A Common Core Teacher's Toolbox!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Currently August Edition......

Seriously August is here already?! Back to School time is so crazy, that I'm about 10 days late to the Currently August party!

Currently I am:

*Listening: It's Saturday morning, and I'm the only one awake early! We purchased a noise maker for our daughter when she was born. We now can't sleep without listening to the ocean waves, ourselves. So I sit here, when I should be sleeping in listening. It's actually quite relaxing.

*Loving: All the encouraging people in my life. Sadly, I am very much a pessimist at heart. I have been working extremely hard to be much more positive about things the last couple of years. I have already been letting myself get overly stressed about some things this school year. I'm so blessed to have people close to me who surround me with love and encouragement. It's kind of hard to stay so negative when you surround yourself with positive! I especially am thankful for my sweet husband. The good Lord knew what he was doing when he sent him to me. We are so alike in so many ways, but polar opposite at how we take on stress.  He lets me vent, then always takes that vent and turns it into something positive. He is my biggest cheerleader and encourager! What would I do without him?!

*Thinking:  I have been extremely stressed about how I am going to be an effective teacher this  year. Most years I get a similar mix of a kids ( A couple high/on grade level, the majority being a little below grade level, and a few who are extremely low, and maybe one or two special situations).  This year that mix is out the window.  The majority of what I normally have in my classroom is virtually non existent this year, and I have quite a few "special situations". That all leads back to the stress and why I'm really loving all those encouraging people right now who are making me look at this in a positive light. So I'm spending some serious reflection time this weekend thinking of how I can best meet the needs of my class this year.

*Wanting-  You would think after having 2 months off, Back to School time wouldn't be so exhausting. However, it seems to me that is what makes it even more exhausting. I really could use a little energy boost, because exhausted is an understatement. (Yet, I'm up early today, go figure!)

*Needing-  I have a few projects left on my summer to do list I really want to finish. One being finishing our bedroom "makeover". I also have decided to completely revamp my class website. I just need to sit down and  do it.

*Back to School Must Haves:
1. Planner/Calendar- I have to start the new school year off with a cute new calendar. It makes me feel much more organized to start the year with all of the important dates already put in the calender. Plus I go ahead and list breaks/vacations/special events, so I can smile when I look at all the good stuff I have coming up.
2. Supplies- I am a teacher, so of course I'm kind of addicted to new school supplies. I especially love a good pen set!
3. Summer Vacation Pictures- I have to start my year off with a few pictures  hanging around to remind me of my wonderful summer!

I hope that you all have a wonderful Back To School Start! May it be much less stressful than mine has been. If it is stressful, surround yourself with positive, encouraging people. It works wonders for the body and soul! Here's to a wonderful school year for everyone! : )

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Common Core Reading Formula!

    When I started this blog, my whole intention was to post things that teachers could add to their "Common Core Toolbox" as many of us are shifting into the CCSS at the same time. As I learn more about Common Core, I've been trying to created things to help me make shift in my own classroom and in turn pass them on to you. This week I attended a very in depth Common Core ELA training. So I thought I should share with you some of the things I learned!

   It always feels good when you already do certain things in your class, and you go to a professional development training and are basically "taught" to do what you are already doing. A lot of the things I "learned" this week are things we as teachers already know. However, with so many different programs out there and curriculum shifts, we often times left in limbo about what to teach and how to teach it.  I created a simple little poster for your Common Core Toolbox that simply details the Common Core Formula for Reading Comprehension(which is something we all already know).
      Common Core puts the emphasis in the lower grades on being sure the students have basic foundational readings skills so that by the time they leave 3rd grade they CAN read. The idea behind the formula above, is basically that if one piece of the puzzle is missing, then reading comprehension can't be accomplished. By 3rd grade print concepts and phonological awareness are no longer listed in the standards (Assuming students be past needing those foundational skills).  By 3rd grade, the idea is that the students are reaching a place where they can read both fluently and for comprehension.

