Friday, January 31, 2014

F-f-f-f-f-f-ive for F-f-f-f-f-friday.

Sorry! I can barely stop shivering long enough to write this post! My house hasn't been warm in months. And it's looking like that groundhog isn't going to be on my side in a couple days...

Seriously though, it has been SO COLD! So cold in fact that we've had multiple two-hour delays lately. And so that's the first thing in my Five for Friday! I'm not just linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching, I'm also linking up with Literacy Spark for her Trending Topics linky.

1. This week's topic is Snow Days!

 It never ceases to amaze me how different every school district seems to be with things like this. In my district we make up all snow days. Teachers don't really love them because it just means that we'll be in school one more day in June. We are much more likely to have a two-hour delay. Those can be kind of annoying too, though they are a bit better. Basically, on those days we start school at 10:30. This means that I don't get my planning period, the kids don't get their special, and we aren't allowed to have recess either. 

We've missed out on our specials five times now due to 2-hour delays, and twice for snow days! It's getting old! And it looks like we might have another one next Wednesday...

Which leads me to my #2:

2. PDE MPL Conference

So all those letters up there stand for the Pennsylvania Department of Education Membership Participation and Learning Conference that I'll be attending next Wednesday and Thursday. It's being held in Hershey, PA which means I'll be driving to it in a snowstorm. And more than likely all of my colleagues will be sitting at home on a snow day! Aargh. 

I'm responsible for creating our presentation on how I've used co-teaching to expand the inclusive practices at our school. Check out some of my past posts for more info on how I have a highly inclusive class, and how I make use of all kinds of special educators throughout the day to keep my students with autism and specific learning disabilities present in my class instead of being pulled out a lot.

I guess it's kind of cool that I'm getting put up in the Hershey Lodge for a night. Here's hoping the seminars I attend send me away with some useful strategies!

3.  The One and Only Ivan

The book I've been reading with my class right now is pretty much awesome. It was a Newberry Award winner for good reason! This work of fiction is based on a real life gorilla named Ivan. He lived in a mall for nearly 30 years before he was finally sent to live in the Atlanta Zoo. This book has a lot of great things about it. A lot of examples of figurative language, some great vocabulary, unique text structure, and of course an excellent plot! I loved the book so much that I gave it my novel unit treatment. I read the book several times while making the unit, and loved it every time. I've gone through the book and pulled out a bunch of good stuff, and I created a bunch of activities to do with my kids. 

Check out the pictures of my lapbook. 

Here the kids are making predictions
to begin our work with the lapbook.
There are a bunch of other activities in addition to the lapbook, including some pre-reading task cards, and an assessment scoot game. 
The included picture vocab sheets
makes learning new words fun and
helps the definition stick in the
kids' minds!

The 85 page novel study unit has JUST been added to my store today for a pretty reasonable price of $7, especially considering all the work I've done for you! I'm going to leave it marked down to $6 for the whole weekend though, so go grab it up and save a buck!

4. I got a shout out! 

I was excited to see that I was mentioned on On the Trail of Learning's blog. She tried out Tunes Tuesday with her kids and it was a success. Check out her blog post and consider following this budding blogger!

I recently did Tunes Tuesday with my kids. We used Katy Perry's song, Roar. It's too bad the video is just barely not safe for school. For this one we just listened to the song and then did the activity. If you're into Tunes Tuesday, grab the lyric sheet for Roar for free by clicking the image to the left! Check out my other Tunes Tuesday posts for more lyric sheets.

5.  Biography Writing

My kids have been working on our Biography Writing Project, and I think it is coming along really well. My intern has done a great job of leading them systematically through the process of reading, taking notes, using a graphic organizer, drafting, peer editing, and finally publishing! I'm excited that the main biography essays are written because now we get to move on to some of the more "fun" activities. The kids have been doing a great job with it!

I've brought home a ton of work for this weekend...I suppose I should get on it! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Just a quick check in!

I just thought I'd share a fun New Year's activity that I never got a chance to share. My kids are studying Japan, so when we came back to school from winter break we made these fun daruma dolls. I told the kids the story of Bodhidharma, and then related the tradition of coloring one eye of a daruma doll when you set a goal. 

