Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bats at the Library {Must Read *October* Mentor Text}

October is my all time favorite month. I was so excited to see that the Cuties over at Collaboration Cuties are having a link up to share our favorite books to read in October! 
Just last week I had scribbled a note on my desk about some ideas for the upcoming weeks and this great book was part of it! 
Bats at the Library by Brian Lies is a super fun book about the one night a year the library window gets left open and the bats can visit. The illustrations are adorable, as are the bats antics! They get into all sorts of different books and become the characters!  It's a fabulous book to use to promote reading and talk about how books take us to different places and make characters come to life. 

This year my plans are to use this book and a nonfiction book about bats to compare and contrast fiction and nonfiction. My students always have a difficult time with keeping the two straight, so I take every opportunity I can to review and discuss it! 

What are your favorite books to share in October? Head on over to the Collaboration Cuties to link up. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Comfy Reading {Spark Student Motivation}

Good Saturday morning! It is a beautiful fall day here in Virginia and I'm so looking forward to getting out and enjoying it. Before I head out I wanted to stop in with a quick post on what has really been motivation my students this week! I'm linking up with Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching

This week I finally took the plunge and allowed my students to lay all over the classroom on pillows and rugs during our read to self time. 

I have been hoarding pillows for this very reason for several years, but I've never been brave enough to let my students actually do it. It sounds silly to me even typing it, but I just wasn't sure they would actually continue to read if they were spread all around the room. 

On Tuesday I had a group that finally worked up to 20 minutes of read to self, so I threw caution to the wind and got out the pillows. I was thrilled to see they were still reading and seemed to be even more into it than before. 

We've been rotating with the comfy reading spaces - one half of the class one day and the other half the next. I also have a cool green chair and two rugs that are being used as comfy reading spots as well. 

This was really the motivation my students needed to really spark their interest in read to self. I hadn't really heard much from my students about reading time until I pulled the pillows out. The day after I got them out I had several students ask me if we were going to silent read today. When I said it was time to read I heard a lot of really positive feedback. 

I'm sold on the idea of letting them get comfy and lay around the room while they read. If you're on the fence definitely give it a try! 

Do you have reading nooks and comfy places your students use during read to self? Any tips for making it even better? 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ag Field Day {Five for Friday}

Wow!! What a whirlwind of a week. It was Homecoming week and, yes, we participate in every dress up day! Wednesday was aptly named wild and crazy day! 
Thursday we went on our first field trip to an agricultural center for an Ag Field Day with 4H. We had a blast and I even remembered my camera so I've got some pics to share with you all for my Five for Friday with Doodle Bug's Teaching

1. The horticulture table had some great displays and offered some amazing facts! I really want to go visit these ladies' gardens!! They were a wealth of knowledge and I bet their own gardens are gorgeous. 

2. We played Bug Jeopardy. I learned so much at this station! Did you know the bug in picture #1 is actually a ladybug larvae? 

3. About an hour into the field trip I had a little guy come to me and say, "Aren't we going to go on a hay ride or pet some animals or something?" We just hadn't been to an area where they could get a peek at all the animals. 

There was also a cow and calf, sheep, and goats. Unfortunately, my pictures of those didn't turn out so great. 

4. There was a great display on soil, rocks, and soil erosion. 

5. These babies were the highlight of the trip for me. These are Springer Spaniel therapy dogs. Oh was love at first sight. 

Can you imagine how excited I was when the owner asked me to hold them while he talked to my students? It was a major distraction for me!! haha

6. You get a bonus today!! I got the best surprise ever when I ran right into my BFF who teaches 4th grade in the next county over. I was so thrilled!! Since we no longer teach at the same school I don't get to see her as often as I'd like to. 

Needless to say the trip exhausted us. After lunch they were all tired and ready to go back to school!! They must not have rested much at home last night because we had a pretty tough day today. About 10 minutes into recess today I had someone come ask me how much longer it would be until we could go back inside - a true sign of a need for the weekend! 

How was your week?  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Digging Deeper into Author's Purpose

I've been promising a post on our Author's Purpose study last week and I've finally rounded up all the pictures and things, like time, that I needed to get it out here for you!
For author's purpose, our 4th grade standards require students to explain the author's purpose and describe how the choice of language, setting, characters, details, and other information contribute to the author's purpose.   
In other words, identifying the purpose is just scratching the surface for us! More times than not students are required to look at why an author included a particular section in a text. That seems to be really tough for my fourth graders. 
I decided we need to set aside some time to really look at what goes into making a good information, persuasive, or entertaining passage. If we have an idea of what goes into each purpose it'll help us better understand an author's language choices. 
For our mentor texts we used passages from The passages are right at a page long, so the perfect length for this type of mini lesson. 
I pulled the passages up on the Smartboard and we went through them together, highlighting and discussing what the essential ingredients in each passage were.
In our small groups we worked in our interactive notebooks. I created 2 passages per purpose and we glued those in and highlighted and labeled the different components of each purpose. 

