Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Book Finds for Struggling Readers in Upper Elementary {Tried it Tuesday}

A couple months back I was having trouble finding books my struggling 4th grade readers would enjoy. This particular group is reading somewhere between a low 1st grade (with a few lower) to high 2nd grade range, so I was having a tough time finding things that look like they were "big" enough to be cool and keep them interested. 

I made a big order, thanks to my principal, on Scholastic and we've really been enjoying our new books. We've had the books about a month and the kids have definitely picked out some favorites, so I thought I'd share them for my Tried it Tuesday with Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper

Sorry for the major glare on that last book. School lighting just doesn't cooperate for pictures sometimes! 

We love Fly Guy! I can't get enough of those books to satisfy my kiddos! I'll have some kids with 3 in their book bags at a time. These are perfect for some of my lowest readers.

Magic School Bus is a classic, of course, but this version is a little easier to read and the kids are starting to discover how much fun they are. 

The Weird School series by Dan Gutman is the perfect chapter book series for those 2nd/3rd grade level readers. 

What parts I've read of Roscoe Riley Rules are hilarious! I'm actually planning on doing this one as a fun read aloud with the class in the next few weeks. It would be a good chapter book for beginning or middle 2nd graders. 

I ordered several books in the Rookie Biographies series and I was pretty impressed. They definitely have a lot of great information and are very readable. They have about a paragraph on each page, which is nice for some of the more advanced readers because they don't zoom through them so quickly!

The Boris books were so popular that I couldn't even find one in the library to get a picture of! It seems like every day I have a kid tell me he's finished with his Boris book and needs a new one. This series has been especially popular with the boys and that is usually the toughest crowd!

These books have literally changed my reading class. Everyone begs for silent reading time and they are just devouring these books because they are interesting on their level. I'm thrilled with the progress we're making and how their attitudes about reading have changed! I'm just hoping I can keep enough books to keep their interest up! 

What other books would you recommend for my reading friends? 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fact and Opinion and Movie Set Photo Bombing {Five for Friday}

A week of bus duty, benchmark testing, and parent conferences PLUS some non-school fun = one tired teacher with no time to post last night! That means I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for my Saturday edition of Five for Friday.

1. My Donor's Choose materials came in!! I'd had a project funded from DC several years ago and I decided to give it another go with a request for some great "big kid" scissors for my classroom. The ones I had were falling apart and we didn't even have enough for everyone in class, so the kiddos were sharing - not good!

The kids are loving these. At random times throughout the day someone will say, "I just love our new scissors." Too cute !

2. We've been working on fact and opinion this week. We used our scissors to make these fun spider graphic organizers for our interactive notebooks. 

Sorry for the horrible picture. I was so focused on getting some for the Donor's Choose Thank You Package that I completely forgot to get a close up for the blog! 

The rest of my teaching week was filled with benchmarks and they just don't make for the best pictures, so I thought I'd share a few other fun things I've been up to! 

3. Last Saturday I went to a festival with my mom and sister and we had an amazing time!! 

I bought this rocking chair that we then had to carry back to our car on a bus with us - interesting adventure but we made it!

4. The filming of the movie Big Stone Gap (based on the book by Adriana Trigiani) started last Saturday. The festival we went to was in Big Stone Gap (about 2 towns over from us) and we got to see some extras from the movie!!! I know it doesn't sound all that exciting, but this movie is the biggest thing to hit our neck of the woods in a long time!

My sister and mom took the opportunity to do some photo bombing! LOL 

5. The hubby and I took advantage of one of the last warm days of the year and headed off to Dollywood last Sunday. It was a lot of fun....gotta love some roller coasters! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Football Themed Homework Pass Freebie

Just wanted to pop in to share a quick freebie with y'all! We are working on our benchmark tests right now and my kiddos are doing such a great job! I wanted to give them a reward for passing the test, but not spend any money so I decided to do some homework passes. 
AND since you are such awesome blog followers you get to enjoy them too! Just click on the picture below to download your own set!! I even included a black and white set. 
Enjoy and please pin and share with other teachers if you like 'em!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Grading Homework {Spark Student Motivation Saturday}

Happy Saturday, everyone! I am off to a craft festival today with my mom and sister, but I wanted link up with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching to share a quick motivational discovery I made this week. 

I decided to have my students grade their own ABC Order spelling homework papers on Thursday. We had the time and I didn't need one more set of papers to grade with it being the end of the grading period! 

Wow! You'd have thought I'd let them do something really special. They loved it! I really wasn't expecting them to be so happy about it. The novelty of using an ink pen was partly to blame here I think, but whatever works, right? 

