Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tried it Tuesday - Raw Rhubarb and Cursive Writing!

So, just a quick post for Tried It Tuesday with my BBB Holly over at Fourth Grade Flipper! Though some of these are cheats because I didn't try them all for the first time recently. But they were new for my kiddos at least!
The first is raw rhubarb! We read "My Rotten Red-Headed Older Brother" this week in class, and if you've read the story then you know that at one point the siblings have a raw rhubarb eating contest. Well, I (much like Ricky in the story) don't LIKE raw rhubarb, I LOVE IT and snack on it often. In fact, I grow a ton of it in my garden each year! It's a perennial and I don't think I could kill off the three plants I have going if I wanted to actually... 

So, with free access to mountains of rhubarb, (more than even I can eat) and a story that mentions it, I thought it'd be a great time to bring some in for the kids to do their own little "Tried it Tuesday." I wish I could post the picture I took of their mouths puckering when we counted down from 3 and all took a big bite at the same time. One kid comedically fell out of his chair when he ate his. Hahaha.

So, my second tried it is Cursive Handwriting! I introduced our practice books this week as part of morning work. I won this fun and cute booklet in a giveaway! It's from Funky Fresh Firsties, click the link to find it in her store! I've never had to worry about cursive before this year! When I taught primary they were too young, and when I taught 5th they'd already learned it. Now that I'm in 3rd/4th I am supposed to be in charge of it...well my cursive stinks! 

Of course that's assuming my kids can tear
themselves away from their Book of Awesome
Tasks long enough to focus on cursive!
And I'm not sure how I feel yet about cursive. I think that I am going to require my kids to learn how to READ cursive, and to sign their name. I don't want to spend class time teaching it... 

I have provided each child with the cursive handwriting practice book, and I will hold little cursive writing teaching/practice sessions as an option during indoor recess days for the kids that want to do that though.

I'm just throwing these in here because a couple of
people have asked what the books look like when
they're constructed. Lots of fun!
I will admit that cursive is something the kids want to do. That's why I love doing it during indoor recess (it rains and snows here a lot!) because usually a third of the class is quietly engaged doing that rather than getting out of control and stir crazy! How do you feel about cursive?

And PS, find the Book of Awesome Tasks in my store for five measly clams! Book 2 is in the works!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Five for Fraturday - Science, Math, Writing, Reading, and More!

So, I DID start writing this 5 for Friday post for Doodle Bugs Teaching's Linky on Friday! Once again things got busy and it just wasn't in the cards to get this post published before the clock struck midnight!

So this was another busy week that just seemed to fly by! Here goes:

1. Pictures!

This week we had Fall Picture Day! I was sooo busy on the first day of school that I never managed to get my kiddos' pictures! Aagh! So I just decided to wait til Picture Day to get them because I knew they'd be dressed up! 

I hung this fancy green frame with fishing line from the ceiling. I had prepared these photo booth props for kids to use for the pictures and they turned out really cute. There were several mustaches, lips, bow ties, and glasses to choose from, each attached to the end of a dowel. 

2. Ecosystems Scoot!

We've been studying biomes and ecosystem stuff in Science lately, and this set of cards was a perfect check-in to see what we knew and didn't know still.

The kids LOVE playing Scoot, and the best thing is that they don't even realize that they are basically taking a test! 
Grab yourself a lifetime supply of copies of this game for just $3 by heading over to my store!

3. Read Bead Board version 2013!

I've talked about my Read Beads in previous posts, but didn't have a picture of my display board for this year until now! Here it is! 

I leave the board up all year long. Those fall leaves will turn into snowflakes, then spring flowers, then green leaves as we pass through the seasons. 

Kids LOVE collecting the read beads, and I think it makes a handsome display outside my room's door and takes the pressure off constantly worrying about changing the board.

