! Can you believe The Real World is in it's 30th year?!) No TV on school nights sounds like a good way to start. Except for The Bachelor. I think I definitely can't wait till the weekend for that one! I mean, look ---> new printer to get delivered!
I ordered one on Amazon since I got a gift card for Christmas and I've been home waiting for it all morning! It's a Canon Pixma...wireless, prints two-sided without having to flip it, prints from iPhone and iPad and it's pretty compact for my small space here in the city. I decided to get it because the new year is going to be all about getting healthy (check out my Healthy 2015 pinterest board!) but I'm going to print stuff and put it up all around my bachelorette pad so I can keep my eye on the prize. I heard (or read) once that summer bodies are made in the winter and yes, that is very true. (Either made or not made, right?) Part of my goals include 30 minutes of exercise or 3 miles walking/running (5 days a week) and eating clean. I have to eat cleaner for sure! I mean, I know this - when I eat a lot of sugar or carbs, I feel so bad, so just gotta stick to the plan.


But I digress - back to the printer - it will help me meet my goals and also be helpful for having docs I need ASAP right here at home! I'll let you know how it all works out after it gets here!

Needing...the frigid cold to pass on through
It's seriously so cold here. I can feel the draft from my window as I sit here and type and I am wondering how I am going to make it two blocks to our NYE party a dress! My Weatherbug says it's 16, but feels like 4. Not cool! I'm dreaming of summer days, but know we have a long winter ahead of us!

Yes, Maybe, I Wish...
I say yes to getting healthy this year for sure. I mean yes, losing weight will be totes amazeballs, but just feeling better will be the best part of the deal!

Maybe I'll get the boyfriend to Florida and California this year! I hope so anyways, but it takes a lot of planning and saving, so we'll cross our fingers and hope and see!


I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller, I wish I had a girl who looked good I would call her!

Hahhahahaa idk. I wish? I don't want to say the thing I wish and jinx it :-)

That's all for me! Gotta get ready to ring in the new year!

Oh - and if you want to link up with me on Sunday, I'll have my Sunday Letters linky up! Check it out!

Happy 2015!

what I'm loving wednesday

I'm back! Another edition of:

WRITE a list of things you're currently loving.
LINK your post to mine.
COMMENT on the other bloggers' posts!

Some things I'm loving this week...

My nieces
I have four, but two of them are below:

Brooklyn on the left and Aubrey on the right. Their mom is one of my best friends:

Heather and I have been friends for like 20 years - since high school, so it's only natural that her kids are my nieces.

Anyways, I usually talk to Heather while she's on the way driving somewhere, with her hands free, and so her girls are privy to our conversations. I talked to her the other day and then she said, "Bye friend." I said the same and we hung up. Then I got this text:

That was Aubrey who said, "Why did you say bye friend? Michelle is family!" Seriously love her kids!

The Shake Shack
The boyfriend and I had "Hektor and Michelle's day of downtown fun" yesterday. We went walking around State Street, hung out in a Walgreens longer than necessary (it was actually kinda nice to just do whatever and not worry about time!) and then went to Macy's to see the tree:

It was all the way up on the 7th floor but we found it and it is pretty cool! From there we walked to Barnes and Noble (I still had a gift card from my bday), got a Peppermint Mocha to share, stopped at a few other places, too. Then we jumped on the train and headed to the Grand stop to find this place:

Sorry for the crummy pic, but it's the Shake Shack from New York:

and really the only reason I knew that was because of the movie Something Borrowed, when these two go there for lunch:

Anyways, Hektor had the Shack Stack and I just had a plain hamburger:

So his had a cheeseburger with a huge mushroom (maybe a portabello?) stuffed with Muenster cheese. I am just a classic hamburger kinda girl, so that's what I had. We shared fries and those were good. Since we had that Peppermint Mocha, we didn't get a shake - kinda sugared out. But, we did wait in a line that was out the door and then wait to find a place to sit. I guess this place is still pretty new!

Here's my ratings: Reminded me of my days working at Schoop's - those burgers had to be fried on like a flat top silver electric grill thingy for sure! In and Out definitely better for me, but I'm sure Hektor loved this on because he loves that Muenster cheese.

Anyways, cool to find a new place to try out. One of the reasons I love Chicago so!

