Sunday, April 6, 2014

Peek at my week, Spark Motivation, Pin to Win, & Pure Excitement!!

If you've been reading my blog lately, you've seen my class working hard on opinion writing! They've actually gotten quite good at it! I'm happy to say 100% of my students have finished their restaurant essays and sent them off to their favorite restaurants! I didn't think if this before, but we should have included our email addresses, what companies actually write letters?

Friday, when I came home from a horribly long week if school, I peeked at my phone and noticed I had NINE new school emails! I was not excited and immediately thought the worst. 

http://www.headoverheelsforteaching.blogspot.com/
To my surprise, I received an email from a manager of a restaurant in NYC that one my students wrote to! He looked up the school online (from the return address we used), found my name, and emailed me from the website! He was so touched by my student's essay he read it out loud at his staff meeting and now has it displayed proudly in the restaurant! In my student's letter, she stated her favorite dessert, in the world, is this restaurant's cheesecake! He is SENDING her a whole cheesecake next week, as a surprise! Talk about motivating!!! This student is seriously going to freak out, along with the rest of my class! I couldn't be more proud of my 46 little writers! How cool is it for them to get the real world connection in this simple opinion piece?! This was SUCH a motivating activity for my students and for me to take the extra step, I am considering it for Joanne's linky for Student Motivation this week!

The next step will be writing "Thank you" notes to the companies we hear back from! 

http://mrslaffinslaughings.blogspot.com/
Now to take a quick Peek at my Week! Monday our report cards are going home and conferences go on the the week. We have mostly half days this week, so it will fly by. Conferences are usually extra exhausting, but luckily, I have a lot of work to show off to parents! We are having three half days and still taking the SBAC tests next week. We are also having visitors from a nature center come into the classroom to "bring" science to us! We always have fun when they come!! 

While we finish our revolutionary unit, the students will be writing their next opinion pieces choosing the most inspirational revolutionary. They will use the notes we took and charted and refer back to articles, books, charts, and foldables for evidence! 

I'm excited because I'm pretty much over planned for the week! I know I always have a great week if I'm excited about what I'm teaching and well prepared. I'm starting off the week with my new morning work weekly packet. This spring themed packet focuses daily on contractions! I still have a handful if students who don't use apostrophes and others who choose to write "diddent" or "isent"...which drives me bonkers! I made five worksheets focusing on contractions through different activities and Friday's sheet will count as a quiz! I made the worksheets fun to complete and quick to verbally go over. The first work sheet includes info about the new topic or idea and there is an answer sheet for each page! Sounds good, huh? Check it out... here!


http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/4th-Grade-ELA-Morning-WorkBell-Work-April-Themed-Contraction-work-sheets-1195487

I plan on making my morning work focus on different topics weekly and will bundle them together monthly and for the year. Want to test out this week's work? Let's play PIN IT TO WIN IT! 

Simply pin the above image and leave a comment with the link of your pin. I will choose a few people TONIGHT to send the file to! 

Have a great week teacher friends! ONE MORE WEEK UNTIL SPRING BREAK! :) 


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Spark Motivation: Scanning work to send to parents!

http://www.headoverheelsforteaching.blogspot.com/I'm linking up with my BBB Joanne over at Head Over Heels for Teaching for Spark Motivation Saturday for a quick post. One of my favorite subjects to teach is Writing and I really try to convey that to my students to make them understand that writing can be fun. At the beginning of the year, I always have my new students complete a student interest survey. They rank their subjects in school from favorite to most dreaded. Writing is always either at the top or bottom of everyone's list, students either love it or hate it. I make it my goal to make the results of my end of the year survey with 100% of students to NOT put writing on the bottom of their list. I love making writing fun for the students because honestly, I don't want to read boring essays that lack personality, motivation, and enthusiasm. If you have been following my blog, you know we were working on finishing up opinion writing this week. We finished our "My Favorite Restaurant" essays in one class and are sending them out on Monday (the kids are hoping for a letter/gift card/coupon back- haha)

One of my sweet little boys, that does not have ANY interest in reading OR writing, worked his little tail off this week. He loves food and when he is involved in a conversation about pizza, his face lights up. When he found out he was allowed to write an opinion piece about his favorite restaurant and was actually going to send the restaurant the essay, that was the motivation he needed to start writing. At the beginning of the year, this little guy would erase his letters over and over and not make it past a few choppy sentences before bursting into tears. Check out his essay now! 


  
Seriously, he wrote this THREE times before he was happy with it. Is it perfect? No, but it is amazing for him and I sure let him know it. I told him that I was so proud of him, I scanned it and emailed it to his mother with an awesome note! He had a huge smile on his face, as he high fived me and said, "Maybe she will let us order from Pizza Hut tonight!?" 