I think it was very helpful for my students to label sentences and words as opinions, facts, generalizations, etc. When we got finished with the labeling I would ask them to tell me what "made up" an information passage and all they had to do was look up at their labels. 

After we had gone through each of the three purposes in our notebooks, I put students with a partner and gave them three passages from Readworks. The pairs read through each passage, decided on its purpose, and highlighted evidence to support their decision. 

For our grand finale, we created posters to persuade our audience. The posters had to relate back to something from Raymond and Graham and the kids had a great time! 

This one was by far my favorite and the most creative of the bunch! In the book, the boys come up with this scheme to get a kiss from a girl, so this group decided to advertise for a kissing booth! Down in the lower left corner that sentence says: "He even brushed his teeth!" LOL I loved it! No wonder there was so much giggling coming from that group. 

On Friday we took a little quiz and they did great. One side was just your basic identifying the purpose with a little writing component thrown in there. The other side had a persuasive and informational paragraph they had to label and then answer a few questions on. 

You can check out the set of author's purpose resources in my TPT if you are interested in doing these activities with your own class. 

What is your best tip for teaching author's purpose? 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Context Clues {Peek at my Week}

Good Sunday evening! It has been a whirlwind weekend, but very enjoyable. I'm ready to jump in to the week, so I thought I'd link up with Jennifer at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings and share a few of the big things we've got going on this week. 

First, and most importantly (for the kiddos) it is homecoming week and we have our first field trip on Thursday! Needless to say, there will be a lot of extra excitement around these parts this week! 

We are working on context clues, so I'll be reading Baloney (Henry P.) as our mentor text this week. 

Last year was the first time I'd used this book and my students LOVED it, so I'm really looking forward to sharing it tomorrow. 

We will also be doing a few lessons from this great Scholastic book I picked up during one of their $1 sales. 

I've saved the best for last - I'm using interactive notebooks for the first time this year and I am really diggin' 'em! I ran across this great context clues interactive notebook resource on TPT and knew it would be just perfect for our study this week. You can click on the picture below to check it out. 

What do you have planned this week? 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Books, Exciting Mail, and Pictures {Five for Friday}

It's finally Friday!! This has been such a busy week at school! We've been hard at work on author's purpose and I have a post on that in the works. In the meantime I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for a little peek at some happenings from the week. 

1. The box of books for my lower readers came this week and I was thrilled!! They are almost all labeled and ready to get some use. I can't wait to see which become favorites with my students! 

2. I also stopped by the library yesterday afternoon to pick up this book. It's going to be the read aloud next week as we begin our talk on context clues. I can't believe how many great resources I've found for this book on Pinterest and TPT! 

3. Friday means fun day in my class!! If you missed last week's post on how I use (and love) the Whole Brain Teaching Scoreboard you can click here. For today's fun I think I'll pull out the beach balls. It's Friday, why not? 

4. We also got a very exciting package at home this week....the first Barkbox for my Charlie Bug arrived. He approved. Notice the slobber on the corner of the box. He could not wait to get into that thing!

5. On Sunday we went for a little drive. This week we wandered over to Big Stone Gap. Any fans of the Adriana Trigiani book series? Yup, it's the same place! We live about 30 minutes away.

Have a great weekend!! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Confession: Too Much Too Soon

I'd bet this is the 5th 100th time I've sat down to write this post. This year brought some changes to my little teaching world that I underestimated. 

Over the last 4 years I've taught some combo of ELA, SS, and Science to two classes of students in a collaborative setting. This year we added a new teacher and a 3rd class into the mix, so we now have 64 students. 

It has been a while since I've had more than 45 students. The paperwork, management, kid shuffling, and makeup work situations have taken some time to get under control. Not that I'm a pro at it or anything now, but at least I don't feel like I'm drowning in paper (not daily anyway). 

My teammates and I chose to group our students in flexible ability groups. I support this method and have found, time and time again, that our students perform well in this type of situation and it helps me to tailor my teaching to their needs. 

What I was not prepared for was a class of 19 students who are reading significantly below grade level. Being in collaborative I've always had students way below grade level, but never an entire class. 

We started out with Reading Workshop rules and read to self for Daily 5. I didn't have enough books to keep them reading. My principal is very supportive immediately offered to order more books for us. We have 100 PreK-2 grade books coming, but they aren't here yet. 

In the meantime, we read Raymond and Graham Rule the School and we've worked on author's purpose, story elements, cause and effect, and a few other skills. 

It is not enough. I'm at that point where I feel like I'll never be able to do enough. There are so many things these kiddos need and, honestly, I've been overwhelmed and lost and more stressed than I've ever been during the first 5 weeks of school. 

