Sunday, September 1, 2013

Brand new school year and a great giveaway to start the month off right!

Each day kids added post-its to a new chart. 
So, I think this past first week of school was a huge success! I have an awesome bunch of kids! I'm sad to say that I've missed out on some great linkies lately(I'm looking at you Workshop Wednesdays and Spark Student Motivation Saturday) because I've just been so busy prepping things for school.

We spent a lot of time working on building our classroom community, setting up basic procedures, and just making sure the kids feel comfortable of course. We made (and then discussed) some charts like the one in picture, usually related to one of our read-alouds or a prior class discussion. Other topics were "What kind of teachers do you want us to be?" "What can students do to help each other succeed?" and "Why is school important?" It was great to see the students come up with the answers to these questions. 

I did manage to slip in some regular academics of course too! For example, we definitely made some great progress in setting up Mentor Sentences, Writing Workshop, and the Daily 5!

So, I use a lot of mentor texts in my classroom in every subject area. But this Sunday we're talking about Language Arts mentor texts. Forgive me for not making a little image for each one! I figured I'd just give a little snippet about them all in one shot!
These were my mentor texts for various things throughout the week!
I read First Day Jitters as our back to school first read-aloud together, and later used it to do our first Mentor Sentence (by Jivey)! I'm already loving doing mentor sentences. I think it's such a great way to go over all those basic grammar skills, parts of speech, practice conventions, etc.

Do Unto Otters was a great lead into our "ways we want our class to be" and "what can students do to help each other succeed?" activities. Perfect to read before writing a classroom constitution. 

I read Matthew's Dream and Cloudette this week during Writing Workshop in conjunction with my 50 things I love freebie graphic organizer and the prompt "How do you want to change the world?" This is a twist on the typical "hopes and dreams" activity I usually do each year. While reading these stories this week, we added our first two strategies to our VOICES board; "use various graphic organizers to pre-write," and "choose a narrow topic." (We'll revisit these two often.)

We added our first two strategies to our CAFE board too! Comet's Nine Lives is great for modeling the "check for understanding" strategy. The side story Jan Brett weaves in through the illustrations, the use of interesting words, and the almost unbelievability of the cat continually dying is really engaging for the kids and is great for modeling this skill.

Our other one is the "choose appropriate texts" strategy that went along with our talk about choosing good fit books!

And of course, that first week of school you've got to have some activities that are mostly for fun and community building! I loved the way this student completed this activity (from my back to school activities pack). We did some other fun stuff, and we still have some more fun coming up next week too! I just couldn't fit it all into a 4 day week! 

One challenge I'm working on overcoming right now is how exactly I want to handle Spelling and Word Work in my classroom this year. 

I have quite a range (double the normal because I'm a 3/4 multi-age) of ability, and our current resource for Spelling is kind of...not my style... I'm lucky enough to work in a district that provides instructional coaches, so I was able to run some ideas by her. I want my Word Work sessions to be mostly independent(so kids can do it during Daily 5 while I'm busy conferring with other kids), but I obviously want it to be really meaningful and not just busywork. I'm really interested in teaching about affixes and latin/greek roots too. But obviously I'm nervous about doing something drastically different than the norm...

My instructional coach recommended Words Their Way (which I used when I taught Primary) and was able to procure me an extra copy of the resource from the district (score!). I posed this same question to my facebook followers and was happy to see that the feedback I received was also in favor of WTW and focusing on affixes and root words (thanks ladies!) so that was good! Anyone have any favorite WTW games or independent Word Work activities to share? I'd love to hear some details about how Word Work works in your 3rd or 4th classrooms! I'll be doing the pre-assessment this next week, and doing our Word Work anchor chart, but will need to have a system in place for the 3rd week of school! Yipes!

In other exciting news, I'm pitching in to help two of my BBBs celebrate some big milestones! 

There's a great giveaway going on where you can win a choice from some great prizes just by stopping by some great blogs you should be visiting anyway and collecting the numbers in their posts! While you're there, make sure you're a follower! These ladies all have great things going on on their blogs and you'll want to be in on their future posts!

The next stop on your journey is over at I Heart Recess! Just hit this button to head on over there now! Or if this is your first stop and you'd rather start collecting the numbers from the beginning you can hit that button and go grab a handy cheat sheet over on Diane's blog! 

Collect all the numbers and then enter for your chance to win! I know I will be!


  1. Love your ME! paper idea... Also, I will have to check out the Words Their Way Resource. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Sarah @ Hoots N Hollers

  2. I really like the self portraits your students drew :) What a great idea! I also love all your first week books... I read many of those to my students as well. Do Unto Otters is fantastic! I adore the book and the great message! We read it as an entire team the first week.

    Thanks for sharing,
    My Shoe String Life
    Follow Me on Bloglovin'

  3. Lots of great books! I'll be interested to read about how you use Words Their Way. I've never tried it, but have heard great things about it.

    Hunter's Teaching Tales
    Find me on Facebook

  4. I forgive you for missing Workshop Wed but....... don't let it happen again. :-P LOL jk I love all the activities you did with these great mentor texts!

  5. Holy cow, this post is chocked full of great stuff!! I have never seen Cloudette or the Nine Lives book but I love Jan Brett so I'll have to check this one out!!

    I'm REALLY interested in how Words Their Way goes for you. We are not supposed to teach spelling, just greek and latin roots, but my group this year cannot spell AT ALL. This is the group my daughter is in and she has never had spelling in all her years in elementary school- and you can tell. I'm not sure why our district thought this was a good idea...but they didn't ask my opinion. I'm trying to teach some spelling but it's tricky because we aren't supposed to. I'll have to see how this goes for you because I also wanted to try to have them doing it independently during workshop.

    Great post! Thanks for linking up!!!
    Collaboration Cuties

  6. Words Their Way is an excellent resource! I'm looking forward to hearing how it goes with your intermediate group.

    I just checked out Do Unto Otters at Amazon, and it's already in my cart (which doesn't take long to fill up). Thank you for the recommendation!

    Fit to be Fourth
    Follow me on Bloglovin

  7. Wonderful post!! Words Their Way is a great resource! I also struggle with the spelling thing! It just doesn't work the traditional way. I spend a lot of time on vocabulary and just studying words. I use a workbook from Scholastic called Powerful Vocabulary for Reading Success. Love all the books your shared. I found a few new ones to add to my collection! Thanks for sharing!
    Beach Sand and Lesson Plans

  8. A couple of years ago we had some greade do Words Their Way, but it was really taxing and the parents got confused too. Some still did it, but many didn't. I'm not saying what doesn or doesn't work, but that's kind of how it goes when you change from the age-old spelling list.

    Now that we're implementing CC we are moving away from spelling lists of old and everything is changing again. Good Luck and hopefully it all works out for you.

    I really like the post it notes---such a quick and clever way to get kids involved.

    have a good one
    Digital: Divide & Conquer

  9. Hey Nick, we will need to keep in touch over the year. I'm a grade 3/4 split this year too! I use WTW and have posted a freebie of the collection of all of the WTW activities I did throughout the past year or so. Enjoy your week!
    Grade 4 Buzz


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