Christmas Break
You know, none of this would be possible without our two weeks off, and boy, did I need them. It's so nice to just be lazy and stay home if I so please or go out if I want. I'm not late to anything, I'm just where I want to be when I want to be there. Tomorrow, an afternoon tea with a friend while I wait for a new printer delivery and then a NYE celebration. LOVE Love love to have these breaks!

What are you loving? Please share with me and don't forget to leave some love for the other bloggers!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

no Sunday blues here!

It's Sunday night. I just finished dinner with my love and now we are sitting by the glow of the Christmas tree - me blogging and him reading news on his phone - and it's Sunday and we're both off of work tomorrow. I'm feeling. Totes. Amazeballs.

I mean, this is how I'm *usually* feeling:

hahhaaaa...I'd be lying if I said this was a fib!

but not tonight! Tonight I'm all:

And now tomorrow I'm planning a trip to the Art Institute, and then waiting for my new printer to be delivered on Tuesday (doing the following) --->

and then it's New Years Eve with friends and some more days to relax (and perhaps read those Calkins books...). And then a long time from now....really far into the distant future, you know, 7 days from now, I will probably be feeling:

SA that's for you!
But tonight?

What are your plans this week? I hope they are blissful!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

what I'm loving wednesday

WRITE a list of things you're currently loving.
LINK your post to mine.
COMMENT on the other bloggers' posts!

It's Christmas Eve and I couldn't be happier - to see my favorite people, to share stories and great food, and for the special moments that are sure to come. In addition to those things, here are a few other things that I've been loving lately!

Mariano's Sushi
It's called Oki Sushi, but it's waaaay better thank OK! :-) My fave sushi is tempura sweet potato, and since their place is within Mariano's, they just had to head over to produce to make my request. It was delish - and I got this sweet/spicy chili sauce to put on it. I seriously can't believe I'm still thinking about it, but I want more!

A Cookie Exchange
Made dinner for a few friends last night, who all came with lots of cookies to trade. I always love taking cookies to my family and friends' houses during the holidays but I do not like making 6 different recipes, so the solution? A cookie exchange! Each person brings a half dozen for each person at the party and you leave with lots of different kinds. Plus, I also get to hang out with my girlfriends, so that's a definite win!

Best Friends
(who are teachers, too)
Last night, one of my bffs Jamie texted our friend, Katie and I asking for the best advice for a first year teacher. After the jokes were set aside, Katie said, "and find a friend to vent to every day. If you're lucky, you can still vent to the same person 12 years later." Seriously, awwwhhh! Love those two girls - Jamie I met in college and Katie my first year teaching. Couldn't do life without them!

I seriously just love emojis. Like alot, alot. I think they add so much more depth to our texting, don't you? The funniest thing I think people text me is when they're mad at something not working out right - (like a cookie exchange cookie fail) and they text a cookie with the gun next to it. I am not sure why I find that incredibly hilarious, but I do! (Maybe I shouldn't talk about a gun emoji here on my blog? idk, but I don't care cause it's hilar!) And, I think it would be just great to get the heart in all the colors - so I could do ASU school colors in hearts and basically just have a rainbow of hearts to choose from!

This Image

Let's remember the reason for the season, right friends? I hope that you enjoy all your time with your favorite people and loved ones, and that while it's nice to give gifts, our faith and being there for one another really is what this season is all about.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

coming soon..."what I'm loving" linky

Hello Readers!

Tomorrow I'm going to host a linky for all of you who have some down time to write! This one is going to be all about whatever it is that you are currently loving at the moment!

Maybe it's your friends and family or music, great cookie recipes, trips or traditions you're making happen this break - no matter what, feel free to get a quick list together and link it up with me!

Hope to see some of you tomorrow! I'm off to write my list now!


slice of life tuesday

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLS bloggers.

The little guy who I do a Tier 3 intervention with was absent for like five school days in a row right around our five day Thanksgiving holiday. He missed a lot of school! And crazy thing, I really missed him! I never thought when I first started working with him last year that I would feel like this, but it's the holiday season and I miss him a little bit. So I was thinking about him, which got me to remembering this little SOL I'm about to share with you!

The day he returned after his 10 day hiatus, I saw him for our 15 minute 1:1 right away in the morning. We kinda reviewed what we had been doing prior. Then he was on his way to class, knowing he would return at 11:30 for our small group.