 Our amazing new copy machines scan papers and email them to anyone. It's perfect to email worksheets to myself to project on the Smart Board, but now I just realized (duh!) I can send home student work super fast! I actually keep a lot of writing examples and paper throughout the year, so parents don't get to see EVERYTHING. This is a great way to keep certain parents informed of progress. 

I do send home weekly parent email newsletters, but I am also making this a new goal for the remainder of the year: email one or two parents a sample of their child's work and a positive note, every Friday. I think it will be a great way to motivate my students to see who is going to end up with the positive parent email! :) 

Have a great Saturday friends! :)
 

Friday, March 28, 2014

April Blog Follower Only Freebie, 5 for Friday, & Poetry!

http://doodlebugsteaching.blogspot.com/
Hello Friday! Boy am I thrilled to see you! This was the LONGEST week EVER. I am still excited to link up with Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday! 

  I will try to keep this short!

#1. Let's see...If you read my plans from a few days ago, you knew I had a busy week. Well, the blizzard missed us, but my kids and I were sick. I felt like I got hit by a truck and came home Tuesday morning early from school (with the kids) and was out Wednesday. Of course Wednesday night (when I finally started feeling better) my four year old decided her ears NOW hurt. My lovely husband (who is also a teacher) stayed home Thursday and took both kids to the doctor. They both had a double ear infection and sinus infection. My four year old also has the start of pink eye. Joy! So needless to say...we really need the weekend AND some nice weather so we can actually open windows around here!

#2. Because of the above, I was struggling with sub plans. This made me want to FINALLY get my sub binder together. Over a year ago I ended up winning a blog giveaway and won Jivey's Editable Sub Binder, which I finally put to good use. I love the way it came out. It was super easy to fill in and printed out so perfect! I even included four days worth of activities/plans just in case I am out unexpectedly again. There is nothing worse than texting plans with a pounding headache after being up all night!


#3. 8 Days until my birthday! ;)

#4. Don't forget about the great deal at Educents! You can get the huge Poetry Bundle at a super price! It totally hooks you up for April and there are a ton of activities you can even put in your sub folder! ;)

http://www.educents.com/#pinkadots

#5. Time for a freebie! Keeping on the poetry theme, I wanted to make my students a menu of choice for writing when they finish their work. I plan on printing and copying this menu at 75% so it fits in the students' writing notebooks. They can go back to it whenever they have a second. I made some challenging and some easy. Overall, I think it looks really fun and I know my students are going to be excited to use it all through April! I hope you like it! :) 

Click on the picture below to grab your own for free! Be sure to leave me some feedback and let me know how your students liked it! :) 

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/What-to-do-when-Im-done-Poetry-Edition-JournalPoem-Writing-Freebie-1181916



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Stressful Peek at My Week!

Hello Friends, I am linking up today with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings, the linky that I have a love/hate relationship with. I feel fine with my plans until I start writing about them and see how much I need to get through. I must admit I am stressed out as I look over my lesson plans for the week. We are starting our NEW state (SBAC) tests, have a field trip, and have to get report cards ready...ALL while waiting to see if we are going to get hit with a blizzard. I am really done with snow. We had a few nice days here in Connecticut that seemed to melt most of the snow away, but lately the temperature has been below freezing almost. I just want Spring!!!

Since report cards are going out in the next few weeks and parent/teacher conferences are coming up, we are working on finishing up a lot of projects in the classroom.

We are going to finish, peer edit, publish and SEND our "My Favorite Restaurant" opinion pieces this week. The students begged me to send them to the restaurants in hopes of getting something in return. They are going to spend some time on the I-Pads researching information about where to send their essays when they are complete. I'm hoping for a reply from the local restaurants at least! I actually purchased this opinion packet from Lisa Lilienthal's TPT store over a year ago and forgot about it. It has everything you'd ever need to create this essay with your students.


As you can see we have a lot of work left on this piece. I scanned these plans in through the copy machine and will show them to the students on Monday. (My students all agree ahead of time to let me use their work to teach the class. I never use it to embarrass students and it is always anonymous, unless the student yells, "Hey, THAT'S MINE!" or "Ooops!") Student A: (on the left) followed directions and made a helpful and correct plan. Student B: (on the right) needs some help with this plan because it will not help him when it comes time for writing. Looking at the plans this weekend, also allowed me to form a small group, of students who need to REDO the plan, on Monday. We work a lot on note taking with bullet points so that is a must for a quick and efficient planning. 


http://www.educents.com/#pinkadotsWe will also be finishing our novel, Riding Freedom, at the perfect time! The last project in my Riding Freedom unit is to create a board game based on details from the book. This is a great low-stress activity to complete during state tests. I think the students are going to have fun and use a ton of skills while creating their game.