Those few students who didn't have their homework looked really disappointed, so I'm hoping this will be motivation for completing it on time! 

They were also fascinated by my stamp that I hadn't used in several years. It came from Vista Print as a freebie once upon a time. I always like to use it when we check papers together in class, just so parents are kept in the loop. 

This one did double duty - motivating for the kids and less grading for me! That is a win, win!! 

Do you have students check their own papers? Any tricks to share with me? 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Making Inferences, New Bag, and the Monster Mash

Happy Friday! It's time to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching to get y'all caught up on what's been happing in my polka dotted world this week! 

1. We've been working on making inferences. We started out with an Interactive Notebook lesson. I used the blank template from this lesson by Erin at I'm Lovin' Lit to create the foldable for this page. 

I scored some major points with the kiddos on this one because they thought the puzzle was just the coolest foldable they'd ever seen! 

2. We read The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg. The kids were so anxious to get to the end of the book and see who the stranger was. They loved, I loved it, all was well! 

3. We created this anchor chart. I am really getting into using post-its for my anchor charts since I teach 3 different ELA groups. Thanks, Christina at Bunting, Books, and Bainbridge for the fabulous idea!! 

I also used a Pinterest tutorial to learn how to print on post-its, so that made the chart making that much quicker! 

4. My name is Courtney and I'm addicted to bags. There, I said it. Now, I can show you the new bag I got!! I'd been eyeing this one from Vera Bradley all Spring/Summer, but just couldn't do it until it went on sale last week! 

It was everything I'd hoped for and more..haha!! I love those two pockets on the outside, the handles are long enough to go over my shoulder, and my camera case fits inside with plenty of room to spare. I have smaller camera case that I'll swap out with this one, so it'll be just right for a few folders, some papers, and my planner. It's also deep enough to throw my lunch in on top. 

Have I mentioned that my dream job would be selling bags on QVC? LOL

5. I'm helping out with the Monster Mash dance at school this evening. I've heard my job will be judging the costume contest, so I'm pretty excited. I've been singing the Monster Mash all week, so I had to share!! It is one of my favorites during this time of the year!! 

Have a great weekend!! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

October Monday Made It

Yay! It's once again time to link up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for the fabulous Monday Made It linky! 

With school and life and the need to sleep I've just not had as much time to be crafty as I'd like, but I did find the time to make this pillow for my aid's birthday. 

If you'd like to make one of your own you can check out this fabulous tutorial over at Cluck Cluck Sew, one of my all time favorite sewing blogs! 

I've also been working on a few new things for school. I ran in the Dollar Tree a few weeks back and was inspired by these football food trays I saw, so I used them to create a football themed noun and verb sort. 

Of course, you can do the sort without the trays. I just think they add an extra element of fun! 

I also created an Interactive Notebook lesson on Cause and Effect. 

What have you made this month? 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cause and Effect, Pin It to Win It, and a Sale

Truth time: I hated disliked teaching cause and effect up until this past week.

Why? Because it is a confusing concept and when I have 20 children yelling out, "Cause, no effect, no cause, effect," I no longer even know the answers to the questions! I'm just keepin' it real here.

I've always taught my students that it is easier to find the effect, or what happened, first and then think about why it happened. This worked okay, but was still a little confusing for me the kids. I was determined to come up with a better way to teach this!

The breakthrough came on Wednesday while we were working in our interactive notebooks. I decided to take a different approach and, instead of asking what happened, we started by asking, "What caused something to happen?" It was truly a breakthrough and the answer to one of the greatest mysteries in all my teaching career!! LOL It was such an easier way to do things.

I guess I'd just never really thought about how to formulate the question so that the kiddos could find the cause first. Where have I been!?! Teaching in a cave, apparently!

Things went much better after we made this little discovery and the kiddos agreed that it was much less confusing and easier to identify the cause and effect this way.

Now that we've gotten through my little "moment" and how I explain things to my kiddos, I thought I'd share some of the activities we did during our lessons this week.

We read this book and created an anchor chart. 

We used this free worksheet from Super Teacher Worksheets and another sheet where students were given the cause and had to come up with the effect. That one was challenging for some of my students!

On Wednesday the fun and breakthroughs really started! Half the class did a scavenger hunt in the hallway and the other half worked in the classroom with me in our interactive notebooks. 

The Cause and Effect Scavenger Hunt was from Anna Fausnight on TPT and was so much fun!! My kiddos loved getting out of the classroom and wandering around the hallways! I put the cards up before they came upstairs on Wednesday morning and just the sight of the cards got everyone excited about class! 