4. Writing Workshop - Mentor Texts & Writing Activity

This week in Writer's Workshop we took a break from writing Small Moment Narratives to do a different kind of activity. I started the week by reading the book Fortunately to the kids. This book follows a pattern that goes back and forth between things like "Fortunately I was invited to a party!" "Unfortunately the party was in Florida, and I live in New York." "Fortunately a friend lent me his plane!" and so on. Unfortunately (ha!) this book is lacking in strong adjectives and vivid verbs. After reading it to get the pattern down, the kids begin writing their own stories. 

The next day I read Fortunately, Unfortunately to the kiddos. This book follows the same pattern, but features an occasional adjective that spices up the writing. We make note of that, and then we begin editing our stories by adding in interesting words.

Finally, I read That's Good! That's Bad! to the kids on the third day. This story follows a similar pattern, but the difference is that nearly every page is packed with strong adjectives and vivid verbs! The kids really can see the difference that those interesting words make. We pull out Fortunately at this point and practice by sticking in good words. The kids continue editing their pieces at this point (and now they really have the hang of it!)

On the fourth day we don't read a picture book, because instead we share our own "Fortunately" stories!

5. Measurement and Addition in Math

In Math this week we started working on lines, segments, and measuring perimeter of triangles and quadrilaterals. One of my independent centers this week involved the use of my newest TpT product, these Insect Measurement Task Cards. The cards have detailed photos of some unique bugs on them. I post the cards around the room, and when kids get to that center they get to walk around the room with their record sheet and go on a "bug hunt." I asked my kids to measure all of the bugs and then add up the measurements. Anytime you can practice multiple skills while keeping the kids highly engaged is a win in my book! Task cards beat out a worksheet any day...but they are essentially getting the same practice! Grab up a copy of my cards for just $2 and use them in your classroom for years to come!

So that made up a big portion of my week! Of course a whole lot more went down than that, but those were definitely some of the highlights! I managed to make it home with a little less work on my plate than the past three weekends! I'm hoping that I'll keep getting ahead a little more each week!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Workshop Wednesday - Math Edition

So before I get into the meat of my post, I want to share my "popping tags" experience at Goodwill the other day! I regularly go to Goodwill to check out the kids' books section and usually leave with a bag full of pretty decent books. Well, I just happened to pop into Goodwill this past weekend and grabbed this whole stack of books at 50% off for just $23.00! What?! Two of the hard cover books are worth that alone! I even found a bunch that my kids requested on their reading interest surveys! Also grabbed up a few picture books, one of which is one of our mentor sentences books later this year! Go to Goodwill, people!

So, I'm finally getting a chance to link up again to Jivey's Workshop Wednesday! This time I'm going to talk about one of the workshops in my room that I haven't talked about yet...Math!

5 years ago when I moved here to lovely Central PA, I was hired to teach a 1st/2nd multi-age class. At the time the expectation was that teachers would NOT switch for math...so that meant teaching both first and second grade math class at the same exact time. Well, there are some significant differences in those levels, and the only real solution was to embrace a math workshop! I have to admit that teaching math through the workshop model was relatively new for me at the time. But what choice did I have?! Now I'm grateful that I took the plunge.

This year, I still have a multi-age (3rd/4th) but we do switch for math. (Phwew!) This year I'm in charge of teaching 24 third graders (half are mine and half belong to a class down the hall for the rest of the day), and while there isn't the same huge spread of abilities I found when teaching both grades at once, there is still a pretty big range in the class. Luckily I've had a few years to practice how I like to run my Math centers.

If you're familiar with Guided Reading then you know how my math centers work! Basically I start the day with a whole group mini-lesson, and then I have four or so flexible groups that rotate through 4 centers daily. I see each group every day (but some groups see me longer than others) and later in the year my intern (super lucky to have a year-long student teacher, amiright?!) sees one group. The other groups are a math game and an independent practice group.

I've also started doing Interactive Math Journals with my kids (as of last year) and I've found that it is usually best to get that process started in whole group and then finish or check in during small groups. I've been using I'm Lovin' Lit's foldable templates to make all of my own foldables this year.

