Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tried it Tuesday - Zoo Building!

Oh boy! I've become one of those slacker bloggers...sigh.  ;) Seriously though, I think I've fallen into the trap of working myself into temporary burn out. Sometimes I need to sit back and accept that not every cool idea needs to be done this year with my kiddos...

Speaking of traps, check out my class's Venus Fly
Trap! It's an attempt to cut down on our fruit fly
problem, which is caused by terracycling
juice pouches for the school.
Every time I've finally gotten myself to the point where I'm a good week ahead of the game in school, I notice all of the "home life" things I've been neglecting. It never ends, right?!

I definitely need to find that balance between working on school stuff, my personal life, and going to bed at 1 AM. Right now my time allotment is way out of whack leaning towards the teachery stuff. And I think it's time to come to terms with the fact that I'm not young enough to stay up til 1 o'clock every night anymore. I need to spend more time on "me things" too.

I'm so lucky to have such a great bunch of kids this year! They've made my transition into 3rd/4th a lot smoother than it could have been. One thing I love about the multi-age class is that I get to keep all of my 3rd graders next year as my new 4th graders!

But..on with the show:

I'm linking up with Holly for another Tried it Tuesday! This week we started regrouping for Math. I have taken on teaching the fast-paced, gifted learners group. We have a lot of those in my district, so my math class has 27 kiddos in it. That's a whole lot of kids that need constant challenge in order to be kept engaged. My plan is to do a lot of project based learning along the way. 

Matt over at Digital Divide and Conquer has a great project based product for teaching Area and Perimeter (and great practice for a bunch of other skills too!) that I am starting with this group. It basically tasks the kids with building a zoo and meeting multiple parameters while doing so. It comes with a lot of extension activities too, which I really like. There's also an entire set of the papers that allow a teacher to differentiate for a lower level group! We're also currently studying Africa, and this'll be a great way for me to hit some of that with the animals in the zoo. 

I love the fact that this product comes with everything ready to print and use, and that it can be done to different levels. For example, if a student finishes building the zoo, there are sheets to have the student "zoom in" on one of the animal enclosures, or write a quiz about their zoo. Definitely go check it out! At just $4.50 I'd say this is pretty much a steal. 

My mentor texts this week have included I Need My Monster (which goes along with Jivey's Mentor Sentences), Fake Mustache, and Galimoto.  We're a little more than halfway through Fake Mustache right now, which I use as our text to model our CAFE strategies. This week in reading we are focusing on recognizing character traits (personality and physical) and visualizing. Some of the activities in my Fake Mustache Unit have made planning for this week easy-peasy!

Galimoto was our writing mentor text, where we're focusing on having a bold beginning for our narratives. It also ties in well with the Africa unit I am teaching in social studies. It's the story of an African boy who goes along trying to find wire so he can build a "galimoto." The kids slowly discover what that is, so it's good for predicting and inferring as well. But we focused on the first page of the story, where the author begins by telling us the things this boy has in his possession. It makes you want to know why he has those things and what he's going to do with them. He wasn't introduced right away, and the setting wasn't discussed initially. It is a different way to begin a story, and it hooks the reader. I challenged the kids to write a piece with a bold beginning after we read the story.

I figured I'd throw in some of my favorite Halloween books too! Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich (and Takes the Cake) are both hilarious books full of rhyming short stories, comics, etc. I usually read a little each day to the kids just for fun starting a week before Halloween. Monster Museum is a funny book of poems about the different monsters. Vunce Upon a Time is the story of a vegetarian vampire who also likes candy, but has run out right before Halloween. I use these stories to reinforce the skills we've already introduced, but we read them mostly just for fun.  :)

And if you haven't already, it's not too late to start up some Monster Battles in Math! I recently finished my Multiplication Facts (tables 0-12) battle tournament. I also have multi-digit addition and money addition tournaments. The multiplication tournament has a totally different set of pairings and a different winner than the addition tournaments! Each tournament comes at the ridiculously low price of $5! We actually completed our tournament already and the kids LOVED IT. They want to do another one later this year!

In other news, my BBB Jess over at I Heart Recess is having a giveaway! I've donated my Roll and Draw a Monster activity! Go enter if you haven't already!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Five for Two Fridays!

So, I fully intended to write this post LAST Friday! It's hard to believe I let an entire week slip by without blogging at all, but it has been a crazy-busy couple of weeks!

So this might be a little bit more than 5 for Friday...more like the last two Fridays.


Two weekends ago, Killer B and I participated in the Color Run! I've included a before and after picture. It was actually a lot of fun! As far as 5ks go I'd have to guess that it is pretty laid back, but it has gotten me interested in looking into other ones to run in.


This breakout session was on the birth of
the universe. Pretty intense, and WAY
over the limit of what I would need to teach
my elementary students.
Last weekend I attended the PA Earth and Space Science Teachers conference. There's nothing like being paid to attend a conference and getting put up in a suite for free...but I really wish there had been more opportunities geared towards Elementary teachers. That being said, the keynote speaker was great, and he showed us a great activity for getting kids to understand what scientists do. 

These inquiry cubes are placed on the students' tables and they are asked, "What question comes to mind?" Well, of course the first question you think of is "What's on the bottom?" So the kids work together to try and determine what's on the bottom using the clues they gather from what's on the sides. We never got a chance to see the bottom (just like a real scientist will never see the inside of the Earth, or the first stars) but we were all pretty confident that we knew the answer. There were other ways to extend it too, like introducing "new technology" that lets you see one corner of the bottom of the cube. This might make kids revise their theories about what's on the bottom. It was a great activity, and I'm looking forward to using it in my classroom.