The kiddos inside made what we nicknamed fry boxes for our interactive notebooks. 

I teach 3 different ELA classes, each with a different ability level, so I created 3 different versions of this activity. All of my classes had a lot of success with it, too! Every time I use IN's I fall just a little more in love. Aren't they just great?!?

After we got everything glued in our notebooks and the sentences sorted, I pulled them up on the Smarboard and we look at signal words for both cause and effect. We added the signal words above the fry boxes and some reminder questions below. 

This is a picture of a notebook from the below level group and he did such a great job on it!! I really liked how he made the divider on the page! 

If you'd like to win a copy of this activity just pin the image below and leave a comment with the link to your pin. I'll choose a winner on Monday evening! 

I've also got everything in my TPT store 10% off through tomorrow and you can use the code FB100K for an extra 10% off!! 

Anyone else think Cause and Effect is a difficult concept? What tricks do you use to help make it easier for your students? 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Student Desk Drawers {Tried it Tuesday}

Hi everyone! I'm back to link up with Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried it Tuesday! I love reading about all the different things teachers are trying in their rooms. 

A new thing I tried at the beginning of this school year was desk drawers. I'd seen the idea of using the lid to a copy paper box as a desk drawer on Pinterest. I thought it would be worth a try, so I sent out an email to all my fabulous coworkers and within a few days my room was full of box tops! 

Since I teach 3 different ELA groups each day, I wanted a convenient way to store their journals, vocabulary folders, and writing notebooks. Instead of carrying these materials from class to class and losing them, my kiddos just keep their stuff in the desk drawer. That part of it makes my life so much easier because I'm never holding class to wait on a student who has forgotten a notebook. 

After 9 weeks of use by 4th graders they are still holding up nicely. You can see from this picture that they are sometimes a doodle magnet, but that's no big deal for me. 

The inside looks pretty neat too. There are only 3 folders, 3 notebooks, 3 composition books, and one file/privacy folder in each drawer. The kids have done a really good job of being respectful of each others "stuff" in the drawers. 

My favorite part about it is that my homeroom kiddos can no longer stuff those desks full of papers and junk that shouldn't be there. Since there is not extra room in the desk no one can leave "goodies" that might tempt those with sticky fingers... 

Have you ever used desk drawers. What did you think? Any tips for me? 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Night in the Country and Sensory Words Freebie {Must Read Mentor Text}

Y'all know what Sunday means, Mentor Text linky time with Collaboration Cuties!! I'm still going through all the great books from last week's October/Halloween topic! 

Today I wanted to link up to share a book and a couple of lessons we used last week when discussing an author's use of sensory words. 

Our read aloud for this lesson was Night in the Country by Cynthia Rylant. I just love her books and when I ran across this one I knew it would be the perfect one for teaching sensory words. While working on this post I even ran across this video of the book. 

As far as a summary goes, the title is pretty self explanatory. The author takes readers through the sights and sounds of a night in the country. 

Here are some of my favorite lines from the book: 

There is no night so dark, so black as night in the country. And while the people dream of daytime things, the nighttime world awakens. Owls swoop, a rabbit patters, and in the yard an apple falls --pump! -- from the tree. 

Before reading this book my students and I brainstormed a list of sensory words for Summer. We talked about all the 5 senses and about our favorite summertime activities. 

Next, we add this great FREE foldable, from The Teacher in Me, into our interactive notebooks. 

Then we headed outside for some inspiration on Fall sensory words. The first group I took out had that ideal crisp, Fall morning weather! Students worked on filling in their foldable with all their favorite things about fall. 

When we arrived back in the classroom we shared ideas with each other and worked on finalizing our lists with those great words that really appeal to a reader's senses. 

The 2nd day we started out our lesson by reading A Night in the Country and looking at how authors use sensory words to make their writing more interesting and to help us connect with the text. 

Then students tried their hand at writing using sensory words. I chose to have them write acrostic poems using the word Fall. Some students also branched out into other, longer words related to Fall. 

This was a very fun way to get the kids excited about their writing and reading! 

I did promise a freebie, so here it is. During the course of this lesson I had an idea - don't you just love when that happens?! Why couldn't that happen before I actually teach the lesson?! LOL 

I decided to create a web and focus on just one word from our lists. This way students had an opportunity to really flesh out their ideas around one topic. 

I did a web on the board about pumpkins and then they picked one word and drew their own webs in their notebooks. If you'd like to pick up a copy of this web for FREE you can click here or on the picture above. I even included a mini version with dotted lines to cut out and glue in an interactive notebook! 

What are your favorite activities and books to use in teaching sensory words? 

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