      The language comprehension component consists of Vocabulary development, speaking &listening to clarify and show comprehension of information, participation & collaboration in diverse groups, and presentation of knowledge . There is a huge emphasis on students solely using the evidence from text they read to answer questions, gather information,and show comprehension. This is a shift from our usual way of focusing on building  a student's background knowledge. Of course, as teachers we know we will still build background knowledge as needed. However, the CCSS focuses on students delving deep into what that are reading, and breaking apart the text.. The idea is that students will build their knowledge from the texts they read  (I.E. Close Reading, which I'll mention more in a later post). Also, 50 percent of the reading should come from complex nonfiction texts. I'm going to focus quite a bit this year on integrating science and social studies as part of my RLA block. This will be a time where students will be working in groups to work on the various components of language comprehension.

   The "I do- we do- you do" phrase came up a lot during our trainings. This is something I already do, but it did feel good to hear that is the idea behind teaching the standards. I've gone back and forth with how I teach reading. I've done a little bit of everything out there as far as literacy stations, grouping, etc. The last couple of years, I've found myself naturally falling into the "I-do, we-do-you do" sort of set up for teaching reading. Meaning, that I meet with my students for a mini lesson as a whole group. Then they break up into groups/pairs/individuals etc to work on that particular skill/activity. It is during that time I pull students into small groups or individually on a as need basis. I should mention, I do have "book clubs" that work in conjunction with my reading instruction as well.  Personally for me, I have found this to be the most effective use of my and my students learning time. I'm not saying literacy stations/centers are bad, and never should be used. I personally have just found this is the best way for me to differenitate and met the needs of all students, while still being sure the standards are being taught in a timely manner. It was refreshing to hear that this type of instruction is encouraged with the CCSS.
Here is a quote from the TN Common Core Site:
 "Instruction should be differentiated: good readers will need much less practice with these concepts than struggling readers will. The point is to teach students what they need to learn and not what they already know—to discern when particular children or activities warrant more or less attention."
    In my particular teaching setting, I will have very few students coming to me on grade level. Therefore, only a couple may have already mastered any of the 3rd grade standards. That is why the "I-do,we-do-, you do" lessons as a whole class are essential.  The book clubs are students are placed in allow me to better met their individual needs, and those groups are ever changing. I may only have a few that really need phonics instruction, so their book club will cater those needs. There is no need to create a whole station/center for all the students to rotate through, when only a few may need that instruction. As teachers a lot of this seems like common sense, but once again we have so many things pushed on us, I think we forget sometimes we just need to get back to the basics of teaching .

   There is still so much to learn about the CCSS standards.However,I feel the ELA standards will be the easiest to implement, as they are putting the focus on the basics of reading. So for that, I think we can all breath a sigh of relief. I have many, many more things I learned this week to help you out with your CCSS RLA transition. Look for more post, and freebies for you Common Core Toolbox coming soon!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

It's Currenlty July...Already?!

Wow, where does the time go?! Serioulsy?! I swear this blog isn't meant to be here simply for the Farley's Currently linkup! I just seem to only think about getting back to blogging once I realize, "Oh it's a new month".  I'm going to have my students do weekly blog updates about the happenings in our classroom, once school starts back. That will turn this little ole' blog into something worth reading then!

Now for  my July Currently..........

Listening- My daughter is currently having engaging two of her stuffed bunnies in a conversation. If I only could figure out what these little bunnies are saying to each other! It's amazing to watch a 2 year old's little imagination at work!

Loving- I can't say enough how I love having all this time off with my daughter.  I miss so much time with her during the school year, especially on the days I come home exhausted.  It sure will make going back to work hard.

Thinking- We were blessed to be able to take a 2 week vacation this summer, thanks to my hard working hubby earning a bonus week of vacation. We just came back, and I'm already planning our next little trips! Planning is almost as much fun as the trips themselves, so you can bet I'm always planning to go somewhere!

Wanting/Needing-  These two coincide together. I have a huge Summer To-Do list that involves school stuff and personal stuff. In conjunction with that, we have our family Summer Bucket List. We've been crossing things off the bucket list left and right, while the to-do list has been put on a back burner! If I could afford a personal assistant, I would put him/her right to work on that To-Do List for me. Oh, well I wouldn't trade crossing off things on my family's little Summer Bucket List for the world, so I'll just be playing catch-up. I have 2 different trainings over the next two weeks. That should get me into "work" mode!