Not too much longer, he was back in my room, feeling better, calling out, back to his old self. He's a touchy-feely kinda kid, and he was touching my arm at the time when I was becoming more and more annoyed. I mean, he was gone all that time and I really missed him and now, here we were again and just like that, annoyed! So I barked, "Buddy, why are you touching me? Grab your pencil, com'on and let's get to work," to which he replied, "well, I just missed you." and then my heart melted.

That's the thing with kids and all of our most special relationships - when you're close like this, you're like family, and sometimes you are loving your family like nobody's business and other times you are about to be out of you mind because they're getting on your nerves. But no matter what, that kid is special, and I'm so thankful I get to be a part of his journey at school.

Who are your special people? Share a Slice of Life Story with Two Writing Teachers today!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

monday letters

Join me every other Sunday to share your letters.
Write to people or inanimate objects and then link up below.
Don't forget to leave some love for the other Letters Bloggers!

Dear Readers,
I'm totally on break...a day late on the letters, even! Thank you for helping me create such an amazing community around our blogs! I love the friendships I've made because of BigTime Literacy and wish you all a very Merry Christmas!
Love, Michelle

Dear Mentees A & G,
You are the highlight of my year, this year. Thank you for sharing your first years with me -- you make me a better teacher through our collaboration and I really enjoy the moments we spend together. Merry Christmas, Newbies!
Hugs, Mentor

Dear Amazon,
How I love thee. Two day Prime Shipping? Yes, please! And I can avoid all the traffic and crazy crowds!

xo, a happy shopper

Dear Nutcracker,
I loved the dancing and the glitter and the ballet shoes tapping on the stage. My first trip to the ballet, success!
Sincerely, your newest fan

Dear Self,
Perhaps you can try and *not* fall next time you sign up for a month of Crossfit? Foot is still weird and I'm thinking maybe a doctor's visit would be a good idea. Sigh. If only there were time!
Sincerely, a last-minute Christmas person

Dear Teacher Friends,
If you're not writing letters with your students, I highly encourage you to do so. One of my favorite things is to write letters with students, and then bind them into a lovely book to save memories for years to come. It really is the best gift we can have kids give us, and authentic literacy, too!
Sincerely, Writing Teacher

Dear Jennie and Jill,
Thanks for being so awesome to work with, and creative, too. I love your little Christmas clever and cute!
Merry Christmas!

Love, Michelle

That's all for me...please write your own letters and link them up with me!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

preachin' positivity

A career in education, by it's sheer nature, creates a litany of events each day that has the potential to ruin our day:

  • An unexpected meeting
  • An (expected) meeting that ran too long
  • Forgot your lunch
  • A child getting hurt or bullied
  • A disagreement with a colleague
  • A student who talks back
  • A broken copy machine
  • Gossip
  • Technological difficulties
  • Not putting things back where they belong
  • Fell and hurt your foot
The list goes on and on....but notice I said there is potential to ruin our day? That's because it's up to each of us every day to make our day great. We are human, so it's normal to find ourselves in negative thinking patterns or feeling anxious for a various amount of reasons. But, if you can change the way you think about things, you can change how you feel.

Driving home today, I realized that I have a few things that I always turn to when I'm feeling bad or overwhelmed or stressed or angry, and I thought it would make a good blog post, because as educators, you all know what I'm talking about when I say there are 1,000 reasons to be negative. I choose positivity. Here's how I get there:

I listen to a few songs that always snap me out of my bad moods. One of them? Shake it off by Taylor Swift. This song really does a number on me (for the better!) I listen to this song to remember:

"But I keep cruisin' can't stop won't stop movin'
It's like I got this music in my mind saying it's gonna be alright!"
Cause the
Player's gonna play play play play play
and the
Hater's gonna hate hate hate hate hate
Baby I'm just
gonna shake shake shake shake shake
Shake it off, Shake it off"

Seriously though, I can only control my actions, my responses, my choices. So why am I going to let anyone else make me feel bad?

Add to my Pinterest "Positivity" Board

I love quotes. Especially quotes that have been created all cute in little memes online. So when I'm angry/anxious/upset, I go to Pinterest and add to my board. Here's a few I added today:

Does this work for anyone else or just me? Searching through Pinterest for this reason makes me feel so much better. Like light years better. It reminds me of the big picture, of why I go to the career I chose every day...for the kids and the amazing relationships I have with my colleagues.

