Sunday, November 24, 2013

How Many Days to America-Mentor Text

Happy Sunday before Thanksgiving! As busy as this time of year is, I really do love it. I love the extra time we have to celebrate with friends and family. I love that we have a day that reminds us to be thankful for the little things.

Because I teach in a very "middle class" area. I like to remind my students to be thankful for all the little things as well. To help them with this I like to share a book with them this time of year by Eve Bunting. How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story is a wonderful book to use during Reading Workshop.
 How Many Days to America?: A Thanksgiving Story

This book tells the story of a family leaving their country and heading to America by boat. They are trying to escape their home country because "they don't think the same way." The book ends with the family making it to America on Thanksgiving Day.


It lends itself to all types of reading skills, inferring, questioning, connections, etc. I like to use this book with my students in a lesson called "Reading is Thinking." This is where my students are encouraged to think using all the skills we have taught them, not just the skill we are focused on for the week.
 What are your favorite social studies mentor text to share this time of year? Do you have a favorite informational Thanksgiving book you share with your class? Be sure to head over to Collaboration Cuties to grab some new mentor text suggestions! (Just think, with Amazon's cyber Monday sale you can pick up some new books for a great price! Anyone else have a cart waiting for the sale?)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Spark Student Motivation-Publishing a Class Book

Happy Saturday! I can't believe it has been almost a week since I last posted. We had our first round of parent/teacher conferences this week. Putting in a 14 hour day just about kills me every year. I always feel bad for my last conference, I don't think I always speak in complete sentences. Monday we finish up our conferences (Thankfully this should only be a 13 hour day!)
Today I'm excited to link up with the fabulous Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching. I apologize now for the lack of pictures...but I forgot my camera at school.

My students and I are currently working on a class book. "A Day in the Life of Bubble Gum." On Monday, we worked together to brainstorm things that could happen to a piece of gum.We then created an outline for our book, each student choosing one page of the book to write.
On Tuesday the students wrote their first draft of their page and then worked with the people the page before and after them to make sure their page flowed.

On Wednesday, I read the story to the class page by page, we "tweaked" the story as needed to have it all make sense. For the rest of the week the students and I worked to have them write their final copy.

This week I will send our final copy to Student Treasures. This company will publish one class book for free. Parents can order a copy of the book for themselves and if every parent signs a paper the company will send you a free copy of the book.

Interested in publishing a class book? Check out the company, and order your free kit. (Please note that I am not getting anything for telling you about this company, I just know how much my students are loving this project.)
Studentreasures Book Publishing

Working on a class book has really helped my students stay motivated during writing time this week...and considering how hard it is to concentrate before a break, I'd count it as a huge success.

What do you do to motivate your students to write? How do you help keep your students on task when vacation is on the horizon?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip Mentor Text

Those of you that read my blog regularly, know that we are in the middle of our electricity unit in science. The mentor text I want to share with you today is one that I will be reading to my kiddos later this week.
The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip (Magic School Bus Series)

The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip by Joanna Cole is a perfect book to share with my kiddos during our unit. My students are very familiar with Magic School Bus books and videos. As fourth graders they have watched/read a lot of them over the years, but this one tends to be new for most of them. This books teaches how electricity travels through towns to light up our homes and the items in our homes.
The Magic School Bus Series 4 Gets Charged - Electricity
After we read this story we will watch The Magic School Bus Gets Charged. It's a great way to review the parts of a circuit (and is perfect for my science class on Friday afternoon since I have conferences until 9pm on Thursday night! Anyone else have a ridiculous parent/teach conference schedule this year?) This video is on Youtube here. I actually bought the entire series of Magic School Bus videos for $39 this summer on Amazon.
What are your favorite science mentor texts? Be sure to check out the lovey ladies at Collaboration Cuties to find more mentor text suggestions.
That's a little Peek at My Week, head over to Jennifer's blog to see what some other bloggers are up to.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Student Discovery in Science-Spark Student Motivation

It's Saturday, and I'm linking up with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching to share one thing we did this week that really motivated my students.
As I have shared before, we are in the middle of our electricity unit in science. Each year my students always love this unit more than any others that I teach in fourth grade. This week as I was watching my students in class perform our experiments I had an epiphany...I give my students time to discover. I don't give them all the step-by-step directions that come with each experiment. Instead I give them the bare basics and ask them to figure it out, and they love the challenge.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. To introduce my kiddos to circuits they each receive a small wire, a battery, and a light bulb. I ask them to make it light. I tell them there are four ways you can hold it to make it light so when they find one way, try to find the other way. Here are a few pictures of them experimenting (sorry they are so dark, we had all the lights off so we could really "tell" if we made our light bulb light.)

After about 5 min. I gave them a hint and let them get back to figuring it out. Normally one or two are able to make it light after one hint and that spurs the others on. After 5 more min. I make one light and quietly walking around the classroom. The students who want more help will get up and look at how I am holding it, those that really want to figure it out themselves will ignore me. (This is the one time I tell them they can ignore me.) Once we all get it we discuss what we have discovered. It is a favorite of all my students.