The students are great to work with. We have a lot of fun together and they want to learn, so that does make things much easier. I've just been putting a lot of pressure on myself to already have it all together!! 

It feels both good and bad to finally put this out there. I started this blog as a way to share my ideas with other bloggers and teachers out there. I love all the ideas I get from reading other blogs, but I also have a tendency to compare myself and my class to what others are doing. 

I jumped in way too fast this year. I didn't have the resources I needed in my classroom library to start out with Daily 5 the way I wanted, so we've just bounced around with different skills and routines. I needed to go back to more of the basics, but the pull of the pacing guide and testing got the better of me this time around! I just felt pressured to push them right into the curriculum and we should've eased our way in a little more. 

It has been a struggle to establish a homework routine, but we are certainly much closer on that. We have established a great word of the day routine and I feel like we are making progress with vocabulary through that. Writing is really a struggle. Even a complete sentence is difficult for us right now and capitalization and punctuation are just all over the place! 

This will be a year when I have to constantly remind myself that I must do what is best for my children to advance them as far as I can. We will get this down and we will begin to see progress, it is just going to be slower with this class than with the others. 

Since we are departmentalized we only have 90 minutes per class. That is not a lot of time considering how much help my kiddos need. 

Now, the pity party/whiny portion of this post is over. I always believe in having a plan, even if I don't follow it or it doesn't turn out right! Here is the plan: 

1. As soon as our 100 new books get here I will start each child a book bag. This bag will stay in my classroom and will be used for Read to Self. Each child will get a shopping day one time a week. 

2. We will begin working on our stamina for read to self. 

3. I will introduce read to someone. We will model, model, model and I will reread the Daily 5, daily if I must to get this down pat!! 

4. I'm going to try this for a schedule at least 4 days a week: 
15 min. Mini Lesson
20 min. Daily 5 rotation 
15 min. Mini Lesson
20 min. Mini Lesson 
20 min. Vocabulary/listen to reading 

5. I will repeat: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can 10 times each day! LOL 

Any suggestions?! Anyone have experience with restarting Daily 5? 

Friends, thank you so much for listening while I spill it all! You are wonderful! I am thankful for the inspiration I get from each of you! 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Whole Brain Teaching Scoreboard {Spark Student Motivation}

Good Saturday morning!! Anyone else getting some Fall like weather today? It feels amazing outside!! I'm taking pictures for a friend's wedding today, but before I head out the door I wanted to do a quick post to link up with Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching

I have a very chatty bunch of kiddos this year! For the first 2 weeks of school I found myself constantly calling them down and telling them to be quiet. This was especially true during our transition times. 

I decided to give the Whole Brain Teaching Scoreboard a try and I am in love!! 

I use the students vs. teacher scoreboard, so I introduced it as a game and they just loved that there were 24 of them only 1 of me! I teach 3 different classes, so I just sectioned off one card and use it for all 3 classes. 

Instead of daily rewards, I went with a weekly 5 minute reward if the kids win or 5 minutes of rule talk if I win. We do our rewards on Fridays and so far we've played limbo, sung the Gummy Bear song, and danced to Cotton Eyed Joe and Rocky Top. The kids are always so excited to come in on Friday and see what "fun" thing we'll be doing. It is amazing what they will do for 5 minutes of fun!

The first week I introduced it I gave hints about times when I thought I could win a point and after that they were so quiet and on task during those times. 

It has been a lifesaver for me. The kids come into my room on task and ready to start the day. I no longer have to call everyone down and then wait for it to get quiet. It has helped me focus more on the positive things that happen in the room. Instead of saying things like, "Quiet down," now I just say, "It looks like I'm about to get a point," and they know to check their behavior. 

I would really recommend it to anyone! You can click here to go over to the Whole Brain Teaching site and read about it. 

I picked up my adorable, free WBT Scoreboard from Teaching With Style. The pack include a lot of different scoreboards and some great ways to change up the routine of the scoreboard.

Do you use the scoreboard in your classroom? What is your routine?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Five for Friday

Happy Friday! We just got in from a nice weinie roast. The weather is fabulous - it is so nice and crisp outside tonight. I'm all ready for fall. I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for a very quick recap of the week! 

1. I love to just read to my class for the fun of it. Today marked the end of our 5th week of school and we've been working so hard, so we took a little break and just had fun. 

I love Russell and his little froggy friend! The kids loved it. We laughed. It was Friday. Ahh....

2. This happened!!! I'm blown away. I'm so grateful to all of my wonderful blog readers! 

3. Do you love Evernote?? If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time you've most likely heard me mention it. I've gotten some questions lately about how I use it, so I wanted to share my Evernote inspiration with you. I've gotten a LOT of my ideas from a great blog called Purely Paperless. She even has a section on her blog dedicated to Evernote. You can click here to go to the page of Evernote lovin'! 

