Friday, March 29, 2013

Featured Teacher: Kristin Stull

Kristin Stull from Aspire to Inspire teaches fifth grade language arts and social studies in Ohio.  She says her favorite part of teaching is when "students literally form a line after class is dismissed to tell something about a topic that was just covered that relates to their own lives."   She has an awesome freebie called Not Your Grandma's Book Report: 30 Creative Ways to Respond to Literature which provides a simple list of ideas that almost every elementary educator can use.  Check it out! 
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spring Classroom Management

Ah! The fresh smell of flowers, opening day for baseball, screaming kids ready for summer break...

With spring time comes so many wonderful things and so many possible headaches!  This is the perfect time to change up classroom management a bit.

I love to challenge the kids to an exciting game of spring baseball!  It's so simple...teacher vs. class.    Instead of constantly reminding the kids to "quietly walk back to their desks" or "stay focused" I simply say "Please try to distract your neighbors" or "Bang on a few desks as you walk back to your seat."  It's funny how literal the kids first they truly don't know what to do!  In the end though they fall for it every time.

I will introduce the rules to the kids during morning meeting on Monday.  We play with the same rules as baseball.  When I am up to bat, I can move around the bases anytime I can get the class off task.  If they are really loud or off task, then I can even get a double or a triple.  If the class is working really well, then they get me out.  When I have three outs they are up to bat moving around the bases whenever the whole class is doing their job.  Here's an image of our gameboard:

The purple and yellow magnet is the player for the team to move around the bases.  At the end of the school year, we will total up the points and the winning team (me or the class) will get to plan an entire day of fun together.  I have never had a class lose yet!

This works great for whole class motivation, but I also know it's important to have an individual management system in place.  On Mondays, I will give each child three baseballs for the week.  If they keep all three, they get to spin our wheel for a classroom prize.  If they get a strike for talking out of turn or forgetting a classroom rule they will have to tear off a baseball.  If a student is out of baseballs he or she will have to fill out a think sheet, which is part of our school's PBIS. 
If you are interested in playing baseball with your students, download this free baseball printout now!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

What great ideas do you have to keep your students working and learning in the challenging spring months?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Reading Workshop Projects

With my students so busy with state assessments, I wanted something fun yet aligned with the standards to keep them engaged during reading workshop.  They loved our reading projects!  It was so simple to set up and I can't wait to post these all over the school.

First I started with sharing the expectations and the projects.  The students had to choose one just right book and complete three projects of their choice to demonstrate their understanding.  I spent some time reviewing the project ideas and made sure students knew exactly how these would be scored.  This fit nicely into our already established reading workshop management system but added a fun twist.

Then I spent some time setting up and copying all of the worksheets kids might need to complete these projects in a corner in our classroom.  This way students could spent their time reading and writing content without wasting time drawing board games and cutting out cards.  Here are some worksheets I used, but you can download more free templates here.
Finally I asked a parent volunteer to cut out a large piece of butcher paper for each student so they can display all of their projects.  This took the kids about three weeks of dedicated reading time and project time and it was worth it!  Our next step is to complete a technology project to finalize this with a QR code so we can send other students on a scavenger hunt around the school to learn about books.  It was such a simple way to provide a relevant audience for my students and encourage other students to read, read, read! 

Here are some examples of (almost) finished projects:


If you are interested in engaging your students in this project for the end of the year, just click here!

Featured Teacher: Bobbi Johnston

Bobbi at Johnston Kindergarten Corner and Digital Clipart is a kindergarten teacher from West Virginia.  She says that her favorite part of teaching is watching students gain confidence in their ability to learn.  I love her free product for bug themed clipart, note cards, and bookmarks.  Check it out here!

For more featured freebies and other classroom ideas, follow my store and blog!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Small Group Work in Reading and Writing Workshop-- Yes You Can!

I am obsessed with reading and writing workshop.  I love how it allows for students' individualized learning, an opportunity for specialized conferences, fosters 21st century learning and especially that is offers students' choice in what they read and write.  With third graders, though, I find that I still need time for small group work.  As you can imagine, this is challenging in a workshop model.  I think I found a way to make it work!

I still begin every lesson with a focus lesson straight from the standards.  Right now, students are working on their narrative pieces in writing workshop so my lessons have been focused on revising narratives.  In reading workshop, my students are working on literature projects so my mini lessons have been centered around story elements.  After the mini lesson I do a quick status of the class and students get right to work with their reading or writing.  This is when I begin some small group work before I hold individual conferences.

During the small group, I think it is important for students to be able to continue working on their same reading projects with their novel or writing projects with their piece of writing.  This feel much more authentic than having children discuss a different book like a guided reading format or work through a worksheet unrelated to their writing work.

During reading small groups, it's important for kids to discuss a common text and do their work around this text.  We focus on our read aloud and then kids leave with some work to do with their own novel.  This helps them go through the I do, we do, you do process and keep them focused on their own reading.  Since we are working on understanding literature, I can have each group work on a similar focus like comprehension strategies, but with a specific focus.  For example one group might work on summarizing and another group might work on synthesizing.  

During writing small groups, kids can discuss their own piece of writing and analyze it around a central skill that the whole group needs work on.  For example since we are working on narrative writing, the mini lessons might all be around style.  One group might focus on adding voice while another group might focus entirely on figurative language.