With all of the "things" we need to cover I know it is hard to give students that time to figure things like this out on their own, but they are so motivated by it.

When and how do you give your students time to discover? How do you motivated your students?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five for Friday-What a busy week!

It's Friday! I'm excited to link up with Doddle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday this week.

It's been a busy week. What is it about this time of year that makes life crazy?
On Monday we celebrated the 50th Day of School.

We also started building our electric circuits. I'll blog more about this tomorrow.

We made some fun new foldables to help us practice contractions.

The SLANT Box Exchange
I also received my Slant Box yesterday!
Marcy from Searching for Teacher Balance gave me the sweetest box. I am so excited to read Thanksgiving is... to my kids next week!

She has a wonderful 1st grade blog. Be sure to check it out!

Finally, I signed up for a post card exchange a few months ago. We received our first post card this week, (thank you Washington!) It's up on our United States bulletin board. My kiddos are so excited to receive the others!

What have you been up to this week?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Flashback to the 1950s? Oh, it's just the 50th day of school

It's Tuesday, and I am excited to have my act together enough to link up with Holly for her Tried it Tuesday linky!
We celebrated our 50th day of school yesterday. The 50th day normally passes by without any acknowledgement from me, until this year. Our kindergarten teacher came up with a fabulous idea that the rest of the classes jumped in on. We dressed like 1950s!

My boys came in with slicked back hair, rolled up jeans and t-shirts on. A few of them had leather jackets or button up sweaters. A few of my girls wore poodle skirts, the rest had rolled jeans and cute shirts with scarves on their necks.

My kiddos are so cute, don't you agree? (I do know I am totally biased!)

I also created a little 50th Day of School question page that my kiddos filled out while they ate 50 M&Ms. You can grab it by clicking the link or the picture below.
Do you do anything to celebrate the 50th day? What activities do you do?

Monday, November 11, 2013

All Things Upper Elementary-Guest Post

Happy Monday everyone! Just a quick post to share that I am the guest blogger at All Things Upper Elementary today.
All Things Upper Elementary
If you haven't checked out their blog, I highly recommend it.  It is a wonderful place to get practical tips and ideas that you can use in your classroom. Head over there and check out my post on synthesizing.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fraction Mentor Text-The Hershey's Fractions Book

Happy Sunday everyone! I am triple dipping today in linky parties today in a hope to catch up from this busy week! First I'm linking up with Collaboration Cuties to share a Math mentor text with you and with Ideas by Jivey to share how I introduce fractions in my classroom.
The Hershey's Milk Chocolate Fractions Book by Jerry Pallotta. This is a book that I know many have shared before, but I am looking forward to starting this unit with my kiddos soon.
I love using this book when I introduce fractions to my kiddos. I purchase a large pack of Hershey bars so that each student can have their own bar to work with. I put the book on our Elmo and we go through making each of the fractions with our candy bars.
Once we finish using the candy bars we are able to eat them. Anytime I use food in my classroom my kiddos are highly motivated. We have math in the morning, and I don't allow my students to eat candy before lunch-so the fact that they can eat part of the chocolate bar during math is a really big deal for them.
This year I am excited to use Jessica's Chocolate Bar Fraction Activity Packet with my kiddos as well.
 Chocolate Bar Fractions Activity Packet
I also give my students a paper set of fraction bars to keep in their notebook. I updated my set of fraction bars so they only include the denominators (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12) required by the Common Core. You can grab them here for free.

What do you do to introduce fractions to your students? Do you ever use food to motivate them?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

KWL Chart Carousel Style-Thursday Throw Down

Happy Thursday everyone! This week is flying by...I am way behind in my blogging, but I am excited to quickly link up with Erin at I'm Lovin Lit for her Thursday Throw Down.
This week we started science...finally! My school alternates science and social studies each marking period. My kiddos have anxiously been awaiting all of the exciting science activities, and to be honest I've been waiting for it too.

Our first unit is electricity. There are a ton of fun hands-on experiments that my students are able to do in this unit, but that is after I spend the first lesson laying the groundwork.

To make the first lesson a little more interactive I have my kiddos complete the KW of a KWL chart in a carousel activity. To do this, I write "What I know about electricity" and "What I want to know about electricity" on pieces of chart paper. I hang the chart paper around my room. (I write each question twice, so I hang the chart paper in the four corners of my room.)

The students are each given a marker and they rotate with their group to each chart paper. This means they hit the "what I know" and "want to know" twice.

As they rotate they add to the chart. Each person takes a turn adding their thoughts to the chart.

If someone already wrote their idea/question they put a tally mark by it. They can add more than one.
After every group has had a turn at each chart the students come back and jot down two things they know and two things they want to know about electricity into their notebook to keep as a record of the activity. It's a fun and easy way for me to preassess them. It lets me see what they know, as well as any misconceptions they have about electricity (like Ben Franklin "made" it.)

What do you do to make your lessons more interactive? Have any of you done a "carousel" before in your classroom?