4. Here is a picture of my sweet Ladybug. Most days she is sweet. Other days she wants to bite me and sit on top of the keyboard while I type. Her favorite thing to do is take walks with us....crazy I know. 

She also loves to get inside the vehicles. Here she is trying to sneak a little nap in the sun! 

5. My 7th wedding anniversary is Monday. I am married to THE most incredible man and I'm so thankful that God brought us together. 

You can get in on the celebration, too! My TPT store is 10% off through Monday. You can click here to check it out! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Vocabulary Transitions and Group Supplies {Tried it Tuesday}

Hello, blogging world! You know what really bugs me? When I give directions and before I even get half way through what I'm about to say I have kiddos who have tuned me out and are already doing what they THINK they are supposed to do.

Does that every happen to you?

Then I find myself repeating the same things over and over because Johnny wasn't listening the first time. Drives me up. the. wall.

Sunday was a night of discoveries for me. Thanks to Facebook I found a great new blogger to follow, Third Grade Thoughts.  Stephanie had written a great post about her word of the day vocabulary system and she included this amazing video.
I really hope you'll take the time to watch the video, but I'll give you the gist of it in case you're pressed for time. Basically, you say, "When you hear me say the word of the day you will put away our homework folders and take out your journals. {Word of the Day}"

The word of the day becomes your cue word for action, it allows them exposure throughout the day, and it forces students to listen to your instructions so they will be sure to hear "the" word.

I went right into the classroom Monday morning and implemented this amazing idea and, so far, I'm loving it!

The other thing bugging me in the classroom has been passing out scissors and glue to students. I have my kiddos sitting in groups of four and we have community supplies for scissors, glue, and crayons. In the past I've always handed out these items to students individually. 

This year I have not two, but three classes I see and the constant taking up and passing out of materials is getting to be a little too much for me. My kiddos just aren't good with transition times yet (see above), so I THINK I may have come up with a solution. 

I got 6 zipper pencil pouches and put 4 pairs of scissors and 4 glue sticks in each one. When I want to give out these supplies I only need to hand one pouch to each table and we are done. Additionally, I appointed one person at the table as the supply helper, so that person gives the glue and scissors out. I have never seen children fight over glue and scissors like these do! You wouldn't think I'd laid gold coins on their tables they way scramble for them!! 

So far, so good on this one, too. We are able to leave the pouches on the tables for each class, so that saves me time.  like that all the supplies are together but I still have the option of moving them off of the table when I want to. 

I'm linking these tried its up with Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper

Side note - the last thing bugging me is blogger!! The darn thing WILL NOT let me align all my text the left!! grr....

What has been bugging you in the classroom (or otherwise) lately?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Box Tops Container, Complete Sentences, and Cookies {Monday Made It}

How about some cookies to make Monday Sunday night a littler easier? I'm linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics to share a few things I've made lately. 

Even though I've not had tons of time to be crafty, I've missed seeing this linky every week. I love to see what everyone else has been up to. 

Teachers are some amazing recyclers, right? So I was about to throw away the Hawaiian Punch container, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it because I just KNEW I could use it for something! 

A few days later I was inspired to turn it into a container to hold our Box Tops for Education. It is hanging from my kitchen cabinet for this picture because I wanted to show you the cutesy ribbon I attached so it would be easy to carry all the box tops to the office. 

With the juice container being "ribbed" I couldn't use vinyl, so I used the next best thing - letters cut from cardstock and this AMAZING red tape. 

If you want something to stick forever and ever amen use this tape. I had forgotten the name, so I did a quick google search and it is called This to That. I got mine at Hobby Lobby in the scrapbook adhesive section. 

I have a group of kiddos that need a lot of practice on determining whether or not a group of words is a sentence, so I created this fun, carnival themed game and practice sheet.

You can click on the picture to read more about it in my TPT store

I did promise cookies at the beginning of this post. I love to cook and cookies are one of my favorite things to make. This super easy recipe is always a hit and you can play around with different combinations. 

Cake Mix Cookies

1 box cake mix 
1 stick butter, softened
2 eggs

Combine all the ingredients, dish 'em out, and bake them up at 350 for around 8 minutes. 

Now, I'm sure you're looking at this recipe and thinking what is so special about that?! For starters it takes mere seconds to produce homemade cookies. But the best thing is you can use any cake mix for these. My personal favorite is devil's food cake mix with peanut butter chips - yum-o!!! The ones pictured above are funfetti cake mix with funfetti icing sandwiched in between. 

I'm thinking of using some orange food coloring in the funfetti cake mix and making little pumpkin cookie sandwiches for our Halloween party. How cute would that be? Or you can make them into spiders with little licorice legs. 

 So there is a look at what I've been making lately. What have you been up to? Head on over to link up! 

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