Still missing the chiller and the eggs! The foam covers it on
all sides all the time. I'm going to have my kids make some
signage for the front explaining the life cycle and telling
others to leave it alone!
I applied for, and received, a grant last year to participate in a program called "Trout in the Classroom." I've put a lot of work into getting the habitat ready for the eggs. My principal and head custodian were a HUGE help in the fact that I was able to get a sturdy rolling table to put the 55 gallon aquarium on in a nearby stairwell. This giant, green foam-covered monstrosity was kind of a safety hazard and frankly an eyesore. But, now that it has found a home outside of my room, but still nearby, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when our trout eggs arrive in early November! There's still a lot of work to do, but hopefully I'll be releasing a bunch of baby trout fingerlings into a nearby stream next Spring.


We've been studying Biomes and Ecosystems, so I thought I'd share this funny video that my kids loved. They were singing along with it. From a strictly grammatical standpoint it is kind of funny, but this is science, not grammar...ha. Find the video here.


This week we've been reading Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger. This is a fun book that cashes in on the current popularity of mustaches, but it's also by the same guy who did Origami Yoda, which my kids love. I wrote a novel unit for it! Check it out!

Our CAFE strategy this week (using Fake Mustache as our text) was to "Read with emotion when appropriate." We're preparing for Fall parent conferences so I went with an easy one.  ;)  

Our VOICES strategies (Six trait writing - check out my free CAFE style menu!) this week were "Use interesting words" and "Use powerful verbs and adjectives."  To go with those strategies we read "Come On, Rain" with Jivey's Mentor Sentences, and then I read Crickwing to the kids.

With Crickwing, I have gone through and rewritten the first few pages and taken out all of the interesting words and powerful adjectives and verbs and replaced them with tired words. After the second page the kids have this look like, "What?!" on their faces. I stop reading and ask what's wrong. Before you know it we're launched into a mini-lesson about how impactful our word choice is to a story and why we should pick interesting and powerful words. Then I read them those first pages over again and they really see the difference. I read about half of the story one day, and the rest another day. This book also has a great anti-bullying message too!

Now I'm really looking forward to a weekend where I hopefully can balance having a little bit of a life with getting the work done that needs to be done! I have a full day of curriculum writing on Monday (and I'm missing my class's first field trip, Yikes! Sorry sub!) and this next week is a short week because we have two days of parent conferences at the end of the week! So maybe I'll get ahead of the game again...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Workshop Wednesday - Word Work

I'm linking up today with Jivey's wonderful Workshop Wednesday! The topic of today's linky is Word Work games and activities! I was excited to hear that because I have recently introduced Words their Way with my 3rd and 4th graders and am always on the hunt for more Word Work games to keep it fresh.

Only a few people in my district are using Words their Way in 3rd and 4th (I'm one of the two from my 7 person team in my school) so their aren't a ton of resources handed to us by the district. The district provided resource is Sitton Spelling. It is mostly based on high frequency words, and has a cloze style spelling test for every Friday. It just wasn't doing it for me, so I asked if I could do something different, was happy to hear that a couple other teachers were interested, and before you know it we're doing WTW! So far I've been really happy with it too!

It took me getting over one thing though...my brain kept insisting that I somehow had to fit everything into a Monday - Friday rotation, but then I read a blog post on Life, Love, Literacy and it clicked, why not do a 7 day cycle?! So that's what I've done, and it's working great!

Our system is basically this:

Day 1 - Intro New Sorts (word lists) - Initial Sort - students cut sorts and try to sort them any way that makes sense.
Day 2  - Sound/Spell Sort - students practice sorting their words by sound or spelling pattern. They check their sorts with a friend.
Day 3 - Game Day - students play a game with their words.
Day 4 - Alternate word work day. I didn't want to not be able to do all the other great word games and word study opportunities because I only had time for WTW. This day the groups do one of those other great games that don't necessarily relate to that week's sort.
Day 5 - Game Day - students play a game with their words.
Day 6 - Buddy Spell - students quiz each other on their words.
Day 7 - Each group takes their own spelling test.

So, on to the activities and games! Some of my favorites are really simple, and you could easily reproduce them! 

Kids in different groups have different
colored paper for their word cards.
I have printed off American Sign Language sheets and the kids practice signing their words to a friend.

We play a word game similar to Guess Who, where kids choose a secret word and the other student asks questions to narrow down which word from the sort it could be.

I have my kids make their own word searches and trade with a buddy. 

Long, long ago when I first taught 2nd grade and used WTW I made myself this "Words Have Value" page to have kids practice counting money and spelling their words. I've found that my older kids like doing it too! I went ahead and added this simple sheet to my TpT store for just a buck! 

One of my favorite activities for the kids on the alternate day is a new one for me this year! It's the Expand-a-Word pack from Joanne over at Head Over Heels for Teaching. Basically, the kids get a sheet for recording, and a set of cards for the week (I give my kids 4 each time). The letters on the cards should be used to make as many words as possible by adding other letters without rearranging the letters on the cards. So if the card says "SOR" one word that a kid could make is "Source." My kids LOVED it when we tried it this week.

There's a year's worth of cards in the pack, so at just $3.50 you're basically paying 10 cents a week for a ready-made, worthwhile word work activity! Click the image to go and grab a copy!

And of course sometimes I have the kids practice alphabetizing their sort, or trying to find other ways to sort their words if they have a couple of minutes. But I'm excited to sit down and read all of the other link ups!

If you stuck around this long, you must have a kind heart! So go check out my class's current Donorschoose.org project! We're almost funded! We're asking for a bunch of "Who was" and "Choose your own adventure" books. My kids need some engaging biographies, and they just eat up the "Choose" books. Match code MALL20 will match any donation! (Thanks Jivey!)

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