Thursday, March 28, 2013

Reading Comprehension Strategies, Sale, and Freebie

As I shared last week, I use a Reader's Notebook to help my students monitor their own thinking, as well as a place to show me that they are using the skills and strategies I am teaching them during the mini lessons. I have found that every year students come to me and they may know the strategies names, they don't really know how to use them on their own. It becomes my job to take them to that next level.

In general, my advanced students don't have a problem applying and recording what we are learning. The mini-lessons that we do each day are enough for them to jump right in and apply the skill. My lower and average students, however,  need a little extra support. To help them I have created different graphic organizers and "bookmarks" that can be used to support them as they begin to use the strategies in their personal choice books.

I start the year talking about "reading is thinking." My students and I generate a list of all the ways and things that they think about while they read. I then give them this bookmark as a way to remind them to always be thinking while they read. The students use it as a bookmark for the week and then tape it into their Reader's Notebooks for future reference.
Reading is Thinking Bookmark
As I introduce new reading strategies, I give my students new bookmarks to put in their notebooks. I will refer back to them when I am talking about a skill we have spoken about before. Having that visual really helps some of them.
Making Connections Organizer

I have created a file of bookmarks and graphic organizers that I use with my kids during  Reading Workshop. If you are interested you can find them here in my TPT store.
What do you use to help support your kiddos as they practice their reading strategies and skills? 

A few side notes:
I'm running a sale this weekend at my store, 3/29-3/31 (as are many other sellers,) so be sure to check them out this weekend!

I'm also participating in TBA-2nd birthday bash. When it opens up to the public you have to check it out. It is going to be epic!

Teaching Blog Addict - Ultimate Freebie

I'm off to spend the long weekend with my favorite niece and nephew! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Workshop Wednesday-Mentor Texts in the Writing Workshop

Wednesday is becoming one of my favorite blogging days, I am really enjoying linking up with Ideas by Jivey for her Workshop Wednesdays. This weeks topic is sharing our favorite mentor texts to teach writer's craft. I have so many books that I love to share with my students that it is really hard to choose. I am a firm believer that the best way for students to learn writer's craft is from writers, so we use a lot of mentor texts in my room, but today I'll share a few of my favorites.
Enemy Pie is one of my favorites to teach voice. If you haven't read this book, it is a great one. The story is a wonderful one about becoming friends with someone you think is your enemy. It has such a strong voice the students can instantly hear it. I use it to talk about sentence length, building suspense, and hyphenated words to name a few.
Another book I love is Bedhead. This book is about a poor little boy who wakes up with bed-head on picture day. I use the book to talk about onomopiea, descriptive details, and dialog.
A third book that I love to share with my students is Twilight Comes Twice. The book is a beautifully written story that helps to teach the students how to narrow their time focus as well as use descriptive words to paint a picture in the readers mind.

Those are just a few of the many mentor texts books I love to share with my kiddos. What are your favorites? Be sure to link up with Jivey and find some new book suggestions!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tried it Tuesday-Learning about Lewis and Clark with QR Codes

Today I am linking up with Fourth Grade Flipper for her first linky party. Tried it Tuesday-it is where you share something that you tried recently-be sure to check out her blog for the details.

Last week my students and I started our study on the westward expansion of the United States. I found this really cute QR code activity for Lewis and Clark on TPT. The pack includes six QR codes that link to six different movies/video clips that ranged from one min. to eight min. long. The QR codes linked right to YouTube videos so I remade the codes after I used safe (we aren't allowed to give kids links directly to YouTube in my school because of the types of adds and other videos that can pop up.)

Once I remade the QR codes I hung them up around the room. I signed the iPads and headphones out of our computer lab and explained to the kids what they were going to be learning about, then as I went to pass out the first iPad the WiFi went down, no lie. Thankfully, my kiddos are really flexible and we switched gears to work on our big writing project instead.

The next day our WiFi was down all day, but finally on Thursday the WiFi was up and running! The students had a blast watching the different videos.

They wandered around the classroom and watched the videos. some students took notes, others just enjoyed the clips.

When they finished I gave them seven options they could choose from to tell me things that they learned. Most of them chose to share the top three facts that they learned, others drew a picture or wrote a letter. It was neat to see their personalities come out in their choices and the way the accomplished the task. Some chose to rewatch a movie to hear facts again, others looked back at their notes to help them. No matter what they chose they all enjoyed it, and they retained a lot more than they would have if we had only read our textbooks!

What's something new that you tried? Link up with Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried it Tuesday and share something new you have tried!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Manic Monday-Thesaurus Scavenger Hunt Freebie

A few weeks ago I posted a dictionary scavenger hunt for Manic Monday and many people really enjoyed it. So I've decided to share a Thesaurus Scavenger Hunt Freebie today.