My go-to book: The Book of Awakening

This daybook provides it's reader a passage a day - to be read in order, or if you're like me, you look up what's troubling you and then read those passages until you feel better. I've used this book more in thinking about my personal relationships and my growth as an individual, but it can be totally applied to our teaching careers. It's a book that I feel every teacher should have at their bedside - to wake up to and begin your day on a positive note or to read as they reflect on their day before bed.

Here's a passage I came across yesterday....

The Ground We Walk
Walker, there is no path,
you make the path as you walk.
-Antonio Machado

I listened carefully as he described his little girl's first steps. He encouraged her to keep her eyes on him, and only when she didn't, did she stumble. Only when she lost her focus, when she became too conscious of the steps she was taking, did she fall.

I was afraid he was going to declare some parental primacy, that without his loving presence, his little girl wouldn't be able to make her way. But to my surprise, he understood her first steps more deeply as a wisdom that effects us all.

He stared off, offering slowly, "She made me realize that when I stop looking for a sense of truth, I stumble. When I lose my focus on what really matters, I fall."

This small story has stayed with me. For aren't we forever taking first steps, again and again? Don't we uncover a mystery of strength by looking out before us and bringing into focus a deeper sense of truth? Isn't balance, in reality, the ability to step quite naturally, like this little girl, without too  much thought into everything larger than our fear?

(p. 292)

Which brings me back to number 1 and another song....

Carrie Underwood has a new song out that I just love, a song that makes me understand the bigger picture. Yes, life is made up of all the drama, all the crap of the day-to-day grind. But, the older I get, the more I understand the importance of spirituality. Whatever form of this you practice - meditation, church, prayers on your own - it's so important for the balance we must keep to be at our best, for our colleagues, for our students, for our families.

Listen to her lyrics:

And now I'm singing along to amazing grace
Can't nobody wipe this smile off my face
Got joy in my heart, angels on my side
Thank God almighty, I saw the light
Gonna look ahead, no turning back
Live every day, give it all that I have
Trust in someone bigger than me
Ever since the day that I believed I am changed
And now I'm stronger...

And her video, if you are so inclined...

I don't know. It just speaks to me. I listened to it about 8 times today, and at full blast on the way home, singing at the top of my lungs (and I'm sure Randy Jackson would say, "That was kinda pitchy.") But I don't care. It makes me happy and I have so much to be thankful for.

Writing on this blog and my readers being two of them.

How do you stay positive? Leave me a note in the comments!

Happy Tuesday!
Three more get-ups!
:-) :-) :-)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

thoughts on transfer

I've been working with my Tier 3 kiddo for over a year. I see him for 30 minutes a day for a Tier 2 intervention (either 1:1 or in a group of three depending on his schedule) and then for an additional 15 minutes 1:1. In our small group, he gets Leveled Literacy Intervention - reading fluency, comprehension, and word study. During his Tier 3 intervention, he gets Intensive Phonics.

In our Intensive Phonics, we've finally gotten to sight words. I've been teaching those explicitly in conjunction with guided writing. This week, transfer was highlighed to perfectly clear to me!

We all hope to teach our students strategies and skills that will transfer to their independent work. For example, when I was teaching middle school, I taught the reading strategies, hoping my students would begin to use them always when they read independently to better understand whatever they were reading. But transfer doesn't just happen because you teach something.

Case in point:

The way I've been doing sight words is by beginning with a review. I have my kiddo write the ones I've explicitly taught each day when we begin - kinda like a spelling test. Then, I'd instruct one or two more (by asking my kiddo, "What phonics rules does the word follow? What rules does it break?" and then using Jan Richardson's strategies for sight words.) Finally, we would end our 15 minutes with guided writing, where I'd have him write dictated sentences composed of sight words he has learned.

One day last week, he wrote his words and then we moved on to sentences. I dictated, "Did your friend come home with you?"

He wrote, "Did yor frend cum home yif you?"
(Sidenote: He hasn't learned your as a sight word or the vowel combo in friend.)

Now, this was after he came back from missing a week of school, so when I said, "Buddy, how come you missed that word, come?" He got all mad telling me, "Ms. Brezek, I was sick all those days and didn't practice!" I said, "But look back at the sight words you wrote - you spelled it right five minutes ago!" He was kinda shocked!

