Reading Specialist and Interventionist

I wrapped up my reading interventionist coursework over the winter.  The practicum was done in May.  July rolled around and the B-I-G Praxis test was staring me in the face.  I found out this morning that I passed the exam.  That, along with my endorsement diploma from Concordia University, makes for a special day here in the Cacak household.  I want to share this moment with you for a couple of reasons.  1) I am proud of my hard work, and 2) I hope it inspires you to continue being patient and spending extra time with students who need the extra support.

It's official!  I am a certified reading interventionist and specialist.
If anyone would have told me 25 years ago that I would someday teach tiny humans numerous reading skills that would set them up for a lifetime of success, I probably would have called them a liar...or off their rocker.  It's funny how life takes twists and turns along that way.  It's even funnier when you look back at your own education and discover that path had been formed long before you realized what was taking place.

I started off as a very eager learner.  My mom bought me this super-groovy school desk at a garage sale when I was four years old, and I would sit there for hours drawing, practicing writing my name, writing "I love you" notes to my parents, etc.  I loved writing and reading.  Mom bought me as many books as she could, and I poured over them each and every day.  She provided paper of all types, pens, pencils, crayons, name it...I had it.  Of course, it all came from Dad's office. (Shhhh...don't tell).

Practicing writing my name as a four year old!  So sweet!
Somewhere along the way, a strong hate for reading and writing developed inside of me.  I hated reading as a child.  I mean, I *HATED* reading!  I was highly aware that I was a struggling reader, but there was no help for me at the time.  I went from being a very happy, fun-loving child in early primary grades (kindergarten and first grade)...

A basket as a hat is clearly the mark of a happy kid! a defeated, hopeless older student (second grade through middle school).  I distinctly remember those feelings starting as early as second grade.  I remember being caught cheating on a second grade spelling test.  I also remember how the entire episode felt.  I remember thinking it was the only way I would ever pass that test.  I remember feeling completely dumb for not knowing how to spell the words, no matter how much I practiced at home.  I remember my mother being told, "She just doesn't apply herself!"  I remember getting to the point where I simply didn't apply myself anymore.  Why?  Because it did not matter how hard I tried, the situation only got worse.  Looking back, I see realize my struggles held me back as a learner, and that with support, I could have soared as a student.

During this period of time, I had that look on my face in EVERY picture.
I have been working toward my certification as a reading interventionist for over a year, but I have been actually doing the job of an interventionist (in my own classroom) for much longer than that.  I believe most of us teaching primary grades do.  To some degree, it comes with the territory.  However, I am feeling super proud this morning.  I am not great at a lot of things in my life, but I am a fantastic teacher. 

It always feels good to be rewarded for hard work.  I consider love notes, like the one above, the be the ultimate reward!  However, today's reward of a passing test score and diploma is special, too.  It's not every day that official diplomas come in the mail.  It's not every day that I have to take a two hour exam to prove what I know as an educator.  This feeling of joy and pride will be carried into my classroom with me this school year.  I have a new goal to reward and acknowledge student milestones more this school year with special awards that celebrate where they are in their reading and writing development...simply because it encourages us to keep plugging along. 

Do you use awards or certificates in your classroom?  How to you acknowledge growth for your little learners?  I would love to hear how you honor childhood milestones in the classroom in a developmentally appropriate way.

Freshly Cut Composition Notebooks

I am sooooo ready for the new school year to begin.  I have my new calendar parts and pieces printed and laminated, most of my teaching materials have been moved into the new classroom, and my husband chopped up a fresh batch of half size composition notebooks for me over the weekend.  Life is good!

Someone on TPT asked if the half size notebooks fall apart over time near the sewn binding.  This is a question that has surfaced many times in the past few years.  Actually, I can't complain.  The books have held together very well for me and my former team of eight teachers.  We were using whatever brand we could get our hands on, and we would buy as many as we could when the back to school sales would hit Fred Meyer and Office Depot.  So I am not dedicated to a particular brand when it comes to cutting notebooks.  For the upcoming 2018-19 school year, I am using a mix of leftover comp books from last school year and new ones picked up at Office Depot last week.

The key to my success has been making sure to cut these with a band saw...not a table saw.  Chances are, if you know anyone remotely handy with a garage full of tools, they have either a stand alone band saw or a miniature/mobile version.  What is the difference between a table saw and a band saw?   A table saw features a giant circular blade that comes up from a tabletop.  A band saw has a very find blade that looks like a teeny, tiny hand saw blade.  A band saw looks like this...

Image lovingly borrowed from The Home Depot site.  :)
Here is what the notebooks look like fresh off the band saw.  No editing here, folks.  They were literally cut and tossed into a shopping bag so I can haul them into my classroom next week.
Remember, use a band saw to cut the notebooks.
Over time, the cardboard fluff you see along the edges falls off.  If I were nice, I would take some sandpaper to the edges...but I am all about kids breaking stuff in on their own.  :)

Not wanting to dive into the world of chopping perfectly good composition notebooks?  I have a teacher buddy in a neighboring district using my vocabulary journal entries with her students.  She ran out of classroom funds to purchase composition notebooks and used donated paper to create her own vocabulary booklets!  She got two booklets out of several sheets of 8.5" x 11" paper that had been stapled together into a "book", and then she cut those in half.  They looked like this...

I really love the idea of making your own vocabulary journals this way because you can start over fresh with a brand new journal book with each unit!  The little cover pages I made with the intention of being a "divider" between stories becomes the journal cover.  Brilliant!
Journal cover

Inside pages of the homemade journal book
Once the unit is over...the journal book goes home.  How cool is that?  In order for me to fit the journal entry and the cover page onto the homemade journal, I did have to cut them slightly smaller than my typical chop twice and go method.  However, it took all of two seconds to do so.  I also want to add that stapling and cutting booklets would make a fantastic parent volunteer job each month.  Perfect for teachers looking for ways to get families to engage in classroom tasks a bit more. 

Have a certain way you keep track of vocabulary in kindergarten?  Do you use a similar journal entry method or something totally different? I am moving to a new district that does not use ReadyGEN.  However, I look forward to keeping my journal method for our weekly focus story.  I was so impressed with how much my journal entries enhanced discussions about books over the past two school years that I can't justify NOT continuing on with the idea.  Vocabulary work packs a powerful punch in kindergarten!

If you are looking for vocabulary journal entries that will support ReadyGEN Kindergarten, check out my free sample here: