Saturday, November 29, 2014

TpT Wish List Linky & Sale!

Hello, friends! I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving and you were able to grab some sales on Black Friday! My husband went hunting and I stayed at home and hit the online Black Friday sales. We then went to ride the Santa Train on an old steam engine. It was a ton of fun and put us in the Christmas spirit! 

Maybe by now you've heard of the upcoming TPT sitewide sale... 

 If you haven't .... now you know, so start filling your cart!

 Now, let's get down to business! What is on your wishlist? I love seeing what other people are buying for their classroom. As if I need any other excuse to buy products from TPT... 

 Feel free to grab the banners and link up, too! Share two items that everyone has on their wish list from your store and one item that you have on your own wish list that you'll buy during the sale. 

 The number one thing people have wish listed from my store is my ELA Morning Work for the WHOLE Year. We have had a ton of positive feedback on this product and it has once again been working out amazingly in our classrooms. The students enjoy the daily activities and the parents like seeing it come home weekly, so they know what their child has been working on. This bundle will also be on sale, so if you are waiting, now is the time to grab it!

The second most wish listed item in our store are the Note & Notice Posters and Bookmarks. Have you read this awesome book to help teach reading strategies? These posters and bookmarks are kid friend, cute, and very helpful! Best of all they come in both,  chalkboard and printer friendly!

What's on my wishlist? Christy's iPad Interactive Notebook!

 There are graphic organizers for each of the literacy standards. Videos, tutorials, and app suggestions are included. However, you can also print and use the graphic organizers as well (though not quite as interactive as using the iPad to enhance them.) I cannot wait to grab these since I want to start using our Reading Notebooks more in class. I know the kids will love them! :)

I need to go fill my wishlist up because I know there won't be another sale for a while.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Grateful for YOU! Gift Card Giveaway!

We are so excited for the holiday season that we couldn't help but spread some love! Lots of your favorite TPT Teacher-Authors and I have teamed up to give YOU some TPT spending money. We love you and appreciate you (and we wish we could give all of our fabulous followers some money)!

Enter the Rafflecopter below by simply following our TPT stores, and you will have a chance to win one of FIVE $25 TPT gift cards! Good luck and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Three Strategies to Implement in a Guided Reading Group Using Any Text! Bonus Freebie Included!

So it's been a while since I've blogged and I've been feeling SO guilty. There is nothing I'd like to do better than to sit down and create a blog post, but unfortunately, life has been getting in the way. Report cards went home last week, conferences were last week, our goal setting meetings were last week and this week I can FINALLY breathe! 

Anyways...our school is diving head first into guided reading this year and the number one question all teachers had was, “What are the ‘other students’ doing while I have a small group?” Once I started thinking about it, centers were the way to go for my classroom. I implemented this idea a few weeks ago and it has been working out fantastic. It is a great way for the students to learn responsibility, collaboration, independence, and skill building. I have so much to share about guided reading, so this will be PART 1 of many posts on the topic!

While I am meeting with my small group we are focusing mainly on reading strategies to help with comprehension.

1)   Summarizing: This has been a difficult skill for most of my fourth graders to grasp and continued practice on this topic (fiction and nonfiction) is always needed.

2)   Fluency: Believe it or not, my students can never get too much fluency practice.  Repeat reading of paragraphs during small group time is a great way to focus on speed, expression, accuracy, and punctuation. I sometimes even time the students for a cold read and count the number of words read correctly in one minute. After practicing the paragraph throughout the week, they then read it again and get a new number count. Charting this on a bar graph is an amazing motivator for all students.

3)   Sequencing: With some of my friends, we use sticky notes to write out the most important events from fictional stories. We then practice retelling the story mentioning all of the post-it notes. We use the notes as a resource to manipulate and start writing a summary.  If the book is nonfiction, sequencing the growth, development, or timeline of the event/animal is always another great idea.

How do you stay organized with so many groups? This might be something you struggle with (like me, up until a few weeks ago). It really isn't that hard. One idea is to have a select space for each group's materials. I use magazine holders for each group. The students know where to get their books and where to put them back. 

Another tip for organization is to be prepared. Have something for everyone, not just the students in your group. The work should be engaging and meaningful, not just a filler.

Check out my center rotation list to see where the students go. This is an organized way to answer the constant question of, "What are the other students doing?" Since the groups are fluid and always changing based on reading abilities and/or student interest, the students’ nametags have the number of their current group. As soon as my students enter the classroom in the morning, they know to look at the center list to see what they will be doing for a morning activity.  I used Velcro to attach the groups to the bulletin board. This allowed for quick and easy moving.

I have centers set up for Guided Reading (meet with the teacher), Wow Words (Vocabulary building through independent reading), Spelling Center (Spelling words used on a choice menu), Writing Center (Responding to daily prompts), Listening Center (Audio chapter book while students follow along), Task Cards (Constantly changing based on student needs), and Seat Work (Work for the lesson of the day). Most of the materials for each center can be customized to the current unit or curriculum.  I also like to give students a choice of what they work on in the center, so I use menus or choice boards related to the activity.  The information at the centers are usually created by me and for my students. Check back for another post on what is in each center, but for now, grab your free copy of the center rotation list! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Three Foldables to be Used with Any Nonfiction Text! Including a Free Download!

Have you heard of a foldable? Are you familiar with interactive notebooks? They seem to be the new fad and not only are they fun and a wonderful hands-on learning experience for students, they are also a great resource for a student to refer back to throughout the whole year. I used some high interest nonfiction books about sea life that my students were begging to read. Although we do not teach this topic in our curriculum, I tried to sneak it into my small group instruction. While teaching different ELA strategies, I was able to break the students up into small groups and allow them to use the underwater collection as a resource. This week my groups read different chapters in Clever Crustaceans and then jigsawed as a class to share out their information on the whole book. Together students from each group made a presentation sheet for the foldables they created. They were very proud of their results and LOVED sharing their posters with the whole class.

I had the most success with the students creating and completing
·            An accordion nonfiction summary
·            A vocabulary flip flap
·            A Venn-trifold

Nonfiction summaries are very difficult to write, and my students often struggle. The accordion summary foldable is a great hands-on approach to breaking text paragraphs up into shapes. While giving students one or two pages, from a nonfiction book, they can easily create a short summary. We focus on the five W’s, (who, what, why, where, when, and how) when writing a nonfiction summary. The students are easily able to locate the main idea and important details from each paragraph and write them into the boxes of the foldable.

The vocabulary flip flap foldable is always a student favorite. Not only is it a fun paper to cut and fold, but it also organizes information very well. When using this foldable, I choose eight vocabulary words, with a similar theme. The students write the vocabulary words on one side and define them on the other side of the little blocks. In the center, they try to guess the theme or the commonality between all words. When defining the vocabulary, they can use the nonfiction text features such as the glossary, index, bold face print words, or even context clues.

Using a Venn-trifold is very easy. It is just like a Venn- diagram, except the two opposite sides open and the commonalities are written in the center. Students usually use bullet points when writing on their trifold to keep it neat. It is a great visual aid when one side is colored one color and the other side is colored a completely different color. When the trifold opens, the students usually mix both colors together to signal “alike”.  

The students in my class were excited for group this week and could not WAIT to find out more information about the underwater sea creatures. 
Check out the materials by clicking here or on the picture below!

I hope you can incorporate these fun foldables into your small groups or whole class lessons.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Spark Student Motivation Saturday: Realistic Cursive Fun!

Hello Friends, Today I am linking up with sweet Joanne for her Spark Student Motivation linky. Yesterday, I posted about teaching cursive and my Instagram friends and I had some great conversations about what we use as resources, when we can squeeze it into our busy schedules, and how the kids feel about learning cursive. I was excited to see that many teachers feel strongly that cursive should not be a lost art. It should be taught, practiced, and used throughout school.

 As we introduce a few letters a week, I am going to be creating, printing, and correcting self made worksheets for the students so they can practice their first and last name in cursive. They were SO excited when I told them about this because the thought of having their own personalized worksheet, was amazing. They cannot WAIT to start. So this weekend, I am typing up worksheets for all of my students. The trick is to always keep one master copy so you do not have to recreate sheets on the computer. 

First, I found this great worksheet maker online. (Click the image to check the site out!) It's super easy to create and the best part is, it's free.

I will have first and last names for each student, but didn't for the picture. The students will trace their names and rewrite it directly below the traced line. Once the students master this skill, we will be moving onto our fun cursive project. I am going to test this out this week with my own name, hang it up in the classroom, and see if any students actually get what it is.
Scholastic put out an awesome tutorial on making cursive/name skeletons. The ribs are actually students' names, using a line of symmetry! These are going to look awesome in the hallway and the students are going to FREAK out when they hear they can use paint in class (meanwhile they will be hitting CCSSs in Writing and Science).

Don't you worry, I will be posting pictures as soon as my students complete these cute skeletons! Have a great weekend! :)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Five for Friday with a Special Freebie! :)

Wow! It is Friday and I am actually able to post a 5 for Friday! Is it a miracle? Nah, just my little Kindergartener is home sick, so I am taking care of her. Unfortunately, I think I am next. It's that time of year and I have a monsterous migraine. Anyways, here are FIVE things we did this week that were note worthy!

1. We worked on our first interactive piece for our Interactive Reading Notebook (from Nicole Shelby's IRNB on TPT). The kids loved, cutting, gluing, coloring, and seeing the end result. Inferencing is something we are working on for the next few weeks.

2. While continuing with inferencing, we read Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot.  One of my personal favorite stories. After reading the story, we read a few pieces of nonfiction about WWII, the Berlin Blockade, and the Berlin Airlift. The students absolutely LOVED this and were so emotional over the issue when they realized the book was based off of a REAL EVENT.  The students wrote down quotes on post its while listening to the read aloud. The quotes were examples that led the students to infer how the people of Berlin must have felt during the Blockade. I charted on a T-Chart while the students copied it into their notebooks.