The kids enjoy the story of Bodhidharma, who is a buddhist monk that legend says sat still in a cave for decades. When he accidentally fell asleep one day he cut his eyelids off to ensure he wouldn't fall asleep again! That's dedication towards a goal...So now it is a Japanese tradition to color in one eye of a daruma doll when you set a goal and then color in the other eye when you reach the goal. In Japan it is also tradition to throw your doll into a bonfire at the shrine you bought it from at the end of the year.

We colored our paper daruma dolls, and then set goals. I had the kids write their goals on the back, and then I hung them up on the clothesline in front of our windows. We won't be burning ours! ;)

We FINALLY replaced our hot air balloon glyphs from the beginning of the year!

I also made some fun clip art to go along with Valentine's Day. Can you believe that's just around the corner?! It's just 3 bucks for the set in my TpT store!

There's lots more going on of course, and I'll be sure to chime in with some of that soon!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Day Our Way - See my schedule!

Hi all! Today I'm linking up with my BBB Amelia over at Where the Wild Things Learn for her A Day Our Way linky party. We're sharing our daily schedules! This is something that intrigues me a lot, so I hope a lot of people link up! I find it amazing how different things can be at different schools.

So, check out my schedule here, then I'll get into lots of detail below!

8:30 - 8:50 - This is when the kids are slowly working their way into the room. Kids eat breakfast in the classroom in my school, so during this time some kids are working on unfinished work, a couple are eating breakfast, some are turning in notes or lunch money. That kind of normal routine. The morning announcements come on around 8:45 and by the time they're done we're moving on to...

8:50 - 9:30 - Specials! My kids get a 40 minute special each day of the week. Monday is Computer lab, which is actually a laptop cart that we use in our classroom. Every teacher teaches their own computer class, so that means no planning period on Monday for me. :(  All of the other specials are taught by specialist, so I do end up with a planning period 4 days a week.

9:30 - 9:45 - I start my Writers' Workshop off with Mentor Sentences. This year I'm using Jivey's Mentor Sentences Pack. I have all three packs, amazon primed all the books, and so it's pretty much a year's worth of awesome activities. My kids love the books, and they especially love the revising and imitating days. The sentences they write are just plain amazing. 

My intern this year is doing her inquiry research study on what aspects of mentor sentences are translating to their writing in other areas. I predict she's going to find that all of it is. My kids are recognizing the parts of speech and using all kinds of vivid verbs and powerful adjectives.

9:45 - 10:25 - The rest of writing involves a mini-lesson and then time for kids to write and confer with teachers. Usually the mini-lesson relates to one of the strategies from my VOICES menu. I may do something like read a mentor text read aloud, model some writing, or teach kids how to use a certain graphic organizer. After the mini-lesson I send the kids off to write. While they write my intern and I usually circulate around the room and confer with the kiddos.

10:25 - 11:25 - We switch classes for math. I teach a multi-age 3rd and 4th grade class, but teaching two grades of math at once is REALLY HARD. (I did it for two years before we started switching) So now when we switch I only have 3rd graders. I send all of my 4ths down the hall, and several different teachers send me their 3rds. I teach a group that is made up of only high achieving, fast-paced learners. The trade off for that is that I have 28 math students. 

Teaching the 'high' group isn't all rainbows and ponies though! It definitely comes with its own set of challenges. These kids need constant challenges. A lesson that would usually take 20 minutes with another classes might take 3 or 4 with these kiddos. I pre-assess each unit of study, and often discover that I can skip entire sets of skills because the kids already know them. (I always spiral back to them to make sure.) 

I pretty much always have to have an ongoing project that the kids can work on whenever they finish the day's list of work. My If I had a Million Dollars and Math is Everywhere projects are my most recent!

I started the year off doing a standard Math Centers type rotation, where the students spent 15 minutes at each of four centers. I quickly learned with this group that they functioned better with more independence and less structure. So now we have a "daily list." Basically, I start the day off with a mini-lesson and then the kids have a list of activities they need to do. (Shhh...don't tell them but it's really just the things I would have had them do as centers, just no 15 minute time limit.)

