Saturday, August 31, 2013

Spark Student Motivation-Graph Yourself

It's Saturday! I honestly believe I forget how glorious Saturdays are during the summer (probably because almost every day feels like a Saturday.) So when back to school hits I remember that there is something so sweet about sipping a cup of coffee and catching up on my blog reading on a Saturday morning!

In yesterday's post, I shared that my students graphed themselves, and I received quite a few comments and questions about it so I wanted to elaborate a little bit more today. The activity is very motivating for my kiddos (and for me) so I am going to link up with the fabulous Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching.

Those of you that have read my blog for a little while know that my school is big on differentiation. Earlier this summer I briefly shared about the graphing activity and the book that it came from, you can check it out here.
It is a quick and easy activity that really allows your kiddos to get to know each other, and for you to get to know them quickly. I start by giving giving each student a piece of graph paper that has been set up to create a bar graph. Along the Y-axis I have the graph numbered 0-10. Along the X-axis I have the following subjects written down; math, reading, science, social studies, writing, spelling, and art. I also have three blank spots where students can fill in activities/subjects they would like to add to their graph.

Before I allow the students to make their graph, I graph myself. I model my thinking and explain why I scored myself a 7 in math, a 10 in reading, and a 4 in spelling (I was an awful speller as a kid and it is still my weakest area.) The kids are always surprised that I score myself so low in spelling. (I'm also low in art, I give myself a score of 2!) The fact that I am honest in my graph with them encourages them to be more honest about their graphs.

I have them silently graph themselves, reminding them to be honest about where they think they are on the graph. 10 being really strong, 1 being very weak. As they graph, I walk around and get a quick look at where they think they are in the major subject areas.

When everyone is finished I have them share with the entire class their two strongest categories (normally at least one of them is one that they added-which lets me quickly hear and see something they really enjoy doing.) Once everyone has shared, I ask the kids what they notice-they normally notice that everyone has different things listed as a strength.
Not sure if you can see it, but this little boy wrote help under his two weakest areas.

We then share our lowest two (I don't ask them to share the number they gave it out loud, just the name of the subject.) These are normally both academic subjects. I ask the kids what they notice again once everyone has shared. Everyone has different weaknesses is normally what we are able to come up with.

At this point, I ask my students what should I do as I teacher? How should I teach them if some of them are strong in one topic, but others are weak? They normally tell me that I need to spend time working with the kids that struggle a little more than those that don't. They also come to an agreement that they may be doing different assignments than the person next to them based on their ability! This is where I talk with them about how important it is to be kind and encouraging in our classroom. I remind them that we are a family and we need to support each other. We will never laugh when someone makes a mistake, because our classroom is a place where it is "Okay to be wrong." After our discussion I collect the graphs so I can get a good look at them.

I like doing this activity so early in the year because it really lets me get to know my kids, and it establishes the tone for our classroom. This activity helps them understand differentiation at an age appropriate level, and helps them understand that fair isn't everyone doing the same thing, but it is everyone getting what they need.

Do you have your students share their strengths and weaknesses with each other? How do you build your community at the start of the school year?

Don't forget to enter my Back to School Giveaway!

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Five for Friday-First Week Down and a Giveaway!

It is Friday, we made it! For some reason every year I forget how exhausting the first week of school is. I can't believe my last post was Monday! I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday linky.
Back to school is always a busy time. My students and I spend most of the week setting up our interactive notebooks, working on our Penny Book Project, and establishing our classroom community.

We saved Fred.

We graphed our strengths and weakness and brainstormed how they think I should teach them based on their graphs. (It really is brilliant what kids can come up with if we give them the chance!)

We also learned how to play SCOOT using these task cards.
I've also been busy creating. I purchased a lot of great Common Core aligned items from TPT, but I haven't found a culminating assessment that contains all the standards for that topic in one "test." So I decided to make my own. So far I've only created assessments for Number Base Ten and Operations and Algebraic Thinking. I'm planning to work on the Fractions Assessment this weekend. You can check them out in my TPT store.

I'm also excited to hold a Back to School Giveaway! You can win your very own Quietest Classroom Sharpener.
My new class is LOVING our sharpener, and I am excited that you can get the sharpener in pink! You must live in the USA to win the sharpener (sorry international friends!)

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What have you been up to this week?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Just a Few of My Favorite Things-SLANT Box Exchange

It is Monday! That means I have a few hours this morning to finish my room and then we have our Open House! School starts tomorrow! I know I will never sleep tonight!

In other new, SLANT is here! Last month I signed up to participate in a fun blogger exchange set up by Jameson at Lessons with Coffee. SLANT stands for Sending Love Across the Nation to Teachers.I don't know what it is about packages, but whenever one comes to my door I feel like it is Christmas! Most of the time I know what is in it, due to my book obsession, so when I receive a surprise package I can barely handle it.

The SLANT Box Exchange

Saturday, I received my package from Laura at Learning, Lessons, and Life! The theme this month was "My favorite things" so I was really excited to see what would be in my package.

Laura sent me an amazing package. The package included two snack bags and a pencil pouch that she made (in my favorite colors!)

I also received tons of fun pens, sharpies, post-its, and notepads, as well as York pieces perfect for that afternoon pick-me-up!

I really enjoyed getting to know Laura during this project. It was fun to make a new blogging friend! Thanks Laura for the amazing package!

If you are interested in participating in a SLANT exchange, be sure to head over to Jameson's blog to learn more about it. (There is a new sign-up going on right now so be sure to check it out.)

