Unexpected Visit from Wal-Mart

It really has been a while since I have been on to share exciting things going on in my second grade classroom. I feel like there is always so much going on but I am going to trying to get on here for a really good post once-a-month...that being said I have something AMAZING that I want to share.

Two years ago I was in search of something for my classroom but didn't have the money to spend out of pocket. A friend sent me to Donor's Choose. For those of you who don't know anything about it, I would HIGHLY recommend checking it out. It is free to sign up for teachers. I'd like to do a follow up post on the ins and outs of setting up your grant for Donor's Choose later.

Anyway, I have had 3 grants filled from Donor's Choose over the last year and a half. Recently, I was looking at getting more technology into my classroom. I tried a year ago to get a tablet grant fulfilled but it didn't get enough donors before the deadline. This school year I thought I would try again. I hadn't had anyone donate and thought maybe I would need to try again in the spring.

But then something unexpected happened.

Something I still can't quite wrap my head around.

I got a surprise visit.

I was in the middle of my first reading test with my class when my principal walked in. Thinking nothing of it, I assumed he was there for a walk-through.

But then I saw my assistant principal. I was sitting at my desk and students were coming up to me with their questions.

Then in walked our curriculum director.

Followed by my assistant superintendent.

Then in walked my superintendent.

I have to admit my heart dropped to my stomach and my first thought was they were coming to dismiss me. (I know they wouldn't come to someone's classroom to do that but I have never had an expected visit from 5 administrators before!!)

While all these scattered thoughts ran through my head as I kept working one-on-one with a student, I noticed some balloons in the hallway. I thought I saw a 3 and a 0 and I thought, maybe it is for me 30th birthday?

Then I noticed men in suits (no it wasn't Men In Black!!!) and more than a dozen Wal-Mart employees all walking through my doorway. I had NO IDEA what was going on. I was panicking thinking my students were going to flip out at all of the extra people joining us that morning. I think they were more in shock than anything else!!

It turns out, Wal-Mart had come to give us a few surprises that morning. Apparently, my administrative team was aware for a few weeks this visit was going to take place. News coverage was supposed to join them for their grand entrance but there was an unfortunate school shooting that had to be covered.

Wal-Mart had gotten wind of my Donor's Choose grant and had come to PERSONALLY fulfill my grant. In fact, they went above and beyond just filling the grant. Several district managers, store managers, department managers, and employees brought thousands of dollars worth of goodies for my classroom. (I think all in all including myself and my students there were over 50 people in my classroom during this visit!)

I'm still in shock.

  • They brought us 3 iPads for my classroom with Otterbox cases. (Seriously, these cases are amazing to withstand little kid abuse.)
  • A Radio Flyer red wagon filled with back to school supplies: crayons, glue, highlighters, tissues, hand sanitizer, notebooks, paperclips, bulletin board accents, erasers, pencils, glitter glue, pencil sharpener, construction paper and so much more!
  • A gift card for $490 to Wal-Mart. (After a National study was conducted, on average most classroom teachers spend around $500 per year on classroom supplies.)
  • An iPad for my use at home and in the classroom.
  • A healthy snack: lots and lots of apples!
    I felt like a Publisher's Clearing House winner!!!

    This adorable wagon was covered with tulle using our school colors and was such an adorable way to present school supplies! It was like Christmas for teachers!

    Can you tell my kiddos were in shock and SUPER excited? (They also got out of their math test later that day so they were REALLY glad Wal-Mart visited!!)

    I've never had more volunteers to hold a piece of paper in my life!
I honestly can say I have never been more surprised (well, maybe my husband's proposal but that's about it!!) by anything especially in my professional career.

Apparently, Wal-Mart visits different school districts each year and chooses a classroom to shower with gifts and goodies. I am beyond thankful and grateful they chose me this year. This is something my students talk about almost daily and we are thoroughly enjoying all of the extra goodies they brought us.