My students have been working on idioms for a while now and it is time to take our test on Thursday.
We've been playing, "I have, who has" with Jivey's idiom matching cards, which is included in this Educents Bundle and the students LOVE it. They literally ask to play throughout the day. Since I have two classes, I time them both. I write the best time out of three tries on the board and the other class tries to beat it. We will have a winner at the end of this week. It started off taking the classes SIX minutes to go through around fifty cards and now it is just over THREE minutes for each class. My favorite part is hearing the students use idioms in their everyday discussion. They are so creative.

http://www.educents.com/#pinkadots


Seriously if you haven't scooped us this awesome Poetry Packet yet, you need to! 

Oh yes, we also need to finish writing, proof reading, and coloring our poetry journals. We consider this fun work, so the students get to work on it as a reward for finishing other activities. We are going to give them to parents at conferences in a few weeks. They are ALSO included in the Educents Bundle!

http://www.educents.com/#pinkadots




We are headed to the State Capitol Building to take a tour for our field trip this week. It is seriously beautiful and there is SO much history involved. We do a ton of walking and even get to take a picnic lunch out on the lawn. We also walk across the street to see the Colt Firearms Museum. Kind of an odd place to take fourth graders, but it is full of American History. 

I have a lot to do in a short amount of time (I feel like I say this a lot), but I am pretty confident we will get through it.


 Question For My Amazing Friends:
I also want to start my new book clubs. How do you hold book clubs in your classroom? Are there any great books the students LOVE? I want something they haven't read yet, at a 4th grade reading level, and age appropriate. Any advice or tips will be appreciated. We are going to start NEXT Wednesday and cycle through two groups each (a push in reading support helper and myself) for thirty minutes each. I'd like to devote Wednesday to book clubs for the rest of the year.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Poetry Month is RIGHT around the corner! Are you ready?

 http://www.educents.com/#pinkadotsBesides April being our (YES, Robyn & I are both April babies!) birthday month, it is also my favorite
month because it is POETRY month. I love teaching, reading, and writing poetry. Unfortunately, it is sometimes hard to teach and hard for kids to understand. When I saw these pictures online, I literally LOL'ed. They are both something one of my students would do, especially if they were struggling with the concept. As you know, figurative language is a huge part of writing. Because of this, it is something I work on throughout the year. This year, my class has really showed a strong ability to incorporate and understand figurative language in everyday discussion and writing. I think my creative and reinforced lessons had a lot to do with it.

Just recently, we just created a St. Patrick's themed hallway bulletin board and incorporated idioms in the poems we wrote! (I will be telling more about this in a later post, but for now, I will show you the picture!) I really like the way it came out and was so proud of my students for showing their understanding of idioms in their poetry.



I've actually had my figurative language bulletin board up all year because I like seeing the students constantly referring to it! It has terms and definitions on the posters.


I really love using task cards in my classroom. It might sound boring, but my students love anything that is competitive and some turn task card time into a competition. Some students quiz each other on them for fun, while other students read through them for fun. I use main different types of task cards in the classroom and in fact, one of our most popular TPT items are our task cards! 


You are in luck...normally a set of 50 task cards are over $5.00 in our TPT store, but some friends and I have teamed up with Educents for an amazing bundle of instant downloads to teach about poetry and it will save you A LOT of money!

 http://www.educents.com/#pinkadots

Wouldn't it be great to have April planned? Look no further, this bundle will supplement the WHOLE month! I have three products included in this bundle and I am sure your students will love them all!

Those awesome task cards I just told you about...don't you worry, they are included! 

 http://www.educents.com/#pinkadots

My Student Poetry Journal is included too! This packet teaches students how to create TEN different types of fun poems. There are examples written by me and self-explanatory student templates. The pages were created in black & white for easy copying and perfect for student coloring. I can't pick a favorite type of poem to read or write, but these are ten of my (and my student's) favorites! In the past we have created journals with the poems and given them as gifts for Mother's Day or I've even shrunk the pages and added them to writing notebooks for students to continuously refer to.

 http://www.educents.com/#pinkadots

This year, we are going to have the journals ready to give out at conferences in a few weeks! The poems are coming out GREAT and will look even better when the adorable clip art is colored in! The students LOVE working on their poetry journal and even want to come in for working lunches to finish poems!


I've blogged a few times in the past {here & here} about this awesome Author's Craft Nonfiction Animal Poetry Unit and I'm happy to say it is included in the bundle as well! This unit is great because it comes with nonfiction articles, a giant list of charter traits, directions, student worksheets, and even a rubric!  I would highly suggest trying this out. If you are still hesitant, go read about how I used it in the classroom, here.

 http://www.educents.com/#pinkadots

See this awesome poster below? Although I introduced it in December, it stays on the wall for reference too! It is included in the Author's Craft Poetry Project and is a great resource!