3. The next day, the students were supposed to refer back to their notes and write a narrative journal entry from the perspective of Mercedes. As a example of the (I do, we do, you do) gradual release model, I modeled with the perspective of Lt. Halverson. When I started writing the entry, the students became really involved.  After turning and talking with partners, they helped me add on to the journal entry and we were really pleased with the results. When I gave the students their assignment (To write a journal entry pretending they were Mercedes, the night she received a package from the Chocolate Pilot) they were more than ready to begin. I will post some of their responses next week, after I get to grade them.

4. Do you teach cursive writing or did your district give it up? Robyn and I usually supplemented our own material for cursive, but this year our district is adding it to the report card for a standard grade. So we are actually expected to teach more into it.  They consider it to fall under the CCSS 4.4 (To produce clear and coherent writing.) Do you agree? Since we are grading it on a report card in a few weeks, we got to work. Believe it or not, my students LOVED it. The hardest part is remembering not to let the letters float. The three lines seem to mean nothing to them right now. lol

5. Time for the special freebie! I made this sheet for my principal who passed it around at the staff meeting this week. Do you do staff breakfasts? Do teachers donate to them? What does your staff do to boost moral in the school?  I'd LOVE to know and hear any suggestions!
 Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful Friday and weekend! 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

How to use the Writing Process to Create Small Groups!

Due to the awesome amount of emails I received over my recent blog posts here and here, I decided to go into more detail of our writing process plan. Thank you for all of the sweet emails, it makes me so excited to know I am helping other teachers out by sharing ideas and suggestions. 
Going through the writing process does take a lot of time and effort, but it is so rewarding for the students AND the teacher. As a teacher, I am able to really take note of my students’ individual needs as well as give them meaningful feedback to take their writing to the next level. We started using writing goals a few years ago, but completely rethought our process and made it student friendly. This year, we have put it into action and love the results. We really hope it helps you out as well.

We just put everything mentioned in this post into a bundle. Check it out here
We follow the Writing Process of: Plan, Draft, Edit, Conference, Revise, & Publish
We do not do this with every single writing piece, but maybe one per unit. 

Planning: While planning, we like to design a plan for the students to use to help them organize their thoughts as the year moves on we start to take away the plan and they learn how to create one from memory. Having a good plan is a key necessity to having a strong paper. They keep this plan on their desk whenever they are working on this assignment. We constantly ask the kids to refer back to their plan and encourage them to follow it.  

Peer Editing: After the students plan and complete their rough draft.  Students partner up to proof read eachother’s papers. They complete the check off list and give each other verbal feedback. The more you teach into this step, the better the students will learn to peer edit. 

Conferencing: At this time the teacher meets with each student individually. I usually have a sign up list on the board and when students are ready to conference, they sign up. After a student meets with me, they check their name off and move on to the next step. At this conference, the child reads their paper out loud and we edit and discuss ideas and progress together. Together we decide on a goal for the student. 

During this meeting, I am actively taking notes on the child’s goal sheet that I keep in my student data binder. I always add the date, title of story, notes of progress, and highlight the goal for the child. We designed these sheets with two to a page so we can easily compare as the year progresses. Once a student has a goal they move their clothes pin (with their name written on it in sharpie)  on the correct goal on the bulletin board. 

This is helpful because it is a great visual for me to  see who is working on what goal at the same time. Also, during our WIN time, we now take writing groups based on goals. For example, if a child’s goal is to work on having fewer grammatical errors in their writing, the group will work on punctuation, spelling patterns, and/or grammatical rules when they are pulled for a small group. We actually keep the groups organized by printing a second set of goal posters, stapling them to folders, and filling the folders with worksheets appropriate for each goal. It is a great way to prep for many weeks at a time.

Before the student leaves the conference they are also given a revising check list specified for their needs. We do not hold every child responsible for every part of this list, we make it work with the goal. If their goal is to focus on adding better vocabulary into their writing, they would probably have the first idea highlighted, which states, “Circle four words you can replace with a synonym. Cross out the words and rewrite the new word above. Use a thesaurus for help.” By the student working on this part of revising, they are also hitting their goal. We hope that by doing this multiple times, they will learn to do it automatically and/or build their vocabulary up so it comes naturally to them. Some students have one revising idea highlighted while others have three. 

Writing Folder Goal Sheet: One more way for the students to keep track of their goals is to have this paper stapled to the front of their writing folder. Every time they conference with the teacher and discuss a goal, they will record the date, title of assignment, and goal. We understand that some students will stay on the same goal for more than one assignment, but we think it is also important for the students to see the time line and how long they have been working on their specific goal.  This is also great for administration to see when they come into the classroom. The students will be able to explain their goals, how they are working on them, and why they have them, all from this simple worksheet! 

This interactive bulletin board is GREAT when paired with our “Writing Process” Bulletin Board as well! 

I hope this post can help you organize your Writers' Workshop and create small groups for easy targeted instruction. If you have any other ideas, suggestions, or questions, please let us know!