Preparing for math workshop can be a little time consuming, but I think it pays off in the end. Being able to cater to the needs of kids across the range is just so much better than shooting for the middle and ending up with one set of bored kids and another set of confused kids. 

So. Many. Worksheets!
Typically all four groups are working on the same skill (but at different levels of understanding) so planning my station and my intern's station is usually pretty simple. I'm basically working on the common core standards and using the scope and sequence that my district provides. We have a primary math resource, Math Expressions, that I find to be VERY worksheet heavy. Often my lessons will relate to lessons in the book, but are tailored to fit my teaching style. (aka not 4 worksheets a day per kiddo) Usually it involves some math manipulatives, marker boards, etc. But sometimes we even do cool stuff like make cookies, read a mentor text, or build something. (depending on the skill!)

It is pretty common for my independent practice station to include activities from the book, IXL or Xtra Math on the computers, a Math Literature Activity, or sometimes even good old fashioned math fact drills. Last year I really got into Task Cards, and this year I'm committing at least one math workshop station per unit to having my kids do those. I post them around the room in order to get the kids moving a bit.

Here's just a few of my math games in a bundle!
Probably my favorite part of Math Workshop would be the game center. I'm pretty sure that my kids like that one the most too! I won't list them all here, but I have made lots and lots of games for math workshop that can be found in my TpT store. Of course, the games change with every unit, and I usually try not to repeat the same games more than a couple times per unit (or the kids lose interest), so that means I need LOTS of them. 

I spend a lot of time in the first few weeks practicing how to handle the workshop, and getting kids to understand that some centers can whisper, some are silent, some can talk, etc. It's an ongoing process...haha.

I have really found that running a math workshop makes math FLY by. Every day I look at the clock and can't believe that my time for math is up. On the occasional day that we need to do a whole group assessment or for some reason can't do the workshop, I feel like math just drags on and on. 

Right now, my kids are working on multi-digit addition. This skill was introduced in 2nd grade but I've found that my kids really need a lot of practice with it to become fluent. I created a resource for myself that the kids have really loved doing. I call it Monster Math Battles. Basically, each day the students complete some multi-digit addition problems, and the monster that "wins the most rounds" (has the highest sum each round) moves on to challenge another monster another day! 

There's a whole bracket set up, and the monsters will fight all the way through a championship bout where the ultimate winner will be determined! That's a total of 31 fights. With 10 problems in each fight, the kids will have completed a total of 310 math problems and never complained about it once! That's potentially 31 days of math practice, but I give my kids 2 fights each day (because they asked me to!). 

I've had kids begging me to get the sheets for certain monster matches. Haha. The best part? My independent practice math center right now is nice and quiet, and planned for the next couple weeks! Fast finishers flip the page over and write a quick story explaining how the winner won their battle (they have to include some math talk in the story!)

Just 5 measly dollars!
My kids have liked it so much that I am planning to make another tournament of battles for when I introduce multiplication later in the year! Grab it for just 5 bucks! If you like the concept, but teach a different math skill, let me know and I'll make a tournament for that skill for my TpT store!

Like those monsters? My brother drew them, and the clip art is available in his TpT store! He's a high school English teacher, but an excellent artist as well! Go grab all 32 monsters in both color and black lines for just $8! Halloween is coming up after all!

Whew! This was a long post! If you stuck around this long, you deserve a prize! How about this PEMDAS Order of Operations poster that I made for my classroom?! Just click the picture to go download yours for free! Feedback is always appreciated! 

I have been so busy with school that I just haven't had the time to write about everything I want to write about! I've definitely hit that point where things are finally calming down though! It's hard to believe that Summer is turning into Fall already. I really hope we have a nice long Fall, and a short Winter! 