I normally partner my students up mainly because I only have enough thesaurus for half the class, but I also do it because my kiddos love to work together. This hunt has them looking at key words found in most thesaurus. It also has them using the different parts of a thesaurus entry-for many of my kiddos it really helps them learn that a thesaurus gives you more than just synonyms!

You can download it here from my TPT store. If you use it be sure to let me know what you think. Don't forget to check out the other great freebies at Manic Monday!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Let's Get Acquainted-The Noun Game

I am loving the Let's Get Acquainted linky party. It has been so great to get to know my fellow bloggers. This weeks topic is our favorite nouns.
My favorite person is my husband. He is my best friend, the person I can cry with and laugh with. He makes everyday better, and he makes me a better person. I'm so thankful for the help he gives me in the classroom. He attends the overnight camping trip, that right there makes him my hero!

 Bethany Hunter

My favorite place is Moosehead Lake, Maine. When I was a kid we would go there for vacation every summer. I loved how peaceful it was. I haven't been there since I was 16, but it is on my bucket list to go back, sooner rather than later.

My favorite thing would have to be coffee. I didn't drink it until I was 24. (I still can't believe I made it though college without it.) It was my second year teaching and my aide that year got me hooked. Now a morning doesn't go by without me having at least one cup.

My favorite animal is a penguin. When my brother lived in California (he was Navy so he moved a lot) he volunteered at an aquarium. When I went out to visit I was actually able to pet a penguin-it was such a cool experience. Unfortunatly, my CD with the pictures from that trip are at school, and since I am on spring break I have no desire to go and pick it this picture of adorable penguin babies will have to do.
What are your favorite nouns? Don't forget to link up at Flying into First and get to know some of your blogging buddies!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Differentiated Instruction-Menu Boards

My school is working through a three year plan to fully implement differentiated instruction into our classrooms. One of the things that happens in a good DI classroom is giving students personal choice in their projects and assessments. Tests and quizzes are necessary at times, but when it is appropriate I like to try to give my students those choices.

In my work to differentiate more in my classroom I decided to create a menu board to assess my students on the southern region of the USA. I went through Blooms Taxonomy and thought of different tasks that my students could work through to show me what they had learned about the south. The students needed to earn 16 points to receive full credit. When I created the menu, I made it so that the students had to do at least one of the higher level thinking tasks to earn the 16 points.Some of their choices were writing a poem, Comparing and contrasting using a Venn diagram or t-chart, creating a PowerPoint or poster- just to name a few.

My students absolutely loved it! I gave them three days in class to work on the tasks. They were engaged the entire time. After the first day, when everyone was on task for the entire 45 min. I asked them what they liked about it. They shared that they enjoyed the choices, and the freedom I gave them. They keep asking me when we are going to do another. Students never ask that about a test!
If you are interested in trying it out in your classroom you can find it here at my TPT store, or try to create your own! It's worth the effort!
Happy Saturday!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Five for Friday. Freebie Friday, and Spring Break, here I come!

 It's Friday and that means my spring break started at 4:45 when I walked out of my classroom door! It has been such a crazy week, I cannot wait to enjoy a few days of relaxation (of course I need to work on report cards, lesson plans, and ordering...but being able to work in my "comfy clothes" from my couch is all I care about!) 
I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for her Five for Friday.
1. Many of you were able to guess my lie from the Two Truths and a Lie game earlier this week. Here they were:
When I was five I almost lost the tips of my fingers by climbing up a metal cabinet in my parents kitchen.
I've always wanted to be a teacher, except for the six months when I was ten and wanted to be an astronaut.
I've never traveled outside of the United States.
My lie was number 3. I have traveled outside of the USA, although only to a few places-Bahamas and Israel. I have so many more places on my "Bucket List."

2. My students and I experienced annoying technology when our wifi went down for 2 days and we couldn't do a Lewis and Clark activity I had created for them using the QR reader. Thankfully it came back up on Thursday and we were able to still do it. (Pictures and a post about this to come over the weekend-I left my camera at school.)

3. My students and I are almost finished our read aloud of The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. They have been really enjoying it. Many of them have already seen the movie-so it is neat to watch them learn how much more detailed the book is compared to the movie.

4. Since I teach at a private Christian school my students and I spent the week doing different Easter activities. They each created one of these today and then enjoyed eating it while we watch a Veggie Tales movie.
An empty tomb for kids.

5. Freebie Friday-Here is a freebie that I use with my kids when I teach synthesizing. It can be used as a bookmark or as a guide for kiddos to put into their reading notebooks to help guide their thinking. You can download it here.