I cannot guarantee this type of excitement will come with a Donor's Choose grant but believe me, there are companies out there who are more than willing to help out teachers with much needed supplies. I know it seems a little strange asking for such large and expensive items but you never know what you can get if you don't ask.

So to everyone all the North Versailles, PA Wal-Mart, from the bottom of my heart. You made this year the BEST YEAR EVER for not only my students but for me as well!!

Stay tuned for a follow up post on how to submit a Donor's Choose grant.

Monthly Fluency Tracking

So, I'm gonna say a two letter word that may have some of you reaching for your mouse or a few of you groaning...are you ready??

Progress Monitoring.

Still with me? Ok, I remember my first year teaching kindergarten and in a grade level meeting my principal leaning across the table and said, "Hol, you're monitoring your kids...right?" Enter that panicked feeling and my heart started pounding. I grabbed my mentor teacher after the meeting and had her explain what the heck my principal was talking about. I mean I remember them mentioning this during student teaching and my education courses in college. But to actually put that into practice in the classroom? Oh boy.

After that, I realized the importance of what I wasn't doing. For a few years, I progressed monitored but never had a great way of keeping my data organized.

Two summers ago, I sat down and really organized my fluency binder. I'm sure everyone has a different way of keeping their fluency data together. Many of you might have a better way than I do {if you feel like sharing, let me know!!} but here is what mine looks like.

** Disclaimer, I did not show any of my close read sheets simply because I use about 4 different sets I have purchased off of TpT. There are so many great ones out there and I like having a variety to choose from depending on the student, season, or skill.

First, I keep my fluency progress monitoring materials in a separate binder from any other progress monitoring. All of my close reads are in sheet protectors. I used to just hole punch them and keep them in the binder. I found I was always cringing when the kids would crinkle the paper as they read. My OCD stepped in and I now have my close reads ready to use year after year without worrying about them being ruined.


I set up my binder so each kiddo has their own page for every month. They all have a cute seasonal printer friendly graphic in the corner. Sometimes I find myself coloring them in every once in a while. {Like in another meeting :) }

I print out sheets for the upcoming month during the last week of the current month. Their names or numbers can go on the top line. I keep track of their fluency from their homework and my classroom progress monitoring. You can keep track of the story they read, their words correct and words read and take their percentage from those numbers. RL stands for their reading level. { 92% and lower is a frustration level, 93%-97% is an instructional level, 98% and higher is an independent level}. RT stands for retell which gives me an idea as far as our DIBELS testing.


Once I finish progress monitoring for the month, I take all of their individual sheets and record each student's data for the entire month on a master sheet. I keep track of their monthly progress for our SLO goals. This counts towards one of my assessment categories and I have concrete data to back up my scores. This information is also useful during parent meetings and IEP, GIEP meetings as well.


I also use my master data sheets to compare the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Our final DIBEL assessments will be during the month of May. I like to have an idea of where my kids are the month before we test. The first line for each student was their data from September and the second line is from March. I take this binder with me when we have our grade level reading meetings.


Each month my parents get a progress monitoring report on their child's fluency. I remind both parents and students this is not a grade but simply an assessment tool to check their progress. Some parents don't fully understand how to check fluency at home and oftentimes do not have the same data as I get in the class. This is a great way to show parents where their child is for the month.

Each report has:
  • a line for the student's name
  • a line for how many words were read
  • a line for how many words were read correctly
  • a line for the child's reading percentage
  • a line for their reading level
  • an indicator for their reading level {I usually highlight or color in the arrow indicating which level their child is reading for the month.}


Sometimes I will look back and see which student started the year really struggling and I check to see if there is any progress a few months/weeks later. The master spread sheets are perfect for comparing this type of data.


I have used this data to help my reading team meet when it comes time to split our kids up for enrichment groups. I also use this information when I fill out RTI/RTII forms. Having concrete data to support my concerns is such a life saver!!

If you are interested in checking out more of this set, hop over to my TpT store and CLICK HERE.

I would love to hear what you do that is different! I am always looking for ways to improve my organizational skills:)