Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Break?! Wait, I'm supposed to relax?!

I have been super busy this week, so it hardly feels like a break!  I have been up to my ears in projects!  I wanted to share just a few of my Spring Break goodies before I FINALLY walk away from my home office and watch some Law & Order with my hubs. 

I worked in my classroom for a little bit yesterday to purge my paper mountain... things that haven't been used or touched in about five years.  I finally stopped asking myself, "What if I need x, y, or z?", and instead I had the "If I am even wondering, that's a NO" philosophy.  I pitched a TON!  That's always a great feeling!  I have so much room in my file cabinets now, but seriously, organizing files is zero percent fun.  Can we all agree?!

Before I made the thirty-minute drive to my school, I popped into Target to check out the Dollar Spot.  I found great stuff!  I have to share!  I have a somewhat tropical theme in my classroom that could easily lend itself to the jungle motif, so I was beyond excited when I saw these little rugs for $2.50!  I picked up a few of them to use during Read to Self.  (How great are these for kids that have trouble staying in one spot?  Well, now they have a tangible spot to call their own and sit on!)  I bought a few more storage containers.  You can never own enough tubs, buckets or boxes as a teacher.

My favorite buy were these three little mini-trashcans I found.  I bought a monkey, an elephant, and giraffe.  I am turning them into Sound Snackers!  Instead of giving students words to sort, I am going to have them add words to the Sound Snackers when we go on word hunts.  They'll write on Post-Its to feed the animals, and then if the word fits the rule we were looking for, we'll add it to the anchor chart.  I let my kiddos have ownership of our posters, but sometimes there are scribbles and words scratched out when they realize there's a mistake.  It sometimes makes me crazy looking at it, so this should be a happy solution for all of us!  I only have a picture of the monkey at the moment, but I promise to post the set soon!

I also found a really cute book at Borders over break that I LOVE.  It's by Bob Dylan!  How neat!

I'm finally getting around to posting pictures of the Little Detective Files from my Super Sleuth kit.

In other news, I've surpassed 400 followers.  WOW!  Thanks for popping in to follow my humble little classroom!  I LOVE the blogging community!  It's so wonderful to be able to collaborate with and be inspired by teachers all over the country.  You all amaze me!  So, in honor of surpassing 400 followers, I'm going to act frivolously! The first TWO people to comment on this post will get copies of my new Newsies unit!  Please leave your email address with your comment!   If you're interested in checking out the rest of this 31 page file, check out the preview at my store.  :)  Act now or forever hold your peace!  THANKS for FOLLOWING! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Positive Reinforcement with an Easy Button! :) Snag a Freebie!

When students show a lot of progress or work through something that's tough for them, they get to hit the easy button!  I got mine at Staples for $5.99, but you could probably make it out of one of those touch closet lights too.  I blogged about this a while ago HERE, but if you're interested, I just created a few documents to celebrate those "A-ha moments".  You can snag a copy at TpT for FREE!  Hope you enjoy it!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Reader Response Menu! (Freebie Alert!)

I try really hard not to reinvent the wheel, so when I thought about creating a reading response menu last year, I scoured the Internet.  My third graders read 30 minutes a night, and in the past, summaries got to be a bit monotonous.  I wanted to be able to make reading at home enjoyable and allow my students to have more choice.  Luckily, I found a fabulous resource online!  It was exactly what I was looking for.  Ms. Winston came to the rescue!  If you have not stumbled onto her fabulous website, you are in for a treat.
I made a "Reading Response Menu" cover, and then I stapled it to whole sheets of her reading response sheets that you can find HERE (along with a ton of other goodies)!  I know that they are not meant to be a "packet", that they are meant to be cut into response cards, but hey!  My students LOVE doing their reading homework and completing some of the activities like interviewing the author, "Picture This", and making connections.  So, no matter how you use it with your own kids, they are bound to enjoy it.  The best part?!  I didn't have to spend hours making something similar on my own! AMAZING!  If you want to snag my menu cover... you know the drill!  :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tall Tales Unit Request... Fulfilled! Snag a Freebie!

One of my TpT followers requested a tall tales unit, so after a lot of brain work and after writing an original ten-page tall tale, I'm finally adding the 25 pager to my store.  The tall tale plays on the concept of telling "fish stories" to help activate schema in a kid-friendly way and learn about the structure of tall tales before you tackle the more sophisticated traditional tales! If you're interested, you can check out my preview file HERE! I'd be happy to fill more requests.  Feel free to email me!  Don't forget to scroll to the bottom for your freebie!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Student-Led Conferences!

I am officially on Spring Break!!!!!!!  YAY!  We had Student-Led Conferences tonight, and now I can RELAX (as much as I can relax a week before report cards go home).  If you're interested, you can check out the resources I've put together on TpT.  I have revamped the pages a bit, but I haven't uploaded the new thumbnails yet in my preview file.  (I promise I will do that tomorrow since I have the day off!  I've been SO BUSY this week!) I took lots of pictures tonight to give you an idea of what Student-Led Conferences look like in my classroom (minus photos of families).  Prepare for a photo overload!  Haha!

I won't sugar-coat the process. It is a pretty serious undertaking, because for the conferences to be really successful, my students keep track of their data and set goals all year long in their Data Folders.  {Luckily, I had two FABULOUS mentors during my first year, so they walked me through the process of setting everything up!}  They have to prepare a checklist and paperwork ahead of time earlier in the week, and then I always meet with my kiddos for mock conferences before they're expected to run the conference on their own.  I have found that this sets them up for success, boosts their confidence, and helps them plan ahead. (I should note that I do regular conferences in the fall, because I want that face-to-face meeting with parents initially.  In the spring, I feel that the kids have had the time to track their progress and set various goals, so they are very capable of communicating with their parents.)  Honestly, I will never go back to the traditional spring-time conference. Ever.  Even though it's time consuming, the kids have so much more ownership and a deeper understanding of their own learning.  It is so worth the time up-front, because it is such a magical thing to hear your students talking about their phrasing, their fluency, how they were developing round characters, how they followed the engineering design process, how they planned to meet goals, and a plethora of other statements that make you melt as a teacher.
The Fraction Spongebobs are a lesson from the LessonPlan S.O.S. ladies!

The students wrote I Am poems and drew portraits to create identity puzzlers!

Another shot of Spongebob!

Look at those double-stuffed data folders!

Files from my TpT kit in black and white.  I'm saving colored ink, because I'm running low!  :)

An idea adapted from Littlest Learners with student names blurred out!  The each say "Just the Facts" with student names typed underneath.  I'm definitely not very good at airbrushing, so I'm sorry the clipboards look a little on the ugly side!!!

UPDATE:  I've had some questions asked about the format of the I Am Poems, so I'm including a download for you to use from my Poetry Unit!  The kids used the template, and then the poems were typed to fit inside of the magnifying glass.  :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Poetry Books!

It must be fate!  We discussed poetry at my Advanced Studies of Literature course tonight, and I found out about some new books! Looking for ways to study the poet's craft? I've included some of my old favorites too!  Enjoy!  (I've intentionally tried to highlight books that aren't as well known as our Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky books.  I  love both authors!  I also adore Sharon Creech's Love That Dog and Hate That Cat books, but I assume that those aren't new titles!)  I hope you find something new!  These books have my stamp of approval... for what it's worth!  :)  I'd love to hear what you use with your kiddos!  So.... what do you use?

These were some of my favorite books from our book talks!  I highly recommend the last one, because it has several examples of poems, then asks kids to finish one following the format of each poem.  What a great way to launch craft lessons!