Freebie Fridays

What are your plans for the weekend? Anyone else on spring break this week? Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reader's Notebook-Setup and Inference Freebie

One of the things I knew I needed to do when I set up a Reading Workshop in my classroom was a way to asses my students learning. I am not a fan of traditional worksheets, I never have been, so I knew I needed a creative way to assess my students.
After my online search I decided to try a Reader's Notebook. I broke my notebook up into four sections. The first section included a reading log. This is where students kept track of all the books they read. They also kept track of when they started a book and when they finished it.

The second section is our "abandoned book" log. This is where students keep track of the books they have abandoned (I taught a two mini-lessons on when we need to push through a book, and when we need to give it up.) I do this to help them discover any "bad habits" that they might have when it comes to book choices.

This log is right out of The Book Whisper

The third section of the notebook is our "to read" log. This is where I encourage the kids to write books they know they want to read that they are either waiting to be published, or they are waiting for a friend to finish it first.
The final section (which is about 90% of the notebook) is our reading response section. This is where students keep notes on our mini-lessons.  For example, here is an inference chart that I use with my kiddos when I first teach inferences with them. It is a simple chart, but it helps some of them.
This section is also where they write a weekly letter to me about what they are reading. Their letter also needs to show me how they are using the skill we are learning about that week while they read.

How do you assess your students during Reading Workshop? What types of Graphic Organizers do you use? Check out Ideas by Jivey's Workshop Wednesday linky for more great graphic organizer ideas!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Reading Workshop-Taking the Plunge

Over the summer I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.
If you haven't read it, it is a must read! At the time I read this book, I had been teaching for eight years and had been toying with the idea of running a Reading Workshop in my classroom. I had sucessfully run a Writing Workshop for a number of years, but I was scared to try a Reading Workshop...I had so many questions running through my head. Did I have enough books in my classroom library to appeal to my students? Would my students learn the skills they needed to learn in a Reading Workshop? How would I asses my students to know that they were really learning? Reading Miller's book helped me decide to take the plunge.

Over the summer, I read countless blogs and searched on Pinterest for Reading Workshop ideas. When the school year started I was so thankful I decided to try it. My class was made up of three students well below grade level, three way above grade level and the rest of them falling somewhere in between. Having such a huge span of reading abilities made doing a Reading Workshop a huge blessing. My students were able to read books they enjoyed and that were on their level. I was also freed up to meet with students individual or in small groups to help strengthen their abilities.

The beginning of the year was a slow and steady start. The students and I brainstormed the first few days about what our workshop should look like and sound like.
Our class created "looks like, sounds like" chart
We also talked about how to find our "just right books." This was a struggle for some of my kids. I spent the first week helping my students find books after the mini lesson instead of conferencing to help my kiddos find "just write books" they could enjoy.
Student reading on our class ipad
One boy in particular had a hard time finding books. Every book I showed him was shot down. "I don't like to read Mrs. Hunter." So after a few days I finally got him to settle down and read Captain Underpants. That was all he needed, he read through the entire series and moved onto the Bone series. He is now reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid and I couldn't be happier! (He would still rather play video games or be outside than read, but he does read quietly for 30 min. each day during our Reading Workshop! Talk about a turn around!)
In his comfy reading "nook"
Reading Workshop is helping to develop a love of reading in my students, but how do I assess them? I'll share more on that topic later this week. Do any of you use a Reading Workshop approach to teaching reading? What are your "go-to" books for your kiddos that hate to read?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Maniac Monday-Elapsed Time QR Code Freebie

It's the Monday before spring break for me...I can't begin to tell you how excited I am for a week off! I'm linking up with Classroom Freebies for Maniac Monday, as well as the Teaching Blog Addict for Freebie Friday (I can never seem to get my act together in time to post a freebie on Friday. Thankfully they leave the link open all weekend!)
I don't know about you, but my students really struggle with finding elapsed time. Some of them still struggle to read an analog clock. To help reenforce these skills I created these QR code cards. There are sixteen problems for the students to solve. Three of the cards are pictures of clocks and I ask them what time the clock shows. The other 13 cards are finding elapsed time, or using elapsed time to figure out when something starts or ends. You can download the cards here. 

If you use them, be sure to let me know what you think! Don't forget to check out the other awesome freebies people are sharing this week.
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Freebie Fridays

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Let's Get Acquainted-Two Truths and a Lie

 Flying into First is hosting another links party to help us all get acquainted and learn more about our fellow blogging buddies. This week's topic is two truths and a lie. This is a fun game I play with my students to start the year. It helps us to get to know each other and to build a classroom community. Here are my three statements...can you find my lie?
1. When I was five I almost lost the tips of my fingers by climbing up a metal cabinet in my parents kitchen.
2. I've always wanted to be a teacher, except for the six months when I was ten and wanted to be an astronaut.
3. I've never traveled outside of the United States.