This is what I'm saying about transfer: My kiddo had the word in the way I was assessing - like a spelling test, but he did not have it when it was applied in another context. I can't assume that because I teach him how to spell a sight word that he will use it correctly in Writer's Workshop or as he writes for other purposes.

Now, if I'm a specialist meeting 1:1 with a kiddo and am reminded of transfer, what does this mean for the other interventions I've given, or for that matter, all the ways I have taught in the past?

I'm constantly reminded of these lessons and know that I will never know everything. I'm glad this happened this week, because I am no longer doing the long spelling-list type assessment. Now, he's writing many more dictated sentences and I'm going to assess his knowledge of sight words that way. And, I want to see his Writer's Notebook!

Did you learn something new this week? Leave a comment and join the conversation!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

sunday letters

Join me every other Sunday to share your letters.
Write to people or inanimate objects and then link up below.
Don't forget to leave some love for the other Letters Bloggers!

Dear Emerson PTA,
I'm always impressed with everything you do, but the Breakfast with Santa yesterday was so awesome. I didn't get many pictures (I was working in the photo booth with Santa (which I'll post more about later!)) but there were craft vendors, a pancake breakfast, pictures with Santa, Letters to Santa - so amazing what a group of dedicated parents can do for a school and community. So impressed and happy to work with you! :-)
Proud Teach

Dear Bridesmaids,
You're hilarious, every time I watch. I can always count on a few laughs from your movie, exactly what I need right now!
Love, lol Teach

Dear Facebook,
Consider this *our* break up . I can't continue wasting time with you, or seeing a stream of things that are just, as to quote the video below, a "pageantry of vanity."
Love, Concerned Citizen

That's all for me. Two weeks till winter break - hope yours go well!

Monday, December 1, 2014

currently december

I seriously can't believe it's December! 2014 is just about up and so is half of a school year. I remember going back to work at the end of August thinking my next summer vacation was so far away, and's right around the corner!

Here we are again for Farley's Currently - a great time to get together each month and catch up with all our blogging friends! So here's what's been going on with me over at BigTime Literacy!

Listening to...Christmas Music
Okay so I haven't listened to any really until today...I've been holding out until I was ready to get down with the Christmas season and today is the day. I came home from work today with hopes of starting to get the Christmas tree up, but I really want the boyfriend to come over and decorate with me so I tried to do some Cyber Monday shopping instead. Bought one thing for a friend (and one for myself, too...bad shopper!) Anyways, all evening I've had the tunes going and it's lovely. And a candle that smells like cookies. 0 calories...winning!

best album ever!

Loving my bffs!
They're awesome. Three of them called me today and another one texted. Love them all and can't imagine my life without them!

Thinking about Christmas break...
I've been counting down the days all day - in the form of 'get-ups,' how many days I have left of benchmarking kids in our school in reading, in the form of funny memes. I have break on the brain and doing any work doesn't sound fun at all.

Wanting to put up my tree!
Are you getting the drift here? All I want to do is have fun: tree, make cookies, decorate my house, go to the Christkindlemarket downtown, do Christmas craftivities, visit the Art Institute and go ice skating, go to Zoo lights, watch Elf and Home Alone....I'd be happy to start with the tree though! Crossing my fingers for tomorrow!

Needing to begin the shopping!
It is my personal goal to do all my shopping online this year. I bought one thing this evening, but am hoping to do all the rest online, too. No stores, no waiting in lines, just me on my couch bathed in the pretty lights of my tree. Blissful!

Well, my students will be! I have about 15 student bloggers in a club that I meet with once a week. Some of them are very active (writing almost every other day!) and others are on their blogs once a week. I really want to keep them going - commenting on one another's blogs, so this week, I'm going to have them draw three names to focus their commenting - that way we spread the love all around.

I'm also looking for other student bloggers - anyone out there have student bloggers? My kiddos are fourth and fifth graders, so close in age would be great, but really any audience I can build for them would be amazing! Please leave me a comment or shoot me an email ( if you'd like to get our kiddos in touch via their blogs! You can find my kiddos' blogs off to the left hand side of this website!

Well, that's all for me this month. Have a fab December! I'm running my Letters Linky this coming Sunday if you'd like to link up - check it out! Easy blog to write and super fun! :-)

Merry Christmas!
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