Tips/Tricks/Hints- Well obviously I shouldn't be giving blogging tips, since technically I don't really blog. However, I love this quote " It is better to fail in originality, than to succeed in imitation. "  That quote really applies to life, not just blogging. As a teacher, I think we can learn so much for one another. So share some of your originality with the world!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

It's Currently, June edition!

The one thing  I can always seem to find time to blog for is Farley's monthly link ups!  Wow, it's June. The year is literally flying by. June means summer break, vacation, and pool weather, so I'm in heaven!

* I'm listening to the sound of my sweet baby girl's giggles as her daddy chases her around the house.  Not a sweeter sound on earth!! :)

* I am LOVING summer break. I can't express enough how much I'm loving it. I had a great school year, but I'm still loving this break. I've been enjoying spending my days with my daughter. I miss so much time with her during the school year, that I really take advantage of the time off with her. We have our little summer bucket list hanging on our refrigerator. We have been trying to cross off one thing a day, and Aubrey loves going to the refrigerator to "cross off" whatever we've done for the day.

*I'm thinking I sure do have a whole lot left to do my pre-vacation to do list, and it keeps growing by the minute. We've spent the first week of summer vacation doing lots of fun things, and have neglected most of the "need to do". We leave for Disney and the beach in a couple of weeks, and I have to start tackling that list!

*I'm really wanting to redecorate our bedroom. I decided during spring, I wanted to re do our living room, which has led to wanting to redo our bedroom. I haven't informed my husband of this idea yet, but I'll remind him I have summer break to accomplish it all! 

*I really, really need to get my house cleaned and grocery shop. We are entertaining friends and some family over the next week, and I have to get my house together. I also cook dinner a whole lot more in the summer, so groceries are a necessity for that! However, the sun has come out now, so those things just might have to wait! 

*Vacation Essentials- Camera of course is a given! Sunglasses-for all the time enjoying the sun. I was going to list new wardrobe(because I love buying clothes for vacation), but I figured that was a little much. I can't forget a good book (or books in my case)! You always need a good book to read in the car, on the plane, or on the beach! It's an essential part of traveling. I have a long to-read list,that just keeps growing longer thanks to my book club girls! I'm very much looking forward the week at the beach to do some serious reading!

Happy June everyone!!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Just teach, it's really that simple......

    I'm an extremely reflective person in all aspects of my life. I'm always having some sort of reflective thoughts about something, which can be a wonderful quality when you are doing something like working towards being a National Board Certified teacher! However, other times,not so much because I sometimes get headaches from thinking too much. With that said, each and everyday during the school year I reflect about my teaching and my students. I, like most of you, have spent many hours researching, buying products, reading books etc. to try to improve my teaching practice. This school year I got to the point where I was just on information overload. Then, I took a step back, and really, really thought about everything. Then the magical little light bulb went off and I realized,"Wait a minute, you are the teacher here! !You are the expert! Stop over complicating things; Stop letting other people's ideas and essentially many times their "products" dictate what you think you should be doing in your own classroom. "

   Of course teaching is by no stretch "simple", but I really think we have made teaching become WAY TOO complicated. I'm not saying that we shouldn't try to better our teaching styles/techniques, or continue to learn on our own. What I am saying, is that I think we all need to step back,  and throw all of these programs/books etc. out of the window for just a second. Get all of those millions of "great ideas" that we believe we should implement in our class out of our heads. It all comes down to the fact that we are the experts in our own classroom. No one person could ever know or completely understand the unique make of students in our classroom. We know what is best for our students. Sometimes, what's best is  simply sitting down with the kids in a circle and just reading and discussing a topic. Sometimes what might work best for our students is simply sitting in a small group with just pencil and paper and working through math problems. Many times, the basic/simple foundations  of we know about teaching are exactly what we should be using with our students to help them learn best. While, I think we can learn a lot from the latest programs and ways of doing things, and should even implement some of  those things; I think we are just overwhelming ourselves, when really a lot of times we just need to TEACH! No frills added, no magic program, no "special" way to teach a subject, just plain old teach the way we know our students will learn best.