Check back soon because I have a couple more freebies I'm looking forward to sharing later! And as soon as I get my act together I'll be celebrating reaching 500 followers!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Trying to get ahead...check out last week!

This part of my post needed some color, so here's my glyph
from the beginning of the year! I hung them in front of the
room's windows (from my washi tape clothespins) and I
think they look great! Follow me on instagram to see more
pics like this one!
So, this school year is still off to a great start! I am so excited to be teaching 3rd and 4th grade, and I have a great bunch of kids that are making the days go by even faster than they usually do. That being said, changing grade levels is a LOT of work. And changing from one grade to TWO seems like twice the work! 

So far this school year I think I've worked at least a 10 hour day every single day. Sometimes it's more like a 14 hour day (like on Back to School Night!), and I've been working weekends too... I'm really looking forward to getting into our classroom routine and having some time to get ahead of the game. 

I FINALLY started to feel that way tonight when I looked at my plans and realized that almost the entire week is prepped, and that I've started putting some things in place that are prepped for the year that up til now I've been prepping week to week. My reward for being ahead is that I'm letting myself sit down and finally write a new blog post!

I figured I'd share some of my recent classroom activities!

One fun and smart activity this year was one of our first get to know you activities of the year. I know every experienced teacher has done the "Me Bag" at some point in their careers. Well, this year I did a "Me Museum" instead! I really loved how it went. 

The students brought in three items with information notecards pre-written for each item, and set them up on their desks. Then the students had time to walk around and look at the items and read the cards. So much less time consuming than finding time for each child to present their items one at a time. I actually think the kids really liked this method better too, and we had some great items brought in!

As usual, I've used a ton of mentor texts lately! 

Recently I used these two great books to model the CAFE strategy "Voracious Reading." 

Knuffle Bunny and KB Too were great examples of writing a whole story about one small event. While not truly small moment stories like some of the others we've read and written, these books are fun and do show how you can write a story about just one little thing.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers was our read-aloud for the week of 9/11. Of course we used it to do our Mentor Sentence activities this week as well!

This past week I focused on the CAFE strategy, "Ask questions throughout the reading process." The Stranger is a perfect fit for this strategy, and with it beginning to change from summer to fall here in central PA it made a great fit. The kids really loved it, and I loved the fact that even the kids who had the story got a lot out of it because they were applying the ask questions strategy! A Bad Case of Stripes is a favorite as well, and was great for asking questions before, during, and after reading!

I went simple with my VOICES strategy this week! I wanted to introduce the "Uses proper end punctuation" strategy so that I could refer to it throughout the year, and we were editing our first round of "small moments" stories a la Lucy Calkins...so these two books were a good fit for our mini-lessons.

I wanted to link up with the Collaboration Cuties today, but I just didn't use a good Science mentor text this week. We're studying Biomes and Ecosystems right in Science and I just don't know many great books for that! Any suggestions?!

I also got my Math Workshop and Reading Response Journals up and running full swing this past week! Wish me luck, this week I introduce Words Their Way as the main component of our Daily 5 Word Work! Then I'll intro Listen to Reading on the computers and we'll have the D5 up and running finally! I can see routine just around the corner!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Read Beads, Brag Tags, and Giveaways, oh my!

Time to link up with the wonderful Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching for Spark Student Motivation Saturday!

After reading "The Book Whisperer" a couple years ago I decided to start requiring my kids to read books from all across the genres throughout the year. I set a high expectation for the number of books kids will read. 25 different chapter books! I ask students to read a certain number of each of the various genres, though I don't require them to read from the horror/thriller/supernatural genre. Students also get 6 student choices in case they really love a particular genre.

One of my opening week activities is to have my kids fill out this Reading Interest Inventory (usually while kids are taking turns doing their first book shopping) to learn a bit about their tastes and habits. 

I especially like to see how many stars they give themselves, and the list of books they wish were in my library is always super helpful when I'm placing my scholastic book club orders!