I have designed a routine of six lessons for each specific small group focus.
Here are a few images of the materials I have set up my classroom.

For Play it!

 For the writing rotations: Write it!, Post it!, and Know it?

For Quiz It!

Once I have worked with one or two small groups for the day, I can spend some time conferencing with about 4 kids.  This means I have worked with about half my class in one day on specific skills while the other half is immersed in meaningful reading and writing.

Finally we end the workshops with either an author's chair in writing workshop or time to buzz about books in reading workshop.

My kids are loving these small groups and I finally feel like I can teach with an authentic workshop model AND meet with my students on specific skills regurlarly!

Although I am working on specific small group lessons for my units of study, I have decided to offer the frame of these lessons for FREE!  You can download it here.  Currently, I have my comprehension pack, analyzing text pack, and writing with style pack ready and am working on many others.  Please follow my store on TpT if you are interested in these ready made small group rotations for the workshop model.  I finally have Reading Workshop Small Group Work for the Entire Year ready to go and am working on the Writing Workshop bundle.

What are some creative additions you have used with your workshops?

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Friday, March 15, 2013

Featured Teacher: Susan Morrow

Susan Morrow is a gifted coordinator for her district in Montgomery, Alabama.  As a teacher of GT students, I am so glad I found her!  She says that her favorite thing about teaching is the opportunity to turn students into learners.  Susan said, "My greatest joy is seeing a child get excited when they learn something new or master a new skill."  I LOVE her free multiple intelligence posters.  What a great gift to help all of our students recognize their strengths as learners.  Check out her blog, Keep 'Em Thinking for some great ideas to help students think critically. 

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Why We Need to ReOrganize Our Mentor Texts

With all the new changes coming with Common Core, I want to rethink the way I organize my mentor texts.  In the past, I had lovely bins labeled with the six traits of writing with mentor texts that helped teach each trait separately.  Now, I think I want to change my writing mentor texts to focus on the types of writing.  There are many benefits to this new way of thinking too!
1. I no longer have to 'force' a picture book into just one trait.
2. I can help my students see the strenghts of all the traits throught the reading.
3. Many of mini lessons will already be planned!
4. It's an excuse to buy some more books :)  

Here are some of my favorites:

Mentor Texts for Narratives
My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco
The Day the Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian
Bully by Patricia Pollacco
The Best Town in the World by Byrd Baylor
The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting
The Hickory Chair by Lisa Rowe Fraustino
Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant
How I spent my Summer Vacation by Mark Teague
Night of the Veggie Monster by George McClements
How to Write Your Life Story by Ralph Fletcher
Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter
When I was a Young Boy in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant

Mentor Texts for Opinion or Persuasive
Dear Mrs. LaRue by Mark Teague
The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
I Wanna Iguana by Karen Orloff
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willeins
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
The Perfect Pet by Margie Palatini
My Brother Dan’s Delicious by Sylvia Lollis

Mentor Texts for Nonfiction
What if You Had Animal Teeth by Sandra Markle
Olivia Bird’s Saving the Golf by Olivia Bouler
Don’t Lick the Dog by Wendy Wahman
The Black Hole is Not a Hole by Michael Carroll
Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy
You are Weird: Your Body’s Peculiar Parts by Diane Swanson
Tornadoes! by Gail Gibbons
Wheels of Change by Sue Macy
Who Hoots? By Katie Davis
The Sun is My Favorite Star by Frank Asch

If you love teaching with mentor texts and are following the common core, you might be interested in my writing bundle to help teach children how to write narratives, opinion pieces, and nonfiction.  You might also want to check out my blog post on nonfiction writing where I helped my students use their writing to make a real change. 

Download these labels if you want to reorganize your writing mentor texts!

What are some of your favorite mentor texts?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Featured Teacher: Dana Werkheiser

Dana creatively calls her store Dana Designs.  She offers several inexpensive activities to keep kids engaged in learning.  She says, "I love finding new ways of engaging a diverse population of students and encourage them to become lifelong learners."  I can't wait to use her freebie I Have, Who Has: Spring Antonyms in my own classroom.  Be sure to check out Dana's store and Facebook page!

Be sure to follow my blog for weekly freebies and other great classroom ideas and resources!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Featured Teacher: Shelley Rolston

I am honored to share the talents of second grade teacher, Shelley Rolston from British Columbia! Shelly says the best part of teaching is seeing the look on her student's faces when she shows them a new way to get their wonderful ideas down on paper. I love, love, LOVE her freebie what good writers do. Check it out!

I am also excited to mention that I was featured on Bonnie Kathryn's blog. It's so great to be involved in a worldwide community of teachers!

Follow me for more featured freebies to come!

Seuss-sational Friday!

WE LOVE DR.SEUSS! In fact we call our kids "Sneeches" and already dedicate so much of our room to him.

Our Sneech of the Week...

Our whole class reward system is a Seuss-style house with fun rewards behind every door when they earn enough class points. We have everything from pajama day to buddy reading to treat time!

Today we greeted out kids with a welcome sign made by an awesome parent last year. The kids each walked in to class with a Dr. Seuss book on their desk to read for morning work.

We did some Seuss math, LOTS of reading, and even some Seuss writing. Here's an image of our creative kids projects...

What fantastic things did you do to celebrate Dr. Seuss?