  Over this school year I thought a lot about the past 7 years of my teaching career. I have NEVER,not one single year, done the exact same things with my teaching. What worked with one group of students doesn't always work with the next group. Once again, it's a matter of knowing our students and remembering we are already equipped with the knowledge of what we need to help those students.

  I think it's wonderful to take time over the summer to read those great teaching practices books, and plan to implement that new way of teaching reading or math. Even saying all this, I have my own list of summer reading and PD to improve my own teaching. However, I'm not going to overload myself, and decide I have to teach this certain way or implement this certain idea next year. I'm going to take those ideas, walk in that door, get to know my students then I'll implement what works best for that particular set of students.  So soak up some knowledge over the summer, but don't stress about having to do all of those things next year. Get to know you kiddos, and do what YOU already do best. Sometimes teaching really is just that simple. Just teach! (And...spend a lot of time relaxing and doing things for yourself/family! Going back refreshed and relaxed will do more for you  and your students than spending you WHOLE summer working!)

I will now get off my soapbox! : )

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Summertime, Standardized Testing, and Seattle!

   My summer break has officially begun! It was very bittersweet for me this year, because I absolutely adored my class this year.  I was amazed at watching how much they grew this school year. We had a wonderful year together, and I am really going to miss them. However, what teacher could not be excited about summer break. I have a beautiful 2 year old princess that I get to be a stay at home mom to for the next two months, and I excited to have all that time with my sweet girl.  Of course school stuff will be thrown in. I'm looking forward to attending training for Common Core Reading and training to become a  Learning Coach.  We teachers know, summer break, is never truly a break!

   The last day of school we received our state standardized testing scores, and my students had some of the highest scores in our school! I can't begin to describe how proud I was of my kiddos! We normally get the scores back after school is over. I'm so glad we got them the last day, because I we were able to celebrate together.  I teach in an inner city school system. We are always compared to the local suburban system. By compare what I really mean, is that we are always displayed as inferior and incompetent compared to the local suburban system. I won't get into my feelings on the comparisons, but as a teacher in the system I have very strong feelings about what is said about the abilities of our students and teachers (Some of the hardest working teachers I have ever known work in my district, but that's a story for another day).  In general for every 1 student who scores proficient or advanced in our school system, 2 students score proficient or advanced in the suburban system. My class's scores were on par with  the percentages of the suburban system! Sadly, we won't ever get the recognition of the suburban district schools when their scores are revealed. So I had to brag on my students to all of you, because the worked extremely hard this year!

  While my students in general did well on the standardized tests this year, I still have very strong feelings about it. It's still extremely unfair to base so much on this one test. I read an interesting article today that parents, teachers, and students have boycotted standardized testing in Seattle. Well all of it paid off, because as of today standardized testing will be changing in Seattle. You can read this article for all the details.  Here's to hoping maybe other school districts will take notice of what Seattle is doing, and finally think twice about standardized testing!

   I hope everyone has a great start to their summer break! If you are still in school, hang in there! There is a light at the end of the tunnel!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

It's May Currently!!

It's May already?! April flew by faster than I ever imagined. I love linking up for Farley's Currently series; so here we go again!

* Listening: Pandora is the greatest thing ever! Just saying! 

* I'm loving that in less that 3 weeks summer break will begin! 

* Thinking: It's amazing how opportunity  can knock when you least expect it, needless to say I'm very blessed to for the opporunities that have presented themselves to me!

* I'm really wanting to start our living room makeover. Thanks to pinterest I've got some amazing ideas for how I want our living room to look. I'm going with a gray and teal theme. I think it will look pretty darn nice, once we finally get started. 

* I really need to finish spring cleaning out clothes for myself and my daughter! It will be fun to go out and purchase a new summer wardrobe once I finally finish cleaning. I also HAVE to start working in my classroom. I will be moving rooms, and I need to purge a lot of excess stuff.  

*Summer Bucket List:
1.  I can't wait to spend time with my husband and daughter. I'm looking forward to being a stay at home mommy over the summer  and doing all that goes along with that. We have lots of mommy/daughter dates, family dates, and mommy/daddy dates planned! I can't wait to have time (and extra energy) to devote to the two loves of my life. 