Students are expected to complete one of these simple little book reviews every time they complete a book, and then they are awarded with a read bead! Last year I left the reviews on display for other kids to look through if they needed a book suggestion. If the summary or something needs to be improved, then the kiddo doesn't get a read bead until they fix it up. (This kiddo needs to be more specific in the genre category, but otherwise did a great job!)

These two forms come bundled in my TpT store for just $1.

This was my board last year. It will look a bit
different this year. The flowers have the kids'
names on them, and were leaves in the Fall
and snowflakes in the winter. 
Read beads are just regular beads, but each bead color represents a different genre. So glow in the dark is for Sci-fi, and yellow is for historical fiction, etc. I typically set up a bulletin board for students to display their bead necklaces. This year I am also implementing brag tags, so students will keep their read beads and brag tags on the same necklace! I also have switch over to a metal beaded "dog tag" type chain because it clasps shut easily.

Kids love collecting the beads and tags! I even made myself a read bead necklace. I made the name brag tags using the template from Diane's (from Fifth in the Middle) TpT store. Grab it here for just a buck!

There are still a couple hours to enter her awesome giveaway by the way! It ends tonight though, so hurry!

And if you haven't heard, my BBB Jivey is having a giveaway too! In celebration of reaching 1,000 followers she is giving away a few (actually, a TON) of her favorite things! I'm excited that one of those things is my Reading Response Journals Pack

Be sure to go over and enter for a chance to win in a bunch of different raffles! Lots of chances to win, not just one! 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Writer's Workshop this week!

So, last week was all about setting up expectations and routines for Writer's Workshop. We made an anchor chart, we talked about the writing process, we thought up a go-to list of ideas with my 50 things I love sheet, and most importantly I introduced the concept of my VOICES board.

One of my favorite examples to model is
when I talk about the big idea of my
marriage. I could write a lot about that. But
a great example of a small moment is that
moment when I saw Killer B in her wedding
dress for the first time walking down the
aisle. Even the boys are interested when I
vividly describe that moment to the class.
This week I focused in on the VOICES strategy "Choose a narrow topic" by talking with my kids about small moments. I was first introduced to the idea of teaching kids about small moments when I read Lucy Calkins' set of writing books a few years ago. Ever since then I've always launched my writer's workshop by modeling some small moment stories of my own, and then having the kids think up some ideas and begin writing their own small moments. I don't spend nearly the time Lucy does on this though (I think she does it for months!)

I remembered seeing a cute little graphic organizer on Ideas by Jivey where she talked about Watermelon ideas and Seed ideas. I got it all ready to go, went to my school copier with it last week...and the copier was broken! Aargh! It's STILL broken! So I just made my kids draw their watermelons! Haha.

Before that I read them a perfect example of a small moments story in the form of the ever-popular "The Paperboy." If you haven't read it, it's a simple story about a boy getting up to do his paper route, but it seems like so much more because of the author's craft. I make up a different version of the story where we glance over the paper route, but I include all the events of the paperboy's day from waking up to going to sleep that night. It's boring. The kids see how much more interesting it is to get vivid details about a small moment, rather than basic info about a lot of moments.

Today, we read the story "Roller Coaster." This is another great example of the excitement and detail that can go into writing about a small moment. Tomorrow we'll read "Goggles." And alternately in the past I've read "The Shortcut." If you're looking for mentor texts for small moments, these books can't be beat!

So after the mentor text each day, followed by a modeling mini-lesson and some brainstorming...the kids are raring to go and ready to write their own small moments. We'll write several this week and then pick one to publish later!  As they write I'll circulate around the room and check-in and confer as needed. Next week we'll add a couple new strategies to the board from the Conventions section of my VOICES menu (probably the ones dealing with end punctuation and capitalization so I can refer to them all year long), and we'll publish a small moment story to put in our portfolio! 

I'm eager to share more about how Reading Workshop is going, but that's for another day!

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!

09 10 11 12
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