For a limited time this amazing bundle is actually just $10.99 from Educents which is about 75% off!  It also includes these other great products, so there is sure to be something you love!  

And if you have never purchased from Educents before.. they always have a great deal for your first purchase. {Click here} if you are a first time purchaser to take advantage of a  special offer just for you!  



You can also take peek at some of the other products included in the bundle at any of the links below!


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Have fun teaching everyone!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Workshop Wednesday: What has worked well for me this year!?

http://ideasbyjivey.blogspot.com/2014/03/workshop-wednesday-neil-armstrong.htmlI was excited to be able to give a shout out to a teacher blogger who has helped me out tremendously this year, while linking up with Jivey's Workshop Wednesday. I love the fact that as a pretty creative TPT seller and a hard working teacher, I am able to share what I do in the classroom and inspire others through my blog. It makes me think that all of my hard work and efforts are paying off. This not only benefits the education of my students, but students around the world. As one little small person in this ginormous world, that is pretty inspiring to me!

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Common-Core-Weekly-Reading-Homework-3rd-4th-5th-Grade-Complete-Set-40-Texts-772040Anyways, I need to give a huge shout out to Antonia, from Forkin 4th, for making my life SO much easier. She created this homework bundle to cover 40 weeks of school. I bought it right before school started and copied it for the YEAR. Not only does it make me organized, but it teaches my students to be organized, plan ahead, and learn responsibility. On Monday, I give my students a copy of their homework packet and it is due back on Friday. Each packet includes a nonfiction or fiction based text with three pages of reading comprehension. The reading is repeated throughout the week and read out loud to a family member. This is a great way to get the parents involved with their child's education. We also correct the packet together every Friday. The students actually enjoy this work because they like having everything given to them at once. They can plan out their busy nights knowing they have to do extra homework one night, so there is no homework on another night. This is a great way to make students learn responsibility. It also keeps consistency in my life because I give a packet EVERY week. Because of this, I do not have many students who forget or simply skip out on homework. The readings are fun too. The texts range from a biography on Bruno Mars to fictional story about Lady Gobble, a Lady Gaga obsessed Turkey. The students AND parents enjoy these every week. They are happy, which makes my life happy.

So thanks Antonia for making my life easier! I am excited to see what else I can learn from Jivey's link up.

Honestly though, I've gotten so many awesome ideas from my bloggy friends, and TPT has helped my teaching life, for real! The friendships, support, comments, enthusiasm, and venting I get/give to and from my online friends has made me a better, stronger, happier, and smarter person. So THANK YOU to all of my BBBs, followers, and friends! 

Happy Wednesday! 



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How do you introduce class novels? New Freebie by special request!

Happy Tuesday! We are in the middle of reading our Spring core novel, Riding Freedom. It is seriously an amazing novel and I think it makes it even better that it isn't super popular, so my students have never heard of it, until I pull it out of the closet. There is nothing worse than being excited to start a novel, showing it to the class, and hearing..."Ohhhhh, I've read that last year, I hate when blah blah blah blah happens." That makes me want to crawl into a hole. I can always guarantee that won't happen with this book. We have a class set of books, so everyone uses their own novel. This makes it very convenient when it comes time to answer text dependent questions.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2-X5UXmZTN4ZkM4NVZLeEJ5MGc/edit?usp=sharingAnyways, one way that Robyn and I both like to introduce this book is through a "Probable Passage". What is that? Well, it is a fun little "think and guess" activity that generates student curiosity about the novel. You start the activity by finding random vocabulary words throughout the book and writing them in the word bank. Everyone uses the same set of words. (I normally have students complete this in partnerships because it generates great conversations.) Students discuss what words will most likely be a character, setting, problem, something that might be discovered, or if they are REALLY stuck, they can put the word in the unknown word box. In the center they fill out a "Gist Statement" - a simple statement or prediction using the words from all the other boxes about what you THINK will happen in the book.

The reason why this is so fun is because never, have I EVER, seen a student get relatively close to predicting the book. It makes the book extra fun because while we are reading and come across a word that was on this worksheet the whole class has a "Ah hah" moment and you seriously hear...."Ohhhhhhh!" and then laughter.

This simple activity is sure to get the students engaged in their reading, conversations, and motivate them to want to learn more.

Lucky for you, I've made an editable document in Power Point. Simply click on the picture above to download the worksheet from my Google Docs. It should open in Power Point. Create a text box over the "title" and "word bank" and fill them in. Print, copy, and let the fun begin!

Let me know if you try it out and how it works! I'd love to hear other ways you get students interested in reading novels!