2. In my younger days, I was quite adventurous. (I'm talking skydiving-fly by the seat of your pants adventurous). Over summer I'd like to bring back a little bit of that old spirit of me and try something new. What that is yet, I don't know!

3. I'm going to be hosting my first book club girls night this summer. It's on my bucket list to be the hostest with the mostest! Since I'll be out of school, I'm going to go all out with a cute theme, and I hope my book club girls love it! 

4. Last year, I finally completed the Couch to 5k program (which works!!!). I have even ran a few a 5ks since then. I'm hoping to start the Couch to Half Marathon training over the summer, just to see how far I can really push myself. 

5. I'm reorganizing all of my files/books etc once again. I think this binder method I've come up with will work better than anything I've used before. So my plan is to have EVERYTHING organized once and for all by August. 

I hope everyone has a wonderful May! I hope those of you counting down to summer break have a great few last weeks of school! 

Monday, April 1, 2013

It's April...Currently!

   I'm a terrible blogger, I know. There just isn't enough time in the day to balance all I'd like to do. I used to let my students blog, and I'm going to go back to that next year! That will really help me keep the blog up to date on all the "exciting" happenings in my classroom! I love Farley's Currently link-up, so I'm taking the time to link up once again!

Listening- There is absolutely no sweeter sound on this Earth than my little girl's giggle and her "singing". She loves the Bubble Guppies,and is currently singing "Bub..bub..bubble"  and it is the most adorable thing!! 

Loving- Spring made an appearance today! I'm so ready for some warm, sunny weather. Please spring stick around for a little while!
Thinking- Where did the past 2 years go? This Thursday our daughter turns 2!!! Yes 2!! When did that happen? People are not kidding when they say don't blink, or they will grow up before your eyes.  I'm amazed at the gorgeous little girl that we have been blessed with, but I really,really wouldn't mind her slowly down the growing up part just a little bit! 

Wanting- Standardized Testing Season to END! We have 3 more weeks until our BIG test, and I'm ready for it just to be over. There is just so much pressure put on that one test. My students and I need it over and done with. I'm looking forward to doing some really fun activities once its all said and done. 

Needing- A few more hours in the day, well don't we all.  I have so many things I'm trying to accomplish these days,and there really isn't enough time. I could either use a personal assistant or a couple of extra hours a day! 

Advice-  For TPT I'd say do what works for you! I decided last  year I'd work on making some of the things I'd made for my own class in years past a little nicer and uploading to TpT. That is still a very SLOW going process. So for now, I put things up that I create for my own class. Some days I'm shocked that my creativity is still there! So when those creative light bulbs come on, I try to take advantage for my students! Then  I also post it on Tpt. That is personally what works best for me! Someone may or may not be interested in what I've made, but hey no time wasted because I made it for my own personal use. However, I will note I've been VERY surprised that many other teachers actually are interested in using the things I've created for my kiddos! I've been very, very surprised and extremely happy in that respect!

Happy April everyone! I hopefully will make another blog post before it's time for "May Currently"!!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Let's Get Organized..Again!

    Throughout my whole teaching career, I have gone back and forth on ways to organize all my "stuff". I started out using file folders for my units. Then I'd end up having books and games etc. that would go along with units, so I moved to using hanging files in those little plastic file boxes.I would end up teaching units, and realizing I had a bunch of resources I never used, because things were separated into multiple different places. Over the past 2 years, I have been slowly moving all of my files/resources from those plastic file boxes into binders.  This has called for A LOT of binders and A LOT of time.  I am loving the binders, much more than I ever have my files, because its much easier to go through my units and pick out what I want to copy, use, etc. I'll put a little sticky tab to use as a place holder when I take something out to copy it, so I put it back in the correct spot. I've added some of those binder pockets to hold books/games etc. that go along with each unit. I still am using my plastic file bins however, because some units just have too many books that go along with them. I've labeled each file bin so I know which unit it goes with. I think after almost 8 years, I am FINALLY going to have an organization system I will keep. However, this is an ongoing process, as it is taking me forever to get everything transferred.