Leave a comment and let me know which one you think is my lie. Don't forget to join the linky party at Flying into First Grade and get to know your fellow bloggers.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pi Day

Thursday, March 14th is a favorite math day of mine. Most of my students have no idea that it is Pi Day, so they are always pleasantly surprised! It's a perk of teaching younger kiddos.
Our Pi Day started out as a normal day. In math class, we took a break from decimals and spent some time learning about circles and measuring angles. We watched a great Brain-pop video on circles that introduced us to Pi.

Then in the afternoon we had our Pi Day celebration. I started off by watching the Brain-pop video on Pi. It gets my students thinking, even though some of it is a lot more detailed than we get into as 4th graders. My students then had the chance to experiment. They measured different cylinder items (salt, Clorox wipes, soup can, and a spice container.) The students measured the diameter of each item and the circumference.

Once every group had measured every item we took the time to "notice" the relationship between the diameter and circumference. The students then help me measure the diameter of our ice cream pie and we determine the circumference using Pi. The students then get a nice big piece of pie to eat while I read the book Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi. I love this book because it explains Pi in a kid friendly way.

 Once the book is finished the students can do a number of different activities, Pi word search, crossword, or just color a picture of the Pi symbol. It was a great way to end the day! What is your favorite way to celebrate Pi Day?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Five for Friday

It is Friday, and boy has it been a long week! One more week and then it is spring break for me. Let me tell you, I can't wait. I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for the Five for Friday today.

 1. On Monday my poor computer died. The hard drive totally kicked the bucket. Thankfully I save most of my work/creations in my drop box...that way I can access things at home and at school, so the work I lost was minimal. The sad part is that I am not stuck to our desktop to work when I am home until we can go out and find a deal on a good laptop.  
 Carshed Computer
2. On Tuesday I had a new student join my class. It is funny how much one child can "upset" the balance of a room. This is his third school this he is needing a lot of help and guidance to adjust. I'm thankful I have some great students who are totally taking him under their wing. 

3. My students and I used Suffix Task Cards to help us practice for our PSSA testing that is coming in a few short weeks. You can read more about how I use task cards here.
4. Pi day was on Thursday! My students and I celebrated the day with a lot of different and fun activities. I'll be doing a separate blog post about it later this weekend. But here is a sneak peek at a picture from our Pi celebration:

 5. Today I was a chaperone on a field trip with 17 students from grades 1-5 who participated in a regional Speech Meet competition. The students had to learn a Bible passage, poem, fable, or patriotic speech to present to judges. The students all did a fantastic job! I was so proud of them all.

That was my weekly five, and I am glad the week is over. I'm ready for bed! Don't forget to link up and share your weekly five!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Get to know me-linky

I'm linking up with Flying into First for her "Get to know you" linky party. Her idea is to share three things about yourself using your initials. My initials are BAH
 B-Big Bang Theory-I just finished watching the new episode it is totally on my mind. It's a great show that cracks me up-which is a much needed thing on a Thursday night!

A-Aunt-I am an aunt and I love it. My husband and I don't have our own children yet, so being an aunt to my adorable niece and nephew are the next best thing.
H-Hours to read. I love to read, and always have. When I have had a long day the best way for me to unwind is to get lost in a good book. I read a lot of middle grade level books because I like to talk books with my students. I'm also on a Dystopian book kick right now-and thankfully for me because of The Hunger Games there are a lot of new dystopian books to read!

What do your initials tell us about you? 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wednesday Workshop-Math Games

It’s Wednesday, and I am linking up with Jivey from Ideas by Jivey for her Wednesday Workshop. Today it is all about math games…what do your students like to play during math time?

My kiddos have three favorites that are the go-to games. The first is War. (You have got to love the simple games.) I start the year by having the students write ten numbers in standard form on index cards. I then have them write those same ten numbers in expanded form on index cards. The students shuffle them together and play war against a classmate. It is great because it makes them compare numbers in multiple forms. The kids will also play multiplication and division war using math fact cards. Most recently I’ve had them play decimal and fraction war. The kids enjoy it so much that I had three of them playing it at indoor recess yesterday.

Another game my kids love is Countdown. It was donated to my classroom two years ago so I don’t know if you can still find it, but it is worth it if you can find it.

The goal of the game is for kids to put all of their wooden number tiles up first. To play you roll two dice and then add, subtract, multiply, or divide the numbers your rolled to equal your wooden number tiles. It is another great way to practice your facts.

A third game is called Sumoku. It is a game of multiples. You roll a die and then need to create a number puzzle using titles. The key is that when you add up the number tiles they need to equal a multiple of the number you rolled. There is even a Sumoku app that my kids play on our class ipad. I must admit-this game is a favorite of mine…I’ve been known to play it with them during indoor recess.

What are your students’ favorite math games?