Most often the list involves an independent practice activity (like or a worksheet from their math book), a math game (like Multiplication Kaboom!), their Math Project (currently Math is Everywhere), and right now I also have them doing the Multiplication Monster Math Battles. (The kids LOVE this by the way.)

At any time during their independent work I may call them over to my table to work in small groups. This is great because it allows my groups to be completely flexible. If I need 7 minutes with one group and 20 with another then that's what I do. If I need the group members to be completely different each day then it's fine. 

11:25 - 11:36 - After math and before lunch the kids switch back to their homerooms. I turn the lights off and my kids come right in from math and take a seat on our class carpet in a circle. We spend this time working on centering and mindfulness. Basically, to make it simple, I walk the kids through a meditation. I'll be having a much more detailed post about what this like and what the effects have been later!

11:39 - 12:09 - Lunch! I take the kids to the cafeteria and then I usually go sit and chat in the staff room for about 25 minutes. Sometimes I take some stuff to work on. I usually don't eat lunch. 

12:15 - 12:30 - Right after lunch the kids come in and we begin our reading block. I start off by doing a focus strategy lesson from my "upgraded" CAFE menu. Most of the time I use our class chapter book as the vehicle for modeling the strategy. My kids love listening to read-alouds, and I love reading them. My favorite part of the day is probably reading from our current chapter book. 

12:30 - 1:30 - During this time students do the Daily 5 reading activities. We have three rotations a day. My kids do Read to Self and Word Work every day. I use Words their Way as my word work. I've talked before about what that looks like in my room. So if you're interested, go check it out! The third rotation changes throughout the week. Depending on the day of the week it is either reading response journals, listen to reading, or read to someone.

While the kids rotate through the daily 5 centers I will pull kids for small group strategy lessons or one-on-one conferences. 

1:30 - 2:00 - Recess! In my school all 7 intermediate (3rd and 4th) classes go out to recess at the same time. We have a large playground, but it still stresses me out keeping up with that many kids at once! Teachers in my school have recess duty daily, so we always go out with our own kids. Of course, if the temperature drops below 20 degrees we aren't allowed to go out, and have to have the dreaded indoor recess! Of course, my Book of Awesome Tasks helps out with that a lot!

2:00 - 2:45 - On Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays we have either Science or Social Studies. Our science and social studies units of study rotate each year between two sets of units. So what I teach this year in those subjects, I won't teach next year, but then I will teach the year after that. Right now we're studying Air and Weather in science, and Japan in social studies. To go along with our study of Japan I read the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. While I was at it I wrote this cool novel unit for it! At $4 it's a steal!

Tuesdays are a little different. Three Tuesdays a month we have something called All School Gathering. This is where the entire school convenes in our gym and watches a presentation that is prepared and put on by the school's fifth graders. Other classes in the school prepare skits and presentations as part of the ASG. The fifth graders and other presenters get the experience of public speaking, and the messages they're giving to the students are usually related to citizenship skills. Sometimes it can get a little tough for the kids to sit for 40 minutes though...

The other Tuesday each month we meet with our Small School Gatherings. This is where my kids all go out to other teachers and a group of kids from around the school come to me. Each group is made up of 2-3 kids from each grade level from Kindergarten to 5th grade. Every teacher spends this time differently. Teaching a group that has every age in it can be a real challenge. Finding activities that are developmentally appropriate for that range of ages is tough. This is why I usually have my kids participate in some type of service learning project. Whether it's terracycling, pulling weeds in the school garden, making valentines to send to troops overseas, or writing thank you notes for something donated to the school, I try to make good use of this time. 

2:45 - 2:50 - We do a Status of the Class. This is when we might do a check-in for the Great Pencil Challenge (from Ladybug's Teaching Files) or do our class jobs before getting packed up. 

