Thursday, November 29, 2012

Diary of an Elf

Our kids are loving the perspective writing they do each day because they are writing it from an elf's perspective in our diary of an elf. It's been so fun to take the tradition to school by adding the academic component. Every morning the elf does something mischievous and the kids walk in trying to find her. When they do...they usually crack up! They go to their desks and write about the elf's adventures in our classroom overnight. If you want to use the diary of en elf in your classroom click here for the free resource! If you like it, feel free to add a positive rating :)

Here are a few images of our mischievous little elf.

Reading a holiday book in our classroom library...

Playing games on holiday website...

Playing math games with another stuffed animal in our classroom...

Revising her work in our revision center...

Reading another student's diary...

Adding her name to our reading workshop management chart...

Filling a bucket...

What fun holiday traditions do you share with your students?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Digital Portfolios- FREE resource

It's so important to help students develop a digital footprint at a young age. Just think...we can give them a gift of a digital collection of their work and it's not very much work! I personally love the site livebinders to create digital portfolios but you can use any website making site available.

We have a digital portfolio center in our classroom. We store any "paper" projects that we want scanned for their portfolios here and students submit their individualized projects here as well.

We sent a letter home to families at the beginning of the year. Here is an image of the letter:

You can download the complete FREE guide to starting digital portfolios teachers pay teachers.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Holiday Math Pack

I just completed our holiday math pack to prepare for the week before Christmas.  If you're like us, it's hard to take time away from our district-mandated math curriculum for any holiday fun.  This math pack allows for both.  All the activities are aligned to the third, fourth, or fifth grade common core standards with ideas and suggestions for differentiation.  What great math projects do you like to do before the holidays?

Purchase this math pack at teachers pay teachers or teachers notebook.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Non-Fiction Text Features

Our current unit in reading workshop is on non-fiction text features.  Students typically prefer fiction so it's important to us that we make this unit fun and engaging.  We started with an inquiry lesson with our fabulous teacher librarian.  She gave each group of students several books (both fiction and non-fiction) and asked students what they noticed about their books.  Kids replied with things like rhyming words, bold print, an index, cartoon pictures...anything.  From there, she asked students to classify their books as fiction or non-fiction.  This was relatively easy for our students since they had some work with this before.  Then they noticed that non-fiction text often has similar text features.  To stay true to our reading workshop model, we asked each student to check out a non-fiction about a topic they are passionate about. 
With the help of our creative teammate, Holly, kids created a non-fiction foldable.  As we move through our unit, students will define each of these text features and look for examples in their text.  Of course, we will begin with a model text.  Kids can keep these until we begin our research unit in January and they will have this wonderful resource to access. 

This foldable is so easy to make!  Start with five sheets of plain copy paper.  Lay each one on top of the next with about 1" difference.  Fold the entire stack in half and you have a great resource for your students!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Math Menus

We love math!  It's so important to us to make sure every part of our workshop is differentiated.  Our math workshop rotation board looks like this (the fancy sticky notes change daily as our tasks change!):

The task card in the middle is for math projects and games.  Students thrive with math projects and we want to make sure they are aligned to the standards and meet the kids at their level of understanding.  That's how we came up with differentiated math menus.  Basically we follow these "tips" for each math unit:

We have these math menus for grades three, four, and five to help you differentiate for your students as well.
Also available on teachers pay teachers.
Good luck!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Word Work

If you’re like us, word work can be a bit of a struggle. We want to keep kids challenged and engaged in meaningful learning without a lot of worksheets and especially grading! We came up with, what we think is, the perfect word work structure.

We have three different lists we offer students each week. List one is the challenge list. It has 15 words on harder words with the same spelling skill. List two is the original list for the week with 15 words following the same pattern. List three is our easier list with only 7 words for students who struggle with that pattern. Students also have 5 words each week from their writing or the high frequency word list to work on.

On Mondays, students take a pretest on the spelling skills. These words are from list two. Their performance on this list will help us determine which list is most appropriate for students. This changes each week because there is a new pattern each week. Students look at their test results from the previous week and any words they miss become their choice words along with any other words from their writing. Here is an image of the highlighted list kids use to manage their choice words:

Students are also introduced to the board for the week. They have three “must dos” for the week. The first is mountain language to help with basic language skills. The second is a specific activity having to do with their word pattern. It could be sorting their words, playing Boggle, or any other activity to help students practice their pattern. Their last activity is a one page worksheet from their workbook. We use the Spelling Connections curriculum and it has some wonderful activities, but we don’t love that each week students have 6 worksheets! This allows us to stick with the program, have students practice the pattern using the worksheet, and differentiate for all of our learners. Here is an image of our work board:

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are dedicated to the practice work. Students can practice with partners, alone, or even in small group practice that we offer during this time. Homework is completed throughout the week using the program Spelling City.

Finally, on Friday students complete a partner assessment where they complete their choice words test with their partner, assess their practice work, and have their partner assess their work with feedback. This gives students an authentic audience for their practice while alleviating us from grading all of the practice work. We can spend our time giving feedback to the students on their final assessment! Students take their final test on Spelling City and we record their scores with final feedback.

Easy. Differentiated. Meaningful. Does it get any better? If you have any fabulous ideas to make word work meaningful, please share!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Teachers Help Teachers

The images on TV say enough... if you are a teacher affected by Hurricane Sandy and are in need of some materials to help you please click on the image below.