     I know for a fact I will be moving classrooms next year, so I am working hard to get everything organized before I have to move to a new room. This will make things much easier next year for me. I'm working on creating binder covers/dividers for all subjects and unit topics. I'm using them as binder covers, dividers, and labels for my plastic bins that will still be housing things I need for units! I just finished my science covers this weekend and listed them in my TPT store. I created over 100 covers with every science topic I could think of. Each topic has binder cover with and without a cute little graphic. I know some teachers don't care much for the graphics. Some topics even have several different graphic options, because I couldn't make up my mind on which I liked best! Check them out here. I'm going to leave them on sale this week since they are new. If you are looking to get organized like me, please check them out ,and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if you can think of any other topics you'd like added. I'm working on adding math and holiday covers this week as well!

  How do all of you teachers keep all of your files/units organized?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spring...no wait that's Standardized Testing In the Air!

     Well I'm not sure about your school district, but spring time in our district= standardized testing craziness! Our district really buckles down on us preparing in the months of March and April. Needless to say it can be quite taxing on the students and teachers. I try to mix it up to keep things fun for the kids as much as possible. This week during our Math Review time I decided to create a little competition between the students. They finished their math review alone first, then formed math teams.  I set a timer on the Smartboard and the students have a certain amount of time to review one of the math problems together in their teams. When the timer goes off, one team member must hold a whiteboard in the air that represents the whole teams' agreed upon answer.  If they got the answer correct, they get a point. I also have one team explain their reasoning for getting that answer to the class as well. I'm big on all the students working together during cooperative group activities, so the students know they can not be awarded a point (even if the answer is correct), if I do not see all students in the group actively engaged in working to find the answer. They also know when the timer goes off all discussion must stop, or they are also disqualified from earning a point that round. They get really excited playing this "game", and the first time they lose a point  for not quieting down when the timer goes off tends to be their last!  They came up with their own Team Names, which I have really gotten a kick out of so I thought I'd share them with you:

The last group OMGMT= Oh my gosh math thinkers! I just thought the names were too creative. I said create a team name, and I was thinking I'd get "We're the green team" etc. However, they took their team naming very seriously! The game has been ongoing all week, and the big championship finale is this Friday! They can't wait!

  This has really made reviewing Math so much more exciting for my students. They are so engaged in their learning! I teach 3rd, so I created 100 multiple choice review questions for Reading Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies into a bundle I listed this week in my TPT store if you are needing some help with review material. They easily can be adapted to be game cards or task cards. They are in a 4 square type format, which makes great daily review or morning work as well. I'm going to start using them after spring break. I teach 3rd, so the questions are geared towards 3rd. However, they would also work well with 2nd and 4th too.  You can check them out here!

Here's a preview of how the questions are set up:

Good luck preparing for your standardized tests if you are in the same boat as me! I'll keep the blog updated with our classroom preparation activities. I'd love to hear any ways you make reviewing fun for your students too!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

March Currently!

I always see all of you bloggers linking up for Oh Boy, Fourth Grade's  Currently Month series! I have never found the time to do it, but since spring is in the air (well even though it's 30 degrees where I live). I thought I'd link up for some fun!

Listening: My DH birthday is next week, and I've purchased him tickets to see Shinedown along with some of our other favorite bands as part of his gift! (And thank goodness he doesn't feel the need to read my blog). Since we began dating forever ago, one of our favorite pastimes is going to a good concert together.  So I'm listening to the Shinedown station in anticipation of seeing them live!

 LOVING: I'm am so loving the fact that this time next week I will be on spring break. We are going to New Orleans for a few days! I've planned to do some fun outings with my sweet baby girl, since I'll finally have some weekday daytime with her! We'll be celebrating my husband's birthday and ending the week with the concert. Did I mention how excited I am for next week?! : )

Thinking:  I really need to get to the gym and ASAP.  We just booked our summer beach trip, and lately my working out has dwindled down to two days a week. I'm hoping the beach countdown will get me back on track!

Needing:  Geez..I'm needing a haircut, eyebrow wax, nails done...etc etc. All those girly things to have to be attended too. It just always seems like such a chore,even though I feel so much better when its all said and done.

Wanting: I really need some new clothes for spring! I also love shopping for new sandals, because it reminds me warmer weather is coming!

Like: Amazon- We have a love/hate relationship so I decided that must be a "like". Love, Love ,Love all of the ebooks I purchase, but then hate it bc I don't have time to read all these books!!