What are a few of your favorite things?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

You Wouldn't Want to Sail on the Mayflower-Mentor Text

Happy Sunday! I'm off to church, but I wanted to link up with Collaboration Cuties and with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching this morning.
When I remember social studies as a kid I have very negative memories. We read from a textbook, did worksheets, and took tests...there was nothing fun or exciting until my 10th grade year. I had a teacher who made history come alive! After taking his class, I knew I wanted my kiddos to enjoy, not dread social studies time.
Using Mentor Text instead of our textbook is one of the ways I like to make it more exciting. You Wouldn't Want to Sail on the Mayflower by Peter Cook is a favorite of my students. This book is full of interesting and surprising information about the Mayflower.

You Wouldn't Want to Sail on the Mayflower! (Revised Edition)

One thing that I love about this book is that it covers facts that my kiddos didn't learn when they were younger. They know the basic story of the Pilgrims, but this lets them see how hard it really was. I normally share parts of this book with the class and then put it on display for the kids to read during Reading Workshop. It is one of those books that they go back to time and time again!

This book is actually one of the books that inspired me to make my Pilgrim Dice Simulation.

What are your favorite social studies mentor texts? How do you motivate your kiddos to learn?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Five for Friday-Classroom Reveal and Dice Simulations

Happy Friday! It is the Friday before school starts and I have had a busy week! I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for her Five for Friday Linky.

I have spent the week working at school and I am finally ready to share my classroom with you! I don't have any name-tags or chair pockets yet because I may have another student or two join us. I like to keep my kiddos in alphabetical order so I'm waiting until the last min. to add those finishing touches.

My Desk area-don't mind the piles
View of the classroom from my desk

Our reading area

Putting my cabinets to good use

Student cubbies

Front of the room (from the back)

Back of the room (from the front)

View when you first walk in the room
 Thanks to those of you that prayed for my husband. He is doing much better. He has a follow-up appointment in two weeks, just to check in and make sure he is still headache free.

I've been busy creating this week. I created two simulations that I plan to use in social studies this year. They are a one-day simulation designed to enhance your unit of study. The first two people to comment-letting me know which simulation they would use in their classroom will receive them for free. Please be sure that you aren't a no-reply blogger. If you are please be sure to leave your e-mail so I can get the product to you!

Don't forget to checkout my Facebook page for your fan freebie!

What have you been up to this week?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tried it Tuesday-Facebook Fan Freebie

Well, yesterday did not go as planned. I was supposed to go to school for teacher workday. Instead I spent the day with a very sick husband. After a doctor visit, chiropractor visit, and a CT scan, all tests are coming up clean. By the afternoon he was able to keep food down (and medicine) so I was thankful for small blessings. He still feels off this morning-so my praying friends, if you would offer up a prayer for him I would appreciate it. He went to work today but three days with a migraine is enough to drive anyone crazy.

While he was napping yesterday, I was able to play around on Facebook and set up a Fan Freebie Page. I followed the video tutorial Ideas By Jivey shared on her blog when she created hers. The video makes it extremely easy to set up and Jivey's extra notes at the bottom make it easy to edit the picture for the Freebie Tab. I don't have paint (the program Jivey used) so I uploaded the drawing to and was able to size the picture there.

You can head over to my Facebook page and download one of my newest products on TPT for free.
 (If you download it, let me know that it worked for you!)

Special thanks to Holly for running Tried it Tuesday. It helps to motivate me to try new things that I normally would avoid!

What have you tried recently?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Science Mentor Text-Explore the Biome Series and a freebie

Happy Sunday! I am excited to link up with Collaboration Cuties for their Must Read Mentor Text linky. This linky party is dangerous for my bank (and with the TPT sale going on this weekend I have a feeling this is going to be an expensive day for me!)

The book I want to share with you is actually a series. Explore the Biome Series by Linda Tagliaferro.

In fourth grade we briefly study landforms in both science and social studies. We also learn about ecosystems on our overnight camping trip, so I like to complete a biome project with my kiddos. I blogged briefly about this project before, you can read about it here. I like to use this series to teach my kiddos how to research. They are full of fun facts about different parts of the biome, like the plants, animals, landforms, climate etc. The other thing that I love is that it is written for 8-10 year olds, so even my lower level kids can read these books without a problem. 

If you are interested in doing a Biome Research Project with your kiddos you can download the plan sheet that I use with my kiddos for free here.


What are your favorite science mentor texts to share with your kiddos?

I'm off to do some shopping on TPT. Be sure to use the code BTS13 to receive your extra 10% off! 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Spark Student Motivation-We Heard it Through the Grapevine

Happy Saturday! Sorry that I have been so MIA this week. This is my last weekend before I officially have to be at school! New teachers start their orientation on Monday and returning teacher's have to report for a workday. Most of us have been there all week this past week working on our rooms, but there is always so much to do (plus a lot of fun catching up to do!) Our first official meetings are on Wednesday.
Before I head out to dinner to celebrate my anniversary with my wonderful husband I want to link up with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Spark Student Motivation Saturday Linky.

One project that I am going to do with my kiddos this year to motivate them from the first day is this activity from Adventures of Room 129. Since I teach at a small private school most of the kids know of me, and they know about the fun projects fourth graders do (wiring electric houses, trip to Harrisburg, overnight camping trip, just to name a few.) There are always a few new students that join us that have no idea what exciting things they will be able to participate in. So to help get to know each other, and to build excitement for the coming year, we are going to do the "We Heard it Through the Grapevine" bulletin board.

The board pictured above is from Adventures of Room 129. You can click the picture to go to her blog post about the activity.

What are you looking forward to doing with your kids to spark their motivation at the start of the year?  Be sure to visit Joanne for other motivating ideas!