2:50 - Students are dismissed to their buses. We don't call the buses one at a time or anything. They pretty much just release the downstairs hallways first, and then the upstairs hallway. Every day after the mad rush of students, all of the teachers line up outside and wave goodbye to all of the buses.

3:00 - Meetings, planning, prepping, etc. usually ensues until at least 4:00, but more likely 5:00. Thats when I pack up my bag and go home to do the other 2 hours of work I have to do! Sheesh, it feels like it never ends sometimes! 

But it's worth it!

How is your schedule different? Check out the linky to see some other people's days!

I also wanted to share that Erin, who happens to run the budding blog Learning to be Awesome, is the winner of my recent Pin it to Win it contest! Congrats! I hope you like my Mandala Math Facts product!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Spark Student Motivation - Math Fact Fluency

Hi all! I'm linking up with Joanne over at Head Over Heels for Teaching for Spark Student Motivation Saturday!

This time I'm sharing about motivating kids to learn their math facts! I'm in charge of a rather large 3rd grade math class, which is when kids start to really learn multiplication and division. Coming from 5th grade last year, I know that kids sometimes still don't have their facts to the point where they need to be. I think it's pretty important for kids to have their facts down pat so that when we amp it up to multi-digit multiplication and long division they can work at a good pace, and not make simple mistakes. 

So, even though it isn't the most exciting thing in the world, fact fluency practice is necessary! I have two things that I've just made for my own classroom to help motivate my students when it comes to fact practice.

My kids LOVE playing kaboom during my math workshop. I have several kaboom games for them to play, but I just created a Multiplication Fact Fluency Kaboom game for them. If you're not familiar with Kaboom, it's a fast-paced card game where players draw a card, try to answer it and then accrue cards that they answer correctly. If they draw a bomb card...Kaboom! They lose all their cards. Also, the cards can just as easily be used by an individual student as flash cards, or for a whole class version of the game. I just added this Multiplication version to my store for a measly $2! Check it out!

Finally, I really wanted a way that my kids could track their progress as they learn the different multiplication and division tables. I've seen a lot of different versions of this before (build a pizza, etc.), but I wanted something unique. I also didn't want to cut out a hundred little mushroom and pepperonis. 

My class has really been focusing lately on becoming centered. I've even introduced a 7 minute block of time in the middle of my day where we take time to sit and I walk the kids through a daily meditation. So in keeping with that theme, I created Mandala Math Fact trackers! 

Basically, each time a kiddo masters (100% in 1 minute) one of their tables, they get to color in one layer of the Mandala! I made up quick quizzes for each of the tables, both multiplication and division, and 5 options of mandala. I think the splash of color will look great outside my classroom, and I think the kids will really like practicing patterns and rotational symmetry each time they get to color in a new layer. 

This kiddo mastered his
1s, 2, 5s, 10s, and 11s!
This kiddo has mastered
her multiplication facts!

I added the pack of 5 custom made mandala, and quizzes for each of the multiplication and division tables to my store for $4! It's worth that just to not have to cut out all of those pepperonis and mushrooms, right?! But seriously, I think my kids are going to enjoy it, and I love that it is as simple as printing, copying, and using!

And because I hate making blog posts where it seems like I'm just advertising something...which wasn't my intent (I promise!)...I'm going to do a Pin It to Win It competition! Simply pin the cover of the product you want a chance to win to pinterest, and then post the pin link in your blog comment! I'll let Killer B choose a random number in a couple days to see who wins what!

Also, a quick heads up to anyone who isn't a Facebook follower yet...I'll be changing out my Free Follower Freebie soon, so this would be a great time to go over, like my page and grab your freebie! There's a button at the top of the right column that'll take you straight there!

Be sure to check out the other cool ideas in the linky this week! I especially liked Joanne's Snowball Fight!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Blogging Resolutions!

I'm linking up quickly with Diane over at Fifth in the Middle to show my blogging New Year's Resolutions! I really, really want to stick to them! Any readers or BBBs, feel free to hold me accountable! Haha.

I have so many ideas to blog about that I haven't done yet, so hopefully I'll be able to make it happen! Thanks for reading!

09 10 11 12
Blogging tips