LOVE: My sweet baby girl Aubrey! She is going to be two in a month! I can't believe it. When I say she is the sunshine of our lives, that doesn't begin to describe this amazing little person God has blessed us with. 

Hate: Anxiety- I'm a terrible worrier! I've been working on it, but I can't stand to be anxious about things. It's the WORST feeling in the world.

Well none of that was school related at all! We did celebrate Read Across America yesterday, and my kids had a lot of fun with that.  They were extremely interested in wanting to know all about Dr. Seuss's life.  I'm  also going to carve out some planning time this weekend, so I get my plans done for after spring break way ahead of time.  Happy Saturday,everyone!!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Character Traits Freebie!

    I reviewed character traits with my students this week. I was working to create some differentiated activities for my students to practice finding character traits,and I decided I'd could create a little freebie for my TpT store. Whenever I first teach character traits to my students, I always start with having them think of their best friend. They give me words to describe their best friend, and then I have them give me reasons why they choose that patricluar word to describe their best friend. I use this as a gateway to get them thinking more in depth about the character's they are reading about.

    I created a little poster and graphic organizer that your students can use with any story. (You can get download this freebie here.) It requires them to look at a character's dialogue and actions in a story to determine character traits or to use it as evidence to back up a character trait they are using to describe a character. While on the surface this idea is very simple, I find it really helps the students think more into the character traits they use to describe the characters. It also helps them to move away from finding simple traits, such as the character is "nice" or "mean" .This can also lead to a mini lesson about synonyms and antonyms! We know we have to multitask as often as we can as teachers. : )

   If you are teaching character traits soon and want to differentiate your lesson,  here are a few ways I have done it. One of the easiest ways is having students reading different texts on their own levels and filling out the character traits chart.  This week however, we started our lesson with everyone reading the same story in small groups.  I differentiated by having the chart partially filled in for my lowest group. My average group filled out the character trait chart on their own, while my advanced children compared and contrasted character traits of characters from different stories. The advanced group also choose 3 character traits that they designed their own main character from.

  Speaking of character traits, my super sweet, fun-loving husband has planned a belated Valentine's Day surprise date day for us, so I'm off to prepare for that! Enjoy your weekend, and I hope this little freebie and ideas can help you with your planning!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Nonfiction Reading Strategies That Work!

     I'm sure if you have even glanced at the Common Core Standards, then you know the Reading standards focuses a lot on having the students read non-fiction. I decided I needed to research strategies to help my students become more engaged when reading nonfiction. I had been using the 3-2-1 strategy as a "Ticket Out the Door"/ Quick Assessment tool with my students. I'm not sure if you are familiar with the strategy, but basically the idea is the students write 3 things they have learned, 2 things they found interesting, and 1 question they still have. When looking for strategies to use to increase non-fiction comprehension, it just kind of clicked in my brain to use have the students utilize the 3-2-1 strategy when reading non-fiction.

    After the students read a non-fiction text, they write down 3 very important facts from the text, 2 things they found interesting or want to know more about from the text, and 1 question or 1 thing they are wondering about after they are finished reading.  This has been working out even better than I ever could have imagined with my students. For the most part, my students have used this strategy when working in small groups. I created a form (you can get if for free here) for them to fill out after reading the given nonfiction text. We've used it with library books, reading stories, and their sciece and social studies textbooks so far! I have noticed the students really thinking about what they've read when they look for the 3 important facts. I've overheard several of my "bossier" students saying things to their groups like " Is that really an important fact? I think there are things more important we should write" etc. So, they are really thinking deeply about what are the "really" important facts. We also take the time to discuss the things the students found interesting, as well as research  their questions/wonderings. This gives them a personal connection to the text which really gets them interested and wanting to know more about stuff that a lot of times they would just consider boring reading.

  There are several other strategies I'm trying out while reading non-fiction texts, but this one has been my favorite so far. I love that is a quick and easy strategy that keeps them engaged in the text, while also offering a quick assessment for me. Remember if you'd like the printable form for this strategy to try out with your students just visit my TpT store

Here are my kiddos reading about Volcanoes and working on their 3-2-1 slips!

*Oh and a quick classroom management tip that works great for me.  See those star stickers on that boy's hand? Well when students work in groups they can earn "star power".  This is given to students who are following all our cooperative group directions and working well together. The group with the most stars wins! Sometimes its just praise they receive and the glory for being the best group that day, other times I do actually give them a little treat for winning! Either way, they LOVE getting "star power".

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My 15 minutes of Fame, Sort of....

I have to admit I'm a total nerd for getting excited about my little few seconds of "fame", but it was exciting none the less to me. The other day I was checking something on TpT from my phone. I was looking at the homepage and had to do a double take because I realized one of the featured teacher authors looked a lot like me. I thought maybe it was showing up linked to my account so weird way or something. So I call my husband and I have him look it up on his computer, and yep there I am again right at the bottom of the TpT homepage. Now I'm sure the teachers they feature daily are random. Either way I had my totally sad nerd moment and just thought it was kind of cool!  See that's me........

  In more meaningful academic news, my students have been producing some really nice quality work these past few weeks. I'm so proud of them. I have quite a bit of Amy Lemons's units. I just love her stuff. As part of our geometry unit (Thanks to Amy Lemons), the students created shape monsters and wrote stories to go along with their shapes. Before beginning this activity, I read aloud The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns. This book is such a great companion when teaching students about plane shapes. The students loved the story, and many of them too inspiration from the book to write their own shape stories! Here are a few of their shape monster stories:
A while ago I also posted about my New Year's Freebie and my Snowman themed unit. The writing activities from both of these units also turned out great! Here are some hanging on our cabinets. The left side shows the students New Year's Resoultions/Goals, while the right side displays my students "My Snowman at Night" stories!
I am always amazed at the creativity of my kiddos! Not to mention, I have seen huge advances in their writing abilities. I love when they take their time and really show pride in their work, so I had to brag on them here in the blog world!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Groundhog's Day Freebie!

It's almost Groundhog's Day, so I created a mini- writing pack freebie pack that is adaptable to almost any writing lesson! I've included writing ideas for you just in case you need some. I've also included prediction voting slips so the students can vote if they think the groundhog will or will not see his shadow. You could use this to lead into a quick graphing or fraction lesson! You can download the freebie here! Enjoy! Hoping for an early spring for everyone!

Check out Laura Candler's February freebies blogpost for a whole bunch of great freebies you can use this month! Just click the heart below:

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Sweet Freebie!

     For those of you who are already thinking ahead for Valentine's Day,  check our my TpT store for a very sweet freebie for you! I've created a cute Valentine's themed Sentence Sort Center activity/game. I have it listed for free on my store for this weekend only! I'd appreciate any feedback if you are able to download it this weekend. I hope you enjoy it! You can get your freebie here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! Wow, Christmas break always flies by. There is so much going on during those two weeks, by the time it all settles down back to school we go. As a matter of fact, I will go back tomorrow! Since being more positive about things in general is one of New Year's goals (I prefer goals to resolutions haha), I'm looking at the bright side seeing as it will only be a 3 day work week. I used to write down New Year's Resolutions, but like most people, it seems like after January they were out of my mind. So this past year I just started making goals for myself throughout the year , and I've been working on those goals. One of which, over the past several months is working to be more positive, especially at school. This is a TOUGH one. I try to keep thinking positive, and then one thing after another goes crazy at school! It's much easier to be negative about everything for some reason. However, I'm going to keep on working on these positive thinking skills, and taking everything with a grain of salt. I find when I do that, everything in life tends to go much better. 

Other School related goals for this year include:
* Trying to find a fun ways to get my kids motivated (and myself) about out Standardized Tests.
* Doing something fun at least twice a week with my students for no other reason other than its fun!
* Stepping out of my comfort zone.
* Not letting all the testing that has taken over my grade level stop me from doing all the fun activities I like to do with my students!
* Working big time on having a positive attitude!!

I hope you have a great New Year's and return to school! Here is a little freebie to get you  started with your students when you do go back school. I created a template for a cute New Year's Craftivity. Let the students use the template to create themselves in their festive New Year's hats. Then they can use the writing template to write about their New Year's Goals/resolutions! You can find the freebie here.